Some people wonder if living with a narcissist can make them develop narcissistic personality traits such as lack of empathy. Since narcissism is not inherited, it makes sense to be worried about turning into a narcissist. In my previous article I said that children raised by narcissistic parents are more likely to become narcissists.
Sometimes it happens that someone searches on the internet for narcissistic 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 are a narcissist even if you had a few narcissistic traits. For example, sensitivity to criticism is one sign of narcissism but someone can be sensitive to criticism even if he is not a narcissist at all. You should make sure that all of the criteria written about narcissism are found in your personality before assuming that you are developing narcissism. Even if you found that you have those traits, you should not judge yourself before you make sure that you have had them for years.
Does Living with a Narcissist Make a Person 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 because personality traits such as lack of empathy make a person less vulnerable to emotional pain. 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 people can live with similarly abusive narcissistic spouses but one of them can develop empathy for people who are going through the same experience while the other may choose to shut down their empathy. A person who is mentally stable is likely to develop a healthy coping mechanism. On the other hand if a person already had other psychological issues, they are likely to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that may be similar to narcissism. (See: do narcissists get worse with age)
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 may start being arrogant and cold towards others because of believing that they are not lovable.
Keep in mind that behaving in a narcissistic way for a while, especially when you are dealing with emotional pain does not mean that you have turned into a different person unless it becomes your permanent personality. (See: how to make a narcissist miserable)