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.
This, for some survivors of narcissistic abuse, leads to a bit of a dopamine deficit, which can lead to depression. Depression can often leave you feeling lifeless – and after all the ups and downs of the toxic relationship you’ve been living in, the lack of drama can literally become…sort of lackluster…leaving you feeling plain old bored. Does any of that sound familiar to you? If so, you might be interested in taking this online depression test (it’s free).
First of all, let me be clear. If you’re bored and you’re not feeling lifeless and depressed, it’s possible that you need to consider getting back out there and living your life again Maybe you’ve done enough of the healing and, dare I suggest it? Maybe you’re ready to date? If you’re not sure, you can take this quiz to find out.
But, if you’re not quite up to getting back into the dating pool, or if your toxic relationship was not a spouse or partner, there are a lot of things you can do to manage and even eliminate excessive boredom in recovery. Whether you’re occasionally frustrated by standard stuff – such as finding out that your flight is delayed or you’re barely staying awake through each workday, you can retrain your brain to prevent boredom – or, at the least, learn a few coping skills to minimize it.
Are you feeling stuck or trapped?
Sometimes the thing that’s keeping us from living our best life is just that we feel trapped. You may not even know why it is you feel this way, but you know you’re not where you want to be. The key to getting unstuck is to take stock of your life, your wants, your goals, and your values. You can’t find a way out of the trap if you don’t understand what’s holding you back and where you want to go. So, let’s take a look at some ways you can widen your perspective in order to get unstuck. It’s not that difficult once you get started.
What’s your ‘why?’
Why are you doing what you’re doing? Really, ask yourself that question. To figure it out, think about why it is you want to make some change in your life. What is driving you? Then figure out the type of change you may wish to make. What do you want to be, do, have, or achieve? Take time to examine your deepest feelings and fears in order to determine what it is you may desire. What do you really, really want? What is the purpose you want your life to have? Then brainstorm some ways you might attain that purpose in order to begin living differently. Remember, you don’t have to know everything all at once. Taking small steps can make a big difference.
What scares you?
You’ve got to face your fears in narcissistic abuse recovery, and once you do, you can become fearless! And you know what they say – once you’re fearless, you’re also powerful. (I believe that was Mary Shelley in the book Frankenstein who wrote, “I am fearless, therefore powerful,” one of my favorite quotes!).
Understand that there will be fear and uncertainty in this process. That’s probably why you haven’t undertaken it before now. It’s scary to think about moving forward in a new direction. Even though a rut may be uncomfortable, it’s what you know, and it feels safe. You’ll need to acknowledge and face your fears in order to make change.
What can you do differently?
It can help to switch things up! Ask yourself, what can you change right now? Remember, though, baby steps are always an option. Start practicing by doing something small to switch things up on a regular basis, maybe even every day. Drive a new way home from work. Sign up for a class that interests you. Talk to someone you see on a regular basis but have never approached before. You’ll soon see that stepping outside your routine doesn’t have to be so scary.
Are you listening to your gut?
Your intuition is your friend, and during narcissistic abuse, you may have learned to stop listening to it. You’ll need to really get to know yourself again if you want to leave your comfort zone. Typically, doing so involves making waves among the people you know. When you make big changes in your own life, those things tend to affect the people who are close to you. They may not always be supportive. Therefore, it’s important that you listen to your instincts and know yourself well when you set out to leave your rut behind. Doing so will help you to prepare for any resistance you encounter from others and from yourself.
What are your triggers?
You’ve got to identify your triggers here. I’m talking about your boredom triggers, in this case. So, what triggers you to get bored? Jobs that are too hard or too easy can bore you because your mind starts to wander. You have difficulty concentrating and you want to do something else. Once you know what sets you off, you can create solutions like playing music while you vacuum the stairs or rewarding yourself with a frozen yogurt after you complete your expense reports.
What’s your body telling you?
Body language is more powerful than you might think. They say you can change your feelings by changing the way you hold your body. It’s true, in my experience. So give it a shot! Look in a mirror. Are you slouching? Are you frowning? You know what to do. Smiling and sitting up straight will liven you up instantly.
What can you stop doing?
Prioritize and delegate your responsibilities where possible. Stop doing stuff that doesn’t interest you for a couple of (planned) days. Take a weekend and rest – or do something crazy and fun. And hey – maybe you can eliminate some of the chores that make you yawn. See how much your dry cleaner charges for hemming pants or other simple tailoring. Order groceries online instead of spending your weekends in overcrowded supermarkets.
What is your personality type?
Understanding your personality can help you to remain safe and happy while you seek excitement. Here’s something fun to do! Take the Myers-Briggs Test and see what your personality type happens to be – you can do so for free at this website. (Note: this is not a sponsored link – I just really like that website and recommend it to my clients often. It has been highly accurate for pretty much everyone I know who has tried it!)
What’s happening in your head?
Mindfulness is a powerful tool. It’s sort of like intentional vibration management, and it can really help you to build up your self-awareness. Practice monitoring your feelings and describing them. It’s the first step to accepting them. Let go of expectations. Appreciate the present moment without rehashing your last conflict at the office or anticipating how slow rush hour traffic will be. These are behaviors you may have sort of forgotten during your narcissistic abuse due to your sole focus being on pleasing the narcissist for so long. You kind of lost yourself, right? Mindfulness can be one powerful tool in your healing.
What do you enjoy doing?
One of the most difficult parts about feeling bored is that often, the stuff that bores you is also the stuff you have to do every day. If you want to improve your focus, you need to strengthen your ability to concentrate. You can start to do that by finding ways to enjoy yourself more often. So, to start, you can look around and find activities that give you a flow experience where time just sort of flies by. Schedule it if you have to! And then get a little timer (or ask your Alexa to time you) and tackle the most tedious jobs against the clock. Make a game of it. It really does make the boring stuff less boring – sometimes, anyway.
What should you slow down on doing?
Going out with friends, dancing, and partying can be a fun way to feel less bored, But it is also a fun way to find yourself looking down the barrel of a massive and dangerous addiction. One of the most common reasons survivors of narcissistic abuse find themselves dealing with addiction is that after the end of their toxic relationships is boredom and/or a need to numb out from the pain of the grief they won’t allow themselves to feel. And, speaking of grief…
Have you mourned the relationship?
See, even though narcissistic abuse is horrible and traumatic, you still need to grieve the relationship, despite what most people think. You still spent a good portion of your life with this person as part of your normal. That is not something you can just “get over,” regardless of how toxic it was. You have to mourn the relationship you thought you were getting into – the person you thought you were signing up for – if you’re ever going to heal. But you don’t want to find yourself in the grip of addiction before you do – so be careful and remember that the downside of sensation seeking is that you may put yourself at risk for overeating, drinking too much, drug abuse, gambling, or other excesses. Think before you surrender to impulses so you’ll make constructive choices. Or at the very least, be intentional about how often you’re “numbing out.”
Most of all, just take some action. Each step will become easier as you go and will build upon the last. Keep going. Follow your plan, and you’ll figure out the details as you go along.
Where can you find support?
Don’t try to do it all alone. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends you can trust. And join a support group if you need someone who gets where you’ve been. Here are some resources to help you find support in your own narcissistic abuse recovery.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
What’s your purpose? Engaging in meaningful activities fights fatigue and increases your satisfaction with life. Ask yourself how your profession or your hobbies contribute to your health and wellbeing. Maybe you could use a little focus on finding or indulging your passion? (Here’s my free “Passion Planner” to help you out a little!)
How much screen time are you allowing yourself?
Limiting screen time can be a huge help when it comes to overcoming boredom. It won’t hurt you to step away from the screens for an hour or two a day, at least. Some experts speculate that hours of scrolling Instagram and Netflix binges may interfere with our ability to entertain ourselves. Take a break from the computer each day to play the piano or bake a cake. Or go outside and breathe a little, you know.