Narcissists and sentimentality

Not my family, just a nice random portrait I found.

Narcissists can put up a good front of being sentimental if they need to. For example, if a narcissistic man is trying to win a new conquest for a source of Narcissistic Supply, he will shower his woman with candy, gifts and flowers (sometimes purchased at her expense, as mine did to me) but as soon as he’s conquered her attentions, any shows of sentimentality come to a screeching halt.

It’s my observation, at least in the narcs I have lived with, that they are angered, annoyed, or bored by nostalgia or genuine sentimentality.

My MN mother was notoriously unsentimental. Besides the matter of ditching her first two daughters to their father when they were two and seven years old (which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to them), our home was always sterile–not just of dirt (she was a huge clean freak, which many narcissists are) but also of any evidence of sentimentality. For example, family photos were consigned to bedrooms because to display them in public areas was, in her mind, tacky and declasse. Better yet to keep them in albums and safely tucked away in the attic or on the bottom of a never-used bookshelf.

Not long ago, I emailed my mother about obtaining some of the family photos (I have very few) and never heard back from her. I emailed her again about it, and she said she didn’t know where they were, but she might have thrown them away.


When my parents divorced, my mother decided our Christmas tree would be decorated with white lights with red bows and silver and red ornaments ONLY. Anything else was too tacky for her. All my childish creations that my father had hung so proudly from our tree went into the trash. Our tree looked as sterile as our apartment, like a tree in the lobby of a bank.


Narcissists have no feelings of nostalgia for past times or good times shared. That’s because they can’t feel love or the warm and fuzzy feelings that other people do. Or it’s too painful for them and they don’t want to feel that pain.

My MN ex husband was like this too. He couldn’t stand it when people got nostalgic and said nostalgia was “creepy.” (Slight correction: he was creepy). That even extended to listening to old music from our teens and early 20s. He told me once he thought nostalgia was stupid. We had a huge fight about that.

He hated “period” movies or TV shows, especially those that focused on decades during his own lifetime (the 60s, 70s and 80s). He made fun of me for liking “The Wonder Years” and ’80s music. He accused me of living in the past.

He never even liked to look at photos of our two children when they were younger. Although he started out as a wonderful dad (he turned out to be anything but), he told me he hates babies and that’s why he didn’t want to look at their baby photos. These are his own CHILDREN! He got annoyed when I wanted to put some of their old baby and school photos around the house in frames. I have no idea why he had such a strong reaction to my doing this. It was weird.

He doesn’t even like to TALK about the kids when they were young. If you try, he just tunes out or acts irritated.

Once when I asked him why he reacted so strangely to sentimentality and nostalgia, he actually gave me an answer that made sense. He told me it was because his life was always so miserable he didn’t want to remember anything. The past reminded him of his own mother (she was malignant too and very abusive)–even his past with me and our children. The good times we had in the beginning of our relationship were dismissed in his mind as bad times and somehow associated with his mother. He just became enraged if you reminded him that there were good times. In his mind, life was just excruciating in general and nothing was worthy of remembering fondly. ALL memories were tainted by the malignancy of his abusive, cold mother, in his mind.

I think he envies those who are able to feel nostalgia and look upon the past fondly, so he feels the need to denigrate and make fun of them for doing so.

Even I can find joys in my past, as dysfunctional, painful and stunted as it was.

I find it extremely sad that he could never do that.

Fivehundredpoundpeep posted a similar article today so I am linking to it here. She has a wonderful blog.


44 thoughts on “Narcissists and sentimentality

  1. At the risk of sounding blunt, I don’t understand your mum/ex-husband’s viewpoint either. Yes, some memories are painful and we try to repress them but by waking up in the morning and living each day, we are creating moments that will one day be memories. You can’t erase your whole life. What is the harm in reminiscing?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I spent five years with a total narcissist…I let him get away with so much , looking back I can’t believe it cause I’m not the timid type…they are masters at loving themselves and selling themselves!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Purchased at your expense…how telling. 😦
    It takes a downward spiral of misery to create a narc, and it takes getting to the bottom of that misery to deprogram how they keep themselves this way.  Unfortunately, the mask can be held on so tightly that it enters pathology, makes it rather difficult to help; it can backfire trying.

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    • That should have been a huge red flag. He made me put my engagement ring on my credit card and promised to “pay me back later” because he had already run up his credit cards.


      • Similar story for me: We bought them in the US – and I had a US credit card – so it was just “easier” if I put the rings on my credit card….lmfao. I can’t believe that this happened to me….and I somehow thought it was ok….when I asked for it to be paid off – he was upset that I had to have it right away. His solution was this: Tell you what – I’ll just pay off the interest on the credit card so you don’t incur debt. No harm done. I’ll pay it off when I have the money. It’s fine.

        So can you guess what happened next?
        Hamster wheel argument. I’m in the wrong for not seeing how it’s ok for him to simply pay the interest.

        Sigh… I was a problem causer, yet again……

        Can’t say I miss any of those times… lol : )

        Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, no worries. I’m not that sad about it. I feel sad for HIM though. I’m sorry you have problems with nostalgia too. I don’t live in the past or anything–too MUCH nostalgia isn’t good either and means something is not right in your present life.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This brought some memories to mind. I always thought it was a bit weird that the narc-ex kept large pictures of his dad (whom he murdered), on the wall. I wasn’t allowed to hang pictures of my family in any common areas-they all ended up in a box.

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  5. As scary and sad as this sounds, I understand my ex better now, then when we were married. I get why he does and acts the way he does. I give him a wide berth for his “way” of doing things, both his parents were hard core drug addicts, everyone excused his behavior, and now he has narcissistic psychopathic traits. Which he is trying to excercise on to our children. His emotional lies, are so pathological, I have to sit there and almost laugh out loud. He threw away all the pictures of my daughter ages 6months to 2years old, thought it was “garbage”. “Accidentally”, erased the hard drive on my computer four years of my son from birth on, gone. Just amazes me. It’s okay, I don’t think it’s sentiment, I think it’s because we associate, things with memories and love, they don’t, value is actually monetary. It’s okay, karma is a stinker.


    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really horrible the way it infects one generation to the next, isn’t it? That’s horrible what his parents did to him, but equally horrible what he is doing to you and your children. I don’t know what I’d even do if my ex had erased my hard drive with all my photos or threw away all the pictures of my daughter. Is your daughter his child? If not, it was probably due to jealousy–just like a male lion when he encounters a lioness who has cubs of her own. He sounds like a very sick person. I’m so sorry about this happening to you.


  6. :O how weird… The more I read about them the more I start feeling really, really sorry for these guys. It must be such a miserable life they live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really must be such a miserable existence. Knowing what I know now, I just cannot hate them anymore. As individuals and what they have done to me, yes, but as a group of mentally ill people, I just can’t–especially having read some posts on a message board for people who have NPD.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I find it illogical to generalize all people with these anti-sentimental feelings as narcs. I find it egoistic, even. You’re doing just what your father did. You’re projecting your experience on the bulk of the like. You pose the lack of sentimentality as negative but everything had its positive and negative effects. But none of it has true meaning. Not even your precious family photos. We want to look at them and reminisce and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s nothing wrong or freakish or abnormal about NOT wanting to. The fact that it surprises you proves that you’ve drowned yourself in your dire need to provoke the crook in your neck through your constant need to look back. Some of us want to move ahead into the future and it doesn’t always require accepting the past, neither does letting go of the past. And it surely doesn’t make one a narcissist. This juxtaposition of sentimentality and anti-nostalgia is exactly what keeps the natural order of the universe balanced. We can’t expect everyone to react the same to everything and we sure as hell didn’t discredit it. To be anti-nostalgic doesn’t require a good or bad past, it requires optimism. What your father had isn’t representative of the whole. So I just you debunk your weak philosophy and do as the Beatles would and Let It Be. Wonder why if you must but never assume you know the mind of someone you don’t even understand. There are many outcomes to pain and many stories to someone’s specific existence. Choice is what beckons you to venture.


  8. Lucky Otter,

    Excellent post – thank you! I am fairly certain my mother has some form of narcissism (covert, crushed, inverted?) because of some of the behaviors I have seen over the years – splitting, long bouts of the silent treatment (mostly to my father), rages, depression, and emotional manipulation. She herself was emotionally abused as a child by her mother, and fortunately now gets effective treatment and medication for her serious depression. It wasn’t until my 40s that I recognized how her condition(s) impacted me.

    When my elderly parents moved into their current assisted living apartment about a year ago, my mother REFUSED to put up the sweet framed portraits of my older brother and I when we were little kids. She said it was too depressing to see her children that young, now that she is at this advanced stage of her life (but she also didn’t put up any ADULT pictures of us, or our kids either, even though she claims to ADORE her grandchildren). HOWEVER, she went ahead and hung up pictures of her ABUSIVE mother on her condo walls, and advised my brother and I that we could pick up our framed pictures or she would discard them! Who does that?! My sensitive older brother was baffled and somewhat hurt by this. I told him I didn’t get it either – but since I live closer I would rescue the pictures so that he and I would have them at least for our own families/children.

    It wasn’t until I read your post that I wondered if her selective nostalgia (or whatever it is) is related to her condition. Later in the year I gave my father (as a father’s day present) a nice collage of about 6 photos of all of us from a recent family event – my parents, my brother/his wife, my husband, and the grandkids. My mother became teary-eyed and claimed to love it because it showed her WHOLE FAMILY. Go figure! What I would do to be the fly on the wall at her psychotherapy sessions!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow…yes, that is strange that she kept the photos of her abusive mother but wanted to throw away photos of her own children! Who knows what is going through her mind–it could be advanced age too. I agree, your mother could be covert/fragile N, or I’m even suspected BPD, but I can’t diagnose her. It sounds like she does have love for her children but something in her isn’t able to cope with the memories of yourselves as children. I’m not defending her actions, at all, but do you think it might be that she feels guilty about not being a very good mother, not being there for you, and doesn’t want to be reminded? That would explain why she doesn’t want the pictures. But why she’d display photos of her own abusive mother is beyond my understanding.
      Thanks for sharing!


  9. Thanks again Lucky Otther – all really good thoughts, esp advanced age and possible BPD (would definitely make sense), and guilt as a mother for the times she wasn’t there (though I didn’t have to endure anything as horrible as you or the other folks who read/comment here). I know you can’t diagnose her, but this is extremely helpful.

    Also, on a different person – an acquaintance in my life with whom I have very limited contact because I suspect he is possibly cluster b (and the reason I found your wonderfully insightful blog in the first place) – You are SO RIGHT about narcissists faking sentimentality (along with just about every other emotion), like your ex did, when they feel it necessary to obtain supply in the ‘love bombing’ stage. It is a very sad disorder that causes them to do this, but a HUGE warning for the rest of us, especially when their actions stop matching their words ….

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    • It’s a very sad disorder, caused by abuse itself, but that doesn’t mean to give them the benefit of the doubt or pity them too much. Protecting yourself is much more important than risking hurting their feelings


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