The kids were standing at the check-out with the next books in the Percy Jackson series and I was taking in the beautiful quilts on display at our public library. I didn’t need a book. I was part way through three different books and I knew I didn’t have the brain space to start something new.
One quilt caught my eye. It was suspended over the “New” books section, so I walked over to get a closer look. The quilter had a great sense of which colors go well together – purples and teals – and a good eye for negative space, which isn’t easy to do in a quilt. I turned to meet up with Will and Jen and I noticed the book. It jumped out at me. It was probably the word – narcissist – that caught my attention.
I could find that word in a haystack.
I’d been thinking that I’m all done with reading about narcissism. Time to move on. I’ve learned enough. But… the title intrigued me. It referred to my role in these relationships with narcissists.
Perhaps I have more work to do.
I breezed through the first 90 pages nodding my head, sometimes exclaiming out loud and actually laughing at how I could perpetuate the treatment I’d been receiving. (It took me several years to get to this point where I can laugh. Trust me.)
Sometimes I’d slam the book shut and be pissed at how long I’d continued to care in such a fruitless, waste-of-time relationship.
My big takeaways from the book are:
- Keep healthy boundaries front and center.
- Don’t personalize any verbal attacks – they are about them.
- It is perfectly fine to have a fulfilled life that isn’t centered around caring for a mentally unstable individual.
Here are some quotes from the book that really hit home:
“… over time, you find yourself giving up on friendships and social events. The N wants to be the sole focus of your energy. Even managing the needs of the children can become secondary to meeting the N’s needs. Have you ever just dropped into bed at night exhausted and wonder, Is this all there is?”
“If you can accept that the N is prone to overworking; seeks a lot of attention from others; focuses almost entirely on only his or her needs, wants, and feelings; and must be in control of the money, then you may be able to figure out a viable relationship arrangement.”
That will never meet my definition of a “viable relationship arrangement”.
“You may need to continually remind yourself that the N has little or no interest in what you think, what you are doing, what you want…
If you want … someone to listen and really understand what you’re going through… look for an emotionally healthy person.”
To which I must shout, “So why would you stay in such a relationship?!”
Anyway, I connected with many of the author’s points. A lot of this stuff I already knew, but apparently I do need to keep re-reading books on narcissism depending on how complacent I’ve allowed myself to get, or whether there are any new issues that warrant a wake-up call.
I also found a few tips to share with Will and Jen on how to stop being the caretaker for their dad. I learned, too, about my own caretaker tendencies, and how NOT to fall into that role again in future relationships.
Part of me enjoys reading one more book that confirms all my reasons for leaving.
And now back to what I was previously engrossed in… oh… yummy…
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, and
A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester, and
The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan, and I’m still working my way through….
So little time.
* A chapter title from Margalis Fjelstad’s Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist – How to End the Drama and Get on With Life.