It’s the happiest time of the year unless you’re with a narcissist.
Narcissists are nightmares most of the time, and the holidays are no exception. Experts say that going through Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, birthdays and other special occasions with them can be very tiring.
That’s because narcissists are never satisfied unless they are the center of attention. When they feel they are not, they will make all hell break loose, ruining even the most special holidays for almost everyone around them.
“The holidays can be really tough on a narcissistic person because a lot of what makes the holidays difficult are the expectations,” says Ramani Durvasula, a psychologist and author of the book “It’s Not You: Identifying and Healing from Narcissistic People,” coming Feb . 20. “We have visions when we’re young. We have visions that are sold to us. There are things that we hope for. And, always, the narcissistic person, like they’re going to overpower and dominate everything else, they’re going to want conquer and dominate it and do it the way they want.”
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What are narcissists like on holidays?
Chelsey Cole, a psychotherapist and author of “If Only I’d Known: How to Outsmart Narcissists, Set Guilt-Free Boundaries, and Create Unshakeable Self-Worth,” says narcissists who keep ruining the holidays, as they make any event not just about them.
They do this in a variety of ways, he says, including causing unnecessary drama or by acting sullen.
Durvasula says dealing with a narcissist during the holidays is made especially difficult by the disruption to routine that usually accompanies the season. With time off from work and school, many people don’t experience their usual vacation touchstones where they can go to get help from a narcissistic relative.
“When you throw those dashed expectations in there, it can feel lonely,” adds Durvasula. “It can also feel frustrating when you feel like you’ve tried to do something really special, and then the narcissistic person minimizes it or ignores it or ignores it.”
A narcissist’s lack of empathy can also feel especially painful during the holiday season, which can be a difficult time for many people, such as those grieving loved ones.
This is often lost on narcissists, who only care about themselves.
“They don’t think about how you’re going to experience the holidays,” Cole said. “They just see it as an opportunity to get a supply in the form of getting people’s attention, sympathy, help or generally controlling how things happen.”
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What are birthday narcissists like?
Narcissists are no better at birthdays, even if it’s their own celebration.
That’s because narcissists crave attention and validation but never feel like it’s enough. As a result, you really can’t win a narcissist’s birthday, because no gift or party will leave them happy.
“Narcissistic people are more often than not very disappointed in their birthdays,” says Durvasula. “I don’t know what they’re expecting maybe a parade down Fifth Avenue, I have no idea. But whatever is done for them sort of never seems like enough.”
Their perpetual dissatisfaction often leads narcissists to fight back in cruel ways on their birthdays, says Stephanie Sarkis, a psychotherapist and author of “Healing from Toxic Relationships: 10 Essential Steps to Recover from Gaslighting, Narcissism, and Emotional Abuse.”
“They feel like people aren’t paying them enough attention,” he said. “They may feel like their birthday is being disrespected by other people. They may be upset that they didn’t get the gifts they wanted, so it can be a complete mess.”
Narcissists also hijack other people’s birthdays to make it about themselves. For example, a narcissist may throw lavish birthday parties for their child, but this may only bring attention and validation to themselves.
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How to deal with a narcissist during the holidays
If you have to spend a holiday or birthday with a narcissist, experts offer the following tips:
Accept that they will probably hate your gift: “Narcissistic people actually live in a fantasy that people can read their minds,” says Durvasula. “It’s a concern, but it’s really kind of a spoiled child inside that can never be bothered.”
Limit the time you spend with them: “All you have to do is just say, ‘Hey, I can only stay for this amount of time,'” Sarkis said. “If they get upset about that, that’s OK because that’s your boundary that you’re setting.”
Find the people you want to be with: “Maybe you have a narcissistic father, but you really want to be around your nieces or nephews,” Cole says. “Try to find time with the specific people or loved ones that matter most to you.”
Set realistic expectations: “We have this idea in our head of what we think the holidays should look like,” Cole said. “You have to have very realistic expectations and radical acceptance that if you have a narcissistic family member, the holidays are not going to be perfect.”
Make time for yourself: “Plan something for you that day,” says Cole. “Quietly make a plan to have lunch with a friend or get a massage. Go for a walk in the park, visit your favorite store, or do something that makes you happy and gets you out of the narcissist’s orbit.”
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