There is a fine line that separates being hurt at someone else's words or behavior because 1) the person speaking or acting is being insensitive and, conversely, being hurt at someone else's words or behavior because 2) the one feeling hurt is being too sensitive. In the first case, the one who causes pain cannot see or take responsibility for the effect his or her behavior has on others. In the second case, the one who feels hurt has unreasonable expectations and perceives pain when those expectations are not met. In both extreme cases, we are dealing with narcissism. The narcissist hurts others obliviously or without taking responsibility. The narcissist is not primarily concerned with his or her effect on others apart from manipulating others to meet his or her needs. But, often, narcissists tell their victims that the victims are in fact the main perpetrators. This is because narcissists are also very sensitive, and experience something called 'narcissistic wounding' when they do not get their way. A less narcissistic person will not feel such extreme pain when others do not behave exactly as hoped or expected. But a narcissist does, and takes it extremely personally. And instead of recognizing that his or her expectations were not loving or realistic, he or she blames those who have failed to meet his or her unrealistic expectations. Thus, those who struggle with narcissistic partners often do not feel their very legitimate pain is recognized in any authentic manner, yet at the same time, because they are human and not ideal beings created to serve the narcissist's every whim, they are constantly shamed and guilted for 'hurting' the narcissist. It's almost as if the narcissist's sense of boundaries has ballooned outward to cut in on the other person's boundaries. In this situation the narcissist feels entitled to control and manipulate the other person, viewing that person as part of his or her own ego. And if the other person protests, tries to defend his or her own boundaries, or expresses healthy ambivalence towards the narcissist, then the narcissist sees this as a 'boundary violation' and punishes the other person. This is partly why being with a narcissistic person can be so crazy making. One's sense of reality is turned upside down through constant denial and reversals which in the end satisfy no one.
In a healthy relationship, both individuals have a strong sense of what reasonable boundaries and expectations look like. They may be willing to negotiate some boundaries, but at the same time, they will not over-compromise or expect extensive compromise from their partner. They know that when their partner does not do exactly as they wish or hope or imagine without their even asking for it that this is not a slight or hurtful behavior. Even though they may have tender spots on their ego, they know that such tender places are their own problem and do not project such weaknesses aggressively onto those they love. Instead of lashing out, they learn to ask for support. Healthy egos learn to recognize their own needs and ask for things honestly and in a timely manner from those who are suitable to ask, like a partner or close friend. Healthy egos do not generally blame their partners for not giving things that were never asked for. Healthy egos live with a feeling of safety where they do not have to be anxious about the other person's unspoken needs and do not cause anxiety by failing to communicate their own needs in a clear, respectful manner. Narcissists, by contrast, often do not communicate their inner needs, as they live in a fantasy world out of touch with their true selves, where they believe that because of their greatness and importance that people should be continuously attuned to their needs and wants, and/or narcissists believe that people are simply more easy to manipulate than to ask, feeling entitled to get what they want with or without the permission of the one manipulated.
A narcissist would rather deny a problem or project it entirely onto someone else. Honestly dealing with a relationship problem would involve admitting their imperfect behavior, which in many cases would be too much a task for their fragile ego. Narcissists would rather blame others or manipulate others and try to bribe them or pressure them into doing what the narcissist sees as best--which as we discussed above is generally not best for most people, since the narcissist's expectations about interpersonal relations are often unrealistic.
While most human beings have some narcissistic traits, and indeed a basic level of narcissism is necessary to function in the world, some people have extreme narcissistic traits. They are very difficult to deal with, and they often do not see or simply do not care about the trail of damage they leave behind in the hearts, minds, and bodies of others. The best thing to do if you realize you are dealing with a narcissist is accept you cannot change them, and then set up whatever boundaries are necessary to protect your own peace of mind. A narcissist rarely changes, because they are rarely willing to see a problem in the first place. Narcissists may hide deep pain behind their extreme behavior, and genuinely wish for love. However, due to the nature of how they conceive of love, they are generally harmful to get close to, because they will have very limited if any sense of compassion for others while expecting infinite compassion in return. Ironically, they will often be the first to complain about lack of 'understanding' or 'respect,' but they are the ones who need to learn how to give it most. Unless a narcissist truly wants to change, then there is little use in trying to cater to their unreasonable demands. Such catering only reinforces the harmful patterns of 'love' the narcissist believes will serve and save him or her. And so they will never learn mutual love. And it is impossible to teach mutual love, unless they really want to learn it.
If you find you are miserable and with a narcissist, seek help. With the support of others, it is possible to learn to stand up for yourself and face the world independently. Standing up for yourself is one the greatest foundations of mutual empathy. And as human beings we all are called to give and receive empathy. This is done best through having self-compassion as well as other-compassion. Practicing compassion on oneself and one's failings, allows a person to separate their immediate limitations and failures from their ultimate sense of worth and lovability. Someone skilled in self-compassion can accept criticism without undue anxiety, and look at his or her failings squarely without having to deny them or project them on others. Someone who practices self-compassion is committed to loving themselves unconditionally, and therefore does not seek unrealistic forms of unconditional love from others. Self-compassion is the way to a strong ego that is not narcissistic, but realistic and well integrated with other egos. Self-compassion is a great way to learn how to empathize with others. Because if deep down inside you cannot have compassion on yourself, how will you ever truly care for the suffering, struggles and failures of others? This being said, if you find yourself tangled up in a situation with a narcissist, have compassion on yourself and take care of yourself first. This does not make you selfish, it prepares you to be a more loving and caring person with other loving and caring people.