Many of us who grew up in abusive families never learned to set boundaries. Or if we tried, they were repeatedly violated until we felt helpless–like we couldn’t live our own lives. When I was a child, I started to have normal boundaries and I stated what I did and didn’t like, but my narcissistic mother did not like that. I used to get hit and beaten regularly and was told how horrible I was. In reality, I was a very quiet goody-two-shoes and I read books to try to hide from the terrible home life I had. I never got into trouble, but the beatings were for what my mother called “talking back.” It always confused me because usually I was standing up for myself after she neglected me, although once I was whipped because she was tired of hearing me ask to go to the library. (Gee, what a horrible thing!) If I complained about the neglect, lack of medical or dental care, lack of food, being left home alone all the time or worse, I was “talking back” and I was beaten. No wonder as an adult, I feared to voice my needs or I let people walk all over me and feared saying “no.”
Narcissists do not want us to have our personal boundaries and preferences, but it is our right to choose what we want from life. As an adult, I have a rule that I do not want people to come to my house unannounced. I have too many things going on and I don’t want to entertain people. Do you think narcissists respect that rule? Of course they don’t! My mother has no problem coming to my house unannounced, or harassing my father/her ex husband that she left in 1984, by going to his house to bother him. Maybe some people don’t mind, but some of us do. And if we tell people we do not like this behavior, our wishes should be respected. A narcissist will never respect your wishes, though. My mother has violated this particular wish hundreds of times, and has shown up with other unwanted relatives even after my saying “no” very clearly when she asked if they could come over. When I call her on it, she tells me my policy is stupid and says “everybody else” doesn’t care. Well guess what? I do. And I am not the only one. I know for sure that other people do not like random, unannounced visits either. She didn’t forget. She was well aware and she just didn’t care. Excuse my language, but basically her actions are saying “F you” to me and my boundaries.
If you set boundaries for your life, no matter how differently other people choose to live, you are well within your rights. I have asked my mother not to give people my address or phone number. She doesn’t care. She does it anyway. When I repeat that I don’t want her giving out my information, she tells me that’s stupid and I’m not normal. I don’t care about “normal.” Her relatives have sent me hate mail in the past and left nasty phone messages. I want my privacy and I don’t want them bothering me. She doesn’t respect that. Narcissists never do. They live YOUR life the way they’ve decided they want to live it.
When I kicked my mother out of my life, I noticed all the ways my life was my own for the first time. No longer was she rearranging my cabinets, my dresser or my furniture to her tastes. No longer was she feeding my kids cookies for lunch and ignoring their nap times. No longer was she throwing away my infant’s breast milk and giving him formula instead. No longer was she trying to usurp my parenting and my decisions. I could do simple things with my life and I could do them my way…and she wasn’t going to change them around. It feels great!
Narcissists often come from enmeshed families where privacy and separation was never taught or respected. For example, a few years ago, my mother’s sister had a stomach virus. She told my mother about her bathroom adventures. My mother told me and got on the phone telling her other relatives. She thought it was funny. I don’t want to know about someone’s explosive bowels. Some people are that open, but many are not. In an enmeshed family, no one thinks twice about a complete lack of privacy. If you are in one of these families and you object, your concerns are invalidated and ignored. If you stray from their formula, you become the black sheep–even if you are a perfectly normal and healthy person. They have no idea that they are the ones who are sick!
Narcissists are unable to comprehend that your life is your life and not their life. They barge right in and make your decisions for you. They tell you how to live and what you feel. They decide what you like. Even if you correct them, they will still assign to you what they want your preferences to be. If your favorite food is lasagna but a narcissist decides it should be fish tacos, guess what you’re getting for your birthday dinner? If your favorite color is blue, but they want it to be vomit green, guess what color your new sweater will be at Christmas time? You can tell them what you like and what your preferences are, but they simply don’t care.
How you deal with the narcissist depends on you and your situation, but frankly, I don’t think there is any happy way to keep one in your life. Their disrespect for your boundaries is extremely frustrating and annoying, but the other things they do can be cruel and manipulative–even dangerous. Some narcissists will even ignore your health needs and doctors orders. I’ve heard stories of narcissist mothers who didn’t believe their children’s food allergies were real and sneaked deadly allergenic foods into their meals. These people don’t even respect educated doctors! They think they know everything and what’s best for you, but in all honesty, what’s best for you is to escape them.