4 Ways Narcissists React to Our Boundaries
You set a boundary. Now what? Your stomach is in knots, waiting for the narcissist’s reaction. You know it ain’t gonna be pretty.
The Furious Pout
Yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ about. It’s more art than science. Even the Great Svengali couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
The Furious Pout consists of a generous dose of good old fashioned pouting, laced with The Silent Treatment and topped with the glistening red cherry of seething anger. That’s how narcissists treat us when we dare to set a boundary. They go around tight-lipped, eyes averted from ours, pretending we don’t exist. Their silence is louder than a bass drum. Very classy stuff. Very Academy of Dramatic Arts.
While they may not be laying on the floor, kicking and screaming, the Furious Pout is the grown-up version of a toddler temper tantrum.
Its power lies in our addiction to their love-bombing. They figure we can’t survive without their approval. Because, long ago, they grasped control of our self-esteem. By laying siege to it now, they’re counting on our eventual starvation and capitulation. They don’t need to break down our boundaries. If they Furiously Pout at us for long enough, they assume we’ll tear down our own boundaries, stone by stone, to get their “love” again.
If the Furious Pout doesn’t work, they can always fall back on their good ol’ stand-by, The Accusation. After all, they reason, if we have nothing to hide, why are we setting a boundary!?! Ah, projection again! The idea that we would want to set a boundary on principle alone, because we’re over 21 and normalcy matters, never occurs to them. Mind you, they have boundaries topped with broken glass and razor wire, but we’re not even allowed to shut the bathroom door.
I remember one particular example of this when, as an adult (I know, I know), I told my mother that I’d appreciate it if she didn’t ask “Whatcha eating!?” every single stinkin’ cotton-pickin’ time she saw me holding a plate and fork. “Why?” she immediately snapped, “what are you hiding?” For mercy’s sake! Please, God, give me patience!
“Nothing!” I foolishly responded. “I’d just like to eat my food in peace without the 3rd Degree.”
“Oh, all right,” she grudgingly acquiesced. And from then on, she respected that boundary, even catching herself a couple of times.
It was a whole different story when I mentioned, rather pathetically, that I’d like to have sexy lingerie instead of the basic puke-cream bras I usually wore. “Why?” she snapped, “who ya’ planning to show ’em to?” Ah, ye olde familiar Slut Shaming again. It never occurred that her 20-something daughter (who’d never even had a boyfriend) might like to feel sexy just to buoy her own, non-existent self-esteem.
When all else fails, narcissists aren’t above a bit of good ol’ fashioned hacking. I found it fascinating that within two weeks of my extended family discovering this blog, the password was suddenly and mysteriously compromised. Three weeks later, my Facebook password suddenly failed to work as well. It never occurred before. It hasn’t occurred since. (18 U.S. Code § 1030)
But long before launching this blog, my family had required me to turn over all account numbers, PIN #’s, etc. to them “in case of a tornado.” It never occurred to me to distrust their motives and maybe they were pure. Certainly, they never abused my trust. But in retrospect, I’m flabbergasted. They even had my Power of Attorney (and, to be honest, vice versa.) As soon as I discovered narcissism, it was the first thing I changed prior to going No Contact.
And, as soon as they discovered my original website, they immediately reneged my Power of Attorney too. Tell ’em the truth about themselves and you are OUT!
Remember that old cliché about the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object? Well, the narcissist is the force and you are the immovable object, if you stick to your guns and hold to your boundaries, come Hell or High Water. Weather the pain of their Furious Pout, deflect the Accusations, brave the Hack and there’s only one weapon left in their arsenal: The Discard.
They’re SO done with you! They refuse to be in a relationship with a secretive person whom they can’t control. It’s over!
This happened to me just last year. I’d provided a service to a long-time friend, only for them to suddenly and irrationally declare that they were not going to pay me appropriately. I was so shocked, I totally forgot to be a mealy-mouthed, codependent, push-over. “What!?!” I snapped in disbelief, my mouth hanging open, my brow wrinkled in disapproval.
Now, up until that day, my friend had been, without peer, the most charming person on the planet. Suddenly, my “nice friend” charged out of the room in a silent rage. Well, in the end we all “made up” (uh-huh) and I was paid decently (but not generously.) The next time I visited, mid-conversation my friend jumped up, left the room and was last seen disappearing into a forest in their stocking feet. (Literally!) Much the same thing happened the next time I visited as well. What the…!?!
Finally, I got the message. I’d dared to set one boundary and the relationship was, for all intents and purposes, over. I’d been discarded. We’re all nicey-nice when we meet now, but it’s not the same. I’m on The Outside now. They’ve made it abundantly clear.
I’ve been discarded. Permanently..or at least until my friend burns off his other I-can-twist-’em-around-my-finger-cause-they-owe-me-money friends (who charge more for services rendered, btw) and I get recycled back into The Fold. (Ain’t happenin’, btw. I’m wise to ’em now!)
Frankly, it kinda’ feels good to be on the outside. To see my friend clearly. It feels…free.
The Litmus Test
Setting a boundary on a narcissist is one of the best litmus tests for determining, conclusively, whether they are or aren’t a narcissist. Try it sometime. It doesn’t have to be a big boundary. Just ask them to stop going through your dresser drawers, stay out of the bathroom while you’re bathing, not watch you dress, stop picking out your outfits and jewelry or stop reading your emails. Mention that you’re going to install a lock on your bedroom door. (My bedroom door wouldn’t close unless I put my shoulder into it! The awful “squeak” it let out when closed made my Mom come running, demanding to know what I was doing and if I was okay. Every. Single. Time. Sigh.)
If they take it gracefully, that’s a good sign!
But if they react by pouting, accusing, hacking and discarding…ding, ding, ding. You have your answer.
They just might be a narcissist.
Thompson, L. (2017). 4 Ways Narcissists React to Our Boundaries. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2017/04/4-ways-narcissists-react-to-our-boundaries/