The Atlantic

Dear Therapist: My Boyfriend’s Mother Is Narcissistic and Mean

He has adapted to her behavior over the years, but I don’t know how to coexist with her.
Source: Bianca Bagnarelli

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at

Dear Therapist,

I am in a wonderful, loving, and dynamic relationship with my boyfriend of three years. He’s an only child of a single mother, and though I know this structure is often rife with challenges, I recognized some uniquely difficult aspects of his mother’s personality early on. I’m a therapist, and though I try to avoid armchair diagnoses, I couldn’t help but notice her traits of narcissism and histrionic personality disorder.

As you can imagine, we haven’t gotten along well. She can read the judgment on my face when I can’t handle her self-aggrandizing monologues. All my usual go-to tools when in conflict (reflective listening, nonviolent communication, emphasizing my own shortcomings and vulnerabilities) have fallen on deaf ears. When

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