top of page

The 5 Rules - How to deal with a narcissist

Is your partner a narcissist? In many articles you find the advice to stay as far away as possible from a narcissist. Or that if you are in a relationship you should get out of there. It doesn't always have to be that way, there are ways and rules by which a relationship can work.

But that does require something from both of you. In the first place from the narcissist, namely that he realises that part of the problem lies with him and that part of the solution therefore lies with him. If this insight is not there and the narcissist insists that it's the other person's fault, it's a prayer without end. Then no step-by-step plan, rules or therapy will be of any use. But if he realises that he can change it, then you can work on it together.

Work, as in you have to do something, put energy in it, give attention, listen, hear and obey. Even with the insight, it is still not easy! The insight only makes it worse in the first place! The point of "conscious incompetence" is the most difficult part of a process, and it is also a very important part. This is the part where most people give up. In this article, I will give you some tips to help improve the relationship. I did not come up with these tips myself, they come from Dr. Martin Appelo. He is a healthcare psychologist and behavioural therapist. He works as a teacher, trainer, therapist and supervisor. He has written several books, including A Mirror for Narcissists. And not unimportantly, he is an expert by experience.


Before I continue with the tips, I will give you some explanation about narcissism. Narcissism cannot be cured. If you thought you were going to cure it or hope it will change, I can help you out of that dream right away. Narcissism is not curable. And a large part of it will not or cannot change.

"Narcissism is a programme on the hard disk." This is how Appelo describes it in his lecture.

It is a harmful programme, not only for himself but also for those around him. Many people can be hurt. People he rejects and thus hurts to protect himself. He may also have problems in love relationships or business problems, such as conflicts with executives. Only when he is willing to look at himself can something change. Otherwise, it won't.

An unstable base

Research has shown that narcissism originates in early childhood. Here, too little or too much love, attention and appreciation is given. So with some, no love and attention is given: I work to support my family, isn't that enough? Cuddling is for wimps. Did you dirty your clothes again? Go stand in the corner or I'll belt you. Or too much: You are special, you are better than all the others. Our skin colour (brown, white, yellow) is the real colour, the others you should avoid as much as possible, they are bad. Because you are a De Vries/Goudlokje/Trump, you are entitled to more. Who pays the piper calls the tune. Appelo describes this as Oersoep. Both extremes have a negative effect. Depending on the person and their biological characteristics, this can develop into narcissism. In women it more often develops into Borderline.

The Narcissistic Circle

What Appelo also explains is how a narcissistic circle works. Why is this important? Because the solution lies in each of these areas. A brief explanation of the circle: It starts with the unstable basis, too little or too much love and attention. Both are harmful. From this arises the characteristic that he is going to blow himself up. As a result, he cannot reciprocate the love of another, depending on the type of narcissist: because he wants someone to adore him or wants someone to take care of him. Therefore there is no reciprocity. And as you have read in the previous blogs, the next step is rejection. If you don't adore me, then get lost or regret and blame but nothing changes. Then we are back to the base; you see I can better stay alone, I can better do it myself, etc. An unstable basis...

Rules if you have a narcissistic partner

These rules will only work if the partner also wants to change. Because most of the work lies with him. You, the partner, can support him and help him by keeping to these rules. They are therefore not tips, but rules. A narcissist needs clarity. These are the rules:

Unstable foundation

Rule 1 - Learn to ask.

If the cause lies in an unstable basis, then part of the solution lies in handling an unstable basis. Or practising creating a stable base. What helps best according to Dr. Apello is to start with medication. A narcissist can meditate himself to death, but that won't help him find peace. Medication can help. Only when there is peace, the next steps can be taken: visualisation, breathing and cue conditioning. A simple exercise is, for example, having your partner ask you for something he wants. May I please have ... a cup of coffee, the butter, a beer, etc. Or Can you pass me ... pass me? This may seem very childish, but you must realise that something has gone wrong at this point at a very young age. He has learned that what he asks for or what he needs is not there or that he does not get. Then this is the level at which you are going to start now. It requires a lot of practice and patience. Learning to ask. Learning to receive.

The rules in a row:

- medication

- visualising a safe place

- focus on your breathing

- Learning cue conditioning with the help of a therapist

(Cue conditioning (relaxing by saying a certain word) goes as follows.

First of all you determine what a pleasant place is for you. Where do you feel completely relaxed? It could be on the couch at home, it could be on a friend's farm, in the woods, at the beach.

Once you have determined your "cue for relaxation", you will link this cue to relaxation. This is done, for example, by doing a relaxation exercise and, when you are completely relaxed, instructing yourself: "When I say the word 'farm' to myself, this whole feeling of relaxation comes back.

Suppose you are at a meeting and notice that the tension is rising. Then you say to yourself 'farm' and your body will respond with relaxation).


Rule 2 - Learn to tolerate frustration

The second step in the circle is blowing up. The second rule is therefore about learning to recognise the blowing up. And this is very difficult for a narcissist. It is a characteristic that they have known for so long that they do not know that it can be done differently. They are used to doing it this way. How can you learn this? By practising and learning to recognise the oblazen. It becomes even more exciting when you start practising "asking for criticism". And consciously listen to things that are not good or could be better without reacting to them. In order to increase your frustration tolerance. Because if your partner becomes less frustrated, he will also need to blow himself up less. Or ask for a compliment. As crazy as this sounds, try asking. You don't have to blow yourself up. I like you this way too.

The rules in a row:

- Learn to recognise blow-ups (when, with whom, how)

- Asking for criticism (without responding to it)

- Asking for a compliment


Rule 3 - Asking for something and Attention to others

A narcissist can practice by showing interest in the other person, for example. What did you do today? How was your day? Can I help you with something? This probably feels very artificial and awkward at first, which is right, because it is new. He can also try asking a favour. Would you iron my shirt? Can you bring me razor blades with the groceries tomorrow? Could you pass me the chocolate sprinkles, please? Sometimes the narcissist finds this so exciting that he would rather not do it. The fear is a deep-seated fear, that what I need I won't get... Learning to ask.

The rules in a row:

- Give space to others

- Show interest in others

- Asking a favour


Rule 3 - Unlearning the psychology of the frog

Frogs are used to diving for storks. So when a bird sits on the edge of the ditch or a bird flies low over, it dives. Irrespective of whether it is a stork or not. He has learned to dive for everything. A narcissist has learned that if it is not safe, I will attack. It will help a narcissist to unlearn this. He can do this by learning to recognise the warning signals, for example. He probably knows very well when he feels attacked and what is needed. Dr Appelo explains that it can be the wording, for example. While doing the dishes, he hears that a plate is dirty. What he hears is an accusation that he did not do it well enough. What can help is to first say something sweet (create a safe and stable basis) and then to indicate that something could be better. "Honey, could you do this plate again, there is still dirt on it." That sounds very childish and it is. But again, this is where the brain is underdeveloped. This is where it went wrong in childhood, so this is where you have to address it. You can try it out by testing both ways of addressing. With and without sweetheart. Be surprised by the result! If he feels attacked, there is also the option of taking a Time-Out. Withdraw for a moment to calm down. For a narcissist, this often feels like a loss of face and he will find it really difficult, but it is wise for the relationship. Are you going for your rights or are you going for your happiness?

The rules in a row:

- Giving up the psychology of the frog

- Recognising warning signs

- Taking time out

Rule 4 - Set your limits

It is very important to set boundaries, but even more important to set consequences and honour them. Just like with children, threatening is pointless if you don't carry it out. If you keep telling your children: one more time and I'll take away your phone. Or you're not allowed to watch TV or play outside. And if the child does it again and you don't then give the punishment, the child thinks "She's not going to do it anyway so I can just do what I want." It's the same with the narcissist. Again, it seems childish but remember that it is in that child part that there have been wounds so you have to do it this way. So when you threaten something, carry out the consequence. For example: If you talk to me like that, I will walk away. And then do that. Walk away. Do not get into a discussion. Don't try to win the fight. You will not succeed anyway. If you stay, you did wrong and if you walk away, you did wrong.

Rule 5 - Be clear

A final rule for those with a narcissistic partner: Be clear. He finds nuances difficult, he doesn't understand hints and can't do anything with unclear messages. The messages: You work so much, I hardly ever see you, can we do something together? Shall we spend more time together? He can't do anything with that. Indicate what your complaint is, tell what you need and tell what that means to him. So: You work too much, I would like to see you more. Shall we spend two evenings a week, on Tuesday and Thursday from 20:00 to 23:00 together? Create clarity.

From Complaint -> to Wish -> to Behaviour.

What is your complaint? What is your wish? What behaviour goes with it?

Again, this seems very childish and it is. This is what he needs. It is just clear. No double messages, no hints, no vague agreements. Clarity. That is good for you and for him.

On the tombstone of a narcissist it says: "He was always right, but had no one to share it with."

Do you still have questions after reading these rules? Don't hesitate to send me a message! Do you have a narcissistic partner or do you want to know if your partner is a narcissist? Then also read the previous blogs on this topic:

A recognizable story of 2 people who are incredibly attracted to each other. Hij begrijpt mij...

A test to find out if your partner is a narcissist or has narcissistic tendencies. Test 1: is mijn partner een narcist?

Another story about two people who are so different but she sees his true self.... Hij is groots maar hij heeft een klein hartje...

A test to find out if your partner is a narcissist or has narcissistic tendencies. Test 2: Is mijn partner een narcist?

206 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All



  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
bottom of page