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The parent, adult and child scenario in the sociopath and narcissist relationship


You might wonder just how you changed so much whilst in the relationship with the sociopath. Before you met them, you were outgoing, confident, funny, and you lived your life as an adult.

The caring, compassionate person that you once were, tightens up, puts up a guard, and humour  is not so much on the agenda anymore. The sociopath tells you that you are being a nag. That you sound just like their mother (or father). That you have became dull, lifeless, boring. You do not want this to be true, but you realise, that there is some truth. You have indeed changed.

It is not necessarily that you have changed, it is just that being in the relationship with a sociopath or narcissist, forces you to adopt a different persona to cope.

There are three senses of persona that a person has when in a relationship. The healthiest is when both parties are acting as adults. This is the most difficult (and often impossible) to achieve with the sociopath.

The combinations are as follows – each relationship that you are in will always be one of these

Adult – Adult

Adult – Parent

Parent – Child

The healthy relationship – Adult – Adult

To have a healthy relationship, it takes two people in the relationship to act as adults. To act as adults you both need to:

  • Listen to each other
  • Look out for each other’s welfare
  • Be able to put the other persons needs in front of your own
  • Trust each other to do the right thing – trust that your partner will catch you when you fall
  • Communicate effectively
  • Be honest with each other
  • Work together as a team, each recognising the other’s strengths, but helping them through their weaknesses
  • Have empathy for each other

In the relationship with the disordered person, whilst in the beginning they mirror you, appearing very normal, grown up and moralistic. This is because the sociopath is mirroring you. The sociopath is being  whatever and whoever you want to see.

As the relationship progresses, things change, and you are no longer in a relationship where you there are two adults involved. Instead you see a regression. What happens, is that the sociopath starts to behave like the child. When one partner behaves like a child, it will always force the other partner to play the parent role.

When one party acts like the child

The following character traits/responsibility will be present

  • Tantrums and rages
  • Demanding, self focused and needing  their own way
  • Lying and not having respect for the other person
  • Expecting somebody else to solve your problems and be responsible for you
  • Selfishness
  • Short term thinking process
  • Lack of boundaries and poor impulse control
  • Immaturity
  • Unable to handle responsibility
  • Unreliability

When one party acts like the parent

  • Will feel the responsible one
  • Will be the one that has to insist on boundaries and rule setting
  • Will object to unreasonable behaviour
  • Will be the person that takes the weight of the relationship and tries to keep it afloat
  • Will be the reasonable one
  • Will try to be the rational one – the sensible one
  • Will be responsible for taking care of basic needs, shelter, food, health, often finances of the child
  • Can feel burdened by the partner and not appreciated
  • Will feel like the teacher

What happens in an abusive relationship? 

An abusive relationship is an unhealthy one. Any relationship where two people are not acting as adults is an unhealthy relationship.

It wouldn’t work if there were two people acting as parents, each would try to dominate the other. It also wouldn’t work if each were acting like children. Somebody needs to take responsibility.

Being in the relationship with a sociopath or narcissist, will almost always force you (even if this is not part of your natural personality) to act the parent role, as the narcissist/sociopath acts like the child.

It wouldn’t be like this at all in the beginning of the relationship, when the sociopath is acting as moralistic, sensible, reliable charismatic person. You wouldn’t have any idea that this very fun character,  would soon need babying, and that you will be forced into the sensible role of parent.

How does it feel to be forced into the role of parent?

When you are forced into the role of parent, you can feel resentful of the partner. You might try to have ‘sensible chats’ to work on things in an adult way. After all you are deluded by the sense of the’adult’ persona that the sociopath displayed when you first met. Blinded by those first initial illusions, you have false hope that the sociopath will mend their ways, ‘grow up’ and start to act the adult.

The sociopath or narcissist will not do this.

They won’t do grow up and start acting the adult for the following reasons:

  • They don’t have to
  • It is easier and more enjoyable for somebody else to do the work
  • They avoid responsibility by staying in child mode
  • They can also blame you when things go wrong

For you, the victim being forced into the role of parent, it feels:

  • Exasperating
  • Tiring
  • Unsupported
  • Frustrating
  • Boring
  • Unchallenged (as you are always focused on the child’s needs)
  • Unappreciated
  • Undervalued
  • Disrespected
  • Cheated (out of a normal healthy relationship with two adults)

What happens when the victim decides to play the child role? 

Temporarily the victim can become so frustrated in the parent role, that to object they will might slip into the child role. When the victim is playing the child role  they:

  • Give up
  • Complain in a child like manner
  • Cry
  • Withdraw
  • Play games back including becoming manipulative and deceptive

How does the sociopath act when the victim plays the child role? 

When the victim plays the child role, the sociopath or narcissist will be forced to play the role of parent. However, in this role they are very different – in this role, the sociopath acting as parent in the relationship, forces the victim child to comply

  • Uses fear to control
  • Threats
  • False accusations
  • Blackmail
  • Enforcing strict rules and regulations
  • Emotional and mental abuse

How will the victim react? 

The sociopaths parenting strategy, of using fear to enforce control, can be frightening and alarming to the victim. Eventually the victim will need to fight back, and will at first rationalise as the role of adult, but then eventually assumes the role of parent.

When both disordered partner and victim become adults

Sometimes, both parties can take on the role of adult. However this will be very short-lived in a disordered relationship. The sociopath finds it difficult to live life in the role of adult. Often the sociopath can ‘fake’ the role of adult. Sometimes it will be genuine. Often this is a mask of deception as the victim desperately wants and needs an adult relationship.

Sociopaths struggle to act the adult in relationship as 

  • Lack of long term planning
  • Lack of empathy
  • Immaturity
  • Compulsive pathological lying
  • Inability to stop playing the games of a child
  • Lack of concern for the welfare of others
  • Selfishness
  • An inability to believe that anyone other than themselves is right
  • The ability to manipulate, deceive and con others

Short term combinations

The following are more short term combinations. In the relationship with the sociopath it becomes impossible for either party to play the role of adult for too long.

Playing the role of adult (either party) is common at the beginning of the relationship. It is also common at the time of repairing the relationship following a break up.

Adult – Parent

This combination usually occurs, when the sociopath is in the parental role and being overpowering, overbearing and controlling. To try to resolve the conflict the victim will take on the role of adult. This is to try to calm the sociopath down, and to make the sociopath see sense. This could bring both parties temporarily to the role of adult – adult. This gives the victim a sense of hope that things could be ok.

If you think that you have lost yourself, if you think that you have became old and boring. Give yourself a break. Realistically being in the relationship with the sociopath, forces you to act the role of either adult or more likely parent. It is tiring and draining behaving as a parent to the partner that you love. You also feel unsupported. The sociopath might promise that they will change. That they will become more responsible and reliable. They will give you the illusion that they are going to act as the adult. You don’t want them to parent you.  You just want them to grow up. This is not realistic, and will not happen as always they will resort back to the role of the child.

The outcome in the relationship with the sociopath is that you will ALWAYS have to resort to playing the role of parent. This is a dull, boring, frustrating and unsupported role to play.

Set yourself free. Surely you deserve a relationship where BOTH parties can be the adult? This is the most rewarding relationship of all.

Copyright datingasociopath.com 2013