How easy it is to forget how bad things were once we’re on our way to recovery. I did just that – forgot that while I’ve come to love my mother, she will never be an empathetic person. It happened this weekend.
My brother has not spoken to either parent for over 3 years and – silly me – I thought I might be able to help mend fences. The first step to repairing a damaged relationship is to honestly assess your role and offer apologies when necessary. I thought I could get my mother to accept the following apology:
I am sorry I couldn’t be what you needed me to be.
This is a fairly innocuous apology, right?
I thought that the 1st step towards getting her to accept this apology was to increase her empathy for people today; walk in someone else’s shoes. I tried to get her to imagine what she would be like if she was in her 20’s today. How might her life be different, both in positive and negative ways. It made no difference how I re framed the question, the answer was always “I can’t go back in time so what’s the point?”. It was then that I remembered that she can not relate to others; she can never see herself in someone else’s circumstance. If anyone is different than her they must be doing something wrong.
My plan resulted in a disastrous few days with her, as she kept repeating “when I was 26 I had 4 children and owned a house and had $50 for groceries and there was no so thing as credit cards………….” and so on. I wanted so badly to point out that this was equivalent to $395 today, and I could certainly feed my family and take care of household supplies on $395 weekly, but I can’t even fathom how badly that would have gone. In fact, I can never anticipate her reaction, because I am constantly putting myself in other’s shoes. Reminder to self: stop putting yourself in other’s shoes!! Lesson learned.
One of the worse aspects of growing up with a narcissistic mother was the way she acted around friends, relatives, basically any outsider. She could have been snarling at me yet when someone else walked into the room she was a sweet as could be. I can’t begin to count the number of people who told me how lucky I was to have such a great mother. Talk about confusing! I gradually came to believe that I was the most horrid being ever, since my mother told me so, and everyone else told me how great she was, while I hated her. Had to be me, right?
My mother walks through life rejecting people who are not like her – loudly rejecting them. Unfortunately, as the years go by, there are less and less people like her. Her friend group has diminished, and will continue to do so. Since she is unable to relate to anyone other than those that mirror her, she will not make new friends, and her life will become increasingly meaningless. This is really sad.
I love my mother, but I have accepted that she will never love me the way I love my children, which makes me really sad. I approach her with a layer of armor, aware that at any point in time she will lash out and hurt me. While this might sound sad it has actually improved our relationship. Realistic expectations make a huge difference.
This article describes what happens to girls growing up with a narcissistic mother. I hope you find it helpful.