Dealing with narcissistic "friends"

Vastness

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So, say you had a "friend" that every time you made a mistake, you didn't only think "damn, I wish I hadn't done that", you also thought, "damn, X is going to give me shit for this"...

What about if you had a "friend" that you couldn't relax or fully be yourself around, because you knew, firstly, if you relaxed just a little too much, were a little too real, you might accidentally say something that would trigger their hypersensitivity and you'd have to have a huge argument about it? Or, that if you let your guard down too much, you might not be able to control your impulse to respond aggressively to a casually disrespectful comment or bluntly rude remark?

I mean, no one would live like that right? That would just be insane.

What about if you've known this person since you were kids, and are not only friends but deeply involved in business arrangements, have a lot of friends in common (although not particularly old friends, it must be noted, because all the older ones have had the good sense not to get themselves in too deep and jumped ship long before you)... what about if you've been aware of these behaviours for a long time, years even, but have always found reasons not to bring it up directly, reasons to choose clamping down on your own behaviours even more, reasons to forgive and forget even if you don't really and cannot really do either... reasons just to doubt your own judgement... I mean, what kind of way to live is that?

I guess it's pretty obvious I'm not talking about a hypothetical situation here, I'm talking about my own life, and someone who on paper at least or to an outside observer (and even to myself in many ways) is a very good friend. But, honest conflict has more social value than dishonest harmony, as someone smarter than me said, and I've realised I just can't continue to act dishonestly, and more than that, choose cowardice, by choosing inaction and ways to maintain the status quo over an honesty which will likely mean a very messy removal of this person from my life which will also unavoidably affect my life in other ways.

Before I take this inevitable step however, I would appreciate hearing from anyone else how they have dealt with narcissists in their own lives, especially those who, when at the point you realised what was going on, your lives were intertwined enough that whatever you did, it was going to be messy...
 

falsifiedhypothesi

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I've never been so involved with someone like that, at least not that i'm aware of. Normally I just remain as distant as possible until they find someone else to bother.
 
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Vastness

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Clearly that's the smart move, unfortunately (obviously) I haven't always made the smartest decisions in my life.
 

Shadowmeister

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Sounds exactly like my ex-wife. Eventually we split and it was the best thing that could have possibly happened. Of course being romantically involved with someone like that is going to be the moist intense form of involvement, it made me hate my entire life basically, eventually. I would say that if it really is negatively impacting your life, the only real option is to remove this person from your life, because generally this sort of personality trait is symptomatic of a personality disorder and is unlikely to change, in fact it is likely to get worse. But, if you've never tried to confront this person about it and let them know how it makes you feel and how you see them, you should give that a try first.
 

Vastness

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^ It's not quite true that I haven't tried to bring it up before, I have in fact brought it up a few times, although I have stopped short of using words like narcissist and have tried to be as tactful as possible. Sometimes it even seems like this has gone well, or at least, not quite as bad as might be expected, but in the long run nothing ever changes. I think it's just too late now anyway, I'm always going to feel some lingering resentment no matter what happens. This is a somewhat difficult thing to talk about or admit even to myself, because I'm old enough not to be so caught up in such petty drama, we're not romantically involved (although sometimes it feels that way, haha :p) and I'd like to think I'd not have been dumb enough to get myself into this situation in the first place, and would have enough resolve to get myself out of this situation sooner than I have done... no disrespect meant to you or anyone else of course, I know objectively this isn't a rational point of view to hold and I'm being overly hard on myself. But that's life and here I am, I guess I should take some comfort in the fact that I don't hate my ENTIRE life, just some aspects of it, and obviously as you say, a romantic involvement must be a far more intense and more intensely draining, soul-sucking experience.
 

dreamflyer

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I've had two very bad experiences with this: One with my ex-girlfriend and one with a close friend. Since I can't say for sure what was going on in their heads at the time, I can only give you my own perspective... much of which I've only learned in retrospect.

My ex: She came to me like an angel in the night, and slowly over the course of a year evolved into my own worst nightmare. She subtly came between me and everyone else in my life, eventually almost completely isolating me. When I broke up with her, then it got REALLY bad. She stalked me and harassed me to the point of almost getting me kicked out of my own home, fired from my job and losing every friend I ever had. I'm not a psychologist, but I would say that she was highly manipulative and controlling.

My friend: I knew him for many years and we were very close, then he suffered a great deal of personal hardships and began to change. He, too, became very demanding of my time and compassion in various ways. However, he never actually did anything to interfere with my personal life, and respected my wishes to separate myself from him for my own mental well-being. Years later, I would say that he was basically a good guy who exhibited some bad behavior because he couldn't deal with his own pain.

Lord knows I've used some maladaptive coping skills on people over the years when I felt threatened or insecure (guilt trips, self-pitying tactics, etc.), and I regret them dearly. I try to learn from my past mistakes and make every effort I can to right my wrongs. I'm not sure that this helps any, because in the end only you can trust your own basic instincts and try to figure out the best way to handle a situation.

Think about it, meditate on it, pray about it or do whatever you feel will give you some clarity. And if at all possible, try to kindly discuss it with the other person involved.

Peace, Love and Faith,
Dreamflyer
 

Tonberry King

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I'd had a long reply written and when I went to post it.... disappeared. The gist of it is that from reading your post I got the feeling that this is something you don't want to do but feel like you have no other choice. Except you do have other options. There are always multiple ways of handling tough situations. I think since you are considering ending the friendship, anyway, that you owe it to your friend to be honest for once. Your decision to not be open and honest with your "friend" is enabling and reinforcing. Friends don't let friends drive drunk.
 
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Vastness

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^ Well that makes me feel like a shitty person, but fair enough. As I mentioned though it's not like I haven't ever tried to bring this up before... I just don't really feel like ultimatums are a very fair way to deal with problems either, and that in any relationship it shouldn't only be awareness of the fact that one person is considering just giving up altogether that should be a motivator for the other to change in some way. I have every intention of being honest also - preferably just in a way that causes the least stress for everyone - but yeah, point taken, I am an enabler and a coward for it.
 

Tonberry King

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Wanting to fix a bad situation makes you shitty how? I'm just trying to help but I'll take whatever you want to throw at me. I know. It feels too difficult and ultimately not worth it but if that was the reality would you be here searching for another way? A question only you can answer.

The fact you are here looking for some way to avoid this shows me you are the opposite of a shitty person, so give yourself a break on that. It doesn't help matters.
 

SunriseChampion

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In my humble opinion, walk away. Now. You don't owe this person anything, if they're half as narcissistic as you make it seem.

I also had experience with an ex who was an extremely selfish and narcissistic person. In short, she made her personal shortcomings seem like mine and worse. The fucking psychodrama mind games and emotional abuse. We were set to marry. Fuck, glad that never happened. I suffered (and still do, I guess) from a sort of emotional PTSD because of this girl. I've been single since (7 years now) which has actually been beyond amazing for personal development, though I'm starting to get lonely at this age (33).

The single best thing I ever did in relation to this narcissistic p.o.s was when I cut and run and never looked back.

I realise--as has been mentioned--that being in a serious romantic relationship with one of these psycho-malcontents is probably as intense of an experience dealing with one as can be, but I honestly believe you owe this person nothing in way of explanation and will be better off without such emotional and psychological toxicity in your life.

Best of luck.
 

Mafioso

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I agree you don't "owe" this person anything, even if there is financial debt it isn't a reason to stay tied together. Although honoring the friendship might involve some uncomfortable honesty and laying down some strict boundaries. I know you say you don't like ultimatums, but in the end we are forced to make the choice of continuing the same patterns or ending the relationship and develop some healthier relationships. If not an active choice, then a passive one, but a choice none the less.

It might be wise to avoid making ultimatums in the heat of the moment, but it seems pretty clear you have felt this way for a long time. You also mention you have tried several times to resolve the issue with no success. Maybe you were being too subtle, maybe this person is still in denial of his problems, maybe this person is aware but unsure of what to do. If what you say is true, about how others have walked away, early warning signs, continuing of the same problem- then chances are this person is having/have had this same problem with most everyone in his life. Brutal honesty might do this person a favor in helping them to recognize their mistakes, but at the same time it's not your job to convince this person of anything.

Ultimately, you do have to either give an ultimatum and say "this far but no further" or continue on the path you are on. Change doesn't have to be the end of the relationship depending on how willing the other person is to change as well. And of course, how willing you are to continue to this struggle.
 

Asclepius

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My former post also disappeared. I'll keep this concise.

There is no gain for anyone from tolerating indignities and having to subvert yourself, to keep a fake situation afloat.

Cultivate some head-space with yourself; get distance to face how you really feel about the indignities you've experienced. Based on this, galvanise yourself if you are around this person, limit your time with them and be sparse with any genuine energy - keeping your Self separate from behaviour - treat it like a rehearsal and never engage with them when you are not prepared to keep yourself guarded.

Do this with a view to separate from them completely, not to punish but because it is pointless dealing with people who see you as nothing but an ego-mirror, or lesser being, life is short.

Good luck.
 

Shadowmeister

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Asclepius, if you try to edit a post on your mobile phone it deletes it, it's a bug that will go away soon when we upgrade forum software. I can still see your posts as they're deleted but mods can retrieve them. If that ever happens you can PM me and I'll undelete. :)
 

Safety 1st

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Facebook breeds narcissistic behavior and in turn narcissists. Instagram only ten times more.

Welcome to the digital age.

Yes I am saying kids are now being brought up as narcissists and this is "normal".
 

Vastness

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Im sorry if I upset you because that definitely was NOT the point.
Meant to reply sooner, but no worries, honestly I was/am just sensitive because I know I can never be 100% sure of the accuracy of my perceptions, perhaps I'm the one who is unreasonable and just a bad friend - my own observations and judgement says otherwise, but I do appreciate your input and perspective regardless.

Thank you also everyone else for your input and comments, I genuinely appreciate them all.


Anyway, finally tonight at the end of a long and stressful period of us having to work together where I really felt nothing would be gained from adding more stress to the situation even as an unwanted side effect of saying what I had to say, I finally voiced my feelings and was more honest than probably I have ever been before. I stopped short of using the word "narcissist" still, but I was honest, and I was not subtle.

It went pretty much as I expected it to go and could have predicted, which is to say that they did not take it particularly well, called me delusional, the usual spiel... However the end result is that we agreed that we would not associate with each other in person, and will only communicate via text messages for critical business matters for the foreseeable future. As I mentioned we are involved in some business arrangements and for me to just cut and run would potentially affect other people's lives as well, I do feel some responsibility towards them and have no wish for them to be caught in the middle of this unpleasantness, so I can accept drawing things out more than I would in an ideal world for their sake.

Immediately afterwards I felt pretty elated, but now I do feel a little sad as well, no matter how I look at the situation I have just chosen to lose a friend, and someone who ultimately I know is suffering themselves and just genuinely doesn't realise the impact of their behaviours... however I am as close to 100% sure as I could be that I did the only thing I could do and had no other choice.

I anticipate I will be going over this in my head for some time, thinking I should have said that, should have said this, etc, etc... but I know that's a dark road mentally to go down and I need to try to let go of this negativity now and look to the future.

Thank you again everyone for your input and support. :)
 

Mafioso

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One thing you can do if you are doubting yourself and they are claiming you are delusional/lying/exaggerating is to document everything. Anytime you have a complaint, do your best to write it down and document as much proof as possible. Since you are communicating through text, you can screen shot conversations and make note of specific problems. This way you not only have physical proof to reference when trying to work through problems, you can also review the things that made you upset and accurately consider if you are "nit-picking" or if you have valid complaints.

But at the very least I think it's important to set up boundaries, communicate them clearly, and address any disputes as they arise.

In the long run, you really don't want people around you who can not admit fault. It's pretty much the one problem that can't be worked through ime.
 

Vastness

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Yeah, that is actually something I've been doing since about 8 months ago anyway. I had deleted all my notes just prior to this December because I thought ah maybe things will be OK now and there is no value in holding onto a grudge... but I remember most of what I recorded and I can recognise the same patterns repeating stretching as far back as we've known each other. I did also make notes prior to having this uncomfortable conversation and referred to them during. I don't really like doing this, I mean obviously, objectively, I don't wanna have to be trying to analyse and psychoanalyse all my communication with anyone (anymore than I do anyway in my own head ;)... one of the many perks of being human), but unfortunately it seemed like a necessity.

Totally agree with you on the not admitting fault thing. This is just one of many running themes throughout our relationship. If I'm honest when I really started to notice all this stuff was not normal was about 5 years ago when I had just got out of an actual romantic relationship with someone who suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, and in the process of trying unfuck my head I read a lot of stuff about manipulative personalities and realised I could see some similar behaviours occuring elsewhere in my life, even if at a somewhat more subtle magnitude.

All that said - obviously it's still entirely possible that I am myself the deluded one, this isn't something I believe right now but I try to take care not to dismiss it as a possibility entirely.
 

Mafioso

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Well if you've already felt compelled to go to that level, it sounds like you have already exhausted yourself with attempts to be fair and make reparations.

It's a tough thing to do though even when you know you are in the right. My dad has similar behaviors of not being able to admit wrong and even completely denying any wrong doing. For a long time I took responsibility for our unstable relationship, often feeling guilty for fights and arguments even when I was just standing up for myself. It really wasn't until I spoke with counselors and other people who knew both of us that I was able to really see things clearly. His inability to admit wrong and apologize for it leaves me holding on to his past mistakes, unable to move past it in our relationship because it's always a concern of the future. Always wondering how long it will be until he repeats his destructive behavior knowing I'll be unable to confront the destructive behavior. It's a very helpless and hopeless place to be in a relationship.

It hasn't been easy but not talking to him is much less problematic. I think an easy way to tell if you are truly the deluded one or not is looking at other relationships in your life, areas where that person isn't involved at all. Does the same pattern of problems present itself? Does the problem seem to go away when that particular person isn't involved in your life? The whole manipulative denial of problems is often referred to as gaslighting. My dad would do this shit all the time, things like saying something offensive then denying he said it when I got upset and trying to cast blame for the argument on me, while not accepting any blame himself. If youre at all a self-conscious person, this type of shit can really fuck with your head, leaving me wondering if it wasn't really me who overreacted and misremembered or misinterpreted the situation. It's impossible to have a fair relationship with someone like that. There is no addressing his faults and no way for me to deal with my resentments. In the long run, we are probably both better off away from each other is all I can conclude at the moment.
 

Vastness

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Mafioso - wow, your post really resonates with me in many ways, you could be describing my own situation.

I definitely have been holding on to past mistakes, and I have felt guilty for doing this because I really don't want to hold a grudge or hold on to negativity forever, but I have also been always wondering when the next time is gonna be that this behaviour repeats itself. Obviously this in itself is going to lead to simmering resentment building up, which is another thing that I have felt guilty about because I know it's been affecting my own behaviour as much as I've tried to be polite and civil and not just start to reflect the same behaviours myself, to exact some kind of passive aggressive vengeance... I've been aware for a while of becoming more closed off and distant as a coping mechanism for this, and have grappled for a while with this again because it's not the kind of person I want to be.

I have also spoken to a counselor, initially I sought counselling for other reasons, at least, I thought they were other reasons, ie, work stress, but it became quickly clear during these sessions that the primary cause of this work stress was my interactions with this person. Additionally, as I mentioned all our mutual friends have jumped ship long before... at first I'd tried to be diplomatic and see both sides but I realised some time ago that I just wasn't being honest with myself, and speaking to these people who are still good friends of mine everyone told the same story, they tried for as long as they could but eventually just gave up because they realised they couldn't continue to associate with someone who couldn't be trusted not to try to make them feel bad about themselves. In my own life, I really get on with most people, I very rarely argue with people, I definitely don't have highly emotionally charged arguments that leave me feeling drained, confused and basically trapped... it's painfully, starkly clear to me that the only source of highly stressful emotional interactions in my adult life is with one person.

As I say I really feel I have known all this stuff for a while but it's taken a long time to have the self belief to be able to act on this knowledge. As I mentioned I've been friends with this person since we were children, and when I was a child I was a lot less confident, more introverted, compared to my "friend" who was a lot more extroverted and self-confident, and honestly I have grown as a person and got good things out of this friendship... But essentially the more I've just grown up, and the more confident in my own judgement I've become, the less patience I've had for the toxic elements of this "friendship", and the constant attempts to make me doubt my own judgement.

At the moment although on the whole it feels like a huge weight has been lifted, I intermittently feel a lot of anger. The thing I most resent, and always knew I resented, is the efforts to make me doubt my own judgement, which I strongly believe now is quite rational and sound, but it's been a long road getting here and constantly dealing with gaslighting and other emotional manipulations is really poisonous psychologically... on the flipside though, I feel a fair amount of guilt and embarrassment even now, writing about this stuff in so much detail, but less detail than I could if I really wanted, as an adult who I feel should be above such things... I know that this latter thought at least is not rational however, and again, I just need to let go of this negativity now and move forward.

Thank you again for your input, I have found your posts very insightful in how much they seem to reflect my own experience.
 
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