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Narcissist Dads

Occasionally, people revive old threads, and unless you subscribe to them by email, you miss the new discussion.

This comment came in yesterday from Hannah, the sister of the original poster of How Can I Get my Mother to Leave my Cheater Dad? Essentially, dad is the same old asshole he’s always been. I asked Chump Son, our resident decoder of narcissist parents to weigh in and he gave a very thoughtful reply. (See below.)

I know so many of you are dealing with children who have a narcissist cheater parent, or perhaps you grew up with a narcissist cheater parent, so I thought I’d revive the discussion here on a new thread.

Please share any thoughts you have for Hannah, as well as any tips you have for dealing with one of these wing nuts.

This is where it begins, with Hannah’s comment, my comment, and Chump Son (David’s) comment.

I am Hannah, Melissa’s younger sister. Whereas she has always had things clearly ironed out and rationalised in her head, my version events is slightly more chaotic. Though I whole heartedly agree with her and you all, I can’t help but still mourn the loss of a relationship with my dad.

As dysfunctional and harmful as it was, I still clearly carry chump characteristics because I miss the normality of our abnormality. Not communicating with my dad gave me an initial clarity that I originally lacked. Throughout all this though I feel as though I have mimicked my sister’s actions because I have literally been paralysed and frozen in a block of inaction. It has always been the case. Always the peacekeeper. Always the middle man. Always the negotiator. Everyone’s go-between. I don’t know whether to mourn the loss of a parent or acknowledge that I only ever had one worth having. I wish that I could snap my fingers and make him feel, even for a second, a fraction of the hurt I feel.

As an update, he recently assaulted my mum and stole her phone. So there is now an ongoing court case. Despite this, he still felt it appropriate to twist the knife in my heart further with a “heart-felt” email this weekend. One which left me weak, confused and like I’d taken 10 steps back. I needed to speak to my sister immediately to have her confirm that he was still an arsehole who I should avoid at all costs.

But I’d like to know when the creeping doubt will end that I’m doing the right thing, when the pain will stop and when I won’t be haunted by the possibility of me feeling ashamed of ‘cutting him out’ one day. Is it normal to feel guilty?

Hannah

REPLY

 Chump Lady January 27, 2014 at 3:58 pm 

Hi Hannah,

It’s totally normal to feel guilty. But please don’t. They have this expression in Al-Anon (for families where someone loves an addict) — “detach with love.” It’s okay to love your father (or not) — but you need to detach from him. For your own self protection — and for him. If there’s any hope of him changing (and please don’t hold your breath), it cannot happen unless there are significant consequences leveled, like withdrawal from his life.

You need to mourn the relationship you wanted, that you deserved, that you thought was possible — and look very lucidly at the relationship that exists. It’s TOXIC. He must be exceptionally abusive to assault your mother and steal from her. This is not someone you need in your life. DNA does not trump basic decency.

((Big hugs)). It’s so hard, but NC will make you feel a lot better. And do get some professional help to work these issues out so you don’t repeat these dynamics in your relationships.

REPLY

David January 27, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Hannah,

Chump Son here.

This is what you wrote:

“As an update, he recently assaulted my mum and stole her phone. So there is now an ongoing court case. Despite this, he still felt it appropriate to twist the knife in my heart further with a “heart-felt” email this weekend. One which left me weak, confused and like I’d taken 10 steps back.”

Let me tell you something, Hannah. This guy is clever. Very clever.

He’s got the two-step down like a Ninja Master. Advance, then retreat. Abuse, then soothe. I don’t know if you remember a movie called “Marathon Man” from way back in the 70s. Good film. Good book, too. In that story, an escaped Nazi doctor tortures an adversary (played by Dustin Hoffman) by drilling into his toothe and then suddenly applying anesthetic.

And you know what’s worse? Poor parents often leave their kids with a real hunger for…guess what?…REAL PARENTS. But those same parents get very jealous of the coach, the teacher, the Uncle who might usurp their screwed up authority.

So, you have grown up with a serious Dad deficit, a Dad deprivation, created by…a bad dad. And, roller coaster fashion, he can feed that. Look, no one, absolutely NO ONE, is “all bad.” There are pictures of Nazis who were loving fathers. But disordered people go back and forth. That’s what makes manipulation work! If your father were consistently bad, you’d see him for what we was and be gone years ago. But he can gear shift on you. Character is consistent! Do NOT marry the boyfriend who blows up at the picnic, broods and ruins everyone’s time. You can really tell if these characters are real or not. Just listen to your gut.

You gotta get therapy and keep a grip on this thing.

You also have to do something else.

Sorry.

You have to bury your father.

You have to mourn his loss.

You did not have a real father. You had a very limited, problematic, character-disordered guy for a parent. Despite that, you turned out well. (Just be careful what kind of relationships you get into. Fine a nice Chump!) But you have to face facts. He is not good for you. And you have to mourn. It is sad. In other blog posts, I have described a kind of final conversation that I had with my own father. (He wasn’t nearly as bad as yours, but bad enough.) I gave up on something: on Dad the World War II hero, on Dad the guy who took me sledding for the first time (I can still remember riding on his back. He was so BIG….) The Dad who taught me history. Yes, there were some good things, but — Damn It! — a boundary had to be drawn, and the fact that I waited so long to draw it made it more painful, not less. So, I drew my boundary, felt better, felt sad, mourned the fact that — while my father had good qualities, some of which I admired (mentioned above), on balance, he was not the man/nor the father he should have been. This is hard. But once you do it, you are better off.

If you draw boundaries, withdraw and detach from these folks, some relationship may be possible later on. The irony of this is that, when it comes to the disordered, the only possibility for a relationship comes when you give up on them, when you are willing to get up and walk away, when you’ve snapped the chain of need that ties you to the anchor of their chaos and despair.

I know that sounds weird, like some Eastern Philosophy. Well, let’s hear it for Eastern Philosophy. I had a friend, a good friend, a guy who was a kind of father figure to me –(I attract these father figures quite naturally; I must give off some kind of scent-need; this has been a blessing)–and he said to me once, “You know, you only truly keep what you give away.” He was referring to giving gifts, to giving things with real meaning, but giving them in a way that you kept the memory forever.

That’s a positive paradox.

But with the disordered, there’s another paradox. You only have a chance with them (and they may reject you) once you have cut the cord. Once they know that if they get out of line, you are going to get up and walk away.

And you have to accept something. It’s going to hurt.

But you’ll be better off for the boundaries, you’ll be a better role model to any children you have, you will be better to and for yourself, for your friends. I can imagine that you and your sister’s friends fret about what this situation does to you both.

Personally, and I don’t know all the details, it sounds like both your parents are in some kind of toxic lock. I’d get distance from both. I agree with CL when she tells sis’ she has every right to set boundaries. Personally, it sounds to me like this father is a real loser, and I’d stay away from him. He’s like a mad dentist with a drill in one hand and Novocaine in the other.

So, face facts, mourn and move on. There good folks out there who deserve the good feelings that you and your sister are ready to give. You sound like great kids who came out of a tough situation. That equals triumph. Take that, make new friends and take your lives to the next level. Mom can come with you, if she wants to. I have my doubts she’ll join you. And dad…. Sorry. It’s sad, but the dad you deserved, he never was.

Chump Son knows how you feel.

Please let me (more or less) repeat myself:

“You ARE great kids who came out of a tough situation. That equals triumph. Take that, make new friends and take your lives to the next level. ”

Yes, you CAN!

 

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “You ARE great kids who came out of a tough situation. That equals triumph. Take that, make new friends and take your lives to the next level.”

    Powerful stuff.

    I don’t know that I can add anything, except to say my own experiences back up CS.

    My father once mentioned to me he could see aspects of my mother in Andy (I had already noticed this). I don’t want to say my mom is a flaming psycho, because nothing could be farther from the truth. But there are parallels: they both make snap judgments, they are both bad at communication, and they both engage in emotional manipulation.

    I don’t think either of them realize it, or intend to do these things. Certainly my mother does not come from anywhere near the sick and disordered place that Andy does.

    And I do not harbor any sort of nasty pseudo anger at my mother. I dealt with all of that years ago, before I even met Andy.

    But the boundary thing CS recommends works: it really, really works.

    There are times–even in the last two weeks–when I have to simply state I will not discuss something with her any more.

    When you start treating *yourself* as if you have the right to engage with or dis-engage from someone you will find their behavior DOES NOT CHANGE. Not immediately, possibly not ever.

    But your responses to their behavior changes DRAMATICALLY. And the reality is, the only thing you ever have the power to change is yourself.

    The one thing I can add to CS great insights: be careful you don’t get cocky.

    Learning to recognize this stuff in a parent does not automatically translate to recognizing this stuff in a romantic interest or a friend, or a co-worker, or a supervisor. There will be people in the periphery of your life, that you rarely have to deal with, and whether or not you identify them for the disordered person that they are really doesn’t matter.

    But the people who seem to gravitate toward you, the people who seek you out, and have the power to really impact your life? Pay attention to who these people are. Because the reality is, disordered feels normal to you. And there are people in the world who seem to have a homing device set to locate people who are accustomed to living side by side with pathology. (This has been backed up by research; abusers are disturbingly successful at identifying people who were previously abused, simply by glancing at photos.)

    (Sidenote: This back and forth thing your father has been doing to you? That is mindfuckery. Anytime he is doing that to you, he is not being a father of any kind, and certainly does not have your best interests in the forefront of his mind.)

    Engage in deliberate self-awareness around new people poised to have strong impact on your life, at least until you have seen their character for a prolonged period of time when they think no one is looking.

    For myself, I can honestly say, at the moments when I decided such and such must be the exception to the rule–if I had hit myself over the head with a rubber mallet, it would have done me less damage.

  • Thank you for sharing your insight, Chump Son. I don’t have a narc parent, but I worry for my own children, who do. I hoe they can somehow navigate these dangerous waters. I hope to let them know that they have the right to enforce their own emotional boundaries.

    It’s true that abusers will continue to abuse, for as long as you let them. And it’s like a slot machine….they pay out sometimes, which is what keeps you coming back. But it’s a rigged game. The house always wins.

    • “It’s true that abusers will continue to abuse, for as long as you let them. And it’s like a slot machine….they pay out sometimes, which is what keeps you coming back. But it’s a rigged game. The house always wins.”

      Ah, Duck. So sad, but so true, and beautifully stated. I’ve copied this to my collection of insights. Thank you.

      Hannah and Melissa, we are all rooting for you. You deserve a wonderful, drama-free life.

      • DuckLinerUpper,

        The slot machine comparison is perfect, as is the fact that you can never beat the casino. In my own case, the simple act of ending an unpleasant conversation by getting up and walking away proved critical.

        What a great metaphor!

  • Hannah,
    It is tough, but you are doing the right thing. My father and exH turned out to be the same. Not the flaming NPD type, but the more passive emotionally distant type.

    My father literally abandoned my family when I was in my very early teens. The local police officers thought my mother had killed him, or they were colluding for insurance money. Two years later, up he pops, claiming amnesia for 6 months, then he was too ashamed to come back. By then my mom has lost the business, we’d had to move, etc.
    Turns out my father just came back to get divorced so he could marry someone new, and younger.

    Of four daughters, I am the only one who has any contact with my father. I just thought it important that the kids know their grandparents, as mine all passed away when I was young. But we do not have a real relationship. He comes to see the grand kids once every 12-18 months since we live far apart.

    The almost most difficult part of my divorce was when my then H took me to dinner and in a roundabout way said he did not want to be married (he was tired of living the lie , ??), and that he understood why my dad took off and wished he could do the same.

    Turns out both my father and exH are lazy, lying, selfish cowards.
    Unhappy, but me re did anything about it except cheat, etc.

    I could go on, but I think CL and the others have it right.
    Take a step back, get some distance, do some reading and maybe counseling. Learn to see the signs so history does not repeat itself.
    I met my husband in high school, so at that point I was still young and did not understand the signs of similarity.

    Best of luck.

  • It’s original poster Melissa here. Well, seeing as I religiously read Chump Lady, I was a little surprised to see my sister had made a comment on my original post (I think I only mentioned Chump Lady once to her; I feel touched she listens so carefully!)

    Both Hannah and I received “heart-felt” emails from my Dad this weekend. Whilst Hannah felt guilty/upset, I felt mostly angry. I had a fleeting urge to reply, refuting every single point he had made and end it with a caps-locked screed of profanity. However. What I actually did was dissect the email (adding sarcastic, pithy comments) and sent it back to Hannah. I told her it made me feel a lot better, as it almost felt like sending that angry reply without actually getting any negative consequences of actually contacting him.

    Hannah has sought counseling, and having listened to her I think the counselor has made some insightful points regarding my Mum. Whilst we both want to support her, when we both see her we often we go over the same ground (i.e. talking about the events that happened, how awful my Dad is etc) which can feel like we don’t move forward. My Mum does attend therapy herself (so she has another outlet to talk about it all) but ultimately I think perhaps the reason she goes over old ground is because she is desperately trying to assuage her guilt for staying with my Dad for so long, or to understand “why” my Dad acts the way he does (hint: it makes no sense, and it does not matter why).

    The thing is, whilst my mind is “clear” (as Hannah put it) and I am certain that no contact is the best way to deal with my Dad, I believe that being “stuck” talking about my Dad all the time is much harder for Hannah as it churns up old feelings, which makes her feel sad and vulnerable when my Dad contacts her.

    I truly believe if my Mum was to show a bit more strength (and try to avoid going on and on and on about the past) then Hannah herself might feel stronger and less guilty about cutting off from my Dad.

    Thank you David for another insightful comment about being a Chump-child.

    • Melissa, I appreciate you sharing your viewpoint. My oldest son is like you, very angry with his father and has detached. My younger son has more of a relationship with his dad and probably shares the mixed feelings that Hannah does. I know in the beginning, after D-day, I was in terrible pain from the shock of abandonment and shared too much with my kids about what went on. I still don’t regret telling the kids about his affair, but I wish I’d not gone into as much detail. I’m in counseling and have built other supportive relationships where I can share those feelings so I don’t have to dump them on my kids. Still, I just want to tell you not to cut off your mother. Moms are often in terrible pain and we love our kids more than anything. It’s good to be straight-forward and ask your mom not to discuss your dad so you can all focus on the future, though. She may just need that boundary placed and it will help her move forward as well. That’s what my oldest son said to me, that he didn’t want to discuss his dad any more and I respected that. I told both my kids that if they were upset with me about something just to let me know so we could discuss it.

      My heart goes out to you in such a painful situation, I understand how difficult it is for you.

      • Lyn, I went through something similar and my kids are in similar situations. My older one is pretty much done with ex and the younger one desperately wants to have a ‘normal’ relationship with him, although he’s realising that’s probably not possible in any real way.

        This means my older one will not talk about ex and sets boundaries, while younger one wants to talk about life at ex’s. It’s hard but I give them both room and I’m lucky in that I have a good therapist and many good friends who have given me an outlet – although I do think there came a point where I was trying their understanding. But then again, I was a SAHM and this whole thing consumed my life for far too long. Now I have a lot of other things going on so it’s put a lot of it in perspective and helped me refocus.

        I am working hard to make sure that my bond with my kids isn’t about ‘hating’ their dad or going on about what a shit he is. He’s a shit and he’s not a great person but how they deal with that is up to them. I support them in how they choose to deal with things, give my opinion if asked but try to stay out of it as much as possible. This makes things hilarious because when something goes wrong between ex and the kids he blames me and shouts at them that ‘it’s your mother’s fault’, which leaves them gobsmacked as they know that I stay out of it and have no interest in involving myself unless they need protection.

        To the OP and her sister – ladies, you’ve got to find a way to deal with your dad in a way that you feel comfortable. That may mean different things to each of you and you hopefully will respect that in each other. Don’t try to make the other one see things as you do – we all have different personalities and have to find our own ways in how to live life. But do protect yourselves and don’t let him jerk you and your emotions around. Remember: actions, not words. I literally just had this conversation with my kids about ex’s parents, who are like him – very good at saying the right things but very bad at putting those nice words and sentiments into action.

  • Amazing blog and reader comments today. CL, Chump Son, Blue Eyes and Duck, very insightful observations. The warnings about abnormal feeling normal and slot machines particularly resonated with me. Also, as someone who has also had to cut my disfunctional dad completely out of my life, I suggest accepting that this will likely be what you have to do also. Do not go into No Contact thinking this will teach him, because it likely won’t. I know that’s hard, because you see the best in him and want so badly for that to be who he is. But it’s not. You love the person he’s capable of being, not the person he is. The person he is, well, that person is a very bad person who either can’t distinguish right from wrong, or who can and chooses wrong. Either way, he’s like a pinball game ball that ricochets through life, hurting anyone who gets close enough to him. Don’t be part of his game. Big hugs to you, Hannah, and your sister.

      • Agreed. I think this is what drew me to my STBX. He’s smart, very original in some of his thinking, and has an excellent work ethic.

        On the down side, he sees himself as the unrecognized genius who can save his company (if people would only listen!), and cannot take any viewpoint other than his own. As my sister observed, he’s not thin-skinned. Rather, he has a raw, bleeding wound, and anything different is like sticking a knife into it and twisting it.

        In his world, the only voice worth listening to is his own echo.

        • Yep, everyone ex has ever worked with or for has always ended up a disappointment. It all starts out sunshine and unicorns but at some point they don’t have constant praise but instead have a criticism about his work (usually a valid criticism, which is normal in any job, i would think) and they suddenly are ‘stupid’ and ‘useless’ and ‘know nothing’ and if only everyone would listen to him and do what he says and thinks then everything would be fine. I used to listen to this and sometimes point out that sure, maybe he messed something up. Admit it, apologise, recalibrate and move on. Don’t think he liked that but his dad is exactly like him and he never changed, no matter what happened in his career.

          • Urgh…hit submit before I finished. Both ex and his dad are smart guys in their field but they’re continually disappointed and his dad was eventually seen as a talented guy with big issues – and ex is heading down that rode as well. They don’t learn from mistakes, they instead dig their heels in and insist, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that they are right.

  • So here goes. I have three beautiful children with my ex. One weekend he stated he wanted a divorce. Two of my kids in high school at the time were home it was a Saturday morning so they got the news at the same time I did. The following two and a half years were hell. He spent that time fighting a decent settlement and intimidating me. My ex treated us like people he wanted to eliminate from his life. He stole all monies from our children’s bank accounts, had spent the last two years of our marriage dissipating funds on cars, expensive trips (one for son’s Spring Break look at all the colleges he’d applied to and got into), and on hobbies (forensic accounting would not see this as dissipation as we had always spent money this way) and previous to that in 2007 he had unbenownst to me arranged yet another increase on the second on our mortgage. Mind you we made good money but in those last few years he really screwed us over financially. It was looking back part of his big plan to punish me and all the while we were scrambling to make everything work my ex had moved out of the family home and run off with his OW. So two kids in high school (senior and junior), and one in college that he bailed on. On the months he missed a mortgage payment he missed those temporary support payments because you see he no longer wanted the house. So his family was left to “figure it out”. My children did go on to college, they qualify for financial aid and the colleges they attended really helped them out! But we lost our home to foreclosure. And my ex showed up to vandalize house so I wouldn’t receive the money to move out and we are now living at my parents house 500 miles from the town I loved. It has been a big adjustment. Standard of living is rough still pushing my children and their dreams forward and trying to work towards becoming more independent. My children’s father is barely a relevant part of their lives and I know they would be healthier if they too would recognize HE is WHAT He Does. So that HIV test I found amongst all those financial papers is what He is. He not only walked out on the mortgage one he could easily afford but he vanished from my children’s lives. He gives my children presents, pays for a few things to impress others, and sees them twice a year. And has a sparkly new life. Oblivious to all the hurt he has caused.My youngest daughter will be graduating college this year and she has pretty much done it by herself. With a lot of help from me. What she doesn’t recognize is that her father really believes he helped and will show up that day to be the lie he’s always been. I can no longer spackle. Underneath all that glitter is still a pile of shit.

    • Bless your heart drew. You are doing an amazing job considering the hurricane that blew through your life. I’m so thankful my ex didn’t walk out until the last kid had graduated from college. Your ex sounds like a real piece of work. I agree that the most amazing thing is that our exes don’t comprehend the pain they cause with their selfish decisions. My oldest son even mentioned that his dad didn’t understand the terrible nightmares my son had for over a year. I still have occasional nightmares as well, and often feel like a piece of me is missing. Hopefully it’ll get better with time…

      • Thank You Lyn. My divorce was final in Dec ’11 but I am still heartbroken, for the most part I had a great life but as time moved forward my ex became a different man. Cheating was his way out, signs were there but my family was also recovering from two freak nearly fatal accidents in which all three children were involved but there were a lot of little things as well. Like for many of us on this site. I am still working on that QDRO (both ex and his lawyer are hostile) am just going to get it done myself but make sure pension admin knows what my circumstances are. I have always been a popular well liked smart successful woman even as a stay at home mom! And that even bothered my ex. But I am less trusting now, angry sometimes, and have both good and bad days. This experience has been my biggest disappointment. I hurt too for my children but they are resilient and when I forget where I am headed they serve as great reminders. It gets better with time. 🙂

  • Thanks so much for your insight and wisdom.

    One of the hardest things early in my divorce was hearing “every child deserves a father” and then second guessing my decisions. My exH left when our children were 5 (D) and 2(S). He was living out of the country the first 4 years with very limited contact (we didn’t have a working phone # for him lots of the time). He returned to the US about a year ago, and I was in court yesterday to extend our protective order another 5 years.

    I have decided, with much wise counsel and prayer, that no contact is the best option for my children with their father. He is mentally unstable, and lies as often as he breathes. They have few/no memories of him. What they seek is answers as to why he left them, and he has no answers to offer. In court yesterday, when I was asked to recount specific instances of his physical abuse, he stated, “I don’t remember those…maybe one…but that’s just how marriage is; are you sure you weren’t dreaming?” Yep. He’s full of answers.

    I don’t want my children to hate their dad. We talk about him occasionally – almost like he’s passed away; we can share memories that are pleasant, but not talk about “NOW” because there isn’t one. About once a month, I ask my now 11 year old daughter, “How are you doing with your dad?” and she usually says there’s nothing she wants to talk about. She does say that when she’s grown, she may wish to contact him to see if he’s ready to answer from questions for her – almost like an adopted child wanting to contact a birthparent. My exH is very sparkly – my kids don’t need sparkle – they need real substance. Their coaches, uncles, friend’s parents, teachers, provide the substance. No more sparkles here.

      • Don’t know yet – apparently they make you aware of the ruling by mail. The good news is the temporary CPO stays in place until the final ruling.

        Oh, and in the “ongoing crazy” category – about 2 hours after the hearing, exH leaves a message on my phone (his 6th violation of the order) saying how SORRY he is; that it was so terrible to see me sad; that I’m the best mother in the world..and…he agrees to grant me the order because he couldn’t stand seeing me sad. Really. And guess what? It’s too late. The ruling will be made; if the order is granted, great. But if it’s NOT, we have to re-file AGAIN, and then hope he doesn’t change his mind, and contest it again. “Untangling the skein” indeed. And I’m out of practice, so I’m not engaging. Nor am I calling him back to “let him know I’m ok” as he reqested/begged. They really, really never change. Believe that.

  • CL – You must be desensitized from this sentiment because it seems to happen every day, but once again, the perfect timing of a perfect post. I have not been visiting chumplady and the chumpnation as often as I had been. I’m moving on with my life and my focus has been on that forward momentum. No Contact with my ex-Narkle (love the new descriptor!) has been going very well, but recently have been drawn back into the sphere. And today of all days I came to seek some wisdom at Chumplady.com.

    As a reminder I was married to my Narckle for 7 years and helped raise his 3 daughter from the ages of 8,7 and 5 through ages 15, 14 and 12. When I asked for the divorce he forced the girls and I to sever our relationship and has not allowed us contact with each other. The girls continue to reach out to me via text and phone when they can, but if caught, he punishes them. On Christmas Eve I got a text from my middle step-daughter asking if she was the whole reason that her dad and I divorced (she is now 15 yrs old). Turns out there was a big fight and my Ex physically assaulted the oldest (16) punching her with a closed fist a few times. She ran from the house and then he turned to the 15 yr old and unloaded on her verbally with an awful tirade which included she was worthless, no one would ever want her and she alone caused our divorce. Their mother came and got all three girls, took the oldest to the hospital to get checked out and called the police and had the girls make statements for a report. (Ultimately, there were no consequences for him..) he has apologized to the younger 2, but has not spoken to the oldest since the event and has “banned”her from his house, causing her to have to be withdrawn from school and enrolled at the school at her mother’s house. He is blaming the whole episode on her, saying she is emotionally unstable, always been a problem child etc. Her behavior is threatening the relationship with his latest victim, so she becomes the scapegoat.

    My conundrum is, the girls don’t yet know the details of why I left their father. Which are: their father is a Sex Addict and for our entire marriage he was seeking sexual services in massage parlors 3 times a week. The girls would benefit so greatly by going to Al-Ateen or being able to talk about the truth with a therapist. Money is an issue in regards to therapy but even if the girls could get to Al-Ateen I think it would help them so much. But, Al-Ateen is for the family members of Addicts, and the girls don’t know he’s an addict. When is it age appropriate tell the girls who it is they are dealing with, so that they can start to “detach with love”, and all the other work that will need to be done?

    Melissa and Hannah – I wish you both the best in dealing with your situation. What you are surviving is extraordinary. You both are extraordinary. Strength and big hugs to you, both.

    • FLBright,

      First of all, how horrible that you have been deprived of contact from the girls. They must miss you terribly.

      I consider that they are all old enough to be told the truth about why you left their Dad, even if you don’t explicitly go into every sordid detail. They’re already dealing with a very, very tough and unacceptable situation (he punched the eldest with a closed fist then blamed it on her? Unfortunately, I can sympathize as I was also physically abused by my Dad at times. I was always blamed for “provoking” him) and they deserve to know the truth. It will assist with their healing and ultimately processing seeing their Dad for who he really is. How else will they be able to make decisions about their ongoing relationship with him if they don’t have all the information?

      Also it goes without saying (and it seems Mum is on it) but I really, really hope that eldest (and the other two, they won’t be immune) aren’t forced to see Dad ever again. I used to desperately wish there was some way to escape my Dad, but as my Mum wouldn’t leave him, I didn’t have much choice.

      Many hugs to you.

      • Thank you Melissa – What makes all of this even worse is, all three girls are a sibling set adopted from Russia when they were 4, 3 and 18 months. The oldest already suffers abandonment issues and her Dad was her tightest bond. He always made no bones that she was his favorite (His first wife only bonded with the baby, not the older 2). She is devastated and confused that he could just toss her away (primarily to protect his relationship with his new woman – he has already informed the girls that his relationship with her comes first). Her conversation regarding him right now seems to be about trying to figure her way back into his inner circle. So, so sad.

        Thank you for your advice and wisdom.I appreciate your perspective very much.

        • That’s terribly sad because it essentially means she’s a chump already. Keep those lines of communication open, no matter how you do it, and start teaching them any way you can that they should not have to beg for their father’s love and affection and that it is OK to set their boundaries because when they stop focusing on the asshole it will make room for good people and good things in their lives.

    • He physically beats them and blames them for it? I think those girls know enough to know that their father is a total piece of shit. Sex addict is the cherry on the shit sundae.

      I would reach out to the eldest, at her mom’s outside the reach of Daddy Psycho and let her know you’re there for her. And I’d do my best to stay in the youngest’s orbit too. They can use all the stable adults they can get.

      If they ask why you left, I’d tell them. But they know his relationships break up and they know that he blames his victims for his abuse. I would just say to them what you’d say to any chump — you didn’t CAUSE him to behave this way. This is NOT your fault. You are worthy of love and respect.

      • Thanks, CL. I’m actually back in touch with all three. The message that I have been repeating to all of them is the same as yours. I have no power or control (legal or otherwise) of any kind over his behavior with the girls, so all I can do is listen and empathize and remind them that they are loved. Thank you again for the timely post.

        • FLBright – your story hurts my heart. My son is also adopted internationally, and although he was only 2 when exH left – and had been adopted at 10 months – the situation has caused deep abandonment issues with him as well. Love these girls as much as you can, and hope that they have other good grownups in their lives. I’m working as hard as I can to foster relationships with coaches, teachers, friends’ parents (especially dads) and other family members for my kids. Do everything you can, especially as they reach the teen years where adoption issues are most painful. Bless you 🙂

          • Nord – He was never in love with her. I’ve known him since high school and we were all confused when he decided to marry her. The assessment at the time was that he felt obligated. She and her family had helped him through some financially challenging times. He was raised ultra religious, she was a good christian girl. I think he felt like he was doing the right thing. They couldn’t get pregnant and although he never wanted children, he thought if he “got her some kids” it would get her out of her depression. Unraveled from there.

            My perspective looking back on it now (now that I know who he really is) is different from at the time, of course. Now, I think he became successful at work and she wasn’t “good enough” for him, he didn’t need her anymore. He came to me and declared himself after they had separated. With me, he was always extremely proper and appropriate, never made a pass at me the whole time he was married. Of course, I come to find out he had affairs and was going to the massage parlors then also. I thought because he had always acted appropriate with me, that he had integrity. Turns out, that’s the mask he wore with me, I was the front, and he got his freak on in the shadows…

            As far as I know she still does not know that he is a sex addict. I don’t think she knows about the affairs that he had during her marriage, and I don’t think she has any clue about the massage parlors. There will be a time, I think, when it is appropriate to tell her… but as yet, I have not. Most in his family have no idea who he really is… The family that I have a relationship with do, they know the whole truth, but many others do not..

            • The story of why he married her is probably his spin so I would take it with a grain of salt. Does she need to know about what happened in her own marriage? Only if she’s still hung up on him or still feeding him kibbles.

              I would focus on the girls and give some effort there but also know that you can only do so much. Be honest, be there for them and make sure they know they can always turn to you. Fuck him if this upsets him.

              • Nord – the only reason I would share with her is so that she know’s who the girls are really dealing with. So that she doesn’t coach them inappropriately to try to reconcile, etc, with their dad. Who know’s… God grant me the wisdom to know what’s right…

    • What a horrible story and it reminds me of how my ex has treated my old child due to older child calling ex out on his shit. Emotional abuse, some physical, and general devaluing because the kid would not go along with ex’s bullshit.

      I would tell the daughters, although it could raise a hell of a shit storm. If you do tell them I would suggest saying it in very delicate, general terms, such as ‘you’re dad did not respect me during our marriage’. They’ll figure it out.

      • Nord – Sadly the girl’s adopted mom is not much better. Although I tried very hard for the first 3 years of my marriage to her ex, to work with her, encourage her, partner with her, ultimately I assessed that she is suffering from depression and simply not capable of getting out of a chair to do anything for her children. Things really went downhill when the oldest (at age 11) showed up at our house after a weekend with her mom with a black eye because her mother had slapped her across the face (which also caused her nose to bleed). I took photographs of the injury and told the mom that she needed to contact a mental health professional immediately or I would report her to DCFS. She went to 3 appointments and stopped. She is quite relieved to see me go and I’m sure was thrilled when EX cut girls off from me.

        The grandparents, however, are starting to make in-roads with her, trying to prop her up, help her get stronger so that she can be more helpful to the girls. But, all three mostly ended up living with me and their Dad, due to her inabilities to manage/handle them. The grandparents are mortified by their son’s (my Ex’s) behavior and have vowed that I will always remain a part of their lives and hearts and they are truly doing everything they can to help support the girls. They are setting up their lives so that if an opportunity presents, they might take 1 or all of the girls in until they are ready for college. It’s such a messed up situation…

        • Oh FLBright! I am so sorry for you! Your situation makes me both very sad and VERY VERY angry. I started dating my ex when his kids were 7 and 9. They were part of what I fell in love with. I considered them my son and daughter. My ex is a sex addict as well and after I moved out of the house he cut off my ability to contact the kids. (They were almost 11 and 12. ) The kicker is I’m pregnant with their half brother. I don’t know if they know. I have wondered these past six months what I would say if one of them comes looking for me or my son someday….especially the oldest. She very much considered me more of a real mom than her own and we were very close. (Her mom has a lot like the mom in your situation FLBright only with more crazy). I do think it’s alright to tell them the truth. Not the “Your Dad’s a piece of shit sex addict” bit, but the truth about his infidelity and your legit reasons for leaving. For me what I would like to say is this, “I believe there are only three good reasons for divorce. They are adultery, addiction and abuse. You know how much I loved you guys and your dad and that I would only leave for a really good reason. Your dad and I got married and unfortunately he decided not to be faithful.” If they have questions or want details I suppose we can go from there. I truly hope something good can come from your situation for both the girls and for you. It’s a horrible thing to be the stabilizing and loving force in a child’s life but to have no rights to those children. It’s a loss for them and a heartbreak for you.

          • Kat – thank you so much for your empathy and understanding. It’s a very odd situation and I haven’t run across many that are having a similar experience. I was the only parent trying to create stability and consistency in their lives. Home cooked dinner as many nights as we could around the table, staying on a schedule and a routine, being present and available while they did homework, so they knew they we not alone if they needed help, but also someone for them to be accountable to. They actually used to roll their eyes about the home cooked dinners with everyone at the table, but my heart swelled when one reached out recently to rant and a big complaint was they “Never sit down together to a home cooked dinner!!” I know that I was with them for enough time for them to have picked up on the character and the behavior I tried to model for them, and I truly believe they will each come back to me fully in time. I cannot imagine your pain and confusion in your situation. I wish you the best as you navigate that journey. Thanks again and Best of Luck!

  • Oh how this post is helping me to see what I really already knew but need to keep being told. Unless they want to talk about it, I need to stop stirring it up. I’ve been fairly good lately not talking about their father. My girls are adults and no longer live with me. But it’s hard. It really is. He managed to alienate me from most of my family over the years and also my friends. He always managed to create a guilt in me so that I always invited him along to everything I did. He had no friends. I was supposedly his one and only. I did nothing wrong and yet feel like I need to fight for my place in their hearts. After all, I found out from them that he had been eroding my relationship with them for years. I always felt like I could do nothing right, or never do enough for them. And still I wondered why my girls seemed closer to their father when he was rarely around for them. I arranged and went to all their school functions, attended all their doctors appointments etc. If he was their, he was distracted at best. He always carried a book with him and would ignore everyone and everything and read. I would make excuses for him. Saying he was socially phobic etc. Well anyway I found out that he up played my anxiety issues and was telling my girls that they shouldn’t burden me with their problems because I was emotionally unstable and couldn’t handle the stress. They should come to him with their problems. No wonder why I always felt like I was missing out on something. Like they had a secret code. Well needless to say, they have finally figured out his game, and claim to have severed any sort of meaningful relationship with him. However I still can’t talk about my feelings and heartbreak with them. It is a tragedy to say the least. Our once “close” family is now shattered in more ways then one. In the last year I have experienced so much loss. and I am slowly gaining friends, both old and new. Our relationships are changing. But one thing remains the same. I feel so incredibly heartbroken and hyper aware of everything I think and say. It creates a whole other feeling of loneliness. I am left to share my deepest feelings with my therapist. but I have no one to hug me and comfort me the way I really need. It is a scary feeling. One I wish on no one. I am sure a lot of you Chumps get what I am saying. Our trust is gone, and we suspect anyone and everyone of back stabbing. It comes with the territory. So Kids, Please Please Please! Take into consideration that. And have compassion for your wronged parent. You may not want to talk about it. But always be honest and be there with a hug for your chumped parent. Hopefully they have been there for you over the years. And if you are an Adult especially, it is truly time to be there for them. You may be the only people left for them right now. Perhaps seek counseling with her so that someone can reel things in if boundaries are an issue. I am hoping my girls will eventually do this with me. I have offered it, and they are not ready. But I won’t give up, nor will I badger. I can only hope that our relationships will survive this.

    • I have an NPD dad who caused the death of an innocent young stranger and was such an outrageous, arrogant and callous jerk about it that he and his wife were vilified in the national news and sent to prison for the maximum amount of time. They were professionals who lost everything and today they still cling to their ludicrous blaming of everyone/everything else and accept no responsibility. He knows I am fearful of large dogs so he sends me multiple emails daily with links to adoption sites for large, dangerous breed dogs, claiming that my 3-year old needs one. He actually brought one with him to a restaurant the last time we agreed to meet for lunch with my daughter, though I had very kindly asked him not to. I completely cut him off after that.

      What I learned was that I needed to mourn the fact that I never would have the parent I so wanted him to be and i learned to parent myself. I learned to rely on my own good judgement to guide me in all things, I learned to self soothe and be kind to myself, and I learned to value what was important to me and be an advocate for what I want and think. In short, I learned to so for myself all if the things a good parent should have done for me growing up.

      I am completely at meh with him. I don’t feel angry with him anymore, just realize that he is very disordered and possibly dangerous and I won’t tolerate that for myself or family. Instead, I focus on enjoying the wonderful things and people I have in my life.

      I think you need to mourn the loss of your dad and focus on the business of parenting yourself the way you deserved to be parented. Therapy helped me a lot in learning to do that.i wish you the very best.

      • “I think you need to mourn the loss of your dad and focus on the business of parenting yourself the way you deserved to be parented. Therapy helped me a lot in learning to do that.i wish you the very best.”
        That’s brilliant. I’ve learned to be my best friend when I’m going through a rough time but it would be interesting to try parenting. This is especially relevant right now since my divorce situation has had me staying with my parents and it’s becoming abundantly clear that it’s never going to be possible to have a normal or positive relationship with my mother. Methinks I’m going to end up having a lot of conversations with myself. =)

        • To all of you who were kids with ghost parents, one of my therapists had an idea that I’ve used to help parent myself. She had me find some childhood pictures of myself, and hold the picture and contemplate that little girl. Talk to her, and feel your love for her. She was perfect and valuable, and deserved to be cared for like every child (not her fault she wasn’t a lot of the time).
          This helped me so much, that I keep those framed pictures of me at 6 months, 3, and 11 displayed in my room. I can feel love for that young girl and it has helped me feel so much more self-worth!

          • Something I’m doing to strengthen the “kind, encouraging parent voice in my head” is keeping a “coaching journal.” I write encouraging things that I wish someone would say to me about positive steps I’m taking to improve my life. It seems to be working and overriding the “critical parent” voice I internalized. I told my therapist about it and she said it was a great idea. I’ve noticed that when I start to berate myself I’ll stop and think about what I’d write in the “coaching journal” and it seems to help me transform my thoughts into something more positive.

            • That’s great! We can learn better habits if we try. My parents didn’t even show me how to live in this world (plus my father used to be a raging mad alcky), but I did well enough on my own somehow.
              Maybe I’ll start writing down the changes I’ve made, it’s always encouraging to keep track of good that we do, and focus on something that’s positive.

  • Wow.

    Many emotions above. Lots of different currents. There is no one answer, though, if anyone can get as close to an answer as possible, it’s CL.

    Of course, every situation is individual. In my own case, where things were not as bad as many situations described here, my brother was able to use no contact to eventually have a decent relationship with my father. But that won’t work in every case. From my perspective, I would worry that Melissa’s Mom is so deeply invested in a bad relationship that she will never let go. And I don’t think kids can “save” their parents. In fact, Chump children often have to parent a dysfunctional parent. (Recently, I wrote about my father challenging me to a fist fight when I was 18. That was not too bright on his part. But I had to be the guy who was responsible. Bad parents do this, abuse their privileges/power and sometimes act out in ways that force kids to be hyper-mature. Chump kids often rise to that high standard, but it’s tough on them and it’s wrong. In a healthy family, the kids should do some acting out, not the parents!)

    For most of the “Walking Dead” dads described here, it sounds like low to no contact is the only way to go. Sadly, there is a sub-sub-species of guy who can just turn around and walk away from his kids/his family. There’s another sub-sub-sub species who walks and then tries to ruin what he leaves behind. (I think this second triple-s sub-human species is secretly afraid that his family will be happier without him, even if they have less money. Hence, he tries to sabotage what he abandoned to create some kind of weird “proof” that he did the right thing.) I don’t know what the Walking Dead dads tick, but the legal system is the best answer. Drew Summers (and others), be proud of the healthier environment you have created for the kids. They are better off for it!

    Of course, genders can be reversed, but I’m just commenting on what I know and what I see above. I see lots of heroes above, hanging in there with the kids and seeing them come out better off. Lots of heroes!

    • David,

      Another insightful comment! I second what you say about forced maturity. That is absolutely, 100% what has happened to my sister and I. And it is far to heavy a burden to place on children.

      I read your comment about the fight with your father – his behaviour was despicable and I can understand the part of you that really, really wanted to punch his lights out. Hell, when I was reading the story I wanted to read that you had done it! Your “hyper-maturity” served you well in that you made the best decision you could in a bad situation… but it had it’s own ramifications.

      It’s the same for my sister and I. The consequences of having to be “hyper-mature” sometimes mean that even as adults, we like to “act out” in small, rebellious ways. It’s like a way of expressing the freedom to be “irresponsible” without actually hurting ourselves. How psychologically healthy that behaviour is may be questionable, but hey. These are the consequences of NPD parents!

      • Thanks, Melissa. This comment means a lot to me. Really.

        This is an example of how CL’s forum creates a space where we help each other.

    • ‘There’s another sub-sub-sub species who walks and then tries to ruin what he leaves behind. (I think this second triple-s sub-human species is secretly afraid that his family will be happier without him, even if they have less money. Hence, he tries to sabotage what he abandoned to create some kind of weird “proof” that he did the right thing.)’

      I never thought about it like this but I think you’re right. It’s been more than two years since I kicked ex out. Yet he STILL tries to create chaos in my life. Even today (it seems like I write that at least once a week) TODAY he was texting me to go back on his word about something YET AGAIN. And going back on his word means more headaches for me, more bullshit and more chaos. And the thing he’s trying to go back on was agreed upon in front of lawyers – and he’s trying to say that it wasn’t. There is absolutely no reason for him to do this other than to create problems. And why? I think you’re right. He cannot stand the thought that despite our money worries me and the kids are pretty damned happy and we have a lovely home life and a strong bond based on openness, discussion and a lot of love.

      He, on the other hand, seems to be as dissatisfied as ever and I think he would desperately like to pin that on me still, hence the continual bullshit he pulls that I assume he uses to say ‘see! she’s awful! THAT’S why I’m so unhappy!’

      My kids laugh about this stuff now, as do I. It’s become comical that ANYTHING that happens will somehow get pinned on me. We’re well into gallows humour at this point, with the kids seeing some horrible tragedy on telly and saying ‘yeah, dad’ll find a way to blame you for that’. Quite sad that they see it that way but also dead hilarious.

  • “As an update, he recently assaulted my mum and stole her phone. So there is now an ongoing court case. Despite this, he still felt it appropriate to twist the knife in my heart further with a “heart-felt” email this weekend. One which left me weak, confused and like I’d taken 10 steps back. I needed to speak to my sister immediately to have her confirm that he was still an arsehole who I should avoid at all costs.”

    Hannah,

    This man continues to re-traumatize the entire family.

    It is one of the reasons your mother (who appears to be experiencing PTSD from years of narcissistic abuse) feels compelled to re-visit the details. Hopefully her therapist is competent to help her utilize her memories in such a way as to re-frame them objectively, work through and detach from the pain, and begin healing.

    None of you is going to be able to successfully move forward until you feel empowered. As long as he is allowed to manipulate, there will be no feeling of empowerment or security.

    Narcissists are masters at using shame to victimize others. That “heartfelt” email is nothing more than narcissistic manipulation for purposes of “supply”. The man is an emotional vampire with whom contact should be totally avoided or significantly curtailed with strong boundaries in place–A decision you should make in consultation with a competent therapist.

    Please accept the reality……be “mighty” and break out of the box .

    This may interest you….http://plumadesatada.tumblr.com/post/65386490513/golden-child-scapegoat-children-of-a-narcissistic

    • “It is one of the reasons your mother (who appears to be experiencing PTSD from years of narcissistic abuse) feels compelled to re-visit the details.” This is a very very good point Notyou.

      I will say this though, there is a fine line between a child having compassion for their abused parent and the child needing to set their own healthy boundaries. I think it’s especially important for a parent not to suck their child into the dynamic that happens between spouses or ex spouses. Be honest, yes. Do not hide what you’re going through. But do not use your kids as therapy. It creates something called emotional incest and makes it hard for your kids to have healthy boundaries in all of their relationships. I honestly think the parent child interaction should never be reversed. Not even in adulthood. Growing up I had to hear about my parent’s imperfect relationship from my Mother non stop. She still continues to cross that boundary and try to tell me inappropriate details about their relationship. 30 years of that crap is enough!

      In our society there is this incredible pressure to maintain the status quo when it comes to family. Whether it’s in the form of divorce shame, pressure to make nice with an abusive parent or the current climate in family court and children’s counseling that maintains the ridiculous notion that happy co-parenting is desirable or even possible when one of the parents is PD. Unfortunately as others have stated above, sometimes the only way to set a healthy boundary with these kinds of people is to cut them out of your life completely. The idea that you can maintain a non-detrimental relationship with a narc parent is as much a myth as the idea that cheaters change.

  • Good post, and good advice, all.

    I didn’t comment on narkles, too painful. Mr Fab did manage to make me feel good about myself as no one else did-as did my dad. The parallels between him and my own Dad are frightening-I went NC with my Dad, who is now dying for seven years, only to end up narkled by Mr Fab.

    It’s an abusive cycle-you mistake that ‘normality’ for love, when you have an NPD Dad, and hook up with someone just like him. Mr Fab does the ‘torture/soothe’ routine on DD all the time, and even though she and I are thousand of miles away, the narkles still get to her. Bang on about loving and missing the parent you should have had.

    Trick is, now that we are staying with my Mom until we get our feet back under us, I can she how she is kinda NPD herself. I am back in contact with Dad, now he is moribund, but she made it perfectly clear she won’t look after DD if I need to go and visit to take care of him, to give my (saintly) Aunt a break. Dad was AWFUL to my Mom: she blames her staying on being a child of the fifties and playing the whole Ozzie and Harriet game.

    But as time goes on, I realize that dog won’t hunt-in her own way, she is just as bad as him-very much “My way or the high way”. DD and I argue alot-who doesn’t, with teenagers? Mom says I should suck it up, be the adult, which I do, but I am now very sensitive to when she narkles, and when I smell bullshit, I call bullshit. Which Mom can’t stand (her MO is to passive-aggressively seethe).

    I am almost a year and a half out from DDay, Mr Fab has been shacked up with the Downgrade for about half that, was screwing her for….years. DD knows the score, and overall I think will be much happier living away from that constellation. But my own is almost as bad, and I realize now that my own Chumpiness when a teenager was a survival tactic. DD isn’t quite as bad, but when Mr Fab whips out the novocaine, she wavers, gets scared and angry, and takes it out on me. Therapist has explained this is a back-handed compliment, a sign she trusts me an feels safe. 99% of the time, DD and I fight until it gets resolved-quote often, her anger about, say hours on the ipad is actually anger about something else.

    I sometimes feel that, since Mr Fab had discredited himself so thoroughly, DD is now a cynic for life. Having decided and asserted her legal and moral right to live with the non destructive parent, which is a pretty big deal for any fourteen year old, I now feel like I have no authority. I draw boundaries, enforce consequences, but I still get totally triggered by DD’s natural, teenage narcissism, as well as my Mom’s, and when I assert myself, I get made to feel I am the asshole. Here’s an example. The other day, I made pancakes for the whole household. I used the wrong pan, and burnt it. While I was washing up, Mom said, FYI, we use the other one, the one you used is all burnt now, and I like keeping that one clean for omlettes. I apologised, and scrubbed it back to pristine on the spot, but not before Mom yelled at me for apologizing (I own my mistakes, and make them right even unwitting ones). WTF?! Mom said not to be such a pushover-I exaplined as an adult, I have every right to express regret at my mistakes, to make things right, and was brought up to do so. By her.I got told not to be so effing prissy. DD witnessed the whole thing, concluded that Mom is a bitch and I am a pushover.

    My apology was for MY sake, and I explained that to Mom when she calmed down:it was mine to give. I gave it, because I was trying to set an example to DD-when you fuck up, you say sorry, make it right and move on-the opposite of spackle, IMO. It made ME feel better. If DD had burned the pan, I porbably would have said, “Hey, THIS pan is better for pancakes, the other one burns too quick” instead of what Mom said.

    Rereading this, it sounds daft, right in the middle of the skein of fuckupedness, but it is so typical….

    Have you got any kids of your own, David? Do you find yourself trying to be a paragon, to compensate for the narc parent? I do, with both daughter and my siblings. Feels like a road to nowhere, but I have my own integrity, chumpy or not, to uphold. I burnt the pan, so I owned it, and fixed it.

    You can’t win with these folks-and I don’t want to ‘win’, I just wanted pancakes.

    To Hannah and her sister, I sincerely hope your Mom gets help, and that your Dad gets put away-my Dad used to whale on my Mom something awful- I would have had two elder siblings, but for him-Mom had miscarriages, which she only recently told me was due to him hitting her, and the stress of living with him. Mr Fab never physically assaulted me, he never needed to-but he would get me wound up to the point that I knew if I defended myself physically, I would be dead. All this abuse is on the same spectrum…..

    Yours, just ‘Phista today, a very very long way from ‘Meh’, which is impossible to get to when you are still in the dentist’s chair.

    • Mephista,

      I do have children of my own. I have a stepson, who is 31, and two teens. My stepson was a challenge, and I often had a tough time figuring out how to deal with him as a teen. He would misbehave and then I would probably overcompensate by trying to be nice but then getting frustrated. It was a long road, but it all worked out. He is doing well now, and we have a good relationship.

      With my teens, I’m generally a very indulgent Dad, I must say. But they are both extremely well behaved, and I count, both as a blessing and as an accomplishment, the fact that I have two teens in the house and I can talk to both of them/they talk to me. I’m fortunate. Lots of therapy here, much of it ongoing, but I have a peaceful house. The last big fight I had with my spouse (who is terrific) was three years ago. I think a big fight every three years is pretty good! (I have a stressful international relations type job, so moves — and this fight came after a big move — create a great deal of stress.) So, I won’t tell you that I’m some perfect Dad, but I do think things are more good than bad, that problems get acknowledged and worked on, and that I have two teens and no silences/Cold Wars/no fights over curfews/decent to excellent grades, etc. And I’m really happy to be married to my spouse. Second marriage. No kids in the first, which was a quick flame out with a nice person, but we were too young/incompatible (no infidelity, just incompatiblity; both of us subsequently happily married). I honestly cannot complain.

      But it is hard, I must say, to try to hit the mark, to not over-compensate.

      Thanks, Mephista, for asking. I really appreciate your kind comments regarding my previous posts. You have a great name, by the way! I think you are probably doing well. All of us make mistakes as parents. That goes with the territory, but if we acknowledge them as problems to work on, that goes a long way.

      The warm embrace of members of the Chump Nation is much appreciated by Chump Son! Thanks again, Mephista.

      Best,

      CS

      • Thanks, David,

        That really helps. I was given the name “Mephista” by a philosophy professor of mine a long time ago, mostly because I was good at asking Devil’s advocate kind of questions….

        Thanks for the reminder that this is a long game, one day at timing it, on the long, long road to “Meh”.

        On the brighter side, Df hasn’t self-harmed in a month-long may that continue!

        Love to all,
        Meh.

    • I feel ya Mehphista. Because of the divorce I am 7 months pregnant and living with my parents. My mom is kind of the same way. She doesn’t like healthy boundaries. If I assert myself at all she accuses me of being controlling. I’m not sure what she is. Definitely not as disordered as my ex but maybe Narc Lite? It’s like trying to reason with a yo-yo most of the time. Don’t let it make you crazy ok? Sometimes I wish that those of us who have had to deal with crazy making parents could all get together and back each other up when we confront them. Unresolved issues much??! =D Or sick Dr. Phil on them. Sigh…I guess it’s only an issue when we need something from them right? Of course there’s no point in confronting the truly disordered like Hannah has to deal with.

      • Big Hug, Kat, and best of luck with the new baby!

        Narc-lite is right-funny how being with the parental units can put you right back there. George Simon’s site has been a godsend!!!

  • Boy, I also loved that slot machine/casino reference!! My Cheater has the most shockingly narc father I have ever seen or heard word of! (and I had 2 narc parents who were both flaming alcoholics as well) I always pictured it in my mind as my Ex-H narc Dad had a fishing pole that had whatever the child (any of his 3 sons) wanted attached to the end. (in my Cheaters case it was money/property from a family business he put 18 years of heavy duty FREE labor into and who was taken on and off the records as he behaved/didn’t behave the way the father saw fit) Then every time the child thinks he/she is getting close to any payoff at all, the line is jerked out of their reach, and the line is reeled in suddenly, creating a “game” and letting him know more would be required of him for him to catch the big “treat.” Once he gets “fed up” and starts to swim away, a new line is cast with another “promise” of a shiny “treat” attached that he will never be worthy of or earn. Now the father is going to give his couple of million to charity. (My Ex is 50, and started work in his father’s business at 12) Once he had him by the short hairs (my Ex-H) working for free for years and feeling that he would get something out of it, he had the “edge” or “angle” he needed to control him for decades! He had the ultimate control over everyone (3 sons & wife) and he would make them pay for any comment, any show of emotion (anger, sadness, weakness, even happiness) that they would never forget or repeat…The sad part is, anyone who was close to these people paid the price too as he was so toxic. No-one could question where he was going or what he was doing, or they would be beaten up. (Seriously, including Mom) He would leave after dinner often, and come back whenever he damned well pleased. He let them all know they were, stupid, worthless, good for nothing, pansies, cowards, babies, wrong, etc, and accepted none of their wives. He gave one son $10,000.00 as a down payment for their house, and he would show up using his own key to use the pool, house, TV, help himself to things in the refrigerator, critique the wives’ housekeeping abilities, the son’s landscaping abilities, etc…. often when they were not home, or sometimes they would wake up to him out in the pool! He would also call the sons (esp my Ex-H) during hurricanes to come due work at his house (like securing a few screws in their screened porch during 5-65 mph winds), or when someone in their primary family was ill or in the hospital to “test” where their loyalties laid, and it better be with the FOO or all hell would break lose. The father disowned my Ex-H for marrying me & took his name off all his properties to make sure be knew there would be a heavy price for deciding to get married, as they wanted total control and total loyalty to FOO. I cut out of their shenanigans almost immediately thinking my Ex-H would do the same….but he kept going back to the casino until he was emotionally bankrupt. He has recently said he has given up, but I don’t think I believe it. It is the saddest story I have ever witnessed. People would prefer starvation to this level of manipulation and cruelty.

    • My ex’s FOO weren’t as bad as yours but they are extremely manipulative and still see their original family as the primary one and the families created by their children as satellites that orbit around them. I remember talking to ex about this, saying that his parents needed to realise that we were now our own family unit, with children and that we had to be one,no matter how much we loved them. They were not shut out but they had to accept taht we were grown adults who would sometimes make decisions they didn’t agree with and that’s ok, since we weren’t asking them to live our lives.

      I thought we were in agreement but it seems that he merely agreed with me while secretly resenting anything I said about his family or parents (which was pretty mild ‘your mom should not interfere with my child rearing’) and seeing it as not only an attack on them but an attack on him. He essentially never made the transition from son to husband. He is still very much their son and was never truly my husband. Quite sad because I don’t think he’s ever going to really grow up.

      • Nord “still see their original family as the primary one, and the families created by their children as satellites that orbit around them!!” LOL! What a perfect description, and using outer space as a mental picture is perfect. I am glad that space walk is over! OMG, his parents (esp father) are OFF THE CHAIN!! And I wanted to mention up until the last couple of years, the 2 sons I knew well got defensive if you even tried to joke or make any TRUE comment about the father. (WTF??)
        One commenter asked about such a violent father would not get turned in. Because he was that terrifying, #1. And believe me, times were a lot different in the 50’s & 60’s, no-one interfered much with how a man “disciplined” his family. In fact. the OJ Simpson trial was the beginning of an awakening when it was revealed how many times the cops went to their home for a DV call from Nicole, and they left with autographs, etc. & no arrests or discipline.
        Nord, you are right, they are still their parents son & never quite made the transition to adulthood….and it is SO clear he will never get the approval sought.
        But so much for wing nuts, I am squarely on “Team Chump!” Go Chumps Go! (and I mean GO!)
        Trying to get away from a NARC is like trying to get out of a Roach Motel-remember those? You crawl in for the sparkles, start to get dizzy from the fumes, and need CL to air lift you outta there.

        • “Trying to get away from a NARC is like trying to get out of a Roach Motel-remember those? You crawl in for the sparkles, start to get dizzy from the fumes, and need CL to air lift you outta there.”

          LOVE this! Hahahaha… Thank God for Chump Lady

        • My ex would get very defensive if I pointed out anything about his parents, even jokingly. Then he went through a phase where he was critical of his parents…but I realised later this was because they were disapproving of how we were living our lives. Then he went back to getting twitchy if I joked about some of the obvious weirdness of his parents. And this is not to say I didn’t joke about my own FOO’s weirdness because I figure all families are a bit odd and it’s kind of funny.

  • Oops that was 55-65 mph winds & torrential downpour. Orders from police already to batten down the hatches and stay in!

  • One of the best pieces of advice I received during my divorce from a lawyer with I used to work was, “Do what is best for Dr. Chump*.” It was one of the most liberating things I ever heard because it empowered me to believe I am capable and resourceful enough to make the best decisions for my well-being. That I knew what I needed and how to go about getting it, even if it meant making others uncomfortable.

    So do what is best for Hannah.

    If what is best for Hannah and her well-being is to end her relationship or establish firm boundaries with her father, then Hannah will make the right decision, because you know what to do. If your father truly cares about you–to be honest, it sounds like he cares about no one– he will respect your space. But if he is not understanding and sensitive, you must demand it for your own well-being. You do not have to stop loving your father, but you do reserve the right to withdraw your love and participation in a relationship.

    For what it is worth, my father disappeared when I was a kid and started making little gestures when I was an adult, which I rejected. His approach was timid, weak, and was more for his own conscience and emotional protection than mine. I have no regrets. I understand he is a limited person. But that does not absolve him from responsibility. It is no impetus to reconsider my boundaries.

    One graphic memoir I loved and you may enjoy is “The Imposter’s Daughter” by Laurie Sandell. I think you may be able to relate.
    http://www.marieclaire.com/world-reports/news/imposters-daughter-laurie-sandell

    *Not my real name, obviously.

  • Here’s a suggestion of a nark-control measure for Moms dealing with nark-dads (and, of course, genders can be reversed; this is just my experience).

    No spackling. No saying, “But your father really loves you….!” If you do this, you are sugar-coating arsenic!!! Instead say, “I’m sorry he treats you this way. It’s wrong. It’s HIS problem, not yours.” (Even if you don’t/can’t leave the bum, validating the child’s reality is VERY important. Personally, I’d recommend leaving the bum, but this is the least you can do: validate REALITY to your child.)

    Don’t spackle. Don’t narkle. Let the disordered stew in the vital juices of their own creation/concoction!

    It’s tough for kids in this situation, but if you validate their feelings, you will help them, and they can emerge more capable, stronger, more discriminating than they would have otherwise. Maybe we can work to a future with lots of folks with excellent nark-detection skills!

    By the way, I’m spelling “narks” now with a “k.” Narcissism is not all bad, it depends on the degree. To me, the word “narks” (as opposed to “narcs”) moves closer to expressing the destructive difference between narcissism and creativity and narcissism that’s destructive (narks). I also like the fact that the letter “k” is part of much tougher words, helping to express the distinction that I want to make…..

    Don’t know if y’all agree, but I thought I’d put that out there.

    Chump Son

    • Right after D-day when I was in deep grief and shock I tried to convince my extremely angry older son that his dad still loved him. Looking back I realize how much I was used to spackling. My son recently told me he has lost so much respect for his dad because of the poor choices he’s made and continues to make. Now I just sit and quietly listen to what my son says. I truly don’t know how my ex feels about anything any more since we’ve had little contact and no real discussion in over two years.

      • Lyn,

        Just listening to your son and validating what he feels is wonderful. Don’t trash your ex, but don’t spackle him either. If he tries to reach out to your son, that’s his right. Let it happen. But let ex’s actions be the signature he leaves. It sounds as if he’s too stupid/too wrapped up in himself to try.

        Listening is great. You are doing great. Really. Wonderful. Excellent job, Mom!

        • Spot on again, David, had that very conversation with DD the other day. She said her Dad probably loves her ‘in his own way’, but that his own way is only for show, and ‘he only ever kissed you when someone was looking’.

          Sharp kid.

    • Hi Chump Son

      Here in the UK a ‘Nark’ (noun and verb – as in’ copper’s Nark, and ‘he was narking on his friends’) is a police spy (friend betrayer I guess!) also, in Liverpool a ‘Nark’ is a bad-tempered person or someone is in a ‘nark’ (bad mood) or they are ‘narky’

      😀

  • Thank you all for all your advice. I have been totally blown away by all your kind words and wise comments. This website is such a fantastic resource for those affected by chumps and their perpetual ability to make you feel crappy, no matter what you decide.

    Melissa; of course I listen! You have been my rock since day one. Back with Vicky and Michelle (our sadly misplaced favourite toys), you were always my constantly sensible and supportive sister, who against the odds, managed to make me feel normal in our dysfunctional circumstances. I don’t know what I’d have done without you.

    I think though we’ve both dealt with this slightly differently, the fact that we can trust each other’s judgement is pretty amazing. Especially considering our own role models were either intentionally, accidentally or apathetically untrustworthy. I find strength in the comments I’ve read on here and from your wisdom. I’ve been reminded that whilst situations are never comparable, there is always someone struggling above, below or beside you,

    Compassion is something that is hard to maintain, especially when the NC route is the only feasible option for sanity. Drawing boundaries against bad behaviour can sometimes be confused with “hardening yourself” – my inner demons use this one a lot. However as a teacher in a deprived area, I am reminded daily that I am not alone in my pain. I often share with my students that I understand their frustration at their less than ideal situations. Though I don’t elaborate in detail about my upbringing, I try and display a balanced view that suggests I know that parents aren’t always right.

    A boy in my class once acted up (well he did a lot actually) and we had to get his mum in for a meeting. This endlessly talented, bright and unfortunately damaged child was hauled over the coals about his inappropriate behaviour, followed by his mum threatening to “send him to his dad’s” if it continued. His reaction spoke volumes. Fleeing to our classroom and hiding under my desk was his only logical next step and as tears rolled down his cheeks I knew exactly what was happening. It was like a mirror. And I said 6 words that I may not have been able to promise, but all I knew was that this boy needed to know in his moment that I “got it” and that not all adults are chumps.

    I won’t let him hurt you.

    Though this was an empty promise in many ways sadly, I learnt the biggest lesson of my life that day. In the future I want to be a parent and therefore my actions now will affect them. Like it or not they may ask about their grandfather. I will need to be ready to answer. Though I may not have my own children currently, I teach and influence many young people every day and my responsibility and personal mission in life is to show them that not all adults are chumps and that adults are not always right. Seems like a contradiction but above all, all I wanted as a child was for someone to intercept and say:

    I won’t let him hurt you.

    To show me that abuse is wrong.

    To speak openly against chump behaviour.

    To stand up for me when no one else would.

    To model a better way.

    My new mantra, moving forward, is not what should I be doing, but what did he do and what does he still do that disables us having the relationship that we both deserve. His choices have landed us here. My decisions are getting me out. I cannot feel guilty for things I have no control over. If there was another way to secure my sanity I’d take it.

    Hannah

  • Hannah/Melissa,

    Don’t make “saving Mom” your main goal in life. You can offer her support, but with appropriate conditions. You have your own lives to live, and you should look forward, not back. Mom may be too enmeshed in the situation to leave. In the end, you may have to set boundaries with Mom and see if she will take you up on the terms of your support.

    You have both turned out really well. You are great kids, kids who turned a hellish situation into a forge for good character. That is no small accomplishment! Take that energy and invest it in good people.

    Best of luck to you both, and many hugs from the Chump Son!

  • Just wanted to respond to Hannah and say that it my world it is normal to feel guilty, , and it is something I have to fight. Always trying to understand others to a fault.
    When I read, and have been reading these posts on Chump Lady for at least the last 6 months, I am so impressed with the posters on this site. The general level of intelligence, ability to express themselves with words, sensitivity, ability to identify what is BS & what is not for one another, and the desire to offer words of encouragement are so impressive. It is obvious to see that Chumps are way above average & that may be part of their problem. I mean it when I say if the world was full of Chumps, it would be a cherry place to live. Most of the things we value and see as our strengths are those which many will exploit and use against us. This seems like such a high quality group! Remember this! It takes guts to feel and empathize, and take others into consideration in thought, word & action.

    • Regina – Very nicely said, and I agree completely. An impressive collection of heart, mind and spirit. Gigantic THANK YOU to CHUMPLADY, CL, Tracy for creating this space.

      • I’ve thought the same thing many times. Some very intelligent, insightful and compassionate people commenting on this site!

    • I hear you, Regina. I have done this as well, sometimes worrying that when a person is mad about something that they are mad at me, when they are not. It’s something that you get better at controlling over time.

  • David; Sometimes I think it is because within that moment someone sees that you are willing to CONSIDER that you may have hurt someone, may have said the wrong thing, or consider that you may be incorrect, fully or partially for ANYTHING, the NARK gets a heads up at that moment & probably thinks “you know something, I bet I could screw with this person’s mind BIGTIME!!” They see this as a weakness, a crack in the door, a way into mindfuckery. Your very sensitivity, desire for mutuality and to understand your closest friend & confidante sticks out like a “sore thumb” to people who are never wrong, or will never admit it to themselves OR others. They see this concern & caring as a manipulator’s Dream Come True! Let’s really try not to let these people who we naively trusted to destroy what is our gift into the future & what makes us feel good about ourselves! (I am speaking to myself as I say this!) They never deserved us!

    It reminds me of a Halloween my Mother had to take my brother & I dressed up to some little kids party. As we are leaving she decides to leave a giant bowl of candy bars out on the lit porch with a note that says “one per trick or treater only.” I don’t think I need to tell you how that turned out. (Our house also got egged because she obviously sorely underestimated the number of kids coming by!) The first two NARKS that arrived poured the whole thing in their bag and beaded home for the feast. And the NARKFEST is born and lives on.

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