By: Jen Makin, CMHC
I have pondered about this subject for some time. It is an awkward situation when I am teaching a client or friend about narcissism and she says, “This sounds a lot like my husband/boyfriend/person.”
What are the next steps?
The first step is to remember that it's important that you stay in her life. Most likely her significant other has tried his hardest to isolate her. Isolation means that he has attempted to pull her away from those in her life that used to matter to her.
He may have sold her the story that they don’t care about her anymore; they aren’t spiritual/smart/good enough to be around her anymore and she is better off without them. After all, she only needs him.
So, keeping this in mind here are five tips:
TIP 1: SUPPORT HER IN A VALIDATING WAY
Do not directly tell her what you believe. Simply validate her experience and support her. This would look like this:
Her: This sounds a lot like my husband.
You: Oh man, that’s no fun.
Her: Shoot, what do I do?
You: What do you mean?
Her: I don’t know! I don’t want to be married to a narcissist!
You: I can imagine. That would be so hard.
And just keep validating until she asks for help and a real plan, validate like crazy. Validation is simply: acknowledging someone’s experience without judgement.
TIP 2: DO NOT TRASH HIM
She may ask what you believe. She may ask what you think about her situation and what you think about him. It doesn’t matter what you think. It would be appropriate to reiterate how much you care about her and her happiness.
Ask her if she loves him, or even likes him, and then go from there. Help her explore how she feels rather than how you do.
You might be thinking If I was married to a narcissist, I would want to know. Hold your horses. This isn’t the truth. You may believe that but you would go home, accidentally mention to your husband what your friend thinks and then you instantly become the enemy. You’ll be shredded and her brain will be scrambled. Sadly, she will most likely buy into it and pull away. This is exactly what you don’t want.
You want to be there for your friend for that moment that she texts you and says, “I hired an attorney. I’m done.” Then, you go to lunch and slowly allow her into your inner world. Remember, those in a relationship with a narcissist do not live in reality. They live in the narcissist’s reality. As she grounds back to reality, it will be an adjustment. One of my clients said it felt like she needed to be debriefed like they do after getting extracted from a cult.
TIP 3: SUPPORT HER
Shower her with love. Spend quality time with her. Allow her to feel what authentic and unconditional love feels like. Praise her and help her know that she is amazing, just as she is.
Some good ideas for this are:
Drop off chocolates to her doorstep with a handmade (or heartfelt) card
Treat her to dinner and a movie
Send her texts throughout the day telling her how amazing she is
Take her to the bookstore to the self-help section (give suggestions if solicited)
Go roller skating and to ice cream
Go on a drive, blast music and laugh your heads off
These actions show unconditional love. In a healthy marriage, she could do any of them with him but if I was a betting woman, I would bet that she doesn’t and hasn’t.
TIP 4: BE THERE FOR HER
If she calls sobbing or distress, be there for her. Don’t act too shocked. Instead, listen to her, validate her and help her explore her own feelings. This could be an amazing time to help her explore her feelings and identify if she is actually happy. If you’re too leading, she may be turned off.
It’s a balancing act to remain aligned with her husband while also lovingly supporting her in a way that she can safely explore her feelings. In a narcissistic relationship, it is not safe to explore feelings. You’re gaslit and told that your feelings don’t matter or even exist. The best thing that you can do is normalize her feelings.
Allow her to safely express while saying things like:
That makes total sense
Oh man, that doesn’t sound fun
Wow, that’s odd
Hmmm… not sure what to think about that. What do you think about it?
I would be frustrated. Are you frustrated?
Sad stuff, right?
TIP 5: REMEMBER TO HAVE BOUNDARIES
It’s understandable to need a friend, especially when you’re married to a narcissist. However, if she struggles to emotionally regulate and is using you more as an emotional support animal, it’s imperative to set boundaries. It’s most likely she would need to talk to a counselor.
But how do you approach this?
Here’s a breakdown:
Her: He’s done it again.
You: Oh no. what happened?
Her: He’s just an asshole! I am so furious. He is in charge of the finances and I swear he’s overspending but he just ignores me when I ask!
You: That would infuriate me too.
Her: He doesn’t even answer me! He just ignores me.
You: No one likes to be ignored. I have a question for you.
You: Are you opening to me asking you a question? Her: Sure
You: I really think that talking to someone could help you and even help your situation. I love being your friend so much, you know that. You know how much I love you. But I’m not a professional.
Her: I’m not sure
You: I can understand your hesitation. I just want you to know that talking to someone does not mean you’re weak, it means you’re strong.
And just support her decision and help her explore her feelings. Keep planting seeds.
Again, it is not your job to make her leave her narcissistic partner. Your job is to love her and help her explore. It could take years for someone to realize they are miserable in a relationship. And sadly, some women never do.
Being in a relationship with a narcissist is a serious and potentially dangerous situation.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, or know someone who is, it is best to get out or get help from a trusted professional. If you or someone you love needs help, please do not hesitate to give us a call and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please call 801-642-4473 or simply click the link below.