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Seven Ways Narcissists Ruin Holidays and What To Do About It

Narcissists ruin holidays in more ways than one. It isn’t just that they ruin the holidays though.

The holidays can be a painful time of year for people who are in relationships with narcissists because it feels like no matter what situation you’re in with them or how you feel about the holidays, narcissists can find a way to use this time of year to cause additional pain.

By taking advantage of the cultural norms and expectations surrounding holidays or the disruption to normal routines, they can find creative ways to hurt and control you regardless of what holiday or holidays you’re celebrating or even if you’re celebrating at all. 

It’s not just the holiday season–they also have a tendency to ruin other special days, such as anniversaries, birthdays, and Valentine’s Day. This time of year, however, provides an especially prolonged period of time and many different opportunities for narcissists to hurt others.

Below are seven ways that narcissists can either interfere with holiday conventions or use the holidays to cause chaos. Each one has its own motivations and outcomes for the narcissist.

How Narcissists Ruin Holidays

Although the holiday season tends to be stressful, most of us can probably agree that holidays should be a time when appreciation for those you love are elevated and prioritized. 

Narcissists, however, have no interest in true harmony. Depending on the type of narcissist, they thrive in chaos for many reasons. Even when there is no chaos to engineer, they can still use the holidays to manufacture emotions. This can happen in several ways.

1. Using the holiday season to gain sympathy.  

Some narcissists use every opportunity to get others to feel sorry for them. They told us their sob stories when we first met them about how their past partners mistreated them or about how down on their luck they were.

Holidays with narcissists, however, can take on a whole new significance. They spin tales about how they never got any presents when they were children, or about how their ex always ruined the holidays for them.

Keep in mind that sympathy is a weapon that narcissists use to get away with the things they do. If they’re mistreating you in other ways around the holidays, they can blame it on the fact that they have bad holiday memories. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that what they tell you about the holiday mistreatment they have endured, at least as an adult, is most likely projection. Don’t buy it, because it’s more likely they caused the chaos. 

2. Starting arguments or breaking up with you on or just before a big event or big day. 

Narcissists don’t like it when your attention is on anything else other than them. They also get jealous when anything but them has the power to bring you joy.

When they see you happy, they may start an argument. To them, this guarantees a spot in your brain space that is at least equally as important as your anticipation of that holiday event. If what they do to you is bad enough, they can also attach themselves traumatically to your holiday memories. They would rather be the cause of your unhappiness and misery than not be the center of your attention at all. 

If they try to cause an argument during the holiday season, don’t take the bait. Understand what their goal is and that you can’t change the outcome, and go to the event without them.

3. Using the sentimental value of the holiday season to hoover. 

You may have gone no-contact with the narcissist in your life. Now you’re trying to heal from the relationship.

Holidays, however, provide the perfect cover to get a surprise hoover. The narcissist may reach out with a call, email or text to wish you happy holidays. They are trying to use the harmonious spirit to their advantage, hoping you’ll think it’s rude not to respond. They may also try to evoke happy memories in you that overcome your instincts not to interact with them.

Be prepared for random messages and be aware of what those messages are designed to do. Imagine yourself getting one and how you will react. This may take some of the emotional power out of it. Have a plan so you aren’t tempted to break no contact and respond.   

4. Setting up your expectations and then disappointing you. 

Narcissists may make plans with you to go to to your parents’ home for a family celebration but cancel last-minute. This leaves you to make all of the explanations to everyone. They may also ask you what gift you would like, making elaborate promises. Then, they will give you something totally different, something very impersonal and cheap. Or they may give you nothing at all.

In the end, it’s not about the gift. As with canceling plans, it’s about the lack of care they seem to show for both your feelings and about what they told you they would do. If you ask them about any of these things, they turn it around on you to make you seem petty or argumentative.

Take everything they say with a grain of salt. If they don’t follow through, don’t give them the satisfaction of having a negative reaction in front of them.  

5. Giving elaborate gifts to hold against you later.  

Sometimes the opposite of #4 will happen when it comes to gifts. If you are being love-bombed, they may load you up with elaborate presents, but be warned that they are keeping track. You will hear about those gifts for the rest of the relationship. During arguments, you will hear about how much they cost. In the devaluation stage, they will act as if they were not gifts at all. They may treat them as favors to avoid paying for things for which they are responsible.

Just be aware of narcissists gift-giving strategy as a way to get something in return. Even if they seem heart-felt in the moment, you are likely to pay in some way for those gifts later. Don’t get too attached to them or put much stock in what it means for your future.

6. Excluding you from holiday events.

Narcissists are good at playing innocent when they want to. Holiday events give narcissists excuses to stay late at work for holiday parties or spend time with friends outside of regular routines.

Even if they’re don’t celebrate or you don’t, both of you may get many invitations, and attending may be social. If they are in the middle of juggling several people at once, they may attend a holiday event and “conveniently” forget to invite you or they may use an invitation as an excuse to be somewhere else. They may also use holiday routine disruptions as an excuse to triangulate you with others or give you a silent treatment. 

Be ready for narcissists to have an irregular calendar routine and thin justifications for it.  If you try to ask them about it, get ready for #2. It’s better to just ignore it. 

7. Using threats and promises of how smoothly the holidays will go. 

Narcissists may know certain events are important to you because they hold tremendous sentimental value.  They may combine all or more of the items on this list to hold this over your head. This can give them a lot of power over us because we just want to keep the peace, especially if we have children with them. We feel like we have to walk on eggshells and we can’t speak up or be ourselves just to have a somewhat normal holiday season. 

Let’s talk about this some more and how to break out of this mentality. It necessitates an overall strategy. This is the ultimate goal of why narcissists ruin holidays. They want to hold the holiday season over our heads so that they can get their way.


What to Do When Narcissists Ruin Holidays

With the exception of hoovering above, I’ve written this with the assumption that you’re still in the relationship and you can’t go-contact right now. I know that what you really want is to have a peaceful holiday season and to get have a loving relationship with your partner. You want your partner to stop abusing you, stop devaluing you, and stop starting arguments over ridiculous things. 

There are three important things to realize that can set you free.  

  1. Narcissists ruin holidays because it’s in their best interest.
  2. You can’t control what the narcissist does, you can only prepare and respond to his or her behavior.
  3. You will need to prepare to have a happy and peaceful holiday season anyway, regardless of the tantrums he or she throws.

Knowing narcissists try to ruin holidays and you can’t control it can help you detach from how they behave. This can help you have peace in your life this holiday season. You enjoyed the holidays before you knew the narcissist, and you can continue to enjoy them now. 

It may have sounded in some of my suggestions about how to manage their behavior as if they are getting their way.  I don’t believe that to be the case, however. My goal was to provide suggestions about becoming aware of how they are trying to control us. I also intended to suggest how not to react the way they would like us to. 

It’s sad that we must detach in these ways from someone we love and with whom we want to share our happiness. Yet this is how we protect ourselves from more pain. 

I wish you love and peace this holiday season.  Take care of yourself. Don’t let the narcissist in your life take that away from you.

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Kristen Milstead

Kristen Milstead is a narcissistic abuse survivor who has become a strong advocate for finding your unique voice and using it to help others find theirs.

One Comment

  1. It’s been about a year since I was discarded by a narcissist. Besides ruining the holidays, he canceled plans we had made months before and ruined a special occasion I was excited about. I was traumatized and severely depressed by the abrupt, callous discard,. While I am forever changed because of the experience, I’ve come a long way in my recovery.

    My advice to anyone involved with a narcissist is to go no-contect as soon as you can. You deserve to be happy, not only during the holidays. That won’t be possible if you are constantly exposed to the toxicity of a narcissist. Choose happiness. Love yourself and put yourself first. Seek help and support. Know that you are not alone.

    Thank you, Kristen for all that you do. Your writings and sharing of your experience have been invaluable to my recovery and well-being.
    Hugs and happy holidays, Sara

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