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How a Narcissistic Mother Affects Your Relationship

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Growing up with a narcissistic mother can have a harmful impact on your adult relationships.

Our early relationship with our parents has a long-term effect on the way we perceive ourselves, the world, and other social interactions: work, school, friendships, or romantic relationships.

The relationship with our mother is significant because it implies a natural, powerful bond that is usually nurturing for the child.

Unfortunately, it’s the opposite with narcissistic mothers–the child is held responsible for meeting the mother’s needs. This kind of childhood interaction can lead to low self-esteem, intimacy and trust issues, a flawed sense of self, and indecisive behavior. It can be devastating for our future relationships.

There are four important relational implications for adults of having a narcissistic mother.

4 Ways Your Narcissistic Mother Impacts Your Relationship

1. Insecurities about the partners and themselves

If you were raised in a narcissistic family, you might struggle with feelings of inferiority and inadequacy in your romantic relationships. You may also live with the fear your partner will leave you. [Read: 5 Signs You Have Been Raised by Narcissistic Parents]

Iona Monk, who studied children of narcissistic parents, found that, as adults, they often feel overly responsible for any inconvenience in the relationships.

2. Feeling uncomfortable with intimacy

According to Monk, you may also feel uneasy giving and receiving affection. Adult children of narcissistic mothers experience intense distress when expressing their emotions and opening up to their partners.

You may even reject possible partners out of fear of intimacy or play the role of someone else in the relationship. These feelings are probably generated by a fragile sense of self and strong insecurities acquired due to a narcissistic mother.

3. Being easily bored in the relationship and breaking up hastily

Monk found that being raised by narcissistic parents teaches children that their sole purpose is to make efforts to obtain their significant other’s love as adults.

As a child, of course, the love from the parent is never obtained.

If you had a narcissistic mother, you grew up with the constant struggle to gain her love.  When you encounter a stable, calm relationship, you may become bored or uninterested.

If your partner has become close and affectionate with you, it may turn you off. There’s no need for those efforts from you anymore, and you may feel that you have no purpose or don’t know how to act. You may be the one to end the relationships in order to avoid being rejected.

You may frequently chase after new partners but end things as soon as they become serious or intimate. [Read: 8 Signs You’re Ready to Date Again After Narcissistic Abuse]

4. Unrealistic expectations for yourself, your partner, and the relationship

Adults that were raised by narcissistic mothers or caregivers tend to have very high standards for themselves and to be hard on themselves when those standards are not met.

Many adults with narcissist mothers may put all of their happiness into one aspect of their life, sometimes the romantic relationship. This puts a lot of pressure on the person, their partner, and the relationship itself.

You may feel as if it is unacceptable to show vulnerability of any kind, from expressing the need to take a break to strong emotional outbursts.

You may also believe your significant other should be aware of your needs even when they did not know what you needed.

Monk claims this is a natural mechanism of the young child who cannot express his/her needs, but they are usually intuitively satisfied by the nurturing mother.

This basic need is likely not to have been met by the narcissistic mother, and you may continue to search for that connection throughout your life—until you recognize this pattern and work through the trauma.

Healing from Narcissistic Mothers is Possible

Romantic partnerships are often difficult for adult children of narcissistic mothers because they are required to use a language they were not taught as children: connection and intimacy.

Many narcissistic abuse survivors work through their trauma with the support of an understanding significant other and professional help.

It is absolutely possible to have a healthy relationship despite your parents’ approach to the world, with a lot of patience, social support, and perseverance.

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Monk, I., R. (2001). Adult children of covertly narcissistic families: a look at their romantic relationships. Master of Arts Thesis. University of British Columbia, Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education. Canada.



Nicolette Cojocaru

Nicolette is a Romanian licensed psychotherapist who focuses on person-centered psychotherapy and works in an educational center. She is currently completing her Master of Science in child, couple and family psychotherapy.

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