The Survivor of the Narcissistic Parent Meets the Narcissistic Partner

I write what I am learning. I teach as I grow. I make the same mistakes as anyone else, only my skills show me how to coach people based on what I have uncovered. I am not right, I just write what becomes aware to me as it happens. When I have been in relationship to men, I have hidden behind them and not been my true self. I have been afraid, just as my clients have been afraid, because we were taught to be. When it is over, I reflect and feel the guilt and shame of not having said what I should have said. Of not standing up for myself. Of not really being the partner to them because I was too busy trying to make them love me. This is what happens when you are the survivor of the narcissistic parent. You meet the narcissistic partner and dance with them using the same song you were taught as a child. I will make you love me, no matter what it takes. When you do, I will finally succeed in having the love I have always wanted. Because, if I can make you love me, I will have finally turned this wrong into a right. Jeannine Vegh, M.A., I.M.F.T.

The survivor of the narcissistic parent grows up in a household where they are trying desperately to get it right. Whether it is the mother or the father, we are trained from an early age that we can never do enough to please them. We are not allowed to have an identity. We need to soothe the parent, we need to live their life that they were unable to have as a child. We need to praise them because they were not praised as a child. We need to be their therapist because no one listened to them. We need to make things easier on them so that they can be happy. This robs us of a life.

As we go through puberty we begin to create ourselves by fashioning an identity; the person we would like to be, this is when we meet “the enemy” and understand more about the narcissistic parent. They don’t want us to have a life, they want us to continue being those elementary school children, the pre-pubescent child who does not focus on differentiating but stays true and loyal to the parent – stays being what that parent wants. Therefore adolescence becomes a trial and error much different than any other child. We try to find out who we are and individuate, even though we have our parent fighting with us day in and day out; accusing us of being a traitor. We are. We are a traitor to them. We have stopped being them and have dared to be ourselves.

As a young adult, we are weak. We have fought so many daily battles as we go out into the world. We are confused. We want so much to have our dreams come true. We have been at war so much with the egos of our parent (s) that we have not had a chance to be prepared for the world in front of us. It is not the narcissistic parents world that we face. As we were a traitor to them and not continued to live their life, as we have dared to go out in the world and discover on our own, they are definitely not going to assist us along the way. They are not going to help us when we should have stayed back and stayed with them and lived their life for them. So, we find our way in the world, mistake after mistake. We do our best to survive and grow.

It is no wonder that some people have turned to drugs and alcohol for comfort before even becoming an adult. The tragedy of failing your parents and failing yourself is too much to bare. We want so much to please them and can never do enough. We can never be good enough, smart enough, rich enough, educated enough, mannered enough. If we could just placate them and continue to stay beside them every step of the way, continue to nurture them and never step away from them, all would be okay. But we dare to be ourselves. We dare to have our own life and with this, we are bad. Being bad, we choose comfort. If it is not drugs and alcohol, we use sex to soothe our soul. If not this, we become a workaholic and fight to prove that we are a hard worker but even this is never enough. We collect degrees from universities, hoping our education will show them we are bright. Hoping that something will show them we are good enough. Hoping something will prove to them we do love them and we haven’t abandoned them, we are just trying to make our way in the world. Once we do, then we will show them [they will see] we aren’t the problem they suspected we were. But this is not what they want. This is what we want. They want us to stay with them and live the life they want us to live. It is us who choose differently – we make ourselves believe it is for them.

If we go into relationships, we choose the narcissistic partner, often, so many times. When we choose the good guy we sabotage. When we choose the narcissist, we are at home. If we choose a narcissistic partner than we get that chance to get it right. We attract them because they are so familiar. Chaos that we are raised with and thought we have avoided by running away and choosing our own life, only becomes a part of our unconscious. Carl Jung says “Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Our life is directed from one partner after another. We continue to believe that “they” are wrong. We determine that it is fate. That we will always struggle with this partner that we continue to attract because we can never get it right. It has become, what we believe is our “fate” and since we are not capable of meeting the right partner, of making the right choices, we might as well give it up and call it a day. We might as well retreat and hide in our homes because we are just not capable of getting it right.

The narcissistic parent is not wrong, they are being themselves – in a mask that they wear on a daily basis. The narcissistic partner is not wrong, they are attracted to us because we do so much to make them right. We continue to please them, stay devoted and loyal to them, try to show them that we are better than the others, until we get tired, like we did with our parent. We get tired of trying to make them right every single day and tired of pleasing them every single day; not getting anything in return. Then we begin to rebel just as we did with our parent. Then we begin to talk back, or question, or stand up for ourselves. This is when we realize the narcissist all over again. The more we fight, the more the relationship dissolves into one big ugly mess. They are always going to win, no matter what you say. They have many more years of insecurity that they know how to mask. They know how to trip up your words and return the pain to you. Their life is about not taking responsibility. It is not about having awareness. Everything is everyone else’s fault and nothing is theirs.

You have changed, not the narcissist, in each situation – whether parent or partner. You have grown. You have matured. They are not going to change. You can love them and make love to them, cook and clean for them, be the perfect partner they have ever had but they will never reward you. They will  never love you back, they will play along. They will not appreciate what you are doing because you “should” be doing this.

The covert will destroy you because they are so afraid of having what you both have. It is too uncomfortable for them and they prefer drama and lies, to truth and love and devotion. The overt will take and take and take and even when you try to leave will play along with this game until you stay by cajoling you with their promises and saying what you want to hear. You are either destroyed because you were too good for them and brought up all their insecurities and fears or you determine that staying with them and being who they want you to be is worth it in the end. If they have money and a lifestyle, lots of friends and power, it is easier to stay because you can get lost in the excitement and be lonely with the company you keep – the other partners who either become your allies and commiserate with you or your enemies that saddle up against you.

When you change in the relationship and they do not, it is not their fault. We cannot blame the narcissist for being a narcissist or we will not grow. We chose them because they were a comfortable unconscious chaos that we grew up with. When we see the error of our ways, we can rise above this and move on or stay in blame. If they are a true narcissist, covert or overt, they will never apologize (authentically) or have the self-awareness we try to show them. We are not their teacher, they are ours. To shame them by saying it is all their fault defeats the purpose. They are not in the relationship to grow. The self-realization of consciously seeing them for who they are means that we must now choose to have what we deserve – by moving forward and finding a healthy attachment to a partner or stay wounded trying to fix them and keep what we have.

Do you see what I am saying? It is not fate that we continue to meet the narcissistic partner over and over again, it is a lesson that we get to keep or learn from so that we can succeed. If you keep meeting them over and over again, you have not learned anything. Yes, you know they are a narcissist. Yes, you know that they have no self-awareness, no ability to apologize, blah, blah, blah. Yes, it hurts because you love them and they should see that you were great for them. Yes, you gave them everything, you bent over backwards for them, you did things with them and for them that you have never done for another. This was your choice.

While you were dancing for the narcissist and singing for them and baking cakes and pies, they were living their life. They watched and reveled in the fun but did not give an inch. It was not what they wanted, it was you perceived they wanted. They manipulated you into thinking this was what they wanted but you were the one who ultimately gave in and made the choice. You continued to try to get the love that your parent (s) never gave you. You consoled yourself as you did when you were a child. You told yourself that this time, they will love me. If only I give him/her this, they will finally reward me by saying “I can’t believe you are the person I have always looked for and now I will love you back because you deserve this. You are my dream come true.” While they may say this at times to continue baiting you, there is no meaning behind it. They are just words that you say in a relationship. Words they have seen will work you until they have you. Once they have you, they don’t need to try anymore – you are there. The longer you stay, the more you are enabling them to continue being who they are. Walk away and realize the error of your ways. Staying is not changing anything nor will it; unless the person wants to. Beating your head up against the wall is whining and self-deprecation.

If you stay with an addict, they will continue to use. If you stay with a narcissist they will continue to take (overt) or will punish you one day (covert) when you least expect it to protect themselves from perceived harm (paranoia). If you stay with the narcissistic parent you will never have a life. Walk away. If they beg you to stay, tell them you will come back when they have done some work on themselves and have healed from their anger, pain, PTSD or TBI, whatever causes their mental dysfunction. If they do and can prove this by showing up as an authentic person then go back. If they don’t; keep going. They will never become healthy as long as you enable (stay). Let go without expectations. Detach from the outcome.

Don’t blame the victim. You and they (the narcissist) are both victims. You can see that you are a victim because you have self-awareness. They cannot. They are just as much in pain as you are. They are just as insecure as you are. Only, they have learned how to nurture themselves by externalizing and not putting any thought into it. If they put thought into their pain, they would have to feel the pain. They do not want this. You want it otherwise you would not wish to grow. You want to feel the pain otherwise you would not cry and stay in bed, isolate yourself from others, starve yourself (or feed yourself). You want to grow and become a healthy and more mature person. They do not.

Anaïs Nin said “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live. Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat. Perfection is static, and I am in full progress. Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.”

The narcissist is electing to remain in the state they are in. They wish to stay in the bud because for them it is a risk to blossom. They are stuck in being “in control” as they perceive they are, and want things to stay the same. They are a victim of their own doing and can only have this realization on their own, just as you – the victim of the narcissist (parent and/or partner), want to have this realization. The path to salvation is one we each must determine and choose; we cannot share it. If you have an out of body experience, you cannot give it to someone else. You can pontificate and express your adulation but you cannot show it or help someone have this experience.

Realize what you have learned and move on. Focus on what you need to do differently so that you can choose the right person, the next time. Don’t isolate yourself because then you are giving up. Like a raped woman who chooses to never have sex again; you are letting the perpetrator win. You are allowing them to have power over you and keep you from having a wonderful life. Have the life you want. Stay true to yourself. Don’t give yourself away to anyone. Join with a partner, have an equal relationship. The relationship where both of you give and take but never give away, so that you are not walking down the one way street. Walk together. Work out your conflict together. Talk together. Dance with them not by yourself; cook with them, not for them. A healthy relationship is equal amounts of give and take. Your communication should flow not dictate. Your love should have a rhythm not be a performance.  

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