I just wanted to share a little something for those of you with narcissistic mothers who struggle on & around Mother’s Day…
Tag Archives: in-law
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In families with narcissistic parents, the person who marries into this family is in for quite the adventure. I learned this from my own experience, but apparently a lot of stories are very similar to mine. Parents decide immediately whether or not they like the person their son brings home. That decision is often based on simply ridiculous, trivial things such as what kind of work does she do or where she grew up. It can be even more ridiculous such as something about her appearance being a problem. If she is too pretty, if she is over or under weight or maybe she is tall when their family is short. It also could be simply a matter of differences in personality. Rather than be polite for the sake of their son, they hate this new woman in his life. They also demand she respect them while not returning respect to her. And, their definition of respect is that she be seen & not heard, only doing what benefits the family. Her needs & wants mean nothing to this family.
In these situations, the family functions as one unit in an “it’s us against her!” manner. As I have said before, they remind me of the Borg from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. They all function as one, focused only on what the Collective dictates. In this case, the Collective is usually a narcissistic mother pulling everyone’s strings to make them act according to her whim. One whim the “Collective” usually has is to tell the son & have others in the family tell him as well what a terrible person this new woman is. She isn’t good enough, she stole him from their family, she keeps him from them & similar lies are the most common, but some also will say more drastic things she is unfaithful, steals, uses drugs & more.
It never seems to cross their collective mind that this man could get fed up & walk away. And really, why would it? No doubt he has tolerated all manners of maltreatment & even abuse at the hands of his family. They place demands on him like giving them money or otherwise bailing them out of their problems with no thought to how this could affect him, & he does as he is told. Why wouldn’t he? This is what he has done his entire life. Often siblings in these situations call this one mean spirited nicknames his entire life, even as an adult, as an attempt to let him know that he is still a child in their eyes.
Families like this are entitled beyond belief. They honestly think they are entitled to treat this poor man any way they like. By default, they believe they are also entitled to treat his significant other just as badly. They have groomed this man to take any abuse they dish out without complaint, & expect the same behavior from his wife. If she complains, all hell can break loose.
At this point, families like this don’t consider anything that led up to the complaints. They only see the problem at hand, which is someone is setting boundaries on their abuse. The horrors!!
Sadly, the son in this situation doesn’t often realize how disrespectful & insulting his family is to him.
His family has no respect or love for him if they won’t at least try to be civil to the woman he loves. If they did, they would manage basic civility, unless of course that woman was abusive to him.
Clearly his family also thinks he’s stupid. After all, they expect him not to think for himself, but instead to blindly listen to them regarding his life. As if he doesn’t know what is best for him or isn’t smart enough to choose a good woman to marry! How insulting is that?!
It’s a truly sad situation! If you are in this situation, my heart goes out to you! I pray you & your spouse can work together to set healthy boundaries with this Borg-like family. Being clearly a team is the best thing you can do as a couple in this situation.
If you are in a long term relationship or are married to someone & at least one of you has narcissistic parents or family members, there is something you should know. Standing up for your partner to your narcissistic parents is one of the most important things you can do in your relationship.
When a couple makes a commitment to each other, a big part of that commitment is taking care of each other. Part of that involves not tolerating anyone hurting your partner. If you stand up to someone on behalf of your partner, you show your partner that this person’s well being & safety are extremely important to you. You prove that you love that person & will do your best to keep them safe. This is incredibly good for your relationship!
Not tolerating someone hurting your partner also shows the abusive person that you are well aware of their actions, & there are consequences for their behavior. Not doing so only proves to an abuser that they can do anything they want without consequences. This means that they will continue what they have been doing & in time, their behavior will get even worse. And, your partner will be left feeling abandoned & alone, which is potentially relationship ending. No one in a committed relationship should feel that way!
If you struggle with defending your partner to your abusive family members, then please consider a couple of things.
If it is your family that mistreats your partner, this means they are your problem! It is NOT your partner’s job to deal with your family. If your partner confronts your family rather than you, your family will be highly upset. That happens in many families, but especially in narcissistic ones. Chances are they will tell you what a terrible person your partner is, how he or she isn’t good enough to be in your life or other nonsense as a way to deflect your attention from their terrible behavior. If you are the one to confront them, they still may try to deflect & criticize your partner, but there is a better chance of them listening to you than your partner!
Also if anyone in your family mistreats your partner, they have absolutely no love or respect for you. If they had any respect or love for you, they would manage to be civil to your partner no matter how much they disliked this person. If your partner is abusive to you, any children you share or your family, that is a different scenario. They should civilly address their concerns with you, be loyal to you & care more about your safety than civility. However, if the reason they dislike your partner is because of simple differences in personality, your family should manage basic civility at the very least to this person out of love for you. When you love someone, it’s not that hard to be polite to someone they care about even if you can’t stand that person. I have done it & while it can be hard to be polite to someone you really dislike, reminding yourself of the person you care about can make this much easier.
Dear Reader, if you are in this position of having someone in your family mistreat or even abuse someone you love, then please consider what I have said. Protect your loved one! It will protect their mental & physical safety but also help your relationship! In fact, protecting your loved one will increase the bond you both share.
Often, two people who were raised by narcissistic parents marry each other when they grow up. Ideally, they understand each other’s past, offer support & help each other cope if their parents are still a part of their lives. Sadly though, this isn’t always the case.
Sometimes when two adult children of narcissistic parents marry, they learn each person is on a very different page. One is trying to be healthy while the other remains in denial of just how toxic his or her parents are. This is hardly an easy position to be in for either person.
If you are in this painful situation, I hope this post can help you today!
To start with, you need to pray. Ask God for any help you need to cope with the situation, whether it be patience, understanding, wisdom or anything. Prayer is always the best place to start in any difficult situation, & situations don’t get much more difficult than this one!
Next, you need to accept that you & your partner are in a different place. Your spouse may never see the truth about their parents. They also may never see the truth about yours, for that matter. You can’t change this, so you need to accept that painful truth.
You also need to accept that you can’t change your partner. As much as you’d like to, you can’t make him or her see the truth. We all have to face the truth as we are able. Forcing someone to see the truth before they’re ready isn’t good for their mental health.
You may need to stop discussing anything about your parents with each other to avoid conflict. I know this is incredibly frustrating because you should be able to discuss any topic with your spouse. In an ideal world, that is how things are. Unfortunately though, when dealing with two fallible human beings, that isn’t always feasible. If discussing anything about parents causes strife, it may be best to find someone else with which to discuss the problems. A close friend or relative, your pastor or even a counselor may be a much better option for you.
If you have issues with your spouse’s narcissistic parent, unfortunately, you can’t expect support from your spouse if he or she doesn’t see that parent is narcissistic. Don’t expect it from him or her. I realize this goes against what is natural & is very painful & hard to accept, but you need to do it anyway. Accepting this painful truth is hard, but it is easier than to be disappointed in your spouse repeatedly.
You also will need to find ways to deal with your narcissistic in-laws on your own, & chances are slim your spouse will approve of how you deal with them. This is tricky. There is no way to avoid your spouse’s anger in this situation. The best you can do is to remain calm when dealing with your awful in-laws & your spouse. Also be logical when your spouse gets angry. If he or she says you’re hurting the narcissistic parent, for example, you can say that parent has hurt you too. Why was that acceptable behavior but you setting a reasonable boundary to protect yourself wasn’t?
Never forget to take care of yourself & your mental health. A spouse in denial can be very good at making the healthier spouse feel as if they are wrong, over sensitive or even crazy. Don’t buy into this gaslighting! You are doing what is right by facing the truth about your narcissistic parents & in-laws. Don’t let anyone, including your spouse, convince you otherwise!
When someone mentions the black sheep of their family, the common mental image people get is someone who is very different from the rest of the family. Maybe the black sheep is the one person in the family who is in trouble with the law or is a surly type.
More often than you would think, this isn’t the case though. Instead, the black sheep is nothing like their bad reputation. The only thing they are guilty of is not being like the rest of their family, aka the White Sheep. In these cases, this is usually a very good thing!
As I’ve mentioned before, I think of dysfunctional families much like the Borg from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The Borg were all alike & only focused on what was best for the Collective. Individuality was not tolerated. This is exactly like a dysfunctional family. Individuality is discouraged & all that matters is the Collective, aka the family.
Dysfunctional families are the same way, so when a member is different, they aren’t pleased. They are even less pleased if there is abuse in the family & someone discusses the abuse openly. It is a guarantee that person will be labeled the Black Sheep, referred to as mentally unstable, oversensitive & more. Their traumatic experiences will be invalidated or even denied.
This has been my experience as a black sheep in my family & my in-law family. The good part though is although it hurt at first, it taught me a lot.
People who treat someone who has been abused this way are cowardly. They have no integrity either, because they would rather do nothing than stand up for what is right. I’m glad not to be like them! I’d rather be a person of integrity who is willing to help others than be a coward! If being labeled the black sheep means I’m someone with integrity, I’m absolutely fine with the label!
When you consider your situation, chances are good you’ll realize that the opinions of the White Sheep really aren’t important as I did. Why should you care what they think of you? Just because they’re family? That isn’t a good reason! The only people whose opinions should matter to you are those who genuinely love you & want what is best for you, whether or not those people are related to you. People who want you to fit inside their little box of what they think you should be, like the Borg, don’t love you God’s way, nor do they want what is best for you. Why should their opinion of you matter? Being weighed down by the opinions of other people is exhausting, especially when their opinions of you are so restrictive! It’s truly a blessing & freeing not to have to worry about such things.
White Sheep family members often think the Black Sheep of their family has nothing in common with them. They often are right about that! That being said though, it doesn’t mean they’re right & you’re wrong. You’re simply different from them. Different does NOT equal bad! That is a very important thing to realize! Different can be a wonderful thing. People who think differently invented all kinds of great things, heal others mentally & physically & more. Besides, the world would be incredibly dull if we all thought the same!
The things that make you unique also could be something that makes the White Sheep envy you. Did you ever think of that? They could be labeling you out of simple envy. Many people do this rather than try to improve themselves.
Or, they could be too afraid to face their own issues & are trying to shut you down because you facing yours makes them feel badly. This is something God told me that my own family has done to me. It’s better in their mind to shut me down than to face their demons.
Whatever the case, I want to encourage you to embrace your Black Sheep label. Being a Black Sheep requires courage & strength. Be proud of yourself for possessing such wonderful qualities, & don’t try to please the White Sheep. You get this one life to live.. you should live it in a way that pleases you, not others.
The holiday season is officially upon us, which means those of us with narcissistic parents &/or in-laws are filled with dread. We know the narcissists in our lives have unrealistic expectations of us every day of the year, but holidays often seem to up those expectations.
My late mother in-law would tell me when I was to be where on which holiday. She never said the exact words, but it was clear there was no excuse for me not to be there. The same with my ex mother in-law. Not obeying meant facing their anger. It also meant spending the day without my husband & being angry with him for choosing his family over me. Obeying meant spending the day surrounded by people who disliked me, & me resenting them. Since many others with narcissistic parents or in-laws face this same scenario, I thought I would share some thoughts on the holidays.
Remember, you are an adult. You do NOT have to blindly obey your parents or in-laws when they demand you spend a holiday with them. When you disobey their orders, chances are good they will be upset. They will try to guilt trip you for not wanting to spend time with “family”, or show their disapproval in some other way such as with criticisms or even the silent treatment (if you’re lucky…). Remind yourself as often as necessary that you have nothing to feel guilty about. There is nothing wrong with wanting to spend a holiday with those you love, such as good friends rather than abusive & mean people
Also, if you want to spend a holiday with someone other than your narcissistic parents or in-laws, you can offer a compromise. My paternal grandparents always had a big Christmas gathering on the weekend after Christmas. That way, everyone could spend the day with whoever they wished, yet there was still a family Christmas party. Why not do the same thing? Does it really matter what day the day is celebrated, so long as it is celebrated? Celebrating on a weekend also means many people don’t need to be at work the following day so they can relax more & enjoy themselves. Since narcissists do things more willingly when they can see it benefits themselves, why not approach it from this angle? “You won’t have to get up early the next day for work if we celebrate on Saturday instead of Tuesday. That means you can relax/enjoy the holiday/spend more time with your family & friends.” I know, many narcissists demand holidays be celebrated only on the exact day. My late & ex mothers in-law were that way. But if you approach your suggestion in a way that clearly benefits them, you stand a chance of getting your way. This isn’t a perfect solution since you’ll still be spending a holiday with narcissists, but it does at least free up the actual holiday to spend however you like. It’s a pretty reasonable compromise!
If celebrating a holiday on another day is not an option, set a time limit. Determine ahead of time you’ll only spend 2 hours with them, or whatever time seems reasonable to you, then leave at the end of that time. Tell the narcissist ahead of time that you only have a short window of time to spend with them, so you must leave by 2:00 or whenever. No, they won’t like it, but don’t back down! Stick to what you said, & leave at the set time.
If the demanding narcissist in question is an in-law & your spouse wants to spend the day with the narcissist, so be it. You can’t make him change his mind. You can, however, refuse to go. You can stay at home & watch Netflix all day. You can spend the holiday with friends instead. You can create a new holiday tradition to enjoy when your spouse isn’t with you. Trying to think of it as a day off to spend in any way you like definitely helps diminish & disappointment you feel.
Most of all, never forget to pray about your situation. God will show you the best way to handle it & help you to get through this difficult time of year. xoxo
I came across this really interesting article about what a mother in-law wants in her daughter in-law. My curiosity was piqued, so I read it. It got me to thinking just how different a narcissistic mother in-law is from a functional one. I thought I’d do a side by side comparison of the two based on the article in case anyone reading this is wondering if their mother in-law is a narcissist.
- A woman who will consider her a friend. A daughter in-law is nothing more than competition to the narcissistic mother in-law. Friendship is NOT gonna happen!
- A woman who makes her son’s life easier. Seems to me, the narcissistic version of this one is “a woman who has no needs or wants of her own, who waits on her son hand & foot, expects nothing in return & is blindly obedient to the mother in-law.”
- A woman who shows how much she loves her husband by the way she talks about him. Never seen or heard anything of the sort from a narcissistic mother in-law. Seems to me it’s more about actions, like those I mentioned in the last point. It also seems that in their eyes, their daughters in-law should be seen & not heard.
- A woman who will be a good listener. A functional mother in-law & a narcissistic one both want this, I believe, but the difference is the functional mother in-law gladly will return the favor. Narcissists only return the favor when they think they can learn something to use as ammunition against the daughter in-law at some point.
- A woman whose faith in Jesus is evident. I would guess that the only narcissistic mothers in-law who have any interest in their daughter in-law’s faith is those who are concerned about looking good to their church. And, she won’t hesitate to twist Scripture around to manipulate her daughter in-law.
- A woman who forgives her past mistakes. What narcissist admits to past mistakes? This obviously isn’t important to the narcissistic mother in-law because she doesn’t make mistakes & if by some chance she did, they were the fault of someone else.
- A woman who helps her navigate the technology-driven, social media-frenzied world today. I can’t really imagine any narcissistic mother in-law who may want to learn more about technology looking for help from her daughter in-law. Viewing her daughter in-law as beneath her, why would she ask her for help in any area?
- A woman who resolves not to see differences of opinions, interference, or interruptions as an intentional dig. This one may depend on the narcissist. Some no doubt want blind obedience from their daughters in-law, including never speaking back to them & assuming the best about them. But there are many others that want their daughters in-law to be angry with them. That works out very well for the narcissist in question, because she can use this in several ways. She can use it to prove her daughter in-law is unappreciative, crazy, irrational, or over sensitive. She also can use this to prove she is the innocent victim of her daughter in-law’s abuse.
- A woman who gives her credit for the incredible son she raised. The one area that functional mothers in-law & narcissistic mothers in-law are alike to some degree. Who wouldn’t want to hear she did a great job raising her son? Narcissists take it to the extreme though, pretty much expecting to be worshiped for her amazing mothering skills.
- A woman who doesn’t compete for her children’s love. If you know anything about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you know that narcissistic parents become narcissistic grandparents. Unlike a nice, normal, functional grandparent, the narcissistic one will expect to be first place in their grandchild’s life. They also may lie to the grandchild about the child’s parent(s) or tell the child there is no reason to listen to Mom & Dad. Many even bribe the grandchild with money or gifts to gain that child’s favor.
As you can see, there are many differences between healthy, functional mothers in-law & narcissistic ones. I hope you aren’t dealing with the narcissistic variety because they are incredibly difficult to deal with at best!
My latest book, “Regrettably Related: A Guide to Toxic In-laws” is now available in both print & ebook versions.
The print version is available here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/cynthia-bailey-rug/regrettably-related-a-guide-to-toxic-in-laws/paperback/product-24225183.html
The ebook version is available here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/955631
I’ve been working on a book for a while now about toxic/narcissistic in-laws. I’m struggling to write it for a few reasons. I’ve been really distracted by things going on in my life since I started this book 2 years ago. I also felt that I needed to put it on the back burner to write other books. The topic is such a hard one for me to write about too, because I honestly have been through hell because of some of my husband’s family, & I’m still healing. And, in spite of taking frequent breaks, I’m pretty burned out on all things narcissism. These issues make this one tough book to write. That being said, I believe the topic is an important one so I will finish it. It just may take some time.
Since my book is delayed, here is a post to help identify whether or not your in-laws are toxic. I will write from the perspective of a daughter in-law with a toxic mother in-law, since that is the bulk of my experience as well as the bulk of the experiences of people I’ve spoken with. The information is good for toxic sisters in-law, fathers in-law, etc. though.
Does your mother in-law ignore you? The purpose of this behavior is to show you that you mean nothing to her.
Does she refuse to accept responsibility for treating you badly? Rather than say something like, “I shouldn’t have said that.. I’m sorry,” does she make excuses for her words or actions or deny them completely? This is a big red flag. Functional people accept responsibility for what they say & do.
Does your mother in-law have a different personality depending on whether or not you are alone with her or others are around? Another big red flag! Any abuser will behave differently to their victim depending on whether or not there are witnesses. They want to hide their abuse from other people.
Does she expect you to be blindly devoted to her family, even to the point of rejecting your own family & friends? Many toxic mothers in-law remind me of the Borg from the tv show “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” They expect their son’s or daughter’s new spouse to become completely enmeshed in their new in-law family.
Like the Borg, toxic mothers in-law expect their new sons or daughters in-law to adapt to their opinions, religion, way of life, etc. Individuality is highly discouraged by toxic mothers in-law. I once told my late mother in-law I hate to cook. I do it, but hate it. For Christmas a few months later, she & her 2 daughters gave me nothing but cookbooks, utensils, food & other cooking paraphernalia.
Toxic in-laws show no respect. Toxic in-laws show no respect for personal space, choices, likes/dislikes, parenting, & even boundaries.
And speaking of a lack of respect, your mother in-law makes it clear to you that she doesn’t like you. Unless you abuse your mother in-law’s adult child or your children, if your mother in-law had any respect whatsoever for her child, she would be civil to you no matter how much she disliked you. The inability to be civil even only for the sake of her adult child proves she is toxic.
Is she manipulative & controlling? Toxic people, in particular narcissists, must be in charge. Chances are, your mother in-law controls her spouse & children. Since you married one of her children, she expects you to be as control-able & easily manipulated as everyone else. When you say no, she is NOT happy.
If your toxic mother in-law is nice to you, it’s short lived & in front of others only. Very few people are cruel 100% of the time. Toxic people bring out their nice side when it can be advantageous to them. Being nice sometimes will make their victim want to see it more, so they work harder to please the toxic person. Also, being nice to a victim in front of others helps the toxic person prove to others that if you complain about the relationship, you are obviously the problem.
Mothers in-law like this care nothing of their adult child beyond what he can do for her. They clearly have no respect for him either, since they treat the person he chose to spend his life with so badly. His marriage is nothing more to this kind of mother than an embarrassment, & she would like it simply to go away. Since she can’t file for divorce on his behalf, she becomes extremely destructive to the adult child’s marriage with her abusive ways.
Your spouse no doubt suffers greatly from his mother’s abusive behavior, yet tolerates it anyway. This is because he is accustomed to how his mother behaves. This is his norm & many adults in this situation have accepted this as their permanent reality. By complaining about his mother’s behavior or even confronting her, this threatens his norm. Facing the truth can be incredibly painful for many in this position, which is why many refuse to face the truth. This feeling is known as cognitive dissonance. Rather than face this miserable feeling, many people in this situation will do their best to shut down their spouse. They don’t want to hear about the bad things their mother is doing, so they will tell their wife they don’t believe her, she is over sensitive, she just doesn’t understand Mom, that’s her problem so she needs to leave him out of it & more. They refuse to confront their mother on behalf of their wife.
Naturally, the wife in this position feels rejected, unloved & hurt. She wants to fight for her marriage, but it seems whatever she does is wrong, & whatever his mother does is right. Her trying to save her marriage only causes more problems. The reason for this is she doesn’t know that when you’re dealing with a narcissist, normal ways to cope don’t work.
For anyone in this position, you need to think of this situation more like a game of strategy than a relationship.
As always pray. Ask God to help you to know what to do & to give you whatever you need to enable you to do it. Pray for your husband to see the truth & for God to enable him to be able to cope with it, too.
Cope with your emotions as best you can by journaling, talking to a safe friend, pray.. whatever works for you. Whatever you do, don’t hold in your emotions!
Don’t focus on your mother in-law’s bad behavior when it can be avoided. Instead, focus on being the loving wife that you are. Don’t neglect to remind your husband how much you love him. If he complains about his mother to you for any reason, don’t join in. Listen quietly to him & give him objective advice if he asks for it. The reason being, the mindset of many people in this situation is they can complain about Mom, but if anyone else does, they jump to her defense. This would only cause more problems in your marriage.
Along those lines, if you discuss his mother’s behavior with him, stay calm. State your issues in a matter of fact way, lacking emotion. If you rant & rave, that too will make him feel he must defend his mother, which only will hurt you & possibly your marriage.
Limit your exposure to your mother in-law as much as possible, but especially alone. No narcissist wants to abuse their victim in front of the person they want to think well of them, so stay glued to your husband’s side as much as possible.
Keep your emotions in check around your mother in-law. Narcissists love to twist a victim’s normal reaction around to prove how mentally unstable or even abusive the victim is to other people. In her presence, stay calm. Vent later when you’re away from her as needed though, so you don’t hold in all the bad emotions.
Having to deal with toxic, narcissistic in-laws is tough. I know, I’ve been there. But, with prayer, love, patience & wisdom, you can survive it with your marriage in tact.
Some covert narcissists are what I think of as the consummate victim. They are the ones who are always wronged, always the victim, & never at fault for anything. Some examples of their behavior are as follows.
The narcissist says something cruel. You get angry, & rightfully so. She claims she never meant to hurt your feelings. She was just trying to help & had no idea what she said would upset you. She then stops speaking to you for weeks, even if you apologized.
The narcissist tries to manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do. Naturally, you refuse to do it. She claims you don’t love her. How could you refuse to do this one little thing for her, especially after all she’s done for you?!
The narcissist is your elderly parent who expects you to come at their beck & call. You tell your parent you only are available one day a week to do what she needs. She tells your family how you refused to help her, & they attack you for being a bad daughter, ungrateful, a spoiled brat & more.
Narcissists who claim life is so unfair to them or that they are mistreated when people confront them on their abusive behavior are also consummate victims. There are also those who blame their victims for their abusive behavior. They are also consummate victims, as are those who complain about their problems, yet refuse to do something to change the situation.
Dealing with these people is incredibly frustrating, I know. My late father & late mother in-law were both covert narcissists & consummate victims. I repeatedly asked my father not to call after 9 at night. When I refused to take his call when he called at 10 one evening, he called my in-laws & a cousin who lives almost 500 miles away. He told both he was so concerned about me for not answering the phone, & asked them to have me call him immediately. Another time, I was angry with my mother in-law because she had snooped through my purse yet again. She asked my husband why I was angry, & he told her. I overheard the conversation. She claimed not to know what she did would be upsetting to me.
Both situations were similar. As a result of my father’s & mother in-law’s actions, my husband & I got into an argument about his mother & my cousin & I argued about my father. Being the typical consummate victims, their obnoxious behavior caused problems for the real victim while making themselves look good.
There are some things that you can do that can help you if you must deal with this behavior in covert narcissists.
Always rely on God to help you in this situation. He will be glad to help you discern the truth & strengthen you to do whatever you need to do!
Remember the type of person that you’re dealing with. No matter what you do, this person will twist the situation around to make you look bad & them look like the innocent victim of your cruelty. Expect nothing else because this person has no desire to behave any other way.
Also remember that there is nothing wrong with you setting boundaries or confronting this person on their abusive behavior. Both of those are good things to do. They are healthy & show you have self respect.
Consummate victims are very skilled at recruiting flying monkeys. When you set those boundaries or confront the narcissist about her behavior, no matter how gently & reasonably you do so, it’s a safe bet someone will tell you how cruel, unreasonable, wrong, etc. you are. When this happens, ignore whatever these flying monkeys have to say. They don’t know the truth, only what the narcissist has told them. Also, it’s best to refuse to discuss the narcissist with them.
Lastly, it’s also important to remember that consummate victims may project their status on their real victims. It can be easy to believe their lies since narcissists are talented actors who give very convincing performances. To avoid believing their lies, remember that you are NOT a consummate victim if you are angry about being abused, setting healthy boundaries or refusing to be manipulated.
If you are faced with a covert narcissist who portrays herself as a consummate victim, you can cope. You have the knowledge & strength to handle this ugly situation.
Since I’m working on a book about narcissistic in-laws, it’s certainly gotten me to thinking about them. Not exactly a fun topic since I’ve been through a LOT at the hands of narcissistic in-laws, but it’s also a topic that needs to be addressed. I’ll share a blog post when it’s published as well as add the link to my website at: www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com
One thing that recently has come to mind about these dreadful people is how they are with exes. I’ve heard of & read so many stories of narcissistic in-laws who keep in touch with their son’s or brother’s ex, even after he has moved on to another woman & there were no children created in the relationship. They may even have the ex’s picture hanging up in their home or a picture of him with her when they were together. They may invite her to family functions, whether or not the new lady is present.
I’ve been down this road. A woman my husband broke up with in 1991 is still a bigger part of my in-law’s family than I ever have been. In 1997 at an in-law family party, my two sisters in-law spoke a LOT about her (when it was just the three of us together, no witnesses, of course), talking about what a great person she was & how they should hang out with her soon. They never wanted to hang out with me, mind you. Not long after we were married in 1998, my mother in-law told me how disappointed she & my father in-law were that my husband married me instead of this person. Over the years, I learned that at least one of the sisters in-law not only kept in close contact with this ex, but kept my husband abreast of what was going on in her life. Then, when we ran into her in a store two months to the day after my husband’s father died, I saw how comfortable & friendly she was with my husband. It was painfully obvious she’d seen him recently, so I later asked what was going on with her. Turns out not only had she been to my father in-law’s funeral, but also my mother in-law’s & took one of her sons to visit my mother in-law in the hospital. She also lives only a few miles from my late in-laws’ home & attends the church they attended.
As if all of this isn’t awful enough, I also realized when we saw this woman that she obviously is still very attracted to my husband.
This whole situation got me to thinking about these types of situations. If you’re in it, you’re going to need a lot of wisdom on how to cope with it.
I’m not saying all friendships between people & their exes or even their family & their exes are bad. Sometimes they work out just fine or are necessary because of children or other ties to each other such as owning a business together. When narcissistic in-laws are involved though, it’s a whole different situation. This relationship isn’t because these people were genuinely fond of each other. Like everything else, there is a self-serving purpose in it. Never ever doubt that! Your spouse may think his family’s behavior is normal but it isn’t!
If you wonder, watch how this relationship is handled. Your feelings should be considered. Your in-laws should not flaunt this person to you. This person shouldn’t be frequently discussed fondly in front of you or her picture shouldn’t be in a predominant space in the in-law home (especially if it also includes your spouse).
How do they handle this relationship regarding your spouse? Do they keep your spouse up to date on his ex’s life? If your spouse wants no parts of the details of that ex, do they force him to listen anyway? Do they forward her emails to him so he not only knows but has her email address as well?
These behaviors are all red flags, & you are going to need a lot of wisdom on how to handle this situation.
As always, I recommend prayer as the best place to start. Luke 12:12 says, “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (KJV) & James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (KJV) Seems to me prayer is the best place you can start!
Also never give your spouse an ultimatum. People who do this almost always end up losing because no one wants to feel controlled or manipulated.
Stay calm when you must discuss the situation. If you act angry or hurt, chances are your spouse will discuss the conversation with someone in his family. From there, it would be very easy for your in-laws to convince your spouse that you’re unreasonable, paranoid, even crazy. And, no doubt if he sees his ex, she is on good behavior. She will look even better to him & you even worse. So stay calm during the discussion for the sake of your marriage!
Do NOT tell him what you think his family is up to. Coming from a narcissistic family does quite the number on a person’s psyche as most people know. One thing I’ve noticed is men in these situations have a lot more trouble facing the truth about their family than women. (No guys, I don’t hate you or think you’re stupid. It’s just an observation.) If you’re in this position with your spouse, I know it can be frustrating. You see the truth so clearly but your spouse doesn’t. Don’t work hard trying to convince him of the truth. You telling the truth will come across to him as you criticizing his family, which in turn will make him very protective of them & angry at you. It will drive a huge wedge between you two.
You can, however, gently, let your spouse know that you are very uncomfortable with this situation. Tell him how you feel, & don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. Better for your spouse to see that side of you than the angry side, because it won’t make him defensive. He will be more willing to listen to you & relate to your perspective if you aren’t angry.
Also, what about the ex? Is she obviously still attracted to your husband? This is tough, I know. I really feel your pain. The best I know to do with this is to focus on your spouse. Make sure you don’t stop doing things that he loves or finds attractive about you. Do nice little gestures for him to show him you love him, like slipping love notes into his lunch box, sock drawer, coat pocket or even taping them to his steering wheel while he’s in the shower. If you tell him what a terrible person his ex is instead, you’re only making him defensive of her & angry at you. Yes, I know this one is HARD. After seeing my husband’s ex, every fiber in me wanted to say exactly what I think of her & his family. But, I knew that he wouldn’t believe what I said & would end up passionately defending them while simultaneously being very angry with me.
Lastly remember, all of this isn’t about you. It’s about some pretty dysfunctional people doing what dysfunctional people do. If the ex is still interested, well, she should have tried harder to keep him & is being foolish for not giving up. He moved on & she should too. As for your in-laws, they are getting something out of this relationship. They probably want to split you & your spouse up or at the very least cause trouble between you two. Maybe they think because she’s wealthy or in some sort of position in society, she makes them look good. Who knows? But you can be sure of one thing… whatever sick mess is happening in this relationship, it has nothing to do with you.
I wish you the absolute best in this situation! xoxo
Like everything in the life of a narcissist, the gifts they give are all about them. They give what will benefit them in some way or what they think will make you change according to what they think you should be. This is why so often, people dread receiving gifts from narcissists.
If they’re trying to win you over somehow such as in the early stages of dating or after an argument, narcissists may give a good gift. That gift is supposed to help buy your love or forgiveness. That gift may be extravagant or something you mentioned wanting. My ex husband gave me only 2 nice gifts in our entire relationship. The first one was about 2 months after we met, for my birthday.
Narcissists also may give a gift to make you indebted to them. Maybe you are supposed to give them a gift in return. Maybe the gift they gave you is very expensive so you feel obligated to tolerate their abuse because they spent so much on that gift. Maybe you showed signs of wanting to end the relationship & this gift was supposed to make you want to rethink that move.
Often, narcissists give terrible gifts. They lack the desire to be a blessing, & that shows in the gifts they give in particular on days like birthdays or Christmas. They’re only giving gifts on these days because they have to in order to look good, not because they want to. As a result, no thought or consideration goes into the gift.
Other times narcissists give awful gifts is when they try to change their victim. For example, my mother gave me clothes for my birthday or Christmas for years. While clothes in general aren’t a bad gift, they are when the clothes aren’t in the receiver’s taste, but are the giver’s. Our tastes are extremely different & that was a problem for her. My mother wanted me to like what she likes, & this was one way to try to force me to dress like she thought I should dress. My late mother in-law did the same. A few months before Christmas one year, I mentioned in passing that I hate to cook. Yes, I do it because I don’t want us to starve, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. For Christmas that year, she & her daughters all gave me a LOT of cooking paraphernalia. Cook books, utensils, food, & a big ugly pasta dish I later used in the attic when the roof was leaking.. lol
Sometimes bad gifts are also a way for a narcissist to let you know they hate you without saying the words. A narcissistic mother in-law who dislikes her daughter in-law will give her terrible gifts, as one example. My late mother in-law gave me a Christmas sweater (I’m NOT into Christmas or Christmas sweaters), polyester slacks (not a fan) & other gifts that were clearly NOT my taste.
Sometimes they may “forget” to give you a gift at all. This is just one way to let you know you aren’t important to them or the gift giving day (your anniversary, Valentine’s day, your birthday, etc) isn’t important to them.
Or, narcissists may give away a gift you gave to them either to hurt you or out of thoughtlessness. My sister in-law gave me this cute little knick knack many years ago. I thanked her & said it was cute. She said she thought so, & was sure her mom would like it. She gave it to her. A few months later, her mother gave it to her & said something like, “I don’t know where this ugly thing came from. You can have it.” She said seeing it hurt her badly so she wanted rid of it. Since I thought it was cute, I could have it. My heart broke for her when she told me that story.
When you get an awful gift, it’s best not to let the narcissist know how awful you think it is. If you do, the narcissist can play the victim & tell other people how ungrateful you are, making you look like a jerk. Rather than ask for the receipt so you can return or exchange the gift, simply thank her for the gift, then when you can, quietly give it to someone who you know would like it or give it to a charity.
Likewise when you get a great gift, it’s best not to let the narcissist know you really like it. If you do, the narcissist is going to get a ton of narcissistic supply from that, & feel that you owe her for giving you this awesome gift. Simply thank her for the gift.
It’s always best to implement the Gray Rock method as much as possible when dealing with narcissists, including when they give gifts.
The last couple of days have been difficult for me. Lots of flashbacks & anxiety have been happening. When I said something to my husband about it the day before Mother’s day, he said “Mother’s Day is coming.. that has to be it!” Honestly I don’t know if that’s my problem or not, it sure could be, but anyway….
Part of one of my recent flashbacks was about when I was learning to drive. I told hubby that my ex mother in-law taught me more about driving (including driving a stick shift) than my parents did, yet both of my parents always took credit for teaching me how to drive even though they barely taught me anything. He said, “I think you should give your ex mother in-law a shout out! She did a lot of good things for you.”
Although my ex mother in-law died in 2010 & this post is going to publish a day after Mother’s Day, I agree. I also thought about another mom figure in my life who was so special to me, so I’m giving her a shout out too. I pray God allows them to know about this because they both deserve to know the big positive impacts they had on my life.
A very big thank you to my awesome ex mother in-law!! I appreciate the many things you taught me like how to drive & especially how to knit. I appreciate the encouragement you gave me when I was learning things & your faith that I could do these things. I also appreciate the fun times together, like going to craft & thrift stores, & your help picking out my first sewing machine. (Even though I still can’t sew, I appreciate a nice machine like that little beauty!) I appreciate all the laughs & your fun sense of humor, especially since it was pretty twisted like my own. I appreciate your love, support & lack of judgement. I also appreciate you trying to protect me from my mother when we lived together. I wasn’t used to anyone doing that & it was a very nice surprise.
Most of all, a big thank you for being a wonderful example of your faith & praying for me.
I’m sorry our relationship ended on a bad note & for the things I did wrong. I still remember the good things often & am so grateful for them. Thank you for everything, W. You’re very loved & missed. xoxo
My other mother figure was a dear friend I called my adopted mom. We met on a crochet message board & clicked. She was a wise, beautiful, gentle, loving, compassionate person with a powerful & inspiring faith. When I had an argument with my folks or just a rough day, she was the one I wanted to talk to. She always knew what to say to make me feel better. She also didn’t sugarcoat things- if she believed I was wrong, she’d tell me. She was free with her praise & kind words, but still told the truth even if it wasn’t pretty. She was also the one who got me started reading about Antisocial Personality Disorder which led to me learning about narcissism. We had many laughs together, mostly talking about our furkids who we both adored. She was an inspiration & one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Her death in 2009 still hurts, but I know I’ll see her again one day. Thank you for the years of friendship, love & laughs, K! xoxo
Those of us with narcissistic mothers know that a good mother is a beautiful gift. If you have a wonderful mother figure in your life, please don’t wait til it’s too late like I did- let her know how much you appreciate her now. She’ll love to hear what you say & it’ll make you feel good to tell her just how special she is to you.
For many people, the holiday season is a glorious time of year. The time to enjoy friends, family & celebrations. For others like me who have survived demanding, controlling, entitled or even narcissistic parents &/or in-laws however, the mere thought of the holidays brings about a feeling of dread.
My first & current mothers in-law both always demanded my husband’s & my presence every Thanksgiving & Christmas, no matter what. Divorcing my ex & cutting my current in-laws out of my life in 2002 naturally ended their demands for me at least but the damage was done. The enjoyment I once felt for the holidays was gone. Years of spending holidays with people who obviously hated me or alone while my husband spent the day with his family destroyed all pleasure I’d once had in holidays.
I know that my story isn’t all that unusual. So many others have been through very similar situations that I thought sharing some thoughts I’ve had on this topic might help you, Dear Reader.
When you develop this holiday bitterness, people aren’t always understanding. Most people seem to want everyone to look forward to holidays with enthusiasm & joy, & if you don’t, they can be shaming. Many others I know & I have been scolded for not trying to enjoy holidays, told they need to just focus on the joy of the day, everyone loves holidays, etc etc. What these people fail to realize is this holiday bitterness didn’t happen over night. We have tried to enjoy the holidays repeatedly, but demanding people ruined it by commanding us to do what they want us to do & treating us badly when we didn’t do it (well, often worse than usual since bad treatment is the norm with narcissists). It came about when in-laws demand we ignore our own family in favor of them, & treated us badly & acted like something is wrong with us for not wanting to spend a holiday with them. They also shame us for wanting to spend a holiday with our immediate family- our spouse & kids- rather than with them. These people think shaming us & ordering us around is OK. Really, how does that make any sense?
I’m not saying holiday bitterness is a good thing. Frankly, it stinks! I miss looking forward to the holidays & hate how I dread what was once a time of year I looked forward to. What I am saying though is that there is no shame if you feel differently about holidays than the average person does.
Sometimes, too many bad seeds have been sown to overcome. Something unpleasant is the only possible harvest when that happens. Of course it’s a good idea to try to counteract the bad feelings, but if nothing works, it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that you’re a bad person. If you can’t conquer holiday bitterness, it just means that some really bad things have been done that caused you to feel this way.
Dear Reader, I’m sorry you feel this nasty holiday bitterness. I hope you can conquer it by starting your own traditions, avoiding negative people around the holidays, suggesting holiday gatherings with extended family on a different day near the actual holiday while you spend the holiday with your immediate family, etc. If you can’t however, then at the very least, please don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s simply a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances, & it happens more often than you might think.
Hello, Dear Readers!
If you want to check them out, you can click on the links in the last paragraph, or go to my website at: http://www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com