Tips for understanding and navigating the complex relationship dynamics of life with an alcoholic narcissistic partner

How to Deal With an Alcoholic Narcissistic Partner

Narcissistic Personality By Feb 13, 2024

Relationships aren’t always easy, as they require time, effort and adjustment. Things can get even harder when one of the partners is narcissistic. The challenge compounds when the narcissistic partner is an alcoholic as well. The other partner suffers immensely because sharing your life with an alcoholic and narcissistic person is like navigating a forest on fire.

People with narcissistic patterns often indulge in drinking to reinforce a false sense of grandiosity. At the same time, individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD) can display patterns of narcissism. A combination of both behaviors is not rare. It is also one of the reasons for relationship failures.

With 2.78 million Canadians ending up with broken marriages (and more with failed relationships) in 2022, every possible cause is a concern. If your partner is an alcoholic narcissist, you may want to do your bit to change them before giving up on your relationship. The first step is to learn to deal with their behavior so that you can survive the challenges of living with them. 

In this article, we will share a few helpful tips to navigate this complex relationship dynamic. 

Understand Alcoholism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Before seeking coping strategies, you must understand the underlying issues at play. A person suffering from AUD experiences a compulsive need for alcohol despite its negative implications. Canada has a drinking problem, elevating the risk for people living here. The worst part is that 25% of the country’s population hardly knows that alcohol can cause fatal cancers. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a pattern of grandiosity, lack of empathy and need for admiration. Nearly 1-5% of people live with this condition, and it mainly affects males and the younger age group. While both conditions may manifest only in a few people, the prevalence is higher than you imagine. 

If your partner has either of these, you must watch out for the signs of others. Timely detection enables you to seek help because it is accessible. You can consider options like therapy and the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program. The 12 steps of AA include humility, love and responsibility, which are traits that can address narcissistic tendencies in addition to helping treat alcohol addiction.

According to the Canadian Centre for Addictions, the lesson of humility teaches members to admit their shortcomings and deal with selfish behavior. Spending time with people struggling with similar problems keeps them grounded. Encouraging your partner to join the program is an effective step for driving a positive change. 

Set Boundaries

Research shows that boundary management is positively linked to relationship satisfaction. Establishing and enforcing boundaries is even more crucial when the bond is unhealthy. You cannot expect someone with narcissistic and alcoholic behaviors to change overnight. The process is slow and traumatic, particularly for someone dealing with the pattern every day. 

Boundaries help protect your emotional well-being while you wait for things to get better. Additionally, having them ensures that your partner does not have the power to manipulate or mistreat you. Examples of boundaries include clearly communicating your needs and expectations, limiting contact during episodes of abusive behavior and refusing to engage in arguments when your partner is intoxicated.

Seek External Support

Coping with a partner with alcoholism and narcissism can feel painful and isolating. You may even feel threatened during abusive episodes. Be open to seeking external support to overcome the feelings of loneliness and fear. Let family members and friends know what you are going through so that they have your back.

Joining a support group of people going through similar situations is a good idea. They understand your situation and are in a good place to offer empathy and encouragement due to their own experiences. Consider recovery coaching therapy to gain perspective, process your emotions and develop coping strategies according to your circumstances. 

Prioritize Self-Care

An abusive relationship can be traumatic, no matter how much you love your partner and how hard you want to try to make things work. Research shows that emotional abuse can cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Living with an alcoholic and narcissist means you are accepting long-term exposure to these risks.

Prioritize self-care to maintain your health and build your defenses against the potential impact of a stressful relationship. Take a break from your partner, and consider moving out until they mend their ways. Even if you decide to support them, your health should be a priority. Engage in activities that bring you joy and integrate relaxation practices like deep breathing and meditation into your routine.

Although you may want to neglect your own well-being when dealing with a challenging partner, it is the last thing you should do. Self-care can be your savior when it comes to managing the emotional strain of the relationship. Commit to being kind and compassionate toward yourself. 

Set Realistic Expectations

Not all relationships continue forever, specifically when one or both partners are not ready to give their best. As someone living with an alcoholic and narcissistic partner, you must have realistic expectations from the outset. Understand that change may be slow and challenging because it is never easy to change a person. 

With alcoholism, the risk of relapse is a reality, as 40% of people treated for alcohol addiction fall into relapse after two years of sobriety. Similarly, unlearning the traits of narcissism can take years. Focus on small progress and accept that you cannot control your partner’s actions.

Also, be ready for the worst because you may need to end the relationship if your partner is unwilling to budge. You cannot keep working alone forever, so you should have a timeline in your mind. Do not feel guilty about quitting.

In conclusion, living with an alcoholic and narcissistic partner can be an uphill journey. However, you should try your best to save your relationship if you truly love them. Encouraging your partner to seek help is the first step. At the same time, do not overlook your well-being and be willing to give up a toxic relationship if nothing works. 


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