Opinion: My Narcissistic Father Chose a Life of Misery and Failure

Walter Rhein

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There are no reunions on Christmas for my family. Nobody sends anyone gifts or birthday cards. Nobody even sends letters or emails. It’s a completely broken family with everyone off in different directions.

My narcissistic father blames my mom for this. He also blames me. In his mind, he was the perfect parent. He did everything right. According to him, it’s unfair that he had to be surrounded by selfish and ungrateful people.

Narcissists always want to play the blame game. However, blame is irrelevant. Blame is an opinion. Failure is real.

Even though my father blames other people, he wouldn’t look at his family and call it a disaster. Admitting the family is a failure would reflect poorly on him. He believes his family is perfect. He believes he is perfect. He discards any evidence that contradicts this belief.

The fact is that my dad was the head of our household. He taught us how to behave. He wielded absolute power over all of us. My mom wasn’t allowed to make decisions. I wasn’t allowed to make decisions. My siblings weren’t allowed to make decisions.

My dad made the decisions. If we went against his decisions he became furious. Sometimes he would respond with violence. Sometimes he would respond with tears. He was unhinged and unpredictable.

In his opinion, the reason none of us are talking to each other is we didn’t try hard enough. He thinks his way would have worked if we had just done more.

At no point has he ever considered that his leadership was faulty. At no point has he ever considered evaluating his behavior.

Even though my father divorced my mother more than twenty years ago, he still wants to wield power over her. He wants her to go into therapy. He wants me to go into therapy. He’s convinced that we have psychological issues that have caused him unhappiness.

Having a narcissistic parent is like having to navigate an overgrown forest. They want you to focus on tiny little objects and disregard the larger picture. They want to hold your head down where they have control over what you see.

Things make more sense when you take a larger perspective.

Today, I am a father. I have a wife, two daughters, and a dog. Many people take for granted that a family will stay together forever. I know from experience that is not the case.

It scares me to think that my wife or my children might become angry with me. It scares me to think that they might become angry with each other. If that happens, it will be up to me to change my behavior so I can correct the situation.

We don’t have any control over other people. We only have control over ourselves.

I learned an important lesson from my narcissistic father. That lesson is to always do the opposite of what he did. He refuses to apologize. He refuses to be accountable. He refuses to look weak.

My dad believes he did everything right and his family still became a painful failure. I believe that if a relationship is ruined, both of the parties involved must share some of the blame.

If you refuse to recognize you make mistakes, you will drive people away.

I can’t convince my narcissistic father to change how he views the world. He’s getting older and more miserable with every passing day. People he cares about refuse to talk to him. He refuses to evaluate how he could change and make amends.

He’s going to die alone without anyone at his side. He insists this is because everyone is unfair and ungrateful. My question is: why does he think that matters? Designating fault is an opinion. Dying alone is a reality.

He’s so stubborn in his insistence that he is right, that he’s willing to suffer loneliness for decades and die alone. He can’t be convinced that this is the wrong choice. But maybe other people can look at his fate and understand that he has chosen misery and failure.

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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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