The long-term emotional damage of a child of a narcissistic parent is complicated. They realize from an early age that they are not in that parent’s life to be loved and nurtured but rather to be a reflection on the parent to the point that the child must fit into the mold intended for them. My own son had tremendous anxiety from a young age because he continually had to push aside his own personality in order to please his father. If he didn’t comply with his father’s wishes he was overtly punished, frozen out or avoided for a period of time – hours, days or even weeks. It was psychologically damaging. I remember my son saying he couldn’t even escape bullying at school once he was home because his father was a bully. My once outgoing son now wanted to be invisible so that people would leave him alone and he feared being killed like those at Columbine. The walls would close in on him at school and he began to have ticks when his Dad was around like licking the palms of his hands.
His Dad was, as a narcissistic parent unpredictable and confusing. He would call all three of us useless and we felt we could never do anything right. The boys still fear being honest with their father and they are teenagers. The quality and strength of the bond between their narcissistic Dad and them is poor and weak at best. It balances between Disney Dad and I’ll be available and present when I have time Dad.
My biggest fear is their future. I hope that they don’t fall into the trap of losing themselves in a relationship in an attempt to keep that person happy. I hope that my continual love and support will confirm that they are worthy and that they deserve a healthy bond with their significant other.
One thing I have had to deal with in moving forward is my exes constant fight to keep things under his control. When threatened of losing control, he is thrust into fight mode, he feels furious and works to ostracize the three of us who are trying to induce change, particularly myself and he puts conflict between my boys and me whenever he can and places them in the middle of our issues. Though it can initially be confusing to my children why their narcissistic Dad verbally tears me apart and those closest to me, their father’s reaction ultimately shows our children what matters most to him: his own emotional and financial needs – not those of his children.
The problem I face now is that it will take my children so many years of frustration and anguish to figure out that Dad isn’t quite right; until that point,my boys will be merely dancing as fast as they can, trying to please their impossible-to-please narcissistic Dad. It will take years for them to see that their Dad was emotionally abusive not only to me but to them. They don’t see it yet. They have tucked it away. I will do whatever I can to see them through this process and be there when they have healthy, successful partnerships in life that are mutually satisfying to both involved. I am living proof that you can survive and I have been lucky to experience a normal, healthy partnership after my divorce. I was so blessed to have my first relationship after him be everything I thought a relationship could be and in that I learned that I am healthy and capable of having it and I am worthy. I want the same for my boys! I am dedicated to seeing them through to the other side, no matter how much pain it causes me at the moment.