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 or even make 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 giving them.
With narcissists, this isn’t how this scenario happens.
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 those things, so they give gifts that are what they like or think you need.
Narcissists also give you gifts in order to try to make you more like what they think you should be. Probably in 1999 or so, during a conversation with my mother in-law that took place not long before Christmas, I mentioned that I don’t like to cook, unlike her & her daughters. I didn’t criticize them, just said I didn’t share that with them. For Christmas that year, she & both of my sisters in-law gave me cooking stuff. Spoons, spatulas, cook books, food & the largest, ugliest pasta dish I have ever seen. At least I did find a good use for that. 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 ..lol Everything else was donated, given to my friends or thrown in the trash.
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!
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?” Gifts come with strings attached. They may give birthday & Christmas cards with money inside, & in return, you need to help them with whatever needs they have, no matter how ridiculous or the personal cost to you. It is an unspoken rule 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 somehow, & they offer to repay the “generous” narcissist.
When it comes to giving gifts to a narcissist, it isn’t really a better scenario.
Narcissists are impossible to please. They set these high goals for their victims, then when the victim comes close to it or even reaches it, they say that isn’t what they want, they want something else that is even harder to do. Nothing their victim does is good enough. This scenario plays out similarly with gifts. They may say they want something, but when they receive it, it somehow falls short of their expectations & the giver feels badly.
They also compare gifts. For example, let’s say you gave your parents a gift certificate for their favorite restaurant for their anniversary. A thoughtful gift, but not to them. Instead, they may tell you that their neighbor’s son bought them a 65” television & set it up for them while they were at the grocery store.
This holiday season, if you are in the unfortunate position of exchanging gifts with a narcissist, I hope you remember what I have said. They do these awful things because this is just how dysfunctional, abusive & toxic they are. It truly has nothing to do with you. When they criticize what you give them, remember the nicer your gift, the more they will criticize it. When they give you awful gifts or things that they like knowing you don’t like those things, just say thank you… then later, quietly find a new home for that gift. Maybe a friend of yours could use the item or you could donate to a worthwhile charity. Or, throw it in the trash! You’re under no obligation to keep gifts that were given to make you feel badly or that come with strings attached.