Living with a borderline personality, a pathological narcissist or their "end-stage" counterpart, the psychopath is one of the most difficult and frankly horrible things a person is likely to do in their lifetime. These people are malignant narcissists; they are abusive, manipulative, destructive and corrosive, endeavoring to cause as much damage to someone as they possibly can before moving on. Some may never move on if they are not emphatically convinced to do so. So how do you get rid of them? The key lies in understanding what drives the borderline, the narcissist and the psychopath to fixate on someone in the first place.
The first thing to understand is that even though the underlying trauma that created the malignant narcissist might be very complex, the malignant narcissists themselves are not. These are simple personalities, and very childlike in their desires and needs. They are driven by envy and boredom, in that order. That's it.
If we were to look at these personalities as the sort of adult equivalent of a two year old that is taking another child's toy in order to make that child cry, we see a very good metaphor for how they work. And how do you stop this behavior in children? You stop encouraging it. This is what you must do with the adult malignant narcissist in your life: stop encouraging the behavior. If the two year old in our analogy can no longer provoke the emotional response he is looking for, or if the object of envy (the toy) is gone, he will stop his behavior in very short order and move on to something else. The same is true with malignant narcissists. They seek to control others through provoking emotional responses, and through destroying things they envy. If you simply stop responding, you take their control away. This is extremely important, so it bears repeating: If you stop responding, you take their control away.
How do you do that? The answer lies in two words.
It sounds simple, and it really is. Malignant narcissists such as the borderline, the pathological narcissist and the psychopath crave upheaval, emotional fireworks, drama and excitement. They attack and abuse out of boredom and envy. Don't give them anything to envy and stop responding to their attacks.
The latter in particular can be very difficult to do; these people have honed their attacks and abuse to be very, very effective. It cuts their loved ones to the quick, like an arrow in the gut. They are masters at inspiring rage or extreme anxiety in other people with just a few short phrases, and some can do it without even saying a word. They are counting on this. This reaction is exactly what they want, so don't give it to them. Be boring. Be beige. Envision a grey rock in your mind. How would a grey rock respond to the malignant narcissist's abuse? A-ha! That's a trick question, because it wouldn't. It would sit there, inflexible and serene. In a word, boring. Be a grey rock, or a blank white wall. Ignore threats, hysteria, insults or whatever else is said. They're just words anyway. Respond when you must but never in an emotional way:
Attack that must be responded to: "Why did you spend $50 out of the account?! You're so irresponsible/stupid/careless/selfish/etc.!"
Non-emotional response: "I had to buy groceries."
Attack that must be responded to: "When are you ever going to let me see my kids after/now that we are divorced?? You just want to take them from me and turn them against me! You're a horrible mother/father!"
Non-emotional response: "You can see our kids [whenever s/he is supposed to, according to the custody agreement]."
That's it. In a very controlled voice, with no emotion at all. Don't defend yourself, don't apologize, don't give excuses, don't insult in response. Simply answer the question and leave it at that. The malignant narcissist will undoubtedly continue for a little while in this vein to attempt to provoke a response out of you, stepping up the insults and using things he knows will hurt or anger you. Don't give in. Only respond if you must (such as when asked a valid question) and then only in a polite and disinterested way; do not allow emotions to become a part of the conversation in any way. Don't argue. (This does not mean give in to everything the malignant narcissist wants or says; by all means, stick to your guns and state your side if you really have to - but don't argue. It's a pretty safe bet that he does not know how to handle a person who does not become enraged or hurt by his "style" of arguing, so if you absolutely must respond, be that person.) Remember: this has always been a two-way street, even if it didn't seem to be, with the malignant narcissist taking and you giving. By controlling your own emotions, you are able to take control away from the malignant narcissistic personality in your life.
Envy is a little trickier. It has more to do with who they are as a person. Malignant narcissists such as borderlines, pathological narcissists and psychopaths envy other people many things, because inside they know that they are not truly a "real person." If somebody has a talent or a good quality, the malignant narcissist endeavors to take these things away from that somebody. They will do whatever they can to destroy or disrupt it - and they delight in doing so. The trick here is to hide it from them so they cannot do that. They are also simple creatures, and they are attracted to anything shiny and pretty. Unfortunately with the malignant narcissist, "attraction" means "envy," which means "attempts to destroy."
How do you stop giving them things to envy? Be boring! Now, you might say, "But he already says I'm boring/lame/not exciting... How can this work for me?" Simple: because he lies. If that were really true, he would have already moved on. He is simply trying to destroy your confidence and crush your good qualities. He is also projecting on to you what he thinks and/or fears about himself. Don't listen to him. The bottom line with any malignant narcissistic personality - be they borderline, pathological narcissist or psychopath - is this: he is the uncontested king of needing constant stimulation; if he stays with you, you are not boring.
No matter what he says, there is something, some spark about you that caught his attention in the first place and which keeps him hanging on. So stop doing all the things you did that attracted the malignant narcissist in the first place. Don't be funny. Don't be outgoing. Don't be passionate. Don't be emotional. Don't be smart, pretty, charismatic or exciting and above all: don't argue. Just be a grey rock. This of all things will cause him to lose interest the fastest. Malignant narcissistic personalities do not experience boredom in the same way normal people do. It is experienced by them as incredibly oppressive, even terrifying in some ways and must be avoided at all costs. So pile on the boredom and watch what happens.
Is this fair?
In a word, no. It's not. No one should have to hide all of their good qualities and dramatically change their personality to become a grey rock just to get away from another person. However, since you're reading this you've probably already figured out that the malignant narcissist is not interested in fairness - at all. He's interested in controlling other people and using them for his own personal entertainment and validation by needlessly upsetting, torturing and abusing them. That's it. He doesn't care about other people's feelings at all, except to the extent that he can use them to hurt or dominate someone else. He's not a real person and he will never become one.
If you are trying to do anything with a malignant narcissist based on some idea of fairness, you are going to be very, very disappointed and probably also very, very sorry. Understand that the situation is not fair to you, has never been fair to you, will never be fair to you and then work with it. It's the only way it can be successful. Otherwise, you will find yourself locked in a power struggle with the malignant narcissist until the end of time, with him using that sense of equality against you nonstop. He will use it to manipulate your sense of fairness into excusing his terrible behavior by calling you unfair, and he will use it as a weapon because he knows it hurts you, such as being deliberately unfair and cruel so he can watch the pain it causes you. It's all unfair, but this is where we find ourselves. It's hard - especially after being mistreated - but let it go. It's more important to get the malignant narcissist out of your life before they can do any more damage.
While many have reported great success with this method - especially with spouses and significant others, some have reported that it only causes the malignant narcissist to escalate their abuse, especially in situations where the malignant narcissist cannot just leave (such as when it is a parent). However, escalation is to be expected at least initially as they engage in more and more extreme behavior designed to provoke a response out of their target (you). If this extreme behavior ever turns violent or physical, get out of the situation as quickly as possible and call the police. Once the malignant narcissist truly sees that they cannot get a rise out of someone, they usually do stop. The question is, how long does this take - and it is a question with no easy answer.
As always, a No Contact rule is the best way to deal with any malignant narcissist. The method described above is for situations where No Contact is not feasible.
Debbie on September 22, 2018:
Divorce was Final in April it is now September it took an Act of spousal abuse trying to kill me for me to leave. We were married 43 years it took me that long to see it. Through therapy and research I now see it. I am 64, married at 21 I really never experienced love. Please take these words in advice to heart. Get out and find your bliss you are worth it
Elaine on January 26, 2018:
I have been married to a N for 7 years now. I have not been successful in getting him to go away. He always pulled me back in. This is by far the best article I have read and understand.
Freedom here I come.
susan on December 18, 2016:
It's true that they hate considered boring.I had read an article about it and I did a little test. During a phone call l he wasn't paying attention to what I was saying, as usual of course. When I suddenly said in low voice "I'm very bored right now". Then, something magical happened. He "woke up" and asked me why and if there was something he could do about it.In five years only three times had he asked me such a question.Of course I was laughing inside because I knew he had NPD and it was fun that I could manipulate his reactions too.But it's also true that they are very childish in emotions. When I told him that didn't want to speak to him again he became enraged and said that this will never happen and we will grow old together.So, I had to warn him that if I found out that he spreads rumors about me (something that he did all the time during the 5 years) or blames me for the separation I will call all of his friends and family and inform them about his actions and humiliate him. He never talked to me again!!!Ever.So predictable.
nancy di on December 29, 2015:
Bless you! Needed the help! Thank you!