How To Navigate A Relationship With A Narcissist

Although we sometimes toss around the term "narcissist" as a catch-all for people who think very highly of themselves, the fact is that only 5% of the population actually have narcissistic personality disorder (via the Cleveland Clinic). However, just because someone isn't diagnosed with NPD doesn't mean they don't have narcissistic traits that can make knowing them — let alone dating them — difficult. No matter how much you love someone, narcissism can be a really tricky thing to handle in a relationship.

The major difference between NPD and narcissism is that NPD is an actual mental illness, while narcissism is less extreme (via Psych Central). Narcissistic people can empathize to a degree, while those with NPD can't empathize at all. Also, narcissistic people tend to be aware of their narcissism, while those with NPD are not. People with NPD have a view of themselves that's so grandiose and over the top that they can't even see the person they really are.

If you think you're dating a narcissistic person, you do have a chance at making things work. With effort, acceptance, and understanding, you can navigate your relationship with a narcissistic person like a pro.

Know what you're dealing with

For starters, you need to know what you're going to be up against when you're in a relationship with a narcissistic person. You need to accept certain behaviors and disregard to the ones you simply can't fix, like how they're hot and cold with their affection — similar to a cat, actually. Overlooking these aspects may sound harsh, but it's better than banging your head against the wall hoping for a change that isn't coming.

"Prepare to be gaslighted for there to be two versions of what's happened," therapist Perpetua Neo tells Insider. "Because narcissistic people are very good at rewriting reality and getting you to admit to doing something you didn't do. They [also] like to call the shots, but they do it in a really, undermining way. So, they'll say things like 'oh I can't make up my mind, you decide what we're going to eat or do.'"

Then, once you've made all the arrangements, a narcissistic person will change their mind. Why? Because that's how they're programmed: to call all the shots and control the situation. Sure, you can put your foot down, speak up for yourself, and set boundaries, but you're not always going to get the response you want (via Healthline). And you certainly won't get the response you deserve.

Don't be afraid to get help or even leave

Being in a relationship with a narcissistic person isn't easy. It's exhausting, difficult, and can negatively affect your mental health (via Verywell Mind). That's where the effort on your part comes into play: to rise above their put-downs and negativity by doing your best to not take it personally. However, this is easier said than done. Still, if you're in love with a narcissistic person, these are things you need to learn to become accustomed to and handle.

"Unfortunately, narcissistic individuals, by nature, are often very resistant to change, because they don't want to believe that anything is wrong with them," writes Wendy Boring-Bray, L.P.C.C., for Psychology Today. "While it is absolutely possible for a narcissistic individual to engage in positive change, it can be a monstrous — and sometimes futile — effort for many romantic partners."

If you have given the relationship all you had and sought out professional help for yourself individually as well as the relationship, but you're still struggling to make it work, then you're not a bad person if you decide to end things. Although all relationships take effort and compromise, when you're in a relationship with a narcissistic person, normal levels of effort and compromise just won't cut it. If your narcissistic person decides to come around and work on themselves, then that's something. But if it's not enough change for you to be in a loving, healthy relationship, then no one, except potentially the person you're leaving, will blame you. If that happens, you can further justify why you left.