Covert Narcissism is Damaging my Young Family

Hello everyone, let me preface this by saying that I never thought that my mother and father were narcissists until my wife began to point out problems while we lived with them for two grueling months when we moved back to the United States (more on that later). This is long, so thank you in advance for reading.

I think it's best to start at the beginning. My parents, my younger sister, and I moved to the US from Europe when I was 4, sister 1. My parents worked opposite shifts to save money for us to move to a better town with a better school system. We achieved that and I attended my state university because my parents said they'd pay for it if it was affordable. So far so good.

Growing up I very early on grew up with this black and white idea of good guy and bad guy. My father and his sister grew up with an abusive mother (dad did whatever mom insisted), both physical and verbal. As a result my father was verbally abusive: short tempered, quick to lose control and yell often. Below is a list of what incidents that affected me most: -If I couldn't fix his computer problems, it's because I didn't want to and "what are they teaching you in school?" -I'd always be sent to his tool shop to get him a tool for his work and I could never find it; he comes down and yells at me for not finding it. -All home remodeling work, I'd endure some kind of criticism for doing it wrong. Like one time we held up sheet rock to drill up into the ceiling and my arms are getting tired so he saif, "you go the gym and you can't hold up this sheet rock for a little while?" -In Kindergarten, I wet myself in school because the teacher ignored my needs; at that time I spoke no English. My father hit me with a belt for it. I can't remember how many times it happened but I seem to imagine three.

I eventually grew an aversion toward spending time with him and doing jobs; I preferred to do stuff with mom (the good guy). This is how I grew up. Dad was angry and I'd go to mom, and at times he'd be pissed that I went to her as a shield.

In my memory it also seemed like they'd argue a lot. Like clockwork was church every Sunday. Arguing about the clothes mom wanted him to wear, my sister is too slow getting ready, my mom is too slow getting ready, etc. As you can guess, I disliked church a lot.

I never wanted to have my friends over because there'd be yelling. I seeked relief and solitude by going to my friends' homes, as often as possible. After graduating high school I spent a lot of time at school, friends, girl friends, etc. I'd be home regularly every day, but if I could be somewhere else, I'd go.

I graduated from undergrad, went back to grad school, and did a copy writing job that paid $12/hour for a few years because "all millennials got screwed" by economy. So I just continued to live at home and spend time at my girlfriend's home. This relationship lasted for four years, and then she left for Japan. During our time together I decided to become a certified teacher and got a long term sub job when the ex left.

I was depressed, living at home was getting to me, and I was over living in my home with the parents, so I decided to go teach English in South Korea to heal and feel more independent. Mom (good guy) said, yeah go if that's what you want; dad objected buy relented. At 27 I finally went out on my own and there I met my wife who I brought back to the US.

Before getting into Korea, one thing about my mother. Because my father was so angry, I grew up angry. At one time as a boy I made a vow to never be like him. As a child, when I'd be sitting at the table with my mom and sister talking about whatever it was and I'd argue or get mad about something she'd called me a "little (insert father's name)". I'd say no, and so eventually I stopped arguing much. In my twenties I stopped being mad and tried to avoid all conflict because it made me uncomfortable. Additionally, my family was never a family that said "I love you" to each other. Only as I got into my teens my mom would jokingly say when I disagreed, "oh, you don't love me anymore, guess you should go find a new mother." She said similar things to my father about him needing to go out and find a new wife if she was so bad.

Back to Korea. My wife is Vietnamese. She was a graduate student in PR Advertising. She speaks Vietnamese, English, and Korean fluently. Our courtship moved very quickly. She was the gf I felt very attached to so we got engaged three months after being together. My mother didn't want me to get engaged, but I did so anyway. A few months later we got pregnant and our request to take a trip to the US was denied a day after we found out. We were crushed and stressed. My mom always brought up how a man she knew in her work had a wife in The Phillipines and they were having trouble getting to the US. This repeated dialogue didn't help our confidence. Despite this we managed to get it all done.

From time to time my wife (gf at the time) was upset that my mom didn't like her. She thought my mom thought of her as some girl just after a green card. My mother mentioned there are girls who do that; I don't explicitly recall her ever saying my wife is one of these girls. And honestly, with her talents, whatever the fuck would she need a green card for? She worked for government officials as a translator for conferences. She's cool as hell.

After getting paperwork-married we had a ceremony in Vietnam. My mother and sister were able to come; my dad couldn't get off work; he was genuinely upset for not being able to attend. My wife's father IS a narcissist. Tries to control all the kids and money. Guilts them into doing things his way. Uses the stereotypical speech, "I do everything for you". My wife was the youngest and the villainized kid. She didn't take her father's shit and she grew up more independent. She's lived on her own since 14, and her grandmother raised her, not so much her parents. At this time my wife is five months pregnant and dealing with her father and meeting my mom and sister for the first time in person. I learn today from my father in our phone conversation that my mother thinks my wife hated her and my sister. She was apparently rude. My wife dealt with the stress of trying to placate her father so we can gtfo from his house and go to the city and enjoy our time, the four of us. My mother noticed how difficult my wife's parents were. My wife cried talking to her and apologizing for how he forced us to cut our time in the city short to go entertain a friend of his who owned a resort. I was hoping at that time that my mother would step up and embrace and comfort her new daughter in law, show her a familial, motherly love, but that didn't happen.

The time to move finally came 9 months after that wedding trip in Vietnam . Me, my wife, and at the time, our six-month old son. My wife told me before we left, "Please, let's not stay with your parents long. I know that the longer we stay the worse it will get. Our relationship with them will suffer if we stay to long."

We get there, and one the first day when I'm not around my mom says to my wife, "I hope we're not going to hate each other." My wife immediately stars to feel uncomfortable with this. Over the two months my mother gaslights my wife. My wife doesn't wear much makeup and she cuts her hair into a pixie, so she doesn't look like my mom: long, died blonde hair and maintained by some makeup. My mother says to her once when my wife wears some makeup, "see, you look good with some eye makeup. Looks better." This comment I was not present for. My mother also interfered with how we should take care of our son. She insisted that we give him water to drink (six months). She insisted we bathe him every day. My wife tried to explain to her that in the research she's done that these aren't appropriate for him at this time; my mom's default argument was that she did this with her kids and they turned out fine.

One time our son fell off the couch. We just woke up and I was going to change his diaper, but didn't bring them with me. Bone head move. He falls, everyone was upset. I hold my son and feel crushed. My wife takes me back to our room and calms me down, reassures me that he's okay. My mother later says, "I saw her give you such a furious look. I had to step between you two." To this day, I hate that my mom said this to me. It is a major red flag for me.

My wife talks to me about how she doesn't feel herself anymore in this house. She's used to being able to take care of herself. In America during those first two months she didn't feel like a real person: my parents home is in a heavily wooded area, so without me to drive she couldn't go anywhere; her green card was still being delivered so the lack of ID bothered her; she felt her motherhood, intelligence, and character were being undermined living there. She was getting depressed.

Things came to a head when my father brought up a speech Trump made to our home European country. My father said to her, "look, don't get me wrong, but you just moved here, so you shouldn't be commenting on this country's politics. Learn about the country first." This really made her mad because now she felt like she wasn't allowed to have opinions on this topic. There was an argument, I mediated, they hugged it out.

The next morning my mom (she was at work when the argument happened) tells me how my father was upset about this argument. He stayed up all night on the toilet. She has my sister on FB messenger when talking to me. She says my wife is going to ruin the family, take me away from them. I say, no, not true. My wife was the one who insisted we move near to my folks, and had said so often while we lived in Korea; I wanted to go West Coast. My mom says that my wife, "has no love in her." I get upset and go wake my wife, saying we have to fix this.

We all sit down and then my mom says things I never expected. My wife has always had trouble trusting people, there is no cultural difference. My wife has a mental problem. She will give me a heart attack and kill herself and the baby. The second major red flag.

After that my wife and I go off to a park. She cries, a lot. She says, "She's killing me. This woman is abusive. I will kill myself if we don't get out of here." She begs me to take her away from the house; I'm the only one here who she has to depend on. Please don't let her continue to to be bullied. I was overwhelmed by all this. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to go, but didn't feel financially secure to leave. I was still trying to apply to jobs so we van get an apartment. I was scared. How could my mother be this abusive narcissist? I felt that she was the good guy for me growing up.

My wife speaks to a friend of hers she taught, one who was PhD holder in Anthropology. She tells her this is narcissism. There is no fixing this. She must get out. We see a therapist and explain our situation. She tells us we must leave. We apply to as many jobs as possible. One week later after I try to explain to my parents that we need to leave, my father storms off upset about how we think living with them is so bad. My mother sits in the kitchen and doesn't say a word while this conversation happens.

We felt our options were exhausted. Everything was awful. We were so stressed out. We left the next day. Went to church to get some solace from a priest, visited my best friend's parents house, and stayed at a hotel. Oh my parents were mad and crying. "What even happened? No one was hitting each other." You two better come come back in the next two hours to talk about this.; I won't have my son staying in a hotel; you're going to lead to us getting a divorce.

We book a short term rental and get jobs. We feel better that things are moving forward. My wife feels so much better being free from my parents house. We improve. Over the year it's up and down. We visited together for Thanksgiving, Christmas, had my son's baptism. My wife starts to get depressed again. Being in my mother's vicinity makes her anxiety shoot up.

She has continued to be depressed. She talks to me from time to time, telling me that she feels alone on this topic, that I don't see what she sees or accept that what they did to her was abuse. I make excuses and shy away from the topic. I've tried low contact, meaning call every two weeks and go visit with only my son once a month. We've seen a therapist but she focuses on how to make us feel better. My wife needs someone to talk to about what happened to her, and I'm inadequate because I refuse to see that my mother is a covert narcissist.

For me it's hard. The longer we go from the time we left the more I build up evidence that this is true. My mother accused me of recording my conversations with her to later show my wife, she's told me that I've abandoned the family, she tells Lucian every time I bring him over,, "don't be scared, I know you don't recognize me". My father's been more vocal in guilt tripping. He's said that one day he and mom will go back to Europe and I'll never be able to contact them again if things don't improve. Today he chewed me out for the same and said I'll regret for the rest of my life if I don't take the furniture set they got me for my birthday ten years ago. They still don't understand what they did wrong. They've never once discussed apologizing to her even though I explained to them what was said. The comments about my wife having a mental disorder and giving me a heart attack, she claims that's not what she said or meant.

Once more, I apologize for how long this was. I felt it was best to get as much out there in a proper order. What does the community think about this?
  • 1 Commentby Likes|Date
  • @GenuineMoniker This is all about boundaries. I've spent a lot of time getting labeled by therapists, doctors, etc. for all the things I may and may not have...narcissism being one of them. They don't like when I point out the paradox a true narcissist can't admit they are one, or actually believe they are one. Anyway, "narcissist" is a a label just like "obsessive compulsive" or "bipolar" --- yeah, they're all a diagnosis you can't get and I've got them all, but after the appointment I"m labeled is over, I'm still the same guy.
    Which leads me to say, that whatever your parents might be dealing with on a cellular level, or you, or you wife...it's all just labels, dude.
    I don't know if what happened rises to the level of abuse, but it's not really for me -- or you -- to decide. It's up to your wife. She says it was abuse. You don't have to agree, but you do have to respect the label she's putting on it.
    If you want a relationship with your mother, your wife isn't going to be part of it, and you shouldn't make her. When you're with your mother, don't talk about your wife. If your mother won't take no for an answer, reassert yourself. If she doesn't back down, stop seeing her until she does. Just like you have to respect your wife's boundaries, your mother has to respect yours.
    Obviously, I'm simplifying things, but you have to stand up straight, figure out what you want, and build the boundaries around it. It's OK if you're a mama's boy and pick her over your wife...just let your wife know honestly that's what you're doing. And it's OK to tell your mother to pound sand until she stops acting the way she does. But as you've learned, you can't make everyone happy and you can't have it both ways. Is that fair to you? No...but whoever said life was fair?
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