When the Narcissist Wins

It’s Narcissist Friday!


Let’s face it: sometimes the narcissist wins. 

I know—some of you are thinking, “Sometimes?”

Sometimes the narcissist wins because she is so absolutely committed to winning.  She must have the last word, the last jab.  And she is ruthless.  No qualms about saying just the thing that will hurt deep enough to shut you up.  Winning is more important than almost anything.

Sometimes the narcissist wins because he is a bully.  He pushes people around and most people simply give up.  Then he gets his way.  Then he boasts about winning and feels good about himself.

And sometimes the narcissist wins because he has carefully built a system that supports him.  That system might not seem like much, but it works for him.

I recently had the opportunity to observe a narcissist leader in the midst of his system.  As I visited with people who had known him a long time, I learned that no one trusted him or even liked him.  But he had accumulated power over the years and everyone knew that he was very willing to use that power.  A veiled threat was enough to keep one person in line.  An appeal to loyalty to the system and its authorities was enough for another.  A costless good deed was enough for still another.  Little manipulations to establish both dominance and security.  And, all around, broken people who had been abused by the narcissist but could do nothing about it.

Sometimes the narcissist wins.

So what do you do when the narcissist wins?   Here are some thoughts:

  1.  Most important—don’t look at yourself as a loser!  Just because someone else wins in a competition (whether you knew it was a competition or not) doesn’t make you a loser.  For the narcissist, every relationship presents a competition; and he must win.  He invests more, spends more, and cares more about winning than you do.  You may be shocked at the intensity with which he pursues his goal.  None of that makes you a loser.
  2. Realize that this is a broken world in which evil wins more often than we would like.  There may be an ultimate reckoning where those who willingly hurt others get theirs, but that will probably not be today.
  3. If the narcissist is a co-worker or a boss or someone whose decisions affect your job, be prepared to move on.  When the boss promotes the narcissist instead of you, remember that the narcissist’s super-power is to manipulate what others think of them.  The boss has fallen victim and will pay a price.  But the boss has been manipulated because of little openings he gave to the narcissist.  He fell for the good looks, the boastful words, or the insincere praise.  Perhaps this boss just isn’t a good leader.  After all, he didn’t seem to notice the real work of the narcissist.  It may be time to look for a new job, or simply to do your best in the position you have.  And, listen, the narcissist probably won’t be in that new position for long.  He’s looking at the boss’s job!
  4. It’s a little different if your narcissist is in a very close relationship with you.  In that case, I can only say that letting the narcissist win is not the same as losing.  Choose the battles carefully.  I know that the narcissist sees each conflict as new and a hundred wins in a row wouldn’t soften a loss, so you will have to fight every one, but some are easier to let go than others.  Watch and learn how the battles go and maybe you will see ways to win the ones you really want to win.  (Don’t let on that those are more important to you, of course.)
  5. And, ultimately, remember that the one who wins the battle is not necessarily the one who is good or healthy.  You are the healthy one, compared to the narcissist.  No matter how down you feel, you are not what she is.

I will add one more thought for those who are able to receive it.  I have found through my years that many of the things I thought were losses turned out to be the openings for great blessing and success.  Instead of looking at the defeat and pain after a battle with the narcissist, look for the blessing.  Almost always, it is there.  A better job opens up; a new relationship heals; true friendships are revealed.  Time helps, but it isn’t just time; it’s being willing to move on, to wipe your feet of the battle and discover what is next.

There may be nothing you can do about the narcissist winning, but you can do something about how it affects you.  Don’t let him win in your heart.


Filed under Narcissism

12 responses to “When the Narcissist Wins

  1. So very, very true! I am grateful for having survived an intimate relationship with a malevolent narcissist. Now, I have strange super powers that alert me to other narcissists in my midst. Hehe!

    Being aware of narcissists and their tactics has allowed me to choose my battles. One was a direct report on a short-term contract. I chose to battle him and was let go one week prior to the contract ending. Why did I battle him knowing I was going to lose? I wanted to be let go rather than endure this man’s control through the holidays. I was certain he would have destroyed my joy.

    Another narcissist in my life happens to be the new wife of my husband’s very good friend. I had a disagreement that turned ugly with her many years ago prior to me understanding what narcissism is. I made many attempts to apologize for my part in the argument over the years, only to be turned down or smeared. Today, I simply avoid her but am able to help the wives of other friends who have been directly affected and hurt by her to cope and let her go, too. The hardest part for many has been recognizing and accepting that this woman was NEVER their friend. We have resigned ourselves to let her THINK she’s won. When, in reality, we win because we are free from her control over our happiness and our moods. 🙂

  2. Laura

    I guess I still don’t seem to understand. Is it likely that a narcissist will do their worst (in my case, my husband ripping apart my family for no reason, destroy the lives of our two babies and myself) and just sail through the rest of their lives, happy as can be, no remorse, no being alone and regretting having destroyed our family, no feeling the loss of my love, friendship and companionship as a wife (he has no other friends and as far as I know there wasn’t another woman, just decided to surprise divorce me instead of us going to counseling to work out our conflicts/communcation problems)? Is that ‘really’ how it is? Is that the “winning”?

    As a Christian I am really struggling with the injustice of it all, it’s now been 4 months since he was in the morning telling me how much he loved me and how he wants to have another baby this year and how glad he is we are finally going to counseling then that same evening telling me in a very business like way “how it is going to be” regarding the elaborate divorce he had apparently been planning behind my back for over a year, even before we (on purpose) conceived our youngest infant son. Can anyone please help me understand?

    Is there no loss for the narcissist? Do they NEVER experience any kind of loss of the good things (people) they used up and destroyed, even if they aren’t aware that it is why they are experiencing those feelings?

    • Laura,

      I don’t know how many of my previous posts you have read, but you may want to just spend the time to go through them. You probably will get a better picture from reading many at one time than each one separately. The bottom line is that the N doesn’t think like we do. When you ask if he can be happy, you are thinking like you. If he is a narcissist, his sense of happiness is different from yours and comes from a different place. So does any sadness or loss he experiences.
      (Read: https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/do-narcissists-cry/ and be sure to read the comments.)

      For example, a narcissist will be happy when he is the center of attention and things are going his way, but any small bump can change his mood very suddenly and even in the midst of it he doesn’t believe the people who are providing it. In the very best of times, most Ns are watching for betrayal and rejection. This is their life.

      I have come to believe that normal people (non-Ns, no matter how screwed up we might be in other ways) will rarely be able to accurately predict the feelings of the N because they are actually very different. The things that happened in their lives were severe and damaging. Others have suffered such damage and have not become Ns, but I have not heard of Ns who did not have that damage.

      Winning is the process of overcoming an obstacle, to the narcissist. If your marriage was an obstacle for him, or if you were, he simply found a way to overcome. If he is a serious N, he will have very few regrets about his decision. That’s why you want to be sure that you seek ways to avoid using the kids as a battleground. He won’t play fair and he won’t care who gets hurt.

      Here are a few more posts you might find helpful. The last one could be a little hard to read.


      I am very willing to communicate off-blog, if you would like. Willing to stay here as well. I care and I am praying for you.


      • Penny

        Dave–I have been pondering this post and its replies all weekend. Laura, I am so sorry for your pain and loss. Your comment about your husband having “no feeling the loss” got me to thinking about a core trait of N: an utter lack of empathy. In fact, last Friday I was listening to talk radio and the subject of empathy came up. As Dave said in the post about “what is normal”, most “normal” people have empathy for others, and some people have empathy in abundance. (I became a Registered Nurse b/c of empathy.) Then the host said something remarkable; “empathy comes at a price. And while it is a good and marvelous thing, the more empathy you have, the more pain you will experience in life”. That stopped me cold! Because the reverse of that would be “the less empathy you have, the more you will hurt others. The less empathy you have, the happier you will feel”. Suddenly, I understood how my N could be so cruel yet have no remorse or regret about that cruelty. I understood how the N “wins” by having no empathy!! Empathy is not sympathy, nor is it compassion. (I found this definition: “To show empathy is to identify with another’s feelings. It is to emotionally put yourself in the place of another. The ability to empathize is directly dependent on your ability to feel your own feelings and identify them.”) The N does not identify with others, b/c after all, the N is “the ONLY one in the room”. It is how the N “wins”. Not only that, but the N also does not allow YOU to have feelings b/c his are the only ones that matters, even tho he doesn’t really have any…..Do you see how crazy-making this is!??!! Laura~I hear the angst in your voice b/c you obviously possess empathy in abundance. You are grieving the losses that your husband doesn’t even acknowledge as real; your grief is multiplied b/c his grief is nonexistent; your empathy “comes at a price” and your pain is deep. Your husband doesn’t feel the loss or the pain, but neither does he really feel the win; the N only knows power and control. Dave, I would love to hear your thots on empathy, sympathy and compassion in relation to the N, b/c it is our empathy that sucks most of us back into the world of the N, and the destructive cycle continues. May God bless you both in His peace and grace. Selah.

  3. Laura


    Thank you for your reply, and for caring. I read through the posts you mentioned and they were helpful, thank you. If it isn’t too much of an imposition to communicate off-blog I would be very appreciative of your help and insight. What is the best way to do that? I am so touched by your kindness, in my daily life there few people around me who understand the underlying issues of what is happening. Thank you again.

  4. Penny

    P.S. Here is a “word picture” of N “winning”, of power and control: one day when visiting the home of the N, I stole a peek into her bedroom. She had replaced a beautiful family foto that I had given her with …(wait for it)… a foto of herself. Yes–she had a foto of herself in her bedroom smiling back at her, but had carefully, deliberately removed fotos of precious family members. She had literally “erased” us, her family. I felt outrage, so I did the “unthinkable”: I opened a drawer to her dresser. I felt revulsion and disgust when I discovered perfectly, precisely folded underwear, socks, shirts, etc. I mean PERFECT, like they were on display in Nordstrom. They were placed in the drawer with precision, not one article touched another, like sacred objects on display to be worshipped. I opened another drawer…same thing. The drawers weren’t full, she had carefully spaced the clothing. By now I was having an “out-of-body experience” and so I opened the closet–same thing: clothes hung perfectly on matching hangers, with precise space between each item. Shoes lined up in perfect order, by color and style. A cold chill washed over me as I realized that this is how she sees us: as objects to be controlled, compliant, & on display when she demands. By this time I was literally nauseous with a knot in my stomach at the illusion of perfection, the power and control of placing clothing as tho this was a museum of precious artifacts, when in fact it represented a devotion to inanimate objects of self, devoid of emotion, affection or relationships. This was a trophy case, yet utterly empty. I shut the door and left the room with a new and horrifying realization of what it looks like to a N to “win”.

    • Penny, this is a great illustration, but so very sad. You may have discovered the one place where she has ultimate control and, therefore, the most safety. Not all narcissists are neat or perfectionistic, but I would guess that all have a place (perhaps only in their minds) where they are in control and feel safe. This is a good insight.

  5. Penny

    yes, i agree that it is very sad. I suppose that N’s could just as easily be hoarders as OCD. The image of herself in a foto reflecting the illusion of perfection, combined with the absence of family fotos (which would ruin the fantasy b/c we are so imperfect) & the obsessive condition of her clothing (while her second husband lay ill in a hospital b/c she neglected his needs) literally made me ill. Yet, it also gave me renewed compassion for my husband, her son, who was raised with the same rigidity and demands. Lawns had to be mowed on Saturday at precisely 9 am (while she was having her weekly hair appointment) not Friday or Monday; HER birthday was always celebrated but she never gave a child’s party or one for her husband; Holidays were celebrated at extended family, which she then ruined by criticism or pouting (b/c she wasn’t the center of attention) thus they would leave early; father and sons were forbidden from golfing or bowling or fishing together b/c it took time away from HER; she flirted with her daughter’s boyfriends, charmed her son’s friends, treated her husband like a little boy and her son like a husband, thus emasculating them both. But she still feels like she “won”

    • Laura


      Thank you for your empathy and encouragement. I am sorry for your experiences with your narcissist, it breaks my heart to think of how far reaching her destructive behavior is. I could really identify when you mentioned how the clothes were folded like as if they were in Nordstrom-this is EXACTLY how my husband is, and throughout our marriage (even when I had just given birth) he expected me to keep every inch of our house in perfect order (or else he would either rage or stonewall me for days.)

      I hope that your husband sees his mom’s behavior for what it is (not his fault) and is able to be healed from the hurts she caused him.

      • Penny

        And I hope the same for you. You cannot change the N, but you can change how you respond. You are not “condemned to be cursed.” I encourage you to read all the posts that Dave suggested, and more, as you heal & move forward in your life. As a child of the King, you deserve to be blessed, not cursed.

  6. Kathy

    I’m going through old posts now, gaining new insights.
    I’ve often felt as though the Ns had won and I had lost. But I took a closer look at how they chose THEIR battles. They always chose to compete or fight with me when I was AT MY LOWEST. When I was most vulnerable, they struck. Once when I had had a complicated C-section, other times when I was financially broke, and the last time when my 48-year-old husband was dying and I had to care for him and our two children and keep the house running. The odds were against me!!
    I cannot and will not accept that I am a loser. Instead, I now see them as extremely cruel and actually very weak. How difficult is it to win a battle with a woman who’s emotionally worn out because her husband is dying? How difficult is it to win a battle with someone who has had major surgery?
    They’ve never taken me on when I’m strong — THAT’S the battle they fear losing so they dare not.
    How difficult is it to fight someone who’s already on the ground?
    They are the losers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s