The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
Probably the one thing all narcissistic relationships have in common is that the demands the pathologically narcissistic person makes on the other person are unreasonable and unfair. The position of the narcissistic person in all of their personal relationships is basically, "I have a problem and you need to do something about it." The majority of their problems are emotional, even if they don't seem to be. For example, if you will not give the narcissistic person money they've asked for, it may become about how you don't love them or want them to suffer. They often reframe everything that happens this same way: "If you don't do what I want, you don't love me." This is not only because it's a handy emotional prybar to use on other people, but also because their entire life is consumed with trying to prove to themselves that they have value and people care about them.
The other person or people in their lives are expected to go above and beyond at all times to attend to the narcissist's needs, fix their problems and make them comfortable because this is what the narcissist believes you do for people you care about. If this requires people to go without or otherwise sacrifice themselves in order to make the narcissistic person happy, there is no acknowledgment of this. On the contrary, there is not even any notice of it and certainly no gratitude. You are supposed to do that. You agreed to it when you said you cared about them. If you don't do it, you will likely be punished and labelled as a liar, and as abusive and uncaring. It is very much like the relationship between a parent and a toddler or an infant, where the entirety of the responsibility and effort is on the parent. The baby is not expected or required to do anything but be present and absorb love. The rest of it falls on the parent.
There is no true consideration for your needs or you as a person at all. It doesn't matter if you are tired or broke or sick or anything else. It just doesn't matter. You are required to perform and deliver upon command. You are required to fix the narcissist's problems. Their problem is supposed to be your problem and you are supposed to do something about it. The thing that makes this so unfair is that not only is it incredible unreasonable for someone to insist that the other person carry all the burden in any relationship, but the truth is, the narcissist's problems can't be fixed. Their problem is that they want everything right now and they can't have it. Their problem is that they feel miserable inside and they can't change that. Their problem is that the world doesn't give them the instant respect, admiration and special treatment that they need in order to feel like they have any value at all, and no one will go along with the made up fantasies they have to exist in. Regardless of who's responsibility it is, how is anyone supposed to fix any of that anyway? These expectations are delusional and ridiculous.
But people try. At first they may try because they love the pathologically narcissistic person and want them to feel secure and loved. Later, this often changes and they may try because they don't want to be punished, or for the whole family to be held hostage by the narcissist's rage or hysteria. In this way, people become conditioned to carry the narcissist's emotional baggage for them. Their entire existence can become an exercise in trying to make the narcissist happy to keep this person from exploding or melting down. People also become stuck in this cycle because they often have a history of being conditioned to carry the emotions of others, either from previous relationships or going back to their childhood.
Carrying the emotions of others means that you essentially take responsibility for their feelings upon yourself. If the person is mad, sad, hurt or upset, it's because you didn't make them happy. It's a thankless task and frankly, it's impossible. You can't make other people happy - especially if they don't want to be - and you cannot solve other people's problems for them. Narcissists will do everything they can to force others into this, but it doesn't work unless someone agrees to do it.
They will tell you it's your responsibility. It isn't. They will tell you that if you don't do it, it means you don't care. It doesn't. They will resort to all manner of lies, manipulations, abuses and whatever else it takes to get you to carry the resonsibility for their feelings and therefore their well-being because they can't do it themselves. Again, like a child, they expect others to simply take care of this for them. When other people don't, they may rage, go into hysterics or even decompensate in reaction. The resulting feeling of rejection and the burden of taking responsibility is too much for them.
The thing is, the narcissist is not a child and you are not responsible for them. Even if the narcissist in your life is your child, if they are an adult they are responsible for their own feelings and their own well-being. Not only is there nothing wrong with refusing to take responsibility for the narcissist's emotions, it's actually better that way. How else are they going to learn to do it if you don't let them? If you really want to help, stop helping.
Now, when you stop taking responsibility for the pathologically narcissistic person's feelings and refusing to fix their problems, you can likely expect some fireworks from them in return. They don't like things to change and they certainly don't want anyone getting the idea that they are not the most important thing in the situation. They will do what they can to make sure you stay under control in the position they want you in. You just have to stay strong in your resolve and keep reminding yourself that it is not your responsibility to fix this person's problems - because it's not. If they don't like it, that's their problem. If they choose not to take the responsibility, that's their decision. You can't save other people from themselves and you can't run yourself ragged doing things for someone that they should be doing for themselves. This is unfair and it's pointless. Nothing you do will be good enough, because the solution to their problem is inside of them, not you. Just like the solution to your problem is inside of you, not them.
It can be helpful to make a few lists here to visually demonstrate this and really drive it home to yourself. You can make one for what you feel responsible for, one for what you actually are responsible for and one for what you are not responsible for. For example, you are not responsible for the feelings of other people. You are not responsible for their happiness, their reactions, their decisions, their failures or their successes. And they are not responsible for yours.
It takes some practice to be assertive in this way, but the real hurdle is within yourself. It can be difficult to let go of that feeling of responsibility. It can be difficult to give up what can feel like the only control you have over the situation. However, it's a smokescreen. You have no control over other people. They will do what they want based on their own motives and feelings, not based on anything you do or don't do. You also don't have control over your own emotions because you've allowed the narcissist to take control. You take that back by controlling your emotional reactions to the narcissist and by not allowing them to blame you for theirs. Remember: blame in these situations has to be taken. You don't have to accept it. Inside of you, you know that the way things are is not right and you know that you are being treated unfairly. That's why you are watching this video. You already know the answer.
Ultimately, if you want this situation to change, you are going to have to be the one to change it. They have no reason to change anything, and you not liking it is never going to become a reason. Your pain means nothing to them, so you have to change things if you don't like them. Otherwise, you will be run until you drop by someone who does not care about anything but themselves. When you are finally used up, you will be told how you never tried hard enough anyway and the narcissist will likely move on to someone they haven't exhausted yet. You deserve better than that. Too many people are looking for ways to make the narcissist change. They have no reason to change. They are fine with the way things are. You are the one who doesn't like it, and nothing is going to change if you don't.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Narcissist's wife K on June 16, 2019:
It gives me comfort to read this article. Now I know the problem lies with my diagnosed narcissistic husband who told me I was a "liar", "uncaring" and even "emotionally abusive" throughout his ongoing affair with a prostitute half his age. He even went as crazy as saying he felt "raped" by me because he doesn't feel any real love for me when HE uses ME for sexual relief.
Kathy Delano on October 04, 2018:
GREAT ARTICLE!! Thanks!