Sometimes the most loving parents end up with the most selfish children. How can that be? We have all heard people say things like, “You know how Susan is. She only thinks of herself.” And many times, Susan comes from a nice family. But Susan’s parents did not set boundaries that required her to respect the feelings of others. This lack of boundaries led to egocentrism, which affected Susan’s ability to love. Having no boundaries in childhood can also lead to impulse problems, addictions, or irresponsibility, which is always unloving. . . .
I (Dr. Cloud) was talking to a young man one day about his girlfriend. He was thinking about getting married, and he had questions about their relationship. Several times during the conversation, he said that something she did or something about the relationship did not “make him happy.” It was clear that this was a theme for him. She was not “making him happy.”
When I asked, he said that she wanted him to deal with some things in the relationship. He needed to do some work that took effort. It was not a “happy” time.
Question: Dr. Townsend, can you give advice for someone who thinks they are married to a narcissist? Everything seems to revolve around my spouse’s wishes and demands. Dr. Townsend: I’m sorry to hear about your situation. First off, the label of “narcissism” is not very helpful unless you are talking with a licensed therapist who has actually done an interview and diagnosed the person. People throw around the term, “narcissism,” a lot and it gets confusing. It’s much more helpful to talk about specific attitudes and behaviors that are problematic. For example, your second sentence, about everything seeming to revolve around your spouse’s wishes and demands, is clear and specific. So let’s deal with that aspect and get you some relief. Here are four tips: 1. Be clear about the problem, and be vulnerable about its impact on you. Many times a spouse who is self-involved will not be able to pick up hints, nuances, and indirect remarks about their attitudes. You need to be direct, though vulnerable, with them about the problem. For example, you could say, “I love you and care about our marriage. But this past week, when I tried to talk to you about our financial... Continue Reading »