"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." ~Joseph Joubert
Ever been stuck in the middle of an argument between two people? If so, you know exactly how gut-wrenching it can be for all involved.
There are times when a well-placed nugget of wisdom can literally fix a problem someone's having with another person.
That's when it helps to offer insight and advice when you see what could help (as is often the case when you're connected but not directly involved, a third party perspective can often be useful).
But sometimes, especially with smart, stubborn people like narcissists, you have to stay out of a situation and let people deal with it on their own.
See, in general, most narcissists just aren't receptive to advice unless they choose to be.
You might say they work on pure energy and emotion, so when the energy and emotion aren't entirely positive, they cannot focus on what's really happening and everything becomes clouded, distorting their thoughts and sense of being present.
Their every interaction becomes tinged by the negativity and they begin to see it spill into other parts of their lives - most notably, their relationships.
So if you push them to fix their issues, you'll simply become part of that negative energy they feel and they'll direct it to you as well.
And you know what happens then? Triangulation - the narcissist begins to play you and the other person off each other and then it gets even worse: you become a source of narcissistic supply.
But if you take a different road and literally refuse to get involved, you actually do the narcissist and his current victim a favor.
If the issue is resolvable and if resolving it matters to the narcissist, they'll get through it, one way or another. This is even more probable if the relationship is important for him or her.
It might be painful to watch but you've got to just look away while they work through it - even if you are certain that your advice could really change things. By choosing to let go of stuff and work through it on their own, their relationship becomes stronger and better than it was before, and your own nose stays clean.
I don't know - that sounds like a win-win to me. How about you?
She's been employing the gray rock method and he's been really hating it. He is always trying to figure out ways to keep her feeling insecure and uncomfortable in their relationship.
For example, he knows it bothers her when he makes it clear he's attracted to other women, so one night after he particularly fails to make her feel crazy all day, Tom takes his manipulation up a notch.
He tells a story about a hot girl he met at the gas station on his way home. He tells Ava how the girl practically got naked in front of him (all lies, of course) and goes into what he would've done had he been single.
Ava realizes what he's trying to do, and she remains quiet to avoid his inevitable claims that she's always finding something to complain about, and that she should just blindly trust that he'd never do anything to hurt her (despite the fact that he verbally abuses her daily).
This is where it gets scary.
When Tom notices that Ava isn't giving him the narcissistic supply that he seeks, he takes it up a notch, claiming that he can sense that Ava is upset, even though she showed no signs of it.
Eventually, he manages to draw her into the argument and she is left reeling. She can't believe that he's done it again.
But this is how a narcissist works. He consistently and systematically tears down his victims, forcing them into these predefined roles (he defines them, of course) that place him in a position of power while she struggles to prove herself to him in some way.
“Yours, mine and ours” makes for an amusing movie plot, but it doesn’t assure a harmonious home. With so many different kinds of families these days, you would think we’d know how to make it work, but we don’t.
It’s a challenge to be a stepparent, no matter how good your intentions are. Maybe we’ve seen too many “wicked stepmother” stories that there’s an assumption of the stepparent as being the enemy. As soon as a new “parent’ arrives in the family, the children start carving out territory.
Then the adults get in on the act. Before long, the battle lines are drawn. As the kids struggle to defeat the stepparent, their biological parent is emotionally torn between kids and new spouse.
Is Step-Parenting Driving a Wedge Between Your Family?
Psychotherapists have a name for it: “triangulation.” And even when you're not dealing with a narcissist in the family, you might have to deal with it. So let's talk about triangulation, shall we?
Think of a triangle with three sides. That’s what’s happening in the classic step-parenting drama: you, your spouse and kids are triangulating on every issue. It’s just constant upheaval in the home.
Kids always try to come between their parents. As early as two years old, humans instinctively know the principle of “divide and conquer.”
When the parents are divorced and there’s a stepparent in the home, the game gets more intense.
Now the kids have a strong basis to create division, the old “blood is thicker than water” principle. And it’s natural for a parent to rise to the defense of his or her child.
But when that’s a husband defending his child against his wife, the stepparent, it’s setting up a huge conflict on two fronts - spousal and parental.
The All-Important Necessity for a Healthy Family: A United Parental Front
In step parenting as well as traditional parenting, the spouses must find agreement and present a united front to the children. Even if they disagree, the couple must agree to disagree in private out of ear range of the children.
Never let the children know that they can divide you, because they will attack like hungry predators. The couple must also decide who disciplines whose children. There needs to be basic rules that can be applied by parent or stepparent.
Then the kids know that there’s no appealing for a reprieve. Break basic rules and the consequences apply equally. That also gives the stepparent authority that the parent will back up.
Step parenting is challenging enough on a good day. The couple has to remember that strengthening and affirming their commitment to each other is the best way to create family unity. The step family is only as strong as the marriage.
I'm starting off by answering a question from two YouTube viewers named Nikki B and 57goku who ask:
"Can you do a video on narcissists and step children?"
So let's get started, shall we?
First of all, we're not talking about a new step-parent who just needs to get used to his or her new family - a healthy person won't have the issues we're about to discuss.
We're talking about a narcissistic stepmother who intentionally plots her way into the heart and mind of a man who has kids - or the narcissistic stepfather who gets jealous when his wife pays attention to her own kids instead of him, for example.
These kinds of narcs are especially toxic because they get into the marriage for all the wrrong reasons - often money or status - and who will let no ex-husband or ex-wife (let alone KIDS) get in the way of getting what they want.
For women, they often cement their role the way many female narcissists do - sex. First, they're friendly and warm with both their men and their stepkids, listening to their every problem and concern and becoming irreplaceable in their lives.
When the marriage is still fresh and new and the family is still on their best behavior, the narc step parent might seem to really be devoted to the kids. S/he nice, s/he's polite and she generrally pretends s/he's interested in their lives.
As the kids start to become more comfortable, though, so does the "evil" stepmom or dad, and then things start to get rough.
Once they get their hooks thoroughly in place, narcissistic step-moms and step-dads will pull the old switcheroo and show their true narcissistic face - and no matter how good-looking they are, that is ONE UGLY FACE.
And often, when it comes to the "real" parent, s/he can't see a problem with his new spouse - they can do no wrong in their eyes. Sometimes a natural parent even gets in on the deal by becoming - a narcissistic step-parent's flying monkey - willingly or not.
How Kids Experience Narcissistic Step-Parents
Everybody takes their family for granted, sometimes, because that's how human nature goes. But when you're being raised by a narcissist, it's a whole other ball of wax - and narcissistic step-parents can sometimes be even more traumatic for a kid because they may replace a "regular" parent (one who isn't a narcissist).
As far as kids see it, there are several signs of a narcissistic step-parent - though they won't know the label, they'll have experiences such as the following.
Step-parent uses the kids. They will take advantage of the children and others in their lives without a second thought - s/he expects everyone, including your kids, to cater to him or her and doesn't mind exploiting them when it suits him or her.
Step-parent loves the spotlight. You already know that narcissists want and need to be the center of attention. When a kid shines, a narc step-parent will feel slighted and feel like the kid is throwing shade their way - and this can lead to him or her throwing a bunch of narcissistic rage or narcissistic injury on your child's head.
Step-parent has awesome moments. You might not have expected me to note this, but there are some pretty cool things about narcissists when they're in their element. That's why every now and then, you might find one hanging out with the kids and bonding like nobody's business. He or she might also tell fantastic stories. That's because a lot of narcissists have an imagination like no one's business - their ambition and self-interest borders on unrealistic, making them perfect playmates under the right circumstances. But the flip side of that is that these times become rare or even non-existent when a narc step-parent becomes comfortable enough in the family to "let it all hang out."
Step-parent ignores child and is not sympathetic to him/her at all. Since narcs don't experience empathy, it's common for them to disregard how others feel - and this will confuse your kid. At the same time, narc step-parents will be incredibly sensitive in their OWN feelings and will expect everyone, even the smallest children, to share his/her concern. Which brings me to my next point...
Step-parent throws a fit and over-punishes your child for "disrespecting" or otherwise annoying him or her. Sometimes, your kid will be standing there in utter shock while a narcissistic step-parent rages against him for some perceived sense of being disrespected or annoyed by them. Or maybe the narc felt criticized. This will inevitably lead to the step-parent throwing off an inordinate amount of anger, right at your child - and if you don't jump in and back him or her up - you can guarantee that you'll be in trouble. But if you do, your kid feels betrayed by the one person who's supposed to protect him or her. And god forbid you try to stand up for your baby - that'll cost you BIGTIME. But you might do it anyway, because you'd rather let the pain rain down on you, right?
Step-parent isn't present much. Since a narc needs so much "narcissistic supply" from people booth inside and outside the family, the kids will often feel like other parents hang with their families more than theirs. And the kicker? A narc step-parent is also more likely to make the natural parent spend less time with their kids because, as always, they want all of the attention on themselves - and they resent anyone or anything that stands in their way.
Step-parent only interacts with kids on their terms. A narc step-parent won't be bothered with learning about what your kids enjoy - they'll only do things with them if THEY enjoy those things. If the kid enjoys them, great. If not, no problem for the narc. And if the kid has the nerve to complain - out comes the old narcissistic rage or narcissistic injury.
Step-parent never gives kid what they really need. Even if the narc step-parent provides for your kid on a material level, your kid will feel deprived on a whole other level - the emotional one. If the kid needs attention and affection (which every child does), the narc may give it but only sporadically - and only when it benefits the narc.
You need to help your child come to terms with how they've been hurt by this step parent and how they can move forward.
You have to understand that your kid may have suffered on a level you can't fully understand.
How do the kids deal on their own?
Sometimes, they'll band together other kids and team up "against" the narc and emotionally support one another - or older kids will begin to protect the younger ones, taking all the pain on themselves to prevent it from raining down on them.
Other times, they'll spend less time at home and they'll eventually leave home earlier than they might've.
What are the effects on the kids?
Narcissistic step parents can have profound effects on your kids. For example, each time their natural parent sides against them with a step-parent, the kid feels like they're left standing alone and they'll have feelings of betrayal and abandonment.
A lot of adults who had narcissistic step parents report that they felt like their parent was "taken away" by the step-parent or that they lost their childhoods and the deep care and love of a "real" parent.
Some go into psychotherapy and mourn the loss of their parent and to deal with those feelings of abandonment and betrayal.
How does this affect the narc step parent?
Sadly, the narcissistic step-parent will feel little guilt for alienating and sometimes even completely destroying the relationship between parent and child - because, as they see it, they've "won" the attention game. And when the kids are adults, the narcisssitic step parent will celebrate.
Worse, some will repeat this pattern with multiple families.
What will this do to your child?
As your child grows older, they may even be at risk of becoming a narcissist themselves. While that applies more to men than women, women are more likely to BECOME VICTIMS themselves. In either case, you don't want that for your kid, right?
How can you protect your kids from a narcissistic step-parent?
Start by helping yourself. Let me explain what I mean.
First, recognize that emotional abuse will leave scars you can't see - but the long-term effects are REAL, and the pain goes on long after the relationship ends.
Recognize your own feelings - you might have lot of guilt, or intense grief, disbelief or even just plain-old pain. You might feel really ashamed of allowing your kids to get tangled up with your narc spouse (or ex-spouse). And you know that when you were being abused by the narcissist, you were probably not as good of a parent as you wanted to be.
Maybe you were just emotionally unavailable, or maybe you just know that your kids heard and saw way too much in the way of arguments and abuse - and in seeing the state you wound up in when all was said and done.
And recognize that your kids might have seen you as helpless or crazy - or maybe just totally powerless.
If you pull the old "self-sacrificing parent" deal and end up not taking care of yourself, you're providing a not-so-awesome example of how to lay down and take it. I'm sorry for the harshness, but please know that it's tough love.
You have to heal your kids by healing yourself. Period.
Finally, be an ear for your kids - listen to their concerns, their fears and their successes - and validate them appropriately. Don't overcompensate; you won't be doing them any favors - but DO be genuine with them and ensure that you actually validate them on an emotional and psychological level whenever possible. Make sure they know that YOU KNOW that they are REAL people who have REAL value - you feel me?
Okay, that's all I've got for today, and now it's your turn.
Have you dealt with a narcissistic step-parent, either as a child or as a spouse? How'd you handle it, and what advice would you offer someone who is dealing with it right now? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. You never know who's life you might change by doing so.
Ever get tired of being abused by a narcissist? Feel like you want revenge? Well, if you want to know how to control a narcissist or to give him/her a taste of their own medicine, this is what you do.*
*Fair Warning: You need to know that while this information can be useful, there's such a thing as karma - and maybe you don't want to do this. The fact is that two wrongs don't make a right. With that being said, I get it - sometimes, you just want to make a narcissist feel the way he or she makes YOU feel - to give him a taste of his own medicine. Maybe that's because you think it'll help him get a sense of empathy - but it won't, at least not for long. However, it WILL cause him to be under your control for a period of time, so if that's what you want, read on - or watch this video.
How to Torture a Narcissist in 10 Steps
So, if you want to torture and torment a narcissist and control him, here's what you do.
1. Look as physically attractive as possible, at all times. Narcissists NEED to feel like they've got something everyone else wants - so you've got to make your look desirable to them.
2. Be extremely sure of yourself. If the narcissist calls you conceited, you reply with something like, "Conceited? No way! I'm just convinced - have you seen the statistics?" This is right on their level - they'll "get" it and it'll make them want you more, because they secretly wish they could be that way.
3. Never say "I love you too." It'll keep him wondering!
4. Keep a certain amount of distance between the two of you - and never commit to anything, ever.
5. Be flirty and aloof - and if you're ever accused of flirting with someone else, make sure that you quickly turn it around to make the narcissist seem crazy. "
6. Make them beg for your approval! How? So easy - just politely and underhandedly point out their imperfections - i.e. "it's so great that you're so comfortable with your appearance - I wouldn't be so confident if my eyes were so far apart, etc." or "wow, your face would be totally perfect if only your nose wasn't quite so crooked." *Note - the "imperfection" doesn't even need to be real - because the narc will obsess about even perceived imperfecctions and constantly seek your approval. One more example of this tactic: "I love how you will go out in public looking like shit without even caring - how do you manage to find the confidence even carrying around those extra pounds? You are so OWNING it!"
7. Be way too busy for them all the time. (But if you do make plans, be sure to follow through).
8. Throw a crazy bitch-fit every now and again. Get DRAMATIC! Be unapologetic when you overreact to something small - and let the narcissist know that it's not your fault - you don't know how to deal with your feelings because you just have never felt enough about anyone else to actually feel ANYTHING, let alone enough to freak out. (The idea here is that they'll think this makes them special - that they can evoke such emotion in you, and they'll want to control you - that's the closest thing a narcissist ever feels to love).
9. Keep this crazy rollercoaster on its track until you're over it - and then immediately pull the "discard" phase on him - go no contact. This will make the narc desperate for your attention - after all, you'll have managed to build a toxic relationship on the basis of insecurities and manipulation. That's the best kind as far as the narcissist is concerned.
10. Realize that no matter what you do, the narcissist will NEVER truly love you. It's not you - it's him (or her). See, the narcissist doesn't have the capacity to love - but if you want to learn to control a narcissist, these steps are the ones to follow.
Bottom Line: If you do this, it'll be bad for your karma - but it might feel good for a moment.
While it might be very tempting to manipulate and control a narcissist, the truth is that it's only going to be a band-aid - the giant empty spot in a narcissist's soul is unfillable.
So, you've found yourself under fire again, the victim of yet another apparent smear campaign - courtesy of a toxic narcissist, of course.
The everyday average person can't imagine what it's like to experience a smear campaign at the hands of someone they love - and that's because, in general, people who love you would never consider such behavior.
If you look up "smear campaign" in the dictionary, you'll find that the political version of the term matches up with the narcissistic one: "a deliberate attack on somebody, by spreading an untrue and unpleasant rumor about them, or by making an accusation intended to damage their reputation."
And contrary to popular belief, a narcissist who stoops to the level of creating a smear campaign is not crying out for help; rather, s/he's crying out for attention and, in many cases, for a new source of supply.
That's because it doesn't work the same way as a "normal" person's mind does. See, most people feel empathy for others in their lives, and they'd never want to hurt someone they love. But narcissists don't really see others as people who are on the same level; to them, to put it bluntly, you are not a person.
That's because, according to Robert Hare, PhD, "their information, including emotional information, is scattered all over both brain hemispheres - it takes too long or the brain to retrieve and process information, and the entire process of socialization becomes so ponderous that ultimately, it fails."
Living with a narcissist puts you in a tough spot: you sort of forgo the simple pleasures in life. Rather than taking fun strolls down memory lane and laughing together, you'll find yourself feeling like you're literally sleeping with the enemy.
It's like the very stuff that makes life worth living becomes forbidden to you - and as you watch those in healthy relationships have normal, healthy interactions with their love ones, the pain can become even more intense.
But as always, you smile as you die a little inside, bit by bit, each time your voice gets silenced...each time you are blamed and shamed for reacting to your narcissist's emotional and verbal abuse.
Sadly, this behavior is entirely normal for toxic narcissists. See, they are people psychologists group in with the Cluster B personality disorders - and these types are known to pathologically lie, gaslight and run smear campaigns on their victims.
While the narcissist is capable of understanding that causing social harm, damage and general invaliation of your fundamental human rights is wrong, it doesn't stop him/her - and they also continue with lying and manipulating people and trying to gaslight them, knowing it is morally wrong.
But though they recognize the moral wrongness, they equally show no concern about it as they actively work to recruit flying monkeys - people who (wittingly or not) do the narcissist's bidding.
So, what does a smear campaign look like?
So, for example: a narcissist might run a smear campaign on a friend or even a spouse by making up rumors and stories about their target's mental health (or lack thereof). This way, when or if their victims try to speak out or get help (or even support) with the abuse, the victim's credibility has been undermined in advance.
The narcissist will point out that the victim is behaving exactly as s/he predicted, and will use the victim's natural response to this outrageous smear campaign against him or her.
Worse, a narcissist actually sort of "gets off" on this kind of stuff - the idea of "getting away" with something gives them something to feel excited about. They have absolutely no empathy for anyone else, and they only show feelings of remorse if it becomes necessary to do so - as in, if they get caught.
As the victim spirals through the pain and emotional torment of being publicly humiliated and experiencing the deepest depths of shame, betrayal and general invalidation, the narcissist feels no sadness or remorse; rather they find themselves feeling physical, emotional and psychological pleasure. The narcissist will project whatever image might suit their needs at the moment on to the target, and they use this to self-stroke their ego.
It's a bit like emotional masturbation, which they accomplish by manipulating other people's relationships and creating situations in which they can triangulate people.
Then, they lie about one of their sources of supply to the other and they end up feeling very powerful, at least for a moment.
And these days, one of the easiest and most effective ways to covertly bully a victim is through social media. This might begin subtly at first, as in sharing "pointed" memes and quotes, or it might be more overt, as in directly calling out the victims on social media.
This usually involves some perceived offense in which the target stands up for him or her self and is rewarded with a big old case of narcissistic injury.
And even harder to swallow is the fact that narcissists will often claim to be victims of their own kinds of abuse - and they'll play the injured party while they torment their targets secretly.
And, when a kind-hearted person takes pity on the poor, injured narcissist, as they inevitably do, the narcissist feels validated and immediately understands that they've found a new potential target - or at the very least, a new flying monkey.
What it all comes down to is that since narcissists are virtually incapable of normal human emotional behavior, they must manufacture joy and happiness by taking a rather sadistic pleasure in being the predatory creatures they are.
Even if they're directly confronted with actual facts that invalidate their lies, narcissists will hold on to those lies. Worse, the longer the smear campaign continues, the more committed the narcissist becomes and the more outrageously he will behave.
So how can you deal with a narcissist who is actively smear campaigning you?
Honestly, while exposing the narcissist to the people in his life may help some of them to get a clue and stop allowing themselves to be his narcissistic supply, it'll only temporarily slow the narcissist down.
In fact, it'll give him or her the proper fuel s/he needs to get his next supply on the line - his very own savior. Because, of course, in his version of the story, you'll be just the crazy bitch who was so mean and hateful to him and who tried to make his family and friends hate him.
You feel me? It's a cycle.
It's not worth it - it will only further serve to make you miserable.
If you're still dealing with the narcissist, you can try this tip.
If you're stuck with the narcissist because you're co-parenting, or because he or she is your boss or mother-in-law and you just can't go NC for some reason, the best response is to use the gray rock method - in which you literally don't react at ALL.
But the best solution to deal with smear campaigns is this.
The best and only solution to dealing with this kind of person and remaining or becoming happy in your life is to take back your power and choose to create the life you really want, with or without the narcissist - most likely, without. Going no contact or low contact is statistically the most successful way to do it and the only "sure-thing" kind of answer you can find.
What do you think? Have you ever been the target of a smear campaign? How did you handle it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section and let's discuss it. You never know who your story could help!