8 Tips to Deal with a Narcissistic Family Member
When a narcissist is your partner, a friend, or a coworker, you can remove yourself from that relationship. But what happens when that person is your parent or sibling? How to deal with a narcissistic family member?
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is one of the personality disorders characterized by an exaggerated sense of one’s importance, lack of empathy, extreme need for admiration, and problematic relationships.
It is estimated that this mental health disease affects more than 16 million adult Americans or 5% of the population in the United States. Men make up between 50 and 75 percent of those diagnosed with NPD.
People with NPD are self-absorbed with an inflated sense of self-importance. They lack empathy but can be highly sensitive to criticism. They are very charismatic and persuasive, with a strong sense of entitlement and a belief that they are “special.” So, they often display arrogant behavior and attitudes.
Narcissists show an excessive demand for admiration and attention, taking advantage of other people to meet their own needs but constantly complaining about being a victim and being taken advantage of.
These thinking and behavior patterns develop in childhood and adolescence and persist into adulthood.
It’s Not Always Easy to Notice When Family Members are Taking Advantage of You
Narcissistic manipulation and abuse can be subtle and go undiscovered for a long time. Narcissists can be incredibly charming and convincing. They use various manipulation strategies to twist the truth, play the victim, and make you feel guilty.
They will use gaslighting to dismiss your feelings and make you feel confused and insecure. A narcissistic family member can present themselves as a caring person who puts everyone else’s needs first while they actually only care about themselves.
However, you may constantly feel that something is off because a toxic relationship with a narcissistic family member makes you feel constrained, uncomfortable, and depleted.
So, how do you recognize and deal with a narcissistic family member?
Signs of a Narcissistic Family Member
Narcissists are excessively self-centered and incapable of forming healthy relationships. They lack empathy and always make you feel guilty and responsible for their feelings while they don’t care about yours.
Narcissists are often overly involved in your life, criticizing you and using triangulation to pull other family members into conflicts. They see things in black-and-white, and their love is conditional. However, a narcissist will love-bomb you to make you feel you owe them something.
Also, a narcissistic family member never accepts responsibility for their actions. They are possessive and controlling. They have a short fuse and will lash out at you for setting boundaries. So, you may feel anxious and confused around them.
How to Deal with a Narcissistic Family Member
When a narcissist is your family member, you cannot avoid getting deeply involved with them. While ending the relationship with a narcissist may be the best option, it may be difficult to cut ties and break free from their abuse when this person is a family member.
So, here are eight tips on dealing with a narcissistic family member.
1. Know Your Boundaries (and Communicate Them)
Boundaries are a distancing behavior. However, boundaries can help you establish your identity, define your responsibilities, and protect your rights. When you’re with a narcissist, setting boundaries to protect your mental health and well-being is essential.
Boundaries with a narcissistic family member could include how much time you spend with them or how much personal information you share with them. It also gives you the right not to put up with their verbal abuse, drama, and other attempts to manipulate you.
Make it clear to your narcissistic family member what behavior you will not tolerate.
2. Stay Firm on Your Boundaries!
Narcissists constantly push the boundaries of others. Even if you set strict limits, your narcissistic family member may disregard them. If this happens, try not to react to their provocations.
3. Avoid Direct Confrontation
Try to avoid direct conflicts with a narcissist to avoid getting trapped in their abuse cycle. Don’t feel compelled to defend, justify, or explain yourself since nothing you do will ever satisfy a narcissist. Instead, they will do anything to involve you in endless arguments and accusations.
Just stick to the facts and avoid engaging in unnecessary conversation. Don’t respond to their attacks. Don’t let your narcissistic family member engage you in endless blame and guilt because this is their way of maintaining power over you.
4. Reject Your Self-Limiting Beliefs
Your self-limiting beliefs may play an important role in narcissistic manipulation and abuse patterns. Narcissists prey on insecure people with low self-esteem because they provide an ideal narcissistic supply.
So, use affirmations, journaling, and self-compassion to reject self-limiting beliefs. Instead, acknowledge that you are a valuable person who deserves love and respect.
5. Build a Support System
Having reliable friends or other people outside the immediate family can be a powerful support system when dealing with a narcissistic family member. Telling people, you trust about your experience can help you deal with the situation as they can provide support and help you feel safe.
Consider joining a support group as well. Sharing your story with those who can connect can be validating and healing. Finally, if you think the challenges are too great for you to overcome on your own, consider seeking therapy or coaching.
6. Reduce Contact Over Time
If a narcissist consistently violates your limits, consider restricting or stopping contact with them. For example, set limits on how frequently you text them, answer their calls or spend time with them. This is an important aspect of self-care when dealing with a narcissistic family member.
7. Learn to Say “No”
While doing favors for those you care about is acceptable, it is time to tighten your limits if you discover that you are giving a lot and receiving very little or nothing in return. Limits might range from saying no when your sister begs you to lend her your clothes again to refusing to reveal some aspects of your life to your mother.
8. Practice Regular Self-Compassion
One of the most critical aspects of boundary setting is learning to treat yourself with self-compassion and kindness. Self-compassion can help you reject self-limiting beliefs, overcome shame and resentment, and cope with anxiety and grief.
When Should You Consider Cutting Contact with a Family Member?
Unfortunately, maintaining communication with close family members is not always possible.
Cutting your narcissistic family member off may be the safest thing when toxic family relationships start impacting your mental health, other relationships, and well-being.