If you follow my blog, you know that my sister-in-law pretty much fits the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. You also know that we no longer have contact with her, her husband or her children because of this.
What I maybe focus on a little less is that my mother-in-law is probably 90% of the reason she continues down the path she’s on.
What? I’m blaming my mother-in-law for someone else’s behavior?
From everything I’ve read about NPD, it can’t exist without the individual being enabled. The treatment basically revolves around forcing the “sufferer” to see their own flaws. To break the delusion. In my family’s situation, my mother-in-law is the one doing the enabling. She’s the one encouraging everyone to just “keep the peace” by going along with whatever crazy-train says or does. She’s the one inviting them to holidays and outcasting anyone that she really doesn’t get along with (that would be us) as to not upset her. She’s the one telling her it’s OK that she acts the way she does because that’s just who she is. My mother-in-law is a constant source of excuses and she takes everything crazy-train says at face-value for the sake of “peace”. And because there’s always the underlying threat of withholding access to the grandchildren should she say or do something that crazy-train doesn’t like. It has happened before and that threat has been verbalized in the past, though not in those exact words.
From what I’ve read (and disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on television), NPD can’t exist without an enabler. Without my mother-in-law it would probably be crazy-train’s husband (my brother-in-law), but without my mother-in-law, a HUGE chunk of her support would be gone. My mother-in-law is the one that originally encouraged my brother-in-law to just go along with whatever crazy-train does or says so she couldn’t take the kid(s) away. She has been conditioning and counseling him for years to just go with it and to suck it up for the sake of the kids. All the while his wife has been getting worse and worse.
The cherry on top is that my mother-in-law left her husband because she thought HE was a narcissist. He’s not anywhere near the same level of crazy as my sister-in-law and yet she condemned her own son to a lifetime of the same abuse she claimed to suffer herself by encouraging him to stay when crazy-train got pregnant (without a paternity test) and by encouraging him to just feed into the delusions, thereby continuing the cycle.
It’s all so insane that it hurts my brain to even think that people like this exist. But they do. And somehow I found them and married into that family — what does that say about me? To be fair, crazy-train wasn’t in the picture when I said, “I do”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If I’d have known she’d be a part of the picture before I married into the family, I wouldn’t have done it. I love my husband, but had I known then what I know now about his family, I would have walked away.
So if you have someone in the family that’s maybe labeled as bi-polar, but maybe doesn’t control it well with medication and has more symptoms of NPD than bi-polar disorder, consider your interactions with them and how it’s impacting other people in your family. This is particularly important if you’re the matriarch because sometimes “keeping the peace” isn’t doing that at all — it’s just growing the resentment.