I’m learning about my behaviors related to growing up with a narcissistic mother. Well, at least I call her that because I was sexually abused by my own brother and didn’t have a safe enough relationship with my mother to seek out her help. She was in the same house when the abuse occurred and I always thought she knew but turned her head in denial. But, perhaps, she was wrapped up in her own life and honestly had no idea. Whatever the reason, I put the blame on myself and hid the shame from my mother.
My last post brought up some questions about whether my relationship with my husband is healthy. According to the current book I’m reading, Will I Ever Be Good Enough?, about daughters of narcissistic mothers, my relationship is far from healthy. In fact, I am completely dependent on my husband and using him to fill the emotional void and emptiness left by my mother. Should I feel bad about that? Is it wrong that my husband fills the void?
Perhaps it is because this book says so. I will end up stifling him with my overwhelming demands, jealousy, and insecurities.
How true. I do expect a lot from him and there are times when he can’t meet my needs and I pout like I was a little girl. The exact same as when my mom didn’t know how I felt. When I believed no one really cared. But, I typically exile myself when I feel like this. I know the emptiness and disappointment is self-realized. The third person in me can see myself acting immaturely. 30 years ago, I would cry to my husband (then boyfriend) and he would respond by doing anything to make me feel better. He took me out to dinner all the time, bought me flowers, professed his love and fulfilled my need to feel his love through sexual intimacy. Of course, we were in our prime but I desired more sex than is typical. I’m embarrassed to tell this story but it is a good example of my dependency on him.
When we were in college, H. had an apartment with roommates and I lived in a dorm so we mostly hung out at H’s apartment. But, we never came out of his room except to eat. His 2 male roommates must have thought we were nuts, always having sex to the point of not socializing outside of H’s bedroom. I had an insatiable appetite for him to love me continually. I gave back what I got in bed and it kept H where I wanted him, which was all mine, fulfilling only my needs. I suppose I caused him to become co-dependent, according to the author.
Fast forward 30 years and a few things have changed but not the dynamics of the relationship. We have a home, kids, friends and jobs. A few years back one of the old roommates came by with his family and we had a great time outside at our pool. I recall H grilling steak and shrimp and being the perfect host while I was assisting, making sure the side dishes were out and everyone had a cold drink. We were reminiscing about the past and as I stood behind H, rubbing his shoulders, his friend said, “I never would have guessed your marriage would last when all the two of you did was act like bunnies in college. You never came out of H’ s room.” Everyone had a good laugh at the memory but when he said this I felt a sense of shame. I was once again, defective. Not normal. But, H laughed and squeezed my butt, which reassured me that it was not all my fault or doing. He was there, too, and enjoyed that time of his life. What 21-year-old wouldn’t want to have a 19-year-old woman with an unending desire for sex?
I know I rely on my husband for everything. He has learned to complain if its way over the top. He’s also learned to ignore my lists and nagging. On the flip side, I’ve learned to not expect as much from him. I let things go. My world doesn’t have to be perfect. But, admittedly, when I feel ignored, sad or unloved by my family I pout and complain to him. H doesn’t like me to feel sad and will try to fix it. Just this weekend, he booked 2 seats to take a fishing vacation with my oldest son. When he told me, I walked away and cried, feeling very sad that I wasn’t included in the plans or the little excursion. I wasn’t going to show him my pain but he brought me a hot cup of coffee and called out looking for me. He found me, in the backyard, alone and crying. He was also with our 11-year-old, who hates to see me sad. It’s rare that I cry but since I started this blog I think I’ve been more emotional. I’m recognizing when I feel disappointment or unimportant in ways I never did in the past.
I explained to H that our family hasn’t taken a “family vacation” in years. We’re always going our separate ways with one kid or the other. Next thing I hear, H booked 2 more flights and we are all going to Florida. Now I felt guilty and mad at him. My intent was not to change his mind, only to point out a problem. He has this thing where he has to fix problems so when I still complained he got frustrated and said, “Well, it’s done. We’re all going to Florida” and he walked away. I struggled with feelings of worthlessness. He really didn’t want me there, I told myself. He did this for me and I’m not worth it. I worried that we really could not afford the additional 2 plane tickets.
But, what’s done is done. We are going to stay with his sister and it’s turned into a big family thing where cousins and aunts and uncles are all going to hang out. H will spend his day’s fishing while I get to go to the beach. I felt sad that he made it clear he is going to fish so I can do whatever I want. But, later on he offered me his hand and asked, “Will you come out on the dock and fish with me?” I said, “You won’t be able to keep me away.”
So, there you have it. My marriage is not perfect. The next chapter in this book I’m reading will offer suggestions on ways to reframe the negative messages that I learned in childhood and develop and accept my own identity, feelings and desires. And most importantly work to recognize my own narcissistic traits so I don’t pass them onto my children. Sounds like a tall order! ♥ Daylily