Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, Pete could see how destructive his marriage to Nan was. He knew that she was narcissistic, but he didn’t care. He thought that his love would be enough and if he knew how to handle her, things would go well. But it did not.
It didn’t take long before Pete stopped doing activities that he enjoyed in favor of hers. Her friends became his. And her likes and dislikes developed into his as well. From the outside looking in, friends would comment that they had the perfect relationship. Nan had fully attached to Pete and Pete welcomed the attachment.
But that was also when things started going very badly. Pete felt suffocated, manipulated, unable to do anything without Nan being present, and exhausted from her emotional demands. He attempted to pull back from the relationship but Nan just attached even more. The back and forth attachment disengagement cycle was driving him crazy and caused him to seek a divorce. That’s when he looked at what really happened in the relationship.
Who does a narcissist attach to? A narcissist can attach to a parent, child, spouse, friend, and/or business partner. Basically, it is anyone willing to give the narcissist an unlimited supply of attention, admiration, affection, or appreciation. The narcissist needs this supply to feed their ego and will drain those around them in search of a person who is willing to concede. In this case, Nan attached to her husband Pete.
When a narcissist attaches to a child, they usually pick one termed “The Golden Child” and any other children are called “The Forgotten Child”. The golden child can do no wrong whereas the forgotten child is constantly at fault. Unfortunately, the damage of being the golden child is can be just as damaging as the forgotten child because there is no true separation of individuals. The narcissist and the golden child are one. When the golden child marries, the narcissist refuses to accept the spouse and constantly tries to undermine the relationship.
So, what happened to Pete when Nan attached to him?
- Focus changes. Because Pete’s constant focus on Nan’s wants, needs, thoughts, and emotions, his overall focus changed. In his head, he ran everything through the “What would Nan think or feel” filter. No longer was he focused on his own thoughts or feelings, rather he shrank his wants and needs in replacement for hers.
- Loses his identity. When Nan attaches, she views Pete as a physical, emotional, and mental extension of herself. There are no boundaries. Therefore, what Nan thinks or feels, so does Pete. Pete’s identity becomes wrapped up in Nan’s view of him. Any expression of individuality on Pete’s part is met with great resistance and treated as a form of abandonment.
- Feeling of superiority. There is something magical about a narcissistic attachment in the beginning. The love bombing can be as addictive as a drug. At first, Pete could do no wrong and Nan was constantly praising him. This gave Pete a false sense of superiority because others were unable to successfully attach to Nan. Even when Nan would pull away from Pete, her reattachment affirmed his superior feelings.
- Feeling of rejection. But when Nan did pull away from Pete, he felt deep rejection. She would alternate between giving him the silent treatment and raging at him. She would call him names, threaten to leave, destroy his favorite items, and gaslight him. To keep the peace, Pete would assume responsibility for things that he did not do and beg her to stay. Even when she did, Pete would still have lingering feelings of rejection and fear for when it would happen again.
- Living on the edge. Pete felt like he was walking on eggshells around Nan. Her moods had to be his moods regardless of how he felt otherwise she would explode. If Nan has happy, he had to be happy; if she was sad, he had to be sad. The lines between the two of them became so blurred that even Pete had a hard time distinguishing them.
- Formation of a scapegoat. Nan could do no wrong. Even when she was wrong or made a mistake, she would blame Pete. He became her scapegoat so she would not have to take any responsibility for her reactions, behaviors, or actions. She would not apologize but insisted the Pete apologize for every little issue. Pete began to think that he was an awful person, not capable of behaving right.
- Fear of jealous outbursts. Pete was unable to have any friends that Nan did not approve of in his life. She had alienated him from his best friend, his family, talked him into changing jobs and insisted that they move to a different side of town. When Pete would develop a friendship, Nan would go into a jealous rage about how he didn’t love her anymore.
It took some therapy for Pete to get to this point where he could see the destructiveness of a being attached to a narcissist. Fortunately, this prevented him from entering another narcissistic relationship and instead, he is now in a healthy attachment marriage.