You’re tired of your narcissistic parent’s intrusions into your life. She calls you at work, stalks you on the internet, and constantly intrudes in your personal life. You even suspect that she is going through your mailbox before you get home.
You are not alone. A universal characteristic of narcissists is that they have virtually no regard for personal boundaries. They violate boundaries at will with no thought of how the other person feels. A trait that leaves children of narcissists frustrated.
This practice of violating your boundaries stems from the fact that your narcissistic parent thinks you exist to meet her needs. The boundary violations often stem from an attempt by the narcissist to get her needs met.
It is common for a narcissist to treat all those close to her—whether family or friends—as the means for fulfilling her desire, needs, and wants.
To her, you are simply the vehicle for meeting her needs. She can’t conceive that her behavior is an imposition to you.
Even though boundary violation is a normal narcissistic behavior, you are not doomed to put up with it. You have the power to set firm, healthy boundaries that work for your life. And you have the right to demand your parents adhere to those boundaries.
Before discussing how to set boundaries, let’s discuss what we mean by boundaries.
What Boundaries Mean with Narcissistic Parents
If you’re a little confused about how to set boundaries with your narcissistic parent, don’t worry about it. You’ve never had healthy boundaries with her. Even as a kid your narcissistic parent treated you as an extension of herself.
Growing up you may have felt you didn’t know where you ended. I felt no sense of privacy anywhere in the house. My rooms (One at my mother’s, one at my father’s) were subject to search at any time. The only place I felt a sense of privacy, where I knew my parents wouldn’t come, was the woods.
The forest was my haven. The sole place with both freedom and privacy—the only boundaries I knew as a kid.
But running to the woods every time you parent intrudes upon your space is unrealistic for you. So you need to set up your own realistic boundaries with you narcissistic parent. Fast.
What are boundaries?
They are simply rules or limits we set up that tell other people what are acceptable, permissible, and unacceptable behaviors when interacting with you. And your boundaries should clearly spell out the consequences for violating your boundaries.
The thought of telling your narcissistic parent that he or she must follow your rules can seem intimidating. However, it is the only way to bring sanity to your life, and the life of your partner and/or children, if you have them.
I know that you want to do this, and you can do this. You only need to figure out what you want your boundaries to be, and you then need to communicate them to your parent, enforcing the consequences when they violate them. And they will violate them. So get prepared for that now.
Determining What Your Boundaries Will Be
Boundaries with your narcissistic parent range from “you can call me twice a week” to “we will not have contact anymore.”
The key to determining your boundaries should not be based in fear over how you think your parent will react. The deciding factor should be based upon what you want. What’s best for your mental health, and your family’s well-being.
Search yourself and ask what you really want. Also ask what you are capable of enforcing. If you cannot enforce a boundary of no contact at my home, there is no sense in setting that boundary. It will only sabotage your efforts to set firmer boundaries later, as your parent may not take you seriously.
Talk over your decision with a partner, close friend, or therapist. They may illuminate aspects of your personality that you are blind to.
Only when you are sure do you set the boundary with your parent. And you don’t need to do it in person. A phone call is an acceptable method.
If you are going to inform your parent in person, you may want to consider a public location. Your parent will be angry. Narcissistic rage may occur. You don’t want to risk them becoming violent. And there’s less chance of that occurring out in public.
Boundaries to Set With Your Narcissistic Parent
Boundaries are the critical solution for dealing with a narcissist. Although your narcissistic parent will try to make you feel guilty for erecting boundaries, you have no reason for guilt.
Your parent brought these boundaries on his or herself. If they had behaved and respected you, you wouldn’t have to place them between you and your parent.
These are the types of boundaries that we’ll review:
- Limited contact
- Conditional contact
- No contact
With limited contact you are limiting the interactions that you have with your parent. This can cover a range of interaction frequency. But the techniques for setting the contact will mostly remain the same. For my examples I’ll be illustrating with the example of a narcissistic mother, but you would do the same things for a narcissistic father.
Some adult children of narcissistic parents maintain contact out of a sense of obligation. Trust me when I say you are not obligated to spend time with someone who abused you. You are only opening yourself to more abuse, which you do not deserve. Giving up, or lessening, contact will free you up from that abuse.
Limiting contact assumes you are not ready to break off all contact with your narcissistic mother; however, you don’t want her choosing when and where you interact. Her constant intrusions are probably bothersome, stressful, and embarrassing before, during, and after contact..
The first thing to do is decide when and where you want the contact to occur. A note on where: unless you are restricted to your home, you do not want the contact to occur at your home. You have nowhere to go if your mother goes into narcissistic rage, other than to leave your own home with her still in it. Also, if your mother becomes belligerent, you have no way to get her out of your home. Restrict your contact to public places during busy times of the day or evening.
Decide on where and when to have contact. Let’s say you pick telephone contact every Monday and Wednesday night from 7:00—7:20 and meeting for coffee at Starbucks on Saturday mornings.
Having picked your times and locations it’s time for you to draw up you consequences for breaking these contacts or rules. You can determine that if your mother calls you other than those times, then the next phone call will be cancelled. If you mother initiates face-to-face contact, the next Saturday coffee is cancelled.
It’s important that you implement the consequences the first time there is a contact violation. And there will be a violation. Like a toddler testing its limits, your parent is going to try and push the boundaries. You have to be firm, resolute, and consistent in enforcing consequences or your parent will continue to walk all over you.
The next step is to inform your parent of these new boundaries. Be ready for her to get angry, to complain, and to want to know the reasons why. You can be as honest as you want for your reasons to limit contact. Do not let her dissuade you from implementing your boundaries be strong.
A note on if you live with your narcissistic parent. Boundaries are more difficult to implement if you live with your narcissistic parent, but not impossible. You can limit your contact with them by staying in your room or spending most of your time out. Put a lock on the outside of your bedroom door so she can’t snoop while you’re out. But most of all, get a plan for moving out as soon as possible.
With conditional contact you restrict interactions to family emergencies or family events or any other situation you have in your life. This is a bit harder to enforce as you cannot dish out consequences.
You will need to block phone numbers, refuse to let your parent in if she shows up at the door, and leave a public place if she is present. There are concerns with all boundary setting around stalking.
It’s not uncommon for a narcissist to stalk their child. I’ve had it happen to me. One day I was coming home from work and I saw a car sitting at a stop sign perpendicular to the road I was traveling.
I stared at the car because it looked like my mother’s. I spotted my mother behind the wheel. She pulled behind my car and followed me to my house. I pulled over to the curb. She passed me wearing a maniacal grin that resembled the Joker’s from Batman.
If your narcissistic parent continues to stalk you, you may report her to the police. Stalking is a crime and you should seek a restraining order.
I recommend this boundary. But some people are not ready for no contact, or they fear their parent’s reaction. Whatever boundaries you choose is perfectly fine. You have to do what’s best for your life and your situation.
No contact means you break off all contact with your narcissistic parent. There’s no visiting, calling, email, or attending the same family gatherings. You remove the narcissist from your life as if she were a tick burrowing in your skin.
Block your parent from your phone and all social media contact. If she has a key to your home, get the locks changed. If you frequent the same restaurant, gym, or coffee shop, find a new one. Anywhere your lives touch, cut her away like a surgeon removing a cancer.
Commenters here on the site have written about how freeing no contact is. The sense of relief over not having to deal with their narcissist parent is significant.
I have no contact with my narcissistic parents. Not spending time with my mother and father has removed a major stressor from my and my family’s life. When I was in contact, I’d start getting angry and anxious three days before I was supposed to spend time with one of my parents. The anger and anxiety increased two days before. One day before I was unbearable to live with. I’d lash out at my wife and kids for the smallest thing.
Finally, I’d have contact. Then the day of and day after I’d be unlivable with. Two days after the anger and anxiety would diminish. Three days after it would diminish some more. Finally four days after I’d be able to apologize and talk about my time with my parent.
What is your contact with your parent costing those you care about? What is it costing you? You have to figure such costs in with your decision as to whether you’ll have contact or not.
Should you decide to break off contact, there’s no one perfect way to do it. As with limiting contact, I recommend that you don’t inform your parent of your decision in person. A letter or email works. Or you don’t need to inform them. I never sent anything but stopped responding to attempts to contact me and don’t go where I might see them. This is also an option. If you live in another state you can simply not respond to their attempts to contact you and not even bother to tell them of your decision.
Do it however you are most comfortable.
Wrapping It Up
You have suffered enough abuse in your life. You never deserved to be abused, and you don’t deserve it now. With your narcissistic parent having unfettered access to your life, you’ll never be free of her abuse.
Boundaries are the solution. But they must be set and enforced. This can be done all at once or in stages. It can be in whatever form feels best to you. Which will take determination on your part.
I wish you luck in setting your boundaries. I wish you the freedom that comes from breaking free of abusive parents.
How will you set boundaries with your narcissistic parent?