How Do Narcissists Treat Their Family:
Expectations Versus Reality


How do narcissists treat their family?

We all know at least one person in our families with narcissistic tendencies. Hopefully, they are your distant cousin or uncle-twice-removed because that’s an easier problem to solve.


When the narcissist is an immediate family member, you get an up-close-and-personal view of how damaging narcissistic behavior can be to an entire family!

Of course, the type of relationship you have with a narcissistic family member matters a great deal.

  • While there are so many similarities, the situation you have in relationship with a narcissist is unique.  For example you could have:.    
  • A narcissistic mother who tried to destroy your reputation
  • Narcissistic parents who were not capable of providing you with the love and nurture you need 
  • A narcissistic sibling who diminishes your accomplishments, your family, and your career.
  • Narcissistic family members that try to rope you into all kinds of family drama
  • A narcissistic family member that makes every holiday a living hell!  

Here’s something that is similar among narcissistic family members:   

  • The narcissist will often treat their own family worse than total strangers.
  • The narcissist isn’t likely to change.
  • In fact, of all personality disorders, narcissists are the least likely to seek mental health treatment.  

How do narcissists treat their family? Let's start with The toxic family structure

Every family is unique in its own unique way. 

However, there is a typical formula that produces a narcissistic family member. Let’s call it a ‘toxic family structure.’ 


See if you can identify which role you and your other family members played: 

  • The Narcissist: This is the person that family life revolves around.
  • The Caretaker: This is the family member who works hard to keep everyone happy. They will do anything to keep the peace but the cost is high. They don’t use their voice to express their frustrations and concerns.
  • The Scapegoat: This is the member of the family that gets in trouble ALL. THE. TIME. Everything is his/her fault. Or so it seems… 
  • The Golden Child: This role looks like the person has-it-all together (!!!) and is in total control. They appear to be well-balanced.  Yet, their role is just as rigid as the scapegoat. They are in a “success” straight jacket and feel the burden of achievement.
  • The Clown: This family member alleviates the unspoken tension by being funny. They use humor to calm the family’s emotional system… at least for a minute or two.  
  • The Lost Child: This family member is happy to stay under the radar. They don’t get in trouble and they don’t have to perform to get love.

The roles that the family plays within this toxic family structure aid in maintaining narcissistic abuse and neglect. Keep reading to see how.


5 Things you can expect from Narcissists in your family

1. A family member always is scapegoated by the narcissist

Let’s pretend that your father has narcissistic tendencies. Your dad- loving himself the way he does- appreciates that your sibling enjoys the same types of sports. 


Meanwhile, you never cared at all about sports. Instead, you spent your high school days killing it in the orchestra.


Your dad’s reflection shined back at him when he was with your sibling. Therefore, his frustration was saved for you. Since your sibling reminded. your dad of himself, you were more frequently on the receiving end of lots of blame.

2. Narcissists are never wrong (or so they think)

Their ego is so fragile that someone else always has to be the cause of the problem. This, of course, is problematic because if things are never their fault, how can they learn from their mistakes? It’s a vicious cycle.


It feels so dangerous to their self-worth to admit mistakes that they develop a muscle for quick comebacks. The easiest way to come back at someone is to blame the scapegoat. Or, if the scapegoat is outreach, it will be whoever else is in the room even if it is the Golden Child.


Here’s the best piece of advice I can give regarding their chronic blaming: 

Don’t wait around for them to take responsibility. Pigs may fly before they can accept responsibility.


That is reality… and unfortunately, you can’t bend reality to suit your needs.


What you can do is develop the skills to let their blame roll off of you. You don’t have to pick up what they put down.

3. Narcissists don’t treat their families with kindness & respect

From the Narcissist’s point of view, you are lowly compared to them.


Therefore, expect rude, combative, and blaming behavior.


Their ego is most threatened by those closest to them because you all know their secrets. Unfortunately, this makes you a prime target for their narcissistic rage.


Their behavior is not about you- it’s about them.


So, when they are treating a random person off the street with kindness, try to keep in mind that they need constant attention and adoration.


Once again, embrace reality: Charm, generosity, and kindness will only come out when they need others to give narcissistic supply. 

4. How do narcissists treat their family? They love to cross boundaries.

We already know that narcissists will be rude and disrespectful to you. They will also be disrespectful to any boundaries that you put up. After all, to a narcissist, if the boundaries don’t benefit them, they don’t really matter. Their concerns aren’t your feelings. Their concerns are their own desires.

5. Why do narcissists lie and you can’t expect to trust a narcissistic family member.

Their needs and wants are supremely important.

They demand 100% loyalty and allegiance.

Yet, you won’t get the same in return.

If they feel like you make them look bad- get ready for a meltdown or a smear campaign.

Here’s the best advice I can give you regarding your narcissistic family member:

  • The less ‘dirt’ they have on you, the better.
  • Think twice before sharing any type of private information with them.
  • Pause before you are connected to them on social media!
  • They can twist pictures and posts out of context to fit their needs.

Have questions about narcissistic family members?  Reach out and let me know what topic you’d like me to post on next!

 In the meantime, are you ready to give therapy a go?  

Free free to contact me directly if you have questions or to schedule a brief call to see if I might be able to support you as you journey forward.


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