Information about how to spot a narcissistic parent or partner and how to manage them has exploded in the past five years. There is less information available on how a narcissistic sibling affects the personality of a brother or sister. This is likely because the role of the parent has primary importance in shaping a child’s emotional and social functioning. However, sibling relationships can be just as impactful, especially because many siblings spend more time together than they do with parents. Sibling interactions are often largely unsupervised and, as a result, very unhealthy power dynamics can develop without any adult being aware. A sibling relationship is also expected to be close and loving, so that when it is not, due to the narcissistic brother or sister’s behavior, it can be quite traumatic for the victim.
I would like to address in this blog the long-term psychological impact of a narcissistic sibling on their brothers or sisters. This topic is very personal to me, because as an adult, through therapy and my own personal growth work, I realized that my sister, Lynn, engaged in decades of selfish, greedy, abusive, manipulative, and attention-seeking narcissistic behavior. This behavior included some minor sexual abuse, but I believe the most long-lasting damage was done with more subtle, coercive and emotionally abusive tactics. Her behavior was a key reason my confidence and self-worth were so low for decades.
Just as with emotionally neglectful parents, the abusive behavior of a narcissistic sibling isn’t always obvious. It is important to recognize that what ISN’T said (“I love you and support you.”) may a powerful message. perhaps even more than what IS said. When one is in a relationship that is expected to be loving, warm and supportive, and is instead controlling, cold, coercive and non-reciprocal, that creates harm, even if that harm is difficult to pinpoint. This lack of love in an ostensibly close family bond is very confusing and destabilizing to the victim.
In my family, no one ever said “I love you” or “I care about you” or was warm or affectionate. We learned to compete based on intellectual debates or witty sarcasm and sardonic teasing usually involving thinly veiled personal attacks that could be played off as a joke, but was really hurtful, especially when done repeatedly. Looking back, I realize my sister was the lead actor in starting and continuing this form of emotional abuse. I was a fast-growing, gangly child and Lynn created numerous hurtful nicknames about my clumsiness and awkwardness. My parents did not put a stop to the nicknames, which was also a failure to protect. This type of communication makes it hard for a child to identify abuse, because no one actually SAID or DID anything overtly harmful. As in many narcissistic relationships, the narc often claims “I was just joking,” as a way to excuse emotional abuse.
In these non-warm family environments, victims learn to expect that they will get manipulation and an agenda, instead of consoling from a sibling. I think I learned to be constantly on guard in a low-grade way against being targeted for a mistake or failure, leading to many of the traits I list below. I came to understand how much Lynn’s behavior negatively impacted my personality throughout my childhood and adulthood.
To outsiders, Lynn appeared to be a decent human being. However, her superficial generosity, caring, and altruism were ploys to look good, garner approval, and disguise her true nature. If you challenge Lynn, you will regret it, as I learned the hard way over many decades. My mother frequently said that she was amazed that two children raised in the same household who were only 16 months apart could grow up to be so very different in morals and character.
What is most unfortunate is that my personality and life choices suffered as a result of her personality. I mourn all of the ways I would have had a very different life if I had not been negatively molded by my sister’s dominating personality.
I was shy and fearful for much of my life, when my real personality is now extraverted, confident and social. I was insecure and self-doubting because of Lynn’s gaslighting, which limited my career and social choices. If she had not stolen the spotlight so very often, would I have felt more deserving of praise, success, attention, and love? What would my life been like if I had been as self-confident as I am now? Would I have chosen abusive and emotionally cold husbands? Would I have made such self-sabatoging decisions about school or jobs or life ambitions?
Sadly, many of the people I see in therapy have been negatively impacted by their narc sibling or siblings and do not even realize it. It took me years to recognize the harms Lynn. Fortunately, she no longer directly harms me because I have not talked to her for about 17 years after she engaged in a final act of childishness one Christmas. My brother also independently made a choice to cut her out of his life within two days of me doing so.
How Parents Create Narcissistic Children
Development of a narcissist can, of course, be traced to certain parenting strategies and personalities. Narcissists come in many forms, so each person and family has its own dynamic. Complicating things is that narcissists are made, not born, so there is likely a narc parent in the family as well. I trace our family dynamic to the fact that my parents did not express emotions well and never said “I love you” to me (and probably never did to my siblings). They provided clothing, shelter, education, and a stable family home life, but they did not respond emotionally with warmth. Consequently, my sister learned to elicit care from them through coerciveness — by exaggerating her helplessness, by faking illnesses, and by demanding attention and money— and it generally worked.
Our parents also enabled Lynn’s behaviors by being too permissive, which was in stark contrast to how they parented me and my brother. Their interactions with Lynn seemed to be motivated by guilt and she quickly learned to manipulate their guilt to get her way and garner money and attention. She has a long history of repeatedly asking my parents for financial support, such as three year-long trips abroad, down payments on Hollywood condos and houses, car loans, and large cash gifts. My memories of childhood and adulthood are my sister over-reacting when sick or faking illnesses to get attention from my parents. This continued in adulthood, as she had numerous vague illnesses, such as endometriosis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, whiplash and numerous and changeable food sensitivities. She would regularly make statements about how she no longer ate a certain food, only to eat large quantities of that food at the next meal. A minor twisted ankle at age 12 was used throughout her life as an excuse for her inability to exercise, while I ran long distances and went skiing in spite of a history of a broken ankle, torn ACL in my knee, reconstructive knee surgery and a partially dislocated hip. Once when I flew in to visit her in California, she flamboyantly complained about menstrual cramps and was bedridden, until I calmly stated I would go out to dinner without her. (I had learned not to play into her attention seeking.) Her cramps mysteriously and suddenly disappeared!
My brother and I went in the other direction from our narcissistic sister. We subconsciously learned that Lynn was occupying the “helpless” niche and so we gave up looking for help and care from our parents. We recognized that Lynn had sucked up the attention through her excessive attempts to gain their approval. Subconsciously, we tried a different strategy to gain parental approval — by being competent, resilient and independent.
I now recognize the impact my sister’s behavior had on my own personality and were one of the reasons I developed the traits I discuss below, such as being unable to ask for help, being over-achieving, and being emotionally closed off. I worked on myself to correct these problems, but they are learned at such an early age and through millions of daily interactions within the family system that complete change can be difficult.
How Does a Narcissistic Sibling Affect the Personality of a Brother or Sister?
- Narcissists essentially train siblings and others to be more Self-blaming, leading to lifelong proneness to excessive guilt and shame in the victims. I prefer to use the term Other-blamer for narcissistic personality traits, as this highlights the impact they have on others. Because they never learned healthy shame tolerance, Other-blamers instead cope by avoiding the experience of shame or inadequacy and deflecting it onto others. Other-blamers do not like feeling inferior, so they will refuse to apologize, be accountable or admit fault. As a result, those in relationship with them have to absorb excess guilt, blame and accountability. Hence, the opposing term of Self-blamer — a person who internalizes shame and self-recrimination. With Other-blamers, they can never be wrong, so the victim is “always wrong”. This ingrained pattern of scapegoating others is a self-protective strategy: The Self-blamer learns to preemptively guilt-trip themself to avoid the narc’s anger and abuse.
- As the family scapegoat, I was forced by my parents to apologize when my sister behaved in outrageously inappropriate ways — even if there were witnesses. Victims of narc abuse learn to be the peacemaker to try to calm the abuser’s anger and accusations, leading to a lifetime of conflict avoidance, passivity, and lack of assertiveness.
- Many Self-blaming victims of narcs develop a fear of being selfish, narcissistic or controlling, even if that fear is subconscious. Unlike the antisocial narcissist, the pendulum swings far over into the prosocial traits, such as kindness and generosity. But these “givers” may lack the ability to say no to others, struggle to set boundaries and be excessively people pleasing.
- Victims often develop a fear of dependence on others, fear of vulnerability, and general distrust in relationships, known as avoidant attachment. This shows up in various ways, such as fear of asking for help, fear of being taken advantage of, excessive self-protection and independence, and fear of rejection. Because narcs behave in distrustful ways, victims learn to be emotionally guarded in self-protection. Narc siblings may also act helpless, dependent and childlike as a way to elicit care from caregivers. This leads their brothers or sisters to overcompensate by avoiding dependence or a need for care. The sibling may express fear of being a burden to others. Because narcs see vulnerability as a weakness to exploit, if you ask them for assistance they will hold this over your head for perhaps years as a way to exploit or abuse you. It is no wonder that victims become fearful of vulnerability or have difficulty being interdependent later in life, because they fear they will be taken advantage of for this. They are safest when independent and disconnected from others. This experience is often what makes me the saddest and most angry about narcissistic abuse — they train their victims to deny themselves the very thing that makes us human — a loving, connected, interdependent relationship. Many victims of narc siblings avoid long-term relationships and live very lonely lives.
- I recall many feelings throughout my earlier life where I would passively wait for someone to notice that I needed either emotional comfort or I was ill or perhaps needed a new pair of shoes. This selflessness is the opposite of the narcissist’s selfish entitlement — that they deserve more than others. Victims of narcissistic family systems learn that their family members will not dependably respond with warmth when asked for help. Consequently, although they still crave attention and love, as all children do, they’ve learned to give up hoping for it to arrive. The years of a narc sibling’s overt or covert emotional control leads to unhealthy patterns of learned helplessness, self-sacrificing attitudes, unhealthy submission and tolerance of abuse. Adult relationships often involve a coercive or controlling element.
- A narcissist’s opinions and needs are paramount in the family system. Victims learn that their values and needs and opinions are deprioritized in deference to the narc sibling’s. Victims develop a general lack of self-awareness and lack of understanding of personal interests. I personally experienced this when I was younger, having difficulty choosing partners because I never really assessed my own values and wants. As a psychologist, I’ve treated many victims of narcs who cannot make simple life decisions because they just don’t know what they like. As a result, they stumble through life not really making active choices, but merely passively accepting what is given them or what others tell them to do. Chronic emotional manipulation, gaslighting and emotional neglect cause the victim to be self-doubting. Narcs are skilled at flipping everything to blame the victim, leading to the victim having a deep and abiding sense of self-doubt. Even if a Self-blamer develops an opinion, they may question it endlessly. This is often also related to the fact that…
- Other-blamers are nearly always judgmental and opinionated about the choices of others — even choices that are inconsequential. Narcs will often spout off criticisms of your choices or purchases because they are experts at using shame to destroy others. If they can get you to be embarrassed about your decision to paint your kitchen bright yellow, then they will both feel superior to you and make you more desperate for their approval, which weakens you in the relationship power dynamic. This pattern makes victims hypersensitive to criticism and shame as children and adults, leading to Self-blaming as pre-emptive attempt to correct faults and avoid shame. They may engage in placating crying when criticized and have difficulty hearing feedback. Fear of failure and risk taking, which appears as perfectionism and drivenness on tasks or personal appearance, may result. Self-Blamers may also exhibit problems with obsessions, compulsions and anxiety that stem from fear of failure and criticism, as in: “If I don’t keep the house clean enough, someone will be upset.”
- The abusive use of shaming and blaming by narcs also leads to a paralyzing fear of the judgments of others. While all humans have a natural tendency to seek approval and avoid disapproval, Self-blamers are trained by their narc family members to be highly attuned to the opinions of others. In the therapy room, this often shows up as “social anxiety”.
- Narcs are so good at casting blame and shame, sowing doubt and withholding love, that the victim develops low self-worth — a global sense that she is flawed, unlovable and different than others. This deep sense of defectiveness leads to many, many psychological problems that are labeled as depression, anxiety, and even ADHD.
- The healthy sibling tends to became overly responsible in comparison to the narc sibling. I hear many stories from patients about their adult brother who never has held a job and never does a single chore while still living with the parents. In contrast, the healthier sibling will have a job, live independently and be very competent at “adulting” in life. This can begin in childhood because perhaps you were the eldest child and your parents forced you to provide childcare for younger siblings. You had to cook them dinner or even stay with them at night as your parents went out partying. One of your younger siblings likely followed in your parents’ footsteps as under-functioning and irresponsible. Perhaps the narc sibling colluded with narcissistic and permissive parents by also being lazy, forcing the sibling to over-function. My sister was and is always late for events, and in fact regularly misses cross-country plane flights, so I observed years ago that I compensated by being highly punctual and fearful of being late. I swore I would never be irresponsible like she was.
- However, the Self-Blaming siblings walks a tightrope. They cannot appear to be more accomplished than the narcissist. This leads the Self-Blamer to downplay their talents and accomplishments so that the Other-Blamer does not feel inferior. This protection of the Other-Blamer’s ego can even lead to self-sabatogue. I’ve had clients who stayed overweight their whole life to avoid being thinner or better looking than their narc sibling. Other Self-Blamers make decisions about careers or relationships that seem incomprehensible, but not when seen through the lens of the need to self-denigrate to spare the narcissist’s sense of self. I look back and realize I came to believe that Lynn was smarter than I was and I could not boast about my grades or academic success, despite the evidence that I was no slouch in intellect (I skipped a grade, played six musical instruments, was admitted to the honors college at university, scored high on the ACT, etc). This followed me through life as I picked a low-paying career, had a meandering career path, and generally set very low expectations for my success.
- My sister and my father were both very attention-seeking and were conversational narcissists. Our family dinners were nightly competitions to see who could spout the most obscure trivia or tell the best joke. Narcs must be the center of attention at a party or gathering. They are often opinionated — usually forcefully so — even on topics about which they know little. My response was to move in the opposite direction. As a child, I was very shy, avoided the spotlight, had no few opinions, and was extremely humble. Was this a response to my desire to be unlike my sister and father or was there just no room in the spotlight for me? I often described living with my sister as “standing next to the sun.” In any case, I learned not to seek attention in any way, much to my detriment in my future corporate and consulting career, where some healthy self-promotion is essential to success. Dr. Jonice Webb writes about “unclaimed charisma” due to childhood emotional neglect by parents, but I believe narc siblings can impact this as well.
- In contrast to shyness, many victims of narc siblings can develop explosive anger, usually when they have been pushed to an extreme. They may have tolerated mistreatment and boundary violations for years, but then over-react in self-protective indignation because they don’t want to be stepped on any longer. (If you’re read about narc abuse you probably know that the narc then uses this anger as an excuse to label you as “out of control and emotional.”)
- Victims of emotional abuse often struggle to accept compliments, partly because they have low self-worth and disbelieve any positive messages, but also because they are guarded and distrustful having learned that other people (narcs) lie and deceive. “Is this compliment real or just a way to break down my barriers so that you can manipulate me again?”
- Narc siblings train their brothers and sisters to engage in enabling or codependent behaviors. By giving to others in these over-generous ways and tolerating misbehavior, victims attract future narcs and abusers into their lives.
- Because narcs are so competitive (they can’t lose or be wrong because it triggers shame), they teach their victims to be uncompetitive. I experienced this so very clearly — to the point that I felt guilty if I won a game or sporting event. I hate keeping score in games and often quit rather than win and “shame” someone else. Even in the business world I felt uncomfortable competing against other job applicants or fellow business owners. Healthy competition is beneficial in child development, but the sore-loser narcissist may make their siblings into children and adults who are fearful of winning, possibly jeopardizing careers.
- My sister was inexplicably jealous of me, despite the fact that she was considered the smarter, more athletic and prettier one when we were younger. Her insecurity caused her to smear me to my father, who was easily swayed after my mother died. Lynn was so desperate for my father’s attention and love (which she was never going to get because he was a narcissist), that she told outright lies and I’m sure small smears as well. This led my father to cut me out of his life for years, despite the fact that he could not tell me why he was so angry with me. (Actually, when pushed the reason my sister and father came up with was that at age 3 I allegedly wrote her name on the wall. Blaming someone for something they did as a toddler 50 years prior is beyond bizarre and an extreme example of blame shifting.) Other-blamers believe there is a limited amount of love to go around and they greedily go about getting more than their fair share. Narcs often smear their siblings to parents and others in an attempt to look good and garner desperately needed love, attention, and money. They will destroy family relationships and feel no guilt for doing so.
- I’ve saved the worst for last… Some siblings will be so exploitative and coercive, that they will abuse their siblings physically or sexually, just to feel a sense of dominance and control over someone else. As I mentioned, my sister engaged in mild sexual acting out when we were very young — I was perhaps 6 or 7. As adults, she once kissed me on the lips when I was going to sleep on her sofa while visiting — a very odd behavior especially since in our family we never even hugged or were physically affectionate at all.and our relationship was never one that could be described as close. Lynn’s behavior gave me the creeps, and that is exactly the impact she wanted; anything that causes the victim to feel unstable serves the narcissist.
It may be difficult to admit that your sibling is a toxic member of your family, but it can be healthy to do so, as it allows you to understand the many ways that they might have harmed your mental wellbeing. It is so very sad that the wounded and traumatized narcissistic child inadvertently harms and traumatizes his or her siblings. We can be understanding that they do this in an attempt to get their own emotional needs met, but, as all narcs do, they sow emotional destruction in the relationships around them. It is sad, too, that the victims are left without the close, loving, supportive relationship of a brother or sister — a deep, relational trauma and loss that can affect their sense of self and safety in relationships throughout their life.
Christine Louis de Canonville is an Irish psychotherapist who has written about all forms of narcissistic abuse, including by siblings, in her book and blogs.
Dr. Rahmani, an expert on narcissism, has good YouTubes on narc siblings.
I can relate to many of the same damaging effects caused by your sister because I had an older narcissistic sister. Although I’m almost a 50-year-old woman, I still suffer the long-term effects of low self-esteem, indecisiveness, and feeling unworthy.
MC, when I read your comment, it was like looking in a mirror. I too am almost 50, this coming weekend in fact. I have an older narc sister and all my life I have cut her off and reconnected only to cut her off again years later. I feel your pain….take care
My younger sister is a narc she won’t admit it she thinks I bully her when telling her she needs help because she’s so perfect it’s a never ending battle
My parents had my older sister move in with my grandfather when I was 12, she was 17. He lived less than a mile away and was closer to the high school she attended. There was such joy after she’d moved among myself and my 3 brothers. It’s very odd though, although I’d shared a room with her for 12 years I have no memories of her living in that house that aren’t connected directly to a traumatic experience. We are in our 50s now and she just isn’t happy unless she’s fighting with someone. Her grown children barely speak to her and they along with her ex have all ended up moving with their family’s 1500 miles away and are happily enjoying a peaceful life. I’ve begged her for years to get professional help because I can see the writing on the wall, she is going to die all alone. Don’t get me wrong, this woman is evil and I cannot have her in my life BUT at the same time I know that it is a sickness!
I also have a older narcissistic sister whom I have just recently cut all ties with. I feel so empowered to see the nature of all of her behaviour over the years and to now understand all the jealousy, gaslighting and manipulative behaviour. Any life event where the attention was not on her including the loss of our mother, resulted in her making everything about herself and starting drama where she is always the victim. I feel for anyone who has to deal with a narcissistic sibling or parent, the emotional trauma is awful.
So glad you are aware of it, because that if the first step in healing. Narcs can create, through blame-shifting and guilt-tripping, huge amounts of self-blame in their victims. Rarely is one person 100% to fault in a relationship, but narcs make victims believe they are and victims often don’t question that. Apportion blame appropriately.
I can relate to your feeling of empowerment after going a better understanding about your narcisstic sister.
My older sister is narcisstic. She has spent the later 20 some years gaining inroads with our father’s second round of children and all his relatives. She had never asked about her mother’s side of the family, particularly those who’d grown up half a country away from us. However I’ve been very close to my maternal family and a cousin that’s almost 2 years older and I have been.very very close nearly our entire lives. Last April this beloved cousin told me they were coming here to see me. Well, however it happened, my sister and her husband made a point in coming to see that cousin as well. To say the least, b she took them over and Lord what she has told them. And she wrote to me that they are flying out to see this cousin this April. Now we’re talking about Sis at 80 years old and this cousin at 75. There’d been no interest between them until last April. It hurt my feelings for my sister’s intrusion at such a late date into our close relationship. She hadn’t particularly paid any attention to this cousin when we were kids. I admit to a short attack of jealousy but before the day was finished, a word came to me about it. Narcissist!
Yes, narcissists often are jealous of attention being paid to others, so swoop in and first act charming to divert attention to themselves away from you, then may smear the victim. My sister decided to become friends with my best friend from high school. Of all the people in the world to engage with, she chose her? It is a common pattern and one that goes undetected because the charm offensive can feel so wonderful to the other person: “So glad we’ve connected after all these years! I never knew we could be so close! I’ve missed having you as a friend/family member.” etc.
When my father remarried, I heard stories that my sister insinuate herself into his wife’s family as if they’ve been best friends for life. Yet when she heard he was getting remarried literally the first words out of her mouth were: “This better not affect my inheritance.”
Narc siblings get very very jealous if you get attention naturally and don’t go looking for it, they hate you for it. I got a lot of attention for some reason, and I felt uncomfortable because my narc sibling would see and then I would get abused.. so for years I downplayed everything and put myself down so I wouldn’t be their target anymore. It’s disturbing how anyone could hurt their sibling like that, as if I did something to deserve the abuse. My sister was/is truly cold and lacks empathy, i was sweet and kind, she wanted to suck the light light out of me. They act cruel and torture you with their abuse.
Vanessa, Your post could have been mine, word for word! I cut off my narc sister and am so relieved. Working through gaining g a clearer understanding of it all and life makes more sense.
Thank-you for writing about the effects of being in relationship that was not by choice, sibling, and how that forms our personality. It’s great to read something about how we are affected.
The extent of suffering that has been intentionally inflicted on me by my older sister for as long as I can remember has in the past year and a half exploded into a horrifying events that have now spilled over onto my kids and grandkids and although I have stopped all contact with her the damage is done and ongoing which me being a highly sensitive person is unbearable to me that my daughter and her daughter have suffered so much because of my sisters stories and need for attention that they will not be able to recover from it this time. I don’t know what to do
I’m so sorry for the upheaval in your family. That is such a common trait of narcopaths — drama at the expense of others. Keep making decisions that are healthy for you.
My younger brother is narcissistic, exactly the same as your sister, he is an other-blamer, like you say, and it just traumatizes me so much, I finally realized my mental health has deteriorated because of HIM. Thank you
It is amazing to me how many people are negatively affected by an other-blamer sibling — generally causing low self-worth, anxiety and relationship struggles. Be well!
I sadly can also relate to this devastating experience. This could be my eldest sister and to a lesser degree my twin sister and definitely my mother. I had very few good female role models growing up. I had two abusive relationships involving severe coercive controlling behaviour and I have one friend and find it paralysingly difficult to make friends.I feel lonely a lot of the time. If I get triggered I can suffer days and even weeks of sobbing episodes and intense feeling of self loathing and suicidal thoughts. I feel intensively angry and sad at the same time with deep depressive thoughts. I can relate to almost everything in this article. Thank you – I think it has helped me. 🙏🏻
I do too & too scared to tell my mum anything as the family get it out of her or she uses me.
I tell my siblings something or say sorry next thing I know they are telling the rest of the family any wonder I abuse drugs
Most people in the world will never know what we went through and still go through. Not even our parents. I woke up at 44 with the realisation I was abused by my sister as a kid and the abuse reverberated thought my life. I attracted abusive relationships and people all my life. No one in the family will recognise or admit what went on. Now I walk alone on this earth with a weight that no one will ever see.
I just turned 40, and I just realized this year that my sister is a narcissist. Until this point I thought the fear of making decisions, fear of competition, feeling like my feelings were unimportant or invalid, thinking I didn’t deserve attention, but lashing out in brief moments, were all just personal defects. I spent my whole life thinking I was not enough. My mom fed into my sisters narcissism- she was the golden child, so when she’d shame me for every decision I made, convince me I had a temper and have issues, I believed her. I worshiped her as a child, and believed everything she said. It’s only now I’m untangling the warped belief system I’ve developed because I believed her every word. I’m horrified at the types of people I’ve been attracted to (all narcs) and the things I’ve believed because she said them. I’m hopeful that one day I’ll feel more deserving of importance (I’m in therapy and working on it), but it’s extremely difficult not to defer to everyone else and think that everyone else’s needs should come first. It’s still even difficult for me to believe that she’s purposefully manipulative to this day, even though I have many examples. I really appreciate this article, I’ve experienced all of these affects.
I SEE !! BECAUSE I AM ON THAT SAME LIFE JOURNEY WITH YOU BUT JUST A DIFFERENT BOAT ! 💔
I WILL BE PRAYING FOR ALL. WHO HAVE ENDURED THIS HORRIFIC EXPERIENCE
MAY GOD BLESS US ALL 💗
I also had a narcissistic older sister and the damage has been an ongoing challenge. I have had no contact but I stress about the holidays, family weddings or events where she will be present. How do you suggest being part of a family celebration while not allowing the narcissist to wreak havoc? I generally avoid her (which is not too difficult in a large group) but I’ve noticed that my nieces, in particular, pick up on it and want to know why I avoid her. I don’t want to pull them into a matter that is between and my narcissist sister. As the holidays approach, I would genuinely appreciate any suggestions from thos who understand how painful and abusive these relationships can be.
I’ve just recently gone no contact with my narcissistic sister. Luckily almost everyone in my family has had issues with her so I’m not getting too much backlash from other family members. I’m didn’t attend thanksgiving or Christmas this year. I blocked her phone number, and on all other social media and messaging platforms. She she can’t abuse me anymore.
I might attend family holidays in the future if she isn’t hosting. I will still attend weddings and funerals etc.
I recognize all your feelings and fears. Family gatherings are torture for me also with my father and sisters narc dynamics but the sense of obligation to attend is crippling and Ive never been able to say no and not attend. You are not alone.
Sometimes having the awareness of the dynamics and personalities allows one to step back and emotionally disconnect, even if attending events. EXPECT the behavior so that it doesn’t sideswipe you every time and that may help. I think to myself: “Yep, there it is! Her narc behavior showed up right as expected!”
Please help me, how do I cope with a narcissistic family, I have lost trust in everyone apart from 3 people. I feel I am watched all the time from other coworkers & I live in fight & flight mode & my brother does our finances as my darling Dad passed away 😢 😔 😪 😞 😕 & won’t let me buy nice things for myself.
I am not even allowed to buy a cup of coffee every day to make myself feel better.
Not allowed therapy.
How can I help myself.
Mary, there is so much here to respond to. First, narcissists are controlling and want you to be dependent and submissive to them. You must build your assertiveness and boundary setting — difficult without help from a therapist or elsewhere, but not impossible. Ask your trusted friends to back you up. See my resources page for assertiveness workbook, etc. Next, your brother sounds like he is financially abusing/controlling you, yet you sound like you have a job. If you are over 18, get yourself financially independent and do not let him control your money and financial decisions. You say he “won’t let you” buy things, yet how does he control this? Consider your involvement in passively allowing him to control you. Stay calm and hold your ground with him regarding the finances and get an attorney or guardian ad litem if you need to regain control of inheritance or your own finances. Best of luck!
This article nails it.
After many years of confusion and doubt, the veil was finally lifted. Things all made sense when I realized my sister is a narcissist.
While there were many articles about the impact of narcissistic husband and wives, long had I waited for one that like this one. An article that spelled out the impact of the years of subversive abuse that a sibling could have upon another; that had upon me.
Its been horrible. Groomed to be the fool and scapegoated by people who should love and protect you. The narc jealousy, rage, and drama is exhausting. I hope that others do not waste the bulk of thier lives in the fog and confusion. I hope there are more articles that address this topic.
I always know that my older sister is a narcissistic but till now I didn’t think about the negative consequences it could possibly have on myself.
I find myself having all of the traits listed in this article which brought tears to my eyes.
I always feel that I’m being watched for whatever little things I do and have totally no rights to correct her mistakes, which has been giving me tons of emotional distress.
I wished I can just cut her out of my life but there is no way I could since I’m just 19 and couldn’t afford to live away from her.
Also, I recently went for counselling to fix my constant need for perfectionism and I realized that this might be a not so obvious impact my sister had on me.
I’m so sorry to hear this, me too, I’ve been through that and I’m still going through it, I feel your situation is close to mine since we are almost the same age, do you want to talk more about that if you are not to learn from each other To help each other because it’s not a common issue, it’s difficult to find someone who shares the same problem that you have with the same age so, if you don’t mind Let’s share our experiences.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your article is a revelation I’ve been searching for for years – I’m 62. Over those 62 years I’ve on and off stopped contact with my older sister (18 mnths older), managed to go to a different school etc but often, something like illness of elderly family members have forced me back into contact with her – just recently our mother’s dementia and father’s old age. Luckily I have other sisters but being of different birth order although see how narc sister treats me they don’t fully understand – and neither did I until I found your article. The relief and realisation is immense. Thank you.
SM, Could you share your email with me or any social media account So we can talk about this narcissistic sibling issue more and learn from each other because I’ve been through the same issue and our ages are almost the same
If you are not feeling comfortable doing that I understand, thanks.
Wow! Reading your story and see that it is remarkably similar to mine wishes I could work with you! Is there a way for a consultation?
You are like discrabing all what I’m struggling with , all those consequences ..
As a result of that abuse , I searched a lot in psychology , and it became my passion , i want to be a psychotherapist too and help people like you are doing
I escaped my narcissistic sister abuser over a year and a half ago, for the last time! I was relocating my family to a new town and was really taken by surprise when she physically and verbally abused me, again. This time, to really drive it home; after she had regained my trust for the 489 time, she did it in front of my 3 year old son. She was only back in my life again, because our mom died. Tragedy loves company and she swore she would never abuse me again. I tiptoed back in and it took her a year and a half to beat me up . . .After my relocation, I’ve spent the last year and a half abuser free. What a huge light bulb, especially when in front of your child. I had realized for years I was in an abusive relationship, however my parents would force it. Move in together! Be best friends! We were tennis doubles partners for 25 years! Of course, I wasn’t allowed to play with anyone else. And when I did, boy did I get the narcissistic abuse. Anyhow, this article is my life, to the T! Horrible that these experiences are what we have in common. Comforting to know others really do understand.
You are not alone at all! Sibling narcs are often ignored, especially by clinicians. Keep on healing yourself.
My family screwed me up so badly that I actually wonder if it’s something about me that turned my sister into a narcissist.
That’s what narcissistic gaslighting can do… blame shift to the scapegoat so often and persistently that YOUR reality is altered and your self-doubt does THEIR work for them. You are now your own abuser and they can go on to abusing others. It’s such a common problem… don’t blame yourself!
Same. I’m in my mid 40s and my sister is much older and a narcissist. I read this article and this comment and I have never felt so “seen”.
Most of what is in this article rings so so true. The description of ‘the victim’ is exactly how I’ve always felt. My story is that I was an active alcoholic until I got sober 3 and 1/2 years ago. During my worst year leading up to rehab my sister and mother would parachute in and try to help. Towards the end my sister came over and did odd bits and pieces and stayed over a couple of nights leading up to rehab. She (according to my mother) prayed over me one night. When I left rehab I met up with her and during the conversation she twice said ‘I preferred it when you were ill’. I was shocked but actually, for once, disguised my reaction and acted cooly over it. My whole adult life is experienced her making a joke out of me in family gatherings, asking for my support and expecting more that I could give. Conversations in private causing me of failures and of failing her “despite all she’d done for me” “ I love you but I don’t like you” was said a number of times. She, fir as long as I can remember has seemed to hold a spell over my parents even to the point that they bought their retirement house one street away from her. I felt, until the beginning of my sobriety that she had a hold on me, that I was drained of any sense of who I was every time is spent time with her, I questioned every part of me, my motives, why I was such a failure as a sister etc etc. After her lady statement to me that she preferred it when I was ill ( I almost died of alcoholism) I just gave up on our relationship. I’d always tried to keep in her good books. My mother always put pressure on me to make things right with her and to be close with my siblings. Recently she said I needed to be in touch with my sister snd sent me an email about forgiveness in families. I ignored it. I hear about frequent illnesses or dramas from my mum. Because I haven’t initiated context with my sister we haven’t spoken/texted etc for coming up to a year. I don’t know if she’s a narcissist but I’m certainly a completely healthier person fit not being in touch with her. I wonder if I need to go no co tact forever?
I used to hide under the covers when I was a teen, crying my eyes out praying that someone else would see my sister’s true colours like I did. I wished my parents would see my heart and know that I was good and meant good instead of this evil older sister I’ve been made out to be.
I’ve since married and divorced a narcissist (I’m 46 and my narc sis is 44) and while working on my own healing from that relationship, realized that my mother was a narcissist parent. And now, yet another layer is being peaked back in my healing process and it’s a bigger piece of the puzzle than I’d ever suspected it was in that my sister is too. But it had never occurred to me that the way she was growing up had such a massive impact on me and my future relationships.
Your article hit home with me in ways I couldn’t express myself. You’re words brought tears to my eyes and made me feel seen and not so crazy. Thank you. I’m going to keep learning and healing this part of myself moving forward and distance myself as much as possible from my sister.
I have finally at 63 decided to cut off all communication with my narc sister. Reading this article describes me and i now understand why i grew up with low self confidence, and self esteem. It had a huge impact on my life as my parents never dealt with her behaviour. The message to me was put up with it, and i felt i didnt matter as it was more important not to upset her. That attitude had a huge impact on my life.
I subsequently married a narc man and this reinforced my feelings of low self esteem.
8 years on i am divorced and finally becoming myself, more extrovert, funny and confident the person who had been repressed all these years. The future is good
Mary, I relate to much of what you wrote. I was instructed to put up with my sister’s behaviour and not rock the boat because I was the sane one able to control myself, unlike her. My parents were doing their best and I don’t hold it against them. Unfortunately, I internalised this way of relating to people and, as a result, put up with a lot of bad behaviour, not just from my sister but from others as well, including friends, partners and bosses. It was very much a case of peace at any price, taking responsibility for their behaviour and becoming excessively good to make up for the chaos others were creating. However, in the past ten years, I’ve really woken up and have been ‘deprogramming’ myself. I speak up a lot more, draw clearer boundaries, and understand that the price of silence isn’t worth it.
I’m pleased to read how things have turned around for you and wish you, and anyone else who grew up with a narcissistic sibling, all the very best. And to Harper, thank you for this article. This subject matter is underreported and you’ve really helped flesh out some issues I’ve never read about before.
I am 48 and recently internalized that my sister is a true grandiose narcissist. I endured a rough childhood and adulthood, where I left my home at 17 years old with only $90 in my pocket. Since then I’ve achieved two undergraduate degrees and a master’s degree and have a license to practice medicine (I am a nurse practitioner). It was only recently that I discovered my sister was a true narcissist. I had come in contact with her after years of minimal contact and was confounded by blatant and obvious pathological lying, constant one-ups and comparison, and minimizing. To truly internalize the narcissistic pathology is to understand that you will never have the sister relationship you’ve always longed for. It deeply saddens me. But for other people who are reading this: you are here because you are doing the heavy work and looking inside. Keep at it! You can do it! Your life can expand beyond any of the expectations and limitations small minded people try to force on to you.
Wow. Reading this gave me chills, I relate to this more than I would like… I have been working through some of these already but this hit hard that they’re related to narcissistic family dynamics. Ive been no contact with my narcissistic sister about a year now, had done another year no contact with her 10 years ago too & it’s so hard trying to get my family to respect this boundary & having them lay the guilt me to try to make it better like I’ve always been asked to do. I just cant continue the cycle of abuse anymore for my own wellbeing & sanity, I’ve been dealing with chronic pain from an injury so my tolerance threshold is way down & I just cant. My brother & other sister also have narcisisstic tendencies but I think they have both tried to work on themselves in a way my younger sister has not so I hope I’m able to continue a relationship with them, they have gotten better with age. It really hurts having to have made this choice because I still love my sister, makes me feel completely heartbroken to think about sometimes, like really really feels like heart break for me & will just ball my eyes out & other times I’m filled with uncontrolable rage by all her abusive behaviour. But I know a relationship that makes my feel like that is not healthy, it’s toxic to have her in my life unless she is willing to get some type of treatment (I wouldn’t hold my breath for that though). What else can you do? Sigh, thank you for the article.
I am 51 yes old. It took the death of my mother to fully see her narcissism. Her sense of entitlement. She stole $$$ items from my parents house while I was in the hospital with my mother. The only time I stepped out of the house since CO vid. Her word against mine so I lost big. I came to find out my parents had been supporting her. All the while she acted above me. I also found out that my uncle paid off her car. She has plenty of money now and she has not repaid him. He is not rich. He would never ask for it. My bf and I have also helped her in the past. While she would flaunt all this stuff she had bought for herself once my dad passed she totally worked over my mother.by the grace of God my mom did not put the title in my sister’s name so she has to pay me half of the cost of the car to me from the estate. I also found paperwork she had gave my mom to make her the conservative of my mom’s estate.again my mom did not fill out the paperwork for it. My mom did have her wits about her. I would have lost everything my parents left us. 3 days after my mother wS hospitalized she tried to trick me to sign her as the the consecutive of the estate. She almost had me by saying she would take care of things so I would not have to deal with all the things that follow a death. I told her I needed to talk to my attorney before I did anything. That m ade her lose it. She also wanted the title and deed of the house.again my instincts kicked in and I told her I needed 12 hrs to digest. She stormed out of the house and whipped a book at me.i immediately changed all the locks so she would not have any more access to items in the house. She did not pay anything towards my mom’s funeral. I stepped up and took care of everything the way my mom would have wanted it. My sister was a no show at the viewing and burial. I did not let her take charge of things my mm did not want. My mother did not get buried with her wedding rings. Because I took charge she opted out of my mom’s funeral. The funeral director called me because she could not work with my sister. She also wanted the trustee to go in an itemize all the belongs in the house. I was able to back her off on that one. She owes me around 20,000 not including all the items stolen. I have made an up and up offer to purchase the home. I have have not received a response for my offer. She has the benefit with all the other stuff and still dont have reply. Making my life he’ll for a 1yr and a half. I am having a melt down and it is affecting my long term relationship with my bf. Her stalling actually makes her have to set out more money. But of course she has to make things difficult for the sake of her warped thinking. Once this mess is all over I need some major therapy immediately I have let her ruin my life. I just hope I can find somebody like dr rabani that is equipped to handle this hot mess.
Plenty of typos. I am trying to work with my new phone.
I have experienced very similar with my sister, I feel embarrrases to tell people because it sounds so crazy and most people I know have loving families. Reading this article and all the replies has been so uplifting to me. I am not alone!
Very interesting article, thanks.
Great to also read the comments by people moving forward.
Thanks to the interruption of Covid and the me-too movement (historical sexual abuse allegations against a politician here in Australia met with a denial of memory that mirrored the way my abusive and narcissistic brother acted in regard to his own coercive control and abuse), as well as an ever increasing catalogue of damaging and controlling narcissistic behaviour towards me and my own family, this year I took a break from my narcissistic brother. It has been an absolute relief and the longer it goes on the more I can breathe easily and feel happy and and calm about my decision to put in place distance.
My parents appear to think that I am sad and feel sad now because I have stepped away from speaking to my brother. I see them less because rather than acknowledging or dealing with what went on in the past they are desperate for everyone to act like our childhood (and the recent past) are trivial matters that should be ignored. Everyone should instead just get over it and “be happy”.
What they don’t understand is that for me, like following the breakup of a bad romantic relationship, I have felt so much better ever since I called out the behaviour and drew a line in the sand that acknowledged the past and demanded a respectful present and future.
It is so hard to cut off relationships, but your emotional response of relief and safety are probably the best guide. Good luck!
Wow, this article is me. At 50 years old, I’m beginning to figure it out. My older sister is a covert narcissist and my father is a narcissist. I worked professionally with them all of my life and it shaped who I am. In addition, I married (and am currently divorcing) a covert passive aggressive narcissist. They all point their fingers at me as being “bad” for creating boundaries to shield myself from their hurt. However, I struggle to heal because I don’t know who I am. Thank you so much for helping me discover the person hidden under all this shame and fear so that I can begin to unravel the knots. Since I cannot afford therapy, this article was worth its weight in gold to me. Thank you, thank you.
Thank you for your comments and be strong! Be a detective for how shame and guilt show up in your life, as these can be indicators of automatic Self-Blaming reactions trained by narcissists or Other-Blamers. Narcs want their victims to feel “bad” so the victim feels guilt and does not criticize or challenge the narc.
Ok, this is a great article! I have to admit that I have a lot of these traits. But don’t you think that you might not be able to grow up by putting all the blame on the narc sister? Do I self-blame now? 🙂 Is there any sibling of a narc who did not have these traits? Are there any persons who are immune to narcs? How do they do that? How to deal with a narc without being affected by their toxins? Is that possible?
My parents told me put up with her too dont fight my mom said
Readers may also appreciate this blog by Peg Streep on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/202201/why-we-need-stop-normalizing-sibling-rivalry?error_code=1349037&error_message=User%20opted%20out%20of%20platform%3A%20The%20action%20attempted%20is%20disallowed%2C%20because%20the%20user%20has%20opted%20out%20of%20Facebook%20platform.&fbclid=IwAR2fNe7PmeCBjTR5H7HLyWOhYc44Xn0q6LTFgoIDqYGDy0ZgUMh5fr7my3U#_=_
Wow, at 52 yo I still struggle with my family dynamics. I have known my sister is a narc for years (she is vitriolic, racist, homophobic and she lies, steals from the family, puts my father against the rest of us and is generally a family terrorist) although my other siblings have always been sceptical of the narc label. I have a pattern of falling into relationships with controlling, emotionally unavailable and narcissistic partners. But until this article I didn’t understand how my parents played into all that, when my brothers and I are outwardly responsible, successful and resilient, why her tactics work so well on my parents and the impact on me. This article was so ‘familiar’ and explains my family’s dysfunction and the impacts on me exactly. I’m in shock but also relieved that now I know I’m not going mad, this is not normal. My siblings and I have always struggled with my fathers controlling, authoritarian, sardonic and low grade but insidiously abusive parenting and I’ve always beaten myself up about letting it ‘quietly’ affect me deeply. I never considered my father a narc, I thought he was depressed, autistic or something else, this article has made me reassess him and how my sister came into being. Our parents (and narc siblings) do indeed &$*% us up.
Sometimes covert narcs are hard to spot. But don’t discount emotional abuse. Even passive aggressive “ignoring” behaviors from a parent are harmful, usually creating people-pleaser complaint kids, but also narcissists. Children learn that they must strive to get approval, rather than have it automatically given with love and acceptance. Parents often believe they should ignore children or cold shoulder them “for their own good,” but this creates a model of relationships in the child of conditional love that can lead to similar emotionally abusive or cold/withdraw/avoidant relationships.
Hi. Thank you for your story/article. I’ve recently, thanks to you and others, been able to have an answer slash label for what has been causing me so much pain and anguish my entire life…my NPD sister. Last June my mom died. I thought her evil would end there. I was gravely (no pun) mistaken. She is now getting to my kids and even my step-mom (which will pave the way for the alienation of my dad). I have some fear and anxiety about this. I’d like to figure out my best course of action. Or inaction.
I’d love to hear back
Thank you and take care.
It is so hard to determine a right course of action with a narcissist, because they will be unhappy with any challenge to them AND to ignoring them. Think clearly about your endgame or goal, such as perhaps informing your father about the situation. Then set boundaries calmly and with witnesses present. Good luck and be strong.
Like many others, I have only recently realized that my older sister is a narc, or rather, what narcissism is… It has been tremendously helpful to realize this and understand the life-long behavior patterns – insight into navigating the cruelty, manipulation, gas lighting, attempts at triangulation, extreme put downs, viciousness if confronted, slander, and attempts to erode my sense of self worth. She has “love”-bombed me several times when I have been at my most vulnerable, only to turn on a dime with what can only be described as hateful demeaning, outrageous exquisitely detailed fantasy-lies. I just thought she was crazy as hell and mean, but still my sister and I love her. Now after a rise in such behavior now directed at my beautiful niece and harming the kids, I will never tolerate her in my life again. I am simply not available for it. I have finally let her go completely and see her for who she is : a very ugly soul who will never be a true sister. There has been grief, yes. I see how I normalized unhealthy crap that is now transforming. I feel so liberated after a year of complete no-contact, like a great heaviness has lifted. I’m on the other side of it now and though she still slanders and threatens to “destroy my reputation and career” (with lies) it is so absurd to me now I wonder how I ever took her seriously. I also realize how much more powerful truth & integrity are than BS, how much more powerful love and honor are than stupid power games and mind tricks. There are so many more meaningful things to give my energy and time to, and many other human beings capable of sharing genuine mutual respect and support. I have found a great deal of strength inside myself and I wish this for all of us
What a lovely, thoughtful comment especially at the end. Best of luck and it can be freeing, if difficult, to cut off a sibling.
You just explained my life with my younger sister. In all of our pictures together my uneasiness is visible. I look shy, sad, withdrawn. No one understood for so long when I’d go on and on about my frustrations with her.
Now they do as she has finally let her true vengeful narcissistic personality harass, bully and destroy so many. Everyone always said “sisters will be sisters”.
I made myself so small for her. I wouldn’t ask my parents for money or new prom dresses or help with homework or any of the things she demanded even though we had major financial issues. I remember my parents screaming at each other over who was going to do my sister’s homework…Yeah! I’m serious. (My parents were an entire other kind of abusive and neglectful)
After hitting rock bottom in rehab I’ve been lucky to find trauma therapy and a brilliant psychiatrist who is treating my ADHD. My husband has stuck by me and has been a persistent cheerleader of which I still don’t really think I deserve.
She would infiltrate my friend groups and actually turn some against me. She couldn’t keep any close friends. She always came for mine. Any man that would reject her was demolished. She is good at conjuring up flying monkeys online and smearing innocent men of sexual assault or words. She will infiltrate their families even sleep with their ex wives.
My 53 year old lawyer husband is terrified of her. He thinks she will have his license taken away. She has sued me to get even more money than I was already giving her from my dad’s trust. My father with dementia lives with her and he stays with us often. I am no contact so we handle dad’s visits through a lawyer or email with my husband.
She is so dangerous yet so charming. She bullies women yet sits on the board of AWAKE presenting herself to be an advocate for victims of domestic abuse. Status is everything to her. She will always get away with her destruction because she knows what to say and who to say it to to keep herself from facing consequences and staying “above board” with those that are the gatekeepers of her perceived status.
I desperately hoped she would grow out of this and get help, but she is only getting more dangerous and vindictive with age. She targets men and women who have “dirt” in their past..she uses their secrets as a means of control. There is so much I could say that I’m still shocked over.
Thank you so much for having this conversation. For so long I couldn’t find anything on NPD sibling abuse. I don’t even remember what I liked as a child. I only remember what she liked. I’m so grateful for finally discovering ME! I don’t need her approval for anything anymore. I am safe. I am worthy.
You have done a great job of describing the false front of a narcissistic person, with the snake carefully hidden. Keep telling yourself you are safe and worthy!
Wow! This resonates with me so much. I am just now, at 48, starting to understand the damage my sister has caused. Thank you!
Better 48 than 68! Every day you can heal from this is a blessing.
Wow. Every single thing is on point. Even qualities in me I didn’t realize had anything to do with that early abuse I experienced with her… so much clarity. Thank you for this 🙏🏼🤍 Bless you.
Thank you for your positive comments and happy to be of help!
The experience I have had with my sister has and continues to impact my life and other relationships. Aside from the friendship I had with my father, I have not formed close friendships. My sister is the receiver in our family. She has not had to be responsible. She just tells us what she wants us to do, and we do it. She comes into a room and announces what she likes and wants, expecting that it should be hers. She recreates events to flatter herself and no one dares call her out on it. My sister is a master of manufacturing lies and publishing stories to flatter herself and misrepresent and stain others; social media has added a whole new level of pain and abuse. These are the rules I have learned growing up in this dynamic: there isn’t room for me, I must not take attention away from others or be praised or seen for my contributions, I am expected to invisibly give and provide and take care of others needs but not be recognized or known as doing so, I am to accept whatever lies are made up to paint others in a positive light even lies that misrepresent or slander me. It is not ok for me to share all the times and ways my sister has used, hurt, and betrayed me (because, somehow, I/we feel sorry for her and/or fearful of her and love her and want only good for her, even as she mistreats us). Everything is turned into a competition or triggers her unfounded faux jealousy so nothing I do or say should ever diminish, take attention away from, or compare to my sister. Some of these rules also apply to my mom and applied to my dad; they have/had been manipulated into a similar mold. We all have/had extremely limited close friendships, if any. During the pandemic my sister would typically refuse to wear a facemask, then publish to the world how her family wasn’t there for her – this was a lie; we were there for her, and we took care of most of her responsibilities. Often, my sister wouldn’t answer the door when our mom went over to help, because the timing wasn’t convenient. She revels in the power she feels being able to create and control the narrative she feeds to her social media community – sadly, many were family friends, and extended family. As my mother, father and I have withdrawn from the heartache of being misrepresented over the years, my sister’s voice has taken over. When my father began feeling ill last year, I told my self-absorbed sister I was concerned about him. It was his birthday, and I had just come from visiting him at his home. I had then gone to her house to meet with her and my mother to see how we could help my sister that week. I hoped she would shift her self-focused trance a little to the plight/needs of others. She simply said part sarcastically, part seriously, well, if he dies, I will receive his money, that would help me. My dad was a very private person and throughout the years he often requested he not be used as a prop on social media. When he first learned he had cancer he requested it not be published on social media, and he didn’t want to worry his brothers until he knew what kind of cancer it was and had a better idea of staging. Even as I clearly asked my sister to respect our father’s wishes, she publicly posted about it the day I/he asked her not to. The familiar floodgate of attention poured into her. I didn’t tell my dad because I didn’t want to increase his stress. When my dad needed love, company, and help she refused to go get a Covid-19 vaccine and, she continued to refuse wearing a nose/mouth cover. Since he was fighting cancer and receiving treatment for it, all his doctors told him how important it was for those he had close contact with to be vaccinated, or at least wear a facemask. The hospital only allowed one vaccinated, masked family member to be with my dad while he was in hospital and during his treatments. From before my father’s diagnosis, until the afternoon he passed, that person was me. When my dad and I weren’t in hospital, we were at my home. My dad and I would have benefited from another person who was capable of giving and being there for him, not just in word and misrepresentations on an easily manipulated public social media platform, but in actions. My sister has told everyone lies that she wasn’t allowed to be with her dad, despite how much I asked her to please be there. She constantly lies to paint herself as a victim and a saint. The truth is, my sister does what she wants to do, and doesn’t do what she doesn’t want to do; she has learned that it is easy to just make up stories that flatter her and feed her desire for sympathy and attention. God is our only witness, and although it is a gift I wouldn’t trade for the world, it still hurts. To get through, our family simply lets things go. We go to the next day as if whatever my sister has said or done is just our burden to privately grapple with, consume, digest, and overlook/make up excuses for, so we’re able to continue having a relationship with her. I recognize similarities in others and automatically go into a supportive, self-depreciating/self-denying, servant role and resent the imbalance and reinforcement of being taken for granted, used, and abused. This is one reason why I don’t open myself to more relationships – it also leaves me vulnerable, having no defenders who know me or who will remember me as I am/was. As I often say, “Thank God, there is God.”
What a journey you have had and I am so sorry for your struggles and losses. You have gained, however, a lot of insight into your family dynamic, and that awareness is essential for healing. You are correct that many victims of sibling abuse fear relationships and vulnerability due to the boundary violations that occurred throughout their childhood. They have no model for how to be assertive and have the other person respond with respect and empathy — because the narcopath lacks those characteristics. Best of luck and do know you are worthy of love!
Thank you for your article and reply. The relationship I shared with my father was the most balanced one I have had. It felt good to be mutually seen, known, heard, loved, valued, and respected. We made time for each other, and in our own ways we shared a balanced give-receive dynamic. It is fascinating and concerning how people learn and reinforce interpersonal roles; I am dumbfounded by how many (in my experience) assume an entitled, self-serving personality.
I thank you SO MUCH for validating my feelings and experiences of the past 30+ years. I am the younger sibling of an older sister who fits the description of NPD to a T but it’s very hard to find information online about this unique relationship.
When I read about Lynn’s changing food issues and illnesses I thought I was reading about my own sister (who, as a lactose intolerance person, consumes more dairy than I’ve ever seen and whose sensitivity to certain food groups changes based on mood.
When I inform my mother of ongoing verbal abuse by my sister (some of which she’s witnessed) she refuses to acknowledge it and her refusal to stand up for me for fear of angering my sister is the worst part. I’m told to get over it and let it go but this behaviour has only served to teach my sister there are no consequences to her actions and that she will be successful in getting her way. I feel sighted by my parents as it continues that I can’t let it go. I know if I stopped being in contact with my sister I could lead a normal (PEACEFUL) life – because when I am not around her life is quiet – but I am made to feel guilty for hurting my mother if I refuse to be around my sister.
I too have been forced to comfort my abusive sister and that is wrong on so many levels. I am 46 and still trying to get someone to acknowledge how mentally exhausting it’s been for me – both to endure her and to be made to feel I am overreacting to it.
My apologies for rambling – I don’t know if anyone will even read this but sometimes it just feels good to vent.
So glad I was helpful. When parents don’t protect it sends a very confusing and disempowering message to the victim of the narc sibling. Sure, their intention is to reduce conflict, but as you say it just trains the narc to continue their bad behavior because there are no consequences. Don’t feel guilty for setting the boundaries you need to feel healthy.
Thank you. Sadly, I sent his website to my mother and she ignored the email – I doubt she even read it. When I mentioned it (and sent it again) she asked if I was going to keep sending it. I replied that I just wanted acknowledgement that it was read. Her reply was “acknowledged.” I can appreciate not wanting to take sides with children but to me there is a limit when one is causing pain to the other and I don’t believe standing up for one child is taking a side… but obviously this is how it will continue to be. Again, thank you so much for the article (and all the amazing comments that made me feel I wasn’t crazy). It’s heartening to know there are people who acknowledge this very real issue of abuse, even if one’s own family refuses to.
I certainly don’t think that fibromyalgia is a vague illness. It consists of a myriad of symptoms but that does not make it vague. It is an extremely painful illness and if your sister genuinely has it she will be suffering a lot. Unless you get it yourself ,you will not understand what a cruel illness it is. However that is no excuse for her behaviour.I hope that in the future this invisible illness will get more support and understanding.
I apologize if I appeared to dismiss this condition. It’s just that the symptoms are diffuse and difficult to diagnose. It’s also one of those conditions that is caused largely by stress and inflammation, making it hard to pinpoint a specific cause. It is very possible my sister has fibromyalgia, given her high stress levels. The vague quality of this conditions just makes it easy for attention-seekers like my sister to claim they have this condition and use it for attention and to elicit caregiving from family and healthcare providers — but I do realize this is not the case for everyone!
Currently dealing with my narc sister trying to ruin my relationship with my family and this really resonated with me. I always thought she wasn’t that bad as a kid/teen but reading all of these and I’m reminded of my past self before cutting her out of my life.
I have finally received acknowledgement from my 3 younger siblings (there are 7 of us) that my elder sister treated me horribly growing up. I am 66 years old. She still manipulates the entire family and feels it necessary now to denigrate the job my youngest sister is doing caring for our 92 year old mother. I realized the reason she feels it necessary to bad mouth the work of my sister is because she is feeling threatened by the love my mother has expressed to that sister and the bond that has formed between them. Two other sisters gang up and repeat the same disrespect for the youngest, even now. Only when she was subjected to this hostility did the youngest sister realize the pattern in the family of control and manipulation. She finally sees how the eldest established this so early, and recognizes the characterization of me as the selfish one, the angry one, the disconnected one perpetrated by the eldest. Now she sees me for who I really am. And I see that the youngest’s alcohol and self-destructive patterns from her past have roots in the same dynamic. Our fourth sister of the five mimics the eldest still and seems to get pleasure from it, the third is the most loyal flying monkey and is blind to her own complicit role in all of this. Sad thing is I have to stay away and I feel like by staying away, the narc wins, I’m no longer a threat to her, but I lose the family ties. I recently told the youngest 3 (whose eyes are open) that we four are a majority and can stick together and be family outside of this toxic dynamic. Finally. I dread what will transpire once Mom is gone. I also see the kind of person I am to friends, to others, why I chose the spouse I did (now my ex) and the aloofness I sometimes exhibit to “the club that will have me as a member”. All because of this one influence in my life. I truly believe if she saw this she would gloat over the power she had over me and mock me for my ‘victim’ mentality.
Finally I’m putting it all together, too, at the ripe age of 48. My older brother is largely an other blamer… A covert narcissistic fucker. I had a recent break up with a woman who is most definitely a covert narcissist. She devalued and then discarded me with no shame. I let her back in once for sex and when I broke off our future date she simply said “not surprised. bye”.
This was after three years of me helping take care of her children and repairing her “damage self-worth”. The other day as I was referencing my inner critic, the inner fucker as I call him, I looked myself in the eye in the mirror and said “it’s largely my brothers voice”. I repeated it three times as I stared myself in the eye. I have been looking everywhere: to both my parents and my paternal father and my own lack of self-worth and etc. etc. etc. but it finally dawned on me to look towards my brother Then I found this article. I’m so grateful. It’s a very interesting discovery. I have been attracting “true takers“ for years. Three women over the past 10 years have used me and betrayed me quite similarly, cheating, lying, etc. so now it’s time I take a look at myself… And that’s exactly what I’m doing and I have led me to this discovery. My question was why am I such a fool or what is wrong with me or why do I give so much to people that give so little to me? i’m far from healed. But I am on my way. And each little discovery feels like a diamond for my future crown. Thank you for sharing and I wonder if you can refer me to any help at healing this over burdened heart that his film of shame and self blame. ??
So much insight here, Andrew. And pain. Practicing self-compassion for this pain and betrayal is important. See my resources page. You maybe were a tiny bit of a “fool” but we have to tell ourselves that this toxic relationship patterns was learned probably starting at BIRTH! So it’s very powerful and difficult to break, but not impossible. Keep working on your self-worth so you also learn not to tolerate disrespectful or abusive behavior.
Thank you so much for this article and blog. It has brought validation to my life long, mysterious pain, and I see it has for all the fellow comrades who’s comments I read and am right there with you. I’ve been sandwiched in between two narcissistic brothers. Been no contact for a year now, and I’m finally learning who I really am. The fallout is devastating, but it seems to be a gradual upward trajectory. I wish so much peace, clarity and healing for us all impacted by this particular challenge, and thank you Harper West from the bottom of my heart, putting words and voice to this feels important.
Thank you so much! I became a psychologist to help people heal from narcissistic abuse, so I’m glad to be of help.
I suffered from a narcissistic older sister well into my adulthood. I worked closely with a therapist for close to 2 years to unravel this emotional knot. She helped me understand what had happened for many years and to also understand that my sister is very emotionally damaged. I think the most difficult part of this work was how confused I was constantly feeling. My mind was telling me one thing and my sister was telling me another. However, there would be enough truth, enough of the time that I mistakenly trusted her. I see now that all of it was manipulation. The only way I have been able to move on from this was understanding narcissim, understanding how it impacts the victim, and that firm boundaries are critical to changing the dynamic. I now recognize the abuse, everyone’s roles, and all of that hurt has been validated by understanding how narcissts behave and the impact on the victim, me. I personally have gone No Contact which was one stop automatically putting me back in control of my life. That was one of many steps for me, and was also my decision on my timeline. Now, I feel myself enjoying life and not feeling such shame or inadequacy!
Thank you for addressing Narcissistic Siblings. It is a horrible and toxic family dynamic that is difficult to recognize.
Good for you for doing all this difficult work and healing!
I have just one brother. At 63, the scales are lifting from my eyes, and I am finally starting to see him for the toxic presence he has constantly been in my life. He has so many narcissistic traits, the attention seeking, the role he held in the family dynamic, the grandiose sense of superiority. Yet he doesn’t lie – a fact he prides himself on, and has always been a loner, so in some ways I am still looking for answers.
All I do know is I have spent a lifetime feeling his happiness was my responsibility, although he is continually dismissive of me and unkind to me. I remember coming back by plane with him from a family funeral. At the end of the flight, he stood up, and forever socially awkward, couldn’t reach his luggage in the overhead rack, and rather than ask someone to get it, stood, immobile blocking the aisle. I asked someone to get it for him. He stormed off, leaving me stranded at the airport, and didn’t talk to me for months. My mother’s reaction was that I had humiliated him.
It all came to a head about a year ago, when he behaved so appalling towards me, that I broke off contact. I still get occasional spiteful, cold emails, that leave me churned up inside and sleepless for the night. As much as I hate it, he still has the power to hurt me.
I see so much of myself in your account – becoming self sufficient as he drained all the nurturing from my parents, holding myself responsible for everything, becoming non-assertive, self sabotaging, people pleasing. My decision to only have one child myself was based on my belief that, if there was more than one, there would always be the favoured, golden child, and I didn’t want that. That was my model of family. I have been blessed with a good husband and a wonderful son, and I take solace in the calm of our tension free dynamic. But there is always that yearning, what could I have achieved, what would my life have been if I had a ‘normal’ brother? I feel better being away from his destructive influence, but feel the impact is now so ingrained, after a lifetime of exposure, that I won’t ever fully cast off the effects. All just so sad really.
I read this article and it resonated so deeply as a good chunk of it, was like reading what’s happened/ happening in my own life. I have a youngest sibling that has wreaked so much havoc in our family that she has convinced our only living elderly parent that we two (other siblings) are the Devil incarnate. Her sense of entitlement knows no boundaries and the current objective is to live off “Bank of Parent” and that countries Government Benefit system so as she never has to work/earn an honest day’s living. However, I fear her ultimate goal is the inheritance-I’m guessing she wants it ALL as she has gone into over-drive to smear the two of us and convince our elderly parent that it is “we” who are to blame for everything. Sadly our elderly parent has (either through ignorance, sense of guilt, co-dependance on her part or all of the above) become her (un)knowing accomplice. The damage she has done is now beyond repair and both of “us” have had to step back and, in my own circumstances, I’m having to go further and walk away from the situation and my only living parent. It feels like a bereavement as even though my parent is still alive, the relationship has died. You may wonder why I have written things down in an oddly descriptive way-the reason is she actively stalks any and all these websites that deal with Narcissistic Abuse to the extent of even posing as a victim of Narcissistic Abuse, whilst constantly looking for myself, (when I have tried to reach out for help/advice) and uses it as evidence to show our parent just how “bad” I am, airing our family dirty laundry in public.
Lizzie, your story is — sadly — so very common. Greed and entitlement are common markers of narcissism and siblings have the “easy” tool of smearing other siblings to gain money, but mostly attention from parents. I definitely can relate to your story as can many, I’m sure. Live your own truth and morality and just know that narcs like this are very sad, unhappy, frustrated and very emotionally immature people. I’ve often said that no matter how much money and attention my sister got from my parents and others, I was very glad I did not have her personality. I am happier, emotionally mature, and psychologically resilient in ways my sister is not.
Anyone else here who has watched the heard vs Depp trial that’s been extremely triggered and/or obsessed with the case? I’ve been both. My sister is a staunch supporter of Heard even after all the evidence. And why? Well, my sister sees herself in Amber. Amber not being held liable means that what My sister has done and isn’t doing is okay. for the shame, of which she has zero tolerance- that keeps on trying to torment herself. She had written a song about Johnny Depp Years ago. Now she has another opportunity to be a victim vicariously through this madness. “How could he do this to me” BS. I want to hug her sister Whitney. Have you also been listening to the voices online from all kinds of professional backgrounds try and fail at understanding what Ms Heard is capable of? And then see their shock? I’m over here wondering how TF they are paid so much.
Yes, many narcissists identify with other narcissists, while informed/healed victims often can see and sense the roles of abuser and victim quite clearly.
I’m 42 years old and reading this really made my cry. My sister is younger than me and is a narc. I remember winning my 2nd grade spelling bee and her breaking my trophy in anger because my mom and dad had planned a special dinner for me that night to celebrate. She threw a huge fit and dinner got canceled because of that. I’ve always felt like I had to walk on egg shells for her so she wouldn’t get angry but my parents did realize that she had issues. We found out that she couldn’t have children as teenagers so when I got married and pregnant with our first child,she took it upon herself to make my pregnancy miserable. She would get upset(more like glaring coldly at me and muttering b***h under her breath to where I could hear her) at me gushing to my family and friends how happy and excited I was to be a mom. Now that we’re older i think it’s gotten worse. My husband and I divorced ( also a narc I later found out) after our 2nd child and she moved in to help out. HUGE mistake. She came in changing rules for my kids, when we ate,showered, etc. Then the screaming matches began where insults were directed at my kids and I and threats of child services being called on me were made because in her opinion I was a bad mom1. I finally had enough when she punched me in front of my kids and i called law enforcement to step in. I haven’t spoken to her in 1 year but what a peaceful one it has been. My parents fully support my decision to have no contact with her. So I do understand everyone who commented on this article. I really had no idea how much damage she had really done and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never have that coveted sister relationship that normal,loving sisters have. Thank you for writing this. It was truly an epiphany.
Good for you, Diane, for taking charge and rectifying a toxic situation and relationship. So thankful your parents support your decision.
Was anyone else also triggered by Amber Heard’s performance in her court trial? I feel so sad for Whitney, her sister. I watched the entire 6 week trial and commentary from many lawyers and Social media influencers and even some therapists throughout. It’s a surreal feeling to see so many of these people confused on whether or not Amber is lying in certain areas while I’m seeing everything so clearly and catching “tells” that no one else is talking about. Throughout the hearing I’ve felt some satisfaction from an abuser’s true colors being found out for millions to see yet also devastating to see Whitney still under her abuser’s control. My heart breaks for her. The most harmful thing some are saying is “looks like both are guilty” or “looks like both just need to grow up. ” ..willfully or not- ignorant to the abuse that we all see. I hope this god awful situation starts a bigger conversation about what these perpetrators are capable of.
My younger sister is a selfish narc who has resented my existence and any good things that have ever happened for me for her entire life (she actually told me as much!).
I finally went no contact when I turned 50 and wish I did it decades earlier. No drama – I just gracefully and gradually faded out of her life. She was just too much of a taker of everything – joy, money, attention, etc.
I am not the submissive type but I too dread having to see her at any holiday family gatherings. I prepare myself to just be my happy self because her own insecurity is what causes her to tear me down. The way she looks at me with her judging eye is hard to take, but I get through it. Try as she may, I never let on that it bothers me in the least.
My dad passed when I was 12 but one thing he told me was to never react because it gives them satisfaction (my older brother is the same way). It took a lot of self-control, but it was good advice, and I remind myself that they are insecure and competitive people who don’t like seeing their targets happy or successful.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so spend your time on what you want your life to be, and let them waste their time constantly comparing themselves to others. They will never be happy and they are not your responsibility.
Yes, the “grey rock” method as some call it can help decrease reactivity to the narc, but it is so difficult to do!
The first twenty years of my life were miserable and I haven’t done much to make it better these last ten. Grew up in a house where I was accused of being the selfish one, accused of getting everything I wanted, and being accused of being the Golden Child. If I lost a game, my brother would make sure I knew I was loser, but if I won, then he only let me win. For years, he called a worthless failure, a burden, a retard, and he’d go around telling everybody that I just sat on my ass. Which, honestly, is true, but that’s only because he told everybody me hated and no matter what I’d do, I’d never succeed. So, everybody hates and nothing I do will ever be good enough, then why bother trying?
I’d be told to do something, and I’d do it with him standing over me and being my worst critic to the point that I gave on doing anything and everything that gave me the slightest amount of joy. He went around telling my family I’d be a serial killer because I watch horror films. If somebody asked me what I was doing, he’d be the one to answer for me telling them I did nothing. He name-call, degrade, humiliate, and accuse until I had no personality. Whenever my mom told him to do something, he’d tell her to make me do it, and if that didn’t go over with, he’d threaten to bash in her skull and he started staying at our grandmother’s house telling her that I was being a little fucker. He lived with my grandmother, but he was still over at my mom’s house taking six hour baths and being on the computer for four hours. He’d tell me to get a life and get a job even when he saw that I was trying. But having somebody on your ass about everything you do is enough to drive you crazy and make you not want to do anything.
When he moved, I was still in high school and felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest the moment he walked out. He was gone for two years the first time and we barely heard a word from him. He started coming home, and then he’d come more and more. The first time he came home, it wasn’t bad because he and I never said a word to each except for ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ over a two week period. Every other time he came home after that, we’d get into some personal shit and each time he left, I’d go back into my shell and have to find a way out a again. The last two times he came back home, it happened in a four month span and the last time, he came down by himself and the night before his girlfriend left, was the night I found out he had a girlfriend and the night he asked me for money.
Four thousand. I stood there for all of ten seconds before he asked “Are you gonna give me the fucking money or not?” Well, saying no we’d get into a fight. So, I said yes. After this, he kept coming to me for me, and because I didn’t want to get my ass kicked, I said ‘yes’ every time until he completely emptied. This was inheritance money from my father and I was this money to help set myself up in life. I took one year gap after high school because I wanted to figure stuff out for myself, and I had already spent half of that money on things I needed so I could do that stuff. The rest of it I was going to save, but I gave him every scent willingly because I was afraid of him.
He and his girlfriend did have the healthiest relationship. They had already broken up (something he’d deny later after he accused me of sabotaging their relationship), but I was told to get to know her. I talked to her twice, and he accused me of talking behind his back. I didn’t, and each time she had brought him up, I changed the subject. Suddenly they were engaged, and talking about buying a cat together, and since the cat was only sixty bucks, I went to him and offered to get it for him (something else he’d deny) and when he said ‘yes’, he even asked to come get it with them. So, we did that. Everything was cool, but an hour after bringing the cat home, he accused me of having doing only because I had a crush on his girlfriend. He even used the fact that I remembered her name as proof that I had a crush. Well, she was living with us so of course I was going to call her by her name. The fact that I remembered her last name was also proof, even though she had same last as five different I grew up with, none of whom were related.
At one point, my mom caught him on top of his girlfriend ready to beat her. Our mom calmed things down, but there were a few other altercations that had happened and seeing the writing on the wall, I went to my uncle for help. He sat down and had a talk with my brother, and that was more ammo for my brother as the ‘saboteur’ accusations started. He apologized once, but I knew it was empty, and I was starting to get to the point that I had enough of his shit. He and his girlfriend were still arguing, and wanting to get away from it, I accepted the invite from my uncle one night. My brother and his girlfriend were planning on going out, but when I got to my uncle’s, my brother was there. Curious, I asked where his girlfriend. “Why would you ask if you didn’t have a crush on her?”
“Motherf*cker, the whole point was to get away from you two!”
He called me a saboteur as soon as I walked and I went off on him. Sitting around a table full of my family, they all stuck up for him and made excuses for him while I’m being the one that’s being called a saboteur. There was this huge, I went off on my brother and my uncle in his own calling him a ‘pseudo-intellectual piece of shit.’ Honestly, my uncle is a smart guy but I felt like I had been ambushed and I wasn’t holding back. For the first time in my life, I went off on my brother like he used to go off on me.
I reminded him that when our parents gave me some of his toys, it was because they were too poor and too cheap to buy the new kid toys, and only started buying me toys when they gave his back because he bitched about it every day. That’s when he started accusing of getting everything I wanted. I reminded him that when our parents divorced, it was the darkest period in my life not because of the divorce, but because for two years straight, my brother accused me of being the reason it happened. I reminded him that the only reason I pulled a knife on him (which he blamed the horror movies for) was because I was tired of being held down and having my life threatened and having endless nights of being called a burden, a failure, worthless, a faggot, a scumbag, a piece of shit, to the point where I’d bang my head against a wall just drown out the sound of his voice. I reminded him that when our my tried to stop it, he’d run off to grandma’s and have a woman in her eighties cook his food the way he wanted because he had special dietary standards. When he told me did the chores around the house, I reminded that he put all of them on me, that after he’d left to go back out west, he’d leave plates of food in the basement and we’d discover them weeks later with maggots. I reminded him that I helped our grandmother and our mother with shopping, and when they’d sometimes be low on cash, I’d cover for them. When mom needed money for a roof, I offered the money. When I reminded him that he asked for my money, he said that I had given it to him and that’d I’d only spend it. He had already spent his inheritance, but it wasn’t okay for me to spend mine. I never got my money back.
Why? Because two days after that ambush in my uncle’s house, he came asked me for yet more money. I told him no because I didn’t have any left. He said bullshit, and when he turned his back on me, I asked him are you ever going to pay me back? He said no and wouldn’t even look at me. Then, an hour later, they start fighting and they come upstairs and my brother tells her “Give me back my brother’s money.”
I remind him that he had just told me he wasn’t going to pay me back. He tells me to stay out of it and that this all my fault. His girlfriend sees her chance and she bails out the door, he chases her outside and he slammed her fist through her car window. I try stopping him and he and I get in a fight, he fish-hooks me to the point that he detached part of my gumline. After all, he accused me of never brushing my teeth and that my teeth would one day be black. I know the smoking and alcohol didn’t help, but neither did the fish-hooking. There’s a reason it’s outlawed. Even after he assaulted the girlfriend he accused me of having a crush on, I didn’t call the police. After he permanently detached my gumline, I did not call the police. But when he was on top of his girlfriend, while I was getting up after my ass-kicking, and I saw him turn around and punch our mother, I called the cops and sent my own brother to jail.
This should have been the best thing that ever happened to me, but my mother shut down. She and I didn’t have bail, but she wanted her son out of jail and I made calls until that same uncle stepped up and bailed him out. Here’s the thing though, my uncle had said that if my brother did go to jail, he wouldn’t bail him out. Suddenly, he changed his mind and I was so pissed off about it. After this, I alienated every friend and family member, and in eight years, I only went out a handful of times.
After those eight years, I finally began to grieve over all this stuff. My mom was able to keep going, but I couldn’t. I just can’t be around people. All I see are fake personalities, phonies acting like they’re nice, politicians acting like they have our best interest at heart. Now, I know the truth. Everybody is in it for themselves.
The worst part, my brother’s prophecies of me have become true. He told me my teeth were going to black and they are. He told me I was going to be worthless, and a failure and I am. I’ve only started going out recently, but it’s usually to buy smokes or beer, or pot. Those last two things are the only things that get his voice out of my head. While everybody made excuses for my brother, I was the one that was told that I was to blame for everything.
After those first few years, my friends would come and visit me and invite me out. I said ‘no’ everytime to the point they stopped asking and I only got angrier and angrier to the point that I would kick them off my property when they would visit.
My brother told me that I would never have a woman, and when I did, I never opened to her. My brother told me that all I wanted was attention, yet I’ve spent ten years inside. In school, I once cut class because I didn’t want to read my fiction to the rest of the class. When my brother quit baseball, he drilled it into my head that ‘it’s stupid, and you’re stupid for doing it because you’re worthless.’ I was actually good baseball, a home run hitter who helped win three championships, but when I was the pitcher (First year pitching) in my fourth championship game and came up short, my brother didn’t let me forget that I was the one cost my team and I was a disappointment to my parents, and failed my team, things I already even then to be true. So, that next year when my dad asked if I wanted to play baseball, I said ‘no’. When he asked why and tried to change my mind, I told him ‘No, baseball’s stupid and I don’t want to play it anymore!” I stopped watching it, and I stopped buying the games.
After all, if I liked something he liked like wrestling, he waved his finger at me and told me ‘the only reason that you like it is because I like it, and you’re stupid for copying me.’ Yet, if I liked something he didn’t like, then ‘it’s stupid, and you’re stupid for doing it, because you’re worthless.’
Calling the cops on him should have been the best thing that happened to my life, but I don’t remember much of those eight because I felt like there was this fog. I could barely see anything in front of me, and when that stopped, it was eight years later and I started getting the dental work I needed, and then the pandemic happened, so I went back inside.
It’s fort the best, because ‘no matter what you do, you’ll always be a failure, you’ll always be a burden, you’ll always be a failure because you’re fucking stupid and you’re the worst thing that ever happened to this family.’
I guess he was right. Things have only gotten worst because instead of trying, I wanted to avoid shame, humiliation, insults,ridicule, criticism, and even compliments. Any time somebody gave me a compliment, I made some joke or completely. In grade six, there was an award ceremony being held and the girl I had a crush on at the time called me handsome and not thinking it was genuine because ‘if anybody gives you a compliment, it’s because they’re being nice, but they don’t actually mean it’ and I went off at that girl which ruined any chance I may have had with her. Years, later, it’d be that girl’s best friend who became one of my best friends, who I would date off and on for years until she finally gave up on me because I was told I deserve nothing by somebody I loved and who had such disdain for me.
Yet, sitting here and writing all of this out, I can’t help but realize he was right about almost everything he said. He said this is what would happen to me, so I can’t deny the fact that he was right. So, now, I can’t help but wonder was he the narcissist, or was I?
Many people wonder if they are narcissists after being the victim. Sometimes this is because the narc literally told them they were (projection!). But as you so wisely point out, years of verbal abuse and humiliation, make a person cope — but in maladaptive ways. Sometimes by avoiding effort and attention that might bring criticism. Or by be an over-achiever and perfectionist to avoid making mistakes that might bring an attack or bullying. Sometimes this can look like narc behaviors. Your ability to be self-aware and reflect on this situation indicates you have an inner sense of morality or pro-social tendencies, which are the opposite of anti-social traits of the narc. Work on your self-worth and self-compassion (see my blogs on this and resources) and this will help tremendously heal from the messages of unworthiness you received so constantly. Best of luck!
This article is wonderfully helpful. Thank you for it. I was the baby of the family, born into it with two elder sisters (10yrs, and 8yrs) – the middle child, a covert narcissist. my family dynamic was unusual. Both parents worked long hours leaving me in the care of the two of them. So long as my eldest sister was there, I was considered. But God forbid I was alone with the Narc. it was her daily goal in life to ruin any happiness I might achieve. My mother was wise to her games. She’d had a sister who was the same. But my father was an enabler. he worked long hours, came home to farm… any drama, any wrong offered up by the narc was never corrected. Instead, we were all advised to ‘just let it go’. And if we chose not to, he elevated his insistence.
When my eldest moved out (Married at 18) life turned hellish. My narc wanted me to be like her, tried to paint me to hate everyone around us, to diminish anyone’s achievements, especially my own, and to look down my nose at others (ridiculous given we were lower middle class, part-time farmers). She used me as a lackey, to say and do the wicked things she dreamed up, and then she would feign innocence when the poo hit the fan.
I made it to 49 and the passing of my enabler father and my sweet mother, before I truly understood what my narc was to me. you see, I’d gone to work for her and her OVERT Narc husband for some fifteen years, and in that time… I had fallen into a deep, deep pit. There is NOTHING so devastating to a normal person’s emotional well-being, than to be beholden to an entire family of narcs. My own family suffered as a result of my inner darkness.
Today, I am working on being a normal person, on believing in myself, and loving and accepting of people. But my narc is out. She’s cut off. She can wallow for all I care. I’m trying not to be bitter but if anyone upon the Earth deserves whatever awfulness she is experiencing, it’s her.
Great for you to extract yourself from a toxic family environment and heal yourself. Keep building compassion for yourself, but also for her — as odd as that sounds. You can still be angry, but work to understand that she developed these traits to cope with her own low self-worth. Letting go of hatred helps you live in peace even if it makes no difference to her.
I am married to a good woman who has younger sister who seems to fit most of the criteria for grandiose narcissism. How you describe your own family situation growing up is remarkably similar to what I see in my wife’s childhood. In fact, I think my wife developed many of the coping mechanisms you outlined above including some that you did. My wife seems unable to share her wants/needs at times and just “passively wait for someone to notice that she needed either emotional comfort or she was ill”.
I think one of the reasons why my wife chose me was due to my gentle, patient spirit. It is something she has spoken often about. At the same time, I suspect I have codependent tendencies and that dovetails perfectly with her core wounds. After 15+ years our marriage is barely hanging together. Sometimes it feels like the coping mechanisms my wife developed to protect herself against her narc-sibling undermine efforts to resolve our marital conflict. For example, she seems hypersensitive to criticism and shame and goes silent if I say something that might be perceived as critical.
Can you share any resources/insight how these coping mechanisms can affect marriages? Do you have any advice how a partner can navigate these coping mechanisms? What can I do to move our marital conflict to a place where my wife doesn’t resort to these coping mechanisms to handle the stress?
Your assessment of your wife’s family of origin and its impacts on her sounds pretty on point! In terms of how this impacts relationships/marriages, I can recommend my blog: http://www.harperwest.co/relationships/ This article focuses on “Other-Blamer” behaviors of lashing out, but avoidance and shutting down are also ways individuals handle criticism and conflict in marriages. Reading about Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy concepts can also be helpful and I have information on my Resources Page under “Relationships.” (Scroll down). The first link in that section recommends books that may be helpful. Learning self-compassion is the antidote to poor shame tolerance, so any of the information I provide on the Resources page on self-compassion would be a great start. I just rewrote the main blog/resource on mindful self-compassion, so check that out. Best of luck! She is luck to have a patient spirit to help her!
My abuser was my covert narcissist brother whose life goal was to cut me down so he could feel control, powerful, be a winner against me his lifetime nemesis while he wished I was never born.
I was 3 years younger and it was just me and him and 2 enabling parents. To survive, I had to become an underachiever, not like that was hard when every time I did achieve something it was quickly minimized, devalued, ridiculed etc.
My brother began a lifetime of bullying in school by starting a smear campaign right before school started with every kid in our neighborhood. The bullying snowballed from there and followed me to high school.
My life after that was quitting college, toxic relationships that I stayed in much longer than any sane person should have, self medicating and straight up drug & alcohol abuse. I was institutionalized the first time when I was 27, have been to 3 rehabs.
Every time I would get out of rehab and be doing okay, my brother would swoop in to check on me only to supply me with pills, passive aggressively make me feel bad about myself and get me re-addicted.
I would then lose the trust of my parents again, who he programmed into believing I was crazy the minute I became a teenager, and he would be golden child again. That’s only a fraction of the hell I’ve been through.
I’m 41 now, I’ve cut all contact with him and won’t allow him to see my son. I live a reclusive life with just me, my son and my cats because my sons dad died from an overdose 7 years ago.
The good news is I finally learned how to love myself and I only care about my sons mental and emotional health. I don’t have any friends and panic just thinking about social gatherings.
I’ve found happiness in my safe space, work from home job, homeschooled son, and 4 butthead cats. It’s sad when I think about how the thing that makes me happier than I’ve ever been is staying home, away from people and disassociating with tv, internet & games that I’m now allowed to play, I have my very own ps5 and learned to play when I was 38. As you can imagine, I was banned from playing video games because that was his thing.
Basically, the only thing that brings me happiness in life is safety and disassociating. But at least I am happy and I love who I am finally. I won’t ever let anyone take that from me again.
I’m glad you feel happy, but also am sad that you have so few relationships. But this is what narcissists do — cause us to distrust others and withdraw in safety. I hope you can rebuild hope in other humans!
It’s not easy to have relationships when u have been so hurt.
The only times I tell anyone is when the other person doesn’t know the narcissistic otherwise it gets back to them
I feel like you have written my life here. I believe both my parents would have been diagnosed with NPD. I am 67 years old and currently living alone after three attempts at marriage. I have four sisters and I see narcissistic traits in all 5 of us, but some much more than others. The part about just moving through life without any sense of direction as if life is just happening and I have no control, really spoke to me. Well the whole article did. I’m currently trying to decide whether or not to try to explain my decision to my youngest sister to lay down boundaries (again). Reading this is definitely giving me food for thought.
I’ve never felt more laid bare in my life. I always thought my father (or rather his undiagnosed narcissism) made me the person I am today, but now I realize my younger sister played just as big (if not a bigger) role in shaping my personality. My sister befriended my childhood best friend, too, and turned her against me. To the point that, when my friend died in my early 20s, I felt I couldn’t even mourn her because she was my sister’s best friend. She’s spent nearly the last 20 years making Sarah’s death all about her and her loss (getting a tattoo in her honor and making long social media posts about her loss every year). I always called myself the peacemaker in childhood. I used to say I didn’t mind fading into the background to allow my three smart, beautiful, bold sisters to shine. To this day, I struggle with confidence and self-worth and forego competition (even in the job market) because I don’t think I’ll succeed. I overextend myself on a volunteer basis until I’m running on fumes. When I do find success, my sister calls me “little miss perfect” or suggests everything comes easy for me. And I actually agree and dismiss myself because I feel bad that her life isn’t turning out better! I self-sabotage and engage in behaviors I suspected were ADHD/ADD. And now, I’m reanalyzing everything, questioning everything, and feeling quite exposed.
It can be painful to really see the truth about our family dynamic, but hopefully healing in the long run. You’re describing my thoughts, too, as a child when I faded into the background so as not to upset my “bold” sister who desperately craved the spotlight. Please give yourself gentle compassion for your younger self who did not now any better and was coping with a dysfunctional family system. Do give yourself some fierce compassion to begin to stand up for yourself and do what is right to support your confident, competent, caring self.
Wow. Holy Moley. I am reading this and realising this explains ALL the issues I have had my whole life. I really have suspected there is something deeply wrong with my sister since adulthood to be honest. I fear my life is spent managing her. Giving her all the attention she desires. Staying clear of competitiveness by down playing all my achievements, dressing uglier, and exaggerating bad things that happen because she cannot stand me to be happy and successful. Im now 33, got a phd and a brilliant career, whilst she is 38 and restarting her career for the 3rd time. She’s never had a long term partner whilst i’m pregnant and married. She insisted she never wanted children. Now im pregnant she’s ‘always wanted them’. She never wanted a PhD but now she’s ‘considering it because she knows she can get it’. She doesn’t understand why she can’t get a nice husband like me and i dont have the heart to tell her it’s because she’s not a nice person. she shouts, name calls, bullies into corners, berates, it’s always everyone else’s fault, she’s a saint etc etc. No one can handle it. She exaggerates and lies and ive even caught her in them several times. They are not even big deals, its just lies that make her sound better and other people sound worse. It just seems so pointless to me. Meanwhile lets be honest, shes miserable. She knows people dont like her. I think deep deep down inside she knows why, she knows she doesn’t treat people well but she cannot face that truth because it makes her feel like a ‘monster’ which she cannot take. So she ALWAYS turns it around on the other person. Once – literally – she claimed I bullied my dad because I told him, to his face, that he shouldn’t have hit us in anger when we were children. I told him, it had really scared me and as a result, I had developed panic disorder – which I had and which was the worst experience of my life! I went to an NHS therapist and she took three years to break it to me how badly i had been abused physically as a child and train me to deal with debilitating panic attacks which i was getting whilst sleeping. And I was the bully – for pointing out the damage that physical abuse did to me. I knew the only reason she did that is because she is like my father, and she knows she is next to be exposed for the abusive person she is. I’m just sick of it and I think it has destroyed me as a person to deal with these people. My mind has been so warped I dont know what reality is any more…
Oh and our brother died two years ago. Who also hated her for being so selfish and attention hogging. She forced organised the funeral despite me begging her to let me do parts of it. Now she holds it over us that she organised it and even makes jokes that it would be okay if I died too because she would just organise another funeral. Because of her, his body took four months to arrive back in the UK and she also ruined his reputation by writing shitty articles on medium about how he had been accused of rape. God its just a nightmare. I have to live with all this and its a giant stone in my throat.
That is a very thorough description of how an “other-blamer” sibling can act and certainly sounds a lot like my sister. Competitiveness with other siblings is a key component, as you experienced. I, too, had to downplay my successes so as not to overshadow my sister. I didn’t compare myself to her, but she sure did to me constantly. She had huge insecurities that my parents loved me more than her, when all the evidence said the opposite. I’m glad a therapist helped you see that your father’s physical abuse caused anxiety and panic. Now perhaps really acknowledge that your sister’s decades of emotional abuse had a toll, too. And the horrid “jokes” and guilt-tripping about funerals and reputation destruction are beyond the pale!
Thank you for this. We have lived very similar pain. I hate that we have. But I’m happy we are here talking about it. This is how far I let it go: My sister came to my daughter’s funeral and told everyone her death was my doing. Then insisted my parents and cousins and any lingering friends or ex friends drop me. Only one followed orders. And the smear since then has been huge.
I survived 30 years with an explosive narc/BPD man until I broke free, but only after my daughter’s death.
Thank god I got away from those people.
To this day, the smear continues.
I feel bad for my other sibling, her spouse and her adult kids—they have no idea how they are now under the narc sibling’s control.
In the end, I could never figure out why the odd sexual abuse happened. It was so—weird and oddly placed in my life. I realized that it was something she did to put me in line even more than I already was.
She was out of control if her life right then and I was still a dynamic and funny kid. She did it to ruin me. Make me small.
It backfired. I became very accomplished in what I do. I can’t accept compliments about it or be proud of it, but I’m accomplished all the same.
I’m almost 55 years old and I’m only starting to accept my accomplishments.
Anyway. Thank you. I thought I was crazy for so long. And was taught so young that everything was my fault.
This article helped so much.
It’s comforting to know I’m not alone in this, even though I very much am. Thank you for posting this. I hope one day I can post this to my crass elder sibling once I escape her grasp.
Great article. My older brother is a textbook Narcissist. However, I do think he was born with it, and he simply nurtured and mastered it over time. I’ve been in the psychology field most of my adult life, but ironically, only in the past 5 years really made the connection with my brother to the symptoms. Given everything you wrote about the “victim” I’m not that surprised that I “covered” or ignored my brothers behavior, all for the act of self preservation at first, but then just a matter of habit after that. However, I also noticed that with my clarity of my brothers diagnosis and behavior, it has ushered in a flood of anger, as I appear to be reliving the decades of abuse with a new “lens.” I’m grateful that I can now see my brother for who he was, but the negative emotions that have come with it are not easily dealt with–as I think I’m looking for “justice” from him and my father, which I will never get.
Good for you for your insights. The anger and resentment may continue for awhile. I like to look at this as self-protective indignation and has in its benefits, although it does need to be regulated so it doesn’t leave you stuck in hostility. Best of luck with your ongoing journey to wellness!
Thank you. Simply…thank you!
My husband and I are both survivors of this type of sibling, (parental) abuse, and are thriving!
We still struggle with regret, self-worth, boundaries, and shame…but who doesn’t, I suppose?
Our family is secure and our children are no longer exposed to the personalities of their aunts., who used and exploited them and preyed upon their vulnerability, (along with our aging parents), in attempts to fill their bottomless voids.
What is remarkable is the similarity of our siblings and the struggles we both share. For many years it was not clear why my husband and I both shared so many similar character traits. We butted heads and hated the very characteristics we displayed to each other of which we both have. Nuts!
Our children, and our desire to protect them from their aunts, (and aging grandparents), is what sealed our strong pursuit toward self awareness and reflection.
Though it didn’t happen as soon as we would have liked, we eventually got there. I am an architect and he is a successful business person and a masterful talented and highly educated photographer. When we stopped looking at what made us different and started paying attention to what made us so alike – that’s when it all shifted.
We fell short when we made notice of how both our sisters financially exploited our parents, both made attempts to delegitimize our marriage and our parenting, and both made attempts to ‘win’ over our young kids by love bombing followed by a dose of smearing (mostly of me mainly because I was more outspoken than my husband – though I didn’t have the terminology other than …’this ain’t right – they ain’t right.’) When they’d ‘pop’ in unannounced and uninvited and take over our home and our children’s attention, my husband and I would tolerate it. They were family, even if they were losers in life for the most part living off other people’s resources. Both prey on those who are most vulnerable but did so in a way that seemed ‘acceptable’ or ‘normal’.
All our marital arguments were centered on my husband’s sister, as she lived in the same town as us. I had moved across the continent to be rid of Edie and Edith (my mother and sisters abuse). However, it was not lost on me that both sisters felt entitled to assume our children as their property. My sister always referred to our kids as ‘hers’. ‘My little -‘ ‘How’s my – doing today?’
My husband’s sister went as far as to tell others she was our daughter’s mother and even kidnapped her to teach me a lesson when my daughter was toddler. The result was a raging episode of explosive anger where I was labeled and prosecuted. My husband was manipulated and enabled this heinous act, which nearly ended our union. It served as a catalyst for my PTSD and I’m not sure I will ever recover.
One would think it would have been the end, but I blamed myself and perpetually apologized for many years exploring my ‘problem’ my potential
to be an unfit mother, so to speak, only to end up full circle. I realize I am more than fit. I thrive as a mother and my children are amazing because of who they are but also because I steward their childhood like a boss! That’s to say, I’ve also made mistakes, like any parent. I own my mistakes, I learn from them, and I apologize with earnestness. I’ve never had much problem doing that. What I’ve stopped doing – apologizing for anything outside my part in whatever mess was made.
Fifteen years of marriage, countless family gatherings we hosted at our home where I only was seen not heard, the indentured servant, with apron and bare feet, and at times pregnant. I kept things light, happy, and my head down. It worked for everyone except me. But what did that matter?
It mattered. I matter. I would pendulum between complete submissiveness and rage. My husband was my mark. Why didn’t he stand up for me? Why doesn’t he protect our family from her? Why was he always making excuses for his sister mistreating me and our kids?
Then it all rained down at once. My own sister showed up from across the country. She had run out of options. I was her last resource. Except it wasnt just me anymore. It was us. My resources were my children’s and my husband’s as well. My brothers had cut her off already and my parents had passed. She could no longer financially exploit my father and she was left robbing others who unwittingly trusted her to pay rent, etc. I was wise to her tactics and we were careful to both keep her from stealing any cc numbers, (she had already stolen my identity while I was in college while she was unemployed pretending to be working), or from retaliating by use of false police reports or the like if we let on we had had enough of her crazy. It was a very scary dance,
and I feared for the safety of our children both physically and mentally.
I knew of what she was capable – having witnessed her physical abuse of my father who suffered from Alzheimer’s and the many family pets over the years. Every attempt to hold her to account from me and many other family members were unsuccessful. She lied, stole, and played the victim very well. I skill I never learned or cared to learn.
At the same time we were just coming out of the worst stages of the pandemic. My sister in law had grown tired of ‘caregiving’. My in laws were sharing their resources once again to house a 60 year old woman who had lost her job and housing during the Covid closures. She had always lived off their resources for as long as I knew her but now we had hoped her cohabitation would bring some benefit to my husband’s parents. It did to some extent. But as the initial attention and praise she was given by her ‘selflessly’ moving into their retirement house while jobless and homeless wore thin she began to initiate a change. After about a year, she felt it time she get back to her career. We’re still uncertain what career to which she was referring , as she has no formal education and we knew her to not hold down a job for longer than a year or two.
Regardless, at this time, when my own sister had shown up quite out of the blue, to scour and steal from us, my husband’s sister betrothed upon us her failings as a caregiver. Though she had managed to painstakingly medicate my father in law with mood adjusting medication to lighten his control over the aspects she was looking to ‘take over’, such as his living environment, she neglected to pay any attention to his physical health.
Having never showed me any respect, she only communicated to my husband. I tried in vain through very businesslike fact seeking and respectful emails to gather as much information as possible. My questions were left unanswered. Completely blind, not knowing anything if his needs, we were lead to accept my father in law to live with us at our home. He was in failing health, a narcissist with OCD, that we knew. He had only one tone – which was to bark orders. I was in no hurry to have him around or to expose my children to his rough personality.
I got along with him famously, however. I have a great respect for anyone vulnerable, regardless of their disposition. But, I knew my children would be exposed to him more than I thought as healthy, anyway. So I had enormous trepidations over this move. The guest house, where he was to live also served as our family’s second source of income. We were left with a big financial problem if he were to move with us.
On top of this, my mother in law suffered from the same disease as my father and my husband’s sister was planning on having the money from the sell of their retirement home go toward the purchase of a new home for her and my mother in law to live. This raised all types of questions. I listed them in an email and included the rest of the family into the conversation. What happened to you getting back to your career? Familiar with the disease I also asked ‘how are you alone going to take care of a person with Alzheimer’s?’
Finally, it was gainfully clear the money from the sell of the house would be better spent on her full time care in a facility with trained professionals who could keep her safe.
So my husband’s father landed after our family packed his things and transported him to our home. His sister did very little, as per usual, to help with the move beyond initiating it.
When he landed, my sister…let’s call her ‘canihave’ was already hanging off us. She was no help. I couldn’t leave her alone with my children and she didn’t have transportation so we were asked to cart her everywhere. She knew of our situation, but it mattered to her very little. What compounded everything, though…upon the moment we laid eyes on him, having not seen him until we knew it was safer and he was vaccinated, it was clear my father in law had been wildly neglected.
We chased our tails trying to get information from my husband’s sister but she gave us nothing beyond which grocery store he preferred. I thought she had answers and wasn’t telling us. However, after looking at his personal calendar, OCD remember, where he had marked all her vacations and trips, she hadn’t been around much. She had left an 84 year old abusive man in failing health to care for a fragile and fearful woman, her own mother, with Alzheimer’s for weeks at a time.
The 30 days prior to him arriving with us to live at our home she had been absent for 23 of those days. She wouldn’t give us answers, because quite frankly she didn’t know. This whole time she was traveling, during a pandemic, returning to and exposing her elderly parents who were living in subhuman conditions. This was beyond apparent when it was left to the rest of the family to clear the toxic and pest riddled debris from their home before the sale. Again, my husband’s sister did very little.
Interesting note: both sisters have hoarding characteristics, and it wasn’t the first time we were left to clean up a abnormally horrific mess not of one of their makings. In fact, both my husband and I are quite organized, clean, and quick to donate things we don’t use, as a result. We’re also very hesitant to purchase or acquire anything. Much thought goes into it and perhaps more than most people.
The short of the long, my father died two months later after he landed at our house with stage four cancer. Every interaction with my husband’s sister was contentious. She deflected lied and attacked. All findings were about how it made her feel. Finding out her father had cancer took her breath away. How oh how could this have happened?
Apron on, bare footed, once again, I took care of a dying man in my house while she spooned him and whispered lies in his dying ear. I kept my head down and mouth shut. This was about things much bigger than me. My young children left to their own devices as we for two straight months ushered him through the most dignified and respectable transition we could muster. And it was, well, beautiful as far as passings go. And it was because I held his guard and stewarded his environment to keep it free, as much as possible, of her. I also respected her relationship and allowed visitations…but as I explained, those visitations were all about my husband’s sister not my father in law. So the visits were kept short. I made certain of it. I felt responsible for him, and I was going to make sure he wasn’t exploited in ANY way moving forward.
My husband’s sister responded only with accusations and threats when we turned to his mother and requested she make her brothers privy to the health choices being made for her. Since she had unilaterally decided she would be POA for both parents after MIL was years into her disease, the brothers were not wrong to ask. Especially since the hospice nurse who visited our home insisted his sisters POA be revoked and encouraged family file claims of abuse and neglect to APS, which did not happen as per usual.
Skip past the part where she made threats toward me and our children…in writing.
What resulted is that our family no longer had any contact with either sister. My husband’s brother and his family have also chosen this path independently. My brothers, all three do not have contact with my sister as I was the last to do so….and we, my husband and children and I, are all healing, thriving, and enormously happy despite the regret we feel for having allowed ourselves and those that we love to be mistreated and misused. That is still an ongoing struggle – to forgive ourselves is the last of it. We’re close and nearly there. Your writing this is a big help.
Again, thank you!
Thank you for sharing. I always knew my older sister, though engaging, smart and creative – could be triggered at anytime and become either an angry or crying person yelling that no one cares about her ( always the victim. ) Your article and the amazing comments that followed reminded me I’m perfectly reasonable to expect better behavior from her. She currently was being very friendly to me and stopping by to visit ( AKA: talk AT me) and texting often – only to find out that at the exact same time she was telling her kids that I sneak into her home when she’s gone and steal things ( huh?) I also found out that she bad talks about my kids and makes up elaborate stories about how terrible of human beings they are and so mean to me ( wrong on both accounts – they’re awesome!). I don’t know who all she tells this to which is scary as I live in a small town. It also makes me wonder what else she’s capable of. Every time I put it behind me ( of course she wouldn’t apologize because it never happened – in her mind). And after a break of a few months we suddenly start anew. ( usually she calls and needs something or wants to visit if she has time to burn). And here I am again – under an attack It’s all confusing as I don’t know her real well – she’s 18 years older than me but my sister closer to her age took the brunt of it growing up. I feel like moving – as her unpredictable behavior now seems more than the usual exhausting snd more outright dangerous. My mother was also unpredictable and a narcissist and I bare all the symptoms you listed (& was married 32 years to a lower level gaslighting narcissist- he’s since passed). And now, right when I’m trying to start a new – not always saying yes, or worrying about everyone but me – I find this eloquently written article that reminds me that I’m not a bad person for wanting to be out of her life. The guilt is immense ( she can’t seem to control herself – so shouldn’t I be the bigger person?) But she exhausts me. Runs out of family get togethers mad ( at what?) Arrived to Easter dinner two hours late and forced her son to leave right then because she wanted something fixed at her home ( nothing can wait once she’s decided). Sweet and nice and one thing that makes her feel unappreciated sets her off ( like mention you took a trip – when SHE never gets to travel …. Which is false). Always complaining about how much she has to do and worry about while at the same time coming up with huge new business ideas (at 79 years old ). She loves to also tell long stories of her work successes ( heard them all soooo many times) and never asks questions. She will enter my house and only talk or make eye contact with who interests her that day. Writing it down, I see it’s unacceptable behavior- but it’s always been that way… so I do what I’ve been trained to do … just put on my egg walking shoes. I also have a brother who only calls if he wants to visit ( AKA: come stay and “ let me” wait on him. ) But I always feel so bad that he has nowhere else to go that I agree – and after he leaves a few days later- I sleep for two days, exhausted – as he only talks AT me of what interests him ( odd collecting hobbies), complains about things or brags of how he made a difference in others lives ( same stories over and over). I am he tting stronger, and now that I have read this I understand better ( and I’ve read LOTS of books, but only a person whose been there can speak the language that reaches me) … I see I that I still have further to go. Everyone tells me I’m too nice – but it’s just a fear of not being enough by not towing the line. Time to put my own oxygen mask on first. Any ideas for how to not feel guilty ? They are experts at that. Complete victim pros. Thank you for reading my story. I am not alone. Gosh that is such a relief. You have no idea !
Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing your story. Yes, you are not alone! I do hope you keep writing down and speaking your truths so they become real to you. Other-blamers are great at dumping and deflecting guilt onto others, and this is one reason I prefer that name rather than narcissist — so victims really see the dynamics of the relationship. When all the blame and shame go in one direction, because the Other-blamer cannot be wrong and accept blame, then the victim gets really good at accepting blame and shame — with a negative impact on their mental health. I’d suggest you read some of the many good books on assertiveness and boundary setting (and a free workbook available on my site’s resources page). Author Susan Campbell has a series of books starting with “Getting Real” about communicating with truth and self-protective boundaries. These should be available at many libraries. It’s lovely that you are a generous and giving person, but Other-Blamers love to take advantage of the generosity of others and relationships become non-reciprocal. This violates our primal model of relationships as fair and should not be tolerated. I’ll be clear — Just in this brief story you describe two siblings who are very selfish, greedy, lazy, attention-seeking, self-aggrandizing, controlling, manipulative, and maliciously deceitful. Re-read those words. I’m sure there are many, many other stories you could narrate to support your facts. How do you feel when you read those words about your siblings? No, really, how do you feel? If the feeling of anger and resentment don’t come up, reflect on that. Perhaps anger arises, but you dismiss it, maybe even unconsciously, because that is what the Other-blamer has taught you to do — your feelings don’t matter, especially the feelings that might lead to you holding them accountable. Anger is sa self-protective emotion designed by evolution to get our blood hot and fight off a predator or stand up for ourselves against a greedy neighbor or friend or family member. Our success as a social species relied on us “sharing and caring” so don’t be afraid to demand as much from your family relationships — it’s biology!!
This article was like reading about my own life. I’m in my mid 50’s and the abuse still haunts me and effects me. My oldest sister has abused me physically and emotionally my entire life. She has manipulated everyone in my family. The damage she has created is beyond a 500 page book. Currently, my father is very ill. My mother passed away years ago. My father, thankfully, started to realize my oldest sister is bad news. He realized she was stealing, taking advantage of him, treating people in his life badly, etc etc etc. On top of that, she was executor of his will. He recently broke that will and created a Trust and put me as Trustee. I was dumbfounded. I never believed he would see the truth to everything, but he did. He recently had a massive heart attack and was transported to the hospital. There, he found out he has multiple problems, more than just a bad heart. I live out of state from him, but my narc sister lives close to him. When he went into the hospital and it was realized he is going to be out of commission for a while his attorney instructed me to notify my siblings of the Trust. Since then, my narc sister has cut me off from any communication with my father. She is not letting us know anything. I don’t even know his condition. She is a director at the hospital and has instructed to give me zero information. I’m leaving to fly there shortly, and many people warn me to be careful because she is that evil – where she’d rid me since I’m now legally in her way.