How To Survive A Narcissistic Sibling By Setting Healthy Boundaries
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Narcissistic siblings can be among the worst bullies. They are only concerned about their own needs, and they have no empathy for how their behavior affects their brothers and sisters. They can be extremely cruel in a way that other narcissists in the family or among your friends cannot. They know things about you that other people don’t, and they use that information against you every time they need to manipulate you. So how can you protect yourself?
Setting boundaries with a narcissistic sibling involves limiting your time with them as well as what you will discuss in their presence. You have always to be aware that their charm is manipulative and refuse to accept their abusive treatment. Keeping cool and avoiding arguments helps too.
My narcissistic mother was always invading my privacy and inserting herself into my life. Narcissistic siblings can be even worse. They know you in more intimate ways than your parents can know you, and they will use that knowledge to create drama and attempt to control you. That’s why you need a strategy for protecting yourself. It’s all about boundaries, so let’s discuss how to set and maintain them.
What are the Characteristics of Narcissistic Siblings?
There are several characteristics that narcissistic siblings have regardless of gender. It may seem as though they don’t love their siblings, and as the following video explains, they do have difficulty expressing that kind of emotion.
The characteristics of narcissistic siblings are common to other types of narcissists as well. Here are some of the shared traits that both narcissistic brothers and sisters exhibit.
Narcissistic siblings are entitled – big time. They believe they have a right to get everything they want, and they don’t care if their siblings get something they deserve or not. As far as the narcissistic sibling believes, they are the only child in the family who really matters.
The predator wants your silence. It feeds their power and entitlement, and they want it to feed your shame.
— Viola Davis, Actress, and author
They don’t believe they should have to work to get what they want either. They think that everything should be given to them. They also believe that everyone should care about them, even to the exclusion of their own needs.
They will monopolize their parents’ attention because they feel they should be the focus of the family. They consider themselves the favorite child, and they believe they deserve that title.
Narcissistic siblings have no empathy whatsoever. They don’t understand on a fundamental level how their behavior affects other people. They are only concerned about doing what it takes to get their needs met.
Because of that, they won’t tolerate you expressing your feelings. They really don’t want to hear it. They have no problem, however, expressing their own feelings. Moreover, they expect you to care profoundly about their feelings and respond immediately to their needs.
Never Take Responsibility
Another common trait of narcissistic siblings is that they never take responsibility for anything. Even if they get caught red-handed doing something they shouldn’t, they will find a way to make it someone else’s fault.
They will blame you or other siblings for everything they do that’s wrong. They will also blame you for turning them into maladjusted adults. It’s never their fault.
They Need to be the Center of Attention
Another trait common to narcissistic siblings is that they always need to be the center of attention. When the attention is on another sibling, they will frequently do something to get the attention back.
They will even do something bad. It doesn’t matter to them; any attention is good attention. They hate it when the family is focused on someone other than them. They will do anything they have to do to steal the limelight.
They might even fake an illness to get back into the limelight. It’s a situation that’s really unfair to the other children in the family.
They are Extremely Jealous
Narcissistic siblings are also insanely jealous of anything you achieve. They see other people, including their siblings, as extensions of their own identity, and as such, your achievements should be something that benefits them.
“The narcissist devours people, consumes their output, and casts the empty, writhing shells aside.”
— Sam Vaknin, Psychologist and author
When you achieve something for yourself, they are jealous of that accomplishment. It takes the spotlight off of them, and in their mind, it takes away from their own accomplishments.
Of course, a healthy person doesn’t think this way, but the narcissist has such a fragile sense of self that they have difficulty seeing it any other way.
Do Narcissistic Sisters Act Differently than Narcissistic Brothers?
There are gender differences with regard to how narcissists treat their siblings. This has to do with some differences in what narcissistic girls feel is important as opposed to how boys feel. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of some of the differences.
Gender Differences in How Narcissistic Siblings Behave
|Narcissistic Sisters||Narcissistic Brothers|
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself from Narcissistic Siblings?
There are different ways to manage a narcissistic sibling, as you can see in the video below. One of the best ways to protect yourself from a narcissistic sibling is to set and maintain strong boundaries. This is true of any narcissist, but it’s particularly helpful when dealing with someone who knows you the way a sibling does.
There are several ways to set your boundaries, but you will need to also determine the consequences of any boundary violations. You’ll need to enforce those consequences with every single violation too.
It’s important to always be consistent with regard to maintaining your boundaries. It’s important to remember that setting boundaries is not really about changing your narcissistic sibling’s behavior – only they can do that – but it’s about respecting yourself.
When you respect yourself, you make other people respect you as well. This is what boundaries are really all about. So let’s look at some ways you can set and maintain boundaries with your narcissistic siblings.
1. Limit the Time You Spend with Your Narcissistic Sibling
When you’re dealing with a narcissist, you always have to allow for the possibility that you will want to cut off all contact to get away from the abusive behavior. That also should be an option with your narcissistic siblings, but barring that, you can still limit the amount of time you spend with them.
You can determine when, for how long, and how often you will get together with them. You can do this as a child or as an adult. While your parents might have you spend time together as a family, you can regulate how much time you spend with them otherwise.
As an adult, you can spend as much or as little time together as you choose. Limiting your time together can help you stay focused on positive things and can limit their abusive behavior toward you.
This helps to limit the amount of time you’re exposed to their toxic behavior, and it also sends them a message that you’re not willing to spend that much time with someone who mistreats you.
2. Limit Acceptable Communication Topics
Aside from limiting the amount of time you spend with your narcissistic sibling, you can also refuse to talk about any topics that you don’t care to talk about. This might mean not talking about certain controversial topics like politics, or it can mean talking about things that are too personal.
The less information you give your narcissistic sibling, the better, so it’s better to avoid talking about your personal feelings. You have to remember that if you tell them about something you care deeply about, they will use that to manipulate you in the future.
If you talk about emotional wounds that were created in your childhood, they will use those to trigger you. They love to create drama in the family, and they know that if you are triggered emotionally, you’re easier to manipulate and control.
If your narcissistic sibling brings up something you don’t want to talk about, simply say something like, “Yeah, that’s interesting, but I’m really interested in (another topic).” By changing the topic, you let them know that you won’t engage with them on that topic.
If they’re persistent in bringing something up, simply let them know you have to go now and leave. They will eventually get the message that they can’t manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do.
3. Know Their Charm is Manipulative
Whenever a narcissist begins acting in a charming way, and they can be extremely charming, you have to remember that their charm has an agenda. They aren’t just charming to be charming. They are doing it to be manipulative.
Narcissists can generally be very charming. They learn early in life that they need to manipulate other people to feed their fragile false self-image. They created this image when they buried their true self-image.
“Relationship with a narcissist in a nutshell: You will go from being the perfect love of their life to nothing you do is ever good enough. You will give everything and they will take it all and give you less and less in return. You will end up depleted, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably financially, and then get blamed for it.”
— Bree Bonchay, Psychotherapist and narcissism expert
For one reason or another, they came to believe that their true self is hopelessly flawed, so they buried it deep in their psyche and created a false self-image infused with grandiose ideas of superiority and perfection.
But they don’t have any healthy identity mechanisms that can support such grandiose ideas, so they need other people to give them an almost constant supply of adoration, which is known as narcissistic supply. To get that supply, they need to become adept at manipulating other people.
They use charm to learn as much as they can about someone and manipulate them into doing what they want them to do. Their charm is never genuine; it always comes with an agenda. But over the years, they have honed their skills to be very charming when they need to be.
Don’t fall for it. They haven’t really changed, nor do they necessarily mean the charming things they might be saying to you. Without intense therapy over the course of years, most narcissists can’t change, and unless that has happened, you can be sure their charm is little more than a manipulation tactic.
4. No Abuse Zone
One of the strongest boundaries you’ll want to insist upon is that you won’t accept any abusive treatment. It will be tedious at first to enforce this boundary because your narcissistic sibling will violate it all the time.
You have to be persistent, however, or it won’t work. When they start behaving in an abusive manner, just say something like, “This is not something I want to hear or discuss with you. I find it abusive, and I’m going to leave now.”
Your narcissistic sibling may try to argue with you by saying they didn’t intend anything by what they were saying, or they may try to gaslight you by saying you’re too sensitive or that you took it the wrong way.
They may also say something like, “What? What did I do?” Don’t engage them any further; just get up and go. Arguing with them will get you nowhere, and if you try to justify your sense of what happened, you will empower their gaslighting.
If you stay consistent, they will eventually get the message and may modify their behavior. If they don’t, it may be worthwhile to consider going no contact.
5. Don’t Call Them a Narcissist
If you try to call them a narcissist, they will simply deny it. They won’t recognize that they have such a problem, and in fact, they may begin projecting their own problems onto you.
Many narcissistic siblings will insist that their other siblings or their parents are narcissists, not them. Narcissists typically don’t recognize that they have a problem. Instead, they play the role of the victim.
In their mind, everyone else is mistreating them. They aren’t doing anything wrong; everyone else is. They can’t accept responsibility for their own actions, so admitting they have a problem is not something their fragile sense of self can withstand.
Trying to label them as narcissists won’t get you anywhere with them, and they will likely project that back on you. It’s better to know it for yourself and refrain from putting labels on them. When you know what you’re dealing with, you really don’t need them to know it in order to deal with it effectively.
6. Identify Your Choices in Every Situation
In every interaction with your narcissistic siblings, you will have choices. They might be more limited, but you will always have choices.
“If it is to be, it is up to me.”
— William H. Johnsen, Painter
The first thing to do when you’re dealing with a narcissist is to identify exactly what your choices are, and then you can decide which is the best choice to make. For example, if they are trying to gaslight you, you can listen to them, call them out on their gaslighting, or leave the interaction.
Listening to them means exposing yourself to toxicity for likely a lengthy amount of time, calling them out means keeping what is ultimately a futile argument going, and leaving gets you out of the situation. Even if leaving means leaving the family gathering, it may be your best choice.
In every situation, you have to remember you always have choices. Once you know that, you can identify what’s available for you and make the best choice for your situation.
7. Point Out Your Narcissistic Sibling’s Choices
Often, your narcissistic sibling will present themselves as the victim, whether they are a victim of circumstances or some villainous actor. But they also have choices they can make. I have a friend with a narcissistic sister who always claims she’s subjected to the constant abuse of her parents.
My friend finds her parents to be kind, well-adjusted people, and it distresses her to hear this. She has tried on several occasions to convince her sister that their parents have done nothing but help her over the course of her lifetime, but her sister insists she’s been abused.
Finally, my friend decided to just tell her sister that she could choose not to be around their parents if she wanted to avoid the perceived abuse she suffers at their hands. When she finally started pointing out the choices that her narcissistic sibling actually has in this situation, her sister toned down the talk about how abusive their parents are.
When you point out to your narcissistic siblings that they have a level of responsibility in any situation, it undermines their desire to play the role of the victim. They realize it won’t work with you because you’re pointing out where they have agency in changing the situation.
8. Follow Through on Consequences for Boundary Violations
Another thing to realize about your narcissistic siblings is that they only respond to consistent and persistent enforcement of boundary violations. If you falter, even once, they will see it as your weakness.
They will continue to push the boundary then because they will believe that if they keep trying, you will eventually cave. As I mentioned, it will be tedious to stay consistent, particularly at first.
But if you stay the course, they will finally realize that you mean business, and they will stop pushing that particular boundary. If that doesn’t happen, you may need to consider going no contact.
No matter what, you have to realize that you don’t deserve to be treated abusively. It’s never easy to continuously enforce the rules, and your narcissistic sibling will try things like violating boundaries when other people are around.
They want to see if you will enforce the rules even when it might be embarrassing to do so. You need to enforce the rules under all circumstances. Even when other people are around, you have to do what you said you would do.
If you don’t, the narcissist will know where your weakness lies. Trust me, be consistent, and you won’t regret it. Falter on occasion, and you’ll never get your narcissistic sibling to respect your boundaries.
9. Call Out Lies Unemotionally
Narcissistic siblings will lie routinely and for no apparent reason. They are pathological liars that seem to find enjoyment in the ability to create drama and manipulate people with lies.
When you know your sibling is lying, call it out without becoming emotional. Just say something like, “That’s not true.” Don’t get upset or become angry, just state the truth.
When you call them out in an unemotional way, you give them no recourse. They must either prove why what they’re saying is true – something you know they can’t do – or they will need to be quiet or change their story.
If you do this consistently, they will learn that lying around you presents a danger to their image. They won’t stop lying, but they will stop lying when you’re around.
10. Don’t React
Narcissists are always looking for an emotional reaction. They want to trigger your emotional wounds so they can use them to manipulate and control you. When you react to something they say or do, that lets them know it’s something you care about.
It gives them insight into what they can do to get to you. That’s why you don’t want to give them any more ammunition than they already have against you. They’ve known you a long time, maybe your entire life, and they already know many ways they can trigger you.
According to psychologists Rosemary K.M. Sword and Philip Zimbardo, “In a nutshell, the gray rock method is a technique in which a person does not respond emotionally to attempts to be manipulated by someone who is controlling or narcissistic. Instead, one acts like a “gray rock”: dull and boring. By being emotionally detached from the narcissist, one weakens their attempts, causing them to become uninterested in the pursuit because it removes what the narcissist wants: full attention.”
Reacting emotionally to their abusive behavior lets them know they can still get your goat whenever they want to, and when you’re emotionally triggered, you’re more vulnerable to their manipulation. Be like a gray rock – boring and non-reactive. If you can do that, they will move on.
Narcissists are experts at finding out what bothers you and using it against you. Your narcissistic siblings have known you for a very long time, and they already know many ways they can trigger you. They are aware of your emotional wounds and how to push your buttons to make you like putty in their manipulative hands. But you don’t have to let that continue.
I have created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers so your narcissistic siblings or any other narcissists in your life can’t use your emotional wounds against you. This free guide will help you identify, defuse, and heal your emotional triggers and the wounds that created them. When you can do that, you can prevent your narcissistic siblings from using them against you forever. If you would like a copy of this guide, just click on the link here, and I’ll send it directly to your inbox. You can get started on preventing narcissistic abuse today.
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