Helen: In 1998, at the age of 38, I married my narcissist husband of 25 years. Narcissism was completely new to me. He informed me who he was from the beginning of our relationship. His entire family, which he seldom saw, was going to warn me about him. Narcissism is a trait that he has displayed throughout his life, and he went into great length about it. He told me over and over again about the frog/fox and the scorpion stories. He then explained to me that he had a need to be different.. In order for him to have a regular life, he asked me to show him how. I was naive to begin with. He seemed to be bursting with energy and vitality. When I arrived at the hospital, I had no clue what to expect. Is this a narcissistic “tactic,” for lack of a better term? If so, what’s the name of it? The fact that I’m still in disbelief is evident.
Kelly: Children of narcissistic parents are frequently blamed for their mistreatment, and my mother was the victim of this practice. To be honest, that all makes perfect sense to me. To me, my mother had an exaggerated demeanor. She was an entirely different person when she was with her family. When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why Mom continually denied it when I asked her about it. The more experienced and perceptive I became, the more she vilified me for pointing out her lies and deceptions. She spread rumors about me to everyone in the family and did all she could to damage my reputation, which she continues to do to this day. People began to tell me that they realized what was going on in my life when they stopped defending themselves, and when I chose to just “be myself” and let people judge for themselves, they began to do so. The way she handled me was indicative of her narcissism. With my aunts still alive at 60, it’s fascinating to hear what they have to say about the past years, what they have witnessed, and the conclusions they have come to. It helps me cope with my 87-year-old grandmother. They don’t age at all, as far as I can tell. Just as bad, if not worse.
GK: As a youngster, my grandma constantly complimented me on my ability to speak my mind. To me, I’ve always conducted my life in accordance with how I felt, rather than how others saw my actions. Allowed me be clear: I have been abused, but I haven’t let it stop me from pursuing my dreams. Even my therapist is surprised by how far I’ve come despite my difficulties. Because my mother is a narcissist, I’ve cut off all ties with her and anybody else who could harm my well-being. I’ve learnt that no matter how close you are to a person, he or she should not be a part of your life. Some members of my family have referred to me as a “black sheep,” while others have referred to me as a free spirit. When it comes to labels, I don’t give a damn.
Jen: The fact that my parents treated me badly as a child and encouraged me to “settle down” and “marry a lovely person” has only now dawned on me now that I’m 64 years old. I’ve been married three times in my life thus far. When I was 8 years old, I was forced by my parents to join a gospel family musical ensemble and thrown in front of an audience. All of us were expected to look and act our best at all times. As my daughters grew older, I realized how much of an introvert I had become and how little of a nurturing mother I had been. This has shattered my heart, and I know it has hurt theirs. We owe you a debt of gratitude for allowing millions of people to have a better understanding of how our upbringing and experiences shape our self-perception. Counseling has helped me finally learn to appreciate myself and the people in my life.