To Stop Dating Narcissists, Take a Page Out of Their Book

Prioritizing others in a relationship doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you a doormat.

Do you feel like you’re never your partner’s first priority? Jakob Owens/Unsplash

“He only thinks about himself. We’ve been living together for nine months and he abruptly decided to move back to the States to ‘get his life together’. There was no prior discussion about this—no conversation about the direction of our relationship and no next steps. He just unilaterally made the decision to leave,” says a young 30-something client of mine living abroad.

“So it wasn’t up for negotiation?” I ask.

“No, it wasn’t. He just told me that he was leaving in 30 days because he’s broke and needs to get his finances and work figured out,” she replied.

“And how did you deal with it?” I ask.

“What could I do? I couldn’t stop him. I just let him go,” she says.

“So the relationship is over?” I ask.

No, not over. I’m just waiting for him to sort out his career and money situation. He’ll be back. We love each other and we’re in touch every day,” she proclaims.

“How long have you been waiting for him to get it together?” I ask.

“It’s been almost a year and unfortunately and I haven’t seen much change,” she says.

“How long do you intend to wait for him?” I ask.

“As long as it takes, I think? Right?” she replies.

If you’re waiting for someone who prioritizes themself, you’ll never be a priority for them.

“Why are you waiting for him?” I ask.

“I love him. I want to be with him and I know he loves me,” she says. “I just get upset when he tells me that he’s “testing us.”

“Testing the relationship?” I ask.

“Yes. Sometimes I get frustrated because I’m not getting my needs met and when I speak up, he gets upset and defensive and tries to end the relationship saying, “I can’t be anyone’s boyfriend right now, I need to work on myself and my work projects right now.”

“And that’s not enough for you to break it off with him?” I ask.

“No, why would I want to end it with him? I just want things to be the way they were and the way I know they can be again,” she says.

Accepting crumbs will never give you the full loaf of bread, nor will lead to a 24-hour bakery.

“You get what you accept and only what you accept in life. So if what you’re accepting doesn’t work for you, you might want to make another choice,” I tell her. “If after almost a year you do not see significant improvement in his status or the status of the relationship, it may be time to choose again,” I tell her.

“Furthermore, how long can you keep this going? You get mad at him every other day for not meeting your needs? Is it his fault for not meeting your needs or is it your fault for waiting for him to meet them?” I ask.

“It’s no one’s fault. I just want to support him. I want to do the right thing by him,” she says.

Prioritizing others in a relationship doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you a doormat.

“What about you? What does ‘doing right by you’ look like? By the way, what makes you think that overly-loving him and being overly-patient with him is the right thing to do here? That’s actually not the lesson facing you. The lesson here is for you to learn to love yourself enough to ask for better and to walk away if he cannot give it to you, I tell her.

Overly loving someone doesn’t get you more love; it gets you walked on.  

“Humans take what is on offer. So you can keep offering him unconditional love, tolerance, support, wisdom and financial resources, but it won’t guarantee that you’ll get a better or more committed relationship with him,” I tell her. “It just guarantees that he’ll take it because it’s on offer—who wouldn’t? Then the question remains—is it his fault for taking it and running or is it your fault for offering it?”

If you don’t want people to step all over you, take your doormat off the front step.

Everyone wants to put out a welcome mat for people, but the reality of the situation is that if you put out a welcome mat, people will callously walk all over it. But if you take it off your front step, no one will miss the gesture of hospitality. You can make it up in other ways.

“The lesson here is to love yourself, value yourself and not allow yourself to be walked on,” I repeat.

You can never love someone enough to make up for the lack of self-love you feel for yourself.

“You have to learn to love yourself more than you love him. It’s so much easier to love someone else then it is to love oneself, but doing so is not going to bring you a better relationship with this man. Learning to love yourself will,” I tell her.

Love yourself like narcissists loves themselves.

Narcissists prioritize themselves and their agendas. They make decisions according to what works best for them. They don’t necessarily make the best partners in relationships but they teach us the best way to cultivate the best relationships—they teach us about self-love, self-worth and self-value. They see their own specialness in the world and they respect it and uphold it and don’t accept less than what they know they deserve.

If narcissists don’t benefit from the relationship, they’re out of the relationship.

Not only do narcissists love themselves and prioritize themselves, they set clear boundaries for what they will accept or won’t accept in a relationship. Since they honor themselves to such a high degree, their only guiding mantra in relationships is “what can you do for me?”

“What do these teachings from a narcissist tell you about loving yourself and being in a relationship with someone?” I ask.

“It tells me that he’s a narcissist! But why does he get to win here?! He always wins,” she says.

“No one is winning here. But if you continue to give your power over to him, you’ll be the one losing,” I inform her.

Relationships are partnerships, not solo ventures.

You wouldn’t consciously jump into a relationship with a narcissist knowing you wouldn’t get your needs met, so why stay with someone who you know isn’t set-up to meet you half-wayIt’s a waste of your time.

Take the self-love lessons from the narcissist and get out of their way before they run right over you.

There’s no sense in getting upset with someone who can’t give you what you need. Recognize that you can’t change people, you can only change the degree to which you allow them to affect you.

Stop expecting people to give you what you are not giving to yourself.

It’s not their job. Narcissists may make terrible partners, but because they love and honor themselves, they attract people who will also love and honor them.

What can a narcissist teach us about love? They can teach us the most important step in love—how to love yourself first. Because if you don’t love yourself, how will anyone else ever love you?


Based in New York City, Donnalynn is the Author of “Life Lessons, Everything You Ever Wished You Had Learned in Kindergarten.” She is also a Certified Intuitive Life Coach (, Inspirational Blogger (, Writer, Speaker and Yoga Teacher. Her work has been featured in Glamour, the iHeart Radio Network, Thought Catalog and Princeton Television. You can follower her on TwitterInstagramLinkedIn,  Facebook and Google+ . Read Donnalynn’s column for Observer

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To Stop Dating Narcissists, Take a Page Out of Their Book