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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

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1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

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7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

10 - Living with a Narcissist

10 - Living with a Narcissist (10 of 10)

by Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

Dr. Vaknin is author of of the informative book, Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited. He also edits various mental health categories on Open Directory, Suite101, Go.Com and  While his doctorate is not in mental health, this well-informed author clearly did his homework and writes from  experience.  Dr. Vaknin's CV is (2019 edit: links no longer available) His book, and much more, is available in hard copy or download on his (2019 edit: links no longer available) on his web site.

Dr. Irene

EDITED 2/09. Unfortunately, while the content itself stands on its own in helping people understand narcissism, the writer's credibility may be questionable. For example, see here: (2019 edit: links no longer available)



You cannot change people, not in the real, profound, deep sense. You can only adapt to them and adapt them to you. If you do find your Narcissist rewarding at times - you should do two things, in my opinion:

(1) Determine your limits and boundaries. How much and in which ways can you adapt to him (i.e., accept him AS HE IS) AND to which extent and in which ways would you like him to adapt to you (i.e., accept you as you are). Act accordingly. Accept what you have decided to accept and reject the rest. Change in you what you are willing and able to change - and ignore the rest. It is sort of an unwritten contract of co-existence (could be written if you are more formally inclined).

(2) Try to maximize the number of times that "...his walls are down", that you "...find him totally fascinating and everything I desire". What makes him be and behave this way? Is it something that YOU say or do? Is it preceded by events of a specific nature? Is there anything you can do to make her behave this way more often?

Remember, though:

Sometimes we mistake guilt and self-assumed blame for love. Committing suicide for someone else's sake is not love. Sacrificing yourself for someone else is not love. It is domination.

You control your Narcissist by giving as much as he controls you through his pathology. Your generosity prevents him from facing his true self and thus healing. 

But this you must remember as well:

It is impossible to have a relationship with a narcissist that will be meaningful to the narcissist. It is, of course, possible to have a relationship with a narcissist that will be meaningful to you (see FAQ 66 in this book).

You modify your behaviour in order to secure the N's continuing love, not to be abandoned. This is the root of the perniciousness of this phenomenon:

The narcissist IS a meaningful, crucially significant figure ("object") in the Inverted Narcissist's life.

This is the narcissist's leverage over the IN. And since the IN is usually very young when making the adaptation to the N - it all boils down to fear of abandonment and death in the absence of care and sustenance.

I don't think it is as much a wish to gratify one's narcissist (parent) - as the sheer terror of forever withholding gratification from one's self.

The Need to be Hopeful

I understand the need to be hopeful. There are gradations of narcissism. In all my writings, I am referring to the extreme and penultimate form of narcissism, the NPD.

We often confuse shame with guilt. Narcissists feel shameful when confronted with a failure. They feel (narcissistically) injured. Their omnipotence is threatened, their sense of perfection and uniqueness is questioned. They are enraged, engulfed by self-reprimand, self-loathing and internalized violent urges.

The narcissist punishes himself for failing to be God - not for the maltreatment of others.

The narcissist makes an effort to communicate his pain and shame in order to elicit the NS needed to restore and regulate his failing sense of self-worth. In doing so, the narcissist resorts to the human vocabulary of empathy. The narcissist will say anything to obtain NS. It is a manipulative ploy - not a confession of real emotions or an authentic description of internal dynamics.

Yes, the narcissist is a child - but a very precocious and young one. Yes, he can tell right from wrong - but is indifferent to both. Yes, it is a process of "re-parenting" (what Kohut called a "self-object") that is required, of growth, of maturation. In the best of cases, it takes years and the prognosis is dismal.

Yes, some narcissists make it. And their mates or spouses or children or colleagues or lovers rejoice. 

But is the fact that people survive tornadoes - a reason to go out and seek one? 

The Narcissist is very much attracted to vulnerability, to unstable or disordered personalities or to the inferior. Such people constitute more secure sources of better quality narcissistic supply. The inferior offer adulation. The mentally disturbed, the traumatized, the abused become dependent and addicted to him. The vulnerable can be easily and economically manipulated without fear of repercussions.

I think that "a healing narcissist" is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron (though NOT in all cases, of course).

Still, healing (not only of narcissists) is dependent upon and derived from a sense of security in a relationship.

The Narcissist is not particularly interested in healing. He tries to optimize his returns, taking into consideration the scarcity and finiteness of his resources. Healing, to him, is simply a bad business proposition.

In the Narcissist's world being accepted or cared for (not to mention loved) is a foreign language. That is: meaningless.

One might recite the most delicate haiku in Japanese and it would still remain meaningless to a non-Japanese.

That non-Japanese are not adept at Japanese does not diminish the value of the haiku OR of the Japanese language, needless to say. Narcissists damage and hurt but they do so off-handedly and naturally. They are aware of what they are doing to others - but they do not care.

Sometimes, they sadistically taunt and torment people - but they do not perceive this to be evil - merely amusing. They feel that they are entitled to their pleasure and gratification (narcissistic supply is often obtained by subjugating and subsuming others).

They feel that others are less than human, mere extensions of the narcissist, or instruments to fulfill the narcissist's wishes and obey his often capricious commands. No evil can be done to machines, instruments, or extensions.

The Social and Cultural Context

Personal incompatibility is a stand-alone fact. It requires no apportioning of guilt or evocation of shame. It is the outcome of life itself. Taking into consideration the number of variables, it is a great miracle that any two people fit together, however loosely. Yes, marriages are miracles and, in this sense, they are really "made in heaven". Add to this the growing intolerance, the narcissism, the hedonism and the consumerism, which characterize Western civilization. Mix in the wide field of alternatives wrought by modern technologies. And the end result is the demise of long-term commitment and relationships. This is the sound bite age, the era of virtual sex, the shortest-term attention span ever. Individualism has gone cancerous and was replaced by Malignant Self Love. The result?

Narcissism Revisited by everyone involved.

We are victim to forces which re-shape whole societies. It is not our fault that we are living here and now. Half of all marriages dissolve in the first few years. One third of all children are born to single mothers. People are withdrawing, drawing their bridges, folding their communal tents. They interact via screens and handsets. They go wireless. They watch flickering images instead of watching each other. They don't think or read or listen - they consume and gulp. And sex is just one other commodity to be traded for thrills and frills.


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