The end point of therapy around being an adult survivor of narcissistic parents, addresses this question. Is it possible to be in a relationship with a narcissist? Some of this depends on what your definition of “relationship” is. For me, relationship implies reciprocity; a mutual interest each other and an ability to show empathy for another’s point of view or experience. Relationship is a two-way street. This is especially true when we are talking about family relationships and friendships.
Relationships with narcissistic colleagues or acquaintances are different. It is quite possible to be in relationship with a narcissistic colleague, boss or an acquaintance if one keeps things transactional and lowers all expectations of empathy, reciprocity and interest in you and your personal needs. In other words, “I don’t need your empathy or respect or interest, I just need to get this task done.” These transactions are best conducted with calmness, purpose and with lowered expectations of enjoyment. We get into trouble with narcissistic colleagues/bosses etc. if we expect them to approve of us, to like us or to have our interests at heart. What we need is to ascertain the mutual interest in a transaction and then work toward accomplishing that. Sometimes our ego will have to be checked at the door. We can’t be over sensitive to slights or insults. In my view, it’s never a bad idea to control ego impulses. If you are sure of your goal, or of the task to be accomplished, ego doesn’t need to be involved. I like to approach these situations as “good practice” for my self-control. It can even be looked at as a spiritual practice. It is also a good idea to really try and figure out what the narcissist’s point of view is. His or her point of view is not wrong. It is merely their point of view. Your point of view is mutually valid. If you can validate their point of view by sincerely demonstrating that you understand it, defenses will drop and tasks can be accomplished.
This may require some work on your part as I am not advocating false validation. Find that place in yourself where you can truly understand where the other person is coming from even if you don’t agree with it. Remember that narcissistic illness is one characterized by a person who has very little sense of self. They build up false, often brash, personas so that they feel “like somebody”. There is a part of them that desperately wants to be seen. Find that place where you can really see them, and watch what happens.