For the malignant narcissist, relationships are not about love, affection or mutual interests because the narc views human relationships as if they were a game — a game where whoever shouts the loudest wins. A game where the narc has to outsmart and outrun the competition. A game where whoever collects the most of whatever the narc values — whether it’s money, property or people, wins. A game where the narc feels no obligation to play fairly by anyone’s rules but his own and every play is a means to an end.
It’s a game where the rules can change at any time, but there are three fairly consistent rules to the narc’s game. If you can spot how the narc plays out these moves, it might help you see it coming so you can avoid playing such a game. So here are the narc’s general rules which may or may not change at any given time.
Narc Rule #1: Collect Narcissistic Feed
Every narcissist has their own currency. Some narcs are concerned primarily with politics and climbing a social ladder. Other narcs are all about collecting people to do their dirty work. Even others crave people who flatter them and others just want to make money. Narcissism might appear differently with different personalities, but there is one thing they all have in common, they use people for narcissistic feed.
Chances are if you are dealing with a narcissist, you might already sense what they want. This narc rule states as long as you give up your money, your time, your needs, your blood — whatever it is the narc craves, then your relationship with the narc will appear to be fine. However, if you start to claim your own boundaries, he will feel threatened and up the ante because you just moved up to a more difficult level in the game.
Narc Rule #2: Be the King or Queen of Right
Narcs make a game out of being right. If you know someone who stays up late online arguing with strangers, this person probably rates on the high end of the narcissistic scale. Proving she is right and others are dead wrong is always a game to the narcissist–whether it’s about politics or religion or which kind of car to buy.
Arguing with the narc is no fun no matter how delusional they are and as you might have discovered by now, it’s not much fun to play games of any sort with the narc. But here’s the thing, you might end up arguing with the narc over real-life issues if you are living in the same house. And these might be issues that really matter to you like which school your child should attend or if you can run to the store to buy medicine for a sick child while the narc wants sex. These are the kind of games most people never dream of playing but welcome to narc world!
Narc Rule #3: Whoever Gets the Most People Wins
Narcissistic people are masters at triangulation. We all know this is a childish game, but watch out if you’re breaking up with a narcissist, because she will call up everyone you know to make sure they realize how terrible you are. Although the narc wants to collect all these people, she offers them no substance in a relationship because the only thing she has to offer them is talking about you. The narc wants to get all your mutual friends to take her side so she can use them as pawns and flying monkeys. Most of these pawns and flying monkeys have no clue what’s happening or that they’re even entered into the narc’s game. While it might seem the narc is winning for a while, your true friends will eventually see through the narc’s lame games.
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Now that you realize what kind of game you are playing, the only way to win is to stop playing by the narc’s rules. If only it were as easy as leaving the circus, but first you will need to take some action to protect your interests and redeem your own points in this game.
Healthy Rule #1: Realize Your Own Worth
Without self-worth, you might continue to play the game hoping to get the carrot the narc keeps dangling in front of your nose. Narcs are notorious for promising to do better or pay their debts next time. And if you have no sense of how to get your own needs met, you’ll be relying on a tyrant to supply whatever you need. If you’re struggling with self-worth, this is a great time to find a counselor or have a long talk with a good friend you can trust.
Healthy Rule #2: Stop Feeding the Narc
You’ll need to decide if you can allow yourself to compromise any longer. Of course, this depends on what’s at stake. If there are small children involved, you might have to play your cards very carefully until they are securely out of harm’s way. Once you realize what kind of feed the narc is using you for, you will need to protect yourself from the narc’s games. You might want to talk to professional counsel before you make any big moves depending on your situation.
Healthy Rule #3: Secure Your Boundaries
It’s time to identify and reinforce your boundaries. If the narcissist is taking your time or money, reclaim it. If the narc is abusing your body, protect it. If the narc is messing with your mind through gaslighting, stop giving him access to what you think.
Setting and maintaining strong boundaries is hard work–especially if you grew up in an enmeshed family without boundaries. That old family saying “whatever is mine, is yours” has been twisted by the narcissist to give him a license to steal your life. Don’t let him.
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Even though you’ve been asked to play a game you can never win, winning is still possible. Your best option is to leave the narcissist to play his game with someone else. When you put the narcissist and all his rules back into the box he came from, he’ll lose all his power over your life. While the world is full of narcs, there are also many loving people who will love and give love in return.
Cherilyn Christen Clough broke the rules when she started writing about her family’s secrets. Some claim she sold her soul to the devil, but she prefers to think of it as gaining freedom. She lives with her husband who wears a utilikilt and two cats named Minkah Mhotep and Kitteh Coon Cosette. She tries to keep Oregon weird by eating buckwheat groats and decorating with her own art. You can read about her strange childhood in Chasing Eden A Memoir. And if you want to know her secrets for surviving narcissistic abuse you can sign up for Little Red’s Survivor Tips.