Pretty much every parent believes that no one is good enough for their daughter. That’s not to say you can’t have a cordial relationship with your son-in-law, but no one is good enough for your baby girl.
But what if he’s not just “not good enough” but is actually terrible for your daughter? What if he’s a narcissist that is emotionally abusing your daughter and possibly grandkids? What if he’s slowly destroying the relationship that you have with your daughter? You’d want to do something, right? How to deal with a Narcissistic Son in Law?
Dealing with a narcissist is never easy, but when the narcissist is your son-in-law, the life-long partner of your daughter, things get a whole lot more complicated. You can’t take any direct action; you can’t make a clean break from him without breaking off contact with your daughter. There’s always the risk that anything you say or do will backfire, and push your daughter further away.
You’ll have to try a subtler approach, one that carefully examines the harm that he’s doing to your daughter and your relationship with her. These are some things you’ll need to know to form a plan for getting you, your daughter, and any grandkids away from your narcissistic son-in-law.
Signs of a Narcissistic son-in-law
We all know what a narcissist looks like, right? Not necessarily. Some narcissists are the attention-seeking life of the party, but others glob on to just one person – your daughter in this case, extracting all of the attention and emotional support that he requires.
What’s important for these subtle narcissists is that they have control over someone. They need to manipulate this person’s perception, providing the narcissist with the feelings of power needed to fill their emotional black hole.
There are a number of techniques that your son-in-law will use to control your daughter and grandkids that are surefire signs of narcissism, but the most common ones are triangulation, manipulation, and gaslighting.
Do you feel like your narcissistic son-in-law is pitting you against your daughter? Maybe he tells you something hurtful that she’s said about you, hoping to get a recreation (that he can then use to hurt her). This is triangulation in action, where a narcissist sows discord between two people so as to get attention from both of them.
An easy to understand example is when a narcissistic parent has two children and the parent treats one of them as if they can do no wrong and the other as if they can never do anything right.
Naturally, this causes the poorly treated child to resent the other, rather than the parent who is causing all of this tension. Even the well-treated child comes to resent the other as they become uncomfortable with their own positive situation.
In the case of a son-in-law, you might not believe this strategy would work. You obviously have much greater feelings of affection towards your own child than towards the son-in-law, but if he can control how close you and your daughter are, through manipulative tactics, it gives him the same feelings of power.
Your narcissistic son-in-law is most likely a master manipulator. He knows just what to say and do to put your daughter off balance. At least at the beginning of a relationship, many narcissists bombard their victim with love and affection, making the victim believe that the narcissist would never hurt them.
Later on, he might give backhanded compliments or say hurtful things, then when your daughter gets upset, say he was only joking.
The narcissist does these things because he wants to remain in control. When a narcissist is no longer able to manipulate their victim they lose control and panic.
Some fly into a narcissistic rage, saying anything they can to crush their victim. Others turn to mutual friends and family, starting a smear campaign to turn others against their victim. Some just walk away, hoping it will force their victim to chase after them, groveling for forgiveness.
A narcissistic son-in-law might also try to manipulate you using similar tactics. Though a more overt narcissist might even take you aside and tell you that they can force your daughter and grandkids to cut off contact with you. It’s such blatantly cruel behavior that your daughter might not even believe you if you told her about the conversation – remember, he’s been crafting an idealized image of himself with her for a long time.
One of the worst feelings you can have is questioning your perception of reality. When you’re being gaslit, you don’t trust your own senses and recollection and end up relying on others to recall everyday events for you. This provides a narcissist with immense power.
Narcissists frequently gaslight their victims by distorting the truth, telling people that situations unfolded in ways that make them look like the victim rather than the aggressor.
The narcissist makes these claims with such confidence that the people around them question whether they’re misremembering events. Your narcissistic son-in-law may even use your age against you, causing you to think that your memory is slipping as time goes on.
Why do Narcissistic Son-in-Laws Keep our Daughter and Child Away from Us?
One of the most important things to understand about narcissists is that their behavior comes from a position of weakness. They have very little ability to regulate their sense of self worth, needing constant affirmation of their superiority.
Isolated your daughter from other family members lets him control her perceptions. If she never speaks to her friends or family, they can’t tell her what a monster her husband is.
How to Deal with a Narcissistic Son in Law?
Most likely you can’t stand a single minute around your narcissistic son-in-law, but your adult child has chosen him.
If you want to spend any time with your daughter, you’ll need to learn how to spend time around him in a way that isn’t psychologically damaging for you and doesn’t give him ammunition to harm your relationship with your daughter.
Let Him Believe He’s Got the Upper Hand
This next piece of advice is a hard one to swallow – you need to let the narcissistic son-in-law feel like he’s winning at all times. You must let him feel in control of the situation.
This is incredibly counter-intuitive, you feel like you should do everything in your power to stop him from manipulating your daughter.
Unfortunately, you aren’t in a position to do that. Your daughter needs to see him for who he truly is and be ready to walk away from the relationship.
Until then, any efforts you make to reveal his narcissistic nature will be turned against you. Let him dig his own grave with her – she’ll eventually see his negative behavior for what it is.
Feed His Ego Occasionally
This one feels even worse than the last, but narcissists just want attention and admiration. If you can give that to them every once and a while by stroking their ego, your relationship with him will be better.
That’s not to say you need to fall into the same pattern with him that your daughter has, just give him a compliment every once and a while.
How Can You Support Your Daughter Who is Married to a Narcissist?
The sad fact is that you cannot intervene and separate your daughter from her narcissistic husband. Unless she has already made the decision to walk away from this relationship, your intervention will undoubtedly backfire and she’ll probably cut off contact with you.
Instead, you need to take a support role, helping her make the right decisions, but only when she initiates them. These are just a few of the ways you can help your daughter through her journey of walking away from the narcissist.
Let Your Daughter and the Grandkids Initiate Contact
If you’re always calling your daughter or the grandkids, it makes your narcissistic son-in-law feel like he’s not in control. He feels like you’re intruding on his life and turning everyone against them.
To regain his power, he’ll use manipulation and triangulation to turn your daughter and the grandkids against you.
A better option is to let your daughter and the grandkids know that they can call you anytime and that you’re always available to talk. Your narcissistic son-in-law will have a more difficult time turning your daughter and grandkids against you when you’re not the one initiating contact.
Don’t “Enlighten” Her About Her Situation
Telling your daughter that she is with a narcissist and needs to get away is a surefire way to ruin your relationship with her. If she’s not ready to see who he is and the damage he’s done with his narcissistic abuse, you telling her won’t do any good.
Narcissists do an excellent job at grooming their victims, intermittently showering them with love and making them feel like any negative behavior is the victim’s own fault.
Telling her how terrible her partner is will most likely result in defensiveness. She might say things like “you don’t know him like she does”, or she might blame herself for the son-in-law’s bad behavior.
Give Her Space to Share
Instead of telling her that she’s in a bad relationship and needs to get out, wait for her to share. She may be feeling unsure of her feelings, wondering how she got into a relationship with such an abusive person.
Validate her feelings and let her know that you will always be there for her when she wants to talk. Opening up about the abuse should help her come to her own conclusions about her narcissistic partner.
Help Her to Make a Plan
This is a plan for daughters that are thinking about exiting the relationship and are worried about staying safe. If your narcissistic son-in-law senses that your daughter is leaving him, there’s a good chance he could enter a narcissistic rage. His ego is deeply bruised, and he’ll try to regain his reputation by hurting others.
Let your daughter know that she always has a safe place to stay with you. Explain how you can help her through any legal proceedings and what steps you’ll take to protect your grandkids, if you have any.
Be There for Her After a Discard
Your daughter is married to the narcissist, so there’s a certain level of commitment involved, but most narcissists will make some attempt to discard their partner when they’re no longer receiving the required level of narcissistic supply. Often this takes the form of cheating and emotional distancing, but he could also initiate a divorce.
If that happens, your daughter will either feel relieved or completely crushed. If it’s the former, help her to understand that narcissists frequently return to their discarded partners when they need a boost of supply.
In order to stay strong when he returns, she might need your support. On the other hand, if she’s shattered by the discard, you’ll have to walk a tightrope in telling her it’s for the best without incurring the problems mentioned earlier of disparaging her narcissistic partner.
Getting the Narcissist Out of Your Life
Extricating your narcissistic son-in-law from your daughter’s life and yours is not going to be an easy task. There’s very little that you can do besides recognize his narcissistic tendencies and learn not to aggravate them.
That sounds like giving in to him, but ultimately, this relationship was your daughter’s choice and it’s very unlikely that you can sway her from that choice without incurring her anger and the narcissist’s.
She needs to come to her own conclusions about her husband and you can be supportive of her on that journey without interfering.