What Family Means To A Narcissist

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a couple and their children sitting against the wall

In my experience with a covert narcissistic mother, grandiose narcissistic ex-husband, and several other family members that score high on the narcissism spectrum, I have drawn some conclusions about what family means to narcissists. It is important to state that much of my conclusions came after my divorce and breaking contact with my parents.

Drama supply

Narcissists need drama because the world they live in, the one they have created, is a fantasy world.

The lifeblood of fantasy is drama. Narcissists see their family as an always-available source of drama.

If no drama is going on they will instigate some.

This is why just when you are enjoying a calm, peaceful day your narcissist will make weird accusations toward you, tell you that another family member has done something horrible, or do something else that will trigger an uproar. You may feel that the incident came out of nowhere, but for the narcissist, it is very intentional.

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One of the best ways for narcissists to make themselves feel important is to have other people do things for them.

Treating family like servants is common for narcissists because it satisfies them in several ways. 

It means they do not have to do things they do not want to do and that appeals to their sense of entitlement. It also elevates them above other family members — me queen, you servant. Having family members serve them gives them the feeling of control over the members individually and collectively; control is essential to a narcissist.

Supporting actors

Never doubt that the narcissist is the star of the script they have written for their fake world.

They will never share top billing with anyone else, especially not family members. But they understand that a star must have supporting actors in order to be a star. Narcissists think that they are given a family so that they have a built-in/live-in cast of supporting actors.

This is why they take credit for the accomplishments of family members and pout or throw a tantrum if someone else gets attention.


Family members are literally seen by narcissists as props. Narcissists will use a family member to demonstrate their superiority — a mother uses her children to demonstrate her excellence in parenting.

They count on family members to prop up the shaky fantasy world and one-dimensional fake self they have created.

They expect their family to sustain their very fragile ego. A narcissist would fall flat on their face without the propping up they get from their families, but of course, they do not admit that.

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Financial assistance

Narcissists have an extreme sense of entitlement to things that belong to other people.

They honestly believe they are entitled and will punish anyone who challenges that entitlement. Money is one of their favorite entitlements because it is flexible.

They may not want the things you own, your job, or anything specific to you, but they will happily take your money and use it to their benefit. This can happen when the division of financial responsibility is unequal or unreasonable between spouses.

It may be in the form of a parent buying things for his/herself instead of things their children need. It often shows up in comments about how a family member owes the narcissist because of something they have/// done, usually something that is their responsibility anyway such as giving birth or providing a house to live in.

Offender to them as the victim

Covert narcissists frequently use victimhood to get their narcissistic supply needs to be met. All narcissists play the victim if it gets them out of a sticky situation and keeps them from taking responsibility. But every victim needs an offender or abuser.

Narcissists are very comfortable pretending that their family members are victimizing them.

Why not, the family is convenient and the narcissist knows how to get them to accept the bad guy role.

The narcissist actually gets a two-for when they have been abusive, but are able to switch roles so that they are seen as the victim and the real victim becomes the abuser. In this common scenario, they avoided responsibility for their bad behavior and punished a family member that was not on the script. In my experience narcissists truly enjoy making family members look like offenders or abusers.

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Loser to them as the winner

Everything is a competition for narcissists. Narcissists must win all competitions.

These two beliefs by narcissists mean that family members are put on earth to lose so that the narcissist can win. A narcissist is like a gambler who will bet on anything, they will make major life events, everyday functions, and anything in between into competitions. They will set up situations just so they can beat family members at something.

They will create circumstances that will make them look smarter than family members. If they screw up, they will bring up a time when another family member failed at something. Narcissists must experience constant winning, this puts their family members in the crosshairs every day.


An encumbrance is a burden, hindrance, nuisance, impediment, handicap, or inconvenience.

If a family member is not on the script they are an encumbrance to the narcissist. It is a matter of “if you aren’t with me, you are against me”.

A key point here is that if a family member is doing something for his/herself or anyone other than the narcissist then that is considered not being with the narcissist.

If a family member is not fulfilling at least one of the roles previously mentioned in this article then they are an encumbrance to the narcissist. For a narcissist, there is only black and white, right and wrong, and with or against; narcissists are not capable of seeing gray or nuance.

If the family member is not helping the narcissist maintain their fake self and the fake world, he/she is an encumbrance.

Last thought: I think that if narcissists did not get so much warped personal benefit from having a family, they would not have one. They do not have families because they want someone to love and to share with, they have families so that they have a handy source of supply.

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Janet Christy is an author who uses the experiences from her many years of research and analysis to write articles that help people understand and deal with the many layers of relationships. In addition to being an author, she is a wife, mother, grandmother, narcissistic abuse survivor, and empath.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.