On our fourth wedding anniversary, I remember back to the blissful day we said “I Do”…and how familial narcissism permeated our wedding and marriage from the very start.
Breaking the Pattern
Most children of narcissists go on to marry narcissists. That’s just how it works. It’s what they know. It feels comfortable, familiar, homey.
Prior to meeting Michael, I’d followed this pattern, in a way. Chemistry flowed and sparks flew between myself and alcoholics. Why wouldn’t it? I was the quintessential codependent. Where alcoholics crave alcohol, narcissists crave false ego. Same dynamic.
Then I met Michael. A straightforward, honest retired engineer who rarely touched alcohol.
Vetting the Non-Narcissist
Meeting Michael online was a blessing because we had to get to know each other as people. We thoroughly vetted each other by phone. I knew he was honest because his answers were short. Liars (and narcissists) always make the mistake of embellishing, brainwashing and generally talking too much. He didn’t.
I also realized he was different from my family. He had a quiet strength. Unlike narcissists, there was no bravado. No yelling with clenched fists to demonstrate strength. Michael just stated his position and that was that. So refreshing from the cowardly narcissistic drama I’d known.
And he rarely got mad.
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Sure, I understand that all parents care deeply about their child’s choice of spouse. That’s part of normalcy. But meddling…that’s another story.
It’s not okay for a father to angrily call at 7:30 p.m., demanding his almost 32-year-old daughter leave her first date with her future husband and “go home.” That’s not caring. It’s jealous and creepy.
It’s fine for a mother to pose questions for consideration about her daughter’s future spouse, but the answers are none of her business. That’s nosey.
It’s not okay for a father to try to brainwash his daughter by confidently stating, “You’re just infatuated with him.”
And it’s not okay for a mother to tell her daughter what she can and cannot tell her husband. We’re supposed to be One. Leave and cleave, baby. That means no frickin’ secrets!
Meddling Leads to Haste
What narcissistic, controlling parents don’t realize is that an excess of “care” drives their children to rush into major decisions. That’s how it was for me! After a lifetime of blind, submissive obedience, marrying against the subtle “caring” pressure not to marry took every iota of courage I had.
As Jean Arthur said in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, “It’s a forty foot dive into a tub of water, but I think you can do it.” And that’s how I felt about matrimony. I had to take a run at it…and just dive!
A Jane Austenish Wedding
I’m an old-fashioned girl. Michael’s an old-fashioned boy. And we did things the old-fashioned way. In fact, we chose the same vows from Pride and Prejudice…”Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony…”
And Michael asked my father for my hand in marriage. Rumor has it, he didn’t say “yes.”
“Well, that’s her choice,” I’m told he said.
WTF!?! If a man in this modern age has the respect to ask you for your daughter’s hand in marriage, don’t hedge your bet. Don’t set yourself up to be able to say, “I told you it was a mistake.” Just frickin’ say “yes!”
Narcissistic Control at the Wedding
Our wedding was scheduled for 9 a.m.
The guests showed up at 8 a.m., looking very disapproving that the bride was not yet ready. She was eating a bagel.
Around 8:30 a.m., my soon-to-be father-in-law had enough with this waiting around. “Well, let’s get this over with,” he said. So romantic. (Yes, Sheldon. That is sarcasm.)
So we were married half an hour early, so he could rush back to his recliner and baseball.
Glowing Like a Bride
The last thing you want to feel on your wedding day is shame. Shame! But I did.
I was glowing. So happy to be marrying Michael. But I heard that voice in my head. A voice drifting down through the decades. A voice that had accused me of “glowing like a bride” about a boy I liked in 10th grade.
And here I was…glowing again! I felt shame.
Then I remembered, but I am a bride today.
NOT a Beautiful Bride
As I wrote in my article A Narcissist Drove Me to OCD…then Forbade It, my skin was ravaged by OCD and infections from the age of fifteen. As part of the “shame treatment” to break me of my OCD, Dad made a solemn vow to never tell me I was pretty again until I stopped picking.
And, damn it, he kept that vow.
Even on my wedding day.
Walking Down the Aisle
After a decade of fighting cancer, I was glad my father was there to walk me down the aisle. Each time he’d had to undergo treatment again, I worried that he wouldn’t be there on my special day. But he was, complete with a disapproving mopey attitude and iron-fisted control.
After all, until the moment I said “I Do,” I was his to control. And control he did.
The relatives gathered in the living room. A hush fell. I gingerly poked my hand through my father’s arm, careful to be sure I “left room for the Holy Spirit” between us. The music started.
Looking up at him. Timidly I said, “Dad? It’s time.”
“Just wait!” he snapped.
I wilted, crestfallen. Wondering why I had to wait. Wondering how long I had to wait. I’d waited thirty-two frickin’ years for this. How much longer!?!
A moment later, he decided it was time.
Late I found out Dad referred to our 9-day engagement as “very distracting” from his focus on cancer. He also made it very clear on-line that his “32-year-old” daughter was “finally married”. Go ahead and call me an “old maid.” That’s what you meant. Strong words from a man who planned nothing, paid for nothing and actually borrowed my car so he could drive to my wedding.
Control, control, control.
Despite all the meddling and control, I said “I do” and it was the best choice I ever made.
Touring this great land by car was the best honeymoon ever. We got to know each other better. Romped at hotel rooms. And I saw mountains and the ocean for the very first time!
Meanwhile, my extended relatives were frantically calling each other, claiming I was being abducted and search graveyards for “Thompsons” in a desperate attempt to prove my husband a charlatan. As I wrote in Golden Child: It’s Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be:
The Time: Five in the morning.
The Place: A Lutheran cemetery.
The Plot: Uncle had ordered his aged mother out to the cemetery to search for gravestones bearing the name “Thompson.” It was a wild-eyed attempt to prove my husband a liar. To prove that he’d married me, not for my charms, but for money. So it was that a little ol’ lady, flashlight in hand, consumed by blood-sucking gnats and mosquitoes peered thither and yon searching for gravestones bearing the name of “Thompson.” She found ’em. Lots of ’em. My husband’s relatives may have rested in peace for decades, but they sure don’t anymore!
Two years later, the same “characters” would send the sheriff to my home, asking for me by my hated maiden name, to do a “Welfare Check”…my ass!
Three days after our marriage, I finally broke into sobs and bared my soul. For the first time in my life, I could tell the truth to someone. I told Michael that I wasn’t a weirdo. That I’d always wanted to do normal things like driving highways and traveling, but I’d never been allowed to. And Michael bared his soul too, telling me of the plethora of mind-boggling abuse he’d borne in his life. We bonded more than ever that night, as we ate ice cream and talked for hours.
Narcissistic Abuse Overflows
Unfortunately, the past treads heavily on the heels of the present.
When I invited Michael to “go ahead and criticize me for my own good,” he was nonplussed and declined saying, “I married you for who you are. I have no desire to change you.”
When I tried to “codependent him,” (verb) he wasn’t having any of it. (Thank God!)
When I freaked out, trying to make the house perfect before anyone visited, he couldn’t understand it.
When I jumped out of my skin and started shaking every-time I got startled, he thought it was odd…and hysterically funny.
When we moved away and my self-esteem utterly collapsed in the absence of my disapproving, self-esteem-owning narcissists, he pointed out that I was betraying symptoms of abuse and brainwashing.
And when I finally realized the truth, he held me while I sobbed so hard the blood vessels in my face broke.
WOW! What a guy!
Meanwhile, things weren’t all hunky-dunky on the in-law front. As I wrote in Dude! I’m Your Daughter, Not Your Wife!:
Banish the thought Michael would touch me, hug me, lift me or (gasp!) kiss me in his father-in-law’s presence. While Mother giggled and cooed, Dad averted his eyes, grimacing with rage.
Hugging Dad post-wedding was, if possible, even more awkward that ever before. He seemed to be unable to bear touching me. Had to force himself to hug me…from a respectful distance, as always.
I felt dirty, like I’d become the whore he always feared I would. Meanwhile, Mother was hugging my husband in a way that made both my new husband and myself extremely uncomfortable. Let’s just say, she left no room for the Holy Spirit. WTF!?! Hypocrite…!
Strangest of all, I can’t remember even one relative saying, “You’re marrying a man with a terminal lung illness, Lenora!? WOW! You must really love him!”. Zip, zilch, nada. Perhaps that’s what they call…lack of frickin’ empathy! Ya thunk?
WOW, WOW, WOW!
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I’m called to be One with my husband, not my parents. I’m called to Leave-and-Cleave to my husband, not my parents.
Going No Contact (NC) was the best thing I did for my marriage. Try it! It works!!
Happy Fourth Anniversary, Michael! You’re my Great Emancipator. You taught me Love VS Codependence, Respect VS Narcissistic Control. You proudly stood with me when “family” threatened to sue me. You’re still teaching me how to live like a normal human being, sans narcissism, sans perfectionism and sans workaholism. You’re the first person to truly love me unconditionally.
You made my life! I’m so glad I married you!