One of the hallmarks of narcissism is an insatiable need for narcissistic supply. That is the steady stream of adoration that props up the narcissist’s fragile self-esteem. They manipulate the people in their life to get this supply. Close family members are a great source of narcissistic supply, but they also pose a threat because they know the narcissist the best.
A prominent feature of narcissistic abuse is the narcissistic discard. This typically happens when you no longer give the narcissist what they want or they become bored with you. They may also cut off even close family members if they perceive a threat of exposure of their true, flawed, self.
If you have a narcissist in your family, you might not think they will ever leave you alone, but there are times when they might cut you or other family members off. It’s important to understand this really has little to do with you. It’s a product of their personality disorder. Let’s take a closer look at just why narcissists might cut off their family members.
Why Would a Narcissist Discard a Family Member?
Because narcissists are so fearful of being discovered as a truly worthless person, they feel a need to rigidly control how the world perceives them. Close family members come to know the narcissist best, and they pose the greatest risk.
Because of that, they try to isolate family members from the outside world. They want to keep them from revealing things that depict the narcissist in an unfavorable light. They try to isolate you from your friends and extended family members.
That can only work so well, however, and so, they often take other steps to try to control you. They will use gaslighting and triangulation to make you doubt your own perceptions and distrust other family members.
Triangulation is where they will tell one family member one thing and another something entirely different. It shows distrust and can completely disrupt the family dynamic.
With gaslighting, they try to effectively isolate you from yourself by creating a sense of cognitive dissonance. This happens when there is a conflict between what your senses tell you is true and what the narcissist is telling you.
Often these forms of narcissistic abuse can work pretty well, but there may come a time when they start to fail. If that happens and family members become a real threat to the narcissist’s carefully crafted image, they may discard that family member.
They have sometimes even discarded their entire family and started all over again. The discard can also happen when a family member stops giving the narcissist what they need. As retired psychologist Edward Tierney notes, “I have seen narcissists cut off family members for disagreeing with them, or failing to adore them and fawn as required.”
How Should You Cope with a Narcissistic Family Member?
Living with a narcissist is exhausting since you have to be constantly aware of their manipulative tactics. They also suck up all the attention and make it very difficult to focus on anyone else.
Though a narcissist often doesn’t seem to bring anything to the table as far as the family dynamic is concerned, cutting them off might not be an option. So, how can you deal with them?
Here are a few tips for living with a narcissist:
Arguing Gets You Nowhere
Arguing with a narcissist is an exercise in futility. They will never admit they’re wrong, and they usually won’t even stay on topic. They’ll talk in circles, gaslight, and lie to exhaust and confuse you.
They’ll also mine your arguments for information they can use at a later date to manipulate and control you. When you get upset because you’re triggered, they notice and they will use those triggers against you in the future.
That’s why the best rule is simply to not argue with them. You won’t win, they won’t admit any wrongdoing, and they won’t change. Stop arguing and live a more peaceful life. You’ll be glad you did in the end.
It’s also important to let them know that you have boundaries and you won’t put up with them violating your limits. After identifying your boundaries, let the narcissist know about them and what the consequences of violations will be.
These may range from walking away to stopping all communication. Whatever consequences you set, be sure to enforce those boundaries consistently. If you don’t, the narcissist will notice and take advantage of that.
Therapy Can Help
Here, I’m talking about therapy for you. Most narcissists won’t seek therapy, and if they are forced by family members to engage in it, they won’t make a genuine effort to heal. For this reason, you should focus on your priorities and get yourself the healthy support you need.
A therapist can help you see through the narcissist’s manipulative tactics, and they can also help you develop healthy coping strategies for dealing with them. Therapy is part of prioritizing your self-care.
Limit Your Time Together
Living with a narcissist successfully means realizing you do have choices in the matter. You can limit the amount of time you spend with them. You can also let them know that there are certain topics you don’t want to discuss with them.
It’s also a good idea to let them know they have choices as well. Narcissists are famous for complaining about how everyone mistreats them. It’s part of their blame-shifting. Try letting them know that they do have a choice of being around the people they don’t feel treat them fairly, and then, wish them luck.
Don’t get pulled into their drama. That is also a choice you can make. Anytime they are trying to get you to side with them or feel sorry for them, you can simply choose not to engage.
Will a Narcissist Come Back Into Your Life after Cutting You Off?
Usually, a narcissist will come back at some point. They often cycle through victims because they recognize that their relationships are unlikely to last. They typically blame the victim for this, but still, they know that it sometimes works best to take a break.
When they discard you, they often will do it abruptly and with little or no explanation. That causes distress in most people who want to find closure when a relationship ends. They will often try to contact the narcissist to talk about what is going on.
The narcissist, however, doesn’t want to do that. Instead, they revel in the fact that you’re trying to get in touch with them. It makes them feel powerful and adored. It’s one of the reasons why they sometimes just disappear.
In the meantime, however, they are usually starting up with some other victim, whether that’s another family member or a new romantic interest. Once they are done with that victim, they may circle back around to you again.
Narcissists can even come back into your life years after a discard. They often test the waters to see if you have cooled off after they abruptly ended your relationship, and if you give them any indication you would even just be nice to them, they’ll be back.
Narcissists will often discard even close family members when they fear they might expose the truth about their bad behavior. They can also discard you because you no longer serve their purpose. If you are in their life still, they will work hard to manipulate and control you.
They will often use your emotional triggers as a way to gain the upper hand. You can use my 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers to defuse those triggers and stop that emotional abuse. It won’t stop them from trying, but it will stop them from being successful. Just click on this link and I’ll send a free copy directly to your inbox!
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