On Narcissism and Negativity

on narcissism and negativity“What did dad want?”

I put the cell down and said, “Well, he wants to come by here and pick up some of Will’s sketches.  He wants to make copies of them.”



“Jen, are you okay?”

“Sure.  I’m fine,” spoken like a mini-me.

“Jen, it would make sense to get your feelings hurt when your dad comes over here, plucks some of Will’s sketches off the kitchen wall – that hang right next to your sketches – without his asking to take any of your work.  That would hurt feelings.  You can admit that.”

“I know.”


A couple hours later…


“Guys!  I don’t know what to do here.  I have been working on avoiding anything negative.  I try to banish negative self-talk and avoid negative conversations.  I’m trying to make progress here.  I don’t want a cloud hanging over this happy sanctuary that is our home.

 Jen, you are the most positive person I know.  Will, you don’t have a negative bone in your body.  But how do I handle it when something like this happens with your dad?  How do I avoid any discussion about this?

If I let it slide by without acknowledging the potential for hurt feelings, it appears that I’m fine with his actions.  And that’s definitely not the case.

If I bring it to light, then I can’t do so without dipping into the negative.

What would you do?”


Will looks up from his work, “Well, we have to talk about it so that Jen knows that we don’t agree with how he treats her.  It sucks, and it’s not right.”

Jen comes out from the kitchen, “We have to talk about it so that we don’t end up being crappy parents with our own kids.  We have to know what to avoid, but we don’t have to dwell on it.  We can just talk about it and move on and not let the negative take over.”

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  1. Jen is the wisest little girl I know! Definitely an ‘old soul’… but definitely has a mom that is doing everything right! RESILIENCE!

  2. Jesse,

    You and your kids are amazing! This is so healthy for all of you. You are giving Will and Jen what they need to process the yuck and be healthy/secure/happy in who they are!!

    Have a great day!

  3. Zaira and Lynn,

    This post was my quiet attempt at standing up to the experts who say that one parent shouldn’t bad-mouth the other parent in a divorced family.

    While I try not to denigrate their dad in front of them, I strongly believe that sweeping crappy behavior under the rug is the surest way to let history repeat itself.

    Here’s to resilience, communication and learned lessons!

    Thanks for being here, you two.

  4. I’ve had conversations like this and they are the worst. My ex has not seen The Child for ten years now, but is raising two other children, both girls, and I had to answer the question, why does he want to be their dad and not mine?

    You are very right not to sweep the behavior under the rug, and also right to recognize that it’s a very fine line you need to walk in doing so. I found the line was here: Condemn the behavior (which is wrong) but not the person (who is still their father and they want to love).

    You are doing a great job. Hang in there.

  5. J.,

    My heart aches for your daughter, and for you – having to buffer those kinds of conversations.

    I like that – “Condemn the behavior but not the person.” It’s tough sometimes, but it is doable. Thank you for writing. There is SO much solace found in the words of another survivor.

    Sending a most special hug to your daughter.

  6. We’ve had this exact conversation at my house more than once. My belief has always been that pretending problems aren’t there is what creates dysfunction, so we talk about it. Sometimes they don’t want to talk about it, sometimes they do. I try to follow their lead. Like you, sometimes I feel I can’t win. If I don’t say anything, they don’t have a parent to help them process what is happening. If I do say something I’m criticizing their parent- a part of them. At this point (I think mine are all a bit older than yours) they’ve all come to the conclusion that if he wanted people to speak well of him, then he should have behaved better. I try very hard to simply state the facts of what happened and let them form their own opinions about it, rather than making blanket statements about his character. They aren’t stupid. They see it.

  7. Sandy,

    Thanks for writing.

    Love this: “At this point … they’ve all come to the conclusion that if he wanted people to speak well of him, then he should have behaved better.”

    Yes! Shout it from the mountaintops! If only every narcissist could figure that out.

    And you are so right… kids see and they aren’t stupid.

  8. Exactly, Sandy. Thank you for the validation!
    I don’t struggle with whether I should discuss the N’s behavior with my son. I struggle with the court or an “expert” that will disagree with it and place my son in a position of destruction. It’s horrible to live with the fear of constant scrutiny. However, I won’t deny the truth because someone else doesn’t understand NPD. My son gets it. He sees his dad as he is. He loves him, of course, but he is starting to want to place his own boundaries on the relationship. Someone has to validate his initiative to protect himself or there will be a very different ending to this story.

  9. Zaira, yes, they get to an age where they are able to set their own boundaries. It’s hard to watch, but a good thing. It is very freeing to know that we are not responsible for their relationship with their other parent. I’m glad their boundaries aren’t mine to set. That’s too much responsibility for one person.

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