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Sometimes, we don’t look as closely at our partner’s parents as we should before tying the knot.
Or, perhaps we already knew that there was something a bit off about their mother, but we had no idea the chaos it would later create in our happy little family.
Narcissistic grandmother traits can be hard to spot, but there are some telltale signs that can let you know what you’re dealing with, and how to save yourself (and your kids).
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Narcissism?
- 2 12 Signs Of A Narcissistic Grandmother
- 2.1 1. She’s Very Controlling
- 2.2 2. Unreasonable Reactions
- 2.3 3. A Narcissistic Grandmother Won’t Respect You As A Mother
- 2.4 4. Forget Her Accepting Responsibility For The Behavior
- 2.5 5. She Makes Sure People Fall For The Good Grandma Act
- 2.6 6. Holidays Can Be Packed With Her Drama
- 2.7 7. Being A Grandma Gives Her More Supply
- 2.8 8. She Neglects Them When She Can
- 2.9 9. She’s An Exhausting Whirlwind That Leaves You Drained And Confused
- 2.10 10. There’s A Favorite
- 2.11 11. She Uses People, Including Her Grandchildren
- 2.12 12. Appearances Are Everything In The Narcissistic Family
- 3 How To Deal With A Narcissistic Grandmother
- 4 In Conclusion
What Is Narcissism?
It can be easy to label someone as a narcissist if they come off as a bit selfish. However, there is a drastic difference between a person that is selfish or not considerate of other people and a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The thing is, most people with this personality disorder think they are perfect, so it’s highly unlikely they’ll seek professional treatment because something is wrong with them.
Some people with this personality disorder do, but there are quite a few that don’t. That means you could be stuck with a narcissistic grandmother without her even knowing what she’s doing.
Narcissism Is A Personality Disorder Characterized By An Inflated Sense Of Self
Narcissism is one of several personality disorders. The main thing that makes this personality disorder stand apart from others is the inflated sense of self.
People with Narcissistic personality disorder think that they are literally better than everyone else. They feel that they are of great importance.
In the case of the grandmother, she’ll think that she is the best grandmother. In turn, she’ll expect to be the favorite among her grandchildren and might expect you to encourage this fantasy no matter how unrealistic it truly is.
Other Symptoms Of Narcissism
Although the inflated sense of self is the main symptom that people notice, and one of the first tell-tale symptoms of this disorder, it is not the only one.
In fact, there are quite a few symptoms that can be seen with this personality disorder. These include:
- Troubled relationships
- Difficulty maintaining long term relationships
- Think they are more important than others
- Need for constant attention, admiration, and validation
- Want you to realize that they are superior to others (even if they do not do a single thing to warrant that)
- Exaggerate things that they do, such as their achievements
- See nothing wrong with taking advantage of others to get what they want
- Lack empathy or choose not to acknowledge empathetic feelings
- Jealous of other people
- More than likely think that other people are jealous of them
Another common symptom of this personality disorder is becoming easily angered or irritated. Common things that will irritate a narcissistic person include:
- Not receiving special treatment from other people
- Personal problems
- If they are forced to realize that they are not perfect
Most people with this personality disorder have a deeper sense of insecurity. This is masked by their narcissism and being perfect. They can’t stand the thought that they are not perfect, so they ignore the insecurity as much as they can.
There Are Two Types Of Narcissists
Looking at the list of symptoms, it’s easy to imagine a person consistently acting like they are better than everyone else. However, there are two different types of people that will fall into this category.
The one you’re thinking of, referred to as the grandiose type, is a narcissist that will act as though they have inflated self-esteem and are better than everyone else. They will ooze superiority at times.
Another type is known as the vulnerable, or overt, narcissist. This is the one that plays the victim card a lot. Their attention needs are met by other people being there and feeling sorry for them.
While they often feel better than everyone else, they do occasionally feel as though they are inferior as well. Overts tend to go back and forth between the two of these as though they are going through phases.
You’ll likely see a grandmother as this type instead of the first one mentioned. They will act as though they know everything, and then play the victim if you disagree, for example.
We All Act A Little Narcissistic At Times
When you look at the list of symptoms, it doesn’t take long to realize that we all tend to have those traits one time or another. We get burnt out from stress and react with anger because we try to hold it in.
Too much stress can make any of us lose it once in a while. Sometimes, you can’t help but enjoy a little, or a lot, of attention every once in a while.
We hear about a devastating tsunami in another country and shove it to the back of our minds in favor of more pleasant thoughts instead of empathizing.
That doesn’t mean that we all have a narcissistic personality disorder, though. It’s important to understand the difference.
A person with this disorder meets all the criteria and causes a significant amount of damage and pain to those that are around them.
Usually, they don’t even care. At most, they pretend to care in order to look great in front of other people. (A true narcissist would never want to look bad.)
NPD Is A Spectrum Disorder
This means that there is not a one size fits all disorder. Where one person might display specific symptoms, another person might have different symptoms.
The main things that most people with NPD have in common are that they lack empathy, but some can fake it, and they need a constant supply of attention or validation from other people.
This is where they get their self worth from. Because of this, it can be hard to pinpoint whether someone is a narcissist or not.
People With Narcissistic Tendencies Still Cause Damage
If you know someone that has a few of the traits, has never been diagnosed with a mental illness, and doesn’t seem to possess every symptom, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
In fact, a lot of people that don’t meet the full DSM criteria for this personality disorder still have a few traits and can cause significant damage to the people around them.
This is why it’s important to not only learn about the disorder but also still learn ways to deal with it.
The narcissistic grandmother might have certain tendencies without having a lot of the symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t going to wreak havoc on your life and your peace.
12 Signs Of A Narcissistic Grandmother
Whether she falls on the spectrum somewhere or you’ve only noticed a few symptoms, there are some things that narcissistic grandmothers are known for.
Most will show these symptoms in one way or another. Some might not show all twelve symptoms of a narcissistic grandmother, but you’ll still see at least a couple of them.
1. She’s Very Controlling
It’s her way or the highway. When she says your children should go to private school, you’ll know you’ll have to deal with explosive anger, guilt trips, gaslighting, etc. for the rest of their school days if you enroll them in public schools.
It’s not just with the children, either. You notice that she’s a very controlling person in general at times.
Sometimes, the smallest thing can set her off, leading to everyone being forced to walk on eggshells to preserve the relationship with her. People may feel obligated to do this because she’s family, and she prefers it that way.
2. Unreasonable Reactions
When you’re dealing with a toxic grandmother, you’re going to notice that the slightest bit of disobedience is met with a harsh or unreasonable reaction. She’ll cut you out of her will.
She won’t babysit or help with the kids anymore. Angry outbursts are another common reaction. This is how she gets you to go back to walking on those familiar eggshells and doing what she wants.
3. A Narcissistic Grandmother Won’t Respect You As A Mother
When she babysits, she does what she wants, even if it goes against what you want for your child. Usually, she’ll completely dismiss your complaints, stating that what she did was no big deal.
She might recall that she has years of experience being a mother and that you’re a new mom. One way or another, you’re simply not respected as a mom.
4. Forget Her Accepting Responsibility For The Behavior
Not only will she not respect you as a mother, but she also won’t own up to the disrespect either. You won’t get an apology.
Instead, every time she crosses your boundaries, which will be often, any complaint will be met with some sort of justification, argument, feigned innocence, or flat out denial.
She’s perfect, so she would never do something like what you accused her of intentionally…
5. She Makes Sure People Fall For The Good Grandma Act
Every narcissistic grandma will make sure that there are people abused, and those that aren’t. This helps her keep the supply going, and guarantees that there will be someone to stick up for her when you point out what she’s doing.
It’s like she has her own little private army, and she kind of does. It’s also a great way for her to intimidate people so that she can be the one in control.
6. Holidays Can Be Packed With Her Drama
Imagine you’re enjoying a nice birthday party. Then, one thing sets her off, and she storms out of the building, but not until she’s done screaming, yelling, and tearing you down.
If she’s not a yeller, she’ll find another way to create drama. It could be more subtle, such as her gossiping loudly about other people in the kitchen, even though she knows that she’ll be heard.
She might tell other people’s secrets to start drama at Thanksgiving. It never fails with each family get together.
7. Being A Grandma Gives Her More Supply
She uses being a grandma to get more attention and praise. When other people are watching, she’s the loving grandmother that she wants the world to see.
Social media accounts might be packed with adorable photos of the two of them together. She adores the praise that her grandchildren bring her. However, it’s only on her terms. She’s not actually there when you need her to be.
8. She Neglects Them When She Can
Because she uses her grandchildren like she does everyone else, you can expect her to use them as she does everyone else in the long run.
When she’s not snapping adorable pictures, they are in a swing or she can’t be bothered with them. She doesn’t play with them as much when it’s just the two of them and other people aren’t around. This is because it doesn’t benefit her.
9. She’s An Exhausting Whirlwind That Leaves You Drained And Confused
Have you ever dealt with a person like this before? You can’t wrap your head around their logic.
When you try to figure out why they are mad so you can resolve the situation like a healthy adult you come to a dead end. The yelling or screaming seems to come out of nowhere.
Interactions can leave you feeling emotionally drained and confused because you simply don’t understand what is going on, where they are coming from or how to reach mutual ground with them so that you can both live in harmony.
10. There’s A Favorite
Not only does this grandma have a favorite, but it’s also well-known no matter how much she denies it. The more grandchildren she has, the more likely there is to be a scapegoat too.
The favorite can do no wrong, and the scapegoat is always in the wrong. Everything is the child’s fault. Yet, if you point this out, she will ultimately deny that it’s true and make sure that no one else believes you either.
11. She Uses People, Including Her Grandchildren
This doesn’t stop with her appreciated the attention they can get her. A narcissistic grandmother will use her grandchildren like she does everyone else. They’ll do her chores for her.
Grandchildren will be groomed and convinced to love her more than anyone else, which she’ll use to her advantage.
Expect them to be added to her army of supporters and enablers later in life if she can. She also uses their love and affection to feed her ego. They are just one more source for her narcissistic supply.
12. Appearances Are Everything In The Narcissistic Family
Substance takes second place to appearances in this family. It doesn’t matter if the night before was packed with abuse, everyone will need to smile beautifully for the family picture.
From the outside, everything always has to appear perfect. You don’t even see the high level of dysfunction until you get truly close to the family. Then, it can get a little disturbing.
How To Deal With A Narcissistic Grandmother
Once you realize what you’re dealing with, it’s time to come up with a plan. You can take steps to help save your sanity and your family from the pain that goes hand in hand with narcissistic family members.
It takes some effort no matter which route you take, but it’s possible.
Cut Them Off
That’s right. Go no contact with grandma. Personally, I think this is the easiest option because you never have to deal with their crap again.
However, the guilt that you feel because you feel obligated to be there for them is hard to let go of. The only way to do this is by ignoring the text messages, guilt trips, and everything else that they will throw at you.
It can also be complicated if you stay in contact with other family members, so keep that in mind. If you decide to go no contact, make sure that you know how you’re going to do this.
Consider that they will use other family members to get to you, too. If you do, stick to your guns. There’s no shame in saving yourself and wanting healthy relationships in your life.
Set Clear Boundaries
First, tell her what bothers you. This won’t matter to her, and she won’t feel remorse or change, though. Instead, it sets you up for your next lines of “we’ll be there, but if this happens then we are leaving.”
Make it clear that you do not agree with things in her house or the values she has. State whatever toxic behaviors you want to.
Then, stick with it. When it happens, get your children ready and leave. She’ll either respect those boundaries or not be around you.
If you can’t go no contact for whatever reason, you can still limit contact. Before starting a conversation, tell her you to have to do something in a specific amount of time and then get off the phone in twenty minutes.
Only go to her house once a week or every other week. Say that you’re busy if you want to. However, the less you’re around her the better your mental health is going to be, so keep that in mind.
Be An Emotional Rock Around Her
These people love to get a reaction. She might say things just to make you angry or upset, and use this to rationalize to other family members that you are, in fact, the crazy one.
Instead, try not to be emotional when she says things. This can get exhausting, but if you limit contact with her at the same time it won’t be too much of a problem.
Make Sure You Have Support When Dealing With A Narcissist
It can be draining to have these people in your life, and sometimes you won’t know what they are up to. They can be so good at manipulating it can make you question what just happened.
If you’re going to keep her in your life, make sure that you have support. Seek professional help from a therapist if you can.
If not, online support groups are wonderful, and you can remain anonymous if you would like. Either way, having someone to help you through it is a necessity.
Don’t Turn Everything Into A Fight
You’re going to have to accept her for who she is. Don’t try and change her. Avoid the urge to help her because you know in your heart she has NPD. Instead, set your boundaries and let some things go.
This isn’t to pacify her. Instead, it’s to help you save yourself. If you start a fight over everything, you’ll spend every day fighting with her. You’ll wind up emotionally exhausted. Trust me, it’s just not worth it.
Remember That You’re In Control
Narcissistic people have a way of manipulating you so that you feel like you’re not in control. This can lead to you acting controlling in other areas of your life, such as at work or home.
You might feel like you have to do what they want, and don’t have a say so in your own life or children. That’s not true.
If you’re going to have a narcissistic grandma in your life, you need to remember that you’re in control of both your life and what happens to your children.
You can remind yourself of this by making sure that you don’t answer the phone, but then call back. Or always wait ten minutes before responding to a text. Those little things remind you that you’re in control of your actions, not the grandma.
If you’re dealing with a narcissistic grandmother, every day can seem like a new struggle. First, you need to make sure that’s the problem.
Then, set boundaries, maintain control, and don’t let her get to you. If you have to, make sure to limit contact. Most people wind up going no contact with family members like this, but I understand that’s not always an option.