The Sibling Narcissist: Published April 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm by Betsy Wuebker and Becky Blanton

This excerpt from The Narcissist at Work, written by Betsy Wuebker and Becky Blanton gives helpful tips on an area of narcissism less frequently discussed – siblings!

Many of us marry into relationships with narcissists, and others simply work with, become friends with, or date them. Those relationships are hard enough to leave. But what do you do when the narcissist in your life is a sibling?

Not only are you bound by family matters (parents, other siblings, life history), you’re bound by guilt and a sense of obligation-after all, blood is thicker than water, right? Sometimes. But the fact is, no matter what the blood ties, or the relationship (marriage, coworker, friend, acquaintance, business contact etc) you don’t owe the narcissist loyalty, let alone the frayed nerves, anger, tension and feelings you get when being around them.

The same rules for siblings, or sons, or daughters or parents who are narcissists, hold true as for non-related narcissists. YOU are more important than their need for narcissistic supply. Your boundaries are just as important and your need to protect yourself from their asinine antics are probably even more critical since you’re almost forced by some situations to have contact with them.

Yes, it’s okay to write them out of your life and ignore them for years, or even decades, if you can do that. Most of us can’t. We’re called on to interact at least at things like family funerals, parents needing to go into nursing homes, financial or legal matters or any variety of situations where you have to engage. If you’re unfortunate enough to be young enough to be living at home with a narcissist sibling, there’s no better time than the present to start learning how to deal with them. It will not only give you the discipline, insight and ability to deal with narcissists “at large”, but it will help you strengthen your boundary setting skills while you’re still young and strong!

The really hard part of having a narcissist sibling is that they know your buttons and can push them better than anyone else. They have an inside track on how you tick. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to shut-up around them and to not share things with them that will only become trigger fodder down the road.

What You Can Expect From A Narcissist Sibling (Or are already experiencing)

• Betrayal
• Bullying
• Scapegoating
• Emotional abuse
• Physical abuse
• Pathological lying
• Gaslighting
• Judgment
• Criticism
• Sadism
• Lack of empathy
• Coldness
• Aloofness
• Sexual abuse

Yes, we ALL want, wish and long for close family ties, family love and support, but we’re not going to get it from a narcissist sibling or relative. They won’t change so you have to in order to survive them. The rules are the same:

• Set boundaries and communicate them clearly, in writing, in an email if you can.
• Don’t take the bait. When they punch your buttons and flip your triggers, bite your tongue and leave.
• Learn to just say “No,” and walk away.
• Don’t argue or discuss controversial things with them. Remember, they like to win at all costs.
• Keep your life as personal as possible. Lock up journals and diaries and password protect your computers.
• Do not introduce your friends to them. They’re likely to charm them away and make you the bad guy. You’ll not only lose your friends, they’ll likely be convinced by your narcissist sibling that you’re the crazy one.

The Golden Rule of Relationships is: “You can only change yourself.” That means don’t even think about trying to change your sibling. They of course will try to change you. They’ll violate your boundaries, anger you, betray you and drive you insane IF YOU LET THEM. So don’t. Sound impossible? Yeah, we know. It feels that way too. However, there things you can do to make it easier, in addition to the tips listed above:

Learn to emotionally detach from your sibling. This may require a psychologist or counselor’s help, but it will be worth the heartache it will save you down the road. Learn to separate out the narcissist’s projections from yourself. Any failings or dark feelings they harbor in their own hearts will be projected onto you. By making you the problem instead of themselves, they can feel better about their dysfunction, if only for a short while. Don’t let that happen.

If emotional distancing doesn’t work for you, then you may have to entirely sever the relationship with the narcissistic brother and/or sister. This is harder when you’re living with them, but not impossible. Once you’re out of the house, consider severing the tie entirely. Seriously considering ending what was never a true relationship is not betrayal, it’s survival. Narcissists are incapable of caring about anyone but themselves. They are cruel, cunning, ruthless, harsh, and you will never find them to be kind or understanding no matter how much they profess to be.

If forced into a legal situation, such as having to sell your parent’s home, or deciding where to put mom or dad (hospital or nursing home), or encountering issues with a will or other situation, hire an attorney who has experience with narcissists (be careful, many attorneys are narcissists themselves and will side with your sibling!) and let them handle the situation while you make decisions from the privacy and safety of your own bubble. Forward all emails to your attorney and don’t respond to the sibling except through your attorney. Trust me, the financial pain of this arrangement will be far less painful than the psychological pain of dealing with the narcissist directly.

Have no emotional expectations or keep them very low. Narcissists can be charming, smart and talented, but they’re very emotionally limited. If you understand that you can interact with them without being disappointed. Narcissists only respond to you if they believe it’s in their best interest, not yours.

Never make your self-worth dependent on them. The trap that all victims fall into with narcissists, whether related or not, is to try to please them in hopes of getting them to change, or to see your side. It won’t work and they’ll only consider you a greater source of supply and make life more miserable.
Never share any deep feelings, goals, dreams or vulnerabilities with them. They won’t cherish them and will only use them against you.

If you must interact with them or ask them for something, show them how giving it to you will benefit them in some way. Reframe things so they become the center of attention and your needs disappear. Rather than saying, “I’d like to go to the movies,” say, “You’re such an excellent judge of movies. I’d love to hear your insights and take on this new movie.” Ego stroking the narcissist is tedious and demeaning at best, but it’s often worth doing to avoid a narcissistic rage, or in order to get what you want and can’t get from them any other way. Stating your needs, getting angry and threats don’t work. Stroking their ego will.

19 replies
    Janice Abo Ganis says:

    Yes I’ve just figured out at 63 upon the dispersal of my mothers estate and the weirdness surrounding that event that my younger sister is possibly a narcissist. I have detached myself but feeling so sad about losing my family, even though things are starting to make sense. Luckily we have lived in different countries for the last 30 years so I have not had to deal with her on a daily basis. I am thinking that the deaths of our sister and mother in the last three years have really set her off as she has become very odd and her behaviour has worsened so much. It was going to see a counsellor over her behaviour that has alerted me.
    JMS I relate to what you say.

    Charlotte says:

    We ask WHY, WHY, WHY? We blame ourselves: not pretty enough, not smart enough, just not enough. That’s not the answer. The answer is the narcissist looks for what he or she needs. If the narcissistic mother always wanted to be a cheerleader with blonde hair, then that is the favorite child (for as long as the mother has that need). If you weren’t the blonde cheerleader and felt unloved because of your perceived inadequacies – don’t. The cheerleader wasn’t really loved either. She was an object to be owned and manipulated to meet mother’s needs/desires. Oh yes, cheerleader probably grows up to be a narcissist, too – with the same sense of entitlement etc. but deep down she knows the truth and she’s angry, too.

    Charlotte says:

    When asked about my siblings – my eldest sister in particular, sharks come to mind. Why? When a shark becomes pregnant, she has many embryos. Then throughout the pregnancy the strongest consume the others. This is my sister. It was like this from the day I was born. I grew up scape-goated, abused, beaten, starved, humiliated and so on. My mother often siding with her and equally often joining in the abuse. My younger sisters then later indoctrinated as well. Here I am, 50 years old – I want nothing to do with most of my siblings. When my mother died, the youngest and the oldest joined forces to get everything. It was no surprise to me and I let it go. Why? I no longer have to play my assigned role within the family. I am free. I can forgive (but still walk away) This is not to say that I don’t still feel a lifetime of hurt. I’m working on it.

    Evelyn says:

    Hi I think I maybe have narccists in my family, mother and sibling. They never accept when they’ve done something wrong and push it on me.

    My mum covers for her and expects me to look out for her but it’s too much for me to do. I love them so much but my sibling over the years has really tested me.

    I stupidly went into buisness with her and another sibling and it’s pretty much effected my career my mental health and my relatioships.

    I don’t want to admit that I think this is the problem but I really struggle to understand the behaviour. Sometimes it’s so selfish. currently moving to a different work place and hopefully I can make enough cash to move out. Ive helped my sibling so much and she just expects it. Weather IT be money, emotionally, advise ect I never really see her and I pine for a normal relationship with her but she’s never there unless she needs something.

    I suffer with depression and I worry for my sanity. I loose my temper over unacceptable behaviour and then im the ‘crazy one with mental problems’ the cycle has worn me down.

    I think it’s great that people on here talk… It can be a lonely place dealing with this. I didn’t consider my mum could be too because I suppose its my mother it wouldn’t cross my mind but nothing I have ever done has been supported by her really. She has treated me like I’m unimportant when it comes to blows about my sibling. Basically told me to shut up and put up but I cannot accept the behaviour as ok because it’s not. I don’t understand it because my parents always help her when she makes stupid decisions and she falls back on them all the time. I try to point out that it isn’t right and they ignore push blame and mums even told me I need help and I have something wrong with me. Ive tried every angle to maybe ‘fix myself’ counselling tablets meditation ect but i don’t think it’s me that makes me feel this way.

    I think everyone is blinded by her and she’s very good at making people feel sorry for her. She’s likeable too so it’s difficult to see at times. She does have empathy but for people who clearly don’t deserve it like bad friends or people who do bad things ect she seems to be attracted to trouble.

    I worry about when I leave work and my sister is left to stand on her own two feet. I don’t want to see her struggle but I cannot help her anymore.

    I also had an ex boyfriend who very much was a narcissist he suffocated me with words. Did the crazy making things but was so charming and fun to the outside world. I have even sat and wondered if it’s me…. If im the narccist if im crazy because it seems everyone around me is.

    I don’t want to cut my sister out too I love her so much hopefully I can set better boundaries and still have her in my life. My heart goes out to anyone dealing with this it really isn’t easy.

  5. Jeni Mawter says:

    I am so saddened to hear your story and your struggles against multiple Narcissists. I have come to the conclusion that because people with NPD, both Overt and Covert, use an almost identical array of abuse tactics that they all seem to have an Identical microchip – what I mean is, they are all ‘wired’ the same way. Like you, I don’t believe this is purely down to upbringing or socialisation. I believe that genetics plays a hugely significant role. I can also relate to your comment that “NPD is a get out of jail free card”. I wish you strength and peace for your future journey. Hugs, Jeni

    Sybella Loram says:

    Reading the above stories has been very helpful. My NPD two elder sisters and alcoholic NPD Mother have abused me all my childhood to date. I feel rather embarrassed as to how ignorant I was to the abuse that went on behind my back. When my Father died I was 24 and I was his favourite his death all but killed me. I felt like Cinderella left with two sisters and a mother. I was not allowed to have any input on the funeral, not hymn choice and no readings I was told by the most evil sister of the two, ” You have never been part of this family it was only Dad kept you here so you might as well go now hes dead” . She told me this on the way to the church to bury my Father. The abuse went on and on so I stayed with friend the week before the funeral and then the will reading and now 25 years later she is working on my Narc Mother. She was the golden child and it does not matter how many times she wrongs mum, mum goes back again and again. I have loved and been there for my Mother again and again and I get nothing but slander and ungrateful raging. I have lived in my new flat year now and not had one visit from my family. The worst of the abuse is the slandering of my late Fathers name and the golden child trying to get me to hate him.(it will never happen) The last time I ignored her for 6 years she told the whole family that Dad favoured me as he sexually abused me, she told my other sister I had told her this but asked me if he had done this.(very manipulative in her approach) Her envy is so horrific she cannot bare to admit he loved me for being me and left money to me in the will and not her because he saw through her. My Mother got wind of the accusation and in her drunken stupor accused me too of doing things with her husband. These are the worst of the abuse it would take a book to write what they have done to me. One thing I do wish to point out is, I truly believe it is inherited I have done great deal of NPD research and have found my Mothers side of the family are riddled in it. I can see how it can be nurtured and taught to the golden child but it is most definitely in the genes too. It is like sociopaths and the like. I also believe they are evil and that NPD is a get out of free jail card.We like to box things when it comes to mental health issues and sometimes I think we need to just accept in society, that some people are just evil , end of story.

  7. Jeni Mawter says:

    I hope you did manage to find your peace over Christmas and that you find a way to deal with your sibling narcissist!
    Love and hugs for 2017.

    Sunny says:

    I am not even sure how I came on this site, looking for something about family situation, but when I started reading this it was like every single thing got a check beside of it. I am currently in a situation where I am the primary caregiver and I am the victim of a smear campaign, have had law enforcement called to investigate me, and was told by my sibling that he would ‘ get everything coming to me.’ Well, I hope he does get everything coming to him, but not in the way he wants. Now it looks like he is getting other people to back him up. Being a caregiver is exhausting and I have done it for a long time with little help, because he was out having a good time. Have been the target of bullying all of my life, and he has let me know that he wishes that I had never been born, and has used the fact that I have health problems and have had depression ( well, duh)to make it appear that I am the one with the problems and he is perfect. Counselors tried to get him into counseling when he was a kid, but he refused and said that I was the problem. Appearances are everything to him, since he has cultivated an image of piousness, goodness, and charm. Some people tell me that they just cannot believe that he has done the things he has done. When he is threatened with being uncovered, he got so defensive that he attacked me. This article has validated what I am going through.
    This will not be a good Christmas, I’m afraid. Still doing everything I can to make it as good as possible. At first I was very upset to think I might lose my relative, but in a few days I felt so free and happy that I know this is how it will have to be. Having to deal with him at all, is a major pain. Dad says everything will work out, but I know he has ignored his son’s behavior for a long time – and it goes way back.

  9. Jeni Mawter says:

    Keep your guard up. Set clear boundaries. Document things that seem odd. Communicate with people you can trust.
    This is a tough one.
    Good luck!

  10. Jeni Mawter says:

    I’m sorry that you’re missing your family, especially your sister. It must be very hard at times, especially when you miss family celebrations. I sincerely hope you reach a resolution to your dilemma – one that brings peace and acceptance.
    Warm wishes,

    Susan says:

    What to do when you just realize brother in law narcissist and lives with my sister at my mothers home..
    Mother is now very sick and just noticed baylift came they owe money always secretive and brother in law
    harast me.. Don,t know what to do since I’m with my mother every night. Told my sister and she seemed suprised but now staying downstairs with him while I’m there..

    Sheila Hoag says:

    Recently I discovered that my sister has NPD. It has broken my heart from years of trying to figure out “what the hell is she about”. I estranged from my family over 2 decades ago and it has cost me my Christmas, family events and being an Aunt that would have absolutely enjoyed my nieces and nephews. And yes ., by leaving, I was the bad crazy one. My brother suffers from
    addiction of drug and alcohol and I believe my mother was also a narcissist. My father took up with a British woman who is very controlling because I believe that life is all he know. Bottom line is I miss my sister so terribly. I love her so much but I have done my homework and diagnosed her with NPD. it’s awful. She is so much like me but mentally, so cruel, and thoughtless and selfish. Stuff she says is appalling and shocking but that is her. I have dreams of her with her in my arms weeping for the sister I will never have. More should be published about this disorder/disease/affliction. Regards Sheila

    Colleen Basore says:

    I have distanced myself from my NPD sister and feeling guilty.I have been reading about NPD and now understand why she is impossible for me to like.The last time she visited I took her out to lunch,before we even got there she was telling me she had no problem telling the wait staff off if we received poor service. I was paying and she just took over, ordering, taking my card to pay………..I have a million other tales like this.

    janet says:

    i to have a narcisses sister58 i will be 50 in a few weeks have had meny of the systems pts ill all of it due to meny years of not being good enough i never did anything to her but i’m the baby of 4 being the5 girl her the 3rd and dont understand she merryed $ myself not that lucky and she seem to really get off on the weaker of the family my mom85 is the only connection and its sad to say my recovery will not start untill the death of my mom or myself i’m glad i found this page it made me feel better abit to know its her but she has cost me my life and that can never be returened

    sandy1 says:

    I have 5 brothers all narcissistic including my mother they all have drug and drinking problems including my mother. I was constantly tormented by the oldest who was the golden child. I was beat up daily by thier rage. The oldest was the worst I am the middle child three of my brothers are older and they all beat me. My mother was jealous of me and I swear she liked it. She would constantly bash my father. We were the scapegoats, I am void of wanting anything because anything I liked or responded favorably to was always destoyed. My dad died hated by my brothers. Dad willed everything to my husband. I knew that would make them crazy so I sought to divide it up equally, and not tell them the truth. When he died they wanted me to pay the funeral bills out of my money and take the estate money. The golden child tried to make himself the executer but I had power of attorney and he went crazy. He now watches my narcissistic mother and her money. I found out if she dies I will inherit part of her house. I already have planned to file a quit claim deed and get the hell out of there when she dies. I know he will try to make me and my husband his next victims as they never seem to have any of there own money and always wants to bully it out of someone they have tormented in the past. How is it they can manipulate, lie and steal money from people but they never have anything to show for it?

    Fenella says:

    The only advice for a NPD sibling is to remove themselves from the situation. No contact.

    It is HARD, very hard, as part of me still wishes for the tv family of happy parents and close best-of-friends siblings, but this will never happen. Parents who won’t admit to the NPD for fear of blame are of little support, and don’t understand “why you are being such a b*tch” and being so selfish.

    I cut my sibling off for about 5 years, and felt personally free for the first time in my life. I disconnected myself from my parents also for a few months, then reconnected with them under my terms of not discussing the NPD sibling at all. I foolishly allowed myself to be sucked back in a year ago, believing he had been clean, held down a steady job and healthy relationship for several years. More fool me. He had just been very very good at lying and deceit to his employers, partner and parents. This has all come spectacularly crashing down, and not surprising he has an explanation for it all and none of it was his fault. (his boss was an ar*ehole and gf was a b*tch)

    My NPD sibling is also a drug addict, which has made life, for our family, quite simply hell. He has a $200 a day habit; but don’t call him an addict – he simply uses drugs, and can stop when he wants!!! To make matters worse one of my parents pays for his drugs, and my parents are suffering because of the added financial hardship, and fight over this constantly, but still unable to refuse him as he is a master at manipulation. No-one else can understand this manipulation, they find it impossible to believe that a brilliant, funny, attractive person has this side. He is physically imposing and has assaulted all of us at some time.

    After researching NPD and drug addiction, I strongly believe our family has no hope while he is still alive. I have no fear he will suicide; he could not have so much attention and not be around to enjoy it. I pray for a quick and painless death for him, but sooner rather than later for my family’s sake. Is this wrong?

    JMS says:

    Thank you Carter and Susan as your advice is most welcome!

    I am a sibling (53 years old female) of a narcissistic sister (58 years old). I have recently decided to break all ties with her to maintain my sanity. It recently dawned on me, when our older brother was on his death bed in hospital, that all her bizarre behaviors were attributable to her having NPD. (Most recently she kicked me out of my brother’s hospital room telling me (demanding this in private of course) that I was being too attentive to his needs! To complicate everything, he had just had a brain aneurysm). She was the last one to talk to him before he went into a coma.. .and he was MY buddy, my friend! She didn’t want to be around him during his 18 months of illness because, well, it bothered her and she needed to ‘protect herself’. I was constantly at his side or on Skype with him…. I was his friend and his confidante….How she managed to remove me from his bedside before he slipped into a coma will always haunt me. Can you imagine someone being such a monster? Well, that is my sister.

    I have been the target of her narcissistic rage for about 45 years yet I thought she was just mean spirited. She dismissed beating me up twice as being a ‘normal’ sibling spat. She is charismatic, has lots of ‘friends’, but is haughty, lacks empathy, a liar, a flirt that exudes her sexuality, an opportunist, and still demeans me to my face at every opportunity. She has bad mouthed me to everyone who is her narcissistic supply. Most unfortunately she has now just managed to keep my nieces (her daughters) from me, knowing how much I care for them. I know I have to let them go of them as well. It is very sad!

    I will also take the advice of others to seek out legal advice as my parents are very old. My parents know that I am there for them until the very end. My sister has already questioned the will…

    I thank you Jeni for your amazing websites and posts. It is good (however it is very sad) to know that I am not alone in being the target of a person with NPD. I am taking the advice to RUN, not look back, because there is really no cure for someone with NPD, especially for someone who doesn’t want to recognize it.

    For so many reasons I am looking forward to 2014.

    Susan says:

    I am in my 40’s and have suffered my entire life because of my narcissistic mother. Attempting to maintain healthy boundaries has been exhausting. She pushed, demanded and crossed the boundaries constantly and it robbed me of many years of what might have been joy and peace and happiness. Now she is 77 and her health is not so good and so in an effort to get her home care arranged I have been forced to communicate with my narcissistic older brother. He is as destructive if not more than my mother was! He is cruel and harsh and now he is destroying my life. I don’t know if there will ever be an end to this hell. I have worked my whole life to become a healthier person and create distance from my toxic family members and now since attempting to have some communication with my brother, I feel beaten down almost to the point that I don’t know if I can recover from the pain this time. Betsy and Becky make some excellent points about being forced to communicate because of ageing parents, but I believe Carter’s idea of having “no contact” is the only hope for being healthy again and maybe even happy. Many will see me as the bad one for breaking up the family, but I am tired of enduring intense and chronic suffering just to fulfil a sense of obligation to my family.

    Carter Thompson says:

    The only way to heal from a narcissists sibling, that by the way was most likely raised by a narcissist is no contact. I was raised with 3 siblings that are sick beyond belief and the orchestra-tor of it all is my Mother, and I use that term very loosely. They do not hear hear, feel you or see you and they never will. WALK AWAY and o not look back regardless of the circumstances, it is not worth your sanity. What ever you do, DO NOT subject your child to these people unless you would like to continue the cycle. There is really no way to detach and still have contact, they will continue to use and abuse you and the effort that you will have to put forth to maintain your boundaries will be exhausting. I think that you give some decent advise, but you need to be a bit more explanatory of the life lasting damage that can be done being raised i this environment. Continuing to engage is what they want and it keeps you upset and doubting your self worth, which is something else they want.

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