If you’re like many well-meaning Christians who choose to stay with a narcissist, you can’t quiet that nagging question—how do I keep loving a narcissist without letting their toxic behavior get to me?
Another common thought is, I’m barely done forgiving them for their last offense and here come three more.
The underlying question is, How do I love them without losing myself?!
To keep loving a narcissist without losing yourself, there are three traps that you’ll need to avoid.
- Trap #1: Empathy. In general, empathy is a wonderful, Christ-like quality. But when you have empathy for a narcissist, the receiver only hears another opportunity to take advantage of you. (Even if they don’t say that out loud.)The real trap of having empathy for a narcissist is a false belief that you can heal them.
- Trap #2: Codependency. Codependency is an unhealthy–almost addictive–attachment to another person. It is the devil’s counterfeit for interdependency. When codependency is thriving, you can’t be ok unless the other person is OK with you.The underlying trap of codependency is a quiet belief that you can change them.
- Trap #3: Hope. All things are possible with God. But the problem doesn’t lie with God, it lies with the narcissist’s choices. And until they stop choosing demonic behavior and repent, there isn’t much hope.Proverbs 13:12 reminds us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”So, if you’re hoping that today will be a good day but then getting rocked when it’s not, it’s likely that your hope doesn’t have substance.The trap of hope is the belief that it will be worth the wait.Now that you know where the landmines are and how to avoid them, let’s apply the three key principles to loving a narcissist without losing yourself:
1. Accept who they are, and how they are.
I can almost hear you now, “Kris, how can you tell me to accept such terrible behavior? That’s like saying, ‘That’s ok, just walk all over me!’”
That’s not what I’m saying. Acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. It doesn’t even mean tolerance. It simply means that you recognize who they are and how they are and give up the responsibility, or the hope, of trying to change them.
Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” It’s time to hang up the hope that today will be a ‘good day” and then get bent out of shape when their lies, manipulation, self-pity, anger, condescension, and blaming behavior ruin the day.
In other words, stop being shocked when their behavior is narcissistic.
Simply determine what your boundaries will be and stand firm to protect yourself. For example, if you usually drive to parties together but you’re constantly getting into arguments over your road rage, drive yourself, grab an Uber, or don’t go at all.
If you want to learn how to set healthy boundaries you can be proud of….check out this episode here.
2. Practice emotional guarding.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else guard your heart for out of it flows the wellsprings of life.”
Unless you enjoy intense emotional rollercoasters that leave you exhilarated one minute and vomiting the next, you will have to emotionally—and maybe physically—detach from this person.
This means that you no longer own their behaviors and emotions.
I realize that this may feel cold but that’s where avoiding the trap of codependency comes in.
You’ve likely been trained to take on more than you should in a relationship, all in the name of love.
This isn’t biblical. Jesus didn’t do it, and neither should we. In fact, if you want to see a comical parody of what it would look like IF Jesus were codependent, check out this episode here.
To emotionally guard yourself, you’ll need to be firm in your identity. (Remember, it can’t be wrapped up in another person or you’ll always get caught in the emotional spiral.)
You’ll also need to prepare yourself to not absorb their stuff into your soul.
Be intentional about what you do when this person gets to you. Don’t just wait until you’re triggered. Having a healthy outlet, like prayer or counseling, will prevent the shoulds AND it will quell the over-reactions and over-explaining.
Here’s the hard truth—they’re draining you because you’re allowing them to do so. Guard your heart.
3. Don’t respond to toxic. Period.
There is no biblical rule that says you need to explain yourself, correct them, yell, cry or otherwise respond to their behavior.
You can simply not respond.
Yes, even when your mother accuses you of being a terrible daughter, you don’t have to defend yourself.
Even when someone is trying to guilt you into doing something you don’t want to do, you don’t have to explain yourself.
You can simply not respond.
I get why you would want to respond, and I certainly understand the frustration your non-response may trigger, but your toxic reaction doesn’t negate their toxic action.
Be on the lookout for the temptation to say ‘you make me feel…,’ because the truth is, at the end of that sentence is a tremendous growth opportunity.
Choosing to stay and keep loving a narcissist is no easy task. It takes prayer and patience.
But you’re also going to need a strong identity and even stronger boundaries.
To set boundaries like a boss, check out this episode here.
And be sure to get your hands on our toxic people survival guide. it’s my free gift to you.