Long before I knew what a narcissist was, I was seeing very confusing behaviors from the narcissists in my life. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on why it was wrong. One area that I found strange was the way my narcissist mother, and later my narcissist ex-husband treated the people they called their friends.
See, when I think of friends, I think of people I can do things with, go places with, call on the phone, chat with, turn to in times of trouble…someone I can can share my crushes with, my good news, my bad news, and my fun times. Someone who is part of my life. Someone I can call and talk to for hours even if I can’t see them in person. Someone who knows all about me, and someone I know all about. That’s pretty normal, right?
Not with a narcissist! Whenever my mother made a friend, she’d get excited about how they treated her like she was special. Her new friends usually reached out to her, welcomed her to their homes or social events, and included her. She would think they were wonderful! But eventually, when her friends started to get tired of the one-sided relationship where they treated her well and she accepted it like a queen on a throne, things would fizzle out. My mother would start making snapping remarks about how her friend wasn’t paying her enough attention, and the friendship would end. They never lasted long.
My mother would go from church to church where she would be warmly welcomed as a new attendee, and she’d delight in the attention. She’d get mad if some of the other women didn’t get as excited about her and she’d tell me they were snobs or they were rude. Honestly, since I’m a very shy person, I always just assumed that maybe some of the women were shy themselves! But, my mother assumed they were being mean to her. She never tried to reach out to them because she expected everyone to make a fuss over her.
Later when I married a narcissistic man, I saw more dysfunctional “friendships.” My spouse was a lesser-known entertainer who had a lot of semi-famous “friends” in the same business in Los Angeles. He’d name drop all day long–even to me. But, whenever we ran into his friends at events, they barely acknowledged him. One time, we ran into a “friend” of his, and the friend had no idea who he was. My husband had to explain and remind his friend of his name. It was very awkward! One night in a completely unrelated conversation, I said that I wouldn’t really consider an acquaintance a friend, because to me, a friend is someone special that I know well. I was just thinking about someone I knew that I was friendly with, but not friends with.
I must have hit a narcissist nerve! My husband went into one of his rages–the result of a narcissistic injury. I was just thinking out loud, in general, about friendship, but he took it very personally. I think in his mind, my comment reminded him of what he really knew–that his friends–the names he so carefully collected and name-dropped–weren’t actually his friends. It must have made a dent in his carefully constructed, but fragile ego–a dent in his false image of himself as a man with a lot of famous friends.
I knew many of the same people as he did, but it wasn’t essential for me to base my feelings about myself on whether or not I had a list of famous “friends” I’d collected. What I wanted in a friendship was…well, a real friend! But for a narcissist, friendship is about how the friends make them feel and look to the public. It’s never about giving and sharing and mutual caring.
My ex clings tightly to his list of people he can name-drop, but in the end, he is completely alone, because not one of them is a real friend.