Narcissists Are Six-Year-Olds

When I first started digging into all this narcissism stuff, I kept reading that a narcissist’s maturity level stops at about the age of six.   I was astounded at how all these characteristics of narcissism  perfectly fit my ex-husband.  But I have to admit, I really thought the six-year-old thing was a bit of a stretch.  I guess I was taking it too literally.  I mean he owned a business, drove a car and had a checkbook.  He didn’t really act like a six-year-old.  Or did he?

While Mark was here to visit with the kids Friday night, he kept trying to hatch a plan to pick them up the next day.  I could hear the kids dodging his questions.  When they don’t want to do anything with him, they always say, “We’ll have to check with mom, first, to see if she has made any plans.”  That’s my clue to make up some plans.  They’d been kind of secretive with him when he was asking them about getting together.  After he left, they told me the reason they didn’t want to see him the next day.  Turns out he had come up with a plan for a Christmas gift for me.  He wanted the kids to help him with it.  They wanted to have nothing to do with it because it was all his plan.  He hadn’t asked for any of their input.

The next morning, he called to see when he could pick up the kids.  It’s getting somewhat easier to be honest with him.  I told him that they weren’t excited about working on the project with him since it was all his idea.  He said, “Well I know it was all my idea, but I thought they liked my idea.”  I thought to myself, “Well did you ask them if they liked your idea?  Or did you just assume that they liked your idea?  Or better yet, how about you ask them what they’d like to get me for Christmas.”

Here’s where the six-year-old behavior begins.  That was Saturday morning.  I’m writing this Monday, after the kids have gone to bed.  He usually calls for his bogus goodnight calls almost every night.  He didn’t call Saturday, Sunday, and now Monday nights.  He is pouting.  We are being taught a lesson.  He is giving us the cold shoulder.  We have gotten to the point where we really enjoy not hearing from him for a couple or three days.  One of the kids will notice that he’s not calling and say, “Dad must be pouting again.”  Then a couple more days will pass and one of the kids will miss him.  They will ask if  they can call him.  I will say, “Of course you can call your dad.”  They will call, and he will pick up where he left off at the last visit, like nothing ever happened.

A couple years ago on Father’s Day, Will was torn about what to do.  He felt obligated to spend the day with his dad, but he also wanted to spend time with his grandpa, at the cabin.  We came up with a marvelous idea for fitting both plans into the day.  When we explained the plan to Mark, he actually whined and said, “Well what about me?  What am I supposed to do?  It’s my Father’s Day, ya know.”  At the time, Will was 9, and grandpa had already assumed more of the fathering role than Mark had.  Will knew that he was expected to spend the day with his father, but he also knew what a farce that was.  I remember the three of us standing in the driveway.  Will and I looked at each other and then we both looked at Mark.  I couldn’t believe that not only had that immature thought entered Mark’s mind, but he actually verbalized that thought–in front of his son.  Who were the adults in that scenario?  Besides, once someone says something like, “Hey, you’re supposed to be with me,” how much does anyone want to be with them?  And how enjoyable, then, is it for the person who had to beg another to spend time with them?

I guess that doesn’t really matter if you act like you are six years old.

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  1. This 6-year old maturity thing had me thinking that it is somewhat like an alcoholic or drug user. Those that use substances remain at the emotional age that they started using heavily. For most of them, it is around 16.

    I believe this is somehow the same concept. Narcissists are often victims of a significant event (often feelings of abandonment) in their early childhood. For my ex, it was his mother leaving him behind with his father to pursue life in the USA. He was about 6-7 years old. His father then went and joined his mother when my ex was around 9 and left the children for another few years with inadequate caregivers.

    Does the nurturing (manipulating, really, because I really want to pluck his eyes out) approach that I use in negotiations work because it reaches out to that little boy that needs his mother?

  2. Z,

    If it’s true that what gets us out of bed in the morning is a need to fill a hole left by our inadequate upbringings, then it makes so much sense to appeal to an N’s need for nurturing.

    If we can stomach it.

    I know that in my case, when I tenderly talked of his relationship with his mother, when I kindly told him that I was sorry for what he felt he lacked, he softened. For a while, he didn’t need to control. He almost seemed more humane.

    It never lasts.

    I’ve asked this before and I’ll ask again:

    How is it that some overcome lousy childhoods, and some choose to wallow in the mess forever? What defines those individuals who choose to move on and make the best of their lives and NOT repeat history?

  3. This is where the term ‘disorder’ is appropriate. They are wired differently. They are not normal. They do not/cannot remove themselves to deal with the emotional damage any differently than they already are and it wasn’t their choice. Sadly, they were born with the inclination to develop NPD. That I feel strongly about. Those of us that recognize the dysfunction and are truly reflective move to change the situation. Ns cannot because of the self absorption.

  4. Z,

    That speaks to the futility of trying to make a relationship with a narcissist work.

  5. Absolutely. It will never work unless you are willing to give yourself up for the rest of your life and that is not something that is really ‘working’. It may be ideal for the N, but not for you. I think this is the easier question to answer than how to get away from a N…. :/

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