It’s Narcissist Friday!
Loyalty. Devotion. Subservience. Adoration. Service. Reverence. Deference. Faithfulness. Worship.
Yes, I know these are all things we should give to God, but these are the things the narcissist wants from you. You are supposed to give all these things to the narcissist. It might be your mom or dad. It might be your husband or wife. It might be your friend, or your boss, or your pastor. You are supposed to give unequivocal allegiance to the narcissist.
Looking from another angle, if you are not for your narcissist, you are certainly against him/her. The narcissist rarely sees anything between love and hate. You either love your narcissist and submit, or you hate your narcissist and must be removed. There is no middle or neutral position. Not for the narcissist.
You see, most of us don’t think like this. We certainly don’t expect everyone to like us, and those who do like us don’t have to be our devoted servants to prove it. We respect others and think of ourselves as regular people. We don’t expect devotion or service or reverence. Loyalty might be nice, but we understand that people change.
For the narcissist, this kind of control is necessary. Because the narcissist doubts himself and fears others, he demands loyalty. Those who are not submissive are against him. Those who do not bow to him are plotting against him. You are either loyal or disloyal.
Now, suppose you are growing up in a family with a narcissist parent. Eventually, the marriage breaks up. You are the child. Which side of the divorce do you support? Most children would like very much to stay out of their parents’ troubles. They withdraw so that the venom doesn’t hit them. They try to be kind to both sides. Most kids love both parents.
That isn’t enough for the narcissist. The narcissist doesn’t want to share the love. So, the stories begin. The lies, the twisting, the insinuations. All to divide you from the other parent. The special gifts, the extra privileges, the friendly connections—all to make the narcissist look better. All to make the child choose.
But listen: the push toward devotion didn’t just start when the divorce happened. No, the narcissist plans these things. The kids have always had to make this choice. They have always been stuck between loyalties. And it has affected them. Their connection to their parents has always had this strange pressure, and they have never really understood. So, they find ways to protect themselves. They disconnect in whatever ways are possible.
And the non-narcissist parent loses her/his children. Why? Because they don’t know what to do in all this mess. It doesn’t involve them, that’s what the parents try to say, but it does. So, they withdraw.
Or they choose. They might hate the need to choose, but do it to have some sense of peace. Losing one parent might be preferable to keeping both with all the stress. Whatever it takes to be out of the line of fire.
Is it really this bad? Let me just say that it’s a story I have heard over and over. It might not be all the kids. Some don’t play the game. Some seem immune or insensitive to the pressures. But the pressure to choose loyalties is heavy in all their lives. It is there, and it destroys families.
Now, if you are the non-narcissist parent, you probably feel like your family has been ripped away from your heart. You might have had stresses, but now you have almost nothing. You grieve the loss of your kids. You miss them. But they are distant, almost uncaring.
What do you do? Pray for them. Be patient. Love them. You went through your struggle and it hurt a lot. Don’t forget they went through theirs as well. They were hurt also. You might have tried or wanted to go no contact with your narcissist. They tried or wanted to do the same, but with the whole package. Their lack of understanding or caring may be a way to survive. This is the reality of a narcissistic marriage, the potential loss of the family.
Be patient. I can’t say that they will come around to your side. They probably hate the idea of sides. But they will mellow and understand more as they get older. The narcissist can still affect their feelings, still demand, even as you try to reduce your pressures on them. This may take a long time.
Pray. Pray that they would shed the fear and pain. Pray that they would find good and healthy relationships for themselves. Pray that they would find the Lord’s love and grace.
I won’t tell you to let them go. I can’t imagine doing that in any real sense. A loving parent will never let go of their kids, even if they never get to see them or have a good relationship with them. But you can still love them from a distance. You can rejoice in their joys, grieve with their sorrows, and hope for their futures. Maybe someday they will understand that you loved them enough to give them time and space.
Each family is different and each child is different. I know a mom who writes letters to her kids. Not judgmental, not pleading or desperate, no pressure, just love. She supports them and encourages them. She doesn’t even know for sure that they read (or receive) her letters. But this is her heart expressing her love. Her goal is to add no further burden to them, just to let them know they are loved.
Frankly, this topic is heartbreaking. Take the long view. God works over the years. Trust Him. Be at peace knowing that He loves your children more than you do. The real goal of a loving parent is that her/his kids are happy and healthy. If that is true, the distance hurts less. Find your love and affirmation, everything you need, in Jesus.