Spouses and Family Roles

If you marry someone who’s mother is a narcissist you are marrying damaged goods. That is very hard to read I know, it was pretty damn hard to write. They can survive a childhood with a narcissistic mother quite well provided they have some other close family member like a father or grandparent to treat them normally. But the fact that their first human relationship, the one with their mother, was formed with someone who put themselves first will leave an indelible mark on their psyche.

There are a variety of ways in which a person can respond to growing up in a family with a narcissist. Following from the Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACOA) movement, psychologists began to recognise similar traits in the children of very dysfunctional families even if alcoholism wasn’t an issue. The traits are given names by psychologists; the Scapegoat, the Rebel, the Hero, the Lost Child etc. They describe the ways in which a child can adapt to find space to survive in the relationship with their mother. In an alcoholic family often one child also develops addiction problems. Sadly in a narcissistic family it is not unusual for one child to develop the same personality disorder. Copying the disordered behaviour or adapting yourself quite profoundly to fit in with it are the options available. Neither option is healthy for the psyche of the child.

My husband took on the role of the Hero/Caretaker, his sister is a Lost Child. Their father took the role of family Scapegoat and was the one who was told he didn’t earn enough, was emotionally unstable, caused problems etc. He was very passive and retreated from confronting her giving her full reign over every facet of family life. Her moods dominated everything and reading them and making things right for her was the role my husband took on.

This means he is very emotionally aware and considerate of others, which are good things to be. It also means he is scared of anger, distress and emotional pain in others and himself and anticipates others’ needs to soothe them and by extension himself. He engages in the same indirect communication patterns and passive-aggressive behaviour when stressed as his mother does.  He is terrified of her disapproval and is a self-confessed over achiever.

Here is a brief description of some of the roles and adaptations that the child of a narcissist can make. One of these roles may well be the one your spouse adopted. The first four roles are the classic ACOA roles, the later two are additions that some authors have identified in dysfunctional but not necessarily alcoholic homes.

The Good Child or Hero – these children are high achievers who look good to the outside world, providing the family with esteem and an acceptable face that conceals the dysfunction. They are perfectionist, overly control their emotions to the point of being unaware of them, they are unable to play or ask for help and struggle to be flexible or spontaneous. They take on adult responsibilities and self-sufficiency at a young age. They have a deep fear of failure and need for success and external approval. They can be very driven as adult. They have a hard time admitting their family or themselves had a problem.

The Lost Child or Adjuster– these children withdraw from the dysfunctional family be making themselves as quiet and unnoticed as possible so as not to provoke the wrath of the dysfunctional parent. They may retreat into books, fantasy or excessive TV watching as solitary activities. They deal with the difficulties in reality by retreating from it. They may abuse food by overeating, bulimia or anorexia. They can be overly independent. They may be shy and scared of emotional intimacy. They may have problems developing relationships as adults. These children are most likely to feel depressed or suicidal.

The Mascot – this child deals with the family situation by making jokes, larking about and being the one who lightens the atmosphere even at the expense of being ridiculed as the family clown or idiot. They are attention seekers, distracting and immature and have a hard time dealing with negative emotions which they work so hard to cover up. They could also be the super-cute, ditsy airhead, the one getting into silly scrapes. They have difficulty making decisions and focussing on a task or career.

The Scapegoat or Rebel – this child acts out, often spectacularly, which diverts attention away from the problem and onto fixing the child. They are the most emotionally honest of all the children overtly displaying the fall out of the dysfunction within the family. This takes the form of direct confrontation with parents, drunkenness, addiction, trouble with the law or school authorities, teen pregnancy, running away from home. They can be very angry and self-destructive and are often the first member of the family to get help and start recovery.

The Caretaker or Placater – This child takes on responsibility for the emotional temperature of the family and tunes into the moods of the household with acute sensitivity. They people-please to smooth over any upsetting situations or potential flashpoints. This comes at the expense of awareness of and attention to their own needs. They have intense dislike of conflict and negative emotion. As adults these people can gravitate towards caring professions or relationships where they can “rescue” someone.

The Mastermind – this is the child who can make use of the family situation to their own ends, they are manipulative of those around them. Lacking empathy and with a strong sense of their own entitlements they sit back and work out how to play people off each other to get what they want. They may be divisive. They’ll be the ones who say “well if Dad is drunk, I’ll take the car”. While adopting strategy and cunning to survive they are also denying their and others emotional responses and risk becoming abusive of others themselves.

I have a confession to make here, I am very familiar with these roles from well before I met my husband and his mother. My father had a drink problem when I was a kid. I recognise the roles written out here from my own family and siblings, there are four of us. What I want to emphasise to you is the idea that these roles are not rigid and fixed. I have behaved in more than one role in my life. I was very high achieving in school and a lost child at home for some years. Then it all got too much and I flipped and started acting out, my grades slipped, I stopped doing any school work, I got very depressed and angry, started verbally fighting back at my dad and I became the child with the problem (mental health in this instance) and was the first to get outside help and blow the family situation open which is the role of the rebel.

I can see the roles in my husband’s family also although there are only two children there. He and his sister are very high achieving, the hero role; to this day his mother takes great personal pleasure in having them look good to the outside world. But in the home he was the caretaker-placater and his sister the lost child. These are roles both of them still act out in their adult lives, not just with their mother either.

I could see these behaviours in my husband’s family and I knew where they came from having read all about the problems faced by children raised in homes with alcohol problems (thanks Dad). For years I kept my thoughts on MIL’s behaviour and my husband’s relationship to her to myself as I thought it was unacceptable to out and out criticise my husband’s mother to him, even though she was so vile to me it made me feel sick and stressed every single time I had to see her. I dislike confrontation myself and I thought maybe she would come round after a while and mellow. Ha, wrong. These things do not change by hoping they will go away. Only bravely facing up to the realisation that your spouse has some pretty dysfunctional behaviours (thanks MIL) will you be able to do anything to change it.

It is my husband’s relationship with his mother that is the key problem, not her or her behaviour but his mechanism for coping with it. The adaptations he made to be able to live with her are not so useful in relating to other non-disordered people and do not get him what he wants or needs out of life. He has had to slowly work out there was something wrong with his behaviour around her, what exactly it was that was wrong, what he wanted instead and how to get it. He still hasn’t got it completely. If he had a better mechanism for coping with her, one which allowed him to see her clearly and detach from her influence, he and our family wouldn’t have quite so hard a time dealing with her.

It is worth considering if your spouse has adopted one of these classic roles as a result of growing up with a very difficult mother. How does this impact upon your relationship with them? The roles get carried over into marriages, friendships and careers. In the next post I’ll consider the ways these roles could crop up in a relationship and what to do about it to stop them from causing long term problems.



Filed under Effects of NPD on others, emotions, family roles, Helping your spouse deal with NPD mum, How NPD MIL affects a marriage, marriage and NPD MIL

24 responses to “Spouses and Family Roles

  1. BT

    Thanks for writing this post. I was recently thinking about how family dynamics with narcissists are similar to family dynamics with alcoholics. What got me thinking about this is that immediately before my NPD MIL told my husband and I that we are not entitled to our feelings that I had discussed in a previous comment I had left, she had said her therapist asked her if her son is the child of an alcoholic. Her response was no. And that is accurate. However, my NPD MIL is the daughter of an alcoholic and I have a feeling her therapist doesn’t know this. Why would he have to ask that if she was upfront with her history. From my understanding these patterns are easily repeated in subsequent generations wether or not the alcoholism is present.
    Also, the descriptions of the roles a person can take are so spot on. My husband has always been a combination of the lost child and the scapegoat within the family dynamic. It interesting to see how he is so different when he is not around his family. The person I fell in love with is not the same person that I see when he is with his family. Fortunately, he is working on being the confident person that I know he can be when he is around them.
    When I came into this family, it was interesting to see how I was actually assigned these same roles by my MIL. My BIL has always been a combination of the mastermind and the gold child so it was interesting to see how when he got married, his wife was assigned those roles.
    So…what is my point with this comment…I don’t think I really have a point at the moment. The only thing I can say is that I’m just still trying to process everything and I think this is just step for me to find my voice in dealing with an NPD MIL.

    • Isn’t it interesting how spouses change when with their families. My husband’s voice actually rises so he sounds more like a younger male which is more acceptable to his mother. His body language gets very controlled and he hovers and fusses around her. It happens even when he is on the phone to her, I can tell who he is talking to just by his mannerisms.

      This indicates how they are still controlled to quite a large degree by their mothers, once that control has been switched off they will be much more able to act themselves in all situations. My father used to drive me nuts as a teenager and young adult but after coming to terms with his behaviours that hot button of emotional response stopped being so hot. The key to all this is increasing your spouses self awareness of his mother’s behaviour and how it has affected him.

      • Colleen

        My husband changes his mannerisms around his mother completely! Thank you for addressing that! It drives me absolutely insane! Whether he is on the phone with her, or in her physical presence, his voice goes up about 10 octaves to the point he sounds prepuberty. We were the fortunate ones who moved away, with his other 3 brothers still within a 10-20 mile radius of her majesty, but it continues to amaze me how her talons are still able to dig into him from such a distance. He is a successful attorney who turns into this little, scared boy whenever she beckons. I’m so thankful for this blog. I have needed a support group for a long time to survive this family.

  2. SoManyQuestions

    Hi fiercecorkwoman,
    I stumbled onto your website looking for information and validation of experiences with my NMIL. The first time I met NMIL over 17 years ago, I knew something was very wrong. She was staying at my husband’s house (we were not yet married) insisting that we eat Christmas Dinner on his ex-wife’s wedding china. After being told that was unacceptable, she still gleefully served up dessert on the wedding dishes.
    Needless to say, she has caused countless problems in our marriage, not only through her manipulations, but how my husband would respond to conflict in our marriage by reverting to coping mechanism learned as a child – avoidance, not acknowledging certain behaviors, and not physically being present. I would say role wise he is the mascot/rebel and at times mastermind in his family. Growing up, he knew something was wrong so he would make a point of not being home, take vacations with friends families, spend holidays with room-mates families during college, etc. This sense is what has actually allowed him to lead a fairly normal life compared to his older brothers.
    We finally stumbled upon NPD when talking to a therapist. He would run away from conflict while I needed lots of reassurance (my mother is an alcoholic and my father is a not out of the closet gay man and according to the role chart I’m the over achiever good child/caretaker). The therapist felt very strongly that MIL is NPD. My husband doesn’t like the label, he likes to think of her as quirky rather than her having possible mental illness or personality disorder. For me, to put a name to the behavior allowed me to research and better understand how to protect myself and our children from her.
    It explained some things; however, there are so many other behaviors that I still want/need to understand and can only find very limited information. If you happen to have any knowledge or experience with the following points, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
    1. Do N’s “luck” in to their manipulative scenarios or do they spend lots of time devising their schemes? I have been struggling to understand how this works when NMIL’s schemes come to fruition.
    2. How can family assets be protected from a person with NPD who also happens to be charge of the family estate? NMIL gives away large sums of money for attention.
    3. Another poster also mentioned NMIL’s inappropriate sexual behavior directed towards her spouse. My NMIL does this as well and will treat my husband as her own husband. As soon as she sees him she requests “manly hugs,” attempts to kiss him on the lips, waits for him to come home from work, and has been known to walk around my house naked. NMIL (age 80) has also told me that she wishes she could “go after” one of my husband’s 50 year old friends. How common is this behavior and is this indicative of histrionic personality disorder as well?
    4. Food issues are a main focus when any time is spent with NMIL. A former member of the family originally brought this to my attention before I was aware of the extent of it. I now refuse to cook for her nor is she allowed to touch anything in my kitchen so the best solution is for my husband to take her out to dinner. That is problematic as well, she complains when ordering, she never likes what she orders, the food goes back, she stares at what everyone else is eating to the point where it is uncomfortable, she will then ask for your food, she will just take food off of your plate without permission, she doesn’t want to order dessert, but then will eat most of yours. She says she is not hungry, but then will want to eat and drink most of your food. Several years ago, I came across information regarding N’s and food but have really found nothing else and would appreciate feedback or others experiences with this.
    5. Both my husband and I have a very high level of frustration having no other family members who acknowledge NMILs behaviors. His siblings are in complete denial, acknowledge nothing since they suffer from depression and other phobias, and NMIL has groomed them to be caretakers. FIL is deceased and was an enabler. Any information you have to help others deal with a complete lack of family support would be helpful. Friends are supportive, but it is not the same as having another family member who knows NMIL and sees the behaviors.
    I wanted to share that my husband and I have teenage children. We have gone LC with NMIL which is a good thing. I wish we could go NC but that is not realistic for my husband. My feeling that it was not a good idea for her to watch them when they were young was spot on.
    Thanks for putting this blog together! It’s helpful to know that others are going through many of the same experiences.

    • alabaster77

      I can relate so much it’s Spooky…. The Food Issues of my NMIL are perhaps The Most Obvious Sign to outsiders that there’s something up with her character…. She only ever drinks Diet, regular or Dr P but has a melt down every time she has to order at a restaurant… It’s painful to watch as she asks what they have and Ums and Ahs and then asks for water until she makes up her mind… Seriously bizarre!!!! The Best thing was to observe her at a Chinese Buffet. After getting my 3 children then myself food she was still last to the table by a long shot…. Then apologizes for taking So long and immediately starts eye balling everyone else food with ‘Oh! what’s that? Where did you get that?’ Then looks at her food, shoulders slumped and sighs and starts sticking her fork in others plates….. Before even trying her own food!!!! After much thought I’m thinking the dilemma with Narc’s and food is about a commitment to a Choice and a fear of making a mistake without having someone else to blame perhaps or scapegoat it on…. Hmmm not really sure about it!!!
      I have read that the Most common Co Morbidity with Narc’s is actually Anorexia!!! My NMIL to a T.
      Other oddities in my experience (outside the common wickedness) are things like no concept of ones personal space. I might go to the smallest corner of the attic ( never have) and before you know it she’s rushing by you and reaching over your shoulder to get something of no particular importance or need and your in Her way!!! Or u turn around and Bang!!! She’s right on your behind, in your space and for no reasonable need just a manufactured one!!! Acting busy and stressed but not actually doing anything…. The whole Family have always just blown her weirdness off as ‘Oh, that’s just Bla Bla’ her name rhymes with Antsy and that’s how she’s referred to…. I’ve watched her brainstorming her next maneuver, pacing, scratching her head, huffing and puffing and can actually see her internal processing dilemma on her physical body..(She’s in her 60’s). Going in and out the front door like 15 times in 3 minutes. Where? To rummage through the trunk of her car searching for nothing in particular….
      The denial the families of these sick people have and the code of silence or actual blindness to what they witness amazes me. So, I put a loud voice to all the weird stuff and call it as it is but very very nicely and then play dumb. If she’s in my space I Startle Loudly! If she’s scheming, going in and out I bring it to the attention of others with a ‘Oh is She OK because she’s doing this or that’ it forces family to take the blindfold off and try and make sense of it….
      Thank Goodness She had a Blow out at Christmas, Narc Injury, all self inflicted and has given me every reason to make a stand about ever being in her company again. Period!!! Her instability, evident. It’s taken 10 yrs and digging myself outta the grave to finally be justified in calling her
      The Crazy One!!!

      • SoManyQuestions

        Alabaster77 –
        First of all, thanks for your response, and I was beyond horrified what your MIL did to you and your son. Sounds like it has crossed over into what I have seen called malignant.
        Your buffet comment blew me away everything down to the “immediately starts eye balling everyone else food with ‘Oh! what’s that? Where did you get that?’ Then looks at her food, shoulders slumped and sighs and starts sticking her fork in others plates…” WOW – deja vu.
        I have so many food stories from “fake” food allergies to “supposedly” no longer being able to taste food there is definitely something to it. The two most egregious were homemade Christmas treats she mailed to us wrapped in an adult diaper (seriously, can’t make this stuff up) and insisting on coming for Thanksgiving, but she was told we would be going out to dinner because kids were 1 and 4 which left no time to cook a 5 hour meal. As anticipated, going out to dinner was not good enough which we heard about for the next 24 hours. Then DH insisted we go away for 3 days and let her watch the kids (no good), upon our return guess what I found stuffed in the back of the fridge…yes, “her home made” turkey dinner w/all of the trimmings (she was warned by DH not to do this) while my kids were still dressed in the same clothes from 3 days ago. The only good that came out of it was I was finally able to draw a boundary – no thanksgiving, no watching the kids, no cooking- EVER AGAIN – and DH told her she had seriously crossed the line. Of course she played dumb.
        I bet your MIL also takes issue with the way you choose to celebrate holidays since you probably incorporate your own customs being a foreigner. Mine does – especially with the food (again) – and the fact that I don’t adhere to traditional ways of doing things since I am first generation here on my mom’s side. Many times we do family vacations at holidays to avoid MIL. I dread each approaching Christmas wondering if DH is going to stand up to her this year and tell her no.
        This is like a game of chess always trying to be 4 steps ahead of them. Good thing your NMIL moved back to where she came from – that seems to be the best way to set up and enforce boundaries (mine is a plane ride away which has helped keep us sane). It’s definitely an isolating experience within the extended family – very frustrating since no one “sees” the bad behavior leaving you with no support system and you scratching your head at what just happened and why can’t someone for once in the family tell her unacceptable – totally understand. And then to hear from others who don’t live it, “why do you let it bother you…ignore them…you know so and so is just weird…can’t you just put up with her for 2 days?” It is certainly not as simple as that. Alabaster, I really hope as your kids get older and your husband starts seeing some of NMIL’s behaviors through their eyes (yes, that can really wake them up), it will allow your family unit to start healing.

    • Hi SoManyQuestions. I can certainly relate to a lot of what you have written there, the way your other half avoids conflict, the food issues (yes! I think I need to do a post on this), the lack of family support, not accepting NPD as a label but going with “not normal” or some mild variant on that and the surrogate spouse behaviour…I’ve written a post called Parentification and your Spouse which cover this. Please keep asking all the questions and I’ll try to answer them if I can.

  3. alabaster77

    Firstly, I have to again say Thank You!!! You write so eloquently and your level of knowledge ‘Intimate’. Finding your blog late last year has been nothing short of a ‘Saving Grace ‘ for me. My original comment still there under the About section… Anyway!!! I frequent often, trying to get that little something that enables me to stand back up and fight the good fight… But it’s rough out there……. The more I learn about how ‘Whacked’ these wicked people are and how that messes with their children (My Hubby) and then Our children (Grandchildren) It’s like some serious Generational Curse or a gift that keeps on giving. Aaaaggh!!! SO! At this point in time, the NMIL is right where I want her. Several States away and just bought a house in the same town they just sold a home in 1 yr prior. Her attempts at relocating near us resulted in a year long cross country trip looking for Narc Supply but to no avail….. So she’s back where she started…. I can manage her because I don’t have to deal with her on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
    My dilemma for quite some time is my Golden Child Husband…. Your posts on Denial were So helpful and I’m very very gently chipping away at the cult like programming his suffered from since birth….. I’m really proud of him, his progress is so painfully slow and fragile. I know how easy it is to slip back into Automaton mode when under her spell… and it’s nothing short of Freaky!!!! It’s textbook stuff. His pathetic enabling Father does his fair share of Hoovering, grooming and bidding and they are definitely a team effort…..
    Aaagh! I had no clue about what I married into. I’m a foreigner that married at a courthouse after a 17 hr flight back into the country and without ever meeting his family. Oh Please!!! How ridiculous!!! His no slouch and we are still very much in love after 12 yrs and 3 children later…
    Golden Child Physician Son, now an accomplished surgeon, marrying a foreigner at a courthouse after picking her up from the airport….
    I’m sure That phone call several days later was perhaps the worst day of her life, I’m sure of it…. From the get go this woman is best described as Strange or Odd and when she was asked by our Pastor how she knew us she responded ‘Oh! I’m His Wife!’ Ummm um No um ‘I’m his Mother’
    It was shocking, but a warning non the less. I have since been to Hell and back, fighting for my life, my sanity, my children and our marriage! It very nearly killed me and with every desperate situation there was always 1 common denominator my NMIL… The PTSD is overwhelming! I’m sure she boarders as sociopath and is criminally inclined. She once tampered with my special needs Sons Meds’s and filed a False allegation with authorities that I was Overdosing my son. Thankfully, I hadn’t been giving the Meds’s because i disliked the effects so that didn’t stick… Before too long, the gas lighting took it’s toll and 5 yrs went by. I literally went crazy…. This stuff is Crazy Making and I was the poster Child…
    Anyway, I made it, we made it, but the threat is imminent!!!! And will always be A Threat!!!
    After all that, I actually have some questions…. But I’m exhausted!!!
    Perhaps another time…
    Thank you!!! Really!!!! thank you!!!

    • She tampered with his meds! Oh my God.

      You sound like you have had a rough time, to arrive from a foreign country and have to contend not only with the culture clash, a new husband but a MIL who introduces herself as his wife! No wonder you feel exhausted. But you survived and I’d love to know what you did that worked. I know an evil MIL can really take its toll on your mental health and relationship. I’ve been there, am there. Let’s share what we know about how to cope and hopefully help someone else stuck in the same boat.

      Thank you so much for reading my posts. It does help to know all the crap actually helps other people.

      • alabaster77

        Firstly, my DH is Hero overachiever to the world and placator in her company. Or, remote controlled robot once she flicks the ‘On’ switch.

        In response to The Meds Tampering- oh yeah seriously wicked and thankfully DH was equally horrified. It was a defining moment and after her outright denial (of course) we told her to Prove It and Take a Lie Detector Test!!!! The following year was full of Hog Wash refusal wrapped in her projecting onto us that we were trying to Set Her Up!!! Oh Boy!! Um Who set Who Up!!!! ???? Even tried the ‘It’s of the Devil and I can’t take it on religious grounds bl bla bla!!! And then you know how it goes, u wake up a couple of years later scratching your head and asking yourself What happened with that Lie Detector Test???? Answer, I was overseas visiting family and there was an issue with the childcare help, so, there they were, right back in the mix….. We did get a phone call at some point from someone stating they were a tester and she passed with flying colors but we never received documentation as such and he could’ve been anyone…. Clarity of mind is non existent when dealing with. Narcissists….

        So how did we get through thus far???? Grace of God, first and foremost and doing the homework,( You have to understand what you dealing with) listen to your gut, call it as you see it but very nicely or play dumb but still call it!!!! This Is Key!! I have mentioned more of this in a reply to other comment….I write A LOT, journaling most interactions with her as a reference or safeguard against Insanity!!!! Find an outlet to communicate all the going on’s….. That has been The Most Difficult for me particularly at my most desperate point. My closest friends and acquaintances had all been contacted (She got numbers from my cell) by her with the infamous ‘I’m really concerned for her bla bla bla’ . Most bought her Bullshit others didn’t but it’s totally crazy making!!! She even regularly contacted my Psychiatrist (he tried to say that he didn’t give any info) but she certainly could put her two cents worth at everything!!! That sent me over the edge and voluntary or involuntary commitments to Mental Health facilities were a welcome vacation from the madness..… Sorry, I really want to be solution orientated right now.. So, find a safe outlet to off load!!!!!
        In the beginning I really had to watch what info I gave DH too, I could literally say ‘Don’t mention this to your Parents’ and in the next breath it would somehow come outta his mouth to them….
        Their ultimate Game is about Power and Control- Do Not Show Them FEAR!!! EvER!!! I would actually psych myself up for combat, dress immaculately, put my best Happy Chirpy face on and proceed to play poker. Just NEVER fold the hand dealt!!!!

  4. Mandy

    Another excellent post! Thank you.

  5. Thank you so much for your insights! I just got married last year – my husband’s mom is DEFINITELY one with NPD. I tried to mention this to him once, he doesn’t want to know and just wants to generically say she’s “kind of crazy”.

    For now, it’s not worth making him label it because he’s actually handled everything relatively appropriately… left home to live with his dad when he was 16, keeps her at a distance, doesn’t let her manipulate him, and most importantly, he shields me from her behaviors. We’re always on the same page with how to respond to her and how to spend time with her in an appropriate limited capacity on our own terms.

    These roles help me understand the different behaviors I’m seeing – first and foremost gaining a better understanding and validation that his own coping or lack thereof coping mechanism for stress, confrontation and otherwise are directly related to how she has influenced everyone in the family then and now. It’s so sad, but we have to move forward somehow!

    • Your husband sounds like he has sorted himself out and your marriage is starting in a strong position. Coping with upset and conflict is a generic problem for the children of NPD mothers. They have never been allowed to argue, only she gets to shout and rant. I’ll write a post on this in a bit. Its a problem I have with my husband.

      • FCW… I’m so pleasantly surprised! You responded to every person who left a comment. I truly appreciate that, let alone the positive attitude, encouragement and empathy. I complain to some close friends, but more often than not, I feel like they just have no other context than to feel pity for me. With your responses and reading everyone else’s stories/comments, is well.. makes me feel more sane in the insane situations. In a nutshell – a BIG thank you!

  6. Anonymous

    Thank you to the author of this website, I feel that what you are writing, and the following contributions are of enormous help to those who find themselves in this position. I myself, a male in his forties had been struggling to make sense of things for around 10 years, until 8 months ago, I was made aware of narcissistic personality disorders and every jigsaw puzzle fell into place. In my position I have a NPD mother in law, and my wife is the golden child. My wife has NPD traits (some serious), but she is also scarred, in denial (and I believe a victim of narcissistic abuse). Since having kids, we have had lots of marriage problems and I usually cop the blame for everything. I am punished through psychological and emotional abuse if I have differing views on important matters. What is worse is that I am often accused of being the abuser, and also a controlling person. What makes that worse (even though it is untrue) is that my wife is also a controlling person towards me and herself, totally controlled by her mother…

    I could say much more about what happens in my relationship, but I think it’s probably pointless as it is probably consistent with all of your stories… One of the hardest things to deal with though is that while I now can see, crystal clear what is going on, my wife has no insight or cognition into how her mother’s behaviours affect her, or us, or other members of her family, and how her inherited traits impact on me and our own family.

    And we all know, that if you come right and say point out that they are narcissists, it will be denied and twisted around before you know it.

    • Anonymous

      My identity was accidentally posted in this comment – could the owner of this site please delete my comment. thanks

  7. I have anonymised the last comment as requested.

  8. Male in his 40s

    I would like to thank FierceCorkWoman and Alabaster77 for helping me ‘hide my identity’ after I foolishly published it. Alabaster brought to my attention that most of the contributors to this site are mainly female and appreciated my perspective from a male perspective. First I would like to say that I think it must be really, really, really hard to be in a relationship with a male that has a mother or father with a personality disorder that is narcissistic. Traditionally, a man is expected to stand up for his family. To understand this, I think we need to put ourselves in their shoes. They were bullied as a kid and they might be 50 years old but they are still scared shitless of standing up to their parent(s) and as a result will usually put them first. All they understand, is that their parent(s) behaviours are normal – why wouldn’t you if you had been brought up in that environment…

    From a male perspective, being in a marriage with someone that has a NPD mother, that is under the spell, has at times been impossible. I am sad to say that in the end, I went from being a fit, healthy male, to being someone that sought solice in drinking too much – to escape. I also got angry and frustrated, and I began to hate life… I have much to thank an insightful psychologist (plus one other for a second opinion), for introducing me to NPD, and at last I realised I wasn’t going mad, all the clues fell into place and I saw how all the family members had been affected one way or another. I no longer drink to escape, instead I stay sober to be cognitive and record anything good or bad in a diary. I also ensure that every day I invest something positive into our relationship, whether it is giving a chocolate bar or an affirmation, or a gift voucher, an act of service, etc. I do it unconditionally, to reinforce my unconditional love for my wife…

    My wife inherited her mother’s traits (she is probably NPD too). She isn’t as bad as the MIL, but has been bad enough – insane and imposssible at times. I have walked on eggshells for years and it has been really difficult parenting with someone that might be NPD. Thankfully, with several months of help with my/our counseller, things may have turned a corner.

    There is no doubt that my wife is in denial. I was subjected to extreme narcissistic rage nearly two years ago when I got angry with my MIL about overstepping bounderies. Her retaliation was something that I never would have expected ever… I was shell shocked as it was the first time I had ever experienced anything like it, plus my wife immediately took my MILs side and threatened to leave and take our kids, which gave ammunition to the MIL.

    I still remember her eyes swelling up (with power) when my wife threatened to leave, it was after I was accused of being a liar, and I told her to leave our house – it was like the emperor out of star wars when he got found out that he was the traitor and he killed the Samual L Jackson Jedi… Then I experienced PROJECTION for the first time in my life. She dished out everything and their were no bounderies whatsoever – every threat, intimidation, insult, fear mongering, put down. And this include comments about my relationship with my recently deceased mother… My wife ran for cover and hid, she left me to deal with it on my own. My daughter heard everything and still asks questions why grandma was so nasty to Dad… Sadly my wife responds with Grandma was nasty to Dad, because Dad was nasty to Grandma… ( i will never forget that, but I know it will be denied…)

    At first, my wife was also shocked and we talked about what happened, but it didn’t take too long for my wife to start to justify what happened, and minimilize it to my frustration and disgust. Nowadays she says ‘it was just an arguement’…

    There is more to follow, I’m going to go to bed now, I’m tired!

    • alabaster77

      Wow Mr Male in his 40’s Thank You So much for sharing that. It’s So reminiscent of where I’m at and what I’ve been through, right down to the ‘Emotional Exhustion’ experienced from just writing this crap down…. It’s Super taxing and once you open the can of worms with a little bit of clarity (as you have) it makes your head spin….
      I totally relate to the Narc Rages and then the Cover Up by our spouses with a blanket of Denial… And all fingers pointed back at you, the victim because you defended yourself, so, somehow, you must be the Perpetrator/abuser…. Yep!!! Welcome To The Magnificient Mind F###!
      I also tried to drink the poison hoping that the Narc would die (had no clues why at the time). Needless to say, I bought into a whole host of trouble, legal, medical, relational bla bla and outta the countless Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, rehab’s, psych hospitals only 1 person persistently questioned ‘What on Earth is going on in the Home’ my role at the time was so well groomed that I took offence at the insinuation that anything other than ‘Me’ was the problem… I guess my point is, Thank Goodness you have the support and understanding of those aware of the poison the NPD create.
      When dealing with my Spouse, it’s painfully slow to uncover the layers of lies theyve been feed since birth. Two steps forward, one step back, 2 forward, 3 back….its equally crazy making then the NMIL!!!!
      The BIG thing you hit on for me and the issue I struggle with greatly is
      ‘ At what point does my Spouse Behave/Act as a result of their upbringing and when does that cross into them having NPD themselves’. Aaaaggh!!! Are the Concerning characteristics I’m seeing in my Spouse, getting worse???? Or Am I just becoming Aware of something pre existing!!!! I have no clue, but I’m sure Fiercecorkwoman might!!!!! Thanks Mate for a great contribution to this maze… 😉

  9. Male in his 40s

    Alabaster, I feel your pain. I read your post several times. I really feel your pain… What you wrote resonates with me. Our partners were subjected to serious emotional abuse at an early age. We need to understand that. It’s not only us that are the victims, but our partners are too… I have lots to write, and contribute but the only chances I get are during work hours. Today I have been to a party with good friends, I am slightly fuzzed and about to sign off!! Be strong everyone… Need to go to bed!

    I have always maintained that I thought that my marriage problems were because the patterns of my wife’s past were being repeated. I have no doubt that my wife was brainwashed. My daughter doesn’t really like her grandmother, and I have nothing to do with that, but my MIL accused me of brainwashing my daughter against her… Amongst other things…

    Somehow I think my MIL brainwashed her own kids and its uncanny how they all dislike their dad (who I think is a nice, generous bloke(and I have known him for over ten years))…

    I’ll write more, And i’ll also talk about when the MIL snarled at me that she can ‘DESTROY ME AND SHE CAN DESTROY MY FAMILY‘…

    something that she denied later down the track…

    Sleep well…

  10. Maia

    Both my husband and me have a Narc parent and we are both “the lost child”. We are both what people call nerds. I think this is why we understand each other so well even if we also react differently (he has already learned how not to consider his parents)

  11. RedRat

    This article really hits home. Especially the more diverse roles that usually don’t show up often on the internet. Usually it’s just the scapegoat and the goldenchild that get discussed. That’s a good question: can one be the scapegoat but the manipulator at the same time? Technically this are opposite strategies. Or does that make one a Machiavellian (or even a Narc justifying his behaviour) ?

    I rebelled my whole life, run away often from an early age. Seeing injustice still keeps me going like nothing else. I can go all out when protecting someone else and rain hell on my enemies. Often endangering the very people I wanted to protect and making things a lot worse. I loved my Guerilla tactics (little did I know that I gave them exactly the drama they craved for) like hurling insults to hurt the pride of the Narcs in my family and then run to my room to barricade with the angry relatives trying trying to kick down my door in rage and then camping before it (loved that sturdy door) while I was all smug living of the rations I gathered beforehand (fortunately they usually get bored after a day or two). I always had more courage than wisdom.

    At the same time I got just as manipulative the people I hated. I would tell one Narc that the other one was plotting against him and vice versa just to see them fighting and exploit it (the way I got away: tell Dad that it would be a sweet revenge against mom to send me -her narcissistic supply – to a boarding school: needless to say he was very pleased with the results). Or I shamelessly gathered intelligence especially about extramarital affairs, financial accounts, or online behaviour.

    Of course told my self never to hurt the innocent members of the family but as on can guess I created a lot of collateral damage Even in my adulthood I deliberately picked fights with people I saw as tyrants with the goal to outsmart them to deliver “justice” as I told myself. More than often ending in a cataclysm for everyone near me. In short I was and possibly still am on a reckless kamikaze mission. The result justifies the means: that’s the very the definition of a Machiavellian. I fear I might not be much short of the creatures despise despite telling myself that hunting Narc’s is a “noble” cause. I am ridden with guilt and depression for the distress I have caused to innocent bystanders and people I really love including friends and boyfriends. At the same time I am still very smug about myself and my victories. Go figure how well I do with authorities or if a boyfriend accidentally pushes the *tyrant”-button. Worst of all I still love hunting intelligent enemies: I moved to academic discussions at university instead of man hunts. Yet, I am still feared by other students for my harsh comments. I need to work on that. I love the thrill of mind games and tactics but it breaks my heart when I realise that someone suffers especially when I was the cause. The point of a discussion is playing around with ideas and developing new ones not to win a war.
    I have to admit:currently I really wouldn’t want to marry someone as myself. I need to change and become a better person.

    • Oh my goodness what you did was find ways to survive in a horrible situation. Don’t label yourself Machiavellian. It says something that you could see what crazy making behaviour was going in in the house and rebelled against it. So yes you can mastermind and be a rebel at the same time. You were protecting yourself. Your actions suggest high intelligence not sociopathy. No narcissist is ever riven with guilt about anything. Machiavelli advised his superiors on how to obtain power over others, your behaviour is more grasping at fragments of self-worth through clever word play and put downs which momentarily satisfy you but damage relationships.

      You describe some seriously self-destructive behaviour. But tempered by an evolving awareness of it. Picking fights, even other people’s fights, is a defence mechanism against feeling vulnerable and helpless. If your university offers group therapy (mine did for free to students) take it. Your battle is within yourself and the conflicted parts of your own psyche not external authority figures. That’s straight up projection.

      There is a phrase used in personality disorder circles – catching fleas. From the old saying “if you lie with dogs you catch fleas”. Living surrounded by narcissistic behaviour and seeing that from a young age as the way people treat each other it is inevitable that you would adopt some of those behaviours yourself without even realising it. It doesn’t mean your personality is fundamentally structured around a narcissistic template. No narc would ever suggest they weren’t a good person unless they were using that as a game to get sympathy and/or they believed self-deprecation was admirable. They only do things which enhance their opinion of themselves.

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