‘Better you than me’ – Going unprotected from narcissistic abuse by the enabler parent.

enabler parent

Nothing in this world lasts without protection.”

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

Good things in the world do not survive unless they are protected. Think of a human baby. As cute, fun, and loving as they are – they are equally vulnerable. Most often these awesome creatures receive joy, warmth, and protection by their caretakers. In the natural order the young and defenseless are to be loved and protected by the stronger and older.

Sometimes – tragically – something unnatural happens. A child is born to someone motivated by something other than human connection. Instead this person wants to see others – even his or her own children – suffer. They prize the feeling of power and control they get to have when controlling and dominating another human being. This feeling becomes so valued that no appeal to morality will impede them. A person with this kind of motivation structure is known as a malignant narcissist. Saving others from harm does not matter to them. Or worse, it matters, but in the opposite direction – they want to harm others. They react to confrontations of their abusive behavior by denying, blaming the victim for ‘overreacting’, or claiming the victim deserved it.

Protect yourself from the effects of narcissistic abuse with my free webinar on 7 strategies for self-care.  

In my practice, most of the clients who’ve survived such vicious upbringings had one primary abusive parent. The other “enabler” parent was typically less overtly abusive but passive and compliant in the face of the other parent’s abuse. This enabler parent buries himself or herself in work, alcohol, extramarital affairs, and/or household tasks in order to avoid intervening in what is happening to his or her children under his or her roof.

Today’s blog post will discuss surviving and recovering from going unprotected from narcissistic abuse by the ‘enabler’ parent. When a child is chronically derided, blamed, and scapegoated without intervention by the ‘enabler’ parent – it is tragically easy for the child to conclude that he does not deserve protection. Such a kid can may even conclude that he deserves to be abused and neglected.

Sins of Omission: What the Enabler’s underprotection can look like

In my experience, a malignant narcissist does not get away with hurting his or her children without the endorsement – implicit or otherwise – of the other parent. I suspect that many malignant narcissists choose partners who are meek and submissive so that they will not encounter resistance. They may search for partners with whom they feel dominant. The prevailing theme in the relationship becomes whether the narcissist will be made happy. The enabler partner makes that his or her life’s goal. He or she also knows it’s a fickle achievement. Despite his efforts he can still be found inadequate in making the narcissist happy. This lack of consistency is designed to keep the partner feeling insecure about his or her worth in the narcissist’s eyes. Enabler partners are unable – or unwilling – to recognize how they are being strategically tormented. Instead they double-down on the efforts to please.

Once this type of pseudo-relationship is established, the fate of their children is often sealed. The narcissistic parent will inevitably find fault with, devalue, and demean a child. The enabler parent only sees that the narcissist is unhappy and will want to make him or her happy. If the narcissist identifies the child as the reason for his or her unhappiness then the other parent will too. The enabler parent may gang up with the narcissist against the child. He may seem distracted or uninvolved while the narcissist abuses the child. He may find a way to be out of the house – due to work obligations, extramarital affairs, etc. Whatever the tactic, the enabler parent signals to the child that he will not be offering protection. Gallingly, the other parent communicates “better you than me” to the child getting abused. This attitude flies in the face of the concept of parenting yet unfortunately happens in families ruled by narcissists.

Terry* had a narcissistic mother and ‘enabler’ parent as a father. When he was 4 years old, he came out to say goodnight to both parents. His mother may have found him to be in too high of spirits and decided he needed to be knocked down. She asked him if he had brushed his teeth and he told her he had. She recoiled with an over-dramatic gasp and said, “Oh Terry, how can you tell a lie like that?”. He had, in fact, brushed his teeth so he was confused but knew something bad was going to happen. He insisted that he had brushed them and was met with her turning to his father and saying, “Can you believe that he is standing there lying to us?”. Terry’s father put down his beer, grabbed him by the elbow, spun Terry around and spanked him three times. The physical pain was not significant to Terry. The knowledge that Terry had a mother who wanted to set him up for such abuse – and a father who would go along with it – was.

Terry’s parents had very little love between them. A master-slave relationship does not afford such experience. They did find consensus when targeting Terry for trumped up reasons. In therapy, Terry grew to suspect that his father’s lack of power in his marriage was addressed by feeling powerful with his wife against his son.

Jason*, grew up with a malignantly narcissistic mother and ”enabler’ father. His mother would ask Jason to perform chores then scream at him for ‘not doing them right’. Once his parents divorced, Jason was the only male left in the home. His mother would continue her psychological and emotional abuse of him. In sessions, Jason initially reported that he was grateful that his father stayed local after the divorce. “My Dad could have moved back home to California where he grew up”. When I asked Jason whether he could appeal to his father about how his mother was mistreating him he said, “My Dad would tell me that he knew she could be this way. He’d just tell me to try not to make her upset.” No calls to Child Protective Services. No battle for custody of Jason and his siblings. In essence, Jason was told to appease his mother and suffer her abuse on his own.

Jason was told in no uncertain terms that he would not receive protection from his father. Since his father was his most viable parent, he had to find a way to continue thinking highly of him. At the start of therapy, Jason revealed how he did this – forcing himself to believe that he did not deserve to be protected from his mother’s abuse. His statement that he was grateful that his father stayed local after the divorce reflected this. Only if he believed he was undeserving of protection, could his father’s gesture of staying local seem like a show of parental love. As an adult, Jason found new relationships inside and outside of therapy that afforded him the safety he had always sought. These new connections allowed him to identify and question the belief that he could not have asked anything more of his father. He grew to feel entitled to feeling safe in relationships and recognized how his father’s passivity in the face of his mother’s abuse denied him this.

Narcissistic Abuse as a family system

Scott Peck writes how targeted, remorseless and systematic cruelty (i.e. evil) get woven into a family’s ways. His book “People of the Lie” emphasizes how narcissistic abuse starts with the narcissist’s motivation to act cruelly towards people and utter refusal to take responsibility for their actions. They do not possess empathy for others’ feelings or needs – just their own. They often construct lives that seem “normal” from the outside – posing as civic leaders, loving mothers, teachers, nurses, business executives, etc. These appearances also function to offer the narcissist cover so that they do not get caught abusing their victims. Many adult children of narcissists exclaim that nobody would have believed them if they spoke of how cruel their parent really was. Such narcissists go to great lengths to convince the public of their virtue and good will. They know they could get caught and are adept at avoiding it.

Peck describes the “lie” as the system of denials and collusion that the family members around the narcissist must adopt. The lie starts with the tacit agreement that the narcissist is entitled to act cruelly and bears no responsibility for how she hurts others. The enabler parent as the second highest authority in the house endorses the narcissist. The narcissistic and enabler parents can have such strong faith in this lie that they feel no dissonance. The narcissist abuses the targeted child because that child is so bad – that’s it. The enabler readily agrees.

This system of cruelty allows its perpetrators to take no responsibility for themselves nor their actions. If a child feels sad or shame for being derided that’s the child’s fault for being ‘overly sensitive’. Terry’s mother was fond of telling him that she was not yelling at him just “telling him things he did not want to hear”. The narcissist is intent on shifting all accountability for her bad behavior onto a vulnerable target. Her enabler partner colludes with her along these lines and they perpetuate the lie of “evil” together.

In plying the lie that the narcissist’s target is to blame for all the family problems, both parents show no empathy to the targeted child. This child is faced with the chilling knowledge that he is getting hurt by people who either do not care about his pain or are want to see him suffer.  This dynamic is covered in depth in my online course on freeing yourself from narcissistic abuse.

The Enabler’s own psychology: A sheep looking for a shepherd

Enabler parents were often forgotten children in their families of origin. They may have adapted to a “children should be seen and not heard” ethos. Typically the enabler parent was not singled out and attacked as a child, however they did not receive much attention nor recognition by the parents. As a result a deficit of needed self-esteem, empathy for oneself and others, and initiative can develop. Such people emerge from their childhoods believing that they are expendable and “lucky” to find a romantic partner who will accept them. They learned in their families of origin they do not deserve consistent respect and connection. This required belief guides their search for a romantic partner. They will often comply with this belief and find a partner who also ignores their needs in favor of his or her own.

When a to-be-enabler is met with the affection of a man or woman, they ma be astounded. They may never have thought they would get such treatment. After a long history of deprivation this affection will often be clung to – regardless of the offerer’s other traits. A malignant narcissist will see such a person as a preferable and relatively easy target. Such a person seeks to find a partner she can control and manipulate with her affection. Their partners have to be more interested in making the narcissist happy than making themselves happy. People who were chronically ignored by their parents were often so starved for affection that they will fit this bill.

“Terry’s father was in the Army. He attended West Point then served a tour in Vietnam. He met Terry’s mother on a double-date when they were on opposite sides of the date. His father showed up at mother’s door the next day to ask her out. Despite Terry’s father’s recollection that his mother began acting very angrily towards him in the months before and after the wedding, he just hoped that he could make her happy with him. In Terry’s 12 years growing up with both of his parents in the house he could only recall his mother screaming at his father. Never the other way around. In the end, his father had a series of extramarital affairs that led to a divorce – effectively leaving Terry alone with his narcissistic mother.

Terry’s father seemed to not have much of a center in himself. He was easily influenced and did not have empathy for Terry – just his wife and himself. Although Terry’s father was not predisposed to active acts of cruelty – like his wife – he had no trouble passively allowing her to commit them against his son. Terry’s father’s only goal in life was to find people who were happy with him. If these people showed disapproval to someone other than him he may have felt relief that he was not being rejected. His father did not have the innate instinct to protect those who are more vulnerable.

Recovering from going unprotected by the enabler parent

Enabler parents are unlikely to take responsibility for their devastating impact on the scapegoated child. Even if the scapegoated child confronts this parent as an adult, she will likely be met with disbelief, denial, dismissiveness or blame. Such enablers are too far down the rabbit hole to turn back. They have fused themselves to others rather than themselves and have no way to ascertain the reality the scapegoat would describe.

Rather than holding this parent accountable, it can often be more helpful to have little or no contact with them. Although this may seem harsh, it is important. Doing so can give the scapegoated victim the distance needed to see the abuse was all about their narcissistic family members rather than anything about the scapegoat. If you have been scapegoated, then you have been blamed or refused to be believed when you expressed your suffering. These experiences need to cease for you to be able to recover your own rightful narrative. Your family’s audience will never give the needed response and will likely do more harm.

Once enough emotional distance is created, then the victim can begin to hold the enabler parent accountable for how they shirked their parental duties. Victims often feel guilty at this stage as they have learned to feel protective towards the enabler who was the lesser of two evils in the family. This can be worked through as the victim grows to know the immense suffering he was put through as a result of the enabler parents lack of empathy for the victim.

Going to therapy can be very helpful – even necessary. It is critical that such a therapist have an understanding of narcissistic family dynamics and be willing to identify and hold your family members accountable for their abuse of you. If you find yourself in therapy where the therapist is questioning your perception of family members or identifies the problem as your emotional dysregulation – you might want to find a different one. I believe that a therapist must come down hard on the side of the scapegoated client to be able to undo the brainwashing that their families have undertook to convince the client that he is the crazy, rageful, or pathological person. It can be scary for the scapegoated child as an adult to risk trusting a new person with his or her story. These stories deserve to be honored and respected. Anything different will not be helpful in my strong opinion.

Lastly, my online course on freeing yourself from narcissistic abuse devotes two lessons to the importance and process of creating distance between oneself and one’s enabler parent.  

*All references to clients are amalgamations of people, papers, books, life that do not directly refer to any specific person.  

Jay Reid is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). If you are considering therapy for overcoming a childhood with one or more narcissistic parents please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I offer an introduction online course on the nature and impacts of narcissistic abuse. I also offer an advanced online course offering 8 powerful strategies for scapegoat survivors to reclaim the quality of life they deserve.

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  1. Hi Jay, This in an excellent blog. You should think about organizing your case studies into a control-mastery casebook. You should also think about attending the CMT conference in Sicily this Oct. Best, Marshall

      1. Since it is now OCT, I bet I’m not the only one who’d be interested to know if this happened and if there will be any kind of follow-up report (even if we don’t speak Italian :-))

        Thank you so much for this. Newly discovered, so now I’m working my way through the archives (with Kleenex box handy)

      2. Jay,as I read your article,u completely described my relationship with both of my parents.My mother is a malignant narcissist and my father is the enabling,I’ve been told many times by him to just make my mother happy,even when I was in severe pain from the abuse.I used to think my father had to treat me like I’m less inorder to keep my mother happy,I felt sorry for him and he too had gone thru so much rage and never once stood up for himself.As the years went on he became apart of her abuse and I became the victim,now it was both parents.I was extremely multiplied and gaslighted to the point I felt insane,its destroyed my life,I’ve been no contact for a few years now and received help by DV It still controls my every thought and can make me completely sick both mentally and physically.I wouldn’t wish this abuse on anyone.How do u get passed this? The worst part is the lack of remorse,they’ve ripped my heart into a million pieces and yet they are the victim.Its a living nightmare.

        1. B I just wanted to say I hope you’re well and your story is exactly mine, it can be a living hell to bear, stay strong know you are not alone

        2. This response spoke straight into my circumstance as well. It is a living nightmare and makes me sick to my stomach to realize fully. Stay strong, you are not alone.

        3. I am right there with you B!! I am dealing with the exact feelings and have been for years not understanding why I was so VERY angry and short-fused at times leading to so very much guilt in my own relationship. I had to leave for myself and others . It has been 5 years since I left my relationship and I am NO CONTACT with the narcissist for ~ 2 years though I have demasked him and he is still on the prowel in his covert way. I am still so torn up about the enabling piece because she was totally emotionally abused and brainwashed it was all a matter of survival , , , and still is for her. My DAILY realizations about the extent and tactics of the abuse my brothers, myself and my mom endured continue to unravel and it is ALL so VERY Awful!! Hang tough! Take Care of YOU!! I will be TRYING to do the same!! I have so very MANY defenses and unhealthy “go-to’s” in an effort to avoid Hurt and discomforts over the years. I am tired 55!! Stay Strong with me!!

          1. I’m 47 and my story is exactly the same. I figured it out 2 years ago after realising my husband of 25 years is NPD first and i was in a trauma bond, had no boundries and was dangerously overly empathic in every close relationship I’d ever experienced; all toxic from parents to partners. My first positive intimate relationship was with my eldest son. However, I’ve always had good friends, a resilient nature and the last two years educating myself about it, though emotionally heartbreaking, has given me the tools to protect myself and my children. I’m not beaten…. Just yet!!!

          2. You are not dumb! You were giving them the benefit of the doubt and being empathetic. You realized now because you are wiser and have more life experience. Be gentle with yourself. Narcissists prey on good people who remind them of the person they will never be.

            I have felt the same way as you and was angry too. I have to keep reminding myself that narcissism is a mental illness and to not take it personally. Hang in there. 🙂

          3. Don’t feel ” dumb “. I don’t and I never even HEARD of the word narcissist until I was 51. I had no reason nor did you.
            You shouldn’t become angry at yourself for being a victim. Feel FREED because NOW everything is CLEAR and there ARE people out there who DO BELIEVE YOU. 😁😉
            I’m a strong survivor. The more you learn, the more empowered you become and the better you can deal with them and best of all…..see any new ones you may come across in life.
            Best wishes.

        4. I don’t know you but I feel every bit of your pain and know you are loved from experience…you are not your abuse rele

        5. B, I wanted to say that I hope you found your way. It is super hard accepting that my parents too were both abusers (enabler and malignant). The truth is, you get down to what you are really good at. Figure out what feeds you and makes you unique. Get good sleep. Use CBD, it helps. Once you sleep well, you can pack away the emotional memory during REM. REM is important for the body to heal. CBD will also help with digestion and heart rate. I often had fight or flight from daily surging adrenaline. All this goes away with NO CONTACT, which was hard for me because I occasionally tried reconnecting with each parent, only to see their abuse in clearer light each time. It does no good, in other words, we cannot be “effective” with them. This lack of effectiveness leads to sadness, the lack of accountability leads to anger, and the lack of being important to them can feel isolating. But they are not your only relationships. Find and make good friends. Get out there. You are worth it.

          1. I just want to say HATS OFF TO THIS REPLY! I love that: “They are not your only relationship” It is so freeing, thank you 🙏

        6. I have just realized that this is my family as well. It is so hard to accept. I am literally trying to figure out what to say to my enabling dad. After years of living with a boyfriend who was a narcissist I finally decided to ask my parents for help as they were my last hope. I’ve been dealing with constant pleading, explaining my situation repeatedly and defending myself. I had decided already that my mother was a narcissist but my father I thought would save me being that he was always held in such high regard. The pain that I have been going thru is just as you explained. I was moved to respond but just now realize that I have no actual advice for you! I just wanted you to know there are others going thru this. I know it made me feel better to read your post, don’t know why it makes us feel better to find other people going thru the pain we are but it does. Thank you for sharing. At the least I don’t feel crazy just in pain knowing my parents really don’t care. BUT I know I’m not crazy so thank you

        7. My eyes opened to this truth after trying to leave an abusive relationship with the first narcissist I recognized. I thought that was the hardest thing to ever deal with. Until I turned to my npd mom and enabling dad for help because I had become homeless after deciding it was better to live in my car than to stay in the relationship. That was years ago. I was told by my dad that he would help me although I couldn’t move back home as it would upset my mother. The financial breadcrumbs offered by my dad although needed have caused me more pain than I can express. Just a couple days ago I finally thru the truth at my dad as my anger for his blatant denial of my situation boiled over. It was the strangest thing. I could hear the total confusion in his response. He tried to keep the false narrative of me going but my statements he couldn’t dispute. He sounded like a computer glitch. I ended up apologizing because I felt so guilty. I know, crazy. I was really hopeful that maybe I had made some kind of breakthrough. I watched this video and realized that my hope is based on an emotional need rather than logic. Although I’m heartbroken once again I am thankful for your insight. It’s inspiring in a bittersweet way. I have no idea what to do next. My situation is so overwhelming that I am kind of frozen.

    1. Your assessment of the sickest most convoluted family system is very good. It’s hard to find a shrink who can fully understand the insane horror we all were raised with. The adult pain has no words when you wake up one day with nothing – knowing all was destroyed by the family. I have never experienced such cruelty fro my own siblings now that my parents are dead. My parents left a legacy of pain destruction and horror. Facing the truth that are lives were ruined takes courage. I have that courage. But how to continue after coming out of the carnage is a mystery.

      1. I just started the mystery part too. Your description of the vile acts these sub human vermin perpetrate upon defenseless children under the cover of calling themselves ‘parents’ is accurately expressed. I have a petition you might be interested in here: http://chng.it/8bwCX8zH
        It is just a small first step, but I know there are a hell of alot more people who have been injured by their acts, than narcs out there. This is a good start to lend a voice. Doesn’t matter how long it takes, we have everything to gain.

      2. Very true,I cannot find a therapist that truly understands, its because it’s the kinda hell that u must experience to understand. Best wishes to you.

        1. You and many people have this experience. Your best bet is online help. It is unfortunate but people have to have actually experienced this on some level and then been able to be properly trained to be of the most comprehensive help as a therapist. It is very difficult for people to have the ability and the strength to bear witness and to truly believe that such evil is possible. Even Scott Peck in the end went a bit mad. If you read the full body of his work you can make note of some very delusional fantaies he embodied in the end. I am not sure if this was the result of his insitence on working with the demonic. His early work and some later is very important however. That being said, his delsuionary insights should stand as a sober reminder to all that even the best minds who enter into the realms of such evil do not exit unscathed. Find the best material you can on line that is free, pay for what you can that is legitimately helpful if you can find it and be gentle with yourself. Limit your digging into what is evil because it is never ending. Become aware of what you must to move forward and guard your heart to the fullest extent possible. No one can enter to deeply into evil without being harmed so keep yourself focused on healing when all is said and done. Be well.

    2. Absolutely helpful – I never knew until today- I had this kind of family albeit Dad was the narcissist and Mom the enabler.

  2. Yes indeed this a great blog ! Thank you for helping me 100x more than my enabler “parent” (smh!!) ever did. Please continue to write more articles such as this so that it will empower all scapegoated children.

    1. Thank you for this feedback. I am very glad to hear that it was helpful to read about this aspect of being scapegoated.

      1. I agree, your articles are brilliant Jay. An invaluable support to the unheard, invalidated scapegoat. Please keep posting. Thanks from the heart.

  3. You just blew my mind with that article. Especially the part about the focus on emotional regulation as opposed to acknowledging the family dynamic. After 7 years with the same therapist it came to a very strange ending two months ago.

    You just help me realize that the problem is not me but rather Her lack of being able to recognize this dynamic.

    Your writing is clear and articulate and really helped explain this dysfunctional dynamic which I am now realizing was not only mine but also that with my partner which might explain why we’ve had so many issues!

    Thank you so much!

  4. You mentioned Peck’s book but do you recommend any resources or other readings on how to recover from the enabler parent? It’s been devastating lately with my enabling parent ignoring me and refusing to acknowledge anything I’ve said. Though I am in therapy, this post helped me more than anything else has. Most resources focus on the narcissist parent and touch on the enabler either all too briefly or in a very one-sided context, which is that said parent is complicated but ultimately weak and undeserving of contact.

    As far as additional context goes: My dad …. saved me in so many ways. But he threw me to the wolves as well. He took care of me after an accident but ignores me now/only says he will call (but never does), because that I won’t play family and put on airs with the abusers in it. He saw some of this hell but not all. I put him on a pedestal as he’s only ever been everything I’ve ever had in terms of family, and the only one who was remotely kind. It’s all I had and being cut loose is terrifying even though I am well into adulthood. Recommend any books? Articles? Blogs, anything? Few focus on the “enabler” problem.

    1. I am so sorry for your experiences. I find myself empathizing. It has been long-known to me that my mother flat-out rejected me…she didn’t want me (another child-totaling 2). She knew on some level that her wounds would be problematic-for her. I am nowhere near healed, and have been knocked askew by any of a number of disillusionments; one of which was the rage and sadness that accompanied my realization that “the good parent”, failed to protect me. I am now that man’s adult son and it is very difficult to digest. Mother wounds, father wounds, abuser wounds, enabler wounds and trying to find who is here without “their” wounds. But, it is too late to undo, anything. You asked about books “about the enabler”. I suppose parlance would bring you to material about co-dependency, if it is your wish to better understand the why, of your father’s enabling. Richard Grannon has some good material on YouTube related to Narcissistic abuse and the cast of characters. But, and this seems important, try to be clear about what YOU need now. These wounds must be tended to, and believe me when I tell you I’ve tried to “think” my way out of this, this maze. I’m now overloaded with information and in the end, the question all along, which the author conveys so well, “What do I need now?” and “What do I want now?”….we validate ourselves the way the child within was not. “Reparenting” is the term for this activity of healing and there are many great videos on here. As Ms. Reid as said herein, it’s possible that having a therapist is a good idea. And, specifically, one who is on their path toward healing because if they haven’t been on this ride, very hard to be understood. Hope this helps, it’s been some time since you posed your question, so I thought I’d chime in. Hope this was helpful.

    2. I had never went directly to my father as I trusted my information to be converted thru my narc mother. After a horrible abusive relationship I finally approached my dad for help. I always thought of my dad as the most honorable man and he was my last hope. I am so shocked and broken over my recent discovery that he isn’t just kept in the dark, he participates in the abuse. I am truly having such a hard time with it. He isn’t the hero I made him in my mind. He isn’t going to stop all the bad things being done to me. No instead he is going to perpetrate more evil on me. I totally understand what you’re going thru. I wish you all the good in this world if there is any left.

      1. Same discovery happened to me. He always said “good cop bad cop” now I’m like well that means I was never the victim

  5. There is another scenario where the passive parent is really a covert narcissist who is “riding the coat tails” of the more overt. My covert narc Dad finally ditched overt Mother when he had an exit available that freed him from the repercussions- he was headhunted into a job in another country and promptly bailed.
    He found himself another overt narc and married her, and thought he could ditch her a few years later when he wanted to move to a third country and she refused to go. He moved and thought he had escaped without dealing with any fallout for a second time. Not so. On a visit back to country number two, second narc wife followed him and stabbed him in the chest.
    Seriously, you could not make this stuff up.
    ( he survived, she got jailed for attempted murder. So glad I didn’t know about it until years later after going no contact with all concerned)

    1. This is an important and insightful comment. For many cases there is not one or the other. The “enabler” vs. the malignant narcissist just does not hold up in EVERY scenario although it is the case for some. The evil plot twist you may be mentioning is that in many cases the roles shape shift constantly between two narcissists. While one can be overt largely and the other covert, there is a further devastating possibility where these two individuals switch between overt and covert cyclically. This adds to the chaos and covers each person’s tracks from being found out so to speak. When it is convenient either party can hide as the “enabler” and passive recipient of abuse or be covert or overt in their methodical abuses. Most destructive couples if you dig deeply are operating somehow in sinc and although they may pass under the radar to avoid public scrutiny, they are both in multiple cases, (not all), capable of being very evil co-conspirators. Well said comment.

      1. Yes, I think, true. In my case, my father gave up. He had alot of responsibilities and he and she (the narcissist) had been round and round many times. She kept him busy, isolated from his family, didn’t honor any of his friends and he cared deeply for his kids. He knew her. Things were her way or the highway. Narcs exert tremendous love bombing and praise and the other and the kids are fooled. It is only now and recently, many, many years later, that I realize my father, at the pivotal moment my mother was shifting into total annihilation mode toward me, chose to ignore it so he could be all right. I lost my mind, first, and that and her endless smearing of me, caused me to lose friends ultimately. There’s more destruction but, the point is, subtle though it was, he chose to ignore it. I can’t justify that. Maybe God does.

  6. Wow! This totally describes my narc family. Thanks for this article, as a scapegoat in a narc family system, your words made me feel validated.

  7. Just found your site today and see you wright very thorough articles on the subject. Also read this one and have a question about it.
    First some explaning. It took me a very long time to truly learn, see and accept how abusive and disruptive my mother has been to me and our family since childhood. It has been a full-blown malignant narcissist till the day she died. All my siblings are victims of her in some way but I happened to be her- and the family scapegoat (which is still the case, I went no-contact with all of them ~8 years ago, I had to to stop the ongoing abuse).

    Occasionally I have the urge to fresh up my mind and spirit when some doubt creeps in coming along with the sadness of missing my siblings and extended family. The doubt then soon passes but the pain never quite fades. Then your article made me wonder about my ‘enabling father’.

    I see he enabled her to abuse me by distancing himself more and more from involvement in his task of being a caring and active parent. Along the way he started drinking more and more. But I also saw from a very young age the relentless devaluations she put him through over and over again. She just broke him down over the years till there was nothing left.
    He killed himself when I was 19 and he 48.

    What I mean to say, is; I believe he was also a victim of her. Although detached most of the time to me, he has been the only one who showed me kindness and stability in his behaviour (never abusive). At crucial points in my live then, he supported me but then told me not to tell my mother.
    She scared the hell out him I realize now. I cann’t see him as an active enabler but see him as a victim too of this sadistic malignant narcissist.
    What are your thoughts about some(most maybe) enablers being mostly victims of the narcissist themselfs?

    1. Hi Ge,

      I think you and the comment posted above raise a very important question. First of all, thank you for sharing your story and you are one tough individual to have survived what you describe.

      Maybe both are true: that the other parent can also be a victim of the narcissistic parent AND their lack of protection of the children paves the way for the children to be victimized. It is very tough to see that the other parent seems to have a good heart but just cannot muster the strength to stand up to the abusive parent. At the same time, from an outside perspective the other parent – by virtue of being an adult – is the most capable of standing up to the abuser. The children – by their very nature – cannot stand up for themselves definitively because they are programmed to secure the bond to their parents. So, given those different starting points, I personally would argue that responsibility lies with the other adult to protect his or her children. As you wrote, though, when that other parent is the only person in the family who’s shown some love and kindness, it can be very difficult to hold them accountable.

      In any case, I don’t claim for these categories to be too formalized and I’m speaking broadly about what constitutes and ‘enabler’ parent. Every person and story is unique and deserves to be understood on its own terms. Again, thank you for sharing and I wish you the best.


      1. This is my father exactly. He defended my mothers abuse. He does what ever she says, never once protecting me. She would tell him to take my car keys, lock the doors of the house from the inside so they could both gang up on me and verbally torture me for hours and I had no way to escape. Once,, while being victimized I screamed at him that I knew he knew this was wrong and why won’t he protect me?? He looked at me like he felt bad for what he was doing and he knew it was wrong but something he had to do to make my mother happy. My father would buy me new expensive cars, pay my insurance , gas etc. I always believed he did this because he felt guilty for the way they treated me. I would have much rather had loving parents , then money. So at times I do feel guilty for cutting him off bc at times he was nice to me but I shouldn’t because he sat there and let this happen.

      2. As I have read and understand it to be, the ” enabler ” the “co – dependant” parent IS also
        a victim of the narcissist themselves.
        I can understand the confusion as they have usually participated in both emotional &/or physical pain.

    2. If your father ended his life through suicide, in such circumstances, that says to me that he doesn’t fit the “enabler” mold because he had a conscious. There was an incongruity between whatever he was doing, and the people who surrounded him, and his true self. Some people see no other way out.

  8. Hi – I’m married to someone who – after 20 years – I now understand has some form of NPD. I am not an ‘enabler’. I fought daily against their unjust behaviour towards all family members. Our four kids were told that my ‘anger issues’ were the problem. I was misrepresented so relentlessly that everyone – including me – believed I needed psychiatric help. I spent 5 years in and out of clinics and consultations, being drugged, scanned, blood-tested and pretty much straightjacketed until a 60 year old psychiatrist who happened to have seen one of his parents die as result of narcissistic abuse stopped the process. His dead parent wasn’t an ‘enabler’, nor ‘victim’ – more ‘warrior’ engaged in battling unscrupulous covert ops…
    Kids raised by a Narcissist and their profoundly abused partner aren’t in fact hurt by lack of protection by the latter: witnessing emotional domestic violence and enduring parental alienation (if the abused parent is non-compliant) supplants the failures (read: further scapegoating) of the embattled (ie. determind to dis’enable’) parent. But only if the effects of narcissistic abuse are understood.

    1. Hi,

      Thank you for sharing this perspective. You and the commenter below raise an important point. It also sounds like you very much did not fit the ‘enabler’ heuristic but suffered the gaslighting and goading tactics that the narcissistic person employed – until you met the psychiatrist who saw you clearly. I agree that if the other parent is a fighter or warrior against the narcissistically abusive tactics that it is of tremendous benefit to the children in the family. It can show that truth or rightfulness is worth fighting for and that treating people without due respect and dignity is unacceptable.

      Thank you for sharing your story. It is a real contribution to this thread.


      1. I can’t find another article the explains my family dynamic more than yours did!
        I am estranged from my family except for my youngest sister, and she will yell at me if I’m negative or speak the truth about our rageaholic father and enabling, sometimes a participating, mother. I have been struggling with cutting off contact with her because she gets upset if I ask her not to repeat news I give her or if I bring up cruelties in our childhood. She’s an enabler on some level too.
        The saddest thing is that not only did the enabler parent not protect us, but the children who didn’t get abused as bad myself, the scapegoat, refuse to admit the abuse and protect the abuser as well. So I feel unloved by my entire family and feel the abuser ultimately “won”. I’m the big loser as I have no one who empathizes or admits our ugly family truth. While my siblings were abused as well, not as often nor as harshly, they see me as the family problem and there is no convincing them otherwise,

        1. I first went no contact with my parents; shortly after, I had to do the same with my brother. Narc mom, enabler dad — I was the scapegoat and brother was the golden child. Although this truth is completely sad, very disappointing, and very surreal at times, it feels way better to recognize the truth — to not be confused anymore! Clarity brings much calm and peace as it explains much: my past experiences, the way I have been, thought, felt! Understanding reality today protects me from harm — from continued abuse! Before I understood how messed up these people really were, I would regularly hand over opportunity after opportunity to my abusers to hurt me as I continued to spend time with them, speak over the phone, travel with them even. Finally recognizing the truth freed me from the torture! None of these people when I spent time with them — dad, mom, or brother — made me feel good about myself, happy, protected, or loved. Instead, all interactions with them resulted in harm, frustration, confusion, anger, and hurt as they were always mean — either directly or indirectly by doing nothing to stand up for me. This is why I am GLAD to be rid of them all! Now, I only allow those in my life who uplift me, are kind, and make me happy! Too much time has been devoted to evil; thank God we are adults and can choose whom to allow to be part of our lives!

          1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I have arrived too, almost sixty years later. Devastated at first but now I have finally found peace.

        2. Just wanted to say I’m in the same boat as an adult. Recently reconnected via phone with sibling during covid, but it took less than three months for her to fall back into her old habits of provoke then slander – I’m talking about that weird narcissistic trait where they randomly accuse you of something you didn’t do, treat your surprise as lying, accuse you of overreacting, then start drama involving other people over your “bad behavior” – behavior that you would have never had if the narcissist hadn’t randomly accused you of something you didn’t do! Crazy making!

          I have a couple of half-siblings and none of them are close or sympathetic because I’m the scapegoated one. Ironic but my stepfather was the enabler to n-mother and although he was a philanderer who led a double life with multiple women, the whole family forgave him. and they all believe I’m the problem.

          I believe you and know very much what this is like. If it’s any consolation – hope this is comforting to you. Recognizing my own situation in your comment was comforting for me, if for no other reason but that someone else “gets it”. I’m sorry you had to live that way. We deserved better.

        3. So, the non-scapegoated siblings can become enablers, too! I had a sibling who, though he didn’t join the others in bullying me, wouldn’t lend an ear, much less support. That’s why I went no-contact with all siblings. (25 or so years now)

          This brings to mind that saying, “Never play another man’s game.” The family I was born into was my mother’s game, and there was no way I could stay in it and win.

          It was scary to leave, and there’s the stigma, and some logistics, but it’s definitely worth it! It felt so much more lonely to be with my family than it has ever felt to be simply alone.

        4. I am also the scapegoat and to some extent feel your pain, however…..as I learned about this dysfunctional family dynamic,…..I realized my instincts were right the day I got up and walked out and began ” no contact ” with my brother and his family first.
          After I started ” no contact ” for a THIRD TIME with my narcassistic father, my sister ( the GOLDEN CHILD / his flying monkey ) managed to convince my RELATIVES that I was the “problem” &/or ” child that doesn’t want to help her ailing, elderly parents leaving all responsibilities on her ” ( in reality I was the only ” caretaker ” for at least a decade until I couldn’t financially handle the burden anymore and had to call her and beg for her to help, while she was in a much better place, financially )
          NOW…… THEY’VE ALL JOINED HER ” shunning me ” . 🤨

          Long story short, . …WE DON’T NEED
          Family like this. WHO would need ENEMIES with ” family ” like this ❓️

          Yes…… it’s SAD that WE were ” dealt this card in life ” but….. you know what ❓️It’s NOT the END OF THE WORLD to NOT have FAMILY.
          FRIENDS can be MUCH, MUCH BETTER.
          PETS can be WONDERFUL ❗️
          FAMILY is NOT REALLY what YOUR REASON for being born was.

          Find YOUR PASSIONS,….. your ” GOD GIVEN TALENTS ” ( so to speak )……
          FOCUS ON THOSE and HOW YOU can USE THEM to make the world 🌎 a BETTER PLACE.
          Make a DIFFERENCE for OTHER LIVES.
          This will help you to TRANSCEND ABOVE ALL of this ” family ” nonsense and make YOU the STRONG, SURVIVOR.

          Best wishes from one SURVIVING, SCAPEGOAT to another 😉

        5. My dad was a long haul truck driver and was not an enabler while I was growing up. In fact, he protected me whenever he was home off the road but that gave my mother more reason to hate me and blame me for her own failures as a mother and wife. When my dad retired at 58 years old and couldn’t get away from my mom, he became an enabler. He died in 2021. She is 80 years old now. My brother and sister took over everything. They listed themselves as powers of attorney excluding me and more than likely excluded me from my moms will. She was probably the mastermind behind it but they are her minions still hurling abuse upon me and wanting to see me suffer because they believe I deserve it. They sold parents home 17 acres all equipment and furniture in parents home less than 3 months after my dad passed. Siblings moved mom 4 times in less than 18 months because they obviously couldn’t take her on. She is now back where she started except in an assisted living facility. The siblings moved her back to home state without telling me and they live hundreds of miles away. Still controlling what money she has and POA. SHE was BACK IN HOME STATE FOR 4 months when she decided to call me. I refuse to have contact with them. It’s so hard to wrap my head around all of their sick twisted thought processes and actions. My whole life growing up was filled with physical and emotional abuse, hatred and criticism. My mother wants to continue the emotional abuse but I won’t allow it. Her bitterness envy and jealousy is written in every deep line on her face. I no longer feel sorry for her because I see what she is. She has also been blocked from my phone. Hanging tough! Last straw was when she said unkind things to my husband and about my son. I will no longer try to love her. She is not worthy of any affection from me.

    2. Sam,

      I can so relate to your story. And I’m kind of glad you’ve become aware of what’s been going on all those years. I know becoming aware is devestating too. You’ve lived defending/believing a lyer and abuser without realizing this was all she/he was. You now know you were not to blame for trying your best to solve the problems. You stood no chance at all against a narcissist who thrives on creating problems for keeping control and attention.
      And I surely relate to your statement you were not an enabler. Most aren’t unless they are themselfes narcissists or other Clustr B disordered.
      You had the the luck to encounter this psychiatrist to make you aware.
      It must have been quite a shock to you coming to terms with this reality.
      Sending you kind regards.

  9. Thank’s for your reply and also to Sam who makes a similar point.
    I think it’s also in the word ‘enabler’ what’s makes it more confusing. For it suggests the narcissist needs someone else to enable his/her abuse. And this isn’t true. A narcissist will conduct their lies and abuse regardless from who is around them. No-one enables them. It’s just who they are. They will lie, gaslight and abuse everywhere for as long they can get away with it

    Their best prey though are those who are basically quite trusting, empathetic and willing/tending to look at themselfs too when problems arise to solve problems. I.e. the fast majority of normal people.
    It’s this general normality they prey on and the common unawareness of people about this dangerous disorder.
    They confuse and abuse people till the point of erasing their personalities if they get the chance. Awareness of the disorder is the key to stop the cicle of abuse and the start of healing the damage done.

    I’m sure most victims who really become aware of the dynamics in play, will stop parcitipating in the narcissists game of lies and abuse.
    This is not the same as stopping actively ‘enabling’ the narcissist.
    Enabling is a consious, active behaviour. It suggests the enabling person is consiously aware of the abusive dynamics the narcissist plays out and supports it actively or passively.
    I don’t think this is the case in most cases, unless the parcipitating party is a narcissist/Cluster B themselfs.

    My father had the misfortune to fall in love and marry a malignant narcissist. I remember he argued her often fiercly when I was a kid. But he wasn’t aware he was dealing with a full-blown sadistic narcissist who loved to make him angry and to play with like a cat plays a mouse.
    It must have been totally crazy-making/ confusing to him. A battle he never could win but only loose. And he did. He paid with is live in more than one way.

    I’m sure if he had the chance/luck early-on or later to get the right information about narcissists he would never have married her or divorced her in time. Not being aware of this he stayed a victim of her till his self-chosen end not able to protect us enough likewise.
    But surely not an ‘enabler’ by my definition of the word.
    In the sence used in your article it lightly becomes another form of victim blaming.
    I think this needs some carefull thought.

    1. A person can be a victim and a perpetrator at the same time. When children are involved the adult with the capacity for empathy is the only one who CAN intervene.

  10. I like to add something to clarify my thoughts on this better.
    In my case -and I learned it often goes this way with narcissists- my mother performed here incidious abuse on me and my siblings only openly when my father was at work or away otherwise.
    She scared me by telling there would be even more terrible consequences when my father got home and she would tell him of the ‘terrible’ things I had done. So ofcourse I kept quiet. She kept him in the dark of her abuse and played the victim to him for having to deal with such a difficult kid, children and live.
    In between controlling all the money he earned in the end (she never worked for a serious moment in her entire live), spending a lot on herself (clothes, haircuts and so on, all pretence) and later made her adolecent children pay half their salaries to accomodate her greed and lifestyle. It was just a parasite.

    She even stole all the money that was granted to her children lawfully after my father died. She just kept silent about it and collected the money for herself for years. She was very shrewed, completely egocentric but pretending being a victim of us and everyone. Triangulating all, in her need for absolute controlle, greed and centre of attention.

    I just can go on about the wickedness of this women. But what I want to make clear is that no sane human is prepared for this kind of insanity.
    They don’t enable it. They play no role at all in their disordered conduct. It’s what they are. If you stop connecting with them they just go on doing the same with other people.
    The victims just show a normal stress-reaction to a very abnormal, disordered human without a developed conscience.

    Enabling isn’t the right word. It suggests you are partly to blame for their behavior. Which isn’t the case. They’ll do it anyway regardless of your personality or what you try to solve with them.

    But ofcourse those people have to be confronted and adressed in their tracks. This is where awareness kicks in. Calling the beast by it’s name and not taking blame for their abuse and misdeeds but fighting them.
    Not excepting the guild and stigma of being an enabler of their abuse and misconduct as though you caused them to act this way.
    This is pertenitally not true. It’s them who are wicked and disordered, not you. Don’t take the bait.

    Most of their victims are nice, empathetic, intelligent, normal people just not prepared to deal with such individuals.
    They are the evil the Bible and all other religions speak of.
    Awareness is key. They understood this allready ~2000 years ago. And even beyond when the Greeks wrote down their Narcissus-story.

    They are the evil in our society throughout the ages getting far too much credit and misguided blame-shifting which leaves them free to play-out their totally egocentric and wicked ways.
    It’s not right to serve them this way I believe. To not grant them this excusse of being ‘enabled’ to do the abuse they commit.

    1. Enabling is absolutely the RIGHT word. Anybody who watches somebody else abuse others, or allows themselves to be abused, is, in fact, an enabler. I understand that enablers suffer. But suffering does not make you less of an enabler. Even if you have no way out, you are still an enabler.

      When we become aware of our roles in such a dysfunctional and profoundly evil tango (or cabaret for that manner) we become empowered and emboldened to do something about it. Like get ourselves out of it, and quit makimg excuses for evil.

      1. Anne I agree.
        To TRULY understand the dynamics of this kind of dysfunctional family you need to have lived it &/or read MORE professional, psychology journals, books &/or articles about it.
        ( which is not easy to truly comprehend if you didn’t live through it )….
        What you’ll find is that the ” enabling ”
        ( Co- dependent ) parent who OFTEN PARTAKES in the ABUSE on the scapegoat child IS in FACT a VICTIM themselves. They SACRIFICE one of their children so THEY are not the focus of the narcissist. ( It’s “better you then me” )
        They may even threaten, as my mother ( the enabler did ) ” JUST WAIT till YOUR FATHER gets home ❗️” ( in my case my father was the narcissist )
        My mother was even emotionally/ verbally abusive.
        It may have been her way of venting her own frustration in her trapped world and very possibly she herself, grew up with that kind of abuse.
        I am sure however,…. that she too was a victim of her narcassistic husband.

  11. You enabled me to figure out why my enabler father has become more and more distant over time. He’s become more under nmom’s control. I recently sensed embarassment and shame coming from him under there somewhere. It’s like he “caved” to her. Dad stood up for me from time to time during my formative years. which I feel fortunate about. At those times he always took flack from my nmom.

    As time has passed he has become less and less of the Dad that I knew…he used to write me emails. Now he just writes one liners because nmom does not allow him to write me or talk to him on the phone without her listening. She always answers the phone and puts us on a three way. I am 66 years old and they are in their 90s. Why do I call them on birthdays and holidays? I stopped in November of 2019. I finally figured this out and have been learning all I can about this. Thank you for shedding light for all of us targets.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      I can FEEL your pain.
      My father forbade my mother to call me or send me birthday or Christmas cards after I PHYSICALLY fought back his assaults on me in my 40’s and 50’s.
      Those of us that are scapegoats and survived abuse KNOWS it NEVER ENDS. There’s no magical age where it stops.
      Eventually, he forbade me to even go to the house and visit her as she deteriorated with dementia. I had to sneak visits for the small amount of time he left her to go to CHURCH. ( ironically ) The poor thing couldn’t even REMEMBER what my car looked like and wouldn’t answer the door/let me in on some occasions. EVEN WHEN I got in to visit, she would keep staring at the clock mortified that he might come home and find me there. 😢

      When she ended up in the nursing home and I went to see her and my father was there, she would ask my sister ( the “Golden Child” ) WHY I was there and say, ” She should leave. She shouldn’t be here. ” 😢

      Stay strong. We just weren’t ” dealt a good hand ” , but that doesn’t define our lives.
      I’m almost 60 now and continue to use my talents to make a difference in others lives for the better.

      I know my purpose in life and transcend over all of this even as I know my father wanted my mother to abort me ( their 3″rd child ) right after they moved into their newly built house of three bedrooms. The 3’rd bedroom was large enough for 2 kids to share but the ” religious catholic ” that went to church 🙏 every, Sunday wanted his wife to abort me in 1962.

  12. My dad is aspd, my mom is profoundly submissive enabler. My mom is also daughter of malignant narc. When I was 18 months old and my mom was at work, my dad left me unattended and my main blood vessel in my left leg was punctured. My dad did not want to be arrested, so he hid me and left me to die once I went into shock from blood loss. When my mom returned home from her job as a registered nurse, dad physically prevented my mom from taking me to the hospital. Somehow I lived. But the blood loss created dysfunction in my blood and health issues that became obvious once I was about 10 years old. Until my age 17, my dad stripped me and then beat my butt and scar with the metal end of a belt on a regular basis when he could get my brothers out of the house and when my mom was at work. My dad told everyone that I was just lazy in that I was often in bed ill, and made sure that I never received medical care. I was born in 1964, and it was easier to get away with these things back then in Minnesota. By my mid 20s, my body started shutting down. I still had no correct information as to the enormous scar left by the puncture to my leg, and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatique Syndrome. I have been unable to do much of anything and have little money for doctors. My parents have money to travel but I am kept poor by them on purpose so that what they have done is not known. But, a new doctor just recently figured it out from the scar and my symptoms. When I told my mom what that doctor believed happened, she actually admitted that it’s TRUE about the puncture when I was 18 months old and that all the other medical problems developed as a result. But, now, my dad won’t let my mom tell anyone else that it’s TRUE. So, my 2 brothers don’t know what to think- it’s just so unimaginable. You’ve written an insightful article here. My life story illustrates that these terrible behaviors can and will ramp up all the way to attempted murder of their own child if that’s what it takes to hide what one has done. These people are much more dangerous than most people realize. The world needs to recognize that people like me exist but we are not out in the world for you to easily see because we are very ill. Recognize that many more like me died from the original wound or the beatings. I survived only by my dad’s fear that an autopsy and analysis of my leg scar might have revealed the truth; otherwise, he would have just broken my neck many years ago. I, and likely many others, have fallen between the cracks society has built that are suppose to find and help people like me.

    1. Lisa,
      My father used to beat me with his belt and had his hands tightly around my neck and was strangling me at age 16.
      My mother, sister and brother stood witness to his physical beatings but THIS TIME my mother and sister must’ve seen my face turning red or blue, I don’t know but I COULDN’T BREATH. They screamed for him to stop but he wouldn’t and I remember them both trying to rip him off of me.
      I broke free and ran in my nightgown and bare feet, in the pouring rain to a neighbors house.
      They let me in, I told them what happened and with my father’s red finger prints remaining on my neck they believed me and let me call the police. I wish I could tell you there was a good result. I was hoping they would take him to jail that night and keep him out of the house. Unfortunately, in 1979 ( even on Long Island in New York ) the police didn’t handle child abuse cases well. At least….. this one didn’t. The male officer never even came to LOOK at me at the neighbors house ❗️I could see his patrol car at my parents house and then it just left after he spoke to my parents. ( these are the same parents that had to report a run away daughter,….my sister,…. just 6 years prior. )
      My mother eventually came to get me and gave me the officers message. He SUPPOSEDLY told me to , ” Grow up ❗️”
      I had to go back home in fear for my life to more screaming and beating.

      By the time I was in my 40’s I started to begin cutting family members out of my life.
      First my brother, his wife and son because I wasn’t going to allow my nephew to be ANOTHER family member abusing me in any way. You see….. scapegoating can go for generations. It’s a TAUGHT, abusive behavior.
      Without going into too much detail in my life experiences, by my early 50’s I had to cut my father out of my life for a 3’rd/ final time. Not long after I learned the term narcassist and realized I had been dating them my whole life.
      After 5 VERY, stressful years between my family and a 2 decade relationship, my auto immune disease symptoms
      worsened significantly and I was diagnosed with Fatty Liver Disease as well.
      One of my WORST symptoms is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. ( which can be a result from either illness )

      Unfortunately, victims of this kind of abuse can be more prone to these illnesses.

      Best wishes.

      1. Sounds like you’ve done pretty well. I was never able to replace those I lost due to smearing. My n-mother must have spent her whole social time annilhiilating my rep, even after 15 years of No Contact. My kids are successful, my husband is still with me, thank God. We enjoy our family when we can see them; but, alot has been taken away. I only engage with people on a casual basis. Lonely, yes. It’s almost like, in my case, she was Miss Popular in her mind so I had to be the little Mousey loser daughter. Neither view is accurate. Her world grew smaller and smaller, yet she continued her joy is eviscerating certain people and to leaving others in alot of pain.
        A fool. For those who were too scared to speak out for us, I say they are the ones who should feel shame.

  13. Wow Jay,
    I can’t thank you enough for these blogs. These dynamics are so slow growing and insidious (The whole frog in boiling water scenario.) It’s a journey you didn’t know you were on. To see the confusion I experienced being explained in written word; It’s like a chronically ill patient who finally received a diagnosis. When you can put a name to the symptoms, we can start to treat them as well.
    Anyone who’s been through it knows all know too well this is such a tricky subject. It’s hard enough to understand it ourselves, much less explain it effectively to someone else. Which brings me to my question: I really struggle on how to navigate relationships with extended family members or “bystanders” as I call them. Our loved ones that witnessed my family’s interactions and treatment of one another (Mostly me as the family scapegoat) and never spoke up or intervened. Instead they gave a laundry list of excuses for the seemingly Narcissistic person’s behavior. (I say seemingly as I am not a qualified practitioner) How does their relationship with a narcissist impact their relationship with the other dynamic roles? (especially the scape goat) from my experience it felt like my relationships with my aunts and uncles were poisoned as well. I feel like my mother spent a lifetime assassinating my character (calling me selfish ungrateful entitled,untrustworthy, difficult) before I even had the chance to establish myself. I feel like no matter what I say or do they only see me through that lens and ANY expression of emotion it’s just difficult me being oversensitive, over dramatic, exaggerating, etc. Because that’s how My mother has always explain things away. I’ve been slowly I’ve been going no contact with everyone. It gets easier every day. I would love to hear your thoughts on the ”bystanders” in our lives;

    – How do Aunts, uncles, cousins, another family and friends read the narcissistic Family dynamics? Experience thedynamic
    – Why do those who see the mistreatment for what it is not speak up? – Why do they minimize minimize or excuse narcissistic behavior
    – how there Experience watching narcissistic abuse in a family impacts their relationships with each dynamic role once their niece, nephews, or cousins reach adulthood

    – What possible effect does silence or inaction on the part of the bystander have each narcissistic family dynamic role?

    If you feel so inclined I would love to see a blog on this subject as I’m sure I’m not alone and wondering.If you feel so inclined I would love to see a blog on this subject as I’m sure I’m not alone and wondering. I look forward to reading your future posts.

    1. Cesaly, I am writing today because I just had a major breakthrough, and I feel the right way to commemorate this moment is to share my story, which addresses your question. My nuclear family of my dad, mom, older sister, and me was always pretty distanced in our house when we were growing up. We spent little time together and had few moments of actual joy. My older sister pushed the boundaries. I was a rule follower (I still generally am). As I got into my teens, I started to realize that my mom was very controlling and didn’t allow any privacy for me from her. She would scream at me if I ever wanted to see a friend or invite a friend over, so I rarely did and became isolated. In my late teens, I started to hate her. When I got to college, I saw healthier ways of relating and realized I should do something to change it all. I wrote a letter to my mom explaining that I had been frustrated with her, that I had hated her, but that I wanted our relationship to improve and that I was going to spend the summer away to work on myself so we could relate better. I gave her a list of things I was going to do to improve myself and become a more capable, complete person so we could connect better. She received it and was “livid” – her favorite word. For years, any time she had the opportunity, she would explain what a terrible daughter I was. How she loved me, she wasn’t perfect, but she had done the best she could. And why was I so ungrateful and obnoxious? Anytime there was an opportunity, she wanted to have this “dialogue.” The same one. Even if I just invited her to bake cookies with me. I started to distance myself. The conversations were more spaced out. I said less. I moved. She threatened to disown me, and I said okay and moved anyway. Over time, I got further and further away. She became angrier and angrier even when I was saying less. She began manipulating others in the family to draw me in. I have received passive aggressive comments in Christmas cards. My sister came at me using my mom’s words verbatim. My nuclear family took to calling me “ice princess” when I would use the gray rock method. I got Kind bars and ice cube trays for Christmas one year from my sister. They talk about how they all have a super healthy relationship with each other. None of them can understand what my problem is. My extended family – I have heard from the one source I trust in the family – has conversations about how selfish I am and attempt to drop hints that I should move back to where the family is or be more receptive. Not one of them has ever reached out to me to see how I’m doing even though “family is everything” in my family. My mom even got to my ex-boyfriend and used her guilt-tripping, victim story and actually got him to schedule time with me for her (without telling me). Long story short, he’s my ex.

      For years, I had a question mark about my dad. He stood by and always let this stuff happen. They would always call me together. If my mom yelled, my dad would stay silent as what he called a “mediator.” He has almost always appeared to quietly endorse my mom, but I still questioned his true feelings. I continued to expose myself to my mom through phone calls on holidays, and I didn’t go no contact because I was trying to figure out a way to keep the door open with him. A couple years ago, for my Grandfather’s 100th birthday, I planned to go to NY to honor him. I arranged to stay at a friend’s instead of at any family member’s place (not how we do it). When my grandpa asked me if I was coming and I told him yes, the phone tree got activated. I had a call from my parents within 30 minutes assuming I would stay with them. I politely told them I wasn’t, and my mom went ballistic on the phone. My dad quietly attempted to change the subject. When I got to NY, my dad had a quiet conversation with me, encouraging me to “cut my mom some slack.” A terrible sales pitch. He was effectively asking me just not to have boundaries anymore.

      Last week, my parents decided to mail me a gift that I do not want. I’ve been down this road before. My mom has always attached strings and listed the strings for me later. I reached out to my dad by email – for the first time in my life – and explained to him what I have been experiencing for 15 years. I told him that I have boundaries with mom, what they are, and why. I told him I was open to having a relationship with him separately. I shared some noteworthy particulars and then told him he could make the choice he wanted.

      His response – after giving it a couple days of thought – was to not acknowledge almost any of what I told him in the email. He assures me that my mother and he both love me, that I can accept the gift or not, he didn’t address the unfortunate particulars about threats of being disowned or anything that would disrupt the narrative. He didn’t feel right about creating secrecy and wasn’t going to entertain it. He wrote a lengthy, pleasant email that had nothing to do with almost anything I said to him.

      Today, I blocked my parents number, my mom’s email, and I plan to not respond to anything from my dad moving forward. Here’s what I know: this will be a topic of conversation among the bystanders in the family. I will be deemed selfish and ungrateful. They already say all that. I moved away long ago. I stand on my own two feet. It was hard to get there, but I did that on purpose. I don’t need them. There may be a couple tiny threads still connected that are at a point of snapping. I am removing myself and behaving like a person who really wants to be left alone. This particular cult can exist without me.

      The good news for me is that the hard work and pain of cutting those threads is work that I have been doing for 15 years. I have already rebuilt my life, a business, and new relationships that I can lean on. When guilt creeps in or I question my actions, I have a number of friends who can see my situation clearly and help me validate my boundaries.

      Today, I feel relief.

      I know this is a lot, but I do hope that someone someday finds this – someone who needed to read it. For that someone, if this story sounds familiar, please know that there is a path forward for you. It’s a hard one, but it’s a healthier one.

      1. Thank you so much for this. I am about to go no contact with a father who enabled my mother my whole life and within a year of her passing remarried an even nastier predatoril Narc. The marriage took place within weeks of them starting to date.

        The past four months have been a surreal nightmare.

        Heartbroken. However, I need to protect myself and after years of therapy to recover from my mother’s behaviour I believe the only answer is to go no contact.

      2. I can relate to almost everything you said. I’m still in contact with my folks, not a lot though. I won’t go full no-contact but I do keep them at a very long arms length and it works for me (so far, the pandemic helped with that which has honestly been a godsend if there can be one in a pandemic). Maybe once every few months I see them on a zoom call for a relatives birthday or something. The nice thing about that is I can mute them or turn them off entirely and I do. They do not reach out to me, ever. I must drop what I’m doing to call them, I am not worthy of their attention, never have been. My aunt recently told me they’ve been telling everyone in the family that I’m mentally ill for whatever reason. I do have a fantastic extended family on my mother’s side and they know I’m not mentally ill, they know it’s my parents trying to drive the narrative. You should hear what they say about my sister! She was smart, she moved 3,600 miles away from them. I joined the military to get away but ended up being stationed in the same state – go figure. Now that I’m out, we’re moving 700 miles away. 🙂

        My extended family did step up when my sister and I were kids and removed us from our parents evil when they could. It was the 70’s, they did what they knew how to do at the time and I appreciate them for that even if I had no idea what was going on. I spent weeks every summer with my aunts and uncles and my super empath grandma when I was a kid. My older sister – the golden child and scapegoat – wasn’t as lucky. I was always in my parents way and useless so they sent me away while my sister stayed behind. I truly believe that’s what saved me, them not wanting me around. I’m not in a great place but I’m in a much better place than my sister, I think. I don’t know really. Mom did an excellent job at triangulating us so our relationship never really developed the way it should have. My sister and I barely talk.

        Hope you are well and everything is going great for you!

      3. Hi Melissa. I am the person who needed to read what you wrote. I ceased contact with my narc mother when I was about 35. I had reached a point where I just couldn’t cope with the abuse anymore. After crying for days, I just stopped contacting her. She, of course, didn’t bother to contact me. The next 17 years were pretty good. I spent some holidays alone, and some with friends. I felt amazingly uncontrolled. When I was 52 my cousin called to invite me to spend Christmas with the family and reconnect with my mother. I wasn’t sure that I should do it, but I did. For the next 15 years, the connection was difficult but I was able to navigate it fairly successfully. Now I am 68 and I think it is time to go no contact again. My mother has been attacking me for the past year. I am worn out. All of my efforts to try and have a somewhat normal connection have been a waste of time. I have to some extent rebuilt my life but there is still much to do. I am in the process of building a new business, and I am determined to create a social network of healthy, loving people. I should have put much more effort into that a long time ago. I am so glad that you took control of your life and stuck with it. You are an inspiration to me. I’m sorry that I wasted much of the past 16 years trying to “help” my mother. She cannot be helped because she doesn’t want to be helped. She wants to be who she is: an abusive narcissist. From here on out, I will be keeping a considerable distance from my narc mother and her equally troubled extended family. I deserve to live a peaceful and fulfilling life, and that is what I am going to do. Thank you for sharing your story Melissa.

      4. You aren’t alone Melissa, there are those of us out there who were strong enough to take care of ourselves and separate for our own well-being. We don’t all get a healthy mom and dad, and for that I feel empathy for us grown up kids of NPD homes.

    2. Hello, Cesaly,

      I have been thinking about this very issue– my brother has been married to a narc for 30 years and now I can barely see who he is at this point. 30 years ago I could see much more of his authentic self, he was a very sweet, lively, and kind person. He and the narc have two daughters, now young adults, but they have been kept highly dependent and enmeshed. Neither of them stayed in school or completed high school. Long ago, I could see my brother was being gaslit, guilt-tripped and exploited, working full-time outside the home as the sole breadwinner then coming home and doing seemingly all of the housework as well, and the narc would STILL say things about trying to get him ” more involved in the housework.” A couple of times when they were fighting at the beginningof their relationship, I tried to advocate for him very carefully and gently, but then I would receive long silent treatments that were later explicitly spoken of as teaching me a lesson. After a while I gave up on trying to stand up for my brother or nieces, and visits have gradually have become more and more superficial. I feel terrible being a bystander, but my experience is that I am shunned for months or years if I attempt to discuss problems.

  14. Thank you for the blog – finally found information that explains my experience. My mother was killed in a car accident when I was 13, and I was glad. but the abuse from my brother esculated. At 14 I had a total mental breakdown and was institutionalised in a mental hospital (1970s); at one point the doctors wanted me to have a labotomy! I refused but this is where I grew up, it was safer there then to return home to an abusive father and sibling. I escape the mental health system at 22 years, moved to another state and started a new life, new job, and got on with life as best I could. Then in 2019 I was diagnosed as having CPTSD, it was a total break through, my early life began to make sense. I have a ways to go, but it is a start.

  15. It is amazing how this describes my family. I have always thought I was making this up in my head. It makes me feel anger, hate, and resentment for both parents.

  16. I am full of memories of highly intense and theatrical events, the patterns of which fall into the depiction described, my father the narcissist, and my mother an enabler, although occasionally defending me.

    Most are extreme in nature, and involve violence towards me from my father, and my mother attempting to kill my father three times.

    It has taken me all of my life from 27 to about 60 to understand just how messed up I have been, this disrupting all of my working and intimate relationships, and now I have to face having had a life of relative failure in career, and no family of my own.

    This annulment of the individual’s self is because of an effective ‘downloading of software’ from the early environment, an adaptation necessary in order to survive, and negating the real potential inner self, a form of psychological ‘rape’.

    The difficulty now is facing the end of my life, knowing that it has been largely an exercise in adapting to those internalisations necessary in childhood, in order to survive. The result is to me a sense of futility.

    1. The article and comments on this page resonate with me at a deep level , thank you to everyone who has shared such heartfelt truths. I have found the work of Ross Rosenberg, Gabor Mate / Compassionate Inquiry and a book titled Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker to be invaluable resources in my healing from attachment trauma from my early childhood environment and parents with narcissistic and co-dependent personalities.
      Thank you for sharing such an informed article and comments.

  17. I grew up EN from both parents, DV/addiction, fathers side and affairs on my mothers side. My mother would allow me to defend her but I knew she would never defend me. I played the good girl/lost child role to stay under the radar with occasionally speaking out.
    Both were concerned with their needs only, still to this day. I can’t actually decide if both are narcassists.

  18. My father, the enabler, said he was sorry not long before he died because he realized towards the end of his life that my mother had that personality. So with the enabler it is not always black and white. I loved my dad very much, even though he was harsh when he was in the ‘enabling’ mood, especially when I was an adolescent. I now see that my mom had a problem. It is a pity if you also have brothers who scapegoat you at times and do not see the problem objectively, even the smartest. The advantage is that you become an expert in narcissism, but your body does not want to run completely smoothly, it remains sensitive to situations with these types of people, even if your brain has everything under control.

  19. I have recently divorced a narcissist after 32 years and 2 children who are adults now. I suppose that the child who was the scapegoat may see me as an enabler. I always thought their father didn’t realize that he hurt us all because he was immature and self-centered. After the divorce which was a shocking experience to see his behavior towards me and the smear campaign going on, I googled some of the behaviors and landed on the Domestic Violence website. The Power and Control Wheel hit me hard! He had been playing dumb! How stupid I had been!
    However, as the parent who had the lower income and had less charm to disarm a judge, I knew chances were that I would lose my kids if I divorced him sooner before the kids were exposed to years of narc abuse. Every day I felt like leaving him and taking my kids away from toxicity. Then I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. He hit the jackpot! Took me 8 years to see the gaslighting going on!
    But the description of the enabler parent is sometimes more complicated than described above. I stayed because I figured that my kids would at least get some empathetic influence in their lives and better than his skewed view of the world. Especially since I knew he really didn’t care about them. There would be no help from my family, if I divorced him, since he looked like a great guy. No way to win that I could see.
    The guilt (over my not realizing that things were intentional abuse and not mistakes) on my kids will stay with me indefinitely.

    1. I think there’s a big difference between an abused woman and an enabler. You were an abused woman. You weighed your options the best you could under the circumstances. God forbid your narcissistic husband gained custody of your children as you feared. Although things weren’t ideal you were able to remain with your children, supervise them, and guide them. You could always tell your children why you stayed. They may understand and may even welcome the discussion.

      It sounds like you’ve been through enough pain and suffering and need to give yourself a pat on the back for raising your kids and surviving a marriage to a narcissist. I hope things are going better for you now!

    2. Hi Beth, granted, it is not my business, but as the product of a narcissistic father (my parents are still together), I wholeheartedly second Emmi’s observations. Another one of the author’s posts discusses how often times life exists in shades of gray or something to that effect (am paraphrasing – the writing was much more elegant and I’m oversimplifying). Remaining married to an abusive person with a personality disorder when children are involved does not necessarily mean that staying was the vehicle for the abuse. You could be physically present for your kids, helping them navigate the landmines in their environment. Parental alienation is real and a chronic illness can be very consuming. Wishing you sunnier days ahead and improved health.

  20. Everything “Beth” wrote is exactly what I am enduring.
    Unfortunately, our 25 year old son, who is still at home, because his “narc” dad, is using him to do various tasks, instead of letting him fly into the world, and become a whole, human being.
    Keeping him immature and not allowing him to be responsible for ANY bills, is seen as the “better parent” to our son.
    His girfriend has told me several times, that “Derick lies all the time.” He does lie, all the time, with 0 accountability.

    Coming to the US on a fraudulent VISA should be a crime.
    “You know me better than anyone,” was the confession, when I finally figured it out and confronted him.
    He NEVER had any interest in being in a family. He is here to manipulate and TAKE-TAKE-TAKE and send it back to free-loading family. Lied on his taxes about a bank account there too.

    My step son, used me like a bottle of water for 13 years.
    Cooked for his wedding, bought all the birthday and Christmas gifts because they were too broke, for 10 years.
    They had no heat and 3 babies, so they ended up living here, which was chaos, but kids need warmth.
    His wife literally RAN like hell, crying hysterically, to save herself after 10 years.
    Then she came back for her 3 daughters & lost all contact with everyone. (smear campaign)
    She and I have a parallel world, and I did not see it, when it was unfolding.

    Now that “step-son”, is remarried, he met with his Dad, and they AGREED, to kick me, out of the family with his JA-sisters blessing. She belongs to a “black power group” so she hates “whities.”

    My son is now making excuses for everyone who fell into step with the “smear campaign.”
    I do not understand why they choose, to follow the darkness and defend their hate?

    I am going to a narcissist divorce attorney (they exist) and I just want to leave with half of our, “paid off” house. so I can “save myself.” I have an apartment all picked out and am elated to have a new start.

    I tried to keep my sons head above water, but narcissist are who they are, from age 0-4.

    Thinking back, every single woman, that married a “Blake” (Jamaicans) , ran and left their kids behind.
    He did it to 2 others before me, and HID IT ALL.
    Had I known, I would have run like I was in a haunted house.

    They need a red dot, branded on their foreheads.
    I found an attorney who actually specialized in narcissist divorces.
    It’s never too late to save yourself and find your smile once again.
    I know I did my best and he was educated without any loans.
    He squandered that opportunity by withdrawing from the classes early enough, to get a refund and keep the money. All the while, lying, that “everything is fine,” I know what I have to do.”
    All LIES, and his Jamaican father was grinning from ear to ear at his manilupation tactics.

    I made him pay the Trust back $10, 000.00 he stole.
    Only one parent holds their chlld accountable…..it can’t work.
    I am appalled at the behavior that is acceptable to this culture.
    The misogyny and narcissism is over the top.

  21. I’ve just accepted (finally) that my mother is a narcissist and my dad is an enabler. I’ve known this but didn’t want to admit that’s who they are, the cognitive dissonance was strong. Thank you for this insight into the enabler. I’m tired of putting my dad on a pedestal when the reality is that he worked alongside my mother to actively destroy my sister and myself. You described my dad perfectly, he was ignored as a child, he is one of 12. I always felt this strange need to protect him from my mom, it never entered my mind it was due to his low EQ. Why would it? I was just a kid working on my own emotions. As an adult, I find him to be just, well, lame and disappointing. I was always defending him even to my older sister who was the biggest target of their abuse. It’s just the two of us and she was the golden child and the scapegoat while I was told constantly how overly sensitive and in the way I was so I went inside myself and never really came back out. My mother did an excellent job at triangulating us, my sister and I barely have a relationship now. I felt small as a child and I feel small as an adult, especially around my parents. 45 Years later, I’m just now figuring this all out.

  22. My experience, my enabler father came from a violent mother who resented his birth as the death of her freedom. Those days in south america women in 1930s the expectation of marriage and children was a given. from her involment in womens right to vote movement,among others and her disdain for the male species and the power and freedom they hold, I suspect her anger and rage was directed to only him as the first born, the scapegoat. my uncle who came to his funeral, discribed this history to me. he believed my father resented him for only my father being beaten or in the path of that rage. I find that the evidence of triangulation with in the family dynamics. Regardless. my father, the enabler of a malignant narcissist female, submitted to keep the peace and ignoring the truth due to his own inability to process, and or accept the truth of what was happening. He even participated in viloent attacks at her beheast. that was her ace in the hole, when she really wanted me to have it or show me her power. This was extremely difficult to accept for myself when raised by these two, and them having university degrees, established careers and a personal library filled with philosophy, Jung, Freud, voltaire, krishnamurtti. Even with all that knowledge behind them, both were not able to discuss or confront the needs I was proposing in my defence when my mother wanted to exercise control. THey were unable to face my allegationsof the child sexual abuse, by my 19 yr old cousin from age 3-8. These memories started to presented themselves at ages 14. It went ignored, pushed aside and tried to convince me and my siblings, that i was crazy and in need of attention. My argument, without media around, how could I invent such acts from my own volition. my mother was the leader in this defence because it was her nephew and in the eyes of her world, her lineage is without its faults and riddled with propriety and integrity.
    The enabler can come from a violent and from a scapegoated family dynamic as well.

  23. Very informative blog. I’m a 53 year old male. I went virtually no contact instinctively about 5 years ago with my parents and younger brother because I just couldn’t stand the racket anymore. Their stuff mainly but also my role that I played too. I’ve been in and out of therapy for decades looking for clues. About 6 years ago my father was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum which made a lot of sense. His prime directive was always about conflict minimization and avoidance above all else. That of course makes him an enabler by default. My mother being the (vulnerable) covert narc/BPD in the dynamic. I became my mothers emotional/relationship substitute by default from birth which held the family ‘together’ in some form but she would regularly‘flip’ and gaslight and pretend all was perfect in the marriage when it suited her leaving me confused/alone etc. Whenever I tried to bring up the family incongruence in my teens of course this would upset my mother which in turn caused my father anxiety and distress (being ASD) and he would turn on me also. Anyway – just another perspective on what can constitute an enabler – ASD individuals are not equipped in any way to deal with complex relationship issues like having a Narc/BPD partner – they just roll over. They don’t even understand they are throwing the kids under a bus. They just look after themselves by instinct. Autopilot. As the victim in this particular dynamic and having some insight and empathy it’s extremely difficult to lay blame/disconnect when you can also see that both parents are themselves damaged and hurting. It’s an ugly racket.

  24. Very informative blog. I’m a 53 year old male. I went virtually no contact instinctively about 5 years ago with my parents and younger brother because I just couldn’t stand the racket anymore. Their stuff mainly but also my role that I played too. I’ve been in and out of therapy for decades looking for clues. About 6 years ago my father was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum which made a lot of sense. His prime directive was always about conflict minimization and avoidance above all else. That of course makes him an enabler by default. My mother being the (vulnerable) covert narc/BPD in the dynamic. I became my mothers emotional/relationship substitute by default from birth which held the family ‘together’ in some form but she would regularly‘flip’ and gaslight and pretend all was perfect in the marriage when it suited her leaving me confused/alone etc. Whenever I tried to bring up the family incongruence in my teens of course this would upset my mother which in turn caused my father anxiety and distress (being ASD) and he would turn on me also. Anyway – just another perspective on what can constitute an enabler – ASD individuals are not equipped in any way to deal with complex relationship issues like having a Narc/BPD partner – they just roll over. They don’t even understand they are throwing the kids under a bus. They just look after themselves by instinct. Autopilot. As the victim in this particular dynamic and having some insight and empathy it’s extremely difficult to lay blame/disconnect when you can also see that both parents are themselves damaged and hurting. It’s an ugly racket.

  25. Reading this is strangely cathartic. You present the content with a familiarity suggestive of having personal insight into these dynamics. (If memory serves, in a another post you made a reference to personal experience.) The narcissist’s web of manipulation is so consuming it can be disorienting – even as an adult.

    Can you please answer a few questions: 1) in your experience, do the children of narcissists “find” each other as adults? Is it common for one scapegoated child to be drawn to another scapegoated child? E.g., the scapegoat senses a “connection” or bond with the other scapegoat prior to realizing that partner, friend or colleague is the product of a narcissist? Almost as though the unconscious has clocked it before the adult scapegoat makes the connection. 2) Is there a contagious element to narcissism? How frequently does the enabler parent (eventually) “catch narcissism” from the original narcissist after many years together as I’ve observed?

    Thank you for highlighting an issue that has been a source of shame and unhappiness for me.

  26. Very insightful…….However, I have CPTSD which there is little if no information on how these behaviors affects the babies growing brain. I personally know my mother shook me constantly. It was a behavior she used to try and stop my crying. Unfortunately, it made it worse and my dad when he came home from work nicknamed me TIGER which was because he explained positively explained. However, him being very passive was proactive in asking for HELP from the family. Numerous relatives came down from New York. Her mother came down and challenged her crazy behavior, one of which was shaking me. Unfortunately when I turned 2 my mother shut out her mother and explained to my sister and I it was about not receiving birthday cards. A total lie and in fact she stole all the liberty silver dollars my grandmother gave her for a small gift of our life. The abuse got worse to the point that she screamed my dad pout of the house, hence a divorce by my age 6. Then there is the condition caused by the shaking. I became cross eyed and surgery was necessary by age 4. She exhibited very intrusive personal demented behaviors. i remember waking up and finding her staring with a twisted expression because I had body movements and would thrash all about in my bed due to the demented behavior she would interact with me. To this day sometimes I find myself waking up like a tornado hit my bedroom and I have to take a strong sleeping pill to got to sleep, go into REM and rarely have thrashing events. My sister and I were her servants until I could not take her crazy bipolar fits of angry rage she would take out on us and I ran to my fathers apartment. He warned me if it got to bad I could live with him and there would be a key under the doormat> Thank God. But the abuse got worse and because my older sister saw how she handled me. My sister started to abuse me as well. She started attacking me after the surgery and it continued until age 14 when we were brought together. My issue is the DSM-V dos not classify this as a mental disorder onto to itself. It is completely and fundamentally different than PTSD. First and foremost is this is not a disorder because the chemistry of the brain during infancy is the foundation for the brain development. Sure the brain is neuro plastic, however, the foundation for which change can occur is different and because there is no way to study, get data, test, etc. The survivors have the difficulty and impossible task trying to achieve a better way of coping, having relationships, dealing with feelings, having fundamental negative self images that although may not appear or show themselves in every social situation. The problems are unsurmountable. Therapy is almost a losing proposition because there is no formal and executable type to overcome and change the personality traits, coping skills and other mental disorders that are a spin off. You cannot treat a person with this psychiatric disorder because there is no medication in which the persons mind reacts, and personality traits that are in direct opposition of socialization. I am disabled and have several personality traits which have made me a target for physical abuse from others as well during my elementary school days from my peers, teachers and principle. I have ADD, act, react and converse in a manner that is annoying because my voice is loud. a serious problem because the basis for the loudness is because I was unheard throughout my life and my family actually watched my sister attacking me like they were at a football game instead of stopping it and reprimanding her. My skin and blood was under her finger nails when she was done attacking me she would go to the bathroom to clean up her nails. Unfortunately, by the time I was 3 years old my dad became an alcoholic and he worked in the industry so it was readily available and he would start drinking at wok before he came home and in the car driving home. It was bad but he was not abusive at all. I exhibited some feminine characteristics and by age 4 I knew I was Gay. In retrospect and as they say Hine site is 20/20 it was inevitable I would be gay. Throughout my life any female relations always wound up being a losing proposition. Another serious problem which causes me to have an automatic response to female employees which exhibit situations of trial and error. my mind and body have a response I have no control over and medication helps after the fact taking valium for anxiety . However that does not resolve the core issue which I believe cannot be modified or resolved. I had 2 female therapists in which ones personality and attitude was indirectly blaming me and needing me to take responsibility in order to simply resolve situations that were innately a core issue or belief. She gave me no options in which to handle it. The female therapist blew my mind because I left the one in hopes of resolving and dealing with my mother issues. She wanted to role play her being my mother and told me to stand right in her face as she expressed a scenario. I was so internally consumed with shaking all i could see was the color red. I told her I was going to hit her and was afraid I would kill her. It was a disaster. I left and trying to go to city college I was having serious problems with my ADD at the time. Had a psychiatrist at the time involved with a study for a non-amphetamine called straterra, it was not working and every appointment I would advise him the serious negative outcome my studies were becoming and he kept upping the doseage to the point where i was taking more than what was advised by the drug maker. I will not go into the disaster that ensued afterwards but it was life altering. I am frustrated but do take medication for the physical and mental disorders, behaviors, etc. The side affects are not good and it is because of the CPTSD which is the disease NOT disorder that has life altering affects. I would like to contribute to the cause in a way in which my life altering conditions are caused by this condition. Hopefully, the DSM-V will change this but most people that experienced this abuse have short lives from what I have read. I would like to call myself a survivor but I cannot I am a victim with behavior, personality and socialization problems. However, since I have relocated to Los Angeles I have always had a stable roof over my head and after 4 months being here my angels gave me the biggest gift of section 8 and started in a poor neighborhood, to a better neighborhood but smaller apartment to finally residing in a great neighborhood to a 1 bedroom apartment. I never was able to keep a steady jobs where i was born and therefore was moving constantly. In addition to keeping an apartment for over 20 years, i have a cat that is 18 years old. I told my psychologist if this is all I can achieve in God’s world than so be it. I am content. However, I am reclusive, and only venture out to shop for the necessities. Interaction with people I keep limited and do not have ability to gauge or realize I either talk too much, ask too many questions or create stress for myself.

  27. This rings so very true.
    My dad fits the typical enabler role with my mom being the narcissist. It’s devastating for the kids & family.
    Growing up, I actually have very pleasant family memories until a certain age (around 10). That’s when all the controlling and abuse started. My mom became insane, I remember she started acting like a child and isolated & destroyed everyone in the family. Everything had to go her way. Everyone was so scared of her. She covered up all her actions with religion and said things like “God/Jesus told me to do this”. She tore down my dad (I do remember him being quite different & cool before), made him quit his job & hobbies & friends. She threatened to divorce him but he always came crawling back. I don’t remember him standing up for himself or his kids even once. I did stand up to my mom when I got old enough but it never went well.
    It was very cruel. She cancelled Christmas/birthdays, killed my pet by setting it free, forced her religion onto everyone and projected all her bad traits onto me (selfish, crazy, worthless, unimportant). She took away everything I loved (toys, food, TV, games,…). I guess she scapegoated me.

    I’m 27 now and always felt there was something majorly wrong. But mostly I felt there was something wrong with me. The overt abuse stopped at a certain age (17-18) and everything was swept under the rug. What a tricky situation. The “family” is held together but nobody takes responsibility for anything or says sorry. I tried to confront my parents so many times and repair/resolve things but it’s impossible. It always leaves you invalidated.

    I’m not sure if my dad was ignored by his family growing up. It seems like he was the family’s favourite. But I know that he got teased/abused a lot by his older sisters. It’s a tragedy really. At points I do feel sorry for him. But at the same time he is an adult and absolutely failed to parent/protect his children, let alone be a role model. Growing up it was like he wasn’t there from age 10 onwards and allowed the obvious abuse on him and his children. Even now he’s the one working full-time but leaves the car to his wife just so she can meet up with her religious friends. She commands & treats him like a dog. No love between them. I even told him this. He’s totally accepting of her. I guess there is no helping these people. So conflicting. It seems like the only thing you can do is minimise/cut contact (with both of them), try to heal and live your life.

    1. Wow, your experience is very similar to mine. My mother is a malignant narcissist abuser. My dad used religion to cope. I thought my dad was the kindest, best Christian ever. But when my sister had kids and abused them, my dad took her side. I had to call CPS on my sister. My “christian” family disowned me for three years until they decided to “forgive” me.
      All of my abuse was also done because God/Jesus said. My dad buried his head in religion and made me go to a Christian school where I was completely isolated. There were no other girls in my class for all my school years, which greatly damaged my social development. My abusive mother was my classroom teacher at this school. The school was run by misogynistic men. I had terrors and nightmares and flashbacks of God, who they told me was behind all of it.
      I too felt sorry for my dad. Only in the last couple of years have I confronted him. He has refused to stand up for me to this day. I have nothing to do with my mother other than seeing her at Christmas time. I have always tried to maintain a relationship with my dad, but now I see that he is not innocent. He let me take the abuse and hid his eyes. He would take me into my room after an abuse session with my mom, and he would tell me to just stop bucking her and go along with it. My siblings told me the same thing, just let it be. I cried myself to sleep every night, alone and terrified and hating myself. I had a terror that God would kill me.
      My therapist told me that I idealized my dad out of survival, that I had to because he was my only chance. It was hard for me to let that idealization go. It has helped tremendously to see his participation in it and to stop excusing it. It’s given me the courage to cut off contact without feeling guilty. Ironically it was the bible that told me that. It says have nothing to do with people like that because they refuse to listen or change. That also helped the horrifying flashbacks I would have about “God”. I think the enabler hurts almost worse than the abuser. I expected zero love from my mom, but the constant hope that maybe dad would love me was heart breaking because it never happened.

  28. It was my father that was the malignant narcissist.. my mother was the enabler….& i ..diagnosed with Dissociative identity disorder in my 40’s ..im in the hands of a decent psychologist now …omg ..what an overwhelming life i have lived because of them!

  29. Thank you. Your blog post has answered almost all my inquiries about my mum (the narcissist) and my dad (the enabler). For several years ive been painful thinking how come my dad has been so indifferent when mummy was so bad with me and why he’s even cheated to fulfill mum’s un-legitimate needs. Other info is also so useful. Manh thanks again!

  30. I do not know how this abuse toward children is legally allowed to continue. There needs to be protection. I am being abused to this day directly and by proxy, I literally have to hide from these people, they ganged up on me so much for so long I now have CPTSD and they have my daughter! She will be abused all her life and when she shows emotions about it she is criticized and laughed at and told she deserves it, and there is nothing i can do No one takes me seriously because I’ve tried to kill myself over the fact that the court ignored my please and gave my beautiful child to another narcissist. I didn’t realize my parents and my partner had been doing this until I was 35. I thought I deserved it. But I don’t and neither does my own child and I cannot watch it happen to her, but the courts could care less. No evidence but a gang of people saying that I am “unstable.” My ex-step-mother was almost jubilantly publicly denouncing me as was my ex-partner.

  31. This is by far the best article I have ever read on the subject! It perfectly describes my early life as the child of a narcissistic mother and an enabling father. I also experienced the despair of never being believed when I attempted to report what was happening. And so, when not only the enabling spouse, but also neighbors, relatives and family friends are actively supporting the narcissistic parent and refusing to listen to the abused child’s pleas for help, is there anything a child abuse victim can do to get help at the time the abuse is still occurring?

  32. Hi Jay, thank you so much for all your content. If you are able to ever do any content on people with 2 narcissistic parents I’d love to hear about this. My mom is a malignant narcissist with very bad paranoia and my father is a sociopath with some narcissistic features but without the fragility of mom or the need to deposit his worthlessness in someone else I believe. He seems to live to harm others, he is very confusing and living with them was like an actual awake nightmare. They both were also very good as pretending to be altruistic, garnering pity, and perceiving psychopathic behaviour on everyone except ‘nice people’ which meant enabler people I think, and for my dad people he could dupe and exploit. I’d really like to know more about the dynamics of such a coupling. My mom scapegoat Ed me, but my dad scapegoat Ed my sibling. My dad used me I think to enrage and destabilise further my mother and create envy in her through me just for entertainment by being ‘supportive’ of me instead of taking her side.

  33. I’ve received alot of help with learning how to deal with my narcissist Dad but this “enabler” role perfectly fits my Mum.
    I hadn’t come across it before & even felt ashamed of the inkling U had of feeling it. This helps. Thank you.

  34. This is the best description I have *ever* read. Thank you thank you thank you for this piece. Through it, I gain confidence in my shaky belief that how I feel is the truth.

  35. This fits me to a T. I grew up with an enabling mom and narcissistic stepfather who abused me. Now at 38, I feel completely broken. Most of my family (with one or two exceptions) are effed-up people…they project all their issues onto me, which is why I had such low self-esteem growing up.

    In my home, the attitude towards me was “you don’t matter”. I was viewed as a burden, a problem, unworthy of love or positive attention or anything that a person needs to live a truly healthy life.
    I had to work to be loved. I was never loved or accepted simply as myself. The idea was always that me, as a person, was bad.
    I started out in life as a child full of potential and confidence. There was a time that I believed in myself.
    Years of abuse eroded that child’s self-image, and now she is a depressed adult who is merely coping with life.

    My mother is still with my stepfather. There was a time when I saw her as a victim, too. Now I see her as being complicit in the abuse.
    She didn’t protect me because her lifestyle would have been taken away. She wanted to keep up a false image of the “perfect” marriage to my stepfather.
    And she wanted my self-esteem to be as low as possible, despite saying otherwise. She enabled him so she could have a man in her life…because sadly some people will put their needs above that of their children.
    I love and forgive her, but there is a part of me that will always be hurt by this. Not having a biological father in my life was bad enough…but she brought an abuser into my life, and is still with him.

    When a parent does this, it says “you don’t matter. This person matters more than you”. I was not a bad kid like they all wanted me to believe.
    I wasn’t perfect, but I was not a bad kid. I was a shy quiet child who went to school and tried to please people who were constantly lashing out at me.
    My mom blamed me for my stepfather’s behavior, saying it was my fault. I went from being a confident young lady who wanted to take on the world…to a suicidal failure with no hope for the future.
    My life has been destroyed by this.

    1. I went through so much of what you did with the same dynamic and understand the feelings that coke with it. But whatever phase you got to where you felt worthless and like not being here, it oddly is part of the healing path… It’s not the end of it either. When you can see yourself and your talents and gifts before, through, and after the pain – the things about you that make you special and smart – re-ignite those things in full force around you. Your passions and curiosity will lift you up each day and be active reminders of who you are. Do not let sick people steal your light.

  36. Also, my mom continues to make excuses for my stepfather…”he had dysfunctional parents”. So that made it OK for him to mistreat me?
    His dysfunctional childhood is sad, but it doesn’t justify hurting others. That is what also opened my eyes to her being an enabler.
    Anything to protect him and other abusive people, while looking the other way if I was hurt.

    1. It’s shocking! Boundaries are impt. with neighbors and extended family and friends, too. Let down the boundaries of earned trust and protection and watch the vultures and piggish voyeurs come in to hurt your kids.

  37. I feel like I was lowkey like, a victim or smthn of this, my mom being an enabler to her vile bf (they’re still together.) She just doesnt wanna accept how horrible he truly is, and what type of person he is. And tbh, I get it, she thinks this is the best shes gonna get, after being treated so awfully throughout her life. But she doesnt need to accept so little, theres always someone out there for you, sure itll take some time, and maybe your time will come when you’re an elderly person, you still need to take your time. There is nice people out there, and I just wanna help my mum. She seems so defeated and she deserves better. God idk what to do I really just dont know anymore I fucking hate this and I fucking hate him for what hes done

  38. These posts about narcissistic families and being the scapegoat are really helpful – there’s a lot of general info out there but reading the in-depth stuff from victims or counsellors who have a lot of experience with this are the real gold. I just wish I could find something just like this about the lost child role!

    I’d like to add something important about the enabler’s possible background: A child can already be chosen to act as enabler to their narcissistic parent. In fact, these are the only enablers I’ve met so far. They were typical people-pleasers, others call them echoists (a fitting name, I believe, as it’s the pefect counterpart to narcissist). They learn to be a drone for their narcissistic parent in childhood, thus not developing a personality of their own. So they make perfect future partners for narcissists.

    My mother was this and all of the “friends” I ever had (six, all female). I’m sure it’s not the only background an enabler can have – but I suspect it’s the “traditional” one for female enablers, coinciding with sexist roles.

    When I read your article I felt triggered, because what you described as a typical enabler background sounds a lot like the lost child role. I was both the lost child and scapegoat in my family, with my father the narcissist, enabler mother, and two elder sisters who were golden children most of the time – a favourite for each parent, so sometimes scapegoated by the other parent, but I was everyone’s scapegoat.

    Being a lost child, I know what it’s like to be invisble and thirst for someone to see me and be kind to me. I realised I mostly tried to get the mother’s love I never had from my friends, who all had been raised to revolve around other people’s needs. Most of them ended up with a narcissistic partner. However, I only had one “friendship” with a covert narcissistic woman. I always had a mind and rich inner world of my own, which helped me to survive being ignored completely (or being torn apart). I just never had a voice.

    I guess I felt like I needed to “defend” the lost child role a bit – thanks to three years of counselling I can recognise these triggers now, it just takes some time still. As you said, every individual story is different. But I think the echoists/people pleaser/child enablers definitely need to be mentioned when it comes to looking at the possible backgrounds for adult enablers.

  39. I have lived this Nightmare, I still am. But it’s only us that continue to suffer and our children if they see our pain, without understanding this very complex painful situation. We want someone to understand and heal us but I think we can only do that ourselves.
    I have thought about this issue enough for all of us and I think it has come down to me, its only me who can take care of myself. This is why we can only forgive ourselves and others and follow the line of least resistance . Or you can just go around sad and angry that this happened to you and youre not much better than the Wounded parent/person who did this. Its very unlikely that anyone INTENDED to hurt us. Dont pass it on. Dont ruin more relationships because of something that happened to us.
    Dont ever feel alone, not understood or loved. Because, I am with you, I understand you and I love you.
    Now go push yourself to find joy, especially if you have children.

  40. I wonder if anyone else is like me and trails through multiple blogs/articles looking for the best description of my own narcissistic mother who is undoubtedly disordered and enabling father? I never read the case studies though, only descriptions. I am aware that I periodically return to reading because I am ruminating and fanaticising about finding perfectly framed descriptions with which I could potentially send my parents to either divide or punish them. I never do (send anything). I have been no contact for over 12 months and in a perfect world we could all afford long term private psychodynamic psychotherapy. Short term intervention results in unchallenged transference and compounds the affects of this type of abuse. I am grateful however that I am free of their tag-teaming of all forms of abuse except sexual. Onwards and upwards people. Unresolved trauma such as ours goes under the radar and any non-self harming means by which we can find a way to cope is a better life than the abuse.

  41. Hmm…so I both agree and disagree with Michele above. While there is some truth to what she says, I feel it is wrong to tell victims/survivors of abuse that they shouldn’t feel hurt by what happened to them.
    Nor do I agree that our abusers never intended to hurt us. Sometimes people DO intend to hurt others, and they have no remorse.
    We need to normalize “no contact” with abusers. That’s the only way some of us can heal.
    We don’t need to hear about forgiveness and how we’re abusive too (what?!) if we are still hurt by what happened to us.

    I agree that we shouldn’t pass it on, nor should we allow it to completely steal our joy…that’s a valid statement.
    But to say that people have no right to be sad or angry is asking too much. And forgiveness should be a choice that happens when a person feels ready to forgive.
    It shouldn’t be an obligation or a guilt trip. Otherwise “forgiveness” is just a way to smooth things over.
    Real healing needs to happen first, and it doesn’t always involve forgiveness or making excuses for the abusive party ( “it’s very unlikely that anyone intended to hurt us”).

    Sometimes healing (for some of us) means permission to be angry, sad, to not forgive or forget, to distance ourselves from the source of the trauma.

    1. Agreed 💯. Forgiveness takes time and we should never forget lest we fall into their trap again.

    2. Listen to Joyce Meyer or any self-help guru today. Forgiveness is for us, not for the perpetrator. Feel the freedom, wish them well – God will let them know they have done wrong. To an extent, it will make our lives better. You’ll see. It’s a selfish act to forgive.

  42. I loved my father very much and I suffered greatly for a long time after he died 30 years ago. I was down on myself for not being a better son, because that’s how Narc mother programmed me to think. But now I have a clearer picture of what actually happened in my childhood home. I am a better son than I thought.
    Dad was an enabler of my Narc mother. What I see now is that as long as she cooked his meals, and allowed him to go to his safe space basement workshop and didn’t give him too much crap over his drinking, he allowed her to go on abusing 2 of her 4 sons. Things ran OK for a long time I guess for everybody except me SCAPEGOAT #2 and my older brother SCAPEGOAT #1 who fled many years ago.
    It probably could never have been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but I suspect the BITCH was a factor in my father dying. I say that pretty confidently. She also lied to other family members about particulars of his death, so I am inclined to ask “why?” It’s perfect irony – he provided a good life for her, and the spiteful BITCH more or less stepped over his dead body. Just another ugly situation in a family full of ugly secrets… I went through Hell as an adolescent but ended up pretty well off thanks to outsiders. I am lucky to be alive, so every day is a gift.

  43. All so true.
    Confirmed by the scapegoat that survived after cutting off contact with family members one at a time before even learning what the word narcissist was.
    As a truth teller it became more challenging then I imagined when the narcissistic, aging and dying parents flying monkey 🐒 managed to turn relatives against me. ( That is my sister, the Golden Child & “executer of the will ” ) A narcissist herself.
    Even the nursing home was under her spell. Despite my giving them my phone number, they listened to the narcissistic parent and flying monkey and didn’t even notify me when my mother ( the enabler ) became sick and was slowly dying. I was never told when EITHER parent died.
    It really became clear WHY my mother kept apologizing when she became old after I cut my narcissistic father out.
    At least she did that.
    She apologized without explanation many times and even told me, ” I Love You. ” ❤️ Something she didn’t do my whole life growing up. 😢

  44. My mom she comes down to the basement and she starts harassing me and threatening me and I would like her to stay under the basement I want her right now to stop talking to me and no longer come in the basement. She has a mental illness and she is telling everybody lies that there’s bugs in parasites in the house and there isn’t.

  45. I cannot state emphatically enough how crucial these insights have been to me personally and how important it is to find the right therapist. Otherwise that said therapist can do much more harm if they do not understand the systematic evil in these equations. Two things I would add. I have encountered the phenomenon in both my family of origin and in a recent very abusive narcissistic family I am involved with due to my unfortunate rooming with a malignant narcissist female friend I have had for 30 years whom I fell victim to. I only discovered her secret when I actually roomed with her for the last two years. We were both going through life transitions and she was “devastated” after a divorce and asked me to be her roommate stating that we would “help” each other. Next thing I knew after I moved in, her parents located next door and the day after her divorce was final she re-entered a relationship with her abusive ex who now stalks me regularly. I must emphasize that I am in no way romantically or even emotionally involved with this woman other than the mistakes I have made trying to help her negotiate what I thought was her victimhood. It is hard for people to realize that this can happen with a supposed adult friendship. She has been cruelly abusive and bullies me through covert tactics with her family and this ex and other flying monkeys, even after I “helped” her “escape” them. It has been mystifying and horrific to watch and experience. I have suffered many physical, emotional and financial devastations because I expended so much energy trying to help this person and ignoring myself. I even took off working to help her for two months try to relocate across country because she convinced me she had to escape and I felt so bad for her. The whole time she was communicating with all of her “abusers” and I only recently realized this. Now I have had to come BACK to this nightmare because I needed to be located here for my job and I as a result of taking so much time to help her and she convincing me she would help me back, I have very little economic resources left to just move myself and need to refocus and begin a new job before I can do this. It is like they trap you and you do not realize until too late because you keep believing the lies
    I realized it was all a game as now she abuses ME with these people! So the two things I learned: the malignant narcisstic behavior comes from BOTH parents. This experience caused me to observe with horror this phenomenon and to reexperience the trauma of my family of origin. There is no permanent enabler and abuser. The roles get exchanged freely and without warning. It adds to the confusion and chaos. You really never are able to pinpoint where exactly the abuse will come from next. I would say her mother is definitely the ring leader and dominant though. Everything filters through her but she is able to morph and shape-shift into a victim at any point and you will see her collapse in tears telling everyone how much she “cares”. I have replaced the scapegoat in this horrifying nightmare as the mother has targeted me and continues to wreak havoc in my life and smear my name with her daughter now. Originally my “friend” was being bullied and alternately nurtured by them and would come completely broken to me sobbing. As soon as I would “help” her she was loving and kind and we had this great friendship and support system. The mother would then silently and stealthily come back into the picture breadcrumbing her and slowly seducing her into a enmeshed childlike state while she “suggested” things about me in a tiny trickle until my friend would suddenly lash out at me accusing me of the most heinous things if we had any interactions involving our living situation.
    I never thought I could suffer more than I did as a child and it has been compounded by my past trauma. But it is only now that I have woke up to the reality of what I went through as a child and adult with my family of origin and how it has set me up to be reabused. Through content like this I have begun to sort through what has happened and am trying to slowly and quietly extricate myself. If they know I am succeeding there is hell to pay. It is difficult to be alone. Literally no one in this small town would believe me. They all have huge false fronts and are publicly respected people. There is no therpist for miles who could understand. I cannot even afford online therapy right now but I get as much help as I can by reading all I can and trying to self care. I have no friends, family or support here. Everyone I thought was my friend here is now a flying monkey. It is a nightmare and it is like living in a jail. It is hard for me to even come and go and I literally spend hours holed up in my room when I am not working waiting to get out the back doors when they are not looking. They are always looking and make it a point to try to block every move I make to be autonomous. They have even inlvoved the neighbors and I have gotten nasty notes on my car for parking on the public street outside our duplex. They claim the spots belong to those who own houses there! But they have garages and it is a puclic street with no permit requirements. I have even talked to police and they know them too! Although the police legally had to tell me it was legal and right for me to park there as our building has no parking of its own. But they still told them about me asking. There is literally no protection here. Everyone is related. I moved here mistakenly from a more urban area. Their daughter adds to the fuel by informing them of my every day activities. I live in a living hell until I have the resources to leave. I recently discovered that she talks to her mother, her ex, her extended family and friends everyday through texts telling them about her “struggles” with me. I used to receive these communications every day when her husband was the scapegoat so I know exactly what is happening. I just never thought it would happen to me. I really believed her because I saw his abuse. He WAS abusive. But now that they are divorced and do not live together they are closer than ever and the shift has happened. She now baits me daily to be her “abuser” and where I used to take it and get very upset and react I now realize that a silent hell is all I can “achieve”. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get out but I just keep learning and trying. It took me two years to go completely through every effort I had and be used up and to end up realizing the full scope of what I was encountering and that nothing I could say or do would change it. Anything I say to ANYONE could be used against me. They even have relatives across country that have gotten in on it. It is astounding and extensive evil. They do want you dead. That sounds dramatic and strange to people who have not survived this. This “friend” has been my greatest nightmare and her mother is one of the most covert and alarmingly evil people I have ever witnessed. She has publicly exonerated herself multiple times. Her grandson’s ashes lie in her living room. She raised him. You draw the conclusions. She drove him to suicide and I am the only one who knows. Her hatred of me for this is extreme and she does not want to see me live for sure. She has Parkinsons now and is stronger than ever and she has all her minions do her physical evil work for her. She accomplishes everything while sitting in her armchair! She does more harm now than when she was “well” even because she uses her illness as a cover and get people to do more dirty work than ever. Don’t ever think that even the “weakest little old lady” cannot kill.

    1. You’re doing the right thing and what a therapist would recommend. Best thing would be if you could get a job far away from that town. But you leaving is the most critical. I just want to encourage you to keep going, put all your energy into saving up resources, don’t let on that this is your plan. That’s what I had to do to fully disengage from my ex. I had to pretend things were fine for several months until I had things in place. And all the details of my leaving were carefully planned so I wouldn’t be attacked. I had to do it mostly alone also. You can do it. Once you’re away from it, life is so very different. I pray you make it out to safety. And yes, 100% true that an old lady can rule her evil empire from an armchair. My ex terrorized me with his ex wife who ruled her evil empire from prison! I was astounded at how someone locked up could still have so much power and control. She had her parents, her children and many others doing her bidding. And giving her thousands and thousands of dollars. A petty little low income meth addict from a tiny little hick town. So yes, even a seemingly powerless person can wreak absolute havoc. And YES, they do want you dead!! My ex tried to get his ex wife to commit suicide. He told me she was so abusive. Then left me for her twice saying she was his one true love. Then cheated on her and tried to get her to suicide. His ex wife tried to do the same to me, texting me to kill myself because I was so pathetic. I too got into the mess by trying to help. Then got caught in the whole family of evil people and spent a ton of money helping him only to have him abandon me for the ex he said was so horrible. I also was trying so hard to help their children because I can’t stand watching them suffer the same abuse I grew up with. But I couldn’t save the kids. The parents kept getting in the way, lying to social workers and police and judges even though they are the criminals. My heart breaks for the kids who are still trapped in the abuse and I have no contact.

      1. “Best thing would be if you could get a job far away from that town. ”

        The challenge with this really is — and I don’t know about the extent to which people really consider it enough before offering this suggestion, especially in this more-interconnected-than-ever world — that even when you do successfully manage to disappear the narcissist and/or his or her flying monkeys and other enablers WILL FIND YOU … and sometimes the filial laws (they are different in every state, and every “adult child” probably needs more familiarity with them than they’ve been offered so far) will mandate your return and/or saddle you with their debt.

        The trap of enabling in Western culture (and I daresay some others) is pernicious and systemic, and not every solution works for everyone even when it looks like the most pragmatic and survival-oriented possibility on paper. Doctor Ramani talks about it; I wish we could generate more community support around it as a concept (especially for those of us past the age of 20-30 who didn’t even have the LANGUAGE to be able to seek out help before the past 5 years or so).

  46. Wow. This also completely describes the roles in my polyam relationship. There were three of us. They lived together. I lived elsewhere. And at the end it was chest

  47. this has really helped me and my sister come to terms with the behaviour of our mum and dad. Dad tried his hardest all through our childhood to put us first like any normal father, unfortunately the pull from our narcissistic mum was too much for his kind soul. they are now in their late 80s, mum always told us it was them against the world and always tried to make us feel we were inadequate daughters. Luckily me and my sister are very close, mainly because she left the responsibility of being a mum to my sister and we bonded over being together a lot. I thank her regularly for being a good 2nd mum x
    we have included her and Dad in every part of our lives, holidays, children, parties etc and when she was in a good mood everything was fine, but when the attention diverted from her we all knew about it. Dad treat her like a princess, spoilt her to the detriment of us as children with time / clothes /holidays etc.. Dad became ill last year and is now unable to take her where she wants to go, spoil her likes she wants to be spoilt, and the roles have reversed she now cares for him. This has had an impact on her narcissism and her attention radar / immature and volatile behaviour has come to an ugly head, shes fine when people are telling her what a good job of looking after him she is doing, but on days when the attention isnt on her shes manic.
    He believes everything she says, asks us just to forget things, says it just her way and can we just brush it away for a peaceful life!. She says we dont care, should do more,
    I have had to set boundaries of my own to ensure my anxiety did not rear its ugly head, Mum was playing the good daughter bad daughter with us, me at the time being the bad daughter. Luckily she will not divide and conquer our sibling relationship . I have had to explain my reasonings to my daughters without bad mouthing my mum ( very hard to do but I needed them to understand but not break the grandparent bond, but they are in their 20s so understand) Mum has now turned on my sister, after everything she has done for them both. Dad is still saying its just her way:( My sister is now having to come to terms with removing herself and setting boundaries to break the chain before her behaviour gets too bad.
    how do you say to them in their late 80s, you have been rubbish parents, you reap what you sow and we cant continue like this? there is no going back for them to make it go away, we have come to terms, thanks to these blogs, with what we have had to deal with all our lives but the guilt will take a little longer.
    boundaries have really helped me over the last 9 months, I don’t argue anymore, I contact them when I want to and I invite them over or go visit on my terms. Im now supporting my sister as she is doing the same.
    We feel sad at the realisation of our lives, but thankful for each other and our wider family. Mum was influential in Dad distancing himself from all but one friend over the years. the only friends they have are ones who mum likes / give mum attention. she has fallen out with many people over the years and bad mouthed others, she will be a lonely old lady as there will be no reasoning with her, we know we have tried several times. Dad will say shes looked after me well, its just her personality, you can’t change her now, just do want she wants and it will all be fine.

  48. A brilliant article and describes exactly what I went through and am still going through with my parents, my mother as a malignant narcissist and my father also a narcissist but also the enabler. It was great to read your blog. The point about families is an important one, they enable too through their unwilling attitude to challenge the abuse even while witnessing it, where effectively your family are narcissists too. Many people that I have spoken to talk about how their brother or sister supported them, but what if they don’t and that support network isn’t there, even friends are committed to the web of lies to protect the malignant narcissist and you are in effect surrounded by a network of narcissists. Am lucky in that I do have support (not from family) but equally there is always that sense of doubt given this colluding network enabling the abuse.

  49. Thank you, Jay, your youtube videos have been invaluable for my healing. I am the truth teller/scapegoat in my dysfunctional system. I am navigating the aftermath of the passing of my narcissistic father and am, among other things, being marginalized/shut out of conversations concerning distributing his effects. Now that my other siblings have taken what they’ve wanted, I am being offered the scraps. Am I correct in my assessment that the scapegoat gets offered the scraps, literally and figuratively? I have not seen any commentary on this aspect of scapegoating but it is ringing true for me and seek a deeper understanding. Thank you again, Jay.

  50. Feeling understood is so important to those who have a lifetime of experience being gaslit, devalued, humiliated, ridiculed held in contempt, and invalidated (I could add more but you get my drift). It is indeed so critical for scapegoat survivors to find a therapist who understands narcissistic family systems. I know if I had not found my therapist I would surely have been sucked right back into the family narrative, in which I am intrinsically inadequate and create all of the family problems. The normalization of abuse is so widespread in our culture. It is not easy to find people who get it, but once you do, it is a relief like no other. Thank you, Jay, for all your efforts to examine and address this destructive and insidious type of abuse.

  51. “Such a person seeks to find a partner she can control and manipulate with her affection.” Wow. This describes my narc ex and narc mother. My mother withheld all affection. My ex used affection to manipulate women. I watched him do it to his ex wife and that’s when I realized what he had done to me. He manipulated her feelings by making her think he loved her. He then manipulated her needs and then controlled by withholding affection. He told me she wanted him to say he loved her but he wouldn’t. At the time he was telling me how horrible she was and how pathetic she was for still being in love with him. I found out later that he was sleeping with her, promising her a life and to rebuild their family. He was just manipulating her to get out of paying child support. But I watched him go on to cheat with many women and use lies and affection to control. Giving gifts and affection, then withholding. Saying I love you, then abruptly stopping any love talk and making them hurt. Unbelievable how someone can use love and affection as a weapon. Thank you for the article, very helpful.

  52. All your stories are just as my daughters except I wasn’t the enabler! He is still getting away with abusing and brainwashing her she is now 23 and can’t find any resources to help her! Stay strong and keep doing what you are doing you all are survivors

  53. My mother in law is a narcissist. She is cruel and takes pleasure in seeing others fail. She does not bother with me to much because I see how she operates. However, my husband is a quiet type and it pains me to see how she ignores him and our young children for months on end. She is punishing him of course for some imagined slight. His father always sides with her. He is very passive and is afraid of her tantrums. I wish my husband could talk about it but it is to painful. I wish I could help him understand it is not his fault.

  54. I have read quite a few guides outlining narcissism and its behavior, and about how to deal with them. The biggest surprise is that after decades of describing this behavior to ‘the-rapists’, I had to find out what Cluster B was on my own thru reading about it, and co-dependence for that matter. Then again after 30 years of mental health professionals doing nothing but ruin what health I had, I had to outsource a diagnosis that they never even put on my radar–go figure. Now that they are aware none of the ‘treatment’ that I get from them has improved, and they never run out of excuses.

    Is it safe to assume that NPD is way underdiagnosed, because the people doing the diagnosing are incapable of recognizing it or accepting it, due to their own biases because most of them are in fact a bunch of wimpy, entitled little narcissists? With all the gaslighting and crazymaking that passes for ‘help’ it is after all, a logical question. What actual help exists to deal with these people, especially for those with special needs who are unable to simply just move and ‘break free’ due to obstacles that have yet to be addressed by the oh-so-helpful ‘therapy’???

  55. Hello Jay,
    Thank you for this excellent blog. Thank you also for the opportunity of offering another perspective on the “enabler.”
    I struggle with the concept of “enabler” for the simple reason that it’s not necessarily true that the non-offending parent is guilty of anything more than being a traumatized victim. particularly when cohabiting with a malignant narcissist. My father was one of the worst kind, and used the threat of violence together with the threat of fighting for custody against her. Studies by Joan Meier, Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the National Family Violence Law Center at the George Washington University Law School, have shown over an over again that protective mothers are at a significantly greater risk of losing custody of their children altogether when they make allegations of abuse.
    Rather than view my mother’s behaviour from the lens of “enabler,” I believed that she was acting protectively and in the best interests of the whole family unit, by saying and doing nothing. She knew that he would either kill her, or kill me if she spoke up against him. She also knew that he would put her out on the street with nothing and alienate the affections of the rest of her children, which he did many years later. She was loving, caring woman. It pained her to witness her first daughter being so horrendously scapegoated but she was utterly helpless and terrified. In her mind I believe that she was doing what would provide greatest happiness for the most number of people.
    Yes, it is manifestly unfair that I became the sacrificial lamb. . My father gave her a choice: “It’s either her or me.” It was no choice at all. With four younger children under her care, and without education or family support, she had no way out. She did the best she could do under impossible circumstances, just as many women and men were forced to do under the Hitler regime. These mothers and fathers deserve our compassion and forgiveness, not judgement and shame.
    I never faulted her for her failure to protect me. I understood. My siblings were also tyrannized into submission and blinded by my father’s viciousness and vindictiveness to his perceived enemies. Like many of those inflicted with this level of psychopathology, he suffered from delusions of grandeur and persecution. . He built an empire through the use of intimidation, fear, money, and power holding a metaphorical gun to the heads of anyone in his world. Everyone feared him and for just cause. He denied my mother and my siblings the right to be with me or to meet my children. I was made an example of what he was capable of with psychological manipulation, projection of evil, financial abandonment, threats of physical abuse, smear campaigns, disinheritance, and exile., all the same tools resorted to by the most evil in our world. You only had to watch him kick the dog, run over a coyote with his skidoo, punch a child in the gut, shoot songbirds out of his bedroom window, or manipulate a kind innocent person to commit a moral offence or crime that he could later use against them, to know what he was capable of.
    He threatened that he knew the people to hire to get rid of anyone that crossed him.. Everyone who lived under his roof or worked for his company lived with fear and intimidation.
    I had no hope. Being without hope was the sanest choice, relinquishing me of any guilt for abandoning my loving mother and siblings. One day, decades later, I received a message on my answering machine from my mother telling me that she was filing for divorce: “I want to see you and meet my grandchildren and that I won’t take no for an answer.
    It took her until the end of her life before she garnered the power to stand up to his abuse and to the abuse that she knew would be forthcoming from her children. . Riddled with cancer and at death’s doors, she sought out legal representation and began legal proceedings against my father, He sought to have her committed to a psychiatric to stop her, just like he tried to do to me, when I stood up to him when I was only 14-years old. She had every reason to fear for her life. I lived in fear of my father until his death a few years ago. My mother would never have called the police during that era, just as I wouldn’t call the police today. As Joan Meier’s study has shown, women cannot rely on the justice system to protect our children or ourselves. My mother did the best she could in a society that fails to protect women from dangerous men. and allows their psychopathology to fetter.
    I also wanted to add that in my experience, much of the scapegoating process I suffered was covert. Until decades later, when I began to deeply reflect on my experience, did I realize that during the majority of times of the most serious abuse, there was no one home to see. Or, he did it in a way that avoided detection.
    One scorching hot summer day at the cottage, my father ordered all of his children out of the water, and sent our friends home. He lined us up like Captain von Trap in the Sound of Music commanding that we answer him, “Yes, Sir.” When I ask you to jump, you say, “”How high sir? He ordered us to march down the cottage lane, carrying buckets he had given us for berry-picking, and insisted on us singing The Ants go Marching. We marched, five little children, smallest to biggest, singing this song. Except me: I was not singing, angered by the utter disregard for the joy that he had arbitrarily shut down when he ordered us out of the water and sent our friends home. I refused to participate in the fraudulent image that he was attempting to project to our neighbours:: a happy family at our expense. When I refused to sing, he kicked me in the back of my legs. No one else saw. No one else knew. I never told anyone because I knew there was nothing that anyone could do to stop this madman. The last words my mother spoke to me were these: :”Your father was the spawn of satan.” The most difficult part of recognizing the psychopathology in a parent, or parents, is the realization that genetically speaking we are all 50% of each parent. Forgiveness becomes complicated in these cases.
    Link to Joan Meier’s study on domestic violence and the outcome of abuse reporting by protective mothers: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3448062

  56. Thank you for this article. I came upon this trying to find out how to process and interact with my seemingly enabling father. I had already grieved and let go of my relationship with my mom, but my dad was the hero. The kind one. Therapists had always asked why I never held my father accountable for allowing the abuse to happen, and I guess I always saw him as a victim too. I even tried to protect him when I was a minor. Then a therapist said – he was supposed to be protecting you! and I very slowly started to warm to this idea. Now, about 4 years later, I am back in my home state near my family of origin, and the dynamics are playing out again, only they are much clearer to me know. I realize that my father, who I do see as a victim with a very kind heart, also allowed me to be mistreated so badly by my mother, and if I tell him now of all the pain I suffered and work I have had to do to try to heal, he gaslights me, dismisses it, and rewrites history. What I don’t understand is how a kind person can watch someone else getting obviously attacked and put down for NO REASON and not notice anything is wrong or have the urge to intervene. He did stick up for me more when i was a minor, but now it’s like he’s further along the path of truly believing the only issue is me not reacting well.

    I am mind blown and sickened over this. I gave him the benefit of the doubt my whole life. But I can tell you this- I would not be able to sit there and tell someone to. shrug off abuse. How can someone have no empathy to their crying, suffering child? And I’m a good person too. Kind, have a care-taking type of job, friends, relationship, etc. i guess i feel the need to say that so someone can hear that I am a nice person and truly do everything I can to be kind to them, yet still get systematically slaughtered by my mother.

    I don’t get understand some people at all.

  57. I thought no one would ever understand what I have lived my entire life and I would sometimes question myself whether I had imagined it all as my narcissistic mother would try to convince me of, and who had successfully convinced my father and sister of. Thank you Jay Reid. I want to sign up for your courses. I need your help.

  58. This was such a profound read. I have been in a family for sometime where the father was a narcissist and mother was an extremely submissive woman who is only concern is to ensure her narcissistic husband is happy. Their children ( probably due to narcissistic abuse) don’t seem to have an authentic self for themselves and are extremely self centered, not showing any empathy at all, indifferent to others needs, pain, and their only concern is to make their father happy at any cost. It was a dreadful experience being with that family.
    Your article makes lots of sense

  59. This is exactly what my childhood was. From the phrases used by the abuser, to the actions of the enabler parent, it’s scarily accurate.

  60. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

    If you do nothing, you’re not a good man.