Boundaries are a very necessary part of life. Having them means you are free of the need to please others or take care of things that should be another person’s problem. They are especially helpful for those of us raised by narcissistic parents since we grew up with very vague or even non-existent boundaries.
Even after you’ve learned about having healthy boundaries, & put what you learned into practice, sometimes it can be hard to maintain those boundaries though, especially with narcissistic parents.
I spoke to my mother yesterday. She mentioned how she & my father rearranged the living room furniture. Knowing her, this means she told him what to move & where to put it. And, knowing him, this means he blindly obeyed her. Normally, I figure if he’s willing to obey her & not stand up for himself, that’s his problem. However, this time it bothers me. He is now 77 years old, & had back surgery just before last Christmas. he should NOT be doing things like this!! But, this isn’t a first. Part of the reason he needed the back surgery in the first place was lifting something very heavy he shouldn’t have been lifting, only because my mother wanted it moved. Why they didn’t ask my husband or I for help, I don’t know…
Times like this can be very difficult for the adult child of narcissistic parents. Old habits tend to want to kick in & you want to fix things or take care of the parent that is being pushed around. However, this is NOT a good idea at all. Fixing things simply enables the dysfunction to go on while drawing you into the middle of it. Chances are it will go on no matter what, so why put yourself in the situation?
I know it’s hard, but remember- it is that parent’s choice to do what he/she is told to do or not. That parent is most likely trying to avoid a narcissistic rage by doing whatever they are doing. While this is understandable to a degree, it’s still not good. Yet, it’s still his/her decision to obey rather than take a chance on standing up to their narcissistic spouse & maybe ending the control.
It is NOT your place to rescue him/her! Your parent is an adult, & needs to take care of his or herself, just like all adults do. Everyone’s actions & choices are their own responsibility, & each person needs to reap the consequences of them, good or bad. Do not allow your parent to draw you into the position of standing up for him/her to the other parent!
Often, the parent needing rescuing is a covert narcissist. Does this parent portray him or herself as a martyr or at least as someone innocent in all of the problems in his/her relationships? Does he/she come across very naive, innocent & in need of frequent rescuing? Here is a link that explains some of the differences between over & covert narcissists: Overt vs Covert Narcissists
Do you really want to get drawn into that dysfunction? No, you don’t. If you’re having trouble with not getting involved, remember how it has hurt you when you’ve been in this type of situation before. Remember how hurt you were, how badly you were treated. I’ve had to do this myself since I’ve been in the situation many times. It’s a horrible position to be in. It makes you feel used, angry, resentful & hurt at how quickly you’re discarded once the problem is solved.
Remember, you deserve better than to be treated as a “fixer.” Most narcissistic families have a “fixer,” someone who is the one who is supposed to fix everything. To the narcissists, the fixer is nothing more than a tool to be used, taken out when needed, then put back on the shelf. Don’t you believe you deserved to be treated better than a hammer, screwdriver or flashlight?
This type of behavior is a part of emotional incest. Emotional incest, covert incest or parentalizing are all terms used to describe the same abusive behavior. When I child is put in a position of an equal or a partner to the parent, that is emotional incest. Being expected to listen to a parent complain about a loveless marriage or sex life, talk to another person (usually the other parent) on the parent’s behalf or providing emotional support to the parent instead of the parent getting it from their partner, friend or family member are all examples of emotional incest. While this may not sound so bad, its effects can truly be devastating to the child. She grows up feeling overly responsible for other people, often becoming involved in co-dependent or abusive relationships. She grows up very anxious, depressed & constantly feeling guilty. You do NOT deserve to be abused like this! Put a stop to it immediately! Refuse to listen if one parent complains to you about the other or to get involved in their arguments. Emotional incest is detrimental to your mental health, & you need to protect yourself from it! You deserve that!