narcissistic family member

Home For The Holidays? How To Navigate A Narcissistic Family Member With Ease

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A recent study revealed that 31% of Americans described the holiday season as “frantic.” How’s that for some festivity?

Even though our modern society may associate the holidays with tight-knit togetherness, family unity, and limitless cheer, those of us with a narcissistic family member or partner know that this season often evokes a sense of downright dread.

People who are closest to narcissists often become less focused on them during the holidays, and so narcissists tend to act up more during the holiday season, performing the seasonal devalue and discard, triangulating family members, and generally creating more drama and chaos to force people’s attention back onto them. 

Managing toxic partners and relatives is undoubtedly challenging in daily living, but the holidays have the uncanny ability to extract even the worst of the family dysfunction.

That said, you can reclaim your sanity, uphold your dignity, and learn to navigate this potentially treacherous season.

Firmly Own Your Control

If you have narcissistic family members, you know what it feels like to run through their wild gauntlet. No matter how well you think you know their tricks, you always feel like you’re losing. No matter how well you think you mentally prepare yourself for the event, you still feel unequipped.

However, you are an adult, and you need to remind yourself that you control yourself.

Narcissists aim to distort your reality by convincing you that you don’t have a valid voice or opinion. They attempt to manipulate and control your thinking into what best serves them and their interests at that particular time. Recognize this, and keep it into perspective. You have needs and individual thoughts, and you are allowed to honor them.

Don’t discuss personal matters.  You may be mocked, ridiculed, or dismissed.  You certainly won’t get a meaningful dialogue going, unless you cave to their opinions or mockery.  

Narcissists employ a variety of disturbing tactics to maintain a sense of authority and control. Whether it’s through direct (physical abuse, shouting, intimidation) or indirect means (hoovering, love bombing), all these tactics aim to accomplish one task: restore and convey power.

You don’t have play victim to these strategies. Remember that you have the control and that you are your own person.

Don’t Be a Punching Bag

There’s a good chance that you’ve spent years adapting, enabling, minimizing, or evading your narcissistic family member’s abuse- all to keep the household’s semblance of peace. How well has it really worked?

Instead of tolerating this insanity, you need to remove yourself from the punching bag mentality and step into more confidence.

Stick to your boundaries when you must engage with toxic people. In other words, stick up for your beliefs. Do not laugh when it hurts. Do not smile when you want to cry. Do not tolerate abuse, name-calling, or passive-aggression.

Make your boundaries clear and repeat them as often as you need. Stay calm and even-keeled in your tone. By raising your voice or becoming aggressive, you remain in competition with the narcissist. The problem is that you are competing on an uneven playing field, and you’re going to lose.

Consider Skipping The Event Altogether

You are an adult, and you are not obligated to make time for anyone. Even though you may always head home for the holidays, you have the choice of whether or not you change this behavior.

If visiting family evokes a sense of dread or disarray or if a relative continuously attempts to violate your boundaries or disregard your respect, why should you voluntarily spend your sacred time with them? Why put yourself through that agony?

Think about it. Do you care more about making a positive impression on someone you don’t really like or your own mental-wellbeing? If you’re fixated on impressions, it’s time to take a serious look inward.

Do not count on the narcissist to do what they promise to do for you.  They make promises to keep you enmeshed in the relationship and hopeful for a healed future with them.  It’s Future-Faking 101.

Go out and create your own holiday joy; do not rely on them to provide this for you.  They won’t. 

Of course, complete abstinence from such events may not be a viable option if you co-parent with small children and you want them involved in family affairs.

With that said, as a parent, you uphold the responsibility of demonstrating healthy love, boundaries, and self-respect for your family. Consider that the next time you drag yourself to an event where narcissistic abuse can occur.

Create Your Own Traditions

There certainly isn’t any designated law mandating the picturesque Thanksgiving meal or glitzy New Year’s Eve party. In fact, having creative and unique outlets of your own choice diffuse the tension often associated with old, painful traditions.

This is why it’s essential to have a safe and supportive group outside of the narcissistic family member. This is the group that can help you stay grounded and positive during a difficult season.

Whether it’s having a white elephant party with your neighbors or going out for Chinese on Thanksgiving with your partner, consider how you can honor your needs during this special time. Even if it’s unconventional, it’s worth a try! It may become one of your favorite, cherished memories.

Final Thoughts: Avoid Making It Personal With A Narcissistic Family Member

Narcissists manipulate, lie, and control people to feel confident and assured within themselves. It doesn’t matter the time of year; they need to constantly demonstrate their power, even when it’s at the expense of the people they claim to love.

For this reason, it’s essential that you identify your own reasons and motives for interacting with this family member.

After all, if history keeps repeating itself every holiday season, it might be time to consider what changes YOU can make to secure a joyous and peaceful occasion this year.

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Leave a Comment:

Shirley Akpelu says November 20, 2018

Good information in this article. If family members are toxic or narcissistic, you don’t have to do the holidays with them. Stay no contact. Why waste precious time with flying monkeys or narcs. Use your time wisely with genuine friends. Let go of the fake. Or at the very least, know who your enemy is and keep calm, and keep quiet as necessary. You won’t regret it. Stay in your lane and keep your boundaries. Happy Holidays!

lisa thomson says November 20, 2018

This is spot-on, Kim. It’s too easy to fall into the pattern of thinking we ‘have’ to participate in family functions but we always have the power to choose. It’s not easy.

Catherine says November 20, 2018

Excellent post as usual. How could I thank you? You describe so well the narcissistic behavior and suggest pertinent solutions to stop being manipulated! The kind of soltions that you can not find alone when you are the victim of narcissistic peopke. Thank you so much!

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