Narcissistic behavior in the adoptee's relationships

I've decided to go public with some personal information about myself because the topic I've been discussing in private has touched many aspects of my life, including PPL.

I'm going through some difficult times in a few personal relationships.  This is not new for me; maintaining a close (loving?) relationship has always been difficult for me.  But long breaks, caused by normal every day events, like work or school, have made me keenly awareness of an odd inability in me, a characteristic I'd like to change.

But first, let me clarify.  I'm no foreigner to long-term relationships.  In fact, I seem to specialize in the more dysfunctional and toxic types there are out there.  Need a loyal enabler?  Need a silent doormat?  Need an emotional punching bag?  Want only a long-distance relationship?   I'm you're girl.  I'm sensitive and loyal, but impervious to the effects of neglect and deprivation.  I'm great when doing without... I'm great because I rarely say a thing that would cause termination.  [I'm too busy decompressing in my own Abyss.]  And if I do say something so mean cruel or horrible, (to prove there  is nothing left to salvage in the relationship), there will be no painful afterthought once the severing of all ties has been completed.  That's a promise.

But for me to keep a Keeper,  a person who needs to go away, and take care of a few responsibilities, without me? 

I panic.  Correction.  I shut-down, and the wall-building begins.

The embarrassing truth is, I simply do not know how to continue with a healthy relationship, like a happy secure person could or would. 

Instead, I will accept any and all crumbs I can get, but I will harbor a sense of loss and betrayal.  A new-found form of resentment will grow and become the cancer that can kill a once-good relationship.

I don't think of this as your normal everyday separation anxiety.  Or maybe it is.

I accept loneliness and isolation more than I believe in happy reunion and connection.  Some will say a part of me will abandon first, before I myself am abandoned.

I prefer a more graphic, visceral description.   I expect to be the tampon in some else's life:  out of sight out of mind, easily forgotten and toxic when ignored for too long.  Words cannot express how much I HATE being ignored. This rule applies to my kids, just as easily as it applies to a friend, or romantic partner.  No relationship is safe from my own doubt-filled insecurities.

Now add the masochistic twist.

Be mean to me; take advantage of me, piss on me and treat me like I'm sub-human... but please, oh please, do NOT ignore me.  Don't let me fall into the oblivion that says I no longer exist... my life has no value or good.

In the past, this pattern towards relationship-death -- one I have developed, and mastered --  never really mattered, as I never really saw myself worthy or deserving of happy security, in the first place.  OTHERS deserve happiness and the sort of support and companionship that is positive and encouraging.... not me.  Such is the punishment for living... surviving the living abortion most know better as the infant adoption plan.  

Like so many, after X amount of years, I discovered the adoption fog, perpetuated by my own APs, removed clarity and detail from many family and relationship-related issues I have had to deal with.  The fog has kept me from seeing my role and life-situation, as they really are, making resolution a wee bit difficult.

As an adult-child, it was easy to blame my parents - both birth and adoptive - for the malignancy both abandonment (adoption) and child abuse/neglect (post adoption) have brought me.  However, as I get older in years, I find this excuse-making both lazy and lame, and quite um... inexcusable.

After all, as much as those four adults did, (and didn't do), to and for me,  there is one more adult in this annoying adult-relationship equation that still confuses and plagues me.  That adult person is me.   In order for me to get better for myself, I know I must be the whole adult I want for myself; I need to own a fair measure of personal responsibility in every relationship I choose to keep.  [Key word here:  choice, as so much in my life was not my choice... so much was chosen for me.] 

With that, I can hate what my adoption-story did to me, but that doesn't mean I still hate the people involved in the most ugly parts and themes.  In my own way, all have been forgiven. Who knows, maybe I'm even beginning to forgive myself.

But this much is clear... at my age, long-term relationships are still very difficult for me, and I never realized just how hard it is to become "normal"... normal meaning NOT feeling as though rejection is going to follow every personal relationship.

In my case, I recognize youth is no longer in my favor.  I have discovered the sweet vulnerability that goes with orphaned victim-mode does not have a very long shelf-life.   The cute noble need to save and rescue factor goes away; heroic sweetness can last only so long.  After a while, even the most sincere patient person can get sick of victim-mode, with all it's  "I'm so afraid"-isms.

As luck would have it,  I myself am intolerant of those who use fear as being ultimate excuse for not demonstrating better behavior.  So imagine the level of self-loathing and self-punishment I can reach, when I look at myself and my own inaction.

So what is it? What is it about me that puts a ruin in the path towards a good solid relationship?  Am I really that difficult, and nothing more than a spoiled self-centered narcissist, as my Aparents have said? Am I really one who will focus only on my own issues and my own problems, making me a real pill to be with? Or is it possible adoption, (both the good and bad stories that go with it), affects adult-children in ways few have taken the time to really consider?

I know I'm not alone when I ask:  What is it about me that makes abandonment in future relationships all too easy?  Is it adoption, itself?

Is this essence - this ease to shut-down and walk away when times get tough - the same trait that exists in children touched and tarnished by divorce?

Perhaps  the belief that kids are resilient is more myth than reality, because as I have seen and experienced it, I don't think kids or adults are nearly as strong as most want to claim or think.  I think most of us keep secrets, as a way to protect ourselves from an otherwise unwanted reality.

So this brings me to my point and purpose of this post.  Recently I've been having many conversations with people in my own private world and cyber life, and all the people involved in these conversations have been affected by abuse and abandonment in relationships.  It was asked how my own (narcissistic?) pattern in personal relationships has developed, and some have asked if  I think I'm odd or alone when it comes to this dynamic.   My answer is no; I don't think I'm odd or alone, as I believe my pattern has a measure of logical thought to it.  My pattern typically goes as follows:

  • Relationship begins, whether I really want the relationship for myself, or not.  In most cases, a relationship just "happens", nothing deliberate or premeditated (on my part) about it.
  • Relationship puts demands on me... demands that require a change, changes I'm not comfortable with, but changes I will make, because my role is to fulfill a need, and please, without question.
  • Fear of angry rejection keeps me from voicing any real honest opinion; silent compliance (with or without growing resentment) takes root
  • Relationship becomes dead-end experience, one that results in an abandonment of hope and feel-good emotions.  But still the unhappy relationship will continue thanks to fear of being just like my parents.
  • The loss of positive feelings is a secret, kept my me, even if that relationship continues for many many years

While I'm at the phase where I'm learning the value of boundary setting and speaking my mind, without too much fear, (or pent-up hostile anger and seething temper), I still find this keep-the-relationship-stuff-alive-and-good to be so much exhausting mind-numbing work.  However, I will admit, as a few key relationship have shown much better potential and progress, the end-result can be rather satisfying. 

<smirk>... in the past, I would have kept that last confession secret.

Ah, progress, in the form of baby-steps...

It's a shame, really, as I now realize it would have been nice if my birth parents (who both chose to relinquish) and my adoptive parents (who both chose to abandon) decided I was worth a second, maybe third chance at a good relationship.

<whistling in the wind>

I share this most private side of me because I don't think my problem in long-term relationships is due to mental illness or bad parenting, per se.

I think the pattern to keeping and maintaining an unsatisfying relationship has more to do with guilt and the common pattern that exists in adoption itself, but I'd like feedback from others outside my immediate circle, as I know when it comes to myself, I can turn every bump in life into an adoption issue.

Here's my own mental-block:  I myself can't get past the problem that exists after parental relinquishment --  the adoptee is expected be happy and grateful for the new parent-child relationship, even if the new parents turn out to be needy chaotic dysfunctional people.  What sort of lesson in healthy relationships is this supposed to present?  And how is an abused adoptee supposed to learn how to engage in a healthy mutually satisfying relationship, if there is no good example to follow?

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F'ed up adoptions vs other ppl's f'ed-upness? Hard to tell

Ok well this is odd because I began a post on the same topic on Saturday, but, um, abandoned it, because I could not put it all together like you just did.

I too have had to think very long and hard about relationships and the long string of relationship fails I've been involved with throughout my adult life in recent weeks, because I find myself about to try and perhaps embark on one.

The title would have been something like "Do you like me for ME, or what!". I titled this post what I did, "Adoption vs other ppl's f'ed-upness - hard to tell" because for me it's always hard to tell just why people stay in romantic relationships they hate (and by extension why they stay in relationships with me if in fact they hate it.) OTOH, there is a celebrity culture in which the 15 day marriage is quickly becoming a stale cliché. I also believe it's the norm to think that if one is not in a relationship, one is a loser, undesirable, has something wrong with them, is not a "real" adult, and such. Our entire culture's ideas of commitment to a LTR is completely warped, in my view.

ETA: the rest of this post moved to Adult Aftermath.

Oh dear, what WILL the OTHERS think?!?

Thanks for the buffet of words you supplied... here and in AA... there's much to digest, but I want to address something about  LTR v. real intimacy, because I think there is a real difference.

I strongly believe sexual orientation has nothing to do with one's ability (or inability) to attain and maintain a LTR. In fact, the words, "long-term" can be very relative and personal, meaning that qualifier can change.  The way I see it, people are people, with basic needs and desires being pretty much the same... universal, even.  So in my mind, any one can have a LTR, but not as many can have a LTI (long-term intimacy).

LTI, in my mind, is very different.  Sure it starts the same as any other decent relationship-- it's rooted in a solid sense of compatibility or familiarity.  Both partners speak parts of the same language, and both share a type of humour or sense of understanding, but intimacy itself, I think requires much more than the shedding of clothes and exposure to naked body parts.  Intimacy requires a close look at the many layers that exist well beneath the skin and superficial conversation.  Intimacy requires time, trust, and patience.  There is no "instant" variety.

I am a spastic retarded flower when it comes to the LTI. 

Sharing body parts, exposing skin... that stuff is easy, especially if old habits, like detachment, kick-in.

But share the stuff that made me Me... IN PERSON?

Did you hear the doors and walls slam?

Early on in my days of I'm-Turning-A-New-Leaf, I told new-found friends big chunks about myself, and my Afamily, so they'd get a better, more honest version of me. [I thought, "maybe THEN they'd understand why I'm not into the family-thing, or do well in certain situations."]  All I got in return was the deer-in-headlights look that said I was crazy, or making it up, or both.

It slowly occurred to me people raised in good decent families don't know how to deal with an uglier reality, which means they don't want to hear about a darker truth, especially if you were adopted.  Most people prefer the fallacy that goes with "good fine families".  It's much easier to accept and swallow, with no visible signs of discomfort to watch.

For a while I thought I could play that "say what's right and liked" game.  Why, it's not much different from living at home, surrounded by my own Afamily.

That charade almost killed me.... not that anyone really noticed, or cared how bad I was hurting.

My solution? Find some of my own-kind.

I snuck around and found the company of people from messed-up homes.  These relationships were much easier on me.  The "bad boys" and "the sluts" I wasn't supposed to associate with spoke my language.  I was more relaxed and I enjoyed that type of crude company because at the end of the day, we'd all have a good laugh at  who had it worse, at home, with really fucked-up two-faced parents.

Enter the pattern of attaching to the unavailable.

I confess, I especially liked being the Other Woman, especially if the partner in crime was in "a great relationship".

Funny thing about this little dynamic, it's not just limited to sexual relationships.  I always felt great about myself when my mind or other talents were recognized as being really fantastic.  For instance, I loved learning my cooking was much better than a friend's.  I'd become "the other (better) cook".  I really liked when little kids preferred staying at my house.  I became "the other (better) mommy".  Even back in school,  I really liked it when guys asked me to be their study partner because the girlfriend was an idiot flake who happened to wear a C-cup.  I became "the other (better) "girl" friend".  See the obvious trend?  [I had a need to be much better than someone else just so I could be seen as a potential equal.  Kinda crazy, now that I look back on that...]

In any case, my mantra became:  What else can I do for you? [I'm used to being used, then tossed away... really, it's OK!]

It took years for me to realize, while I may not be seen as the whole package deal to those who know about my past and my family, in my own mind, I really am a really great catch... I have SO much to offer other people, if given the room to live-up to my full potential.  Key point being:  give me the freedom to be Me, without the assumption that I'm crazy, there's something wrong with me, or damaged beyond self-repair.

So I can easily see how having crumbs of adoring validation - as far and few as they may become -  really matters, especially when you have those closest to you reminding you in subtle and not-so-subtle ways "you're not good enough, as-is... in fact, there's something wrong with you".

I think as we age, we become more aware and attune to just how damaged and really messed-up so many people really are.  Problem is, so many are in denial about how messed-up their lives really are.  When I would outright say "I'm seriously messed-up", most saw this confession as refreshing, making me and my ways "unique".  No, not unique, just aware of my own limits and freaks.

But there is a price to pay when you're so self-aware.  We become more aware of other people's hidden habits, secrets, and agendas, too.

For instance, after several honest but very short term relationships, I realized a big percentage of people enter relationships because they need to fix something.  They either need to fix something about themselves, or worse, need to fix the problems found in other people, and all of this has to be done in speedy rush-mode.

Whatever happened to entering a relationship because the company of the other person simply adds more fun, depth, and joy to the things you already like and love?  What ever happened to taking things very slowly... which reminds me of your Uhaul-your-pretty-ass-over-here-ASAP phenomenon in dating...  WTF is this falling in-love and moving-in with a person after one or two decent dates?  [Ok, I exaggerate, but not by much...]  Are people THAT afraid of being seen without a SO?

Is living alone really that taboo?

[This reminds me of Amothers who claim they fell in love with the photo of "their" child, when in fact it's more likely they fell in love with image that goes with taking in the broken little being, and nursing that little one back to health.  Ah, let the grateful worshiping begin....]

I gotta be honest, if the choice is between being with someone who needs me to change so that person can feel better about him/herself, or being alone... then you know what?  I'm choosing the keep-to-myself-route, thank-you.

You see, I lived with an Amother who needed the perfect image, and worship (envy?) from others.  She needed to be seen as Ideal -- complete with spouse, house, and 2 kids (1 boy, 1 girl) - within her small circle of friends.  As an adult, I married into that same exact relationship.

Only recently have I begun to recognize and accept  I'm not perfect.   I will not fill all the missing pieces felt in someone else's life, and I do and will make some really stupid and embarrassing mistakes.  I am <GASP> human, with feelings and limits.... something my APs were never able to recognize.

Now I acknowledge, for the sake of my own sanity, all can do is be me, with all my annoying quirks, warts, and strange little habits that make me the character I have become.  I am, after all , a really cool person, when given the chance.

You know, here's where it gets sad.  I think when it's all said and done, I don't think people like us want to be left alone, per se.  We simply don't want or need to re-live the type of childhoods we had.  We don't want to live in places where our own likes and preferences are seen as things that need to change, or go away.   I think on some level, most of us grow to realize we DON'T want to be forced into another unwanted relationship and we DO deserve something much better, even if it means most current relationships have to be sacrificed or limited.

That's how bad some parents make it for their "lucky" adopted kids.

Being alone

Is living alone really that taboo?

Ohh, yes. There have been dozens of reasons for me to drop out of the so-called "women's community", and this was one of them. One of the last-straw parties I went to was some time in like 1999 where somebody came up with an impromptu game of trotting out all the "singles" and more or less putting them up on an auction block. It was supposed to be in great fun and humor.

I got nauseated and left. But I don't think this is unique to women-women, in the least. 

Whatever happened to entering a relationship because the company of the other person simply adds more fun, depth, and joy to the things you already like and love?  What ever happened to taking things very slowly... which reminds me of your Uhaul-your-pretty-ass-over-here phenomenon in dating...  WTF is this falling in-love and moving-in with a person after one or two decent dates?  [Ok, I exaggerate, but not by much...]  Are people THAT afraid of being seen without a SO?

You know what is funny to me is, I have very similar ideas about what a "relationship" is supposed to be. I don't know about you, but I find that people believe it to be juvenile, immature, pie-in-the-sky and not sufficiently "adult". Ironic; that's how I see the latter mode, which is so common among almost everyone I know, not just the lady queers.

No, I do NOT aspire to live in a "single-family home" in the suburbs. No, I do NOT want to define my personal identity by how expensive objects I can show off to others, including the matched set of husband or wife and children I've collected. No, I do NOT see that as a form of "happiness"; I see it as being locked into lifelong misery. 

This, I'm told, is fear of commitment, selfish shirking of social duties, being a Peter Pan (an epithet I use here often because it's been thrown at me often) and my favorite: having too-high standards simply because I'd prefer to avoid being treated like crud by somebody I barely know but who has gotten the idea they own me because I let them sleep with me a few times.

Oh, the ironies abound.

Hm

And all my life I always wished I had the strength to resist family pressure and BE an Independent Thinker, the kind of female who would NOT need a spouse, a house, or child in order to attain a sense of personal identity.  Alas, the pressure to conform got to me...

BTW, I remember when my Adad told me my standards were too high. 

He told me this after I confessed I was not happy after I got married.  [At the time we were looking for a new house, and I was having a real identity crisis.] Had I been thinking for myself, I would have realized his "fatherly advice" (lower my standards and expectations) was coming from a man who had no idea how miserable at home I always was, and how much I had to compromise, just so I could leave that horrible place with controlling suffocating parents.

Kinda funny, isn't it?

While I myself am very traditional in many ways, I don't force the idea of marriage on my kids.  I try to teach them finding personal happiness ought to be a top priority.  Whatever follows is nothing but added gain.

Oh, and FWIW, I tend to believe those who poo-poo on the Peter Pan Syndrome are actually jealous of the freedom that goes with living for yourself. But hey, that's my own personal opinion.

Happiness - wtf is it

I'm going through some difficult times in a few personal relationships.  This is not new for me; maintaining a close (loving?) relationship has always been difficult for me.  But long breaks, caused by normal every day events, like work or school, have made me keenly awareness of an odd inability in me, a characteristic I'd like to change.

...

The embarrassing truth is, I simply do not know how to continue with a healthy relationship, like a happy secure person could or would.

...

Here's my own mental-block:  I myself can't get past the problem that exists after parental relinquishment --  the adoptee is expected be happy and grateful for the new parent-child relationship, even if the new parents turn out to be needy chaotic dysfunctional people.  What sort of lesson in healthy relationships is this supposed to present?  And how is an abused adoptee supposed to learn how to engage in a healthy mutually satisfying relationship, if there is no good example to follow?

Sorry to get all esoteric. But what is happiness?

What is a healthy relationship? Show me one!

I know there aren't any universal definitions, though there are many traditions that try to delineate and impose one. One we get in the west is, you better be opposite-married and have the child-objects to prove it. Marriage and children are signs of normalcy; if you're normal, you should be happy/grateful to be considered so.

Where is any model of it, when so many people define themselves as "secure" with the tautology, I am in a relationship, thus I must be normal?

I've done a refresher on general Buddhism in the past few weeks and it's been quite educational. The concept there is understanding that every phenomena, including the self, isjust a shadow of what its reality is. Once you understand that, you too can be on your way to "being happy". Interesting idea, but one I find to be a bit delusional, in the sense that I see a lot of miserable, utterly enraged Buddhists out there. :D

But it has made me rethink the idea a bit. I hear you about long breaks - I'm in a situation like that right now and not handling the separation well. If you're saying what I think you are, this is where I am with it at least: breaks that most people handle as a matter of course can be devastating. If we are to strive to be happy -- something some friends of mine have gotten on me for years about because I've never really held that as a goal -- in a relationship, it takes two to tango. If the other person isn't around to dance, one learns to be content dancing with oneself.

In my little world...

Happiness means I'm not hating every minute of every day because of too many unwanted demands put upon me. 

Happiness means a new day is a good thing, and I'm not wishing someone dead. 

 ....

A happy relationship is one that brings moments of joy and comfort, especially when times are dark and scary.

A "healthy" relationship is one that allows for mistakes and recognizes and addresses problems that will build a rift.  In a healthy relationship, these problems are then worked on, as a team, so a greater sense of understanding, unity and closeness can result.  [The lofty goal would be to achieve peace and harmony in all matters.  Too ideal? ]

"Normal" means not everything is bad, sad, futile, or miserable.  The color spectrum goes beyond black, white, and gray... why, it even includes some colors.

So, in terms of a normal healthy break... such events can and do take place in solid relationships.  Such time away should not mean you will be left to dance alone for all of eternity.  At least, that's how I'd like to see it.....

 

My two cents on narcissism

FWIW, Having been on and off this board as time allows over the last few years I was a little shocked to see you question your own possible narcissism.

Here's my impression of your public posts, despite all you went through there is not a whiff of narcissism. Narcissists do not show compassion to others. They do not care about others and everything revolves only around them, not at all what PPL represents.

They can be cruel and ruthless, neither of which describes anything here and in fact you have shown a lot of restraint, grace and compassion with some posters. Definitely not traits of a narcissist!

My share of mistakes

I'm honored and humbled by the comment and will admit it's going to serve as a reminder to myself just how far I've grown and moved away from old ways.  So, thank you!

You see, the truth is, back in the day, I was a mean bitch.  Words like "cold and ruthless" could and did easily apply.  My anger was so deep, so complete I was little more than a walking time-bomb ready to go off, surprising anyone who made an unfortunate mistake.  [Mistake could be anything, like wearing the wrong socks, or being late.. and boy my reaction would be mean, nasty and  s-t-r-o-n-g... and when I was done unleashing and ripping a new one, I'd walk away feeling not an ounce of remorse, only relief.]

So, in my mind, looking back, narcissism did apply to much of my behavior.  (Some behaviorists may even have seen me as me Borderline, which may have been true.)  But then again, aren't all relationships in the infant stage narcissistic?

As I got older, (in my early 20's), I began to see the less-than-healthy pattern.  I would get so wrapped-up in my own problems and issues, I'd forget other people had feelings and needs, too. And while I wouldn't describe myself as full of self-love (self-loathing was more like it), my preoccupation with myself, and what it was I was experiencing made friendships very limited and unfulfilling, for both sides of the offered coin.

There was more, too.  I would always have to check myself, both literally and figuratively, to ensure nothing appeared ugly or unappealing.  I was so terrified my looks and actions would be the root cause of someone's disgust or dislike; I felt as though I had to do whatever it took to remain appealing to the eyes of others.  This would mean I'd have to lie about the things I liked, or didn't like, so I would be liked, in return.  Who does this to keep from being rejected?  A very insecure little girl, that's who.

I think much of my personality had to do with my fear of rejection [let rejection come from me, not anyone else], AND all the anxiety that came with the lies I was expected to keep -- all the charades I had to maintain --  and all the stress I'd have to suppress when alone with another person.  The pressures from a seemingly "ideal" family-life never went away, especially in my small home-town.  This pressure would get so great, it was hard to handle without losing my mind on occasion.  So I'd flip, resenting others, as much as myself.

The crazy thing is, contrary to the ease in which I'd be able to fall into a conversation, or take to a complete stranger, close relationships have never been easy for me.  Even as a young child I'd behave loving and sweet at first, but secretly intolerant of many little things.... things that would remind me of my Ahome and very critical Amother.  Keeping close and feeling a sense of calm security with another has always been a real challenge. (Anyone else see how a chaotic adoptive mother can do this to a kid?)

But there is good news to my story, and I'll share what has really helped me change my meaner uglier ways. 

Once I learned I could be honest and truthful about my own feelings about things, (for instance, it's OK to hate), and such honesty wouldn't cost me a relationship I wanted, things began to slowly change.  But this era of honesty has been a relatively recent development, and I am the first to admit, being in a relationship with me requires A LOT of patience, as old issues trigger me back into old patterns full of rash decisions and lots of messy mistakes. ( A bizarre type of self-deprecating humour, and lots of crazy-ass stories, often helps.)

See?  It's all about myself! 

<dorky smirk>

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