The archenemy of a narcissist is anyone who develops a skillset that allows them to become immune to their manipulation. The power of the structure that narcissists create through abuse that keeps victims trapped within the narcissistic abuse cycle is fueled by manipulation. Learning how to stop a narcissist from manipulating you takes away an enormous amount of their power and control.
As a general rule, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with a narcissist will stop them from successfully manipulating you. The most successful boundaries against narcissists are always formulated through one’s observation of their behavior instead of being influenced by feelings and emotions.
It is important to set boundaries with a narcissist based on your observation of their behavior instead of your own emotions and feelings because narcissists are really good at using manipulation to twist your emotions/feelings and to convolute your reality. Unless you are one hundred percent indifferent to narcissistic abuse, boundaries set through emotions and feelings could do more harm than good.
Using Versatile Boundaries Is Important When Attempting to Stop a Narcissist From Manipulating You
One of the reasons that it is so hard to set boundaries with a narcissist is because boundaries often change overtime and a narcissist’s behavior is explosive and unpredictable. Take the love bombing phase for an example.
During the love bombing phase a narcissist will use narcissistic mirroring to absorb information about their victim’s identity to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in their life. This makes the relationship that the two have appear to be healthy, happy, and secure so the victim will likely set boundaries based on their perception of the healthy, happy, and secure relationship.
When the narcissist moves the relationship from the love bombing phase to the devaluation and discard phase, victim of narcissistic abuse aren’t able to adjust the boundaries they’ve set with the narcissist in their life because of all the manipulation, confusion, and abuse.
What this means is that the boundaries you set need to be versatile. Meaning that they’re capable of withstanding different types of pressure at all times without making a significant amount of changes.
A simple example of someone setting a versatile boundary would be refusing to engage in a conversation with their partner when their opinion isn’t valued/respected instead of an inflexible boundary where they refuse to engage in a conversation with their partner where their opinion isn’t valued/respected but only when the partner is intoxicated.
With that being said, it may be tempting to set very strong boundaries with everyone in your life but being suspicious and almost fearful of everyone in your life is unhealthy and might cost you some really meaningful relationships.
It can be really difficult to learn how to trust again after narcissistic abuse so we suggest you seek out the guidance of a qualified professional to do so.
There will be times where very strict and rigid boundaries, like the no contact rule, are the best boundaries to set but as a general rule, adaptive boundaries are the best boundaries to set with a narcissist for those who aren’t able to use firm boundaries like the no contact rule.
4 Tips For Setting Healthy Boundaries With a Narcissist
In our article How to Know When a Narcissist Is Manipulating You we outlined ten reliable signs of manipulation that victims of narcissistic abuse can search for to better protect themselves. It’s a great resource that you can use to grasp a comprehensive understanding of manipulation in a narcissistic relationship, which is a really important thing to do.
But this section is going to give you four tips that you can use to build a solid foundation from which you can protect yourself from a narcissist’s manipulative behavior, regardless of how it manifests in your life.
When Setting Boundaries With a Narcissist Pay Attention to Their Behavior Instead of Their Words
As we mentioned before, narcissists are so good at using manipulation to twist your emotions/feelings and to convolute your reality. It’s for this reason that setting boundaries based on the behavior you’re observing instead of the emotions and feelings you have is super important.
Narcissists are really good at using manipulative behaviors like intermittent reinforcement, future faking, hoovering, gaslighting, and baiting to manipulate their victims into second guessing themselves.
So, failing to acknowledge and accept the fact that the narcissist in your life knows you well enough to bully you into a vulnerable position with their words where you can be easily manipulated will likely trap you within the narcissistic abuse cycle indefinitely.
Don’t Let the Narcissist Force You to Make Hasty Decisions
Something that often gets neglected when speaking about manipulation in narcissistic relationships is their intensity. Narcissists are very good at weaponizing intensity to force their victim to bend to their will.
The love bombing phase and narcissistic rage are two really good examples of this.
During the love bombing phase a narcissist will use narcissistic mirroring to absorb a ton of information about their victim’s identity to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in the victim’s life. This is a very intense period because victims are often being bombarded with things that they desire and it manipulates them into letting their guard down which allows the narcissist to sink his/her manipulative hooks into them.
Narcissistic rage can manifest in both an aggressive and passive aggressive manner but both are equally explosive. Whether it be a violent rage or the silent treatment, it is designed to manipulate the victim into doing what the narcissist wants.
It’s really important to remember that you are allowed to make decisions on your own time. Anyone who truly loves and respects you will give you the time and space to do so. A narcissist will try to intensify situations to confuse their victim, remembering to slow down and take the time you need to think clearly will help protect you from manipulation.
Do Not Allow the Narcissist In Your Life to Isolate You From Others
One of the biggest indicators of not only narcissistic manipulation but a manipulator in general is when they isolate you from others. You see, manipulators do not like to manipulate others when there is an audience because there are too many variables that aren’t under their control that could lead to them being exposed.
In narcissistic relationships this can manifest in both subtle and obvious ways.
A subtle form of isolation would be a narcissist’s falsified identity. You see, victims of narcissistic abuse are often the only ones who know how abusive the narcissist is. Everyone else sees the narcissist’s falsified identity that portrays them as admirable, healthy, charming, and charismatic, leaving you feeling really isolated and doubting yourself.
An obvious form of isolation would be the narcissist preventing you from seeing family and friends. This is a very common behavior in narcissistic relationships. They will try to force you to choose between your friends and family or the relationship you have with them for selfish reasons like wanting all of your attention but also for very sinister reasons like the fact that they know they’re more likely to be exposed when there’s onlookers to their abuse.
Both of these forms of isolation are really dangerous. The reason being that when you get isolated from friends and family, nobody knows about the abuse you’re enduring. This is dangerous because narcissistic abuse destroys the mental and physical health of their victims. So from your friend’s and family’s perspective, someone they love is getting worse and worse with no clear explanation.
This makes them very vulnerable to the narcissist’s manipulation. All the narcissist needs to do is create a narrative that portrays you as the abuser and the narcissist as the victim to serve your friend’s and family’s need for an explanation to your deteriorating health and all of a sudden the people you once confided in are narcissist enablers or flying monkeys.
The importance of having a solid support group around you when dealing with narcissistic abuse is immeasurable.
It doesn’t matter how hard you work in therapy or how much knowledge you gain about narcissistic abuse, there are going to be days where you’re going to need support from people who truly love you and there’s no support group better than friends and family who either understand narcissistic abuse or are making a big effort to.
What Should You Take Away From This Article
Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with a narcissist is hard work but it is by far the best way to stop a narcissist from manipulating you. It’s really important that you accept and acknowledge that the boundaries you set with the narcissist in your life need to be versatile.
There are very little situations in life where having a single minded approach to something is the best way to go about things, especially when setting boundaries with a narcissist.
Suggested Readings: Why Do Narcissists Disrespect Boundaries and Why Is It Important to Set Boundaries With a Narcissist.
If you’re interested in learning more about setting boundaries with a narcissist, our article What Are Some Boundaries You Can Set With a Narcissist guides readers through setting boundaries against twelve of the most common narcissistic behavior patterns victims of narcissistic abuse are likely to experience!
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.
Rivas, Carol, Moira Kelly, and Gene Feder. “Drawing the line: how African, Caribbean and white British women live out psychologically abusive experiences.” Violence Against Women 19.9 (2013): 1104-1132