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March 28, 2018 1:14 AM   Subscribe

[Posting for a friend. Everything that follows is their words.] Have you ever been in a friendship with some financial or business entanglements with someone that turned out to be a narcissist? How did you disentangle yourself with the least amount of damage? Or did you have major damage and have learning experiences to share with me?

Most online guides for dealing with narcissists and stories of experiences with narcissists are from a romantic perspective. I'm looking for people's non-romantic experiences disentangling themselves from narcissists as I embark on my own journey.

I'm attempting to wind down my business relationship and friendship with someone that turned out to be a damaging narcissist. I'm also trying to get them to pay me the money they owe me for the work I've done. Your stories will help.
posted by under_petticoat_rule to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, I've been in this situation, it was wretched at the time. I and a friend were working with the narcissist, and I decided that I had had enough of it and chose to exit the (working) relationship. The narcissist attempted to poison my friend against me (which worked, for a while) but eventually even my friend had enough of it, and also stopped working with them.

The narcissist tried everything to stop us from leaving, and then became a sort of nail bomb of emotional damage, using not just the insults that he knew would hurt us the most, but writing email tirades about how disappointed our families would be in us for walking away from the "opportunity" we'd had with him, he even told my friend that he'd let down his infant child by his actions in leaving.

This is all to say, harden yourself against this now, and if you're not in therapy then maybe be in it as soon as you can?!

Also: we left taking nothing that we had created together in the working relationship, except the knowledge that we could create that output, and would again. If I could go back again, I still would not stay for longer and fight to get more, because it was more important just to have that person out of my life as soon and as completely as possible.
posted by greenish at 2:50 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

I quit. I accepted that I would not win, and the only way to get out ahead was to get out. Those that stayed were gaslit and abused and had beaten down. It took them years to recover. I cannot stress enough how glad I am that this didn’t happen to me.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:13 AM on March 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

In the case of the narcissist boss, I kept my job search completely confidential as far as he was concerned, including requesting that prospective employers not contact my current employer. I knew that if he was contacted, he would attempt to sabotage the opportunity in order to keep me stuck where I was (he did that to a coworker). When I turned in my notice he seemed genuinely shocked that no one had called him, like he just couldn't fathom that employers would respect that applicants would want to keep their job searches confidential.

In the case of narcissistic friends, I fade out by ceasing to put any energy into the relationship. If they contact me, I respond with a polite "too busy/other plans" excuse. That's usually enough to disengage. If someone gets upset about it, I block them and go no contact. If someone attempts a smear campaign, I not only go no contact with them, I also go no contact with anyone who believes it and allows themselves to be used as a "flying monkey" to abuse by proxy.
posted by jazzbaby at 5:53 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

I coped and stuck it out in my job by realizing, early on, that there was something substantially missing within my boss. I didn't know about narcissists at the time; my assessment of him was that his lack of that whatever made him not quite human, and that explained why he treated people the way he did: he lacked the capacity to empathize and the ability to care about others. From then on I didn't relate to him as a fellow human and thus never took his slights and attacks personally. The only way I can explain it is: since I considered him a lesser being, it didn't matter what he said or did to me. It'd be getting like a slap from a peevish toddler or a puppy peeing on your leg: yeah, it was wrong what they did, but they're not adults/human, and so you're annoyed, but your feelings aren't hurt.

Bonus: the only way to truly mess with a narcissist is to have them realize that you truly are indifferent to them and what they do. They're into poking with sticks and enjoying the reaction; when you push the stick aside and roll your eyes, they're disappointed. Eventually they wander off and find someone else more reactive to torment.
posted by Lunaloon at 6:04 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

As someone who was married to a narcissist that came from a family of narcissists, the best advice I can give you is do not engage and do not sink to their level. As much as you want to. Just don't do it.

Get out with what you can, as fast as you can. Maintain your relationships outside of this person. Be prepared for drama and rise above.

Good luck.
posted by RhysPenbras at 7:46 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I agree with all the advice above, I'm also chiming in to say that you might have to mentally kiss goodbye to the money he owes you.
posted by JenThePro at 9:22 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I hate to echo all of this but I have a friend that decided she simply could not let the narcissist get away with the money so she trailed him home and knocked on his door and very loudly demanded the money, working herself up until she was shouting in his hallway....
He called the Police and said she was threatening and possibly had a weapon, and since a neighbour called complaining of the noise the police came in hard. Just as they were rushing up the stairs he finally came out in a bathrobe and staged a scene like she was tearing at his robe. The Police took her down to the ground, he then thanked them profusely and said he needed to press charges as she had assaulted him.

she spent the night in prison, he dropped the charges if she stopped looking for the money she was owed.

it really did a number on her and affected her deeply. She's in counselling right now thankfully.

My friend was later diagnosed with Asperger's which as you may know is very underdiagnosed in women. When I think of an Aspie (I'm married to a male one) with their strong sense of social justice and fair play meeting a narcissist....it chills me. They can do so much damage to even the most resilient people because they literally don't care. Please take care!
posted by Wilder at 9:41 AM on March 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I had a business with two partners. Partner #1 was a trusted friend. Partner #2 was a classic narcissist and also family, someone I deeply cared for. They were also very smart which is a double edged sword for sure - a highly intelligent narcissist can use their IQ to reason past their "sickness" which gives you the impression that the problematic behavior is resolving but it's always temporary and then they revert back and use their gifts to get under your skin in particularly cruel ways. The separation was a long time coming, with lots of increasingly irrational and hostile behavior, until it came to a crisis and all hell broke loose. The crisis involved Partner #2 threatening (specific and devastating) business sabotage unless they were officially declared and unofficially recognized as Supreme Commander Of All Things. Myself and Partner #1 cut off Partner #2 and dissolved the business. Money was lost, family was broken up (still is) but them's the breaks. My advice to your friend is to get out sooner rather than later (i.e. prioritize getting out as quickly as possible over money) and to forgive themselves for the inevitable fallout (which will be ugly and very, very personal).
posted by rada at 9:52 AM on March 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I should probably add that my story ultimately has a happy ending. For reasons, I was on the hook for all the money (about $30k, initially supposed to be split among the 3 partners). A few years down the road, Partner #1 came back and offered to split it down the middle, completely out of the blue and long after I'd written it off. He didn't come into a sudden inheritance - he just felt that friendship was more important than money, he was back to a full-time job so he could afford it, and that was that. I now have a brother-from-another-mother for life, and a completely different highly successful business. I hope my story can serve as a reminder for your friend that their current situation is a waypoint rather than the end of a journey.
posted by rada at 10:15 AM on March 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

So the first thing is that all the usual techniques for dealing with people are inappropriate, because they either rely on assumptions of the social contract or typical reactions from typical people. Essentially the only thing that works is setting boundaries and enforcing them relentlessly. The standard advice is to go no contact, because that is considerably easier than maintaining a limited relationship with someone who has no interest in being limited by anyone else, ever. Not knowing the details of this relationship, that's what I'd recommend. Take care of what you can take care of in terms of loose ends, then instruct them not to contact you, and enforce that. This person is only a colleague and not family? Just cut your ties.

The alternative is modifying the terms of the relationship, but honestly it's much easier to do this from a position of no contact, because the baseline is in your favor. Honestly, with a bit of distance it's amazing to watch a narcissist at work, since they are grasping at advantages every single second of the day, with no concern whatsoever for other people, social norms, nothing. And if you concede to make things easier, concession becomes the new baseline and then they will start angling for something even bigger. There literally is no pleasing a narcissist, because they would be perfectly happy if you worked yourself to death trying. But of course that means wherever you choose to place your particular boundary, the narcissist will be unhappy and complain and try to get more. Forever. It's exhausting, infuriating, and ultimately can be unfulfilling.
posted by wnissen at 11:28 AM on March 28, 2018

Check out the reddit r/managedbynarcissists.
posted by stormyteal at 7:03 PM on March 28, 2018

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