Should you disown a narcissistic parent?
May 8, 2016 12:22 PM   Subscribe

What if your abusive parent is not classically abusive (hitting, molestation, explosive anger) but is relentlessly narcissistic, negligent, exploitative and manipulative? Father's Day is coming up in a couple of months; should I just not send that card and silently pull away? I've already not given him my new number so this would be the last nail in the coffin.

He's 86 and I used to think "ahh, you'll regret it when he dies" but now I don't care. Am I overreacting? He could live for a long time and his selfishness fills me with rage and I'm bipolar and feel like some of my illness is caused by his neglect and that he's a trigger. What would you do? He's not a typical abusive dad, so I'm conflicted.

I used to feel sorry for my dad who abandoned my family (while living in the best parts of town, living the good life, driving a sportscar and always finding rich friends) because of mental illness in his family and I've even wondered if he's bipolar, but I can't take his narcissism. He needs constant validation that he's a good person, while I feel he's a selfish leech (I think he embezzeled from one company at least). A couple of years back, when he needed housing, I helped get him housing and thought, 'ok after this I'm in the clear, I've done my duty as a daughter', (we got evicted when he left, so I feel like I'm doing more for his well-being than he did for mine). Then I thought I could play along with his narcissistic delusions to keep him happy and out of trouble until he dies. But it just goes on and on... in addition to compulsive talking about what a great brilliant man he is (without pause) he asks for things, money, talks about how poor he is even though we got him low cost housing in La Jolla (which is the Beverly Hills of San Diego). So the dude is set but he still vies for attention, money, things, etc. But he couldn't be bothered to send me a fucking 50th birthday card (not even an email) even though I bought him art for his stupid apartment to cheer him up.

My family gripes about him at length but ultimately laughs it off which I used to do as well. The thing is that I've discovered some things or had some light bulb moments that made me realize how insidiously manipulative and exploitative he is (my mother, who he walked out on, is still codependent to him).

And this is a weird sideline, but somehow I think this incident captures his true nature: He once had a wealthy girlfriend, who he lived with when he was bouncing child support checks (when he sent them). She was a socialite, the whole nine, and her first husband shot their two small children and then himself many years previous. She abruptly left the country and my dad briefly continued to live in her penthouse (of course while we were living in student housing semi-legally) and all he could say about the incident was, "she was an alcoholic" in this clipped, condescending tone and it was soooooo coldblooded. It was like his gravy train to the good life walked away and that's all he cared about, even though of course she'd be alcoholic, who wouldn't be? He said it while trying to sound wise and profound (that's his shtick) That somehow captures my dad's true nature of lack of empathy even though he ceaselessly goes on about what a great humanitarian he is and he would be better off if it weren't for all the sociopathic businesspeople around him who cheated him. Projection, as far as I can tell. He wants constant validation that he is a good and noble person and I don't think he is at all; that's why talking to him makes me want to puke. He also talks about the importance of family now a lot too, *hurl*. But am I being unfair? Am I getting him wrong or judging too much- some of my family thinks so even while they complain. I feel I was brainwashed into caring for him and forgiving him when he did not care for us or have any empathy when he waved his good life in our faces.

(note: I have to go do an errand and will check replies later-thanks)
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis to Human Relations (38 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a cliche for a reason: Therapy - with someone who can help you figure out the best course of action here - backing away (for a long time or forever), setting firm boundaries, something else entirely.
posted by bunderful at 12:40 PM on May 8, 2016


He's bad for your mental health. You've already done more than I'd ever do. Go and live your life in peace.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:41 PM on May 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


Another bipolar child of a narcissist here. Whee!

Your stories sound familiar, and I'm so sorry you've gone through all of that. First I'm going to give you resources and not specific advice, and then I'll be more on point. There are a surprising amount of books out there for adult children of narcissists. I can't recall all the titles, but I did like one called Trapped in the Mirror.

There's also a forum online called Out of the Fog for people related to/in relationships with folks who have personality disorders. They have a great reading list there too.

I've heard it said that narcissists only experience two emotions, fear and anger. For some reason that was helpful to me. Another thing that helped was to realize that the way I could piss off a narcissist the most was to refuse to engage in drama. There's a term, "medium-chill" to describe interacting with those with personality disorders in a way that gives them no information and also refuses to validate them. A lot of people feel like going medium-chill (the forum is a good source of info on that) is a good alternative to totally kicking someone out of their lives. But any path you choose takes strength and courage, so whatever you do, do it with a lot of self-care and compassion for yourself. Good luck.
posted by mermaidcafe at 12:42 PM on May 8, 2016 [19 favorites]


For some of your family members, complaining about him is enough of a pressure valve on the pain he causes. They can continue to have a relationship with him. It sounds like you can't.

You can continue to have compassion for him, and recognize what a miserable mental prison he's in, while detaching from him. One effect of his personality is that he has developed skills to get the recognition, money, etc. he craves--not in a healthy way, and probably not as much as he'd like, but enough to keep him afloat. If you decide that the best, healthiest option for yourself is to pull away from the relationship, he'll survive.

You might regret it, but you might also regret pouring more years of hope and effort into a relationship that will never be what you need from your parent. Regrets are part of life. Which regret are you willing to risk?
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:56 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm always of the opinion that you shouldn't engage with or stay around people who treat you badly no matter who they are. Who cares if he is a relative? You didn't chose him to be your father. He's a grown man. You are grown person. You don't need him for anything. The idea that children owe their parents anything is completely artificial. Especially if the parents treated the kid like crap when they were supposed to be providing a healthy, loving environment.

Go forth, guilt free and enjoy a more peaceful life!
posted by Beti at 1:00 PM on May 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


"Should you disown ...?" Having grown up with a narcissistic father, and having distanced myself, I think that "disown" is maybe too fraught.

Better perhaps to start with the more particular question: should you send a father's day card? I don't see, in your post, any reason why you should. You don't owe it to him, and it won't make you happy. You also don't owe it to anyone else, to send him a father's day card.

Then take a next question: should you reach out to him in any way? I don't see, in your post, any reason why you should. Again, you don't owe it to him or to anyone else, and it doesn't sound like it would do you any good.

Sounds like he has your email address. So maybe another question you will face is, what do I do if he sends me an email? Might depend on what the email says. If it says "happy new year!" you might decide to say "thanks, hope you are well." If it says "you suck for not sending me a father's day card" you might decide to delete it. If it says "I need you to send me $xxx," you might again decide to delete it.

I found that moving away from the idea of "disowning," and moving away from feeling like I was making a dramatic statement to myself, him, or others, was very freeing in itself.

It is ok that you don't like him and it is ok if you don't want anything to do with him.
posted by sheldman at 1:05 PM on May 8, 2016 [21 favorites]


I appreciate your comments. On this one: it's a cliche for a reason: Therapy - with someone who can help you figure out the best course of action here..I agree but I've been in therapy for over 30 years. They generally don't give advice, and I think I know the answer but the thread on toxic mothers made me think of this and want to get people's input. I go back and forth on this a lot and I know my dad's broken but sometimes I wonder about the depths of his manipulation and how it may be affecting me more than I even know. That's the kicker; I feel like it took me decades to figure stuff out and about how it affected me. Plus I can't tell what is sociopathy vs what is being annoying. Like his onetime business partner told my mom "don't trust that guy" because he fucked the finances of a company so hard. Plus his only girlfriend up and suddenly left the country for who knows what reason. I feel vulnerable to what sometimes feels like a long con. Also, people often really like him- superficial charm and all. I feel like I'm clinging to his false image of what I'd like my dad to be but that he really is not.

Trusting my own perceptions is very very hard here; this isn't so much about obvious abuse but really confusing realities that I feel can never be trusted.
thanks for letting me spew, I feel like you guys really understand this stuff. You rock!
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 1:11 PM on May 8, 2016


Sheldman that is excellent advice. I think also the medium chill thing makes sense. Disengaging seems less dramatic and gnarly than disowning.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Think of anything you do for him as for you. I know this is counter intuitive, it feels bad to counter a selfish person with selfishness, but a parent/child relationship is not one of even ground.

Your father is capable of making things better for himself if he chooses. And your sense about the manipulation is straight on. At 86, with the life he's led, your father is a survivor and will seek out what he needs. So - you can freely let your feelings of responsibility for his happiness (or lack thereof) go. This is part of the contract you hope he would sign: you should find the strength to not feel bad about his feelings and what he thinks and desires from you, as he should find the strength to not feel bad about your level of devotion. He did not earn it, you do not owe it, so feeling bad about "it" is just not worth the time.

However. It also feels bad to freeze a person out when the primary injury they caused is neglect, and they no longer are neglectful. You are left worrying over whether your actions are veangeful or self preserving.

Here is a fact: When he is gone, all of the things that make you crazy will be gone... but so will the few things that you appreciate. Only you know how you will feel if you decide to not engage ever again. The answer probably lies in the ratio of good to bad. At the end of the day, how you will feel about it is the only thing that matters.

It's cold comfort that there is no cut and dried answer, but it also means that you have all of the power. Do for yourself what he never did: ask yourself what you want, and then put your desires above his and do that. It is the most likely to bring you peace.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:50 PM on May 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Should you disown a narcissistic parent?

'Should' isn't a very useful word, because it doesn't address reality as it is.

Is being around him harmful for you? Then walk away. Kids owe parents nothing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:52 PM on May 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh! I also wanted to back up the notion that 'disowning' and 'nails in the coffin' are not helpful concepts in this situation. Take it one thing at a time. Take your temperature on every interaction, take it all one thing at a time. Those monolithic ideas, "we are estranged" and "he is disowned" -- this is you anticipating how he will interpret your silence. That's hogwash, you are playing his game for him in your own head. A wall that can be destroyed with a single phone call is not a real wall at all.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:55 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


nothing you do will make you feel "okay" with the decision at least not at first. disengaging with a person who had a profound impact on your life will always feel "wrong" for a long time, maybe forever. There's no explanation anyone can give you that will make it feel "okay" though there may be many good reasons and explanations. Feeling "not okay" about what you choose does not mean you made the wrong choice, it just means its hard.

Look at it in the long-term - if choosing to remain engaged continues to make you feel bad and impeded upon living your life the way that is productive for you, then yes, disengaging is probably what you should do but you will not emotionally agree with that choice for a long time. You will, however, feel benefits for making the disengagement choice immediately (and probably some guilt for choosing to disengage) and the benefits will eventually outweigh the "I'm a bad daughter" feelings
posted by Smibbo at 1:57 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I no longer allow people in my life who don't bring something positive to it, and the existence of a biological connection doesn't give anybody a pass. It took a lot for me to get to that point, and even more to get past that point and not feel guilty about it, but I went through this with my biological family. Years on, I am a much healthier and happier person for the estrangement. It may not feel fair to them, but it feels very much so for me.

It was not an easy decision, and I'm not suggesting that this is the right, or only path, for you. I simply found that even the most tenuous of connections was harmful for me - for example, I would keep having hope that things would change, and would be inevitably and crushingly disappointed when it didn't. I couldn't figure out how to have a relationship with my family that didn't hurt. I was exhausted.

Also, the type of relationship you negotiate is totally up to you and doesn't need to be something you decide today and stick to forever. For example - if you're close to the rest of your family and they maintain a relationship with him, you may choose to engage less rather than not at all. It doesn't have to be all in or all out.
posted by sm1tten at 2:10 PM on May 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


I am reminded of some Law and Order episode where some sports star murders his horrible biological father who never did shit all for him but sure as hell showed up with his hand out when the son got rich from his career. At the end of the show, after the detectives learn the details of what went down, one detective says to another "He wasn't his father. He was just in the room when he was conceived."

You should do whatever makes sense to you to protect yourself and your mental health and well being. Look at it as protecting him from you going off the deep end and doing something awful to him if you wish, but, yes, when you are dealing with a narcissist, you absolutely need to look out for yourself because they will not, not even in the ordinary level of expectation of social politeness stuff. It is all about them and they will destroy you if you do not set boundaries defined by what you need, not what they want.

You do not need to make some big decision about cutting him off once and for all. If thinking of sending a card has you this stressed, then don't send it. If he gives you hell, you explain that you were overwhelmed by events and don't get into details. And you further distance yourself.
posted by Michele in California at 2:23 PM on May 8, 2016


There is no law that says you have to keep people in your life. If he brings you more negativity than positivity, why keep him in your life in any way? I walked away from a negative family well over a decade ago. Best decision I ever made.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:31 PM on May 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


What does 'disown' mean? Go no-contact? Try this: Pull back without stimulating a big confrontation. Let voice mail pick up, 'forget' to respond to emails. Give it a test-run for 3 months - a couple weeks before Fathers' Day, say - and take stock of how you, in yourself, have been feeling, and if you're in a better, healthier mindset.
posted by Fantods at 2:44 PM on May 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


I walked a very similar path to sm1tten, deciding that people who were harmful we not going to be allowed in my life. Cutting off my father was an easy choice; he was a physically abusive alcoholic. And yet even that took time for me to feel okay with. But like sm1ttem's example above, I just could not find a healthy way to have a relationship with the rest of my family. Boundaries were not respected, they were tripped over or torn up with extreme predjudice. A boundary was seen as a challenge. Eventually I realized that while my father was the most obvious and cliched abuser, there was a whole barrel of maladaptive behaviors that allowed for my father to exist. I'm certain that a healthy, well adjusted person could maintain an arms length relationship with appropriate boundaries. But I was never taught those, and I just couldn't make it work. So instead I removed myself.

The last person I maintained contact with was my mother. I thought for a long time that I could handle a relationship with her if I could maintain my distance. But it wasn't the case- the moment I was vulnerable was the moment she tried to force past the boundaries I had carefully constructed. Just knowing she was out there, willing to try and butt her way in caused a considerable amount of stress. And that's when I decided I was done.

Almost immediately after, I didn't know why I was so apprehensive about our relationship. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt because I couldn't find the strong emotional reaction I had been having. But I realized that was because the weight and worry has dissipated. And that was a good thing. And that I shouldn't feel guilty for finally erecting the last boundary that I needed.

Should you? I can't answer that. But if I were in your shoes, I'd say hells yeah.

The only thing I can think of on that note is that you may end up having difficulty with the rest of the family once you do this. I have seen a lot of people who start out estranged from one family member and eventually having to disengage from the rest. My story is not so uncommon. I personally think too much lip service is paid to staying in bad family situations, so it wouldn't stop me. But it is something to consider. Will your family view your actions as too harsh? Will they try and get you to reconcile? Will they be jealous that you disengaged and they feel like they can't? If they do not let up, what will you do?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:55 PM on May 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Kind of sounds like he cut you out of his life when you really needed him and it was inconvenient for him to stay. It's rather heartless but, I don't think you should feel like you need to keep helping someone who wouldn't return the favor EVAR. Fuck him.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:03 PM on May 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


And the next time he brings up needing money, tell him living in almost any other place in San Diego County would save him loads of cash. He needs to pick between his ego and his pocket book, it's not your problem.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:10 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


He sounds like he was a tremendous asshole to you. And it also sounds like contact with him makes you unhappy.

You don't owe him anything by the mere fact of him being your father.

Plus I can't tell what is sociopathy vs what is being annoying.


It doesn't matter. What matters is that your continuing contact with him hurts you. And there is no reason for you to continue to allow that to happen.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:22 PM on May 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


What you do is who you are. What he does is who he is.

So, putting a pen to a piece of paper and mailing it, not too difficult. I would send the card. Just put your name where the address goes. Time is going by. Be sure to act in such a manner you feel good about yourself. You are not handicapped like your dad is.

Take comfort in your basic Mensch. Somehow you escaped being your dad.
posted by Oyéah at 4:52 PM on May 8, 2016


I had years of therapy, too. And then found the right trauma therapist who helped me break whatever thing was causing me to cling to my abusive dad. No matter what he did: abandon us for a new family, not pay child support, berate us for needing things but provide them to his new children, like helping with college, like shoes for Christ's sake. Trauma therapy helped me to understand that I was still waiting for him to see me. It also helped me grieve when I realized he never would.

For years my sister and I would get all anxious and debate sending him Father's Day cards. Then we just stopped. And he didn't notice because he doesn't care. It's a relief and it's sad at the same time. But mostly, it's a huge relief.
I feel you. Just let the day pass like any other day.
posted by It'sANewDawn at 5:42 PM on May 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh! I also wanted to back up the notion that 'disowning' and 'nails in the coffin' are not helpful concepts in this situation. Take it one thing at a time. Take your temperature on every interaction, take it all one thing at a time. I sort of agree but the thing is that sometimes only years after something has taken place do I realize it was wrong, that's why part of me, though I know my Dad often tries to be nice and fatherly, just doesn't trust him. Also, I feel like a lot of the affection is totally fake, I feel like it's all fake but the problem is that sometimes it's very convincing. And sometimes I get roped into shit and then ask myself what I'm doing. The problem isn't so much what he did 40 years ago, although it is, the problem is that I never know what is what with him. I hate the fake sentimentality, I hate the hypocritical preaching which is projection, and more than anything, I hate the fact that I can't trust anything when I regret trusting him.

Here's an example of something that only recently struck me as screwed up (and you can tell me if my perceptions are off, because, honestly, I cannot tell). Once when I was out of work after a breakdown, my father offered to 'help' me, but he said I needed to learn how to earn a living (even though I worked my way through college with no help from him) and so he'd pay me $600 to do some work. Well, there was never any work and he did give me money but it messed up my taxes because it was just enough to make me an independent contractor (he later asked me if it did; he obviously knew it would) so i think i was out money in the long run, but more than that, he got to talk to me like an employee even though there was literally no actual project. So I felt like he used me for a tax break and talked down to me like I was a slacker fuck up, even though he never helped me when I really needed it as a kid. I only recently realized that for what it was. So I am afraid of contact for fear of more bullshit- he's getting weirder as he ages. He recently wanted to 'start a senior center' that would involve buying a house for him to live in and the whole family would wait on him and we'd call it a non-profit. He even wanted my boyfriend to be the accountant. It was nuts; he was totally serious too. He sort of talks like a philanthropist but operates like a grifter and I think he actually believes his own delusions; given my not-so-faboo mental health, I'm afraid of him catching me in a vulnerable moment and him just fucking me over before I even realize it. That's why part of me feels the need to be final because of self-preservation. If I were a stronger, more stable person, I would just roll my eyes a lot at his bullshit.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 6:07 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


thanks again guys. you helped a lot. my family sort of guilts me about it.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2016


I've been estranged from my narcissistic mother for over 20 years. Last night TCM was running the movie All About Eve. If you know the movie, there's a scene (scene 18, Eve belongs to Addison) where the protagonist is faced with her life of lies and she lays on a bed, crying, tearing at her hair, then she tries another set of lies. When those don't work she almost goes insane crying and screaming. I was thunderstruck, because that's my mother, I've literally seen her do that, lie and cry and try to lie some more. Then peep at her victim coyly, gauging if it worked or if she needs to keep working her scam.

In your father's case, that poor lady who left the country, you can be assured he hurt her somehow. He sounds like a true narcissist and an energy/emotional drain for all who come within his sphere. Don't send the card, if he contacts you and you feel you must respond, be noncommittal and stay neutral. People like this don't stop hurting others just because they get old and infirm and try even harder to make others feel sorry for them. Let them pity him, let them think you're a terrible daughter for not doing more. It doesn't matter, if they get close enough to him, they'll learn the truth themselves. But you don't have to put yourself in a position to be emotionally beat up any more. For me, time and space help a lot. So don't call, send cards, etc. Let him reap what he sowed and go on with your life minus one rotten person.

(Actually, I've wondered what makes narcissists the way they are and if we should pity them a little, because it must be fucking awful to go through life scheming and conniving and burning bridges. But that doesn't change the fact that you would be best served by staying very far away from him forever.)
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 6:30 PM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I had a ton of therapy too. I was convinced that I was depressed and broken and awful and didn't deserve to be happy. And then one day someone said to me "Maybe that's true. Or maybe you've just been surrounded by assholes."

I took a huge step back. My life got better, and I got stronger. And you know what? It wasn't forever. By freeing myself from the guilt and obligation, I was able to resume an extremely limited relationship with my parents on my own terms. I've accepted them, flaws as all, but I couldn't do that until I'd healed from the abuse, and I couldn't do that until I took a long break.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:02 PM on May 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ya, it sounds like your dad has totally got your number. You can't see it until it's blindsided you. Just stay away.
posted by Foam Pants at 7:43 PM on May 8, 2016


Spoiler Alert: YOU WILL NOT REGRET CUTTING HIM OFF AND FORGETTING HE EXISTS.


A not-for-profit? You mean - a scam?

STAY AWAY FROM THIS PERSON FOREVER.
posted by jbenben at 9:13 PM on May 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


It sounds as though you're asking for permission to cut him off. You absolutely have it. Because you can't trust him.

And not only can't you trust him, but if you ask yourself the key question, which is 'what would have to change for me to consider this person trustworthy?', the answer is that there's nothing he could do. He is so untrustworthy that you continually find out new ways he's ripped people off and fucked them over. Even if he made amends somehow, you will never be able to trust that, because you've been down that road before. You will never be able to interact with him without exhausting and time-consuming examination of every little nuance of every little thing he says, does, doesn't say, or doesn't do, simply as the natural result of needing to keep yourself safe. And you should keep yourself safe! There is no way for your relationship with him to get better, because it will never be safe to trust him.

He brought every iota of it on himself. You've had years of giving him the natural willingness to trust and try again that comes with being somebody's child; you have gone above and beyond. You do not need to do that anymore.

You will be amazed at how much your other relationships improve, and how much more peace of mind you have, when you no longer have to put so much energy into wrangling your father. Because it is affecting your other relationships, believe you me. The habits of being vigilant that you've had to learn from being unable to trust him are not helpful in relationships with people who are actually not trying to fuck you over.

It was a weight off my back and a stone from around my neck when I cut off my narcissistic, co-dependent, terrifyingly emotionally abusive mother. I promise it is okay for you to cut him off. You have no idea yet just how much better it will feel, but it really, really will.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 10:35 PM on May 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Your dad sounds a lot like my dad, which is to say, kind of a bad guy. Or maybe: A Bad Guy. I am estranged from my dad primarily because I had children and the thought of him being himself at my children was more than I could bear. I don't know about "should" disown, but you certainly "could". You might be surprised by which family members pipe up about how you should forgive blah blah blah but it is just so relaxing not to have worry all the time about how this person is going to manipulate you or undermine you. Good luck! And try to be kind to yourself, it's hard to break the habits of a lifetime.
posted by glitter at 11:55 PM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


You have my condolences for a difficult situation. Stopping all communication with him might not be necessary. You've got to establish boundaries and force him to recognize them through your reactions. The thing that helped me was reading and encacting its suggestions, the book Stop Walking on Eggshells by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger. Although its focus is on Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD and Narcissistic Personality Disorder have some commonalities. You're not alone either; there's an online support groups, including the one by the aforementioned book's author. Correcting both of your behaviors isn't going to quick but it's possible.

The book also helps you be assertive in healthy relationships too.
posted by dlwr300 at 8:06 AM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, yours sounds worse than mine. I don't think it's worth much, in fact. It doesn't matter how bad he is or what he's done or what the diagnosis might be or how he stacks up against other specimens. All that matters is the effect he has on you. In my experience it was hard to pay attention to that or to give it importance compared to other factors. My family and friends guilted me some, too, plus he's old and he's my father, so for all the usual reasons the decision was hard to make.

This is how I made the decision, finally, to eschew the company of my ass of a father: I didn't. My viscera made it for me. I realized one day that whenever I got around him or talked to him, I felt sick to my stomach, exhausted, and disgusted. My stomach flipped, my gut said, "That's it! I'm out!" I complied, and immediately I felt much much better.

A similarly visceral thing happened when I finally offloaded a terrible-for-me boyfriend whom I nevertheless loved to distraction. I considered ending it for the fortieth time, did so in a way that felt much more final than the last 39, anticipated sobbing all day the next day as per usual... and then didn't. Instead I felt like I had taken off quad roller skates after hanging out at an all-day skating party. Like I'd been encased in layers of damp, squelchy newspaper for several years and now with one simple, right decision, it all fell away and I was free. My feet floated a couple of inches above the ground. Colors were brighter. The air was lightsome to breathe. Flowers that had not been there the day before were suddenly blooming all around me and the sun was a personal friend. It was such a delightful surprise!

You said: "Talking to him makes me want to puke." He makes you sick? That's all you need to know. I urge you to quit him. You'll be glad you did because it feels awesome.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:57 AM on May 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


. Well, there was never any work and he did give me money but it messed up my taxes because it was just enough to make me an independent contractor (he later asked me if it did; he obviously knew it would) so i think i was out money in the long run, but more than that, he got to talk to me like an employee eve

This isn't merely narcissistic. It is sadistic. A narcissist is far more benign than someone who intentionally fucks you over like this.

Feel free to cut him off with extreme prejudice. This is not a person I would want to have anything at all to do with. Your life will suck less as soon as he is gone. There is no telling how many other ways he is intentionally fucking you over.
posted by Michele in California at 10:00 AM on May 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean, he not only intentionally fucked you over, possibly for some kind of minor tax advanatage, he asked you about it later. In other words, part of the motivation for fucking you over was some of sick emotional thing that does something for him. A narcissist might take advantage of you in a callous, assholish way, but they don't come back later and admit they fucked you over on purpose. They do not do that because they want to be able to keep taking advantage.


What he does is designed to let him watch you writhe in pain. It isn't enough for him to benefit from the relationship without caring if that helps or harms you. He wants to actively harm you and then he emotionally feeds on knowing he harmed you and knowing that you know so he can watch the dawning horror cross your face.

This is just incredibly sick. No good whatsoever will come from associating with this man. If you can move far away from him, do so. The odds are good that you also need to seriously downgrade your association with all blood relatives on his side of the family. Anyone who thinks he is just annoying is not likely to be a healthy person to have substantial contact with and they are likely to be a pathway via which he can continue to fuck with you and hear back reports though the grapevine of your suffering.

Take jbenben's advice. Have nothing to do with him.
posted by Michele in California at 10:24 AM on May 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yep: as Michele in Cali points out, there is ample reason he makes you want to hurl. When you grow up with "incredibly sick," you don't learn to discern it from normal--because it is your normal. So it's not weird that you didn't see his scammy machinations for what they were right away, not weird that it would suddenly occur to you a long time later, "Ew, Jesus!" Luckily you don't have to know the precise reason for nausea for it to do you good. When you feel sick, stop doing whatever you're doing that makes you feel sick.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:42 AM on May 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I just want to chip in that I too was raised by narcissistic parents and have since distanced myself from them, and I have noticed this: we were raised to be addicted to and to seek their approval/crumble before their disapproval rather than having any internal locus of decision. We don't have the same ability to say, "This decision is right because it's my decision!" that normal people do. So the uncertainty and second-guessing and guilt you're feeling about protecting yourself from this person who harms you, which is your human right, may be largely generated by him.

The only way your decision is ever going to feel right is if you validate it yourself, but GREAT NEWS this gets a lot easier to do the minute you cut loose the massive toxic relationship that is dragging you down.
posted by stuck on an island at 10:55 AM on May 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


So the uncertainty and second-guessing and guilt you're feeling about protecting yourself from this person who harms you, which is your human right, may be largely generated by him. Excellent point. You all are rasing good points; I guess it all got obscured by the fact that my dad has given me gifts before and acted like he was being nice but I could never really pinpoint what was all alienating about it. A friend of mine in college said to me, after they asked me who I was talking to on the phone that it sounded like I was talking to a manager not my father.

This has been most helpful to me; you guys are great. I guess I did feel like I needed permission because it's not coming from my family. My mom, who he walked out on after major surgery, insisted as a kid that I have contact with him even though my attitude was 'fuck him'. This is all pretty revelatory; out of the fog, indeed.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 3:29 PM on May 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure if you still need it, after the stories already shared. Just in case, I wanted to add one more voice to the chorus though:

I watched my mom deal with a horrible parent for most of my childhood. We fled a domestic violence situation, (something I've talked about several times on Mefi in the past). This was partly made possible by my maternal grandmother. She didn't come *with* us, but she provided some of the money needed for moving. The good news was that part probably saved some lives in a literal sense.

The bad part was that she was manipulative, paranoid and controlling. Like... part of the reason my mom ended up in a bad marriage in the first place was the desire to get away from home as soon as possible. Grandma stayed behind, but she was in touch on the phone a lot, verbally abusive, trying to decide what we did with our lives, (to the tune of trying to push me into the Army because my astrology chart suggested I'd be good at it). After she died, Mom skimmed her journals and found out that Grandma had believed all sorts of crazy stuff about our situation - that Mom was lying about whether she had boyfriends, all sorts of insulting garbage.

I cut her off shortly into legal adulthood. No goodbye, no explanation. I simply returned *no* contact, all the way up to her deathbed. I decided that it didn't matter if she had saved my life once, long ago. One incredibly big favor didn't give her the right to yank me around, and there was no talking to her without that. (No judgment of my mom's choice is implied, nor anyone else in my family, none of whom took a step like that - I think this is something everyone has to decide for themselves. Mom did a great job of insulating my sister and I from Grandma's crazy most of the time, and raised us without this bullshit.)

I never regretted that decision, not even around her death. The truth is that I found it *incredibly* liberating, and it set a good precedent for the rest of my life. I've still been in bad relationships, (who hasn't?), but I found that cutting contact with toxic people was always a lot easier after that first time, and I feel like it made every other relationship mean more afterward because none of them were out of some grudging duty. I've only ever been to family events because I *wanted* to be there, and that was nice.

Also:
I just want to chip in that I too was raised by narcissistic parents and have since distanced myself from them, and I have noticed this: we were raised to be addicted to and to seek their approval/crumble before their disapproval rather than having any internal locus of decision.

I've noticed this with a lot of people I interact with - friends, girlfriends. People with abusive parents often seem to end up with an external locus of control that makes breaking these bonds even tougher because of the need for approval... but as stuck on an island says, it gets a lot easier after the first step because you get to see that the world really doesn't end.
posted by mordax at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


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