Dealing With Narcissists at Christmas – Why do They Always Want to Ruin it?

When you’re around narcissists at Christmas, the season ain’t exactly jolly. 

Instead, it’s a time filled with dodging their outbursts and avoiding their relentless need to derail the season. They try to overshadow every moment with their self-serving agendas and disruptive behaviour.

And all you want is to have a merry old time with your friends and family. You don’t want to be feeling stressed and anxious in a time where you’re supposed to feeling loved.

Their endless desire to dominate the spotlight often means they’ll go to extreme lengths to manipulate situations. Which makes the festive gatherings feel more draining than joyous. 

Ever wondered why your Christmas was spoiled?

Or what to do to cope if you have to be around a narcissist?

Then I’ve got you covered. 

And no, it’s not in your head – narcissists ruining Christmas is an actual thing! And you’ll see why in a moment.

Understanding Narcissists at Christmas

Defining narcissism

People with a narcissistic, personality style have a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy and an excessive need for admiration. They’re important dudes who quite frankly, think they’re better than everyone else. 

So they think very highly of themselves, like a Kanye West type figure, who’s obsessed with money, power, beauty and ideal love.

And meeting their needs, are always at the forefront of their mind – regardless of what day it is.

Holiday triggers for narcissistic behaviour

When it comes to narcissists at Christmas – a time for family gatherings – it can all get a bit too much for them. Seeing you surrounded by people who genuinely love and care for you, is a reminder of what they lack.

So Christmas can be triggering for them because:

They don’t get enough attention:

Their “supply” i.e you, is likely wanting to spread their time around everyone else. So that means less focus on them. And not getting enough attention leads to them acting out to try and get it back.

There’s competition: 

If you’ve got your big time CEO cousin joining you for Christmas. And your narcissist feels threatened by them, because they see them as more successful, then it’s going to make them feel inferior. So you can expect some Alpha-male type behaviour as they try to peacock their accomplishments.

They’re sensitive to criticism: 

Your aunty who knows everything is dishing out her unwanted advice again! While most of you take her criticism with a pinch of salt, the narcissist won’t. Their fragile egos can’t take any knock backs – even Trish’s when she’s had a few! So they’ll get defensive or hostile if she hits a nerve.


Christmas can be an intense time if you’re navigating the moods of a narcissist. And they’re unlikely to change their behaviour. So if you’re having to spend time with one this season, it might be best to prepare for it instead.

Common Behaviours of Narcissists at Christmas

You might’ve noticed around Christmas time, the narcissist in your life has become even more unbearable. And it’s down to behaviours like this:

Gift-giving (or not)

Not all narcissists are the same, so when it comes to giving gifts, you can get all kinds of outcomes. And none of them will make you feel great.

So you can have your narcissist who is so self-absorbed that they don’t like celebrations that revolve around others. Because spending money on gifts, or putting thought into other peoples gifts, means it’s taking the limelight away from them. 

So you’re likely to receive last minute, half assed gifts. And if you’re supposed to be buying presents for family members, they’re probably not going to help you, or pay towards them. But they’ll be more than happy to take credit for them!

On the flip side, they can also see it as a chance to show off in front of everyone, like, ‘look at how generous I am’. And you know those gifts are probably going to come with strings attached! Like you better make damn sure you show your utmost appreciation for what they did for you!

And because narcissists are “special” people, they’ll have high expectations for your presents. So they’ll be hoping for something amazing and extravagant. But equally, they won’t give you that same respect. They’re more likely to be ungrateful or criticise what you got them.

Some narcissists at Christmas don’t like exchanging gifts at all because of the pressure they feel. It makes them feel like they owe you back. So if they receive an unexpected gift, instead of thinking ‘how sweet of them’. They’re irritated by it and think, ‘great, now I have to return the favour’.

Silent treatment

The silent treatment tends to go hand-in-hand with Christmas time. And it might not just be on Christmas Day, but in the run-up to it too, they’ll suddenly disappear out your life. 

It’s kinda like an attention seeking behaviour because it forces you to focus on them. You and your guests will be wondering where they are, if they’re ok, messaging and calling them. And all of that chasing helps them feel like the centre of attention again. 

I’ve read countless stories about narcissists giving the silent treatment at Christmas. One person wrote that their narcissist would disappear most Christmases – usually after they’d been fed! And their family members would often make comments about it, mortifying them further.

Another wrote about them causing an argument and then staying aloof until the main buzz of the holiday was over. Which conveniently meant they never had to buy gifts either!

My ex was like it too, he’d disappear around the holidays and go out all night ignoring me. I still feel a sense of dread as we near the end of the year. Because the holidays are always a reminder of how badly I was treated. 

And I know it’s not just me to experience this. So if you’re being ghosted, let your rage out in the comments below, don’t feel alone in your misery. We can help each other.

Discarding

Don’t only expect ghosting, because they might discard you as well.

That’s right, they dump people right before the holidays, perhaps even on the day. I read a comment in this Reddit thread where someone describes their partner asking for a divorce – immediately after she’d finished decorating the house and tree for Christmas!

And another story of someone always being dumped the month before – on her actual birthday!

Downplay the day

If a narcissist knows you love Christmas time they’ll act like it’s just another day and not make a big deal out of it. Making comments like ‘holidays are for corporations’. Because ultimately, they want to ruin the day for you. 

They’re not empathetic people, so they don’t really care about it being important to you. And they’ll show that by not taking part in anyway. So they won’t decorate the house, they won’t prepare any food and they’ll expect you to wait on them hand and foot.

Family dynamics

If you’ve been with a narcissist for a while, chances are you’ve had your fair share of Christmases with them. So you know what a tense time it can be if you also share the day with your family. 

You basically spend the whole day walking on eggshells, anticipating your narcissist doing something to upset the dynamic. Whether that’s them trying to assert their dominance, hogging conversations, interrupting others, or dictating the way they want the day to go. Whatever it is, you dread their interactions. 

One Reddit user wrote about their Dad always making an effort to buy a gift for their narc partner. But the narcissist would complain about the gift and say they hated it! How awful for the poor Dad who was just trying to be kind and include them.

What narcissists at Christmas can also do, is try and separate you from being with your family. Get you to cancel your plans and just be with them for example. Or refuse to go to any of your family functions. But then what you might find, is they’ll leave you alone on the actual day and isolate you. 

Picking fights

They’re very tactical with the timing of their fights – especially in the build up to Christmas. Because if you’re fighting, they don’t owe you anything! It’s just another excuse to not have to get you a gift or pander to your needs. And if you’re in a fight, then they can ignore you too and disappear for the holidays. 

They might also fight with you in private and then pretend everything is fine in front of everyone else. Which is something you’ll end up stewing over all day because nothing gets resolved. Again, this is a way for them to manipulate the day to be all about them.

Getting wasted

Getting bladdered at Christmas can help to mask their bad behaviour later. Because you can blame your actions on the alcohol, right? It’s a great way for them to avoid taking accountability as it’s not their fault if they were pissed! 

But the thing with drinking is it often escalates their behaviour, making them more obnoxious and embarrassing than normal. So they become a problem for everyone else. Like one comment I read, was someone’s partner would deliberately drink all day to dodge being the designated driver!

And drinking can be an escape for them too, especially if they don’t deal well with Christmas. It’s a way for them to gain your attention again because you spend the whole day worrying about them.

I tell you, none of these behaviours make me miss Christmas with my ex! They’re reminders of why you shouldn’t want to spend it with them. But I know it’s not that easy, and sometimes you feel like you have no choice but to.

So rather than let them ruin it, here’s what you can try instead:

Coping Strategies for Dealing with Narcissists at Christmas

Structure your day

By having a time limit for the day, say 11-4pm, you’re letting your narcissist know when they have to leave. But without actually having to tell them to. And this can give you peace of mind and avoid any unnecessary conflict. Because you and all your guests know there’s a start and a finish time.

If you think it’s going to be awkward on the day, you can also make plans to leave the house at the same time. That way you’re all leaving together and not singling anyone out.

Perhaps you can plan the whole day out too. Say you drink mimosas from 11-12pm, then maybe you sit down for lunch from 12-2pm. And then end the day with gift giving for the last couple of hours. You can also send the schedule out in advance to make sure everyone’s aware before the day.

And if you’re the guest at their house, then you can also tell them you’re only free for a set amount of time. They might not take it lightly but you’re allowed to communicate your boundary. You don’t have to accommodate to their needs, Christmas is your day too. And you can choose how you spend it.

Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs

Boundaries are hard to set, but you need them in place to protect your wellbeing. So if your narcissist is making you uncomfortable and insulting you, don’t hesitate to warn them you’ll leave. 

If you share kids on this day, try and model the behaviour you want them to see. So stating you won’t tolerate abuse and acting civil towards them, shows you’re the bigger person. And if they act up, it’s only going to highlight their behaviour. Kids are smart, so they’ll eventually figure out what they’re like without you having to tell them.

Grey rocking

Don’t forget this technique too. If you know Christmas is a time where they tend to behave badly and are difficult to be around. Then minimally engage with them. Don’t overreact, hide how you’re feeling and give short responses. 

Basically do anything that makes you so boring to them that they choose to not bother with you. They thrive off of your reactions, so if they don’t know what you’re thinking, they can’t push your buttons. Hold on to your power and stay strong.

Make back up plans in case

If you’re used to your narc ruining Christmas and leaving you all alone, then make back up plans. Chances are, your friends and family already know how much you’ve been let down by them. And they love you and won’t want you to be spending the holidays alone.

So find out what your friends and family are doing in advance. Make them aware you might need to call round last minute. That way you know you have other options if your narc suddenly cancels on you.

Take time for you

Need a breather during the day? Then make sure you take a break to recharge your batteries. You know how draining it is to be around a narcissist. So if you need to step away for a moment to gather your strength, then do it.

Whether thats a walk around the block, taking a bath or a nap, prioritise your needs to help you get through the day.

Manage your expectations

All I want for Christmas is for you to not be disappointed. So don’t have high expectations of the narcissist. Don’t hope that at Christmas narcissists will change. Because if you’ve spent enough special occasions with them, then you already know how much of a let down they can be. 

You’ve lived it so you know how it goes. You can’t control how they behave, all you can do is manage how you respond to them. So try hard to stay calm and collected, even if they try to provoke you; remember to grey rock instead.

Also, if you spend the day with a group of people – as well as your narcissist – try and spend more time with others. So speak to your cousins more, float around the room, divide your time up between people. And attempt to keep out of the narcissists way.

It’s a good idea to just expect the day to not go to plan. Have realistic expectations of the day because you know how intense it is when you have to spend it with a narcissistic person.

Choose how you want to spend Christmas

As we draw close to the end of the year, and the start of a new one. I hope you know that despite the challenges caused by narcissists at Christmas, it’s still possible to not let them ruin it.

You know what to expect from them, the games they play and how they like to manipulate situations. So all you can do is find ways that help you better cope with them. 

And if you really want to take matters into your own hands – and you don’t have kids stopping you – then choose not to spend it with them. You’ll have a far more relaxed day if you don’t have them dictating it.

It’s okay to prioritise your wellbeing over theirs. You can surround yourself with people who love and care about you instead. Or you can even find new traditions and experiences. Your Christmas doesn’t have to look the same as everyone else’s. 

You can decide how the day goes

For the past 8 years, I’ve had Christmas in the Summer. And it’s still weird. It doesn’t make sense to me that they play songs about snow and have Christmas lights on when it’s not even dark yet! Don’t get me started on the Santa suits too, it’s way too hot for that!

I’m away from my family, I don’t put up a tree, or decorate the house. And this is the second year in a row I haven’t bought a single present for anyone – including my partner! I don’t have a roast or anything that you’d associate a cold British Christmas with. 

But no matter what I do, I always spend it doing something with my friends. Maybe thats a BBQ (so weird), a dip in the lake (even stranger), or having a Mexican feast (because who doesn’t love tacos)? 

So what I’m saying is, you can decide your own meaning of Christmas. And you can choose how you want it to look and who you want to spend it with. So if someone makes you miserable around this time of year – then choose to not be near them. You always have that right.

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