You want your child to marry someone that loves and respects them, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. It makes matters worse if they end up marrying a narcissist. Narcissists are extremely self-absorbed individuals who use manipulation to control the people around them. They need those people to feed their ego constantly; without that, they feel lost. So what should you do when your daughter-in-law is a narcissist?
The first thing you have to do is respect your child’s choice of a mate. That’s a done deal, but aside from that, you should avoid taking sides, stay cordial, set your own boundaries, and take a step back. You can stay objective and avoid making your child feel alienated when you do these things.
You might not like your child’s choice, but unless you want to risk pushing them out of your life, you have to deal with your daughter-in-law. It won’t be easy, but there are several essential strategies you can use to disarm her narcissistic abuse. Let’s take a look at each of the strategies you should employ to make life with her as your daughter-in-law more bearable.
How to Deal with Your Narcissistic Daughter-in-Law
If you want your child to be in your life, you can’t continuously disparage their choice of a spouse. That strategy will only drive them away from you, and they’ll still be married to a narcissist. What you can do, however, is to take a step back.
You have to remember that your child is an adult now, and no matter what you think about their choices, you have to let them live their life. They are going to make mistakes, and they will also learn from those mistakes. There are some things you can do to help prevent them from going down a disastrous path, but when they’ve made their decision, it’s time to let it play out.
You need to step back and respect their decision. You don’t have to like it, but it is the decision they made, and you want to respect them by respecting their decision. That being said, that doesn’t mean you have to put up with your daughter-in-law’s narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists use manipulation tactics to control the people in their life. These tactics include things like gaslighting, triangulation, lying, and projection, and they amount to emotional abuse. While you need to respect your child’s decision, you don’t have to put up with abuse.
You can set boundaries on that kind of behavior. You can let your daughter-in-law know that you will check everything she says with your child, you won’t tolerate verbal abuse, and if she erupts in a rage, either she must leave or you will.
You don’t have to trust her word or buy into her attempted distortion of your reality. You can insist that she respect you, but you must be ready to return that respect. If you can do that, you and your child’s lives will be happier.
A Few More Helpful Tips
There are a few other helpful tips that will reduce your exposure to your narcissistic daughter-in-law and make her visits more pleasant. Here are some ideas to help with that:
Always Be Cordial
This is a good rule in general for dealing with your children’s spouses, but it’s even more important when that spouse is a narcissist. If you get angry, your narcissistic daughter-in-law will see that as a weakness. She’ll use it against you and interpret it as permission for her to react with rage too.
Be a Grey Rock
To head off your narcissistic daughter-in-law’s attempts to manipulate you, it helps if she finds you exceedingly dull. This is known as the ‘grey rock’ technique. Your goal is to be as boring as a grey rock. Narcissists thrive on drama and love to get an emotional reaction out of people. She’ll turn her attention elsewhere if you don’t give her that kind of response.
Avoid Unannounced Visits
Narcissists do everything in their power to completely control their world. If you make unannounced visits, it is likely to trigger your daughter-in-law’s rage. She is also going to be inherently suspicious of everything you do. She’ll likely see those unannounced visits as an attempt to catch them doing something they shouldn’t be doing. While she might not rage at you, she’ll take her frustrations out on your child.
Follow Her Rules in Her House
Nothing will make a narcissist angrier than going against their rules in a context where they have control. Respect her rules when you’re in her house, and of course, you also have the right to insist that she follow your rules in your house. Even if you don’t agree with her, respect her rules, show her you heard and understood her, and expect the same from her in your house.
Don’t Take Sides
While you might be entirely on your child’s side, taking their side in an argument will only complicate the matter. When they make up, your own child might see you as the bad guy who said bad things about their spouse. That could breed resentment you don’t want between you and your child. It’s better to stay neutral and let your child handle the situation. Give them the support they need, but avoid taking sides.
Don’t Bother Giving a Narcissist Advice
Don’t try to give your narcissistic daughter-in-law advice. Narcissists don’t take advice because they believe themselves to be superior to other people. What’s more, the fact that you tried to give her advice may enrage her. Remember, she has your child’s ear, and she will not hesitate to undermine your relationship if she decides you’re a threat to her.
There are only so many things in your life that you control, and your narcissistic daughter-in-law’s behavior is not one of them. Remember that she has great influence over your child, and she will use that against you in an instance. So accept that you don’t control her, but you also don’t have to accept her abuse. There is something you can do about that by setting strong boundaries.
Can You Help Your Child See the Truth?
Practicing the techniques above will help keep the peace, but you might still be distressed that your child has such a spouse. Yet, as author, teacher, and youth worker, Elizabeth Margaret notes, “If you do anything overt, you risk damaging your relationship with your child.” You can’t approach the problem directly; instead, you can only offer your support as a loving parent to your child and let them come to their own conclusions.
If your child asks you to validate their reality, you can certainly do that for them. You can say something like, “I would interpret that as you have, so I don’t feel you’re being unreasonable.” When doing something like that, you should also always let them know that you have confidence in their problem-solving and decision-making skills. Reassure them that they have your support no matter what decision they make.
In this way, you’re supporting your child without calling out their spouse as a narcissist. Should they reconcile with her, you’ve said nothing that should make them feel uncomfortable, which keeps the lines of communication open at all times.
Having a narcissist in your life is always a complicated scenario. They attempt to manipulate and emotionally abuse everyone in their life. You don’t have to put up with this, but you also don’t want to alienate your child. It’s helpful if you can control your own emotional responses and avoid being triggered by your narcissistic daughter-in-law.
Toward that end, I’ve created a 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. It’s a free guide that will help you recognize, defuse, and even heal those old wounds that created your emotional triggers. That way, you can keep your cool no matter what your narcissistic daughter-in-law pulls. Just click on this link, and I’ll send it directly to your inbox.
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