Okay I Still Want My Selfish Parent in My Life – But I’m Rewriting the Contract
Author: Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
Some people choose to remain connected to their selfish parent but stay differently. Some adult children of narcissistic parents want some type of relationship with their parents. A healthy relationship is possible only if they can learn to set strong boundaries and maintain them. Selfish people don’t take no for an answer; they override what doesn’t please them.
As a child, you may not have been allowed to question the harmful actions of your parents. You were taught to overlook things you knew were wrong like their lying or stealing. Make a list of what doesn’t work for you anymore. Rewrite each statement on the list as to what works for you. “I can’t come by and visit you every day but we can get together Saturday afternoon. I can’t stop by the grocery store to pick something up after work when I’m rushing to get home, but I will do some weekly shopping for you on the weekend.”
Check with a trusted friend that you admire who has developed a balanced relationship with their selfish parent. Observe and learn from them. Ask your friend if your new ways of dealing with your parent are reasonable. Ask if there are any areas that you might have left out.
Put the brakes on any parental unwanted advice which still meets their own agenda. You have the right to live your life the way you want without the expectations and advice from parents. However, if they continue to give you money or pay the rent when you are an adult, parents usually keep some strings attached and feel they have a right to give advice.
Watch how your time is monopolized by a selfish parent’s neediness. Are you expected to run chores constantly for them? Is your Saturday spent doing the handyman chores around their house? Of course helping relatives is part of being in a family. There is a difference between agreeing to help out and being taken advantage of. If you feel resentful often, then perhaps it’s time to set some boundaries. “Yes, I’ll show you how to do X and Y on your computer, but if you want to learn more than that, you’d better take a course.” or “I can clean the gutters on your house, but you will have to hire someone to do regular yard work.”
You have a right to your privacy. That means with your things, your feelings and your relationships. No one has the right to snoop. Say strongly, “You are not allowed to go through my things, pry into my feelings, and tell me what to do with my relationship.” If there is a kickback from your parent, repeat the phrase in a firmer voice.
Call them on it when they invade your home unannounced. Quote the Dear Abby Rule on Uninvited Drop Ins: ‘Call first before coming over to see if it is convenient. No exceptions.’ Don’t get into arguments where they try to guilt you saying “But I’m your mother and that doesn’t apply to me.” Repeat the rule: Call first to see if it is convenient for me.”
Break into the Drama King or Queen OMG response. Refuse to listen to gossip. They may be addicted to gossip, bad news and hysteria and expect you to be the enthralled audience. Act bored. Tell them you are not interested either in words or in body language. Change the topic. Cut the conversation short. Leave. Have an appointment that you have to get to.
The histrionic parent creates crisis situations so you will have to respond. Think of Chicken Little running around yelling, “The sky is falling. The sky is falling.” You can only fall for the crisis so many times. Separate out the real from the crisis-of-the-day situation. If you keep falling for the same old line, then it becomes an issue about you. It’s probably your guilt on some level. You were trained to respond when you feel guilty, weren’t you? Take a message from many of the younger generation who say, “I don’t do guilt.”
The egotistical parent has given him or herself permission to bash others. He or she may bad mouth your other parent. They may try to set up an alliance with you against your other parent. Don’t. Allow. This! It’s toxic.
Separating from the narcissistic parent is a lifelong task. The only alternative is to estrange yourself from them completely, but most people prefer a less drastic route. After all, they’re your parents. Still, unless you want to be at the beck and call of your parent, you will have to take steps to preserve your identity and your integrity:
Keep your own kids safe from narcissistic grandparents. Keep babysitting to a minimum unless you want your child to be trained and ruined the way you were. Keep visits short and focused on activities instead of allowing the grandparent to babble on about the unfairness in their lives. Interrupt when the grandparent turns the conversation to his or her being a victim. Don’t let your parents or sibling play favorites with your children!
If you have the role of the Hero, the Favored Child or Golden Child who can do no wrong or Scapegoated Child who is ignored or disliked in your family, work out these role-specific issues in your life. Favoritism in families is toxic for both the favored child and the Scapegoated child. Don’t let these dysfunctional ways of acting be passed on to the next generation. Being the favored child of a narcissistic parent is like being given a life sentence. It can result in becoming highly egotistical or codependent and believe he or she has the right to intrude on your life. If your sibling is self-centered and imposes on you, do as you would with a narcissistic parent-try not to act out any script they try to force on you.
Get professional and third-party caretaker help when your aging parents need assistance. Spread the care among as many people as you can to avoid burnout. This can become a time when they take over your life. They may expect you to visit them daily. Get your siblings involved and divide the chores. Involve professionals such as the local council on aging, geriatric social workers, in-home caregivers and therapists.
You are not the victims of selfish people who raised us nor victims of selfish partners unless you let yourself be. Happiness is about leaving the dysfunction behind and choosing new healthy behavior patterns. Then let go of the emotional baggage heaped on you by narcissistic others. Letting go and moving on to create a loving life is a tribute to your resiliency, strength and character. Take a note from Nelson Mandela who said, “As I walked out the door towards my new freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind, I would still be in prison.“
“If your relationship isn’t working, it’s about boundaries.
Isn’t it always about boundaries?
Yours or the other person’s —
Loving relationships are about being fair.
Each should get some of their needs met.
Healthy boundaries are us!”
– Lynne Namka