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Is my mum narcissistic?(34 Posts)
In the last few weeks, as a result of some things Ive read on Mumsnet Ive come to the conclusion that my mother could well be narcissistic. Ive struggled with my relationship with her my whole life and as an adult have struggled to understand what is going on with her. The thing is, the links I have read about narcissism all talk about someone being seriously emotionally abusive, but that is not what my mother is like. So Im wondering if anyone here has any insight into what might be going on..
Sorry this is long, just trying to get it all clear in my head....
Cant hold a two-way conversation - eg does not ask questions (has never asked me how I am, or how work is going, how the children are); talks at not with people, constantly talks in anecdotes ; focuses on minutiae of life eg curtains etc, never talks about emotions; will talk to complete strangers about people they have never met without explaining who they are so the person will be looking at her in a baffled way wondering what shes going on about.
Displays a lack of empathy eg my db and sil fostered a child who had been abandoned and moved from foster home to foster home, mum was incensed that the council gave her a new bed making her think she was special. I had a miscarriage - only reaction was to comment that in her day I wouldnt have known I was pg as they didnt have pg tests (I was 3months so not actually true that I wouldnt have known anyway). Earlier this year I injured my leg badly showed no sympathy towards me, when she came round and I was crawling about and asked her to make her own cup of tea she said she was too tired and waited for someone else to make it (no phone calls to check up on me.) Similar attitude when children are ill.
Everything is about her. As a child I knew I couldnt complain about anything or make a fuss because she would get upset and cry. Eg buying school shoes, I always hated it because I never liked the shoes so this was probably the only time I ever actually made a fuss about anything i was terrible because I made it difficult for her, never any understanding about why I was making a fuss. When my brother was born he would not breastfeed she describes him as having been bone idle because he would not feed (no sense from her that a newborn baby cannot be idle he was lazy and making life difficult for her because he would not feed.)
When I was pg with ds2 she said she would come and look after ds1 when I went to hospital. Ds2 was a week late, she kept going on about how stressful it was for her that she didnt know when he would be born and she couldnt sleep properly, moaned that they could not book their holiday as they didnt know when they could go. Would ring me up in the evening and ask if I was having him that night so my dad could know if he could have a drink or not.
Never praised me or said anything positive to me as either child or adult i was high-achiever got all As and one B in GCSEs, only comment was why did I get a B. Only time she says anything positive is when other people are there so I am wondering if this is because she feels good that other people think she is good for having raised me?
But, as I said above, she was not obviously abusive, she actively avoids direct confrontation, anything horrible towards me has always been passive-aggressive eg trying to give my 5mo chocolate because she knew I wouldnt like it. Talking to other people in a critical way about my parenting but without directly saying she is talking about me.
As a child she used to cuddle me and smile at me etc, she wasnt openly horrible to me. I would describe it as emotional neglect I wasnt allowed to express any emotion and wasnt supported in anything. I only ever once remember confiding in her about one thing that was bothering me when I was 12 I got facial hair which was embarrassing and I was teased at school. Eventually I asked her if she could get me some removing cream she didnt do anything about it but told my best friends mum who told my best friend and her older brother.... So I was mortified about that and she didnt do anything about what I told her.
Anyway, I will probably add some more as I think of it, Ive got a breast-feeding 2yrold attached to me at the moment!!!
I would really appreciate anyones thoughts on this as I have spent my whole adult life trying to work her and my relationship with her out. The things I have read about narcissism do seem to fit, except as I say she is not openly horrible to me.
Yes I do want to reanimate the zombie thread!, I know that in all likely hood no one else will comment on this but I hope if anyone else comes across this
googling similar symptoms/headlines that this description fits my sister to a T & I
highly believe these are AUTISTIC traits not NPD. p.s I'm not a professional or anything just have a bit if experience with this in my family
Autism (usually aspergers if high functioning) :
*Can't hold a 2 way conversation - no aspergers find it hard to interact, unless the subject interests them
*talks 'at' not 'with' people another autistic trait
*talks in anecdotes, yes autistics will take snippets of conversations & repeat them (this could also be from things they read like memes) there are numerous times my sisters repeated something back to me (like she's telling me for the first time!) & it's something I'VE told HER
*focuses on minute details, yes autistics do they find little things that we find boring fascinating
*& talks to anyone about anything, yes that's my sister all over, like all of that last description, sometimes it's embarrassing.
Glad to have helped.
I think my mum does love me , but i think she has problems of her own and they get in the way a lot. It is much better now i am an adult and can understand her as well as myself and can lead my own life to an extent.
Its more that she cant comprehend anything other than her way of doing things almost and cant understand why i might not like the way she goes about things.
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Hi somebodysomewhere, sorry it's taken me so long to get back online.
Your mum sounds very very selfish and like she makes up her own version of reality and doesn't like you confronting her with what actually happens.
She does sound as if she actually cares about you in her own way but can't show it in a healthy way that is useful to you. I say that because it sounds as if she does want to know about your life and and does want to try to help you, it just isn't always (or ever?!) in a way that you actually want her to...
My mum is just much more detached than yours sounds. She doesn't want to know about my life at all. She never asks me about my life, she isn't interested in my children, it is all completely surface to her. She is happy so long as it vaguely looks on the surface like she is a mother and grandmother... So she often gets obsessed with Christmas - eg she likes to take the kids to see Santa - this is the only time in the year that she ever volunteers to do anything with them....
It is hard to know where to go when your mum is as damaged as yours sounds and as mine clearly is... I think you just have to try to understand it the best you can and try to make peace with it and only have a relationship with her which you are happy with and is on your terms. They aren't people we can ever really confront with their failings and they are never likely to see or accept just how much they have failed us as mothers...
Hi Eurostar. Thank you for taking the time to write again, I appreciate your insights... I think I just want an explanation for how she is... There is some security in having a label to place on it.... I guess it would also help me to make peace with my relationship with her if I could think that she just can't help being that way.
There is a part of me that is just so angry with her and I guess I feel as if that would go away if I felt she just has some kind of disability. As it is I just feel as if she hasn't tried hard enough.
I am so grateful for everyones' posts though as I do think I have got my head round it not being my fault. If feel more as if I can just live my life and only have a relationship with her on my own terms.
mildredm - you seem to have decided that only narcissism gives you a get out clause, I'm not sure why. There's other conditions that can make her how she is. Sounds like it would help you to stop having any expectations of her, and most importantly of all, stop taking blame. It's like taking blame for the fact that your mother could never write well with her right hand if she is left handed.
My mum has some similarities with yours. I cant work her out, she can be very difficult.
Her problems were always bigger than mine. I was in hospital as a child and was crying on the phone to her and she just started going on about how awful it was for her too , i just didnt understand and she had had to have tablets from the doctor so she could sleep.
My dad enables her a lot i think. If i call her on anything she gets upset and cries claiming she always did everything she could for me and i am so ungrateful. And then my dad leaps in to defend her.
She also has complained about me as a baby , apparently i hurt her too much to breastfeed and i was very awkward and never finished my bottles. As though somehow this could be a babys fault.
She often asks intrusive questions , sometimes inappropriate ones about my sex life and then becomes offended if i dont want to tell her and either accuses me of being secretive or says she cant understand why i want to hide things from her , guilt trip type things.
She also has a habit of making things up , usually small unimportant things if she doesnt understand whats been said/happened and then relates them as fact or that i said so and so when i know damn well i didnt.
But then she does show affection and love in her way. She is generous with money and gifts and has helped me out financially a few times.
I cant understand it but i am pretty sure she has MH problems (as do i) and/or a personality disorder even if mildly. (Is that even possible ?) Dont know if any of this rings a bell at all with any of you ?
Hi Eurostar, thanks for your comment.
So from what you've said it would seem she's not narcissistic. I guess what I have struggled with is whether it is in some part my fault (she describes me as an aloof, distant child and as an adult other people describe me as self-contained and aloof) so I wonder whether she just finds me too difficult to relate to.
But I suppose even writing that down looks ridiculous - ie, is it chicken or egg? Plus how does that explain her basic lack of interest and care for me. My middle dc is quite like I think I was as a child, he is not that demonstrative and is not very talkative, but I try really hard with him and we have ways of communicating and showing affection.
I also wonder if, as adults, I am very distant from her and so she doesn't feel I need her... But then, that does not explain how she could reject my children and refuse to provide any kind of support when an idiot could see I need some. Ie, she must know I need support but doesn't want to give it.
I suppose I feel that if I decide she must be narcissistic then I know she can;t help being this way and she can't change. If I think she isn't narcissistic then there's a chance she could change and i have some responsibility to try with her. But I don't want to try because I quite honestly hate her and wish her dead and gone.... I feel too bitter about a childhood and young adulthood where I felt completely alone...
Anyway, I'm quite obviously using this board as a substitute for therapy!!! So I don't expect anyone to reply but if anyone does have any insight they want to give that would be great and I hope my ramblings help anyone else in similar situs
The essence of narcissists is they are deeply ashamed of who they are and they deal with it by putting others down, associating with people whose qualities they would want to have themselves, yet at the same time can't bear that and try to put them down, have grandiose fantasies of who they are etc.
Finding a label for your Mum is not going to change the fact that none of this is your fault and there is nothing you can do to make her act like a balanced, empathic adult. There could be any number of things going on with her increased "viciousness", lack of social inhibition is often a sign of early onset of dementia for instance, no way of knowing if this has anything to do with her changes, she would have to seek medical advice and opinion herself.
So I was talking this through with my friend yesterday, she's really knowledgeable about personality profiling and types and how they develop etc so was quite illuminating.
Some background on my mum, she was a scrawny, sickly baby/young child who didn't sleep. My grandparents completely babied her, eg my nanny said she used to go into school every day to feed my mum her lunch... So parents smothering and overprotective. Then at age 6 my mum needed her tonsils out, my grandmother took her to hospital without telling her about it, then left her there alone for 3 weeks!!!! Unbelievable now but apparently that was wht the doctors made my nanny do... My nanny was lovely and loving and kind, but she lived in a perfect, happy world and didn't allow any arguments or negativity so eg my mum and her brother were not allowed to argue (or my nanny would cry) and my mum was never allowed to express any negative emotions.
Then fast forward to age 20, she meets my dad, is married at 21, kids at 25 and 28. My dad is emotionally vacant, he is kindly enough but doesn't give or receive emotional connections. He is also very sarcastic. He has an eating disorder which he projected on my mother, so constant criticism of her for being overweight. They had a very traditional relationship where he was the breadwinner and made all decisions and she was the housewife/carer.
Basically my assessment is she stayed a child her whole life - her parents babied her, then she married someone who allowed her to remain a child because he never required her to be an adult. She can't take responsibility for anything and just simply will not deal with anything she doesn't want to. She will either ignore it or cry....
So, she is not vicious like a lot of narcissists and is not openly manipulative (though used tears to control when I was a child - ie we did't want tomake her cry) but is that because she was brought up in an environment where conflict was absolutely not allowed???? Ie, would she be like that if she felt able to be? Certainly the older she has got the more vicious she is getting - eg she can be really nasty to my dad now, that would've been unthinkable when I was a child. It feels as if she feels the power balance has changed now he is retired and not the breadwinner any more?
So, is she narcissistic?? I guess I have always thought she could be different if she tried, that she just can't be bothered... But then I just keep stumbling over the seemingly complete lack of empathy - that is just not normal.... My dad is extremely selfish and emotionally distant but he seems to me to be on an extreme end of normal - my mum just seems off the scale...
But, I just can't quite believe it..
Anyway - got to get the bus now!!! Thank you to anyone who can bothered to read this, or reply to it!!!
Hi, sorry, I wrote a post this morning but IE crashed and I lost it, then didn't get a chance to redo it.
Hi Ilovetermtime - no worries about hijacking, it would be great if this thread helps other people with similar mothers. Plus, it's really helpful for me to hear other peoples' experiences.
With showing pride in you to other people, but not directly to you, my assessment of that is she feels good about herself because she thinks other people think she's impressive for having produced you - ie reflected glory. If she was genuinely proud of you she would make that clear to your face.
Anything positive my mum has ever said about me has been to other people, never to me.
Stuff I have read about narcissism does seem to say that other people can often not see there is anything amiss because the person seems quite caring on the outside...
Thanks sminkopinko, I have wondered about the lack of manipulation. I haven't got time to write any more now but I will try to get online again tomorrow.
I'm not sure. I think with npd as in other personality disorders there is usually quite a strong manipulative component, which doesn't really come across in what you've said so far. It sounds more like she's kind of absent and in her own little world to quite a pathological and damaging extent. Do you think she could have aspergers syndrome?
I don't want to hijack your thread mildredm but it has struck soooo many chords with me! I have been wondering for a while now if my mum is narcissistic, but because she's so passive aggressive about everything I didn't want to say anything to anyone in case it made me sound like an ungrateful cow (iyswim?).
She does the crap present thing, and to a certain extent it's been a standing joke between me and my brother (as in, ooo, do you remember the year mum got us a salt grinder for Christmas?), but to be honest, I didn't find it that funny after a while, because although she may have bought my brother a few crappy presents, it wasn't all the time like with me.
Sorry, but there are so many instances of 'weirdness' that I don't know where to begin, but the thing that gets me most is that everyone else, ie all her friends, think she is marvellous. When we're with other people she acts like she couldn't be prouder of me, but in private I doubt if she's ever said anything positive to me in my life - quick eg from school.... I made tomato soup in a Home Economics class, and when I brought it home she tipped it down the sink without even tasting it.
Again, sorry for the hijack...
'Also on that I make her feel bad because she does on some level realise she can't relate to me in the normal way a mother should and blames me for this?'
Yes yes yes to this! My mum absolutely feels that it's my fault that our relationship is not any good but I do wonder if deep down she knows/fears that it's her own inadequacy that is to blame.
Lotta - the lack of a card and rubbish present was more noticeable when my dd was born - I'm guessing some sort of weird thing that I'd had 3 dc when she'd only had 2. Or it could centre on me having a daughter and that reminding her of me?
I have long felt she does have a particular problem with me, in that I make her feel bad about herself because I am things she isn't/never was??? Also on that I make her feel bad because she does on some level realise she can't relate to me in the normal way a mother should and blames me for this?
Yes there is a strong message of rejection and it hurts more because it is directed at my children, so it feels like an even deeper, more primal, rejection for me. Thank you for your warmth and empathy
Gossipwitch - wow at that story , your mum sounds out and out awful, do you feel better for cutting all ties with her?
I think where I have struggled to get my head round what is up with my mum is that she is not like your mum. She is not openly horrible at all (at least not to me, she can be very horrible about people and as she gets older is getting more rude with eg waitresses etc) She is, at worst, passive aggressive. It is what she fails to do, rather than what she does. So, the situation with my dd being born - there would be no row, or nasty words, or anything overtly said. It would just be the fact that they would turn up with no card or proper present...
It has been a massive head fuck really - there is nothing to rail against, no abusive words or violent behaviour to point to... Just a catalogue of ommissions I guess....
Oh the ridiculous things our mothers do, my mother send me a birthday card in the post this year, it arrived on time and was the first card any of my immediate family had recieved in 9 years, inc dc's. She also rang me on my birthday said a few pleasantries then I handed the phone to my brother who berated her on not even ringing on his 21st birthday, we said our good byes and put the phone down, a couple of weeks later it was her birthday so I rang her at lunch time, there was no answer so I thought I'd leave it until later, however I was on holiday in the highlands and reception wasn't great so could ring her later, I then hadn't rang her at all afterwards because I dont ring her very often, and she never rings me, so about a month or so ago I tried to ring her for a natter and asked her how she was doing, to which she replied, "well I'm a bit gutted actually, I didn't get a phone call on my birthday, I dont expect a card but a phone call would have been nice" to which I replied "well actually mum I rang you at lunchtime, but there was no answer and I couldn't get reception later on because I was in scotland"
she said "no you fucking didn't gossip because I was sat by the phone all fucking day, I was up at 7.30 and no one rang, I make the fucking effort for you lot, and you don't even ring for me, well thanks a fucking bunch" and put the phone down. I cut all ties with her from that moment on, because obviously one card for one of her children in 9 years, is soooooo much effort!!!
Narcs are often rubbish gift-givers. So for how much she has neglected you and your DCs. Why do you think she does it? If my mum did the same things when my sister had a baby(which I could very well imagine), I would put it down to her being jealous of the attention my sister was getting and trying to communicate a 'don't think you're so special just because you've had a baby' message. Mum has also had massive issues with my and my sister growing up, becoming more independent and moving away from home etc, so I think she would be extremely rattled by such a visible sign that her child was now an independent adult.
'When they came round after she was born they had stopped off at the supermarket at the end of the road and bought a bunch of flowers and some sweets/choc for my sons, no present for my new dd.... '
It's just so very dysfunctional isn't it? There's such a strong message of rejection there
Confronting all this stuff can get extremely painful mildredm, so please do keep posting whenever you need to
I'm on a roll now. When dd was born we got no congratulations card from my parents. When they came round after she was born they had stopped off at the supermarket at the end of the road and bought a bunch of flowers and some sweets/choc for my sons, no present for my new dd....
Lottapianos, yeah, I totally get you re the lack to empathy towards babies/young children - it is really chillling because it is just so abnormal..
My mum does take pleasure in going against my wishes re the kids - leaves a really nasty taste in the mouth...
That's the thing isn't it - kids can't make their own sandwiches.... if you see what I mean... It was the powerlessness of being a child that I found so difficult - being an adult is so amazing by contrast - I'm not at their mercy any more....
I have thought of another classic example:
Mymum likes to knit... She doesn't care if the recipient likes the item or even if it fits. I suffered as a child with hideous mis-shapen homeknitted jumpers....
She made my dd a cardigan (actually was the first item she had knitted any of my kids and dd is dc3, even thought she knits every day and has knitted things for many other children who are not related to her at all....)
So she comes round and presents me with this cardigan - I am not exaggerating when I say that it was about 4 times wider than my dd. It had obviously come out wrong - it was long enough but ridiculously, comicly wide. She handed it over without batting an eyelid and when I commented that it was a bit wide for her, she acknowledged that but didn't offer to take it back or reknit it etc!!!
Lotta - you saying about your colleague - bizarrely, or if I really think about it, probably not bizarrely, my oldest friend from when I was a child I am 99.999% sure is also a narcissist... She has recently had two babies in quick succession and I am finding it very difficult being around her - her lack of empathy towards them is breathtaking. She is parenting by numbers... It so reminds me of my own mother.. I guess it/s no mistake I chose to be freinds with her really.
I am also finding it liberating reading about narcissism, I don't feel like I should be doing more about my relationship with her any more, it is all about damage limitation for me and my own dc..
'when I was at school my mum would often make my sandwiches with mouldy bread'
Absolutely horrified at this by the way
I just cannot imagine how some people can treat their children like this. As I said, we don't have children (long story) but I would be broken hearted at the thought of treating my DP in this way! And he is an adult and can stand up for himself and make his own choices - a child is so totally at your mercy
'When my brother was born he would not breastfeed she describes him as having been bone idle because he would not feed'
It's just jaw-dropping isn't it that someone could describe a tiny baby as being 'bone idle'. I have heard my mum describe little babies as naughty and spoiled and she thinks that you have to show them who is boss or they will start to run rings around you. I have seen her bottle feeding a baby and when the baby cried or fussed and came off the bottle, she would shove the bottle back in baby's mouth and bark 'stop it!'. No empathy at all. It's sad but also really quite disturbing.
I don't have children and neither do my siblings but if/when my sis has a baby, I can imagine my mum taking great pleasure in doing something she is not supposed to, like giving the baby a dummy if my sis decided not to use one for example. She is a control freak. It's actually quite twisted to take pleasure in going against someone's wishes in that way.
I have found it really liberating to read about narcissism, although it certainly doesn't answer every question I have about my parents. I have a colleague who has always reminded me of my mum and has always bugged me in a way I couldn't put my finger on. Since reading about narcs, I'm pretty sure that she is also a narcissist and her behaviour makes so much more sense. I avoid her like the plague now
Thanks Lotta, yes it does help to know I'm not the only one. And it is helping me to finally realise what is so wrong with my mum and my relationship with her. People like her should have a big red neon sign over their head!!!!! I can't believe it's taken me so long for the penny to drop but I guess it's just because I've lived with it my whole life...
So many things are just clicking into place now. Eg when I was at school my mum would often make my sandwiches with mouldy bread.... I used to have to check and sniff everything before I ate it.... She didn't believe in best before by dates so eating at home was a risky business. I guess on the up side I have an iron constitution and never suffer from stomach bugs!!
Ok, yes, the cult of normal, I like it!!!! That is my mum down to a T.... God so many things make sense now....
Gossipwitch - it's the lack of emotional support that is so hard to come to terms with isn't it... It's just so inhuman not to care and support someone who needs it. I've been through some really tough times in my life and it's just so much harder knowing you're basically alone in it...
Oh don't get me wrong my mother acted on the abuse she rang my nan who rang my auntie and within a day they were down to pick us up (6 hour drive) and took us straight back to our home town, and my mother took me to court etc, she just didn't support me emotionally, my nan did.
'Does she say thank you and seem grateful? That's another give away - they cam never say thanks'
TheBigKids, that's an interesting one. I've read loads about NPD (both parents show many signs) but had never read that before. My mum will mutter thanks but never seems sincere and actually seems quite mortified to 'have to' say it.
mildredm, I think your mother does sound narcissistic. It's very painful and very sad and I agree with other posters who say that you can't have any kind of meaningful relationship with a narc. Excellent suggestions re books and websites. I find it helps to know that other people are going through the same thing.
'eg she only likes to eat over-ripe bananas so anyone who likes underripe bananas is ridiculous and wrong (eg my aunt's partner)'
Another MNer described this as The Cult of Normal - everything I do is normal and if you do something different, then you are weird There's no middle ground.
The thing that has helped me most is seeing a psychotherapist. She has helped me to recognise what was going on within my family, to realise that it's not me who is the problem and is helping me to put myself first and set healthy boundaries. It's very painful and has left me feeling depressed and anxious but that's a part of coming to terms with not having any parents in an emotional sense.
Sorry I couldn't get back online last night.
Bigkids - hmm, not sure about the thank yo thing, I will observe that one. Thank you for your thoughts, everyone's comments are really helpful.
Gossipwitch - so sorry that you have a similar mother and so sad for you re the sexual abuse and lack of support from your mother . I am lucky in that I never suffered anything like that but I have often thought that if something really bad had happened to me as a child I would never have been able to tell my mum and she would not have wanted to know anyway... so sad for you. I agree that the only thing to do really is to focus on your own children and building relationships wth them that you didn't have with your own parents.
Unfortunately I have no other "maternal" figures in my life. I had my mum's mum (she died couple of years ago) who did fill something of a gap in that she was interested in me and she did keep in contact with me regularly by phone. But she, although not like my mum, could only really live at a superficial level so I never had a real emotional connection with her. She only wanted to hear about happy things, I could never confide anything real with her. It was better than nothing, but not good enough to replace a mother.
Eurostar, thanks for your input. I think I have thought of it as not abusive because it has always seemed to be something lacking, rather than something actually done and I guess I have viewed abuse as something done to you. Really it has been emotional neglect and I guess I have not seen that as abusive. Now I am a parent I can see that I have been really badly let down by my parents my whole life and can't contemplate leaving a child to it in the way they have done with me....
Re the grandiose fantasies etc that is something I have stumbled over but I think it is there, but just not as obvious as it may be in some people.... Eg
She is always right, even in matters of preference - eg she only likes to eat over-ripe bananas so anyone who likes underripe bananas is ridiculous and wrong (eg my aunt's partner).
Yes, I think you're right re my father - how can he have been with her for 30years and not realised what's going on. He has no emotional life either.
Thank you for your empathy. I feel relieved that I have finally, finally realised the true picture and I can put it all into some kind of perspective. But, I just can't help feeling deeply sad that I have never known and never will know what it is like to have a mother, or any parent at all actually....
Sounds like you have had an incredibly difficult time with your mother and I am honestly a bit confused when you say that she is not abusive, she sounds very abusive, although, as you say, done passively rather than directly having a go at you. It sounds like the empathy part of her brain does not work at all, which can happen. Some things that one sees often with NPD seem to be missing here, things around the grandiose fantasies, sense of self, etc. NPD people are not particularly openly abusive though, so not sure why you expect them to be? They tend to do more of a dripping tap type of torture with undermining you with blame, the major anger abuse only comes out very rarely with the narcissistic rage, that is exhausting for them. However, all the advice you read about protecting yourself when a parent has any kind of a PD could be really helpful.
It might help to think of her as having a kind of brain damage, the empathy part of her brain did not develop, so it is not that she does not care about you and chose that, it is simply that she is incapable of it.
Meanwhile, your Dad may not simply be lazy, he may have no idea really how to love and show love, which maybe is why he could partner with your mother.
It sounds tremendously sad for you and you are doing the right thing by protecting yourself.
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