I always picture relationships like Venn diagrams. A place exists in which the circles overlap and there is a place in which each circle is separate.
With a narcissist, though, the one circle begins hedging over. The overlap area becomes greater and greater until your once separate portion becomes consumed by the overlapping energy of the narcissist.
When you deal with a narcissist, your responsibility really comes down to two things:
1. reestablishing the separate identity portion of your circle (this will be difficult, because narcissists never respect boundaries and always want “More, more, More!”)
2. managing to the best of your ability the overlap area (if you can not remove the narcissist completely from your life).
We would all love to live in the idealistic world of light and love even when dealing with a narcissist. Idealism is not realism, though. You can live in your idealistic world in your half of the circle, but when your world overlaps with a narcissist, it is YOUR responsibility to become realistic.
And this realism should serve as a guide for how your overlapping circles will be managed. Why?
You are responsible for managing the overlap area, because a narcissist CAN NOT. Narcissist have no ability to effectively manage themselves, let alone, effectively manage engagements with others.
Narcissists can control, belittle, demean, demand and so on, but they can not truly relate. Thus, you can not leave the overlap area under their direction and control.
For example, my husband’s ex-wife displays narcissistic behaviors. Although she moved in across the street from us, we set very clear boundaries about when/where she could engage with us. Did she push back and try to run over the boundaries? Of course.
We still must interact with her in our overlapping circles, but we take it as OUR responsibility, to the best of our ability, to manage that overlap. On some days, it requires serious time and reflection put into a 6-sentence e-mail that we need to send her. Why? Because she so easily over-reacts. Some would say, “Who cares, just send the e-mail.”
But that would not help us. We like to keep our overlapping areas as low stress and small as possible. Send the “wrong” e-mail and we would be handling phone calls, follow-up e-mails for days on end.
Should we have to do this? Of course not. But are we in a relationship with a narcissist? Yes.
Thus, we can not afford to live in the idealized fantasy that just sending an e-mail is fine. Narcissists ALWAYS require management. ALWAYS.
You can not leave the overlap area, your area of engagement and relating, open to the direction of the narcissist.
We are being irresponsible when the narcissist has shown us again and again how they will behave and we choose to ignore this because we would prefer to live in our fantasy of light and love.
Do we understand the narcissist is in pain? Of course. But, what are we responsible for? Not their pain. We are responsible for our own health, sanity, and managing our lives and relationships to the best of our abilities.
The picture up top is a picture of a door leading to the darkness of a narcissistic relationship. Darkness surrounds the door and darkness is behind the door. The solar cross is on the front, though, pointing to all possibilities.
Is it better to leave the door closed? Of course. But sometimes, we don’t have that luxury.
We do have our skill set, our intelligence, and our awareness, though so that when we do open that door and find the narcissist on the other side, we have cared enough for ourselves to have a plan in mind.