It is not uncommon for daughters of narcissistic parents to date and marry narcissistic men repeatedly. Unfortunately, people who come from healthy families cannot understand why this would happen to someone. Often times, a woman who has been in an abusive relationship more than once is considered “crazy” or “damaged goods” or people believe she is lying or exaggerating. This really unfair and frustrating when false assumptions are being tossed around about women who aren’t any of those bad things! It’s common for children from abusive homes to repeat cycles. We live what we have learned, and sometimes we don’t know what is wrong until we’ve experienced the cycle a few times and begin to learn and grow. Sometimes a therapist or a friend has to tell us. Sometimes we read it in a book and suddenly have a light bulb moment. But, you can’t fault someone who has never learned what is wrong for not knowing.
I can look at my life and know why I have been so attractive to abusers and have scared off men with healthy boundaries, but I didn’t know it without time, experiences and wisdom gained through living. There was little to no love in my childhood. My dad was my favorite parent until he remarried and began to ignore me. Once he replaced me with a new family, he didn’t care that I existed. So I was stuck with my mother the narcissist who was always wanting to gamble or chase married men. She was rarely home and when she was, she was abusive. I wanted OUT of that home. I wanted to be part of a real family. I was also very, very shy, so it was hard to meet people and let them see my real personality. All people saw was a scared girl who froze up and had nothing to say. So, when someone did want to date me, I didn’t stop to wonder if I wanted to date them!
Another thing I’ve noticed is, because I am shy and it’s hard for people to get to know me, usually good guys with respect would see my boundaries and leave me alone. They mistook my shyness for disinterest. But narcissists don’t care. They walk all over boundaries! So, they were often the only ones persistent enough to keep pushing me even when I didn’t seem interested. And again, I never stopped to wonder if I wanted to date someone. I felt obligated to say yes to people just to be fair. I didn’t know it was okay to say “no.”
When you have grown up with no love or examples of healthy relationships, it’s hard to know what one looks like. For me, abuse was normal, so when men were abusive, I figured that was just part of learning to compromise and accept others. I thought I would be petty or selfish to break up with someone if they were “just” yelling, screaming, name-calling…. In reality, that would have been the best thing to do.
Fortunately, I have learned a lot about what to accept, what not to accept, and people who can and cannot change. But, I still find myself willing to date people that I’m not really interested in just because I feel bad saying “no,” or I feel like I owe someone a chance so I can see what they are like. It’s a hard habit to break.