The Narcissist at Work

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)

  • Betrayal
  • Bullying
  • Scapegoating
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Pathological lying
  • Gaslighting
  • Judgment
  • Criticism
  • Sadism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Coldness
  • Aloofness
  • 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.

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30 Comments to "The Sibling Narcissist"

  1. […] Got a narcissist for a sibling? Then you’re well-acquainted with the toxic effect they have over family relationships. A great post over at The Narcissist at Work has a wealth of advice: The Sibling Narcissist. […]

  2. susan says:

    Thank you for writing this article as I’ve spent my whole life being scapegoated , criticized and judged. I felt crazy, insane, emotionally abused and feeling I would never be seen as valuable, worthy or respectable. Now I have the power to say it’s them. No matter how much I want that relationship I won’t get it from my sibling. This article describes everything I experience and feel exactly!!! Setting boundaries is what I have to learn and believing I”m not crazy. Thank you!

    • admin says:

      Thank you for reading it and responding! I’m so sorry you were so abused. You did NOT deserve it. I am glad you’ve learned boundaries and are healing! Keep it up!

  3. Penny says:

    Interesting read on narcissism. The following article on narcissistic relationships was also very insightful.

  4. HereAndThere says:

    I’ve finally distanced myself from my narcissist sister. I put up with a lot of shit and would have continued because that was normal life for me. I just think that after a certain age, the physical abuse should stop. We’re in our thirties and it was only getting worse. I had to give up a lot when I left and started from scratch but freedom is worth it.
    keep up the good work. even though it’s been 2 years of no contact for me, I read sites like yours from time to time to remind myself of why I took this decision and why I must stick to it.

  5. Karina says:

    Thanks for the article!
    I am currently living with a narcissistic brother and he just loves to make me angry. I am suffering a lot living with so much rage in my heart- I try to detach myself emotionally from him but it is hard as he can be great sometimes and then turn extremely argumentative and aggressive without warning. He always turns things around and makes it seem as though I was the one provoking the conflict! I try to just tell him that I don´t want to argue and walk away, but he just follows me and enters my room; he has to have the last word. If I had a lock on my door he would break it down! Sorry for the rant but my brother is slowly poisoning my soul! What can I do?

  6. Shelley says:

    With the exception of sexual abuse, you just described my younger brother completely. He and my mother exhibit overt full spectrum narcissism. Highly toxic, which is why I have no contact with any siblings or the toxic blood family and haven’t for several years. Narcissim runs in families. It is quite common to marry one, having been raised by them. I’ve been their scapegoat most of my life. Their cruelties and abuses are many. Not anymore! I took my life back, put everything into obtaining a much needed divorce & then washed my hands of the lot of them! Emotionally and mentally sound people do not keep company with the disordered. That would be suicide of the soul.

  7. Shay says:

    Thank you so much for this. My sister has abandoned my father and me, and left on his birthday. She has always used subtle mind games and even accused me of being stoned when I cried when discussing my ex-boyfriends death. They know no bounds, and sadly, my mother feels trapped. She is only speaking to my mother since she can’t maintain relationships. Everyone has put it on my back to even the playing field with her and make amends, but she has deleted me off facebook, saw nothing wrong with what she has done and even works as a social worker helping people with Borderline Personality and stating she doesn’t care about them, she wants the money. I still feel guilty, but she plays everything so well and I always look crazy and she says that I am (oddly I have BPD…), but I don’t know if I should just move on and start a healthy life with a man that loves me and take care of my also narcissistic father who is heartbroken. His whole family has left me and I am the only one that still talks to him etc. I feel trapped, and I don’t know if you have any advice. Sorry for the rant…Thank you SO MUCH again for the article. I feel much less guilty <3

  8. Lisa says:


    My younger brother and I are at the beginning what will undoubtedly be a long journey into no-contact with our Narcissistic Mum, Dad AND brother…..I feel like you must have had hidden cameras/microphones in our homes!
    Thank you so much for reaffirming the decision we’ve made :)

  9. Susan Wilson says:

    I found this to be extremely useful, but would also recommend Melanie Tonia Evans website.

    • admin says:

      Susan, Melanie Tonia Evans website is VERY good! Thank you for recommending it! We need ALL the help and advice we can find!

  10. Jenniferlis says:

    This was very helpful! My situation is a little bit different. The problem for me is that my sister began as my best friend and took me into her family as I was an abused child from my biological family. This only fuels her narcissistic abuse towards me with labeling me as a “damaged teenager that I brought into my wonderful and perfect family”. My situation makes it nearly impossible to cut all ties. At a crossroads.

    • admin says:

      Situations are rarely, if ever “impossible.” They may be hard, difficult and painful, but you can DECIDE to change things and cut ties. It will mean admitting you know there is no chance for the life you hoped for with this person, and some pain. When the pain of what you are experiencing is greater than the pain of leaving, and only then….will you be able to leave. It’s okay to leave. It means not having the family you hoped for, but it means accepting that nothing you do is ever going to bring that about so moving on.

  11. M says:

    What a fantastic article. I’ve just realised that both my mother and older sister are narcissists. I’m 52 and have lived all my life thinking I was never good enough. It’s amazing how the narcissist can turn people against you. My mother who is 82 has done that to me with the rest of my family. What I also find interesting is that my sister is that way with me, but would never be like that with her own daughter. Thanks very much for the insights.

  12. MC says:

    Thank You for the information. It helps me to some extent. I have three extremely narcissistic sisters, one of which is a twin. The three manipulate and instigate trouble to the point that I am always on the outs. The twin is (was) physically abusive. The second sibling is explosive and the third is all about “me”. The constant criticism and ridicule that I receive from them is beyond abusive. For the last 20 or so years I have tried to sever ties. All three at some time or another have “pretended” to change to get what they want from me. When they use me monetarily, they discard me until they need me again. Eight years ago, I made a conscious decision to no longer tolerate the mistreatment. I have been very happily married for 20 years and seem to have two separate lives. The happy me with my husband and child and the unhappy me with my sisters. In the last eight years the three of them have “befriended” friends and family turning everyone against me. One has went so far as joining a church that I belonged to even though she lived in another town. Another sis befriended co-workers to instigate trouble at work. They have created social website accounts pretending to be me. They have vandalized my home (broken home and car windows, dead bleeding rat on door, spray painted fence with threats of murder, let air out of my tires). They are no happy that I want to sever ties. Most assaults happen on an anniversary or birthday. The police can’t help unless someone is hurt or I have a witness. My siblings tell everyone that I lie and make it up. They have even suggested that I am the one doing these things. I AM NOT! I have moved several times and tried to hide my location but they eventually find me. I just want to live my life and they can live theirs. I do not understand why they won’t le t me go. The last I heard from one (my twin) sent me an email where she changed a letter in her last name so it wasn’t that same name but close enough for me to know it was her. In the email she threatened me and said she wanted me off the face of the earth. Still the police could not help. At this point in time I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the constant abuse. In one of my twins black out rages she literally ripped a wall to get into my locked bedroom. Later I said that it was like Jack Nickolas in the movie “the Shining” saying “here’s Johnny”. I have nightmares about this all the time. This incident happened in 1992. The point of my story is it’s not that easy to just walk away. In my case ALL THREE of my sisters need to control me. With me walking away it only angers them more. Because we are sisters and not married spouses the police DO NOTHING and act like we all need to grow up. NO ONE EVER BELIEVES ME!!!!! (Except my husband and a few friends who have not met my sisters but have witnessed the vandalism)~PastaLinguica

  13. Alyssa says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I’ve known for several years that my father has NPD, and finally learned how to set boundaries with him in order to keep him in my life. I have finally accepted I will never have the father/daughter relationship I have sought after my whole life, and have lowered my expectations so that him disappointing me no longer leaves me feeling rejected and unloved. I now only invite him to various events if I can tell myself that I’m 100% ok if he is to not show up, then if he does, I’m pleasantly surprised. So, after I was able to get my relationship with my dad into a safe and manageable place, I began to notice the similarities in my relationship with my older sister. I sometimes feel that once you remove the rose colored glasses to more clearly view something, slowly, all other areas begin to crispen as well. I felt that same aha moment following an argument with my sister in which I was addressing the consistent theme where I’m constantly running to her aid to help her whenever she needs me, yet the moment I need anything from her, she refuses to even discuss or offer reasoning, her answer is always No! After this latest argument, I began looking at our relationship. I read through our threads of text messaging and noticed only one common theme, they were all about her. Her problems, her kids, her job, etc. The moment I brought up anything about myself, I’d get a one word response like, “nice”, or “good”. Then this article, simply stated each and every issue I’ve had growing up with my sister who was “the star”, “never did anything wrong”, was made out to be a total saint, even to the point of manipulating my parents into scolding me for things she had done. Looking back, I can’t believe I never noticed this behavior to be narcissistic, but once I acknowledged and accepted my relationship with my dad, things have slowly become more clear, as if I’m now ready to face them, and your article helped me see I’m not crazy, and that continuously doubting the possibility of having a narcissistic sister will only prevent me from moving forward with my life and I can no longer fall victim to the negativity of that relationship, which has made me feel as if I’ve been branded a failure for life, no matter what success I’ve accomplished. I firmly believe that those types of “brandings”, like failure, are strong and intense enough to almost make you repeatedly live out those beliefs. I’m hoping by following the advice in your article about setting boundaries, etc, that I will be able to come to a safe and healthy place with my big sister like I have with my father. Thank you SO much!

  14. Em says:

    Thanks especially for pointing out that they’ll befriend your friends and turn all of them against you, then look at you and say “well, why aren’t you and so-and-so speaking any more?” This has happened to me over the past 20+ years with my younger narcissistic sister and I’ve always thought “Oh- that has to be a coincidence/my imagination-” but it’s an (unfortunately) repeating pattern. Lesson (painfully) learned.

  15. lilie says:

    it was very good to read this article, Susan you are right you are not crazy. I have experience abuse of an older sister from a child through adulthood. a family gathering is coming up…… yea! since the last visit, relationships have been ruined. when you see it happen to another member it’s hard to help them come to terms. of course there are the siblings that support the behavior just because its easier than dealing with it.

  16. melanie says:

    I have only just realised now (at the age of 39) that my brother is a narcissist, and that there is nothing wrong with me after all. The problem I have is that I believe that he is deliberately trying to cut me out of his life and the lives of my parents. And it is working! My parents are slowing turning against me whilst seeing hin in an increasingly ‘golden’ light. After trying in vain my whole life to build a relationship with my brother, I know accept that I need to cut all ties with him. However, I do not wish to cut ties with my parents! But because of the damage my brother is doing, I am finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a relationship with them too. What should i do?

  17. dg says:

    Isn’t narcissism a bit greyer than that? I’m sure I’m narcissistic but I’m also sure I don’t have a narcissistic personality disorder. I was shocked by the number of traits my twin brother exhibits that fits your list. I must admit, my longing for some kind of empathy and understanding leaves me in a state of pretty deep pain. Twins! Have you read Dante’s Inferno? Read the last and deepest ring of Hell: twins caught in ice forever gnawing at one anothers’ necks.

  18. dg says:

    PS: I am seeing a psychiatrist about this btw.

  19. Nia says:

    I went no contact with my mother (my father died the year before) and have tried to explain why to my sisters. My oldest sister has Asperger’s Syndrome, so a lot of her behaviour is actually copied from my mother since she is the oldest sibling. It is even more crazy making because you have a double whammy. I know since my son is also AS. Trying to get them to change their opinions on a subject is almost impossible because of the way their brains are wired.

    My other sister I fear was a golden child. For years I looked up to her and ignored the insults, accusations, and betrayals. I realised some years ago that her actions were narcissistic. Now she has daughters of her own who are acting very much like she did at their age. My whole family are infected.

    I have tried to explain to my kids what narcissism is, but I think you have to experience it for yourself, and they were still young when we cut off contact from my family.

    I was appalled that neither of my sisters cared that much and wrote very dismissive emails when I tried to explain our actions ironically signed “I love you”. Half of the problem with being the invisible child in a dysfunctional family is that nobody listens to you anyway.

    Before I went no contact or learned about Narcissism I tried an experiment. I didn’t contact my sisters or brother and waited to see how long it would take for one of them to try and contact me. It took 2 years. I realised at that point that something was wrong, because they were all contacting each other and doing things together, flying across the country to be together.

    I reasoned, how was it possible for a whole family to agree that one member of it is not worth the effort when that one member has done nothing to incur this rejection other than exist? It surely has to be the cruelest and most unconscionable act yet from what I have read, so many people have had this happen to them.

    Thanks for this blog and the articles you write. They are easy to read and informative.

  20. Barb says:

    I am in my mid 50’s, and just found out that all the abuse that I’ve experienced since I was born, is because my only sibling is a narcissist. The ONLY people that don’t look down on me and TRULY know what kind of person I really am, are the ones that doesn’t know my sister. She has managed to take away family & family friends. I’ve been doubting myself, and your article has helped. I kept thinking that I’M not the one that needs therapy, but I’ve come to realize I DO need therapy as the VICTIM. Two years ago, I cut her out of my life. I do not speak to her in any manner. Only once have I seen her (I kept my distance and totally ignored her presence) at my cousins funeral. Needless to say, she didn’t stay for the service. My ignoring her must have really gotten to her. But I’ve HAD to cut her out of my life. She stole my inheritance from my parents (I got NOTHING, she got EVERYTHING), she’s lied about me all my life to family & family friends (that’s why everyone that knows her, looks down on me). Only, I am still getting repercussions from her lies throughout the years. Most of my blood family thinks I’M the crazy one, as you said above. I need to go for therapy so I can be free of her narcissistic bond. Staying completely away from her has not diminished the doubt and confusion. So….you’ve made me understand that I need help to deal with everything I’ve been through. Thank you. I know I’m not crazy now.

    • admin says:

      No, you’re NOT crazy. Thank goodness you see that, and that you see you need therapy as the victim. Therapy is the best gift we can give ourselves and I am so glad to see you realize that AND cut your sibling out of your life. Keep pursuing therapy. It helps. It takes time, but you’re definitely on the right track!

  21. RB says:

    Thank you for your insight into this kind of relationship. Your words ring true in my ears.

    I had great difficulty protecting my mother financially for the last five years. My sister had “borrowed” money since she move out 30 years ago. But the last straw was when my sister took out a visa in my mother’s name and ran it up to the limit within 4 months prior to my mother’s death. I found the statement the day we were making arrangements. My sister never admitted to taking the money. And yes, I did have an attorney – great advise.

    I have also been in therapy and it does help. I have set boundaries for me AND my family. I have not cut ties, yet. But that is something I am considering.

    You article is encouraging for us who are going through these real life struggles. Thank you.

  22. FireAndIce says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve just found your blog after searching for Narcissistic sister. This post has clarified so much for me.

    I am suffering from PTSD due to abuse from my mother and my sister (and possibly my brother-in-law – still trying to work out whether I was totally manipulated by him too). All my life my sister has been the precious one and I’ve been relegated to the back seat. I was “outsourced” to live with relatives during the weekdays for most of my preschool years and saw my parents from Friday night to Sunday night. On hindsight, I think that I’m a better person for it because I learnt values that were important. And I now have several maternal figures. I do not include my mother in that because she has basically been a non-mother. However, having learnt the important values made me a fantastic source of supply for the Narcissists in my life.

    In 2010, I finally severed contact with my sister. It helps that she’s in New Zealand and I’m in Australia. She tried making contact via Facebook by saying that she missed having me for a sister and a friend and wished that we could have a better relationship. I immediately processed that she found another use for me. And this was before discovering that she fit the profile of a Narcissist in addition to having Borderline Personality Disorder. My husband was of the same opinion. She wanted to come over to Australia saying that her kids wanted to visit my kids (she almost ALWAYS uses her kids as weapons or pawn). There was no way that I was going to let her attack me on my own turf, especially when I’m still trying to pick up the pieces of myself which she thoroughly crushed. I ignored her and as my husband and I discovered this morning, she has deactivated her Facebook account. That was her means of getting in contact with me, but since I didn’t take the bait, it served her no longer.

    Once again, thank you for your article. Look forward to many more! :)

  23. Gunnar Olson says:

    My dad has always been a narcissistic asshole. For years I never really understood that he was a narcissist. My mother passed away about 2 1/2 years ago (my dad dumped her for his a “newer model”…his secretary. Thank GOD she didn’t have to suffer his abuse for the last 30+ years of her life. Sad, though, that it took her a LONG time to come to terms with it). My sister was power of attorney and then executor, and I REALLY discovered what a narcissist is. I always knew she was kind of a bitch, but I seriously think she’s psychotic now! It’s so over-the-top bizarre…she’s constantly miserable and trying to pin it on everyone else. She’s a MEAN, NASTY, UGLY BITCH. Self-righteously indignant that her integrity has been “questioned” (even though she cheated on her husband for 5 years). She basically punishes and abuses everyone in her life, and then has temper tantrums because everyone has “hurt” her. Get’s mad that you hurt her foot with your face…after she’s kicked you in the face!!! She’s lately tried to play the “scolding” “guilt” trip on me. I just don’t respond, and at this point have decided to completely cut her out of my life. Same thing with my dad. He’s a major DICK. I feel sad for them, but you reap what sow.

  24. TL says:

    Thank you for this..I’ve been the black sheep of the family to a narcissistic sibling for my lifetime…our mother makes excuses, scapegoats me and shoves the blame for the abuse my sister does onto me, and to justify my sister’s issues our mother in response reminds me how horrible and worthless I am as a person

    • admin says:

      Many of us have felt like the black sheep! You are NOT alone. You are not horrible or worthless either. Don’t believe that! You deserve better. Find a good therapist or counselor and work on discovering the wonderful YOU that they can’t see. DO NOT let anyone dictate who you are, or arent’. You are precious in God’s eyes and He made you exactly the way He wanted you. Celebrate who you are. They are wrong, and mentally unstable….ignore them. Find people who appreciate YOU.

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