When you’re closely involved with someone who has a high-conflict personality due to a “Cluster B” personality disorder, like narcissism, one of the most important things you can do is educate yourself on the subject. It’s amazing how, as you come to understand how narcissists think, their behaviors, while still bizarre, at least are understandable.
One of my favorite places to read a wide variety of views on this subject is the website Quora. Quora invites people to ask questions, and then people with subject matter expertise or experience give their answers. Just create an account on Quora and search for “narcissism” in the search bar. As you type, you’ll see a few different “topics” that you can follow. You can configure Quora to send you updates in email when new questions and answers are posted.
You can also follow the contributors you like – I’d recommend Elinor Greenberg, Jeffrey L. Holland, and Dave Consiglio for starters. Follow me, too, while you’re at it (though I read a lot more than I write on Quora!) As with any public forum, you’ll see stuff that doesn’t resonate, and you should just ignore that and focus on information that clicks with you and your personal situation.
I saw an interesting question on Quora last week, and felt compelled to write an answer. Others responded, too, and the full set of answers really shows how Quora works. I also think this question is one that a lot of visitors to our site – especially new people who are involved with a high-conflict partner and are just coming to understand their situation – have front and center in their minds. So, I thought I’d post it here in our blog.
You can check out the other answers, get a feel for Quora, and sign up if it seems like a good fit for you here.
“How do you deal with someone you are in love with that has a borderline personality disorder/narcissistic personality disorder?”
BPD and NPD are “spectrum” disorders, meaning that someone can have the applicable characteristics to varying degrees – mild to severe. My personal experience is more with NPD, as I was married to a severe overt narcissist for a decade.
During that time, I was nearly destroyed. The details are unimportant to answering your question, but being in that relationship was like being in a cult of misery. Four years after we separated and began an absurd three-year divorce that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for no reason at all (except that she’s a narcissist,) I’m still recovering from Complex PTSD caused by many years of extreme psychological abuse.
So… if you’re struggling enough that you posted this question, I’ll make an educated guess that the person you’re in love with isn’t on the mild end of the spectrum.
It is highly unlikely that this person will change. There is no “cure” for these disorders.
As hard as it may seem, the best answer is to end the relationship, and completely cut off contact if you can. But before you do anything, educate yourself. There are a ton of great resources on the web, including here on Quora.
Learn about going “no contact,” “gray-rocking,” “flying monkeys,” triangulation, and other topics in this subject matter area. On our website, we have a quiz you can take to get a better sense of how bad your situation is (beentheregotout.com.) There are also several excellent books (and many mediocre ones.) Our favorites are:
- “Will I Ever be Free of You?” by Karyl McBride, and…
- “Splitting” by Bill Eddy
Until you’ve educated yourself and figured out what you’re going to do, I strongly suggest you “act normal” with this person. This is a process you need to go through quietly and secretly; it’s not something you’ll go through together.
Couples counseling would likely be a waste of time. Getting a good therapist for yourself, however – one who is very knowledgeable about NPD/BPD – would be a fantastic idea. Beware: it’s astonishing how many therapists do not understand this area.
I hope this helps. It will get better if you take steps to take care of yourself. I wish you the best of luck!
As an aside…
My favorite answer that wasn’t mine was the shortest one: “You don’t deal. You run!”