Narcissistic Parents Make You Pay too Dearly for the Good Times

Walter Rhein
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Back when I still spoke to my narcissistic father, he always used to defend himself. I would try to explain to him why his behavior was hurtful, and he wouldn’t listen. Instead, he told me that I should forget about those moments and focus on the good times.

Then he would go through a list of all the good times that we had together. Every time I tried to turn the discussion towards other things, he’d steer it back to the good times. When I asked him to talk about the time he punched me in the face, he refused.

“You need to forget about those moments,” he would say. “Those moments are in the past. Let’s talk about the good times.”

But the good times were in the past too. Why shouldn’t I forget about those as well?

Sooner or later, everyone is going to have a relationship with a narcissist. Some narcissists are extremely violent and abusive. Others are more subtle but can be equally destructive. On rare occasions, people recognize the error of their ways and try to make amends. In my experience, you shouldn’t count on this happening.

My dad was right about one thing. There were good times. It’s not as if every second of my life with him was miserable. Sometimes I was asleep.

The problem I have with my dad is what he qualifies as a good time. A parent has certain legal obligations to a child. For example, a parent is supposed to provide food and shelter. If a parent fails to do this, he can expect to get into legal trouble.

If a prisoner is sitting in jail, the jailer is required to feed the prisoner. It would be ridiculous for the jailer to point back at the daily feedings and try to label them as good times.

I’m fortunate in that, as an adult, I’ve developed some very healthy relationships. As an adult, I’ve also had bad relationships. The thing you discover as you come into your power is that even bad relationships have good times.

The problem is that bad relationships make you pay too dearly for the good times. In those cases, for every good moment, you have ten or fifty or one hundred bad moments.

Narcissistic parents want you to develop a selective memory. They act as if the bad moments are a fact of life. They act as if bad moments are inevitable. But that is simply not true.

When you’re in a relationship with an empathetic human being who genuinely cares about your feelings, you don’t have to experience bad times.

When you try to explain this to a narcissistic parent, they will renounce your position. They’ll try to insist that you’re crazy to think that bad times aren’t inevitable. This is because they justify themselves by believing there is nothing they can do to prevent bad times.

The truth is that my dad could have prevented many of the bad times if he wanted to. He was just too lazy or too indifferent to stop them.

In the best of situations, relationships are very difficult. My narcissistic father believed that bad times were inevitable, and he used this belief as a justification for continuing abusive behavior. When you recognize that you don’t have to accept bad times, you’re on the way to a healthier and happier life.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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