There’s only one thing worse than living with your parents — and that’s living with a narcissistic parent. Let’s face it, nobody should live with their parents after they grow up. It’s only natural to want your own space so you can make avocado toast at 3:00 am. For anyone stuck at home with a narc parent during these days of isolation, here are a few tips.
This is not a prison sentence even though it feels like it.
This time of isolation can be a good time to make art or create music or reorganize your room or catch up on a class you have struggled with in the past. Take this time as a gift but take care to monitor your boundaries while you’re living with the narcissist.
All narcissists are hard to deal with, but the narc parent is the worst because they raised you and know how to push your buttons because they installed them. If you want to maintain your sanity you’ll need to be true to yourself and not allow the narc parent to overrun your boundaries.
Choose Your Battles
It’s best to pick your battles. Not every boundary needs defending right now, some things can just slide under the door until this virus crisis is over. Try to avoid heated discussions that might cause a fight over politics and religion. These topics tend to inflame everyone’s egos and get out of control. Also, try to ignore the petty blame games like arguing over who did what or who forgot to buy something. Save your energy for the big deals.
What Are the Big Deals?
A Parent Who Violates Your Privacy
This could include anything from reading your diary, snooping through your purse, looking at your checking account, listening in on your phone conversations, or making you hold the bathroom door open while you use it. Each of these things is an invasion of your privacy if you’re an adult.
Big deals include a sexually abusive parent making remarks about your body or an emotionally needy parent dumping all their frustrations on you because they’re struggling with their marriage. Both of these are a type of incest coming from a parent.
If your parent touches you inappropriately — ether sexually or physically hitting you, these are really big deals! Many times people who grew up being hit or molested don’t recognize that domestic violence can happen to kids too. If this is happening, you need to plan a secret escape.
If you’re in physical danger,
or being sexually abused,
please call for help.
Text a friend. Call the police whatever you have to do to be safe. And be sure to wash your hands and stay well wherever you go.
A Parent Who Disrespects You
Brad was only eight when his dad told his mom to stop putting his art on the fridge or he would turn into “pansy.” Brad is afraid to tell his dad he’s gay. He knows the fight that would come out of it. This is probably not the time to come out when you are relying on your family home for health security. That battle might be better won another day when you have the power to move out and be on your own and pay your own way.
If you are queer, a feminist, or just want to choose your own major in college or have a boyfriend or girlfriend that your parents dislike — these things are a big deal.
No parent worth their egg or sperm has the right to dictate who you are or will become just because they donated to your existence. If these things about you are already known and your narc parent continues to put you down, you might want to leave the room and face time a friend.
If the narc parent insists on talking to you in a disrespectful way, tell them you won’t hang out with them until they treat you with respect. Sometimes Christians parents will say they can’t respect you because you make different choices than they would. We don't have to respect each other's choices, but family members should always treat each other with respect.
Go Gray Rock Whenever You Can
No one argues as much as a narcissist. They think every conversation is a zero-sum game and they want to prove they’re right. It gets exhausting. Whether you want to argue back because you know you‘re right or you wish you could be swallowed up by the carpet, you might want to go “Gray Rock.”
“Gray Rock” is a term used to describe remaining as passive as possible when you’re interrogated by the narcissist. Gray rocks do nothing but sit still and blend in and you can too. It might seem hard at first, but you will catch on to the rhythm of it. The main purpose is to show no response to what the narc says.
The success of Gray Rock depends on you not showing any emotion when the narcissist tries to get a rise out of you. They will say things they expect you to get upset over, but if you can act nonchalant, you won’t give the narc the narcissistic feed they want — which is to see you blow up like Old Faithful.
Don’t mention Gray Rock or the narc will look it up on the interwebs and catch on to what you’re doing. Remember, in the case of Gray Rock, less is always more.
Escape As Much As You Can
No matter what your physical location, you can go just about anywhere in your mind. Movies, books, music, virtual museums, travel shows, earbuds, texting friends, face-timing friends, etc. all of these are ways to escape the narcissist.
While you travel in your mind, you might even forget you’re stuck in a house with the narc. But if the narcissist keeps following you around and taunting you, slip into the bathroom to take a deep breath. Or take a shower or bubble bath while you’re in there.
In a few weeks you will find you can go out again and escape the narc’s web — perhaps forever, but for now, keep focusing on your dreams and don't allow the narc to rob you of simple joys and peaceful moments. You are worthy of respect and space and you have to right to ask for it.
Cherilyn Christen Clough has been preparing for a pandemic her entire life. She knows what it is like to live in isolation. She spent most of her teen years living in the Montana wilderness washing hands with her germaphobe mom, hiding from society with her survivalist father, while baking bread from scratch and canning huckleberries over a campfire. You can read more about her strange childhood in her Memoir Chasing Eden. If you want to know her secrets for surviving narcissistic abuse you can sign up for Little Red’s Survivor Tips.