Dingbat, she was indeed, but she was our dingbat and we loved her for it! Edith Bunker — fluttery, silly, easily confused and bamboozled. Edith Bunker — loving, giving, faithful, patient, honest, long-suffering and servant-hearted. Edith Bunker — wife of narcissist, Archie Bunker on All in the Family.
In this article we’re setting ourselves the fascinating exercise of learning from Edith Bunker on how to successfully be the wife of a narcissistic man. How did Edith do it for so long without losing her temper or her sanity? What can we learn from Edith on how to be married to a narcissist and be happy.
This is important for two reasons:
- Even as much of a proponent of “No Contact“as I have been, very vocally, in this blog, I believe equally strongly in “shall no man put asunder.” It’s long weighed on my conscience that Narcissism Meets Normalcy might be the impetus for some putting asunderings. On the other hand, I don’t believe anyone should remain in an abusive environment. It’s a really difficult subject.
- Many women choose to remain with their narcissistic husband and I applaud and respect them for that. I myself did not leave my narcissists until I was given permission, so I’m not the Poster Child for “No Contact” really.
There’s also no shame in having married a narcissist. Statistically, if you are raised by one or more narcissists, you will marry a narcissist. It’s almost a foregone conclusion and “there but for the Grace of God go I.” In fact, in the week before my wedding, I felt some grief as I fully expected my life post-wedding to revert to the ol’ familiar narcissistic abuse I equated with marriage and family and was, actually, quite flummoxed when it didn’t. I didn’t know what to do when my husband treated me with kindness, liberality and freedom. It was very confusing and still is to this day!
Living with a narcissist day-to-day requires special skills. The trick is to keep the peace with them without losing your reality and your soul. We can we learn some of those skills from Edith Bunker, narcissist’s wife.
Of course, the bedrock of Edith’s skills is that she genuinely loved and even liked Archie. He made her laugh. He doled out crumbs of affection. She knew how vulnerable he was and how dependent upon her for love, care, feeding and her good opinion of him. She knew how deeply he loved her, even if he wouldn’t admit it to himself. He may’ve been a meathead himself (“dead from the neck up”), but there was just “something” between him and Edith. They truly loved each other, underneath everything.
Choose Your Battles Wisely
Archie had certain expectations. The instant he walked in the front door and hung up his hat, he expected his chair to be empty, his beer to be cold, his supper to be hot and his family to be hanging on his every word. A feminist might bridle at this; Edith just did it. After all, he was bringing home the bacon.
With so much drama swirling around a narcissist at all times, drama they feed off, Edith would advise us to choose our battles wisely. Let some things go. Only choose the battles that really matter, but even in those battles, have good boundaries. Edith often chided “Oh Aaaaaaaachie” when he cooked up some slightly nefarious scheme (usually for making money shadily), but she was never controlling. She simply served as his external conscience. If he chose to go against her advice and, for example, lie to the insurance company, she remained true to herself. She didn’t fight with Archie. Didn’t try to control him. But she also wasn’t his stooge.
Keep Your Own Counsel
This was easy for Edith because, well! She could never understand Archie’s tortured logic and twisted truth anyways. Edith kept her grip on her own reality because it was the one that made sense to her.
This is one of my biggest regrets in life: I allowed narcissists to twist reality for me. I abandoned what I knew and felt to be true and embraced their version of “truth” instead. You might say that I bought Archie’s line – hook, line and sinker.
Edith didn’t do that. Her dingbatness helped her in this way. If you have a higher IQ, you have to work at it harder. I’ve often noticed that the smarter people are, the easier they can be hoodwinked by fancy words and complicated so-called “facts.” Edith didn’t have that problem. She knew what-was-what and that was her reality.
Keep a tight hold on what you know to be true, simple straightforward reality. Hold onto it with your mind, your fists and your teeth if necessary. Narcissists will attempt to control our movements, our choices, our finances but there’s one thing they can never control unless we let them: our minds. Your mind is always free.
Edith Bunker kept her own counsel and so should we.
Keep Your Character
Archie couldn’t change Edith’s character. Oh, how he tried! It just didn’t work!
Archie tried and tried hard to get Edith to lie on more than one occasion. Pfffft. That was an exercise in futility! Even if she had been smart enough to get all the details of the lie straight, she wouldn’t have done it anyways. Edith believed lying was wrong therefore she wouldn’t do it. Nothing Archie could say, no intimidation, no yelling, no insults could change her mind. Period. Edith always followed her conscience.
Edith was kind, warm and welcoming. No amount of racism or other judgmentalism spouted daily by Archie could brainwash Edith and prevent her from welcoming anyone and everyone into their home. Everyone was the same to her: a human being to be fed, plied with coffee and treated with respect and kindness. Archie never could make his racism, etc. rub off on Edith. She was teflon in that way.
Edith always parented with kindness and understanding. While Archie projected and seemed to look for badness in Gloria, Edith trusted her to be a good person and Gloria rewarded that trust by being a good person. Edith also loved her son-in-law, Mike Stivic and he, in turn, had a real sweet love for her too. If you notice, he called Edith “Ma” but called Archie “Archie.”
Everyone loves Edith; they tolerate Archie only because they love Edith. She knew how to grease the skids of marriage to a narcissist with love, with boundaries, with maintaining her individuality and with letting a lot of things “go.” Still, my favorite moment in All in the Family is when she shrieks at Archie to “stifle.” LOL Hey! Maybe we can learn from that too.
Narcissists are bullies. Shock them with a sudden show of strength and they might just turn into apologetic marshmallows. Maybe. It worked for Edith. Archie stifled! That episode won an Emmy.
Edith Bunker: She may’ve been a dingbat but she was pretty brilliant at reconnoitering marriage to a narcissist and was the heart of All in the Family.