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Dsis going NC with Ddad, I'm stuck in the middle and feeling lost.(18 Posts)
My sister has decided that she would like to go no contact with our dad for a while, and has told him this. There are many reasons why, dating back from our childhood, and she has had a lot of issues with him. He can be selfish, narcissistic, controlling, nasty but also caring and good fun. I agree with my sister on many of the issues she faces with our dad. But I tend to try to ignore them and accept that my dad is the way he is, and that’s that.
My dad is understandably very shocked as my sister wrote to him to explain why she wanted to go no contact for a while, giving lots of examples of past behaviour. Our dad is finding it difficult to deal with because although he and my sister have always had arguments and disagreements, he put them down to her being contrary and difficult. I don’t think he ever thought she would send him such a direct letter. He is very hurt.
Now I am stuck in the middle. My sister isn’t expecting anything from me but my dad is. He keeps telling me he doesn’t know what to think. He was going to come to visit us (DH, DD and my inlaws) for Christmas but now he has cancelled.
I don’t know what to do. I can understand my dad is hurt but he has caused both my sister and me problems in the past and I do I think he needs to seek some therapy and sort himself out. But I wish he didn’t feel he has to take a step back from me. At the same time, I can’t not agree with many points that my sister has raised and would feel disingenuous trying to support my dad by criticising my sister’s actions or disagreeing with her comments. I want to support both of them but it’s hard.
Not sure where this thread will take me but I am feeling a bit lost at the moment! My family used to be incredibly close and we spent a lot of time together. But my mum died not so long ago and now my dad and sister are no longer speaking, I feel like the whole family unit that I once knew has totally crumbled.
Your own family of origin crumbled from the inside out many years before now.
Your dad is not so much hurt but really annoyed that his other daughter has decided understandably to go no contact with him albeit for a while (however she may change her mind further and make that permanent). No contact is precisely that and you can help in that in not telling your sister anything about her dad being so called hurt and such like. He was probably neither caring nor good fun to your sister and at times you as well. That was never a decision anyway taken at all lightly by your sister. She told him some home truths about him. He does not like being told.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers often describe feeling “unsatiated” when it to comes to getting what they needed from their fathers. They never got enough and would have to compete with siblings for time with Dad. As a young child, Dad would comment on how beautiful you were. But as you grew older, he would rarely miss out on commenting on weight and attitude. You probably carry these concerns into adulthood, even if you found success. With a Dad like this, it's never enough. With men (or women), you often feel vulnerable and worried you’ll be dumped for someone else. Anxiously avoiding commitment or taking on the narcissistic role are both natural ways to keep relationships safe; it's understandable and self protective.(But, you lose.)
What you describe here is very typical of people who grow up within such a narcissistic structure. People from dysfunctional families end up playing roles; what role/s did you play and are still playing out here?. Were you the more favoured sibling, who was the golden child and who was the scapegoat (those roles are also interchangeable) when you were children and now as adults?.
I would do some further reading on triangulation within such families as well as narcissistic family structures.
With regards to triangulation this can be defined as an indirect form of communication where one person (usually the narcissist) acts as a messenger between two other people. Or it can be a direct form of communication where one person attempts to draw in an accomplice to gang up against a third party to further their agenda. Be most careful not to get caught up in that particular dynamic.
One of the ways narcissists use triangulation to manipulate their partners into siding with their point of view or acquiesce to their wants and needs is by using third-party reinforcements to substantiate and their opinions. This is form of recruiting allies when taken to the extreme is a form of bullying. The narcissist tries to manipulate anyone who may hold a different opinion or belief by using the help of a usually innocent third party, who of course, has only heard the narcissist’s rendition of the truth.
The third-party is usually oblivious to the narcissist’s ploy and believes they’re only trying to help the narcissist. Usually, the their party is a relative or one of the members of the narcissist’s supporters that the narcissist uses as a tool to help settle differences and coerce their partner or anyone else into accepting their view point through the use of persuasion, embarrassment, majority rules or guilt.
In emotionally healthy relationships, couples do not recruit third parties or use messengers to settle their differences. They have face-to-face discussions. They don’t strong arm the other by using a third person to help influence their partner and do their bidding for them. They respect each other and their relationship and if they cannot come to an agreement, they will seek a qualified, unbiased third-party, such as a therapist , minister or counselor.
I think he has done you a favour actually by cancelling the Christmas visit; it is not possible to have any sort of a relationship with a narcissist in any case and I would certainly stay away from him.
Re your comment:-
"I do I think he needs to seek some therapy and sort himself out".
I smiled wryly to myself when I read that. As for therapy well you can forget that with regards to him, it will not happen. You speaking to a therapist though and one who is highly versed in the ways of such families, could help you no end. He will likely never agree to any such thing because he thinks there is nothing wrong with how he behaves. Narcissists as well do very poorly in therapy even if they do stick with it which they often do not.
What Attila said.
Also, remember that your childhood experience will be completely different from your sister's childhood experience. Even if a point was made to treat all children equally...nope: each person is an individual with their own brain and will have a different perspective...especially within the family role assignments (golden child, scapegoat, invisible child, wild child, etc).
Respect your sister's decision.
You are in the middle only as much as you let yourself be. You are perfectly able to set a boundary to not discuss the subject with either of them which is a look out for your own position (and mental health); but also respect for your sister if information about dad is triggering for her. Your dad will have to deal with it for himself, and you should absolutely not allow him to use you as an emotional dumping ground (toilet) for his (distorted) validation as he apparently refuses to take responsibility for his earlier actions.
You need to tell them both clearly that you aren't going to pick sides, persuade the other party of their wrongness or indeed discuss the situation. It is their relationship that is fractured and you are not able to mend it.
I would also find out if your dsis wishes not to hear any important news or indeed whether you can pass on any news about her or the dc's.
I totally respect my sister's decision and I am not telling her what my dad is saying.
I wasn't the golden child, far from it, in case that's why you think I am trying to support my dad. I have suffered a lot as well but have dealt with things differently - I am not minimizing my sister's choice here, we are just different people.
I am sensitive to his needs as I don't want him to be alone. My mum is dead and we live abroad.
From your OP I highly doubt that your dad is hurt or shocked, more likely he's fucking annoyed that your sister has dared to do this to him. When she has tried to discuss things with him in the past & it has blown up, its automatically her fault for being 'contrary & difficult', its never his fault, he's never done anything wrong etc etc. I'm not sure he's taking a step back from you, he's maybe trying to distance himself either so you come running & he can reinforce the 'unreasonable daughter' line re your sister or he's making you choose between him & your sis. Withdrawing from Christmas could be a way of making you beg him to visit, both to fuel his own ego & to reinforce to himself that he's innocent & its your sister that's the problem.
I think the way you deal with it is to not be drawn into discussing your sister or her actions, just refuse to have an opinion on it & rehearse saying that you want a relationship with him but your sis can do what she likes. Keep yourself out of the whole thing if possible.
I'm sorry about your mum the timing is interesting, it would suggest to me that your mother has been peacekeeper for a long while & your sister is now free to go NC without guilt.
(If its helpful & I'm not being at all judgy here, the way your OP is worded, you are taking your dad's 'side' not your sisters. Its all about how hurt & upset your dad is & there's no emotional language when you talk about your sister at all. Its possible the caring & fun dad you remember isn't what she remembers...)
'You speaking to a therapist though and one who is highly versed in the ways of such families, could help you no end'
I could not agree more with this. My family of origin 'crumbled' many years ago OP when I realised that none of my happy memories were real - my parents had always been narcissistic bullies. It was devastating and incredibly painful. I had to learn to separate from them emotionally and since I had always been treated like an extension of them, I had no idea where to begin. Professional support was absolutely invaluable.
Your dad is an adult who needs to look after his own mental health. You need to refuse to discuss the matter with either of them from now on. It would be totally unfair for you to be stuck in the middle.
I think you need to tell your Dad that you do not wish to discuss it. That his relationship, or not, with your sister is nothing to do with you.
At one point I had to have separate relationships with my Mum, Dad and brother. It is incredibly tiresome and upsetting to have family relationships like that when you are nothing to do with any of the fallout and are happy speaking to everyone.
Your Dad not wanting to come and visit you is his issue. Reiterate that nothing has changed in your relationship with him.
Your father is facing the consequences of his actions. He can either take stock of your sisters letter and reflect on his behaviour in order to have a relationship with your sister in the future (if she so chooses). Or, he can whine about being hard done by. There is simply nothing you can do to rectify this. He has to accept responsibility and make the necessary changes. If he chooses not to, it is not your responsibility. You do not need to care former his mental health - particularly since it's clear that he cared very little for yours when you were children.
Thanks for replies. I am definitely not taking my dad's side and my sister knows this. We have spoken a lot and support each other a lot with the difficulties we both have with our dad. I suppose I didn't mention her emotions in my OP because they are not new to me. My sister and I are very close. I am very upset for her that she feels she has to go nc with our dad but once again I totally respect her and support her.
I agree with lots of comments about my dad but he has said to me that he admits a lot of the issues that my sister has raised. He seems genuinely very upset about the whole situation but maybe that is just the way he's making me feel.
I won't beg him to come at Christmas. I made it clear that it's up to him. I will also tell him that I can't discuss it with him anymore.
It's hard being in the situation because what I considered as a happy family does not exist.
Oh and the description of my dad, including caring and fun is what my sister would use too.
Narcissistic and abusive parents often do have their fun and caring moments too, that's not unusual. It makes it even more difficult to get their abusive behaviour straight in your head, because there were times when they were lovely and did meet your needs.
Thank you Lotta. It is hard to work out yes.
He probably is upset but maybe not in quite the way you think he's upset iyswim.
Upset that he's been let down by a thankless child. He was only going his best. Why is she doing this to him?
EdamameCrisp, I feel so very sorry for you, I have been in exactly the same position for years. My sister also went NC with my dad and I have been the same position as you.
I tried everything I could to keep us all together, but in the end it was futile.
The best thing I did was start doing my own counselling, which is VERY SLOWLY helping.
I thought I could fix everyone and make everyone happy and love each other even though every time I managed to persuade some kind of get together (Christmas for example) he would make everyone's life a misery and pitch us all against each other.
As someone else said we all end up with roles, your sister has decided to try and save herself. It's an incredibly brave thing to do.
There is literally nothing you can do to change it.
Fundamentally where you are coming from is trying to be a good person and trying to make everyone happy. I try to do the same as well and I fail, because there is no way to succeed.
I have no answer to it all! other than I know exactly how you feel, the feeling that you couldn't save the family unit is a very hard one to come to terms with, but it's not your fault.
You probably need counselling more than you think you do. I thought I was just fine and had coped in "my own way" too.
(FYI i am now much closer to my sister now I am not trying to make our family something it's not anymore)
It is interesting that he has admitted some fault to you.
Has her done that with her? Has he blamed someone else for it? Has he apologised unreservedly and without expectation of a reply ?
My mum did that. Any fault admitted was someone else's responsibility and no apology
There are some parallels here with my situation
My father who turned me into an emotional wreck during my teenage years appears to be having a very delayed Road to Damascus moment in his 70's
But it is born of selfishness. As his health fails, he faces his own mortality. He looks around him and sees no friends, his adult children having minimal reluctant contact, his grandchildren having no relationship with him, his long suffering wife finally getting the upper hand as his world shrinks
It's sad but fuck doesn't it prove the old adage: you reap what you sow. Any reaching out from him to me now would benefit only him so I block it
I can garner only contempt. My sister seems more sympathetic but our shared childhood is viewed through a different prism
My sister and I vowed decades ago we would support each other. Our parents chose their own individual paths and we have no responsibility for that
Look after yourself and let your sister do it her way. Your father will be fine. He will justify his own behaviour in his head but take no real accountability
Thank you for the supportive messages.
I am indeed already having counselling. So I can discuss this with my therapist in the next session.
My dad has been in touch saying he has failed as a parent and that I feels very sorry and guilty. I ignored that part of his message and said other things. We will see what comes next. I hope that there is some way he can try to make amends as he has indeed admitted fault to my sister too, without blaming anyone. We will see.
It's been good to talk on here. Thanks everyone.
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