It’s Narcissist Friday!
This is a rerun, but an important reminder for those who have to handle holidays with narcissistic people. Although the references are to a male narcissist, we all understand that wives, sisters, mothers, daughters, and other women can be narcissistic as well. I hope this helps you to have a blessed holiday. I am also including a response that I made to a comment. I think it will help with some perspective. And, finally, I want to encourage to to read (again?) the post on The Narcissist at Christmas. With some preparation of your heart, you might find the holiday to be a little more bearable. These ideas won’t fit every situation, but you might be able to adapt some of the thinking to your holiday experience. You are also welcome to ask for ideas from our little community in the comments. Some of these folks have a lot of wisdom!
***This post is not about giving in to the N. It’s about finding ways to control the N or at least minimize the damage. Some people feel very stuck and very afraid. They feel they must appear for the holiday and dread what will happen. Maybe there’s some hint in this of some help, at least for one day. If nothing else, I want victims to understand that they may be able to find ways to manipulate the manipulator. Narcissists are easy to see as terrible and overwhelming forces. In reality, they are small people with big mouths and an inability to understand the hearts of others. Why should a family holiday be ruined by a narcissist? If there is some way to marginalize the N, I say that’s quite fair.***
Narcissists aren’t very good about holidays or family gatherings. Unless they can be the center of attention, they sulk or tell odd jokes or intrude on conversations or something strange. He might even flirt with your sister! Chances are the narcissist doesn’t know what he will do until he gets there.
You, on the other hand, can plan ahead. Play this like a game and you may find yourself in a better position to win. Here are some ideas:
Keep comparisons to a minimum. Family gatherings are often filled with comparisons of anything from kids to cars to dinner entrees. Comparisons are to the narcissist like gasoline is to the fire. If you can find some way to keep conversation away from comparisons, you may avoid some tense situations.
Remember that the narcissist needs attention and affirmation. To sit and watch others express love is painful for him. Love, for him, is being told how wonderful he is. Now, you can do this for him. You can tell some things to your family that build him up in their eyes. I know this will be hard for some to read, but remember your goal is to have a peaceful, even happy, time with your family. Be sure you tell these good things in front of him and don’t let him be put on the spot. If he embellishes the story or the accomplishment, don’t contradict him. Let him have his time.
Give him small victories. If he wins some things he may not need to win them all. Let him choose some of the dinner entrees or set the time for the meal. You know. Victory affirms him. When you think that he seems to want to change and control everything, maybe he would be satisfied with a few victories. Try to do things or talk about things where he has knowledge. Leaving him with your “know-it-all” brother to watch Jeopardy might be as uncomfortable for him as talking with Aunt Edna about how a turkey “should” be cooked would be for you. Never forget that the narcissist feels inferior and deals with that feeling by making everyone believe he is superior.
Tell him straight out that you want to have some time with your family and ask him what would be best for him. In other words, set your boundaries and inform him that they will be kept, but let him have a way to express his needs. This is tricky. He will see your boundaries as a challenge, so you may have to exaggerate a little in order to get what you want. However, he may say that he needs to go for a drive. Let him. Don’t worry about him. He will come back for you and you will have time with your loved ones.
In our frustration with the narcissist it is easy to forget that he or she has needs also. In fact, his needs are actually stronger and more uncompromising than yours. He is just very bad at dealing with his needs. If you want a happier holiday time, you might find success by playing his game. You don’t have to compromise yourself. One of your boundaries is that anything you do for him must never compromise who you are. But if you want to keep a relationship with him and with your family, you will probably have to find ways to meet his needs.
And, if at the outset he says that he has no intention of going with you for the visit, then go by yourself. You choose. What seems like an attempt to control you may be a statement of abject fear from him. He just has to say it in a way that doesn’t betray the fear.
I understand that some will have trouble reading this and I admit that I have had some trouble writing it. These people make us angry and we want to get back at them. But is your family visit the time for that? Probably not. You will have to carefully evaluate the things I have written above to see if they make sense for you. Maybe you can come up with something for your own situation that I haven’t mentioned.
I pray that your holiday time will be good.