'Stop trying to change him, rather break all ties' - How to deal with a narcissistic partner

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Illustration photo by Getty images
  • A narcissist is someone who will take advantage of others - partners, relatives, friends, and even their children – to fulfill their own needs.
  • If narcissists believe they are losing control, they may alter their behavior, but this is purely a deceptive tactic.
  • A narcissist can transform a feather into a weapon. As a result, give them as little as possible, break all ties or if that's not possible, have minimum contact.


According to thriveworks.com, narcissistic individuals are self-centred. Furthermore, they are manipulative—if they see an opportunity to profit, they will look for ways to exploit others.

Clinical psychologist, Lana Levin explains that a narcissist is someone who exploits others. “A narcissist is someone who will exploit others – partners, family members, friends, even their children – to satisfy their own needs. They exploit others for personal gain, regardless of the consequences of their actions,” she says.

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A relationship with a narcissist is inherently a severely emotionally abusive one and follows a very specific pattern. Lana explains that relationships with narcissists typically go through the following pattern:

* It starts with them being quite enchanting and seductive. In the early phase, they make it their business to get to know all about their victim. So, they are highly attentive, appear to be a good listener and mirror what they’re hearing and seeing, creating a sense of bond. Within this, the victim is placed on a pedestal and made to feel like royalty.

* Once the victim is hooked, the abuse cycle takes a new direction, and the narcissist begins a process of devaluing the victim. This can be both subtle and direct. Examples of this are the game playing mentioned above, gaslighting, name-calling, exclusion, making excessive demands, changing rules frequently so that the victim feels confused, and sexual withholding.

* A vital part of the pieces is the attempt to isolate the victim so that the narc has full control. To do this anyone close to the victim including family, friends and even children, are spoken about badly, dismissed, and the victim may be put in a position of having to choose between the narc and other people in the victim’s life.

* The last phase is called the discard phase. At this stage, the narc loses interest in the game and no longer needs the victim. The victim is thus tossed out like yesterday’s newspaper. 

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They may adjust their behaviour temporarily, but this is usually only in response to pressure or to reel someone in. It is purely a manipulative ploy.

“A narcissist can take a feather and make it into a weapon. Thus, give them as little as possible. Know your enemy. Don’t try to win an argument because you never will. Don’t try defending yourself because they see this as weakness. Don’t try to get them to see your point of view, because they’re not interested in your point of view. The only opinions, thoughts, and views that matter to them, are their own. There is only one person important to them and that’s themselves,” says Lana.

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Lana gives us some tips on how to spot a narcissistic and manipulative partner:

  • Narcissists share similar traits such as being highly intelligent, charming, sometimes needy, excessively demanding of time and energy, always needing validation and with an intense need for approval.
  • It would be great if they walked around with horns on their heads, making it easy to spot them, but unfortunately, this is never the case. If anything, they are highly seductive people who know how to use their charms to appear endearing.
  • Remember that there’s only space for one person in a relationship with a narc: themselves. Everyone else is a satellite, there to do the narcissists bidding.
  • Leave you feeling questioning and confused
  • Relationships usually start very intensely, leaving you feeling like you’ve met your soul mate. This intensity shows cracks quite soon, often within the first 3 months.

Lana further explains that not all selfish people are narcissists, but all narcissists are selfish. And it is always important to remember that you cannot change them.

When dealing with a narcissist and manipulative partner, Lana advises that you break all ties. If this is not possible then to go the route of minimal contact and “grey rock” i.e., to disengage emotionally and to have as little contact as possible.

Have you dealt with a narcissistic and manipulative partnerTell us about it here.

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