narcissistic personality disorderThis is the second part of Sarah P’s three-part series on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and the narcissistic mother-in-law.  In this post, Jae Lee personal injury law delves into the definition and management side of NPD while tying it together with her example from her first post.

‘Narcissism’ has become a catch-all term that includes selfishness, self-centeredness, greed, and malignant self love.

However, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a very real mental illness that is formally defined within the DSM-V. Many criteria need to be met in order to accurately make such a diagnosis. These criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • Inability to have empathy for the hurt they have caused another
  • Refusal to take accountability for their actions
  • Extremely inflated sense of self, feeling they are better than everyone else
  • Lack of insight in terms of how their behavior has contributed to a situation

These traits must be pervasive and stable over a number of years. These behaviors cannot better be explained by chemical dependency, and/or early onset of dementia.

Why Did Steve’s Mom Qualify For This Diagnosis?

Well, a proper diagnosis of NPD could not be made based only on the case study that was presented in the first part of this series. When working through the case study it becomes apparent that NPD would explain Steve’s mother’s behavior.

However, there are several other personality disorders that could also explain her behavior. Those include Borderline Personality Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder.

The answer can be found in gathering information and assessing whether or not any of these disorders fit his mother’s behavior.

A diagnosis of NPD can only be made when it is ascertained whether or not the condition is pervasive. It also must be differentiated from other personality disorders.

So, a more detailed picture of Steve’s family or origin needed to be gathered.

As Steve spoke more about his past, he described a childhood where both he and his father spent an inordinate amount of energy flattering his mother and adhering to the incorrect realities that she expressed. Steve reported that his mother’s life revolved around thinking she was better than others and badgering others into adhering to such a delusion.

But the most telling factor is that Steve reported that his mother had lost all of her prior friends due to frequent narcissistic rages. In fact, Steve mentioned his mother had been fired from every job in which she worked because of her rages. These rages were brought on when others were not treating his mother as if she was royalty.

Steve also noted that anytime he attempted to tell his mother that her behavior was hurtful to him, she would immediately fly into rages. He explained that when this happened, both his father and brother quickly worked to soothe Steve’s mother while at the same time villanizing Steve.

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Steve had become a family scapegoat because he was the only one who had a pattern of occasionally standing up to his mother. Steve reported that his father’s mantra to his sons was that they needed to meet the mother’s every need without question.

After interviewing Steve in detail, it became apparent that Steve’s mother’s baseline behavior included gaslighting, patterns of outright lying, constant manipulation, inability to empathize with others, including her own family members, scapegoating, and a ceaseless need for admiration and verbal adoration.

At that point, it became abundantly clear Steve’s mother qualified for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Hello NarcissistManaging a Person With Narcissist Personality Disorder

But, a crucial question remained. Should Steve and Suzy seek an amicable divorce as Suzy had originally suggested?

It depends.

Steve and Suzy would need to form a united front. At the foundation of the united front would be agreed upon boundaries that would be applied to Steve’s family; especially his mother.

There was no reason to divorce if they agreed to set extremely firm boundaries and stand by them, regardless of the pressure from Steve’s family members.

But, Steve also needed to readjust his expectations and gain a more healthy understanding of his role as a spouse.

First, Steve had to realize when he got married he had to leave and cleave.

All of Steve’s behavior and decisions would need to adhere to this principle.

It had become apparent that Steve’s mother had attempted to make him into a hybrid of a confidante, a child, and a forced admirer. Steve’s mother expected Steve to listen to her for hours on end, to reiterate constantly how wonderful and smart his mother was, and to do absolutely everything she said to do, even as an adult.

Steve could no longer perform such a role for his mother if he wanted his marriage to survive.

It was apparent that for Steve’s adult life, he attempted to walk a tightrope between constantly pleasing and ‘obeying’ his mother, trying to be a good husband, and then also attempting to get his own needs met as an adult.

It was not possible for Steve to be in a fully emotionally committed relationship with his wife while still ‘obeying’ and pandering to his mother. But, this would be difficult because of the guilting that frequently occurred in his family.

Steve admitted that he was terrified of the guilt that his mother, his father, and his brother would induce if he did not play his designated role in the family system. Still, this was not a valid reason to continue in a destructive dynamic.

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The second thing Steve needed to do was to receive individual counseling, preferably with an older male counselor who could be a mentor and therapist. Normally, this type of gendered recommendation would not be necessary. But, Steve came from a family where the power was solely in the hands of a female narcissist.

The third thing Steve needed to do was enforce strict boundaries in terms of his mother and his extended family. This would be the hardest task for Steve, since he had lived a life solely dictated by his mother.

The fourth task was that Steve needed to go no contact with his mother for a period of several months. Steve needed time to adjust to this new way of thinking and being.

Fortunately, Steve was willing to do the work because the most important thing to him was to have a harmonious and loving life with his wife and their child.

narcissistAre There Other Options Besides the Strict Boundary Setting Described Above?

The answer is plainly “no”. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder do not understand reason. They do not understand, or want to understand, the feelings and needs of others.

The person with NPD maintains an elaborate inner world where he or she is always blameless, he or she is always the victim of other’s behavior, and where he perceives himself as perfect. Everyone else is always wrong, while he is always right.

Narcissists view the world in terms of black and white—not in terms of morality, but in terms of their way always being the right way, even if their way is immoral or harmful.

If the narcissist physically harms someone outside of himself, he will concoct an elaborate story that describes how his victim made him do it. While holding the victim responsible for the narcissist’s actions, the narcissist will, at the same time, name himself as victim and the victim as perpetrator.

The narcissist absolutely convinces himself or herself of these false truths and behaves accordingly.

This was precisely the thought process that allowed Steve’s mother to believe that she was under attack. This was the thought process that allowed Steve’s mother to physically attack Suzy and to delusionally believe she was defending herself.

Because of this when Steve’s mother called Steve’s father, she presented a story about being extremely victimized and harmed by Steve and Suzy. Whether or not Steve’s father could have guessed the truth, he had long ago been ‘trained’ by Steve’s mother to support her delusions.

As Steve said himself, “My father always told us to do whatever my mother said. He told me that anytime he began to stand up to her, the fury that was unleashed was such that it became easier just to back down. My dad always told us, ‘Don’t rock the boat. Don’t make waves.”

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Narcissistic mother in lawBack To Suzy and Steve’s Issue

The very bottom line that Steve needed to understand was that there was nothing he or Suzy could do to make Steve’s mom a loving person. It was an absolute impossibility.

Furthermore, there was nothing that Steve did to cause his mother’s behavior. Her behavior was wholly her own issue.

Steve needed to understand that he could no longer allow himself to be baited by the guilt that other family members attempted to impose. It was not his fault and he did nothing to cause his mother’s behavior.  Both Steve and Suzy needed time to adjust to this new truth and to assimilate it.

Furthermore, Steve needed to understand that even though his own father had made the choice long ago not to rock the boat, not to make waves, Steve was permitted to follow a different path.

Steve was allowed to individuate.

Steve was allowed to have a loving and sane relationship with Suzy.

Steve was allowed to be happy.

I do not believe that Steve and Suzy needed to get a divorce. But, I do believe that if their marriage was to survive, Steve must undergo foundational changes to his thinking and to his behavior.

Most of all, Steve must refuse to accept the responsibility for his mother’s behavior and to learn what behavior is acceptable. Only then will Steve and Suzy’s marriage have a chance at surviving.

After all, each of us teaches people how to treat us. Narcissists can no longer mistreat us if we do not make ourselves available for such mistreatment.

Steve’s Conundrum and Its Roots in Early Childhood Attachment

Each of us brings pieces of our past into all of our relationships.  This is especially true in the case of marriage.

These pieces of our past begin to form the moment we are born.

From the moment we are born, we are wired to form attachments to our primary caregivers. These attachments, which are shaped from birth to three, form patterns that dictate the way we will attach to others throughout our lives.

Psychologists use the concept of attachment patterns to describe what happens when an individual does not attach to early in ways that permit optimal psychological growth and development.

I’ll address these patterns and more in the third and final part of this series.


    42 replies to "The Narcissistic Mother-in-law – Part 2"

    • Tryinghard

      Well I’m not a therapist but this is my MIL and my FIL. I am trying very hard sticking to the no contact rule but my H feels out of obligation that he needs to go see his parents. We take our grandson as a diversion otherwise the conversation goes in the narcissts direction. I only go to be supportive to my H but I am starting to re-think that strategy. Maybe I shouldn’t go at all but that would have a negative impact on my relationship with my H. We are worn out when we leave those visits and both agree its “tough duty”. I believe the only reason he feels obligated to visit them is for his father and to keep the business relationship peaceful. I do want him to set some boundaries when she goes off though and simply get up and leave. I don’t think I can take watching him take her tirades like I saw last summer with her. It really puts him in a terrible mood for many days afterward and I have to live with it. I think if he walked away from it he would feel empowered and feel not so manipulated by her. His demeanor is so different when they are gone for the winter.

      I’m looking forward to reading the third part of this series. I hope you will address how coming from this kind environment impacts my husbands choices to cheat and betray. One therapist said it was only a forgone conclusion when someone comes from this kind of upbringing. Either that or they drink or use drugs as in my SIL’s case.

    • Sarah P.

      Hello Tryinghard,

      When someone comes from this type of environment, they are never able to securely attach to their caregivers. My opinion is that the lack of secure attachment causes life-long consequences since they did not get their needs met. When needs are not met, needs might be met through unhealthy sources that include alcohol, drugs, and/or affairs. The third post will talk more about the interruption of secure attachment. So, for people like your H it is best that he is seek out an excellent individual therapist and that person help him look at attachment issues and also re-parent him. Therapists almost need to go backwards and speak to the wounded child within clients with insecure attachments. That child needs to feel loved before things can begin to change externally. This concept is different than ‘getting in touch with your inner child’ which has become more of a buzz phrase.

      Last week, I was watching some Dr. Phil shows from 2013. He has several different shows where he addresses strained relationships with the in-laws. There were several women he spoke with in similar situations to yours. What he told them was that these they did NOT have to visit their in-laws and neither did their children or grandchildren. My thought on this is that I will not bring an innocent and impressionable child into a situation that is known to be emotionally harmful and traumatizing. I say that when parents or grandparents behave in ways that are outrageous, they have torn up the parenting/grand-parenting card. Dr. Phil appears to feel the same way. Of course, this all happens in degrees and I only believe in withholding contact when behavior is extreme. Your in-laws seem to have extreme behavior from what you described.

      I guess the bottom line is that you need to ask yourself, does seeing them benefit me or my grandchildren? Is seeing them neutral? Or does seeing them do a lot of harm? If seeing them does harm, then it might be best to stay away for a little while.

      But, if you need to see them to keep the peace, I just found the Holy Grail of books on personality disorders. I have read a lot of books on this topic, but most of them don’t provide clear step-by-step guidelines on how to deal with people with PDs in ways that are effective. The book that I just finished is awesome and enlightening. It provides so many tools on how to interact with them when you must and how to keep your cool so that you can remain emotionally unscathed. As a rule of thumb, I try to avoid folks with severe PDs because they are too draining. But, there are times when it isn’t possible to avoid them for whatever reason. That’s where this book comes in. It is called:

      Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition
      by Albert Bernstein, PhD (Author)

    • Sarah P.

      It’s absolutely ok for your H to visit his parents without you and without a grandchild.There is no rule that says you need to sign up for that treatment.

      I am in a similar situation and I always tell my H he is free to visit them on his own as much as he wants.

      Funny thing is, he refuses to go if I don’t go. He admits that he doesn’t want to be ganged up on. So, basically we stay home, don’t see them, and that is fine with my H.

      They are free to come and see us, but we have rules of conduct that we expect. Since we have set those rules, they haven’t come around either. My FIL thinks it is unfair that we ask my MIL to act like a reasonable person when they visit. We insist that there is no screaming, no tantrums, no blatantly insulting people for fun, no attempting to turn me and my spouse against each other or telling blatant lies just because she likes to stir up trouble.That’s my MILs version of fun– breaking people down emotionally and causing discord. Since we have set those rules, they don’t come to see us. That just proves how unreasonable and skewed personality disordered thinking can be. They think they have a right to act terrible and other people don’t have rights at all– they believe folks must take it.
      So, it is up to you to say no. They will never change.

    • tryinghard


      ACKKK…another book?? OK I’ll try it 🙂

      You gave me a great idea. If I say no that I won’t go there I believe he won’t go either. He hates going to see them alone. I didn’t tell you she is a hoarder too and their home is a disaster area!!

      She’s never reared her ugly head in front of my grandson until last summer at my house. We never went back to see them nor did they come over until Thanksgiving. You are right though, I can’t take a chance of her blowing up, particularly in front of my grandson.

      My H had a wonderful relationship with his grandmother and paternal grandparents. He was very adored and loved by them. Not so much by his own parents, but they left him every weekend with one of them and he loved going there. LOL now she says she was forced by her mother to bring him over to her house every weekend. She is a big fat liar!! She did it because she wanted to go out with her friends and it was free babysitting. So I think the only reason he isn’t full blown NPD like his folks is because of their influence.

      It is very bad for me to go over. I hate it the whole time. I am a nervous wreck when I am there and afterward. My therapists have encouraged me NOT to go over to see them. Even when I do go over and don’t even say anything, she will call my H to criticize me in some way. She is both overt and covert. I guess I need to talk to him about no contact unless absolutely necessary ie holidays.

      There is no way I could ever set any rules or boundaries for her to live by. She would not get it at all. I might as well speak Chinese to her. I’ve stood up to her so that makes me a huge target. She is jealous of her daughter and she has stood up to her too and SHE too is a huge target. As I said she sucks up to my H because he supports them financially and she’s afraid of pissing off her goose that is laying her golden eggs. He has stood up to her a couple times but it goes in one ear and out the other. They are too old and too incorrigible! They won’t ever change and they are getting worse if anything.

      You’re awesome:)

      • Sarah P.

        Hello Tryinghard,

        Those who are old and incorrigible were at one time young and incorrigible.

        Your therapist is absolutely correct in saying you do not have to go over there.

        In this country, at least in polite society, we are taught to tolerate misbehavior, to turn the other cheek, to ignore the harm others cause (especially when they are family members).

        One day, a few years ago, I drafted a ‘Bill of Rights” for my family. It included the idea that I did not have to make my children or myself available for mistreatment just because someone happens to be a family member. Of course, this came after a thousand attempts to try to have even a neutral relationship with my own MIL. Long ago, I had given up on loving or even friendly relationship– so I moved my expectation to neutral. Once my MIL refused to accommodate a neutral relationship, I came up with a Bill of Rights for my family.

        You might want to sit down and draft a Bill of Rights for your own family. Your MIL will ignore it, but its not for her. It is for you so that you can keep perspective amid all the gasligthing and baiting.

        I think most long-term practicing therapists agree that people do not have to interact with harmful family members.

        Try that book– yes, another book! I have read so many of these books, but this is the only one I have come across that does such a great job explaining how to manage relationships with PDs. It also provides you with things to say as well as insight into what makes them tick. The author is a PhD and has been a practicing therapist for about 30 years. He hits the nail on the head and his writing style is hilarious too. I bought it on kindle since it’s more cost effective. Gotta love kindle!

        Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry
        2nd Edition
        by Albert Bernstein, PhD

        Remember, you always have choices!!

        • Strengthrequired

          Your right Sarah, we tend to overlook the harmful behaviours our family members make. My h ow (cousin it) called him last week, he answered by accident as she calls on private numbers in the hopes to get him. He was abrupt with her, but she said to him. “Ohh I wanted to see how you are, we are still cousins you know”. He just told her he was fine, and had to go.
          My husband is a good man, he has always been thoughtful of family, always wanted to help out where he could, so it makes me wonder if because she is family, if he is able to still let her go, or that family tie wins out and she remains a cousin it relationship.
          I don’t believe she deserves that title of cousin, I don’t believe after what she did to my family deserves her to be apart of our lives, she stopped being deserving of any type of relationship with my family, once she crossed the line with my h.
          Yet of course she feels as though she is very deserving, I truly don’t think she believes that she did anything wrong. She at one time, at the beginning of the ea coming out, after I caught her at my h workplace, (I asked my h what is that doing here). Of course the reply was, we are just talking.
          Anyway, afterwards, she asked my h, since when am I a that? What happened to us being family?
          Wth, I couldn’t believe it, here she is wondering why I wasn’t being welcoming of her.
          This ow, put me and my children through hell, and even now believes it is ok to have contact with my h using the family card. Absolutely crazy.
          So I made it clear to my h, Thankyou for telling me the truth, but if you want to keep her apart of your life, your welcome to, but I will be done. I will no longer fight for you, as I don’t believe that I am being respected if the contact continues and she doesn’t get told that you don’t want to hear from her again.
          I told him that, If you can remain in contact with her after all she has done, how she had hurt us so much then it’s not right.
          I know he isn’t, but I needed to let it out there, that there is no room for her in our lives if we want to be together.
          It’s funny, he said after she called him, a few times after that, he mistakenly answered private calls on his hands free, and no one would answer.
          I think I am going to be putting up with this for a while, at least until she finds another sucker to fall for her.

          • Sarah P.

            Hello Strengthrequired,

            The OW is literally his cousin? As in blood relative? (A similar thing happened in my marriage, but said ‘cousin’ didn’t succeed… more on that below)

            I am beginning to see yet another set of patterns in dysfunctional families involving cousins. In all dysfunctional families, you can bet that boundaries are violated all over the place. And where boundaries are violated (or non-existent) some pretty strange things start to happen.

            I have a similar story to yours only my husband’s first cousin (a woman who is married with children). But she didn’t succeed. Here is the background: my H comes from a family that, like most families, is incredibly geographically scattered. Before my H was born, his narcissist mom had a falling out with her brother because her brother did not allow his sister to pick out a wife for him. My narc MIL thinks that she can run everyone’s life, including the lives of strangers. And no, they are not from a culture where marriages are arranged. So, my narc MIL’s brother married a woman she did not approve of (since she did not pick out his wife) and so she literally disowned her brother. That lasted for about 15 years. By the time they started talking again, her brother had a daughter that was the exact same age as my husband. Fast forward many more years… My H and his cousin, who I will call “Kate”, never met face to face or communicated because my MIL believed that Kate was inferior because Kate was the daughter of someone my MIL did not pick for her brother. (This is not an exaggeration. Even my MIL admits this). So, the first time my H met his female first cousin Kate was at my BIL’s wedding 3 summers ago. I was also there to meet Kate face-to-face for the first time. Kate was there with her husband and her two tween children. Kate’s husband was lovely and so were her children– very polite and sweet. Kate’s husband outwardly doted on her since she is and was very attractive (physically speaking). Well, at the wedding reception, Kate had already put away at least 4 shots of vodka and dragged her sober husband and kids over to talk to me and my husband. Only, Kate didn’t talk to me or even acknowledge me. Instead, she very awkwardly and openly hit on my husband in front of her husband, her kids, and me. She kept trying to lean on him and as she slurred her words, she said, “I have seen your picture for years. You are so attractive…I always knew we would have such a connection when we met. Bam– like a bolt of lightening…” As my husband squirmed and as her kids looked mortified, she continued, “You know we are cousins. Family needs to stick together. I want to start talking on the phone and you can come out for a visit too. We have a big house– you will come and stay, won’t you?” Luckily at that point, my BIL happened to come along because he needed my H for part of the festivities. We left the reception soon after that since the important parts were over and we were exhausted.

            Low and behold, after we got home, an invitation arrived from Kate because she wanted us to come and stay under the premise of attending her son’s bar-mitvah. (Kate and her H are both Jewish). When we did not answer the invite, Kate called my MIL asking why my H and I did not answer the invite. Then, my MIL called. Now, my MIL does not like Kate but my MIL was going to attend the bar-mizvah and wanted my H there. My H simply told his mom we were too bus. His mom kept manipulating, but we didn’t budge. Between work and having to travel across the entire country, we could not have made it regardless. Kate has tried to friend my H on Facebook but he doesn’t use facebook or accept friend requests. He has his name in there as a place holder– that’s it. Kate always sends unsolicited mail– usually photos of her kids and her personal accomplishment. My husband does not respond. He and I discussed long ago how to handle Kate after the wedding reception. He is drawing a boundary and not even opening the door for a casual relationship. My H finds her behavior intrusive, but he cannot get his mind around the idea that she might actually be interested in him in a way that is rated “R”. He cannot comprehend why she would feel that way since they are relatives. And then there is the fact she is married– so he just cannot wrap his head around why she would be interested. So that is my story about my H’s cousin trying to start something icky.

            So, you have a narc MIL, I have a narc MIL, and both of our husbands have female cousins who want inappropriate relationships.

            So, here is the connection I am seeing:

            In a family where a narcissist rules the roost, boundaries will be non-existent. So, when boundaries are non-existent, all kinds of abnormal things happen. Plus, when boundaries are non-existent in the first place, I am going to go out on a limb and say that when someone is raised in such a family system, having an extramarital affair might come as second nature. They have been enculturated in a family where the message is that there is no border between ‘you’ and ‘me’. In this family, there is no “I”, there is only “we”. So, I am going to make the leap and say if a man has a narcissist MIL he can be more prone to affairs than folks who have ‘normal’ or at least quasi moms. When I say ‘normal’, I mean within the cultural norm. In reality, all families have dysfunction in that there are times families don’t function optimally. But in narcissistic family systems, the dysfunction becomes THEIR normal. Having no boundaries becomes their normal. So, it would be easy enough when there is no difference between “I” and “we” that someone could slip into an affair (ea or sa) and not even realize it until they are in too deep since their ‘normal’ is defined by having no boundaries.

            Strengthrequired, any thoughts on that idea? Have you noticed anything like this going on?

            Thanks again for sharing and thanks for reading my account of my H’s cousin with no boundaries. (It’s always good to vent about that kind of weirdness since it is so foreign to me).

            • Strengthrequired

              Sarah, sorry you have the crazy cousin too. I don’t have mil probs, used to be fil probs. mil has always stood by me.
              Yet can I say, I have never met her. Lol
              I think all my troubles stem from my fil side of the family, as it was his sister who is the mother of cousin it. I don’t put anything past this family, I’m just surprised I was wrong for once about my fil, when before it was him.
              I don’t see there any boundaries these people won’t cross.
              I have to say though, I can see where cousin it gets her traits from.
              If my h can ever think it is ok to stay in contact with this ow and her family, then he doesn’t see the damage they really caused.
              I hoe he keeps his eyes open and sees exactly how damaging these people are.

            • Sarah P.

              Hello Strengthrequired,

              Sorry, my misunderstanding– I had assumed there were MIL problems as well. But in your case it is FIL who causes some issues. Where does MIL stand in all of this? How does she react to cousin it’s behavior toward your h?

            • Strengthrequired

              My mil, I believe has no idea, both my h parents are divorced ever since my h was very young. Which is why I have met my fil, not my mil though. I would assume if my mil knew she would be horrified.

    • Left behind

      What is one to do if they have to continue to deal with a narcissistic ex-spouse, because they are still the father of their 3 year old daughter. There are times I feel mentally tortured. I’ve been advised that I must establish firm boundaries & stand my ground, but every time I try doing so, he does something to hurt me. To help explain my situation, I’ll describe some of the exchanges that have occurred over the last few weeks. My X had not had the courtesy to share the property tax statements from our marital home, which we are still trying to sell, but instead turned them directly over to his accountant, so his taxes could be filed. After asking him to request copies of the forms for over 3 weeks, & he refusing to do so, I finally called the accountants office directly & explained what was happening. Within 2 hours my X emailed the documents, along with a notice that he was taking my daughter away on vacation over Thansgiving weekend this year (a weekend that I had been looking forward to having her, because it was to have fell on my scheduled weekend, per the custody schedule). Last week he asked if I could care for our daughter tonight, even though it was to be his Friday night to have her. I of course agreed to take her. Then after I decided I should give him “vacation” notice for other weekends that I was counting on having her with me for family b-days, etc., he informed me that I no longer could have her this Friday, because he was able to “re-arrange things”. When I tried to explain it was rude, because I had changed my schedule to care for her & that I had already told our daughter about what I had planned for her & I to do, he insisted he was doing nothing wrong because he was giving me 3 days notice that he “changed his mind”. Then I had to tell my daughter that we could not keep our plans, which caused her to question me constanly over the next two days about “why did Daddy change his mind?” I thought it best to let him know that she was struggling with the change & now he is not allowing me to speak with her tonight by phone, even though I had promised her I would call to say goodnight 🙁 I hate that he prevents me from following through with my promises to her! I suspect the reason why he did not answer my call, is because our daughter isn’t really in his care, but he instead left her with someone else (most likely his affair partner).

    • Sarah P.

      Hello Leftbehind,

      I certainly understand your frustration with the situation.

      Yes, you need to set boundaries– BUT, what most folks won’t tell you is that when you start to set boundaries, the other person will use it as an opportunity to push your buttons in retaliation. (That is when the person might have an personality disorder).

      Still, divorces are terrible and they wear on the best of people. But, if you have an ex-spouse who is a narcissist, it makes an incredibly difficult situation 1,000 times more difficult.

      Here are some solutions for the short term that work for couples in high conflict situations:

      1. Appoint a trusted family member to communicate with your husband on all issues. Let the family member arrange visitation. Let the family member use their home as the pick up and drop off point for your daughter.

      2. Familiarize yourself with the tactics narcissists use to hurt others. Realize that what your ex does is with the intention of upsetting you. That provides him with power. Remove his power by gaining perspective and doing whatever it takes NOT to react.

      3. If and when he uses your daughter as a pawn, talk to your attorney to see what steps you can take.

      4. Please see a skilled therapist who knows how to support you since you likely went through a high conflict divorce. (That is, high conflict coming from his side, not yours).

      Some recommended reading:

      Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder
      Randi Kreger (Author), Bill Eddy (Author)

      Narcissists Exposed – 75 Things Narcissists Don’t Want You to Know
      by Drew Keys

      Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life
      by Linda Martinez-Lewi

      Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, & Other Toxic People [Kindle Edition]
      Peace (Author)

      Some websites and online support groups:

      Leftbehind, please remember that the most important thing to do here is to shield your daughter from this chaos he creates as much as you can. While he may not be the model parent at this moment, you can continue to model positive behavior for your daughter by being calm, being present for her, and sending the message that she is not responsible for all that is happening. (Even though it isn’t rational, all little kids in one way or another think they are responsible for what is going on).

      Plus use a trusted go-between whenever you can. This way, you do not get drawn into the button-pushing that he likes to do as part of his manipulations. You cannot do anything to change him; but, you can choose to behave and react in ways that protect you and your daughter emotionally. You can break the cycle simply by choosing to change your reactions and keeping firm boundaries.

    • forcryin'outloud

      I remember our initial therapist who by the way was phenomenal (so sad we moved so far away from her) told me early on that my MiL wasn’t evil but she was irrational and didn’t think with reason like I do. I had a hard time with that notion for, well, up until the past few months. And with our latest crisis with the MiL’s recent surgery it blows me away how she manipulates just by her nature. I truly believe there is no reaching her. So for that I will keep my extremely tight boundaries in place and I will never find myself around her without others. I will never give her ammunition to use against me. She can conjure up enough all on her own. :-/
      As far as my H. He’s a mess where she is concerned. She yanks his chain, manipulates and argues if he refuses to side with her. She’s managed over the years to alienate her sons from their father. She’s always vocalizing what an insensitive ass he is but if they agree with her she tells them they are being disrespectful to him. huh? But if they tell her he is tired of trying to deal with her drama she gets nasty and immediately takes the victim role. It makes your head spin. None of it is reasonable. With that I believe my H sees most if not all women as manipulating, controlling and always agenda driven. He needs to do a lot of work but I doubt that will ever happen. Instead he is in this constant push/pull dynamic with me which I’m finding exhausting.

      • tryinghard


        I hear you. I do believe though that my MIL is evil.

        I agree. I won’t give her any more ammunition. When I was younger I had words with her and it only made things worse for me. I did it trying to set boundaries but they don’t understand boundaries so it was a big waste of time and energy. I should have just stopped all but necessary contact with her after the first incident which happened before our wedding day! I believed if I was good enough and kind enough I could “win” her over. Not true with these people. The kinder you are the worse they are. The trick is staying totally neutral. Talk about the weather and the price of gas!

        She has played a big part in my marital problems and I was stupid enough to let her. Had I stayed neutral she would have just faded away. Why are life’s lessons so hard learned but boy have I learned. I am staying neutral where all my family’s idiosyncrasies are concerned.

        I just don’t know what I will do if I ever see her blow up and get in my H’s face again. It was very hard for me to witness that. I know it’s going to happen it’s just a matter of when.

        It seems like my life since DDay is all about waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I wonder why I have so much anxiety.

        It IS exhausting.

        • Sarah P.

          Hello Tryinghard,

          Sounds like it might be time to formalize ‘no contact’ with your in-laws. I know what you mean about how hard it is to witness your MIL blow up in your h’s face.

          I have been witness to the many times my MIL got triggered for who knows what reason and got in my husband’s face while yelling, berating him, and saying terrible things to him. I have also seen her do the same thing to her husband and other son. Some people could look at that and say she is mentally ill and not in her right mind– that is she is delusional. But, I don’t like that explanation because it implies that she cannot help her behavior, much like a schizophrenic cannot help their behavior. But, the thing is, she CAN help her behavior. She knows what she is doing, she does it to terrorize people, and she appears to glean great pleasure out of terrorizing people.

          So,the last time she had the opportunity to do that was 2 years ago. After that, we have set very firm boundaries and have stuck to them. In place, these boundaries no longer give her the opportunity to harm others.

          It might be time to find ways NOT to give her the opportunity to do more harm. This may take the form of going no contact.

          It’s tragic when it comes to this– after all, I have gone into this field to bring families together and to resolve conflict. But, the more I learn and also directly experience, the more I know that the best thing to do to keep a family together is to remove contact with the malignant person who will not change.

      • Sarah P.


        I know exactly what you are talking about in terms of your MIL. Unfortunately, the most profound impact here (also the thing that impacts you) is how your H has processed the experience of having a mom like that and how he behaves based on those prior experiences.

        In part 3 of this series I am going to talk about attachment patterns and how when a child is insecurely attached (as in when a child has a narc mom) the child grows up to have dysfunctional relationships.

        The push-pull phenomenon you describe in your H seems to be common in men who have personality disordered moms. When they were children, their emotional needs were not met by their mothers. There mothers saw them as an extension of themselves and not as an autonomous individual.

        They didn’t get their needs met emotionally, but many times they didn’t get their needs met physically either. A possible example: baby is crying because he has a wet diaper, but narc mom is on the phone getting ‘narcissistic feed’ from a friend or relative. Narc mom only gets off the phone when she has finished getting her fill of narcissistic feed. Baby is left with a wet diaper. Eventually, Baby gets his diaper changed who-knows-when and comes to realize that the only reliable thing that he has is an UNreliable mom. The mom’s needs trump the baby’s needs.

        This creates what is called an insecure attachment pattern– specifically an ambivalent attachment– in the child. The child (like all children) formed their attachment patterns during the first 3 years of life and this pattern influences all of his relationships forevermore.

        So, when the child becomes a man, he literally acts out a “get the heck away from me, but wait where are you going?!” scenario. He does this subconsciously.

        I also believe that when a man has gone through this, he subconsciously develops a love/hate relationship with women. But, if you were to ask this man, do you love or hate women, he would proclaim, “Ohh I love women– love them too much!” (as evidenced by his affairs with other women). But, inside, the man deeply resents women and is seething because they represent something he needs and loves but at his core he knows that he CANNOT get his needs met by very the thing he wants. (This is what he experienced with his mother and this is an unconscious pattern of being). So, men like this, most times, are not aware of any of this unless they have gone through therapy with a therapist who explored family of origin attachments with him.

        Then there is the idea that men with personality disordered moms project their mothers’s motives onto other women without realizing it.

        Men with narcissistic moms have been conditioned for so long to believe that all women have terrible motives. They have a hard time seeing the real person in each woman they meet. Many times they just see a hologram of their own mothers super-imposed on top of the woman.

        While it may be that some of these men attract narcissistic partners like their moms, they may also do the opposite and seek someone un-like their mom. But even when they marry someone who is everything mom WAS NOT, when they have a conflict with their partner, they fall back on projecting mom’s motives onto their partner and they cannot see clearly.

        That is what it sounds like is happening with your h. Your h married someone UN-like his mom (you) but appears to be falling back into those ambivalent attachment behaviors. Then the push-pull behavior starts because that is how he relates to the important woman in his life. It is what he knows.

        But it’s extremely frustrating and difficult to tolerate. It’s even harder to have a soul connection when a guy is doing the push-pull thing. He never lets his wife get close enough to make that profound emotional connection in the first place. She (wife) starts getting too close and he (husband) pushes her away. There is no emotional depth in this (at least the way he experiences it) and there is no new emotional ground covered. This is what he maintains because is he is comfortable with it.

        Seen in the grand scheme of things, when men with these patterns have affairs, the affairs can be viewed as just another avenue to re-enact the push-pull within the primary relationship. So, it is not about the ow at all as seen in this context.

        …And it all originated with a narc mom…


        • forcryin'outloud

          Holy s#!+. OMG! Thank you thank you thank you. Everything you have stated I have read countless times trying to understand this twisted dynamic my H has going on in his brain. (Btw – it is hard to find solid info on the effects of PD mothers on ADULT children. From what I gather it is a new frontier.) But coming from your fingers directed at my brain meant the world. It was the biggest affirmation since my initial therapy after d-day that my poor H is a mess in the relationship department. To make matters even more complicated he was adopted. And of course my MiL has always talked horribly about his birth mother.
          I have also read up on the triangulation of loss in the adoption process. So my poor H didn’t have a fighting chance. His adoption is another twisted story not for this forum…has similarities to the movie “Philomena.”
          I can’t think straight for the tears and emotions.
          Thank you Sarah. You have done a world of good with this post!

          • Sarah P.

            Hello Forcryin’outloud,

            I don’t think there are any books out there that directly discuss the impact of adult sons of narcissistic moms. A few months back, I started an outline for such a book and have been filling in content. This is a new frontier and I spend a lot of time reading peer reviewed journals about neuroscience, other journals in the field of behaviorism, and then finally tie that together with my own theories gleaned from traditional psychology. These are hypotheses that I am forming since I have been considering this topic for several years. I am still a student but plan to eventually address this in a dissertation.

            So, everything I am writing here is based on known phenomenon, but it seems that unless we look at the research in neuroscience, behaviorism, and clinical psychology, there are no complete answers. I would assume this is why there is not a book on this as of yet.

            Most researchers/professionals end of sub-specializing in something. When they do this, they narrow their view. I have always been of the mindset to look at questions from an interdisciplinary perspective and so I research across fields rather than just in my own. That is how I was able to come up with this theory. I am still researching it and there are still many questions to be answered. When I have enough content that is usable and have it peer reviewed, I would like to publish a book for women who are married to adult sons of personality disordered moms.

            As far as your husband being adopted, that just adds another layer. There are going to be strong abandonment, anger, and self-worth issues beneath the surface. My ex-fiance (who cheated on me) was adopted. He had a narc mom as well. After he cheated on me and we broke up (almost 14 years ago), I literally started trying to figure out what the heck happened. The break up was so strange and so devastating that I had to wrap my head around it so that I would be able to choose more wisely next time. So, I have been researching this stuff on and off for almost 14 years.

            My ex-fiance was big into the push-pull thing and he was a huge flirt. My mom, at the time, mentioned that his behavior had very misogynistic undertones. She said many times she felt as if he needed to get revenge on the entire female population. I was in my 20’s and did not see it– especially since he was an enormous flirt, flitting from one female friend to the next. At that time, I could not understand how a man could outwardly ‘love’ women but have a strong undertone of hating them. Now I know how it is possible. He never knew who his birth mom was and I know that bothered him. His adopted mom was an extreme narcissist and even though she was married, she certainly tried to make my ex her ’emotional’ husband. But, of course, at the time, I did not see many of these red flags because they were so outside of my own worldview. I had no context for these issues, so the red flags did not even stand out. Now I know what happened and am fascinated by this topic.

        • forcryin'outloud

          One additional note. After d-day when my H and I were talking about ‘what and why’ the betrayal happened he stated, “I have never been ALL IN this marriage.” That was after 20 yrs of marriage. Boy that still stings to type that. Our therapist told me that sounds about right considering his past. She said he has an immature viewpoint of relationships. That yes he can be high functioning at work. Those relationships have a determined desired outcome without attachment. But when it comes to him having to invest his entire self into something the risk is too high.

          I’m beginning to think my H has not a clue what real love feels like. Oh good grief, I’m exhausted and it’s not even noon.

          • Sarah P.

            Hello Forcryin’outloud,

            I see it clear as day- it’s true– your husband does not know what love is. He wants to know what love is since it is a desire that is innate in humanity. But, he never experienced it in his family of origin. When he is presented with the notion of real love, he either does not recognize it as such, or he is terrified of experiencing the unknown.

            So, he may not have been ‘all in’ the marriage but that was never about you. (Still, it hurts). But, on the other hand, if he was never all in the marriage, think about the emotional wasteland in which he has lived for all those years. In that context, we should have sympathy. For most of us, living without love would be like living with out air.

            It would be impossible to ‘live’ in such a situation or state of mind. He is no different than the rest of us in his need for love, so there is a part of himself that is dead inside. There is a part of himself that has not had the essential ingredient that is required for emotional wholeness.

            As for being high functioning at work, so was my ex-fiance. He learned how to put on a facade that gained him the career outcomes that he sought. But, it is a facade and it covers a hollow core.

            Since he is married, he is required to participate in a relationship where he must put off the facade. But, there is a hollow core there, so how can he function in ways that create a loving and reciprocal relationship?

    • Tryinghard

      Sarah P
      Holy Cow!!!! This is the final puzzle piece. What you said to FCOL is my H. I am having so many emotions right now but what you said is my life! This is the final piece to the elusive “why” question. No wonder my husband couldn’t answer. Of course there are other factors and I can finally accept my part in all of this, but I was only a bit player so was the OW.

      I feel like one of those people who say when they are dying their life flashes before their eyes. Well as I read this my life flashed before my eyes. Everything is falling into place and coincidentally today is 3 years since DDay 1. As the saying goes Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free, but first it will piss you off.

      Sarah can I please email you. I have more questions for you and I can’t air them here. Maybe Doug can give you my email address?

      Thank you, thank you so much for imparting this knowledge to us.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Tryinghard,

        I have a general email where you can email me your questions privately. The email is:

        [email protected]

        (I love European mute swans (the white ones with the long necks) and so that email address is a tribute to these glorious and monogamous birds.)

    • Tryinghard

      Hey FCOL

      Sounds like we are in the same emotional boat!! Me too. This piece has been very enlightening indeed. I’m reading the book about emotional vampires that Sarah recommended but I haven’t gotten to any parts that talks about dealing with children of these mothers..

      I must say I am scared. This knowledge puts a whole new spin on everything for me. The good news is I don’t have to focus on the OW anymore. That’s kind of a relief but certainly puts the complete onus on my husband.

      Lots to think about my friend

      • forcryin'outloud

        I have intuitively known this for a while. I think keeping the hate going for the OW let me escape the elephant in the room. I feel your fear too my friend. Best wishes to us.

      • Sarah P.


        The emotional vampires book is excellent but he doesn’t have a section on how adult children are specifically impacted by these parents. That is the book that I have been working on writing a little bit these days. But the way emotional vampires is helpful is it explains exactly how they effect others and gives you tactics on how to deal with them effectively. Most books about narcissists or other personality disorders don’t give solid advice on how to effectively deal with these filks– that is why the emotional vampires book is valuable. Plus, when you read about the motives of narcs, the way they operate, and the way they effect others, you get a good sense of what your h actually experienced and it can help you know enough about the situation to empathize with it. Once we can empathize, we can start seeing the worldview of the other person and fill in a lot of the blanks that way.

        There are books out there for adult daughters of narc moms. But, those are very not helpful because adult sons have a very different experience than adult daughters. Also, these books for adult daughters don’t give us any insight on what to do if we are married to the adult son of a narc mom. Book about being married to the adult son of a narc mom is totally unchartered territory and it is my sincere desire to put together a helpful book on this. There are so many women in this situation, believe it or not.

    • CBB

      Thanks all for being in this with me. For me it is very clear the OW has a NPD. I have always had the impression she was not interested in my H as a lover; more as a trophy. The war I got after they were cought discribes the perfect NPD. I don’t see her as a actual threat to our relationship in the sence of her running away with my H (she has to much to lose) but she is the ‘real representative’ of our marriage problem. I have had trouble connecting with my MIL always trying to rule my life (not only mine every connection she has) in a very manipulative way just to fit into her “fairy tale”. I have the impression my H (although he knows how dangearous the OW is) has more understanding of her actions then mine(known terratory). I have gone nutral with my MIL and accepted her behaviour as I didn’t want her only son( as a widow) to be taken away. Now I feel betrayed by a similar but far more intelligent and powerfull lady (she has a great impact on my H professionaly , we can not aford her rage). I have the impression he feels something isn’t right but doesn’t know how to place it (push-pull relationship with his mother) And the OW is trying to erase her mistakes now by trying to be close friends again (inviting us to party’s vacations, e-mailing me sosm foto’s…) I hate it. I’d run for no contact but she’s inbedded in our social AND professional circle ,and making as fuss means war. meanwhile my MIL is playing victime as she had a lifethreatening operation where my H suddenly felt he should be forgiving towards her as he suddenly felt like being left on his own. I don’t think he gets the full picture. (and MIL did very well after the operation everybody’s admireing her, she loves the attention and suddenly doesn’t need us). I feel as if I tolerated his nacrcistic mom just to be forced (professionally) to accept a narcisitic “friend-co-worker” as well. I can’t handle it anymore and don’t have a clue how to explain this o my H (although I htink the EA is over he doesn’t realisa how far he stept over the bouderies, not knowing where to put them…) very thig I say to point it out to him just makes y look more yealous, not in controle (what the 2 women want him to think…..
      Sorry for raging, sometimes I just need to vent….

      • Sarah P.


        Sorry for all of the stress that you are going through. If the ow can dictate the outcome of your h’s professional future (as it seems by what you are describing) that makes it all the more hard. Venting is good– this is a safe place to get it all out!

    • Strengthrequired

      Cbb, I know how you feel. My h ow has been trying to keep her foot in the door too, but calling him, and playing the “we are still cousins” card. It p’s me off something terrible, knowing that she still tries. In a way sometimes I am just waiting for my h to let her in again. Fx he won’t, though, because she has caused enough damage, she doesn’t deserve any type of relationship with him.
      Hugs to you

    • H. E. Hehn

      where is part three?

    • Sally


      I am experiencing a somewhat similar issue and I do not know if a divorce is required.
      I would love to have your thoughts on it.

      Here’s my story:
      My husband and I fell in love very quickly, we had the same values (or so it seemed at the time) and a similar vision for the future. At the time we lived in Dublin (Ireland). We decided to move to San Francisco together after 3 months of being in a relationship. We were a perfect match, we used to joke that our only problem was that we never fight.

      Year #1: we were madly in love and enjoying our new life in San Francisco. We were caring, joyful, surprising each other, meeting new people, going on roadtrips. Then came Christmas, we had 6 days to spend in France. We decided to go 3 days in his family, and 3 days in mine. But, his family disagreed very loudly “I’m going to reprimand you, it is not ok at all, you don’t have to always be with your other half. Besides we’re your family, why should you go to hers” (SIL) or “you see her 365 days a year, now it’s our turn!”. I was shocked. He pleaded they were right, we fought, and eventually we decided to stick to the plan.
      Once there, my then-boyfriend ignored me and justified it saying “when I am there, I have to be fully there for them, can’t be with you”. I could feel something was wrong. My SIL and MIL were looking at us with disapproval every time we looked at each other or touched each other. My boyfriend had back pain and asked me to give him a massage. Suddenly both MIL and SIL jumped from their chairs, pushed me and battled to massage him instead. In the end, he got a 4 hands massage!
      Left on my own, I chatted with his uncle, asked innocently about his background, and he started crying … My MIL got to me and pressured me “what did you do? Tell me what you said. I have a right to know”. I refused. I figured if he wanted to shared, that was his story to tell.
      The next day, I heard some family members talking about playing “charades”. I am not really comfortable with this kind of game, so pulled my then-boyfriend away and asked if I could be excused, he begged me to play because he’d love to share that with me, and promised we’d team up. When the game started, my SIL threw a tantrum and said she disagreed and wanted to do random teams. Out of the blue, my then-boyfriend looked at me and said nonchalantly “do you mind if we do random teams?” … I was taken by surprise, but replied “yes I’d rather stick to the plan”. Then my brother in law mocked me and said “Don’t be a baby!”, my then-boyfriend forced my hand “Come’on”, again I said “no” … noone cared, so I complied. I got paired up with my MIL who was as rude as the day before. I had tears in my eyes. At night, we debriefed, and instead of apologizing, my boyfriend threatened our relationship “if you are going to bring drama to my life, maybe we have no future”…. from that point onwards I became very scared of my in-laws influence over my relationship.

      Year #2: we had a good year but clouded by fights around the topic of setting boundaries with my in-laws. My then-boyfriend tended to drop everything every time they called, let them volunteer their opinion about private topics. He could not hear me, kept calling me oversensitive, paranoid and possessive. Then came Christmas, and pretty much the same thing as the year before happened. Same weird vibe about them disapproving on my boyfriend being in love. When we were sitting together, my head on his shoulder. My SIL put her head on his other shoulder and whispered in his ear “please, can we just elope and go outside just you and I”

      Year #3: we had a tough year, I was doing 4 hours bus commute per day and very motion sick. We read a lot of books about enmeshed family and narcissistic in-laws, it felt like we finally got to an understanding of what was going on. We got engaged and decided to get married 3 days later. When my fiancee announced it to his sister, her reaction was “are you sure? did not sound like you were in love” .. and his mother just forgot to call on the day of the wedding, she had a yoga class. At the end of the year, we decided to spare ourselves the christmas drama and went to the caribbeans instead. But there was drama still. My fiancee wanted to change our wedding schedule because his family complained and critiqued and because he thought some of his friends would expect something different. I panicked. Was my entire life going to be dictated by everyone who judges and guilts my fiancee? I threatened to cancel the wedding. Eventually we patched things up. We loved each other, and this was about logistics after all…

      Year #4: It was important to me that in-laws relationship would be peaceful so I figured we could maybe try a different approach. I organized a trip with his mother and my parents. The first day, we overslept, and my MIL knocked angrily at the door ~30 times. My parents had to stop her. During the trip, she could not help but criticizing me for the smallest things … in front of my husband and my parents. One day I hurt my foot so declined to go hiking, my husband said he’d stay with me. She got angry and told me “can’t you just force yourself? I want to hike with my son” … and the cherry on the cake, during the return flight, my husband told her he lost his ring in the ocean (slightly too big and too much suncream), her answer “I wonder what the universe is trying to tell you with this sign”. OMG.
      We then went on a 1 month honeymoon touring Italy. It was marvelous and wonderful, but unfortunately more in-laws drama occurred. We were doing a small wedding so decided not to invite cousins. We made a few exceptions for my husband. Well, one of his cousin wanted her daughter’s boyfriend to be on the guest list. I said no. He said I don’t mind, if that’s going to avoid drama and then blamed … me “if you cared about us, you’d let them have it”. Like it was not enough, the MIL sent threats “Your cousin reached out so that I reason with you. You’d better comply or beware of the consequences”. Again, I panicked and almost canceled the wedding.
      We got married. It was the most amazing day of my life. So romantic. Perfect weather. We had a blast.

      The day after the wedding: the day after the wedding we were hosting a guided tour for all of our guests. My SIL pulled my husband away for what it seemed to be a very dramatic conversation (almost 90% of the visit). Later I asked what it was about. My husband got angry at me and blamed me for always looking for trouble and fights. He left me there, walked to the hotel and gave me the silent treatment for 30 minutes. Eventually I exploded and said “I want a divorce” (I know, not my finest moment) … but I was so so so sick and tired of his family and him not shielding us. I immediately apologized. He told me she indeed was complaining about self-centered stuff (some people had better seats than them, they felt isolated, people did not come to them, etc.). He was shocked, and angry .. he left and took another room. I thought that was it. I thought we were over. The next day, we tried to talk but he said “I will never set any boundaries with them, it’s all in your head, you are the drama queen”

      The crisis: My husband went to join his family (~6 people) and instead of telling them your behavior is almost costing me my wife, please try to respect my wife and my commitment to her … no what he told them is “my wife finds you toxic, she is trying to cut me off from everyone I love”. Then, as it was not enough, he went on to say the same to a few friends (~4). I was horrified to her what all of his people did next. They all went on to demonize me, called me manipulative, dangerous, crazy. They told him to divorce, and to avoid talking to me, to pack his bags and not look back. They even told him to change his seat in the plane!

      The year after that: When my husband told me how he portrayed me to ~10 people, and that all of those people betrayed his confidences and went on to talk to at least one more people each … I got terrified. He got an email from my MIL “Beware of your manipulative wife, come back to us”. I wanted to set the record straight, clear my name, tell the truth. I begged him to nuance his story. He refused. So I wrote a *nice* letter to his mother and 2 sisters (bad mistake, don’t engage with narcissistic people). Waouh! The MIL called me “manipulative like a cult”, “icy cold”, but worse was the SIL who said ‘since I was an abuser, I had no more right to my privacy”, that I was “me, me, me. If I was loving I would have watched them love each other”, repeated words from intimate conversations she had no business judging or commenting on. I started to experience symptoms of PTSD: flashbacks, nightmares, agoraphobia, panic attacks.
      My husband was all confused and refused to put a stop to it, he’d take their call and listen to them make their case against me, try to convince him to divorce and to doubt his wife. Because I had *loud* symptoms, my husband was then telling me “see, you are the one who is acting crazy, it’s all in your head. When you’ll be healed, you’ll see, my family was just trying to be there for me”.
      I left him and went back to my parents for a few months, worked on myself, started life coaching. I was doing much better. I came home to him. Things got better, we had our first christmas home, just the two of us and it was magical. He said it was his best christmas ever. We grew closer. He agreed we needed to have a peaceful environment, so started to work on explaining the story better and begged his family to apologize and make amend for the intrusions, privacy breach, gossiping and sabotaging. He gave them 3 reasons: first, you misbheaved so apologizing would be natural – second, please do it for me, my happiness and marriage is at stake – third, my wife is suffering and you can help ease the anxiety. They said we have no remorse whatsoever, we meant every word and action, WILL NEVER APOLOGIZE. Worse, they went even further, the SIL sent an ugly letter calling my husband and I “putrid”, our love story “fake”, our wedding “a farce” and “a dinner game”.

      He took the decision to cut them off.
      I got better.
      We had two marvelous months together, for the first time, it felt we were a united front, we were really a team. I was conscious it was a fragile equilibrium so suggested we start couple therapy to strengthen our marriage. He accepted.

      Couple therapy was really hard, the therapist kept on hinting we should maybe be more flexible and eventually give the two in-laws a second chance, acknowledging that they are sick and cannot change. I got agitated and anxious again, the PTSD symptoms took a whole new level.
      My husband was really patient and trying to reassure me, but at the same time, he experienced crippling guilt about the decision of cutting off his unapologetic mother and sister. When he was feeling guilty, his views would change drastically, he’d minimize, deny, forget what happened, find excuses and blame me for “making him” cut them off. It was extremely hard to navigate. But all and all, most of the time, we were on the same page.

      We went on a 10 days vacation and it was a bliss, we took thousands of pictures, we shared very powerful experiences, we kept on laughing and were very close. We came back home and all of the sudden, my husband demanded we reconsider the decision about his mother and sister. He said he could not imagine having kids and not having his mother and sister around. I got so scared but tried to be caring so offered a plan: we could re-open the communication channels in a while, and if they approach us with the *real* intent of making things right, we could reconsider. That seemed to comfort him. But then the next day, he tells me nonchalantly that he reinitiated contact with the sister, and asked me to not be controlling and overreact, it’s not a big deal. Well, it was a big deal, he broke our agreement. But we just came back, I was happy, so I forgave. He was grateful and surprised me with treats before I went to bed, he sang me a song like he usually does to help me fall asleep (I love his voice!).

      The next morning, I had a panic attack. He got annoyed with me, so just left me on my own and went to another room. After some time, he came back, pulled me onto the bed, locked his eyes to mine and said “I don’t want you anymore, the only reason why I am with you is because you are sick”. My heart broke in a million pieces. I endured so much, I just forgave 2 betrayals, and now he just gets rid of me. I got very angry and we fought.

      He took a hotel room and then left on business trip for a week. During that time, he told me he wanted to divorce because I have anger issues and it is not acceptable to him.

      I stepped out of integrity. I was so hurt, I wanted to expose the truth and same the narcissistic people. I wrote an email to their entire family exposing them and quoting their letters. I immediately felt bad and followed-up with an apology saying it was really not my place.

      Then my husband told me he and “his people” unanimously agree that if I loved him I would never have required for him to cut off his family. When I probed, it seemed that unanimously was him and his sister who he is talking to again. And as expected she is being poisonous and turning him against me. I got angry and told him that I wanted to divorce and will get rid of all our gadgets, memories and photo albums.

      I was so lost. I am still so lost. I do not know if there is hope. I do not know if I want hope.
      They never apologized for hurting me, he never apologized for letting them and not having my back … and I keep apologizing about getting angry about it.

    • Sarah

      Is there a part 3? I can’t find it, but the first two parts have helped immensely!

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