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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5838
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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It's recently dawned on me that my Mother could be

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It's recently dawned on me that my Mother could be narcissistic, or have strong similarities. The self absorption, continuous tearing apart of others appearance & intellect, barbed comments and lack of interest or acknowledgement of my achievements have given me a clue after many years believing that what she said was true. My father was an angry man who I believed was responsible for all of the family dis-functionality, but seeing how she's behaved over the last 15 years I realise that she had a larger part in it than I originally thought.

I also spent most of my 20s with narcissistic men although the man I am with now, and have a 4 year old is definitely not. The problem is that I don't want to be emotionally/ intimately close to him although I depend on the emotional stability he provides. (We're both successful in our careers and high earners)

Could my lack of intimacy towards him be because of my upbringing? I have had counselling in the past, just before I met my partner. At that point I felt that I had to do something after one emotionally unavailable man after another, and I learned at that point to look for something different as my father was emotionally unavailable. Which I did and I found with my current partner, the problem is I find the emotional closeness a turn off (how bizarre after years of looking for it) and prefer that we live our lives practically together; although I am loyal to him and our family life.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

Yes, your feelings towards your partner most likely is because of how you were treated growing up. As you pointed out, both of your parents had emotional issues. Your mother was narcissistic and your father emotionally distant. You did not get the care you needed.

Children need parents that provide a balance of comfort, security and discipline. You were not able to get that because your parents were damaged emotionally. Instead of providing you with what you needed, they took out their dysfunction on you and blamed you and used you. As a child, you got the message that it is not safe to be close to people because they will hurt you emotionally.

When you sought out men who were emotionally distant, you were just seeking what you were comfortable with. It was too baffling and confusing emotionally to be with someone who treated you differently. But now that you have understood through therapy that you had a pattern of choosing men like your father, you have consciously changed it. That is good. But you still need to address your feelings about your father and the damage he, and your mother, did to you. Because you are not there yet, you remain emotionally distant in your current relationship.

You can return to therapy if you feel it would help. Taking a look at the damage you feel from the lack of love and caring in your childhood would help you understand and learn to love yourself. Accepting that you are not to blame for your parents problems and that you are worthy of being loved are some of the things you could work on.

You can also address this at home. There are several books that can help you gain insight into your feelings and help start you on the road to recovery. Here are some I recommend:

Adult Children of Abusive Parents: A Healing Program for Those Who Have Been Physically, Sexually, or Emotionally Abused by Steven Farmer

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck

If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World by Dan Neuharth

Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents by Nina W. Brown

It would also help to involve your partner in your recovery, if he is willing. Not only would it give you the chance to have his help in understanding how to be more emotionally involved in your relationship (by modeling his behavior), it would give him a chance to share your journey and become closer to you in the process.

I hope this has helped you,

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
When you suggest that I should involve my partner I angrily reject that, although I know it to be wrong. Why is that?

Because of the fear of being close to him. For you to be close to anyone involves enormous risk of pain and hurt. You learned as a child that you were to be blamed and disliked by your parents. When you think about it, you had their adult emotion problems dumped on your shoulders as a child, without the ability to understand why. You coped the best you could and the way you coped was to learn to distance yourself emotionally. It makes sense. You survived the best way you could.

But what you are doing now is great. You understand that what you do in your relationship is not ok and does not meet your needs. Very insightful! So you are seeking answers and not stopping until you feel it is better. It shows strength, intelligence and bravery to face your problems and work on feeling better.


TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you Kate, you have been a real help :)

You are welcome! Keep working on it, you'll get there. My best to you.