Can a narcissist ever be a “better parent”?

I had a conversation the other day with a potential therapist for my son.  It’s a group whose clientele is about 80% families who are divorcing or separating, and has a lot of court experience.  This is the upside.  I meet with them tomorrow to learn more.

But there’s something in the original conversation that worries me.  The therapist (and executive director of the practice) said that they require working with both the parents, and that their goal is to ultimately create better parenting all the way around for the kids.

In other words – she sees it that the best outcome is that by working together with their dad, they can help him improve his parenting, and the kids win.

In theory – I agree wholeheartedly.

In practice – my gut is screaming as though I’m in a horror house.  Yes… having hope is good.  Accepting reality is better.

I spent years “hoping” he could be the better husband he said he wanted to be.  Heck, he professed his love and his desire to do anything to save his marriage on the night our youngest child was born.  He then went home to sleep.  The next morning… I needed to leave the hospital, and needed his input on what we would name our son.  But… it was noon and I still couldn’t get in touch with him (thank God my parents were watching our daughter).  Then it was 12:30pm, 1pm…   When I asked what happened, he was incredulous… “I was SLEEPING” he said to me self-righteously.  How dare I actually wake him up and disturb his slumber?

My biggest regret in life was that I didn’t file for a protective order when he was physically harmful to me while holding our infant son.

Why didn’t I?

I was still hopeful back then.  I didn’t want to block him from my kids – he was their dad, and they should know him, right?  And of course, perhaps all this would blow over and he’ll become a “better father”.

It’s five years later and I’m still waiting.

Narcissists don’t change.  They can’t.  And I need to instill that long-learned (and earned) sense of reality in my children, so they don’t hold out useless, delusional hope for years like I did.  He just doesn’t get it, and even if he pretends he does for a while… he really just doesn’t and will always resort back to who he really is.

It seems so essential to me that we make the focus on accepting that and teaching my children (and me) how to deal with a narcissist, have -and enforce- healthy boundaries, and to know when to draw the line on having any relationship whatsoever.


4 Responses to “Can a narcissist ever be a “better parent”?”

  1. brandi says:

    i can relate so much to this and other posts i’ve read on your blog. i have two highly sensitive children. i have been in the divorce process with an n for a couple of years, we’ve been married for 15. your daughter sounds amazing. my children, unfortunately have taken another route and are bound and determined to be his supply, spiritual foundation, and “save” him. all things i tried to do for years. i have had some very similiar experiences to you. it is validating to read that others have gone through what i have. thanks for sharing your story.

    • In many ways, I think that children are more at risk for being influenced by a narcissist – not only because of their age and immaturity, but because this is their parent. Children are naturally inclined to want to please their parents and have them to feel good. Plus, many people who deal with narcissists/personality disordered individuals convey attributes which are essentially the same as Stockholm Syndrome (where captives defend those who are holding them captive and have come to like/love their captors). So, it’s no surprise to hear what your kids are doing. Even for me – just yesterday my daughter was trying to defend her dad because my 5 year son returned from his dad’s constantly using the phrase “what the hell?”. My daughter was trying to say it was from a ‘cartoon’ movie that they were watching. It’s her dad – and she wants to have a relationship with him and doesn’t want to believe that he’s as crappy as he may seem. Heck… I did it myself for years when I was in the relationship with him, right? He’s not all evil, if he was – I wouldn’t have dated him to begin with. He just has some serious, extremely limiting pathological issues as his cross to bear in this life. Anyway… I wish you the best! I hope that your children learn to accept their dad as he is and that it’s not their role to fix him. Hugs to you!

      • brandi says:

        yes i think that is key. as i have come to understand that it is not my role to fix him they can more easily see that for themselves. when i look back, i can’t believe how far i have come in reclaiming my power. i do believe it is about acceptance for us all. we can love people, and acknowledge them for their strengths without accommodating their destructive habits and behaviors or feeling responsible for them. i have been experiencing many fears about co-parenting and the divorce process (he is still denying we are divorcing : /) and i have been in “protective mode” for so long when it comes to my children that it has been difficult to keep moving forward. i think they are more at risk as well but interestingly enough my 3 year old seems to have an understanding of his dad “taking” his energy. i know this because of comments he has made. my teenager has a bit further to go as he has been in the dysfunction for longer. what gives me hope with him is that he is very spiritually gifted and when he hears the truth spoken he feels the truth of it without the need to go back and forth from his head to his souls truth. my spouse was making sure he knew i didn’t love him etc…. (those are the kind off threats that kept me paralyzed and with him for so long) and while this affected him deeply when it was finally exposed he immediately saw the lie. he has been telling my 3 yr old about how i am destroying our family and “tearing” us apart -my little one obviously confused and taking this literally at least told me about it. i don’t even mention to him that i know what he is up to. i quietly go about my business and take the steps that feel right looking and moving through the fears as they show up. the stockholm syndrome thing is something i have been thinking about too : ) i’m grateful to have connected with you.

        • I love the phrase you used: “reclaiming my power”. That”s an awesome phrase -and you are so right! It’s great that you can see it because you can see that you’ve made major strides just in the way that you understand what is going on. I’m amazed about your 3 year old’s phrase of ‘taking his energy’. I have a note from years ago when I started the separation/divorce process. It says “why am I doing this?” I called it my “north star”. I knew it was going to suck, and I knew I needed strength to hold steady against his guilt complexes about how I was tearing our family apart. The phrases you reference are the same exact ones I heard and my kids still hear six years later!. That north star paper was so critical for me. May your north star shine brightly without fail, and guide you and your kids in the right direction :)! Thank you for connecting with me too – It gives me strength in just the same way.

%d bloggers like this: