The Sibling Narcissist
Many of us marry into relationships with narcissists, and others simply work with, become friends with, or date them. Those relationships are hard enough to leave. But what do you do when the narcissist in your life is a sibling?
Not only are you bound by family matters (parents, other siblings, life history), you’re bound by guilt and a sense of obligation-after all, blood is thicker than water, right? Sometimes. But the fact is, no matter what the blood ties, or the relationship (marriage, coworker, friend, acquaintance, business contact etc) you don’t owe the narcissist loyalty, let alone the frayed nerves, anger, tension and feelings you get when being around them.
The same rules for siblings, or sons, or daughters or parents who are narcissists, hold true as for non-related narcissists. YOU are more important than their need for narcissistic supply. Your boundaries are just as important and your need to protect yourself from their asinine antics are probably even more critical since you’re almost forced by some situations to have contact with them.
Yes, it’s okay to write them out of your life and ignore them for years, or even decades, if you can do that. Most of us can’t. We’re called on to interact at least at things like family funerals, parents needing to go into nursing homes, financial or legal matters or any variety of situations where you have to engage. If you’re unfortunate enough to be young enough to be living at home with a narcissist sibling, there’s no better time than the present to start learning how to deal with them. It will not only give you the discipline, insight and ability to deal with narcissists “at large”, but it will help you strengthen your boundary setting skills while you’re still young and strong!
The really hard part of having a narcissist sibling is that they know your buttons and can push them better than anyone else. They have an inside track on how you tick. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to shut-up around them and to not share things with them that will only become trigger fodder down the road.
What You Can Expect From A Narcissist Sibling (Or are already experiencing)
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Pathological lying
- Lack of empathy
- Sexual abuse
Yes, we ALL want, wish and long for close family ties, family love and support, but we’re not going to get it from a narcissist sibling or relative. They won’t change so you have to in order to survive them. The rules are the same:
- Set boundaries and communicate them clearly, in writing, in an email if you can.
- Don’t take the bait. When they punch your buttons and flip your triggers, bite your tongue and leave.
- Learn to just say “No,” and walk away.
- Don’t argue or discuss controversial things with them. Remember, they like to win at all costs.
- Keep your life as personal as possible. Lock up journals and diaries and password protect your computers.
- Do not introduce your friends to them. They’re likely to charm them away and make you the bad guy. You’ll not only lose your friends, they’ll likely be convinced by your narcissist sibling that you’re the crazy one.
The Golden Rule of Relationships is: “You can only change yourself.” That means don’t even think about trying to change your sibiling. They of course will try to change you. They’ll violate your boundaries, anger you, betray you and drive you insane IF YOU LET THEM. So don’t. Sound impossible? Yeah, we know. It feels that way too. However, there things you can do to make it easier, in addition to the tips listed above:
Learn to emotionally detach from your sibling. This may require a psychologist or counselor’s help, but it will be worth the heartache it will save you down the road. Learn to separate out the narcissist’s projections from yourself. Any failings or dark feelings they harbor in their own hearts will be projected onto you. By making you the problem instead of themselves, they can feel better about their dysfunction, if only for a short while. Don’t let that happen.
If emotional distancing doesn’t work for you, then you may have to entirely sever the relationship with the narcissistic brother and/or sister. This is harder when you’re living with them, but not impossible. Once you’re out of the house, consider severing the tie entirely. Seriously considering ending what was never a true relationship is not betrayal, it’s survival. Narcissists are incapable of caring about anyone but themselves. They are cruel, cunning, ruthless, harsh, and you will never find them to be kind or understanding no matter how much they profess to be.
If forced into a legal situation, such as having to sell your parent’s home, or deciding where to put mom or dad (hospital or nursing home), or encountering issues with a will or other situation, hire an attorney who has experience with narcissists (be careful, many attorneys are narcissists themselves and will side with your sibling!) and let them handle the situation while you make decisions from the privacy and safety of your own bubble. Forward all emails to your attorney and don’t respond to the sibling except through your attorney. Trust me, the financial pain of this arrangement will be far less painful than the psychological pain of dealing with the narcissist directly.
Have no emotional expectations or keep them very low. Narcissists can be charming, smart and talented, but they’re very emotionally limited. If you understand that you can interact with them without being disappointed. Narcissists only respond to you if they believe it’s in their best interest, not yours.
Never make your self-worth dependent on them. The trap that all victims fall into with narcissists, whether related or not, is to try to please them in hopes of getting them to change, or to see your side. It won’t work and they’ll only consider you a greater source of supply and make life more miserable.
Never share any deep feelings, goals, dreams or vulnerabilities with them. They won’t cherish them and will only use them against you.
If you must interact with them or ask them for something, show them how giving it to you will benefit them in some way. Reframe things so they become the center of attention and your needs disappear. Rather than saying, “I’d like to go to the movies,” say, “You’re such an excellent judge of movies. I’d love to hear your insights and take on this new movie.” Ego stroking the narcissist is tedious and demeaning at best, but it’s often worth doing to avoid a narcissistic rage, or in order to get what you want and can’t get from them any other way. Stating your needs, getting angry and threats don’t work. Stroking their ego will.