5 Strategies That can Help When Dealing with a Narcissistic In-Law
"You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer served,” - Nina Simone
No. Please don’t give me the oldest, used to death excuse in the world that “It’s not that they don’t love me, it’s just the way they are sometimes. Really, they don’t do it on purpose.”
The solution when dealing with a family member who has a narcissistic personality is not in making excuses for their behavior, but to protect yourself mentally and emotionally.
I am referring to that family member who loves to create drama on account of their need to be the center of attention. As a result, birthdays or family gatherings can become a pain in the neck because you never know what might trigger them into causing a scene.
The only way to win with a toxic person is not to play. Leave their “playground.”
When the narcissist is a close relative like an in-law, the ideal solution of avoiding or removing them completely from your life may be tricky, not to mention difficult.
Here are 5 tips to deal with such a situation
For brevity let us use the abbreviation NIL for the narcissistic in-law (it could be your FIL, MIL, DIL, or SIL…. you get my point).
1. Go Grey Rock on your NIL:
The Grey Rock technique is a tried and tested tool that can be deployed while interacting with a narcissistic relative. According to Psychology Today, the objective of the Grey Rock method is “Is to make someone lose interest in you. You don’t feed their needs for drama or attention.”
However, there are some downsides to it:
Since you may not completely avoid the NIL, it is going to take considerable energy and acting skills to pretend to be, well, a rock.
There is a high chance of your NIL going on the offensive, especially when they sense you are taking a stand. Be prepared for the volleys aimed at you by their cronies and flying monkeys. These are cleverly disguised attempts to elicit some sort of reaction from you. For example, you could be ‘diagnosed’ by the NIL as depressed/suffering from mental problems of your own causing. If you fall into this trap and react, then the NIL will be triumphant that they could prove to everyone who the loco one here is.
2. Beware of the NIL’s powers of persuasion!
Once the NIL gets it in their head that you are on to them, they will go into overdrive trying to paint a different picture of other relatives. It doesn’t matter which sympathetic ear they spew their vitriol to, as long as they get across how they are the innocent victim and you are the villain. You will be shocked at the number of people who are swayed by the narcissist’s heartbreaking pile of steaming bull****!
“Pick your battles. You don’t have to show up to every argument you’re invited to.”
Your instinct would be to defend yourself, but the better strategy would be not to give the NIL fuel by trying to engage.
3. Try to keep your life as private as possible from the NIL.
Don’t volunteer details, as this might be used as ammo in the future. Lay down firm boundaries when they ask inquisitive questions, especially regarding child-rearing (if you have any) or how you run your household.
It’s really none of their business, anyway.
4. Don’t contact them unless you absolutely have to:
“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing.”
Let them do the starting and when they do, act nice and sweet, so now they’re confused. This way you are not giving them anything concrete latch on to.
5. Out of sight is out of mind:
“Pay attention to whom your energy increases and decreases around. That’s the universe giving you a hint on who you should stray from or stay around.”
Move as far away as you can from them if it is doable.
By putting the miles between you and them when you move out of town, there is a lesser chance of impromptu visits. Moving out of state is even better on that score, and out of the country is probably the best bet.
Limit your coming into contact with them as much as possible.
It is an act of self-care, not selfishness, when you choose to maintain a safe distance both emotionally and mentally from toxic relatives. As Michael J Fox once puts it, “I like to encourage people to realize that any action is a good action if it’s proactive and there is positive intent behind it.”
Having some support while undertaking an endeavor such as this is important. Rely on your spouse and close friends to fortify you with the emotional support you’re going to need. Have a frank conversation with your spouse so that he/she is aware of and supports the reason behind what you are trying to do. Which is trying to avoid conflict/potentially ugly scenes with the NIL that could spell doom for over one relationship.
Originally published on Medium.