Married into Narcissistic family
I married into a narcissistic family, and it has been a nightmare and the worst experience of my life. 7 years later, I've distanced myself from them, and that is all you can do, but the damage they have done to our marriage has affected us in so many ways that our relationship will never be 100%, but we make it work. It's been a long struggle, and much counseling to make my husband realize things about his family that he never realized before.
I've heard of narcissism, knew (or thought I knew) what it meant, but never understood the true meaning of the word until I met them and have had to deal with these horrible people. Much of the literature that I've read about them is true - RUN LIKE HELL. That is all you can do, because you will never change them.
To say that I was confused in the beginning was an understatement. My head was spinning. I could not comprehend why this "perfect" family of churchgoers did not like me, would always find fault with me, would not accept me, etc. and I began questioning myself!!! That is until I reached a point that I realized it's not me, its them and thus began my own research to try to comprehend the myriad of behaviors I was being subjected to, and what they were projecting onto me - they are notorious for projection. I started by searching various terms - "control freaks" "overbearing families" "lack of boundaries" "mental abuse" "paranoid family" "cult behavior" until I finally put enough information together to determine that they are narcissists, or the product of narcissistic parent depending on the person in the family.
Three members are true classic cases of narcissists - the uncle, the sister and the grandmother. They seem to spend their entire lives trying to talk themselves up and constantly degrading everyone around them and finding fault with others whenever they can. The fact that they would call themselves christians would BLOW MY MIND. Interestingly enough, I've read somewhere that the church is the perfect place to perpetuate narcissism - it gives narcissists a place to feel superior to others. And yes, this family tries to throw religion in my face as if they are holier than thou, and it blows my mind that they call themselves Christians when all they do is degrade and distrust others - in my mind this goes against the entire idea of what it means to be christian, so I think they are phonies. It has completely changed my outlook on people who go to church religiously - not that it's a bad thing at all - I say it in a context that just because you go to church does not make you any better than the next person, because I've seen firsthand how awful these people can be. They wreak havoc in marriages in the family, and seem to thrive on doing so. I honestly believe they are so miserable in their own skin that they can't handle seeing anyone else happy, and as such continue to degrade others with their never ending slew of condescension. They are the biggest hypocrites I've met in my life. Phony, and I think they are some of the most shallow, materialistic "things" I have ever met in my life. I like to refer to them as "things", because they lack normal empathy towards the plight of others which to me is inhuman.
People in this family are either narcissists, or have narcissistic traits which they've learned from other family members. They are the biggest control freaks I've ever met in my life and I've been told by our marriage counselor that they are an "enmeshed" family - an enmeshed family is a family that doesn't know boundaries because boundaries do not exist. They will ask us how often we have sex, they will tell me how many kids to have and by what age or I will be "too tired" to take care of my children if I wait too long. They will barge into our bedroom without knocking. And on and on and on...
When my mother was dying of stage 4 cancer and I was feeding her through a feeding tube, attending to her medical and other needs, taking care of her and her home while I was still working full time and planning a wedding, this narcissistic family forced us into purchasing a home (unrelenting pressure) which was a major fixer-upper, and then would have the audacity to complain that our house wasn't perfect (what are your guests going to think about this? What are your guests going to think about that?) as if painting and decorating a home was even feasible given my schedule, but even moreso that they believed this was more important than spending time with my dying mother?
On top of that, at Christmas time, the narcissistic evil grandmother had the audacity to sit there complaining incessantly in the background because I wasn't spending Christmas with their family when my mother was dying!!!! To say I was livid was an understatement. These people are pure evil, and know no empathy towards the plight of others. They have demeaned me, they have a "paranoid" sense of people they haven't even met yet - they had preconceived notions about me before they even met me, they've degraded my family without ever meeting them on no basis whatsoever, they degrade others they've never met for no reason. I've never met people like this in my life.
Another point I want to make is about the unrelenting pressure - think of when you are at the end of your rope and you can't take any more. Multiply that times 100. That's where they will take you. Anything we do with our lives, we aren't allowed to have a sense of autonomy. Independence in this family is highly frowned upon. Your lives revolve around them. I have been chastised for purchasing furniture for our home without consulting with them first. I joked one time to my husband that I didn't marry into a family, rather I married into a "cult" - but the more I thought about it, it really wasn't a joke because they carry many charicteristics of a cult - you have to act like them, think like them, communicate like them, do what they want, when they want, how they want, or they will chastise you, degrade you, ostracize you, get angry with you, and ignore you. That is your punishment for not conforming. You can't have your own norms, ideas, routines, habits, or customs in life - you have to adopt THEIRS.
To be more specific about why I call them "control freaks", we purchased our home in 2004. From 2004 - 2012 I have yet to be able to cook a meal on my stove without his family physically pushing me out of the way and taking over. Say no a thousand times. Falls on deaf ears. I'm a grown woman who is not allowed to carry a water bottle when we take a trip to Costa Rica and go on a tour of the rainforest in the tropical heat. Every time I put the water bottle down, they snatch it from me, or snatch it directly from my hands and put it in their backpack - thus reducing me to a child who has to ask my husbands mommy and daddy every time I want a drink of water. Doesn't matter how many times you say no to them repeatedly. It falls on deaf ears and they dont' respect a thing you say - it's all about what they want. Then, they play with words - "but we're just helping you" - everything is that they are "helping" us as if we are helpless invalids incapable of doing anything for ourselves. What I had to explain to my husband was this -- Taking away an adults privileges is not "helping" and it took me years to make my husband realize this, and two marriage counselors before he finally understood that their behavior does not respect boundaries. My husband now knows MY rules - they have to respect the fact that I am a competent adult, or they can take a hike. It is not acceptable to grab me or push me or take things from me just to make me comply with what YOU want me to do. The fact is, the parents always trying to "help" I believe is just one of their mechanisms to fulfill something that is missing in their lives. They aren't doing it for US, they are doing it to fulfill their OWN needs. That's important to remember that although it might look to an outsider that they are being "helpful" their behavior is anything but. You can't take privileges away from people and then try to pass it off that you are "helping" as if everyone around you is helpless. They are lacking something in their lives and this is their way of trying to make up for that void.
My husband grew up thinking that his family was "perfect" - a very common trait of children who grow up in a narcissistic family. His family is notorious for brushing their "problems" under the carpet and pretending they don't exist - a common trait is that they "worry whah the neighbors will think". It's all about IMAGE, and less about SUBSTANCE - very common when it comes to narcissistic families. As such, my husband has an irrational fear of conflict which we've had to resolve in psychotherapy. He had a difficult time saying no to the simplest of issues - for example, we'd have plans to see a movie and I've have my purse on my shoulder ready to walk out the door. The phone would ring. It would be the narcissistic Uncle. Uncle would ask us (expect us) to drop what we are doing on a whim and come over to drink with him because he has some friends over. Initially, my husband wouldn't even tell him that we have plans, he had such a fear of saying no that he'd respond by telling him that we'd be right over. No respect for the fact that we had plans to see a movie. You can imagine how that fared on our relationship, so I put a stop to it real fast. Then, when he finally was able to say no to the Uncle, the Uncle would react with hostility - he'd threaten that he'd never ask us to come over again if we didn't come over. To drink with him!!! Unbelievable. These people think that what they are doing is so much more special than what anyone else could be doing. If we said we had plans with my family, he'd tell my husband to tell my family to come over too - see how this works? Now my ENTIRE family was supposed to rearrange their lives because what the uncle has going on is more important. He's superior to everyone else.
The sister goes into narcissistic rages if you disagree with her. I've been threatened, isolated and literally thought at one point this whacko was going to attack me - all because "she's not good enough for you" as she would say to her brother (my now husband). Of course, she would not let the rest of the family know that she was acting this way, then she'd run to the family and leave voice messages for everyone trying to pit everyone against me, strategically omitting facts about her own behavior. If I'd try to defend myself, she'd say "can you believe she talked to me that way?" They can say whatever they want, but heaven forbid you have an opinion about them - they'd think that hell was freezing over. They live a life of hypocrisy.
We visited the sisters out of state, stayed at their home and had no transportation. We weren't allowed to eat if we were hungry -they'd tell us we have to wait - hours and hours and hours. Then they'd say they wanted to go to midnight bowling and then out to "dinner" after that. As you can imagine, I was starving because I don't eat dinner at 2 am. I was shaky and weak, but we'll get back to that. We arrive at the bowling alley, and at that point I tell them that I can't bowl because of a pinched nerve in my shoulder. I didn't tell them beforehand because I didn't want them to feel as if they couldn't bowl on my account. So instead I ran for all their drinks from the bar and brought them snacks back. I was starving so I got myself some food, which I think infuriated them because they wanted to wait until 2 am to find a restaurant to eat at. I couldn't wait, and wasn't going to. After returning home, they told their mother, my mother in law that I was "antisocial" because I didn't sit next to them in the bowling seats and instead ate my food at a table with other people, but of course they failed to mention that I played their waitress for the evening running for all their drinks and basically catering to them. Then they called me antisocial because I didn't bowl with them!! They never said anything about my shoulder, never mentioned it to their mother, skewing the facts in their favor. Like I said - PHONY. They say anything to put me down, every chance they can. I have since severed my relationship with the two evil sisters who do nothing but wreak havoc in our marriage, and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. The uncle has since banished me because I won't talk to these evil sisters who never apologized to me for any of their behaviors. What a joke! Which brings me back to my original point - brush everything under the carpet so you never have to acknowledge or take accountability for your own behavior - the life of a narcissist!!! Narcissists do NOT take accountability for their behavior.
Another characteristic of this family is obsession with money. Not just their money, but also our money. The parents are ultra frugal with their money, which is fine in and of itslef, but at the same time the mother in law will walk around my home and find fault with every material thing in my home that isn't good enough for their "royal" family. For example, I have fiesta ware dishes. I love my fiesta ware dishes. She apparently, does not and will remind me of it every time she sits at my dinner table. I have heard repeatedly, "Do you need serving bowls?" No, I do not. The next time she sits down, she'll say it again, "Do you need serving bowls?" as she's looking directly at the serving bowls on my table. So it's this confusing - be frugal with your money messages, and at the same time they obsess over material things. They constantly micromanage - recently I walked over to a roll of paper towel in my home, grabbed a whole sheet to clean off my cats face. They stood, as usual, breathing down my neck watching me, and then, as is typical, I had to listen to some innuendo, allusion, insinuation about what I did that they didn't like - "Oh, I see that you have the same papertowel that we have. That's nice, because you only have to take a half sheet of paper towel rather than a whole sheet". Apparently, I made them feel uncomfortable because I didn't do what they would've done. I'm not going to live my life counting how many sheets of paper towel I'm taking off the roll because they choose to live their life this way. I can't cut a canteloupe without them telling me that I have to cut it their way. Similarly, I'm installing planting beds in my yard. They came over and saw that we had a pile of bags of mulch. You could immediately see the disappointment in their faces, and I knew instantly that they were obsessing over OUR money and were concerned that adding planting beds means spending money on mulch. So very quickly they'd make statements that they try to disguise as questions - "You are done with your planting beds, RIGHT?" So they aren't REALLY asking me, they are TELLING me that I shouldn't add any more planting beds to my own yard. Control freaks, which I suspect is a product of having a narcissistic parent. It's none of their business how I spend MY own money. I don't ask them for money.
Another aspect of this family of control freaks is their unrelenting pressure, or what I like to refer to as "chanting" the same messages over and over and over, which is why I call them the cult. When we purchased our home, we got a dog. The family doesn't want us to have a dog, because that means spending our own money. Money obsessions. So for the next two years, we heard every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, multiple times from multiple people, every weekend, every month, every time you picked up the phone to call them, for TWO years straight, I heard the same chanting, "You shouldn't have a dog", "You shouldn't have a dog" "You shouldn't have a dog". This is two years AFTER we already had a dog. I was banging my head on a wall. I mentioned earlier that we were pressured into buying a home before the wedding. It was the same thing, whenever we'd talk to them, "Did you buy a house yet?" "Did you buy a house yet?" "Did you buy a house yet?" --- because they wanted to "impress" their in-laws because of competitive family members, so they were using us as a "trophy" to the rest of the family. They live vicariously through their children (my husband) which is NOT a healthy relationship for any parent to have, and of course I'm not living my life to serve THEIR needs, so you can imagine the havoc they've wreaked on our marriage.
Then when our dogs health began to decline, for another 9 months it was, "You need to put your dog down" "You need to put your dog down" --- more banging my head on the wall. Think of reaching the end of your rope, multiply that frustration by 100. That's where they take you. It was so bad, my husband actually sat down and talked to them about it and told them we don't want to hear it anymore. Guess what? We rented a cottage for a weekend, and my husband invited them - why? Because he feels that if we go anywhere within 100 miles of his family we have to invite his family too or they're going to be upset. So he invited them on our vacation, and the minute his Dad walked out of the house, his grandmother began her usual chanting, "you need to put your dog down". I honestly wanted to spit in her face and scream profanities to her. But of course I bit my tongue and that was my breaking point. I no longer spend weekends or holidays with these freaks.
They always find fault with my home. I clean excessively for days before they come over. Still, nothing is ever good enough. EVERY TIME the uncle comes over, I have to hear from his friends, his friends' friends, and people I don't even know - "I heard you need a cleaning lady" "I heard you need a cleaning lady" "I heard you need a cleaning lady" - It's this passive aggressive "triangulation" where the uncle has to use his friends as a tool to repeatedly send these messages to me that I'm not good enough. I no longer attend any of his social functions, because this is what I'm subjected to. Same thing about the fact that we have cats - his family hates cats - so for seven years, whenever I attend a family funcion, I will hear from some non-relative or from a relative the EXACT same verbiage and completely out of context from the current conversation - I'll be sitting talking to "joe" next to me about my dogs, and someone from across the room will chant, "And how many cats do you have?" and then they'll turn and continue a conversation with someone next to them about something irrelevant. I've heard this same comment for the past 7 years. "And how many cats do you have?" chanting, chanting, chanting, excessive pressure to live our lives according to their terms. Now do you see why I call them the "Cult"? They don't like cats, so they will continue to pressure me about the decisions I make in my adult life because they don't agree with them, or moreso that they can't control ME. I refuse to let them.
So in this respect, they are notorious for communicating via this "triangulation" - always using someone else to send their messages to me. It's passive aggressive. Even my husband does it within his own family, because that's what he's learned, and we're trying to break him of that habit and he's getting better at confronting people individually in an attempt to break this passive aggressive form of communication, which is really unhealthy.
Another aspect of this family is cruelty to animals. They all sit around and joke about trapping wild animals and drowning them in a lake, or other stories that I find repulsive and mortifying. They all sit around laughing like these stories are funny, and it baffles me. I would NEVER raise a child around this family of sadists. EVER.
If I want to use the bathroom to simply wash my hands before a meal, the entire family is complaining that you aren't at the dinner table the moment they snap their fingers. In fact, even using the bathroom is an undertaking if they are around because they're all complaining about where you are if you try to break away from them. Dinner itself is stressful. I get scolded for taking the "wrong" piece of chicken off a serving plate because it was supposed to be for someone else, or a wrong piece of toast. If I don't eat like a glutton, I will be chastised that I'm too skinny. They will pile more food on your plate in an authoritative manner, and then make you feel guilty if you don't eat everything that they are serving you (excessively) because "Well I MADE THIS FOR YOU!"- it's no wonder my husband has an eating disorder. I no longer eat meals with them. It's the most unpleasant experience of my life.
Heaven forbid I want to shower when I'm at their house. You are supposed to jump out of bed and eat and eat and eat when they say so and then be ready to leave the house when they snap their fingers. No room for personal space, you are lucky if you have time to brush your teeth. If a guest happens to stop by when you are in the shower, they will yell and yell and yell up the stairs to make you come out of the bathroom to meet this person even though you haven't even had time to put your clothes on yet. Stringent rules and ridiculous formalities. I eventually began having digestive problems around these people and realizing their behavior was affecting my health, decided to stay away. They are the biggest control freaks I've ever met in my life, and it's equivalent to walking on egg shells.
Another thing I read about narcissistic parents (the grandmother) is how they will act genuinely nice when asking questions about me to my husband, but never to my face. My husband knows I despise his evil grandmother, but will try to say, "Oh, she's getting better, she always asks about you" - I truly believe he thinks it's genuine, but what he doesn't realize is that this is typical of a narcissist. She's going to play nice to his face, but the minute I walk into a room she has to find fault with something I've done, and it will be a neverending slew of innuendos, allusions, insinuations... I made a homemade pot of chili for her as I knew it was her favorite food. For two years she chanted to me, "Your chili didn't have enough sauce.." "Your chili didn't have enough sauce".. I told my husband if she were starving and begging me for her last meal, I still wouldn't feed her because all she'd do is complain that it wasn't good enough for her. That woman is evil, and now I know why a lot of the literature I read says that the best way to deal with a narcissist is to run like hell. The more distance I have created between myself and this evil, chanting, narcissistic family of control freaks, the better my marriage has become and the more my health improves. I would not wish a narcissist on my worst enemy - it is mental abuse at its finest. At the same time, I feel sad for these people because I believe they are truly shallow empty shell of a human being who miss out on the meaning of life and true happiness. Like I said earlier, they are so miserable in their own skin, that seeing anyone else happy drives them to destroy all your happiness. They want everyone to be as miserable as they are. They do not know true happiness, they obssess over material things in life like that's what's important, while the rest of us know that people are important, not things. I hate them and pity them at the same time, but for the most part I try to keep my distance. I don't need these freaks in my life because it's nothing but a negative loop that they continually feed off of. My father in law is one of the bigger control freaks in the family, everything has to be perfect, he is virtually emotionless and comes across as phony, but I feel sorry for him because I think he's the product of a narcissistic mother and his need for perfection and total control over everything and his never ending obsession with every penny of his and of our own has been his way of coping with growing up with an emotionally empty narcissistic mother. We can't even make an innocent comment that we are going to install a wood burning stove without him retorting, "well I don't know if I'd do that, I don't think it will pay itself off". Everything has to pay itself off.
The family is also notorious for opinions. Opinions about everything, that's all you hear are their neverending unsolicited opinions about any and every aspect of your life, someone elses life. Reach the end of your rope and multiply that times 100. They never shut up.
The uncle has lavish over the top parties, drives a jaguar that if he gets so much of a dent on it has to trade it in for a new one because it's no longer "perfect". He lashes out at people who don't do what he wants them to do because he feels rejected - in his mind, what he does is so superior and so much more special than what anyone else could possibly be doing that he believes it's outlandish if we decline his request to attend one of his parties. And he responds with anger and threats, likely because deep down he feels a great sense of rejection. Our marriage counselor said he probably lived his life never knowing what it's like to feel loved by his mother, so he compensates by surrounding himself with over the top expensive things and lives his life trying to impress people because that's the only way he can feed his shallow ego.
I'm writing this in part to vent because I still deal with some members of this family, but also to help others in this situation understand that you are not alone, and that it's not you.
I also dread the holidays because that means time my husband and I will spend apart - I will not spend any more holidays with his family, so we divide the time up. He spends a day with them and a day with me which I think is only fair. I won't keep him from his family, but I also let him know that he HAS to spend time with me (in the beginning, he felt guilty about spending time with ME!! - the product of a narcissistic family who believe that the world revolves around what they want). But still, I resent the fact that these people more or less robbbed us of happiness in various aspects of our marriage. I'm not feeling sorry for myself, that's not the context, I'm just being realistic. Still, we have a strong relationship and we make it work. I can't imagine if our relationship weren't so strong that we'd have been able to pull through this.
As the years go by, I'm losing more of my patience with them, I have less of the desire to maintain a "good" relationship with them mostly because I have no respect for them.
I've often read literature that arguing with narcissists is pointless. I don't agree with this only in the context that it IS important to stand up for yourself. I notice that the narcissistic grandmother backs down quickly if I stand up to her - but she's very savvy in that she's passive aggressive and communicates in a very indirect way sending "messages". I'm at a point that when they say something to me that's inappropriate, I'll tell them to take a hike. I will not be their puppet nor their doormat. Don't let these people walk all over you, and that's all they want to do. I also believe that prolonged exposure to their behaviors and stresses on our marriage caused me adrenal fatigue that went undiagnosed for years. It has also perpetuated anxieties in my life which are getting better since pulling away from these control freaks. It was honestly so bad at one point that every time I'd see them I'd get my period, and I've had normal periods my whole life and when they aren't around they go back to being normal. That's when you know you need a change of scenery, because losing your health due to surrounding yourself with narcissistic control freaks is not worth it. Thankfully, I was finally able to get my husband to realize this and he's supported me.
Another important comment that I wanted to make about narcissistic families is that they are notorious for externalizing the blame - the perfect family is never at fault, and when I had a long discussion with the mother about the daughters behavior towards me, which included pretty vile and inappropriate sexua| behaviors that i didn't mention here, the mother had the audacity to respond to me with this comment, "I believe someone either makes or breaks a family" --- It was MY fault!!!! Just unbelievable how these people go through life never taking accountability for their own behaviors. True classic narcissism.