You do know they’re an emotional emotional toddler, right?

11 Sep 2018

Q. How would you know if your abusive, Narcissistic partner is really an emotional toddler?

A.  The chances are, you probably wouldn’t. For the longest time.  And the reason why is simple.  Once the dust settled and the shallow facade of charm disappeared, you had no option but to show up as an adult in the relationship.  Or more correctly, the   That alone could have given you an important clue to what was going on. However, I am guessing that it did not. Not least because of what I call The Adult Piece. 

The Adult Piece (aka Being an Adult) 

As anyone who has worked with me will know, I am not altogether convinced about the adult piece.  Mostly, we are told how to be adults by people who spend more time congratulating themselves on being adults than doing the work they need to do on themselves.

As far as I can tell, the self-professed “adults” around the place spread the gospel of joylessness.  They tell you that being an adult means working hard – at thankless tasks – accepting joylessness as your lot, having little to look forward to and knuckling down to live in a fairly loveless world. (They sure know how to sell The Adult Piece, don’t they?)

Certainly, that portrayal The Adult Piece what I got from both my family of origin and the wasband.  It is, also, what I hear from the women that I work with.

Something sinful about joy 

There is, allegedly, something a tad sinful about joy.

Depending on your perspective, the great news about The Adult Piece – or else, the really bad news –  is that it prepares you for an increasingly joyless relationship.  It teaches you to suck up the misery and just keep on soldiering on. You learn to keep working at The Adult Piece so you can grow the other person enough to reach the lasting relationship tipping-point.

This is the point at which your relationship goes from unbearably joyless to bearably joyless.

Allegedly.  (The Adult Piece is awash with “Allegedlies.)

My objection to The Adult Piece 

As far as I can see, the Adult Piece is an emotional straitjacket.  It forces you to behave in a particular way that clearly doesn’t work.

You soon learn in a relationship with an abusive, Narcissistic partner that good, loving behavior is not contagious. What you do will not change them.  On the other hand, what they do will damage you.  Toxic, Narcissistic behavior  is corrosive.

The Adult Piece has two incredibly harmful effects.

  1. It leaves you splendidly defenseless. It exposes you to the abusive partner’s never-ending target practice.
  2. It strips you of all the resources you need to come through the process with an intact sense of self.  Worse still, it deprives you of the critical faculties you need to assess how soon to “throw in the diaper” and walk away.

I say “throw in the diaper” because the reality is that you are dealing with an emotional toddler. 

Nobody wants to admit their partner is an emotional toddler 

Nobody wants to have to admit to themselves that they gave themselves heart and soul to an abusive, narcissistic, horrible person.  We all take it as a reflection on ourselves – a very negative reflection.  As if we were somehow responsible for their toxicity.

Ironically, it takes a lot longer to recognize that these toxic partners (and family members) are emotional toddlers.

It can be very hard to see beyond the adult appearance, professional qualifications, carefully crafted shtick and social charm and confidence.  (Actually, even toddlers can be quite confident and charming.)

So, let’s take a quick look at some of the characteristics of the emotional toddler. 

The 12 behaviors that reveal the emotional toddler 

Emotional toddlers carry on acting out these 12 “true” toddler behaviors.

  1. Sulking – although the emotional toddler’s behavior u is more commonly termed “The Silent Treatment” or a “Hissy Fit”.
  2. Neediness – they want what they want from you exactly when they want it. Being reasonable doesn’t come into it.
  3. Demanding attention.
  4. Nagging like crazy to get what they want.
  5. Thinking the entire world revolves around them.
  6. Blaming anyone or anything that adversely affects them. (“The step tripped me up.”
  7. Taking no responsibility for their own behavior. (“She started it.”  “He made me!” “X was horrible to me.”)
  8. Telling convenient, often transparent lies.
  9. Saying and doing hurtful things.
  10. Screaming to bully “their” adult into submission.
  11. Screaming their heads off when tired.
  12. Making a drama out of anything.

Differences between the emotional toddler and the chronological toddler 

The most obvious difference tween the emotional toddler and the true – chronological toddler is that the latter is, ultimately, very lovable.

Chronological toddlers tend to climb down quite quickly, respond well to affection and socialization training, develop empathy, go to bed ( leaving you some much-needed breathing space) and start over, cute and cuddly the next day.  Plus, chronological toddlers tend to be quick to learn, easy to distract, and open to apologizing for their bad behavior. They also understand and mostly accept that the balance of power lies – as it should – with you.

Emotional toddlers, on the other hand, never,

  • Forget a perceived affront.
  • Offer a sincere, lasting apology.
  • Give you a true break.
  • Change their offending behaviors
  • Grow up.
  • Tolerate a perceived loss of their own control over the situation.

The ultimate deal-breaker 

The chronological toddler grows up.  He or she is only a toddler for a couple of years.  The emotional toddler is a toddler for life. Plus, with time, their behaviors only get worse.  The longer you are with them, the more their lovability quotient declines.

Your chances of them reverting back to that lovable persona who once wooed you are about as likely as your troubled adolescent growing back down into the cute toddler they once were.  It’s never going to happen.

So, the next question has to be,

Whose responsibility is the emotional toddler? 

Now, you have spent way too long telling yourself that they are your responsibility.  Why would that be?

You did not spawn or rear that chronological toddler.  You merely adopted them. That leaves you with a couple of important considerations.

First, not all adoptions work out well.  This one surely hasn’t. There is nothing to be gained by continuing that failed undertaking.

Second, the whole point of raising a toddler is to teach that toddler to stand on their own two feet.  Clearly, an emotional toddler is never going to do that for as long as they can pull their spoilt brat routine on you.

You didn’t make the emotional toddler in the first place.  Nor could you unmake them.  All you can do is leave them to stand on their own two feet. That, in the end, is the kindest thing that you can do.  They probably won’t thank you, or use the opportunity to do some long overdue growing up. But at least you will be offering them the chance.

Besides, you will be offering yourself the  opportunity to own your place in the world as the independent, functional woman that you truly are.  That is important.  If you are struggling to send an emotional toddler on their way and need help and support, get in touch.



Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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