Some people wonder if living with a narcissist can make them adopt narcissistic personality traits like lack of empathy, being self-absorbed, being vindictive etc. After all narcissism is not genetically inherited but it’s developed as a result of going through an unusual life experience.
Sometimes it happens that someone searches online for narcissism personality traits and find that some of his personality traits are similar to those of narcissists. This can be confusing and some people start to believe that they may be developing narcissistic traits slowly.
While it is possible to become a narcissist after living with a narcissist for a long period of time, it’s wrong to assume that you may be a narcissist even if you had a few narcissistic traits. Someone can be vindictive and a little self-absorbed even if he is not a narcissist at all. First, you must make sure that all of the criteria written about narcissism are found in your personality, even if you found that you have these traits, you can’t just judge yourself before you make sure that you have had those traits for years.
Can Living with a Narcissist Make You a Narcissist?
I can’t answer this question with a “yes” or “no” because it depends on many factors.
In some of my previous articles I said that a person can develop narcissism as a defence mechanism after going through a painful life experience that leaves them emotionally wounded. A person who was abused by his parents can turn into a narcissist to make sure that nobody will ever abuse him again. But this does not mean that everybody who was raised by abusive parents must become a narcissist.
Whether the person who lives with a narcissist will become a narcissist or not depends on the defence mechanism they choose and the beliefs they form about themselves and others as a result of living with a narcissist.
For example, two women can live with similarly abusive narcissistic husbands but one of them can develop empathy for people who are going through the same experience while the other may choose to shut down her empathy and became abusive towards her children and people close to her. While the first woman wishes that nobody should suffer the way she did, the second one tries to make herself invulnerable to further emotional trauma by adopting narcissistic traits like lack of empathy.
Obviously, the woman who chose to shut down her empathy will developed other narcissistic trait like being self-absorbed while the other will be more empathetic and caring. Note that all this process takes place subconsciously.
Changing Beliefs about Yourself
The beliefs that someone forms after going through emotional abuse can also determine how their personality will change. For example, most abusive narcissists usually try to destroy their victim’s self-esteem by constantly putting them down and trying to convince them that they are worthless.
Some victims end up believing the abuser and change their beliefs about themselves and therefore this lowers their self-esteem to a great extent. Of course those who understand that the abuser’s words are nothing but a manipulation tactic that has nothing to do with reality never get affected.
Now, when someone starts believing that they are less worthy and unlovable their behaviour towards others can also change a great deal. For example they can start being arrogant and cold towards others because of believing that they are not welcomed and liked.
Keep in mind that behaving in a narcissistic way for a while, especially when you are dealing with a narcissist does not mean that you have turned into a narcissist unless it becomes your default personality. (See: understanding psychopaths)