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Surviving a Narcissistic Friendship

Let’s be honest over here: no one chooses to call themself a survivor. Yet in reality it’s probably the bravest position one can be in. Of course there are many ways one can become “a survivor.” Today I’m giving myself that title, so that I can start the long process of healing. I have survived and am now healing from a narcissistic friendship.

The gift of friendship is a blessing that usually enriches our lives. We invest trust and emotions – and our hearts and souls – in others. We open ourselves, make ourselves vulnerable, and connect in this this wondrous relationship with the people we call friends.

What happens when unhealthy patterns, unsettling arguments and feelings of pain start to infiltrate that bond? What happens to us when we are trapped in a narcissistic friendship?

We try holding on, in the hope that people will change, that things will go back to the way they used to be. But sometimes, we’re not so lucky.

We start becoming victims because we allow those we treasure most to impose on us and our lives. They become the source of our suffering by devaluing our character, by lording their power over us. Then, they completely deny their role, deflecting all blame and instead make it our fault, accusing us of causing all the upheaval in the friendship.

They need us to meet their expectations and fill their demands; but the rules they establish for us are only for us. They needn’t follow the stifling guidelines of friendship that they’ve imposed. They never apologize or show remorse, because they believe they can do no wrong.

We start questioning our own sanity and self worth and we lose our own self respect in the process of trying to fix a friendship because it is so important to us. Like a drowning man flailing for a life preserver we invest all our energy in saving the friendship – and every effort saps us of our energy and deepens our wounds. We tolerate insults and verbal attacks, because we want to believe they truly care about us. They are our friends, after all! We withstand the pain and weariness because we want to allow ourselves the hope that things will change: if I try harder, if I plead more pitifully, if I apologize one more time…

The most vicious and last tactic they will try in an attempt to win is abandonment. They will reject the people they love. They are in pain, and instead of looking inward they dispose of you. Your honesty about their behavior threatens their self image.

I know it sounds ludicrous that this can all transpire in a friendship, but unfortunately this does apply to many. It is acutely painful when this occurs in a friendship because it’s so unexpected and shocking. We are being hurt by the people we love most, by the people who love and know us best!

Often, we have no support system, because  we are too ashamed to tell other friends that we are being treated this way by the people we trusted most. We grope through the darkness of confusion, loss, and grief alone.

Can you relate to the confusion and pain of a narcissistic friendship? How can you cope?

Be good to yourself.

Work up the courage to free yourself.

Do not tolerate anyone making you feel like anything less than than you deserve to feel.

Seek the help of a professional who can guide you through this challenge and equip you with tools that’ll enable you to move on.

Find someone that you can confide in who can support you on your journey.

But most of all, look into that mirror and say, “I am worthy!”

Losing a friend is complex, being able to let go takes courage – and it hurts. Mourn it if you must, but remember:

The only person who can define you is you.

For more on friendship and knowing your worth, try these:

The Pain of Maintaining Close and Intimate Relationships

Giving Yourself Love

Feelings of Worthlessness

More by Zissy

Child Loss Tried to Destroy Me But Failed

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Zc- you inspire me constantly by your strength and positivity- the way you write your feelings out there- I don’t know of many people -that would have the courage like you- so proud to be your friend ❤️❤️
    I’m sorry for what you went through and what others are going through- it’s so important to raise this awareness and to give each other support!

  2. My biggest cheerleader!! Ty , you humble me !!! Its integral we use this voice our struggles so much help out there we dont have to keep it inside !! Even if its just silently !!! No reason to ever feel alone in anything !!! yes this has been a emot taxing time.and I still.dont have peace..very hard bec you cant get closure from.a narcissist , but with the support and love from true friends I am hopeful I can over come iyh !

  3. This was so well written! I have 1 question: I find myself saying “yes, yes” to a few things mentioned in the article, but I don’t think I would call myself narcissistic . I’m just having trouble identifying where i stand in this article, if I do at all. Do you know what the symptoms of a narcissistic person is?
    Thank you Zissy!!

    1. Ty Chavy , Im sure the therapists on.board here can better answer those q for you …Here I was under the thumb of a very dominant friend which led to me writing this article ..

      1. Wow. that must have been really hard. When i commented a few days ago, I couldn’t remember why this sounds familiar, but it came to me: Is there a difference between narcissictic people and having a co-dependent relationship with someone? I’m asking bc i have a tendency to be in a co-dependent relationship and I’m wondering if what i’m thinking rings true of if co-dependency is totally different…

      2. I feel your pain. Thank you for sharing and for the reminders that it is a survival. I am almost four years out of a terrible narcissistic friendship that consumed and almost ruined my life. Its a very long complicated story, but I just want to be able to leave that chapter behind and find peace. Unfortunately in my situation, the “friend” used the people in my life against me (when I tried to set boundaries and distance myself… Very hard to do when she physically lived next door for 8 years.) She then spent a year trying to take every happiness from me. It ended when I discovered an affair between her and my husband. I chose to move my family that week, I chose to save my marriage (bc if it wasnt for the manipulation on her part, it wouldnt have happened)… In a few days, it will be 4 full years since it all ended, and most days I am continuing to heal, but when I let the pain creep back in, it hurts as much as it did day one. I have survived. I have a very full life dispite her efforts to “win”… But it will have lasting emotional effects forever. It is a constant healing and gentleness with myself to keep moving in the right direction.

        1. Big hugs ! Unless one goes thru this , its very difficult to receive understanding and compassion from others. Deeply sorry that you had to go through that , I admire your courage and tenacity to save your marriage ! Yes , its quite easy to go back to that painful time and while we survive , it most def leaves a scar on our hearts ..I belive the hardest part is that wr dont get closure since they never feel remorse or own up to any part .However , I truly beliveve we evolve as ppl from such exp and Ive gained better understanding that it’s truly a mental illness that we had been battling against. Surviving that has brought me back to the person I once was and helped me have more compassion and kindess for others. Good luck on the journey and ty for sharing !

    2. Recently been had over by a narcissist….trying to heal….he confused me, used me, took what he could, thank God I put the brakes on the when I did….it could have been far worse…he had me for around £1000……I thought we could become more than friends, and gave in to his constant whining of having no money….he always remained just out of my reach…now I’m discarded as he finally realises this cash cow is no longer playing the game…hurts like hell!!!!!

  4. Talk about reaching clarity w okclarity! This article really struck home w me, especially since I’ve never really witnessed this subject being so thoroughly explained or even talk about! All the sentiments that we don’t always admit to or think are important enough to express and understand blare w wisdom + humbling truth from this article!
    Friends are people we chose because they enhance our lives so its really painful when it becomes toxic and the total opposite of why we bonded to begin with. I felt so understood i found myself sad that the article didn’t continue! I’ve also read “child loss tried to destroy me but failed” & although I’ve never been through such a loss, I felt so impacted by it. It was so honest and once again exposed the unspoken in such a wise, emotionally compelling and relatable way. Thank you Zissy for surviving and finding the strength + will to not only want healing for yourself but for others as you still have one arm in battle!

  5. Ty Levi , your words are steeped with wisdom and compassion . Its deeply therapeutic to have such a forum that gives a voice to what lies painful inside !!

  6. Wow! wow! wow! Been there done that. I too was stuck in such relationships. I had 2 very painful relationships with a Narcistic person. Unfortunately it wreaked havoc. I walked around with huge feelings of guilt and blame. I can finally say I have moved passed most of it.
    I feel that every challenge that comes our way is a lesson that needs to be learnt for us to grow. I was stuck in an extremely toxic relationship with a non-licensed therapist who gripped me and manipulated me to an extent where I was concerned for my health. She kept flooding me with love and care and then abandoning me and then repeating it again. On top of that I had a close family member displaying real Narcistic symptoms. I worked through both of these toxic relationships and have done alot of inner work to see why I got caught up in these 2 unhealthy relationships.
    It is excruciating to let go of these relationships, but realizing how toxic these people are for me has given me a deeper understanding of myself and a very intuitive feeling of such people. When I come across anyone with those traits I run a mile! They really bring out the worst in me! They behave in such a selfish and mean way. Not batting their eyelash about hurting others and playing with their emotions. They NEVER take responsibility of their actions. They NEVER remember all the good you did for them. They turn on you as soon as you are honest about the pain that they have caused you. I can write a book about all the pain that they caused me. But I thank hashem that they have been instrumental in that I was forced to look honestly within to see where I am stuck that I need these people to fill in that void.

  7. Wow your reply has brought tears as I can so relate…I also realize that as an empath and person that prob has codependent tendencies..Im a prime target for some how connecting narcisstic ppl to get attached too..I had to realize and accept that I enable as well for allowing others to treat me as such bec Im so trusting …its a two side equation..However Im learning and growing and while I cannot fathom or wrap my head around such cruel.and selfish and unkind traits in those that masqueraded friends..It only motivated me to be a more.loving gentle person to those who truly value me.

  8. Yes, that is so true. I am a deeply feeling person. I truly feel others joy and pain. But oh how I have been burnt by people. I am slowly learning how to filter out the people who are authentic and real and i am trying to connect to those people. I am also a co dependent person who loves to help others and that is part of the trap. I need to realize that i first need to help myself before I help others. It is such a tricky balance and one that i am trying so hard to learn…..

    1. Ya, co dependent is very very tricky. It’s confusing to tease out the difference of if the action is beneficial both ways or if it’s just to feel good about yourself. Like, if we’re helping others more than we can bc we’re trying to fill ourselves up. It’s a balance..

  9. So true. Everything in life is about balancing. It is something that I constantly work on. It is a lifetime struggle. But the more we excercise the better at it we become.

  10. This is great! Thank you so much for sharing! It’s so important to remember that “The only person who can define you is you”, especially since it’s easy to feel like it’s not the case. Too often, we rely on others for validation and value, when we should have the inner clarity to know that we are special, important, and deserve to be treated that way.

  11. I am 2 days post ending a friendship with a toxic narcissist. I’m anxiety ridden. Every time my phone rings I’m fearful it’s her, berating me, trying to fill me with self doubt, even though I’ve blocked her. I can’t even believe I let myself become this person. By nature I’m confident, self assured and assertive. But for the last 9 months I’ve become a shell of my true self. This toxic “friendship” has hurt my marriage and even my young children. I’m still struggling with doubt. I’m questioning if I’m over reacting or did things really happen the way I think they did? But then I remember the manipulation and control. And I understand that the most damaging part of a narcissistic relationship is that the abuser manipulates you into thinking you are the problem. I’m broken but I will heal. I’m angry but I will find peace. My heart and love goes out to all who are going through this and healing. We will get better. We will find ourselves again.

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