The Good News

the good newsIf you have children with a narcissist, you’ve probably read up on how to co-parent with one.

I won’t go into what that looks like, other than to say that an adult with the maturity of a six year old doesn’t have any interest in parenting.

 

Jen recently turned 14.  Somewhere during the day she was heard saying, “Four more years.  Four more years until I don’t have to spend my birthdays with him.”

Will turns 18 in less than a month.  You can probably imagine who will NOT be invited to Will’s party this year.

 

When their narcissistic father arrived to “celebrate” his daughter’s birthday, he was taken aside and reminded of his daughter’s many talents.  Not by me, of course.  I’m working on not barking up the wrong trees.  No, another caring member of Jen’s family gently reminded her father of Jen’s brilliance, to which the N replied, “Yes, she’s talented, but it’s difficult to give that kind of person any direction.”

 

I know.

 

The individual with the guts to address the narcissist went on to say, “You know what?  Neither one of us is equipped to give Jen any direction.  The best we can do is get out of her way.

You know how a narcissist responds when he hears something he doesn’t like.  He ignores the comment, and changes the subject.

 

So there’s that.

 

It gets better.

 

Moments later, the narcissist began counseling Will on his after high school plans.  Up to this point, the N has expressed little interest in conversing with Will about his plans.  In fact, when on the periphery of a conversation involving Will’s plans, the N has changed the subject.  Will’s plans were firmed up recently.  He excitedly told the N of this plan, and the N immediately shot him down saying, “Life is easier when you are smarter.  You need to do better than that.”  (I actually paraphrased here, to preserve our anonymity.  What I wrote was much kinder than what the N said.)

 

 

 

It’s clear that Will’s plan does not enhance his father’s image the way his father would like.

 

Co-parenting with a narcissist is all about putting out fires.  I’m here to say that those fires don’t get out of hand if you have had open lines of communication with your kids.  If you’ve been doing the hard work of explaining the N’s behavior all along, and reminding your kids that this isn’t about some deficiency on their part, the fires are manageable.

The bruising is less, but the anger is real.  Even with all the communication in the world, the mean comments from a narcissistic parent do damage.

Every.  Single.  Time.

Spend years in therapy, building a tougher skin, working on no contact, living on the other side of the planet, and those mean words still hurt.

Hell, the mean comments from any kind of parent, narcissistic or not, do damage.

 

The good news:  We don’t live with him, and Jen turns 18 in four years.

 

While I’m ranting, I need to say something else.  I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of stuff about how focusing on the negative brings about the negative.  I call bullshit on that.  Are my kids really walking around focusing on their dad being an ass, and then that brings about his meanness?  I think not.  My kids are like any other kids.  They are busy, productive (sometimes not so much) kids with their own agendas.  They do nothing to bring about this treatment.

I know they would tell you they are happiest when NOT thinking of their father – not even negative thoughts.

We are not responsible for how others choose to treat us.
We are responsible for how we respond to that treatment.

 

Whew!

*closes laptop and looks for a spot in the sun…*

 

 

 

 

 

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10 comments

  1. All of this. . .
    Thank you for the validation. I now completely understand my reaction to “I sense that you are not open to change. You receive what you put out in this world.” My harsh adversity to this concept is because it is wrong. I was already there when I was looking to change myself to save my f’d up marriage. Guess what? It only made the abuse worse. I was the one who needed fixing. I needed to work harder. I needed to change and see that he was perfect. F that.

    My healing started when I refused to change, when I accepted myself with flaws, but also when I accepted that he would NEVER change. I was already better than that. When I left him, I soared. Take that, reiki.

    I really think the enlightened one that told me I bring about negativity has not accepted herself yet. I hope she does soon.

    We are also on the countdown. 4.5 years and every day is one step closer to peace. Hugs to you all.

  2. Z,

    Something clicked for me when you said the abuse was made worse when you tried to change yourself to save your marriage. Gawd! How Ns love that. That’s when they become the puppet master. “Oh, she responded when I said I need this. Let me try this. I wonder if I can get her to do this? If I keep changing what it is that I want, will she still respond? How much will she bend before she breaks?

    Is it a sick game to them?

    As far as the enlightened one… Perhaps she hasn’t had any dealings with an N? Lucky her. Although, in this day and age, I don’t know how it’s possible to NOT come across a narcissist. Have you noticed that people who have little experience with Ns are quite clueless about how Ns operate? They assume that Ns respond the way “normal” people do. (A clueless counselor comes to mind. He was convinced he could manage my ex.) Sometimes I have to laugh at the advice I get from someone who clearly as not “enjoyed” any experiences with narcissism.

    I see a fine celebration in our future… some 4.5 years down that bumpy road.

    Hugs!

  3. The N over here has made it clear that all relationships will be on his terms or not at all, then acts like he’s hurt and confused when people choose not at all. I ditto your comments on talking to the kids all the way through- it’s the only way.

  4. Sandy,

    That’s funny. In a sad way. I know what you mean about them dictating the rules, and then pouting when no one chooses to follow their rules.

    Here’s to strong, healthy, informed kids!!

  5. I think I hear “Only x more years until I don’t have to deal with him anymore…” AT LEAST once a week. It’s so hard to try to guide them the right way without being totally honest. I wish I had that ability, but unfortunately my youngest is still 100% under his father’s spell. My oldest, however, is not fooled anymore, yet is still pulled into the idea of how a father should act, and misses the illusion.

  6. Hi Kristin,

    Hopefully, with maturity, your youngest will see his father for who he is. It’s so hard to watch them when they are under that spell.

    Even as an adult, I see many miss the illusion. I know that I do. We’re wired for that connection, and if it isn’t there, we miss it. In some cases, we miss it all our lives.

    If Your kids’ father is anything like my ex, he teases them with glimpses of goodness. He might occasionally surprise with concern or empathy or interest. But it never lasts. It’s always enough to keep them wondering what they need to do to get that behavior to stick around. My kids are to the point where they’ve given up on those glimpses.

    Yours are so blessed to have you as a counterbalance and a net.

    Thanks for writing.

  7. Jesse, I come back here every once in a while to do some more reading so I can feel more confident about my ability to minimise the damage my xh will do to our child. He is only 4 now so of course has no real inkling what his dad is like. I am wondering what age you started talking more to your kids about this, and whether something he did prompted the conversations or if you just brought it up? I get so overwhelmed sometimes at the thought of being on guard for the next 14 years while we share parenting, I really want to be as prepared as possible. If you have any other resources that helped you I’d love to hear those too. Thanks again for writing here x

  8. JJ,

    From memory, with help from Will…

    I didn’t bring stuff up, because I was hoping they hadn’t noticed. But when they asked a question, I answered. Or if a situation was weird, I’d address it. It might be something like this: Will would want to wear gel in his hair. (Now, 13 years later, he laughs at the idea. Proof that they try things – if they are allowed to – and move on to the next thing.) His dad hated his kid wearing gel. We would hide hair gel, and let Will experiment when dad wasn’t around. I’d say, “You know, honey, daddy doesn’t like this, so we won’t bother him with it. We’ll see what it’s like when he isn’t around.” As we did this stuff while dad wasn’t around, Will would grow out of it, and suddenly it wasn’t an issue.

    A lot of stuff was about control. If Will asked, “How come dad doesn’t want me to play with a cell phone?” I’d say, “I don’t know, honey. Let’s play with the phone when dad isn’t around.”

    Now many would say that I was creating a situation where Will might see that it was okay to lie to his dad. I felt that it was imperative to pick the right battles. Cell phones and hair gel are not issues to worry about. I believe in letting a kid try things. Their dad did not.

    In our situation, the dad wasn’t interested in being involved in the day-to-day rearing of kids, so it was relatively easy to sneak things by him. I don’t advocate lying. My intent was correct. My heart was in the right place. At the time, I was sparing my husband hassles, and protecting my son’s spirit. (We moved out when Jen was three. She was low under the radar at this point.)

    The dad didn’t care enough to notice what was going on at home. On the occasions that he would get nasty about not being in control, he’d blow off steam and yell. We’d talk about why dad was yelling. I’d say, “Dad doesn’t like it when things go that way.” I’d point out that it had nothing to do with them. They’d be sad. I’d change the subject. I’d tuck them in. The next day I wouldn’t bring it up, but if they wanted to talk about it, I’d listen.

    The point is, you have to take it on a case by case basis. I don’t think it’s possible to say something to prepare your son for what his dad might say. You can be there to listen each time he has a question or wants to talk. At those times you say, “That is how dad does that, or that is how dad feels.” If your son is confused or hurt, tell him you understand the hurt. Tell him it’s okay to feel hurt. (Will wanted me to tell you – this is for when your son is older – that you might tell your son not to let his dad know that his feelings are hurt, because his dad will feed off of that.) But ALWAYS tell your son it’s not about something he did wrong.

    (Will wanted you to know that your son is mentally stronger than his dad. That might provide you with some comfort.)

    You will see, that as your son gets older, and because you’ve always left the door open for conversation, he’ll come to you with questions. When he says, “How come dad does this?” you can say, “I don’t know. How would you feel if someone did that to you?” And then it will become obvious to your son that that is not the right way to treat people. I explained to mine that this was who their dad was, and he couldn’t help it.

    Take it one day at a time, one conversation at a time, one hurt at a time.

    I hope you have faith that your son will be fine. He has you.

  9. Thank you so much for that thought out reply, and for the input from Will. I do feel like having read that I am close to being as prepared as I can be at this point. I already do a lot of the things you’ve mentioned (talking about other people/events) so that’s a relief. The point about not letting him know that his feelings are hurt is so sad, but totally accurate. I know by the end of our marriage I had figured that out, I never was prepared to be vulnerable with him again once I realised everything I shared just became ammunition against me later. I definitely don’t want that for my child. Thank you again, you’ve definitely given me more confidence. x

  10. JJ,

    I must tell you, Will and I were up late the other night, working on how to reply to your question. Since that night, and the sending of our response, he has asked me several times if you’d received our reply and if you’d written back.

    I can tell he feels for your son, and is worried about him.

    Fine people have shown my kids a little extra love because they see the lack coming from the kids’ dad. I hope your son has people in his life doing the same for him.

    All the best,

    Jesse

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