It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, maybe not. If you are spending the holidays with a narcissist, it’s more about surviving than celebrating. Narcissists don’t change during the holiday season, and in fact, they can make things worse for everyone around them.
For example, Christmas Eve has always been my favorite part of the holidays. I think it’s part anticipation of Christmas morning and the comfort that comes from singing Christmas songs at church. Furthermore, for me, it’s an evening the embodies the hope that there is something bigger than all of us at work in our daily lives.
That said, I always enjoyed having neighbors over after church on December 24th. I loved opening our home for a few hours so people could stop by and drink cocktails, eat yummy food, and relax. Part of it, too, was taking my mind off the angst of living with a narcissist and asking myself each year, “Would this be the last year that I am married to this?” It was a distraction from the usual pain of living with a toxic person.
Yet, no matter how festive the evening was, the narcissist tried to ruin it year after year. He would criticize what I was doing, complain about having to open our home to guests, and whine about the cleanup process after the vent was over. During the open house every year, he would regale the guests with stories of his wealth and business ventures while showing them newly acquired cars or motorcycles that demonstrated his worth. It was brutal.
I wasn’t prepared for such turmoil, but I want you to be ready. Here is what you can expect from narcissists during the holidays:
- Narcissists detest not being the center of attention. They will try to steal the show. Family and friends are there for them to impress or putdown. The narcissist may be extra loud or boisterous to warrant the attention. The narcissist wants to be front and center. Don’t expect change, even during what should be a time of thankfulness.
- Narcissists give gifts with strings attached. For example, the narcissist may give extravagant gifts and expect the same in return. They may then remind you that you are indebted to them for life for such a thoughtful, expensive gift. Often, narcissists will give overgenerous gifts because they have an audience and want to look like the hero or heroine of generosity. It’s usually all for the show, and once you are home, the narcissist criticizes you for not making a big scene with your appreciation. Even cartwheels or backflips wouldn’t appease this demanding narcissist.
- Narcissists expect perfection from everyone but themselves. Criticism increases. If you don’t meet their standards about the house décor, your attire, how the kids act, or anything else, you will be punished. Be prepared for the silent treatment, passive-aggressive putdowns or both.
- They want to ruin holidays just like birthdays. Narcissists don’t like others focusing on anything but themselves. Everyone may be celebrating that grandma made it to another Christmas at 85. It won’t matter to the narcissist. Christians celebrate the Christ child’s birth, who that religion considers to be the Savior of the World. The narcissist smirks in dismay. The narcissist must be front and center over everyone and everything.
How do they ruin things? Common tactics include complaining about food or purposely being late and hold everyone up from dinner. Another ploy the narcissist uses is to have a narcissistic injury. This is where the narcissist finds a reason to become a victim, so everyone once again caters to the narcissists and their feelings.
Here’s what you can do to survive the holidays.
- Limit time with the narcissist. No one says you must spend two weeks at home or elsewhere, trapped with the narcissist. Decide how much time you can handle and stay only that long. When family members complain, don’t listen. Don’t offer an excuse. It is what you need and deserve, so stick to your timeframe.
- Don’t forgo your traditions and what’s important to you. Many times, we change things to appease the narcissist. If you want to serve cheeseburgers on Christmas morning or for Thanksgiving dinner, then do it. The narcissist can fend for himself or herself.
- Have an exit strategy. Sometimes things may just become unbearable. Before the holiday, find a friend who may need you to help with cooking or an elderly parent. Maybe your dogs need to be taken care of, and you hate to leave, but you must go.
- Take frequent breaks. If it gets to be too much, leave temporarily, and go for a walk. Step outside and phone a friend or message with your therapist. If you don’t have a counselor, now might be a great time to check out BetterHelp, the counseling service Dr. carter and I recommend. These therapists offer unlimited messaging and several sessions a month so you can refuel and survive the rest of 2020.
- Remember the holidays come only once a year. You can survive this. You’ve done it before, and you can do it again.
- Consider signing up for Dr. Carter’s course called Free to Be. This course goes into detail about how to end self-doubt and stop second-guessing your good decisions, end unproductive, go-nowhere arguments and become a less-guarded, more relaxed and more authentic person. You can get 10% off for a limited time HERE
Finally, I hope you remember that you are a great person who deserves peace. The narcissist wouldn’t have chosen you as their victim (now survivor) if you didn’t have qualities the narcissist covets. You are kind, generous, loving, and empathetic, among many other attributes. Talk back to those voices that the narcissist has put in your head. Remember what Dr. C and I believe with all our hearts: You are worthy, you are loved, and you are enough.