I’m a life long narcissist
I admit it
When I married my husband it was with the understanding that what was good for me was good for us. Happy wife, happy life. If decorating was my desire, he skipped new underwear. If I wanted clothes, he gave up a new pair of jeans. I don’t take out garbage–E V E R. Flu, pneumonia, broken arm, he still hauls it out and I don’t feel an ounce of guilt.
Along with narcissism I’m existential. Where I am is where I’m at. The future? It may not come so why worry about it? Okay, worry a little but not too much. Where’s your trust in God? Planning for retirement? Why? Jesus is coming anyway and it won’t matter. At one time my sister-in-law thought that Jesus was going to come before she died, so why not keep all those credit cards maxed out? Made sense to me. Pay off a house? What’s the point? Life is so much simpler if you live for the here and now. People like me sleep, blessed in our chosen blindness.
One of my favorite personal stories comes from our first year of marriage
Did I mention I was literal?
Bruce and I were relaxing in the family room one evening when I got up to get myself a drink. He called to me from the couch (all of 7ft away), “Honey can I have a drink too?” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sure, I’m not your mother, you don’t need my permission to have a drink”. He paused for a dumbfounded minute and asked gently, “Will you bring it to me?” I sighed (how dare he), but I brought him a glass of water.
My noble effort at self-sacrifice
I am a literal, narcissistic, existentialist. Such a combo could be a recipe for marital disaster, divorce being the minimal outcome, murder more probable. However, I’m married to a saint. He’s sacrificial and humble. He loves to know I’m happy and he lives to make me laugh. He is unselfish and giving. All this is wonderful… EXCEPT….when it makes me look bad for being the literal, narcissistic, existentialist that I am. At that point I can’t help myself, I blame him. He must take the fall for making me look bad. I won’t sleep if I have to take responsibility for my behavior and sleep is….
When the girls were growing up I hit a wall during their teen years. I needed advice. They were struggling with normal teen stuff and I didn’t understand why. I assumed (arrogantly) that if I raised them properly they wouldn’t have Teen Issues. I enjoyed them, spent time with them, talked with them, did mom things for them, so why were there issues? Was I doing something wrong? How could I fix this so these issues would go away and we could get back to our non drama life? I was desperate enough that I resorted to researching self help books for parents of teens. I finally found one I could stomach, ponied up the money and bought it.
The author of this book used humor to make his points. He categorized parents of teens into several groups, I only remember 2 of them. First was the Whining Martyr. This parent expected unsolicited gratitude from their teen for all their sacrificial love (sure!). They were resentful when teens were unappreciative of their sports, music, drama and art lessons. They were ungrateful for their laptops, braces, contact lenses and cozy bedrooms. Their parents were going without new cars, phones, technology, furniture and appliances in order to pay for these things and couldn’t understand why their teen didn’t respond appropriately. I didn’t relate to these people. I wasn’t a slave to my girls wants and desires. Of course we were sacrificing (Bruce was anyway) but isn’t that just what parents should do?
The next category was, Resort Parent and it shined an uncomfortable spotlight on me. It described parents that wanted to sit on a beach, in a lounge chair, with a book while being served umbrella drinks. We didn’t understand why our teens had issues, even mild ones. We felt put upon because we had to go through their social dramas. We craved an absence of conflict and wanted only to solve their problems so they could go back to being happy and undemanding. All we wanted was to enjoy our teens, praise their accomplishments and take pride in our own abilities to do better than our parents did.
As this spotlight shined on my unconscious attitude, I realized I was a product of some misguided parenting. I didn’t and don’t, blame my parents for my woes, but neither did I grow up in a vacuum. I recognized that my parents were Resort Parents, and like it or not, it was the unconscious attitude I adopted. This light-bulb moment led to confession, repentance, changes in my parenting and eventual changes in our girls. It brought healing and growth, both for our girls and my past.
This brings me to my title
The thought occurs to me, that if I weren’t a narcissist (albeit a loving one) I wouldn’t have sought help for their issues and my attitude in the first place. Healing came as a result of selfishness. We might have wallowed in teen angst for years if it weren’t for my intolerance. You shake your head and sigh, but it’s true. Does being a narcissistic, life-changer taint the outcome? You can cite wrong motives all you want but ultimately, the results were justified. Before you throw Machiavelli in my face, let me explain my theory.
Most normal families love each other freely while they’re a nuclear unit (after they leave home it’s up for grabs). We demonstrated to our girls daily, that they were loved. It was foundational to our family identity. We were/are often flawed in our execution, but the underlying theme was the Musketeer pledge: “All for one and one for all”. Consequently, individual struggles irritated me as they should in healthy families, IF they’re paying attention.
We can ask for food when we’re hungry and blankets when we’re cold, but emotional needs exist in a different realm. They are jello-ey, every time you think they’re on your spoon they wiggle off. Teen issues can be symptoms of emotional distress and narcissists are the first to alert the rescue squad. I don’t know of an adult, let alone a teen who can articulate their need for emotional guidance. If we had teens who said “Mom, my emotions are really stressed right now and I can’t figure out why. Will you talk it through with me so we can solve this together?” we’d be looking for their droid switch.
It seems to me then, that there is a case to be made for a little healthy narcissism in families.
I could be wrong
Maybe I irreparably damaged our girls. If so, I don’t want to know. Whatever issues they have henceforth can be addressed by a professional.
My narcissism is in full swing! I did my time and paid my dues….
Now where’s that cabana boy?