Ding, dong! Ding, dong!
Ding, dong! Ding, dong!
It’s the most trigger-ful time of the year!
With Narcissists yelling
And Borderline dysregulation swelling, inducing fear
It’s the most trigger-ful time of the year!
With fake Facebook greetings, emotional beatings
And your family forbidden to call
It’s the crap-crappiest season of all!
There’ll be parties for pouting
Traditions for flouting
And tantrum-ing out in the snow
There’ll be confabulated stories
And tales of the glories of much better
Boyfriends/Girlfriends long, long ago
Ah, the holidays . . .
Peace on earth, good will toward men, joy to the world and all that happy, happy stuff. That’s if you’re not in a relationship with a narcissist, borderline, histrionic, psychopath or garden variety jerk. In which case you’ve probably developed a whopping case of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Santa Disorder).
I’m not talking about having the holiday blues. Many people feel a little down this time of year. Dysfunctional family childhood memories, social isolation, consumerism, the state of the world, not being in a relationship, etc., can feel more acute in December. If this is true of you, practice good self-care, be gentle with yourself and ride it out. It’ll pass.
I’m talking about personality disordered people who often intensify their usual hell on earth, ill will toward men and suffering to the world during the holiday season, or any special occasions for that matter. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s can seem like the Olympics of characterological asshattery.
So what can you do to make the holidays easier for you? Yes, you. Forget about preventing your narcissist, borderline or psychopath from getting her or his Grinch on. That’s most likely going to happen no matter what you do, so why not do what’s good for you for a change? To be clear, the more you do for a narcissist, borderline, histrionic or psychopath the more demanding, ungrateful and contemptuous they become. Feeding entitlement begets more entitlement. If you accept that, then I ask again, what can you do to make the holidays easier for you?
Schedule self-care. Make time to go to the gym. Eat healthfully. I know it can be difficult to make time for yourself especially during this time of year and especially if your Crazy is up your butt nonstop, but try. Take a walk. Shovel snow. Go grocery shopping. If it gets you out of the house and away from her or him, do it. If it involves some kind of physical labor, or any kind of work for that matter, it should be easier to make a break for it. Tell them you’re going gift shopping for them. If that means taking a quiet walk in the woods to think of the “perfect present” (wink, wink), so be it.
Don’t cause yourself unnecessary stress. Has she ever really been happy with her presents? Even when you’ve given her exactly what she’s asked for? Don’t sweat finding the perfect gift. It won’t be good enough. Or, it will be exactly what she wants, but you either a) only did it to make others think you’re a good husband because you’re really not, or b) it doesn’t count because she had to tell you what she wanted and if you really loved her you would have known without her having to tell you. When there’s no chance of succeeding why worry about failing? Let go and embrace the failure. It’s way easier.
Don’t overindulge. While it may be tempting to motorboat a gallon of heavily spiked eggnog or buzz saw your way through mountains of cookies, don’t. The crash from sugar and alcohol will only make you feel worse.
Enforce boundaries or accept the impending drama/silent treatment. One or the other. If your wife/husband or girlfriend/boyfriend runs up the credit cards you have three choices: 1) Stress over it and say nothing; 2) Stress over it and try to explain, again, why going into (more) debt for presents is bad; or 3) shut her off and ignore the screaming, crying, guilt tripping, sulking and being portrayed as The Bad Guy to any and all who will listen, including the kids.
He hates your family and throws and annual shit fit prior to the visit in an effort to spoil it? Or refuses to go at the last minute because you did [INSERT MANUFACTURED GRIEVANCE HERE]? You know, he would’ve gone — heck, he wanted to go! — but YOU had to do what you did. Tsk, tsk, tsk. To hell with your narcissist or borderline. If you want to go and don’t care about the guilt trip, tantrum or pouty pout once you return, go. Let him stew and seethe all by his lonesome. Or, you can call your family and cancel. Again.
Why do narcissists do this? Typically, male and female narcissists don’t like going anywhere or doing anything that isn’t either all about them or about something that interests them — like themselves. Spending time with your family probably means the narcissist is going into an environment in which they have to behave themselves and it won’t be all about them. It also hurts you and isolates you. Win-win.
Lower your expectations. Expect the worst. If you’re lucky, it won’t be as bad that. Yes, you’ll spend time, money and effort to find a special gift for your narcissist. And in return, you’ll get a present that makes you wonder if they put any time, money and effort into thinking about what you’d like. Newsflash: They didn’t. Does anyone actually want a pair of ratty acrylic fur slippers 2 sizes too big from Restoration Hardware? (True story).
Call a seasonal strike. If you can opt out of the typical holiday melodrama (e.g., if your Crazy or Crazies are your family of origin and not your spouse), do it. Stay home and do a Planet of the Apes marathon. Spend the day with friends instead. Volunteer at a local charity or just pretend like it’s any other day of the year.
Consider Christmas Future. Do you really want to spend another November-December like this one? Like the last 5 or 10 or more? Would you like to spend time with your family and friends without the drama and emotional torture? Would you like to have fun going to a tree lot and decorating without an adult toddler dumping on it? Or how about being able to simply enjoy a peaceful, contemplative end of the year? You can do and have all these things, but not if you remain in a toxic, dysfunctional relationship. You can’t become healthy while in a relationship that’s the equivalent of a radioactive waste zone. And on that note . . .
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.
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