Category Archives: Family Dysfunction

Approaching the Martyred Mother

I can’t remember ever feeling in awe of my own self before. I wonder if this is what happens when we begin to love and respect ourselves. Only a few weeks ago, my actions would’ve been unthinkable… unimaginable, but things have taken an unexpected turn.

My original intention was to wait until the narcissistic mother made contact before sending a similar email to the one I sent my sister. I realised that to delay the inevitable only deprives me of escaping those life-sucking narcissistic demands, not to mention feeling free of my soul-destroying scapegoat role.

A couple of hours slowly passed yesterday afternoon, pondering my words and debating the potential consequences. One of the worst things you can do to a narcissist is suggest they’re at the helm of a dysfunctional family, or are the perpetrators of disturbing childhood memories. With these sacrilegious thoughts in mind, the great unspoken became the basis of my very brief email. It may well spell the end, but I could no longer pretend.

I doubt if I’ve ever put trust in my own instincts and knowledge, rather than feel enslaved to guilt and self-blame. Almost every piece of information on narcissistic mothers suggests a time of no contact, maybe even a lifetime. It seemed ridiculous to send my sister an email, while procrastinating over sending one to the person who deserves to hear it the most.

If I expected to feel relieved, maybe overjoyed, I would soon be disappointed. As soon as I hit ‘send’, a deep sense of loss and guilt rippled through the rest of the day. I don’t ever expect a response and while this is a relief, it feels like the final nail in my own coffin, although that does feel strangely gratifying.

My email does something no other family member has ever had the courage to do; it tells the truth. The truth to a narcissistic mother is like brandishing a crucifix at Dracula, and the turning to dust scenario is rather stupid, but appealing.

The narcissistic martyr believes in her own perfection and she programed her children to think of her feelings and needs first. I spent time yesterday focussing on how it must feel to read my email, her hurt, disappointment and fury, all swirling around her head like a swarm of angry wasps.

Last night I realised that I have feelings too and I deserve to feel them. What about the treatment we endured as children, or the demands and manipulation tolerated through my adult life… what about my own sense of loss, or my own grief for never bonding with narcissistic parents? Maybe it’s time to think about my own needs without feeling haunted by the martyred mother’s warped emotions.

If I ever want to rekindle contact in the future, I would need to make the first move, which will probably never happen. In many ways, I’m glad to feel an element of sorrow, even guilt, because it demonstrates that I didn’t become one of them.

Implementing no Contact with the Narcissists

Sending my sister, “Sissy,” this email on Thursday transpired as a bit of an anti-climax. It dawned on me that this is only the first step towards the ultimate no-contact rule. The next battle for liberation is with the Martyred mother, although she is the easiest person in the world to avoid.

The family fell apart years ago, we’ve barely been in touch for fifteen years, but Sissy always was the strongest link. In hindsight, this only held the family dysfunction together and her habit of carrying stories under a veil of sworn secrecy often contributed to the tense dynamics. It made sense to deal with her first.

I quickly realised on Friday that Sissy would never share the content of my email with the martyred mother. Not only does it reveal truth, it touches on memories of an abusive childhood and Sissy would never risk the explosive response.

It’s highly possible Sissy will mirror the martyred role by slightly twisting my message, “I tried my best… he wants to be alone… I am so upset.” Sometimes, she just can’t help herself.

When I first read about narcissism, the last person I expected to see was my sister. I’m still unsure whether she is a personification of the martyred mother’s “mini-me,” or if she became a narcissist.

Sissy was also a victim of childhood violence and by the time she turned twelve, her fear of the narcissistic mother was so great that she never left home again, other than to attend school.

I’m very aware of my sister’s demons and it’s sad that she’s unlikely to experience the same validating freedom. Her survival as the Golden-child was always dependent on the narcissist’s approval and what better way than to contribute to my role as scapegoat.

Sissy did respond to my email on Friday.

“I have tried to keep the communication open between us but as much as it upsets me I will respect your need to be by yourself.”

I appreciate that the content of my email wasn’t up for discussion, but I couldn’t help wonder if Sissy’s reply suggests, “But, you’re still to blame because I tried.”

An hour after Sissy’s email, she sent a YouTube video about funny dogs, but I was willing to believe it must be a mistake, until today. I returned home from walking Jack this morning only to discover that Sissy had called my home number while we were out.

I feel disappointed and more certain of the no-contact rule until therapy ends in December. It appears Sissy neither respects nor understands the first thing about my email. It’s purposefully vague but truthful and I can achieve nothing from elaborating and ultimately disagreeing. I asked for the time, she understood enough to “respect your need” and my gut instinct tells me to leave it there for now.

I only want to Tell the Truth

I posted about my current relationship problems with my mother and sister a couple of weeks ago when they were visiting my home city, London. This was the post. Despite trying to be polite to the martyred mother about being too busy that weekend, she still manipulated her golden child into texting me, anyway, “We’re here.”

When I didn’t answer my sister’s text, I was reasonably hopeful that it might be the last I hear from them for some time. They would be mad I hadn’t complied, while I was revelling in the thought of an all-out estrangement.

That was until Monday night when I was trying to relax in front of the telly. As soon as the ping-pong chimed on my mobile phone (cell phone), I just knew it had to be my sister, “How is everything with you, Cat?”

My heart sank. I realised that I would much prefer NEED to opt for the no-contact rule, which seems quite common amongst adult children of narcissistic parents. I decided to ignore the text. I am done with pretending everything is okay with polite meaningless chat or invitations to lunch, but of course, that wasn’t quite the end of the matter. The next day, I receive an email

“Just wondering if everything is okay since I have messaged you a couple of times but got no response.”

Let us not forget that I usually only speak to my sister every 8 to 12 weeks and she never texts, other than to carry the narcissistic mother’s messages.

I didn’t want to respond, but thought a reply might put her mind at rest in case she was wondering if I might be ill, or something, I emailed back, “I’m fine.” Surely, she would now take the hint.

Every part of my insides were screaming out just to speak the truth – we are a dysfunctional family with serious problems and it is not all my fault – but this is not the scapegoat’s role and rule number one of a narcissistic family is never to recognise a problem within the perceived perfection.

I couldn’t understand why I felt so nervous, heart pounding with the adrenaline pumping and the coward in me just hoped she might go away. How can the scapegoat dare to tell the truth?

She emailed back, “Are you getting my text messages?”

I spoke to Paul yesterday in therapy and realised I am actually terrified of telling the truth. There is nothing to be gained from conversation with narcissists, but neither do I want to leave them with the chance to solely blame me for the estrangement, “It’s all Cat’s fault, we tried and he pushed us away.”

For the first time in my life, I want to stand up to them without being offensive or even remotely aggressive. This has nothing to do with blame, but I only want to tell the truth.

Today, I wrote a very short reply to my sister’s email and I am intrigued what people think.

Hi M,

While I’ve been in therapy, I realised that we are a very dysfunctional family.  There have been relationship problems between my parents and me since childhood to the present day.  You might not realise it, but this has been devastating to deal with as a child, and as an adult.

I don’t necessarily have any particular problem with you, but you do come as part of that package and if anything stands between us, it’s this.

The situation is difficult for everyone and I’m tired of pretending that everything is okay when it clearly is not.

Any kind of relationship problem can never be the fault of one person, but this is not something we can all agree on, not at this time, anyway.  To be honest, I don’t want to get into any conversation about this. While I go through my therapy, I need to take the time to be by myself and work through my own things.

Cat.