How to cope with narcissistic family members

Do you ever feel like someone in your family is manipulative or abusive? Do you wonder if others see it too? Even when you know you’re being taken advantage of by family, it can sometimes feel like you’re the one who is crazy. Narcissistic family members are particularly good at twisting reality to fit their own agenda. This tension can result in toxic family dynamics that seem impossible to escape.

Abusive family members often have strong personalities and enjoy creating drama. To truly stop being taken advantage of by family, you must learn how to cope with narcissistic family members. It is important to deflect their negativity, create boundaries and put yourself first.

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Signs of narcissistic or abusive family members

Before you can learn how to deal with a narcissistic family member, you need to recognize the signs. 

Here are four ways to identify which members of your family may have narcissistic tendencies. 

They are overly competitive

Narcissistic family members constantly want to compare achievements, play competitive games and otherwise “one-up” you. If it seems like all a family member wants to do is compare themselves to you, this could be a sign of narcissism.

They are jealous or entitled

Do you have a family member who never seems to be happy for your accomplishments? They may disparage your achievements, start talking about themselves or even actively ruin your relationships or career. These are especially dangerous signs you’re being taken advantage of by family.

They always need to be the center of attention

Do they need constant validation and appreciation? Do they monopolize conversations or constantly need sympathy? Do they always seem to have some drama happening in their lives? That’s a telltale sign of narcissistic family members.

They lack empathy

Narcissists deal with the fallout of their bad actions by dehumanizing people. They lack the feeling of empathy.

Remember that abuse isn’t limited by age or gender. Anyone in your family can be narcissistic or abusive. It’s just as important to recognize an abusive sibling or grandparent as it is a parent or in-law. No matter who they are, abusive family members will require strong boundary-setting and resilience against their manipulation if you want to learn how to cope with narcissistic family members.

What to do if you’re being taken advantage of by family

Learning how to deal with a narcissist family member can be a long and difficult process. It is always recommended to see a professional for serious abuse or mental health problems.

As you work through your issues with narcissistic family members and begin to set boundaries, keep these five tips in mind.

1. Recognize your own limiting beliefs

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Your beliefs about yourself and the dynamics of your family play a big role when you’re being taken advantage of by family. You likely hold limiting beliefs that were created when you were a child. These limiting beliefs are now holding you back.

If you grew up without enough attention from those whose love you craved the most, you may have learned to be a people-pleaser in order to earn that love. You may have low self-esteem or always feel the need to prove yourself.

Or you can have limiting beliefs like “Family are the only people who will ever really love me.” To truly grasp how to deal with abusive family, you must be able to overcome these beliefs and start putting yourself first.

2. Learn to say “no”

It’s okay to do favors for your relatives. There is no problem with bringing groceries over for your grandma or running errands for your uncle when he’s sick. But when you begin noticing you’re doing an awful lot for one family member, it’s time to set boundaries. This could mean you stop lending a cousin money or setting limits on how frequently you babysit your brother’s kids.

Creating a healthier relationship can also mean refusing to discuss certain topics, answer certain questions or be involved in accusatory, negative interactions with narcissistic family members. You must learn how to remove yourself from the situation. Start saying phrases such as: “This isn’t constructive,” or “This isn’t helpful. I’m going to go now.” And move on.

dealing with abusive family

3. Change your communication

surround yourself with positivity and good people

When you’re thinking about how to cope with narcissistic family members, it can be tempting to tell them exactly what you think of them – but it will backfire. Narcissists don’t have self-awareness and aren’t able to see themselves as others see them. They can’t reflect on their own decisions or behaviors, so even the most constructive criticism will not get through to them.

Arguing will only make them defensive and emotional while taking more of a toll on your relationship. When you’re setting boundaries, keep your tone neutral and don’t accuse them of anything. Remember that you don’t need to defend your decisions. Just tell them you don’t have the time or energy, or say that you’re not comfortable and leave it at that.

4. Stay positive

Narcissistic family members will often have a victim mindset. They are filled with stories about who has wronged them, disrespected them and treated them unfairly. They refuse to take responsibility for the ways in which their own behaviors affect their lives. They may even blame you for their choices and circumstances. You must be prepared to carefully put the responsibility back where it belongs – on them. 

To avoid being taken advantage of by family, deflect drama with statements like, “You are giving too much energy to this,” then make the decision that’s right for you.

narcissistic family members

5. Focus on what you can control

narcissistic family members

When learning how to cope with narcissistic family members, focus on what you can control: your own choices and mindset. Stop letting your abusive family members drive you crazy. Start realizing that they don’t control the way you feel. You do.  Learn to master your emotions so you’re able to attend family gatherings from a place of peace and stay calm, no matter how others are acting. Begin healthy and relaxing habits, like priming, meditation, yoga or journaling. Practice gratitude in your own life and share it with them. Remember that you don’t control the actions, emotions and behaviors of anyone but yourself.

Learning how to cope with narcissistic family members is never fun but if you want to rid yourself of the stress, it’s a must-have skill.

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