Originally posted October 17, 2019.
When Ted’s daughter Vivian FaceTimed him from college, she seemed a bit down. He suspected it was because of Anthony, her boyfriend. He didn’t like him very much, but whenever he tried to talk to her about this, she shut him down. But Ted really thought the guy was bad news.
This time, Ted wasn’t going to let her change the subject and pretend nothing was wrong, After all, even if she was over 19, he was her father and he was concerned.
From what Viv had told him, when Anthony and she met, he showered her with love and attention. He swept her off her feet, so to speak. Taking her out to dinner, buying her small gifts, walking her to class, complimenting her. When Viv described how Anthony treated her, Ted, from his adult viewpoint, thought it seemed a little too good to be true. However, when they FaceTimed, Viv seemed happy. In addition to sorority sisters, Viv now had a boyfriend. She felt like she fit in to college life and had a reasonable group of friends.
But, after a few months, Ted noticed something had changed in his daughter. Viv seemed to be hiding something. She’d only talk briefly about Anthony and would change the subject.
Ted asked her how Anthony was doing. Viv was evasive. But he persisted. He was determined to use good parenting skills and active listening.
“Hon, you don’t seem as happy as before…talk to me…” Tears rolled down her cheeks as she told Ted that, in the last month, Anthony seemed different. She said she felt like she couldn’t do anything right, but it was weird because, in the first few months, he had acted as if she was perfect…She trailed off…she felt embarrassed that she wasn’t good enough…
Ted saw that his daughter was off balance and was losing self-confidence., The shine in her eyes was dimmed.
She mused out loud, “I wonder what I am doing wrong? “
Ted said, “Honey, when you are in a relationship with someone, you are not supposed to be feeling worse about yourself. You are supposed to be feeling better about yourself…you’re supposed to feel loved….” His heart broke for her. He couldn’t understand how this could be happening. He tried to raise her to be self-confident and have self-respect.
Ted decide to go with open ended questions as much as possible. “Tell me about more about the idea that you think you are doing something wrong?”
Viv said that she was feeling tired and staying in more, that she wasn’t seeing her sorority sisters as much as she used to. Ted’s protective alarm bells were ringing!
“Ok..but tell me more about how you think you’re doing something wrong?”
Viv sighed. “I’m embarrassed..to say this…it seems Ted may not be interested in me anymore…He seems really interested in two of my friends in the sorority. When we were first together, he was all about me…but when Carol or Kristy are around, he flirts with them, compliments them and then whispers to me that I’ve gained weight…”
Viv continued …”And then when I say that its not fair for him to judge my looks, well…I feel confused…he tells me that I’m insecure and he’s just trying to help me. And then he pulls a disappearing act for a while…doesn’t answer texts, doesn’t call back…..and then I feel confused and sad… But then, when he comes back, he’s all friendly like nothing ever happened..He’s very confusing guy…But then we have so much fun I just drop it…it must be me..that I’m insecure….right…right?”
Ted was quiet for a moment…He knew he had to tread carefully…He said, “Well, Viv…he sounds like he has some good points…or you wouldn’t go out with him…But as I said before..when you are in a relationship with someone, they should be helping your feel better about yourself…”
Ted sighed and continued.. “You know, a while ago, your Aunt Judy was dating someone that sounded like Anthony. She got caught up in a whirlwind relationship. She confided in me at the time…and I helped her as she broke away from him. She lent me a book about narcissists. Now f course I can’t be sure it’s the same situation. But, some of the things that come to mind are these three things. You can read the book to get more insight into this as well. The way he’s acting sounds like these tactics:
Love bombing – The narcissist does this when he first meets someone whom he wants to admire him, to love him, to supply him with admiration. He showers you with an enormous amount of love and attention. Then once he thinks you’ve fallen for him he moves on to …
Triangulation – Openly flirting with others, having some flirtatious touching and even having one or more affairs. This is order to supply him with even more admiration for himself. Then, if you say something to him about your feelings that this is not right, he moves onto another tactic …
Gaslighting – Minimizing his behavior. Saying it’s nothing and you need to stop being so insecure. Twisting things so that only his reality is acceptable and you’re imagining things. YOU YOU YOU comes up alot with gaslighting. Nonsensical explanations that make no sense, couched in doublespeak and word salads are used. Then he combines gaslighting with …
Stonewalling – Along with gaslighting, stonewalling in the form of disappearing, withholding affection and the silent treatment are used as weapons. He’ll then come back and be all affectionate to keep you off guard.
Viv was silent, listening. Ted continued…”It’s not your fault..his behavior is not your fault. He is who he is and he simply likes the love supply. But you don’t have to put up with feeling put down, confused and having you feelings minimized…”
Ted answered “You have a family that cares about you and you’ll meet all sorts of people ..different types of people and this is how you get to know what you don’t want..what types of people you don’t want to get attached to… It can be painful, but its a learning experience…I’m going to Kindle you that book your Aunt Judy and I read years ago…You can always turn to me for help….And remember, self care and self love are not just words…Self care here would be doing what’s best for you to grow as a person, to have a stronger sense of self…”
Viv said… “Thank you, Dad…This helps alot..I felt lost and started to feel all alone… Funny, I let like I couldn’t talk to you..Like Anthony didn’t want me to talk to you..although he never said it….”
Ted continued…”It’s really hard to understand that there are people out there like this…people who take, aren’t empathetic and don’t have the capacity to give…but they’re out there..narcissists like to isolate their love suppliers as well…to weaken them and keep the love supply for themselves….Look, think about what I said…does it feel familiar? You don’t need to stay in this…and it’s a good lesson to learn…before you get really involved..marry…It’s good to know about these types of people…they really do exist…It’s not your fault…and please come talk to me anytime…”
Ted and Vivian conversed for a while more. Vivian felt confused and hurt, but also glad that she had a good parent to talk with about her relationship. She had alot to think about.
But she felt relieved. She was not crazy. But she also wondered how there were people in the world who are actually so self-centered and ..just…so mean.. that they would manipulate and use another person! It would never occur to her to do that! It was alot to take in. But she felt like her eyes were opened and she was learning what to avoid as she grew into the wider world of college!