The holidays are a special time of year for most people. They are a time of friendship, of giving, of sharing, and of being around the people you love and those who love you. Unfortunately, what makes the holidays so special for most people makes them intolerable for a narcissist.
The narcissist must be the center of attention. In the holiday season, there are a lot of things to attend to, and trying to become better than everyone else at the family gathering, the concert, the staff party, or any other event can be impossible. Rather than trying to accept this, the narcissist moves to devalue and destroy the happiness of those they are around, showing their complete inability to express empathy and to simply enjoy the fact those around them are having fun.
There is another factor at play in a holiday with a narcissist. As the partner, you are also setting expectations and perhaps giving the individual the benefit of the doubt they will handle this holiday season better. They may even indicate they are not going to repeat past behaviors, and they may initially manage to mimic or play the role of a supportive, positive, and engaged spouse, partner, or parent.
Signs of Problems on the Horizon
It is not possible for the narcissist to remain in the honeymoon period of the holiday season. There are often a few key signs that begin to appear that signal the looming eruption of their narcissistic behavior.
Some of the key signs to look for include:
- Increasing criticism – everything you are trying to do for the holidays, from decorating to accepting invitations to events, suddenly becomes a problem. You are criticized for your actions and behaviors, even if the narcissist may have agreed or indicated acceptances earlier.
- Sudden changes – it is not uncommon for the narcissist to suddenly make decisions and changes in plans that make him look good. Perhaps this is deciding to visit his parents, attending an event, or even volunteering to do something that puts him in the center spotlight.
- Disappearing – the narcissist may also agree to do things and then not show up or completely disappear. This is particularly hurtful and harmful to children. The narcissist may use children as a way to hurt the other parent, particularly in divorced families.
Finally, and perhaps the most hurtful for the partner, is the narcissist’s attempt to start fights to ruin the holidays. They will go on the attack for anything, literally turning the seasons into an emotional bonfire.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach