Home » Pro » The Recovery Expert » Setting Boundaries with a Narcissist

The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Setting Boundaries with a Narcissist

  1. Don’t let the narcissist in your life define you. Only you define yourself. Narcissists are masters at telling you who you are, and in not such a favorable light, I might add. Refuse to take on any definition a narcissist has for you; be it about your looks, your character, your intelligence, anything. Instead, make a concerted effort to define yourself.Narcissists tend to project and co-narcissists tend to introject. This means; however the narcissist is, he/she believes or states that the other person is this way (lazy, selfish, foolish with money, something negative,) and the co-narcissistic partner tends to absorb all these definitions. Learn to see yourself in a positive light, without this negativity.
  2. Stop giving your power away. Do not let another person be responsible for your choices, feelings, or thoughts. Even if the other person’s behaviors are intimidating, don’t act on these feelings of intimidation. In order to reclaim your own personal power you must have a plan of action for when the narcissist tries to control you. You need to see yourself as a strong, independent person. Remind yourself that the only way to stop giving your power away is to stand firm and hold onto it.
  3. Be true to yourself. I realize it’s hard for the partner of a narcissist to do, but make all decisions regarding your life based on what’s best for you. Don’t even consider what’s best for the narcissist. The pattern of relating with the narcissist has up to this point been all about what he/she wants, demands, needs, etc., with no concern for what you want or need. In order to change this unhealthy pattern, start thinking about what is best for you and then do it. Sure, you will face fallout and pushback. Expect the worse. But, in order to heal from narcissistic abuse and grow into a healthier you, you’ve got to stand strong against the pushback.
  4. Keep finances separate. Narcissists either like to control your spending or spend all the money. Either way, it’s not good for you. Simply make the decision to separate your finances. This way, your narcissist is responsible only for his/her own money and you are responsible only for yours. If you are a stay-at-home parent, open a separate checking and savings account and figure out a way to be financially independent. Even if you aren’t the breadwinner in the family, you still have a right to the income. You have a right to be included in decision making and to have power over how the money is spent.
  5. Stop talking to walls. When your narcissist decides to give you the silent treatment or stonewall you stop making any efforts to communicate with that person; instead, do something for yourself. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Do something with your children. If you find yourself, once again, trying to get someone who doesn’t care, to pay attention to what you’re saying, stop. Tell yourself that you will no longer talk to a wall. Walk away and take care of yourself. What your partner is doing is abusive and hurtful. If you need to express your emotions regarding this, call a friend or go write in your journal. Do something healthy to process your emotions.
  6. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. Manipulation can be very covert. Your manipulator may use fear, obligation, or guilt (FOG,) or some other covert (or even overt strategy.) Some manipulators act innocent. This is a very effective strategy. In order to stop allowing yourself to be manipulated, figure out your particular partner’s “go to” strategies, write them down, and be aware of them. When you notice yourself being “sucked in to the vortex” of the narcissist’s web, stop. Tell yourself the mantra, “observe don’t absorb.” Give yourself a pep talk, and remind yourself that just because you’ve been invited to participate in this interchange, you don’t have to accept the invitation. Practice saying the word, “No.” Disengage and walk away.
  7. Be happy. Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Narcissists are intensely miserable and they like to exude misery into the atmosphere. Be aware of this reality and make a conscious effort to contain your own emotions. Work on finding things to be grateful for.
  8. Focus on yourself. You cannot change anyone but yourself, so stop trying. Don’t waste one more minute of your precious life trying to get someone else to “see,” care, validate, or otherwise love you better. Instead, learn how to manage the disappointment you experience from being in a relationship that is so one-sided and painful. Even though your partner is rejecting you, make sure you don’t reject yourself.
  9. Don’t defend yourself. Narcissists love to put you on the defense. They attack you and push your buttons. When you notice yourself feeling defensive, stop, take a deep breath, remind yourself that you’ve done nothing wrong, and refuse to defend yourself.The other person enjoys watching you feel bad about yourself. The other person believes you’re bad and wants to convince you of that “fact.” He or she spends all their mental energy judging you and picking apart your supposed bad qualities. This is because it puts him/her in the “one up” position, believing he/she is in the superior role of judging you. These behaviors can last for the duration of your relationship. Remind yourself of this reality and just walk away and refuse to participate in this dynamic.
  10. Stop mirroring the narcissist. Have you noticed that the abuser in your life brings out the worst in you? That’s because, as humans, we mirror each other. When you start acting horrible, yelling, expressing disdain and outrage to your partner, it’s because he/she is a mirror and you are reflecting the inner chaos of the other person. Be aware that you are being molded into a carbon copy of your abuser. It is natural for us to become like those we are with. You will need to fight this tendency and notice your behavior.If you see yourself developing character traits in yourself that you hate – a critical spirit, vindictiveness, angry outbursts, disdain, contempt, lack of forgiveness, etc., you will need to make a conscious choice to stop yourself. You will need to build a muscle of resistance.The way you do this is by educating yourself on the concept of mirroring, projection, and introjection. People mirror each other by reflecting each other’s behaviors. When a narcissist projects certain traits on to you, you introject or internalize them. This make sense particularly in light of the fact that most co-narcissists are empaths, and empaths tend to act as sponges when it comes to others’ behaviors and emotions.
  11. Remain steadfast. When you set boundaries against a narcissist, you will experience abuse. The narcissist will interpret your boundaries as a narcissistic injury. You declaring your independence will be met with steep consequences. In essence, you are in a fight for yourself. In order to not have these consequences from your partner, you will have to sacrifice your personal identity. This is unacceptable and damaging. In order to withstand the retaliation you will experience as a result of setting firm boundaries with your narcissist you need to remain strong and steadfast. Do not give up on yourself, ever.




Setting Boundaries with a Narcissist

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


2 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment

APA Reference
Stines, S. (2019). Setting Boundaries with a Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from