Why Do Narcissists Abandon Their Families?

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Narcissists will do whatever it takes to serve their own needs. They are self-absorbed, and they don’t have the capacity for empathy the way a healthy person does. They can’t put themselves in the shoes of other people, and therefore, they don’t understand how their behaviors affect other people. Moreover, they manipulate and control other people because they see them as extensions of their own identity. 

These traits make it easy for the narcissist to abandon their families. They do so when they feel their family no longer serves their purpose. They don’t make the narcissist look, and they aren’t providing them the narcissistic supply they so desperately need. That’s when they discard their family. 

If you have a narcissist in your family, you need to understand this dynamic to best protect your family members from an eventual discard. Read on to learn more about why narcissists might abandon even their own children. 

What Causes a Narcissist to Abandon Their Family?

Narcissism forms in childhood, and because of this, the narcissist’s worldview tends to remain very immature for the duration of their life. This immature worldview means that the narcissist tends to think in binary terms. 

What Causes a Narcissist to Abandon Their Family

Things are ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘black’ or ‘white,’ or ‘right or wrong.’ In the narcissist’s mind, you’re either with them or you’re against them. There is no in-between. This extends to every person in their own life, including their spouse and children. 

Additionally, narcissists project an image of themselves as superior. They proclaim they are the only ones, the special ones, who can see reality for what it is. While this is what they project, the reality is that inside, they feel hopelessly vulnerable, and they are full of shame and self-loathing. 

This distorted view of reality is part of the reason why they attempt to manipulate and control the people around them. They also objectify and dehumanize them. They got this way because of their own dysfunctional family, but they pass on that abuse to their own spouse and children. 

The narcissist uses people to help them project their image of superiority, but if you are not doing that for them or if they have become bored with you, that’s when the nature of your relationship with them changes. They begin to devalue you using your emotional triggers, and that is usually followed by a discard

This can happen to anyone in their life. Narcissists have even been known to abandon their entire family at once. When they have done this, they are now free to reinvent themselves and start all over again.

Why are Narcissists Prone to Abandoning Their Family?

The answer to that lies in their own dysfunctional family, the one they experienced in their childhood. Typically, the narcissist was abused in their own childhood. They were taught that they were incapable of doing anything for themselves. 

Why are Narcissists Prone to Abandoning Their Family

They were also taught that love is conditional, and you must perform to receive love. In any family, there are roles that individuals fill even though they are not consciously aware of these roles. In a dysfunctional family, the children’s roles are the following: 

The Caretaker

This child is given adult responsibilities at a young age. It’s known as parentification, and it’s very common in the family where one or both parents is a narcissist. 

The Hero/Golden Child

This child seems to be favored by their dysfunctional parents, but they actually suffer more than other children. Their parents have extremely high, and often unrealistic, expectations of them, and when they can’t live up to those expectations, they suffer great damage to their self-esteem. 

The Rebel

This child is the one who is constantly acting out and breaking the family rules. They are frequently punished, and often develop problems with substance abuse. 

The Lost Child

This is an introverted child who tries to fly under the radar. They don’t want to be noticed, but as a result, they don’t get their needs met. They often avoid intimacy and situations where they feel vulnerable. 

The Manipulator/The Mastermind

This child is likely to become a narcissist. They exploit any vulnerabilities in the family to get their needs met. They are not conscious of the needs of others. 

The Mascot/The Clown

This child uses humor to try to distract from the problems the family is experiencing. They are trying in their own way to save the family by minimizing problems. 

The Scapegoat/Black Sheep/Truth Teller

This child is similar to the rebel in that they seem to act against the family rule, but they are different in that they are innocent of wrongdoing. They are, however, usually blamed for anything that goes wrong in the family

In the narcissistic family, it is often the manipulator who becomes a narcissist themselves. They learn at an early age that they have to focus solely on their own needs. As an adult, they continue to exhibit that pattern. This includes abandoning their own family if that suits their needs. It also means abandoning them if they don’t live up to the narcissist’s expectations. 

What is Ultimately Behind the Narcissistic Discard?

Narcissists simply lack the emotional maturity to nurture complex relationships. When they feel threatened, as often happens when they are close to someone, they can opt to simply leave and start over again. 

What is Ultimately Behind the Narcissistic Discard

They also fear intimacy and need everyone in the family to focus on their needs. As author, teacher, and youth worker Elizabeth Margaret wrote about her narcissistic husband who abandoned his three children, “He really didn’t like that he was not the center of their universe.”

When a spouse focuses on the children, for example, narcissists can become jealous and act out, including by using abandonment as a tool for punishment. It’s easier for them than it is to stay and deal with these difficult emotions. 

The narcissist also needs everyone in the family to be propping up their public image. If a child is rebelling, as children often do, that makes the narcissist look bad. They aren’t appearing to be the perfect parent they said they were. Sometimes, the easiest choice is to simply walk away and find a new family that will serve their needs. 

They also use abandonment as a type of punishment. Most people want some kind of closure when a relationship ends. Narcissists will often abandon a spouse or their entire family with little or no explanation. They are effectively punishing them for not doing what they wanted. It harkens back to that lesson the narcissist learned as a child that love is conditioned on your performance. 

It’s a difficult trauma to endure when someone simply disappears from your life, but this is one way a narcissist can dump their responsibilities and start anew. 

Final Thoughts

Narcissism results in an array of different behaviors that are related to the unhealthy coping strategies a child learns as they are developing this devastating personality disorder. They pass on a dark legacy where love is conditional and needs may not be met. It continues the cycle of abuse since the abandoned children and family members are often left traumatized, often for life. 

Narcissists are very adept at ruining lives. They will use your own emotions against you and make your life miserable. But you can stop their emotional abuse. A good start is to use my 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. This roadmap can help you heal your emotional triggers so the narcissist in your life can’t use them to manipulate and control you. Just click on this link and I’ll send a free copy to your inbox.


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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