Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Life with a narcissist

The term Narcissist is commonly used these days and it seems like everyone can be called one at this point. We all have narcissistic tendencies but most of us have very mild tendencies. Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder has severe symptoms – selfish, lacking empathy, need for admiration, feeling entitled and superior – although this grandiose behaviour hides insecurity and their own fear of being seen as a ‘loser’. Don’t get caught up in the myths and hype surrounding this term or believe that it’s a simple case of staring at yourself lovingly in the mirror or taking too many selfies.

Life with a narcissist will often include the following:

The three main facets are:


Extraversion, high self-esteem, a strong persistence toward goals, and a desire to lead. By itself, this can be a very healthy trait, particularly in work and social situations.


Taking excessive pride in one’s appearance and achievements, wanting to be the center of attention, and harboring grandiose fantasies of success.


Interpersonally toxic tendency to belittle, criticise and devalue others, to use them as pawns for personal gain, to feel superior to others (they see themselves as more competent, more intelligent, better looking etc), and an extreme need for admiration and approval/affirmation. The ugliest fact of narcissism. Those who felt the most entitled at the age of 18, tend to have lower overall well-being and lower levels of life satisfaction in middle age.

Whenever research relies on self-reporting, narcissists can be relied upon to view themselves as better and more powerful than others, potentially clouding the results.

Physical abuse versus emotional abuse

Got a black eye? Some bruises? Maybe even a police report? Then it’s easier for everyone, victim included, to understand we got some abuse going on here. But without any physical wounds to show for one’s pain, it’s that much harder to pin the label “abuse victim” on oneself, especially when a victim has already been conditioned to think that she is the actual problem.

Our Anxious Adult Relationship Patterns

Your childhood has a lot to answer for. If your parents abused you or neglected you, your brain will have responded and developed in an attempt to protect itself from the abuse. These early patterns affect our attachment style into adulthood. The strategies we used as children don’t work when we are adults but we can often be emotionally triggered and go right back to being that small helpless child.

I have been in a relationship was a narcissist and when we broke up (many times), I couldn’t sit with my emotions; I had to reach out to everyone under the sun to help me soothe my feelings. I felt physically ill and panicky. My right-brain that control emotions would be active and the healthy adult in me would be overwhelmed. I was like an inconsolable child at times

What it’s like to experience life with a narcissist

Because we’re replicating our childhood experiences and what we missed out on, we keep chasing people to try and fulfill us. This is damaging in the long-term, we need to learn to soothe ourselves rather than relying on others to fix us (and vice-versa.)

Our right-brain is overactive, and we have a highly sensitive attachment system. This part of our brain governs our emotions, creativity, intuition, and is more relationship orientated.

We may:

  • Pour a lot of time and effort into what our partner’s want and need, and try hard to keep them interested.
  • Be on high alert for subtle changes in our partner, and if we sense they’re losing interest — we hold on and may become highly dependent on them.


Why do we stay with a narcissist?

Life with a narcissist is draining over time. When we are terrified of abandonment, as are a lot of other anxiously attached folks we stay in unhealthy relationships. We see it as the lesser of two evils. Part of this, I believe, is that we are so in love, so invested with the one who is hurting us that we go on auto-pilot to try and protect them, make excuses for them, even if that comes at the expense of our own well-being.

Narcissists love empathetic people as they know you will consider their feelings, often putting their interests ahead of your own. We do this to remove the possibility of abandonment. Your fear of abandonment will leave you accepting any breadcrumbs they give you along the way. You will cling to the one kind thing they do interspersed by many examples of selfish behaviour.

Questions to ask yourself

If you share your life with a narcissist you will most likely be filled with self-doubt whilst giving your narcissistic partner the benefit of the doubt. Consider the following:

· Is he kind and respectful at all times?

· When he makes mistakes that hurt you, does he accept responsibility and correct his behavior?

· Do you know without a doubt that he loves you?

. Is he threatened by your ability to change, adapt or rise above?

Do you feel safe with him?

Does he gaslight you by telling you never said something that he did or does he tell you that you have misunderstood him?

Leaving your life with a narcissist

Leaving a life with a narcissist isn’t easy. It’s not that black and white. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find it impossible to leave. Work on yourself in the meantime, nurture positive relationships with others, and find hobbies/work/other pursuits that you can attend to without your partner. This is all part of finding your voice again and working up the strength and courage to leave.

If you can’t leave right now or don’t feel you have the strength to do so, work towards it. Seek out help – see a therapist to help you find the tools to a better life where you can experience dignity, love, care, and self-worth again.

Mandy X

Photo by The HK Photo Company on Unsplash