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Defending Yourself Against the Aging Narcissist: You’ve Got This!

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC

We tend to think of elderly people as “sweet little old ladies” or “grumpy old men.”  While both of these things exist, there are all different kinds of elderly people.  There are incredibly toxic older people as well as some of the kindest people you could meet.  They exist in all shapes and sizes–and levels of narcissism!  So, when defending yourself against the aging narcissist, what do you do?

In order to defend yourself against the aging narcissist, you need to realize the limitations they have–physical, mental, and other limitations that cause them to not function the way they used to.  Understand that aging narcissists will be frustrated with their limitations.  And they will use the strengths they still have to do twice the work to make up for their now shortcomings.

Let’s take a look at some of the concrete ways you can defend yourself against the aging narcissist without destroying you, them, or others around you in the process.

Realize That the Aging Narcissist Likely Knows how to Push Your Buttons

If you have spent a significant time over the course of your life with the narcissist, they will certainly know exactly how to push your buttons in a narcissistic attack.  So the best defense for you against an aging narcissist is to learn healthy ways to respond to the narcissistic injury being directed your way.  It will catch them off guard and likely prevent them from continuing the attack.  You will, in effect, be stopping them in their tracks because all of a sudden, pushing your buttons isn’t working anymore.

The first thing you will need to do is realize exactly what the aging narcissist does to you that pushes your buttons.  And then, honestly evaluate how you react when those buttons are pushed.  Writing all of this down or keeping a journal is even more helpful!

Once you realize what those triggers are, decide what you are going to say and or do to respond to them in a healthy way.  And then write that down next to the triggers that you already wrote down.

And finally, remember to keep your calm next time you get into a row with your narcissist.  If you can keep calm and remember how you planned to respond, you’ve got this!  And while it may seem difficult at first, you will quickly realize that their bag of tricks isn’t so big.  You’ve probably been having the same circular arguments your whole life.  And with that, you only need a few ways to respond!

Realize the Aging Narcissist Still has Charming Words on His Side

The aging narcissist knows that he isn’t as young, pretty, or athletic as he used to be.  He knows that he has lost a significant number of ways to obtain his narcissistic supply.  But by this time, he is the master of charming words.

Narcissists learn very early that in order to get their narcissistic supply, they need to study those who will be their targets.  They need to know which words work.  Which ones get people to do what they need them to.

Because that is how they find out what makes people tick and how they are going to manipulate them through these studies, they really do get very adept at knowing what words make people in general respond well to them.

I always found this ironic.  My ex husband of 31 years could be so kind, empathetic, caring, and sacrificial when he spoke with people publicly.  He knew exactly what to say AND what tone of voice and expression to use to make them melt.  I thought that everyone thought he was the nicest man that ever lived because of this.  But yet, sitting in the counselor’s office, my ex’s counselor told me one day that he couldn’t even get my ex to pretend to have empathy for me or our kids.

Funny thing is, while some people fell for his charming words, especially if they were just meeting him, many more were on to his act.  Those that are more emotionally mature picked up on the act very quickly.  And now I get it myself.

Just know that if someone seems to have all the right words for you when they are trying to make a good impression, there is probably more to the story.  Yes, there are tons of wonderful people in the world that aren’t putting on an act.  But you will pretty easily be able to tell the difference between them and a narcissist as you continue to interact.  And as you see them interact with other people when they don’t realize you are watching.

Be Ready With an Answer When Defending Yourself Against the Aging Narcissist

Narcissists of any age like to catch people off guard.  They will throw something at you (I’m talking words here, not objects, at least for this point) so fast that you won’t be able to think, let alone respond in a coherent way.

Your aging narcissist will be even more adept at it because they have been using it their whole life.  And if you have spent any significant amount of time with them, they will know exactly what gets you fired up as well as what doesn’t move you in the slightest.

So, what better way to defend yourself against the aging narcissist by catching him off guard?

Realize that he already has the whole conversation in his mind.  He already knows how you are going to respond to what he is planning to say to you.  So, when you respond in a totally different way than he expects, he instantly realizes he has to change gears.

It will take him a bit to get back on his feet.  And in my case, my narcissist could switch gears very quickly.  So know that you won’t have long to keep the momentum going.  Also be able to know if he is getting angrier than is healthy and if  you should get yourself to a safe place.  Don’t poke the bear too hard!

The best way for you to be ready with an answer when defending yourself against the aging narcissist is to have a plan yourself.  While it feels like his attacks are random, they are actually the same few circular arguments that he knows will put you on the downside.  Take notice of his words and how he argues with you.  Also how he interacts with you.  Take notes later if you need to.  Once you pick up on the patterns, you will be able to find the words you need to keep yourself from getting plowed under by the narcissism.

Set Healthy Boundaries (AND KEEP THEM) When Defending Yourself Against the Aging Narcissist

When I was married to my narcissist, I didn’t believe it was right to have boundaries with my husband.  I had grown up in an unhealthy home, so I didn’t know what a healthy marriage should look like.  And early on, my husband made it clear to me that boundaries were wrong.

Adding to that, I misinterpreted Scriptures and church doctrine with regard to the wife’s submission to her husband.  I thought that meant I had to submit no matter what unless I was being abused.  The problem was, for many years I didn’t realize I was being abused because it wasn’t physical.

In reality, the Scripture doesn’t say that the husband is the head of the home no matter what.  It says that he is to love and care for his wife as Christ loved the church.  That means sacrificially, wholly unselfishly, and perfectly.  While no man can live up to that ideal, what it says is that men are to love their wives more than themselves, to look out for them, to protect them, to honor them, and not to demand or control them.

When my ex dragged me in to counseling to make me a better and more submissive wife, I began to learn these things.  I learned what a healthy marriage should look like.  I learned to recognize non-physical abusive behaviors in marriage as well as all relationships.  And I learned to set healthy boundaries that would strengthen a relationship and actually bring the couple closer.

The one resource that literally changed my whole world was a book recommended by my counselor as well as my pastor at the time.  Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend was a god-send for me after a lifetime of narcissistic people around me.  Please, if you read any book in the next several months, make it this one!  You can find out more here:

Don’t be Left Alone With the Aging

We tend to think of the aging members of our society as frail, meek people.  And certainly there are many like that.  Most of us become more mild-mannered and laid back as we age.  But sometimes, and often with narcissists, the anger, bitterness and rage take over.

When defending yourself against the aging narcissist, realize that they don’t need great physical strength or agility to do harm to you.  You may be able to withstand their verbal attacks, lies, and gaslighting.  But you cannot withstand an attack if they have a gun or other weapon on them.  And sometimes, you never know how toxic your elderly narcissist has become.  Some days they can be pleasant; other days they may be over the top in anger.

Generally speaking, nothing is going to happen.  But how many incidents end up on the news that the victims and/or their families say they never saw it coming.  It is always better to keep yourself safe than to risk being caught off guard.

If for any reason you do feel unsafe now or think you may not be safe going forward,

contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Or you can visit online at

Don’t Engage in Circular Arguing With the Aging Narcissist

If the aging narcissist in your life has been with you for a number of years, you already understand that when you get caught up in circular arguing with them, it is because they are just baiting you.  It can’t possibly be because they legitimately believe the crap they are saying to you.

I used to be so confused about that and then just stop and ask my ex if he could hear what he was saying or if he really believed what he was trying to tell me because it made no sense whatsoever.  Interestingly, it would stop his rant.  I don’t know if he thought he won the argument because I was perplexed or what he actually thought.

Ultimately, if he or she won’t stop the circular arguing, you can simply say you know what your truth is and they will not convince you otherwise so you are done arguing.  And then you simply leave the area you are in so they cannot continue the argument against your will.

It takes a while for you to realize that it is so much better not not engage than to try to convince them of how wrong they are.  I don’t think they care whether they are actually right or wrong.  They only care that everyone thinks they are right and submits to their demands, opinions, or thoughts.  You don’t have to let them do that to you. 

Don’t Take it Personally When the Aging Narcissist Attacks You

The movie Grumpy Old Men is a funny movie.  But it’s not very funny when you are dealing with an older man or woman whose narcissistic behavior has become more toxic.  It is also not your fault.

We tend to think that if we had done things better or differently, the relationship would have turned out better or they would respond better to you.  But that is not ever going to be the case with an aging narcissist. Honestly, your narcissist doesn’t really even see you.  They are so into themselves and  getting their own perceived needs met, that you are not in their thoughts.  Except for how you are going to provide them with their needed narcissistic supply.

So, when they attack you for not meeting their needs, know that it isn’t a personal attack against you  per se.  It is them saying that you owe them everything just because and you feel short.  You were a tool that didn’t work the way they wanted it to.

Over time, I learned to find peace in the fact that it wasn’t really me that the narcissist hated.  It was the fact that he couldn’t manipulate me at will and make me jump as soon as he spoke anymore.  Was I nasty about it to him?  Definitely not.  There is no satisfaction in treating other people cruelly, no matter how badly they have treated you.  The satisfaction comes in knowing that you didn’t get buried under their abuse and protected yourself with emotionally healthy behaviors without behaving badly toward them in return or getting heated.

When you can accomplish that, know that you are in a very good place post narcissism!  But be careful!  Every once in a while, the aging narcissist (or the younger ones, for that matter) will get under your skin.  And you will want to react in less than beautiful ways.  Be better than you feel!  Later you will be glad you did.

And that leads us straight into my last point.

Don’t React to the Attacks of the Aging Narcissist

When defending yourself against the aging narcissist, realize that they will often lash out more often because they no longer have the social inhibitions they had when they were younger.  They just don’t care so much about how they look to others anymore.  And they just want what they want.  And they want it now.

When you realize that, you will be less likely to be intimidated by their attacks.  It is almost like dealing with an impetulant child.  While the child’s behavior can be frustrating, you handle it as the parent, guardian, or teacher.  It is much the same with the aging narcissist who doesn’t know when to quit.  You just learn to deal with them, realizing that they never actually grew up emotionally and doesn’t know how to relate to others in an emotionally mature way.

This goes back to my point above that when the aging narcissist doesn’t let up with you, you will need to limit the access they have to you.  It is a hard balance to maintain with someone that is a family member or someone else that you can’t just walk away from.  But the more you set the right boundaries, the better and easier it will get for you.  It also helps to know that their behavior isn’t based on anything you have done or said, but on their own selfishness.

You can still treat them with compassion, knowing that there is only so much they can do to harm you anymore.  They can say bad things to others about you.  But if those people actually know you and the aging narcissist, they will know the truth.  If they choose to believe the narcissist’s lies, it isn’t on you.  And they can continue to gaslight and mentally manipulate you.  But if you are prepared with the right answers, you’ve got that too!

At this point in time, if you have already spent a long time with the narcissist, you should be able to keep the relationship in check at least to a manageable degree.


At the end of the day, you want the aging narcissist in your life to know that you do indeed love and value them.  And you must show them some respect as fellow human beings.  But that does not mean that they get the right to abuse you or treat you badly.  You must keep yourself healthy and safe when defending yourself against the aging narcissist.  And you can do that, unless they are so incredibly toxic that your only option is no contact.  And that is not on you.  You MUST keep yourself and your loved ones safe.  I hope this article helps you do that as well as giving you some great action steps to honor the aging narcissist and find their better qualities.

For more about the aging narcissist man, click here.  And for more on the aging female narcissist, click here.

How are things going with the aging narcissist in your life?  Have you had difficulty defending yourself from their attacks?  Have you found a good way to handle their narcissism without you destroying each other?  I would love to hear about your experience and how you worked (or are working) your way through it.  Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Hugs and love,

Print a copy of this infographic to help yourself or someone you know!

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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