How to Avoid Having a Narcissistic Relationship

Who’s at risk for a narcissistic relationship? It turns out that, to some extent, we all are. Since a good narcissist definition would be an excessive focus on ourselves or desiring the praise of others, none of us are immune to narcissistic traits or tendencies.

Narcissism has become such a common word lately as has labeling ‘unusually disagreeable people’ with the term. Many of us imagine it only pertains to the uniquely selfish people out there (someone other than ourselves, of course).

However, we all can become too enamored with ourselves at times. And when that happens, our spouse or partner often gets hurt the most. We get hurt in a round-about way when our struggling romantic relationship affects us negatively too.

Let’s examine some ways to avoid letting narcissistic behavior harm our most foundational relationship.

Look Inside Before Labeling Your Partner or Spouse

It’s just human nature. The first thing we’re tempted to do after learning about a term like narcissism is to go through the mental list of people we know to see who fits that description. Perhaps you even say, “Dang, that’s a perfect description of my partner!”

It’s a good thing to be able to recognize the signs of a narcissist in extreme cases. A great example of this is when narcissistic abuse is happening such as gaslighting. Having said that, labeling others can sometimes blind us to our flaws, holding us back from self-improvement.

By putting others down, we run the danger of holding ourselves and others to different standards too. We may become more lenient with the selfish qualities in ourselves than with those present in our partner.

So, the challenge is doing the hard work of self-reflection. Try your best to look at your life through the eyes of your partner, asking some courageous questions like:

“Do I have higher standards for my significant other than I do for myself?”
“Do I regularly interrupt my spouse or partner, fail to actively listen or make eye contact?”
“When I hurt my partner, do I apologize and own up to my mistakes without becoming defensive or angry?”
“Do I feel like I’m more important than my romantic partner or that I should have more rights?”

These are just a few of the specifics to consider when gauging where you fall on the narcissistic spectrum (we’re all there either to a greater or lesser degree). Unfortunately, narcissistic behavior is contagious in relationships.

When one person is selfish, the other tends to follow suit to make sure their needs get met. It becomes a vicious cycle of selfishness that just gets worse unless someone intentionally breaks the cycle.

Consider the Possibility that Narcissistic Personality (NPD) Could Be Present in Your Relationship

In his “Psychology Today” article entitled 10 Signs that You’re in a Relationship With a Narcissist, Preston Ni M.S.B.A shares a quote often jokingly considered symbolic of what a habitual or pathological narcissist would say:

“That’s enough of me talking about myself; let’s hear you talk about me” 

When most people think of narcissism, they’re thinking of such extreme examples. For instance, if narcissism becomes acute enough, it can be considered a diagnosable mental health condition known as narcissistic personality disorder or NPD.

In these cases, there isn’t the usual give-and-take of helping each other as there should be in a healthy relationship. Whereas one partner becoming less selfish in a typical romantic relationship would encourage the other to do the same, this generally isn’t the case when NPD is present. In fact, being overly accommodating could even make matters worse.

If you suspect NPD could be present in yourself or your partner, recognizing the potential for this is an important first step. Ultimately, only a professional can determine for sure if you or your partner is experiencing NPD.

Do You Desire A Less Narcissistic Relationship? Counseling Can Help

Self-centeredness can really kill a relationship. It’s a myth that the most selfish person in a relationship wins. The reality is that nobody wins.

Although narcissistic tendencies aren’t easy to change, it can be done. One of the best ways to do this is by seeking out a counselor who can help you work through evidence-based ways to change as a couple.

Is selfishness getting in the way of a great relationship for you and your partner? If so, remember that we all struggle with being self-focused to some extent but things can get better. Could you benefit from couples’ counseling or marriage counseling?

If so, you can schedule an appointment with the OC Relationship Center. We provide counseling in Mission Viejo, CA and Newport Beach, CA. We look forward to seeing you at one of our Orange County, CA counseling offices soon!

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