How to deal with a narcissistic personality


#1

My SIL has several narcissistic personality traits which cause her and myself to butt heads quite often. Usually I try to avoid her for the sake of my dw. Other than avoiding her and ignoring her, are there other things that I can do to be around her without butting heads with her? I'm looking for advice because I find that as I get older and more secure I'm more likely to stand up to her and this causes problems. There are certain areas where I will and do put my foot down.


#2

She’s your sister-in-law and it’s unlikely she has any real power over your life. I can’t imagine a scenario where you NEED her to agree with you, or even acknowledge that your argument has merit. What do the two of you disagree about?


#3

There is an Aunt that doesn’t have children. So my wife and my sil are providing for her.

I agree that she doesn’t have any power over me, but I still feel the need to “play nice” when it comes to how she treats my family and realitives. I want to keep peace, but also not bow down to her wishes. There doesn’t seem to be much overlap in that though.


#4

It seems you’ve been fortunate enough to not come across this personality type. Consider yourself richly blessed for that.

Nechasin, as you’ve identified, avoidance is about the best you can do. Probably the sanest and number one choice.

If you’re a live and let live kind of person, which it sounds like you are, narcissists will get your goat every time. It sounds like you know how she works though. Can you stomach it to just let her have her way? (That will make her happy) Can you manage with your words at least to “suck up” to her ie not just be civil, but be her supplier? (“Oh, you’re so wonderful, clever, yadda, yadda…”). I’ve never found I could do it, but maybe you’re more spiritual and mature than me.

I have seen it done though. I have seen people give the narcissist what they want, although they didn’t agree with it. I have more integrity than that, and it sounds like you do too. They can be played like a fiddle though. I have seen it done very skilfully by someone who knew how to do it. I once saw a woman who was able to provide narcissistic supply while negotiating a level playing field and it was awesome to watch. Complete sucking up while skilfully manipulating the horrible narcissist at the same time. That’s talent! Made me laugh inside.:smiley:

eg say if you don’t want her to comment about how you discipline your children, just for fun, try saying, “You’re so wonderful and caring, that’s why I know you like to mind your own business on these matters. That’s what’s great about you.” (Then puke inside :D) That’s the only approach I’ve seen that works.

Best wishes.


#5

I'm currently dealing with a similar situation at work. I have a very small sales force and one guy in particular makes me crazy. I have found that avoidance and yes some clever "supplying" is the best remedy. I agree it bothers me from an integrity standpoint. I have about 17 years of management experience and run across this personality type a time or two. I usually had the luxury of simply eliminating the from the team. In this case, mostly due to the economy, I have not had that luxury.

The thing that probably bothers you the most is that you want to solve the problem, but in your heart you know it's not really possible. You will not be able to change her. If she is truly a narcissist, she simply cannot grasp the idea that there is a world that exists outside her own needs and desires. She is incapable of behaving. You should feel sorry for her.


#6

[quote="Nechasin, post:3, topic:178367"]
There is an Aunt that doesn't have children. So my wife and my sil are providing for her.

I agree that she doesn't have any power over me, but I still feel the need to "play nice" when it comes to how she treats my family and realitives. I want to keep peace, but also not bow down to her wishes. There doesn't seem to be much overlap in that though.

[/quote]

I cannot offer a great deal of advise here since we don't know many details. However there are a couple of things I can offer.
[LIST=1]
*]Learn to discern what is and is not important. Keep silent or even ascent to the small things to keep peace. Stand your ground on the important things
*]Recognize that her issues are not your problem. Also recognize that arguing with such a person is counterproductive.

*]Don't get sucked into arguments. Let her do all the arguing/ranting she wants. You cannot control that.
*]When in a disagreement state you position and let her state hers. Be willing to discuss things in a calm manner. If she gets angry and beligerent make sure you hold your temper and calmly restate your position and why.
*]If she will not let you talk, then simply stop talking to her but continue to discuss with others.
[/LIST]

The main thing in all of the above is to make sure you do not get sucked into her way of doing things. That is, arguing - bullying - etc. It does no good and only muddies the waters. By refusing to get sucked in, you maintian control and are seen as the one with the better understanding of issues, seeking consensus rather than trying to bully.

Hope this helps.

Peace
James


#7

TheAuthor, you’re awesome :thumbsup:

I only became familiar with this personality type too late in my life to handle it well. After my xh left and someone told me about this. Oh, if I had only known years before! :eek:

Having said that, the chore here seems to be interacting with them versus not being bullied and bulldozed and trying to interact with a fake person while maintaining your own integrity.

Because they have no integrity and they HATE yours. So they’re going to make you either surrender yours in dealing with them (so they can call you a hypocrite) or they’ll make you sorry you tried to hang onto yours.

It’s easier to just dig a hole in the ground and pull the dirt over your head than to deal with this kind of person.

But here’s some suggestions.

Remember. You’re dealing with a person to whom the only thing that matters is the external appearance. As long as they LOOK good, kind and gentle, they don’t have to BE good, kind and gentle.

(Make sure this SIL isn’t draining all of Auntie’s bank accounts and using her credit cards for expensive shopping trips, by the way. When a narcissist becomes interested in taking care of an elderly relative, my alarm bells go off. Narcissists are not usually about taking care of other people unless there is something in it for themselves.)

When my kids were little, they wanted to play with the remote control. So they wouldn’t ruin it, we got them a fake one. It didn’t ruin our integrity as parents to divert the child from doing damage. Pretty quickly, they realized the fake remote was useless and avoided it and went back to the real thing. In your interactions with a narcissist, throwing them “fake remote controls” is not being dishonest, it’s just diverting the narcissist from causing real damage. Unlike an 19 month old child, they’ll be satisfied with “the fake remote.”

So:

Here’s your diversions.

When they explode in anger and hurl accusations and say you did things that you never would have imagined, trying to defend yourself is pointless. Throw them a fake remote: “You seem so angry about this. It must be very upsetting to be so angry. I’m sorry you feel that way. What can I do on my end.”

(Yes, you are sorry they feel that way. They make everyone sorry when they are angry. No surrender of integrity there.)

They’ll read that as you being subservient. No one said you had to DO what they said. Sometimes if they feel they told you off that’s enough for them.

Throw them useless praise. “Gee, Matilda, I see you drank all of Auntie’s 12-year-old scotch. That’s good you got rid of it for her. We wouldn’t want her poisoning herself.”
(Find ways to inject your own humor into encounters with them. They don’t have to get the joke, but you need to do it to maintain your own sanity in an encounter.)

Be careful accusing them of anything outright. Since they are paranoid and usually are doing the accusing, they can react badly to this. Instead of “Gee, looks like you spent $400 at Macy’s on Auntie’s credit card! Gosh, you thief!” Better: “Auntie went to Macy’s and spent $400 on spandex tights and Manolos. Where are they. We need to take them back. She can’t afford this. Who let her out of the house?”

Seriously… it’s unwinnable dealing with an NPD. Your wife probably is sick of her sister after all these years, but inexplicably loves her and hopes that one day she’ll wake up and be a normal sister like everyone else has. She is mourning the sister she’ll never have. Hearing you criticize her is painful. Just listen when she vents and say “I"m glad I married the better sister.”

Don’t get sucked into disagreements. It’s amazing the things they’ll pick fights about. My xh once sucked a relative into a 30 minute argument over whether the guy who went to market to market to buy a fat pig went home again home again jigity jig, or jigity jog. Of course he was wrong, because he left out the hog part, but that’s the kind of stupidity they’ll waste your brain cells on just to say up when you say down.

Yeah, they make you want to poke your ear drums out with an ice pick so you’ll never hear their arguments again.

:shrug:

Sometimes just looking at them with a smile on your face while they’re talking and saying nothing is the best weapon. :wink: When they stop and say “What’s your problem” you smile and say “Nothing at all” and turn around and walk away. They MIGHT get it. :wink:


#8

[quote="Nechasin, post:1, topic:178367"]
My SIL has several narcissistic personality traits which cause her and myself to butt heads quite often. Usually I try to avoid her for the sake of my dw. Other than avoiding her and ignoring her, are there other things that I can do to be around her without butting heads with her? I'm looking for advice because I find that as I get older and more secure I'm more likely to stand up to her and this causes problems. There are certain areas where I will and do put my foot down.

[/quote]

Avoid when you can and put your foot down when necessary.

But whenever possible when you are in her presence, find as many ways as you can to honestly and verbally show appreciation for her and her talents. It seems counter intuitive but my guess is that it will greatly improve your relationship.


#9

[quote="Nechasin, post:1, topic:178367"]
My SIL has several narcissistic personality traits which cause her and myself to butt heads quite often. Usually I try to avoid her for the sake of my dw. Other than avoiding her and ignoring her, are there other things that I can do to be around her without butting heads with her? I'm looking for advice because I find that as I get older and more secure I'm more likely to stand up to her and this causes problems. There are certain areas where I will and do put my foot down.

[/quote]

Is it real NPD or is it someone just acting like one? I mean because there are certain things you can't do when you're dealing with someone who a has medical problem that you can and should do when dealing with someone who's being a jerk.


#10

I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing God works. I swear, if your details had been just slightly different, I would have thought you were talking about the situation I’m dealing with. My SIL, while never formally diagnosed, is believed to have NPD. I do echo the sentiment that if your SIL really does have NPD, you are in an un-winnable situation. Everyone in her life is. I know that sucks, but it’s true. You can put your foot down, but be prepared for the backlash. You might as well go outside and try to nail some jello to a tree b/c you’ll have better luck w/that than coming out on top with your SIL.
I can tell you though, that sometimes, you may luck out. She may feel like you’re just not worth her time in any particular moment. But know that those moments are very few and far btwn. Everything…I mean e-v-e-r-y thing is viewed from their p.o.v. “How will this effect ME?” or “what am I getting out of this?” That’s what you’re dealing with. So, if you put your foot down or draw anything that may slightly resemble a line in the sand, then I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that’ll just be stirring a big pot of crazy, and your wife will have to deal with it, too. If your dw is more passive, then that gives her sister all the more power. People with NPD steamroll over everyone else. It’s very sad b/c what they’re really dealing with is a very deep-seeded inferiority - that’s why they need to inflate everything. Everything is over-the-top b/c they’re so important. They feel entitled to everything just b/c they are “themself”. It’s very maddening for anyone who has to deal with them, and trust me when I say that they are not happy either.

So in the end, you have to ask yourself what it’s worth. If you know the outcome, are you willing to deal with it? My poor dh is just really coming to grips w/his sister’s bx, and while he’s still convinced (on some level I think) that he’ll break her, I think he knows, like you, that this is just a cross to bear. If your dw doesn’t want commotion, and it’s not effecting your family in a negative way (i.e. interferring w/the normal daily function and happiness), then let it go. Whenever you have to be around her, say, “Lord, please put your arm around my shoulder and your hand across my mouth.” :wink:
I’m with you in spirit, brother… :angel1:


#11

Do you want to be friends with her or do you want her to cease some behavior that is hurting your family?

If she is doing things that you feel you have to protect your family from, maybe you should very strongly put her in her place every time she does that and make the consequences for behaving that too high.

If she is just opinionated and feels the need to argue about everything, the only thing you can really do is ignore her.


#12

Is that really true though, what if after she does something hurtful or rude he simply throws her out of his house? Maybe then she’ll realize that if she wants to hang around she can’t mistreat people?


#13

While it might not be a bad idea, the plain fact is that she will only construe such treatment as unfair to her. She can never see what she does to others as being somehow unfair.
As other have said such a person is virutally incapable of seeing anything axcept their own viewpoint.

Peace
James


#14

[quote="flyingfish, post:12, topic:178367"]
Is that really true though, what if after she does something hurtful or rude he simply throws her out of his house? Maybe then she'll realize that if she wants to hang around she can't mistreat people?

[/quote]

If only..."she'll realize"... :( it's simply & sadly just not that way. People w/NPD, if that's what she's geniunely suffering from, will never "just realize" anything, unless it's on their terms and /or benefits them in some way. Therapy, if you could actually get the person to attend, is usually pretty intensive, and most patients don't even see the need to go in the first place b/c they don't see anything wrong w/themselves. Even if everyone had the same story in the family about how they felt in dealing with her, she would deflect their opinions back onto them -something is flawed in THEM..never her.
For example, my dh was just recently trying to make a point to his sister, who is angry w/us over Christmas plans. She is going out of town to another sibling's home, but no one invited us (b/c she knows my dh is the only one in the family who'll stand up to her). So, when she goes out of town, another relative that lives near her will be alone at Christmas (and that relative doesn't mind at all b/c he'll be working). So, she called my dh to "instruct" him (& oh yes, I mean it's presented like, "I need you to...") to pack me and the kids up and go sit w/that relative while she was away! It's about a 5hr ride for us. So of course, my dh was like, "um....nooooo", which of course went over like a lead balloon. The convo went round n' round like a mad dog chasing it's tail, until she goes, "when was the last time you were here for Christmas, huh?!" (keep in mind SHE's not even going to be there), and instead of answering her (b/c we've been there countless times), he says to her, "When have you EVER been to my house for Christmas?" We've been married 11 yrs & she's never been here for Christmas). Her come back to that took all of 2 seconds and it was a very nasty, "We're not talking about me, we're talking about you!!" (deflection!). Like as if she had been standing in front of him, she would've been poking him in the chest. She never would answer the question - he asked like 4 times in a row. The convo ended w/my dh going, "if you can't answer that simple question, I'm going to have to say 'good-night'". She never would, so he cut her off during her tirade, said "good-night" and hung up the phone. She hasn't spoken to him in over a week, BUT she's doing her best to make sure everyone knows what a pig he is and how horrible he is as a brother to her...
This is what it's like dealing with my SIL. Maybe the OP's SIL isn't like that or that bad, but that is just one very small example of what someone w/NPD can be like. I could fill 10pgs easily w/all the irrational insults and perceived slights my SIL has "endured" over the yrs, and no one better dare challenge any of it.

So, if the OP were to kick his SIL out of his house after a rude comment or some arguement, or just over yrs of pent up frustration, she would probably errupt like a volcano. Then, his dw would be smack dab in the middle. The sister will turn to her like, "you're gonna let him treat ME that way?!" and what's his dw supposed to do? Loose her sister or side w/her husband? He doesn't seem to want to put his dw in that position. Enter the other members of the family....who's gonna side w/the OP vs. who's gonna side with the SIL just to shut her up? As they say, "blood is thicker than water". Even if the entire family secretly agreed that she was THE biggest p.i.a., to deal with, the OP is going to end up the outcast, trust me. This is exactly why I never say anything to my SIL. I talk about it w/my dh, but I let him handle it, b/c she's not my sister. It's just not my place. My dh feels the exact same way as I do, but what's he supposed to do? He doesn't want to loose his sister and I suggest that the OP's dw doesn't want to loose hers either. That's why I suggest the OP just ignore his SIL's behavior unless and until it starts directly effecting his family, children, and/or his dw.
Sorry, I didn't mean to hijack the thread w/my boo-hoo story. I was just trying to make a point. :o


#15

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.