How To Deal With A Narcissistic Older Brother
*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure to learn more.
Narcissistic family members do immeasurable damage to their loved ones. They lie, gaslight, triangulate, and undermine loving relationships. A narcissistic brother is no exception, and as he gets older, a number of things may happen to modify his behavior, but it’s likely to remain abusive to anyone around him. Knowing how to deal with a narcissistic older brother is vital to your own physical and mental well-being.
Dealing with a narcissistic older brother means knowing and respecting your own needs and values. Arguing does no good, but it’s critical to know your limits and refuse to allow abuse. It’s also helpful to reduce your contact with him and limit conversation topics. Distance is also very helpful.
The damage a narcissist does to their family is immense. They can even destroy an entire family. They leave a legacy of psychological dysfunction that has important implications for the happiness and well-being of every member of their family. There’s no doubt you’ve been affected by a narcissistic older brother, but you can act to protect your own physical and mental health.
Understanding the effect he has on you and how best to deal with it is vital for taking effective action. Read on to learn more about how he affects you and other family members and what you can do about it.
How Does a Narcissistic Brother Affect You?
The personality of a narcissist is such that he cannot appreciate other people around him. Your narcissistic brother has always viewed you as little more than an extension of his own personality. You might even wonder if he loves you, and as this video discusses, he doesn’t show it if he does.
He sees you as a convenient scapegoat, a source of narcissistic supply, and a puppet who is subject to his manipulation and control. He will only be able to focus on his needs, and he lacks empathy, so he will be cruel with his criticism and unapologetically selfish.
He is perfect, and you are hopelessly flawed in his mind. As a result of his behavior, his siblings are often full of guilt and shame. They blame themselves for everything that’s wrong in their life because that’s what their older brother did.
“Narcissists have a tough job because perfection is viewed as either all or nothing: If you are not perfect, you are imperfect, and if you are imperfect, you are nothing.”
– Theodore Millon, Professor, Psychologist, and Author
They are also often shy and fearful of being dependent on other people, being vulnerable, and being intimate. They may become overly concerned with caretaking and lapse into codependency.
They often have little interest in their own personal interests, and they are hypersensitive to criticism. They are also usually overly responsible, particularly when compared to their narcissistic brother.
They downplay their accomplishments and avoid the spotlight. After all, they were punished by their narcissistic brother when they were receiving any attention. They don’t easily accept compliments, but they readily accept blame.
In some cases, they may also develop explosive anger as they struggle to deal with the effects of having a narcissistic sibling. Finally, their relationships with other siblings often suffer because of the triangulation a narcissist uses to disrupt such family ties.
Does a Narcissistic Brother Act Similarly to a Narcissistic Sister?
There are generally some differences between narcissistic males and females. The research into gender differences conducted by numerous US university experts indicates that male narcissists tend to be more entitled and are, therefore, more likely to exploit others.
Narcissistic men also have more of a desire for power and are more assertive than narcissistic women. The smallest gender gap was noted in the tendency of both men and women to engage in vain, exhibitionistic, self-absorption. That is, both men and women were almost equally likely to demonstrate these behaviors.
The research also found these differences were apparent in grandiose narcissists, but there were no differences in behavior between male and female vulnerable narcissists. Given these results, there will likely be some significant differences in the way a narcissistic brother acts as compared to a narcissistic sister.
In short, a narcissistic brother is likely to behave in the following ways in a more dramatic or noticeable fashion than a narcissistic sister:
- He will be more aggressive and cruel
- He will feel more entitled to whatever he wants
- He is more willing to exploit the people around him
- He will be more likely to manipulate people and seek to control them
- He will be more driven to get into positions of power and authority
- He will emotionally abuse anyone he views as an underling
- He will be harshly critical
- He will have little concern for the feelings or needs of other people
- He will be singularly focused on fulfilling his own needs and desires
- He will brag about his accomplishments
- He will readily take credit for the accomplishments of others
What Happens When a Narcissist Gets Older?
Narcissists face particular challenges as they grow older, as you can see in the video below. They have built a false self-image which they have infused with grandiose ideas of perfection and superiority. Many of the things that happen as you grow older directly conflict with those kinds of ideas.
Physically, they start to slow down, and as their appearance changes, their ability to charm is often diminished. They are basically less attractive in every way. Because of this, it’s harder for them to get the narcissistic supply they so desperately need.
They often lose many relationships as they get older because the people around them stop putting up with the abuse. Many older narcissists find themselves alone, and they often become bitter and desperate to find a scapegoat for their problems.
What’s more, because they are accustomed to spending money to impress other people, such poor impulse control leaves them broke. They spend money on various miracle drugs to make them look and feel younger, all to no avail.
This can often lead to them becoming a more extreme version of their worst self. They become more paranoid, deluded, angry, and abusive. As their power diminishes, they seek out someone to blame for their problems, and that often exposes some ugly truths like racism and sexism.
For all these reasons, an older narcissistic brother may be among a sibling’s worst nightmares. He is unlikely to be someone you want to be around.
How Might a Narcissistic Older Brother’s Behavior Change Over Time?
As your narcissistic brother ages, he may become angrier and more abusive. You might also find that you’re left to shoulder the burden of how to care for him as he ages.
Because of codependent tendencies, many siblings will feel obligated to care for a sibling like this, but let’s be real – who wants a troll living with or near them? Older narcissistic brothers often become so abusive and extreme in their viewpoints that it’s hard to tolerate even being around them.
They are more likely to be prone to explosive outbursts of narcissistic rage and ever more incoherent stories of conspiracies organized against them to make them look bad. They can’t accept responsibility for their own actions and how they might have led to their current state. Therefore, they are unlikely to take steps to make meaningful changes in their life.
Instead, they rage on and on about how they have been mistreated to anyone who will listen. As the sibling of such a person, you’re likely to be exposed to this kind of verbal abuse, and you’re also likely to be among the scapegoats the narcissist will blame for his demise.
It can become an almost unbearable situation, one in which you will have to choose between being subjected to his constant abuse and cutting him out of your life. It’s a horrific situation for anyone who tries to be a caring family member.
It puts you in an untenable situation, one in which there are no easy choices. If you choose to let him go, you might be plagued by guilt, and if you let him stay in your life, you are subjecting yourself to more abuse. So what can you do?
How Should You Deal with a Narcissistic Older Brother?
Dealing with a narcissistic older brother is something no one should have to do. One of the first things you have to understand is that nothing you do will ever be enough.
Your older brother will never acknowledge your efforts, say thank you, or apologize for past wrongs. Nothing you do to help him will be enough, and you can’t be kind enough to make him feel loved.
Imagine yourself pulling the handle on a slot machine, and every time, it comes up with three lemons. You never win, what you do is never enough, and you’ll never receive genuine gratitude from your toxic brother.
“The narcissist is like a bucket with a hole in the bottom: No matter how much you put in, you can never fill it up. The phrase “I never feel like I am enough” is the mantra of the person in a narcissistic relationship. That’s because, to your narcissistic partner, you are not. No one is. Nothing is.”
– Ramani Durvasula, Clinical Psychologist, Author, and Professor Emeritus
At some point in time, you have to choose to care of yourself. If you don’t, you’ll end up lost in a sea of codependency and dysfunction that will make your life miserable. You’re not responsible for your older brother’s narcissism, and you can’t fix him.
You have to recognize that reality and show yourself the love you deserved to receive from your sibling. That can mean making some difficult decisions, but let’s look at the choices you have for dealing with a toxic older brother.
1. Get Some Distance
Sometimes, you just need a little distance from a toxic person, such as your narcissistic older brother. Putting space between you and him can help you to better cope with his manipulation, and it can undermine his efforts to control you.
The amount of distance, of course, depends entirely on your individual situation, but here are some ideas that might work:
- Take a walk outside
- Go to another room in the house
- Go to the movies
- Go to a friend’s house
- Take a drive in the country
- Move to another part of town
- Move to another city
- Move to another state
Really, just any amount of distance can help. It gives you time to calm down and clear your mind. It also helps you process any abuse you’ve suffered.
It’s also a great way to set a strong boundary with your narcissistic older brother. If he realizes that you will simply leave when he starts behaving badly, he will eventually change his ways. It may take a while for the message to get through, but it will sooner or later.
2. Reduce Contact
Another thing you might want to try, particularly if you don’t want to cut your toxic brother out of your life altogether, is to reduce the amount of time you spend with him.
You might see him less often and for shorter lengths of time. It’s also important to ensure that you see him on your terms. You set the timing and length of the visit, not him.
Reducing contact not only gets you away from the toxicity but also prepares both of you for the possibility of no contact whatsoever.
It is a good start if you’re considering that possibility. You can get a feel for what it will be like, and you can also get an idea of how it will affect your brother.
I did this before cutting off all contact with my narcissistic mother for a period of time. It helped me get a good perspective on what my goals were, and then when I did cut off contact, it was an easier process. I eventually reestablished contact with her, but on my terms.
3. Don’t Bother Arguing
Arguing with a narcissist is an exercise in futility. Your narcissistic older brother will never take responsibility for any of his actions.
He will never admit that he made a mistake, nor will he apologize, at least not unless there’s something in it for him. What’s more, he won’t use or follow a logical, coherent argument.
It’s like banging your head against the wall. Your narcissistic brother will also misdirect the argument. He’ll bring up things from long ago or make unwarranted accusations against you in an effort to distract you from the main topic.
It’s really useless, and your brother will see your argument as an indication of weakness on your part. In his mind, if you’re trying to convince him you’re in the right, it’s likely because you doubt you really are.
Rather than arguing with him, it’s better to simply state calmly what you will and will not do or put up with and then walk away. It’s not worth your time and frustration to do anything more.
4. Limit Conversation Topics
Another good thing to do when interacting with your brother is to limit the acceptable topics of conversation. Don’t even start talking about topics that will trigger either you or him.
If your brother brings up such a topic, simply state, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to talk about that,” or you can redirect the conversation to a topic you’re willing to talk about.
Your brother will try to get you going. Narcissists love drama, and they feel superior and powerful when they can manipulate you into getting angry or showing an emotional reaction.
For that reason, he will say things he knows will make you uncomfortable, or that will trigger a reaction from you. Don’t take the bait; don’t give him that satisfaction.
If you do, he will know that he can manipulate you at will. It’s hard to walk away from some of the outrageous things a narcissist will say to get a reaction, but try some of the following tactics to get yourself under control so that you don’t react:
- Take 10 deep breaths
- Excuse yourself and go to the restroom
- Count to 10 before responding
- Smile and walk away
- Calmy state that you won’t respond to such obvious manipulation
Using these tactics gives you some space between what he said and how you will respond. It can make a huge difference in how he behaves. While he won’t be any less toxic, he will start interacting with you in a more reasonable manner.
5. Get Therapy for Yourself
You may not want to go to therapy or think that you really need it, but you’ve been abused by your narcissistic older brother for your entire life. That leaves a mark.
There are many things you can do on your own to try to heal yourself, but sometimes you need an objective third party who has experience in dealing with narcissistic abuse victims to help you make more progress.
Getting psychotherapy doesn’t carry the stigma it did years ago, and while you may think it indicates you’re weak, the opposite is true. Take it from someone who knows – facing the internal demons of having been traumatized takes enormous courage.
In fact, I would say it is the most courageous thing you’ll ever do in your life. It’s hard to walk into a situation you know will cause you pain, but the pain of not doing so is so much worse.
It’s our tendency to think that if we open up a can of worms, that’s all our life will be from there on out, but the truth is that opening that can of worms cleans out the can. Once you’ve done that difficult work, you’ll start feeling better, stronger, and more empowered.
It will be easier for you to refuse to be abused in any way by anyone ever again. That’s because you’ll be the one who loves you the most. Remember, the most important relationship you’ll ever have in your life is the one you have with yourself. So nurture that relationship with a little help from a professional. You’ll be glad you did.
6. Consider Going No Contact
Finally, letting your narcissistic older brother go has to be one of the options on the table. You can’t change him. That’s just a fact. He is the only person who can change him.
Additionally, it’s not your responsibility to fix him. The forces that created his personality disorder were always beyond your control. You don’t bear the burden of fixing that, and you can’t fix it even if it was your responsibility.
But you can take care of yourself, and that is your responsibility. The only thing you really control in life is your response to what happens around you.
When you embrace that and start doing what’s best for you, that not only helps heal your wounds, it has a ripple effect for those around you. People see you taking care of yourself, and it gives them permission to do the same.
Cutting a toxic person out of your life is one of the most difficult but also most empowering ways to take care of yourself. It has to be on the table, but you shouldn’t constantly threaten your brother with that possibility.
“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.”
– Deborah Reber, Parenting activist, Author, and Speaker
Instead, try other things to help him reduce his narcissism, but if those don’t work and you decide to go no contact, do it without any threats. You can either tell him in person or write him a letter, but stick to your decision and don’t waver. This video has some good suggestions on how to get him to leave you alone.
A narcissistic older brother can tear your family apart. He can and will abuse all of his siblings and possibly your parents as well. He uses several tactics to get his needs met, and he has no empathy for how his actions affect his loved ones. He creates emotional wounds and then uses those triggers to provoke, manipulate, and control the people around him. You have to take action to protect yourself because you can’t change him.
To help with that, I’ve created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. It’s a free guide that will help you identify, defuse, and even heal your emotional triggers.When you can do that, no one will be able to trigger you into an emotional reaction. You will be in control of your own emotions, and no one will be able to use them to manipulate you. If you would like a copy of this handy guide, simply click on the link here and I’ll send it directly to your inbox.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel