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Another narc mother thread - enabling father question

(27 Posts)
bungabungablunder Sun 02-Nov-14 23:31:07

I've posted before about my narc mother. She is truly one of the dark, sadistic ones. I have been on and off contact with my parents because of issues in my extended family concerning people I care about, and she has triangulated relationships so much that I can only contact/hear about them/help them through having occasional contact with her.

Last week was one of those "occasions." She visited with my enabler father concerning a family matter. Although through therapy I have come to believe that he is weak and that his complicity in her behaviour makes him culpable too (and that hardly helped me as I was growing up as he never challenged her), I can't help but just feel awful for him when I see him with her.

She humiliates him constantly, treats him like a dogsbody, brings up private things about him in front of other people, excludes him from conversations, laughs at his misfortunes and makes him the butt of jokes. He has several chronic health conditions and she seems to enjoy aggravating them: like preventing his access to the toilet, or enjoying him having to huff and puff up several flights of stairs when there is a lift. If he tries to tell an anecdote or a story she will talk over him loudly, accuse him of making it up or heckle him. If another woman asks him a question and he answers she will shout over the room about "here he goes again. She doesn't fancy you. How pathetic." I find it extremely difficult to deal with this. It causes me a lot of pain to see my father ritually humiliated.

But when I do defend him and cut her dead with her comments, he for some reason will not run with my support (never has) and either retreats, or agrees with her. I then get a load of verbal abuse from her and he sits there in silence once again and continues to obey her orders.

I have tried so hard over the years. As a child and now as an adult. He refuses to have a conversation about it and has never taken my side.

I do, however remember him as a warm respite during my childhood which made me vaguely normal, even though he never defended me.

What do I do? Do I give up on him?

Drumdrum60 Sun 02-Nov-14 23:42:05

You are not responsible for either of them so stop trying to fix the unfixable.

Stop letting them have a negative emotional impact on you.

My dhs mother is the same. He gave her a birthday present and she was scornful. She got out a photo of him when he was little and said why can't you be like that instead of what you've turned into ? In front of our gorgeous ds. He looked like he wanted to cry. So I said the same to dh about choosing to rise above it.

Stupid bitch.

candyce83 Sun 02-Nov-14 23:43:19

After years of abuse he's probably figured its safer to defend her than defend himself.

Drumdrum60 Sun 02-Nov-14 23:43:50

Your dad daren't side with you . God knows what she says in private.

Meerka Mon 03-Nov-14 08:20:37

I feel very sorry for enablers. They get and to some extent deserve a bashing. But there's a lot of women in previous times who could not or did not know how to break free of an abusive partner -gods, even the police used to tell them to go back to him- and who got ground down into pale shadows of themselves, unable to protect themselves or their children.

Your father was the other side of the coin and perhaps in an even more difficult position. If a man walked out, he would probably loose custody of the children and be unable to provide even a shadow of protection from a destructive mother. As you say, your father provided some warmth in your childhood.

But the point comes where the partner of someone destructive is so ground down that they cannot see what independence, self respect or respect are any more. I'm sorry, but the only freedom he will get is if either he can take the courage to divorce her, or when she passes on. (I've seen the same thing that you're talking about in a close female relative. After she passed on, her husband blossomed. He never shut up talking at all for about 2 years because he'd simply not been allowed to talk before.).

All you can do is be friendly towards him and let him know that if he ever chooses to leave, you'd be there. Beyond that I'm afraid there is nothing. He's a full adult. You can't kidnap him. I think you have to grieve for his horrendous daily life, but to detach a bit.

Don't other people see how she behaves and detest it?

DrCarolineTodd Mon 03-Nov-14 08:44:23

I think there are two separate questions here really.

Can you personally be responsible for changing either of them? Sadly no.

Are you aware that an elderly man is experiencing domestic abuse? Sadly yes. What you described is abuse and while everyone in the situation is accepting it I do wonder if it's worth reporting (police on 101, anonymously through Crimestoppers, maybe to SS).

You can't change either of them but her treatment of him really is very concerning. As to why he does nothing, he's in the situation and can't simultaneously survive in it while also seeing it for what it is.

treadheavily Mon 03-Nov-14 08:58:48

Jeez you have described my parents to a tee!

No helpful advice sorry but I know your pain.

My dad died so is free of her now. She wouldn't allow a funeral but we did our own thing later.

Thumbscrewswitch Mon 03-Nov-14 09:10:34

There is nothing you can do for him if he chooses to accept the way she treats him, which he obviously does.
You cannot change her, you cannot change him - all you can do is change your reactions to the situation, and if it's upsetting you, then walk away or find some way to disassociate from the feelings you have, if you have to have contact with them.

I'm very sorry that you have this sort of person in your life, she sounds appalling - but since she's been largely unchallenged, she's never likely to change now. sad

GoatsDoRoam Mon 03-Nov-14 09:38:44

Sounds like my parents. I have given up getting through to either of them, and just accept that this is how they both have chosen to live.

It's sad, and I see them as little as possible.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 03-Nov-14 09:44:50

I would not let your Dad at all off the hook here because he sacrificed your own well being to her. He never protected you from her abuse and acted out of self preservation and want of a quiet life. He may well be something of a narcissist himself. Narcissists simply don't have healthy and functioning relationships, and so there is either no relationship, or a dysfunctional and enabling one.

An Enabling Father is one who panders to the Narcissistic Mother, who facilitates her abuse of the children, who worships completely at her altar and expects the children to do so too.

Meerka Mon 03-Nov-14 10:52:19

attila I have a lot of respect for you but sometimes, some enablers do try to protect the children. But everyone reaches the end of their endurance sometimes and breaks down ... that's what heavily abusive men (and sometimes women) do. Then there is nothing left. Their defiance and backbone and self-respect is gone.

It's tragic. It's the waste of a life that could have had so so much more to give.

bungabungablunder Mon 03-Nov-14 14:28:26

I can see all points of view and all thoughts about what to do. That's one of the problems.

I'm not sure how much I fantasised about my Dad protecting me and how much he really did. I think I imagined a lot of it - that he was "trying" to but he couldn't. I really projected a lot of virtuous qualities on to him, but at the time that was my only source of hope. Now I'm grown up and I see it more objectively I feel sorry for him, but I have also lost some respect for him.

He partially stands up to her. If she humiliates him he joins in with the laughing sometimes. If she humiliates me or anyone else, he says to us "oh she's only joking..." "Oh, it's just her sense of humour..." Which is complete and utter tripe as she can be incredibly damaging.

There were several crisis points in my early teens when she'd had violent outbursts where I sat him down and said "this is not okay - she is mentally disturbed." At these crunch points he would always make an excuse - "she loves you too much." "She doesn't know how to express her feelings." And I was always so shocked at his loyalty and it made me feel DIS-loyal because I had "broken the code" of not speaking about it.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 03-Nov-14 14:43:54

Your fathers comments are infact typical of an enabler father to his narcissistic wife.

Whatever the reason they have given up, an Enabling Father will rationalise away his wife's behaviour. He'll tell the children things like, "She loves you in her own way." Or, "Don't mind her, it's just her way." Or, "Don't annoy your mother, you know what she's like." Or the classic: "Be the bigger person".

All of these translate as: "I don't want to rock the boat here so you need to suck it up".

This dynamic, of course, means that Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers are living in a no-win situation. They have no champion, nobody to protect them.

Meerka, some enablers may indeed try and protect the children but many do not. OPs dad never protected her at all and thus failed her utterly as a parent too. They are only thinking of themselves and protecting their own self interest.

Meerka Mon 03-Nov-14 14:49:18

Yes, many do not sad

bungabunga it sounds like you had a lot more sense even as an early teen than your father hmm

Free2bme Mon 03-Nov-14 15:12:30

Very harsh, Attila

What was he supposed to do in those days-leave OP to the tender mercies of her mother? He was very unlikely to have got custody.
No wonder he didn't want to rock the boat.
OP-this is sad but you are not responsible-your father is an adult and could now leave if he wanted to-unfortunately he is too ground down at this stage.
I do think that you have to let it go-just let him know you care about him.
Try not to feel responsible for what you can't change.
It must be very upsetting to witness and for your own sake you may need to limit contact.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 03-Nov-14 15:25:48

He should have left and taken the children with him. For his own reasons he chose to stay and let the children suffer her wrath as well.

drudgetrudy Mon 03-Nov-14 15:36:45

A woman such as OP describes would have painted him black in an instant-in those days it was difficult for a father to get custody. I am sure she would have played the victim and got "winged monkeys" to back her up.
I agree that he went far too far in being an apologist for her behaviour but I wouldn't like the positive memories OP has of him in her childhood to be completely wiped out by this.
What would be the benefits to him of living with such a woman?

GoatsDoRoam Mon 03-Nov-14 15:38:32

Even without leaving her, he could have made a habit of standing up to her in defense of his own children, fgs. Rather than the other way around, which is all kinds of damaging.

NettleTea Mon 03-Nov-14 16:17:17

my mother does similar though not as outwardly overt - she pokes and pokes at him, belittling and is never satisfied with whatever he does -he takes it to a point but doesnt really know how to handle it, so in the end he just blows up, which gives her a chance to turn on the 'poor me' waterworks.

DP cants stand to watch, he hasnt been to their house for years now.

Free2bme Mon 03-Nov-14 16:28:37

Something of this dynamic went on with my parents but in a milder form.
If my father attempted to stand up for us, or himself,( which he sometimes did) she would rage and sulk for days till we all wished he hadn't bothered.
To the outside world she looked like a very good Mum and in some ways she was but not in others. Dad's strategy was to take us out for a walk etc. Glad he didn't leave-with or without us.

Northernparent68 Mon 03-Nov-14 17:05:50

Attila, would you say the same things about a woman who enabled an abusive man ?

bungabungablunder Mon 03-Nov-14 17:35:41

You are all really helping me think this through, thank you.

I think what he has done is retreated into his own world of escapism. I suspect he has had an affair - although I don't know for sure, but I have an idea of who it could have been. I agree that all this behaviour - escapism etc - is protecting himself only.

What baffles me most is why they are still together. There must be SOME pay off for him to still be in this marriage? Each time I see him, I see him suffering. She is slowly killing him. Why does he not leave? I have given him all the signs that I possibly can of my loyalty and love while treading the careful line of not provoking her wrath/revenge.

And do you know what? In my life, I find myself making excuses for people around me too. I tolerate very strong and intrusive characters in my friendships. My DH can act unhinged sometimes, and I find myself staying very calm and making excuses for him and my crazy friends to other people.

I sometimes feel that if I act as if it's normal, other people might believe it. Maybe I am turning into him?

free2bme Mon 03-Nov-14 17:54:24

It sounds as if he has almost forgotten that ha can leave. Almost Stockholm syndrome.
Our parents are models for us. My mother's legacy is that siblings and I tend to tolerate too much crap from people but we have become more confident and assertive with age.
Perhaps a few sessions with a therapist would help you think through the effect this has had on you and whether there are things you would like to change.
You can't save your Dad now-none of this is your fault. You have done what you can-time to look after yourself.

GoatsDoRoam Mon 03-Nov-14 18:54:02

The pay-off for him, bunga, is that he gets to remain in his (learned) comfort zone where he is belittled and she controls all.

Many people find denial more comforting than facing up to an unpleasant reality.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 03-Nov-14 19:03:18

He still has a choice and his choice is to remain within this marriage. A man who stands up to his wife will not be tolerated for long, or will not find his life tolerable for long, and will either leave or be kicked out. Narcissists simply don't have healthy and functioning relationships, and so there is either no relationship, or a dysfunctional and enabling one which is precisely what bungabunga describes about her parents marriage. Their love for each other is more likely than not to be an unhealthy co-dependency. Also such weak men often need someone to idolise.

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