Why do narcissists destroy their families? If you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist, then you know how damaging it can really become. And if you have or had a narcissist in the family, then you know how distressing their presence really is to everyone involved. If you dealt with a narcissistic ex, whether you got married to them or not, you might also be well-aware of the way they treat their families. If you had a narcissistic parent, you saw that they were not capable of giving you love and care as you needed to grow up healthy and secure.
So my guess is that if you do or did have a toxic family member, you are probably well-aware of the fact that your average narcissist isn’t capable of being consistently kind to their family. And, in so many cases, they will even be worse to certain members of the family, for various reasons.
The Toxic Family Structure
There’s something weird that happens when you’re dealing with toxic parents: a sort of a different kind of family structure evolves – one that is way outside of what you might consider the spectrum of normal healthy families. I call it “toxic family structure.” What that means is that in most cases, a family led by a narcissist will involve a certain cast of players.
This will include, of course, the Narcissist (or the toxic person the family revolves around), Enabler (often the other parent who may willingly or unwillingly support the narcissist), Golden Child (the child who gets all the positive attention and who often lives with extreme pressure from both the parents who want them to succeed or be perfect as well as the siblings who feel jealous or slighted by this attention that is so opposite of the attention they get), Scapegoat (the problem child/the one everyone blames for everything) and Lost Child (the invisible one who doesn’t get in much trouble or who is largely ignored due to attention to the golden child and the direct abuse of the scapegoat).
5 Ways Narcissists Abuse and Neglect Their Families
Yes, narcissists treat their family members terribly. Let’s break down why they do.
1. A Family Member Is Always Scapegoated By The Narcissist
As you know, narcissists do not treat their family members well at all, and if they do have a favorite, it is not for legitimate reasons. They see their favorite as an endless source of narcissistic supply. Even their favorite family member is used and taken advantage of in cruel ways.
With that being said, there is always a family member that is scapegoated by the narcissist. This often happens among narcissistic parents, for example. There is one child that is their favorite, and there is the other child that is their scapegoat. They will not hesitate to blame the scapegoated child for anything and everything and ends up dealing with abuse.
Also known as the black sheep, the scapegoat is the person in the toxic family structure who always gets blamed for everything that goes wrong for everyone, a member of a family, or a group. The black sheep is usually considered the outcast, the “bad kid” or a straight-up disgrace to the family. A scapegoat may have the following traits:
- Internalizes blame easily
- Emotionally reactive
- Highly sensitive
- Protective, or overprotective of friends, strangers, etc.
The scapegoat often becomes the caregiver of the family and they’re likely to question everything – including authority (which adds to their pain in the family). And of course, they seem to be different or to stick out from the rest of the family in some way.
But the “golden” child or the “favored” one has a different cross to bear. The golden child might seem to have a sweet deal, but they live in fear of letting their narcissistic parent down because they could end up with the same type of abuse as well. And it could happen. In fact, in many families, the roles are interchangeable and dependent on the narcissist’s perception of each family member in any given moment.
2. Narcissists Don’t Hesitate To Blame Their Family Members For Things Going Wrong
If a narcissist runs into a problem, they will not hesitate to blame the scapegoated family member for the problem they face even if it had nothing to do with them. And they could also lash out at other family members, but the scapegoated one would take the brunt of it. They deflect, blame-shift, and refuse to take responsibility. It’s the nature of the beast, so to speak.
3. Narcissists Don’t Treat Their Families With Any Respect
Narcissist family members will speak rudely and will speak in any manner they choose to their family members which undoubtedly is in a way that lacks respect. They can appear charming, generous, and kind to those outside of their family who they are trying to impress so they gain something from them which is praise and recognition. And if these individuals ever spoke to the narcissist’s family members, they would not believe how badly they are treated by the individual who is so ‘charming and kind’.
4. The Narcissist Will Not Hesitate To Push Through Boundaries That Their Family Members Put Up
You already know that narcissists do not treat their families with kindness and respect. You know they will speak to them in very unkind and disrespectful ways. That also means that they will push through any boundaries that their family members put up. For instance, if one family member demands privacy while they are on the phone, the narcissist will ignore that request. They will barge into the room where the family member is making the phone call if they need to get something – or even just to prove a point. They will step on anyone and everyone they call family, without regard for the person or their feelings, in order to meet their own wants and needs. in other words, they do not care how you feel and you can tell by the way they treat you.
5. You Can’t Trust Your Toxic Narcissistic Family Member.
While the narcissist in your family will require absolute loyalty and confidentiality from you, you won’t get the same from them. There are several reasons you cannot trust your narcissistic family member.
First, you will have to deal with regular smear campaigns.
If you were to go against your narcissistic family member’s wishes, then they won’t hesitate to go out of their way to ruin your reputation. They will share private information about you that can be damaging through their social media platforms and they will even contact your boss and tell them reasons why they should fire you. You cannot trust a narcissistic family member in that way as they will definitely share anything damaging about you.
And don’t share your secrets with them!
You can never confide in a narcissistic family member whatsoever. Even if you did not let them down and they aren’t going to conduct a smear campaign, they will still leak out your secrets. Especially if those secrets are the key to giving them the supply they need. They have no integrity.
You have to remember that narcissists are master liars and will never be truthful about anything unless it suits them in the moment – and sometimes, they lie just for the sake of lying. That’s why you should pretty much always assume whatever they tell you is questionable, at the very least. You cannot consistently expect honesty from a narcissistic family member.
From here on out, just be very careful if you’re dealing with a narcissist in the family. They are bound to hurt you in one way or another, and never think they won’t. Even if they say they won’t and have your best interest at heart, they have no idea what that even means.
Question of the Day: Do you have a narcissist in the family? What have your experiences been like and how have you chosen to deal with them? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.