Updated: Apr 26
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"Not enough" is usually the recurring theme in a narcissistic relationship. You can keep the house impeccable, dinner delicious, chores done and children in bed on time, yet there's always something to be pointed at. There's always a complaint, whether it's verbal or non verbal. A single day doesn't go by without you feeling like the hamster on a wheel. You turn, left right or centre thinking that would be the thing that would get noticed, or 'good enough', yet there's that comment that drains your soul, makes your knees wobble and the pillows absorb the tears shed in silence. Everything looks and feels like you are trying to balance the stones on top of one another. A constant fear of the losing the 'balance' and stones falling remains. What's worse is that you don't want it to be 'your fault' because you know that's exactly what's going to be said. "You are not good enough, you made the stones to fall!"
Raising children whilst you are living an exhausted life can be a herculean task. Children are extremely intuitive. They can feel when their care giver is not in alignment. They will communicate this fear of being abandoned by the main care giver through their 'difficult' or 'clingy' behaviour. Our children are likely to sense your disconnectedness to yourself and interpret it as detachment. Where does this leave you as the individual who is going through the trauma, perhaps isolated from the rest of the world? It's not always an easy task to share your real life with others who perceives your life as a gift. After all, what your friends and family see is you 'having it all'. Even though, the reality is that you are lonely in your relationship.
This leaves you feeling exhausted, irritated, without any interest in doing anything fun that would give you pleasure even the activities you used to enjoy. Withdrawal or lashing out become a way of life. The belief that this could be a result of being a 'parent' or a 'new parent' could keep you justifying what's happening to you. The parenthood comes with challenges of exhaustion, sleep deprivation and a lot of adjustments. It's after all, a life changing event. To a certain extend these new challenges may hide the impact of a narcissistic relationship. There's a baby to focus on. But, it's only a matter of time that the old patterns start appearing. Invalidation, lack of support, constant accusations and expectations that you can't seem to keep up with will leave you exhausted, overwhelmed and burnt out. Depression and anxiety are not far away from you when you live a life like this.
All you need is for your partner is to ask 'how are you?' and allow s safe space for you to just melt in to their arms and be vulnerable. Share the life, share the difficulties and the joy of being a parent. But, there's no room for that in a narcissistic relationship. It would be easier for anyone to say 'leave it!' or 'be grateful' or anything else. But only you know the life. How can you navigate this life with a child/children without it affecting your children. A healthy attachment to a main carer is a must in child development and it's almost impossible to maintain a healthy attachment when we feel disconnected as an individual. I suggest a few things below.
Look after yourself
- A radical care package is essential for you. Here's a Self-care Toolkit to help you out. Re-energize your cup before start pouring. Your cup is probably empty anyway. Ask for help with children from your close friends and family. If you don't have anyone close by, there's plenty of childcare agencies who could send a helping hand occasionally. Get someone to do the household chores and your grocery shopping. Take a walk in nature. Take a cold water swim or a shower. If you struggle financially, reach out to charity organizations, universal credit and ask if they have any support available. You don't ask, you don't get. If you have read about me you will know that I have had to seek all the help in my life including universal credit during the process of healing. There's absolutely no shame in asking for help.
Take a break away from the usual environment even if it's a work trip or a family function you attend to.
Check in with children
- Make sure to check in with children. Ask how they are doing. Explain that you are tired if you are unable to play. Allocate time when you know your energy is high to play with your child/children. Leave the chores to someone else if possible. Do things together that would benefit you both like nature walks, getting into a puddle, treasure hunts where you can feel soil, barks of trees etc. They are great sensory experiences for both you and children. If you have teenagers, you can do the same things with much more age appropriate way. I.e. mud marathon, spa days, games they enjoy (not video games) etc.
Here's another blog I wrote about 5 things you can do to strengthen your bond with your children. These are effortless things you can do everyday. Don't ever try to explain what's happening with your partner; their other parent to the children. Your job is to create a safe and healthy attachment with your child/children. Children must never be put in a position to choose between the parents or decide who is right or who is wrong. In their eyes, you are their parents and to say or do anything to damage that view could cause trauma for the children. (If you or your children are at immediate risk, call 999 or your local authority.) Rise, Safe in Sussex are two charities that help victims of domestic violence in Sussex, UK area.
- Parenting can be challenging even when you are in a healthy relationship with a supportive partner. Imagine not having that communication and support in addition to witnessing children being coerced, gaslighted and manipulated? This is an incredibly difficult place to be. Children must be contained, taught to respect themselves and others in a loving and a nurturing environment. How can you do this when one partner is not on board? The answer (although this may not be the only answer) is to parallel parenting. Follow as much as positive parenting techniques with your children and when children are emotionally challenged by the other parent (who is likely to be narcissistic towards the children as well) be emotionally available for them. Follow techniques that would help your children regulate and process their pain and hurt. It is not advisable to point out the bad habits of the narcissistic parent with the intention to change. But all the research so far suggest that they do not change (Ref. Dr. Ramani Darvasula). This will only give the narcissist the fuel to gaslight you and children. Show children unconditional love and support and they will grow up with at least one parent with whom they have a healthy attachment with. We can learn to work with what we have got. (Call 999 if there's any concerns regarding you or your child being in immediate danger)
- Writing things down will enable you to engage with your confused thoughts. This will give you some clarity. Journaling does not have to involve a fancy diary and a quiet room. I use Otter, an app on my phone to journal. It's a recording app, but serves the purpose. Whenever a thought occur, I say it out loud into the app. That's an entry done in a second. Most of us are glued to our phones anyway. So, that's a journal in your hand. Journal how you feel even if it's a confusing thought. Journal incidents that worry you. You may notice patterns over time that may be helpful.
Detox from social media
- You are probably feeling exhausted and disconnected already. Social media will only keep you in that spiral. Find a way to detox your self from social media. Here's a video I did on social media attachment. Information on social media can be damaging and toxic. How other people live or how they portray themselves on social medial may make you feel isolated even more. Social media gives you an idea of a connection whilst disconnecting you from real human interaction. This could be a double whammy for a person who is already feeling lonely in a relationship. Many people have found social media a solution to their loneliness only to be drowned in fake connections. Find groups where you can spend a bit of time talking, book a dinner with a friend, see a movie with someone, join a nature walks or any other sports group to create a real human connection.
- Work with a therapist who are aware of narcissistic relationships. One thing that often happens in some conventional therapy is to encourage us to 'communicate' about our needs with our partner. Communication is a rabbit hole with a narcissist. They do not have the emotional depth to engage in a healthy conversation. Self-love and self-care are your best tools. If you worry that your children are affected by all of this, there's plenty of modalities that work brilliantly with children. Offer therapy to children. Therapy can be used in personal growth space in so many ways. I advocate strongly for mind body approaches. EFT is a fantastic tool and can be used in creative ways with children as young as babies. EFT has no side effects and doesn't always require use of verbal communication. For a person/child who isn't comfortable verbalising events, EFT is an excellent helping tool.
Even though, it doesn't feel fair to you; the good parent that you are having to do it all by yourself when the other parent is equally responsible, my view is that we can only end generational patterns by us taking the responsibility to heal ourselves. Psychologically speaking, these patterns will continue to repeat until you break them. Spiritually speaking the soul contracts will not be broken until you learn the lessons. Personally speaking, healing is the best gift we can give to our children. Seeking justice is to attach ourselves to the injustice emotionally. Why deprive ourselves of a divine experience; healing?
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Please note that Pathological narcissism is a personality disorder. Not all toxic people are narcissistic. I do not hold qualifications to diagnose anything but I can help you heal from the impact. Please speak to a medical professional who will be able to direct you appropriate for appropriate diagnosis)
Life Coach / NLP / EFT / Matrix / DISC / Teacher