Narcissists forcefully project their bitterness and resentment onto those who they spend the holidays with. Without making excuses for them, remember that these are deeply wounded and scarred individuals who always see themselves as victims.
The narcissist will go out of their way to make sure your holidays are as miserable as they feel. My abuser never allowed us to have a decent holiday. It didn’t matter if it was his birthday, Easter or Christmas. They were all tainted by his evil plan to make everyone as miserable as possible to match how he was feeling. Only when we got to that place of his misery, would he then sit in sullen silence and stare at the t.v. or go into his home office to again work so he could avoid us as much as possible. The only Christmas Eve I remember him not walking out on me was the Christmas Eve night he proposed. From that point on, every Christmas spent together was a diatribe with him leaving and/or starting a fight so that I would leave him alone. There were nights on Christmas in particular that I would curl up and cry myself to sleep. Sobbing, not crying. Not so much for myself but because I did not know what my children would face when they woke up. Would he be there? Will my kids wake up to no Dad on Christmas Day? If he is here, how will he act? Will the family have to tiptoe around his mood? I was always worried that my children would have to be broken hearted on a day that should be magical and special.
I am far away from that now. The only time it hits me is at times like yesterday, which was Thanksgiving, where my children’s father blows them off. He doesn’t make plans with them. He may text them. I am not sure. They have no traditions with him at this point because depending on his love life, those events that had happened for a few years in a row then change. Again, all dependent on his mood. He will tell you it is because the kids don’t do this or that but he’s the adult. He is the one that left them with trauma. He should be making the effort but remember, a narcissist only makes the effort when it benefits them.
During the holidays a narcissist will display all his normal behavior but it becomes even more personal when they give one of your family members the silent treatment or starts an argument on a day when there should just be fellowship and thankfulness. All you can do is sit by helplessly as they turn the person you love and care about into a confused mess of what the hell did I do? You watch the target go from happy to uncomfortable and uneasy. Unsure of why the narcissist chose to attack them. Remember, as long as a narcissist can have control, they are internally satisfied with the chaos and uneasiness they have caused. And here is the kicker. Even if they are unhappy on the outside, their control of someone else’s emotions has them giddy inside.
The only way to steer clear of the conflict an abuser can cause during the holidays is to set very clear boundaries when he or she starts in. You have to try hard not to let their idea of their almighty self hinder your holiday. You don’t have to buy into that grandeur any more than you have to buy into the idea that pro wrestling is real. Give them as little attention as possible. Go about your good time with your kids and family and just ignore his or her mood. Remember, if they don’t have an audience, they can’t put on a show. You wouldn’t reward a kid for boorish behavior, don’t reward a narcissist with your attention or time.
Narcissists also have a knack for ruining the gifts you or your children spent a lot of time and thought picking out. I actually had my abuser say to me in front of the kids, who handpicked each one of his gifts and most were geared toward something they would do with him, “return them all and get your money back. I don’t want that crap.” The boys, who were 10 and 13 at the time, let it roll off their back. By then they had learned not to rock the boat if they wanted to spend time with their Dad. The next day the three of us had a discussion and they were hurt by his actions. It broke my heart because I was with them when they picked out his gifts and each gift had a special reason attached to it.
If you are with your Narc, set boundaries. If you are no longer with your narc, it is important to not allow your exes actions regarding your children upset your holidays. They may not call them. They may not be home when they arrive (yes, that happened), or they may play Disney Dad and buy them all kinds of expensive gifts. What your kids need from you, no matter what their age, is a safe place to come home, a parent who is happy they got to spend time with their narc parent and support when they fall apart because it happens…often. Just be that constant that they can rely on and for yourself, be thankful you don’t live it anymore. I realized a long time ago, as hard as it was for me to be alone on holidays without my boys, it was much harder feeling alone and sad with my Narc in my life. It was a constant reminder that I was not enough. That I was not worthy of being treated with respect and love.
So what happens now? You let go. You recognize what was. You give thanks that it no longer is and you move on to better things. It is so important to know that this does not happen overnight. You work at it every day for a while and then things come up and your emotions take you by surprise and you face them head-on. And if you’re lucky, like I am, you have a man that takes those surprise PTSD moments, steps backs and allows you to work through them. I’m blessed. I can be honest. He offers support but he also offers me the chance to work through it on my own. With that kind of support, I’m usually over it in a day. I work through it in my head. Talk it through with him. Cry. Live it and wake up ready to let it go. Whatever your process is, be honest if you have a new love in your life, work through it and LET IT GO.
Happy Holidays. Next time your narc or ex-narc starts in with you or your children, ignore that s*it, kick some grass over it and move on. You have a right to be happy and it’s time to create something new for yourself. You are responsible for your social circle. We are creators of our social geometry. Draw a circle around yourself and only let those people in who bring you love and light and laughter.