Narcissistic Mothers and Enabling Fathers
When Children Don’t Stand a Chance
Written by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
Narcissistic mothers do not have children for the right reasons. They are not nurturers. They have no maternal instincts or genuine love to give. To the narcissistic mother, children represent a captive narcissistic supply. Because a young child’s very survival is in her hands she expects to be the number one object of his or her complete adoration. She dismisses the fact that children have needs, anticipating that the constant flow of narcissistic supply she will receive in return will be the perfect trade off.
The narcissistic mother does not imagine that her children will be separate entities with needs of their own. But children do have individual needs and those needs can be quite demanding for any mother. They are especially overwhelming for a narcissistic mother who now finds she is giving way more than she is receiving. That is not what she bargained for.
The narcissistic mother becomes resentful of her children and their neediness. This resentment intensifies her already natural tendency toward abusive behavior. Someone is going to have to pay for her sorry situation. Her innocent children are her possessions, therefore she can do with them as she pleases. What pleases her is using them as scapegoats for everything that makes her feel unhappy or frustrated.
Any attempt made by the children to question her, defend their selves, or express their needs is met with terrifying narcissistic rage. Over time, with the same results occurring every time they challenge her in any way, the children learn that they must play by her rules. They are bullied into silence by fear.
Where is the father while all this is going on? What is he doing about the abuse he watches his children suffer at the hands of their mother? Logic tells us, under the circumstances, that the children must rely on their father for their emotional well being. Someone surely has to love them, protect them and advocate for them. A father, the protector of the family, would certainly not stand by and allow his children to suffer abuse.
That is what logic tells us but it rarely works that way when NPD is involved. A strong man with boundaries and great self-esteem would have walked away from this crazy woman a long time ago and hopefully taken his children with him.
But a strong man with healthy boundaries and great self-esteem would not be with this kind of woman in the first place. If he did somehow get wooed by her cunning, manipulative ways and false persona (as others so easily do), and then made the mistake of marrying her, he certainly would not have remained in the marriage for very long.
Narcissists prey on the weak; those they believe they can bully and manipulate. Men who marry narcissistic women and stay have masochistic tendencies along with either low self-esteem, a pattern of being abused in their lives, are looking to fill the shoes of love lost or a mother they did not have, are codependent, or have a personality disorder just as she does. There is always a deficiency of some sort.
A man who has it together would not subject himself to the dehumanization, emasculation, objectification, or unpredictable rage of a narcissistic woman. He would never accept the role of perpetual victim; someone who believes he is undeserving, and guilty for whatever his NPD wife chooses to blame him for.
A man who wants his marriage to a narcissistic wife to survive must worship the ground she walks on; tell her everything she wants to hear. He must tell her how beautiful she is, how perfect she is, how superior she is, and how right she is about whatever point of view she takes. He must deny the importance of his own wishes and needs in order to please her.
Narcissistic wives control their husbands like puppeteers. They use anger, and withdrawal of love or sex to keep them in line. They can make the lives of these men a living hell if they want to, and then make the men believe they deserve every bit of it. They keep their husbands on their toes with confusion. These submissive husbands become reliant on their wives to tell them what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, what they are allowed to do and what is forbidden.
By the time children come into the picture it has long been established that the husband’s survival in the relationship depends on him enabling his wife’s abuse.
Men who marry narcissistic women and remain with them do not make for strong father material. They become spineless jellyfish who will do anything to keep the peace with their wives, even if it means they have to sacrifice the well-being of their children. The wives always comes first; these fathers make that very clear to their children.
The father also becomes an accomplice to the narcissistic mother’s abuse tactics. She bullies him into doing her dirty work so she can forever remain the innocent in the abuse. If he doles out the abuse for her she can deny having anything to do with it. She is Teflon – nothing ever sticks to her.
The behavior of their father does not make sense to his children. They wonder, “How can Dad be so loyal to someone who treats him so poorly? Why doesn’t Daddy ever stand up to her?” Helplessly witnessing their father’s deprecation and emasculation is very damaging to the children’s emotional well-being, just as the direct narcissistic abuse of their mother is.
Children brought up in families such as this, with narcissistic mothers and enabling fathers stand no chance of emotionally healthy development. They have no emotional safety. Their lives are completely unstable. They constantly live in a chaotic and unpredictable environment. These children can never rely on any emotional consistency; therefore live in a constant state of fear. They are forced to take on roles that are inappropriate for their age in an effort to establish some sense of calm.
No one steps in to help these children because no one on the outside recognizes what is going on in the home. Narcissistic mothers present a picture perfect family to the outside world. Everyone on the outside looking in sees their mother and father as wonderful people. Those outside the immediate family never see what goes on behind closed doors.
Narcissistic mothers demand total loyalty. It is reinforced to the children over and over to never to discuss the private issues of their family. Any semblance of love doled out by the mother is immediately withdrawn whenever the children step one toe over the line. They would not dare shame their mother, so instead must internalize all their feelings.
Children with narcissistic mothers and enabling fathers are emotionally abandoned and abused from a very early age on. They have no one to advocate for them. They are set up for a lifetime of misery; insecurity, lack of self-esteem, depression, anxiety, fear, anger issues, boundary issues, codependency, and painful adult relationships. Sometimes the chemical balance of their brains is even altered, making the abuse nearly impossible to overcome in later years without counseling, therapy, or medication.
Children brought up in an environment such as this grow up without healthy coping or problem solving skills. They have to build protective walls inside for their emotional survival. The most basic of life’s challenges are met with confusion, fear, withdrawal, anger, or substance abuse. Their lives become disasters.
It is difficult for adult children who grew up in these types of homes to recognize the root of their problems. They have led very painful lives and often do not understand why. They have a very hard time seeing the abuse for what it was and still may be. They hear about children who are brutally beaten and feel guilty about comparing their pain to these victims. Emotional abuse seems to pale in comparison to physical abuse, in the minds of many. But that is definitely not the case.
Unlike physical abuse, narcissistic abuse is subtle. These abusers deliberately keep their victims confused about the reality of what is going on, so the victims can never seem to pinpoint the source of their pain. Narcissists play mind games. They deny everything they have ever done. Children (adult) can never confront their parents and get an admission, validation, or apology.
It is twice as frustrating when the other parent takes the exact same stance and defends the NPD parent, or when the therapist we go to or our friends blame us for creating the problem in the first place. That makes us feel crazy; it makes us second guess the validity and gravity of our pain.
That is why as adult children of narcissistic parents, we must stick together. We must support each other because no one else will understand. And most importantly we must get professional help. We cannot recover without it.
Randi Fine is an internationally renowned narcissistic abuse expert and coach. She is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.