When you struggle with narcissistic abuse in your childhood, it definitely affects your behavior as an adult. As with most abused children, it’s typical for one of two things to happen: either you become like your abuser or you become like the abused partner. This holds true for the daughters of narcissistic mothers, and it can affect their choice of a spouse.
The emotional abuse suffered by the daughter of a narcissistic mother may cause her to seek out intimate partners who are similar to her mother. Others will seek out partners who are completely different, and they become more narcissistic. Still, others will avoid intimate relationships altogether.
Emotional abuse definitely has lasting effects on the victim’s behavior, particularly if that abuse was suffered in childhood. It’s often a choice between seeking out the devil you know or becoming the devil yourself. It’s important to understand the multiple factors that affect the consequences of narcissistic abuse. Let’s explore just what the daughter of a narcissistic mother might look for in an intimate partner.
Will a Daughter Marry Someone Like Her Narcissistic Mother?
This is all about the devil you know. Narcissistic mothers have a devastating effect on their daughter’s self-esteem as well as her ability to set boundaries and trust someone with whom she is close. It’s important to remember that a child being raised by a narcissist doesn’t know that there is anything abnormal about their narcissistic parent.
How could a child know? I remember that I didn’t realize that not everyone’s mother treated them like my narcissistic mother treated me. It wasn’t until a shocked friend of mine told me that her mother would never say something like what my mother had said. That was the beginning of realizing that my mother had a personality disorder.
Many daughters never have this realization. They live their entire lives thinking something is wrong with them. When they find an intimate partner who seems to confirm that fact, that just proves what their mother always told them.
To them, the narcissistic partner is what they have always known, and it’s what they’re comfortable with. It might sound crazy to say that you can be comfortable with someone who mistreats you like a narcissist does, but when it is all you know, it seems perfectly normal to you.
That’s exactly why it’s not uncommon for daughters of narcissistic mothers to marry narcissists. As therapist Shannon Petrovich notes, “What each child does to cope with it is going to be different and I would say there is probably a greater tendency to get into relationships with narcissists as it is a sort of known dynamic.”
A narcissist also quickly comes to recognize the personality traits of someone they can easily manipulate and control. These are the people they seek out as partners, and their victims are often people who have been abused before.
Will the Daughter Become a Narcissist Too?
Another way that abused children can go is to become like their abuser. They see the awful treatment their abused parent receives from their narcissistic mother, and they think that because they don’t want to be like that, they must instead become like the narcissist.
This is compounded by the fact that many narcissistic parents instill a sense of entitlement in their children. They tell them that they are the children of a super-parent, and that they should be treated as though they are special.
Because of the distorted values the narcissistic parent instills in their child, the child’s development of a healthy sense of self is arrested. That is the foundation for narcissism. The child comes to believe that not only can they not do things for themselves, they shouldn’t have to. They adopt this attitude to help them deal with the deep-seated sense of shame that they develop about themselves.
They’re not allowed to fail because their narcissistic parent won’t accept that, and as a result, they are never allowed to try. If they do attempt something and fail, they adopt the strategy they’ve not only seen but also experienced from their narcissistic parent, blame-shifting. Anything they do wrong becomes someone else’s fault.
Once they adopt a superior attitude, it’s easy for them to infuse their false self-image with the idea that they are, in fact, special and superior to other people. It helps them mask the sense of self-loathing they truly feel because of their arrested egoic development and the sense of shame instilled by their narcissistic parent.
Do Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers Suffer Particular Forms of Abuse?
The daughter of a narcissistic mother often suffers a different type of abuse than a son faces. Narcissistic mothers are jealous of their daughters because they see them as younger, more capable, and more beautiful versions of themselves. That’s why they may be particularly abusive to a daughter as compared to what they do to a son.
Narcissistic mothers are frequently more harshly critical of their daughters. They will put down literally everything the young girl tries to do. The narcissistic mother not only wants to squelch what she sees as potential competition, she also wants to create a needy, fully dependent child. This will give her the most control.
Narcissistic parents don’t want their children to become independent individuals who can have a successful life. Instead, they want to create children who will turn to them for input on every decision they make. The narcissist wants absolute control, and this is particularly true for a narcissistic mother and her daughter. She wants to be in the driver’s seat for every decision her daughter makes her entire life.
Her criticism and control often make her daughter unable to function, and it’s usually the daughters who buy into this treatment that forego intimate relationships altogether. They end up living for their narcissistic mother. Anything they do well in life, their mother takes credit for, and anything they do poorly, their mother blames them. It’s a no-win situation with sad, often lifelong consequences.
How Does a Daughter Escape Her Narcissistic Mother?
Most daughters of narcissistic mothers understand that they have a troubled relationship with their mother. Still, it usually takes an eye-opening moment for them to realize there’s something wrong with their mother. Those that don’t get that realization often end up living in their mother’s shadow their entire life.
For those that do realize that it’s their mother and not them, it’s still unsettling. I remember when it happened to me, I felt an odd mixture of emotions including fear. There were so many things I didn’t know.
I understood that her behavior would affect me, but I didn’t know exactly how. I knew there were things I needed to do to heal, but I didn’t know exactly what. I also didn’t know how I could manage a relationship with my mother knowing what I then had come to know.
It would be a long time, and many personal growth and therapy sessions, before I began to truly heal from my mother’s narcissistic abuse. I had to accept that, contrary to what my mother had always told me, I was capable and beautiful and good. I could do things. It was not something I had ever been told in my life.
That led me down a road toward truly healing the wounds my mother had inflicted. It took a while because I had to recognize the damage she did, and I had to undo it. Then, I had to reshape my relationship with her.
How Does a Daughter Heal from Narcissistic Abuse?
Healing meant educating myself about narcissism, and that’s vital for any daughter of a narcissistic mother. You have to learn about why she behaves the way she does to see that what she had told you about yourself isn’t true. Her lies are born of her own fears and insecurities.
Once you understand the monster that was your mother, you can begin to establish your own personal boundaries. You can stop the abuse by respecting and loving yourself. In other words, you become the mother she should have been. You heal your inner child and protect her from further abuse.
After that process, you can reconsider the nature of your relationship with your narcissistic mother. For some daughters, no-contact is best so that they can live their own life to the fullest. For others, like me, no-contact is not an option, but they rebuild the relationship.
I had to set the boundaries for my relationship with my mother which meant determining how often we would be in contact, for how long, and the topics we could talk about. I had to also make sure that every time she violated a personal boundary of mine, I carried out the consequences I had informed her I would implement.
Over time, our relationship has come to be one of cautious respect. She knows she can’t push me too far or I will simply leave. She’s still a narcissist, but she knows that I will no longer tolerate her abuse.
A narcissistic mother’s abuse can have a devastating effect on her daughter for her entire life. Many end up married to narcissistic spouses because they recognize and feel comfortable with that kind of interaction. It’s not good, but it’s something they understand. Still others become narcissists themselves or forego intimate relationships altogether.
It’s more of a rarity for a daughter of a narcissistic mother to recognize and heal the abuse. If you’re one who sees what’s going on, but are unsure of how to proceed, you’ll want to read this article on 13 books that can help you determine what you need to do next.
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