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What Makes a Narcissist Miserable?

While not an expert on narcissism by any means, I have been married to two narcissists. Their personalities and how they manifested their narcissism were completely opposite one another, so it took me much longer to see the covert narcissism of husband #2. So one could say that I've been up-close-and-personal with a wide spectrum of narcissism.

I recently wrote an article about ways to spot a covert narcissist by looking for these signs. Because of that article, as well as other conversations I've had with people about narcissism, I was recently asked, "What makes a narcissist feel miserable?" So after thinking about it and praying, I came up with this list of things that would make any narcissist miserable.

1. Being alone
A narcissist feeds on the attention of others. They will always surround themselves with others who will tickle their ears and tell them what they want to hear. This is why narcissists jump from one relationship to another. Narcissists will never be single for long, and most of the time, they are already grooming someone to step in when they officially end the relationship. Being alone would also force a narcissist to confront their inner demons, which they spend their entire lives trying to avoid. Narcissists spend an inordinate amount of time trying to paint a beautiful picture of their lives instead of spending that time actually doing the emotional healing they really need.

2. Being held accountable
Narcissists are master manipulators. When confronted with their own hurtful actions, they will gaslight and deflect. "You're crazy," "That didn't happen," "What you did was worse," "That shouldn't hurt your feelings," etc. Even when confronted with evidence, a narcissist will still deny. Many times, they have convinced themselves that their version of the truth is the actual truth, and any deviation from their own narrative is an attack on their very identity. Narcissists do not like being held accountable for their actions in any way. This is why they will often change jobs and partners, because they will do anything to avoid the consequences of their behavior.

3. Intelligence
When someone near a narcissist is intelligent, that person will soon wise up to the narcissist's behavior. They will be able to easily remember facts accurately, and as we see with #2 above, narcissists don't like to be held accountable. With intelligence, though, comes logic. When confronted with logical arguments, a narcissist has a choice: fight or flight. An intelligent person will be able to out-fight a narcissist, so that really only leaves a narcissist with retreating. And narcissists don't merely retreat, they flee--so a narcissist will leave someone who is capable of using intelligent logic to win arguments.

4. Emotions
Narcissists have learned how to imitate emotions. They carefully watch others to know the social cues of when to show which emotions. True narcissists don’t feel real emotions--at least not in the same way we feel emotions. So when others show their true emotions, narcissists don’t know how to handle it. Most of the time, when a spouse or significant other shows emotion to a narcissist, it incenses the narcissist. The narcissist will feel anger boil up inside of them, because how dare anyone feel--much less show--their emotions. Narcissists don't do that, so why should anyone else?

5. Gratitude
A humble spirit will be expressed through gratitude. A haughty, proud spirit will be expressed through entitlement. A narcissist by definition believes they are better than others, and therefore are entitled to love, adoration, relationships, success, etc. Narcissism is a form of pride, and a narcissist cannot show true gratitude for anything--because they believe they deserve it anyway. So when you show gratitude, it will bother a narcissist, because they are incapable of humility, and therefore gratitude as well. They will not understand how or why you are grateful for anything you have, and they will begin to resent you for it.

6. Seeing you happy
At the core of a narcissist's being, they are deeply unhappy. They are unhappy with themselves, and they often believe they have been dealt a bad hand in life. When others around them are truly happy, the narcissist initially clings to that happiness, in hopes that it will rub off on them. They tend to think that other people, money, success or things should (or will) make them happy. But happiness has to come from inside, and a narcissist will do anything to prevent having to deal with their demons to be able to reach actual happiness. Once you have gotten into a relationship with a narcissist, they will see your flaws. They will see the reasons why you should not be happy. When you choose happiness over wallowing in the misery of your circumstances, it will incense a narcissist, because they simply cannot understand how someone could ever be happy.

7. Exposing their friends and family to the truth
Only the narcissist's victim will ever see the narcissist's true self. A narcissist works endlessly to make sure that their friends and family only see their facade. Narcissists have to make sure everyone buys into their lies. They have created this image in their minds of who they are, and everyone around them must believe the lies. A narcissist will begin to tell their family and friends half-truths about you. They will make you out to be the bad guy. You started a fight, you're selfish, you're a bad parent, you're awful with money, you're crazy, you're overly emotional, on and on. So when you go to expose the narcissist, his friends and family won't believe you. They believe the narcissist, because he has already planned for this to happen. And when it does, he hates you for it. He will revel in the fact that he "won," because friends and family believe him over you. But he will hate you for telling the truth, and he will ramp up to the discard phase of the relationship.

8. Being ignored
The pride that is at the root of narcissism won't allow a narcissist to be ignored. Narcissist will demand attention, demand responses, demand control. Some narcissists have become crafty and do this through passive-aggressive behaviors that are much more covert. For example, husband #2, the covert narcissist, would give me the silent treatment if he was upset. He knew I wanted to work on our relationship, but he would refuse, until I begged him to talk. But if I didn't text a reply in a timely manner while having a heated discussion? It was World War III in our house. But nonetheless, a narcissist must have answers and will not be ignored.

9. Not fighting back
A narcissist thrives on chaos. Because of the turmoil that constantly simmers in their soul, any lull in chaos could bring to mind their turbulent inner self. So therefore, a narcissist must create chaos to divert their attention away from self and toward someone else. Similar to being ignored, when you choose to simply not engage with a narcissist, they can't handle it. They will use any tactic they can think of to rile you up to engage in the chaos.

10. Grace
Grace is defined as unmerited favor. In other words, grace means that you don't receive the consequences that you deserve. Most people understand grace, and give it to those whom they love. We give grace to our children when they screw up, and we give grace to our partners when they hurt our feelings. We forgive them, because as the Bible says, "love covers a multitude of sins." We choose to see the good in someone, in spite of their faults. A narcissist, however, does not understand grace, and he cannot extent grace to anyone. A narcissist will choose to see the bad in their victim, no matter how much good they do. A narcissist will always expect grace, but will never give it.

I always believe there is healing for everyone. Even for the narcissist. God is more powerful than a narcissist. But a narcissist also has to come to repentance and realize his or her behavior for what it is. I pray fervently for the narcissist in your life--that he or she will come to the Father for healing. For further reading, this article from Psychology Today does a great job explaining narcissism and its roots.


  1. Nice post!! i can relate this to someone i know.

  2. This is awesome, I have a total sarcastic son, and daughter. This just covered all bases, and brought home points I'd long forgotten. Their version of their lives are nothing like what realy occured. Even pictures of proof could not sway. You have put so much effort into this read. Again just great.

  3. Thank you so much for this concise list. Sorry for your troubles to inspire this article, but am grateful for your experience to pen it.


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