Deep Pain and Dilemmas Having Narcissistic Step Children

There are some common mantras that I hear often: “We have a great family” or the other  “We have great kids.” These are in your face comments that are thrown purposely to indicate that this person and his/her family is impeccable. These people are insensitive to other families and individuals who are having a very difficult life with traumas and tragedies. If said thoughtlessly, it is an in your face: “What’s the matter with you?” remark that I find inappropriate. You can be very proud of your family and children put pay attention to your audience. When someone shares his personal pain with you, it is time for everyone to step up and be empathic and respectful. This person is not asking the listener to make comments about their perfect life.  It is not time for this person to chirp about How Wonderful They are and Everyone That Surrounds Them and Shares Their DNA. I find this disingenuous.How dare anyone have a very difficult marriage with a narcissistic scoundrel, a spouse that pilfers money out of malleable relatives, an in-law who causes psychological stress and horrid melodramatic scenes at every family gathering and disrupts every life he/she encounters. Many who live among us are  hypocrites—intolerant, delusional, pretentious, cruel and vapid.

One of the most difficult family constellations is the husband and wife who have a blended family with biological children on each side.(Any parent who has a narcissistic child has suffered tremendously and needs understanding, respect and comfort.)  At the center of the psychological pain is the narcissistic son or daughter of the husband or wife. This circumstance can tear the family apart and destroy the marriage.The father or mother of the narcissistic child is often in denial about his son or daughter’s true nature that is highly pathological. When the parent recognizes that his child is disrupting the family and their marriage it is time to make a decision about how much contact to have or not have with this child. Some narcissistic children set out to destroy the reputation of their parent’s spouse. These spouses have expressed their severe pain over the manipulations, frontal and covert attacks upon them. They have cleverly lied to family members, spread rumors, created scandals out of whole cloth and done whatever they can to destroy the marriage. That’s how deep their hatred goes. This is self hatred that the narcissist holds deep in his unconscious and is used to project on to and disrupt the lives of anyone of their way.

There is a time of reckoning that occurs. The wife or husband of the spouse who has the narcissistic child has come to the end of their tolerance. They have been verbally maligned too many times. In many cases when the marriage is strong the couple can speak truthfully about the narcissistic child. The parent of the narcissist comes to terms with the recognition that his child suffers from this personality disorder. I have seen this occur. It is difficult but necessary if there is to be any peace in the family or among the marital partners. In many cases there is a decision to have limited or no contact with the narcissistic child. I have great respect for these couples and parents. This is difficult work that requires truthfulness and compassion. In the end these individuals know they have made the right decision, one that allows them to move forward in their personal growth and the deepening of their relationship.

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.

3 thoughts on “Deep Pain and Dilemmas Having Narcissistic Step Children”

  1. Dear Linda,

    I am newly wed married to a loving man with 2 children from his previous marriage. My stepson exhibits all the personality traits of NPD. He is 10 y/o and the behavior has been escalating the last couple of months. I am not the only one who suffers from his extreme need to control and attention. He is not so exactly disrespectful to me, he is just dismissive and snotty when I try to engage or tries to put himself between me and my husband. One day he was frustrated I said his father he should wear protection gear to operate a wood mill, he said “Xxxxx doesn’t want me to have fun. She doesn’t love me. I think you should have consulted me before marrying her.” Since that day I have disengaged from him almost completely. But disengaging form him also means I will have least opportunities to engage with my 9 y/o stepdaughter with whom I have a good relationship as we have many shared interests. He is mostly abusive to my husband and his younger sister. My husband had a very abusive father, so has developed a very thick skin for poor treatment of himself. My stepdaughter though has been more irritable and has nervous meltdowns when is deceived by my stepsons teasing, lying, cheating, etc. She ends up beating him and that gives him credit to be even more abusive. My husband seems to be in denial or just postponing any effective and structured approach, as he is mostly concerned with remodeling our house. I am at my wit’s end. I have read is not good to tell a parent their child suffers from a Personality Disorder as they must arrive to the conclusion themselves, but it is terrible to watch and go trough the children’s visitations days having so many unpleasant interactions, drama and fighting. I have been distancing myself from the house when they are visiting and having nervous meltdowns as well, as I am scared this boy will grow to become a sociopath and his manipulative behavior will drive a wedge between me and my husband.
    I would really appreciate some advice.

  2. I am sorry about my typos. I am really nervous and doing it from work as I have no much privacy at home.

  3. This is an excellent article. The psychological stress of parents with difficult children is rarely approached and when it is its usually to blame them. It seems most people prefer to be hypocritical and politically correct instead of accepting that there is such pathological behavior in children.

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