Opinion: My Narcissistic Father Uses Patriarchal Beliefs as a Weapon Against Me

Walter Rhein

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My narcissistic father knew that the male head of a household has special privileges in the United States.

We are not too far removed from a time in history when women weren’t allowed to vote or hold bank accounts. Even today, many men prohibit their wives from having access to money. This is a control mechanism.

My narcissistic father believed that he deserved to be respected based on his station. It didn’t matter what he said. It didn’t matter how he acted. He was the father. He was the head of the household. That position entitled him to certain privileges.

The patriarchal beliefs of the United States make it difficult for abuse survivors to break free of toxic relationships.

Every human being should be treated with decency and respect.

In my twenties, if I discussed my relationship with my narcissistic father, I always got the same response.

“Well, that is your father and you should respect him.”

“That is your father, you only get one.”

“I think you’re being a very ungrateful child.”

It’s been my experience that people say these things without any knowledge of the situation. They assume that it is true without evidence.

Abuse often happens because a community is lazy. It’s easier to believe that a family is perfect than to recognize there are obvious problems.

I see that kind of thing on social media every day. We all know of somebody who posts, “I’m so blessed,” every day who lives in a terrible relationship.

When I had conversations with my father, he was aware that I’d be subjected to external pressure to “respect the male parent.”

He was right.

Today I am a father myself. I’ve been married for thirteen years. I’m middle-aged. Even as an adult, I still sometimes get pressure from people to go and “make peace” with my narcissistic father.

I’ll get emails from people who stumble across my articles and tell me how horrible I am. These are people who weren’t there and who know nothing about the reality of my experience.

There is enormous pressure in the United States to pretend everything is fine when it isn’t. When you demand respectful treatment, people accuse you of being a troublemaker.

This pressure makes people like my narcissistic father disinclined to change. My narcissistic father knows that if he does nothing, the general public will attack me.

My narcissistic father further leverages this advantage by complaining about me. He’ll paint himself as the victim when he speaks to my cousins and other relatives. The result is that they’ll often have criticisms for me when I see them.

One consequence is that I have cut almost all of my extended family out of my life. I will not listen to the opinions of people who have no firsthand knowledge of the situation.

The important thing to emphasize is that it’s not easy to achieve the life you want. I remain at a distance from my narcissistic father because this is a healthier place for me. I’ve experienced life with him and I’ve experienced life without him. Life without him is better.

I’ve learned that I’ll have to endure proxy attacks from my father for the rest of my life. He knows the patriarchal system of the United States is something he can use to pressure me. That system also emboldens him to never make any changes.

He has every advantage.

It is always important to consider the source of any advice you hear. Strangers will tell me I’m wrong because they’ve been conditioned to believe that all children should respect their fathers. The truth is that some fathers are abusive. Our society struggles to recognize that.

A father that truly cares about you wouldn’t allow a relationship to deteriorate. My narcissistic father made it impossible for me to spend time with him. He is the one responsible for our lack of a relationship, not me.

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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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