Trying to hold on for the children

This is inspired by Survivor’s post, when she had a realization her ex was a narcissist and she left him five years later after trying to hold on for the children.

How many of us do that? The intention is good, even noble. But is it really better for the children? I hear this over and over. I’ve done it. Only I didn’t get out after five years. My two oldest lived a major part of their childhood under the influence of my narcissistic partner. I didn’t leave until after they had both graduated from high school. My youngest with the ex was just entering school age.

None of them escaped unscathed. But there’s a difference. My youngest still has to contend with the N, but she has a safe place to go. My oldest two didn’t. The youngest will have issues to deal with BUT she has more of herself. I fear for one of my oldest.

In holding on for our children, I guess the question would be just what is it are we holding on to?

What’s the reality of it? How much we are fighting for is real and how much is fantasy – of what it could be, should be if only…we did this or that or…would be if he just hadn’t had a bad day, a relapse in judgment…?

You know, we read about Don Quixote fighting windmills thinking they’re dragons. Well, what about protecting a pile of manure thinking it’s gold?

I’m not talking about just getting bored here or growing apart or personality differences. I’m not supporting throw-away relationships and I don’t believe in disposable relationships. Yes, there is a commitment when you enter into life long relationships. Yes, you shouldn’t just think about yourself when you have children. If you can make it work, then make it work.

What we’re talking about are the really abusive, insidiously manipulative, crazy-making narcissistic relationships. When the agenda of your partner isn’t creating a relationship, a family, a home, but consuming them.

With the exception of getting a beautiful daughter out of the deal, it was a huge mistake with life long consequences on my two oldest to stay with this man. If I had been smart like Survivor, and left even after five years, I would have escaped with still two very young adolescents and a beautiful baby. And that time would have been significant.

Children learn through what is modeled for them. Yes, some kids have the wherewithal to learn other behavior, to consciously choose to do differently, but it’s a HUGE burden you place on them. And you’re taking a big chance with their lives.

How many people can identify with the “I’ll never do that when I grow up…” assertion, and find themselves imitating their parents to the letter? And these aren’t even destructive behaviors, just mannerisms, odd habits, using the same tone of voice when scolding or giving the same lectures.

Then how much more with the abusive dynamics and emotional trauma of being with a narcissistic person – an adult, your parent or parent figure who is suppose to take care of you but is an emotional bully, monster, parasite, user?

Do you really want to sit back years from now and see those same narcissistic traits unfold in your beautiful children? Or watch them struggle as they walk in your same footsteps and pick losers and abusers to put them through what you went through?

Not a given they will. They could deal with their wounds and overcome them with empowerment. But do you want them to have to expend the time and energy to overcome, when they could be using that energy for other things?

Look at that beautiful child full in the face, look deep into his or her eyes, and tell that beautiful soul that they’re worth the gamble, that you’re willing to take that gamble with their lives, their happiness for Mr or Ms Narcissist.

If you’re going to hold on to something make sure it’s worth it.

Narcissists aren’t.

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7 Responses to Trying to hold on for the children

  1. Mr Survivor says:

    A small point of clarification. Survivor was with her NPD ex for 15 years but it took her 5 years after she was told she was in an abusive relationship to get out.

    Everyone says divorce is hard on the kids and there are all kinds of studies on it. How many studies are done on how hard it is on the kids to stay in a family that stays together for the kids. 90% of those families are very dysfunctional and the kids have to sit and watch their parents put each other down, fight, abuse, and be in a loveless marriage.

    It sure ain’t better for the kids to deal with that.

    PhoenixRising Reply:

    Thanks for the clarification – the bottom line is getting out, and she did. And I did, but for myself, I deal with demons of regret for not getting out sooner. I think that’s pretty typical of a lot of parents who start to regain their sight after years of being bamboozled and eroding self-trust. It’s easy to encourage women and men to let go of regret, to be gentle on yourself, to focus on the positive. If anyone needs to hear that, it’s me! That’s why I write. I write to tell myself what I need to hear.

    Anyway, without a doubt, divorce is hard. No argument there. But sometimes staying is harder. Any choice involving a narcissist other than “run for the hills” at the start is going to have a negative impact to whatever degree. When you have children, it’s amplified…and becomes even more important to create some kind of space, respite or haven for some realness, respect and authenticity. And a lot of times, more often than not, and possibly always, that involves a completely different physical place.

  2. myangel says:

    I left my narcissist husband when my daughter was three months old. I have been embroiled in a custody and property court case since. My daughter is now 2 and a half.

    Yes it is hard, it is emotionally draining but when I look at her, hear her laugh and watch the amazing amount of empathy she already has for others, I know it is worth it.

    All I can say about growing up with a narcissistic father is that it is an experience I don’t believe any child deserves. I know, I have lived it.

    Although my ex has been clinically diagnosed with the disorder, is also a substance dependant and is associated with criminals, the courts still give him unsupervised access.

    What has happenened to our world where the best interests of the child are put aside and the parents interest is observed.

    I can’t control what happens when she is with him, but I can control what happens when I am. I provide a stable, warm and safe environment for her which I could never have done if I had stayed.

    All I can say to people thinking of leaving an abusive partner is yes the road is hard, but you and your children will be better off in the long run.

  3. PhoenixRising says:

    Welcome MyAngel!

    This is amazing to me, but I know happens all too often. “Parental rights” seem to trump the right of a child to safety almost every time. I hope the unsupervised access to your daughter is limited.

    So glad you are able to provide a safe haven for her.

  4. doublemommy says:

    I have been reading your blog and I am finding a lot of comfort and advice and I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with everyone.
    I recently left my husband of 5 years and moved back with my parents (moved from New Orleans to NC)…with my 10 week old twins.
    I have been told by many people that my husband is an emotionally abusive person. Its been blamed on PTSD from when he was in Iraq, but I think that excuse only lasts so far and this is really his personality. He is very prone to volatile, angry outbursts for little or no reason. If he has bad days at work, he takes it out on me. He makes no sense and rants and screams at me. Usually I just sit there and cry without saying much if anything at all. I would make excuses for his behavior to other people and never say what I wanted or I did whatever I could to avoid a blow-up from him. I altered my personality to keep the peace. No one recognizes me anymore. Arguments were swept under the rug, and he never apologized but always insisted he was right.
    Days before I delivered my twins, he was screaming and ranting at me, the doctor, and everyone else about how he wished “this whole thing” was over because he was stressed out. My blood pressure was getting very high and he said he hoped he upset me enough that I went into labor early so it would be over with. I cried for two days and almost had him barred from the delivery room.
    Last week, he blew up because he wanted to go to the gym even though I asked him to watch the babies so I could get one more hour of sleep. That evening he got in my face screaming how I was a nag and he yelled obscenities and thrust his hand in my face, all while I was on the couch crying and holding one of our sons. He threw a t-shirt at my face and told me to get out of his house and go back to NC. I told him I wouldn’t leave without the kids (this wasn’t the first time he said this and before he said he wouldn’t let me take the kids) and this time he said “FINE! TAKE THEM!” So I left. After staying at his sister’s house for a night and then a motel after my mom flew down, we packed a uhaul with the boy’s stuff and a few trash bags of my clothes and left. I seriously thought for the first time in our marriage that he might hit me.
    Now I am filing for a separation and eventually a divorce. He was never interested in helping with the kids unless he was in the mood or I practically begged him for help. He still thinks he did nothing wrong and he thinks this is all because I am tired. He is telling everyone that I just suddenly left and took the kids away from him.
    I am tired, emotionally but not physically. My babies are pretty easy going.
    We tried counseling after the first time he broke something in anger and I left for a few days. When things are good, they are great. Everyone thinks we have a perfect life. But when he gets mad, its hell. There is no talking calmly. He either blows up and I just deal with it on my own or he refuses to listen. Very immature attitude. He is 32 and I am 28.
    Everything I have read points to narcissistic personality. Do you think so? Was I really being abused for years and did not realize it?
    I am dreading having my boys be around him at all, now or in the future. I am seeking help to try to get back the person who wasn’t afraid of everything and who wasn’t some man’s doormat.

  5. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi doublemommy, and welcome! I’ve been out of town for a few days and just now found this comment waiting to be approved – sorry! I’m actually heading out the door again, but I wanted to approve this comment now. I’ll be back to comment some more hopefully tomorrow. There were a number of things you said I’d like to respond to.

    Stay strong!


  6. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi doublemommy, sorry it’s taken me so long to finally get to you. Wow, what a ride you’ve been on!

    First, let me congratulate you on finally removing yourself and your kids from such an abusive (and dangerous) situation.

    Second, he may have PTSD, but really it doesn’t matter. It does to him, in that it will affect what kind of help he will need, but the bottom line is whatever the cause, you were most definitely being abused and from the sound of it, your life and the lives of your children were in jeopardy.

    These kinds of things escalate. It was only a matter of time before you would experience physical brutality in addition to the emotional and verbal abuse you were receiving.

    Could he be narcissistic personality disordered? Maybe. Could his behavior stem solely from PTSD? Possibly. What matters is not the source, but the reality of what you and your children were exposed to.

    Either way, you’ve had to deny who you are, walk on eggshells, and suffer through horrendous outbursts of abuse. That is what needs to be addressed by you, and it sounds like you did the right thing by seeking safety away from him.

    I certainly understand your dread to having your boys around him. Is he seeking custody or joint custody or has he not ever addressed that yet being in denial and all that you’ve actually left and are serious about it? Do you live close by?

    Be careful you’re not too hard on yourself. Everyone who’s ever been involved with either a narcissist or any other type of abusive individual prone to emotional outbursts – bipolar for instance or suffering from PTSD – understand what it’s like to, as you say, “alter your personality to make peace”.

    It doesn’t go to how foolish you were, but how wise and strong you were to survive. You did what it took to survive that situation then. Know that you have what it takes to survive now. It’s the same energy, the same strength within you.

    Just use it now to move yourself in this new direction of healing and not to continue attempting to survive in an old place of abuse.

    My heart goes out to you. Stay strong, be gentle toward yourself and present with your children. You know what is important and what has priority –

    No longer the maintaining of the facade of a happy family, but actually taking steps toward a real happiness based on real safety and respect.

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