The Narcissistic Family

The Narcissistic Family

This weekend I was reminded of why my X turned out the way he did: his father.

Saturday was his first unsupervised visit since February.  We agreed to meet at my oldest daughter’s award ceremony.  This was an outdoor event and I was sitting in the very back row with the girls and my family.  My X and his father walked up and greeted the children who didn’t react in the way they were “expected to”.  The girls were stand-offish.  As they stood behind us, my X father-in-law began talking loud enough for us to hear him.  He said, “This is the first time (she) hasn’t acted excited to see us.  Tina has her so brainwashed – this is ridiculous”.  At that point, I turned around and said, “We can all hear you- stop”.  He then looked at me and chuckled before saying, “Maybe I will just talk a bit LOUDER”.

Deep breath.

I found an interesting article in Psychology Today titled, The Narcissistic Family Portrait and to say that I was intrigued was an understatement.  Now that I understand Narcissistic Personality Disorder and what I am dealing with, I want to try and understand the family dynamics of why my X became the person that he is today.

Background: When I first met X in 2000, there was a lot of oceanfront property in Kansas City being offered to me.  The sales pitch went something like this: his family was what every family should strive to be like.  They were superior in everything and once again, I felt “lucky” to be in their presence.  Initially, I was sold on his parent’s marriage.  They had been married almost 30 years.  They had raised four boys in a beautiful home and everything seemed ideal.  When I first met the family, his parents were in the process of accepting positions out of the country so I met his father once or twice before he left the country.

I was told that his father was going to be an attorney but settled for a career in education.  My X sounded mixed when describing the situation.  This was the same tone with his mother who he thought should have went into the medical field.  He often talked about his parents’ IQ levels which were “off the charts” according to my X.  Brilliant people who “settled” for being teachers and sacrificed money and power in the process.

I started seeing the signs within a year of dating.  My X and his older brother often spoke poorly of their father in terms of money and his failure to follow rules related to paying taxes and remaining current on obligations.  His parents would return each summer and other red flags became apparent but were quickly brushed under the rug.  We had a belated wedding reception in 2002 and his father became extremely intoxicated and completely inappropriate.  At one point, he told my friend that he would be “picturing her in Victoria’s Secret lingerie later that night”.  The next day, several of the cousin’s wives were discussing how creepy and inappropriate he was in general.  I was thankful that he lived in another country for the majority of the year.

One night, we were at a baby shower and a young, blonde  woman asked me to give her contact information to my father-in-law.  I had a strange feeling about the situation and mentioned this encounter to my X’s older brother.  I was told never to mention her name again in the family– she had been a student of his at the Catholic High School and I was told that there had been “issues”.  I was strongly informed that their mother could never catch wind of this and that I needed to forget about the encounter.  I did.

The next summer, we all went wine tasting and my father-in-law became intoxicated.  He was making sexual remarks to my friend and was completely out of line.  On Thanksgiving that same year, he grabbed my step-mother’s butt and shortly after that there was tension in the family due to his trips to Thailand.  These trips were family vacations in which my father-in-law would disappear for extended periods of time.  Two of the brothers returned and stated that their mother was probably going to leave him and if she did, they would support her 100%.  He vanished for many, many hours while everyone was sleeping and when confronted, claimed that he was getting a massage.

My X mother-in-law was aware of his indiscretions and played the role of the good Catholic wife: turn the other cheek.  That seemed to be the running motto in the family- there are no problems that the “outside world” is allowed to know about.  We handle things behind closed doors- within the family.  There was another message in the family which was loud and clear: We are better than everyone — even people within the family.  If you are overweight or of a different sexual orientation, you were fair game for being berated when you were out of earshot.  If you didn’t live up to your potential in college or in your career, you were not worthy of their respect and would often be the topic of discussion.  This was constant.  The message: In our family, we put others down because we are superior.

In my opinion, the following are a few of the things that were applicable in my X’s family.  These are excerpts from The Narcissistic Family Portrait:

1. “Don’t tell the outside world…pretend everything is fine.”

2. Image: The narcissistic family is all about image. The message is: we are bigger, better, have no problems, and we must put on the face of perfection. Children get the messages: “What would the neighbors think?” “What would the relatives think?” What would our friends think?” These are common fears in the family. “Always put a smile on that pretty little face.”

3. One Parent Narcissistic, The Other Orbits: If one parent is narcissistic, it is common for the other parent to have to revolve around the narcissist to keep the marriage intact. Many times the other parent has redeeming qualities to give to the children, but is tied up meeting the needs of the narcissistic spouse. This often leaves the children’s needs unmet. Who is there for them?

My X father-in-law is the most narcissistic person I’ve ever known and this weekend I was reminded (again) why I am so happy to be free from this family.  It also reminded me that they have no regard for my children and will never follow rules– or care about how their actions will affect my daughters.  My goal is to teach my daughters how to set personal boundaries and continue to model how healthy people act.



20 Responses

  1. Tina, I know you have probably already thought of this, but keep an eye on that man (Father-in-law)!!

    I feel that he should not have access to your girls. I know more than anyone that this is easier said than done… but it scares me for you.

    The only thing scarier than a narcissist is one that is also a pervert.

  2. Tina, Im just wondering what would happen in US if you just stopped fighting and said no to any more access despite court orders based on the fact the system does not know how to deal with people like your ex and therefore cannot protect your children?

  3. Becca- it terrifies me to my core. Every second that they are in that home. I have flat out refused to let my daughters in his car when he was alone (without X) and verbally told him that I don’t trust him with my girls.

    I agree with you — he is actually involved with a start-up charter school locally which also terrifies me 🙁

  4. Hi Tina,
    Document any “inappropriate” comments he makes to your girls in front of you, or them. I had a narciss. stepfather who is a major pervert, and was always making sexual jokes, inuendos, and comments to me, when I was young.

  5. I have the same exact problem…narc that is a pervert and the whole family is too. I’m praying hard for all of us but especially our innocent children.

  6. It’s the worst feeling- above and beyond my concerns about my X. Sending the girls into a home with his older brother (who actually bought a Thai bride on one of their “excursions”) and my X father-in-law is gut wrenching. They all live together in one home- four men and a Thai bride 🙁

  7. Do you mean the father lives with the son’s in the same home? And if yes are they all grown men or at least supposed to be?

  8. Still grilling in your girls’ minds from NOW!!!!!! Teach them what in appropriate and inappropriate behavior and reinforce that they have the right to speak up WHENEVER they want to WHOMEVER!!!

  9. 1. The oldest brother “Brother A”.
    2. His Thai bride (and their son).
    3. My X Father-in-law.
    4. My X Father-in-law’s brother.
    5. My X (on his weekends here).

    The house belongs to their friends from Orange County and they rent the home.

  10. Eva- absolutely. We have “those talks” anyway and we are working on boundaries and using their voices.

  11. Geez very odd set up. Four grown men and ONE thai bride??? Strange indeed!

    Don’t any of these men have wives of their own ? (other than oldest brother)
    And why doesn’t the oldest brother have a his own house if he is married with a child?

    There is a lot to be said for the company that you keep….

    So he ex is choosing to surround himself by grown men who act like boys and will not support family values then no wonder things are the way they are.

    These people will not encourage him in the right ways

    THE BOTTOM LINE is X is responsible for his life and the choices he makes,
    He could choose to get away from these people if they will not support him in healthy and supportive ways for the sake of his children.
    He could stop treating you the way he does because it does have a direct negative impact on his children.
    There is no excuse for him to make these poor choices.
    He can choose to be selfish and self centred (boy) or he can choose to stop this nonsense and build a life around his daughters needs in healthy and appropriate ways (man) … boy vs man…
    And a real man that is focused would have no problem turning to his Father and firmly telling him “You will no longer be welcome if you continue to act this way” This is called having a backbone! Obviously the X feels it is acceptable to allow his Father to do this at a child’s ceremony! This says a lot about both of them!
    If ex had good value he would have no problem standing up to pervert father. He would be very intolerant and quickly and effectively deal with this and therefore he would not let valuable moments to become about bashing and rather the focus would be about his daughters cermony – the main focus

    He gets an opportunity and in his sick mind the opportunity is to weasel out a comment. You would think he see this as an opportunity to say this feels good to be here and see my daughters and this is what it is all about but not in his mind it is more about him getting in a lousy comment through his father.

    I have been here and still am here. I have learned so many lessons from selfish people. Life sometimes is unfair to kind hearted people. You have to keep seeing where it is coming from and take it with the territory (so to speak).

  12. I could write a book on this topic.

    To answer your question– my X father-in-law is married and my X MIL lives in Saudi Arabia where she is a teacher. I have been told that he is volunteering his time to help launch a charter school in my community in an effort to get her a job over here so she can move back. The uncle (I believe) is on his 4th divorce. They have always been into the thought of a family commune– they insisted on living with us each summer when we were married. At one point, I begged that they find their own summer home when I gave birth to my first daughter and they refused. My X would not stand up to any of them.

  13. Tina, I think you would gasp if you read
    my story! I honestly could write a series
    of books with what I have been through

    In regard to the above the saying goes
    the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

  14. Just to add to the above reply I sent to you,
    There are good apples and bad apples – some are just rotten!

    I don’t feel upbringing defines a person
    I believe a person defines themselves.

    Either you get up each day and be a good person and make good choices
    you get up each day and don’t be a good person and make poor choices.

    Some people use their upbringing as an excuse for how they behave in their adult life. This is totally unacceptable. I have heard people say, “But I had a hard life” sorry having a hard life is no excuse to mistreat others. We all know right from wrong and therefore we need to act upon right if we are decent human beings.

    There is another saying that has really stood out to me,
    “You rise above your’e raising”
    I think this is only possible if we realize this and do rise above.

    Being born into ill family dynamics doesn’t automatically predispose one to turn out ill.. You can break free and take a stand which can be hard but is possible with courage and determination.

    If you were born into a healthy and loving family then this is a good apple that came from a healthy tree and you keep this tree close to you.

    I have had to take so many stands to the same few people that have interfered and tried to cause problems, I simply refused to allow them to behave inappropriately or in unhealthy ways in front of my children or to me because my family matters to me.

    X obviously wants to stay close to this diseased tree and therefore remains stuck being a rotten apple himself. He could have started his own healthy apple tree. It would have took some effort by him to make the commitment and he would have had to get the proper help in order to make good changes for the sake of him and for his daughters.

    It is good you got away from this dying tree and its wonderful that you are reclaiming life for the sake of you and your daughters.

    Keep going…All the best….Cristine