I have always been attracted to narcissistic men. And them to me. I spent 28 years (7 of those AFTER we divorced) living with a malignant narcissist substance abuser and raising children with him. Before Michael, I had three serious boyfriends, and only one was not a narcissist (but was severely bipolar).
When I was in my twenties, all I wanted to do was marry and have babies–this wasn’t considered cool or forward thinking at the time (the 1980s). I wasn’t really focused on having a career like most young women my age.
I think my oddly timed longing for normal family life was because more than anything in the world, I longed to be part of a family that would not be like the one I came from, a close, functional family whose members truly loved and cared for one another. I had grand fantasies of Perfect Family Life–3-4 perfect, normal kids; a perfect, normal husband with no serious mental disorders or drug or alcohol issues; and a beautiful home with plenty of old school charm in a safe neighborhood. My Perfect Mate would be an honest, loyal husband and father who loved animals and long walks and would care deeply about all of us. Of course there would be pets too, probably a large friendly dog like a Golden Retriever. I wanted the damned Brady Bunch.
I know, you’re probably ready to vomit all over your keyboard. Chill. I’m stopping right here. I cringe when I think about how naive and clueless I was.
Does anyone remember this commercial from about 2007-09? If you’re a nausea-prone ACON you may want to take some Pepto first.
Well, this was the family I wanted to make, back in the 1980s.
30 odd years later: I hate that damned commercial with its perky, perfect, cute-but-not-beautiful soccer mom–a woman who undoubtedly had loving parents who raised her with consistency and lots of hugs and support, a woman who has extended family members like cousins or aunts or an uncle she is close to, and also has lots of friends. She also has an advanced degree in something like sociology or art history. She was popular at school, not Mean Girl/cheerleader-popular, but the next tier down from that–she was one of the honor roll kids where the girls all played volleyball or were in the Drama Club, and the guys all looked like Ferris Bueller and were Theater Nerds. But these second-tier, almost-popular kids were actually nice to everyone (unlike the top tier of popular kids who really weren’t so much popular as they were feared and respected–because they consisted largely of narcs and their sycophants) and you wanted to hate them but you couldn’t because they were always so darned nice.
Instead of pursuing her career in art history or writing a book about The Sociology of Art History, this perky redhaired 30-something has chosen to stay home with her growing brood of ginger kids, each one more red haired than the last. Her infuriating announcements of big moves (to MEMPHIS!), promotions at work, home enlargements, weeks-long family vacations, learning how to speak French, and especially…ESPECIALLY!..the group shot at the end showing the whole family focusing on Perky Soccer Mom bouncing the the new baby on her hip at the end–not just any baby, but a gorgeous fat healthy good natured baby girl with an adorable grin who probably sports fire engine red hair under that white cap–made me want to throw a brick at my TV screen.
I know this is just a commercial and those people are actors, but…I ACTUALLY KNOW FAMILIES LIKE THIS. Of course I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors (and everyone has their dark secrets), but because the members of these families always seem happy and relaxed and everyone seems to love everyone else, with not a molecule of narcissism anywhere to be seen, the skeletons in their closets don’t come out to haunt them all that much. They are probably covered with dust from disuse.
I’m assuming here that the reason this thoroughly obnoxious commercial was so popular (it ran for almost 3 years), is not because it depicts the idealized family everyone strives to create, but rather, because many people can actually relate to this smugly contented woman and her tall, dark and handsome husband, their perfect dog, their big colonial house, and their large brood of gingers.
I longed for this family because having this family would vindicate my dysfunctional and narcissistic family of origin. It was the family that would bring me Justice.
I never got that family, because I fell in love with a malignant narcissist, who in every imaginable way at the beginning, convinced me he was the Perfect Boyfriend, and later the Perfect Fiance. We made two highly intelligent but troubled kids (well, one is a lot less so but lives almost 700 miles away).
And now I am Forever Alone.
But I’m alright with that. More than alright.
In my past relationships, I never saw any of the red flags. I knew nothing of red flags back then other than the physical kind that signal physical danger. The most useful psychological advice about men and relationships I got in the early-mid 1980s was from articles and fluff quizzes (such as “What Does his Lovemaking Say About his Character?”) in magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour.
I was never attracted to “bad boys.” I chose men who had good jobs, prospects and didn’t stink or break the law. But sometimes these “perfect” guys can be anything but perfect, and because they put on such a convincing and impressive mask of normality, you don’t suspect their true motives until it’s too late. I always seemed to gravitate to the devils dressed in white.
I’m not going to recount the downward spiral that led to the dissolution of our marriage, drug addiction, troubled kids, and all the rest because I’ve done that already ad nauseam (if you must know my story of being married to a malignant narc, click on the links under “My Story”).
So I’ve done a 180 from the naive, romantic starry eyed girl I was in the 1980s–the girl who was uncool enough at the time to want a family and babies and a normal life with people who were not psychopathic or addicted to drugs or alcohol (today that would make me Taylor Swift–how times have changed). I no longer want a relationship. I relish my solitude.
I still get crushes, and plenty of them (I have one now), and just as in my teens and twenties, they still tend to be intense. My crushes are pleasurable to me but they are mine alone to enjoy, not something to be shared with the object of my infatuation. I know, I’m weird. I have an excuse to be weird and avoidant though, because I’m Aspie with Avoidant Personality Disorder. I enjoy my dreams and fantasies far more than my reality, and why ruin a good fantasy by trying to make it real?
That’s why I think my mind makes sure my crushes are never on people I know personally or have to see all the time, and instead chooses men who are inaccessible for one reason or another. Famous people are the safest of all, because I do not ever not have to meet them and either (a) face rejection; or (b) worse: not be rejected but gradually find out they are really just another sick malignantly narcissistic tool who will fly me to the moon and feed me fresh blackberries dipped in cognac, and then ever so insidiously proceed to turn my life into one resembling incarceration in a Turkish prison before I know what even hit me.
I’ve been there, done that. I am no longer of childbearing age, and though I look far younger and fitter than my 55 years, I realize I’m not going to look this good too much longer. At my age, there’s a feeling that you just don’t have what it takes to attract a man anymore, even when it’s not true. Because I look better now than I have since my mid-late 30s. Sure, maybe a woman of a certain age can’t attract the 20-somethings anymore, but what middle aged woman in her right mind really wants a 20-something for anything but a quick fling, anyway? In my case my wariness and self consciousness is due to the low self esteem that’s lived with me my entire life like some parasitic twin I’ve grown so used to I sometimes forget it’s there. Hating yourself is a tough habit to break.
But the real problem isn’t my fear of losing my sexual desirability (which is already well on its way over the other side of the mountain), it’s the simple fact that I don’t trust men (or anyone) enough to become intimate with one. As an Aspie, I have trouble reading social cues, which means I often miss the important red flags and warning signs of a narcissist who is love bombing me and wooing me into his black den of misery. And more than that–I want to believe them. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I never learned from my past mistakes.
So no longer is “love” my passion in life or my goal. I figure I will die single and alone, but very possibly, happy. Hopefully by the time I die, I will have written a book or two that helped others, gave others joy, and brings me a nice income so I can buy my own small, quaint, quirky home near my son in Florida, somewhere near the beach.
Twenty or thirty years from now: I see myself–an old spinster (I love the strength that word conveys–we need to bring it back!) wearing a long brightly patterned madras-cotton dress or jeans and a slouchy, comfy sweater in cooler weather, walking barefoot along the Gulf Coast at sunset, feeling wet sand squeeze between my pale toes, waves lapping at my feet, the salt air breeze making me smile and my eyes water. I’m tossing small pebbles into the golden waves, a large dog with a cool name like Hector skipping along by my side, occasionally running ahead of me when he sees a seagull land on the darkening sand. I’ll be thinking about my grown son and daughter, and their families and satisfying lives, and my only worry would be the two-month deadline my publisher has given to finish writing a groundbreaking new book about something that matters. I’ll be Forever Alone. And like it.
All this being said, if an attractive, genuinely nice man comes along when I’m not looking, and maybe I’m feeling more strong and confident, I might venture into the ocean again, or at least get my feet wet. So sure, it could happen, but right now I’m just trying to get to know myself.