Like her Grandpa
| Narcissists and Daddy Issues / Mommy Issues |
Although narcissists ultimately want all the power, the relationship dynamic they seek and foster puts them in the position of a child to the adult, the parenting role to be assumed by their partner. They don’t seem to have adult-to-adult relationships with those who are close to them.
I distinctly recall sitting on the patio at a bar with Tina when she said, “you remind me of my grandpa.”
I feigned offense. “Oh, thanks a lot,” I said, alluding to the age gap between us. I was by no means old enough to be her grandparent!
“No, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s a good thing,” she said. “You’ll see when you meet him.”
I met him at his condo in Edina at Christmas that year. Apparently, the fact that Tina had a boyfriend had her family abuzz and everyone was interested in meeting me. The holiday gathering of Tina’s extended family was pleasant, with a fun energy. Everyone was exceedingly friendly toward me, but John, Tina’s maternal grandfather took a particular interest. I was flattered by how much of his time he devoted to me. He took me on an extended tour of his condominium, his own unit, the pool, sauna, gym, library and other amenities. It was a very nice and well-apportioned facility.
John, I learned, was a fairly famous coach in collegiate sports. As time went on, I found that he was universally as well loved as he was well-known. Student athletes he’d coached decades earlier still kept in touch and held him in high esteem. There definitely was something special about the man. He was kind and generous and I was indeed flattered that Tina saw something of him in me.
We talked quite a lot at that first meeting. I felt welcome and I enjoyed his company. Over the years, Tina and I would dash our relationship on the rocks repeatedly, eventually to reconcile and reunite and John was always as warm and welcoming to me as that first Christmas we met.
In the end, I came to understand that as Tina saw some similarities in personality between her grandfather and I, she expected me to approach our relationship like her grandpa might.
When I was questioning her extremely disrespectful behavior, she told me a story. Some time in the past, she’d landed in some degree of difficulty while out partying wild. She was so drunk that she could barely walk. She’d lost one of her boots and she was stranded. She called her grandpa for rescue.
“He got up and came to get me in the middle of the night. I had one bare foot in the winter and I was stinking drunk and he never even questioned me. There was no lecture. No judgement. He just helped me,” she said.
It seemed that she expected the same from me.
“I’d think there’s something of a difference in relationships and expectations between grandparents and spouses,” I said.
Although I was concerned by Tina’s behavior and frustrated that we weren’t making progress on finding a mutually satisfactory solution, I still loved her. That was beyond question. The love was unconditional and I put Tina ahead of myself, but I still needed, to a smaller degree, to watch out for my own needs and sanity. I didn’t think I asked for much. Just the most basic honesty and fidelity most anyone would expect from a life partner. That’s too much of a demand on a narcissist, though. Tina needed the unconditional love along with infinite and unquestioning forgiveness. There could be no boundaries or expectations placed on her. Narcissists need their close relationships to be as that of an ever-blameless child and doting parent or grandparent. Some might refer to this as “daddy issues” or “mommy issues.”
Of course, romantic interests have different expectations than a grandfather might! If I were ever picking up my wife in the middle of the night, drunk, stranded and missing a boot, there would be questions.