Sunday, January 27, 2008

Can You be Manipulated with Gifts? It's Up to You.

Maria asked me to comment on the tactic of manipulation often employed by narcissists: gifts or the promise of gifts. I've held off on this topic in the past because I'm not sure people want to know my thoughts on this subject especially since I put the complete onus on the receiver, not the giver. Anyway, I'll forge ahead. If you don't like what I say...you'll just have to cope.

This tactic relies on certain vulnerabilities in the target. Namely, either a lack of a sense of self-sufficiency or covetousness. Dependency or greed. An examination of the lure of gifts is really about the receiver more than the "giver". No one can manipulate you with gifts or the promise of gifts if you are self-reliant and have a lock-box on your greed button.

From where I sit, the question boils down to this: what do you value most? For me the answer has always been freedom. There is no gift...or promise of some future gift...that will entice me away from my autonomy and freedom. I would rather live under a bridge and have my freedom than have an illusion of security or wealth given to me by a narcissist along with the gigantic baggage of obligation that comes along with it. And trust me, at best the sense of security it is an illusion. What the narcissist gives, the narcissist can take away. The narcissist lies, cheats, steals. Why would you entrust any sense of security or financial freedom to a serial cheater, liar and thief? When I was a kid we used the term "Indian giver" to describe someone who would take away from you a gift they'd given you previously. The term has fallen into disuse due to political correctness, but the concept still exists. (The term is a denigration of the white man, not the Indian. If that was understood, the term would still be in full use.) The narcissist is an Indian giver. What they give you with one hand, they take away with the other hand.

Let's look carefully at the definition of a gift before I proceed further.

Gift: n. 1. Something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.

Both parts must be in play for it to be a gift. Voluntary. Without compensation. It is that last part that is usually missing when dealing with the manipulative gift giver. When a gift is truly given...all rights pertaining to the gift are now in the hands of the receiver. It is now fully owned by the receiver and is theirs to do with as they will without having to justify themselves. After gratitude is given to the giver, the giver is owed nothing more for the gift. A gift is not rightly called a gift if there are strings of any kind attached. If there are strings, then it is something else entirely. A deal. An arrangement. An obligation. A debt. But don't call it a gift.

If the gift giver demands frequent and perpetual demonstrations of gratitude that is a sign that you were not given a gift. In the mind of that giver you were put into their debt. Their demands for perpetual payment in the form of obsequious thank yous from you at their merest mention of their previous generosity is a type of payment. They did not give you a gift. You owe them something (in this example that would be frequent adulations at the altar of their sainted generosity) for what you received from them. Only they get to decide when you've paid your debt in full. Probably never. So, what I'm saying is that even if the "payment" for the gift is only in the form of your perpetually and frequently expressed gratitude then you didn't really receive a gift. You incurred a debt. One that you're expected to pay whenever the "giver" makes the smallest hint at their past "generosity". Reject such "gifts" because otherwise it will represent a theft of your freedom.

You don't have to surrender to someones attempt to extort long term payment for something you received from them believing at the time it was a gift. You don't have to go along with their game. If you thought that the person was truly giving you something and you had no reason to expect they were going to try to manipulate you with it then your attitude about the gift will define it as such. Don't now start acting like you were bought. Say that you thought you were given a gift which means you don't owe them anything.

This doesn't apply to inappropriately large gifts that you know in your gut is an attempt to buy you. Don't play that game in your mind. When a girl goes on one or two dates with a guy and he suddenly presents her with a new car...that is not a gift. That is purchasing stock options to buy her in the future. The woman accepts that inappropriately large gift knowing she is allowing that man to think he has bought some level of obligation from her. The woman with self-respect and a handle on her greed will adamantly refuse the "gift" and then abruptly end the relationship because she knows this man has chosen to misread her character. He thinks she is greedy. He thinks she is willing to pretend to be in love with him in light of his large check book and willingness to spend its contents on her. She will be insulted by his decision to see her as nothing more than a whore.

It is a rare time when you don't know in your gut that there is a price tag attached to a "gift". For that rare exception when you take what you thought was a gift only to find out later that it wasn't really a gift you don't have to surrender on the spot. Proceed on your original assumption. Behave as if you believe now as then that it was a gift. If the intention was to manipulate you with that gift, believe me, you'll be seeing the last of that person's "generosity" if you don't allow their "gift" to become a Trojan horse right into your life. They'll likely go trolling for much more lucrative pay-outs for their future "gifts" with some other poor soul.

Again, don't go telling yourself you didn't realize there was a price tag when you knew in your gut that there was. That is a mental game you play to keep yourself from admitting that you just whored yourself out for bauble or stack of cash. Let's consider the oldest profession for a moment. A prostitute offers her body in an act that simulates emotional as well as physical intimacy . For a short time and the right price she is willing to act like she feels affection for the dude with the cash. He hands her the money, he expects her to act a certain way with him. He expects her to simulate a relationship, an intimacy, that doesn't really exist. If she accepts his offer do you really think she can get away with now withholding her body and behaving like she is disgusted by him? No way. They both know he isn't giving her a gift. It is a deal. A transaction. An exchange of goods for services rendered. If she accepts his money, she also accepts that for a determined length of time she will behave like a woman in love.

There is very little difference in my mind between the whore and those who will accept the cash or gifts from a narcissist knowing they will have to simulate a relationship, a closeness, that they don't want or feel. Far too often have I heard ACONs justify staying in a relationship they feel is loathsome because they want the goodies. "After all I've been through, it is the least they can give me" is the reference to a future inheritance that they are already banking on. So sure are they that the lying, cheating and malevolent narcissist will actually give them them cash at the end, the ACON is willing to give up their freedom and autonomy in the present with this vague hope of future reward that is by no means guaranteed. You might be able to convince yourself that the cash is as good as yours, but if that was the case, then it wouldn't be dependent on you behaving in just the way the narcissist demands for its surety. You know that the "gift" of inheritance is by no means guaranteed...which is why you continue to dance the dance with the narcissist parent. The whore is smarter. At least she doesn't do what she does with the hope that eventually, someday when the bastard dies, she'll get her payment.

My position on gifts is that you can only be bought with them by your consent. It is a manipulation tactic that can only work with your knowing cooperation. The gift giving manipulation exploits your character weakness. At best, it is a form of prostitution. At worst, it is a form of slavery that you sell yourself into. I have little sympathy with people who decide to sell themselves and their families for the "security" of Mommy or Daddy's money. If you choose to stay in the crucible because the lure of money to your soul is irresistible then there is nothing I can do for you. You've made your bed. Only you can choose to get out of the bed and take possession of your own life.

Maria, I have been speaking generally of my thoughts on gift-giving manipulation tactics, and not to your specific situation. More specifically, I commend you and your sister for wising up and realizing how your mother has been using divide and conquer with you two, as well as seeing your mother's gift-giving as just a form of manipulation. Obviously, the spell is broken for you. Hold your ground. Your mother is unlikely to give up on trying to use gifts to buy you in some way. You're just going to have to draw a line and then hold it. There is nothing else to be done short of going completely no contact. Narcissists don't learn. They are extremely unlikely to reform their behavior. They will only appear to do so if they are forced to by someone with a backbone. But they will never stop believing that at some point they can wear you down. This is why I always go back to recommending no contact. The war is never over with narcissists. Life with them is a perpetual series of battles. Every interaction is some kind of chess game move in their minds. Power plays are constant. To my thinking, life is too short to be constantly distracted and my energies drained by this undeclared yet unremitting war. My only advice to you is make your policy on gifts clear and then hold the line without apology or equivocation.

In conclusion and in general, no one can buy you with gifts unless you're greedy or unless you are unwilling to be self reliant. Know yourself. Take responsibility. If you are bought and paid for then there is no one to blame but you. Admit that you're engaged in the "oldest profession" and stop complaining. I'm not the only one who sees the deal you've made. Others see your choice to stick with the old monster for the cash or trinkets and have lost a great deal of respect for you. If you don't respect yourself more than that...why should we?

30 comments:

Maria said...

"So, what I'm saying is that even if the "payment" for the gift is only in the form of your perpetually and frequently expressed gratitude then you didn't really receive a gift. You incurred a debt"

Anna, thank you so much. This is an excellent way of describing how I feel. It's been a very long time since I have taken money from either of my parents. In fact, in recent years when my mother was visiting, she would ask me to "make the reservation" at my local hotel because it was "easier where I was." Then, upon checking in, she would tell me they needed my credit card for the confirmation, and my card would be charged for her stay. Actually this was not a problem for me, and I didn't expect anything in return for that, either.

What has been curious is that the more independent I have become from my mother - not needing to take anything from her - she has become aggressive in sending gifts through the mail, and when she visited (last visit to me, 2004), she would bring up a lot of "stuff" to give us. Stuff we didn't need, stuff we didn't want. I have donated a lot of it, actually, after she's left.

Now that we don't see each other, she is sending gifts like weapons, telling me that they are sentimental in nature, or, like the acquariums (I'm sorry, I still haven't gotten over them), impractical if not impossible to return.

To my response to her to "please, no more gifts, a card will be lovely", her response has been, essentially, "who the hell are YOU to tell me when I can or can't give a gift to you?" And so they arrive at our doorstep, and in her mind, she is again building herself up as the generous one, and I, the selfish one who takes and takes.

Overall, the "gifts" she sends, aren't much. She practically delighted in how much my girls would LOVE the acquariums (and remember, they are 20 gallon ones she had delivered) - never a query to me as to whether or not they were appropriate. My sister actually told me Mom was "incensed" in one phone conversation that I had the gall to ask her to please clear gifts to the kids with me beforehand. (This policy came about because last year she sent tickets to a show for my kids IN HER HOMETOWN - and when we couldn't make the show, because she hadn't consulted us about our schedules and couldn't travel, she railed for months about the money I had "made" her waste.)

I guess you are right, I can't stop her from going to the post office. Likewise, though, I'm not going to inconvenience myself by returning this stuff. If it arrives at my door, it's here. If she wants to ever show up at my door and reclaim things she's given me, I have no real problem with that, either. It's the mail gifts that are a problem - like, "I'm giving you this gift whether you like it or not." And if I'm not all about "thank you!!" and mending fences for her generosity, she just can't believe how hard-hearted and cruel I am.

Hence the term "aggressive" gift-giving.

Anna, you wrote once about your sister sending you an Amazon gift-certificate through email, and I think you also saw it for what it was. It was like your sister said "I'm having contact with you whether you like it or not" - an in-your-face "I'm the better person, see how I'm the generous one?"

I hope you can see what I'm talking about.

So far I have just said to my mother "thank you for the gifts, the kids loved them." I have the kids write thank-you notes, and I send them. I also explained to my girls why we weren't having fish in their rooms, and they were fine with it. We gave the one to the neigbhbor's son, who has wanted a bigger tank for his snake, and the other one sits here in the house in the laundry room. Like a big albatross. Sigh. Maybe we'll give that one to the neighbor boy, too. It makes me crazy to look at it.

Thank you again, Anna. You and Elise have helped me work through something of an "anniversary" weekend where I needed to draw some extra strength. I am so very grateful.

Anonymous said...

Good post. Also, as an enrolled citizen of an Ojibwa tribal nation in Wisconsin (Red Cliff), I agree that the term Indian giver has been misunderstood as somehow being negative towards native peoples.

This post caused me to recall instances where I did monumental favors for my former N, only to have them act as if those acts of generosity never occurred or were insignificant. Hurt and bewildered when refused even simple forms of reciprocity, I felt it necessary to bring up these numerous instances of my own selflishness.

As expected, I remember being on the defensive because they would always counter with "so, you only do nice things for people so that you can hold it above their heads." See what I mean? It took a long time to really accept what had happended all of those times, and I still fall back occassionally.

It really can mess with you, because one doesn't want to come across that way, but when in a state of denial, it was easy to ignore what was really happening-my N was simply being emotionally manipulative. They had actually resented having to rely on me for something out of their control, so wanted to act as though it never happended. It's plain wrong for people to use this against us, as if we're the shallow ones!

In any event, that was my experience with a narcissist. Rare was the occassion that they put themselves out, particularly emotionally for me or anyone else.

I came up with a new way of viewing not only my own former N, but narcissists in general. If anyone is like me, you may feel sorry for them. What a shitty existance, to feel nothing and to be so empathatically impotent, that you lose your humanness by your mid-twenties? However, say one is against keeping animals in zoos, thinking it's sad to keep animals caged up, away from their real homes. That said, you wouldn't dream of opening a lion or tiger cage, intending to free the poor things and strike up a personal relationship, or even think that they'd appreciate your consideration!

That reminds me of dealng with narcissists. Feel sorry if you must, but don't get close to them, or attempt to open their cages, for to do so, is to be ripped to shreds time and again. Thanks for letting me ramble on!

Anna Valerious said...

Hi Maria,

In reference to my sister's Amazon gift cards to me and my daughter 12.26.06. Yup, I had absolutely no power over her decision to send me that gift. What I did with it after I received it was in my power. You're right: I did recognize it as her attempt to buy her way back into my life (with a lousy $40) by "obligating" me to be "gracious" by thanking her for the gift. Since I had already made it crystal clear that I was in no contact with her, I did not allow her to make me feel obligated to open up a conversation by thanking her for her unwelcome gift. So she got a great big ZERO for her money. As I suspected, without a payback for her "gift" she didn't bother with such overtures this last Christmas. Which is as I had hoped. I didn't want to teach her that I can be bought. So cheaply to boot! If I'm gonna be a whore, I'll choose to be a highly paid one. Thank you very much.

The aquariums your mother sent your kids really are quite a shining example of how she is playing the gift game. She sends a cumbersome gift from a place you can't return it to. Tricky. Your way of dealing with them is great. Give 'em away! Throw them away. Whatever. Gifts are yours to do with as you will. If your mother comes around at some point and demands something back that she gave you...but it is gone because you trashed it or gave it to someone who actually wanted it...don't let her shame you! Remind her that gifts bequeath full ownership rights to the receiver and it was fully in your power and rights to dispose of them. When it comes to unwanted gifts that you can't easily return to sender, then giving them away is the next viable option.

My own mother, if allowed, would have filled my house up with her discarded crap under the guise of her great generosity. She did this to my female cousin, "Lee". My mother would check to make sure her gifts were still in the house and properly displayed where ever she had decided they should sit. These people will use their "gifts" to run your whole freakin' life if you let them. In my experience, either returning unwanted gifts...or giving them away are very viable and workable ways of dealing with them. When confronted, refuse to get rattled. Calmly assert your right to do with your things as you decide. Once given, you consider it yours...therefore, momma ain't got no say in what you do with them after she hands them over.

You wrote: So far I have just said to my mother "thank you for the gifts, the kids loved them." I have the kids write thank-you notes, and I send them.

In case you're interested here is how I'd play it. I would call or write my mother and clearly set down the gift giving rules. Rule one: no more gifts for the kids unless she runs it past me first. Mom, two huge aquariums were very inappropriate gifts to give such young children. That is the kind of gift a parent should be asked about first. Mom, if you don't honor my request to check with me first and you again send my children inappropriate gifts, don't expect thank you cards. Don't expect them to keep the gift. The gift will be trashed or given away. You won't even get a thank you for them.

Make all your rules really clear. Then make it clear that when she violates the rules you will not be thanking her because she will already know they are unwanted. You are done thanking her for crap.

All this would be a very rude way to deal with normal people. I would never recommend this kind of rule making on gifts with a decent, normal person. But we aren't talking about decent, normal people. Narcissists use gifts for nefarious ends. Making clear rules is what you're left with so they can't use societal rules of "good manners" to force you into playing the "Oh, thank you very much, I love it so much" gambit in order to not have others think you're a putz. Narcissists use rules of polite society to box decent people into corners. I don't think we have to let them keep that kind of power over us.

Anna Valerious said...

Anonymous @ 1:39 PM,

You're not rambling! Thank you for your comment. You made some really good points. Also, thanks for backing me up on the "Indian giver" moniker not being a slam on native Americans. Your caged animal analogy is excellent. I see it exactly as you do. Sympathy for narcissists must be engaged in from a distance because all the sympathy in the world won't keep them from sinking their teeth into your jugular first chance they get.

After Beckett said...

I had to go out to www.halcyon.com to find this:

"...they're stingy and will give as gifts stuff that's just lying around their house, such as possessions that they no longer have any use for, or -- in really choice instances -- return to you something that was yours in the first place."

My mother was a strange gift giver. She would give me free promotional items that were giveaways where she worked. On the rare occasions when I would bring a girlfriend over, she would literally take them by the hand and lead them around the house to show them her new things. If they said anything nice to compliment her, she would always have an extra, older, no longer used item that was similar to send them home with.

My favorite presentations were the things she would bring to me after a shopping outing or a vacation with a friend. She would sit me down somewhere and present the item, always letting me know that she didn't have any intention of buying me anything, but whomever she was with would ask her if she was bringing home something for her daughter. She would put it in my hands and wait for my reaction. She always wanted me to know that it was very special for her to have brought me anything, as she obviously wasn't really thinking of me at all, and wasn't she great.

I have to say that the inheritance issue is very hard to understand in an N family. It's part of the "mafia" mentality. My stepbrother, who's father was raising me, didn't ever want for anything. I paid for almost everything myself. It is hard, especially as a teenager and young adult to realize that you will never have a safety net. They don't exactly raise you to feel secure, so you always have in the back of your mind that you are really all alone. It is scary, and easy to want what other people have. However, the absolute truth is exactly as Anna says, it is an illusion to think they will ever really be there.

Naive No Longer said...

Anna, once again your no-nonsense, cut-through-the-bull approach has been a godsend to me.

Your blog has helped me tremendously to come out of the fog.

It took me many, many years and I'll bet many of your readers are in varying degrees along the path, to even recognize that what my mother provided was only an "illusion" of security. When you grow up like this, it is the ONLY security you know. So you don't have anything to judge it by until you get into adulthood and start to see that there is something very wrong with this person that you call mother. And that you have been a willing partner in the transaction. Selling your soul for the illusion.

You said, "Don't go telling yourself there wasn't a price tag when you knew in your gut there was". I realized in my adulthood that I had learned early in childhood to cut off from my "gut" in order to remain attached to my mother. When I started listening to my gut as an adult, I began to realize that the price was simply too high to pay in order to remain in relationship with her. All that I had to give up was not worth remaining in debt to her on ANY level and remaining her whore as you so aptly put it.

I had never quite looked at all of this from the perspective that you presented in this blog BUT YOU ARE RIGHT ON.

It is a very difficult decision to step completely outside the sick dance you have done with a narcissistic mother but a necessary one if you are to claim any sort of dignity and self-respect. The form of enslavement they demand in order to remain in relationship is one in which I will no longer be a willing participant.

Freedom from this is worth everything that I have had to "give up".

LJ said...

So sorry if this is long - this hit a major nerve with me.

My mother and I used to be extremely close. I was her favorite, and she was quite vocal about it even when my sister and I were children.

In my early twenties, after a messy breakup (engaged) and feeling lost and dropping out of college, my mother offered to pay for everything for me to go to a special art school to complete my degree. I could move in with her, wouldn't have to work and could go to school. I stupidly took that offer, and for the next 6 years (after graduating) I slipped deeper and deeper into depression and regressed further into a very twisted parent/child relationship with my mother. She didn't have any outside friends or relationships, and soon neither did I.

It took me getting down to the point where I was thinking how nice it would be to just go to sleep and not wake up before I realized things needed to change, and I got a good job with people my own age, and met a great guy. I made plans to move out and get a life that a 27 year old woman should be living, and my mother had a meltdown. I hadn't intended to cut her off; I was moving 10 minutes away and would still be available to her (too much so), but I was HERS - she owned me. I couldn't move out - I couldn't get married - after all she'd done for me how dare I treat her so badly? The names she called me, the spying on me, the going through my personal things looking for "dirt" on me. I was 27, paying her rent (half the mortgage), running all of her errands and cooking and cleaning for the both of us, and working a full time job... but it wasn't enough. I still was just a child; a toy that had suddenly told her I didn't want to play with her anymore.

After much individual counseling and even joint counseling with my mother, she started to "try" in order to keep me in her life. It lasted about a month before she decided that the counselor was wrong, and I was just an ungrateful b!tch.

When I married, it took me a little longer to see just how little I valued myself and see her "gifts" for what they really were. I took a loan from my mother for our first house, which my husband and I paid back within 6 months (if dawned on us that we'd made a mistake letting her have that kind of power over us). That was the last thing I ever took from her.

When husband's car broke down, we figured out on our own how to get it repaired with both of us working and using one car between us. We were both very proud. When I mentioned this to my mother, she was hurt and angry - I could have borrowed her car, how stupid of us to juggle our schedules when it wasn't necessary... and she cried since she felt she wasn't needed by me anymore.

I was not supposed to grow up, grow away from her, and the sense of betrayal in no longer accepting her gifts and help was just to much for her to tolerate. She cut me off over a year ago, and has moved to be near my older sister, in order to try to manipulate her. While sis is very much open to gifts and favors, she was not groomed from an early age to be mother's favorite, and I have hopes that sis will see the strings attached to every offer given.

I'm sad and ashamed of myself that it took me so very long to see how I was prostituting my freedom and my own sense of self to my mother's manipulations.

Everything you said Anna, about being manipulated with gifts applied to me. But not anymore, and never again.

Anonymous said...

Be wary of the N who sends you a magazine subscription. Did you know that there is yet another sinister reason for such a gift?

The magazine in question buys forwarding addresses from the post office. So, let's say I've gone no contact, move and pay to have my mail forwarded to my new address. The N, who paid for the subscription, can go into the account and find out my new address. I, on the other hand, am not allowed to change my address of record because I am not the person who paid for the subscription.

Perfect! This magazine does all the stalking and the N sits back and laughs. Not all magazines behave like this. Hint: this particular magazine runs sweepstakes.

And no, the magazine was not of interest to anyone in my home. I'm sure it was selected purely on the basis of armchair stalking. Fortunately, I learn of this possibility when I tried to redirect the subscription to a nursing home. Now, I'll just redirect my mail to a post office box when I move.

Anna Valerious said...

Interesting about the stalking via magazine subscription!

The last time we moved we put in a temporary forwarding with the post office. Temp forwarding lasts only one year. The post office does not forward any magazines or catalogs. They do not do address correction either. At the end of the year any mail still being directed to your old address will either be delivered at the old address or trashed by the post office. We were able to keep our move location secret with this little maneuver. It was nice to shuck all the billions of catalogs and junk listings I was on too.

Barbara said...

Wow! late Nmom did this to me all the time. Best story was she gave STBX NH & I money for a TV when we were first married.

We were both waiting for paychecks to clear so we paid rent first, THEN when the checks cleared - got the TV.

Nmom found this out and called my brother (golden boy) and told her we were broke and at poverty's door. Brother called me upset. I explained. He & I went to see NMom about her LYING.

We confronted her together. She cried and screamed and told me that I had "turned" brother against her because I was such a horrible child.

I gave her back the money for the TV.

Everything you get from an N comes with a price. EVERYTHING.

STBX NH bellows on about how I owe him since he pays my rent. Guess what? Alimony will be doing the same... who's he gonna bellow to then? the state??? LOL!!

Barbara said...

Maria - you could take it to the post office with RETURN TO SENDER on it and "DELIVERY REFUSED"

That's what I did.

Let her scream. Not your problem

Stephanie said...

Anna -

First, thank you for this blog. So many times I've felt like I was reading my own life story here. I hate it that anyone goes through this, but I'd be lying if I said I weren't glad to know that it's not just me, that I'm not crazy for feeling and thinking the way I do about my Nmother.

I did want to put my own two cents in about marking gifts "return to sender." This Christmas was my first Christmas going no contact with my Nmother. After discussion with my therapist, I told my Nmother, "It's become clear to me that you and I have very different ideas about mature, healthy communication. In light of this, I believe it's best that we have no communication at all." And I stuck to it.

Christmas Eve came 'round, and there was the UPS man on my doorstep with an overnight delivery from my Nmother. Thankfully, my therapist and I had discussed this possibility. My instinct was to mark any gifts sent to our home "Return to Sender." My therapist quite sensibly asked me why I felt the need to do that. My answer was, "I need to send a message. No contact means no contact, including gifts."

That's when my therapist said something that had me thinking, "Well, *duh. Of course!" She said that sending the gifts back was contact, in its own way. She said that I'd made myself clear, and if my mother chose to ignore that, so be it. *I could still maintain no contact. And I did exactly that.

Oh, and not that it's relevant to this post, but I'd just read your post on Ngrandparents a few days prior, so I found it particularly interesting that my mother had included gifts for only two of my three children. The youngest is an infant, so of course my mother wouldn't send her anything -- the baby cannot yet be manipulated with material goods, so sending her anything is pointless to my mother. After all, gift-giving isn't about making the recipient happy to a narcissist, it's about making sure the narcissist has a toehold in the recipient's life.

Whew. Sorry. I wrote a book there.

krl said...

The Last 'Gift':

This 'gift' finally sunk home. All these years I knew something wasn't quite right about the 'monies'....BUT, once I started recognizing what she was (Nmom), I GOT IT!

I grew up with all the same lies about money, inheritance, etc. Though I was fairly independent, worked hard at menial jobs (afterall, you can't BECOME 'better' than her, so forget education and some tools and skills that would further my ongoing economic crisis situations..) I took NO money for years while I was raising my children so that she could have no 'hold' on them. However, when my daughter was widowed while expecting her first child (and I had just lost a job), I decided to use my 401K (took the 'hit' on that since I am not 59 1/2 yet) and help my daughter through this past year. In the meanwhile, Nmom (I didn't know she was at the time) jumped in and told me that it was so 'brave' and 'giving' for me to help my daughter during this time....that she knew my monies were tight and wanted to 'help' by contributing to this noble cause. So? You guessed it. I thought she was sincere and accepted a few hundred dollars here and there for this NobleCause. Ugh! Boo! Over the months, she wheedled her way into the living room again...spewing her venom about my father, life, etc...all under the pretense of coming to see her great-grandchild and to see how I was doing. I asked her, told her, demanded that she not come to just 'park and spew'....that I thought it was wrong and I didn't have the time or energy to listen anymore. She would call when she knew I was sleeping.....(I worked nights)...she would 'land' when I was napping....It was unbelievable, unconscienable (sp!)..I couldn't get rid of her! Not nicely, not angrily...nothing worked and I was back in HER HELL again.

So....I started reading up on what might be wrong about her....and landed on this site. I cut her off. Didn't answer calls, no holiday celebrations, etc. I didn't expect nor would I have taken any more money. Christmas: She gives generous sum to my daughter and her baby. Told my daughter that 'Kathie doesn't need me anymore so she doesn't get any.' Fine. Hello? Get this: IF the original money 'gifts' were for the bigger NobleCause....did that situation go away? Did all of a sudden I win the Lotto somewhere else and had no need of money while I got my daughter through this horrendous year? See The Lie? See the real Deal? Nothing changed AT ALL about the situation that she claimed to be 'helping' with EXCEPT that I told her NOT to come and spew her venom. Well, obviously that showed her true colours. She felt entitled to be and do and say whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted because of the MONEY! (I knew this deep inside....I just ignored it because I thought maybe she was 'different' than before. Rigggghhhhhtttt.)

Know what? I don't need her money....I'm not rolling in cash, but I'd rather be dead than have her sitting in my living room.

BTW. She has NEVER worked a day in her life. It is my Dad's money...and her rich brother's money. Oh yeah.....another thing...her latest 'bender' is about all of her grandchildren 'getting an education' and how 'important it is.' When I was a teenager, I was told POINT BLANK that education was a farce and that I would NOT be supported in any way if I wanted to go to college. That colleges were full of communists and athiests...that I was to learn to WORK. Hmmmm. Yeah...

Thanks for the vent.

krl

krl said...

and PS: I'm NOT blind as to the role my father has played in this. As long as she had me to dump on, it kept her off his backside. He just 'pays her off' in some way or another. He won't leave her because she will 'take it all'. He's old, tired, and the chickens have come home to roost. He knows he can call me anytime he wants...but doesn't...because 'if she found out'....oh my!

jordie said...

We went no contact with my NMom last year. Last christmas was first that I actually sent back the card with money in it that she normally sends for christmas (only for the kids, not us) and for my sons'birthday in early January. Its the only contact she has ever bothered with my kids. No phone calls, no visits and no interest. My mother justifies her 'loving nanna' status by these tokens.

I had to sit my children down and tell them all about their grandmother, and who she really is. It was a very long and difficult (and teary) conversation, but my kids are much more mature than I was at their age, and they understand what love really is much better than I did. I had to explain to my son that really he needed to make a choice about the money that Nanna was sending him. Choosing "God or Mammon" at such a young age (15) is an early and difficult lesson, but he decided the money wasn't that important. I am so proud of him. He is unnusually ingenious at methods of making money, and is usually very keen on material things. It just proves his true motivation when he is really tried.

I marked the letters 'return to sender' unopened. It looked like we had moved house, and unexpectedly, my husband received a phone call from his mother asking us 'if we had moved yet'. It was a blatant giveaway. My mother had tried to get my mother-in-law to find out if and where we had moved. She will never know.

Since my MIL is also a narcissist, my husband refused to give out any information. In point of fact, we will be moving shortly, but not letting either side of the family know.

I am glad my kids are learning such hard lessons with our help. They may not have any loving extended family, but their immediate family will move heaven and earth to protect and help them.

Anonymous said...

My Nmother is completely opposite from your post Anna - she's a gift TAKER, not a gift giver. Her basic motto is:

You deserve the best; but I deserve better!

My entire life whenever i have ever gotten something nice for myself (mixer, car, house, clothes) my mother would be green with envy and tell me how selfish i was b/c i always bought the "best" while she was at home with her "second best" items.

Complete coveteous/jealous manipulation aimed at sucking the joy i would receive out of my hard work.

Example: My husband & I scrimped and saved 4 years to put $20,000 down on a $50,000 Honda Odessey minivan. We did our research and this is the van we wanted.

Mother's reaction was to inform me that:

a) I have no business sense

b) I wasted money buying foreign

c) I could have bought TWO Ford minivans for the price of the Honda (now what could i possibly do with 2 vans....oh give one to her of course! duh)

d) Why am I driving such an expensive van when she is just getting by with her used van?

e) A good daughter would take care of her mother (aka. she wanted me to insist that she drive my new van and I would graciously take her old junk van ALL WITHOUT HER ASKING...yes the GOOD Daughter would do this, but i'm a greedy btch!)

f) Then a tirade of all she did for me (braces, help with rent, school, piano lessons) and how can i be so ungrateful

Then i got the silent treatment for 6 wks (she was "busy", ignoring calls, pretending she was not home)...when i finally inquired where she was she snipped, "And why should you care? You're off driving in your fancy van".... yes, a class A temper tantrum fit for a 3 yr old.

My husband was absolutely astonished and i felt guilty driving my van for weeks.

Holy Water Salt said...

My mother is also a gift-taker.
But will manipulate with gifts, and even does so via proxy....making me feel guilty for not regularly giving my nieces presents. I do not speak to my sister, have not for over 10 years (she's an N) ---I do have my nieces visit (while enduring her visit, simultaneously) and do provide gifts, but I detest being requested to do so and then being judged on what I bought. My N Mom criticizes everything- even claims I spent too much, she could have gotten the slippers cheaper. Once when I went on vacation ( I paid for as a gift for finishing grad school) she threw a fit. She has made me feel guilty for buying new shoes.

And yeah,it's always poor her. Always. And no she has not worked a day in decades though she has no children in the house for 25 years. But it's always "were so poor."

toni said...

N-mother and enabling father did everything they could to keep their kids down, desperate and dependent. They have always used money and security to scare us.
When my sister dated an obvious jerk they had encouraged marriage, and snickered about how she would be back home soon and learned her lesson about leaving home. It happened, and she has been living off them since (she is now middle aged). She chose to enmesh with all the dysfunction to get taken care of for life. The thing is, if parents had encouraged her to dump the jerk instead of marrying him, she would have. They had the power to allow her to have a life but chose to enslave her and laugh about it. She defends the lifestyle as normal and considers her and N-mother close.

To this crazy bunch, if you don't live in the same house or close enough to be under surveillance you are a bad person and subject to punishment.

Stephanie said...

@ toni -

Reading that literally sent chills down my spine. My own sister hasn't ever even ventured far enough from the nest to date, much less have a boyfriend, but she has chosen to remain completely enmeshed with our Nmother so that Nmother will keep on taking care of her financially.

It's so bad that my sister has actually been more vicious and spiteful about my choice to go no contact with my Nmother than my Nmother herself. (Of course, she makes her verbal assaults with Nmother's knowledge and approval.)

At any rate, I don't get it. My life is worth more to me than that. I'd much rather do for myself than owe my Nmother anything at all.

Maria said...

Your Honda Odyssey cost $50,000? I hope that's a typo, because even 2008 Odysseys don't start for more than $30k, tops.

Or maybe, you just substituted a car model to make your point but maintain your privacy. I'm going to do that here as well because while I posted a lot on the gift giving, I completely forgot about a very strange reaction my nMom had a few years ago to receiving gifts from me.

The turning point came when, one year when she was 'feeling blue', I was still in that time in my life where I thought, wouldn't it be nice to cheer her up? And so my husband and I stretched our intended budget, and for the one year, at the Holidays, we bought her a very expensive gift. Let's just say, oh, it was a David Yurman bracelet costing about $800.

"We love you so much, we thought this might cheer you up!" we said in the card included with the Fed Ex delivery.

Now, here's where it got very strange. It wasn't that she was not appreciative of the gift. She definitely put in her thank-yous and oohs and aahs ... but very quickly, as soon as she got past that, it was obvious that there was other stuff going on in her head that we had not seen coming.

First, what kind of money did we exactly have, to be able to spend that much on a gift for her? What were we making at our jobs? Did I have any other jewelry like that in MY closet? How did I know about David Yurman and how much did I know about him?

It was clear that she found it very disturbing 1) to feel like somehow I had unexpectedly taken a superior position of any kind in our relationship; and, 2) to think that I had some kind of experience of a kind that seemed sophisticated to her, but which she knew nothing about. I had never said anything about David Yurman jewelry to her before! How is it that I had hidden this from her? She really seemed quite thunderstruck in many ways.

Well, the really strange part was that within a month, it was like my nMom had made it her MISSION to know EVERYTHING about David Yurman jewelry. She started haunting the stores in her local malls that carried DY jewelry, she started calling me when she saw a 'new piece', she even started buying fashion magazines and ripping out the DY ads she found, calling me to tell me that she was thinking of buying such and such a piece for herself.

Not only that, but she DID start to buy DY stuff for herself. Within a few months, she had collected about $15K worth of DY jewelry (I am not kidding), as if she literally could not stop the compulsion she had to "correct the market" in our relationship immediately. My stepfather told me "you have no idea what you started" and complained that my mother was running up the credit cards just to buy this stuff.

When I next saw my Mom, boy, too was she decked out - she was just visiting me for a weekend, but you would have thought she was going to Monte Carlo for the weekend. Because of course once she had started to look at the DY ads in the magazines, there was other stuff that caught her eye - and she would ask me, 'do you have this? Do you know who this designer is?"

All this because of the one gift.

Also, she didn't get the hint that we were doing something extra special that one time. It was definitely like, after that, we had raised the bar for ourselves, and the next year, when I sent her flowers and a gourmet basket, I could tell that she had been disappointed that it hadn't been something more glamorous. She really thought she had been placed into some entirely new ball game.

Not only that, but ever since the "gift of the David Yurman bracelet", my nMom has never been the same about gifts. She has been very much about what I buy for myself, what my husband buys for me, how much it cost. I know that when my husband went into a new vehicle last year, my sister basically let me know my mom had gone on the internet to exhaustively research how much it had cost us, etc.

Heaven forbid we have anything 'better' or anything she can't be an expert on first, or anything she hasn't pre-approved first ....

I don't tell her about anything substantive anymore for these reasons. She just takes information and runs with it. If we are going on a vacation, she will apparently run those numbers. She is just obsessed by how much money we may or may not have, and why we are not sharing it with her.

Well, hell's bells, I worked my way through college with part-time jobs, signing student loan slips every semester for 4 years. During these same years my nMom had breast implants, a tummy tuck, liposuction, who knows how many chemical peels, etc.

Now, although she still spends way too much, their retirement pot is no longer constantly filling up, and she is wildly interested in where our money comes from and how much of it there is. She has sometimes seemed so preternaturally interested, in fact, that our joke around here is that she is just waiting for us to tell her 'it's all in the back room, will you come help us count it, and in return we'll give you a cut for telling us how to spend it.'

Oh, our other theory about the aggressive gift giving is that it's like the story of the rat in the maze pressing on the pellet level. It may only dispense a pellet as often as a slot machine dispenses a jackpot, but my mother continues to press that lever (sending gifts) anyway, in the hope that despite the evidence, she may yet still force another 'David Yurman Bracelet' out of our camp, addressed to her.

Ah, at least there is stuff to laugh about.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

Your blogsite has come as a new lease of life for me!

In a nutshell, my life has been pure hell (till 5 years back when we separated from my parents), me having grown up with my classic N father, inverted N mother and another classic N, my younger sister.

My sister was the “golden child” and while growing up I always felt something was grossly amiss in the way our family behaved. However, I was never able to put my finger on what exactly was haywire. I guess I grew up to be a normal person only because of the influence of numerous aunts/uncles, who kept me sane.

Things got worse after I married (in our society, the male child has to take up the responsibility of looking after the ageing parents, so we lived under the same roof). Luckily I got an extremely understanding wife, who saw through my Father’s fa├žade quite rapidly and pointed out what was wrong. However, I resisted my wife’s efforts at the beginning, since I quite revered my father, so strong was his influence over me.

My wife is made of stronger stuff however and if there’s a God up there, she has been God’s gift to me. Slowly but surely she made me realise how different my family was and one day suddenly my eyes were wide open! The N’s iron fisted grip on me loosened and one day fully collapsed!

Did not know anything about NPD then, but had seen what tremendous liars these three were (Father, Mother and my Sister), so one day when searching for some links on “pathological liar” on the internet, came across this term as one of the red flags for NPD.

My God, it was like as if my whole life was unfolding before my eyes as I read article after article, mostly by you Anna, and also by Sam Vaknin, and Kathy Krajco. I even bought a couple of e-books to read and this gave me a TREMENDOUS sense of freedom. Finally came to know that there is nothing wrong with me to deserve the treatment I had got from these three….what is wrong is solely with those N monsters in my life.

Coming to this point has taken me close to 35 years…..but better late than never.

My life changed for the better when we migrated to another country 5 years back (only my family). Intially it was my intention to get my parents here too after a couple of years. In other words, I was planning to transform my heaven to hell again. The only reason to think in this manner was the overwhelming societal pressures and tradition in our society that advocates a joint family and son taking care of the parents in their old age. Secondly, I also loved my parents (please note the past-tense!) then.

The knowledge that I picked up from the internet couldn’t have come sooner. Now I have realised how truly dangerous these Ns are. Your article Anna, “Narcissistic Grand-parents” was truly enlightening! I have made some extremely crucial decisions based on the information I have got about NPD. One of the major decisions was NEVER to allow my father any sort of unsupervised access to my children (we have two children, son aged 8 and daughter aged 6). This means that he is to stay where he is, separated from us by thousands and thousands of miles!

My mother passed away last year (she was a cancer patient for 2 decades), and this actually increased the pressure on me to get my father here. But commonsense has prevailed. We do not feel that we have to provide justification for our decision to keep my N father away, to any Tom, Dick or Harry that is nosey. However, to close relatives we have tried to explain (which has been very difficult since my parents have gone out of their way to create a false, perfect image for themselves) that my duty towards my children is greater than my duty to my father. Especially to such a father, who is a known predator.

On realising that his hold over my family is now almost non-existant, N father has reavealed another trick up his sleeve. Now, he’s trying to tempt us with the “inheritance” card. You see, he’s quite rich; has a flash house that will fetch heaps of money if sold and must be having a fat bank balance, having been extremely miserly throughout his life.

Only recently, he started sending us feelers about his intention to “gift” us half the sale price of his house (the other half going to his golden child) and also that he has some “unused” cash in the bank that can be made use of by us.

These attempts are truly laughable and we had a jolly time reading his emails. I have replied telling him to do whatever he wants with his house and cash, we don’t want a single cent. My cultural values regarding the manner we speak with elders (even evil elders) prevented me from asking him to take his cash and stuff it up his backside.

We fully realise how big would the price tag be, associated with any of his so called gifts.

Whew….

Thanks once again Anna, we ACONs truly need someone like you and Kathy.

Regards,

AR

Anonymous said...

I've just learned that the sending of magazine subscriptions is a tactic recommended by author Victor Santoro in his manual on how to gaslight people. It's meant as a message to the recipient that they're under attack.

I'm not sure if all Ns read Santoro's books, or if they come up with this stuff on their own.

Hellboy said...

Hi Anna,

Could you please reply to my comment, earlier I had posted a comment as "anonynomous", but signed it as AR (Feb 3, 2008). I had been anonymous for I did not realise then that I could create a different display name other than my gmail ID (which is my real name). I am almost a daily reader of your blogs and also Kathy's. Thanks.

Anna Valerious said...

Hellboy,

Your story is a compelling one. I am relieved for you that you've found the information you need on the internet to keep from caving to the pressure of society and family to take in your father. Moving to a whole new continent and country is the best way to minimize the potential damage of an N. Your wife is a wise and intelligent woman. Take good care of her! Thanks for sharing your story and for reading here.

Anonymous said...

There is a big problem when the gifts with strings attached are your food, housing,and clothes.

Anna Valerious said...

There is a big problem when the gifts with strings attached are your food, housing,and clothes.

Anonymous,

If you are a minor under the care of a narcissist parent then this post does not apply to you. When you are a child in the home of a narcissist then the word that applies is 'survival'. Do what it takes to survive. You need food, housing and clothing to survive. There is no fault in placating the narcissist if you must do so to survive. The situation of being a child under the care of a narcissist is a precarious one that requires the child to use their wits and their knowledge of the particular behaviors of their N parent. Do what it takes. Get out as soon as you can.

Kathleen said...

Wow. This will be my third comment in as many days. The more I read here, the more understanding I have been up against, why things didn't feel "normal," and especially the behavior of the Ns before, during, and after my husband's sickness and death.

When my DH and I got engaged almost 16 years ago, he naturally called his parents to tell them. At that time his dad said "Hey, I outgrew my old wedding band and got a new one. I still have the old one in my jewelry box. Want it?"

Sound like a precious heirloom to anyone here???

One week after my DH's death, the NFather-in-law called, and MIL was on their extension.

FIL: We've been meaning to ask you. Do you still have his wedding band?
Yes.
FIL: Well, you know it was MINE FIRST.
MIL: His first, you know.
FIL: Well, WE think YOU SHOULD give it away to K. (my youngest daughter, 12 at the time.)
WHY???
FIL: Because SHE can give it to HER husband when she gets married.

HUH??? Talk about grandiose!! They think this band of gold which MEANT NOTHING TO HIM should now become a sacred heirloom and given to my youngest's groom! After all, who WOULDN'T want to be in the line of His Majesty??

Oh, and my oldest daughter? She's nothing. Zip. Nada. She was born during my previous marriage, and my wonderful husband legally adopted her. But obviously they made a distinction.

I wear that ring. I am the widow. That ring belongs TO ME.

After my ILs had spent DAYS at my home while my DH was ill and NEVER BROUGHT IN ANY MEALS (and he had been on disability for over a year!), my MIL asked "Did he have life insurance?"

What the heck kind of question is that????
I did tell her that yes, he did, but it would be 2 months before I could collect. In the meantime, I was financially unable to feed my children.
Her response???
"YOU just HAVE TO BE patient!"
Her grandchildren. I fed not only my FIL and MIL, but the siblings of my husband, their spouses, and children (9 people) for a week!!

After the cut off and FIL KNEW I was angry at all they had taken I received a notification from a hospice located near them. They had made a donation in my husband's honor!! I received the notification because I guess I was "supposed to" write a thank you card. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

Instead, I sent this email to FIL as our last communication:

I have received from XXXXX County Hospice a notification that you have made a donation in honor of my husband.

I can tell you that my husband would not be honored by your gift to charity.

He would have been honored if you had remembered that he was a grown man with a wife and children and you had respected his home and his wishes.

He would have been honored if you had spoken to his wife with the same respect you expect others to speak to your wife.

He would have been honored if you had respected that H was his daughter.
He would have been honored if you had called K on her birthday, any one of her prior birthdays, but especially her most recent one.

He would have been honored if you had hugged his children, offered a compassonate word, shared stories with them of how proud you are of him, of them, and had not asked them to give to you. He would have been honoroed if you had reassured his youngest daughter that she would not go hungry.

He would have been honored if you had remembered his wife was about to become a widow and you had not repeatedly told her about the widow you take food shopping, but instead had brought groceries during your visit.

It has been over 2 years since my children and I learned of my husband's illness. My children are still waiting for that hug, that word of compassion, the acknowledgement that they lost their dad. You have asked them for things and you have not given so much as that hug. You owe them an apology. That would honor my husband.

I signed it with a name I never used before -- Mrs. HIS FIRST NAME and SURNAME.

(had always used MY first name in the past).


Feels so good to get this out!!
Thanks for reading this long post.

- Kathleen

Sarah said...

I really needed to read this post! Thank you! A "friend" I've been dealing with who I cut off contact with, she was been using all sorts of "gifts" I don't want to try to win me back. She has crossed too many boundaries with me. The latest is that she wants to offer me her couch for free, she left me some recycled food containers on my van (thinking I would use them for my homemade baby food), left me tulips on Easter, and she's just doing this thinking I will do the "right thing" and call her or e-mail her to say thank you. I didn't ask for anything from her.

It's been building for a long time, but the topper was when she called me and yelled at me for asking someone else for a favor instead of her. That's nuts. When I told her I didn't have to justify who I ask for help and that it was completely inappropriate to leave that message on my voicemail, she said it was a joke. It so wasn't. She is telling everyone she lost me as a friend because I took one of her jokes wrong.

I don't know what her disorder is, but she definitely has one. Could be some narcissm involved because she definitely has a sense of entitlement. It's been two months and she still won't stop coming up with excuses to call me. I'm moving soon. Thank you very much for the magazine subscription tip. I'll watch out for that one.

Maria Xo said...

Narcissists can give gifts but they're also likely to be really cheap. It's part of their personality traits. A Narcissist that's giving a gift is still cheap. It's just as likely that they won't give you anything so long as you're already abused or dependent on them in some way, which is where they allow themelves to get comfortable and treat you like dirt. "Favors" are waved in front of you, as if they were gifts.. So gracious, aren't they? Something such as "allowing you to live" there is regarded as a favor you should be indebted to them for. Cheap.

vicariousrising said...

A few years ago, while in the midst of an ugly divorce, my sister decided to move closer to our parents. She went house hunting and found some places she thought she liked, but my parents didn't think they were good enough. They offered to help her with the mortgage, which she accepted, then they proceeded to dictate which home she would buy. My sister was not happy about this outcome, but went along with it since she had accepted their offer of financial help.

I warned her to choose the house that she personally liked and turn down our parents' offer. I told her they would not only partly own her home, they would own HER. She didn't necessarily disagree with me, but went ahead against my advice.

Not long after she moved in, my parents started rearranging her furniture, wall hangings, etc. and putting up artwork they brought in. My sister would move her stuff back, but lo-and-behold, the parents would put things they way they wanted.

More recently, my parents bitch behind her back about how she doesn't keep "their investment" in the condition that they want it and are pissed and indignant. Of course, this is the daughter they dubbed "Helpless Hannah" and did what they could in the narcissist way to make this label her reality.

I've tried to make lemonade out of the lousy lessons from my parents' behavior. I never give anyone money, gifts, time or assistance with an expectation that it will be paid back or even necessarily appreciated (although if someone repeatedly is clearly not appreciative -- read: acts entitled -- or at least minimally decent to me after I've done a favor, they tend to fall off my favor list).

Just before my decision to go NC, I had tried once again to build relationship with my parents, thinking that I had sufficiently changed to be able to deal with their crazy. (I overestimated myself.) During this period, I did accept a couple monetary gifts from my parents, partly because it would have been worse for me to decline them. Had they asked me ahead of time, I probably would have thought of a way to take a pass, but maybe they sensed this and sent checks with a note suggesting how I might use them (and for once, they were suggestions for things I wanted or was going to get for myself anyway, unlike the usual narc-gift misfires). It's funny, but I haven't really felt obligated to them because of these checks, which is a change for me. I'm not entirely sure why.