Ask Ellie: Trademarks of a narcissist: Selfish, no friends, empathy, never grows up

Advice columnist EllieDear Readers: Following a reader’s question about a narcissistic ex, I received many responses describing relatives, in-laws, spouses, as narcissistic.

Following is the strongest and most worrisome such story.

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I’ll start it with some facts, for the record: Research has shown that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has an incidence of one per cent in the general population. (Is reluctance to seek diagnosis a factor in this statistic?)

It’s characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, excessive need for admiration, and lack of empathy toward other people.

Yet, it only takes one narcissistic person to create turmoil in a family.

Reader’s commentary: Over the past three years, I have concluded that the only true way to deal with narcissistic people is through 100% no contact.

I joined a group for “children who have survived narcissistic grandparents,” but it’s mostly desperate parents such as me writing to figure out how to save my son from his narcissistic grandfather.

My children are now teenagers. During my marriage, my father-in-law tried to steal my eldest son from me.

It became obvious that this man had no friends, was child-like in many ways and my son was his toy, his project.

When he was born, the grandparents created a full nursery at their house. Almost every weekend they’d want him to come over, telling us, the parents, to “go out and have fun.”

Initially, I thought they were trying to help.

My ex used to say how close their family is. I got along with my FIL.

Slowly I started noticing things, hearing stories. My ex would mention “special relationships.”

She [my ex] has a special relationship with her brother. My son supposedly had one with her father. My younger son had one with her mother.

Eventually I asked my FIL if I was in competition with him for my son.

Unfortunately for him, I didn’t need anything from him, I had more money than him. He couldn’t buy me.

Toward the end, I’d tell my wife: “Your dad thinks he’s the head of this family. He stole my son.” She would deny it.

Eventually, I refused to see her dad. She finally walked out saying “[she] comes as a package,” including her dad. By this time, I’d lost my son.

All he wanted to do was spend his free days and weekend at Grandpa’s house where he’s the centre of Grandpa’s world.

My younger son never went along with the program, so my FIL wrote him off.

I’ve educated myself and learned that all that I’ve described are typical, text-book characteristics of a narcissist:

No friends, no empathy, selfish, the character of a child. Never will grow up to act/think as an adult. Lies, lies and more lies. Full denials even when presented with proof.

Ellie: This letter-writer is reaching out to people who have been affected by a narcissist when young.

He says: If you’re a young person or adult who was strong enough to recognize what your grandparent did to you, be 100% sure it was not your fault. You survived it and you’re now better and stronger.

He’s now seeking hope regarding his son, from those who realized what was done to them and were able to escape. Tell him how he can get his son to see what was/is being done to him by his narcissistic grandfather.

He asks: How do I get my son to open his eyes and escape this man’s grip?

Write to ellie@thestar.ca and I’ll publish your stories (anonymously) in my column.

Dear Ellie: My husband is a loving partner in many ways, helps out at home, is a good father.

But he regularly uses me to get laughs when we’re out with friends.

He’ll mock how I said something, tells exaggerated stories about my so-called cooking “disasters,” and overrides me, saying what really happened, with tall tales.

I’ve said I’m unhappy with these public put-downs. But he says everyone knows he’s “just joking.”

Not Laughing

Try the reverse at home, without an audience, so it doesn’t lead to a battle of true insults.

Give him one example only of an incident which, if known, would have him looking foolish to his friends.

Then simply say: “I’d never do that to you.”

Tell him that mockery, which hurts someone close, is a low form of humour. His audience might laugh, but he’ll find few other spouses getting away with such public barbs when their partner’s present.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Narcissism’s effect on others can be harmful, especially to young people being manipulated emotionally.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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