The longer I walk this path, the more I realize the Herculean task ahead of me. That path is the one of watching your children get shorted over and over, disrespected over and over, in order to accomplish one task: that of snuffing out anything that represents “mother”. This is done through control. Over and over, it is about what Father wants.
My role as a mother has, for the past five years, been systematically and deliberately diminished.
To have your role in your own children’s lives so sorely negated, so disrespected, and so muddled is a path of grief, sadness, pain, and ultimately strength.
It’s one thing to watch politicians on TV make things harder for poor people, take babies away from their families for no good human or moral reason, lie and cover up their abuses. It’s another thing to have someone make it their goal in life to break your relationship with your children. By so constantly controlling the narrative for everyone, there is no room for the narrative of the mother, and therefore, the mother as an entity is greatly diminished and even snuffed out.
Why? Those with NPD and abusers are complicated, have complicated wounds, have complicated defenses that are impenetrable, and have histories that left them the way they are. They won’t change, can’t change, will never seek to change. They are limbic and monolithic in their impulses. We will never know why because they won’t know why and they won’t seek out why because they don’t care about little ‘ol you anyway, or their own children.
The first burden is the realization that I will never win. I will not recover financially, at least not for a long while, and my influence over my children’s lives will never be respected or given its proper place by my co-parent. He will never see the bigger picture of his children’s lives, and he won’t ever stop trying to punish and control. So he will always be giving the message to the children that I am less than him, and he is superior and should make all the decisions. He’s up there, I’m down here. No matter how much I try to gain a foothold, to gain some semblance of influence, to claim my rightful place as the intelligent, strong, loving mother I am, I get painted as stupid and argumentative.
The second burden is to realize that others will side with him. Many people I’ve told about my situation have trouble believing it. They don’t believe that the system isn’t good and they don’t believe the amount of bias I’ve encountered. They then assume I did something to piss him off. They forget that very “nice” men have wrecked major parts of society and have wrecked families. You can’t tell what is in a “nice” man’s heart, necessarily. I had my own moments of being told my ex had an incurable disorder, only to go back and not believe it. Who wants to believe that the man who wrote “I want to give you a plethora of loving moments:” is the same man who told you he wanted to control you and has the actions to back it up? The same man who gave you the silent treatment for three days for moving a plant stand? The man who in your own home made you feel unwelcome and unimportant? You want to believe the good in people, even in abusive people, because everyone can turn around if they want to. Unfortunately, his particular brand of good comes across as more credible when you’re the grieving, angry, seemingly obstinate woman on the other side and in the throes of healing from abuse. They don’t understand that you aren’t being obstinate for the sake of being obstinate. You’re finally unwilling to support an abuser’s control habit. You wouldn’t give an alcoholic a bottle of moonshine and tell him to drink up. You are finally setting boundaries that are healthy and acknowledge you as a person of worth. It’s not your fault he has control issues.
The third burden is to realize the kids have to make their own conclusions. Validating their reality is difficult when their lives are going to be impacted by a disordered parent. I’ve written extensively about that.
The fourth burden is that your story is narrated FOR you, constantly. This is called gaslighting in other circles, but the gist is, your story is snuffed out while his story is preferred. The problem is, this is systemic. It takes so much work to validate your own story when you have all these invalidating forces in your life. I’ve had men narrating my story my whole life, defining me as less than them, literally beating into my body their superiority and how I am supposed to fear their control.
So what does one do when there is a person in their lives who has firmly positioned themselves as enemy? And this enemy is an enemy of anything that represents “mother”? And your kids are going to have to snuff out the parts of themselves that identify with “mother”? And it is extremely personal for no good reason? And it is of utmost importance to this enemy that you have no say, no say whatsoever?
When you make the decision to stop accepting abuse, there is no one there applauding you from the sidelines. In fact, there are people jeering, poking you, helping your abuser continue. Your path is often a lonely one, although there are plenty of people who jeer at the abuser behind his back and who DO understand that he is a fake. They just don’t have the right kind of sway to stop his abuse.
So many times I have wanted to give up. From so many sides there are messages that I should be ashamed, smaller, stupider, automatically compliant, not myself, not authentic, ignorant of truth, automatically betraying of good sense and logic and basic human kindness. I’m expected to become a robot, a yes person, a non person, a wraith, a void. This goes against everything my therapist has taught me, everything religion has taught me, everything my heart burns for.
So back to my question…what to do? For me, I’ve had to relinquish illusions of control. When dealing with a disordered person, they have to have control, and they have systems in place to ensure that. It’s like trying to combat racism as a black person. You have no control over racism and the ramifications of it. You can only live your experience and tell the truth and stand up for what is right when everyone around you is going crazy. You can speak your outrage and express your feelings about it and blog about it and talk to your therapist about it. But people who are racists don’t care about how they affect others. They just want to make someone else bad so they can look good. People who are abusers don’t care either, not even about their own children.
I’ve had to make a place for my children as their mother in other, more creative ways. I hunker down to teaching them the value of relationship, that I will always tell them the truth, that they can tell me anything with safety, that I won’t make them jump through hoops to get what they need from me, that I won’t betray or neglect them. I will protect them and when the shoe drops and they realize the truth of their parents’ personalities, I will listen to who they truly are and I will be there to help and support them and that I don’t need to denigrate or undermine their other parent to do that. It takes effort to shake off someone else’s shame and blame, someone who constantly belittles you and has no regard for you as a mother. The lie is constantly upheld as truth so you have to BE truth.
John Bowlby said, “What cannot be communicated to the [m]other cannot be communicated to the self.” Having someone working with subterfuge to disrupt the relationship with the mother means the mother must be stronger than that. It means she must use everything in her power to keep ties with her children and to claim her place as mother. She has the other parent commodifying her, treating her as disposable and witless, a parent who in so doing cannot model morality. This creates a wound for his children, a wound he will never understand or work to prevent.
For me, it has also meant making a place for my own mother, and healing our relationship, which we have done. Restoration is a beautiful thing. It has meant healing my dissociation so I am available to my children. It has meant being honest with them and loving who they are.
Long live the mother. We need her now more than ever.