Having to deal with a narcissistic person from your partner’s family can be exasperating, and many a times, suicidal for your relationship, if you do not put in efforts to prevent the behavior of the family member from wreaking your marriage. If you are having to deal with a narcissistic father in law, then here are a few things you can do to keep your esteem and dignity intact and keep your marriage ‘narcissism proof’.
Feel good about yourself – come what may
Most narcissistic people hurt other people’s sentiments by being condescending and vain. They often might place you on a pedestal one moment, only to push you down the other, leaving you feeling low and inferior. If your father in law is in a habit of constantly pointing out your mistakes, telling you how wrong you are or how less your talents are, never let this unwarranted criticism affect you any time. Difficult as it may seem, the key to keep yourself from being hurt from your father in law’s criticism is to become immune to them. This you can do by developing a strong sense of dignity about yourself. If you have unshakable faith in yourself, and feel good about yourself, nothing anyone says can affect your esteem.
Make his narcissism become a problem for himself
Is your father in law constantly taunting you about how bad your cooking is or how awful your coffee tastes? Does he keep boasting about how well he cooks or makes coffee? Try requesting him, sweetly, to show you how to cook a difficult recipe or make a good coffee. Pretend you genuinely are awed by his talents and want to learn from him, so that you may become at least half as good as him. You will see then, how he backs down and admits your coffee is actually good enough. By doing this, you are subtly asking your father in law to prove his high handedness. By thus making your father in law’s behavior become a problem for himself (since he knows he cannot cook as well as you), you will ensure that he refrains from taunting you in this way in the future. Addressing his narcissistic behavior in this way, part by part, you can ensure that his narcissism slowly loses its edge over time.
Express your disapproval for his lack of empathy in a calm way
A narcissistic person often has no empathy towards the people around him. This lack of empathy, especially in a family member like the father in law, can be very frustrating, since it disrupts the harmonious functioning of the family. It does help by making your father in law realize that his empathy is required, but only when it is done in a calm way. If you adopt an accusatory tone, it will only do more harm than good. A good way could be asking your father in law if he could ‘please’ look after his grand child for some time so that you can finish your chores. You can tell him how the kid wants to play and is not allowing you to work, and how great a help it would be if he could take care of the kid for some time. By thus making your father in law feel important and at the same time making him realize your difficulty, you will be overcome his narcissism successfully.
Make him take more interest in you
If your father in law views you with more respect and pride, he will be less narcissistic with you. Try to interest your father in law in your achievements, your hobbies and in general, your life. Usually narcissistic people are too self absorbed to acknowledge the likes and views of others. If your father in law cuts you short and starts with his self praise, just make a casual comment like, “well, it seems like you are not interested.” The comment should be in a very casual tone, with no sarcasm or anger. It could even be accompanied by an empathetic smile showing that you acknowledge that your life does not interest him though he is making an effort to listen. Though the comment will make him feel a bit uncomfortable your gracious smile will assuage him and he will listen more intently to what you are saying.
You need not oblige, but you can speak Obligingly
Does your narcissistic father in law insist that what he says or does is only correct, and what others say is wrong every time? Does he insist that you and you partner always listen to his ideas and implement them? Opposing him or refusing to listen outright will only inflame his ego more and leave to fuming emotions. Even though you do not agree to what he is saying, do not give a ‘no’ on his face. Tell him you will surely try his ideas and do as he says. You can always go back and say you tried but the idea didn’t work. This way you can do what you think is best without hurting his pride. Of course, if what he says carries enough weight, there is no harm in you or your partner listening to him, for that is how a family should work, is it not?