You guessed it – I have occasional commenters who claim that I must be a narcissist – obviously, because it’s not possible to understand anyone’s psychology unless you ARE one of those people, right?
Pardon my sarcasm there, but the fact is that MOST people who communicate with me understand where I’m coming from. Generally, those who don’t understand me have a good reason for it – choice or difference in opinion – and maybe, at times, I hit a bit too close to home. Who knows? In any case, I’m once again addressing this silly issue.
In this video, I’ll address these comments – and I’ll fill you in on WHY I won’t argue with people who attempt to label me a narcissist.
“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.” ~Robert Quillen
“People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.” ~Will Rogers
Look, healthy narcissism is self-focus, self-confidence, self-interest and personal drive, but these qualities must coexist with a healthy concern for others and the ability to genuinely empathize with them.
One of my coaching clients asked me today if a “one-sided phone conversation” was a commonly used narcissistic abuse/manipulation tactic – and with her permission, I am sharing part of what she said to me about it.
In part, she said: When (the narcissist) calls from work..(if he decides to) out of no where he will say stuff like, “What is wrong with you?” or “Why are you starting a fight?” or “Why are you being a bitch, why are you doing this, you just like to fight…etc.” Is this something everyone else in this situation has had to deal with?
My answer? Oh yes indeed, and here’s what happens.
Picture this. Your narcissist is standing in front of a room full of co-workers or friends, and you call him/her about something you need to ask him/her or info you need to pass along.
As the phone rings, he or she groans and says to the people in the room, “Oh GOD! Not this again…”
Begrudgingly picking up the phone, he/she says, “Hello?” ever so sweetly.
You say hi and say whatever you have to say – and before you know it, the narcissist is saying strange things – things that don’t make logical sense in the conversation and that don’t seem to be responses to what you’re saying.
Next thing you know, the narc seems enraged or offended, and is saying stuff like, “You’re crazy!” Or “Geez, you’re so paranoid/controlling/bitchy/lazy/desperate/etc.” And the more you try to convince the narc that you’re really not trying to offend him/her and that you just wanted to see if they’d stop by the store and grab a gallon of milk on the way home (or whatever), the more he/she seems to ramp up the bullshit.
Suddenly, you hear him/her tell you “I’ve had enough! Don’t talk to me. I don’t think I’m coming home tonight,” or whatever version of that seems to hurt you the most, and then the phone goes dead.
So where does this leave you? Hanging by a proverbial thread, in most cases.
Now you’re confused – you’ve just been gaslighted. You wonder if you’re the crazy one – AND, on top of that, you realize that conversation just happened in front of other people, who are now judging you based on ONE SIDE of a really strange conversation that has left you completely spinning and lost.
See what just happened there? You got “narc’d” so to speak – the narcissist pretended that you were a crazy, awful or otherwise unsavory person, thereby not only cementing his/her position that YOU are the problem in your relationship with the people around him – but also, you’ve been used to elicit additional sources of narcissistic supply.
How to Deal When the Narcissist Hangs Up the Phone
What can you do about it? You’re stuck with this now-corroded self-image that the narcissist keeps putting on you to their “flying monkeys” and so you know that no matter what you say or do, it can be interpreted to highlight or validate the narcissist’s lies about you.
So the only thing you can do in this case is:
1. Avoid all phone calls with the narcissist unless absolutely necessary and
2. When or if you do have to get on the phone, stay calm, keep it quick, and don’t indulge the games. Keep your emotions out of it.
You might also consider texting instead – and one client I know even records the calls. Who can blame her?
Should You Expose the Narcissist?
Okay, now we’re going to talk about what else you could do, if you wanted, to expose the narcissist to the people around him or her – if you really feel like you want to do that. TO be fair, the best option is really to just NOT engage the narcissist, to move on and to go no contact. But, failing that…here’s some stuff you might wanna know. Check out this video.
We all know some amazing people who are the best step-parents they could be, right? You know the ones – they’re the moms and dads they “didn’t have to be.” But what happens when you’re dealing with a toxic step-parent? Well, that’s a whole other experience.
What happens when your child’s other parent, or YOUR parent, marries a narcissist?
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?”
What is a toxic, malignant narcissist?
A narcissist, in general, someone with a high opinion of him/herself. In narcissistic abuse situations, this refers to a toxic, verbally (and sometimes physically) abusive person who may have narcissistic personality disorder. A malignant narcissist,on the other hand, is someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) along with antisocial features, paranoid traits, and ego-driven aggression. They may also exhibit an absence of conscience, a psychological need for power, and an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement.
Defining Narcissistic Step-Parents
How can you tell you’re dealing with a narcissistic step-parent? 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 narcissists are especially toxic because they get into the marriage for all the wrong 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 generally 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 experienced 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 the 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 both 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 kids 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 with a narcissist step-parent 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 of a narcissistic step-parent 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 narcissistic 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 narcissistic step-parent will celebrate.
Worse, some will repeat this pattern with multiple families.
What does dealing with a narcissist step-parent 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 a 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?
Question of the Day: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 below this video. You never know whose life you might change by doing so.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a toxic narcissist, you know how painful and traumatic it can be for an adult. Imagine how it would feel if you were a child – and if it were all you knew.
You probably are already aware that narcissistic parents refuse to respect or even acknowledge their children’s desires.
If you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, for example, you may watch him or her promise your kids the world, in order to get what he/she wants from them, and then refuse to honor the promises. He may even directly blame the kids for his refusal, such as inventing a reason to punish them.
The kids of a narcissist are often forced to miss out on events like birthday parties, little league games or other activities that are important to them in order to accommodate the narcissistic parent’s wishes.
And before long, if you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, your children will learn that what they want is just not important.
When Your Mom or Dad is a Narcissist: What the Kids Deal With
For a child of a narcissist, the intense rage alternating with the guilt and occasional public display of affection are combined with trying to do whatever the narc parent wishes to appease him. Unfortunately, it never works that way and the child will always ultimately fail to meet his standards of perfection.
This leads to the child constantly being told she’s a complete failure. She grows up without the ability to make her own choices, and she may become socially awkward, having trouble with setting boundaries.
Worse, the child of a narcissist will often fall to a line of successive abusers, as she has no notion of normal behavior and of what to expect from relationships.
She will believe that her feelings of being taken advantage of are her own fault. She will think she’s oversensitive (that’s what the narcissist tells her when she has a legitimate concern). She also feels that she somehow deserves the abuse and so has no option but to tolerate it, as everyone would do the same to her.
No good parent wants her child to experience these things. So how can you be sure you’re co-parenting with a narcissist? Check out these signs and see if you might recognize someone you know or love.
When his children fail to live up to his expectations, he severely punishes them.
Incapable of empathy, so will rain down toxic criticism and disapproval on children, even when they are good. That’s partially because the kids have their own feelings and personalities (which are separate and different from the narcissist’s), so they are never good enough.
Wants total control over his/her family. Expects children to become copies of himself, which he considers the measure of perfection.
Often causes kids to grow up with severe guilt and incredibly low self-esteem. May even cause them to become narcisists themselves.
Maintains two separate “identities” – one to the “outside world,” which includes even extended family, and another to those who live within the circle of influence (or the home).
Appears to outsiders to be a great listener, generous with time and money, charming, etc. But within those inside the home, a narc parent will be dismissive, ignoring and/or directly cruel. May also play mind games.
Covert narcs will seek attention with very subtle moves, often glaring at her targets across the room or kicking them under the table to get them to stop hogging the spotlight. Overt narcs will be more obvious with their attention-seeking behaviors – sometimes even openly interrupting or causing a scene when it’s not all about them.
Takes behaviors and misbehaviors of children as personal compliments and attacks on his or her Self – because as far as a narc parent is concerned, her children are simple extensions of herself. Is often over-dramatic and is heard saying things like “I can’t believe you would do this to me…” when disciplining children for normal childhood mistakes.
Sees his children, as well as everyone else, not as people who have own personalities, needs and feelings. but as merely objects that exist only to serve his purposes.
Gaslights children and spouse, intentionally undermining their senses of self and invading boundaries. This may manifest with subtle criticism, or it may be more direct.
For example, a narc mother whose daughter made the cheerleading squad might try to live virtually through the daughter, especially if she herself wanted to be a cheerleader and never made the squad.
She could do this by being incredibly controlling and overbearing, requiring her daughter to practice excessively and building discipline into cheerleading fails.
Alternatively, she might go the other direction and cast doubt on her. (“You only made the team because they felt sorry for you.”) Or, she might predict failure on the endeavor – but cloaked in concern. (“Are you sure you want to do this? What if you break your neck?”)
Believes that spouse and children don’t deserve to choose their own boundaries and will actively challenge and overstep them.
Behaves as though children and spouse are possessions which don’t have valid thoughts and opinions.
Becomes indignant and/or denies it if you ask them to discuss these behaviors.
For example, if your narc mother knows that you love to cook, she may pretend she doesn’t when you mention something about it. But if you confront her and remind her how you won that cooking contest you entered last year, she instantly reminds you that she’s always telling people that you’re a great cook.
May actually tell people about your accomplishments, but only to make herself look good and to get attention.
Envies the good things that others have, but won’t admit to wanting those things and won’t attempt to get them. But if anyone else does something to improve their circumstances, may call them selfish and entitled.
For example, if the narc mother of an adult learned that her daughter bought her first brand new car, she’d shake her head and murmur something about the dangers of new car ownership and how much insurance must be costing by now, rather than simply saying “wow, congrats honey!” or something else that is in any way appropriate.
Never likes people “for real,” even though she may have a huge social circle. There are few people she will speak very well of, and she’s not really emotionally close to anyone. The people who they do seem to like are often their admirers and/or those who don’t ask much of them.
Vain, but maybe not how you’d expect. For example. while she may not be openly flashy or stylish, a narc mother is very concerned about what people think. So, if she had to choose between “keeping up appearances” or protecting her kids? She’d definitely go with the former.
Can’t deal with other people’s strong emotions. May instantly bristle when someone, even her child, comes to her with an emotional problem – or any strong emotion at all. Behaves as though the emotions of others are a burden and may even try to make them all about her and/or steal the “spotlight” of any issue.
For example, if her child is getting a risky surgery, she will focus more on how it’s affecting her, rather than the child – and will suck up as much attention and pity as possible in the process.
Will make it all about how upsetting this is to her, rather than the fact that her child’s life is at risk. (Will still, of course, appear to be the perfect parent with an appropriate amount of concern to all of the “outsiders” in her life.)
Expects people to wait on him/her – and expects not to reciprocate. May make statements such as “I work for a living, after all” or “Must be nice to sit around here and do nothing while I work my ass off for you!”
Are you co-parenting with a narcissist? What are your best tips to cope? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below. Let’s discuss it.