Skip to main content

How to stop enabling a narcissist

Does your partner need near-constant attention or validation? Do they criticize you for seemingly no reason but fly into a rage if you criticize them? If this sounds familiar, you may have to find ways of dealing with narcissists effectively because you just might be in a relationship with one.

Often, partners of narcissists fall into the role of the enabler, someone who reinforces the narcissist’s behavior either by defending them or tolerating the behavior to avoid conflict.

Related Videos

Some behaviors of an enabler include:

  • Accepting your partner’s version of reality, without question
  • Not standing up for yourself when your partner is abusive
  • Defending or rationalizing your partner’s behavior to others
  • Blaming yourself for your partner’s behavior
  • Believing the abusive dynamics of your relationship are normal

Having a relationship with someone who is narcissistic or has a diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can be a challenge, but creating clear boundaries can help both of you. Read on to learn more about narcissism and how to stop enabling a narcissist.

Unhappy couple ignoring each other

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

You may already be familiar with the general term “narcissist.” Often narcissism is a synonym for being self-obsessed but it is also a diagnosable personality disorder. Keep in mind that someone with narcissistic qualities does not automatically have this disorder.

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) states that a person with NPD often exhibits a mix of the following traits:

  • A grand sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of power, success, beauty, brilliance, or ideal love
  • The belief that they are unique and should only associate with or be understood by other special people or organizations
  • A consistent need for admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Envy of others or the belief that others are jealous of them
  • Arrogant behaviors and attitudes
  • Exploitive interpersonal behavior
  • Lack of empathy

Don’t attempt to diagnose anyone yourself unless you are a trained professional. If you are concerned about the mental health of someone you love, encourage them to seek professional help. Further, if your relationship is unhealthy or dangerous, seek help from a healthcare professional, family, or friends to work on distancing yourself from the toxic person.

Start with compassion

When you’re in a relationship with a narcissistic person, it’s not always easy to feel sympathy for them. One of the most common myths about narcissism is that it comes from having extremely high self-esteem, but the opposite is true. Most experts believe narcissism stems from fear and insecurity. Narcissism looks different in different people, so be careful not to assume the other person’s thoughts and feelings. This term isn’t a catch-all for all selfish acts, and it’s important that you both have the space to speak and be heard.

Being compassionate doesn’t mean that you should tolerate or enable this behavior, but it may help you handle the situation more calmly and respectfully. However, if someone is continually hurting you, emotionally or physically, exit the situation as safely as possible and seek help.

Don’t let them take advantage of you

Narcissistic people are incredibly good at getting what they want. In your relationship, they may expect you to focus on their needs and ignore your own. Remember, you have the right to say no and assert yourself, and you should exercise that right!

It can be helpful to have a few phrases prepared, so you don’t get flustered or coerced into silence or passivity. This can be especially helpful if you often find yourself in circumstances where you say yes only because you’re unsure how to say no. Work on integrating phrases like, “I’ll think about it,” “I’ll let you know when I’m available,” or “I need __.”

Make yourself a priority

Centering yourself can be difficult in these situations, but it helps you create and manage boundaries to ensure your wellbeing is a priority. Sometimes, being in a relationship with someone who has NPD (or someone who exhibits traits of narcissism) can feel like a one-way street. You must learn the stop giving so much, as this only enables their selfishness more. People with NPD often think highly of themselves, and they expect others to do the same, placing their immediate needs above yours.

Instead, set a boundary for how much you’re able to give to your partner, set aside time to focus on yourself, and make decisions based on what’s in your best interest, not your partner’s.

Couple talking to a therapist
Polina Zimmerman/Pexels

Seek professional help

Sometimes you need an objective third party to help you see your relationship clearly. If you’re struggling with your relationship, talking to a therapist can help you gain some clarity. You may benefit from couple’s therapy, but one-on-one sessions are crucial, especially if you are in a relationship with someone who tends to dominate the conversation. Your therapist can assist you in setting healthy boundaries so you can stop enabling your partner and your relationship can flourish.

Being in a relationship with someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder can be a challenge. It’s far too easy to become an enabler, allowing your partner’s behavior to go unchecked at the expense of yourself and your relationship. But it doesn’t have to be this way—by asserting your needs and setting healthy boundaries, you can transform your relationship so it serves both of you.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

Editors' Recommendations

Finding your way in a new town when you have to relocate for work
genius products for small space

It doesn’t matter whether you’re embarking on a second career, a second marriage, or the second grade. Moving to a new town can be a nerve-wracking experience.

Work is perhaps the most common reason to relocate. But you’ve left more than your old job behind. There’s a good chance you’ve also moved away from friends or family, not to mention all the familiar faces and places that make a hometown what it is. Now you’ll need to find a new dentist, a new flower shop, and a whole new support network. All of a sudden, there are a lot of proverbial balls in the air. It’s inconvenient at best and downright debilitating at worst.

Read more
Perfect ways to keep your child safe and in comfort
keep kids entertained

As time progresses there are more and more things to keep your child safe from. This is the case whether it's the ongoing pandemic or dealing with a poopy diaper. It is your job to ensure your child is protected against any danger, and with the following items, you’ll do this with ease.

We provide items that will get your child learning how to safely cook and drink without any spills and messes. Sounds like a plan? Well, check out how the items below will ensure your child stays in total comfort. You won’t be disappointed with the outcome, trust us.

Read more
You’ll love these products to help you unwind
the best lotions for extremely dry skin

Self-care is a buzzword that you’ve probably seen floating around social media or somewhere on television. Some ways to exercise self-care can vary from person to person. For some, practicing self-care might be going on a weekend road trip. For others, it might mean getting a massage. No matter how you decide to practice it, it’s important to take a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If you’re a student, working professional, mother, or just need some time to yourself, you might consider some helpful products for making the most of your recreational time.

You can maximize your weekends by using these products to help you unwind. Whether it’s for the weekend or a long vacation, taking care of yourself in all areas of your life is necessary to leading a happy and healthy life. With many people now working from home, it’s even easier to work on a relaxing art project during your lunch break or after work. Making sure that you’re mental and physical health is taken care of can even help you become a more productive student, employee or parent. When your mind and body are healthy, you shine from the inside out. Take advantage of some of these useful products and start celebrating yourself today.

Read more