Being married to a narcissist can do a lot of damage to a woman’s self-esteem and self-worth.

As an adult, once she becomes free of his grasp, she can usually restore her self-esteem and self-worth.

But what if she has children with the narcissist?

How are the children affected?

What narcissistic behaviors affect them the most?

What can she do to help her children?

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, talks to Rose, a fellow Shero, about the ways she’s seen how her children have been affected by her their father’s narcissistic behaviors and abuse. Rose works full-time as a teacher and has a photography business on the side. She has three teenage children.

Dating A Narcissist

Looking back, Rose says she never should have married her ex in the first place.

She met him when she was only 18 and didn’t know anything about narcissism or boundaries.

He broke up with her often, but always came back to her.

Though she still isn’t sure why she stayed with him, she does admit that she might have thought she could have some influence over him.

“I guess I felt like I could fix him or change him so that he treated people with kindness and respect.”

-Rose, Shero

After five years of dating, they finally married.

About four or five years into the marriage, he went back to school to get a second degree. Rose’s husband seemed to change and stopped helping much with the kids.

“He was always angry. It was like walking on eggshells. I never knew when he was going to blow up, and I really didn’t trust him around the children, honestly.”

-Rose, Shero

Rose knew he couldn’t be trusted to watch the kids, especially if he was watching TV, because he’d been diagnosed with ADHD and she didn’t trust his “anger issues.”

Discovering The Narcissistic Abuse

It wasn’t until her children were starting school that Rose realized her relationship wasn’t healthy.

She started noticing that her kids were responding to her husband’s abusive behavior.

“I saw the effects of his yelling on the kids. They were afraid of him. They never knew when he was going to blow up. They were afraid of men.”

-Rose, Shero

Rose knew she had to get out but, for a long time, there just wasn’t a way.

With no family around, things were difficult, so she did what she could to protect her children and herself.

Eventually, the abuse got worse.

Escaping the Narcissist

Like many other women, Rose had a point where she knew it was time to go.

“One night, he got really, really angry with the kids for breaking something and, when I tried to intervene, he almost threw a screwdriver at me and that was the breaking point.”

-Rose, Shero

Realizing that he could have killed her, Rose found a teaching job, then took her kids, some clothes and photography equipment and they left.

Wanting to keep too many things from changing for her kids, she stayed in the same neighborhood as her ex for the next couple of years.

Staying that close ended up being too much work for Rose.

“It was quite a struggle for me to be teaching full-time and helping my children get the support and the help that they needed. All three of them had issues and probably their biggest issue was self-esteem.”

-Rose, Shero

Rose realized that her kids needed some space from their dad.

3 Things A Narcissist Withholds That Damages A Child

Narcissists are so focused on themselves that they don’t realize how much their behavior affects others, even their children.

A narcissist will often leave their child questioning their own value.

“As a narcissist, he was always right. He did not listen to anything, really, that they said. He would call them names and belittle them. If they had a problem, he would just ignore it, or he would make them feel bad for even having a problem.”

-Rose, Shero

There are three things a narcissist will withhold, for purely selfish reasons, that has effects that can last into adulthood.

3 Things A Narcissist Withholds That Damages A Child

  • Trust
  • Support
  • Love

These three things are things that any person, especially children, need to develop healthy relationships.

Rose’s children have experienced all three of these being withheld from them by their father, especially her two girls, now 16 and 18.

“You just never knew what was going to set him off. I think, because of that, they all have low self-esteem because they can never win over his trust and they never had his support.”

-Rose, Shero

Rose’s kids have learned that their dad doesn’t care about any successes they have.

“Even now, if they make the honor roll or if they’re in all honors classes, they don’t even tell him because they know that he just really doesn’t care. That lowered their self-esteem and made them feel not worthy.”

-Rose, Shero

Rose says that if he gets upset with them, he will ignore them for days or even a week, he won’t call or text. It leaves them wondering what they’ve done wrong or why he isn’t saying he loves them.

She’s found that this narcissistic behavior has left a huge impact on her kids, one that she hopes they can heal from, eventually.

4 Ways A Child Is Affected By Narcissistic Behavior

Anyone’s behavior can affect anyone, but children are usually affected the most.

Children are still learning who they are and what value they have so adult behavior almost has more impact on a child than what is being said.

A narcissist’s behavior is no different.

How can their behavior affect a child?

4 Ways A Child Is Affected By Narcissistic Behavior

  • High Anxiety
  • Trust Issues
  • Low Self-esteem
  • Low Self-worth

Rose has seen all of these in her children and it tears her apart.

“They all have anxiety too, all three of them. It’s a long road ahead because all three of them are afraid of men and they’re all people-pleasers because they’re just dying for his attention, which really makes me sad.”

-Rose, Shero

A lot of children suffer from these things, but imagine having one parent who only values them when it’s convenient for them.

Anne has noticed this “parenting when convenient” is a trend for narcissists, as she talks to other women who have children with them.

“What I’ve seen with narcissist parents is that, when they can use the children to make themselves look good, then great. But when they’re not actually being useful to their image or feeding their supply, in any way, then they’re just not interested in them at all.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Right now, Rose says her ex treats their son well, but she doesn’t expect it to always be this way.

“My son is the golden child—the narcissist usually has a golden child. I think he is the one that my ex-husband feels closest to, so he treats him the best.”

-Rose, Shero

Currently, Rose’s son is the only child that sees his dad because he’s only 13 and doesn’t drive yet.

5 Ways To Help The Child Of A Narcissist

Now that the damage has been done, Rose does her best to help her children heal and try to fix what their dad has broken.

Her training as a teacher has given her a lot of insight and ideas on how to help her own children.

5 Ways To Help The Child Of A Narcissist

Rose has found these things to be extremely helpful for her kids.

  1. Inform their teacher or other caregivers if they need extra space or time, because something big has happened.
  2. Ask them if they need to talk to you or someone else, like a therapist.
  3. Teach them about and help them set boundaries.
  4. Provide opportunities for them to be around other adults who can be good role models.
  5. Set boundaries for yourself around dealing with the narcissistic parent.

As a teacher, Rose can usually tell when one of her students has had a rough night at home. She knows she can provide that student with the space that student may need to regroup or even take a nap.

“If my kids were having an issue with their Dad and it was something that made them cry the whole night before or they were just out of sorts, for whatever reason, I would email their teacher and let them know.”

-Rose, Shero

Just like adults, kids need someone to talk to. Being able to get it all out, can help them to process what has happened.

“I would ask if they needed to talk to somebody like the therapist at school.”

-Rose, Shero

Even if they don’t take advantage of it, offering them someone to talk to lets them know they are worthy of someone’s time and energy.

Teaching children boundaries will help them for years to come.

Rose is helping her children set boundaries with their dad.

“With my oldest daughter especially, I have helped her set boundaries with him because he ignores her or tries to manipulate her.”

-Rose, Shero

Just like for adults, boundaries are simple, but they aren’t always easy for children to implement.

Since their father isn’t the greatest example of how to treat people, Rose has found other men to be good role models for her kids.

“I have found that some of my friend’s husbands or the kid’s friends’ husbands have been wonderful role models for my kids, also coaches. I’ve had some amazing coaches and some amazing dads step up and kind of take my kids under their wing.”

-Rose, Shero

Whether it’s friends, family members, teachers, or coaches, showing them that not all men treat people the way their dad treats people will help Rose’s children see that what he’s doing is not normal and it’s not okay.

For the first couple of years, Rose didn’t know anything about boundaries. In fact, she’s still learning about them.

Boundaries are constantly evolving depending on the situation, but some remain constant.

Rose has been trying to not get upset when he responds to her texts or emails, but her ex has stopped responding to her and puts the kids in the middle of it, so now she’s trying to figure out a new boundary.

Anne thinks that’s a blessing in disguise.

“If you have someone who won’t write you back, in some ways, that’s great. Except for the funny thing, my guess is, that once you let it go and the energy between you, he’ll feel it, and he’ll get all stressed out and he’ll start writing you a lot of emails. I’m not sure, but I think narcissists can sense when they can’t jerk you around anymore and it really bugs them, so they step up their game.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Anne suggests a modified no-contact boundary.

“You could block him on your phone, and you could block him on your email. You could block him and all of his family on all social media. Then, maybe you could have one email that’s separate, that’s not your normal email that you use every day, that you could say, ‘Okay, this one I will check every day at 10:00 am and that’s the only way he can contact me,’ or something.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Setting boundaries for herself, will show Rose’s children that it’s okay to say no to their dad and show them one way that boundaries can be implemented.

Boundaries Can Help Children Heal From Narcissistic Abuse

Boundaries are great.

Boundaries help provide safety.

Teaching kids about boundaries and having boundaries is the best way to be safe from narcissistic abuse.

Boundaries can also help with healing.

Anne reminds Rose that one of the purposes of setting boundaries is emotional safety. Sometimes that means not asking for something.

“You can repeatedly try and get something from somebody that they cannot give you, but it’s always going to be painful and it’s not going to work.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

As Rose continues using these tools to help her children, she hopes that her children will eventually find healing and their worth.

“I just wish that they knew how worthy they were of other people’s love and that they didn’t have to be people-pleasers to have people like them. That they should be able to be who they are, and their friends will come around and figure it out.”

-Rose, Shero

Rose knows it isn’t easy for any children of narcissists and hopes that all of them can find healing.

Anne knows that continuing to ask for something that they’re not giving is painful. Letting go has been the best thing for her.

“You’re just letting go of the hope that he’ll give it to you, which may enable you to feel more peace and forgiveness. Not forgiveness in that you trust him, but forgiveness in that you’re not asking for someone to give you something that they’re not willing to give you. That they don’t want to give you, which is just always going to be a recipe for pain.”

-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Rose continues to work on her own healing as she helps her children discover their own worth.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery wants all women and children to be safe and rediscover their self-worth.

One way we can help is by providing a safe place for women to share. With more than 15 sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

I have a member of our community on today’s episode, her name is Rose. She reached out to me and wanted to talk about how narcissism affects children. We’re, specifically, going to talk about her experience with her narcissistic ex-husband and how that has affected her kids.

Welcome, Rose.

Rose: Thank you, I’m so happy to be here today.

Anne: We’re really grateful that you would take the time to reach out.

Before we start, I want to give a shout-out to all our listeners. We want to hear as many stories as we can, so as you’re listening if you think, “You know, I would want to go on the podcast and share my story,” please contact me at anne@btr.org. I want you to come on and share, so that other people can hear your story and also hear your insights into things that you’ve learned along the way.

Narcissistic Behaviors Affect Children

To start out, Rose, before you understood the situation, what was going on in your home and with your kids?

Rose: To start the story, I probably should have never married him in the first place. Unfortunately, I met him when I was 18, so I really didn’t know anything about narcissistic people or boundaries or anything like that, so he broke up with me a lot of times while we were dating and I’m not sure why I stayed with him. I think I’m a helping-type personality so I guess I felt like I could fix him or change him so that he treated people with kindness and respect.

We dated for 5 years, then we were married for 18 before I left him. After we had been married four or five years, because he went back to get a second degree in college, he didn’t help very much with the kids. He was always angry. It was like walking on eggshells.

I never knew when he was going to blow up, and I really didn’t trust him around the children, honestly. I didn’t trust his anger issues and he also had attention deficit disorder (ADD) so if he was watching TV, he wouldn’t be watching the children.

Anne: Oh, yeah. Tell us about when you started recognizing that this was, perhaps, abuse or that, perhaps, he was a narcissist? Talk about when you started realizing that there was something really wrong.

Rose: I started realizing that it wasn’t a healthy relationship, probably when the kids were entering kindergarten. I knew that, somehow, I needed to get out of there, and I really wasn’t sure how. I saw the effects of his yelling on the kids. They were afraid of him. They never knew when he was going to blow up. They were afraid of men.

I had no relatives around, so it was really hard for me. I didn’t even consider it for a long time, but then, one night, he got really, really angry with the kids for breaking something and, when I tried to intervene, he almost threw a screwdriver at me and that was the breaking point.

I took my kids, I took some clothes, and my photography equipment—because I had my own business at the time—found a teaching job, and I left. We stayed, unfortunately, in the same neighborhood as him because I wanted to keep everything the same for the kids but, over the next couple years, it was quite a struggle for me to be teaching full-time and helping my children get the support and the help that they needed. All three of them had issues and probably their biggest issue was self-esteem.

Narcissistic Behaviors That Affect Children The Most

Anne: Talk about, from your point of view, why his behavior affected their self-esteem. The types of things he would do, the types of things the children would experience, and then how they reacted to it and how they internalized it?

Rose: Well, as a narcissist, he was always right. He did not listen to anything, really, that they said. He would call them names and belittle them. If they had a problem, he would just ignore it, or he would make them feel bad for even having a problem.

I remember, one time, my middle daughter had lice. He, literally, just ripped the comb through her hair because he was so angry at her for having that, trying to get the little nits out of her head, and just ripped out her hair in the process. You just never knew what was going to set him off. I think, because of that, they all have low self-esteem because they can never win over his trust and they never had his support.

My two oldest daughters used to play field hockey and he never wanted them to play on a travel team. Once we separated, he wouldn’t go to their games and he refused to pay for any of that. He still really doesn’t go to their games. They just knew that he did not support them.

If they got a good grade on a paper. Even now, if they make the honor roll or if they’re in all honors classes, they don’t even tell him because they know that he just really doesn’t care. That lowered their self-esteem and made them feel not worthy.

The other thing that he does is he withholds love, if he gets angry at them. Normally, every night he says goodnight to them through a text, so he won’t text them goodnight. He’ll just ignore them for a few days or a week, and then it leaves them wondering, “Well, what did I do wrong?” or, “Why is dad mad at me?” or, “Why is he not communicating and saying he loves me?”

How To Help Children Of Narcissists

Anne: How have you helped your children?

Rose: Well, one of the biggest things I did, as a teacher, I work in a city school and I work with children who have been abused mentally and physically and I’ve had some trauma training. One of the biggest things that we learned is that, when the kids come in, no matter what their age, if they’ve had a rough a night, they might need to talk to somebody, or they might need to take a nap. Whatever they’re dealing with, you, as a teacher, need to realize, “Hey, something happened with this child. They might not be up to steam today to do this that and the other thing.”

If my kids were having an issue with their Dad and it was something that made them cry the whole night before or they were just out of sorts, for whatever reason, I would email their teacher and let them know that, “Hey, this is happening with their Dad. Can you please keep your eye on them?” or, “Are they okay?” I would ask if they needed to talk to somebody like the therapist at school, which my kids really didn’t ever want to do that, but it can be helpful. Even in high school, I did that.

Anne: Oh, yeah. How old are your kids now?

Rose: They’re 18, 16, and 13.

Anne: Okay, and how often do they see him?

Rose: Well, they’re supposed to see him every other weekend, but the 18-year-old, now, is off on her own at college. Once they turn 18, in Virginia, where I live, they don’t have to have a set schedule. My middle daughter is supposed to go every other weekend, but she hasn’t gone in months because she has a job and she makes sure that she’s working on those weekends.

My son is the golden child—the narcissist usually has a golden child. I think he is the one that my ex-husband feels closest to, so he treats him the best. He buys him things, so he still goes because he’s only 13 and he can’t drive yet or anything.

But my daughter that went to college, who’s 18, my ex-husband didn’t pay for anything. He didn’t pay anything for the dorm room. He didn’t buy any books. He told her he’s just not paying for any of it and he really isn’t. It’s like he’s just dropped her. He doesn’t support her in any way, which, of course, still affects her self-esteem.

Anne: Yeah. Well, because she’s not useful to him anymore, for whatever reason. What I’ve seen with narcissist parents is that when they can use the children to make themselves look good, like, “Oh, I’m going to take the kids to church and everyone at church will think I’m a good dad,” or, “I can take them to a family party” or, “I can take them to (even just the grocery store, walking up and down the aisle) people might smile at me and tell me, ‘Oh, you’re a good dad,’” or whatever, then great. But when they’re not actually being useful to their image or feeding their supply, in any way, then they’re just not interested in them at all.

Rose: Right, it affects the children. I just feel so bad for any child of a narcissistic parent because I see what my kids are going through. They all have anxiety too, all three of them. It’s a long road ahead because all three of them are afraid of men and they’re all people-pleasers because they’re just dying for his attention, which really makes me sad.

Boundaries With Narcissists

Anne: Talk about boundaries in this context. Both your own boundaries with your ex-husband, and if they have helped with your child situation, then also maybe some boundaries that you’ve either helped your children set or attempted to help them set.

Rose: I did not have boundaries. I am so sad to say that I did not even realize what boundaries were until a couple of years after I left him. I was just kind of in a fog. After you deal with a narcissist for a while, you just are sort of dead inside. I learned about boundaries through podcasts and through readings and I went to therapy for a little bit.

The boundaries that I set were that I had to not respond to him and try to not let him upset me. But what’s happened, in my setting of boundaries is that he won’t respond to anything, a text, an email, nothing. If there is a problem with the children it has to go through my son, which he puts the kids right in the middle doing that.

With my oldest daughter especially, I have helped her set boundaries with him because he ignores her or tries to manipulate her. We have a very open communication in our family, so all three of the kids talk to me all the time, especially about him if they have an issue or a problem.

I will flat-out tell her, “Look, he’s trying to manipulate you. You need to stick to whatever your original plan was or tell him how you feel.” Sometimes he doesn’t react though, or he won’t respond to her. He’ll just continue to ignore her, but the fact that she knows that those boundaries are in place, I think is going to help her in the long run.

Anne: For sure. It’s interesting to me that, even when you tell a child, “This has nothing to do with you,” it still affects them.

Rose: Oh yeah, they internalize it, I think. Definitely.

Anne: Like, my no-contact boundary that I hold with my ex, I think it does help my children because I think they see that, “Okay, she won’t put up with this.” They may think, “Well, I have to right now, but there may come a time where I also can choose that I don’t want this.”

We had a really interesting thing happen at a baseball game. He came to the baseball game and then we were walking down the sidewalk and he was there, and I was there walking at the same time. That usually doesn’t ever happen. Usually, he’ll leave first, or I’ll leave first or something. My daughter, who’s four, was like, “Mom, this is my dad,” and she was like, “Dad, this is my mom.” She kind of thought that we’d never met before or something.

She was like, “Oh, my word, here they both are at the same time, in the same place.” To her, this was like, “Wow, this is the lady I’ve been telling you about, Dad,” and vice versa. “Mom, this is the guy I’ve been telling you about that comes to pick me up every other weekend.” I said, “Yes, I know,” until we got home. Then, I said to her, “I know him very well, I was married to him for a long time, and I choose, now, not to talk to him because every time I’ve talked to him it ends up hurting me, so I’m not going to anymore.”

She was like, “Oh, okay.” I said, “I will never talk to your father until he stops lying about what happened and he takes accountability for what happened, and he cleans up his mess. There will never be a time where we’ll get along or where I will talk to him because, even now, he still lies.”

They come home and tell me stuff he’s said that is a lie. I’m not going to engage with someone who is lying about me. She was like, “Huh, okay.” But I think that seeing that happen, she’s witnessed it now, because he was arrested when she was 11 months old. It’s all she knows because she’s four now. She’s almost five, so it’s all she knows.

But I think explaining it to her was okay. You know, I said, “When that happens, you’ll know. If he does stop lying or whatever, you’ll know. I’ll talk to him, at that point,” but it hasn’t happened yet.

Rose: How do you deal with that? Like, when my ex-husband actually sends me something, it usually sets me off because either the tone or just whatever he’s saying is not very nice. When you hear those lies, how do you not get upset about it?

Anne: I think it’s impossible to not get upset about it because that’s another abuse episode, right. That email is him abusing you, yet again. The way I view it is that my wonderful father, a long time ago, wrote him an email saying, “We will not stand for you abusing our daughter. She is now blocking you on all of her emails, blocking you on the phone. You may not contact her directly ever, ever again. You will now go through me.”

I know a lot of women can’t do that, but that’s what happened. Basically, he’ll write back with, what I call “pseudo-nice but blatant manipulation” emails, like, “Oh, what can I do to blah, blah, blah.” He acts like he’s so nice or whatever but, really, he’s just trying to manipulate us, which we can see very clearly straight through it. We do grey rock with him and just write back a very simple one-sentence, “No.”

One time, all kinds of problems happened because he didn’t write back within 24 hours, so he’s like, “What can I do? I think we should meet in person. We can solve this problem.” We just wrote back, “Write back within 24 hours. That would have solved all the problems.” That was literally the only thing we wrote back, just, “Write back within 24 hours.” That was it. My dad is really good at seeing what the actual issue is, like will the kids be picked up at 4:00 or whatever, and that is the only thing we respond to. We don’t respond to all the other stuff.

I think, that not having to see those emails when they come in is so good because they never forward them to me, they never tell me what’s in them. They only say what the action items are so that I can make a decision about, “Yeah, that time is okay,” so I’m never exposed to that abuse anymore.

I think a lot of women beat themselves up because they keep responding. I keep feeling bad, and you’re going to. There is no way to not feel bad when someone actively is abusing you.

Rose: Yeah. Well, I think part of my problem too is that he did a lot of gaslighting, so something would happen, then he would deny it. I would keep fighting to get him to say, “Oh, okay I see your side,” or, “Yeah, you’re right. Of course, that never happened.” I’m still kind of like that. I want him to acknowledge the truth and it really drives me crazy. It really upsets me.

Anne: Yeah, me too. My solution, instead of saying, “Okay, it’s driving me crazy that you won’t tell the truth.” Instead of engaging in that, my patent answer is, “I will not engage with you at all, until you start telling the truth.”

One thing that is something to think about is, if you don’t have a third-party that can help out with this, you could limit it, in some form. You could block him on your phone, and you could block him on your email. You could block him and all of his family on all social media or whatever.

Then, maybe you could have one email that’s separate, that’s not your normal email that you use every day, that you could say, “Okay, this one I will check every day at 10:00 am and that’s the only way he can contact me,” or something. I’m not saying that’s the answer, but just cut down on the ways that he can abuse you.

Rose: Right. Well, I could do that if he was contacting me, but it’s more like the opposite where I need him to pay a bill, so I will send it to him or email him about it and he just doesn’t respond.

Anne: Which might be a blessing in disguise. If you’re like, “You know what, I’m not ever going to write him about money anymore.”

Rose: Ugh. Well, if only I had enough money to not have to worry about it.

Anne: Right. Which perhaps, I’m no coach and I probably will give you very bad advice right now so don’t listen to me, but one might be, “Okay, I am going to stop trying to get blood out of a turnip. It’s just not going to happen so perhaps I will pray or meditate or manifest the universe or God or whatever to provide for me.”

There is an infinity of resources out there and I am going to stop trying to get it from him who does not want to give it to me and who is a pain and every time I attempt it, I am triggered. I am going to look for it from the infinite loving universe or from God in a way that will actually be a benefit to me and won’t be traumatic every time.

I don’t know, but I wonder, if you let it go because you can’t get it from him, it’s not like he’s giving it to you. You’re just letting go of the hope that he’ll give it to you, which may enable you to feel more peace and forgiveness. Not forgiveness in that you trust him or whatever, but forgiveness in that you’re not asking for someone to give you something that they’re not willing to give you. That they don’t want to give you, which is just always going to be a recipe for pain.

Rose: I’m trying that tonight.

Anne: Meditate, pray because you never know what could happen. Say what I really need is a promotion or what I really need is a new job. I don’t need him to help me. What I really need is for me to be able to do this on my own.

Rose: Yeah. The problem is he does pay child support, and I used to have a side photography business. I didn’t do a lot because I just don’t have time, but I did do a little so that my kids could play sports and I could pay for that, but he took me back to court twice to try and lower his child support.

Anne: Did he win?

Rose: Nope, he didn’t win.

Anne: The cool thing about child support is that it’s just an automatic deduction, right?

Rose: Right. I don’t have to deal with him for that.

Anne: Exactly. What I do also, now mine pays, which I am grateful for, but I have to give him receipts and stuff from things like that. I only do it every six months. I take everything and I put it all together and then my dad sends it in one email. I’m not sending it as payment for this thing and oh, pay for this thing. It’s just one big chunk every six months. That reduces contact, right? I’m just doing everything I can, even though my dad is sending it, I’m still reducing contact that way as well.

If you have someone who won’t write you back, in some ways, that’s great. Except for the funny thing, my guess is, that once you let it go and the energy between you, he’ll feel it, and he’ll get all stressed out and he’ll start writing you a lot of emails. I’m not sure, but I think narcissists can sense when they can’t jerk you around anymore and it really bugs them, so they sort of step up their game.

Like, two weekends ago, I was feeling so good. I sent my kids out and I was focused on what I wanted to do. I was feeling really positive and I wasn’t thinking about him at all, and then my kids came home and told me this horrific story of all the lies he told. Part of me is thinking, his energetic self could sense that I was at peace and he wanted to rile me up.

Even though I didn’t respond to him, I still think that energy is there. Meditation and prayer and just moving on without him is what I’m trying to do, so that he’s not part of my reality anymore and he’s not anybody that I really rely on. I’m not quite to that point yet, but I’m working toward it. 

What do you do for your full-time job?

Rose: I’m a teacher.

Anne: Oh, that’s great. Unfortunately, with teaching, which I was a teacher before, there is no, oh, you can get a promotion or whatever, but there are different ways to build your career. Going into administration or, you know, all kinds of things.

Rose: Yeah, I can do things on the side. I mean, he has a girlfriend too, who’s very narcissistic as well, and I think she is a big problem. I also think she’s a lot of the problem, that maybe she searches for me or things that I do online and finds it and then that’s how they wind up taking me back to court.

Anne: Interesting. Yeah, I deleted all my social media accounts at first, and then I rebuilt them with blocking people.

Rose: They’re all private. I don’t know how she finds out.

Teach Children Of Narcissists That They Have Value And Worth

Anne: Yeah, it’s tough. With your kids, what would you want to do that you either can’t do or haven’t figured out how to do yet?

Rose: I would like to bring up all of their self-esteem and let them know that they are worthy. My oldest daughter, especially. I just found out she was insulin resistant this past summer and she’s always been worried about her weight. She’s not really overweight, she might be at the 90th percentile or whatever for her height, but she doesn’t feel good about herself around all the super skinny girls that are out there today.

I wish that she would feel good about herself. I took her to a nutritionist this summer and I had an appointment with an endocrinologist. The nutritionist was before she turned 18 so he was responsible for a certain amount of her medical bills. It was expensive because his insurance didn’t cover it, but she had been struggling with this for so long that I knew before she went to college that I needed to help her figure out what was going on with her body. He refused to pay for those bills, and how do you think that makes her feel? Once again, he’s not supporting her. It lowers her confidence again and just makes her feel like, “Why doesn’t dad support me?”

Anne: Because he’s a jerk. Is that what you say?

Rose: I don’t say that to her. I try not to. I just say, “I don’t know. I wish he would.” My middle daughter, too, is the most like my ex-husband, so she has a lot of anger, or she did. She’s getting better now that she’s 16 and everything is kind of evening out kind of with her hormones and things, but she also has low self-esteem. My son too.

I just wish that they knew how worthy they were of other people’s love and that they didn’t have to be people-pleasers to have people like them. That they should be able to be who they are, and you know, their friends will come around and figure it out. They’ll find other people that have common interests and be friends. 

Anne: I think that’s an important concept to teach our children. That you cannot—well, you can. You can repeatedly try and get something from somebody that they cannot give you, but it’s always going to be painful and it’s not going to work.

I heard this motivational speaker say this a long time ago, I have no idea who it was, but she said, “2 out of 10 people are not going to like you, so never ever worry about those 2 people. So many people spend all their time and energy focused on the 2 people that don’t like them, that they miss out on all the love and happiness and peace that they could get from the 8 out of the 10 people. Only spend your time and energy there. On the 8 out of the 10 people that you get along with and you really like.” 

In my specific case, I think it’s probably more like 6 out of 10 people don’t like me, which is fine. I focus on the four people that do and I don’t worry about the other six, because I find peace and happiness here, with my tribe. I am super grateful for our listeners who apparently like me because they listen. I’m so thankful and honored that you listen to this podcast, but I have found so much peace there, and I think that’s good for children to know too.

There is always going to be a situation where someone doesn’t like you. In your case, it’s your dad. Sorry. That stinks but let’s focus on people who do like you. Your grandma, your friend, your neighbor. All these other people are worth your time and energy because they’re actually great, and we don’t have to worry about the people who don’t like us.

I have no idea what will happen in my situation because my kids are 10, 7, and 4, so that hasn’t really hit yet, but it will be interesting to see what happens when they’re teenagers. I have no idea, but I’m terrified.

Rose: Yep. That was about the same ages as my kids when I left.

Anne: Mine were 6, 3, and 11 months when mine was arrested. I am grateful that you came on to share your story today because the gist of it is, we don’t know, right? We’re doing the best that we can. You’re doing the best that you can. Is there some magic thing that we could say or do? The answer is no.

We’re just doing the best we can with the resources that we have. Hopefully, things will continue to get better. There may be some things, like if you read a book and you’re like, “Oh, this thing really helped,” then please come back on. Maybe some of our listeners have some ides.

There is a Lundy Bancroft book that I recommend to everyone, and Lundy Bancroft talks about how to help your kids when they have an abusive dad. That might be a book that you might want to check out. But sometimes there’s not money or there isn’t a good therapist around or the narcissistic ex goes to the therapist and convinces the therapist that you’re the one who’s crazy. It gets a little tricky and it’s very complex.

Rose: Oh, I know. Well, one other thing too, real quick. I have found that some of my friend’s husbands or the kid’s friends’ husbands have been wonderful role models for my kids, also coaches. A lot of times, I’ll let the coaches know that if there’s been a situation where it’s a coach who yells a lot, I’ll let them know that that’s a trigger and my kids will just shut down if they get yelled at. It’s much better to tell them what they’re doing wrong and tell them how they can fix it. I’ve had some amazing coaches and some amazing dads step up and kind of take my kids under their wing.

Hopefully, somebody will do that for you too, besides your own dad, so that your kids can see what a person who doesn’t lie or a person who isn’t a narcissist really looks like.

Anne: Yes. Yes, I hope so. We’ll see. The world is not perfect and we’re all just doing the best we can, and that is what’s hard about it but, as I always say, I will die eventually, and that always makes me feel better.

I don’t know if that makes you feel better, but for me, I’m like oh, this cannot go on forever. Good. I’m not suicidal, but it really helps me to know that there is a peaceful happy place on the other side where people, like my ex, if they don’t change, they’re not going to be able to be there because Heaven is a place of peace. I will be protected completely from him and any other person who is trying to harm me in the afterlife, and that makes it a little more, “Ahh, okay. I can do this.” We can do this.

Educating our kids about narcissism and about abuse is also a good thing. It’s always going to help them. They need to know that it’s not them.

Rose: Right. I mean I don’t do that with my kids, except for the older two. I’ve just now started to do that because I feel like they’re not really old enough to understand. I don’t tell my 13-year-old that kind of thing. Sometimes I just tell them that maybe his dad isn’t making a good choice or that’s not how we treat people, or you know, a lesson like that.

For the girls, I send them quotes and things from Pinterest or Instagram that I see on narcissism, just because it relates to how their dad has treated them, so it can, hopefully, open their eyes. My biggest worry is that they’re going to find a boyfriend that treats them like that, and I, definitely, don’t want that.

Anne: The cool thing about that, if that happens, there is a silver lining to this, is that they will be just like you and me. If they have a boyfriend who is abusive, they will then learn a lot about themselves, they’ll learn a lot about boundaries.

They’ll even start learning about their dad, so it may be a catalyst for helping them really heal and understand. It’s unfortunate, and, hopefully, they could get a catalyst to healing in another way, but that it may end up being a catalyst to that because that’s what it took for me to really understand it. It’s what it took for you to really understand it.

Rose: Right. Well, and it has taken so long to heal. I mean, I thought I was healed right after I left the relationship. I didn’t think I was that bad, but over time, after listening to podcasts and really working on myself and things, I’m still healing from that relationship and I don’t know how long it’s going to take. It takes a long time. It’s a lot of work.

Anne: It is. It is work, but, again, we will die eventually.

Rose: I’m going to say that to myself the next time something happens that I don’t like.

Anne: Yeah. Maybe it will help you feel better. Well, thank you. So many other women are having these same questions and going through these same things, so I appreciate your bravery to come and talk about it.

Call For Stories

If any of you listening are interested in talking about the issues that you’re facing, you don’t have to have the answers or you don’t have to have it resolved or know what to do, but it still helps to know that we’re not alone and we’re all going through this together. Thanks for coming on today, Rose.

Rose: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Anne: If you need support trying to figure out what to do or trying to figure out exactly what’s going on in your relationship, please check out the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. If you go to btr.org, click on Services, and then go to Daily Support Group you can see our daily support group schedule. We have multiple sessions a day in multiple time zones, with professional Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coaches. Check out the schedule and we’d love to see you in a group session today.

Thank you to everyone who has rated the podcast on iTunes or other podcasting apps. I love seeing your comments and really feel supported and grateful when you comment, so thank you for doing that. I also love to see your comments on our website at btr.org.

I’d love to hear about your experience. If you have something to say, please contact us on the website. You can find this episode under Podcasts. You can also interact with us on Twitter @Betrayal Trauma, on Instagram @BetrayalTraumaRecovery, and on Facebook at Betrayal Trauma Recovery.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

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