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The Unavailable Father, Often A Covert Narcissist

Many daughters of abusive mothers grow up thinking there is no one as special as their father.  They claim he loved them unconditionally, and was a good man.  He never abused them, and was a great father.   It takes until adulthood for many women to realize that Dad was not as wonderful as he appears.

Many husbands of women with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, allow their wives to abuse their children.   They may not stay in the room with their wife and daughter while their wife is in the midst of a full blown narcissistic rage, and their actions give their wives permission to do as they want...

These fathers conveniently spend long hours at work, or in their garage or basement, spending as little time as possible with their family.

They also can turn their daughter's pain into their own.   When their daughter comes to them with complaints about her mother, the father will say something like it's hard for him to watch Mom act this way, too.

These men also feign helplessness as it is convenient for them.   For example, if his daughter asks for his help with her mother's abusive behavior, he says there is nothing he can do about it.

They also feign ignorance, claiming they had no idea things were so bad because they were at work (or wherever) when the worst of the abuse happened.

Some men are under their wives' spell, not seeing her flaws, making excuses for them or even pretending they do not see them.  They tell their daughters things like, "You need to be patient with your mom.   She has a lot on her mind."

There are also men who simply do not hear their daughters' cries for help.   They are narcissists themselves, and if it does not affect them, they do not care.

Many men have been the victim of their wives' narcissistic rages, and have learned to agree to let her do whatever she wants, even if that means hurting his daughter.   Some of these men will even turn attention onto the daughter if that means his wife's rage will not be directed at him.

Some of these men draw their daughters into an emotionally incestuous relationship. This means they treat their daughters more as partners than daughters. They confide in their daughters about their marital problems, complaining about how mean their wives are to them, often expecting the daughter to fix things for him. This serves two purposes- it draws the daughter into a close relationship with him, filling the gap left by his narcissistic wife, and it gives him someone who is on his side. Most men married to a woman with NPD do not like to discuss the problems with their friends or relatives. They do not want someone to tell them they need to take a stand- they simply want someone to tell them all will be alright.

This is what is known as covert narcissism.  (Overt narcissism is the more, "in your face" type.)  Covert narcissists, especially in comparison to their overtly narcissistic partners, come across as gentle, simple or naive.  However, the truth is, they are as bad as their overtly narcissistic counterparts- they are just quieter about their narcissistic abuse.   They as self-centered, entitled and uncaring as an overt narcissist, but instead of using rage and screaming to accomplish their goals, they use guilt, or feigned innocence and helplessness.

It can be very difficult when you realize your father has done (or has not done) these things, and that in his own way, he was as abusive as your narcissistic mother.   However, for the sake of your mental health, you need to accept this fact, and grieve for the loss of the father you thought you had.  This helps you to accept him as he is, not as you thought he was, to forgive him, and to decide if you want to continue having a relationship with him or not.  And, if you decide to continue your relationship with him, you will need to learn some new ways to deal with his behavior.  Learning healthy boundaries is a great way to start.   I have written a free online class that may help you in this area. You can find more information at this link: Boundaries Book Study

I found it very hard to forgive my father, but I realized for my own sanity, I had to let go of the anger at him, and you will need to do the same. I hate feeling anger inside of me- it is an awful way to live!    Although he did not deserve my forgiveness, I forgave him, and now see him as he is.  Nothing surprises me anymore. When he ignores what I say, or complains to me about how my mother treats him, I know he is going to do those things.  They irritate me, but I am accustomed to them.   I have learned to block things out, or to change subjects very quickly to distract him from telling me things I do not want to hear.   I also do not always answer the phone when he calls, even though I know he is going to try to make me feel guilty for that the next time we speak.  I no longer feel guilty, and have taken to coming back to his guilt trips with somewhat sarcastic comments that stop him from going on with the guilt trip.



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