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More On Coping with Narcissists


The better we understand narcissists, the easier it is (though it will never be easy) to cope with them. It’s most problematic when they’re a parent or boss because you’re stuck with them. Having narcissistic romantic partners or friends can be a painful experience, but you can always edge or elbow them out of your life. Right?

“Why Do Narcissists Lose Popularity Over Time?” offers fresh insights into this hard-to-handle personality. Researchers W. Keith Campbell and Stacy Campbell propose “a new model of narcissism in which they argue that two particular time points are important. The ‘emerging zone’ includes situations involving unacquainted individuals, early-stage relationships, and short-term contexts. In contrast, the ‘enduring zone’ involves situations involving acquainted individuals, continuing relationships, and long-term consequences. The costs of narcissism are seen primarily in the ‘enduring zone.’"

Because narcissists tend to switch their charm on and off—and replace it with self-centeredness and aggression, among other traits—they are easy to like but harder to love over time. This is why we have difficulty with narcissistic parents who are permanent fixtures in our adult lives (never mind all the time we endured them growing up) and partners who run hot and cold and who are often insufferable.

The article identifies types of narcissists. One is the “arrogant” or “grandiose” type who has an inflated sense of self and is generally emotionally resilient, extraverted and drama-prone. The other is the “vulnerable” type who is “emotionally unstable, negative-affect-laden, and introverted.” Both varieties wear you down in different ways.

Sadly, for them and for us, narcissists behavior is too often self-sabotaging. They don’t realize how off-putting they are and how nearly impossible it is for anyone to sustain emotionally intimate, long-term bonding with them. Therefore, we need to be extra-cautious not to fall into the trap of trying to explain how hurtful they are to us (or others) and how difficult it is to be in a relationship with them. In one ear and out the other.

In truth, we almost always get sucked into trying to change them initially and only through time and frustration do we ever give up. So, whenever possible, steer clear of them and avoid developing attachments to them in anything but a superficial way. For those who can opt out of being with or around them, that is if you can’t amputate from your life, the wisest strategy is to stay emotionally detached, keep your expectations exceedingly low, feel compassion for them and yourselves, and try to stay sane.