If you’re involved with a narcissist, it’s likely you’ve asked yourself if they really love you. When you have a narcissistic parent, you wonder the same thing. I remember thinking that my narcissistic mother couldn’t possibly love me given the way she treated me. If you have narcissistic grandparents, you might feel the same way. Like everything about narcissism, the answer to the question of whether your grandparents love you is complicated.
Narcissists are human, and as such, they certainly have feelings like love. Still, they have great difficulty showing their love. They are so focused on their own needs that they don’t think about other people, even their grandchildren. Though they might love them, they will still manipulate them.
The question of whether or not a narcissist truly loves anyone is difficult to answer. They surely must love some of the people in their life, but their personality disorder complicates how they give and receive love. Keep reading to find out more about how a personality disorder such as this makes it difficult for anyone around a narcissist to feel like they are loved.
Do Narcissistic Grandparents Love Their Own Grandchildren?
If you watch a narcissist around anyone for very long, you start to see the manipulative tactics they use to control the behavior of the people closest to them. In the narcissist’s mind, their grandchildren, like everyone else in the family, are mere extensions of their own identity.
That combined with a lack of empathy means the narcissistic grandparent, regardless of any love they feel, will manipulate their grandchildren to get their narcissistic supply needs met. They will engage in various manipulation tactics like triangulation where they tell one grandchild one thing and another something different.
They will also choose a favorite and shower that child with affection and lots of gifts. While we cannot know how they truly feel about that child, the tactic is done to manipulate other grandchildren into competing for the favorite spot.
This kind of manipulation can be extremely disruptive to the family dynamic since it puts the grandchildren at odds with each other. As parents, you might see they start fighting more and become less loving toward each other.
The damage done by this kind of manipulation can last a lifetime. While the narcissistic grandparent might, on some level, truly love their grandchildren, that doesn’t stop them from hurting them like this.
The narcissist is only capable of thinking about themselves. They will stop at nothing to ensure they have a constant supply of adoration to prop up their self-esteem. While they might feel love, the damage done long ago to their identity prevents them from showing their love.
To a narcissist, revealing that you love someone makes you vulnerable, and that is unacceptable. Vulnerability means you might discover the truth about their flawed sense of self. Thus, no matter what they feel, they are unlikely to show it.
How Do Narcissistic Grandparents Intrude on Your Family?
Narcissistic grandparents don’t just cause problems for the grandchildren, they will also insert themselves into the rest of your family’s life. They don’t stop abusing their own children just because they now also have grandchildren to abuse.
You’ll likely find they will do things like show up unexpectedly and expect you to change your plans to accommodate them. They will do others as well, like giving their favored child overly expensive gifts.
It’s also true that they will undermine your authority as a parent. They will take your children someplace you didn’t give them permission to go, for example, or they will even talk badly about you.
The whole idea is to get the child to love them more and pay attention to their narcissistic needs. As life coach Enodia Speaks says, “They like the purpose they (grandchildren) serve.” That’s why they work so hard to manipulate them, and that’s also part of how they experience love. Love, to a narcissist, means serving their needs.
That’s not all your narcissistic parents will do; they will also pit your children against one another by using the tactic called triangulation. That’s where they tell one child one thing and another child something completely different. They will most certainly gaslight your children too, and they will lie without any compunction.
Their behavior will set a terrible example for your children about how to treat other people and what love really looks like. It puts you as their parents in a very difficult situation. You might have to choose between keeping your children safe and letting them get to know their grandparents.
If you don’t do something, though, it’s certain that your children will suffer as a result of the treatment they get from their grandparents. So what can you do?
How Can You Protect Your Children from Narcissistic Grandparents?
There are several options you can try to limit the damage narcissistic grandparents inflict on their own grandchildren. Every family’s situation is different, so you have to think about what works best for you, but here are several ways to limit the damage.
Set Clear Boundaries
The first thing to do with your narcissistic parents is to sit them down and set clear boundaries with unequivocal consequences for violations. You need to let them know exactly what is appropriate behavior and what is not. You also need to spell out the consequences for any violations.
It is valuable to give them a written copy of what you discuss so that they cannot claim they were unaware of what would happen. Once the boundaries are clear, you need to ensure that every responsible adult enforces those boundaries every time your parents cross the line.
One thing you can do is make sure that someone you trust is present to monitor your parents’ visits with your children. That might seem extreme, but it can ensure that they are not able to lie to your children or engage in triangulation or gaslighting.
This way, you can also oversee what activities they are engaging in and keep them from trying to undermine you to your own children. This may be difficult to institute, but it is well worth your children’s well-being.
Talk to Your Children
If your children are old enough, it may be time to let them know exactly what the problem with their grandparents is. It can help them to understand that the behaviors they exhibit are not really about the kids.
You can explain that narcissism is a personality disorder that causes people to do certain things to feel better about themselves. Sometimes the things they do can be hurtful to the people they love the most. This can help your children understand that the problem is not with them.
Go No Contact
If other tactics fail, there is always the option to go no contact. You may not want to do that, but it may be the only way to ensure your children are kept safe from the emotional abuse your parents dish out.
If you can’t go completely no contact, you can at least minimize the contact and allow only supervised visits. That will give you maximum control over how and when your children are exposed to their grandparents’ toxic behavior.
Just as your narcissistic parents abused you, they will abuse their own grandchildren too. It’s not necessarily that they don’t love them, it’s more that they don’t know how to love. That can put you in a very difficult situation, but your ultimate goal has to be to protect your children from the harmful effects of narcissistic abuse. You know what it’s like, and you don’t want them to go through what you did as a child.
If you’re in the situation of dealing with narcissistic grandparents, you need to read this article on different ways to set boundaries with them. It will give you lots of great ideas about how to keep them from abusing your children.
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