The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
Possibly one of the hardest things for a narcissist's loved ones to learn is how to stop explaining. It's a natural response, but it's also the exact wrong response with a narcissist. Here we will detail why that is, and what to do instead.
Why it Doesn't Work
Narcissists look at things differently than the rest of us do. They are guided by emotion. Not logic, not reason and not intelligence. Emotion. This often causes their perception of things to be very, very different from other people's. They view everything through the lens of feeling, and their feelings are generally negative, out of control and even frightening to them. This causes their perceptions and experiences to be negative and frightening to them as well. They believe feelings are facts. That's not just a saying or a metaphor. They actually believe their feelings are facts. If they feel it, it must be true - regardless of whether it makes any sense or if they have proof or anything else.
Most people realize that feelings are not reliable. They sometimes make no sense, they're sometimes irrational and they are certainly not facts. Most of us realize that high emotion can alter perception and that events viewed through the lens of emotion are often not viewed correctly.
Narcissists do not understand this. They experience things exactly the opposite way. Events viewed through the lens of emotion are altered in order to fit the emotion. If they are angry at you, everything you do will be perceived negatively, no matter what it is. If you're smiling, you must be laughing at them. If you brought them a sandwich or offered to share your food, there must be something wrong with it. Even things you did in the past that were OK at the time are now viewed through this lens and found to be evil. Yesterday, you were washing dishes together and laughing, having fun. No unkind words were said, there were no problems at all. Today, they see it as they were only helping you wash dishes yesterday because you forced them to do it so you can laugh at how much of a slave they are.
In reality, the narcissist's "truth" changes with their emotions. When they are angry, you are bad and they hate you. You also hate them and are horribly cruel and evil. When they are happy, you are good and they love you. You also love them (or at least don't hate them) and are not mean to them. It has nothing to do with actual reality or anything you are actually doing. It is all based on unreasonable, irrational and faulty perceptions. Instead of being seen as an individual human being with your own feelings, you are simply seen as a walking mirror of the narcissist's feelings about themselves.
Why We Still Try
Because of this hugely divergent way of seeing things, people who are dealing with a narcissist often find themselves looking for a way to bridge the gap. They find themselves constantly explaining to the narcissist that the narcissist's perception is incorrect or faulty, that the narcissist is adding the wrong things together or coming to ludicrous conclusions based on things that aren't real, weren't said or didn't happen. This is understandable. Rational adults speaking to other adults are going to use reason and logic to try to get their point across. What else is there to do? This usually works in most people's lives. Compromises are reached, points are made, life goes on.
The trouble comes when you find yourself dealing with a seemingly-normal, cognizant person who, five minutes ago was speaking with you like a reasonable, intelligent adult and who now cannot understand even a basic point you are trying to make or simple words you are saying. Worse, they seem to have misunderstood you terribly and are now angry, upset and offended. So what do you do? As a rational, reasonable person, you try to explain. In most situations, this would be the right thing to do. With narcissists, it is the exact wrong thing.
In actuality, there's been no misunderstanding. At least, not one of the kind most people believe. The misunderstanding is not from you to the narcissist. It is within the narcissist themselves. They did not hear you wrong. They did not misunderstand what you said. What happened was that they reacted to their own emotions and blamed it on you. It really has nothing to do with you at all. When you brought them that sandwich, your motive was simply to do something nice and give them a sandwich. They didn't misunderstand that because they did not consider that. They don't care what your motive is. Not really. It's all about what is happening on their internal landscape. And all they are hearing inside is, "You're stupid, you're ugly, you're garbage, you're worthless, no one loves you, they are all laughing at you, they don't care about you..." You just got caught in the crossfire.
You can try to explain that your motives are not negative, that you don't hate the narcissist, you don't think they're garbage, or whatever else but the narcissist has been listening to this internal dialogue their entire life and they are completely and utterly convinced of it. They're never going to believe you. They're not even going to hear you. Ever notice that it seems like they are listening—and responding—to someone else when you're talking? Someone who is saying completely different things than what you are saying? That's because they are.
A Deeper Understanding
Narcissists expect to be treated badly because of this very thing. They therefore look for evidence of it in every single thing other people do. And of course, they find it, mostly because they push and provoke and harass and refuse to accept anything else.
For instance, a wife is speaking with her narcissistic husband. It's the classic narcissistic argument, where no matter what she says or how she says it, everything that comes out of her mouth is hurtful, hateful and wrong. The wife is attempting to explain to the narcissist reasonably and logically that his accusations are senseless and untrue. As she is talking, she calls him "honey." The narcissist replies, "Don't call me honey" in a disgusted tone of voice. The wife loses her cool and replies, "Fine, [expletive]. I won't." The narcissist then says, "That's more like it."
Now, this was no doubt intended to be a knock against the wife, to imply that the wife using terms of endearment is fake or insincere because she is so horrible and abusive. But it really says more about the narcissist than anything, doesn't it? They cannot accept being treated respectfully. It jams their radar, so to speak, and makes them very uneasy. Since they expect to be treated badly, they are constantly on edge, waiting for it to happen. They will often cause an argument or accuse someone of treating them badly for no reason simply to fulfill this expectation and ease their internal tension. Sometimes you can actually see the relief on their faces.
Explaining in these situations is useless. You will not get anywhere. Not only are they not listening, they don't want to believe you. They want to believe you are evil. It makes them victims. It makes them the center of attention, and most of all, it makes them right. If they have to accept that you are not evil, then who is to blame for all these problems? There's only one person left. In the narcissist's cartoon, comic book view of the world, there always has to be a villain - and a hero, by the way. If the villain isn't you, it will have to be them and if that's true, then it means that everything that voice says to them is right. Don't forget, narcissism is nothing but a defense mechanism against that little voice. That little voice says they are evil, horrible, disgusting vomit on the ground, so in self-defense, the narcissist creates a false self that is the total opposite of that.
A hero, in other words.
However, someone has to be evil, because all that hurt and bile and anger and bitterness has to go somewhere. So it has to be you. You were once the hero, when the narcissist first met you and you were perfect, and you were going to save everyone and make everything great. But you revealed yourself as a lowly human with no special powers and worse, you revealed that they are a lowly human with no special powers, either. So you're now the villain in this story and you can never be anything else.
Beyond that, they like that you keep trying to make them understand that you love them. They like the futility, the sincerity, the fact that you keep trying and keep jumping through those hoops for them. They don't believe you and they never will, but they love to hear it just the same. They like frustrating you and upsetting you and sucking your life force out one pointless argument at a time. Explaining is really only feeding their egotistical need for attention in the end because they aren't going to believe you. They don't want to and even if they did, the voice of that brutal superego that piles them on with internal abuse 24 hours a day would never let them.
Their disorder is set up so perfectly that exactly the things they need to hear and understand in order to change are exactly the things they are programmed to deny and block out the most. It's really sad, when you think about it. Because of that blind spot, they simply self-destruct over and over and over again. They are some of the most miserable people alive, and they walk around their entire lives never realizing they are doing it all to themselves. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.
What to Do Instead
It's very easy, then, to get caught in the trap of explaining. When a problem is so easy for us to see, of course we will try to make the other person understand. "Hey, you can fix this! All you have to do is stop doing this!" As a rational adult person, that's what most of us do. We attempt to communicate. If the communication is getting fouled up along the way somewhere, we try to fix that so that we are heard and things can be resolved.
The problem is that in this situation, the lines are crossed in a place where you can't reach or affect them. It doesn't matter how you say it, or how many times you say it. They are not going to hear it. They can't and they don't even want to anyway. There is too much at stake for them to believe you, and because of that, they never will. There are many people right now suffering in relationships with narcissists and holding onto hope that things will change. Holding onto hope that if they can just somehow explain it right, the narcissist will finally understand. But their brain does not work like yours does. The reality is, the chances are 1000 to 1, because these people have a vested interest in things staying exactly the same way they are right now.
When the narcissist accuses you of something that isn't true, or when they have their patented "misunderstandings," simply tell them that they are entitled to their opinion and leave it at that. You can say, "I'm sorry that you feel that way, but you're entitled to your opinion," or "I disagree with that, but you are entitled to your feelings." There is no reason to get bogged down in semantics about what was actually said and how it was said, or the ulterior motives that you don't really have or any of that because it is a waste of time. It goes nowhere and it never ends.
If you say the things suggested here, it asserts that you disagree with their interpretation but it does not feed into their need to create chaos in order to get attention. It does not reward the behavior, in other words. A lot of times they will push harder and provoke more, trying to get a reaction out of you - which is all they really wanted in the first place. Hold your ground and don't give in. Some people have difficulty doing this. They don't like "letting the narcissist get away with" the things they are saying. That's understandable, but it's counterproductive. A fair response to that feeling is, if you roll around in the mud with a pig, all that will happen is you'll get dirty too. Do yourself a favor: stay clean.
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.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is there any way for a narcissist to see that their emotions are creating a reality that isn't real? Can a marriage ever work out with a narcissist?
Answer: It is very difficult for someone to see something that their defense mechanisms have evolved to hide from them. Pathologically narcissistic people spend their entire lives hiding from reality. It is very difficult for someone like that to turn and face the truth. Some may not even be able to at this point in their lives.
crystal on June 19, 2020:
im married to a narc have been with him 15 yrs first ten yrs were good i didnt see the red flags but after researching learning more about narcissism i wish i would have known morei lost my 19 yr old son in an accident drs put me on so many meds i didnt realize what was going on opieds were some of those meds when i lost my ins i started withdrawing i was introduced to heroin by his brother later we were introduced to meth this brought out the beginning of a long violent road. he started choking me out til i passed out id wake up coughing up blood. there was a time we were on the roof of his families home he pulled a knife on me kicked me back of head neighbors called cops i ended up with a concussion a few yrs later he had just gotten out of jail we werent fighting we had just been very happy i went outside he came running out pulled a knife on me pulled me down driveway by my hair choked me out got on top of me started punching me in face put me over his shoulder i was screaming for help noone heard. he pushed me in the house punched me some more duct taped me hit me some more i did get away he went to prison he just got out now wants me back...what now he says he changed could he
Sumbo on May 04, 2020:
Wow! Wow!! Wow!!! I wish I saw this article the very minute it was published. The comments...oh my gosh!
If you married a narcissist, if you can run, run for your life. You can never win! If not, just like me, I now know how to respond to the narcissist in my life.
No response, no defense. Just move along!
Zaphryn on April 16, 2020:
This is so eerily accurate and well written that I had to sign up just to comment that. How absolutely spot on. This really enables me to understand my narc ex and our endless round and round discussions, million sidetracks, discussion of definition of words, taking everything literally, my mental blackouts, etc. It all makes soooo much sense now. They never hear what you're saying, just their own internal monologue. That explains the gaslighting, the denial, the twists, the strawmen, the hyperboles, etc. Waow. Thank you. You're insanely skilled at pinning down exactly how a narc thinks and why. Best articles about narcissism I've ever read.
Sel1n on April 06, 2020:
What the article doesn't say, and i keep stressing this everytime we talk about narcissism as a spectrum, is that if you found yourself stuck in a toxic relationship, chances are you have some specific personality traits yourself. Codependency has more to do with the attatchment style, a borderline or a narcissistic individual is a codependent so the term is just another excuse to deflect responsibility. Both my parents are on the spectrum, both on the covert side but i think it's always more like a blend, there's no fixed label except for NPD (means 0 insight). Spent two years in therapy only to find out i was a covert narcissist myself with a borderline personality organization (not the same as BPD). Most of my life i attracted romantic partners with similar same personality traits, narcissistic, histrionic, whatever, they all mean one thing:childlike, and not in a pleasant way. Sometimes it's impossible to set enough boundaries or keep a distance, and that slows down progress but whatever your problem might be with them or with yourself, therapy with a certified mental health professional is the only way out. Reducing cognitive dissonance within is painful but it kicks you awake. It is possible you discover unsettling truths but it's still the best shot you have. Everyone seems to be a little narcissistic today so make sure you find someone reliable, accountable and most of all non-toxic you can share the journey with. It's a gut feeling but not immediate, if things go too fast with someone, keep your eyes open. Healthy individuals exist though. And what's most important, set your own goals.
Tcmoravek on March 06, 2020:
Jason B - Don’t give up hope but give up on her! You still have a chance at happiness but she never will be and you don’t want your girls growing up thinking that it’s okay to be in a relationship or marriage like that. Love yourself and finally put yourself first for once. There’s no shame in it, you deserve it. As for the bad thoughts, keep them that way, only thoughts. It’s fine to fantasize but don’t let her and her awful choices turn you awful. I know you love her but it’s not worth it! You’ve wasted enough time, energy and life on her. It’s time to focus on something or someone else.
Chuck16 on February 05, 2020:
This is all so clear now. I couldn't figure out why she would respond to me with just random stuff that wasn't even related to what we just talked about. I also couldn't figure out why she got mad every time I tried to share my feelings with her. It would only get worse and worse with no resolution. This article was very helpful.
Michael on December 14, 2019:
I have similar but somewhat different experience. My husband seems to be all logic and very little emotion. He wants me to open up and tell him what I want, but when I do it feels like there’s always a discussion over it with weighing pros and cons. I feel like I can never have freedom of opinions without them possibly completely offending him. He wants me to contribute because he feels like he does way too much, if I try to help by taking the initiative on my own, he finds a problem because it deviates from a direct plan of action to complete, yet he takes things on either without notifying me or way ahead of time, it makes me feel horrible because it adds to this sense that I don’t help, yet he seems to be in control of everything.
He even has a problem with a second job I want to take because of the cost of parking and lower pay, but I want to go there because it’s comfortable for me and I’d be happy there.
It’s like my discussions have to be discussed while his are all properly planned out , priced out and are air tight so no holes can be poked in them.
It’s like he uses logic to control my will to live and think freely for myself.
Jason B on November 30, 2019:
I am currently going through a rough situation with my wife. I never knew what a narcissist was. I’ve been with her for 15 years and she would call me a narcissist all the time and I never knew why. I just thought it was a girl talking shit during an argument so I always just blew it off and laughed it off. I found out five years ago that she was having an affair. It broke my heart. So for five years I tried everything to have conversations with her to heal the pain I was feeling and I was constantly let down and would find out she lied about each and every detail and I ended up finding out it was 10 times worse than I ever thought. As I started to read into these articles about narcissism I was blown away because it hits every point exactly. This girl is “the love of my life” and I have drove myself mentally insane trying to understand why and trying to fix things with her. The deeper I dug into our past the more hurtful things I found and at this point I don’t know how I’m supposed to continue a relationship with her. I love her and I love our daughters. She knows I love being a father and I feel she used that love against me many times. She also had me get a vasectomy the same year she was sleeping with someone else and I wanted to try for a son so bad. It’s a total control thing. I can’t believe what I have let this girl do to my life and I am so embarrassed that I loved her so much and gave her so much. I bought her anything she wanted cars clothes jewelry. I worked my ass off since I was 19 years old so I could give her a decent life. We were young parents and I sacrificed so much for this relationship just to find out that she was playing me this entire time. I have slowly lost all of my friends and shut out family members to the point where she is the only person I have in my life just to find out she is the one that’s had a knife in my back the whole time. This is killing me and I don’t know what to do. The guy she had the affair with lives about an hour away and for five years I have restrained myself from acting upon bad thoughts I’ve had. But I don’t think I can hold on any longer. I don’t wanna throw my life away for someone who doesn’t care about me but I am so hurt and angry that I don’t know what to do. She says she wants everything to be fine but she does not want to talk about anything. At this point we are 35 years old and I have everything I need to be successful in life. I finally landed my dream job five years ago and I am so blessed to make the amount of money I do. I’m pretty sure the only reason she is so upset is because of the money and the house and the cars and everything else. She has shown she is a shallow person with money in the past. I want to add that it hurts for me to talk this way about her because I love this girl more than I love myself but I now see that that is not OK. I hope I can find happiness again somehow because I can’t even function at this point.
James Berkeley on October 08, 2019:
What can be done if husband and wife each think the other is a narcissist? Any advice or suggestions?
Bob Suruncle on September 21, 2019:
Roskieh - hate to say this - the way you complain on and on about your daughter - am guessing if we got her side of the story you might look a lot NPD yourself.
Laura S. on September 09, 2019:
Thank you! This article is spot-on.
The father of my children, my ex-husband, is a narcissist and I have spent the last 3 years attempting to co-parent with him. At first, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to explain to him that what he is requesting was irrational/unreasonable/out of line. It was EXHAUSTING! But over time (and with a lot of therapy), I learned to quit trying to talk sense into him. I learned to give myself time to calm down before responding to a message. I learned to quit seeking vindication. And yet even though I no longer care what his opinion of me is, I still have to continually remind myself to quit trying to reason with an unreasonable person.
I will get good at 'letting it go' for a while, but inevitably he does something new (i.e. finds another loop hole in our parenting plan, attacks my character in a different way, discovers an additional way to use the kids to hurt me) and I find myself giving him way more head space than he deserves (mentally composing an argument that convinces him that his behavior is inappropriate, envisioning ways to get back at him, etc). While I (usually) end up choosing to take the high road and stay clean, I can't help but kick myself for wasting my precious time and energy on him.
That is why I have printed this article, bookmarked it on my phone, saved it to my home computer, and loaded the pdf on my kindle. So now the next time I catch myself wrestling with my desire to give him a piece of my mind, I can re-read this article, no matter where I am, and remind myself that I am wasting my time. So, thank you!
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about co-parenting with a narcissist? Do you happen to have any articles on that topic?
I truly believe that this article will help many of us struggling to sort out the complex feelings we experience when dealing with a narcissist. Thank you again!
Elyse on August 28, 2019:
Excellect article. Very well written & to the point. Very easy to understand, and, hopefully, apply now. Thanks!
Holly on August 10, 2019:
I have confronted my husband about him being a narcissist, we were ready to end our marriage. But I told him in a way that he would understand how he treats me and is a narcissist. We go to therapy and he has been treating me better. But is there anyway he will stay better? Or will he just go back to his narcissistic ways? I can’t decide what to do that is best for me. Stay and fight for our marriage and it end up the way it was before. Or just spare the time and go find better for me.
Roskieh on August 04, 2019:
I believe my daughter is a narcissist! She is downright rude to myself and others, she doesn’t never go out of her way for anyone, she cannot express nice and kind and loving feelings. Recently even when she knew she was the only one I had to count on because I was bad breath he couldn’t even get out of bed to go get my prescriptions she never once even called to see if I was OK or needed anything. Which she found out that my daughter-in-law was going to get my medicine she still never reached out! There is only one small example of many many things of that nature. She has no problem asking me for favors or expecting me to do things for her. It is very hard for her to eat at MOD or the words I love you, or thank you, or any conflict for that matter. She’s not when I can speak to about this. Help to you I get through to her and or get her help. I recently wrote her a very constructive and loving letter explaining that if she doesn’t Chains she will not be able to hold on to any relationship with her being a husband, friends, coworkers, etc. I am in desperate need of help, she’s 22-year-old woman and I’m afraid that this can’t be fixed! She comes from a very loving family her father and I do not express his treats whatsoever!
Linda on July 13, 2019:
Molly - Why are you waiting for your husband to file for divorce? What is it going to take for you to get out of this toxic, toxic relationship? Things will not get better. You've learned that. He is unpredictable and explosive. You do not deserve his abuse. Why do you stay with him? Do you have children? I hope any daughters do not grow up thinking this is the way a loving man treats his wife or the way a smart wife reacts, by staying with an abusive husband. Would you want a daughter staying with such a person? Would you want a son growing up to be such an abusive husband? You are also teaching your children how much disrespect you will put up with, and they may grow up treating you and others with this disrespect, all because you continued to put up with an abuser. Please GET OUT!!
Diana Burkley on June 30, 2019:
Catpjs on June 02, 2019:
I hero worshipped my older brother for 50 years attempting to get his approval. He was always mean spirited and I thought I just needed to do this or say that to get his okay. Then I visited him at his isolated farm in 2003 and he simply quit speaking to me for my four day visit, no where to go, only the two of us. No explanation. All these years I have suffered over that though I kept a good relationship best I could. I just sent him an email detailing the hurtful things he has said and asked why he didn't talk to me then. His special power was intimidation and I was afraid to ask. His response in no way addressed any of what I said but was simple angry word salad. I sent a second missive, I haven't heard back, believe I am dead to him but I am vacated of this terrible pain I have carried. We were close when we were young but now he is an aging gay man who was in love with his looks and now I think he might be bitter, who knows. I knew he wouldn't be able to decipher what I said in a way I would want, it is like beating a dumb animal, though he is a Georgetown educated attorney. It is so hurtful and I thought for years about letting him know exactly the behavior that hurt so bad. I told him to own his behavior. I will be surprised if I ever hear from him again. He lives on one coast and me on the opposite. Just so difficult, we were the only two siblings and we loved our parents a narcissist with histrionics and an alcoholic. But they loved us, once that commonality was gone at their death than we have nothing about each other to relate to. He can't even talk about or reminisce about the past. Sorry bro, you gotta go
Lynn on May 25, 2019:
I found thes artcles very enlightening. At 70, i have no way of getting out, so i isolate myself from my husband. You say its a spectrum, so i guess he may not be the worst, but he takes and takes. He is delusional about being a big shot in business, result is, not no money, but a hand to mouth existance. Wish i had fought through the confusion engendered in my life and been brave enough to get out.
Cal on May 08, 2019:
Oh my gosh, this explains everything perfectly. I have an older narcissist mother and I always try to explain things because to me this is how you solve an issue. But it ALWAYS backfires and makes things worse and makes her more upset and angry with me. The hard part for me will be to not react. I don't know if I can do it!
Finally The Ex on May 01, 2019:
Oh my god this makes so much sense.
Arguing with the Narcissist is like 1 + 1 = You're a horrible human!
I thought we were doing math.
Kim on April 27, 2019:
Thank you for an eye opening article.
Unknown Monster on March 26, 2019:
Better communications, diagnoses, and public knowledge is required in order to prevent the development of unknowing monsters. It may save a life and those around them.
Unknowing Monster on March 26, 2019:
After reading articles to discover the reasons for my disastrous past actions, I discovered, both I and my wife are narcissistic sociopaths. Until then I never knew that such a disorder even existed, let alone the effects on my thought and actions. It is a shock to one to realize that you were not in the real world at age 60. You cannot hide or change if you do not know that the disorder exists. I take responsibility of this mess, as I should have understood my actions and those of my wife. Thought of ruining and losing my family and friends, makes me strongly to desire to change my behaviour. The emotionally and financially damage is done and cannot be corrected, as one cannot travel back in time. I am like the walking dead at the thought that I have destroyed me, my family, relatives, and friends. I have lost everything; family, health, pension, processions, heirlooms, the house, car, reputation, love, and trust. I like the emotional feeling resulting from helping others. I was highly driven to obtain research results not for my gain, but for society in a highly competitive field. Often my thoughts and actions at home and work do not make sense now; and some are illegal, unethical, and stupid. The narcissistic sociopathic traits are from genetic factors, as I never was devoid of attention, had a happy life, and no trauma. I will never see my loving daughter again from this mess, as she is studying in France. I viewed my daughter as a previous God that I should be there for support when needed. I can vision the tears and terror when the mess erupts. Remember in my mind, I was conducting appropriate research and providing a home for family; not inappropriate actions and thoughts. Even if I do not go to prison or die, there is nothing to support my family and that nothing can be changed. No matter what direction or action I take, someone will get hurt. Donald Trump, Roger Stone, and Associates have a better chance of success. I want just to correct things and ease my memory of those wronged, then disappeared. This hell and the one in the after life, I would not wish on my worse enemy. So how do you explain to the ones that you love that they the have no future because of a mental disorder starting grade one that was not recognised until a year ago?
Margot on March 24, 2019:
....years of family dysfunction, because of a covert narcissistic mother, a flying monkey bully father & enduring an older siblings learnt narcissistic abuse ( golden child ) I have finally, in my 50's truly realised what was the reason for my very low self esteem, depression & suicidal thoughts.
Please if you have an inkling this could be the cause of family dysfunction, remove yourself & more importantly your children from this abuse....as the affect upon them can be quite damaging. By witnessing abnormal & very confusing relationships, either by being an observer or even being subjected to an acid tongued Grandparent, it does untold long term damage.
To avoid this please remove yourself from the narcissists life....but unfortunately because of a lack of self esteem / confidence & trying to appease & gain approval, I delayed doing so. Now my children have witnessed the harsh reality of very damaged people & some dysfunction & intolerance has now been passed on
No longer confused on March 22, 2019:
Cannot tell you how helpful this article has been for me! I will definitely try your alternate responses. Makes perfect sense, but of course I’ve been led to believe that I’m the one with the problem.
Craig on March 02, 2019:
When she's projecting, I could say, "I'm sorry you feel that way, but you're entitled to keep seeing me as your own reflection when you look into a mirror."
Aisling Ireland from Bolingbroke, GA on January 18, 2019:
"They did not hear you wrong. They did not misunderstand what you said. What happened was that they reacted to their own emotions and blamed it on you." I have narcissistic family members and I cannot tell you how long it took me to understand this. I always assumed I must just not be communicating well because nobody who loved me would ever act in the manner in which there were acting if they understood what I was saying. Nope. Not sure. Narcissists are only capable of loving their own reflections and unless you are bowing at the feet 24/7, sooner or later they're going to see something they don't want to in your eyes and then, WATCH OUT. I'm glad this issue is getting the press it deserves. Thanks for another insightful article!
Ali-Key Swanmie on January 13, 2019:
Very interesting read! Sure explains a lot about my narcissistic friends, especially the part talking about their emotions being like their facts in their eyes. Quite an eye-opening read! Thank you for sharing!
Molly on January 10, 2019:
He has said horrible and scarring things to me after I asked him to please not to scream so loud so late at night that the neighbors would hear him. He was raging over nothing. He lashed out at me even more with horrible things even worse than the painful things he has said to me through the years. Then I was still trying to be nice to him to keep the peace but he would give me his usual silent treatment. I have a parent dying and he upped his sadistic games as soon as he found out, instead of easier g up and let me be sad. I can't be sad or focus on someone else so I still kept acting all happy and nice to him but no avail. Finally I stopped speaking to him too. First time in 28 years.. this time he gambled away so much money online, refused to buy even toilet paper and was ignoring and giving the silent treatment to even our dog. He kept provoking me but I would not respond. He would dump food on the floor from the fridge and walk away and I would clean it. Made me carry very heavy things as he sat there. Then I started talking to him, lightly and very nicely, baking cookies and meals he wouldn't eat, and respond with rudeness and a hostile low voice. I just tried to say something to him and he kept ignoring me as if I wasn't there. I asked him to just file for divorce please, he said "I will" as he has been saying for many years anytime I ask him not to be so cruel to me. He says "I am divorcing you" but he refused to do that. He has cheated on me with several women at a time and I caught some of them with evidence but instead of an explanation or feel bad, he upped his cruelty after I caught him. This was a few months ago. He took of his wedding ring months ago, but he won't get divorced. He kicks me out if the house constantly but he won't file. I am so confused since nothing I do works. I feel like I am trapped in his hell. He is so sullen, angry, hateful, and nasty. He attacked me verbally earlier tonight cause I picked up spilled dog food off of him saying "oh let me get that so it doesn't get smeared" after he refused to get it himself. He raged at me saying he got in trouble. When I am the one who got in trouble. Today I mentioned I haven't been able to get on our TV app for the last two weeks cause I didn't know know the password he raged saying, and mocking "you never gave me the password, you never gave me the email, asshole, what is wrong with you, m..f..! " I was dumbfounded and said"honey I never said that, I only said I couldn't get on it for two weeks. And I never told you cause I was afraid you would get mad at me" his answer" you could have just said you didn't know the password but you said it was all my fault and I never gave it to you " I said "honey that is the only hi g I said, I said exactly just that" he still refused to give me the password. Later on he wanted to watch that app and saw that the email and password was gone and has been reset by the app and he couldn't get on it. I entered the email and password he told me and that is how I found out. He could have just told me hours ago but he refuses to give me any information on anything. Thee is so much financial abuse too but it is too long to mention everything. I try to reason but it's like he has lost all logic. He has a high level job, so he can function fine outside but at home it is like a crazy person that has disconnected from reality, hates my guts when someone else would adore me and appreciate me, and he won't divorce me either.
Susan on January 04, 2019:
This is such an eye-opener. It describes perfectly what has happened to me the last 4 yrs. The more I got into the article, the more I realized that it is exactly what I need to do. I've tried not to explain myself several times before, but I always ended up with trying to defend myself. He had so many outbursts and unfounded rages, that would come and go in a blink of an eye. He also always accused me of everything that went wrong, can't count the number of unfounded accusations.
For example: my ex always accused me of cheating on him and no matter how many times I told him I wasn't, he wouldn't believe me. Even if I told him other ppl, that he knows, were with me the whole time. He even claimed that those ppl were the ones who "told him what I've done and that I've threatened them so they wouldn't tell him." There were times my ex believed me, but we ended up having the same discussion over and over again.
He accused me of other things too: I wasn't giving enough attention to him, our relationship, that I was the one being jealous and basically did very little for the greater good of us in general. I could see right then and there that he was so insecure and these moods would come and go as breathing in and out.
When in fact he was the one that always picked a fight with me, for no reason, and always ran away when I needed him most.
It hasn't been very long since this all came to an end, which I hope, because I have this gut feeling that it isn't over even though I blocked him. And when we spoke the last time, which frankly was yesterday, I defended myself, again, up to a point when I realized this didn't make any sense. So I stopped doing that, told him that he was right and that I didn't do anything right in the last couple of yrs and left his mother's house.
As mentioned in this article, I still want ppl to know the truth and not believe the things he says. I don't know what it is that makes me do it, but I can't stand the feeling of someone portraying me as something I'm not. But I have to stop defending myself. A couple of friends of mine asked me: "do you know the truth? Yes? Good, that's the only thing that matters. Not what other ppl think of you or say about you. Keep the truth very close to your heart."
And that's exactly what this very well written article confirms!
Ben on December 31, 2018:
This article finally opened my eyes to my sister’s behavior. Looking back I can see it all however her out-of-the-blue change in personality, outbursts and unfounded accusations were a huge surprise (narcissist rage?). I knew it really wasn’t me however was beginning to second guess myself. The article describes her actions spot-on and will help me in dealing with the ugliness of it all. Must continue to tell myself that “it’s not me!”.
Kris on December 22, 2018:
Say there you go
Rayn on December 19, 2018:
Dealing with my narcissistic emotional drain of an ex girlfriend for 2 years led me to read a lot of extracts like this n listen to videos etc but this is worded so perfectly. Every point made was basically my relationship but it was laid out here in an easier way to understand. Thanks writers
Tired of her trying to prove I'm "retarded". on December 10, 2018:
I am so glad to have found this article. It makes total sense. There is a narcissist in my family who keeps calling me stupid and mentally retarded and putting me down at every chance even though I avoid her like the plague. I have always felt her descriptions of me seem to fit her better than me. She has always done socially inappropriate things that made me feel embarassed for her and then she calls me socially autistic. She gets in a rage when people are nice to me because any attention or petty compliment paid to me is viewed as direct insults to her. She believes she is a genuis but calls me arrogant for showing the slighted self esteem. She calls me a control freak when I don't let her control me. I feel better for the moment knowing all the derogatory names she calls me reflect her own self image.
Abused Mother, 63 on November 10, 2018:
When my daughter went through puberty, her whole personality changed. From sweet girl to monstrous manipulater. She is 37 now, my only child with 3 children.
Once God gave me these precious grandchildren, i LIVED for those gifts of love - they are now 18, 10 and 6. I babysat/cared for them on and off, but consistently all their lives. As of this weekend I have to let go of the situation, as my physical and mental health is thinner than a wafer.
I have put up with sooo much abuse from my cruel, pathological lying, ungrateful, uncaring, unloving, disrespectful daughter until i DO ceel dead inside.
Thank you for this valuable article. The way you described how my daughter thinks was so on target. I am EXTREMELY grateful beyond woeds, as I have recently wanted to kill myself from all of my daughter's massive, massive hurt.
Thank you SO MUCH for being so generous for posting this. I want to live now. I realize i am in danger of dying if i continue in a relationship with her.
It will take me time to heal from not seeing my grandchildren - my heart - but i won't be in psychological pain every minute of every day trying to get her to love me. She is extremely dangerous and i now understand what my Psychiatrist and Therapist have been trying to get me to see for 3 years, now. So heartbreaking.
I want to scream on October 27, 2018:
Oh my god !!! anybody remember the song about the boy 'strumming my life with his fingers' .....
I am now in tears reading this.... because it's exactly what my life has been for last 30+ years and my story is far too long to relate it all here now.
But the long and the short of it is I'm now 'stuck' with this bad tempered self pitying sick (cirrhosis , kidney failure on dialysis) 70 year old alcoholic with no way of 'escape'
Chris on October 27, 2018:
I have spent the better part of a year trying to get my arms around what happened to my happy marriage. Something triggered my wife who became very intraverted until she found another man..then she began to make everything my fault. Simple things from not putting the tooth brush back exactly right or missing a water mark on the counter lead to her screaming and yelling. I came home to an empty house a year ago and the yelling has continued at every meeting we have had. The affair continues but I have become more and more evil just standing still and not giving into the crazy Tornado that ripped through our lives. When I back left of the storm to figure out what signs I missed it does appear my wife had signs and that a couple of crises on her side (changed jobs that went poorly, move to new city, huge income drop, and my job becoming very successful) triggered something very confusing for me and a run-away-bride that just stays very angry and picks on everything I do to include being exceptually kind and understanding...this article does a great job of summing up what had taken me a year to become emotionally stable enough to stop blaming myself and get my arms around...now what?
Yaz on October 26, 2018:
Omg! This has been my life for the last six years and I constantly find myself explaining and trying to convince my significant other that I didn’t mean things the way she is taking them. She never believes me and takes offense to the simplest things. No matter what I say or how I say it she hears something completely different and I’m accused of being manipulative and evil. I can have all the evidence to show that she is wrong but as she has said several times she doesn’t care about the facts her feelings are her truth. Smh
Jennifer Mathew on October 02, 2018:
Clair J. Simmons,
You need to get out. Your children are paying the same price you are, even if they are not the direct target of the rages and abuse. They are learning the patterns and it is being wired in their minds. No matter how little money or hope you have, you can make a life outside this person work. Give yourself and your children a chance to have a happy life. Give your kids a chance to learn to live as authentic human beings and not turn out as narcissists. You have a duty to save them. Get all the charity from area churches you can. Get all the government help you can. Ask friends for help. Make a timelime to accept this help for 6 months to a year. By then you will have a job, your own apartment or home, etc. Look online for grants for single mothers. There are many. Use positive and respectful terms in your new home and in your head. Stay away from romantic relationships for a year or more until you feel stronger and more solid. A great way for you to heal (the best I've EVER seen is NARP - Narcissistic Abuse Recover Program by Melanie Tonia Evans. she has a low cost program you can buy and use on a computer or phone at home. She has free youtube videos, a free newsletter, etc. She is the WORLD's expert on narcissim. She has the only self-healing program on the planet that uses emotions and is very quick) Get out so your are not double cursed later in life by having narcissistic children!! Get out of the nightmare. Blessings - J. M
Melanie S on September 22, 2018:
I'm dealing with a Narcissistic mother who has been this way with me my whole life and now that I have my own family, she is the root of all the tension. I have to accept I cannot change her or help her see. I related to this article entirely. Thank You..
Haydn on September 10, 2018:
True True True!
when you say yes to them they get confused and feel bad Because you were supposed to say no! even though you are agreeing to do something for them- when you say NO they fell Yes Yes Yes- ( I know you didnt like me--you are so selfish- don't care about me- don't want to do anything for me- you're so so so bad- I always knew it) if you do anything nice for them they perceive there is something sinister at play because in their mind no one can be nice to them- this is my personal experience- they actually said to me YES! when I said no to them, when I really could not do what they wanted me to do!
Ever notice, when they want to talk some tripe to you they say to you, Listen to me! and then they say don't say any thing? just listen!- they want to project their present seething reality on you uninterrupted by you, their talking appliance.
I am going to read this over and over
Claire Jeanne Simons on September 03, 2018:
I forgot to add. My recent research has been due to me no longer allowing him access to my phone, this has caused him total and utter fury. Yes he’s always had passwords but now that recently added a password to my phone, I must be having that affair I’ve been accused of having for 17 years of being together. The fact is he goes onto my phone in search of anything he can find to use as proof that I ‘hate’ him. Wether it’s a comment to my friend that woman should rather wait till they are a bit older & wiser & know themselves to get married. (We met when I was 19 he was 29). Or a word amongst hundreds of interesting words I save but this words definition is “falling out of love”. I’ve clearly saved it as proof I don’t love him... here he goes a 3 hour rampage & swearing namecalling attack & 5 day silent treatment (our beautiful children will be witness their happy faces fall knowing another fight is on its way). 5 minutes prior to this we were on the beach playing and laughing the perfect happy family, but then he wanted to look through my phone to find something to ruin the memory with, no other reason, just “pass me your phone”. Ofcourse anything he can find and warp will do. Everything & anything can be twisted as proof to make a brilliant case that I am guilty to whatever he believes is truth.
Claire Jeanne Simons on September 03, 2018:
I have read up on narcissism for the past few years. Finally discovering the hard painful truth but relieved to know I wasn’t going insane, it doesn’t make it easier but it does help just to know what exactly is going on. This has to be the most factual, spot on & unbiased article ever written. The fragile over inflated ego, the persecution complex, the extreme anger & over the top aggressive reaction to any insult slight mistake or disagreement. The insane accusations & the complete disinterest in hearing any explanation or reasoning. Everything is taken as a personal offense on his side. I have been ripped to shreds called horrific names for the most ridiculous things ie. 2 days before Christmas following a blissfully happy morning I was attacked & accused of trying to ruin his childhood photographs when a photo frame I had reprinted & lovingly hung up of him as a child was blown off the wall in a storm (along with other frames holding my childhood photo & our kids photos). But ofcourse I was trying to ruin his photos & erase his childhood memories. Stunned speechless is possibly the only reaction I have at these outbursts. Trying to defend myself creates more anger & name calling. Where do they come up with these things???. It’s just inhumane. If that’s what he thinks of me I must be worse than Satan himself?!? You wonder what they would actually do if you were infact guilty of a something serious like cheating. I often would think the way his behavior would be the way someone would possibly react in rage to catching their spouse in bed with their best friend!!! Oh right, because he can’t find his glasses & vehemently believes I have hidden them (because you know I like to try help find his belongings after I hide them to spite him, that’s what I obviously do, I might as well be in bed with his best friend when the rage sets in. The outbursts are whenever whereever sober drunk right after sex during a happy holiday or romantic dinner. It doesn’t matter, there’s no solid cause for it, one thing is definite though, it’ll never be in front of family & friends. Only the children get to be the unlucky witnesses & I get to be the very chosen guilty as charged criminal in this psycho circus of his. I’m so envious of the strangers & friends & random people who he treats like gold. To the rest of the world he’s such a gentle kind polite charming soul. People often comment that he must be such a wonderful husband they can’t imagine him ever getting angry... they have no idea the war zone the eggshells the fear & anxiety of a rollercoaster horror show that goes on behind closed doors & they sadly never will.
Ironman on July 28, 2018:
Quote: "They're not even going to hear you. Ever notice that it seems like they are listening - and responding - to someone else when you're talking? Someone who is saying completely different things than what you are saying? That's because they are."
This is so accurate. My ex gf would stare angrily somewhere up the wall instead of looking straight at me while debating and arguing. I remember telling her to look at me and not to some other 'figure' in her head. I wasnt sure back then if I was being too harsh but I sensed that she was not actually conversing with me when she was angry, it seemed she was addressing someone else. Her father figure perhaps. Thanks to articles like this Im learning that my gut feeling was right all along and that there's something terribly with a narcissistic character.
Meri on June 17, 2018:
Best article ever! Explain a lot.
Allan Lovinger on June 10, 2018:
I used to practice Yoga because my wife teaches it. She is also a licensed hypnotherapist and a fortune teller. We are both Democrats and watch a lot of television.
FaithMPriddy on June 03, 2018:
I will have to try this. My bf is looking more and more like a narc. His ex tried to tell me but I just thought she was crazy like he told me.
Eagle Stone on May 27, 2018:
This article is FANTASTIC. However, what if the only way they can get a reaction from you is through looks? i.e, illogical, circling conversations don't work on you but they know they can get you with parental alienation using 'looks'...
Husband needed me to be the bad guy and used manipulation and abuse to drum this into our daughter... we escaped him, but now she has learned his behavior and does the same. I have tried ignoring completely but my son who is younger witnesses all this. I wonder if I should say something when she does it such as: I noticed you're doing secret looks because you are angry with me, but I want you to know that mummy is just trying to protect/help you, or something similar?
Angela on May 22, 2018:
Brilliant. Thank you so much. This really is the way it was for me 3 years with a Narcissist and constantly walking on eggshells. It really makes sense.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 10, 2018:
Wow, no kidding. But i think when we have a narcissist in our lives, especially when it us someone in an important role such as a family member, we fall into the trap of believing if we just explain it they'll understand the error of their ways and change. After all were both rational people and the problem is glaringly obvious. When that doesn't happen we just keep at it making ourselves crazy and getting incredibly hurt in the process. Thanks for writing this.
Kris B on March 04, 2018:
I finally had the courage to leave my narcissistic husband. I would always take his remarks in stride. When I started reading about narcissist it was like they are talking about my situations!!! I could never tell a story right and never explain things the right way. I dreaded coming home from work cause the minute I walked in the door I was attacked by accusations and questioned about something. All I wanted him to say was "Hello Honey, How was your day"!
He became such a procrastinator that the bills were turned over to collection agencies. Of course I was the one accused of spending too much $ when I'm the one working. He retired early at 54 almost 10 yrs ago and refuses to get a part-time job and instead does nothing. Since I moved out 5 mos ago he still thinks I'm coming back.
I can't do this to myself. If I go back it would be the end of me spiritually, emotionally and physically
Sj on March 01, 2018:
My narcissist is my boyfriend. I want to leave and he knows it now. He has his new hoes follow us everywhere, he tells them lies saying he promised his Nannie that he would always take care of me. But they drive by the farm everyday, our worksite, he tells them to do this. They show up at the gas station where he decides to get fuel. Or lunch at local fast food places, they will sit in borrowed vehicles and wear their hair in different ways or hats or dye their hair. And they have their friends help do it too. My truck is in his name ( I didn’t have credit back then to get a vehicle) he got it for me but I make the payments every month. He won’t let me leave with the truck, but he doesn’t want me to take him to court for it either. I know his lies and his dirt. So he is dragging me along and terrorizing me in the process. The last 3 years I had been seeing changes and more so when I started not listening to his wants...like I couldn’t wear pretty girly clothes, always had to wear Black T-shirt and jeans, no make up, no heels etc. but when I started wearing make up again he started cheating. He bought another cell phone and hides it or keeps it on him everyday. I can see his main phone in his hand talking on it but then his other phone (in his pocket) is vibrating and he looks at me through corner of eye to see if I noticed, can hear it vibrate on the bed when we sleeping cuz he sleeps with it in his pocket. He doesn’t change his clothes for weeks let alone take a shower for months at a time. Doesn’t brush his teeth either. The truck he is holding hostage to keep me from leaving still has 2 more years of payments unless I can find a bank to refinance it for me ( no credit history-I just started getting credit cards last year) so I am tied to this piece of crap or I give up my truck that I have paid over $30,000 of payments on it already. His hoes targeted my truck and started denting and scratching it when I go grocery shopping so I stopped driving my truck . Poor thing hasn’t been driven for a month up until last weekend and that was to go help him. He brags to them that he is a big professional business owner but they don’t know he can’t even buy fuel for his machines (he has a logging business) because he hasn’t paid the previous fuel bill, 2 different companies. I been helping him build his business last 9 years. Everything in his name, he inherited the business when his daddy died in 2008.he doesn’t like it when I tell him he shouldn’t do this or that. When he’s mad he takes it out on everybody else around it even if they weren’t the cause of his anger. Everybody else is the stupid motherf#cker or stupid n#gger and he is never wrong and he knows all the answers, he always interrupts you when you try to say something. He has tried to force me to go into hospital and found out if he had I could have pressed charges for kidnapping. Now he is trying to make me angry to hit him so he can either have me arrested or put in psychiatric ward by the law. He gets a thrill out of “hiding whatever he thinks he can hide”. Thrives on it. He hid our relationship for 6 months from his family before they strategized it to pop in on him. It’s a game to him. He always has to be in control over everybody. If you follow what he wants you to do , then your safe from him, but when you go against him, you aren’t safe from his volatile temper tantrums. He threw his phone at my face last October when I told him I found his fake Facebook. Busted my lip, loosened 4 teeth and left lacerations on my neck when he tried to keep me from leaving the house. He needs his ego fed on every day basis which is why he talks to these other girls. The new girl doesn’t realize all she doing is trapping herself in his snare. He is now getting her to do his dirty work for him. I know already that I can get him for emotional distress and battery. He is willing to refinance truck but I have to find bank that will work with me on it or get a co-signer (other than him). I have to learn to ignore his hoes. I just have better morals than his hoes and him. The hoes post how religious they are on Facebook but don’t practice what their church preaches. They don’t realize that once they have achieved what he wants out of them he will be done with them. Ho #3 gave him trichomonaisis and in turn he gave it to me. He still denies he has it even though a 2nd doctor recommended he be treated if he was exposed to it. He bought medication but hasn’t taken it. I have warned him that he can be sued for giving people std but he doesn’t believe me. I make him use condom now when we get intimate and I get checked regularly for stds. I have never had before this incident because I thought I chose clean partners but this has finally showed his true colors. It might be from being inbred. His mama married her uncle and knew it which is why she changed the date on her birth certificate and eloped to next state and got married then changed her birth certificate date back to original date. My boyfriend’s oldest brother was born mentally handicapped. Everybody in town still remembers, his mother does NOT socialize. She also manipulates or tries to. He has always gotten everything he has wanted except full attention from his parents because of his older brothers condition. He can’t stand being around his older brother. He is ashamed to let people know he has a handicapped sibling unless it’s to his advantage somehow. He calls his own mother “ woman” not traditional mama, or mom. He has pet names for me but when he’s around other people or when he is mad I am referred to as “hey”. He won’t use a name. He can’t even spell let alone know which is his left or right, not even his colors or tell time from a regular clock (not digital).because he always had his mother sign him out of school (she was assistant teacher) and have his daddy pick him up to take him out to the woods to logging business. He is very smart in fixing machines but not in everyday decisions or basic life skills. Does not know how to write a check let alone spell “truck”. Not good with numbers either, mostly guesses. Has me fill out checks or gets other people to fill out checks for him. It’s a constant staying on my toes after getting over the initial betrayal, disappointment, anger, disgust and hurt. Tell as many as you can, get support through family and friends try to turn table on partner but behind the scenes until you can get out. Take pictures, make copies, send copies to others you trust, keep list of names involved, research what you are dealing with, discuss with doctorand document EVERYTHING! Good luck to others like me and hopefully I can get through this without losing my sanity and dignity! Ignore the stalking but be aware of it cuz it’s your health that might be at stake. You never know if the stalkers actually have bad intentions or not. And you won’t know for sure until it’s too late. Don’t give them the satisfaction of taking your sanity! Be strong for YOU.
Cheryl on January 24, 2018:
Ha! How true. I have 3 narcissistic siblings who had manipulated and controlled me for most of my life. Sadly, I didn’t have the backbone to stand up to them. So, even after all these years I’m still embroiled in their ways. Rising up to them required years of counselling and cutting them off my social media. But we have elderly parents so there’s no way I can keep out of their way entirely and that’s when I need a lot of wisdom to discern when I need to be in the mud but stay clean.