Tag Archives: narcissists and family


It’s Narcissist Friday!     

You have heard the old saying, “Turnabout is fair play.” It is supposed to mean that we take turns. You go, then I go, then you go again. That’s how you play fair. The phrase is actually quite old in English.

But narcissists don’t seem to understand playing fair. Because they think only of themselves and their desires, they are not interested in your turn. It’s like the little child who kicks the ball and then cuts in front of others to kick again. Even in friendly competition, we hear the narcissist say things like, “I need to do that again. That one didn’t go right.” Then he/she takes another turn.

Recently one of the advice columnists received a story from a woman whose boyfriend would say something pretending to be funny but was very hurtful. When the woman became angry and acted on her pain, the boyfriend would accuse her of hurting him. He didn’t care about how she was hurt. He just wanted her to hear about his pain. The columnist had some suggestions, but I appreciated her first words, “Your relationship is doomed…”

Of course, the columnist suggested that the woman sit the boyfriend down to explain how and why he hurt her and that he needed to listen to her. That might work in a normal relationship, but it won’t work with a narcissist. The narcissist isn’t interested in your pain. He is only interested in his own.

Over the years, “turnabout is fair play” came to mean something like revenge. If someone does something unpleasant or mean to you, then you are free to do something similar to them. But even that doesn’t work with the narcissist. The narcissist is mean, then you are hurt. Then the narcissist does another mean thing. If you express your pain, then you are blamed for hurting the narcissist. There is no turnabout with a narcissist.

We sometimes say that a person “can hand it out, but he can’t take it.” He can tease or flirt or abuse, but if the same is done to him, that’s different. Suddenly the thing he said was just in fun wasn’t as funny. The narcissist can mess with the food on your plate, but you better not touch his. She can tell a demeaning story about you in public, but you better not tell what you know about her. The moment you turn the situation back on the narcissist, you become an enemy.

You see, the narcissist is a creature that lives in constant fear. Fear of exposure. Fear of missing out. Fear of being rejected or ignored. Fear of being considered unimportant. All the boasting and manipulation comes out of the attempt to mitigate situations that present these threats. The irrational rage and aggression that most experience in their narcissistic relationships come when the narcissist feels threatened.

You don’t get a turn if the narcissist wants another. You don’t get to say your opinion if the narcissist has proclaimed his as fact. You don’t get to hit back or talk back or even expect an apology. Why? Because in comparison to what the narcissist feels, you simply do not count.

So what do you do? Well, you consider the cost, and you do what you think is right. Maybe it will be another thing you just choose to bear. Maybe it will be worthwhile to speak up. Just know two things. First, there will be a price to pay. If the narcissist sees you as competition or an enemy (which happens easily) he/she may be ruthless in dealing with you. We speak of “narcissistic rage,” an anger that hides just below the surface. Prepare yourself for it.

Second, you will not win. Very few of us are willing to compromise our own values in fighting the narcissist. We cannot hand out what they hand out. They are willing to destroy. They fight dirty and relentlessly. Narcissists seek power. They weaponize information. He/she knows your secrets and will not be afraid to shout them from the housetop. What you would never do to another person, the narcissist will do without hesitation or regret.

Once again, if you are in a relationship with a narcissist and can get out, do it. If you are dating or just began to realize your new friend is narcissistic, you might want to step back… a long way. If you can’t get out, find ways to cultivate support and health for yourself. The narcissist does not see you as a real person, nor does he/she care. You are in a battle where the other does not play fairly.


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The Narcissist and your Family

It’s Narcissist Friday!

For this post, I want to define “family” in a broad way.  Not trying to be politically correct, just aware that those who have the position of family in our lives may not necessarily be related to us by blood or law.  So, feel free to include your close friends, your extended family, and others you respect and/or love in this definition.

The narcissist sees your family, other people important in your life, in the same way he sees everyone: as tools, toys, or obstacles.  It doesn’t really matter if the narcissist is your spouse, your boss, your pastor, or your friend.  Your narcissist will use or treat the people in your life in much the same way as she treats you.

Many victims of narcissism dread the holidays.  Narcissist boss will probably assign more work over the holiday.  N friend will probably call “just to talk” while you are trying to get things ready for your family.  N spouse will either dominate the time or refuse to participate, whatever works to put the focus on him.  The narcissist cannot abide the idea that your attention would go to someone else.  It doesn’t matter that your kids are home from college.  It doesn’t matter that you haven’t seen your parents in a long time.  It doesn’t matter who has died or who is dying.  It isn’t about them.

Remember, the narcissist does not see people in the same way the rest of us do.  To him people are simply part of the environment.  Some are resources; some are in the way; some are just there.  The only real thing the narcissist wants from people is their admiration.  Your family should fall down at his feet and worship.

If they do not worship him, then they are competition for your worship of him.  He may actively seek to stop you from gathering with them.  He may be cruel or obnoxious so they will stay away.  He may become the victim himself to keep your attention on him.  Whatever it takes.

As I write this, the Dear Abby column for the day (4-4-12) has a letter from a woman who is torn between her friend and her husband.  Both are graduating on the same day and far enough apart so she can’t attend both ceremonies.  Her friend wants her to skip out on her husband’s graduation.  This is narcissistic behavior.  The friend wants to be more important, wants her day to be recognized above that of the husband.  Never mind that this is the husband!  Family is just in the way.

Many narcissists mock the family of their victims.  They make fun of your family in order to remind you that they are superior to your family.  You would be better off paying attention to your narcissist.  They mock the love and loyalty of family.

But, to be fair, many narcissists feel the same way about their own families.  In fact, some narcissists are cruel toward and distant from their family members.  They hate being reminded that there are people who know some of their secrets, their failings and fears.  They hate the assumption of relationship and rights that family has.  They hate the fact that some people refuse to be twisted by their manipulations.

So what do you do?  The answer again lies in boundaries and the necessity of maintaining a distance between the narcissist and your identity.  Maybe he doesn’t want to go to your parents’ for the holiday.  Go without him.  Maybe your friend does call during the event.  Don’t answer the phone.  Maybe your boss does assign more work that weekend.  Do what you can and don’t do what you can’t.  Stay in charge of who you are.  Don’t even do what I say, just do what you want or need to do.

And accept the fact that you will pay a price.  The price to maintain close relationships with family and friends will be the narcissist’s anger and manipulations.  Yes, it will hurt sometimes, but you must keep those relationships active.  It is classic behavior for narcissists to separate their victims from the support in their lives.  Your family, however you define it, is your support.  Don’t lose it or you may lose yourself.


Filed under Narcissism