The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
Any relationship with a pathologically narcissistic person is a power struggle. It doesn't matter if you don't think so, or if you don't want it to be. It is. They are endeavoring to control everything - including you - and if you let them, they will. Most people resist this control (either initially or eventually), and that creates a power struggle.
Power struggles are exhausting. They are time-consuming and in the end, they are useless. There is no way to have power over another person unless it is given. No adult can be controlled by another adult unless they let themselves be controlled. Narcissistic people use many tactics designed to force others into giving up the struggle because they know no other way to get their needs met. They are so insecure and dysfunctional that they must control everything or they feel powerless.
Most of the tactics they use are manipulation, usually done through guilt, emotional blackmail, emotional strong-arming, suicidal threats, fearmongering, bullying, gaslighting, character assassination, projection, blame-shifting and many others. Though some pathologically narcissistic people may use physical force if necessary, if you'll notice, most of these tactics are emotional. This is actually a good thing.
See, it isn't the narcissist themselves that is controlling or manipulating the victim. The narcissist is using the victim's own feelings to control and manipulate them. This is good because the narcissist isn't in control of your feelings. You are. If you can learn to get better control over them, the narcissist's ability to manipulate you disappears.
This is how you stop giving your power away to the narcissists in your life. You take away their ability to control you through your emotions. This is not easy and no one is pretending that it is. But it's entirely possible, and once you can do it, you will find that your life is much more peaceful.
The first thing that is necessary to take your power back is to accept the situation as it is. This doesn't just go for dealing with narcissists or relationships, by the way. It goes for everything. A huge amount of the pain and stress that we as human beings experience in our lives is due to not wanting to accept the reality of how things are. We agonize over how we think things should be, or they way we would like them to be. This is understandable but it's pointless. Things are the way that they are. That's not to say we never work for change or to ascend our current circumstances but refusing to accept things the way they are is not how you get there. Stressing over not being able to control other people or situations is not how you get there, either.
This is probably one of the biggest things people stress over: not being able to control other people and situations. Acceptance is realizing that you can only do what you can do. You only have control over yourself and your actions. That's all. Other people are going to do what they are going to do and that's all there is to it. They are going to think what they are going to think, they are going to believe what they are going to believe and there's nothing you can do about any of it except live your truth and be responsible for your own behavior. Everything else is out of your control, and it's important to accept that. There is no point in stressing over things you cannot change. This includes the past, it includes the present and it includes the future.
After you accept the situation for what it is and stop trying to control or fix it, then you can start letting go of the responsibility you feel to do these things. It is not your job to save the world. It is not your job to save other people. It is not your job to right the wrongs of other people, or protect them from themselves. It is not your job. It's not your place, it's not your responsibility, it's not your job. People have to live their own lives. They have to be responsible for their own actions and the consequence of those actions. If the consequences are negative, then they are. That's how humans learn. A person who is not being allowed to face consequences is a person who is not being permitted to learn. This is one of the reasons why spoiling a child is abuse. It's harmful to their development as a whole and functioning person. So if you really want to help, stop helping.
In our society, we often hear people say things like, "You made me so mad!" The truth is, no one is responsible for your feelings but you. Of course, the other person bears responsibility for the actions they took, but they are not responsible for your feelings. You are. Some people don't like to hear that, because they conclude that if we are all responsible for our own feelings, this means no one is responsible for doing hurtful things. This is not true. People are responsible for everything they have done. But that same action might not have resulted in the same reaction from somebody else. What you become enraged over or devastated by, someone else might laugh off. We react to things the way we do for our own reasons, and once we take ownership of that, people can no longer manipulate us using them.
For example, let's say a pathologically narcissistic person is threatening suicide because they cannot have what they want. Whether real or contrived, this is manipulation. This is not an uncommon situation, unfortunately. In our example, the person gives in to the manipulation and gives the narcissistic person what they want. The question is, why? Now they might say, "I care about the narcissistic person and I was afraid. I don't want them to be hurt." That's understandable and undoubtedly true, but there are ways to ensure a person's safety that don't involve allowing an irrational person to control the situation using fear.
If someone is suicidal, they are in crisis. It's an emergency. Most people would have called the authorities to come help their loved one. Others would have taken the person to the emergency room. The questions that person needs to ask themselves are, "Why did I not do those things? Why did I instead take the responsibility upon myself to control and fix the problem?" This is an extreme example, of course, but by looking at your own real-life situations in this way, you can challenge your thinking to understand what your own motivations are. The reasons behind the reasons, in other words.
As another example, let's say a narcissist is raging and throwing accusations left and right because once again, they cannot have something they want. The message is very clear: "If you don't do what I want, you are cruel, hateful and you don't love me." In our example, the person gives in and gives the narcissist what they want. Again, the question is, why? They might say, "I want them to understand that I do love them and I'm not cruel." Again, understandable and true, but again, there are ways to deal with this that don't involve an irrational person calling the shots using fear.
If someone believes that they are not loved because they cannot have what they want, they are irrational. If someone throws a tantrum and spews just awful, toxicity all over someone else because they are upset, they are abusive. Most people would not entertain that situation. They would leave or otherwise remove themselves from it. The question this person needs to ask themselves is, "Why did I not do that?" Again, this is a way to challenge your thinking to understand what your own motivations are.
Pathologically narcissistic people try to create situations where people feel there is no choice but to give in, and they do that by using people's feelings against them:
If you don't do this, you don't care about me.
If you don't do this, you're mean.
If you don't do this, I'll tell everyone XYZ about you.
If you don't do this, I'll break everything in this house.
If you don't do this, I'll ruin you.
If you don't do this, I'll leave you.
If you don't do this, I'll kill myself.
The important thing to remember here is that, while you can't control the narcissist, they can't control you, either. Your battle is with yourself and your own emotions, it's not with the narcissist. You always have a choice. It may not be a nice one or a fair one, but you always have one. You just have to get beyond your emotions so you can see it. Once you do that, you realize that they never had any control over you at all. It was all you. You made all the choices you did for your own reasons and now you don't have to do that anymore if you don't want to.