The INFJ and the Narcissist

the infj and the narcissistShe was attracted to him from the first moment they met.  He was older by a decade.  The look in his eyes made her think he’d experienced enough to have learned; and the spark made her want to believe that he wasn’t done learning.

He was drawn to her intense desire to listen, and because she was an INFJ, he couldn’t help but spill his guts.  He told her details of his failed marriage, the trials and tribulations of owning a business while raising kids, and stories of adventures in the mountains of the west.  She soaked it all up.  The more intently she listened, the more he talked.  He thrived in her attention.

The more she asked, the more he told.  The more she listened, the taller he grew and the broader his shoulders appeared.


After one intense exchange, she briefly worried that if he got to know her better, he might not be interested.  She noticed that he seldom asked questions of her life.  Would he still be drawn to her once he learned of her dreams and hopes and failures?

She told herself that there would be time for talk of her life.  One day, he would start asking about who she was.  She was prepared to be vulnerable, just as she thought he’d been with her.


She noticed that he preferred iced water.  She could deal with the fact that he didn’t drink coffee.  Heck, maybe she shouldn’t drink coffee either.  She’d quit coffee, go hiking more, spend all her spare time outdoors.  Maybe being with him would bring about positive changes in her life.  She would adopt some of his choices and she hoped that he would adopt some of her choices, too.  She took note of his likes and dislikes.  One day perhaps he would take note of her preferences.

She refilled his glass with more water and ice.

He was engrossed in telling her of the first time he’d come out to the west and how he’d fallen in love with the mountains.  She got up to get more coffee and tried not to notice that he never offered to refill her mug.  She told herself that he’d been in a relationship where he was never heard – never listened to.  He needed her to listen.  She felt needed.  She could do that for him.  She could listen for as long as it took.

She would get her turn.


They’d go for walks and he’d set the pace.  He’d hold her hand – fingers laced together – as they walked and he talked.  The longer they walked the tighter his fingers became.  Was he aware that he was restricting the circulation in her fingers?  Was he holding on to her tightly to control the pace of their walk?  Was she over-thinking?  Was she being fussy?  Should she tell him he was hurting her?  Instead, she stopped to pick up a rock as an excuse to untangle his grip.


They’d go for drives and he’d pick the route.  She noticed that the more impassioned his story, the faster he’d drive.  He’d be telling her of how unfair his ex wife had been, how critical she’d sounded, how intolerant, and he would start to take the corners faster.  She’d find herself gripping the edges of the bucket seat.  She’d try to change the subject in an effort to calm his driving, but she couldn’t get a word in.  She’d point out a deer, the high water in the creek – anything to distract him.  He would not change course, and his talking continued.


Even though her insides told her to be wary…

Even though her heart hurt at not having the chance to be heard…

Even when her soul whispered, “He is not the one,” she agreed to meet him again.


To be continued…

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  1. I bet if we got enough INFJ’s together, we’d be able to write a book about all the wrong things to do with a partner. We are so BAD at taking care of our needs at times. If there were to be a picture of the burnt out counselor who needs to learn the practice of self-care, it would be an INFJ. It also seems that around mid-life INFJ’s hit their stride and START taking care of themselves. When that happens….watch out world ;-)

  2. Do you ever feel like you talked yourself into liking him more than you really did?

    Of course, hindsight is 50/50, but it wasn’t me that announced that I loved him. It was a friend of mine. And I thought, she must be right.

    He wanted me to love him. I didn’t tell him what my friend said. He started talking about the future and how he could see my older son playing with our kids. That things don’t happen without a reason and we had met at the perfect time. He was so happy that I wasn’t like his ex.

    Somewhere inside I wanted to believe him. I wanted him to be my knight in shining armor. I wanted a happy marriage. So I worked for it.

  3. How many times will we fall into being the only one who cares! As I was reading this all I could think was don’t do it RUN!!!! It has to work both ways – he has to care about her likes, dislikes and feelings. It’s the fear of being alone that makes her think she should give him a chance but she has to follow her heart and if it feels wrong move on!!! That’s the hardest thing when you really want someone in your life. This one really captured my attention and then it was to be continued. Can’t wait to read the rest!!!

  4. Jenn,

    Yeah. Years of giving and trying and being what others need.

    I’m at mid-life. A lot of days I can taste what my life is supposed to be, and then I look behind me and see that I’m dragging all the “shoulds” from my old life.

    I’m ready to push those “shoulds” off a cliff.

  5. Z,

    That’s creepy.

    I read your comment and vividly remembered a family reunion. A relative – about my age – said, “What’d you do to get a guy like that? You better hang on to him.” I thought, “Crap. I’m never gonna do better than this. How did I get so lucky? I better do all I can to make this work.”

    I haven’t seen her in years. I’d probably kick her in the shins if I saw her now.

    I wanted it to work. I wanted that fairy tale ending. It was killing me to work toward that, so I had to get out.

  6. Kath,

    I think that if we don’t have an example of a healthy relationship, we work long and hard thinking, “If I change this or do that, I’ll get it right. He won’t leave. He’ll be happy and I’ll be happy.”

    And then, several years go by. Years of trying to please and never being seen.

    I woke up one day and said, “This is it? This is happy? I don’t want this kind of happy? I don’t know who I am or what my interests are. Where did I go?”

    Being alone is better. So much better.

  7. Jesse,

    I am so glad you got out! Life with a narcissist is a destructive combination of control and neglect. As hard and odd as life can be now, I agree with you that it is far better to be alone than to live with an angry, ruthless person.

    Here’s to peaceful paths and deep breaths!

  8. Jesse,

    You said it best with: Where did I go? & Being alone is so much better.

  9. Lynn,

    You said it … “control and neglect”. Pray for the souls who live with that on a daily basis.

    Take good care, friend.

  10. Jesse and Jen,
    When I think of INFJs taking on the world, I see my mom, sister, and I marching around the dining room table shouting “I am woman, hear me roar!” (Helen Reddy) LOL!

    Yes, the Where did I go? I was open-minded, accepting, liberal and somehow I became closed-minded, judgmental, and conservative. How the hell did that happen? Well as soon as I left I worked on MY thoughts, MY being, and am happy to report that I have restored my old self.

    Being alone is so much better…

  11. I do pray and feel heavy in my spirit for those in it and who can not see a way out.

    Take care dear friend. : )

  12. Z,

    Same happened to me! It’s been an interesting/fun road back – or ahead, I’m not sure. ;)

  13. Wow…,my mind is flooded with so many thoughts…thoughts of the clients I have seen in psychotherapy during the past 25 years…., thoughts about myself as an INFJ and as a previous narcissist…, thoughts about marriages submerged in narcissism who with the right advice got much better over time, some that got somewhat better and some that blew apart all together…no matter how I or the non-narcissistic spouse tried to intervene… My clients encouraged me to write the book, You Might Be a Narcissist If… and now they are encouraging me to blog so I decided to read yours and really enjoyed it and look forward to the next segment. Thanks! Lisa

  14. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

    I’m intrigued! You describe yourself as a “previous narcissist.” That leads me to believe that there is hope for change.

    I’ll have to get your book.

    All the best,

  15. There is definitely hope for change in many situations. My book gives bullet point advice for various relationships. People become narcissistic because they have been traumatized in their early attachment relationships….so they make vows to never allow themselves to be “in need” of someone again and yet of course we all need the people we are the closest to and this massively threatens them. They have deep fears of being criticized and rejected and that is why they are terrible about receiving negative feedback. They feel safest in their own worlds where they don’t feel so vulnerable.
    I teach the wives of narcissists who come to see me for therapy that she usually has much more power than she thinks she has and that her husband is actually listening closely to all of her negative feedback (even though he pretends to totally devalue and dismiss it). In reality, her husband doesn’t know how to do what she wants and he needs more explanation like, “I know that you love me but it would help me to feel more loved if you could….” It helps to start with reassuring them that you don’t see them as all bad because they were usually not taught how to do things and then shamed when they didn’t know how. My husband did a lot of this reassurance with me early on in our marriage (while I went to therapy) and we’ve been married for 27 years now. I talk about that in the first chapter of the book. I’m glad no one told him, “It’s hopeless; just move on!” because while a few situations are in fact hopeless, the majority are not, although they are definitely more work! ; ). However, most people who love narcissists love their “real selves” and narcissists will show their real selves more the safer they feel… It’s so great that you are talking about this issue because it is very common! Lisa

  16. Wow!

    First off, I can’t thank you enough for sharing here.

    I have so many questions…

    You mention that the majority of these situations are not hopeless. Is that because NPD is a spectrum disorder? I’m assuming that in the cases where change can occur, the narcissist is much farther on the healthier end of the spectrum, thereby more self-aware and open to the possibility of change. Is that right?

    In the case of families with young children, how is it possible to kindly reassure the narcissist that she/he is indeed loved while the children are experiencing abuse at the hands of the narcissist? Or is that a case of that particular narcissist being on the other end of the spectrum?

    Have you seen situations where you can call it from the beginning? Cases where you know there is little chance of change?

    I’m thinking that your book will answer these questions?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment here. I imagine so many benefit from your expertise!

  17. Good questions…. Yes, it is a spectrum disorder…but I’ve seen people fairly far on the spectrum change… I have found there to be two major factors… Age helps…with both men and women, but particularly with men, after the age 40, as testosterone levels decrease, men tend to become better able to read emotional expressions and can have more empathy. That is why most men would say they feel more emotionally tuned in to their grand-kids than they did their kids… This often continues to get better with age… And yet, some character disordered people become more rigid in their defenses with age. They are usually the ones who are divorced and isolate a lot.
    It is very important to express boundaries around any abusive behaviors… For example, “I know that you don’t think you are hurting the kids when you hold them down until they cry, but that is completely not okay! We need to teach them that we will honor their boundaries and when they say that they have had enough wrestling or tickling, we need to back off. They need to learn that their feelings matter to us and that will teach them to back off when their siblings or peers are asking them to stop.” The narcissist will then usually say, “You are just way too sensitive! You are going to make our boys pansies!!! My dad did that to me and I’m fine!” You then want to respond with something like, “I am not being too sensitive. You are being insensitive and I’m sorry if your father didn’t honor your boundaries because that hurt you more than you know because it taught you to lack empathy for others’ feelings and to not pay attention to their needs and boundaries. I know you want to be a good dad and I know you love the kids a lot but I really need you to work on stopping when they say stop.” The narcissist will likely still argue and act as if they are blowing you off, but they will usually self-correct their behavior because they hate to be seen as making mistakes. It is important to keep reiterating the boundaries…, but this is where I warn people… If a narcissist wants to stay married, he will correct his behavior (even if he doesn’t admit to it), but if he does not care about staying married (usually evident in the first year or two), if his wife sets healthy boundaries, he will have an affair and leave. I teach people that they will be truly better off either way and that setting boundaries with love and empathy are crucial to a happy, healthy life! ; )

  18. Lisa,

    Wow, again!

    I took the liberty of highlighting a couple points. (I’d considered highlighting your whole comment.)

    Information is important. The more we learn, the more we can attempt to understand. The more we can understand narcissism, the more we can help ourselves and our kids.

    My take-away from your contributions here are that it isn’t always hopeless. It depends on the narcissist’s commitment to the relationship and his/her partner’s willingness to set healthy boundaries.

    Thank you for sharing your wise words and depth of experience here.

    My head is reeling.

    Thank you so much.

  19. You are exactly right… it depends upon how committed the narcissist is to the relationship and the partner’s ability to set healthy boundaries while role-modeling being a healthy, safe attachment figure… I’m glad I could help! Let me know if you have any other questions… ; ) Lisa

  20. Lisa,

    Please let us know when you start your blog.

  21. I doubt I will actually start my own…I find it easier to respond to other people’s blogs… I found a site the other day on line that said a lot of misinformation….so I commented on it (I hope I didn’t totally offend anyone…). I don’t feel creative enough to start my own… You are very creative!!! : )

  22. Yes, please! That is enlightening! And gives me hope for a situation at work. I think this could be extremely helpful. Thanks, Lisa.

  23. Lisa,

    Thank you.

    I’ve talked to a few folks who’ve read your words here. You’ve much to contribute and your delivery is readable and approachable. So many would benefit from your words on a blog… But there is your book… Must read it!

  24. Ziara, there are bullet points in the book for if your co-worker is a narcissist or your boss etc… The key is to not be too threatening…meaning that narcissists will find your strengths threatening and they need a lot of reassurance about their own strengths and will have much difficulty accepting negative feedback unless it is given with a ton of reassurance….and yet you have to be genuine and not make things up…(because narcissists like all of us have a deep desire to be seen and known and appreciated for who they/we really are). I think Amazon has my book on sale for like $11 right now…and the eBook is even cheaper…, but feel free to ask me questions. I’m going to begin speaking publicly more on the subject so it’s helpful for me to be talking about the subject… ; ) Lisa

  25. Thanks so much, Lisa. I am about to go into a meeting with him so will put my best face on and take your advice here. I have just purchased the Kindle version of your book (so I have it with me at all times…lol) and downloaded it to my phone. I can give more examples of his behavior later on. Thanks again.

  26. Thank you for this.

  27. Haide,

    Thanks for being here.

  28. Zaira, How is the advice working on your supervisor? I’d be happy to give you more advice… or anyone else who has specific circumstances…or questions… Lisa

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