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Survive the Narcissist During the Holidays

If you’re with a narcissist, you may be dreading the holidays. You may already be familiar with some of the ways they try to ruin any festive or fun plans you’ve tried to make.  

Here are some ways to survive the narcissist during the holiday season and make it through to the next year with your sanity intact. Even if you’re in no-contact, it’s important to keep in mind that holidays are a prime season for trying to pull ex-partners back into the web. Therefore, I’ve included a special section on how to arm yourself against the holiday hoover.

Why Narcissists Ruin Holidays

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.

I know that what you really want is to have a peaceful holiday season and to 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–and not just over the holidays but every day.

This desire that we have is exactly how the narcissist is able to hurt and abuse us.

They do this by getting our hopes up that this year things will be different.

Or by making us believe that if we only do [x] or if we would have done [x], he or she would have not done whatever it was that threw everything into turmoil. We begin blaming ourselves for the holiday chaos when it isn’t our fault

Maybe he or she just makes underhanded comments, waiting to see our reaction. We get that familiar feeling inside. Should we say something, risk being called too sensitive, risk open hostility and ridicule? Or just shut down and not feel anything at all?

The holidays.  When you’re with a narcissist, we associate emotions with them that should never be associated with them in the first place.

Other resources exist that can help you to come to terms with the idea that the narcissist cannot be who we wish they were and to grieve over this fact. 

This article has a different purpose. It exists to help you get through a certain time period. Its purpose is to help you predict what will happen temporarily even if you can’t accept their behavior long-term.

Preparing ahead of time may help you to have a little peace in your life this holiday season.

Surviving Holidays with a Narcissist

Knowing narcissists try to ruin holidays and you can’t control it can help you detach from how they behave. Detachment is the key to each of the survival ideas presented below. 

1. Determine your own goal or intended outcome for each holiday event or activity and then set your boundaries accordingly.

If there are parties or family events you want to attend, or you have traditions that you want to uphold, by all means, make your plans–and then keep them.  

You may make the plans with the narcissist, but then if the narcissist doesn’t keep them, do not let him or her make you feel bad if you go anyway.  

Also, if the narcissist tries to take you to an activity and then covertly abuse you, leave. You’re under no obligation to make nice just because it’s the holiday season. 

2. Check the facts mentally when the narcissist states or does something that appears manipulative.

The thing to remember is that narcissists are often manipulative, so you may be checking the facts a lot. 

Because the holidays provide narcissists special opportunities to manipulate you and your emotions, however, it’s a good idea to be especially aware of anything that seems unusual. 

Has the narcissist been especially nice when he or she has been in a devalue phase?  Or, has the narcissist begun to devalue you when previously he or she was treating you with kindness?  

Is the narcissist starting arguments more frequently?  Is the narcissist walking out and giving you the silent treatment?  There is a reason for everything.

You don’t necessarily need to become a detective because it ultimately doesn’t matter. (I know–easier said than done, right?) 

But maybe the holidays can provide you a respite from those feelings of anxiety as well by dropping a special blanket of protection over this time period and encouraging you to react differently, even if they are up to their same old tricks.

You can try to stay grounded during this time–for the traditions you had before you met the narcissist that you want to hold onto, your family and children, and especially for yourself.  

3. Be prepared for disappointment. 

The narcissist may make grand promises, but take everything he or she says 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. 

4. Try to see the narcissist as sad and pathetic instead of being hurt by his or her actions. 

When you feel joy at something that doesn’t involve him or her, they may try to bring you down instead of sharing in your pleasure or trying to be part of it.

It appears to make no sense–but try to remember that narcissists are often envious of other people’s happiness. They gain narcissistic supply when your attention focuses on them. 

If they can’t receive your positive attention, they may try to get it by causing you pain and then returning your focus to it once again. 

You don’t need to feel pity for them at this time (or ever). They are good at turning your empathy into an opportunity to exploit you. And I’m not suggesting that their actions don’t sting. 

Yet can you see them for what they are? Pathetic attempts to project their shame and despair onto you? Yes, it’s sad that we can’t share our joy with someone we love during this time and it’s okay to feel that, but we don’t have to own their emotions.

5. Don’t change your behavior to keep the peace–and expect that the peace will be broken.

Narcissists like to use threats and promises about how smoothly the holidays (or any special days) will go to keep you in line.

“I’m not going if you’re just going to bring that up. I told you she’s the one who keeps texting me. I can’t do anything about it. You’re ruining the whole surprise I had planned.”

“You didn’t text me back. You weren’t really out shopping. Who is he?”

“You never appreciate anything I do for you.” [storming out and giving you a silent treatment when you ask why he or she didn’t show up to your family dinner]

“I was going to propose to you on Christmas Eve, but you don’t trust me so now I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Notice how no matter what you do, the narcissist will find something to be unhappy about. 

You can decide to say nothing to the narcissist about anything you notice that seems off just to try to avoid confrontation, and it won’t make any difference.

That’s because even if you go about your normal life and the narcissist will start conflict himself or herself.  The narcissist will always find something about your behavior to be unhappy with because he or she is envious, jealous, and insecure and does not see you as an equal, deserving of worth and dignity. 

The more you curb your own behavior, the more the narcissist will demand that you do it.  

When the narcissist acts this way, don’t think of him* as reacting to your behavior. Think of him reacting to his own internal mental constructs that have nothing to do with you–and then continue to behave as you normally would.

You may not get any answers. The narcissist may back out of plans (see above), but this is how you maintain your own identity within the relationship.

Preparing for Hoovering during the Holidays

If you are no longer with the narcissist and are in no-contact, you should be aware that holidays are still something you should be preparing for. Narcissists like to use the sentimental value of the holiday season to hoover. 

The best preparation is to have a plan in advance.  Can you answer these three questions?

1. What will you do to try to avoid receiving a hoover in the first place? 

Is the narcissist’s number blocked?  If not, do it now. Are there other things you can do to try to prevent it from even happening?

2. How will you do to handle it if you do receive it? 

List at least three things that you will do if it happens.  These should be things that do not involve contact with the narcissist–the goal is not to get involved. 

Maybe you can talk with a friend about it.  You may want to write out what you would say if you were going to talk to the narcissist. 

If it’s a phone call, you may envision yourself hanging up or come up with something you will say before disconnecting the call.  If it’s written contact, you may throw it in the trash without reading.

The idea is to come up with things that work for you.

3. What will you do to handle the emotional impact of receiving it?

Again, list at least three things you will do to take care of your emotions.  You can’t pretend it didn’t happen, and you’ll have to deal with the fallout.

Will you go to the gym and work out your anxiety or anger?  Talk it out with someone? Do something that really makes you feel empowered or cared for?

It’s probably a good idea to list things that you can do immediately, as well as things that you can do longer-term. 

If you are not in no-contact with the narcissist, but you’ve instituted grey rock, the same three questions still apply.  If the wants to  suddenly makes a play for you again, you need to think about preparing for it. 

How are you going to guard against that happening in the first place?  What will you do if it happens?  How will you care for your emotions if it does?

You may not come up with the same answers as if you were not in contact with the narcissist at all. You can still prepare in much the same ways.

Don’t Let Narcissists Ruin Your Holidays

Knowing narcissists try to ruin holidays and you can’t control it can help you detach from how they behave.

It may appear in some of my suggestions about how to survive as if they are getting their way.

What the suggestions are intended to offer, however, is the opposite. They are intended to provide you with ways to mentally challenge what it is they desire so that they aren’t able to control you during this time. 

It is heartbreaking 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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*A male pronoun is used to preserve the sentence structure. Please substitute the appropriate gender pronoun for your situation, if necessary.

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.

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