Christmas, we are told, is the most wonderful time of the year. Everyone gathers with their family, eating and drinking and playing games in front of a roaring fire. It sounds lovely, does it not? However when your happy family gathering includes a narcissist, then Christmas becomes a minefield.
In my case the narcissist was my father. As adult children of narcissists (ACoNs) all over the world will confirm, over the years you learn many rules of engagement that must be followed in order to avoid a scene.
The most important rule is that the narcissist needs to be the centre of attention. I learnt not to interrupt my father when he spoke. Contradicting him was even more dangerous since it unleashed a tirade of abuse and narcissistic rage. He would then involve my enabler mother into the equation, using her to abuse me by proxy.
In pre-Covid Christmases I hosted both my family and my husband’s family for Christmas lunch, so I was always painfully aware that we had an audience. Every Christmas I cringed as my narcissist father monopolized the conversation but there was nothing I could do.
One day my father-in-law actually spoke to me about it before my parents arrived. He told me that he could see how stressed I was every Christmas because of my father’s behaviour but that I should not worry on their behalf. They had got used to him. I was mortified and relieved in equal measure.
Anyone who has a narcissist in the family will understand the extra tension family members feel during Christmas. Most people worry about the turkey or the gifts. In our case, however, our main concern is keeping the narcissist pacified.
Covid – no narcissist this Christmas!
This year Covid has changed the situation, both for those who have gone no contact with their narcissist and for those who still meet them for Christmas. First, it normalised the behaviour of those who no longer spend Christmas with their families in order to avoid narcissistic abuse. There are many families who did not meet up this Christmas, so the pressure to do the same has disappeared. Second, it gave those who still meet the narcissist at Christmas an excuse to avoid an encounter.
I guess that everything comes with a silver lining, even a scourge like Covid. I wish you a peaceful and tranquil holiday season spent with the people who love and value you, and a Covid-free healthy 2021.
All the best!