Dealing with a narcissist in your family is never easy, especially if it is someone close to you, like your mother, father or sibling.
Experts estimate that up to 5% of people have NPD. It is worth remembering that this number includes only these people who were officially diagnosed. There are many more people who are on a narcissistic spectrum or who even have NPD who don’t seek any help and are never officially diagnosed.
There are a lot of families where you suffer because of your close family member’s behaviour but you really struggle to pinpoint what is going on. Narcissists are master manipulators. They will confuse you and gaslight you so that you feel really lost about what is going on.
People with narcissistic traits are experts at making others feel very unlovable and worthless because narcissists will do everything to paint their illusionary picture that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them but there is a lot wrong with you.
Narcissism is a very dangerous mental condition that can lead to a break-up within a family but it can also make you question your own sanity.
Here are 7 most typical signs that you might be dealing with a narcissist in your family:
- Grandiose self-importance
- Lack of empathy
- Fixation with appearance
- Constant need of praise and admiration
- Inability to apologise
- Tendency to exploit others without any guilt or shame
- Tendency to humiliate and bully others (especially those who are able to look behind their narcissistic mask and see their true colours)
Narcissism can vary in its strength. Some people might exhibit all the above qualities. Others perhaps two or three. The more narcissistic qualities someone has, the more difficult it is to be around them while also taking care of your mental health.
What can you do to take care of your mental health and well-being when you are around this individual? How can you deal with a narcissistic family member in such a way that you take good care of yourself?
1. Avoid direct confrontation.
There is absolutely no point in fighting with a narcissist. They will never really listen to you. Their ego is so fragile that they are completely closed to any insight or feedback that you might want to offer them.
They see the world in all or nothing terms and they are not open to accepting another point of view. They also have a deep-seated belief that they are always right so if you don’t agree with them, they will immediately see you as their enemy. If you do feel that you need to address a certain issue with them, do it in a smart way. You can try to give them negative feedback in very small doses. Make sure that you also bombard them with flattery while you do it. There is a chance that they will take it and you won’t fall victim to their narcissistic rage.
2. Set clear boundaries.
There is nothing you can do to control their behaviour but you can control what you do and how you want to be treated.
If this narcissistic individual has a tendency to bombard you with rude, harmful comments, you need to find courage in yourself to make it clear that you are not going to tolerate such behaviour.
I admit that it is not easy, especially knowing that they will probably ignore what you are saying or they will see your words as a personal attack. But the fact is that you need to make yourself and your mental health a priority. If you don’t try to set up clear boundaries, things will most probably get even worse.
3. Focus on yourself and your well-being.
Making yourself a priority is absolutely necessary if you want to stay sane while dealing with narcissists.
Narcissists use a lot of manipulation tactics, such as gaslighting, and it is absolutely essential to take care of your mental health and well-being if you want to survive the relationship with this narcissistic individual.
Taking care of yourself means that you learn about yourself and you know what works for you and what doesn’t. You know the boundaries you want to have respected in your life.
You also have enough self-love that you won’t simply engage in any activities or behaviours that don’t align with your values.
You nourish yourself regularly with things that make you happy and you don’t accept compromises in this self-nourishing area of your life in order to fulfil anyone’s narcissistic needs.
Developing self-love is often not easy. It is not a quick process as we tend to be our harshest critics but if you want to organise your life in a healthy way or if you want to cut off contact with a narcissist, you will need a lot of self-love. If you would like to learn more about various strategies that will help you strengthen self-love, read my article “8 simple but powerful practices to develop self-love“
4. Limit the contact.
One of the best strategies you can use to manage the relationship with a narcissist is limiting the time you spend with them. LImited contact will give you time and mental space to keep away any toxicity this person carries around with them.
If you decide to limit your contact with the narcissistic family member, remember to set up clear boundaries and rules regarding your contact. Let’s say you want to see this person only on the 1st each month, you need to make sure you communicate this to them clearly and then stick to your schedule, and if they try to arrange a meeting with you on other days, refuse to meet them.
5. Cut the contact altogether.
In some situations, there is nothing left to do but to cut them out of your life. If you have been suffering from abuse for years and you have tried everything to make the situation better, there might be simply no other way to take care of yourself and your mental health (sometimes also physical health) than to completely cut this person off from your life.
It is not an easy decision, especially if it concerns one (or both) of your parents or your siblings. You will need to prepare yourself emotionally to take this step. You will have to consider a lot of other factors, like perhaps your financial situation or your circle of family friends. You will have to bear in mind that most probably your narcissistic relative will try and turn everyone against you.
You will need to be prepared that you will lose touch with many other relatives, not just this one. It is sad but very often that’s how it looks like.
6. Seek professional help.
Narcissistic abuse can be extremely hurtful and damaging to your self-esteem and your mental health. Remember that there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help.
If you decide to take this step, make sure that you choose someone who understands narcissism well. The last thing you want is to be invalidated by the therapist you choose to see.
Therapists who do know how narcissists work can provide invaluable help to rebuild your confidence and self-esteem and they can also equip you with tools that will help you deal with narcissists in a more healthy way.
I hope you found this article useful. As I said at the beginning, dealing with narcissists is never easy, but if the narcissistic individual is a close family member, things get even more complicated. If you need any help in navigating your relationship with a narcissistic family member or you need help with your healing journey, please feel free to reach out.