Last week, I wrote an article about how obsessively researching narcissism can ruin your life.
A lot of readers said they thought it was the right thing to do, and some shared that they do it because they want to make sure they never attract another narcissist into their lives.
These are common beliefs after finally leaving a relationship with a narcissist. I get it. After all the lies and betrayal and trying to gain back some sense of normalcy, the last thing anyone would want is to find themselves in yet another toxic and dysfunctional relationship.
But, in truth, there is only so much you can learn about narcissism. There may be thousands of blogs out there on the topic, but at a certain point, there’s really nothing new to learn. The science has been done, the behavior has been analyzed, it’s been described in many different languages, and the internet is over-saturated with content revolving around narcissism.
There may be fifty shades of grey, but at the end of the day, it’s just gray.
If you’re just learning about narcissism, you may feel a drive to learn more about the condition. You want to understand the reasons your partner or Ex behaves the way they do. It’s normal to want to comprehend how they can be so malicious. Just proceed with caution because, while it may help to explain the narcissist’s behaviors, this knowledge won’t do anything to change the outcome of the relationship.
But for those of you who want to make sure you don’t attract another narcissist into your life, there are only two things you need, neither of which have to do with narcissists (or anyone else, for that matter).
These two things are always at your disposal. If you have them, you’ll never have to worry about being in a relationship with another narcissist. And, they are so simple, you could have these tips in your toolbox within the hour if you don’t have them already. They are…
Why are these two things so important? Because without them, it won’t matter how much you know about narcissistic traits. Without them, you could write a dissertation on narcissism, yet still find yourself in a relationship with one.
How do I know? For one, it happened to me several years ago…and it’s also happened to many of my clients.
There is one major flaw in believing that knowing everything there is to know about narcissism will save you from attracting another one, and it’s that you’re still focusing on things outside of yourself. Things you cannot control.
Not only that, it will keep you in a state of hypervigilance, running the risk of never trusting anyone again. Ever.
You can only control yourself and what you need inside of your relationships – romantic or otherwise – to maintain a sense of emotional safety.
Let’s break down these two simple, yet life-changing concepts and how they can help you avoid ever attracting another narcissist into your life.
Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. They are limits beyond which you will not go and which others are not welcome.
Recovering abuse survivors often find it extremely difficult to implement boundaries because they fear upsetting other people or that setting boundaries may jeopardize their relationships. These are normal feelings to have, but also the major reason why you need to figure out your own boundaries before entering into any relationship – and implement them into your existing ones.
Figuring out your personal boundaries helps you determine what you need in your relationships to feel safe and valued. So, it’s important that you determine which things make you feel uncomfortable and go from there. For example, if you feel disturbed when someone texts you an inordinate number of times while you’re at work or out with friends, this might become a personal boundary regarding your time. Time boundaries are violated when a person demands too much of another’s time. You could set a personal boundary so that you don’t respond to anyone’s calls or texts while you’re at work or out with friends unless it’s an emergency.
Or, on the flip side of that, you may find it rude when someone that you’ve made a lunch date with spends a large amount of time texting on their phone. You’d want to explain to them that you would prefer when the two of you are together, they try to be more present with you by spending less time on their phone. After all, if you have made special arrangements to meet with them, they should recognize that your time is valuable, and if they are going to continually text other people while you’re with them, it defeats the whole purpose of your spending time together.
Determining your personal boundaries is all about honing in on your feelings and honoring them.
Personal boundaries generally cover seven areas:
Emotional – Emotional boundaries are violated when someone criticizes, belittles, or invalidates your feelings.
Physical – Physical boundaries may be violated if someone touches you in ways that make you feel uncomfortable, or when they invade your personal space, such as grabbing your cell phone and checking your call history.
Sexual – Sexual boundaries can be violated with unwanted sexual touch, pressure to engage in sexual acts, staring, or uninvited sexual comments. For example, a sexual boundary violation might involve a new date asking about your sexual preferences or history when you barely know them.
Intellectual – Intellectual boundaries are violated when someone dismisses or belittles your thoughts or ideas.
Time – As stated above, time boundaries are violated when another person demands too much of your time. This is where isolation from family and friends occurs, because an unhealthy partner will insist that you spend too much time with your children, friends, or co-workers (saying they love you and want to spend all of their time with you).
Material – Material boundaries are violated when someone takes or damages your things, or when they pressure you to give or lend them your possessions and/or money.
Spiritual – Spiritual boundaries are violated when someone uses religion to control you and/or belittles your own spiritual beliefs.
Takeaway – Part of recovery from narcissistic abuse is forgiving oneself for having stayed in a toxic relationship. This sort of self-disdain won’t be such a big struggle going forward if you take a stand for yourself. If someone has a problem with your setting healthy boundaries, they aren’t a good candidate for a relationship — romantic or otherwise.
Of course, it’s not enough to create boundaries; you actually have to follow through with them. People who are manipulators will purposefully violate your boundaries in an effort to see what you will tolerate. Therefore, it’s critical that you assertively communicate with other people when they’ve crossed a boundary. In a diplomatic way, let the other person know what is bothersome to you and that you can work together to resolve it. Someone who truly cares about you will respect that.
While deal-breakers are part of personal boundaries, they’re a bit more rigid. With personal boundaries there may be some room for compromise, such as allowing a partner two nights out with friends or co-workers as opposed to five. Or, having meat-free dinners a few times a week as opposed to eating meat with every meal.
Deal-breakers, on the other hand, are areas where you will not compromise. At all. They are qualities that would disqualify someone as a dating prospect or long-term partner, regardless of how many other awesome traits they have or the seeming connection you may feel you share up to the moment of the deal-breaker.
Just because someone is fun to go on dates with doesn’t make them the best candidate for a long-term relationship.
Determining your deal-breakers is just as personal as determining your personal boundaries…meaning, yours could be slightly different from someone else’s. Some of my personal deal-breakers are: lying, infidelity, watching porn, and the unwillingness to engage in healthy communication.
Deal-breakers are not something you need to whip out on the first date. In fact, I would advise against it because manipulators will then hide their involvement in your deal-breakers and put on a really good stage show of being the perfect match for you.
Takeaway – Deal-breakers are for your emotional security and stability. If you discover someone has broken one, you don’t even need to let them know about it. Just thank them for the good times and be willing to walk away…and mean it.
 Hereford, By Z. “Healthy Personal Boundaries & How to Establish Them.” Healthy Personal Boundaries & How to Establish Them. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2016.
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Kim Saeed is a recognized relationship and new life educator specializing in helping narcissistic abuse survivors to heal, rebuild, find purpose, and live joyfully after No Contact. In 2013, she founded Let Me Reach, a life transformation company that teaches people to flourish after toxic relationships.