What to expect when you erect boundaries with a narcissist

  • They ignore your request to assert your boundaries, either by pretending not to have heard you or pretending to misunderstand the boundaries that you are trying to erect.
  • They sulk and accuse you of being cold and distant or not liking/loving them
  • They give you the silent treatment and spread the word that they are having an amazing time without you.
  • They will go on a smear campaign “after all I have done for him/her and s/he couldn’t even…, s/he is so ungrateful”
  • Go into an infantile regressive state, like a toddler’s temper tantrum but in the form of a fully physically mature adult
  • They will threaten you and try to force you to do what they want you to do through lies, deceit and soliciting the support of their flying monkeys.
  • They will use weakness and vulnerability as tools to manipulate you into do what they want you to do.
  • They will play the victim role, of one who needs to be rescued.
  • They will try to garner the sympathy of everyone around you, and I mean everyone, your work colleagues, your family, friends and acquaintances, they have no limit to the people they will try to turn against you.
  • They will make up lies about the nasty things that people said about you to infuse a little paranoia into the equation.
  • They will “accidentally” forget to share information that you are entitled to such as family gatherings, meetings or social occasions – this is done deliberately to make you feel isolated, unsupported and having indifferent attitude to your job and family in the eyes of others.
  • They will make up lies about nasty things that you allegedly said about other people to destroy your relationship with that person and your reputation
  • They will tell you how you should be and act
  • They will either be super nice to you in front of other people to show what a nice/forgiving person they are or act like the victim and behave as though you are about to hit them
  • They will pick away at your boundaries in tiny increments to gain traction. Things so small that they are not worth fighting for but collectively make a big difference
  • They will pretend to be worried about you


Advice for lawyers/mediators about narcissists

There are several key indicators that your client has been abused by a narcissist.  The first one is that they are frightened of the person that they are trying to separate from.  If they have recently separated from their partner, they will want to do it as quietly as possible to not incur the wrath of their ex.   They have been badly bullied and their self-esteem will be low.  Narcissists are parasitical predators and they will have exploited their partner for the duration of the relationship this will have been emotional/psychological abuse but it can be financial and expecting their partner to do everything for them too.  They will actively target people who will give them a place to live, provide them with financial stability, have good social and business networks, cook and clean for them (or hire someone to do it) and other support activities such as doing all the accounts etc.  They will be furious that these benefits are being withdrawn and will fight to punish your client for having the audacity for denying them what they want (whatever the cost to your client or their children)

The narcissist may sound reasonable, despite the fact that everything s/he says is a lie. This person will do what they can to discredit your client, spread vicious rumours about him/her, attack their reputation, and use whatever means possible to make your client look bad. It doesn’t matter that none of it is true, and since they will do it all behind your clients back you will not know what you are defending him/her against.

The narcissist’s narrative is often believed by otherwise capable and competent professionals such as lawyers, mediators, judges and therapists. Most of us are just not prepared for the magnitude of the lies and the fact that the narcissist is totally indifferent to the emotional, financial and psychological damage that their behaviour has on their children, ex-spouse, family and friends.  The narcissist will usually pepper their lies with half-truths, which makes them all the more credible.

The narcissist is in court to win and the more damage they do the more powerful they feel.  They are not looking for a compromise and have absolutely no negotiation skills or the desire to find a mutually beneficial solution.

They will use manipulation to get what they want when the relationship comes to an end they will do everything in their power to destroy their ex psychologically, socially and financially.  If their destruction has an extreme negative impact on their children, they will consider it to be collateral damage.

They will do this by:

  • Lying
  • Playing the victim
  • Tears
  • Pretend to be devastated
  • Hiding their own financial resources
  • Try to drag out the separation process as long as possible to wear your client down both psychologically, emotionally and financially
  • They are going to actively work against finding a solution or compromise
  • They are in the “fight” to win and if it means financial ruin to both parties then that is what they will do, because the narcissist will be on the prowl for a new target the minute they know their current relationship is over, one who they can sponge off and suck dry like they did to your client
  • They love drama and will probably try to get the divorce to go to court, where they can be centre stage and show off their acting skills to a captive audience
  • They will lie under oath or get other people to lie for them (their witnesses may well believe the lies of the narcissist and think that they are telling the truth under oath)
  • Narcissists see themselves as being above the law and have no moral compass
  • Morality is for other people to use when dealing with them, not the other way around.
  • They will happily use children as pawns in a divorce if it serves their purpose without any consideration for the negative impact it might have on their own off spring
  • They will bully, brainwash and cajole their children in to supporting their stories
  • Even though it might not show on the surface, children of narcissistic parents are terrified of them. They can control their children with a glance or a facial expression without saying a word.  The child will have been trained from a very early age that this is a warning signal and the punishment will come later (when no one else is around)

It is important for your client to keep a diary of everything that has happened.  This is for the purpose of keeping the facts right, but also as a reference.  Someone who has been in a relationship with a narcissist has been very abused and may well freeze in a situation where they have to defend themselves or become completely confused, it is important not to project good intention onto the narcissist because there is none.  They will insist that there is, but that is another lie.

The narcissist will have consistently and deliberately isolated your client from any support network, so that they can exercise maximum control.   They will have made your client doubt themselves and their sanity to manipulate to their own advantage.  It will probably take a while to get the true story from your client and they may be reluctant to share everything or even be apologetic for having needs.  This is because they are confused as they will have been shut down on anything that does not suit the narcissists agenda, they may well be embarrassed for letting themselves be pushed around and they will probably be suffering from cognitive dissonance from what they know to be true and the narrative that they have been endlessly fed.


The narcissist will go on a smear campaign and may very well have turned family and friends against your client so that they cannot find reassurance or comfort in others.  Living with a narcissist is so toxic that it has a huge effect on the mental and physical health of your client, to the point where they might well be feeling suicidal.  They may want to give the narcissist what they want just to get away from them as they could be in a life or death situation.  They really are that toxic.  Charming and charismatic to others, but determined to destroy their ex.  The narcissist, because they do not feel many emotions can come across as calm and collected while your client might appear unstable in the eyes of the professionals, this is because they will have endured so much abuse and may well be suffering from CPTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder), this is when a person experiences repeated traumatic events at the hands of an abuser.  It can manifest itself in insomnia, memory loss, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating and very low self-esteem.

Your client has been betrayed by someone they thought they loved and who loved them.  They will be grieving a relationship that they thought was real, but was not.  There is a lot of intense emotional “stuff”’ for a person leaving a narcissist, so they may well appear to be unstable (as the narcissist will have done everything within their power to destabilise them) and will have been messing with their meta-data, which will make them unsure of themselves.

NOTES if your client does have to go to court in a divorce 

It will be hard to prove what your client says in court as it is the word of your client against your ex’s.  It is really important that your client does not lose his or her cool, as their narcissist ex will be acting like they are trying to win an Oscar.  There are some useful things that can be done:

  • Advise your client not make eye contact with their ex at any time. They have been training them through intimidation and bullying to expect a rage reaction if anything is said that they don’t like.  It is important not to let them trigger fear, advise your client how to respond to the question that they have been asked, rather than react to the “you’ll pay for this” silent signals that they will give your client if they can make eye contact with them.
  • Advise them not look at their ex’s lawyer when answering their questions, they are looking for a win too. Not because they have an interested in “what is best for everyone concerned”, but because they have a vested interest in winning, as that improves the lawyer’s reputation (more clients/more money) and they will intimidate to get this result.   It is what is said that goes on court records, not where your client was were looking.  It might seem odd that not engage to in the normal body language/facial expression intercourse with their lawyer, but that is fleeting – what is said will remain on record.
  • If your client is feeling overwhelmed, dizzy, confused and does not feel that that they can answer questions in a way that is in their best interest (some lawyers are extremely aggressive), tell them to let you (the lawyer) know. You can agree on a sign to let them know that they are experiencing difficulties before your client takes the stand.
  • When your client’s ex starts to lie under oath, remind them not interrupt, call them a liar or make any noise. Ask your client to write down the lies that have been told and them to give it to you, or one of your legal team.  You (the lawyer) can intervene on their behalf, as there is no emotional investment and you will be capable of making a much more level headed rebuke.
  • Your client’s ex narcissist will try to play games in the court room, so it is important that your client appears as cool and collected as they can in the court room
  • Ask your client not to show blithe humour, it will not be appreciated by anyone and will mitigate against your client for being fickle and disrespectful of the legal process.
  • Advise your client to dress and speak respectfully, refer to the judge with the reverence they expect. Asserting a stance against them will only garner hostility



How to leave a narcissist



Leaving a narcissist is a very difficult thing to do.  All relationship separations are difficult but a narcissist will make it particularly hard because they will be reeling from narcissistic injury and that will turn to anger, indignation and they will have an obsessive desire to punish you (how could anyone want to leave them when they are such perfect people).  It will also damage their public image, the very suggestion that someone would not want to stay with them and devote their lives to them is a complete insult.

The reality is that a relationship with a narcissist isn’t a relationship, simply because they cannot relate to anyone else.  Not their partner, not their children, other members of their family or friends.  So, once you realise that you are in a relationship with a narcissist and they are not going to change, leaving them is really the only healthy option for your well-being.

This can be done in two ways.  Either by physically leaving the partnership or by reducing the emotional commitment to them, separated under the same roof, this however could be even more detrimental to your well-being because the narcissist will know immediately when you withdraw your emotional commitment and will start acting out like a petulant child.  It will be relentless and very draining, but it will escalate into something much more aggressive if this tactic doesn’t work.  Because the narcissist is a narcissist OBVIOUSLY it will be all your fault that the partnership ended and will say things like “you said that you loved me” , “How could you do this to me”, “you are so selfish, think about the children”, “we had it so good why do you have to go and destroy it all” “You have gone mad, you need to go to therapy” (You probably would benefit from therapy, not because you have gone mad but because you are probably suffering from some form of complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of living with a narcissist, if you do look for help it is important to make sure that your therapist is an expert in narcissism, otherwise therapy will only be useful to you up to a point, in that it could help you to start to talk about the problem, but will probably not be able to deliver the tools to resolve anything.

Hot on the heels of declaring that you are moving out or withdrawing emotionally, there will probably be allegations of your having an affair or multiple affairs and there will probably be accusations of infidelity during the relationship, being a bad parent, being emotionally unavailable, working all of the time, being too independent, not giving narcissist enough time and attention, being ungrateful, never earning enough money, being too involved with any hobby and so forth.

Before you declare that you want to leave the narcissist it is important to protect your assets as best as you can.  So, once you have made this hard decision it is important to act like business as usual.  An aggressive fit of self-righteous indignation will be inevitable from the narcissist, and as it was your fault that the relationship ended the narcissist will feel justified in punishing you for ruining their life by ruining yours as much as they can.  This will happen on several levels:

  • They will go after all of your assets (do not expect them to be reasonable or to play fair, integrity, morality or honour are not traits that the narcissist has).
  • They will go on a public smear campaign against you to anyone who will listen, including your own friends and family. They will site something like infidelity or mental instability as the cause of the break up, will let everyone know that it is your fault and that you have broken their heart.
  • They will play the abused victim.
  • They will harass you as much as they can, they might even stalk you either physically or on social media.
  • They will open your post, look at your phone (to get proof of anything that they can use against you, if they cannot find anything they will just make stuff up), open bank statements, credit card statements, befriend your colleagues at work etc.
  • They might damage your property.
  • If you have children, they will spend hours telling them what a horrible person you are and how cruel and unfaithful you have been to them (parental alienation).
  • They might try to get full custody of your children and battle it out as long as they can.
  • They will aim to “win” the fight, even if both parties go broke by paying legal fees this could even be at the expense of children’s well-being. It doesn’t matter to them, they just have to win and winning to them means doing as much damage to you as they can.

So how do you protect yourself?  It is really important to put yourself into a position that is as independent as possible before you say or do anything.  At this stage you are going to have to act like nothing has changed.  If they feel like something has changed they will go on high alert, they will monitor absolutely everything that you do, or say and every piece of information that manage to “collect” about you, will be twisted where ever possible and used against you and that will put you in a very vulnerable position because you will know that it is a fabrication of lies (but with elements of truth to make their story more credible) and you will not know what stories they have told about you behind your back.  At this stage it is very important not to go on a counter attack because this will only excite them more.

If you have been married to a narcissist for a long time, it is very likely that your self-esteem has been badly eroded and that you have been subject to verbal and/or physical abuse for a long while.  I would recommend that you don’t take on the battle until you feel like you are up to it.  Because it will be a battle you “have given” narcissistic injury so the narcissist will punish you and will bring out all of the weapons that they have in their arsenal, no matter how inappropriate (like using the children as pawns in the game that is playing out in their head (this incidentally is child abuse, it is completely inappropriate to involve children in adult affairs)), making up lies about you, stealing and rewriting history.

It is important to remember that narcissists are very convincing liars and they will be accompanied with tears and histrionics, it might surprise you the amount of people who actually believe them and consequently their hostility towards you.  This is especially true as non narcissists generally feel that a relationship is a private affair and the reasons for the break up is not something that you want to talk about with everyone and anyone, so that the target audience of the narcissist will think that the narcissist must have been suffering in silence for a long time and that only now the true nature of their partner has come to light and that the narcissist who is terribly heartbroken, is absolutely beyond reproach.

It is worth noting that anyone who is unhappy in a relationship has an absolute right to leave that relationship, you are not your partners prisoner (although they might not see it that way).  It is best if you withdraw emotionally before you withdraw physically.  It is healthier for you if you stop playing “happy couple” for everyone else.  A side effect of going from “happy couple” to separating couple is that it will shock some of your friends and relations and they might get upset with you because it makes them question their own relationships.  This can cause hostility and judgement along with the narcissists smear campaign, it will just further alienate you – which is exactly what the narcissist wants.

If you catch the narcissist going through your things looking for information and you ask them not to, they will automatically reply “Well, if you didn’t have anything to hide it wouldn’t matter”, this is absolutely not true.  Nobody has a right to violate other people’s privacy like that.  It is important that you do not show any doubt on this issue, it is a complete lack of respect for you and your right to privacy, it is also indicative of their lack of regard for your boundaries, they do not own you and they may not rifle through your things.

Your narcissist partner might suggest that you go to couples counselling in an attempt to salvage the status quo.  This is not a good idea because the dynamic is as follows:

  • The narcissist opts to state where s/he thinks the problems lie. This could take a few sessions.
  • The narcissist will manipulate and sway a therapist to see their point of view without interruption. If you do not see a therapist who is fully informed on NPD, they may well believe everything that is said to them, at this point your narcissist will consider that the therapist is “amazing” and will categorically refuse to see someone else
  • When the non-narcissist gets their turn to talk about the relationship the narcissist will get extremely uncomfortable, will interrupt, correct, chastise and probably interrupt you while you are speaking, negating everything that you say. If the therapist believes you the “amazing” therapist will metamorphasise into an idiot and be absolutely useless.  The narcissist might even walk out on the session there and then.
  • A narcissists idea of a resolution to a problem is to shut the other person down, try to force them to retract anything negative they said about them and if that fails they will rage at you. If you say something like “that is not how I see it”, they will just say “well that is how it is”, name call or storm out of the room.

It is a futile exercise and will only aggravate the narcissist even more.  It is important to remember that the narcissist will go into over drive to protect their image, it is as though their life depends on it.