[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]
It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is. ~ Chris
16. She’s aggressive and shameless.
This may be more a malignant NM trait—the aggressiveness—than a “normal” NM trait. All NMs are shameless, however, because they feel completely justified in their outrageous demands. And if what you are asking for is “reasonable,” why should you feel any shame about it?
NMs can be overtly or passively aggressive in how they about making their demands. A woman I know has a mother who has so effectively screwed up her finances that she is in danger of being booted out of her retirement community, along with her husband who suffers from dementia. Because the woman’s mother and father will have no place to go…except into her own home for the remainder of their lives…my friend has been manipulated into detangling the mess her mother has made of the finances and then managing them indefinitely, lest she end up with a passive-aggressive narcissistic mother and a dementia-suffering father under her roof along with her own family.
Another friend’s mother did something similar: Kelli lost her job, as many have done in this economy. She sold her house and moved in with her boyfriend but when the funds ran out, she had to tell her mother, to whom she sent money every month, that the well was dry, she was only working part time at WalMart, and couldn’t even meet her own obligations. Kelli’s mother’s passive aggressive response was to stop paying her rent (which was roughly equal to what Kelli had been sending her every month) and to continue living as she had been all along. When she was evicted, she blamed Kelli. Kelli’s brother offered their mom the use of a cottage on his property, but she turned it down. When last heard from, she was in some kind of shelter for the indigent elderly, blaming Kelli for her ignominious situation.
My late husband’s NM, whose tastes far exceeded our budget, would tell us she didn’t want anything “for the house” for her birthday or Christmas. She also informed us that she didn’t wear costume jewellery. When her heavy hints for real jewellery—far outside our budget but not that of the NGCBro—went ignored and we found other things to give her, she would punish us with lengthy silences.
Some narcissists are more overtly aggressive in the way they present their demands and how they respond to your refusal to accede to them. They will yell and scream, break things, make threats, take back (or break) things they gave you and just engage in a host of overtly aggressive acts. When Charlie’s Aunt Bea died, his mother was executor of her estate. While at Maman’s house for Christmas dinner, Maman presented Charlie with a sheaf of papers for him to sign. Charlie demurred, saying he wanted an attorney to review them first.
Now Charlie was dyslexic and he grew up feeling like he was stupid. That was because the school put him in remedial classes and his family assumed this meant he had a room-temperature IQ. Charlie and I had been together for a couple of years at this point and were engaged…and he had learned, through me, that he was not stupid he just had a perfectly manageable learning disability.
But when Charlie told his mother he wanted a lawyer to look over the papers before he signed anything, she went ballistic. She, who had called him stupid all of his life, was incensed that her “stupid” son would seek competent assistance before signing something! She accused him of not trusting her—blaming me for that—and then told him “If you do not sign these papers tonight, you are stupid!”
Charlie was stricken—I could see it in his face. So I stepped in front of him and said “He’s not stupid and you cannot call him that!”
She turned on me and in her heavy French accent said “I am heez mozzer! I can call heem anyzing I want!”
I turned to Charlie and said “I am ready to go home now. How about you?” With a look of relief, he nodded his head and we went to the coat closet to get our jacket, his mother following us and continuing to shriek abuse at us in two languages as we walked out the door.
Sometimes they are very overt in their aggressiveness!***
She doesn’t ask. She demands. She makes outrageous requests and she'll take anything she wants if she thinks she can get away with it.
When was a kid, she took every dime, every dollar I received as gifts or earned picking crops during the summer or babysitting as an adolescent. When I was a teen, she took my clothes, my jewellery--anything I had that she wanted became hers. And it didn't stop when I grew up and had kids of my own.
One year, when my kids were small, I had the opportunity to take a temporary job out of town for three weeks during the holiday season…the money was extraordinary and I needed it. Like most young single mothers, I asked my NM if she would take the kids for those weeks while I took the job—she had pawned me off onto her parents virtually every summer of my youth, it was not like such a request was without precedence in my family. Of course, at that time I knew nothing about NPD or personality disorders and my once ignoring, punitive mother was being nice to me for a change, so why not ask? To my great surprise, she agreed.
When the time was up, she didn’t want to bring them back. She did, but she did her best to convince me it would be in “their best interest” to let her have them! This was the woman who beat me stupid as a child for the slightest infraction of rules that changed with her mercurial moods—I was going to let her raise my kids like she raised me? Not a chance!
But I was still living under the admonitions laid down in my childhood, chief among them being she was above criticism—not even sarcasm was allowed—so instead of having the kind of blow up that burned in my breast, I simply thanked her for her offer, but said my kids belonged with me.
At the time I had no idea what she was plotting but in retrospect, it became pretty clear. Within a year she had succeeded in taking both of them away from me, spirited them out of the state where she lied to a court to get a permanent guardianship (after having my parental rights terminated on the grounds that I was a “drug addicted prostitute” who neglected the children and abandoned them—none of which was even remotely true). Within two years, they were in New York, adopted by her childless brother and his wife, people who had been turned down by the state as adoptive parents through the state agencies because they could not pass the home study.
This was her response to my refusal to 1) abort my illegitimate child when I became pregnant at 17; 2) accede to her demand that I give the child up for adoption; 3) accept her withholding permission for me to marry by getting a court order permitting it; 4) come running to her for help when the going got tough, per her prediction, so she could reject me; and 5) give the kids to her when she finally got tired of waiting for me to beg for help and she had to debase herself and actually ask me to give them to her. It was payback, it was aggressive payback, and it took a lot of planning and money to pull it off but for her, the vengeance must have been worth it.
Her demands of her children are posed in a very aggressive way, as are her criticisms. She won't take no for an answer, pushing and arm-twisting and manipulating to get you to give in.
And if you won’t give in, finding ways to force you to give up whatever it is she wants. My NM spent years on a smear campaign to make me look like the Whore of Babylon. It started when I was very young, telling family members my every transgression, real or imagined, and amplifying them with the most negative spin she could imagine. If I didn’t get a fork clean when I did the dishes, I was trying to give us all food poisoning; if GCBro hit me, either I provoked him or I was a tattletale, making mountains out of molehills; I had an overactive imagination so nothing I said could be believed; if she saw me talking to a boy, or she saw a boy’s name doodled on my notebook, suddenly I was having sex with him. Anything I did or didn’t do was construed in the worst, most immoral or intentionally evil way possible. And after of hearing this coupled with some common adolescent mistakes (chiefly, I got pregnant out of wedlock at 17), there was nothing she could say about me that the FOO wouldn’t believe.
So, when my answer to her question about taking my kids was a resounding “NO!” she went on to plan B. She actually got one of her brothers to perjure himself in court and even though I had a letter in my behalf from the welfare department (I was a fit parent, I had a fit home, etc.), NM succeeded in getting a temporary guardianship based on my uncle’s perjured testimony. When I came to her house for my first scheduled visitation, the house was empty, a For Sale sign in the yard.
It was eight years before I saw my children again, eight years before I discovered the depth of her treachery: she took the kids to another state and applied for a permanent guardianship. I should have been notified of the hearing but I wasn’t because she lied and told the court she didn’t know where I was. In such a situation, you are required to publish a notice of the hearing in a newspaper of the other person’s last known address: she published in a city I had not lived in for years and she knew I didn’t live there. Because I did not show up in court to object, my parental rights were terminated and NM got a permanent guardianship. And from there it was a straight shot to my childless uncle to give him the children he had been unable to get any other way.
These women do not give up. Depending on how malignant they are, they can stalk you, trump up legal charges against you, malign you to your entire cast of family and friends, call your place of employment and make trouble: there is no depths to which they will not sink in order to get what they want and to “show you” that you cannot deny them.
And they do it with no sense of shame or remorse or guilt. After the affair with my children blew wide open, both of my uncles apologized to me for their part in it…they were good men taken in by her lies, as was the rest of the family. Twenty years later, however, NM went to her grave still maintaining I had abandoned my children and she had done the right thing. They never, ever, admit wrong, no matter the evidence stacked against them!
Next: Part 17. She “parentifies.”