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?