I remember when I first realized that my mother was a narcissist. Although it was painful, I was glad finally to understand why she treated me as she did. The raging, the silent treatments, the manipulation & control.. suddenly it all made sense. She blamed me for all of it, but the truth was it wasn’t me. It was her!
It was another few years before I realized my father was a narcissist as well. It took me so long because he was a covert narcissist.
My mother being an overt narcissist made it obvious something wasn’t right. Normal mothers didn’t keep their daughters from getting to know their extended family. They also didn’t scream at their teenage daughters daily, often multiple times in a day. They didn’t accuse their daughters of completely uncharacteristic behaviors, such as having sex with their entire high school football team, especially when there was no evidence to support this wild claim.
My father was nothing like this at all. For most of my life, I was convinced he was my one nice, normal parent. I was wrong.
While my father didn’t scream at me or accuse me of outrageous behaviors, he abused me nonetheless. He didn’t protect me from my mother. In fact, when I told him of some of her abusive behaviors, he would tell me how hard this was on him, & how there was nothing he could do to protect me. In spite of my pain, I often ended up comforting him after my mother abused me.
Compared to my mother’s constant criticisms & rages, I didn’t think this was a problem. He told me he loved me, unlike my mother who stopped saying it when I was in my teens. My father also complemented me, & bragged about me to other people. My mother didn’t do either.
As an adult, married with my own home, I finally noticed some subtle changes in my father’s behavior. He became critical. Nothing obvious like my mother at first, but still critical. He became more critical over the years. He also became more controlling in subtle ways. If I didn’t answer his call immediately, the next time we spoke, he would tell me how he thought I must be mad at him since I didn’t answer the phone. If I said I wasn’t home at the time, he didn’t believe me. Or, he would call folks we both knew, asking them to contact me & have me call him immediately because he was worried about me.
Eventually, I realized my father was a covert narcissist, & that fact truly hurt.
My situation is quite similar to that of many adult children of narcissistic parents. Accepting the overtly narcissistic parent is abusive is difficult, but it can be done. Accepting their covertly narcissistic parent is abusive is a much more difficult task, & can be impossible for some people.
The nature of a covert narcissist’s abuse is what makes the abuse so hard to comprehend. There is no obvious abuse. They don’t hit or scream. Their abuse is so much more subtle. They use guilt, disapproval, silence & portraying themselves as innocent, naive, in need of saving or protection. They also can turn a situation around to where they look like the innocent victim instead of the abuser, rather than the other way around as it should be.
This creates a cognitive dissonance in victims. In other words, the victim often may see the truth, but doesn’t want to accept it because it’s so painful.
There is also the fact that it’s hurtful enough to accept that one parent didn’t love you. Accepting both parents didn’t is even more so. Even when you understand it’s because they’re narcissists, knowing both of your parents didn’t love you can make you feel unlovable.
If this describes your situation, I’m so sorry, Dear Reader. You are in an extremely painful situation. Pray, journal, talk to safe people… do whatever you have to do to help you face this ugly truth & to heal. It will help you in the long run to face this awful situation. You can do this!