Adult Children Of Narcissists: When Your Decision-O-Meter Is Fucked


It’s been a while since I’ve written a narcissism post.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I might be coming to an end with these posts. I only planned on writing the one post, but received so much feedback  that I thought maybe I should explore narcissism a bit more. I’m glad I did. It’s been helpful. The community I found was amazing, broken and gorgeous. I hope more than anything that we all find the peace we deserve.

I set writing about narcissism aside a while back. I found myself getting too bogged down in the past and in thoughts that made me sad or angry. It started feeling bad to write about it. I found myself second guessing every thing I wrote. I heard more and more stories and felt like maybe I was just a whiny baby and should suck it up.

I got over that shit, though. I know what my past meant. I know that I was injured. I know it played a big part in making me into the walking ball of anxious awkwardness that I am today. I’m getting better with that…well, not the awkwardness and the anxiety. I’m getting better at accepting it.

I wrote about decisions and how adult children of narcissists have difficulty making them, but it was a generic post. This is more specific. I also wrote before about my abysmal relationships with men and how I’ve had multiple failed marriages.

I was a commitment-phobe . I remember, very clearly, when I was 23 years old, walking down a church aisle wearing a lovely off the shoulder wedding gown with a borrowed veil and thinking I can always get divorced. Not a big shock when it ended in divorce.

The second marriage and the entire relationship was spent in a haze. We definitely needed to self medicate to keep moving forward. He started getting ill from drinking too much and started attending meetings. I just spent a few weeks of finding it difficult to sleep and moved on. It was apparent within a very short period of time that we were in no way suited for each other sober.

Then Randy and I got together. He wanted to get married.


No. No way was I getting married again.

I would not embarrass myself by getting married a third time. I would not have people talking about me and judging me. Two marriages were barely acceptable. Three and you’re in the freak zone. Besides, marriage obviously meant very little to me anyway. I wanted to be with Randy, but I didn’t want to get married again.

He very quietly explained that getting married shows a level of commitment. He also pointed out that we both had children and that we talked about having one of our own and that getting married might wrap that whole family up in a neat little bow.

He probably didn’t use the ‘neat little bow’ analogy because that sounds nothing like him. This was well over 17 years ago. I don’t remember the words but I sure as fuck remember the decision. The marriage part was inconsequential.

I decided to commit to Randy. I wasn’t sure what that really meant..other than entering into a long term relationship with this man meant taking it through to the very end where one of us has to learn to live without the other.

We got married because Randy wanted it. That equaled commitment to him. I agreed because I knew it was important to him. I also agreed because I realized that worrying about what other people thought of me wasn’t going to change whether or not Randy and I were married. I had commitment decisions to make. The only people that had any business being in that decision were myself, Randy and our children.

My commitment didn’t start as couple number 8 at the Sedgewick county courthouse. My commitment to him began the moment I made a decision to commit.

I’ve had a hard time with decisions my entire life. I spent most of my life terrified of being committed to one person (other than my spawn…they got instant commitment). And now Instant Karma by John Lennon is going through my head.

This decision to commit might be the first time I made a very solid and life changing decision. It felt good.

The commitment still feels good.

Put two people with their own sets of idiosyncrasies in a relationship without nearly enough time to get to know each other before moving in together, then add 3 kids between the ages of 8 and 12 and then with in two years, add an infant. We were nothing but a huge recipe for disaster.

You guys get when I say ‘idiosyncrasies’ I mean ‘bat shit crazy issues’, right?

Disaster recipe or no, we made it work. We both had tons of luggage, but we helped each other unpack.

It took years, but we were committed to each other and that’s what people do who care for one another. They help each other out with their shit. Even when it’s hard.

What I’ve learned about commitment is that there is a comfort in commitment. It’s a safe place to exist.

I’ve also learned that making a commitment isn’t a one time decision. Every single day that we are together, it’s because we have made the decision to be with each other. I’m very happy to keep making this decision. Randy makes me crazy sometimes, but I’ve never woken up in the morning and thought, today is the day I no longer wish to commit to my husband.

It occurs to me, that if I can make this decision, and it’s a damned fine decision, that I can start to trust some of my other decisions as well.

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  • Love this…and again am struck at how many similarities we have. I met my husband 20 years ago and this year will be 17 years married. And this? “…making a commitment isn’t a one time decision. Every single day that we are together, it’s because we have made the decision to be with each other.” Brilliant truth!

    And then there’s that feeling that we can’t make decisions…hoo-boy, I wish I had a dime for every time I just wanted someone else to make a decision for me, or tell me what to do (and then, of course, I’d be all, “you can’t tell me what to do”).

    But seriously, the more I believe that I do, indeed, have all my own answers, the more willing I am to make and trust my decisions. Scary at times, but worth it.

    • Thank you so much!

      I can MAKE decisions, I’m just afraid of them. I feel lost when I have to decide something, like my whole brain just goes blank. I’m learning to trust them more and more and it’s a great feeling. I just need to remind myself that I have made some very conscious decisions and they’ve been really good ones.

  • Without a doubt “making a commitment isn’t a one time decision” is one of the wisest things I’ve read in a very long time. That’s the sort of epiphany that, when you come to it yourself, can change your life significantly for the better. When shared it can do the same for others too.

  • Wow!!!! What a sappy, teary-eyed, emotional story that is 100% awesome!!! I’m so glad you found the right person to commit to after so much “other shit”! Makes me happy!

    • Hahahah…Sappy. It IS a little sappy. I’m happy, too. I need to remind myself of how lucky I am that I’m spending my life with someone who loves me right back when I feel crappy about other aspects of my life.

  • “I remember, very clearly, when I was 23 years old, walking down a church aisle wearing a lovely off the shoulder wedding gown with a borrowed veil and thinking I can always get divorced. Not a big shock when it ended in divorce.”

    Are you me? This is EXACTLY what I was thinking the first time around. And I was 23 as well. TOO YOUNG TO BE MARRIED!

  • Gorgeous post. You make me wonder about my upbringing – like, were my hippie, pothead, star-crossed parents also narcissistic? Mainly my mom, since the whole situation revolved around her need to be loved by him, who didn’t really; well, not 100%… Luckily, his love and devotion for me kind of sort of made up for her resentment and jealousy. Sort of… :/

    • Thank you!

      You know, I didn’t really even understand what narcissistic personality disorder was until a little over a year ago. It was incredibly eye opening. Painful..but helpful.

  • I should look that up. Your posts on that subject really resonates with me, so it’s entirely possible. Mom’s side of the family is always in a constant competition for whose problems are the most worthy of blue-ribbon complaining. Wait, I feel a blog post coming on… 😉

  • As usual, I adore your writing. I hope you keep these narcissist posts coming, but just when you get the itch. Adult children of narcissists are also people-pleasers, so don’t just write them to make us happy. 🙂

    I love how you talk about unpacking your luggage together. My husband and I didn’t live together ahead of time either. You just work through shit and fight and make up.

    Thanks for a beautiful post—I can totally relate!

    • We are people pleasers, aren’t we?

      I have a few more things I want to say, but (at least right now) I feel like I’ve tapped it out.

      Thank you so much.

  • Ha ha ha, I think my decision-o-meter is also completely broken, when it comes to life changing decisions and men certainly. Glad you found each other and finally got it right…I won’t hold my breath for me doing that!
    I do think you get to a point where talking about NPD is no longer helpful and does draw you back into the dark places. I still do need to examine a few things and therefore occasionally do go back to the sites that were very helpful when I first realised that’s what I was dealing with, but I dip in and out now. If I find it’s dragging me backward I withdraw. I know they say 3rd time’s a charm and I’m not thrilled with the idea of being solo from here on out, but I just don’t think I could do it again. I may write about it all at some point, in the hope it might be helpful to other women. At this point it would just be cathartic but probably not very inspirational.

    • Yeah, I don’t KNOW that I’m done with it..I think I just need to step back and absorb what I’ve learned and decide where I want to take it from here. I could whine about it for YEARS, but sooner or later, that just becomes whining for the sake of whining.

      • Exactly, I think talking about it in order to examine certain elements, to pull these experiences apart and learn from them are useful. It’s so easy to fall into a spiral of self pity and regret, for me anyway, which is not helpful at all.

  • What a wonderful and brave post! I especially loved “We both had tons of luggage, but we helped each other unpack.” I’m constantly amazed by how many people think that commitment happens on a wedding day, and not every single day after that.

    • I think that happens a lot…I hate to call it work though, even though it does take work to build a relationship. It’s not ALL work though. We have a LOT of fun.

      And thank you so much. I appreciate your kind words. 🙂

  • Absolutely !!!!
    While A can drive me nuts at times as well, I couldn’t imagine not being married to him.
    Have the best day !

  • Randy sounds awesome. And I had no idea about NPD, so I enjoy reading your posts.

    I actually did get married to “the one” at 23, so it can happen, even if, in our case, it was more about extreme good fortune than forethought. I don’t remember anything in particular going through my head while I was walking down the aisle except “why does it have to be so freaking hot out here?”

    I can’t take the credit for keeping us together, either. He puts up with the weirdest bullshit from me, even now.

    Thanks for reminding me to not take that for granted. I’m going to go jump him.

  • Fantastic writing. I just broke up with an 8 year relationship because of my commitment issues—and his. This gives me hope. That and the fact that I’ve finally realized it’s not just them……. thanks for this post!

  • When I was standing in front of the clergyman getting married to The Loser, I remember thinking, “This is a huge mistake,” but I was too afraid to put a stop to it and be a runaway bride.

    I loved so many things about this post, Michelle — especially your take on commitment being an every day decision and unpacking your baggage together! I’m certainly not blameless in my current situation — I know there were days where I didn’t make that recommitment and I think we both had large pieces of luggage that were just shoved in the closet and never addressed.

    We are all a product not only of our upbringing, but of our choices, actions and decisions as adults — and the best we can hope for is that we learn as we go along and have some insight for the future so that we can make it better. That’s my hope, anyway.

    • Sister, you are so right. It’s not just our’s our whole lives that shape us. I am a firm believer in taking whatever lessons you can from the past and being a stronger person in the future.

      I am so pulling for you right now!

  • So…. I just realized all your posts on this theme? Is not talking about you and your parents, well it is, but its also talking about my boyfriend and his parents. Suddenly some things make more sense though not sure this is really how I want to see them broken down. He’s definitely commitment phobic in a lot of ways but it’s at odds with his wanting a single stable relationship and for what ever weird reason the guy has, choosing me. Eh. Luckily for him his biggest hurdle, getting married, is a non issue. I don’t see the point really, and as someone on disability, I would lose most of my financial benefits of we did and we can’t afford that.

    • I think that people who were raised by narcissists might share a lot of traits..subtle differences, sure..but there has to be a lot of similarities.

  • Wow. I just spent eight hours with my narcissistic mother on Sunday, and I’m still vibrating. So I do a search on Adult Child of a Narcissist and find your excellent work here. I’m sorry you’re not posting about it anymore, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

    It’s a little overwhelming, though. I cut off contact with my mother, and then it was okay, although I still had ACON tendencies – can’t make decisions, guilt over everything that triggered instant anger which I then had to tamp down, etc – it wasn’t so bad. Eight hours with that horrid woman on Sunday, and I’m still vibrating today. Thanks for your insights. They’re wonderful, and it’s tough but good to read. The whole ‘you’re not alone’ thing is helpful.

    Congratulations to you and Randy. I’m on marriage #2 and he’s definitely a keeper.

    • First of all..I am SO sorry that you’ve had to deal with it. What an excellent way to put it ‘still vibrating’. I’m fortunate in that my narc father is brain damaged so he’s not nearly as toxic as he used to be. (Still see glimpses of it though).

      You are definitely not alone. And I’m sure I’ll post again sometime about the narcissism stuff. I just have to take a break and step back a bit.

      In the mean time, keep reading..maybe I can make you laugh. 🙂

  • I love this post. It sounds a LOT like me and my issues, and gives me faith that I am where I really belong. The Man and I decided to commit to one another, for the long haul (I have divorces and 3 kids; he has one divorce and no kids – yet.) People think I’m crazy. Yet, after reading this, I feel better with our decision (every morning) to stick it out, with or without getting married in the future. “Unpacking our baggage together” is my favorite line!!

    ps- I’m also the adult child of a narcissist….

    • Thank you so much! And good for you and your guy. Don’t worry about what other people’s YOUR life, not theirs.

      It’s nice to have a community of people who ‘get’ where you are coming from.

  • Aw, I loved this, Michelle. And I adored the line, “We both had tons of luggage, but we helped each other unpack.” That’s so perfectly said, and very true.

  • I have trouble with decisions sometimes too. Or, more accurately, I make a decision and then second, third, 100-guess myself, replay every possible scenario, etc., etc. It’s tiring. One day I hope I can trust myself a little more. Randy did good snagging you! 🙂

  • Your posts are hilarious and right on. It makes us feel better to know we are not the only bat shit crazy ones – and more importantly to know some of the reasons why we are bat shit crazy!

By Michelle


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