How can I help my mom forgive herself for staying with my narcissistic dad for over twenty years?
Over the past year-in-a-half, my mom has figured out that my dad is a narcissist who has been cheating on her from the day they began dating. With the help of your blog and a few other sites, my mom has found many red flags she should have seen; also, she says she should have left him when she first found him cheating on her.
Now, we are financially “under the water,” and she is pissed that she “had blinders on” because if she didn’t, we — my sisters, my mom, and I — would not be in this mess. My mom is currently still with my dad because of the financial situation, but she has told my dad many times that they are done. He knows that we know what he has done — maybe not the extent, but at least half of everything. He has moments of “kissing ass,” “pity me,” and “how dare you,” which makes my mom continuously and cautiously have to either keep him in check — when he’s angry, it’s explosive, though he’s never raised a hand to my black belt mom — or ignore his ass kissing.
On top of all of that, she’s working over 50 hours a week — at home, with a four year old — to get us back up, financially, so that we can make it without dad. It’s a lot, to put it lightly, that she has to deal with, but with all of that comes her guilt. She can’t believe that she let it get this bad nor how she was unable to see all the signs.
I hate seeing her so angry at herself. She always puts others — my sisters and I — ahead of herself because she’s “the mom,” but it’s hard to see her not be objective with herself. She’s also the victim in this situation; she fell for an almost perfect con by someone who has mastered tears, sweet talk, and deceptive, pseudo love. She says that my older sister and I — my other sister is too young at the moment — are doing great with what is going on; that we’re putting one foot in front of the other and trying to what we can with what we have. However, she doesn’t seem to think the same of herself — she never even mentioned herself when she and I talked about this.
Your blog has helped mom, many times, along with your readers, and I sincerely thank you, and your readers, for that. The fact that you, and your readers, know what my mom is going through — emotionally — is why I am asking if there is any way to help my mom forgive herself. I know it will take time and that it will be better once she and my dad divorce, but is there anything that can help her now? Any way for to to start forgiving herself during the waiting period?
With sincere thanks,
What a sweet daughter you are. It’s very kind of you to show such love and concern for your mom, but here’s the first Chump Lesson — we only control ourselves. We can’t love people into doing the things we want them to do. (Hey, if we had those superpowers, we wouldn’t be chumps!)
This is your mom’s journey and forgiving herself for being a chump is a long process. But I can give you some thoughts on un-chumping if you think that would help.
1.) If you want to forgive yourself for being a chump, start by being mighty. There’s a quote by the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass that I just love:
“I prayed for 20 years and received no answer… until I prayed with my feet.”
Your mom needs to pray with her feet. Douglass prayed and prayed to be liberated from slavery. Praying with his feet — putting those thoughts into actions — is what freed him.
If your mom wants to forgive herself for being a chump, she needs to start acting in un-chumpy ways. Every move she makes towards liberating herself, will change her perception of herself.
No one gets the last 20 years of their life back, but you absolutely control how you’re going to move forward.
2) Forgiveness isn’t the most important thing. IMO, forgiveness is overrated. We think it’s some magic balm that will release us from hate, anger, and grief. I think those are stages of loss. Eventually you get to acceptance (to me, that’s another word for “forgiveness.”) But you can’t put the cart before the horse. The best way for your mom to accept what happened (and forgive herself) is to get some distance from the situation. She can’t do that while she’s living with a man who’s still cheating on and manipulating her.
Finally, per the specifics of your mom’s situation — financial infidelity often goes with sexual infidelity. Your mom can work 50 hours a week, but as long as she’s still legally tethered to your dad (Mr. Sinking Ship), she won’t realize much profit to liberate herself. People in dire straits leave cheaters every day — Chump Nation weigh in on this one and give Jess’s mom some practical advice here. Your mom needs to talk to a lawyer and MAKE A PLAN. And, she needs to stop announcing that plan (“I’m going to leave you!”) to your dad. He’ll probably pull out the stops to thwart her.
And Jess — please don’t grow up to be a chump. You’ve got a big heart, but your mom and dad’s problems aren’t your problems ultimately. Your job is to grow up, study hard, and be awesome in your chosen profession someday. Have good character, know your worth, and don’t spackle for anyone. I’m sorry you’re mixed up in this. I’m guessing you’re a teenager — best thing you can do to help your mom is be mighty yourself and work towards greater independence. Big (((hugs))) to you, kid.