1. Directly confronting them by calling them a narcissist – with the hope that they will change their behavior.
Occasionally I’ll receive a comment on one of my articles that says something like, “I want to send this to my partner!” While I understand the compulsion to do so, I must also caution that this is a dangerous move. When we finally feel validated by a piece of research, a survivor account or a therapist’s perspective, we then want to ‘deliver’ that information to the toxic person – and deep down, we want to be validated by the narcissist because we’ve been groomed to believe that their approval matters. We hope that the conniving manipulator will suddenly morph into an evolved human being who says, “I can’t believe how I’ve been acting! Thank goodness you’ve told me, I am off to change now and become a better person!”
Anyone who has ever dealt with a real narcissist knows how absurd this fantasy is. The truth is, calling out a true full-fledged narcissist will only cause a narcissistic injury (a threat to their very fragile ego) as well as narcissistic rage. A true narcissist who is sent any form of information outlining his or her narcissism will lash out. They are unable to own up to their toxic behavior, so instead of listening to the message, they’ll usually shoot the messenger instead. They will punish you for trying to expose who they truly are. A better route to take would be to continue educating yourself on how toxic personalities operate and learning to trust your own instincts. That way, you can focus your energy on detaching from the narcissist instead.
Accept that you cannot change narcissists – you can only change how you react to them and how much longer you choose to invest in them at the risk of your own sanity.
2. Letting them know what we’re up to.
Since we are empathic human beings, we have a tendency to wear our hearts on our sleeves and be conscientious about how our actions affect others. That means if we’re thinking of leaving a narcissist, we have this desire to let them know exactly how we’re feeling. My advice: don’t.
If a narcissistic boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse thinks you’re about to leave, they will pull out all the stops to get you to stay. They will try to ‘reel’ you back in and bait you with pity ploys, apologies, and periodic demonstrations of affection. This is a manipulation method known as intermittent reinforcement and it’s very effective in keeping you tethered to them. They only seem to care about your needs when they realize you’re withdrawing.
So, instead, be very selective with the information you give out and assume that all of it can and will be used against you. Use the time and energy you have not arguing with the narcissist, trying to get him or her to change, or threatening to leave – but actually preparing to do so.
Get your finances together. Document everything and anything you might need in a court of law. Gather any evidence or testimonies you might need, especially if you have children with the narcissist and you’re trying to win custody. Get a lawyer who is well trained in dealing with high-conflict divorces with personality disordered individuals. Use the Grey Rock method to stop feeding them emotional fuel – become ‘boring’ but do not let on that anything has changed quite yet until you’re ready to depart.
3. Assuming that their remorse is real or that they just don’t know any better.
Trust me, malignant narcissists know exactly what they’re doing. Research has proven this time and time again. So have thousands of survivor accounts as well as the expertise of countless numerous mental health professionals writing about this topic. When are we going to accept that there are deliberate manipulators out there? They know what their impact is on others and many of the more sadistic types enjoy witnessing the pain they create.
Narcissists create calculated shows of remorse at specific times to make you feel indebted to them and to the relationship. While you’re trying to get some relief from the chaos, they’re busy getting off on your uncertainty and self-doubt. So, rather than assuming they have a conscience, it’s far safer to assume that they do not.
The fact of the matter is, if they aren’t changing their behavior in any way, they’re not going to stop abusing you. So rather than giving them a free pass to do whatever they like just because they shed some crocodile tears, it might be high time to remember the real tears you’ve cried time and time again over them.
One of the most powerful ways to finally get out of the vicious cycle is to reconnect to the reality of the abuse – and that of the toxic nature of your abuser.