Refresher Course in Backbone Building

“Don’t give me that condescending load of crap.”

That was his response when I asked if he would please feed Will dinner instead of a milkshake on their outdoor adventure days.

He said, “He told me he wasn’t hungry when I asked if he’d rather have dinner or a milkshake.”

What kid wouldn’t choose a milkshake over dinner?

I couldn’t leave it alone.

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t bite.

I’ve been counseled to not engage in such conversations.

It’s been suggested that I should calmly restate my objective in a firm, clear voice.


I’m trying.


I said, “It’s up to you to be the parent and feed him dinner even if he’d rather have a milkshake.”

“He said he wasn’t hungry.”


In an effort to steer the conversation back to the main objective, I asked if he’d received the email about our new plans for visits.  He hadn’t.  When I explained, he informed me that he didn’t like our new plan.  (I’m sure he didn’t like the new plan – that isn’t much different from the old plan – because he wasn’t the one to devise this new plan.)

I stated, again, the plan that would work best for the kids.  I may have gone too far when I said, “These visits aren’t about you, they are about the kids.”

He laughed and said, “Of course these visits are about me.  These visits are about the kids spending time with me!”


When the conversation went from bad to worse, I yelled.

What one of us, when raising a six year old, doesn’t have cause to yell, at some point?  There are times when that is the only way to get their attention.

I’m not proud of myself.

I’m here to tell you that it is not possible to speak calmly and rationally with one who is not calm or rational.

That’s what email is for.

I loudly stated what our new plan was and informed him that this new plan was better than not seeing the kids at all.

He said he needed to think about this new plan.

I said we would schedule our week around this plan to give him time to process, because  I am not unreasonable.

Then, I asked him to leave.  And when he wouldn’t budge, I yelled at him to leave.

He stormed out.

I went inside to cool off.

Will told me he was hungry, so while making sandwiches for an almost 14 year old who typically consumes the caloric intake of two adults, I received a text from Mark.

He agreed to our new plan.


Go figure.


I could speculate as to why he agreed, but we all know how unpredictable narcissists can be.

It’s optimistic to think we’ve won this one.




I took 20 minutes to vent, looked for and found support online (Thank you, NM) and took the kids outside for some summer evening playing in the street. (We can do that where we live.)

We laughed.

We played.

I periodically beat myself up for yelling.  I told them I wasn’t proud of how I handled myself.  I told them that I would try harder next time.

We laughed some more and made plans for the following day and changed the subject.


This morning as I was taking a walk before the heat settles in to our little area of the Rockies, I had another revelation in the form of a nod from the Universe.

This is what I heard…

“You’ve been taking that newly formed backbone for granted, Honey.  Did you really think you wouldn’t be faced with occasional tests to prove just how strong you’ve become?

You mustn’t get complacent.

You mustn’t assume the battle is won.

Don’t think that because you’ve developed a backbone, you don’t have to stay on your toes.

You won’t pass every test with flying colors.  No one does.

Just keep doing your best.


Then I could see clearly.  I’d forgotten what it feels like to not cave to him.  I’d forgotten that my heart races when I stick up for myself.

My natural inclination is to settle, accommodate and do what it takes for all of us to get along – even if that means I’m the one to make sacrifices.

So when I refused to sacrifice – and my heart raced, and I briefly wondered about buying a new deodorant – I felt like I was doing something wrong.

Only I wasn’t doing something wrong!

I was sticking up for my kids.

That is doing the right thing, even if it feels foreign and scary and threatening.

As I walked the hill in the heat, I reminded myself that I am strong.

I can do this.

Perhaps I can do this a bit better.

I do believe that as long as I keep forging ahead, doing what is best for Will and Jenny, the Universe will continue to be on our side.

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  1. You go, girl! I don’t know where your Universe voice came from, but he/she/it was spot-on. And remember, there is no strength in backbones or anything else without exercise. As scary as it is, your backbone probably needs a periodic test to see if it’s still as strong as it should be. Think fire alarm batteries… scares the shit out of you when you test it, but at least you know if the battery is still strong enough. Okay, not a great analogy, but there it is. You are one of the most courageous people I know. Just keep doin’ what you’re doin’. It hasn’t failed you so far.

  2. Oh honey, your kids WANT you to YELL at him so they don’t have to. You didn’t do anything wrong. You showed them that you will do anything to stick up for them, even if it is uncomfortable at the time. HUGS!!!

  3. First off I want to say how sorry I am you all have to deal with this. Secondly, “Way to go!” I am tremendously proud of you!!! You stood your ground, and used your voice. Definitely be proud of that. Our backbone signifies courage. It’s our ability in tough, adverse situations to realize our courage (our strength). Backbone is standing up without fear, even if the other person is trying to knock you down. He wasn’t able to knock you down in this situation. As a mother you gave voice also for your children. It’s the venting, (unfortunately maybe louder then we expected :) ) but the venting, the release that’s needed more than anything. Your backbone has always been there, you simply are exercising your control. Good to know its always there when we need it. Big hugs!!

  4. Pat,

    I like your analogy. I seem to do better with practical/tangible analogies.

    Thank you.

    The lesson for me – maybe for all of us – is never to assume it’s going to be easy.

  5. Dear Z – Sister in the trenches,

    I have to tell you that it means a lot to hear that from someone who knows what it’s like to try to communicate with a narcissist. For those who are blessed to not have to deal, they’ll never understand. It’s not like communicating with “normal” folks.

  6. Kira,

    Thanks for that vote of confidence.

    That’s really what was behind this post. I want those out there. who aren’t comfortable sticking up for themselves, to realize the process is long and never-ending, but manageable. It’s not going to feel good. It’s going to feel alien.

    The not feeling good part – for me – wasn’t centered in my stomach. If it’s in my stomach, that’s the clue that I’m doing something wrong. This was a heart palpitation. That doesn’t feel good, but it’s not lasting. That signifies a challenge that – in this case – I met head on. Maybe that’s not what it feels like for folks who stick up for themselves all the time, but for accommodators, it’s a foreign feeling.

    And I have to say, it feels damn good when it’s all said and done!

  7. Sis, I am here for you. Thank you for being here for me.

    Sometimes, I forget how to communicate normally or am a little set back when someone responds to my concern with something rational. It seems weird, but the NPD conditioning is something I look forward to releasing for good one day.


  8. Z,

    Each day brings us a little closer to that mythical N-free life.

  9. I definitely relate to the heart palpitations. I tend to feel shaky, literally anxious. Whenever I am engaged in a conflict (I hate conflict/confrontation) I usually am very quiet (passive) as to not stir the boat. I always looked for the quick resolve, even if I didn’t get the chance to say what I needed to say. I would be the wrong one. In my last relationship, I lived in my head. I would tell myself to use your voice. Yell louder than he is. Stop being a doormat. My anger was usually released always in private, usually in tears. I wish I was more aware of my backbone back then. I definitely agree that it does feel foreign the moment you begin sticking up for yourself. First off the body isn’t used to this new exchange. The good thing about backbone (the body) is it is adaptable.

    You will get over the NPD conditioning one day dear. You too Z :). You both are already in the midst of that process. It is more than evident here.

    We definitely all need refresher courses along the way. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Kira,

    As I read your comment I was thinking, isn’t it amazing what we will do – force ourselves to do, in some cases – in order to stay in a relationship.

    When we have to push ourselves so far out of our comfort zones in order to keep the peace, that oughta be an indication that this relationship isn’t right for us.

    I’m still working on that. ;)

  11. Thanks, Kira! It is such a slow process and the set backs don’t make it seem possible sometimes…but there is still hope!

  12. I agree!! It is amazing what we put up with & do to stay in a relationship. You are so right. When we disrupt our comfort level just to maintain civility, there should be huge red flags. I definitely do not mourn the lose of that relationship. It really stifled me. A couple months after it ended I spent time mourning who I was in that relationship. I had lost me in that relationship. When I reflect back on that time I get upset with myself, because I put up with a lot of unnecessary things. I still don’t know why I did. I see myself now, single, independent, & coming into full ownership of voice. I like to think I can reflect back if only now to not repeat the same things going forward.

    Still working on this too :)

  13. Kira,

    You said a volume there, and I’m right with you!

    Yay for the learning.

    And yay for the moving on to learn more.

  14. Zaira, yes there is always hope, never lose that. I admire your strength my dear. Continue to use your voice. You have endless support here :)

  15. Jesse, I am inspired… My backbone is in it’s infancy. I’ve recently left a 27 year relationship/marriage to an N. It’s fruitless to describe the twilight zone hell of ‘communicating’ with him. My three amazing daughters (16,14 & 12) are still in the marital home with him doing the dance of placation to keep him from turning his rage on them. I am not to a point where I can have any contact with him – the overwhelming body symptoms put me into a tailspin when I’m legally forced to interact with him. Everyday I tell myself I gave my daughters enough grace and strength to one day realize they have a choice to not allow him to control them.

  16. Julie,

    I must tell you that I believe your backbone is stronger than you think. You stayed as long as you could, and when you couldn’t handle any more, you had the strength and courage to leave.

    Your daughters will benefit from your strength. They will benefit even more when they see you healthy and thriving. And, they have each other to lean on.

    I’m glad you found us. We all know of that twilight zone you speak of.

    Sending all kinds of healing and peace.


  17. Dear Jesse,

    How I can relate to this entry . . . wow! I am sorry we share this experience but we are stronger for it and feel how rich and beautiful simple acts of kindness are because we have felt the void of them in these dreadful relationships.

    You are never, ever alone! I am cheering for you and your kids–just as you do the same for all who pop by your blog.

    Hang in there–you are doing a wonderful thing for your children by loving them and showing them genuine affection.

    Be well . . .

  18. Lynn,

    Isn’t that the truth? How sweet are those little acts of kindness because they so stand out against the backdrop of our crazy lives with a narcissist?

    Sending you extra strength… especially today.

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