LisaS, your are right, my MIL did hit all the qualifiers for narcissism. She fits the description too well, it was stranger and deeper. She usually sat at her kitchen table with an array of makeup, nail products and a mirror. She would watch herself in the mirror while other people were talking - not just now and then - all the time. She had this big smile thing she would do. She would suddenly beam at someone and her whole face would light up. I thought it was the most fake expression I had ever seen, others would comment how beautiful she was when she smiled.
She used to tell her sons that I had said things about them that I never said. Eventually I stopped having any contact at all with her, it was too stressful to hear the stuff she was making up. I would tell her relatives when they wanted to confront me about things she said I had said "I have not talked to her, its all made up. Now I realize it was most likely voices. She self medicated heavily with alcohol and Valium in the early years, just cigarettes non stop and Xanax when she was in her 60’s and 70’s.
She would only want to hold the grandkids for pictures where she would bring out the big smile thing. She loved having her picture taken. We didn’t have to worry about her undermining our parenting, outside of having pictures taken with them, she wasn’t interested in the kids.
I never saw her in a rage, she was afraid of her husband, he had the rage issues. When he came home drunk and would be angry with her when my husband was a little boy, she would tell him that the little boys had done stuff that they had not done. In his drunken rage, he would switch from her and begin physically abusing the boys. Not only did she not protect them, she turned his anger towards them.
My husband shares your husband’s negative thought processes, mine is aware too and has tried to changed, I now wonder if change is not possible. Jeb’s illness has him questioning a lot of his own behaviors.