Just spent the weekend with family and DH and I have been really struggling to deal with one family member's behaviour. Not just us actually, others too, although we haven't spoken to others about it, they have clearly been upset and/or inconvenienced by her. And it's getting worse. This weekend was a big family celebration and there were a few instances of her trying to derail things and turn the spotlight back to herself.
I've just been reading another thread and had a lightbulb moment - she's a narcissist! Just been doing some reading online and it makes total sense. She has huge sense of entitlement, at expense of the rest of us, believes world revolves around her, and is badly exploiting other family members for her and her DC's benefit. Although we also saw this weekend evidence that she sees her own happiness as more important than her DC's. I guess that's normal?
Why did I not realise this before?!
So what now? How should we be handling her to make life more bearable without always giving in to her demands and expectations? Any tips from your experiences or should we just avoid her?
That's tough to say without giving away specific information.
Examples would be sulking when things don't happen precisely as she has ordained (even if this upsets the person in whose honour the celebration us being held), dictating what everyone will do (to suit herself, even if others are put out or inconvenienced), putting others to huge trouble/expense to save herself the equivalent trouble/expense, lots of "jokes" about her great wisdom/beauty, punishment for DCs if they do not comply 100%.
How should we be handling her to make life more bearable without always giving in to her demands and expectations?
As you don't have to be around her all the time, I think you can definitely make things more bearable. What you can't do is turn her into a sane, reasonable adult. So the first way to make life more bearable is to resign yourself to this fact.
Emotionally, she's a small child. She cannot grow up. So, as you would do with a toddler you're fond of, feed her ego the very second you clap eyes on her. Display great joy at the privilege of being in her company, ADMIRE her - a lot - and ask nothing of her (except to show something off, if you're feeling indulgent.) Then move smoothly away. Tip: Never move away to admire someone else! Either have a regrettable duty to fulfil (anything will do, she doesn't care) or provide another admirer to take your place. If you've ever hosted boring parties, you'll be an expert at this
The trick to getting out of things is to slide away. Don't argue or suggest something that wasn't her idea. If you've got the time/energy and acting skills, though, you can drip-feed your idea to her, in hopes she'll decide it looks better and pretend she thought of it.
When stuck in front of a Monologue About Me, occupy your mind elsewhere while uttering "Oooh!" and "Wow!" and "Tell me more!" You and DH can play secret games; count the number of times she says "I" in sixty seconds, score her for stealth boasts, that sort of thing ...
When subjected to a Narcisstic Rage, be ever so passive. Look as though you're listening, but remember this actually has nothing to do with you - it's All About Her. So don't bother trying to reply to any points, justify anything or try to calm her down. She'll blow over, like a storm. Weirdly, she probably won't even remember that she raged.
Hope this is some help! Do, please, give her DC all the sympathy you can show without pissing her off. I took to saying "Ouch!" whenever one of my Narcs dropped a bomb on her kids. She didn't even notice, but I got a truly heartfelt "Thanks" from DC. Every time. The poor kids don't get much validation.
MangoMonster it's definitely become her habit to behave this way. As I said, I think it has got worse over the years. I also think I understand why she has become like this. I think she is mostly habitual, but some of it is done consciously. Certainly one recent incident was conscious game-playing.
garlic thank you for taking the effort to type all of that, I will read and re-read and probably print out your advice to keep with me!
TMSB thank you for the book recommendation, will take a look.
Would like to expand on a point made by Garlic re this relations of yours being a very small child as it may help you further:-
"Given distance, or only transient and intermittent contact, you can get along with narcissists by treating them as infants: you give them whatever they want or need whenever they ask and do not expect any reciprocation at all, do not expect them to show the slightest interest in you or your life (or even in why you're bothering with them at all), do not expect them to be able to do anything that you need or want, do not expect them to apologize or make amends or show any consideration for your feelings, do not expect them to take ordinary responsibility in any way.
But note: they are not infants; infants develop and mature and require this kind of care for only a brief period, after which they are on the road to autonomy and looking after themselves, whereas narcissists never outgrow their demands for dedicated attention to their infantile needs 168 hours a week. Adult narcissists can be as demanding of your time and energy as little babies but without the gratification of their growing or learning anything from what they suck from you. Babies love you back, but adult narcissists are like vampires: they will take all you can give while giving nothing back, then curse you for running dry and discard you as a waste of their precious time".
I would avoid this particular relation of yours at all costs. As KellyKettle has discovered as well they also have the most nasty tempers and rages as well.