Can I still love her?

As Mother’s Day approaches in the USA, Dr. Karyl McBride, Ph.D. wrote an article regarding the Mother-Daughter connection.  I found comfort in parts of this article but also found myself questioning aspects of my own connection with my narcissistic mother.  Here is the link to the full article on Psychology Today.  I highlight parts of the article below along with my thoughts.  Whatever you are going through this Mother’s Day, I hope you find your own way.  Thank you to the mothers who are breaking the legacy everyday, you are my inspiration.

Mother’s Day is approaching and this time of year discussions about mothers explode, but of course the roaring voices describing maternal narcissism are hushed to the background. We hear the praise and celebrations about good mothering, but simultaneously the complete stillness and silence about inadequate mothering.

One of the things I often think about is how lucky I am not living in the United States during my recovery.  Most of my friends are mothers now and I would have to deal with many face to face discussions regarding this holiday.  Even with the distance, I get a fair share of the contact digitally but also dealing with my boyfriend, as he asked me last week to look for a gift for his mother (who, in my opinion, is N and has never shown me or anyone any love or warmth).  I feel like I am hushed during this time…a silence I put on myself but at the same time feel like it is this invisible mussel from society.

If adult children of narcissistic parents discuss their upbringing, they are usually met with disdain……If a narcissistic parent raised a daughter or son, it means that the parent was not capable of empathy and unconditional love. The issue lies in the disorder of the parent. It does not mean that the daughter or son is not capable of loving or that they don’t love that parent…..But, because the adult child is reacting to the lack of maternal love, they are seen as the one who does not love the parent. 

That is the irony we live in.  The narcissistic parent does not love us back.  My mother does not love me but if I don’t smile and sing her praises I am called often by my friends and family: a spoiled, selfish rotten brat (that is a real quote, btw).  And so, as a way to get through it I often have to lie and pretend…and sometimes that makes me more sick than anything my mother every said to me.  Living with this irony is an invisible prison that I can only see.

Can you imagine spending a lifetime of loving someone and trying to get their love back, and then being blamed for being the one who doesn’t love? We do call that projection. The narcissistic parent will make it about their kid not loving them.

Yeah.  What’s that expression?  Been there.  Done that.  She tells people I am the one that doesn’t call and I don’t care…I don’t care about them, our culture, our family.  I am heartless.  Sound familiar?  Play that broken record.

If you are trying to explain this to others, think of this quote from Victoria Secunda, author of When Madness Comes Home:

“Unless they’ve had firsthand, day to day experience with mental illness, it’s a conversation killer to say that you are a veteran of such devastation. Most people don’t really get it. Why should they? In general, the scant knowledge they do have is, at best, grotesquely distorted, at worst, just plain inaccurate.”

This is an interesting quote.  It made me really think.  I have, in brief, explained to some of my friends that I don’t have a good relationship with my mother.  I have never mentioned the illness outside of this blog and boyfriend until recently.  I had told my aunt about NPD a month ago.  She was understanding but I could tell by her reactions that it is not something easily understood.  And I think that is true.  It took me 30 years to identify what was happening, how can someone understand it with a standard definition.  All I hope for is that the people I tell trust me enough to know that I am doing a healthy thing for myself and that doing something healthy for yourself is the most important thing.  Maybe they don’t even need to know my mother has a mental illness…they just need to trust my decision…they need to trust me.

Because you see the disorder in the parent and you are reacting to it and working your own recovery, do you think that means you don’t love your parent? Or are you simply standing in your truth, accepting your reality, and working on your own mental health? 

The by-line to this article is: If mother can’t love, can you still love her?  And where I borrowed the title to this post.  And I have my answer to this question.  No.  I know that was my answer before I started my recovery.  

I do not love my mother.  It feels freeing to be able to write this down.  I do not love her.  When I think of love and when I have experienced love (of my friends, my boyfriend) it isn’t the same feeling when I think of my mother.  For me, love has no conditions, footnotes, asterisks or variations.  Love is love.   

The article says we are still capable of loving the parent even when love wasn’t returned back.  I question this everyday.  I think it is capable to love someone and they not love you back.  But that is not what my narcissistic mother did.  It wasn’t that she is just guilty of not loving me…she is guilty of taking, abusing me everyday of my childhood.  That is something very different to me.  Their abuse doesn’t stem from a lack of love…their abuse comes from a place of hatred.  You have to really hate to abuse someone everyday of their life.  You have to really hate to say mean things and manipulate them.  You have to really hate to hit and beat them.

How can I love her when she hated me?


5 thoughts on “Can I still love her?

  1. I’m a big fan of Dr. McBride! My Mother (NPD) died about a year ago and since then I’ve been on a quest to understand just how a mother could have a child she couldn’t love. When you find a community of people that understand your feelings, the feeling is incredibly validating. Otherwise, society tells us our mothers are to be revered and that just doesn’t add up when you look at how she treats us. I waited for 55 years knowing I would finally find relief when she passed away and I was shocked at how much relief I felt! Looking back I realize I had the power to draw my boundaries and give myself permission to opt out of the conventional relationship most mothers and daughters have. My biggest regret was waiting so many years to find relief….the power was mine to take.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems so unnatural that a mother could not love her own child…I use the word, seems, loosely…because as you said…this community does validate the fact that it is capable in our society…across countries…across cultures…that a mother not love her child.

      One of my favorites films is Dangerous Liaisons (1988) with John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keanu Reeves, Uma Thurman. In the movie there is a quote…’regret is an essential component of happiness’. Here’s to that…happiness.



    • barbara joy, you wrote this several years ago, so I don’t know whether you will see my reply, but if you do, I’d like to ask you whether you felt the relief right away, or did it take a while? My NPD/BPD mother died 4 days ago. Even though I had long ago come to the realization that it was pointless to try to have a meaningful relationship with her and had limited my contact with her to semi-anual superficial visits (and making sure her physical needs were well taken care of), I am filled with sadness. I can only wonder if I still somehow clung to the thought that maybe someday my mother would change. On an intellectual level, of course, I knew she would never change. But it seems as though some child-like part of me still had hope, which is now finally extinguished. So I am greiving the loss, not so much of the mother I never really had, but of hope.

      Liked by 1 person


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