Tag Archives: boundaries
As I’ve said many times, my heart goes out to those in the position of being unable or unwilling to go no contact with their narcissistic parents. You’re in a tough, tough place, & I understand since I’ve been there. I want to help you if I can, & that is what today’s post is about.
There are some small, easy ways you can set boundaries with your narcissistic parent while not eliminating them from your life entirely.
For starters, reduce the amount of time you spend with your narcissistic parent. Don’t visit or have your parent visit you as often. Stop taking their calls every time they call. Ask yourself if you feel up to dealing with your parent, & if not, don’t take that call or visit.
When you must visit or speak with your parent on the phone, set a time limit. Don’t allow your narcissistic parent to waste half your day when that is so hard on you! Set a limit, then say “I have to go” & go.
Also if you visit your narcissistic parent, have a way out. Plan something to do so you only have a limited time to spend with your parent. If you can’t think of something, say you just remembered something you have to take care of & go. It’s not a lie- you remembered you have to take care of yourself!
Remember to keep the conversation away from you. Your love life, in-laws, job, troubles & even your mental & physical health should be off the table for topics to discuss with your narcissistic parent. Giving any narcissist personal information is just asking for trouble such as criticism & unasked for, useless advice. Change the subject if your parent wants or demands to know something personal about you. If all else fails, ask your parent about something that matters to her. Chances are excellent she’ll drop the matter at the opportunity to talk about herself.
If you’re dependent even slightly on your narcissistic parent financially, find ways to put an end to it. Narcissists love controlling their adult children with money, so remove that tool if at all possible. If not, then at least find ways to reduce the amount.
If you have pets or kids, have strict boundaries in place. It is your job to protect them & that includes from abusive & narcissistic parents.
When it’s time to set boundaries with your parent, remain calm. Show no emotion, simply state the facts. Any signs you are upset will fuel your narcissistic parent’s behavior. Stay calm, state your boundary & the consequence of your parent not respecting the boundary, then enforce it if necessary.
If you’re friends on social media, unfollow your narcissistic parent. You will remain friends, but you won’t see her posts which can reduce stress.
If you must go somewhere with your narcissistic parent, drive separately. That way, you are free to leave at any time if need be. Also, cars are a great weapon for some narcissists. There is no escape- you have to put up with whatever they do when you’re in a car together. My mother loved having me trapped in her car, & used it to scream at me when I was a kid or belittle me as an adult.
Always remember the Gray Rock Method. Think about what gives your narcissistic parent narcissistic supply, & refuse to provide it. Basically, you need to be boring to her. Don’t admire her. Don’t praise her. Don’t get angry at her so she can portray herself as the victim. Don’t coddle her. Don’t share anything personal about yourself that she could use against you or as fuel to spread lies about you. Don’t empathize with her if someone has hurt her. Show no real interest in her problems. If she needs your assistance with something, do the bare minimum, don’t go above & beyond. Gray Rock can be hard at first because every tiny thing can provide narcissistic supply, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Lastly, pray & pray often. Ask God to help you cope with your narcissistic parent, to give you the right words to say, & to give you effective, creative ways to cope with her behavior. He will NOT disappoint you!
2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (KJV)
So many of us raised by narcissistic parents grew up believing it was our job to protect our parents from consequences. No matter what our parents did to us, we weren’t supposed to be upset about it or confront them about being abusive. We were supposed to tolerate everything they did with a smile rather than take the chance in upsetting them.
Sadly, this awful belief often is such an ingrained belief, it follows us into adulthood. Our narcissistic parents can continue abusing not only us but our spouse & children as well without fear of consequences.
The fact is that this belief & behavior goes against God’s will. God is a firm believer in consequences. The Scripture at the beginning of this post is evidence of that.
Dear Reader, if you’re suffering at the hands of your narcissistic parents, you are well within your rights to set boundaries & give your parents consequences! Doing so won’t make you a bad person or bad daughter or son. In fact, it means you are following God’s will.
The same is true if you have gone no contact with your narcissistic parents. Although many people will attempt shame you for doing so, going no contact after years of abuse & attempts to improve the relationship is NOT a bad thing. Yes, it’s sad when a relationship comes to such drastic measures, especially when it’s a close relationship such as parent & child, however, it is also often the only resort left for a victim who wishes to be free of abuse. The person in this situation has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about.
Boundaries are a very important part of life, but perhaps even more so in victims of narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists don’t allow their victims to have any boundaries. This creates victims who think they aren’t allowed to have boundaries not only with the narcissist, but with everyone. Lacking healthy boundaries sets a person up to be used & abused. Even the kindest, most well meaning people can inadvertently take advantage of someone without good boundaries, because the person doesn’t say no. How can anyone know what they’re asking someone to do is a problem if that someone doesn’t say no?
Boundaries are like the fence that surrounds your yard. They show you where you end and other people begin, & what is & is not your personal responsibility. Your emotions, beliefs, desires & behaviors are your responsibility. Likewise, the emotions, beliefs, desires and behaviors of other people are their responsibility, not yours. You do not even need to have an opinion on these things. If they are hurting you or are being self-destructive, however, Ephesians 4:15 says that you may speak the truth to them in love about the issue.
No one can control someone with healthy boundaries. You will show others that you have confidence & self-respect, & that you love yourself enough to take good care of you.
By learning about boundaries, you will quickly learn what is & is not important to you, therefore you know what you need to confront another person about, & what you can let slide. You will be more sensitive to the early signs of resentment or anger that let you know that your boundaries are being violated. It is best to nip things in the bud, rather than to let the problem continue until it is much bigger.
Boundaries also enforce consequences. Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Often, many people try to interfere with this natural law to avoid painful consequences, however, doing that often causes bigger problems. Boundaries allow this reaping to take place because you know that it is not your place to interfere. People need consequences for their actions, good or bad! How is someone who does good things for others benefited by never receiving recognition or a reward for their good works? That person becomes discouraged, potentially even bitter. Or, what good does it do anyone to say or do anything they want, & never suffering when they cause others to suffer? This person learns nothing, nor does she have any opportunity to grow and mature or grow closer to God.
When you first begin to set boundaries, some people will not like it. They will tell you that you are being selfish or uppity, or they may ask what happened to the “good girl” you used to be. Reasonable, safe people will accept & respect your new boundaries with no problems. Unsafe people will not. If others cannot respect your healthy boundaries, then they are the ones with a problem, not you. Setting boundaries is a very good way to learn who is safe & who is not.
For your first step in getting started on boundaries, I strongly suggest you spend some time asking yourself these questions, & really think about your answers:
• What things am I no longer willing to tolerate from other people?
• What things do I need from other people?
• What boundaries do I need to set in my own life?
• How can I enforce them in a healthy way?
When setting your new boundaries, be very decisive about them. Wavering in your boundaries can lead to problems, such as others not not respecting your new boundaries.
You also need to figure out healthy ways to enforce those boundaries. Some simple phrases that may help you are:
• “I’m not going to do that.”
• “I won’t discuss this subject with you.”
• “You’re entitled to your opinion, but so am I.”
• “If you don’t stop talking about this subject, I’m going to hang up the phone (or leave the room, etc).”
Enforce your boundaries with consequences when necessary. Hang up the phone, leave the room, or whatever your consequence is. If you do not enforce your boundaries, people not only will lose respect for the boundary you are setting, but they will lose respect for you as well.
Remember to respect the boundaries of others too. You may need to write down what you are & are not responsible for regarding others in your life. Everyone is entitled to the same things that you are- lack of judgment on their own emotions, beliefs, desires, & actions. And remember- you are also not responsible for the feelings & well-being of others. People are also allowed to freely express their emotions. While you may offer sympathy, it is not your responsibility to make things all better for them. If you have done wrong by them, however, then it is certainly your place to apologize & try to make it up to them for the pain you caused.
You will need to tailor this information to your unique situation, but you can do this! Even if you are afraid, as most people learning to set boundaries for the first time in their lives are, do it anyway! The benefits of boundaries outweigh the risks. You will have more inner peace than ever before, you will feel less burdened & freer since you do not need to be responsible for some things you once were (such as the happiness and choices of others), & you naturally will begin to attract much healthier, happier people into your life.
Romans 15:2 “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” (NIV)
One of the most common yet stupid things said to Christians in the situation of having a narcissistic parent is how you’re not a good Christian let alone son or daughter if you don’t do everything your parents want, right down to tolerating their abusing you.
Truly, some people have no concept of what it truly means to honor your parent. They also must have missed Romans 15:2. Take a moment to read that Scripture again…
“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”
See that? “..for their good…” That doesn’t mean to do blindly for someone, it means to do things that benefit them. Doing whatever your narcissistic parent wants doesn’t necessarily mean doing what is best for them. Narcissists care more about what feels good at the moment than what is genuinely good for them.
So what is “for their good”?
- Taking your elderly narcissistic parent to the doctor when sick.
- Helping your parent by cutting their grass when their lawn mower is broken or washing their clothes when their washer is broken.
- Buying them something you think your parent would like just to be a blessing.
- Setting & enforcing boundaries.
- Saying no.
- Going no contact.
The last three items were pretty hard to consider good, weren’t they? They really are good though, & I’ll tell you why.
All three of those behaviors are about boundaries, & boundaries are a VERY good thing. Boundaries show others how you wish to be treated & gives people the option to treat you accordingly or not without forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. Boundaries encourage good behavior while helping you not to be responsible for someone else’s behavior, feelings, etc. In short, boundaries are a very loving behavior. Granted, narcissist don’t see them that way, but it’s still true. (If you’re interested, I have a free “Boundaries” book study course & article about boundaries on my website.)
Saying no is also a good boundary behavior because nobody needs to go through life without being told no at some point. Getting one’s way creates spoiled, entitled people with no regard for others (sound familiar??). Narcissists don’t like to be told no, & will do whatever they can to avoid it, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t hear no. The more they hear it, the less they will demand of you. This works well for you & at the same time, teaches the narcissist that you won’t tolerate being pushed around. A very good thing for the narcissist to learn.
No contact also can be for someone’s good sometimes. No contact should be the final step after trying to work out the relationship, & often, sadly, it’s very necessary with narcissists. It can be good for narcissists though, because it shows them they simply can’t go around abusing people & expecting them to tolerate it indefinitely. Also, you never know- maybe with you not in that person’s life, God will be able to reach her & help her to see the error of her ways. Sometimes it takes having people out of a person’s life for them to turn to God. (Granted, that is extremely rare, but with God, all things are possible.) No contact also removes the opportunity for that person to sin by removing you to abuse from her life. These things are all for the narcissist’s own good.
Doing something for someone’s own good never means giving someone whatever they want or tolerating abuse. These never benefit anyone! If someone suggests otherwise, they clearly have no idea what it means to love someone God’s way.
When most people think of narcissists, they think of someone loud & obnoxious, who is obviously abusive. That isn’t always the case however. Some tactics narcissists use to abuse their victims are very subtle. So much so that when they happen, a victim may not give them a moment’s thought. That doesn’t make these tactics any less abusive.
Trying to “fix” your appearance. This can be done in very subtle ways, such as suggesting what foods you can eat to help you lose weight or what clothes would look better on you than what you normally wear. It’s a way to shame your looks disguised as offering helpful suggestions. It’s also a good way to make someone look like what the narcissist wants that person to look like.
Isolation. Whether the narcissist in your life is a parent or spouse, it’s a safe bet that person wants to isolate you. They may say things like, “She isn’t really your friend. If she was, she would/wouldn’t ….” “I heard he said …. about you. It was a terrible thing to say, especially since he’s your brother!” “They don’t like me. It really hurts me you’d be friends with people who obviously hate me.” The fewer people in your life, the easier you are to control. You won’t be able to talk about your situation with anyone, so no one can tell you what he or she is doing is wrong.
Disrespecting your boundaries. It starts out small.. a little compromise you don’t object to. Then it’s another, slightly bigger compromise, then another & another. Before you know it, you aren’t allowed to have any boundaries. The old saying, “give him an inch, he’ll take a mile” is the absolute truth with narcissists.
Making you doubt yourself. “Are you sure you said that?” “No, I don’t think you really want that. I think you’d prefer….” Subtle phrases like this are nothing but gaslighting. They make a person doubt their perceptions, feelings, & opinions. It’s a very subtle way of tearing a person down mentally & emotionally.
Using anger to control you. In romantic relationships, they hide their anger until they are comfortable that you’re in it for the long haul, then they start using their anger suddenly. Overt narcissists often will scream & rage, sometimes for hours. Covert narcissists give quiet displays of their rage- they give the silent treatment, give disapproving looks, tell other people how cruel you are to them & play the victim. Some narcissists will punch walls or take their anger out on inanimate objects as a way to intimidate you. My ex husband did this & told me how lucky I was he took his anger out on our microwave instead of me.
If someone is doing these things to you or someone you know, it’s abuse, plain & simple! You have every right to protect yourself from this type of behavior, no matter who is doing it. Take back your power! Set & enforce your boundaries. Leave if the person becomes angry, especially if you’re afraid for your safety. Rekindle old friendships the narcissist forced you to abandon. Start a journal if you don’t currently have one, & keep track of the things the narcissist says- seeing things in writing may give you more clarity. Most of all pray. Ask God what you should do in this situation. He will guide you & give you creative ways to handle it or the strength to go no contact.
This has been a really crappy, awful week to put it mildly.
Monday, we had a new storm door installed on the back of our house. It leads to an enclosed porch, which has a door that leads into the kitchen. In that brief window of time there was no storm door, my father not only stopped by my home but came onto the porch, into my home! Remember, we’re no contact so this was quite a shock for me. I had no idea he’d even come by let alone barge into my home. I thank God if it had to happen, it happened when it did because my husband dealt with him. It was ugly. My husband said he said he wanted to see me. My mother is in the hospital having a lump removed from her carotid artery, so he wanted to tell me (side note- any prayers for her would be appreciated). Hubby said he’d tell me. My father kept demanding to talk to “his daughter” & even accused hubby of keeping me from him. He said he was going to stay on my porch & wait until I came out to speak to him. My husband finally told my father if he didn’t leave, he was calling the police. (I love this man!) Interestingly, about an hour later, he said, “Yanno.. don’t be surprised if the police show up to do a welfare check. I just have a feeling.” I thought no way.. that wouldn’t happen. How wrong I was…
The following evening, there was a knock on my door. It was a county cop. He said my father called the police to do a welfare check on me. My father told the police my husband “kicked him off” our property & wouldn’t let me see him. This was an experience I never expected to happen since both my parents always liked my husband way more than me. For my father to turn on him & to waste the time of the local police has been such a shock.
Prior to this, he’d sent 4 different people after me to tell me to call him, including his barber. (Yes, I really am serious! His barber!!)
My first reaction on Monday was to want to cuss out my father for messing with my husband. Not proud of that, but it’s true. Thankfully after calming down some, I remembered that narcissists love to bait their victims. That is what has been happening with my father. He tried forcing me to see him, then to hurt & anger me to the point I’d contact him. Even if it was to cuss him out, it’d be narcissistic supply. Narcissists need someone’s love or hate, since both strong emotions provide them supply. Ignoring them deprives them of supply & they can’t handle that.
So now, I’m not sure what to expect. Involving the police was a new low, as far as I’m concerned, so it makes me wonder what else he is capable of doing.
And, because once you’ve survived carbon monoxide poisoning, your tolerance for stress goes completely down the toilet, I’ve been pretty much a wreck since Monday physically as well as emotionally. (FYI- the body produces small amounts of carbon monoxide when stressed. This is helpful to the body unless it’s already compromised as it is after poisoning. In that case, your body responds to that small amount as if it was poisoned again).
Any prayers would be appreciated! Thank you!
I’m hoping sharing this with you, Dear Reader, is somehow beneficial. Maybe it can help you to realize the importance of never underestimating a covert narcissist as I did with my father. Maybe you realize the narcissist in your life may do this type of thing & you can prepare ahead of time for it. I don’t know. But, I do hope sharing my story helps you in some way! xoxo
Recently, God began dealing with me about something. I tend to say yes too quickly. I agree to help people or do favors when I’m tired or busy way too often. He put in my heart that just because something is good, doesn’t mean it’s good for me.
This makes a lot of sense to me. There have been plenty of times I decided to focus on my latest book, yet didn’t do it because someone needed something from me. Not that what they needed was anything bad, nor is it bad to help someone, but for me, I should have focused on my writing instead. Other times, I wasn’t feeling well & just needed to rest, yet didn’t because someone said they needed me.
Does this sound familiar to you, Dear Reader? Do you do the same things?
I’d venture to say it’s pretty common with adult children of narcissistic parents. We were trained from birth to put ourselves last, & that training doesn’t stop just because we’re grown up. We’re also told it’s selfish to put ourselves first. Taking care of others above ourselves has become such a habit, often it happens without even thinking. We simply do it automatically. We may do it even when everything in us says, “NOOO!!!” just because it’s what we feel we’re supposed to do.
Today I want to encourage you to have more healthy boundaries & balance. It’s certainly good to put others ahead of yourself sometimes, but only in balance. You deserve to be your priority too! There is no shame in taking care of yourself or your duties. In fact, it’s a must to do so.
Starting to do this can be difficult after a lifetime of being so out of balance, I know. I recommend prayer as the best place to start, as usual. Ask God to help you know what you should say yes to & what you should say no to. He will! That is what I’m doing, & so far, so good. I slipped up by not praying this immediately, as soon as I realized what God wants to teach me, & ended up saying yes to something I probably shouldn’t have. Since, I prayed for God’s help & things are going better.
And remember Dear Reader, just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you. xoxo
Most of us who have experienced abuse in our childhood have trouble standing up for ourselves even as adults. It feels wrong, like something you should never do.
But, did it ever cross your mind that by not defending yourself, you are validating the abuse? It gives the abuser permission to treat you however they want to.
Unfortunately with narcissists, it’s not always easy to put a stop to their evil actions. They seem to think they have the right to do anything they want to whomever they want. Even so, it’s a good idea to set some boundaries with them.
Remember, with narcissists, you can’t set boundaries like you can with normal people. Normal people will respect it when you say that something they did hurt you. They will apologize & try to make it up to you when appropriate. Narcissists are the complete opposite- they will not only refuse to apologize, but remember what you complain about to do it more often. They also may blame you for making them do that, being oversensitive or even making things up.
You have to get creative in setting boundaries with narcissists.
First, ask God for creative ideas. He will NOT disappoint you! Once, my mother told me where a former teacher of mine works. She said he asked about me & she told him I don’t work (apparently being an author isn’t a real job.. could’ve fooled me!). That made me angry, her discounting my writing yet again. In venting to God, He put an idea in my head. I made up new business cards, & when I saw this teacher with my parents a couple of weeks later, proceeded to give him one in front of my mother. The look of shock on her face was priceless! And, she couldn’t say a thing or else she would have looked bad in front of my old teacher. HA!
Secondly, always do your best to appear happy or neutral when setting a boundary. Never show your hurt or anger, as I mentioned above. Also, it flusters them when you can set a boundary cheerfully after their valiant attempt to hurt you. When they get flustered, they will stop what they are doing.
And, don’t forget- subject changes can be your friend. Rather than saying you don’t want to talk about whatever topic they are using to hurt you, change the subject. It may not always work, but it will help you sometimes. Just be sure to keep changing the topic back to what they wanted to talk about if they try to change it back.
So many victims of narcissistic abuse wonder why the narcissist seems to stroll happily through life without consequences for their actions while their victims are left to suffer alone or are even blamed for what was done to them. It’s so unfair!
This came to mind recently. I had a flashback. When thinking about it later, my mind wandered to when I was 19, my mother threw me into a wall & hurt my back. She has not had any consequences for her actions in the 26 years since that happened. My father said he tried talking to her about it not long after it happened, & she just said “Are you ever going to let that go?” He dropped the subject. I never said anything to her- I was too afraid of it happening again, or her doing something worse. Also why I never called the police, even though now I wish I would have. My ex husband (who I was with at the time) also never did anything aside from tell me how hard it was on him, what she had done.
In fact, I think my father blames me for what happened that night. A year or two ago, for whatever odd reason, he mentioned that incident & told me I didn’t need to apologize for busting up the wall- he was able to repair it. Excuse me? The wall was busted up because my mother threw me into it, so no, I have no plans on apologizing for that.
Sadly, I think this is pretty typical. I can’t think of one victim I’ve spoken with who doesn’t have a similar story. And like me, they are baffled that the narcissist who abused them received no consequences for their actions. They’re also angry, which is certainly understandable. It’s extremely unfair! We’re the ones who suffered because of them, & they don’t get so much as a scolding for what they’ve done!
I really am not sure why this happens. Maybe it’s because people are afraid of the narcissists. If you don’t know much about NPD or have limited experience with a narcissist, the overt narcissist can be very intimidating. Their rages can be terrifying. Or, if the narcissist in question is a covert narcissist, maybe people are afraid of hurting them. Covert narcissists love to play the innocent victim. (They can make their victim apologize to them- they are that convincing). They make the person confronting them feel guilty, even ashamed, & certainly no one wants to feel that way!
Some who know a little about narcissism believe that NPD is something beyond control. They believe the term “disorder” means that the narcissist cannot control her actions at all, when the rest of us know absolutely she can & does on a regular basis.
Or, maybe it’s because victims are the sane, rational ones, & other people think the sane, rational one should “be the bigger person” in the relationship, the one to forgive & forget, & the one to ignore the narcissist’s “flaws”.
Whatever the reason, I know it’s incredibly frustrating that people don’t allow the narcissist any consequences for the abuse she dishes out. Just once, wouldn’t it be amazing to see her get told off for how horribly she treats other people? Maybe not the most good Christian attitude, but in all honesty, what victim of a narcissist hasn’t felt that way at some point? I sure have!
So instead of waiting on others, why not give the narcissist consequences yourself? I’m not saying go cuss her out. If you’re a Christian, act like it! But, there are ways to give a narcissist the deserved consequences without being vengeful.
Boundaries. Have & be willing to enforce good, healthy boundaries. You have every right to tell her no, you won’t tolerate that or do that. Let her figure out how to do something herself or have something done if it’s something you don’t feel you should do or if it goes against your morals. Or, for example, if you’re with your narcissistic mother & have had enough, tell her you’re going home (or need to hang up the phone). If your narcissistic mother is like mine, she expects you to deal with her until she’s tired of you & dismisses you. It will irk her to no end if you end the visit or call first, but it is entirely your right to do so! She doesn’t need to get her way all the time & you need to take care of your physical & mental health.
Don’t allow her to order you around. My mother is a big one for barking out orders, rather than saying something like “Would you please get that for me?” Instead, it’s “Hand me that.” A few months ago, I noticed this. (Sadly, it took my entire life to notice it..) I decided to change how I reacted to her orders. Rather than blindly obeying, I do a couple of things. Sometimes I tell her “In a minute” or “Ok, later” instead of interrupting what I was doing. Other times, I do as she wanted & say “Since you asked so nicely, here is the item you wanted. You’re welcome.” This annoys my mother, but she has started to say “please” sometimes. It’s a little thing, but it means a lot to me to be treated with simple respect rather than being treated like the hired help.
My mother also employs a very common coping skill, especially with narcissists. She reinvents the past. According to her, she was quite the impressive mother. Many other victims I’ve spoken with go through this with their narcissistic mother, too. Rather than validating her delusions, you have the right to tell her that isn’t what happened & tell her the truth. In all honesty, I don’t do this with my mother because I see a tremendous amount of guilt in her for how she’s treated me. I don’t think she could handle me telling her the facts & shattering her delusion. Even so, I refuse to validate her stories. “I don’t remember it that way” or “I don’t remember that happening at all” work for me. She then changes the subject before I can say what the truth was. It’s not a perfect solution but it works for us. She can still use that coping mechanism (as dysfunctional as it is) without me validating it. It’s her right to use it, after all. It’s also my right to refuse to condone it.
Narcissists may not always get the consequences they deserve, but they do need some nonetheless. Consequences teach us how to treat other people, & frankly, who needs to learn how to treat people if not a narcissist? Consequences may not make them treat you like a non-narcissist would, but they most likely will improve the way they treat you in some ways. They also will gain a little respect for you for not allowing them to push you around so much anymore. Not that they’ll admit that, of course, but it still happens.
Like many survivors of any type of abuse, one thing I have struggled with my entire life is thinking that everything is my fault. It’s very easy to see why this has happened…
- My mother blamed me for making her abuse me. She claimed she was “saving me from myself”, if I wasn’t so bad she wouldn’t have to do the “tough love” thing on me, & I was too upset to drive after a fight with her when I was 19 so her solution was to throw me into a wall & hurt my back.
- On our third anniversary, my ex-husband started a big fight. I needed time to calm down & think, so I left. When I came back, his mother (we lived with his parents) chewed me out for making him punch her wall after I left, & told me how I needed to fix this. I needed to apologize to him & never leave during an argument again. She also wanted me to apologize to her husband for making my husband so angry.
- My current in-laws blame me for stealing my husband from them & keeping him from his family, according to my husband’s sister. They also don’t understand why I have a problem with how my mother in-law has treated me (she’s a very devious covert narcissist).
- When talking about problems with my parents, I have been told that I need to make things work with them. It’s my job to fix things, period.
You simply can’t survive things like this without learning that everything is your fault, and you deserve whatever you get. It’s your fault for making people act that way. You need to try harder. If the relationship is going to work, then you have to be the one who makes it work.
This type of behavior is extremely common among adult children of narcissistic parents.
Can you relate? If so, read on..
I want to tell you today, Dear Reader, that there is no way that everything is your fault.
It is simply impossible for one person to do every single thing wrong in a relationship while the other does every single thing right. Even people with the best intentions & good relationship skills will make mistakes sometimes.
It’s also not one person’s responsibility to make a relationship work. Relationships are not a one way street- they are a two way street. Both people need to be willing to work on the relationship, no matter what kind of relationship we are talking about. Whether the relationship is husband & wife, friends, relatives, co-workers or parent/child, both parties need to work on the relationship if it is to be a successful. One person simply cannot make it work, no matter how hard they try. Sure, one person can make the relationship work briefly, but it won’t last long. The one with all of the responsibility will become resentful quickly at best, or feel like a complete failure when it falls apart.
You need to know today, Dear Reader, that not everything is your fault or your responsibility! You have your own voice, your own feelings, & your own needs. Never let anyone convince you otherwise! You have your own worth & value, no matter what anyone else says.
One thing that is very common among those who have experienced narcissistic abuse at the hands of a parent is an extremely overdeveloped sense of responsibility.
Narcissistic parents are extremely demanding of their children. They expect their child to please them, no matter what. The child must take care of the narcissistic mother emotionally (emotional incest). The child must anticipate her narcissistic mother’s every whim, preferably even before she knows she has the whim, & meet it perfectly. If she doesn’t, the mother believes she has every right to rage at her child. This scenario makes the child extremely responsible. Not only for her narcissistic mother, but for anyone in her life.
Thank God for helping me, because I was absolutely terrible in this area. If someone was upset & I knew it, I thought it was my responsibility to make that person happy. If the person had a need or want, it was my responsibility to meet it, even if they could take care of it themselves. This was an awful way to live. So much pressure! I thank God for getting me away from that.
Learning about boundaries is what helped me the most. Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend’s book “Boundaries” literally changed my life. Boundaries show you where you end & others begin, which helps you to know what you are & are not responsible for. Once you know that information, you realize it is truly NOT your responsibility to do certain things. It takes a great deal of the burden off of you.
Leaning on God is a tremendous help too. Ask Him to show you what to do, then wait for the knowledge that you should or should not help that person & how to go about it. He truly will guide you & enable you not to feel guilty if He doesn’t want you to help someone for whatever reason. God does not want you to suffer with feeling you have to fix everyone.
Many adult daughters of narcissistic mothers I’ve spoken to say something like, “My mother was terrible, but my dad was a great guy” or, “He was the perfect dad- I couldn’t have asked for better.” They also say things like he didn’t stop Mom from abusing them. It wasn’t his fault though – he traveled for work, worked long hours, she was awful to him too or she was in charge. The roles also can be reversed with narcissistic fathers where the adult children say their mother was a great mom, she couldn’t stop him, but it wasn’t her fault, etc.
They fail to realize that both of their parents were narcissists.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all people who marry narcissists are bad people or are narcissists!! However, many times when a narcissist gets married, it’s to another narcissist.
Narcissists come in two forms – overt & covert. Most familiar are the overt narcissists, since they are the bold type. They are loud, boisterous & cocky. They demand to be the center of attention at all costs, even if it means making them look ridiculous. Covert narcissists are much harder to spot. They tend to fade into the background, look innocent, naive, generous even to the point of martyrdom. If someone is upset in their presence, they claim innocence & turn the situation around to where they are not only innocent but the real victim. Often they expect their adult children to cater to them, even after that child has a spouse & family.
Many times, an overt narcissist & a covert narcissist will get married & have children. This situation is a nightmare for the children.
When you grow up with two narcissistic parents, it is incredibly difficult to accept the fact. Accepting that one parents is a narcissist is bad enough, but both?! That is just too much. Besides, growing up with an overtly narcissistic parent, a child is so starved for love, she often can’t accept that neither parent genuinely love her. So instead, many people accept that the overtly narcissistic parent is a narcissist, & put the other parent on a pedestal. This isn’t healthy!
Being in that situation, you naturally will be closer to the “good” parent than the narcissistic one. The overt narcissist will take this as you & the other parent being against her, often taking the rage she feels out on the child, & the covert narcissist will gain narcissistic supply from your attention.
This situation also sets the stage for emotional incest, a psychologically abusive & damaging situation where the child is responsible for the parent’s emotional well being instead of the other way around. It leads to a great deal of stress & anxiety, guilt, an overdeveloped sense of responsibility & more in the child, even into adulthood.
Covert narcissists are extremely good at creating an emotionally incestuous situation with their child. They come across as needing protection, & often their children feel it is their job to protect them, even protecting them from their other, overtly narcissistic parent. That creates more friction between the child & the overtly narcissistic parent, especially when the child intervenes in their problems. Sometimes the overtly narcissistic parent responds by creating their own emotionally incestuous relationship with the child, & the child is stuck in the middle. This is how it was for me as a child, & my parents still do this to this day. I have to set boundaries by changing the subject or suddenly saying I have to go or hang up the phone to put a stop to it. Even as an adult, it’s still extremely stressful, & has triggered some flashbacks.
When you see that your “good” parent isn’t as good as you thought, it helps you to stop the covertly incestuous situation with him. You see it for the unhealthy relationship it is & learn to set healthy boundaries. You also take that parent off the pedestal & see him in a more realistic light. You accept that you are not responsible for catering to any & every need that parent has especially at the expense of your emotional or physical health, finances or your immediate family. You can relate in a healthier way with that parent, even if he doesn’t like your new boundaries. You no longer fall for the subtle guilt trips & manipulations, possibly even noticing them for the first time.
Although this realization is very good for you, it isn’t easy. I started to get very angry with my father when I realized he wasn’t the great dad I always thought he was. I began to see he had no trouble throwing me under the bus to my mother if it meant he was protecting himself. He has lied to her about me a few times, & she got mad at me for what he said. I also realized he uses me to dump on when he’s angry with my mother, which really makes me feel stuck in the middle. He also wants my comfort, even if I’m having a problem. For example, when my husband’s job eliminated his position a few years back, he said he was scared. How would we keep our home? What would we do if we lost the house? Where was he going to find another job? This is bad & upsetting him! Upsetting him?! He wanted me to reassure him that we’d be ok, when I wasn’t sure if we would be or not. This really added a lot to my anxiety at first, then made me angry. I realized I was the one in need of comfort yet he demanded it from me – how dare he?!
Those revelations made me VERY angry & hurt. It took a long time to process my feelings, but it did happen in time. It took me writing a lot out in my journal, complaining to God about how unfair it was & sometimes talking to understanding friends. Realizing how my father was also showed me how many people have no idea how he can be towards me. They buy his act of innocence & naivete, & accept nothing else. I realized I have to be careful who I talk to about our relationship because some people will get angry with me for not “being more patient” with him. After all, he needs me! He’s married to my mother & needs someone to support him. I’m his daughter so it’s up to me to take care of him, I’ve been told.
This type of situation could easily happen to you too. If you too have come to realize that your “good” parent is a covert narcissist, then by all means, be careful who you discuss the topic with! When this discovery is new, you feel very sensitive & emotionally raw. People who don’t believe you or shame you for exaggerating, lying, etc. will hurt you more than normal when you are in that sensitive state. Make sure to share your feelings only with non-judgmental, supportive people. Maybe even someone who has been through a similar situation.
Even being careful, you may be invalidated or shamed as I have been by those you trusted. If that is the case, I’m so sorry. It’s very painful, I know, to be invalidated, but especially when it comes from someone you didn’t expect to behave that way.
Being invalidated on this topic also may make you doubt your judgement. You may wonder if you’re being too harsh or judgmental. After all, since you learned about narcissism, you feel like you see it everywhere. Maybe you’re reading too much into things. When you feel this way, talk to God. Ask Him to tell you the truth! He truly will! And when He does, stand strong in that truth! Don’t let others make you doubt!
Also ask God what you need to do in this situation. Now that you know just how dysfunctional it is, you’re going to need to respond differently to that covertly narcissistic parent. Naturally, you’re going to need to set & enforce good boundaries, but since each narcissist is an individual, what works for one may not work for another. God can give you creative & effective ideas. All you have to do is ask & listen.
As painful a time as this is for you, it truly is for your best interest to learn this information. Continuing in the dysfunction only will make you miserable. Use this painful situation as an opportunity to learn & grow. Be gentle & understanding with yourself. Don’t get mad at yourself for slipping into old, dysfunctional patterns, but instead understand this happens sometimes. Remember it so you don’t do that again, & go on. Vent your feelings as you need to in a safe way, whether to God, a trusted friend or in your journal. Don’t bottle them up as it will only hurt you to do so. Most of all, trust God to help you get through this painful time.
Closely related to yesterday’s post about boundaries, today I want to tell you about another aspect of boundaries that not everyone is aware of.
No is a valid answer. Really.
I know it can be hard for some of us when we first learn to set boundaries. Saying no means we often feel like we need to explain every single reason why we’re saying no & make sure those reasons meet the other person’s approval. That is often a by product of surviving narcissistic abuse.
Unless you’re being interrogated by the police, you do not have to explain yourself to another person if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. People don’t need to know every single thing about you if you don’t want to share every detail. Really!
If the person you feel you must explain yourself to is a narcissist, then for your sanity’s sake, just say no instead. Offering explanations only gives a narcissist more ammunition for embarrassing or hurting you at some point, providing them their coveted narcissistic supply. For example, let’s say you can’t take your narcissistic mother to her doctor’s appointment on Thursday because you have a doctor’s appointment for yourself. If you tell her this, she probably will demand to know why you’re going, & do you really feel comfortable telling her it’s for renewing your prescription for birth control pills?! How awkward would that be? Or if it’s something more serious, you know she’ll spin it around to how it would affect her if you were very sick or, God forbid, were dying. Do you feel like dealing with that while you’re afraid yourself? No? Then remember to tell her no, without any explanation. If you really feel the need to elaborate, simply say “I can’t, because I have an appointment (or plans) at that time that can’t be changed.”
And, don’t let her push you into telling you either! Ignore when she hints around, wanting to know why you can’t help her. Pretend you don’t grasp that she is hinting for you to tell her anything. If she demands to know, change the subject. If she offers guilt trips (“I guess you have better things to do than take care of your mother…”), IGNORE!! You have every right to your privacy, & don’t let her convince you otherwise.
Always remember that no is a valid answer, & you have every right to use it as you see fit.
Saying no isn’t always easy for those of us who have been abused. The abuser trained us that we weren’t allowed to say no or have any rights or boundaries. We also learned to explain ourselves fully (part of that no boundaries thing) to appease our abusers.
Unfortunately, that kind of sick training runs VERY deep & is hard to break. Hard, but not impossible.
The word “boundaries” brings different thoughts to different people. Many people think “limiting” or “selfish” when they hear the word, but boundaries are actually the very opposite. They encourage respect, love & freedom.
Boundaries are like a fence surrounding your yard. Things that are your responsibility are your feelings, actions & beliefs. & they are within your fence. Those same things are within the fences of other people. Their feelings, beliefs and actions are their responsibility, not yours. Even if they are wrong or bad, that is the other person’s business, not yours. You are not responsible for other people! It is not your business what they think, feel or do! The Bible says we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), so we may speak to someone about their hurtful, dangerous, or self-destructive behavior, but, trying to change someone to suit your ideals is wrong.
Boundaries are learned as children, and some behaviors from our parents may warp normal boundary development. Emotionally incestuous parents create children who grow into adults who feel responsible for the happiness of other people. Manipulative or childish parents create children that can grow up feeling like they must fix all of the problems of others. There are also many parents with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who does not respect the boundaries of her child. This child grows up to believe she has no right to have boundaries, even to the point of stopping others from abusing her.
A person with healthy boundaries cannot be controlled. Boundaries will change your life! You will learn to take responsibility only for yourself, while encouraging others to do the same with your healthy behavior.
In developing and enforcing new boundaries, it is beneficial to have a good support system- people who have your best interests at heart, who do not judge or criticize unfairly, who will support you, & who respect boundaries. They will help you to learn about setting & enforcing good boundaries & gain confidence.
When you first begin to develop boundaries, some people will not like it. They will tell you that you are being selfish, give you the silent treatment, or even ask what happened to the “nice girl” you used to be. Reasonable, safe people will accept your new boundaries with no complaints. Unsafe people will not. Setting boundaries is a very good way to determine the safe from the unsafe people.
To start learning about boundaries, I strongly suggest you read the book, “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I love this book- it truly changed my life!
Once you read the book, spend some time soul searching. Ask yourself questions, such as where do you need to set boundaries in your own life? What are you no longer willing to tolerate from people? Then, you need to figure out healthy ways to enforce those boundaries…
If you deal with someone who insists on talking about a subject you are uncomfortable with, she needs to know that you are not willing to discuss these particular topics with her. Change the subject. If she continues, tell her that if she does not drop this matter, you will hang up the phone (or leave the room). If that does not work, follow through on your threat! Empty threats do no good to show others you are serious about your new boundaries! In fact, they show others you have weak boundaries & they can be run over easily.
Learn simple phrases such as:
“I won’t do that.”
“I won’t discuss this subject with you.”
“You’re entitled to your opinion, but so am I.”
Some people are going to try to make you feel bad for your new boundaries. If they cannot respect your healthy boundaries, then they are the ones with a problem, not you.
The information above is some very basic information that you will need to adapt to your unique situation, but you can do this! Even if you are afraid, as most people learning to set boundaries for the first time are, do it anyway! What is the worst that can happen? Someone who is controlling kicks you out of his or her life? Would that truly be such a great hardship?
I also recommend you look into my free online course based on the book “Boundaries.” It can be found at this link: Boundaries Book Study
The benefits of setting these boundaries certainly outweigh the risks. You will have more inner peace than ever before, you will feel lighter & freer since you do not need to be responsible for some things you once were (such as the happiness and choices of others), & you naturally will begin to attract much healthier, happier people into your life.
After years of talking to my readers, I’ve learned that many of us who have either been raised by or married to narcissists, hate the holidays. Me too! My narcissistic mother griped constantly about how much work she had to do (yet never hosted a family dinner or party, barely decorated..) & criticized the fact I enjoyed the holidays as if I was abnormal. As an adult, my narcissistic ex husband spent holidays with his family, whether or not I went with him. My current husband also spends holidays with his family. Some people have tried to guilt trip me into attending holiday parties even though I was unable to because my husband was working or I was unavailable. Others have shamed me for my lack of enthusiasm & tried to force me to “get into the holiday spirit.” So yes, like many other people, I am no longer a fan of holidays.
In spite of feeling much like I do, many people often feel forced to participate in Thanksgiving & Christmas get togethers. It is for you I am writing this post.
First, please know that as an adult, you are not obligated to do as you are told regarding gatherings. You do not have to attend these events if you don’t want to! You are allowed to do as you see fit. Attending or not are within your rights! No one has the right to attempt to manipulate you into going if you don’t want to! And if they try, you are perfectlly within your rights to ignore their manipulation.
If you opt to go, you have the right to set boundaries. You need to, in fact, especially if you’re going to have to deal with narcissists.
Decide ahead of time how long you are going to stay, & leave at the time you have settled upon. You don’t owe anyone explanations of why you have to leave when you do.
Many relatives want to discuss topics you aren’t comfortable with, such as “why don’t you have a boyfriend”. “When are you two getting married” or “When are you going to have a baby.” You don’t have to discuss such topics if you don’t want to. Change the subject, repeatedly if necessary. You can say you don’t want to discuss this topic. You can remind the other person that this topic is none of their business.
If you need to leave, you can do that too. Spending time with narcissists is hard enough, but it potentially can be worse during a holiday get together. Maybe after a couple of glasses of wine or just because there is an audience, but it can happen. It may get bad enough for you to want to leave. You have that right! If you don’t feel able to just walk out, make an arrangement with a friend ahead of time. If you call her & let the phone ring a couple of times, she can call you back or text you saying she needs you to come over immediately.
Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy your holiday season the best you can!
One thing many people, in particular survivors of narcissistic abuse, seem to have a problem with is over explaining.
If someone asks you to do something that you are unable or unwilling to do, most people will explain in great detail exactly why they can’t or won’t do what is asked of them, even if they have to lie. The truth however, is that is unnecessary. And, sometimes it can cause disagreements between both parties involved, especially if the one doing the explaining feels compelled to lie which is often the case.
Did you know that no can be a complete sentence?
Matthew 5:37 states, “Let your Yes be simply Yes, and your No be simply No; anything more than that comes from the evil one.” (AMP)
While you may be thinking that you wouldn’t lie, think about how many times you were free yet told someone you had previous plans to avoid doing what they wanted you to do? I think all of us are guilty of doing this at some point.
Instead of that, why not just say no? You owe no explanations- a simple no should suffice with most people.
Granted, with narcissists, they feel entitled to a detailed explanation of your “terrible” refusal to serve them, so no doesn’t always work. Instead, there are some slightly more elaborate answers you can give without offering a long explanation.
“No, I can’t.”
“No, I don’t have time.”
“No, I won’t.”
“No. It goes against my personal beliefs.”
Whatever you opt to say, remember not to give many details or much personal information. Narcissists love to use what you say against you or to hurt you, so it’s best to keep details to yourself whenever possible.
I’ve realized just recently that all my life, many people have acted like my happiness means absolutely nothing. It’s like they think I am here to serve, & do so without any feelings or needs of my own.
When I broke up with my ex husband before marrying him a few months later, many people told me I should go back with him because he was miserable without me. Not one person cared how miserable I was with him, however.
When my father was in the hospital a few years ago, & my mother wouldn’t tell his family or friends, I did via facebook. (I also provided my parents’ phone number & asked people to tell other relatives what was happening.) There are a lot of us Baileys, & I don’t have many people’s phone numbers or emails, so facebook was simply the easiest way for me to reach the most people. One person called my father in the hospital & told him I was a “spoiled little brat” for not calling her personally about this matter. Other people got upset & chewed me out for using facebook instead of calling them personally. No one got mad at my mother for failing to tell them anything, even though it was her responsibility to do so. No one took into consideration the anxiety I was under daily or how exhausted (mentally & physically) I was.
There have been countless times over the years I was going to spend time with a friend & that friend either stood me up or ran very late, without letting me know what was happening, causing me to wait & worry about them. When I finally did contact them (mind you they didn’t contact me!), no apology was given or any sign that they felt guilty at all for wasting my time or disappointing me.
Do any of these situations sound somewhat familiar to you?
I am reasonably sure that these kinds of situations happen quite a bit to those of us who grew up with narcissistic parents. The only reason I can come up with is because we are groomed from day one to be subservient. Our narcissistic parents firmly believe (& instill the belief in us) that we are put on this earth to take care of & please our narcissistic parent with absolutely no regard to our own feelings, wants or needs. As we grow up, naturally that relationship stays this way, but we extend this dysfunctional role to include others. Because we believe this is what we are supposed to do, we show others that we believe we deserve to be used & ignore ourselves. Often even good people will treat us the way we believe we deserve to be treated simply because it’s natural to treat people how you see they expect to be treated, good or bad.
By saying this, please don’t think I’m saying we get what we deserve when people mistreat or use us! Not by any stretch. It’s still on an individual to control his/her behavior. Ultimately, it is the other person’s fault if they are abusive, period.
To deal with this super annoying problem, I have found that getting healthier & increasing my self esteem has done wonders. I think because I no longer give off that “It’s ok to abuse me” energy. As I’ve gotten healthier & my self esteem improved, I no longer have any patience for being abused, & I think people pick up on that.
Prayer is extremely helpful as well. Asking God how to deal appropriately with people who want to abuse me & how to set & enforce healthy boundaries has helped to give me wisdom & strength in bad situations.
My parents came by for a visit on Thursday. I didn’t expect it to be a good one. My mother is always angry with me, & my father was upset I postponed from last week. For days, I prayed & worried.
Wednesday, I suddenly got very angry at the fact that my parents have done so much to me, yet believe they are entitled to come into my home anytime & treat my furbabies & I so nastily in our own home. Mind you, I’m not particularly good with anger. Growing up, my mother accused me of having “that Bailey temper”, shaming me, if I was angry or even simply just frustrated. I learned early to ignore anger. It’s only been recently I’ve been trying to deal with anger in a healthy way. Even so, it still feels awkward to be angry, so Wednesday was a somewhat difficult day.
I realized something though. I was gaining confidence. It really started to sink in that I have a right to be angry about the things they have done & continue to do to me. That anger gave me the confidence to realize I do NOT have to put up with being abused. If me having boundaries hurts their feelings, that isn’t my problem.
Shortly before they arrived, I remembered something that also helped me. Years ago, I stopped speaking to my mother 6 years. During that time, I had planned to visit my Granddad one Saturday. The night before, he called & said my parents had just called to say they were coming by on that same day. He said “If you want to do this another time, I’ll understand.” I thought about doing that, but said no- I want to see him & if he wants to see me too, then I’ll be there in the morning. He did so we agreed I’d come by the following morning. That day of the visit, my mother was shocked to see me there. (Years before, she had tried to ruin my relationship with my grandparents. I had stopped speaking to them for several years, & at the time of the visit, only had began visiting him again a few months prior) She did her best to frazzle me with some of her actions, but instead I let her know they wouldn’t work, much to the delight of Granddad who was quite proud of me that day. I was proud of myself for handling things so well, too!
Remembering that successful event & being angry both helped me to stay strong when my parents came by & successfully, for the first time, limit the time of their visit! For the first time, I told them when the visit was over, not them staying in my home until they felt like leaving!
My point (finally..lol) is these tricks can help you when it comes to dealing with your narcissistic mother as well. I know many Christians think anger is from the devil or you’re a terrible person to feel anger, but I completely disagree! Anger is a normal emotion & it is from God. Yes, forgiveness is a wonderful thing & should be practiced regularly. However, anger has its place too. A righteous anger at injustice is a wonderful motivator for change. What is the difference? Being angry at the unfairness of being abused & being angry because you know you have done nothing to deserve abuse, those are examples of righteous anger. Me being angry because my parents have abused me & think they still have to right to do so is also righteous anger. God stirred that anger up in me for a reason on Wednesday- to help me be strong & able to set boundaries with my narcissistic parents the next day.
And, God also reminded me of a very successful interaction I’d had with my parents, which was extremely helpful as well. Remembering how well that previous episode had gone helped me to see that yes, I could be strong. Yes, I could handle things well. Yes, I could even be composed when angry. I could do it!
Dear Reader, what God did for me, He can do for you as well. I prayed & asked friends to pray for me to have strength for this visit, & God certainly did not disappoint. I would like to encourage you too, to think on similar things in your life. Gain courage from your successes, & hold onto that righteous anger! If you are having trouble, ask God to help you. He truly will!
In life, many people say out of balance things, such as always look for the positive or always listen to your heart. While this may sound good, it isn’t healthy. Sometimes, there is little or no positive to be found, & that is fine. Valuable lessons can be learned in negative circumstances, not just positive. And, listening to your heart is always wise, but logic must intervene at some point too. I know if I listened to my heart only, I would never accomplish anything around my home- I’d spend my time writing, being creative, playing with the furkids & such without doing laundry or cooking. While that sounds amazingly fun, it’s also amazingly impractical.
I just wanted to take a moment today to encourage you, Dear Reader, to have some balance in your life. So many of us who have survived narcissistic abuse have trouble in this area. We often put others ahead of ourselves even when it isn’t best for anyone involved, we give at the expense of our own selves or we even can become obsessed with learning about narcissism since it finally gives us the answers we’ve been seeking.
Think about your life- what areas are out of balance? Do you listen to your feelings over logic every time? Do you always make sacrifices for others while expecting nothing in return? Are you a workaholic? Do you read non-stop about narcissism?
Please stop those out of balance behaviors! Balance is a good thing- it helps you to stay happy & healthy, two things you deserve. While working or doing for others are certainly admirable, you still need breaks from doing them. The same goes for learning about narcissism. You absolutely must learn about it if you wish to heal from narcissistic abuse, but even so, take breaks where you refuse to think about it sometimes. Narcissism is such a deep & negative subject- your emotions need breaks from thinking about it so you don’t plummet into depression.
How do you achieve balance? To start with, ask God to show you what areas you need to improve. Make any changes you know you need to do. Also, ask God to show you if you need to make further changes & to help you to do so.
If you are close to someone who is also out of balance, you could see if this person wishes to be an accountability partner. You could be accountable to each other, discussing your situations & what you are doing. You could pray together, too.
Listen to your heart. If you feel resentment or dread regarding certain tasks, that is for a reason. You may be focusing too much in that area.
Learn about boundaries if you haven’t already. Learning to set & enforce healthy boundaries will help you so much.
Have you ever tried to confront your narcissistic parent on their abuse? If so, you know the frustration. Nothing changes & you walk away feeling completely confused. You even may have ended up apologizing too, when the fact is you didn’t do anything that warranted an apology!
Confronting narcissists is never an easy thing. They employ so many tactics to avoid the attention being on their bad behaviors. It often gets so frustrating, you prefer just to let the offense go rather than deal with the games & gaslighting.
Some narcissists will accuse their chilld/adult child of various things to deflect the attention off of them. They may say their child is ungrateful, a smart mouth, mean, cold, spoiled, a brat, or other awful things. They also may claim to be doing things for the child’s benefit. My mother used to claim since I was such an awful child, she had to use tough love on me.
My mother in-law likes to pretend to be the victim when she is confronted. My father too. This is a very common tool of the covert narcissist, since they so love the “poor me” or martyr role. When my father was due to come by my home a few weeks ago, alone, my mother came with him. He made it to the door first. Without even saying “hi,” he immediately went into explaining how he had no control over her coming along- it wasn’t his fault. Really? She was driving- he voluntarily got into her car!
Overt narcissists may not play the victim so quietly, but they will play the victim. They will accuse you of being SOOO mean to them! “After all I do for you, this is the thanks I get?” “You don’t appreciate all I do for you!”
Some more overt narcissists will meet your confrontation with rage. When I was a kid, my mother would meet my confrontations with screams &/or accusations &/or trying to hurt me. When I was probably about 12, she & I were coming home from her mother’s home. She was mad at her mother & yelling as she was talking about other things in the car so loud, there was a slight echo. It made my ears ring. I asked her if she could talk a little quieter, & she screamed even louder & mocked me for complaining about my ringing ears until I was in tears.
Many narcissists refuse to apologize at all, but the ones who do often employ the passive/aggressive type of apology. “I’m sorry you got upset.” “I’m sorry if your feelings got hurt.” “I’m sorry you feel that way.” While the words “I’m sorry” are said, the fact they believe you’re at fault is clearly implied. If you mention that, you will be on the receiving end of either tears or rage, because they did say they were sorry after all! Nothing they do is good enough for you!
Still other narcissists will talk non stop, making excuses for their outlandish behavior or talking in circles until you are completely confused. They also may use gaslighting at this point- “That isn’t how that happened!” “That never happened!” “I never said that!”
Until you are very accustomed to these tactics, chances are you’ll be confused, angry & unsure exactly why or even apologetic to the narcissist for their bad behavior. Being aware of such tactics will help you when you have to confront your narcissist. You will be aware of what they are doing, & can deal with it accordingly.
The best way I know to deal with these things is to avoid them as much as possible. Not always a good solution because narcissists are already allowed to get away with too much. Most people instinctively placate them rather than deal with these kinds of situations.
Unfortunately though, there will be times when avoiding a confrontation isn’t wise. Before confronting her, pray. Pray a lot, asking God for wisdom & the right words to say. During those times, remember these tactics. When the narcissist begins to talk in circles, bring the focus back to the original topic. Same for if she plays the victim or gets angry. You can say things like “I understand, but the fact is, I won’t put up with that behavior. If you do it again….” Keep firm boundaries in place, primarily staying on topic. Stay calm- any sign of you being upset will only serve to fuel the narcissist. She’ll see she can upset you & push to do it more.
Most importantly though, besides prayer of course, is to work on your own emotional healing. The healthier you are, the stronger you are & the more self-confident you are. When you are self-confident, narcissists know they don’t have much of a chance at winning with you & either give up easily or fight so hard, they look ridiculous, realize it & then give up.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about one helpful way to deal with a narcissist is to remind yourself constantly that this person is a narcissist. While that is helpful, I realized that I forgot to mention one other thing along those lines.
Never forget that narcissists are all about narcissistic supply. That is all they care about, & will do anything to get it. Does your narcissistic mother say she wants to spend time with you? She doesn’t want to spend time with you, enjoying time with her daughter- she wants to spend time getting narcissistic supply from you. Does she ask how you’re doing? That isn’t because she cares- it’s because she is looking for something to use against you. Hurting you or making you angry will provide her this supply.
I live in central Maryland. When there were riots in Baltimore, I had a feeling my covertly narcissistic father was going to call about it. I assumed it was going to be to talk politics, since he loves to do that with me. (Odd since I have zero interest in politics) I was sort of right- he called a few days after the rioting started. He said he was concerned about us, & wanted to be sure we were OK. We live about 30 minutes south of Baltimore, my parents are about 20 minutes away. I thought it was an odd question at first, but learned quickly why he was “concerned.” It was all about getting his supply.
To start with, he called at 8:59 at night. I’ve told my father I don’t answer the phone after 9 p.m. He was pushing my boundary because I think that provides him some supply. He can be in control. He got as close to 9 as he could with calling me. If I wouldn’t have answered, he would’ve had the right to be mad at me for not taking his call, as far as he is concerned (he thinks I must answer his calls whenever he calls & makes no allowances for me being unavailable). I answered though, so I let him push that boundary (big mistake on my part), which makes him feel in control.
He immediately said he was concerned about us what with the terrible riots happening in Baltimore. As soon as I said we’re fine, he immediately went into a rant about the politics of the situation. He went on for about 10-15 minutes about how he felt about the riots & how he thought things should be fixed & his opinions… He wasn’t concerned about us at all- he wanted an excuse to talk about politics.
I learned from that call how anything & everything with a narcissist is about narcissistic supply. It showed me how they can twist anything into a supply opportunity. And, frankly, it hurt. I briefly thought he actually was concerned about my husband & I. Finding out no, this was just an opportunity for supply hurt. At least the hurt was a good reminder about the fact narcissists are only focused on their supply. You can bet I won’t forget about that need of theirs again any time soon!
And, Dear Reader, you shouldn’t either! Remembering that with a narcissist, everything is about them gaining narcissistic supply will help you! Remembering this fact will help you not to be as hurt when they mistreat you, because you’ll remember this is how narcissists are. It’s not about you. Nothing is about you when dealing with a narcissist. It’s always about them & furthering their agenda.
Nothing they do will surprise you or catch you off guard, because you know they are capable of intensely selfish, evil acts.
Also, you will be prepared for those selfish, evil acts ahead of time because you know they are coming. Even if you don’t know exactly what they have planned, you know they have something planned. You know to be ready for anything, you know that you will need to enforce your boundaries. This enables you to be prepared to deal as effectively as possible with your narcissist.
While dealing with a narcissist, especially a narcissistic parent, is never easy, remembering their desperation for narcissistic supply will help you tremendously.
Dealing with a narcissist is never easy. It’s impossible to have a simple conversation with one, because there is always some ulterior motive. Usually, that motive is to hurt or embarrass you, especially while they appear innocent. They love to say indirect things so if you confront them on their nastiness, they can honestly say, “I never said that!” And it’s true- they didn’t say that. Instead they implied it. The difference is you end up hurt & wondering if they’re right, you are too sensitive, you read into things, you’re crazy, etc. At least if someone out right criticizes you, there is no doubt they are out to hurt you.
If you’re wondering if you’re being oversensitive or if the narcissist in your life really is trying to hurt you, there are some giveaways.
If someone complements you in front of your narcissist, you will have to pay. You can’t get any positive attention, because she deserves it all! At least she thinks so. Either she will say something to negate the complement, or treat you even worse than usual until her anger is done. Many years ago, I recently started dating a man who thought we should meet each other’s parents in spite of my protests & wanted to invite my parents to dinner one night. Just after dinner when my parents went to leave the room, my boyfriend said, “Mrs. Bailey, I just want to say, you raised a really wonderful daughter.” My mother looked Mike in the eye, snorted & said, “Well, at least I tried to” & left the room. Does this type of comment sound familiar to you? If so, no, you aren’t being oversensitive- this type of snarky comment hurts!
If you seem too happy for the narcissist’s liking, you can count on the narcissist saying something designed to destroy that. They are happy squishers, doing anything they can to squish your happiness! Once, I had lost a few pounds. I didn’t need to lose much, but was glad that I lost probably ten pounds or so. I told my mother, who said, “You probably lost weight because you have cancer & are going to die.” No way was that said to benefit me or said out of concern. Comments like that are said to squish any joy you may be feeling, period.
Have you ever heard the comment, “I would NEVER” come from your narcissist? That one is designed to make you feel not good enough because you would stoop so low as to doing whatever she would never do. My mother once told me she would NEVER even ride in a car, let alone own one, with over 100,000 miles on it. It was obviously said because my husband & I both love & own old cars while hers is much newer than anything we own. (At least I had the pleasure of telling her that when we took my parents to Annapolis the previous weekend in hubby’s car, his car had almost 250,000 miles on it at that point. She was speechless. It was a fun moment for me! lol)
Whatever thing you have accomplished or purchased or done that thrills you is fodder for a narcissist making sure you know it isn’t impressing her. So you just got a promotion at work & will be making twice your old salary? She isn’t impressed- you still don’t own the company, do you? Anyone could do that job- it’s nothing special. You just bought your first brand new car? So what? It’s not a “good” car like hers. My mother no longer blatantly criticizes things of mine she finds not good enough. Instead, she gives a blank look like she is bored to tears. The look hurts just as badly as the criticisms because the message is the same- she thinks I’m not good enough. (Thankfully, the more I’ve healed, I’ve learned not to care about what she thinks of me).
So Dear Reader, when you experience these things, please remember- the narcissist is gaslighting you! You aren’t oversensitive or reading into things or crazy! Instead, you are on the receiving end of narcissistic abuse. You are fine! It’s the narcissist who has issues.
I’ve found to deal with these abusive behaviors, you need to learn as much as possible about narcissism & gaslighting. You also need to learn what tactics your narcissist uses so when they happen, you can remind yourself this is simply her weapon of choice- there is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do. Also, focus on your own emotional healing. The healthier you get, the harder you are for narcissists to manipulate or control. Their criticisms no longer traumatize you, but simply annoy you that they are so anxious to hurt you. Their games no longer work, which frustrates them to no end. It actually can get funny sometimes when you reach a point in your healing where you understand what is happening & refuse to be abused, but the narcissist is convinced all the old tactics still work on you. Their outrageous behavior can be downright funny sometimes when you understand it, as can the lengths they go to in an attempt to get their way.
There is a saying that is pretty common, but especially here in the South. “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I believe it to be very true. The very things that have been meant to kill me, such as narcissistic abuse, have instead strengthened me in the long run.
But, the truth is, in spite of being grateful for the strength I’ve gained, I’m pretty tired! Tired of the nonsense I’ve lived through, & mostly tired of always being the strong one who carries other people can fall apart.
Many people, especially those of us who have survived narcissistic abuse, are a great deal stronger than we realize. This doesn’t usually escape the notice of other people, however. They notice it right away & often, don’t hesitate to use our strength to help themselves out. Even when they know we’re going through a crisis, they’ll come to us for comfort, advice or to meet some other need, often without even asking how we’re doing. When faced with a difficult person, we are the one who is always supposed to be understanding or the “bigger person”, & let the offenses go. People know we’re strong & can handle bad situations, so they assume we never need help, a shoulder to cry on or, well, anything really..
The simple truth is that even the strongest among us need help sometimes. Being strong can be hard enough, but feeling as if you’re completely alone in your struggles with no one to help, & you have to be strong all of the time for others is incredibly hard. It’s extremely depressing, because you know you can’t count on anyone else to let you lean on them. It’s also mentally & physically draining.
Chances are, if you’re reading this post, then you understand this all too well. I would like to encourage you today to make self-care a priority. Take breaks as needed from work or from other people (especially the ones who lean on you without reciprocating). Set & enforce healthy boundaries to protect yourself. Do nice things for yourself often. What makes you feel good? Make it a priority to do those things as often as possible. Participate in your hobbies often. Express your creativity often.
And, remember- sometimes you need to lean on others as they have leaned on you. It’s actually a good thing for a relationship- it makes you depend on each other instead of the relationship being one sided. It also increases intimacy in the relationship, because asking for help makes you vulnerable. I understand that it is very hard to do, but I encourage you to step out & try it. Ask God how to do this & who to ask- He won’t guide you wrong!
And, speaking of God, don’t forget to lean on Him as well! He loves you so much, & wants to help you in every way you need help. I’ll never forget what happened when I was sick at the end of February.. I was relaxing, just playing a game on my tablet, & I couldn’t get past this one level. It was frustrating me. I muttered & asked God to help me get past this stupid level. Suddenly, I did it! I started to cry. Granted, I was super emotional because of the concussion I got only a few days prior, but even so, it was a lovely moment. I knew God helped me to win that game because He loves me so much that He even cares about something so trivial that means something to me. He loves you just as much- allow Him to show it. Trust Him & lean on Him. He won’t disappoint you.
Recently, I have learned an effective way to help avoid some hurt when dealing with narcissistic parents: Always keep in the forefront of your mind that they are narcissists.
While this may sound simple & logical, it can be hard to do when you are in the midst of dealing with your narcissistic mother, & she is hurting you for the umpteenth time. I encourage you to do your best to remember it anyway.
If you can remember that simple fact, it really will help you not to be as hurt when your mother is acting up. It will be a reminder that her abuse isn’t as much a personal attack as it is a way for her to gain that supply she so desperately craves. It means there’s nothing wrong with you, but there is plenty wrong with her. In fact, there must be plenty right with you for her to try so actively to hurt you. She is obviously very jealous of you & wants to make you feel as badly about yourself as she does about herself. Narcissists typically focus on strong, caring, loving, generous & empathetic people.
Actively remembering your mother’s narcissism also will help you to avoid falling for her manipulation. You will know that if she tries to make you feel guilty for not spending more time with her, it isn’t because she enjoys your lovely companionship- it is because she wants to drain you of precious narcissistic supply. While yes, that knowledge stings, at least you won’t feel guilty for not spending time with her, or you won’t cave in, spending more time with her & being hurt.
Keeping your mother’s narcissistic ways in mind also will help you to keep a healthy perspective. When she attempts to make you feel like a bad daughter, you will know that it isn’t because you really are a bad daughter- it is because she is a narcissist & they gain self-esteem by hurting people. If she insists on regaling you with stories of how beautiful or talented she is, you’ll be able to maintain your level head because you know that is just how narcissists are- they love to brag about themselves.
Another way this can help you is when your narcissistic mother goes to her happy place, as I call it. Many narcissists have absolutely NO coping skills. Instead of admitting their own mistakes or admitting something bad happened, they reinvent the past or pretend bad things never happened. This is their happy place. My mother loves to share stories of what a great mother she’s been. When this first happened, it hurt me badly. Sometimes, I’d cry when she’d discuss this (only when she couldn’t see me, of course). In time though, I realized that this is how she copes with a guilty conscience. This reinventing things is her coping skill. As dysfunctional as it is, it’s what she wants to do, so have at it, is my philosophy, just don’t expect me to validate the delusions. (Which she does, & I flat out refuse to give her that validation).
Now that you see actively remembering your mother’s narcissism can help you, how do you do it?
For me, I’ve found reading about NPD to be very helpful. I about the experiences of other daughters of narcissistic mothers, I read anything I can about narcissism & its symptoms & I talk with my fans & friends about our experiences with narcissism. I also focus on my healing. Granted, having C-PTSD, the chances of healing are slim, but I’ve gotten better at managing symptoms. All of these activities help me to validate that my experiences were real & abusive, which is extremely helpful.
I do much more than that however- I refuse to let this insidious disorder take over my life. I take breaks where I flatly refuse to think about narcissism. I am determined to enjoy myself somehow & participate in enjoyable activities. Focusing too much on narcissism would be detrimental to mental health, I believe. It is such a terribly negative topic & it can be overwhelming with the evilness & insidiousness of it. Breaks are essential. As soon as I start to feel a bit overwhelmed, I mentally shift gears- I’ll watch a movie or talk to a friend about something not related to narcissism. Anything pleasant to distract myself for a while.
When dealing with a narcissist, especially a narcissistic mother, you need to know about narcissistic supply in order to avoid narcissistic rage. Chances are, you already know quite a bit about it, even if you never put the name to it before.
Narcissistic supply is anything that makes the narcissist feel good about themselves. Everyone needs a little narcissistic supply, but narcissists are desperate for it & will do about anything to get it, including hurting people. Complements are great, as is actively listening whenever the narcissist wants to talk & going along with whatever she wants. All of these things make the narcissist feel important & good about herself, which helps her to believe that she isn’t the terrible person she believes she is deep down.
If you openly deny the narcissist that supply, she may go into a narcissistic rage. Screaming, cursing, cruel words intended to hurt you aren’t above a narcissist during a narcissistic rage. My mother used to tell me terrible things about myself when I was a teen & refusing to tolerate her control anymore. She would lecture me (as I called it, but actually it was screaming at me) about what a horrible person I was on a daily basis, often a few times a day. Now that we’re both older, her rage has changed into very quietly & pleasantly said scathing criticisms, always in a public place so if I say anything or walk out, people will witness me treating my sweet, innocent, elderly mother badly.
While it may seem at first like it’s just best to give a narcissist her supply so you can avoid her rage, it’s really not. Providing consistent narcissistic supply is like a green light for the narcissist to continue treating you terribly. You need to minimize the amount of supply you provide as much as possible if you are to continue a relationship with a narcissist.
And, while many think ending the relationship is your only solution to this problem, often it isn’t possible for various reasons. I know- I’ve received countless emails from women who wish to end the relationship with their narcissistic mothers, but aren’t strong enough to do so yet, or they live with their mothers & can’t afford to move out, or they simply don’t want to end that relationship with their mother. It is for people like them that I am writing this article.
Thanks to the narcissists in my life, I learned the value of becoming boring to narcissists. What I mean is I learned to deny narcissists their supply in a subtle manner & refuse to give them the satisfaction of seeing me upset. There are several ways to go about doing this..
- When the narcissist wants to spend time with you, don’t be available every time. Don’t always answer the phone. Ignore it & only answer when you feel able to deal with her.
- Narcissists love to hint. Ignore the hints. It will discourage the hinting. If she hints for anything, play dumb. Pretend you didn’t notice. It will force her to outright ask for what she wants if she wants a favor (like an adult would do..) or stop hinting. Giving into hints gives her control, which gives her supply. Don’t give that to her!
- Act bored when she talks. You probably are anyway- let it show. Look at the clock. Yawn. Look around the room.
- Change the subject to talk about something other than the narcissist. The weather is a good topic. Bonus- this can be fun if you enjoy rainy days & she prefers sunny or something like that. It’ll annoy her that you feel differently & it can be funny watching her try to convince you how wrong you are because you prefer rain to sun or whatever the case is. I have done this with my mother & found it funny how irritated she gets with me I prefer cool, rainy days. She tries hard to convince me something is wrong with me for not preferring sunny, warm days.
- Provide as little information about yourself as possible. It gives her less ammunition to use against you later. This one used to infuriate my mother in-law to no end, but she couldn’t say anything & maintain her false image of a good person. Admittedly, I probably enjoyed it too much, but I found it hilarious the lengths she would go to trying to pry information out of me..
- Remember, if your narcissistic mother tries to ask you questions, she isn’t asking you because she cares about you. She is only asking in order to get information on you that she can use to hurt you with later. Hurting you provides her that narcissistic supply.
- Always maintain a peaceful, calm, maybe even a bit cold demeanor when in the presence of a narcissist, no matter what. Narcissists can’t handle that! They want you upset- it feeds them, somehow making them feel better about themselves. Failing to show that you’re angry or hurt will be denying her narcissistic supply, & she will have to look for it elsewhere. Once you leave her presence however, vent! Get the hurt, anger, etc. out of you for your own physical & mental health.
- As you do these things more & more, your narcissistic mother will become frustrated & angry. Chances are good you’ll get the silent treatment as a result. Enjoy the reprieve! Do NOT call her to find out why she’s angry with you! Never! She will use that opportunity to blast you about whatever horrible thing it is she thinks that you have done. Instead, let her contact you when she is done pouting.
- If your situation gets bad enough for her to want to end the relationship with you, continue to maintain the calm demeanor where she is concerned. If she sends her flying monkeys to “talk sense into you” about how badly you treat her, refuse to engage in the conversation. Ignore her emails, texts or calls. Narcissists hate apathy- love them or hate them, fine, but act as if you don’t care, & they can’t handle it. Eventually, she’ll get bored & leave you alone.
At first, applying these techniques may be kind of hard to do, but you will find the more you do them, the easier they get. They also will make your life easier since your narcissistic mother will want less contact with you. My mother used to call me almost daily & stay on the phone for a long time each time, often around 45 minutes or more. Now? We speak every few weeks & rarely for more than 15 minutes.
Usually I focus on overtly narcissistic parents with my writing, but today I want to talk about something a bit different- the other parent who isn’t so blatantly abusive.
Many adult children of an overtly narcissistic parent swear that their other parent is wonderful, caring, & gentle. Someone, who for whatever reason, was simply overpowered by their overtly narcissistic partner. They just weren’t strong enough to stop that partner from abusing their child. But that is fine- it wasn’t his/her fault! Sadly, this is very rarely the truth.
Most overtly narcissistic people end up married to covertly narcissistic ones. The difference is covert narcissists aren’t so “in your face” with their behavior. They come across simple & quiet, often martyr like in their ability to tolerate their narcissistic spouse. They don’t wish to be the center of attention, but gain their positive attention by their good behavior. They are extremely good at acting sweet & innocent, & often have their children convinced that they are the real victim of the narcissistic parent instead of the children. They may say things like, “It was so hard for me to watch your mother treat you that way” or “There was nothing I could do to stop him from hitting you kids.”
My mother in-law is a prime example of a covert narcissist. My father in-law always has been the overtly narcissist type, abusing his children when they were growing up. She did nothing to protect herself or her children from his abuse. To this day, my husband feels bad for her that she went through so much suffering at the hands of his father, yet pretty much ignores the fact he & his siblings were abused too. He sees his mother as the real victim. She is well aware of this too. She portrays herself as a sweet, innocent, naive, martyr when the truth is she is nothing of the sort. She was blatantly cruel to me until I stopped speaking to her, making sure I knew I wasn’t good enough for her family. Anyone who was truly as beaten down as she portrays herself wouldn’t have it in them to be so cruel. She would have been more focused on simply surviving instead of hurting others. She also would know how bad it feels to have someone be cruel & wouldn’t want to make others feel that badly.
Think about your parents. You obviously have one overtly narcissistic one, probably your mother, since you are reading my work. What about your other parent, assuming your father? The way I described my mother in-law in the previous paragraph- does that sound somewhat like your father? If so, I wish to encourage you today to stop feeling sorry for him! How about taking some of that empathy you feel for him & feel it for yourself instead! You were the real victim- you were only a child. It was your parents’ job to treat you well & protect you, yet they did neither.
I’m sorry to try to provoke this anger in you, but it needs to be done if you’ve never felt anger before at your father. You need to feel that anger & process it so you can heal. It helps you not only to get the anger out of you, but also to see your father in a more realistic light. If you realize he is a covert narcissist, you can treat him accordingly, such as with healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries are vital with all narcissists, be they overt or covert, as they will use you however they see fit if given half a chance. And, covert narcissists are big fans of emotional incest to get their needs met. Whether their child is a child or an adult, they will not hesitate to use this sinister form of abuse to benefit them.
Any parent who enables someone to abuse their own child disgusts me. Abusing your child is bad enough, but standing back & letting someone else do it to me is even more evil as far as I’m concerned. Especially because the covert narcissists allows it only to avoid the overt narcissist’s wrath. Covert narcissists will do anything to avoid the loud, violent rage of the overt narcissist, & that includes throwing their child under the bus. They will redirect their partner’s rage onto the child & off of them. Or, they will refuse to intervene when the other parent is abusing the child to avoid being yelled at. Either way, it is sickening!
Narcissists treat their children as if they are mere tools- they take them off the shelf when they need their narcissistic supply or need the child to do something for them, then they put them back when done, & expect the child to stay out of sight & out of mind the rest of the time. (Isn’t this also how your average screwdriver or hammer is treated?)
Many narcissists also tell their children that children are to be seen & not heard, speak when spoken to only or other such hurtful things. They also clearly don’t wish to be bothered with their child’s needs or wants.
These things mean the child grows up learning to behave as if she is invisible. She stays quiet, & stays out of people’s way. People treat her as if she is invisible as well, because they see how she acts. (Your behavior shows others how you expect to be treated.) Their treatment reinforces to her that she needs to be invisible, & the painful cycle continues. It is so frustrating when even total strangers treat you this way. A few years ago, I stopped by a convenience store. When I was done & backing out of my parking space, I looked. No one was behind me so I backed out. Suddenly my car jolted to a stop. Someone in an SUV backed into me. We got out of our vehicles & she immediately began screaming at me for upsetting her by hitting her truck. I couldn’t even get in a word to tell her she had backed into me, not the other way around! Thankfully no damage was done to my car & she said none to her SUV, so we walked away from the incident. Her behavior hurt though. I felt like she thought I was so unimportant I shouldn’t be allowed to say one word.
This invisible thing results in a deep sense of shame about your very existence. You feel as if the fact you exist is a bad thing, & this can destroy your self-esteem. I know this from personal experience- I’ve never had healthy self-esteem. In fact, at 44 years old, I still battle low self-esteem often.
I have been working on becoming visible instead of staying invisible off & on for a few years now. I’ve learned that to do that, you need to start setting some boundaries. Don’t let others call all of the shots, all of the time. For example, I’ve always let others end the phone call first, & now I’m starting to do end it when I feel strong enough. (sad.. such a mundane task shouldn’t be so stressful!) If someone wants to go out with me but I have plans, instead of rearranging my plans, I suggest another time. Basically, I’m finding little, reasonable ways of making myself noticed. The good news is it does get easier & easier, the more I do it. I hope you will try to do the same thing so you no longer feel invisible. You deserve so much better than that!
A pretty common phenomenon I’ve noticed about adult children of narcissistic parents is this belief of others that we are always supposed to allow other people to mistreat or even abuse us without complaint. Also, if something is wrong in a relationship, it’s supposed to be our job to fix everything while the other person does nothing.
My mother in-law treated me like dirt for the first eight years of my husband’s & my relationship, until I finally severed ties with her. My husband told me constantly that I “needed to understand her better,” I should “be the bigger person & let things go.” He didn’t believe me when I told him what she had done, or (worst of all) blamed me for her abuse.
My ex husband & I lived with his parents for about a year. During that time, he & I had a big fight on our third wedding anniversary. I left the house to cool off for a while. When I came back, his mother jumped me, blaming me for the fight (which he started, not that she knew this), for making him angry & for him punching a wall in his anger. She told me I needed to talk to him & smooth things over.
During a very bad time in my marriage, I talked to a good friend of mine about something extremely painful my husband had done. He tried to make excuses for my husband’s behavior & suggested things I can do to help fix our marriage rather than comfort me or help me.
Do scenarios like this sound familiar to you as well?
If they do, I want to tell you today that it’s not your job, nor your purpose in life, to be used or to do all of the work in your relationships! Relationships are NOT one sided, at least healthy ones are not. A healthy relationship has two people working together. Relationships where only one person does all of the work are extremely dysfunctional & miserable.
It also is not your place to tolerate abuse or make excuses for the abuser! No one deserves abuse- NO ONE! There is no excuse to abuse, there is nothing you can do to make someone abuse you & abusive people are sick. None of this has anything to do with you.
I believe this warped behavior happens because of being raised by narcissistic parents. You’re raised to be nothing more than a tool to be used as needed, much like say, a screwdriver. You’re kept in a drawer until needed, pulled out, used, then put away until the next time you can serve some purpose. While you’re “in that drawer,” you need to be completely invisible- you have to stay out of the narcissist’s way! Don’t “bother” her with your trivial needs. Hers are so very much more important than yours, after all. As a result, you grow up continuing to act as if other people’s needs are more important, yours mean nothing, & being a people pleaser. People naturally read other people, & abusers in particular are extremely good at it. Abusers look for people like this to abuse, since they’re easy targets who won’t complain about how they’re treated. Then there are other people don’t deliberately seek out people they can abuse. Instead, they see you believe you are: invisible, you deserve to be treated poorly, etc. & they treat you that way.
To help fix this problem in your life, work on your healing. You will learn to spot the abusers quickly, & avoid them. You’ll develop & enforce stronger boundaries. Your self-esteem will improve, making you less willing to tolerate nonsense, including being the only one to work on your relationships. You also need to really grasp the fact that you are NOT what your narcissistic mother says you are. You are someone with great worth & value. God loves you, no matter if your parents don’t. If you have trouble believing that, ask Him to show you how much He loves you. Read the Bible- there are countless times in it where God states His love for you!