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So how do you 'deal' with someone with NPD?

(32 Posts)
chicaguapa Mon 10-Mar-14 08:50:07

I'm thinking of getting back into contact with my sis who has NPD (amateur diagnosis by me). Mainly because I can see how difficult it is making things with my mum arranging family get together etc. And because I know she's trying to reconcile.

The reason I went NC a couple of years ago (aka the final straw) is because of how she reacted when I criticised something she'd done. She was very spiteful and vindictive towards me and took it too far IMO. I just decided I didn't need it anymore.

But.... I'll only resume contact if I have a way of dealing with her demands and behaviour. Or is just a case of understanding why she is like that?

It's only recently that I've come across NPD but the 'diagnosis' has helped me enormously in understanding my family dynamics. My dad has NPD too and I've had no contact with him for 3/4 years. I'm not planning on reconciling with him though as he is too abusive for me to cope with.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 10-Mar-14 08:54:17

IME, the only way to deal with a person with NPD is to stay the fuck away from them.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 10-Mar-14 08:56:09

If you get back in contact with her, you will become the butt of narcissist manipulation and rages. There's no magical method to prevent her from being who she is.

Clad your emotions in iron and decide not to give a fuck. Can you do that?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 10-Mar-14 08:56:39

I think the only way you can deal with difficult people such as you describe is to decide where your tolerances are. Treat them as you would a random stranger... i.e. civil but taking no crap. I don't think a 'diagnosis' or understanding of them is necessary because it doesn't change anything. Vital that you understand yourself, your motivations and ambitions however. If you want to be able to attend family functions without aggravation, for example, & that's all you need out of the relationship, set the expectations there and no higher.

Someone will be along shortly saying that there is no way to deal with NPD and that NC is the only solution. smile But if you live at a distance and can keep yourself emotionally at a distance, the NPD (or let's give it it's common name 'awkward cow') can froth, stamp & be as vindictive as they like. It won't affect you.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 10-Mar-14 09:01:31


I would stay away; it is not possible to have any sort of relationship with a narcissist. She has not changed and you are at best a bit part player in the centre of her universe. They are true masters of "come closer so I can hurt you again". They as far from the words "awkward cow" as you can get; that term does not even begin to even scratch the surface as to how vindictive and awful these people are to fellow family members.

LoonvanBoon Mon 10-Mar-14 10:08:37

Good post, cogito. In my experience with difficult family members I've certainly found that focussing on self-awareness (what I'm prepared to tolerate, what kind of relationship I want) has been much more useful & creative than labelling other people.

OP, if you just want to be able to meet with your sister socially, when your mum organizes get-togethers, then that's all you need to do. You don't need to accept your sister's demands (any examples?) or put up with rudeness.

Meerka Mon 10-Mar-14 10:20:01

I think if you're willing to have some sort of limited contact with her for the sake of your mother, then you can, but you need to go into this contact being aware of 2 things:

1) she will try to play games. She won't be able to help herself. And if she's crossed, she will get vindictive again. She may well start trying to manipulate the people around you to get at you too. Be prepared for it and work out how you will handle it. Calm neutrality? going NC again?

2) if / when things go pearshaped, it will not only involve you and her but your mother as well and anyone else who quite naturally prefers a situatoin where one family member is not talking to another. Pressure may be put on you. It may get difficult again. Again, plan how to handle it.

It will be hard to keep emotionally detached and aware that you may have to cut loose at any moment. But unless she really changes, deep down change, you will have to be ready to do that to protect yoruself.

Practical stuff for dealing with her: practise saying No to her demands, not confrontationally but calmly. "No, I won't do that" or "no, I don't want to do that" or plain "no". Remember you are entitled to do what you want, aas long as it doenst hurt other people unnecessarily. And keep on saying it as often as you need to. in the end she may accept that when chica says no, she means no. If you can, don't criticise her. Just keep neutral and emotionally distant. It will be hard, but anything else will start getting you emotionally involved and that's asking for major trouble.

And if it gets too much to bear, withdraw to some degree or totally.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 10-Mar-14 10:22:43

"that term does not even begin to even scratch the surface "

Maybe not, but it's my term for a reason. These people may be spiteful and vindictive - and I have several of them in my family, don't worry - but they are also utterly ridiculous. Better to mock than be intimidated?

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 10-Mar-14 10:34:35

True, they certainly do not like being mocked (and they can be easily fooled) but getting back to the OPs case it may be better not to walk into the lion's den in the first place. Her sister has not fundamentally altered and contact by OP may just undo all the progress that has been made since cessation of contact.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 10-Mar-14 10:43:31

Her sister will never fundamentally alter. The OP seems to have learned something, however, and grown a little. I'm sure there might be moments when they regret resuming contact but, now that they've experienced the alternative, it would be easy to revert. If it's important to the OP that they can participate in family events, I'd say that goal was worth pursuing. Not sit home being excluded because of someone else's nastiness.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 10-Mar-14 10:51:52

People however, generally do not go NC without good reason or without a lot of heartache beforehand. Its very hard to keep chopping and changing levels of contact.

OP does not have to sit at home being excluded because of them; she can continue to build her own life inspite of her dysfunctional birth family. She does not need such people in her life at all, the best revenge with regards to such people is to live well yourself.

ladydepp Mon 10-Mar-14 10:57:47

I have done my own amateur diagnosis of someone in my family with NPD and I still have some contact with them. Reading about NPD has really helped me deal with this person, as another poster said I now really don't care what they think of me or my decisions/opinions. This has made it much easier and I don't get myself all tied up in knots worrying that I haven't done or said the right thing because nothing is ever the right thing for people with NPD!

So for me NPD doesn't mean NC but it means limiting contact and changing my own attitudes to this person.

chicaguapa Mon 10-Mar-14 10:59:59

Thanks all. Some great posts there. I'll come back at lunch time and add my thoughts then.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 10-Mar-14 11:12:29

BTW... that they want to reconcile is not relevant. In fact 'what they want' should be the last thing on your mind full stop. What you want trumps every time. When faced with the pathologically selfish, it can help to be selfish yourself.

Zipadeedoodaa Mon 10-Mar-14 11:25:56

I am convinced my Mother has NPD (I have made that diagnosis).

I went NC in November and it was the best thing I ever did.

Do we have a NPD/Toxic Mothers thread for survivors? I would really like to know if others have the same behaviour as I have had, thanks in advance.

Zip x

kalidasa Mon 10-Mar-14 11:47:12

My FiL is in this category, as is a colleague. From my experience with DH, I'd say have as much emotional back-up as you can to help prevent yourself being drawn in, wound up or overwhelmed, and to help you spot when you are being manipulated. If you can talk over every encounter/snub/hurtful comment with someone who has some distance and is able to see it for what it is that might help. I agree with cogito as well - we laugh about my FiL a lot, even though he continues (with minimal contact) to cause real pain to DH. It's a tricky line to tread for the other person as well though - I feel I need to acknowledge DH's hurt and his ongoing love (and in some ways admiration for/influence from) his Dad and need for his approval, while also making it clear at all times that I am never for a moment taken in by him, and my only interest in him is for the purposes of supporting DH. My colleague I do just find completely ridiculous; I think she senses my total lack of respect though as she steers pretty clear!!

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 10-Mar-14 11:53:37

zipadeedoodaa: look for the "But we took you to Stately Homes!" thread in Relationships. That's where survivors of toxic families hang out. Plenty of resources to delve into in the opening post, too.

ISeeYouShiverWithAntici Mon 10-Mar-14 11:59:36

You can't change other people so the only way to deal with difficult people is to be calm, assertive and not allow yourself to care or be upset with anything they say or do.

Decide your position, state it, stick to it.

You have to be ok with them hating you or being cruel or unkind and with whatever they may choose to say to or about you and you can't concern yourself with how they choose to represent you to other people. you have to make them unimportant to you if you want to ensure that you have no reaction to them.

They have only as much power to upset you as you give them, so it all comes down to you and how you can make yourself handle them and you have to never lose sight of the fact that it is their problem and not your fault.

drnoitall Mon 10-Mar-14 12:26:48

What's npd?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 10-Mar-14 12:29:44

Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It's a contentious thing to diagnose. Narcissism is very common, as are a wide range of other unpleasant behaviours, and it's debatable where it tips over into a disorder

Meerka Mon 10-Mar-14 12:37:39

Narcissitic personality disorder

from the wikipedia entry:
Some people diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder are characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance. They have a sense of entitlement and demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behavior. They have a strong need for admiration, but lack feelings of empathy.[4]

Symptoms of this disorder, as defined by the DSM-IV-TR, include:[1]

Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments
Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others
Envies others and believes others envy him/her
Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence
Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others
Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior
Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic

Other symptoms in addition to the ones defined by DSM-IV-TR include: Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends, has trouble keeping healthy relationships with others, easily hurt or rejected, appears unemotional, and exaggerating special achievements and talents, setting unrealistic goals for himself/herself.[5]

Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by dramatic, emotional behavior, and an over-inflated sense of self-importance ....

Unfortunately, it seems also to be attached to highly manipulative behaviours and sometimes quite spiteful behaviours.

Meerka Mon 10-Mar-14 12:42:11

narcissistic personality disorders also tend to be characterised by an inability, real inability, to see others as being as 'real' or valuable as the you, yourself. You are the centre of the world and other people are there for you, not people who are entitled to the same respect and decent treatment as you are.

It's like you are the sun and everyone else is in orbit around you, there to dance attendance on you.

It's one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat, which are in themselves resistant to treatment generally with a couple of exceptions.

chicaguapa Mon 10-Mar-14 13:07:24

Thanks all.

I think the reason I feel that diagnosing the NPD and understanding that is important is that I wouldn't feel unreasonable or awkward by not complying with what she wants and it would help me to maintain a level of distance.

It has also gone a long way to explaining the relationship my mum has with her. Whereas before I used to feel aggreived when we were supposed to be doing something and my sis would call and my mum would go running, now I would know that it's not about what's wrong with me (why does my mum prefer to spend time with sis), but about what's wrong with sis and her constant needs. I don't harbour any ideas of her changing. I just want to know if it's possible to deal with it and maintain a distance.

Atilla's comments certainly resonate in relation to my dad. I know that any involvement with him would end badly and I do intend to stay the fuck away well clear. I think because he is more likely to cause emotional damage and I wouldn't cope with that.

Re my sis it seems a little easier as I'm less involved anyway. So Cognito et al's comments about determining a level of tolerance sound like that could work. I think it would be easier to withdraw in the future as I have made it clear I have been NC because treating me the way she did was unacceptable to me. I could easily return to NC if she 'reoffended'. I also wouldn't put myself in a position again where she could find my achilies heel and strike so I wouldn't be as vulnerable.

DH is great at the support side of things and says she's no way near as bad as my dad. They are both definitely NPD but tick different boxes. But DH was a good person to laugh with about her attention-seeking behaviour and was good at putting things into perspective. As I said earlier, I also now know that it's not about me, how anyone feels about me etc, it's about how other people are responding to her NPD which really helps with my own self-esteem.

I know it's not about whether she wants to reconcile. I just mentioned that because I didn't want it to look like I was thinking about it, for her to just potentially reject any advances anyway.

I'm still undecided though. My gut is telling me to just leave things as they are as I've been happy without the contact. I don't know if I can be doing with having to be on my guard, being wise to manipulation and having to bite my tongue the whole time. I have felt a little bit excluded sometimes but I think that would still happen though because of my being NC with my dad. And they're all as mad as hatters anyway so it's not the biggest loss.

It's interesting to know that it is possible to do it in degrees as it were, that it's not necessarily a case of all or nothing and no in between. I think the challenge could be determining where the level of distance is placed and her wanting to cross that and get closer, ie return to how we were before.

Maybe I'll go to my mum's for dinner one Sunday and see how it goes. Then I can dip my toe in the water and see how deep I want to go before it gets too cold and I stop. grin

Thanks for all the advice. It's been really helpful. Mumsnet has been great in helping me deal with all this. thanks

whitsernam Mon 10-Mar-14 13:25:58

You sound really smart and aware, and seem to be sorting this out with your DH (who sounds great!!) so I'd say trust yourself on how far you go with anything involving your sister. Your instincts are good.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 10-Mar-14 13:26:10

"My gut is telling me to just leave things as they are as I've been happy without the contact".

Well go with your gut, a gut feeling should never be ignored. I think you stand to lose a great deal if contact was at all resumed; it is all too easy to be sucked back into the overall unhealthy dynamic. People within dysfunctional families end up playing roles; you really do not want to get drawn back into this. Also people like your good self never go NC without good reason and much thinking before doing so.

I would suggest you read "Children of the Self Absorbed" written by Nina W Brown.

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