Setting Boundaries with Your Narcissistic Parent

You need to construct boundaries around you to keep your narcissistic parent away.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
Limited 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.

Conditional Contact

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.

No Contact

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?

One thought on “Setting Boundaries with Your Narcissistic Parent

  1. Thank you very much for this helpful post !
    Yes, I am tired of the intrusion of my narcs. mother. In my situation, it is a subtle thing, as my mother used to be a lot the neglecting, raging one, but since I don´t allow it to her that easily, she settles more into intrusion, being sneaky, too kind, controllong, pursuing, spying on me (which she has done even earlier, but I was not in her physical space and I did not feel it so much). I truly call it an inscest. The ultimate goal of narcissist. My mother steals my life, my emotions, my freedom -because she does not have it for herself. She steals my identity. She wants me to be her therapist, her husband, her friend, her mother. She needs my energy. I feel that I must care for her…for her health, for her body (I am her, I have literally no body of myself) I am here to fullfil her needs.
    …I definitely don´t know much about myself. I had been sent in the world of the little child- the 7 dwarfs. I am “too childhish” and “stupid, naiv” for many people….like living in the world of childhood, being hooked up there.
    My mother does as if I had no life of my own (as it was not odd that at my age, I am not married, no partner, no good job, very poor health….it is soo good for her. She will stay the queen, the only one in my life). As her mother did for her.
    It produces in me lots of fears of being penetrated again by her emotions, sucking my life, but also the fear of what will happen when I don´t allow her to be it her way, when I will oppose myself.
    My first evidence-based intrusion memory come from the day of my leaving examination. I caught her opening my personal letters the day of my leaving examination when I was not at home (this morning, she took a day off to drive me to school, but made a big scene, yelling at me, telling me how bad I look, what horrible things I eat, run with scissors after me to cut down my hair). Later on, I caught her to critise my friends, don´t invite them, being hostile, however inviting “the bad people in my life”, buyin their presense. She was angry, having some condescending remarks towards me when somebody called me. I never called in her presense, I asked people not to call me in certain days, hours. She punished me with silent treatment when some friends called me.
    She started to step into my room anytime she wanted in order to talk about herself: she positioned herself in front of my working table and started to go on, as a radio.
    She has been interested in my wardrobe (this is why I moved to another country and took always all my stuff with me, made huge investment into the transporting all my things). She called me twice a week per Skype when I was not living with her anymore and talked about herself. She never called me when I had a birthday.
    She bought me expensive presents for Xmas (I was obligated to celebrate the Xmas time).
    I guess that she observes my movements, my body…from my early childhood, only to be after me in the right moment.
    She is a great observer. I only remember how condescending, hateful and threatening regards she threw to me when she caught me in bathing suite….I always paid meticulous attention not to show any centimetre of my skin. I did not want to feel her “erotical, intrusive” energie, mixed up with hate, envy, harm…or whatever it was.
    I remember that she showed up when I was writing e-mails on a computer that “in an opened space”. She came in, sat next to me and talked about whatever things….her eyes rolled on the screen. My mother is not internet-knowlegable. If she were, yes, she would have controlled my cell phone, my e-mail box.. . I was unfortunately in a romantic relationship with a narcissist. I found out that he search through my computer, checked on the history I watched, also appeared to show up when I was writing e-mails, chances are that he searched through my cell phone…. .
    To my mother, I intuitively try to get the post before she could when I expect something to come. Even books, wrapped in.
    No privacy-feeling. She was (and her mother) always here. No going away.
    Since I end up again with her because of my sickness, I can feel it much more as in childhood and teenage time.
    At the day of my birthday, she took a day off. I became so angry and made it clear to her that I want to have a calm time….I chased her away. I had some guilt/fear time (instead of having a peaceful time as I wanted), but on general I am happy that I had set my boundaries. I could have not forgiven myself when I had to spend this day of year again with her, being around me.
    She tries to control what I eat, when I eat (only she can cook, she dominates the kitchen, I must eat her food or go better hungry). She controled what I wear. As a teenager, I started to go on bike to school -a great savior: she never saw me, I escaped her, she had no idea what I wore. She had sabotaged the situations in my life that were not good for me: she was silently watching, waiting whether I would fall. When I did, she came in to tell me “you could have never done it anyway, you were not good enough”….later on, when I figured out that I was with abusive people, she started to quarrel about them (have the same opinion as I have). She always has the same opinion as I have, unless she wants to blame me or guilt me (which is not that possible anymore).
    I caught her sight once when returning from train, accompanying with a guy -.passenger. We just talked. I guess he was married, way older than me. Mother was wainting in a car for me. I intuitively knew that it would not be good for me when she sees me with him. It happened. She was “shockingly terrified” that I will run away from her with some man…..
    Currently, she controls “my health”… occasion for her to intrude my life. She tells “Go home, it is cold”…..I notice that it is usually when I feel really good and want to enjoy the sun. She plays the “caring mother”. However, it was her who made me sick, it was her who never search any kind of help for me (but she did for herself in her sickness).
    I try to minimise my physical contact with her as possible. I go into the garden mainly when she is not there …..I could not enjoy myself. She would show up somewhere, watching me, spying on me, messuring me up what I wear.
    I still have always every day some tiny anxiety attacks when she is coming home (I know sooner that she is coming). I feel such disease when she returns, Fridays, Saturdays are bad. I had a bad depression when she takes a day off….
    I understand why I tried to escape from her already at the age of 14 .
    I try to put all of these things together.
    I am thinking of telling her of the maternal inscest, confronting her..I usually talk about other people, because I cannot stand it out anymore. I am more angry and nasty to her when she intrudes (as in the film of “Swan lake”…when she tries to play the “caring mother”).
    I am working on determining my boundaries. Especially those “energetical” and spacious.

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