Alexis Fernandez Breaks Down 8 Tips for Dealing With Narcissistic Parents and In-laws

Maintaining a relationship with your parents and in-laws can take a lot of emotional maturity. When those parents – either yours or your partners – also display narcissistic traits it adds a whole other layer of complexity. 

It could go from a seemingly arbitrary disagreement to a full blown family melt down. 

In the latest episode of Do You F*cking Mind: Mindset Hacks for a Badass Life, cognitive neuroscientist Alexis Fernandez breaks down her 8 tips for navigating a relationship with a narcissist; specifically if it’s a parent or in-law displaying narcissistic personality traits.

  1. Set some boundaries.

“Boundaries are a narcissist’s worst nightmare. Their currency is guilt and manipulation – and that comes through a lack of boundaries!” says Alexis. If you were raised by a narcissist you’ve not been taught how to set boundaries. The whole concept didn’t exist for you when you were a child, and so you’ve had to learn what they are and how to implement them as you’ve become an adult in non-narcissistic relationships. The problem is twofold here because you need to learn what a boundary is and how to set them, and THEN you have to set a boundary with your narcissistic parent or in-law, who has no understanding or respect for that boundary. [When you set a boundary] They will have a tantrum. And there’s nothing worse than a tantrum of a narcissist. It’s like World War 3 and the only way to get it to stop is to let them have their way otherwise the wrath will continue on and on…” says Alexis. That sounds pretty hopeless, but Alexis says that when you set this boundary everything will change for you. 

  1. Do not try to change a narcissist and fix them, or get them to see the light, because they never will.

“Narcissists don’t reason the way you do, so you are wasting your time trying to get them to see your perspective” explains Alexis. When you try to reason with a narcissist it’s like the blind leading the blind. You’re going to get nowhere, you are wasting your time. 

  1. Do not try to get them to agree to your boundaries in order for you to be able to put boundaries in place.

“One of the key traits of a narcissist is that they’re interpersonally exploitative, meaning they will use you to get what they need; whether it be material, emotional, a sense of importance and status; all for the benefit of their image” outlines Alexis.  So when you set a boundary, a narcissist is threatened and will lash out. You don’t need their compliance to set and stick to a boundary. This is about setting out a framework for you. Try not to lose sleep over their disregard of your boundary.

  1. Stand your ground.

“When a narcissist is having a moment where they’re blowing up over your boundary and they’re trying to get you from every angle (emotional blackmail, trying to make you feel guilty), you need to stand your ground”. The best tool you have is to calmly restate your boundary and if you need to leave, then leave! A narcissist will chuck a tantrum, and be annoyed at you, but eventually will try and shift their focus to a weaker target (and if you know a “Weaker target” you’ll have to make sure they listen to Do You F*cking Mind to get stronger!)

  1. Be willing to walk away without getting them to understand you. Don’t seek to be understood.

We are so used to dealing with people that are similar to us whose main aim after an argument is t o make sure wes still love and respect each other. An argument with a narcissist doesn’t end like this. A narcissist wants to win and get you tangled up into a web. If it helps, think of it like you’re speaking to someone who believes with their whole body and soul that the sky is green and nothing you say will convince them otherwise. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how much research into the colour of the sky you’ve prepared, they will not believe you. Arguing with a narcissist is the same, so it’s better for your peace of mind that once you have set the boundary, you walk away even though they don’t understand you.

  1. Don’t bite the bait! 

“A narcissist will get you to snap to keep their cycle going” explains Alexis, “So when they come at you with more stuff to get you to snap, acknowledge it, smile, and be like ‘I’m thrilled that I f*cking acknowledged this and I’m not snapping’ and walk away”. 

  1. Don’t try to mend your reputation with a narcissist; this is the bait!

A narcissist wants you to snap in an interaction. They will try to change how you perceive yourself. We as humans value how people perceive us so much, we value what our reputation is, we value the image other people have of us in their minds especially the people that love us and that we love. So for non-narcissists it hurts when people that we love think poorly of us, so a narcissist knows that and they will purposefully say hateful things about you and accuse you of bad personality traits because they want you to engage with them. Alexis does explain that there is a time and place to defend yourself from being bullied, but this is not one of them!

SO when they say hurtful and untrue things, do not engage! It simply fuels the cycle.

  1. If your partner doesn’t see the narcissistic behaviours of their parents, set boundaries for yourself within their relationship dynamic so you’re not exposed to harmful behaviours all the time.

 One of the most important steps in this if you’re in a partnership is to talk to your partner about your experiences and the  boundaries you both want to set. “If your partner refuses to see the pain that you’re caused by your inlaws or will always put their parents before you, you’re likely to find this a big source of deterioration in your relationship.” says Alexis, and finishes with a frank “There is no bigger turn off than someone who can’t stand up to their parents and is still sucking on the f****** teet. Get a grip c*** and learn how to have a spine and learn how to put your parents in their place when they’re being inappropriate.”

For a deeper look at these 8 steps, hear Alexis’ full breakdown on Do You F*cking Mind: Mindset Hacks for a Badass Life:

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