Post-Romantic Stress


What did you learn about love in childhood?

With Valentine's Day approaching, the topic of love is hot stuff. Will you be my Valentine? Will we love 'til death do us part? Is unconditional love even possible in romantic relationships? Did I learn how to love in my childhood?

Adult children of narcissistic parents learned a distorted notion of what love is about. I call it "the legacy of distorted love." They learned that love is either about "what I can do for you" or "what you can do for me." Many adults raised by narcissistic parents choose love partners based on this distorted meaning, which sets them up for dependent or codependent relationships...or no relationship at all. Dependency is an unhealthy leaning on the other, while co-dependency is taking care of the other to the exclusion of taking care of the self.

This distorted notion of love in a narcissistic family comes from the lack of healthy hierarchy in the parent-child connection. In a normal family, there is a clear hierarchy where the parents are on the top and in charge of the children. It is their role to guide, direct, teach and nurture. In a narcissistic family, the narcissistic parent is in the middle and the rest of the family orbits around them, which confuses the normal connections. The children are often put in the role of care-taking the parent, or tiptoeing around them so as not to upset them. The emotional needs of the children are not met.

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