event planning with a narcissist

Today Jonsi is sharing her thoughts on my post, The Demons of Doubt and Disappointment. I find her perspective, as the daughter-in-law of a narcissistic woman, very validating. Her husband is so fortunate to have a spouse who understands his struggle and supports him! 

One of the links in her post, to an entry about her daughter's first birthday, dredged up some old stuff for me. I identified strongly with this: 
The problem is that they are always late, they always have excuses (and only some of them are valid), and they don't allow that their plans might be disrupted and they might need EXTRA time to deal with the disruptions.
It was always the same story when we went to their house for dinner as well, which is not at all conducive to the schedule of a napping infant. There was only one occasion where they hosted dinner earlier, for our sake, and they complained about how difficult it was to get dinner on the table so early, as though we were just such a big inconvenience to them. 
Ah, yes, the perpetual refusal of the narcissist to live by anybody's agenda or clock but her own. This reminded me of a couple of holiday gatherings in the past:

One Christmas morning when I was hosting the family gathering, we had planned to have a mid-morning brunch, then exchange gifts. My mother showed up two hours late. She lives one hour away. That means she left her house an hour after she should have been at my house! While things sometimes happen to derail one's plans, she already had a history of doing this sort of thing. And while a normal person would call and apologize and ask everybody to start without them, she  a) didn't even give us a phone call, b) didn't apologize for being late and holding up the meal, and c) was annoyed that we had started preparing the meal without her. She didn't seem to have any sense of the inconvenience that she had caused. She didn't seem to realize or care that my young son needed to eat and that the original timeline - to which we had all agreed - had worked well for his happy-awake times and would have avoided his grumpy or needing-nap times. She flat-out didn't care about the plans we had made as a group. What suited her was to show up late, and now that she was here, the party could begin! 

Another year, we were planning a family Christmas get-together at her house. We were all spending Christmas Day with our in-law families and then our family of origin would get together a few days later. This coincided with one of my sisters-in-laws' birthdays. During a phone conversation about our plans, my mother told me that we would also be celebrating my SIL's birthday with cake and presents. A short time after that, I was talking to my brother (SIL's husband) on the phone, and her birthday came up. He was surprised to hear about the birthday plan, because my mother hadn't told  him or SIL about it at all. SIL hates surprise birthday parties. HATES them. This is one of the things my SIL has in common with my mom, so I had assumed that my mom could relate to the hatred of surprises, and that the party was common knowledge. I later got into huge trouble with my mother for telling my brother about the SUPER SECRET PARTY PLANS. I pointed out that I hadn't known that they were secret, and that my mother knows that SIL hates surprise parties, so why would I think I wasn't supposed to mention it? It just came up! My mother's response? She treated me like I'm this completely unreliable, untrustworthy person. She informed me that my brother and I (and the rest of our siblings) shouldn't discuss Christmas plans together. We should only discuss them with her and stop "stirring each other up." So, um, adult siblings who often see each other or talk on the phone should completely avoid discussion of a date in their near future when they will see each other. We shouldn't even say "hey, what time are you getting there?" We should check with her. Ok...that's reasonable. Except that it's not. It's completely crazy.

I guess the moral here is that if you want to plan an event with a narcissist, 
  • do not speak at all to any other person in the whole world except the narcissist
  • make sure that the details of the event suit the tastes and attention needs of the narcissist, rather than those of the guest of honor
  • plan everything around the naptime and mealtimes of the narcissist, so that she won't get overtired and cranky
As for me? I don't plan to attend such an event, ever again.


  1. The part about how your NM planned a surprise party, even though she knew full-well that SIL hates them, really got to me. How utterly narcissistic. How reminiscent of the many times my N mother-in-law and enabling/N father-in-law behaved similarly! That really burns my biscuits. And it's not surprising that your NM would then blame you for "ruining the surprise" and make it clear that SHE is supposed to be the one everyone goes to to discuss anything important. Yeah, keep spinning that sticky web and using triangulation to get what you want, NM.

    Gah, it never matters what we want. To the narcissist, it is always, 100% of the time about what he/she wants. Even after all the nonsense they pulled for DD's first birthday, EFIL and L were STILL talking about how we should have changed our plans to better suit them...a year later. DH's dear-old-dad was bitching about it like a toddler having a tantrum in his most recent letter he sent to my husband.

    I like your list at the end too Claire. Your sarcasm had me laughing out loud!

    Anyway, good for you in finding the resolve not to attend those events in the future. It's time to make our own way, without the narcissists trying to ruin our good time!

  2. And thanks for sharing this! It's validating to see that we're not alone.

  3. I absolutely agree that telling these stories is crucial, so that others don't feel like the only ones dealing with jerks like this. To people who aren't living it, these stories sound like small annoyances, but people who have dealt with a narcissist know what it's like.

    When I read that your EFIL and L expected you to change your plans, I was dumbfounded. It's bad enough that they wanted you to change plans for them - but to not even consider that the rest of your guest list would be impacted? SERIOUSLY? Sometimes narcissists just completely baffle me. How can you manage tasks of daily living, yet be this stupid? I mean, REALLY?

  4. I remember saying something about the rest of our guest list to L over the phone when she called to tell me, "Isn't it funny? We bought tickets for a concert for the same day as DD's party. Can you reschedule it for the next day?"

    One of the things I said to her was, "No. We've already sent out invitations and we have guests that are already coming. What would you have me do, call them all and make them come a different day? For you? No, we won't do that." To which she responded, "But we would do that for you!"

    I believe that was a lie, first of all. They NEVER went out of their way for us. Furthermore, WE WOULDN'T ASK THEM TO DO THAT. Then they showed up an hour and a half late to the party...ridiculous, I tell you!

    Stupid, selfish, self-centered. Yep, that's the average narcissist. And to still be complaining about it, a year later, as though WE were the ones who were being rude and unjust? Add crazy to the list!

    I just...can't believe there are SO many people out there who fit this description. Every time I find a new blog...it's just as shocking to me and I say to myself, "Yep, there's another one." Gah, I don't get it Claire!

  5. Ha, ha, thank goodness they are still complaining about it a year later, and thereby outing themselves to all who 'have ears to hear'; yay! --quartz

  6. Hi Claire,
    I know this is an older post, but it really resonated with me. I'm on the cusp of one of my son's birthdays (again) and (again) I'm dreading the narc dust up that surely will ensue.

    Every. single. one. of my sons' birthdays (collectively they've had 6 parties) have been upstaged by the narcs in my life (I have a NM, a NMIL, a NBIL, and a NSIL...and a NSister, but she doesn't bother to attend). They are late. BIL and SIL were late by 2 hours for my son's first birthday because (as SIL told me later) she was pissed off that NMIL showed up at her house before hand unannounced. What that had to do with showing up on time (or calling even) is beyond me. MIL is usually late. Once she showed up late (again at son's first birthday) but then had to put her gift together and so spent another hour or so in another part of the house (while we waited) putting the gift together (which she LOUDLY claimed was the best gift ever and how wonderful it was for her to think of it....except she didn't, I gave her the idea). Once MIL decided to invite very distant relatives to a very small, intimate party for my second son and then hinted I should give this relative a tour of my home (so MIL could show off) while I was busy doing all of the work of the party (god forbid anyone else help out). Last year, SIL and BIL sent their kids with MIL and FIL because they had shopping to do. So, they showed up late, angry and acting weird. Neither of them spoke to me (or DH) and then left about a half hour later. I believe they were angry at each other, but it was hard to tell. And the stories go on and on.
    They refuse to meet at appropriate times for children for dinner. Once, after waiting two hours for dinner, they got annoyed with me because DH, me, and our kids ate quickly and left (it was well past our kids bed times by this point). And that's not to mention all the other bullshit NMIL pulled while we were actually eating. They like to "pop in" whenever their schedule suits them, whether it's nap time, dinner time, or any other time and expect us to drop everything. Once, they called off meeting us because they had "drank too much" the night before and slept in, but then wanted us to wake up DS from nap to see them.

    It infuriates me to no end. I have never understood why my kids (the grandkids they supposedly "love") are supposed to relinquish sleep or food or whatever to accommodate grown adults who should know better. (And just as a random aside, once, at a family outing, NMIL and FIL decided to gobble up the snack I'd packed for my TWO YEAR OLD SON because they wanted it, thinking nothing of the fact that he might be hungry.)

    Anyway, this post was extremely validating for me. I don't expect everyone to work around me, but a little respect for the "littles" of the family doesn't seem to much to ask to me. Or that everyone works to comprise.

    I can't wait to see what b.s. they all dish out this time around.

  7. "I have never understood why my kids (the grandkids they supposedly "love") are supposed to relinquish sleep or food or whatever to accommodate grown adults who should know better."

    THIS. Right here. That is exactly the crux of it, isn't it? Adults who love a child should want the child to have a pleasant time. They will recognize that a young child needs rest and food, and that nobody will have an enjoyable time if the child feels crappy from sleep deprivation or low blood sugar.

    And eating your kid's snack?!??! WTF?!?! Who does that?

    Thanks for commenting, not only because I enjoy the dialogue, but also because reading this post over again and your response had reminded me that yes, my family really does behave poorly, and that my expectations are not crazy. And that my decision to only be near people who actually act loving and caring is an absolutely appropriate choice!

  8. I've found reading older posts can be so painful, but so liberating at the same time. They serve as a reminder and a tangible proof that things have always been this way and will continue to be this way if we didn't make some BIG changes.

    I can't wrap my head around adults who claim they "love" kids but then couldn't care less about what they really need. I mean, how do you just ignore all of that.

    And the snack, I about came undone. There was a whole concession stand of food for them to go and get if they were hungry. He was two at the time and I'd packed two-year old appropriate food for him. To say I was shocked, was an understatement. They even had to reach into the child sized no spill container that I had it in. Seriously, WTF is right.