When Narcissists Argue

It’s Narcissist Friday!

First, narcissists don’t really argue, do they?  No, they attack.  If you don’t understand that the only goal of a narcissist in an argument is to win, you will find yourself at a terrible disadvantage.  He doesn’t really care to understand your opinion or your ideas.  He just wants you to shut up in humiliation, especially if you dared to challenge his idea.

Too strong?  Not really.  Those who have lived or worked with narcissists know what I mean.  In fact, this may be the first time you have heard anyone state it as strongly as you have experienced it.  Very often it is during an argument when the true colors of the narcissist can be seen.

Yesterday I wrote about ad hominem arguments.  The narcissist is often a master at this fallacy.  In fact, he may do it in a way that you don’t even recognize as such.  When he says, “But is that wise?” he may be suggesting that you are too stupid to get his point.  When he says that he understands how you could think that, you wonder if he just disrespected you.  Or he may do it in a way that seems gross and unfair.  He may remind you of some foolish decision you made or say something about your parents.  This tactic will change the argument, probably even end it.

Why does he do this?  Because he is insecure.  When the narcissist is challenged, he must win using any method necessary and as quickly as possible.  He will also try to win decisively so the topic won’t come up again.  He cannot afford to look foolish or wrong and he simply won’t take the chance.

Most people simply give up arguing with their narcissist.  It costs too much and it never ends well.  I would suggest that this be considered a tactic of control, rather than a position of defeat.  By refusing to argue, you disarm the narcissist.  He or she will be frustrated to realize that you are not overcome by his thinking.  Just be prepared to listen to a long one-sided argument. 

22 Comments

Filed under Narcissism, Relationship, Uncategorized

22 responses to “When Narcissists Argue

  1. Dave

    Thanks Dave, for yet another edifying article. Question: What if the attack was publicly done upon you? Wouldn’t there be cases when a very, very strong response would be in order to set a boundary, that what they have done simply is not acceptable?

    • Anastasia Larson

      I think my husband is a narcissist. He and I have been married for only four years, and I’ve been in a domestic violence shelter THREE times. We’ve been separated for a year and a half, but we still have regular contact. He’s destroyed my relationships, and I literally have only ONE friend I can count on for support. He’s completely unwilling to respect my boundaries, and has taken my car and entered my home without my knowledge or consent. The thing is, he dismisses my feelings about the things he does to hurt me, and edits the events casting himself as the victim, martyr, hero, etc. I have ptsd, and my condition has become much more severe since our involvement. I can’t even work anymore, because I’m not mentally competent.I feel like a hostage. I’ve made it very clear that I want nothing more to do with him, but he behaves as if he doesn’t hear or comprehend what I’m trying to communicate. I eventually get so confused that everything in my mind disappears… I totally check out… and then he “wins” the argument because he’s disabled me, mentally.He goes into a weird space while I’m setting boundaries where he starts going on about our great love and the wonderful life we’re going to have, and it honestly looks like he’s high. How can I exit this relationship?

      • Anastasia, thank you for writing. I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I have a couple of thoughts and I hope you will read this. First, please use the law to support you in your weakness. It sounds like you have grounds for a restraining order and you should do whatever you can to keep him away. There are many here who understand the damage a narcissist can do to your thinking. You cannot listen to him and need to find a way to get away.

        Also, you need a good counselor to help you find the way back to yourself. This is not something you can do on your own. If you can’t afford one, talk to the folks at the shelter. push the issue. If the counselor won’t listen to you or believe you, find someone else. I know this can be hard work, but you are worth it. Much of what you describe is like that which comes out of abuse. A good counselor will be able to help you set boundaries and think clearly again.

        Please know that I am praying for you. You are welcome to write to me directly. I may even be able to help you find a counselor. I care.

  2. If you have the strength and the willingness to enter into a protracted battle, the strong response may be the right thing. Just remember that there will be a price to pay . . . and the narcissist can be very, very nasty. They hate boundaries and will hate that you have tried to put one up. If you are hurt or destroyed in their process of tearing down your boundary, they don’t care. They just cannot allow you to be right and themselves to be wrong.

  3. SueM

    My N’s only means of arguing is to get personal. His main argument is to call me hateful; because he knows it really pushes my buttons.

    He calls me stupid b* behind my back and does hjs best to get our children on his side….as if there should be sides. It’s his way of gaining control over me.

    Unfortunately, our children are now older and refuse to be manipulated in that way.

    I am also learning just what you talk about in this post…not argue at all. In fact, when I took him to task recently for some extremely bad treatment of his daughter, he immediately pulled the “you’re being hateful” crap….I simply said, you can say that all you want to me….it doesn’t make it true. In fact, I know from many other people in my life that I am a very loving person.

    Then I just shut up and left him sitting with his mouth open.

    :::sigh:::

    I have a long way to go in the learning department…..

  4. Sue, you walk a hard path. More and more I have great appreciation for those who live with these folks. I wish I could help more. I am grateful for this way of speaking truth and giving people permission to identify what they are dealing with. A surprising number of people, mostly wives, have written to me directly and I pray for them.

    Thanks for your testimony. Someone is reading it and is blessed to know that there are people who understand.

    • Gloria

      pray for me I am in the middle of the nasty divorce of maybe one of the biggest narcissist ever born in US, but do I am crazy he is my husband and I love him and I miss him. Please help me pray for me.

      • I’ll pray for you, Gloria. Peace.

      • Oh, Gloria, I will be praying for you. I would never claim to know what you are feeling, but I understand how you could be confused, frightened, lonely, and so much more. The twisted emotions of the victim are part of the backtrail of the narcissist. Please trust that the Lord knows you, values you, and loves you through all of this. Feel free to write to me anytime.

      • Annie

        Paula I pray for you also. I trust that God provides a good lawyer and counsellor and special friends to help you through these dark days. Know that your heavenly Father is the one who got you safe and will keep you safe. I never thought it would get better but it does, albeit slowly, but each day is a new one. Literally take each moment as it comes. Imagine the Fathers loving arms holding you closely, feel Him and nestle inside them. I found a visual of Jesus holding me as a small child and smiling His love at me as He tenderly holds me, to be the secret of that moment to moment comfort. The heavenly love was the only love that could replace the “love lies” of the ex. Once I got in touch with that again I was on my way back. Let it take it’s time. He will provide your every need. You will have many prayers. Hold onto that.

  5. Wesley

    My wife has these traits, I think she got it from being a middle child to a humble narcissit mother. Before realising this as the issue, I would get so angry when I felt hurt or misstreated by her, and she would use this against me, gettimg more dissmissive as my anger got worse.. I’ve never figured out how to not get angry, and how to solve the eventual frozen home environment after such an argument. Obviously she has never in our history together tried to resolve any niggles between us.
    Any ideas?

    • Wesley,

      I appreciate your note. I particularly appreciate your words, “a humble narcissist,” in reference to your mother-in-law. Many people believe that all narcissists are loud and obnoxious, but some (we call them covert) are gracious and humble, still for the purpose of self-protection and promotion.
      Because narcissism is a learned behavior, your wife could easily have learned certain techniques at home. I have some thoughts and you can take them or leave them. First, when she says or does something mean to you, she may not even realize that she is doing it. Narcissists have extreme difficulty understanding the pain of others. When you tell her that she hurt you, she may dismiss your words simply because she doesn’t accept them as valid. “After all,” she may reason, “I wasn’t trying to hurt him. I was just making a statement.”
      For example: she says, “That was a stupid decision!” She may not be calling you stupid. And maybe she is calling you stupid, but she doesn’t think of it as offensive. You should simply be willing to accept her judgment of you and the situation, she thinks.
      Now, it is difficult to live with such an insensitive and mean person, that’s for sure. But if you can tell yourself that it is her insensitivity, probably based on the way she grew up, you can relieve yourself of some of the anger. Yes, the statement still hurts, but since it is coming from an insensitive person, you are free to let it go. You don’t have to accept her judgment. You don’t have to agree. Just ignore it, as best you can. No argument, because she will never see your point and because you will never win. If you argue, it will be your fault and yours to fix, according to her. So decide not to argue about her mean statements or actions.
      As I read this, it seems very simplistic. I don’t live in your shoes, so I can’t know the extent of your struggle. At the same time, I offer this as an idea. I pray that it helps. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts.

  6. I always knew I was in a losing battle with the narcissist in my life when he would sit there “as if” he were listening, only to hear him say, “Uh-huh” in such a dismissive tone that I knew he had zero interest in understanding where my words came from. He was VERY good at repeating word-for-word what I had said, but had no ability to empathize, only criticize. And it was the little conversations like when I would come home and complain about my boss. Instead of saying, “Oh, Baby, I’m sorry that happened. he’s an asshole.” He’d say, “Well, what did you do to cause him to do that?” Really?? That’s not being supportive when the situation calls for unconditional love and support. But I was always supposed to agree that so-and-so was an asshole and didn’t deserve his respect. If I didn’t, it meant I didn’t love and respect him. One-sided…ALWAYS!!!

  7. My ex narcissist never agreed with anything I ever said or any of my opinions. Only time he agreed was in the initial stages of the relationship when he was charming me. But as time moved on, all of my ideas were suddenly “flawed” or “stupid”. He would actually call my ideas stupid and then counter the ideas with his own which of course in his mind were superior to mine. I am a very strong person, strong in my beliefs and will stand up for my self. I also respect someone elses opinion even if I dont agree with them. After I terminated this relationship my esteem was in the gutter and I questioned every aspect about myself. Like the person who wrote above….everything was “one sided…..ALWAYS” and this was always his side. Yet, he would tell me that it seemed to always have to be my way. Well, yes it would if what he wanted me to do went agains my integrity. What mind games he played and I tell you that Im glad Im no longer in that relationship although I still miss him everyday and yes I still do love him. But Im not going back in the fire.

    • Gloria

      Hi; I am so sorry for all of us that have to go to this painful treatment from Narcissist people. I myself are going to a divorce and is getting ugly. I always thought that my husband was a bipolar because he does twist everything in others words this like projection he use to get his way. I am in a very painful emotional situation because I do love my husband and I miss him, (sounds crazy) well I can not lie. I am just asking God if He will please give peace and one day I be heal and able to let go this love.I also want prayers for my husband he does manipulate always (4marriages) saying that he is going to commit suicide, I don’t think he will, but I still worry because I love him and don’t want nothing wrong to happen to him, because he is not all there and I am praying to God to bring him back first to God and then if God will to me.

      • Gloria, you’re a good person to seek help for him. That takes strength, also. I envy that. I have a much harder time feeling like the narcissistic from my past deserves forgiveness because he also abused my son. It’s easier to look beyond the abuse he inflicted on me, but it’s much harder to dig as deep as I need to in order to forgive the pain he caused my child. I’m getting closer to that point. Very soon, I hope.

      • Gloria

        I think the perfect love push fear and I have been in prayers for more than 2 years (day and night) for my loved husband. He is suffering not only this demonic disorder that is been a narcissist, but also suffering from the bipolar disorder which is taking over his life. He is almost dead since he is not looking forward to live always talking about suicide. I love my husband and I know he abuse me and I suffer, but really they are the victims, victims of the biggest enemy Satan. We as believers need to-even if we go on in life without them-forgive, love from the distance and pray for this people that really are also suffering like their victims. I think life is about forgiving and asking God for new directions, but always remember forgiving is the key .

      • Gloria, I think you are correct. They are suffering and need guidance and forgiveness. In my case, the narcissist from my life just wants to continue to deny his abuse and seek more victims. I do not pray for him. I pray for myself because I need to forget the abuse so I am not angry any more. God will help My X if and when he asks for it. Until then, he will continue to suffer and hurt others, I believe, but I can no longer worry about him or his potential victims. I continue to share my story and support women in whatever stage they are in with their abuser. That is my focus. So many people suffer everyday and know the cause and ask for help. I want to help those when and if I can. Your husband sounds like he recognizes his issues and deserves your love if he can accept it without conditions or without hurting you more. I sense your pain and sadness. Keep praying as you do but protect yourself, too. :)

    • Wow! Thanks to Kitty, Gloria, and Paula for your great comments. With my increased personal correspondence and writing, I am not able to respond to these comments as quickly as I would like. I appreciate the surrport you are giving to each other.

      Three things: Kitty, you mentioned that your esteem was “in the gutter.” That, of course, is part of the plan. Downtrodden people are easier to control. The constant criticism and disagreement wears down even the strongest person. The narcissist does this without even thinking about it. It is what he does.

      Second, forgiveness and kindness and those important things come out of who we are, rather than who they are. It is important to deal with the anger and bitterness that comes from a relationship like this. Otherwise, they continue to control and hurt you long after they are gone. It isn’t easy, though, and the continuing pain of the abuse is a reminder of where you were in contrast to where you are.

      Finally, I would appreciate knowing what each of you think about tomorrow’s post. Several people have told me that they continue to love their narcissist and are somewhat puzzled about those feelings. There are reasons for this. I hope that what I have written is gentle as well as firm. Your comments would be much appreciated!

  8. Jonathan

    It is actually possible to “Win” an argument with a narcissist, however:
    1: There is not much point, as you will not gain anything by doing so. He/she (mine is a she!) will invent a new way of approaching the subject by the time it comes up again, so you will lose it retrospectively, or they will remember the event so differently in the future it may as well never have happened.
    2: The consequences you will be subjected to as a result of humiliating them so badly (winning an argument) will by a factor of many outweigh any minor feelings of self satisfaction you feel.
    So unless it is your parting shot – I would not recommend it!

  9. A spiritual struggle for sure. It’s all I can do to not hate the narcissists’ slimy guts. The narcs play the poor-me card and act like they’re the only ones who’ve had some rough times. The self-centered sacks of crap. And yet as a follower of the Lord I am supposed to pray for them. Talk about tough going.

  10. ravin

    no matter what you do to try and help them in the Love of Christ
    They have willfully chosen evil as there way of life and believe they to have been called by God to render punishments and judgement here on earth. Free will given to all to be who they want to be without accountability.

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