Many children of narcissistic parents can’t understand why the other parent doesn’t protect them. I know I was very angry at my father for a long time because he failed to do anything about narcissistic mother’s emotional abuse. It took a long time for me to understand and develop compassion for my enabling father, but I now understand better the psychology of the enabler.
Enabling fathers often become enablers as a result of their codependency caused by a dysfunctional family dynamic in their own childhood. That has caused them to buy into your narcissistic mother’s delusions, and as a result, they have decided to disregard their own needs and yours to protect her.
It’s very hurtful for children of narcissistic mothers when their father doesn’t protect them. Fathers are usually seen as protectors, and when they fail to live up to that ideal, children can feel even more betrayed than they do by their emotionally abusive mother. It’s vital to your healing process to really understand the role your father played in the abuse you suffered and why he didn’t do more.
Why Didn’t My Enabling Father Protect Me?
Narcissists often have many enablers in their family including their partners, children, friends, and coworkers, among others. Enablers become that way for a host of different reasons but usually it’s out of a misguided sense of caretaking, also known as codependency.
Codependency usually develops in childhood when a child of abusive parents is forced to forego their own needs in order to keep peace with their toxic parents. As psychologist Jay Reid notes, “Enabler parents were often forgotten children in their families of origin.”
Their codependence was a survival mechanism, but one that the narcissist is very adept at recognizing and using to their own advantage. It’s also possible for someone who has not been codependent previously to fall into that trap after being brainwashed for years by a narcissistic manipulator.
The narcissist convinces them with manipulation tactics like gaslighting and projection that they are the ones at fault for any problems in the relationship. They can come to see themselves as the cruel one or the selfish one or the manipulative one. That’s what the narcissist tells them, and without anyone to tell them differently, they come to believe it over time.
Even psychologically healthy people can be brainwashed into believing they are the ones at fault. Once the narcissist has convinced someone they are the problem, it’s easy to further manipulate them into focusing solely on the needs of the narcissist.
It’s also common for enablers to convince themselves that they are the only people who can understand their narcissistic partner and fulfill their needs and desires. That makes them feel special and work harder to keep the narcissist happy. They will do so even at the expense of their own children.
Couldn’t My Father See My Narcissistic Mother’s Abuse?
There are a number of reasons an enabler continues to allow a narcissistic mother to abuse her children even when they realize the damage she is doing. It’s not really the case that your enabling father didn’t love you. It’s really about his own psychological damage.
Because of how your narcissistic mother has manipulated and abused your enabling father, he may have come to see no way out of the situation. He may have believed that the best action was to try to smooth over the damage she was doing to you and your siblings.
Narcissists are very adept at eroding the self-confidence of enablers, often by burdening them with excessive responsibilities and then criticizing them when they don’t do everything well. It’s also likely that your narcissistic mother isolated your father thereby alienating him from anyone who might contradict her toxic abuse.
It’s also possible that if your father ever threatened to leave her, she would have threatened to take the children away from him and drain all of his finances. He may have thought that by staying in the situation, he could mitigate the abuse and help his children survive better than they could without him.
Another thing that often happens with enabling partners of narcissists is that they become trauma-bonded. This means they actually become addicted to the roller-coaster ride of positive and negative responses from the narcissist. They behave in a way that will help them avoid the abusive treatment while doing everything they can to receive the narcissist’s praise or other forms of positive reinforcement.
Your narcissistic mother actually encouraged trauma bonding by alternating her own patterns of abuse and special treatment. She also likely did that with you too. It’s not at all uncommon for children of narcissists to be trauma-bonded.
How are ‘Flying Monkeys’ Different from Enablers?
The term ‘flying monkeys’ comes from the movie, The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, the wicked witch had flying monkeys who helped her carry out her dirty deeds. The narcissist’s flying monkeys are often family members, sometimes even children, who do the same thing.
They will carry out abuse by proxy. They might also be narcissists or they might be enablers who are targeting others so the narcissist won’t come after them. Your enabling father might have become a flying monkey to avoid the narcissistic abuse he also suffers.
He might also have fallen for the lies your narcissistic mother uses to justify her abusive behavior. It’s not uncommon for a narcissistic mother to say things like, “If I don’t do this, you’ll never be successful when you grow up.” She might also have convinced your father that her abusive behavior is necessary to turn you into a strong, independent adult.
Of course, the opposite is true. She doesn’t really want you to become an independent adult. She wants to keep you under her thumb as long as she possibly can. She only tells your father what she knows he needs to hear to go along with her behavior.
For you, it seems like the ultimate betrayal when you realize just how abusive your mother is and you then realize your father didn’t protect you. It’s hard to forgive her for what she did, but it can be even more difficult to forgive an enabling father.
How Can I Forgive My Enabling Father?
Recovering from the narcissistic abuse you suffered at the hands of your mother also means coming to terms with your enabling father’s inaction. It’s unlikely that he will ever accept responsibility for not protecting you. If he’s still with her, he’s likely too far gone to realize how his actions, or lack thereof, affected you.
Still, it’s important for you to come to terms with that and forgive him. Forgiveness is not really about his feelings, it’s about yours. Whether you work on your personal growth by going to a therapist or by doing some work on your own, it’s important to cultivate compassion for yourself and for your father.
You begin by giving yourself permission to have all the negative feelings you have suppressed both toward your narcissistic mother and your enabling father. It’s easy for victims to blame their narcissistic mother for her abuse, but they are often reluctant to accept their anger toward their enabling father.
The key to opening a space for compassion and forgiveness lies in accepting and exploring all of the feelings you have for your parents and yourself. Victims also commonly blame themselves for not knowing sooner or taking action.
Of course, you couldn’t have. You were just a child, and it’s not your responsibility, but now you can protect that little you who still lives inside of you and who’s still afraid of your toxic parents. Set and enforce strong boundaries if you still have contact with them so that little child knows you’re there to take care of them.
The next thing to do is to respect your own needs and prioritize them. Then you can explore your feelings for your father and mother so that you can cultivate the compassion you’ll need to forgive them. It’s vital for your well-being.
Sometimes the fact that your enabling father never protected you did more damage than your narcissistic mother’s emotional abuse. It’s a betrayal that’s hard to accept because it feels like no one loved you. Even if that is true (and for some people, it is), you can love yourself. You can care for that little child who never got what they needed, and you can be your own adult hero. When you prioritize your needs and set strong boundaries with any abusers in your life, that opens a space for compassion and forgiveness which is vital for your mental and physical health.
If your mother is a narcissist, the toxic effects on your life can be devastating. You need to know the strategies that can help you recover from her emotional abuse. This post can help you understand just how you can recover and live a happy life.
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