When children grow up with narcissistic parents marry, it can be incredibly challenging. Usually, either one person is a narcissist & the other isn’t, or one is trying to heal & the other prefers staying in their dysfunction. The last scenario seems to be the most common. There isn’t a lot of information available on the topic, which is why I opted to discuss it today. It happens pretty often & people in this situation know how to handle it!
When you learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it can be so incredibly freeing! That’s how it is when you learn truth, though. Not everyone sees it that way, however. The truth isn’t always pleasant or easy, so many folks prefer to avoid the ugly truth in favor of pretty lies. The pretty lies are easier & preferable to some people because they’re what is familiar. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Sometimes it breeds cognitive dissonance in the adult children of narcissistic parents.
That cognitive dissonance can be incredibly difficult to live with for someone married to a person who prefers to avoid it whenever possible. When you see the truth so clearly & someone you love avoids it like the plague, it is so frustrating!! You just want them to wake up & see the truth, but they won’t. Instead they continue to tolerate their toxic parents abusing them & even you & your children if you have them. They also will fight you on this topic, even if they aren’t normally disagreeable. If you complain about their parents, they will tell you things like it’s your problem & to leave them out of it. If this kind of thing doesn’t make you want to scream, nothing will!
I prayed about this behavior recently when it came to mind & God showed me some things.
While this behavior feels intensely personal, it isn’t. It’s about them, their dysfunction & self preservation.
When a person has a spouse that loves them & a narcissistic parent, the spouse is the safer of the two people. In this situation, the adult child knows someone is going to be angry & they will suffer for it. In their minds, the spouse is the safer one. They’ve had a lifetime of knowing just how incredibly cruel their narcissistic parent can be, so they do their level best to avoid their anger & cruelty. It’s safer to deal with the anger of a loving spouse than a narcissistic parent, so they choose (albeit unconsciously) the safer of the two people to anger.
Unfortunately for the spouse, this means that their dysfunctional mate is going to put them in some pretty awful positions. They’ll expect their healing spouse to tolerate whatever the narcissistic parents dish out, & when the healing spouse doesn’t, arguments are going to happen. Even if the narcissistic parent in question is the healing spouse’s parent, the dysfunctional spouse most likely will be upset if the healing spouse is setting boundaries or even severs ties with their parent. The dysfunctional spouse is going to minimize, excuse or even deny abusive behaviors. This can be so difficult because the healing spouse wants to heal but also wants to have a good relationship with their dysfunctional partner. Sadly, the relationship can only be so good while one is dysfunctional & the other is trying to heal.
If you’re in this position, you will need God’s guidance on how to navigate this situation. He knows so much more than you could possibly know so let Him help you! And, pray for your spouse to see the truth & be able to handle it, too. That is what someone in that position truly needs!
Also always remember that your spouse’s reactions aren’t personal. They’re about that person’s dysfunction. Keeping that in mind will help you to be less hurt & angered by their behavior, which will in turn help you to deal with the situation more effectively.
Don’t be afraid to set your boundaries! Just because your spouse is fine with being abused doesn’t mean you have to tolerate it. Protect yourself & if your spouse is angry about it, that is that person’s problem. There is nothing wrong, bad or even un-Christian about protecting yourself!
When you must discuss your spouse’s or your narcissistic parent with your spouse, try to keep your emotions under control. Any anger shown on your part could make your spouse become very protective of the parent in question, which will start a fight between you. Avoid it as much as possible by remaining calm when discussing parents!
Lastly, don’t give your partner an ultimatum to choose either you or their parent if you want to stay married. Those who do that usually lose their spouse. The one given the ultimatum feels their spouse is being manipulative, which naturally pushes them away & towards the parent. Don’t put your spouse or yourself in that position. If you end up wanting to go your separate ways, find another way to discuss it. Ultimatums end in anger & make the situation worse.
I wish you the best!