Dealing with a narcissist

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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
My wife is struggling with co-depdency, narcissism, legalism and perfectionism from her parents even in adulthood. Any advice or resources on how to deal with this? I could not deal with it and no longer have any contact, which they probably prefer, but she remains the object of their ire. I’m no peach and my wife isn’t perfect but I think we have a little more insight into our own behaviors and shortcomings. There is also a financial dependency that still remains. How can my wife stand up for herself without being disowned? She works full time, we have 5 children/one disabled child (ASD) and she needs to be supported not just judged all the time. It’s very frustrating.
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Probably super obvious, but do y’all pray for them? Again, it’s a no-brainer, but I can think of many things in my life that frustrated me in the past but which I, for some reason, failed to pray regularly and earnestly for.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Probably super obvious, but do y’all pray for them? Again, it’s a no-brainer, but I can think of many things in my life that frustrated me in the past but which I, for some reason, failed to pray regularly and earnestly for.
I used to a great deal when I was a part of their denomination and seeking acceptance. After 20 years of the same stuff, on and off, not so much. :confused:
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
I used to a great deal when I was a part of their denomination and seeking acceptance. After 20 years of the same stuff on and off, not so much. :confused:
I feel hypocritical for saying this, knowing deeply my own shortcomings in prayer, but we have to realize that “unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). In this situation, if you aren’t pleading with the Lord regularly for these people, advice and helpful literature won’t do much good.
 

Zach

Puritan Board Junior
My wife is struggling with co-depdency, narcissism, legalism and perfectionism from her parents even in adulthood. Any advice or resources on how to deal with this? I could not deal with it and no longer have any contact, which they probably prefer, but she remains the object of their ire. I’m no peach and my wife isn’t perfect but I think we have a little more insight into our own behaviors and shortcomings. There is also a financial dependency that still remains. How can my wife stand up for herself without being disowned? She works full time, we have 5 children and one disabled child (ASD) and she needs to be supported not just judged all the time. It’s very frustrating.
I'm not sure this will be what you're looking for, but I do think it would be helpful (and I say this from having walked through similar family dynamics) for you and your wife to talk together with a licensed Family Therapist. When we first talked to one their specific professional experiences provided wisdom that was really valuable and it was the first time we felt that a counselor really grasped the full extent of the situation. While you probably have some good licensed Family Therapists who are Christians in your area (ours happened to be), even a good non-Christian counselor would likely be helpful because what they lack in Christian worldview they make up for in specific professional experience that a good and faithful jack-of-all-trades Christian counselor probably doesn't have. Someone who has seen a lot of what you are going through and counseled people through it will help you not only process, but set healthy boundaries and possibly find some ways to improve the relationship (though much of that is outside of your control).

As for prayer, I know we went through a long time where we had to confess to the Lord that it was just too hard to pray about our situation but that we were committing the situation to his him and trusting him even when we weren't talking to him about it regularly. What you're going through is REALLY hard, brother. I empathize. I'll pray that you and your wife find peace (and, if you don't mind, a good Family Therapist!).
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Yeah, sometimes I feel like a fool for getting into something I would not be able to manage, being always placed at a disadvantage, and ultimately making things worse to the point that I had to remove myself from all association while my wife continues to struggle with conflict on her own. In the meantime, I’m sure she feels a bit of pressure from my end as well from time to time.

People tell me all the time, how can these people not like you, you are such a nice person. Maybe I have them fooled or maybe I’m fooling myself. But this situation is such a mess. I could see why some pastors insist on extended counseling (at least a year) and preparation before going through with a marriage commitment.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I mean I should be careful when I say narcissism. I’m not sure all that entails. And I dont love labels. I guess perfectionism with a mix of religious and cultural elitism and a form of legalism are all part of where they are coming from, acknowledged or no.

But their good attributes include very hard working, responsible, organized, economically stable, disciplined, moral, handy/resourceful, etc. They are very proper, reserved and conservative in dress, presentation, conversation. Very black and white about all things. They are very diligent in all worldly affairs, keep a very clean house, etc. Very concerned with outward appearance.


We are not as strong as them in these areas and my wife, in particular, feels like a failure. I can’t even think like that anymore. My sin is too great to feel like a failure in life. I don’t measure myself by worldly success much anymore.
 
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arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
My church did a counselling seminar on this by one whose family was harassed by one : littletonbiblechapel.org/topical-messages?sapurl=LysyYjU2L21lZGlhL21pLytjOWsybmNnP2JyYW5kaW5nPXRydWUmZW1iZWQ9dHJ1ZQ==
 

ChristianLibertarian

Puritan Board Freshman
As long as there is financial dependence on her parents, you guys are stuck dealing with their narcissistic tendencies and their general emotional manipulation. If you don't want to deal with that anymore the solution is simple, stop taking their money. The parents aren't going to disown her so long as they can control her with money. At the end of the day this is about control. Unfortunately for you, if there is financial dependence on them you're out of luck. The price for financial help is dealing with their criticisms and assorted foolishness.

Outside of that, you and your wife should go to a family therapist and look for tips in dealing with your reaction to her parents behavior. You can't control them but you can control your own reactions. This doesn't have to be a long drawn out therapy, just a few sessions. Normally I would say go talk to the pastor but in this case a trained therapist will know how best to offer advice regarding dealing with narcissists. Obviously prayer for the parents is in order.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
As long as there is financial dependence on her parents, you guys are stuck dealing with their narcissistic tendencies and their general emotional manipulation. If you don't want to deal with that anymore the solution is simple, stop taking their money. The parents aren't going to disown her so long as they can control her with money. At the end of the day this is about control. Unfortunately for you, if there is financial dependence on them you're out of luck. The price for financial help is dealing with their criticisms and assorted foolishness.

Outside of that, you and your wife should go to a family therapist and look for tips in dealing with your reaction to her parents behavior. You can't control them but you can control your own reactions. This doesn't have to be a long drawn out therapy, just a few sessions. Normally I would say go talk to the pastor but in this case a trained therapist will know how best to offer advice regarding dealing with narcissists. Obviously prayer for the parents is in order.
Yeah, I agree. We were placed in a tight spot by our landlord and had to make a quick decision. But these things were prevalent before due to a certain family dynamic that’s hard to cut through without making things worse or resulting in a total break. So far we continue to ride it out but not sure how much longer. Right now I’m just trying to be loving and supportive.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
but I think we have a little more insight into our own behaviors and shortcomings.



As a Boomer, let me say - the problem doesn't seem to be your in-laws. You've had six children that you aren't able to support on your own. They are having to help support you all, and they are entitled to have a say and to be judgmental of the choices that you and your wife have made. You may not like their advice, but it appears that someone needs to be offering you advice on how to get to a position where you all can support your family on your own.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
As a Boomer, let me say - the problem doesn't seem to be your in-laws. You've had six children that you aren't able to support on your own. They are having to help support you all, and they are entitled to have a say and to be judgmental of the choices that you and your wife have made. You may not like their advice, but it appears that someone needs to be offering you advice on how to get to a position where you all can support your family on your own.
5 kids. Sorry that wasn’t clear. Ok, thanks for the feedback. Yeah, we made some poor decisions along the way. I think we could, if we took the time to find the right opportunities. Right now we are paying them rent. We wanted to buy the house from them, but it appears that offer has been rescinded. They don’t like me... at all. I guess I don’t blame them.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
.... although our pastor at the time, very early in our marriage, considered her (my mother in law) a lost cause. He basically said she has a personality disorder and that family counseling with her(them) wouldn’t work. So the moral of the story, choose your in-laws wisely.

I told my father-in-law a few years back that when we first got married we should have went to counseling with them at least monthly to work on boundaries(overall relations) and he told me I was crazy. That just felt great.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
As long as there is financial dependence on her parents, you guys are stuck dealing with their narcissistic tendencies and their general emotional manipulation. If you don't want to deal with that anymore the solution is simple, stop taking their money. The parents aren't going to disown her so long as they can control her with money. At the end of the day this is about control. Unfortunately for you, if there is financial dependence on them you're out of luck. The price for financial help is dealing with their criticisms and assorted foolishness.

Outside of that, you and your wife should go to a family therapist and look for tips in dealing with your reaction to her parents behavior. You can't control them but you can control your own reactions. This doesn't have to be a long drawn out therapy, just a few sessions. Normally I would say go talk to the pastor but in this case a trained therapist will know how best to offer advice regarding dealing with narcissists. Obviously prayer for the parents is in order.
I'm numb to their behavior. It's just she (my mother in law) always tells my wife she is living the wrong life, etc. There is no Christian grace cause they go to a church that believes we are not converted. There is no benefit of the doubt anymore (there really never was), only judgment and suspicion. I try not to ask or react to any of it.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Anthony,

Ed has a good point. Work to cut those financial strings ASAP.

Since marrying, I've had to put my foot down a few times with various relatives.

Sadly, my in-law parents both died just a few years into our marriage. They were both heavy smokers and relatively young. They didn't hesitate to drop ignorant opinions of my wife's and I's beliefs. With other members of her extended family she's had to put her foot down. One person hasn't spoken to her in years though she's tried to keep the channel open.

From subjects ranging from working arrangements, homeschooling, travel plans and so on my family hasn't always been silent. When our first daughter came, I had to advise a close family members who had gravely insulted my wife that he was no longer welcome at our home. Mercifully, we all reconciled but I regret having to do that.

The most important thing is for you and your wife to be on the same page. Period. If you can find an objective counselor to help with that, great. If you and your wife don't present a united front toward your in-laws, then make the best situation by you getting counseling pastoral or otherwise. A person who can help you run in containment mode for the time being. Not everything can be fixed, or at least fixed now, but a professional or elder often will keep you grounded and honest. My pastor was helpful as his advice kept me from overshooting while setting boundaries.
 
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OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
They have power over your wife first because you've removed yourself from being her defender/protector and secondly because she doesn't want to be disowned. You should move yourself into a place of being her defender/protector no matter how unpleasant it is. She also needs to rid herself of the fear of being disowned. People who are manipulative will take as much power that's given to them whether it's a small amount or a large amount. It sounds like you've handed over a lot of power to them. Boundaries are needed in order to take back your God-given authority in your home. I would sit down with your wife and talk about the areas in your lives that her parents are controlling so that you have a clear goal of regaining that control back.

As a nurse, I put a stop to my patients manipulating me by explaining what is expected from them (my control) and what I will do for them (their control). For example, if I have a patient who is addicted to pain relievers they are normally very manipulative. So one of their manipulative behaviors is to tell their current nurse how wonderful they are and how horrible the last nurse was. They do this so that the nurse will give them whatever they want or attend to each nitpick want that they can think up. I give clear instructions that if they had an issue with the last nurse they are to write up a formal complaint to give to the director but they are not allowed to complain to other staff about that nurse. I explain their medication and how often they can have it which also depends on their vital signs and alertness and that we will not go outside of those boundaries. I force them to do for themselves all that they can in order to "encourage independence"(that's my excuse and they just think I'm being a nurse and don't realize I'm turning their manipulation back on to them...it's reverse manipulation). I give them a certain amount of my time and no more and then tell them when I will be back. I'm very controlling of them but I also give them some things to control. You can't completely take away a manipulative person's control or you'll lose control over them. They will spiral into anger and or anxiety and then it's all done.

If her parents are truly manipulative, they will be willing to keep a very small amount of control to prevent losing all control. Right now their power lies in their daughter's fear of being disowned. This is what I would do. I would have a sit-down conversation with her parents about THEIR finances and you don't have to go into details. The conversation would be something like this: "I'm concerned that you're not being responsible with your finances when you are giving our family money all the time. We are going to ask that you do a reevaluation of how you spend your money on us as we will not be held responsible for your possible mismanagement of your money (even if they are managing their money well, they will think you have doubts about their ability to manage their money. This places doubts in their minds about their firm stance of superiority over you causing some insecurities in their minds which will help to break their perceived security of control over you and your wife). We appreciate your giving heart and if at the end of your reevaluation you feel that you are being responsible and want to continue to give our family money, we will have to sit down and talk about how that translates in other areas of our life.". Start with that topic because it's the foundation on which they place their hopes of control then later you can go into other areas which should fall into place quite quickly. You might find that they pull away from your family for a time for "punishment" and this is where the struggle of the wills comes into play. Their hunger for control will overcome their need for punishment especially if they feel you have no need of their money and only want to be in their company but do not need to be in their company. I would do this in a loving, calm but firm attitude.
 
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