For narcissistic mothers, ego is often expressed through the status of their children and their success as a parent. I use the term “success” loosely, as many times a child with a narcissistic mother may not be successful because of the barriers their mothers created, especially in the emotional sense.
As children of narcissistic mothers grow up and start to develop their own intimate relationships, things can go awry. One way this may happen is you may become the “pleaser” in the majority of your relationships. Because you weren’t taught or shown true love by your mother, it can be hard to have relationships consisting of a loving bond, though you might find it easy to be exploited by yet another narcissist, especially if you are the daughter of a narcissistic mother (DONM).
One reason this happens is because the narcissistic suitor will notice the tendency you may feel to meet other’s expectations and make sure others are doing okay. It may feel normal for you to put your own needs aside for the new narcissists you meet in life, because that’s how it has always been.
You may look for someone that you feel you need to take care of and unintentionally become a codependent of that person. Narcissists prey on these kinds of people, knowing that you will bend over backwards to give them what they want, thus fueling their narcissistic supply.
Adult children of narcissistic mothers tend to choose partners similar to their primary caregivers, a.k.a. narcissists. You may reenact childhood patterns and move from a narcissistic mother onto narcissistic partners, thus continuing an exhausting cycle, usually without even noticing it.
Parental narcissism and the resulting lack of empathy in a narcissistic family system is what causes many children of narcissistic mothers to lean toward one of two styles in order to survive:
- Imitate the narcissistic mother’s behavior and act just like her (a narcissistic pattern).
- Tune into the narcissistic mother’s constant need for positive reflection and attention and become a mirror for the mother (a co-narcissistic pattern).
When you participate in a co-narcissistic pattern, you go on in life and find other narcissists to bond with in order to fill that familiar role, the one you’ve played your whole life because of your mother. Narcissists see and recognize this and that is why you may have fallen for more than one of them—as if their charm and wit was not enough.
One theorist, Harville Hendrix, proposed the Imago Theory. He suggested that we marry for the purpose of healing and finishing the unfinished business of childhood. Because our parents could not fix us, due to their own selfish wants and needs, we find a partner who matches their traits in hope that we can fix them this time and finally feel whole.
The Imago is a composite image of all the positive and negative traits of our primary caretakers that is hidden deep in our unconscious minds. It can become the blueprint of the one we need to marry someday. If our blueprint is severely distorted by a narcissistic parent, then, of course, marriage to a narcissist is a strong possibility.
How, then, can children of narcissistic parents better protect themselves from repeating the frustrations of their childhood? The first step is to carefully evaluate who you surround yourself with and to question whether any of them are emotionally manipulative or narcissistic.
If you already have a pattern of being close to narcissists in your relationships of choice, be extra cautious. Ask someone you trust to give you their opinion of the newcomer in your life. If you feel an immediate and strong emotional attraction to someone, give yourself ample time to assess whether you are selecting someone healthy or simply someone who is a toxic imitation of past, ultimately hurtful relationships. Allowing a little time and consideration before letting someone become close can help you to select more supportive and giving relationships.
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