Navigating the intricate terrain of dealing with a narcissist is a formidable challenge that demands careful consideration and strategic handling. The complexities that arise from managing the personality traits of a narcissistic individual are akin to navigating through a minefield, with every step potentially triggering unexpected reactions. In this journey, emotions, family dynamics, legal agreements, and health concerns interweave to create a tapestry of uncertainty. This exploration delves into the tumultuous world of addressing a narcissistic family member's needs and behavior, examining how these aspects intersect and offering insights into potential ways of effectively managing this intricate situation. Through these discussions, we aim to provide a framework for understanding and handling the complexities that emerge when dealing with a narcissist, all while safeguarding the well-being of all parties involved.
While I had considered providing you with the full backstory, it's clear that the details won't significantly contribute to the resolution. The crux of the matter is that my grandmother is a narcissist who has estranged all her children save for my mom, and even her contact with Mom is limited. When my grandmother's manipulation ceased to yield the results she wanted from my mother, she sought alternative targets. Having exhausted other options, she couldn't oblige anyone else to her desires. Her grandchildren have all experienced the turbulence of her unpredictable behavior, making the prospect of caring for her unappealing.
I find myself in this situation not out of a personal desire to care for my grandmother, but due to her offer to sell us her house. This proposition morphed into a lease option contract when she struggled to relinquish control. The condition of her house, plagued by issues such as foundation problems, termite infestation, plumbing and electrical failures, mold, insulation problems, rodent presence, water damage, and non-compliant windows, is such that it would typically warrant demolition rather than repair.
The contract obligates us to cover all property-related expenses, including her utilities, while providing us with the financial flexibility to carry out the necessary repairs. Despite dedicating a third of our income to repairs over the course of a year, we estimate needing another year to complete the renovations. Thankfully, our ability to perform the repairs ourselves has prevented the expenses from surpassing the house's value; otherwise, demolition would have been the prudent choice. This decision is underscored by the fact that some repairs, like electrical work marked by burn marks, would have been unsafe given her prioritization of appearance over safety.
Recently, my grandmother decided she'd had enough of our presence and attempted to argue that we had voided the contract by altering the house's original state during the repairs. She reached out to various relatives to propagate the notion that we were exploiting her while relying on her social security to support our family of six. She falsely claimed that we reneged on our promise to invest in the property's maintenance. Amid these distortions, she even asserted that we were now tenants and that she had removed our contract from her trust. When my husband calmly explained that we were in the process of purchasing the property according to the contract terms, her responses ranged from backpedaling to threats of selling the house to keep us away, and even threats of arson. My assurance of having retained documentation to substantiate our actions seemed to unsettle her.
The challenge I'm confronting, alongside her narcissism, is the emergence of concerning health indicators. I am convinced she suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, which she has likely had for decades. More recently, she has exhibited classic symptoms of congestive heart failure, and I suspect early signs of vascular dementia. Combining dementia with a narcissistic personality disorder poses a formidable challenge. I have endured berating and belittling for issues as minor as a broken hose or using a dishwasher. Although my mother holds the power of attorney, she minimizes contact with her mother. It took six months of a persistent cough and a couple of significant memory lapses occurring in her presence before my mother acknowledged the dementia. My grandmother's aversion to doctors, coupled with her awareness of a potential diagnosis, contributes to her reluctance.
In the meantime, she frequently engages in brief conversations with an out-of-state uncle who tends to discuss us or focus exclusively on the news. Despite these interactions, he remains oblivious to her manipulation. I've never sought my grandmother's approval, yet it pains me that my favorite uncle now holds negative sentiments toward me based on unfounded accusations. Without a professional diagnosis, I find myself treading water, anticipating the next major conflict in which facts will be distorted. Meanwhile, I am grateful for my foresight in documenting the entire agreement and for my meticulous habit of preserving receipts. Do you have any recommendations for dealing with distant relatives when obtaining a diagnosis is improbable?
Jacque, your situation is undoubtedly complex, and navigating the intricacies of dealing with a narcissist is akin to threading through a minefield. While I initially contemplated providing you with a comprehensive background, it's apparent that the crux of the matter lies in your current circumstances.
Grandma's narcissistic tendencies have undeniably driven a wedge between her and her children, leaving only your mother with limited contact. When her manipulation tactics ceased yielding the results she sought from your mother, she cast her net wider to fulfill her desires. However, her ability to control and manipulate others dwindled, leading her to focus on alternative avenues.
Your involvement in this situation is more a result of circumstance than a genuine desire to care for your grandmother. Her proposition to sell her house to you turned into a lease option contract due to her reluctance to relinquish control. The condition of the house, marred by a litany of issues, would typically warrant its demolition rather than repairs. Yet, the contract obligates you to cover property expenses, including utilities, while also granting you the flexibility to finance the essential repairs. Despite a year's worth of work and devoting a third of your income to repairs, it appears another year is needed to conclude the renovations. The fact that you are undertaking these repairs yourselves has prevented the costs from surpassing the house's value, preventing demolition.
Recently, your grandmother contested the validity of the contract, asserting that changes made during repairs voided it. She spread false information to family members, alleging exploitation on your part and falsely claiming that your family relies solely on her social security support. Amid these fabrications, she even implied that you were mere tenants and that the contract had been revoked from her trust. Your husband's calm explanation of the contract's terms seemed to unsettle her, prompting threats and attempted manipulation.
Adding complexity to the situation is your grandmother's deteriorating health and her confluence of health issues with narcissistic traits. While your belief in her obstructive sleep apnea is rooted in observation, her current symptoms align with congestive heart failure and potentially early signs of vascular dementia. Balancing these health concerns with her narcissistic tendencies presents a formidable challenge.
Your mother's power of attorney does provide a framework for addressing her health, but you rightly point out that your grandmother's willingness to comply with medical intervention is uncertain. The parallel presence of dementia and narcissism makes it difficult to predict her reactions or decisions.
As for the uncle who maintains contact with her, it's understandable that his perspective might be skewed by her manipulation. In this intricate web of relations, securing a professional diagnosis for her seems unlikely, leaving you in a state of preparedness for potential conflicts.
Given the circumstances, here are some considerations:
- Document Everything: Maintain a meticulous record of all interactions, conversations, and actions, as this documentation could prove vital in addressing any false accusations.
- Prepare for Crisis: Given the uncertainties surrounding her health, equip yourself with essential information and resources, such as medical and insurance documents, that might be required in a crisis.
- Boundary Setting: Ensure that you maintain clear boundaries to protect your own well-being and that of your family members from her manipulation.
- Support Networks: Engage with support groups or individuals who have dealt with similar situations. Their insights and experiences can offer valuable perspectives.
- Focus on Your Family: Prioritize your family's emotional and mental well-being throughout this complex journey.
Navigating the complexities of dealing with a narcissist is a daunting journey, rife with manipulation and uncertainty. From property agreements entwined with control to the harrowing dance between narcissism and health concerns, these stories reveal the challenges involved. With vigilance, documentation, and a supportive network, it's possible to maintain boundaries and find equilibrium amid the turmoil. Remember, your well-being is paramount; by embracing resilience and seeking guidance, you can navigate this intricate terrain and emerge stronger on the other side.
-Diane Carbo, RN
You might also like this article: