Gifts & Narcissists

Giving gifts can be a wonderful thing.  It makes the receiver feel loved because someone would listen closely enough to know what gift would make the receiver happy, then spend the time to pick out this gift, spend the time to wrap  it up pretty & all this shows that they cared enough to want to do these things.  The giver is also blessed because there is a great joy in seeing someone’s face light up when they get a special gift that you are responsible for picking out.


Unfortunately with narcissists, this isn’t the case.


For one thing, narcissists are notoriously terrible at giving gifts.  To give a good gift, you have to look beyond yourself.  You have to listen to what the receiver says about their needs & wants.  You have to know things about them, such as their favorite color, the size clothing they wear, styles they like, their favorite author or singer.  Narcissists can’t be bothered with such “trivial” matters, so they will choose what they like or what they think you need instead.


Narcissists also give you gifts in order to try to make you more like what they think you should be.  Clothing in a color or style that they think you should wear instead of clothing you like, or a CD from a band they like instead of from a band you like.  Probably fifteen years ago or so, during a conversation with my mother in-law that took place not long before Christmas, I mentioned the fact I don’t like to cook.  I do it of course, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it.  For Christmas that year, she & both of my sisters in-law gave me a lot of cooking paraphernalia.  I got spoons, spatulas, cook books, food & the largest, ugliest pasta dish I have ever seen in my life (I did find a good use for it eventually.  When the roof leaked, in the short time before it was fixed, I used that ugly dish to catch the rain water that leaked into the attic


And of course, in true narcissistic fashion, when they give gifts, the purpose is self-serving.  Giving makes them feel like they are good people.  See how caring they are?  They gave someone a gift!  Yay for the narcissist!!  My mother gives me things constantly, often things she has gotten as gifts but didn’t like, clothes she wants rid of, clothes she will buy for me because she likes the color/style (not that I like them), or things she has received in return for donating to a charity.  For the longest time, I felt like I should hold onto these things, I think because on some level, I thought these gifts meant she actually cared for me.  Once I realized that she was giving me things not to bless me, but to serve her own agenda or clean out her own junk, I didn’t feel that need any longer to hold onto her gifts.  Some, yes, but not many.


There also may be another motive when receiving gifts from a narcissist.  They may want something from you.  They may want you to do something for them, so when they ask for you to do that favor, they can say, “How can you say no after I gave you that great gift?”  My in-laws are like that.  Gifts come with strings attached.  They give my husband birthday & Christmas cards with money, & in return, he is to help them with whatever needs they have, no matter how ridiculous.  (Not that he shouldn’t help out his aging parents of course, but when they call him to take one of them to the emergency room rather than 911 in an emergency, something is very wrong!)  Have they ever spelled this out?  No.  It is an unspoken rule, as many narcissistic families have.


Some narcissists also give to others in the hopes of making themselves appear to be the martyr, taken advantage of by ungrateful people.  This often makes the recipient of the gifts feel as if they are taking advantage of the giver, & they offer to repay the “generous” narcissist somehow.


If you receive a gift from a narcissist, just be forewarned- the gift probably has some pretty hefty strings attached to it!



Filed under Narcissism

12 responses to “Gifts & Narcissists

  1. Oh my goodness, this finally helped me to see that I *do* know a person who appears to have a lot of these narcissistic traits you are blogging about. She is not close to me so I didn’t think about it before. But when you mentioned the gifts, it flashed me back to some past events. Indeed, her gift giving was ALWAYS done because she herself wanted to be appreciated and given a gift. She would actually ask for a gift if she gave you something for a holiday and hadn’t heard back for a while! No joke. She would then go on about what a bad person you were for not replying, etc. :-/


    • Oh wow, innerdragon! Yes, that stinks of narcissism, unfortunately! That is something you can count on with a narcissist- even if the gesture is a nice one, it’s never about you. There is ALWAYS a self-serving purpose.


  2. Margaret Morris

    Hi Cynthia
    How astute your writing is. It never ceases to amaze me how narcissists expect to be told “how wonderful” they are after they give their gifts. My mother has said, many times over the years, “how lucky my brother and I are to have such a wonderful mother”. The gifts she gives us are exactly how you described. Things we never wanted or in my case when I turned 60 last June my mother gave me absolutely nothing!! Yet strangers who she barely knows she gives lovely gifts to.
    My mother is on this crusade at the moment to bring up old memories (and I mean years old) related to gifts of money that she very begrudging gave to my brother. She is now using this as emotional blackmail against him. It has upset him terribly and the most shocking part of this is that mum is really happy she has upset him!!!
    My question is when do narcissists ever forget how wonderful they are or how lucky their children are supposted to be to have them?
    Thanks again for your sensational writing Cynthia. Margaret


    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Margaret! You have made my day! 🙂

      Your mother sounds so typical of a narcissistic mother. They are truly evil beings! Naturally strangers get better gifts than you & your brother- she wants to impress them. Sadly narcissistic mothers don’t care about impressing those closest to them such as their husband or children.

      i’m so sorry your brother is going through this. That is so unfair! Yet also not at all surprising.

      To answer your question, narcissists never forget these things & demand to be reminded of them constantly. Remember, under the arrogant exterior lies an extremely insecure person, & insecure people need constant reassurance that they are OK. Narcissists take this to the extreme.


      • Margaret Morris

        Thanks Cynthia for explaining that narcissists are in fact insecure underneath their bullying exterior. I can see this in my mother very clearly.

        She recently moved into an aged care facility but instead of all the usual carrying on about how wonderful she is, mum was actually hesitant to mix with people she did not know.

        However, now she carries on like she has been living there for 20 years and tells all the family “how much all the residents love her so much”. She tells our friends that everyone calls out to her as she is walking along how fantastic it is she has moved there!! However, when my brother and I visit, not one person calls out to her. In fact, if truth be known, we are sure most of the residents haven’t got any idea who she is. It is funny but sad too that this is what she craves, like you said, the constant reassurance that they are OK.


        • Hi Margaret!

          That is very typical, I think. I couldn’t help but think my own mother would behave the same way if she was in that position as yours. You’re so right- it is funny yet sad at the same time how they are. It must be so painful to be that insecure, that you need constant reassurances from everyone. Still, that doesn’t give anyone the right to abuse other people, & I haven’t known of one narcissist yet who doesn’t abuse people with glee on a daily basis.


  3. Laura

    I just exchanged gifts with my narcissistic boyfriend yesterday for Christmas. It didn’t go so well. First he was arguing about something minor then practically throws his gift at me. He did get me a nice gift (a necklace from zales and a purse) but who would want to wear it now! Who gives gifts in anger and throws them. And I am an ungrateful brat he said lol he is something else. I tell him to take my gift to him and get out. He opens it at home and basically reacts exactly how he claimed I would “ungrateful and spoiled.” I design menswear shirts for a living and I gave him 6 shirts in nice designer gift boxes. Also a stocking full of candy he likes and other things I know he likes. Then he texts me saying I didn’t put any thought into his gift and just got him stuff from my job. I cried all night. How rude. Because I didn’t spend as much money as he did my gift wasn’t thoughtful? I can’t put up with his disrespect and lack of empathy any longer. He chooses to treat me this way and I have had enough.


    • I’m sorry he’s treating you so badly! You really don’t deserve it at all! Are you planning on breaking up with him?

      Just for the record- your gifts sound lovely! I want to be on your Christmas list! lol


      • Laura

        Aw, thank you! I really had to tell someone about it because I started to think maybe my gifts weren’t as nice. But I wasn’t able to spend all the money I originally planned. And the way his real personality has been showing itself I didn’t want to put my finances on the line for someone who doesn’t appreciate even the time and energy I put into his gift.
        I don’t want to see him again or talk to him. But I’m having a difficult time going no contact, and if I do I wonder if he might stalk me. It saddens me to realize someone would really be so hurtful but also that I have allowed it. It’s hard. I guess maybe that’s why I’m reaching out..encouragement to help leave.


        • Self doubt is so normal! Narcissists do everything possible to make their victims feel that way.

          Are you on facebook by any chance? I have a group & several ladies in it are recently divorced from narcissistic men. Their experiences may help you. The group is closed too, so only members can see your posts (anyone can see you’re in the group though). The members are super sweet & encouraging- it might help you to join.

          I was married to a narcissist for a few years too. I wouldn’t wish that type of experience on anyone. Life is too short to waste with an abusive narcissist! There are much better men out there that would be glad to treat you right.


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