Often, overt narcissists marry covert narcissists, which is a nightmare situation for their child. This was the situation I grew up with. My mother was a very overt narcissist & my father very covert.
My mother was the stereotypical overt narcissist. She was cruel with her constant criticisms, often screaming them at me. Nothing I did was ever good enough for her. She also was incredibly controlling, strictly limiting who was a part of my life, how I looked & much more.
My father was entirely different than my mother. To him, I could do no wrong. He was also free with praise, in other words, the exact opposite of my mother.
Over the years, my mother maintained her cruel demeanor with me. My father also continued his demeanor, but only until I was in my mid 20’s. Suddenly, there were some small criticisms. It was strange & got my attention, but I didn’t know what to think about it.
As I got older, & started to heal from the abuse, I also started setting more & more boundaries with my parents. As I did that, my father got slightly freer with the criticisms.
Eventually I learned about Narcissistic Personality Disorder & ways to cope with narcissists. I spent less time with my parents. My father’s criticisms became a constant, which meant I spoke less frequently to him. The less frequently we spoke, the more critical he became. He also started trying to help me constantly, even in areas where I didn’t need help. It was strange to say the least!
I began to wonder why this was happening. I think I figured it out, & since I’m sure mine isn’t the only situation like this, I’m sharing my thoughts.
When one parent is an overt narcissist, it’s easy to see something is wrong. Normal people don’t ignore, control, scream & rage at their children. Children in this position naturally gravitate more to their other parent, the one who doesn’t do such things. When that parent is a covert narcissist, they work this situation to their advantage. Many of them reinforce that the overtly narcissistic parent is bad. Many also praise their child excessively. They realize on some level that their child is starved for praise & love, so by giving their child what they crave, they’re making that child bond with them.
Eventually, that child begins to grow up & become more independent. The covertly narcissistic parent realizes they are losing control of their child, & must reel them back in somehow. Their nice tactics are no longer enough. They begin use criticism. If their child no longer feels secure, they will look to that parent for security.
Also, once the child’s self esteem is damaged, the covertly narcissistic parent can help or even rescue the child as a way to maintain control. This can be a very effective tactic! The child doesn’t believe that he or she can do things, but their parent can. They rely on that parent to do what they can’t, which gives that parent control. The more insecure they feel, the more they rely on the parent & the cycle continues.
If this describes your situation, know you’re not alone! Also know you can handle it!
Remind yourself what is happening. This isn’t about you deserving the criticisms or being incapable of handling whatever your parent is trying to help you with. This is about your narcissistic parent & them being upset that they’re losing control over you.
When your parent says you can’t handle a situation, ask yourself if this is true. Most likely, you’ll realize you are capable of handling the situation very well without any assistance.
Whenever possible, refuse your parent’s help. Even in small matters, refuse their help. The more help you accept, the more control that gives your narcissistic parent & that is the last thing you need!
Always remember the Gray Rock method. Basically, that means you become boring to the narcissist. You provide no narcissistic supply. See the link above for more information on my website.
Most importantly, keep your focus on God! Ask Him for any help you need, for wisdom & creative ways to handle the situation.