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Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Most people don’t excitedly jump at the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their in-laws. However, your relationship with your in-laws can be increasingly complicated when personality disorders are involved. And, this is especially true when you’re dealing with narcissistic personality disorder. Difficulties with your in-laws can severely damage your marriage, causing large amounts of resentment and frustration surrounding even the most petty issues. The best way to protect yourself and your marriage from an in-law with NPD is knowing the symptoms and knowing how to deal with the inappropriate behaviors in a respectful and effective manner.

What Is NPD?

According to the DSM-5, narcissistic personality disorder is a “pervasive pattern” involving an excessive need for admiration, grandiosity, lack of empathy, and extreme sense of entitlement. An in-law suffering from narcissistic personality disorder may have unrealistic expectations of you and your spouse. They may feel as though they are entitled to personal or financial favors. They may expect you to spend every holiday with them, or drop whatever you’re doing to help them. If you refuse their requests, an individual with NPD may react with excessive anger.

Can They Change?

The most honest answer to this question is maybe. However, though a person with NPD can change, it isn’t possible for you to change them. It’s also not your responsibility to “fix” an in-law with narcissistic personality disorder. Dramatic personality disorders, such as NPD, are often deeply rooted and frequently stem from childhood trauma. Those suffering from narcissistic personality disorder often need professional help in order to change. Instead of worrying about getting your parent in-law help, you will probably have better luck focusing on protecting yourself and your family.

Tip #1: Know What You Can Expect

Personality disorders typically manifest in early adulthood. Therefore, if your mother in-law or father in-law is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, they’ve likely been this way for a very long time and will unlikely be very receptive to change. This means that you need to find ways to work with their limitations without enabling their inappropriate behavior. Understanding narcissistic personality disorder will give you a better idea of what you can expect from your in-laws. 

Tip #2: Create Boundaries

Creating boundaries is the absolute best thing you can do to minimize the negative effects of a person with NPD. Because people suffering from NPD feel an extreme sense of entitlement, they may feel they have the right to call at any time or stop by whenever they feel like it. Instead of allowing this behavior to continue, it’s important that you calmly but firmly ask your in-laws to schedule visits in advance. If they are the type to call at inappropriate times, do not feel guilty about letting it go to voicemail. When setting boundaries with people suffering from NPD, remember that “No.” is a complete sentence.

Tip #3: Don’t Take It Personally

A person with narcissistic personality disorder may attempt to manipulate you by pushing your buttons or attempting to provoke you. It is important to remain calm and collected in all your interactions with your in-law; this is especially true when they are intentionally pushing your buttons. It may be necessary to remind yourself that your in-law’s behavior is part of a personality disorder and has nothing to do with you personally. 

When NPD Has Damaged Your Marriage:

If narcissistic personality disorder has already damaged your marriage, CoilLaw is here for you. Our dedicated attorneys are uniquely experienced with protecting clients from family members with NPD. If you are beginning the divorce process with a spouse who’s suffering from NPD, call CoilLaw today to find out how we can protect you and your family.

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