04/21/2014 10:25 am ET Updated Jun 21, 2014

It's Futile to Blame a Narcissist

Fabrice LEROUGE via Getty Images

"Nice people don't necessarily fall in love with nice people." -- Jonathan Franzen

Blame is a natural place to go when confronted by a narcissist being a narcissist.

By the time you have enough experience with a person to realize things are off and to figure out she is a narcissist, you've probably been dealing with her for at least a little while. Usually this means you're annoyed by the person pretty regularly.

The first go-to reaction when confronted with a narcissist simply being him or herself (even if we don't know narcissism is at play) is, "Ugh, why does she have to be this way? Can't she just act right?" And then we usually proceed to catalog in our minds the ways in which she doesn't act right and what we think she should be doing instead. If the narcissist in your life is at work, you probably notice all the meetings she takes over, all the people left out of the loop, all the posturing and jockeying for position, all the credit grabbed and responsibility deflected. If the narcissist is in your personal life, you probably notice the broken promises to be at a certain place at a certain time, the constant bids for you to build her up, the way she ignores what's going on in your life and the way she seems to make you always think you need to be apologizing to her.

Then what happens is we freeze in this place, constantly noticing how she is annoying and alienating us and others. We do our best to enjoy the good parts (and they can be quite good) and ignore the bad. We soldier on, keeping a quiet list of her bad traits and wondering when it will stop. We hope that we are savvy enough to stay out of the direct line of fire, we accommodate and placate, apologize and minimize.

Here's the problem with being stuck in this dance: You are stuck.

We do not see how our attempts to cope keep us stuck. Essentially, we are blaming the narcissist for being a narcissist, but we are reacting to her as if she is emotionally healthy and blaming her for being different in her particular way. As long as we blame, we do not see the reality of the situation. As long as we do not see what is, we stay in pain of some degree (psychological, sometimes physical, etc.).

Blame is futile.

Blaming a narcissist for behaving like a narcissist is like blaming a tree for behaving like a tree. If you get angry that the tree drops it's leaves in fall, who suffers -- you or the tree? If you get frustrated that the tree is late in budding in spring, who suffers -- you or the tree? Of course, you.

I know this is a simplistic example, but truly, it's just as simple when you have a narcissist in your life. You're likely to wish and wish and wish that the narcissist in your life would do this, that and the other differently. But eventually, you're likely to see that the narcissist is still a narcissist and behaves accordingly. You may think that being nice, adoring, supportive or accommodating will make things better. You may try to do whatever it is that your narcissist says will win their approval. You may try all sorts of tactics to influence the narcissist in your life. But if you are dealing with a narcissist, at some point, you're finally likely to realize that change is not happening, and that connection is elusive. You'll come to learn that a narcissist does not share your reality, that you and the narcissist in your life have very different assumptions about how to be in the world and in relationships. You're likely to figure out that the narcissist is unaware of being different, and furthermore, she is fine with her way and thinks that you are the problem.

If you are stuck in that cycle of blame and complain, it may be time to realize that you are the only one who can take action on your own behalf. It's your job to take care of yourself. Relief will come from accepting the truth of what is and exploring the options open to you given that reality. Rather than blame the narcissist, or try to change the narcissist, or attempt to heal the narcissist with your love, or nag the narcissist to adhere to your preferences, just accept what is. It's from this place that you are free to learn about the disorder you're engaged with, and explore how to best take care of yourself, and decide about the place of this relationship in your future.