Grandmothers usually provide an invaluable source of stability, comfort, and guidance. But when a grandmother exhibits covert narcissistic traits, the situation becomes a lot more complex and a lot less stable and comfortable.
In this article, we’ll explore what covert narcissism is, how to recognize it in your own grandmother, and how you can protect yourself emotionally when dealing with the toxic tendencies of a covert narcissistic grandmother.
What is the Difference between Covert and Overt Narcissism?
Covert narcissism and overt narcissism are two different aspects of the same personality disorder.
Overt narcissists tend to be more open and explicit about their narcissistic traits, whereas covert narcissists may be more subtle in their expression of these traits.
Overt narcissists can exhibit a range of behaviours including grandiose self-absorption and an inflated sense of superiority.
They may also likely to be very entitled, expecting that the world will bend to their will, manipulating the people around them in order to get what they want.
In addition, they have a tendency to behave aggressively when their demands are not met.
Covert narcissists, on the other hand, may display behaviours such as passive-aggressiveness and a need for constant validation.
They can also be emotionally manipulative, using guilt tripping and shaming to get what they want without seeming to directly ask for it.
Additionally covert narcissists tend to devalue the people around them, seeing themselves as superior while denigrating their friends and partners.
While both types of narcissism are damaging to those around them, covert narcissists can be harder to spot, which enables them to manipulate the people around them without being detected.
The Most Common Characteristics of a Covert Narcissistic Grandmother
A grandmother who exhibits covert narcissistic behaviour can wreak havoc on family dynamics due to their tendency for manipulation and lack of empathy.
The following are some of the most common characteristics of covert narcissistic grandmothers and how to recognise them in your own life.
Traits of a Covert Narcissistic Grandmother – Passive-aggressiveness
A covert narcissistic grandmother will often express her feelings through passive-aggressive behaviour.
This might include subtle forms of manipulation or criticism, such as gaslighting, lying, or withholding information or resources from you while providing them to others.
She is also likely to constantly play the victim and never acknowledge any mistakes or wrongdoing.
To top it all, she will behave in a hostile or unapproachable manner when confronted.
These behaviours are designed to make you feel guilty for any issues between you – when in reality it is the grandmother’s manipulation and narcissistic tendencies that should be addressed.
Traits of a Covert Narcissistic Grandmother – Need for Constant Validation
Covertly narcissistic grandmothers are usually overly sensitive to criticism and tend to seek constant validation from those around them.
This often manifests itself as a need for constant attention, compliments, and praise – both directly or indirectly.
They are also overly sensitive to perceived slights, taking any criticism to heart and escalating matters unnecessarily.
Traits of a Covert Narcissistic Grandmother – Controlling Behaviour
A covert narcissistic grandmother feels the need to maintain control in all aspects of the family dynamic, particularly when it comes to decision-making and how people interact with each other.
Despite attempts to appear kind and generous, they will always try to manipulate the situation in order to suit their own needs and desires.
This may come in the form of making decisions for others without considering different points of view, criticizing others for their behaviour or opinions or using guilt to make people do as they wish.
Traits of a Covert Narcissistic Grandmother – Projection of Negative Qualities onto Others
If a covert narcissistic grandmother is feeling insecure or anxious about something, she may respond by projecting her negative qualities onto someone else in an attempt to blame them for her own shortcomings.
This can take the form of verbal abuse such as belittling comments, insults and ridicule, or even physical abuse if left unchecked.
It is important to not engage in this type of behaviour and instead to recognize it for what it is – an attempt by the narcissist to shift the blame for their feelings away from themselves.
Traits of a Covert Narcissistic Grandmother – Emotional Manipulation
Grandmothers who are covert narcissists are experts at emotional manipulation, often using guilt or shame as weapons against anyone who dares challenge them in any way.
They may do this by blaming others for their own mistakes, making subtle comments designed to undermine someone’s self-esteem, or telling lies in order to get what they want.
This can leave the other person feeling powerless, helpless and ashamed of themselves, unable to stand up for themselves or fight back.
Traits of a Covert Narcissistic Grandmother – Lack of Empathy
A covert narcissistic grandmother lacks the ability to truly understand the thoughts and feelings of those around them due to her inability to emotionally connect with them on a deeper level.
While they may profess empathy for others, it’s not genuine.
Instead, this is simply a tool used for manipulation purposes – by appearing to understand or sympathize, they can more easily manipulate the emotions of their victims and gain control over them.
They may use this power to make demands or keep others from challenging their authority.
Protecting Yourself from Your Covert Narcissistic Grandmother
Dealing with a covert narcissistic grandmother can be an emotionally draining and exhausting experience.
Learning how to protect yourself from their manipulative behaviour is critical in maintaining a healthy relationship with them, and the following five key tips will help you to do just that.
Recognize the Signs of Covert Narcissism
Recognizing the signs of covert narcissism is crucial, especially if you suspect that your grandmother may be one.
It’s vital to arm yourself with knowledge to safeguard your emotional well-being.
Covert narcissism is often characterized by subtle, yet damaging behaviours. The signs can include:
Deflection of Responsibility: Covert narcissists often refuse to acknowledge their mistakes or wrongdoings, instead shifting the blame onto others.
Control Obsession: They may exhibit a strong desire for control, dictating how things should be done and becoming upset if things don’t go their way.
Passive-Aggressive Behaviour: They may use indirect means to express their anger or displeasure, such as giving the silent treatment or making backhanded compliments.
Hyper-Sensitivity: Covert narcissists are often overly sensitive to criticism or perceived slights, reacting strongly to even minor comments.
Manipulation: They may use guilt trips, gaslighting, or other manipulative tactics to control those around them.
By recognizing these signs, you can identify if you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.
Build Healthy Boundaries
Building healthy boundaries with a covert narcissistic grandmother can be challenging but is crucial for your emotional well-being.
Here’s how you can do it:
Define Your Boundaries
Start by clearly identifying what behaviors you will not tolerate. This could include manipulation, constant criticism, or any form of disrespect. Remember, your feelings and experiences are valid, and you have the right to express them.
Once you’ve defined your boundaries, communicate them to your grandmother. Be assertive, clear, and direct. Explain what these boundaries are, why they’re important to you, and the consequences if they’re crossed.
Maintain consistency in enforcing your boundaries. Covert narcissists may attempt to test or push your boundaries. Stand firm, and remember that it’s OK to say no when necessary.
Remember, setting boundaries isn’t about changing the other person’s behavior.
It’s about changing your response to it.
You can’t control your grandmother’s actions, but you can control how you react to them.
Avoid Arguments With Your Covert Narcissistic Grandmother
Avoiding arguments with a covert narcissistic grandmother can be challenging, but it’s an essential strategy in maintaining your mental health.
Here are some tips to help you pull it off.
If your grandmother tries to provoke you into an argument or displays manipulative behavior, it’s best not to engage.
Remember, you have the right to choose which conversations you participate in.
Stay Assertive, Stay Calm
Be firm and assertive when expressing your feelings, but avoid reacting angrily or defensively.
This might fuel the argument further.
Keep your tone neutral and your words clear.
It’s crucial to keep your cool, especially when dealing with someone who’s controlling.
Even if your grandmother continues to push, stand your ground without letting your emotions take over.
Take a Time-Out
If the situation becomes too heated, there’s no harm in taking a break from the conversation.
Excuse yourself politely and return only when you’re calmer and more composed.
This helps maintain emotional balance and can prevent you from saying something you might regret later.
Don’t Feed Your Narcissistic Grandmother’s Ego
Maintaining a balanced relationship with a narcissistic grandmother can be complex.
It requires not feeding their ego while preserving your peace.
Here are some tips to help you navigate this:
Limit Attention: Narcissists often crave attention and validation. Try not to feed into this by overly praising or validating them, especially if it’s part of a manipulation tactic.
Maintain Emotional Distance: Be courteous but emotionally detached. This helps create a healthy buffer between you and your grandmother’s potentially harmful behaviors.
Avoid In-depth Discussions: Steer clear from lengthy discussions about their actions or beliefs. Such conversations may only serve to fuel their ego further.
Stay Neutral: Avoid reacting negatively or positively to their behavior. Instead, maintain a neutral stance that neither feeds their ego nor invites conflict.
No Excuses: Refrain from pleading or making excuses for their behavior. This can be seen as a form of validation, which might encourage their narcissism.
Polite Yet Detached: Show respect by remaining polite, but ensure you’re emotionally detached. This can prevent you from becoming emotionally entangled in their manipulative tactics.
Be Assertive: Stand your ground without being confrontational. Make sure your boundaries are known and respected. Don’t let them manipulate your emotions or sway you from your principles.
Always keep in mind the fact that dealing with a narcissist is about maintaining your emotional health and well-being, not changing their behavior.
Seek Support Elsewhere
It’s important to have a strong support system of other family members or friends who can provide encouragement when needed.
Having an outlet where you can process your thoughts and feelings about dealing with a narcissistic grandparent can be an invaluable way to manage any difficult moments that may arise in your relationship with them.
Reaching out for help from outside sources can also be beneficial, as it allows you to gain valuable insight regarding how best to handle the situation without giving in to the narcissist’s tactics.
A strong support system of loving people who understand your struggle can give you the strength and courage to stand up for yourself and your boundaries.
Final Thoughts on Dealing with a Covert Narcissistic Grandmother
Dealing with a covert narcissistic grandmother can be an incredibly difficult situation to navigate.
Understanding the signs and behaviour associated with covert narcissism is key to protecting yourself from their manipulation and emotional abuse.
It is also important to build healthy boundaries, avoid arguments, not feed their ego, and seek support elsewhere to assist with managing your relationship.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that you are not responsible for how your grandmother behaves, and you are not responsible for her unreasonable demands, no matter how difficult the situation may seem.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Covert Narcissistic Grandmother
What is a covert narcissistic grandmother?
A covert narcissistic grandmother is a grandmother who exhibits traits of covert narcissism, which can include manipulative behavior, lack of empathy, a constant need for validation, and passive-aggressive tendencies.
Unlike overt narcissists, who are often openly boastful and arrogant, covert narcissists are subtler and more cunning in their manipulation.
How can I identify a covert narcissistic grandmother?
Identifying a covert narcissistic grandmother can be difficult due to their subtle manipulative tactics.
Some signs include constant criticism, emotional manipulation, playing the victim, passive-aggressive behavior, disregard for your feelings, and a lack of genuine interest in you unless it serves their needs.
How can I establish healthy boundaries with a covert narcissistic grandmother?
Establishing healthy boundaries involves clear communication about what behaviors you won’t tolerate, being consistent in enforcing these boundaries, and not engaging in arguments or manipulative tactics.
It’s also important to take care of your mental health and seek professional help if needed.
How should I respond when my covert narcissistic grandmother tries to manipulate me?
If your grandmother tries to manipulate you, don’t engage or feed into her tactics.
Stay calm, remind her of your boundaries, and change the conversation if possible.
If the situation becomes too stressful, take a break from the conversation and return when you’re calmer.
Should I confront my covert narcissistic grandmother about her behavior?
Confronting a narcissist about their behavior can often lead to more conflict, as narcissists rarely acknowledge their faults.
Instead, focus on setting and maintaining your boundaries, and seek professional help if the situation becomes overwhelming.
Can a covert narcissistic grandmother change her behavior?
While it’s possible for anyone to change their behavior, narcissists often lack the self-awareness and empathy needed to recognize and address their harmful behaviors.
Therefore, it’s important to focus on managing your relationship with them and protecting your mental health, rather than hoping for them to change.
What should I do if dealing with my covert narcissistic grandmother is affecting my mental health?
If your mental health is suffering, it’s crucial to seek help from a mental health professional.
They can provide strategies and tools to cope with the situation, and in some cases, it may be necessary to limit or cut off contact with your grandmother for your well-being.