It’s challenging to remain in a relationship with a narcissist, but it’s not impossible. In some relationships, such as an adult child and a narcissistic parent, the relationship may be very difficult to walk away from. In such scenarios it becomes critical to create boundaries in the relationship to make it work for you.
Setting boundaries with a narcissist can also teach you how to draw healthy boundaries in other relationships in your life. In reality, all relationships flourish with boundaries as they provide a healthy foundation from which to grow.
So it is important to be able to set effective boundaries in different types of relationships. The boundaries have to be clear, precise, and enforceable, with no wavering or giving in when the narcissist or dependant objects or attempts to break through the boundary.
Boundaries in Relationships
A boundary in any relationship is a line or a rule that cannot be crossed. In other words, it represents the boundaries or the outer limits of what you will or will not accept in the relationship.
Boundaries are very challenging for a narcissist. Narcissists have a limited sense of identity of the other person in the relationship. They see their own needs as the priority in all situations.
Narcissists tend to violate all types of boundaries on a regular basis, which is why they have difficulties in their social interactions, their professional roles and relationships, and even in accepting laws and norms in society.
If called out for violating a boundary, a narcissist will argue, defend their actions, or blame the other person. They may also become verbally abusive or continue to push through the boundary despite the obvious emotional and mental distress of the other person.
This is why you should be very clear about your own boundaries and stand by them if you decide to stay in a relationship with a narcissist or a dependant partner, friend or family member.
Signs of a Boundary Breakdown
Identifying a lack of boundaries in a relationship is the first step in determining where you need to establish limits. Here are the important signs to look out for.
A boundary is a firm limit; it is not a suggestion or recommendation. If you find you are constantly backing off or modifying your limits to accommodate someone, the boundaries aren’t healthy.
Boundaries are in place for all situations. It is never acceptable to cross the line, and that includes in public or private situations. If you are continually making exceptions, a narcissist will keep pushing.
Denial or excuses
Usually a narcissist regularly attempts to deny or make excuses for behavior. When these issues are allowed to go unchallenged and ignored, the problem will continue.
Not saying what you need to
If you are always wanting to talk about your needs in a relationship but are afraid of the reaction or are ignored, effective boundaries are not in place.
Tips for Setting Boundaries with a Narcissist
The good news is that it is never too late to set boundaries in a relationship. But it is essential that the boundaries fit your needs and are clear to a narcissist. Here is how you can go about putting boundaries in place.
Establish your own limits
Before you can have someone agree to follow a boundary, you have to have the line in the sand. Know what you will tolerate and what you will not. Have a clear understanding of where those limits exist for yourself first.
Naming behaviors alerts a narcissist to a boundary or a limit. For example, if they call you a negative name, indicate you heard a putdown, or if they demand you do something for them, state your limit. Do not argue or attempt to show them their errors; just make it a non-judgmental statement.
Disengage when a boundary violation occurs
As soon as the narcissist violates the boundary, name it and be prepared to disengage. This may mean stating you are hanging up the phone or leaving the conversation. Stay calm and state the boundary and the consequence and then disengage.
Know your emotional energy levels
On days when you are emotionally drained or tired, you are particularly vulnerable to manipulation. On these days, keep conversations short and check your emotional and mental strength, being prepared to leave the conversation before you feel overwhelmed.
Do not give in to the pressure by a narcissist to explain your boundaries or to justify the consequences you have determined. Prepare for the narcissist’s behavior to escalate as you attempt to set and reinforce boundaries. With time and consistency, you will gain confidence in standing up for yourself and in managing the relationship on your terms.
In every scenario ensure that you are taking care of your own emotional well-being and not violating your own boundaries with yourself. Respect yourself and your own needs and go from that starting point building healthier relationships in your life.
Sherry Gaba helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. If you need support, join her Breaking Free from Obsessive Love online course here. Or take her quiz to find out if you’re struggling with co-dependency, sign up for a 30-minute strategy session, or learn more about how to get over a break-up. For more information visit www.sherrygaba.com or sign up today for Sherry’s online group coaching program. Buy her books Love Smacked: How to Break the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love or Infinite Recovery