Feeling hopeless when I see my inability to protect my daughter

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rubixcube

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For the most part my 3.5 yr old D is ok. I've done a lot to protect her from relationship issues between me(codependent) and her uCovertB/NPD mom. I use Grey Rock and Medium Chill and do my best to not JADE, so that basically eliminates all arguments. Nothing majorly traumatic has happened to my D. I'm really grateful for that.

Lately though she's been going through what may be a normal defiance phase. I'm not the type to get angry at her, use fear, or anything like that to control her, so she walks all over me sometimes. She knows though if I start counting, she's about to get in trouble.

Anyway, in this defiant/testing phase, I also think I see a manifestation of a deeper attachment pain. It could be my imagination, but it breaks my heart to think about it. Me and her mom are not close, we're basically just cohabitating. We sleep in separate rooms and we don't spend much time with our D together. Her mom has no interest in doing things with us outside the house, so we basically have our own life together. During the day her mom takes care of her. If you know what life with a vulnerable/covert narcissistic wife is like, then you understand what my D's days are most likely like.

What has really been striking me is that I feel hopeless to protect my D from the effects of living with someone who can't read a child's needs well(hunger, tiredness); is strangely devoid of empathy & guilt(sociopathic traits); has random mood swings: switching between dark, critical, negative, passive-aggressive, dissociated, barely capable of normal house chores, victim playing, self pitying, frustrated moods(where she takes her moods out on me and our D), then switching instantly to a sort of hypomania where she is fawning our daughter and me, is capable of normal house chores, more organized, cheerful, etc. Her "up" mood is surreal & without real substance and I can see it's frailty. She's always just one hypersensitive moment away from shooting straight back down to darkness(of course I'm then the cause of her misery.. ha!).

I know what this emotional rollercoaster coupled with the constant lack of real empathy has done to me(retraumatizing) when I was deep in the F.O.G. these past 6 years, and I'm wondering if my D's acting out is a reflection of the inner confusion she is feeling when her mom switches back and forth like this, plus her family/parent's aren't affectionate and close.

I try very hard to be my D's rock. I understand when she's tired/hungry, needs someone to play with her, etc. and I try to spend as much time with her as I can.
I suspect a big contributing factor to my W's narcissism was her narc mom/codependent then alcoholic dad, who eventually divorced her mom then died when my w was in her teens. I fear my D has to face something similar: narc/bpd mom, codependent(recovering) dad.

Have any of you dealt with that same sense of powerlessness to help your vulnerable child who spends her days being raised by a narc/volatile mom?
If you kids have grown, how did they do?
Was your mental health a solid enough rock for your kids?

I find I'm just resorting to a lot fo prayer for my D lately, as I'm trying to accept that that part of her life(her daytimes with her mom) is out of my control. It's like I'm starting to fully grieve my inability to control the outcome of her life. A good thing for a codependent to do I would imagine, since control is our MO.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2020, 10:59:35 AM by rubixcube »

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Penny Lane

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Re: Feeling hopeless when I see my inability to protect my daughter
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2020, 01:47:22 PM »
Hi rubixcube,
My situation is different than yours - my husband's ex wife is the PD in my life - but I think my experience and the strategies we've come up with for my stepkids will help you. Obviously with the divorce they live in two different houses, one with a PD parent and one without, and I think that helps. But I think some of the things we do over here to mitigate her behavior over there - you could do something similar.

I would worry less about you and your wife not being close at this point and more about her reaction to your wife's volatility. At this point she's too young to really see what kind of connection two adults have. But she can definitely tell, and be extremely confused about, an unpredictable pattern of loving mom vs scary mom. As she gets older I think you probably do want to expose her to more healthy relationships so that she sees a model for what her own love life could be as she gets older. But you can put that on the back burner until, say, late elementary school.

So, onto other practices that DH and I have:

First, be as mentally healthy as possible. Kids learn by observing. You can show your daughter how to react to her mom (medium chill, not giving into tantrums, etc) AND how to have healthy interactions with healthy people. but you can't just tell her what to do - you have to DO it, and that means making sure your own mental health and interpersonal skills are as good as possible. (Don't take this too far and stress yourself out going I MUST BE PERFECT AT ALL TIMES, just like, work on your own stuff as much as you can. It's a process.) For us this looks like, modeling healthy interpersonal relationships with each other and with them. But you can model a healthy relationship with your daughter and how to react to an unhealthy person with your wife.

Second, read up on child development and make sure you're working with your daughter on age-appropriate emotional skills. There's definitely a range of reasonable ways to respond to any kid. And I think two healthy parents will definitely get within the range of reasonable most of the time. But your PD wife is likely not teaching your daughter these skills which means that, largely, she will learn them from you, at least until she gets to school. Understanding where behavior is coming from and what needs a kid your daughter's age has, that will help you. You can be purposeful about filling those needs and teaching those skills.

It will be hard, especially if (as I suspect) your wife will try to undermine these efforts and your relationship with your daughter. But there are tons of people on these boards who had a PD parent and who turned out basically OK. Working on their issues and healing from the PD - but there are lots of good people with happy lives who grew up with a PD parent. You can provide your daughter some tools that makes that outcome more likely for her.

Good luck, I'm rooting for you.

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Findingmyvoice

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Re: Feeling hopeless when I see my inability to protect my daughter
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2020, 03:55:49 PM »
Hi Rubix,
I can relate to your situation, I left my ex BPD wife 2 years age.  My kids are now 13, 13, 15.
Throughout our marriage, my ex seemed to get worse and worse.  Initially she was just manipulative, guilt tripping all of the time, triangulating, threatening, blaming and generally she left the kids out of it.
She rarely got screaming mad or violent, although there were a few times when she was violent towards me when the kids were 2 or 3 years old

I stayed in the marriage for the same reasons that many people do.  I didn't want to lose my kids, my ex threatened that I wouldn't get to see them if we separated, her step dad is wealthy and she threatened to use his money to use the legal system against me.  I was able to shield my kids from a lot of her craziness just by being the voice of reason and helping them to ask questions and do reality tests.
I also helped to teach them how to deal with their mom, and to show them that sometimes they have to act like the adult (sad, I know) because she can't.  If they can learn to deal with her then they are set because they will be able to manage anyone!

As time went on, exBPDw got worse.  She became very paranoid and controlling and started having weekly meltdowns.  She would lock the kids in her bedroom or in a place away from family if we were with family.  She would threaten divorce in front of the kids, accuse me of cheating on her, threaten suicide, verbally and physically attack me.
She would tell them that they were going to be abducted by her boss at work, she told them that I was dangerous, she threatened them in order to get them to say bad things about me, she lied to them to try to turn them against me, she would physically threaten them or hit and chase them, the list goes on and on.  It got to the point that I couldn't live with myself if I stayed any longer.  I was a mental and physical wreck trying to manage.

While they were growing up, I spent lots of time with them, read to them every evening, helped them see that they were not the terrible things that their mom said about them.
I supported them in their school and sports, tried to shield them from the drama their mom caused with teachers, friends' parents, coaches, neighbors.
In the end I showed them that it's not ok to accept the kind of behavior that exBPDw was dishing out.

My point is that there is lots you can do while in a relationship with someone that has a personality disorder.
There are reasons to stay in a relationship in order to help your kids to cope.  If you are not there, you can't protect them or be a voice of reason for them.
There is also a point where it becomes more damaging to stay than to leave. 

When I initially left with the kids I was worried that they would be traumatized.  Nothing could have been further from the truth. 
I took the kids to my parent's home, they were away at the time.
After the first week, my daughter exclaimed "It's like we are on vacation!".  They were not traumatized or hurt at all, it was just nice for them to have a break from the constant drama.

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rubixcube

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Re: Feeling hopeless when I see my inability to protect my daughter
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2020, 11:50:57 AM »
Penny, thank you! This is fantastic advice.

If you have any child development book/video/article recommendations, I'm all ears.
My T specializes in child development actually, so I'll get her recommendations as well.

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But you can model a healthy relationship with your daughter and how to react to an unhealthy person with your wife.
This is great. One thing I have been wondering about is whether it's best for my D that I just get divorced or if it's best if I stay, modeling good reactions, to be close to her. Since I'm the guy and my w is undiagnosed, she would most likely get my D and I'd be the visiting person. I couldn't bear that.

Again, thank you.

Findingmyvoice,
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Initially she was just manipulative, guilt tripping all of the time, triangulating, threatening, blaming and generally she left the kids out of it.
She rarely got screaming mad or violent, although there were a few times when she was violent towards me when the kids were 2 or 3 years old
:yeahthat:

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As time went on, exBPDw got worse.  She became very paranoid and controlling and started having weekly meltdowns.  She would lock the kids in her bedroom or in a place away from family if we were with family.  She would threaten divorce in front of the kids, accuse me of cheating on her, threaten suicide, verbally and physically attack me.
She would tell them that they were going to be abducted by her boss at work, she told them that I was dangerous, she threatened them in order to get them to say bad things about me, she lied to them to try to turn them against me, she would physically threaten them or hit and chase them, the list goes on and on.  It got to the point that I couldn't live with myself if I stayed any longer.  I was a mental and physical wreck trying to manage.
This sounds absolutely dreadful. I'm so sorry!
I pray my w doesn't get worse over time. In a strange way it would be validating and easier though I guess.

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My point is that there is lots you can do while in a relationship with someone that has a personality disorder.
There are reasons to stay in a relationship in order to help your kids to cope.  If you are not there, you can't protect them or be a voice of reason for them.
There is also a point where it becomes more damaging to stay than to leave.
Thank you for this. This is my big debate. I'm not there yet, where I feel it's best to leave. In fact, every moment I'm still here with my w I have opportunities to learn and grow myself.
I too spend a lot of time with my D. I often feel so sad for my w that she is missing out on my D's life and growth because she is so burdened by her and victim playing all the time. She rarely stops to just enjoy our D. I'm grateful I'm conscious enough to be there with her.



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Penny Lane

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Re: Feeling hopeless when I see my inability to protect my daughter
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2020, 05:35:25 PM »
Here are our parenting bibles:
How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk
Parenting with Love and Logic

I highly recommend both of those. I return to them over and over, as does DH. It's been a tremendous help in our parenting under very difficult situations. I think both have versions for toddlers, the main version and then another one for teens.

I also read a book about the circle of attachment. It was very helpful although more of a one and done so I don't recall the name. But I think that concept can help a lot. In some ways it's the crux of what PDs don't do for their children - recognizing and meeting their needs as it relates to comfort or independence.

My two cents, and I am extraordinarily biased, is that my stepkids are much better off in a stable home half the time than it sounds like they were in a home with one unstable parent all the time. Every situation is different and yours might not be the same. (But, by the way, DH has the kids 50% of the time with shared decision making power. It's not like the old days where dads get the kids every other weekend and otherwise they live with mom). Just a data point that might relieve the guilt you would feel about considering leaving.

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rubixcube

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Re: Feeling hopeless when I see my inability to protect my daughter
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2020, 11:59:15 AM »
Thank you PennyLane.

Everything you said is extremely relevant and valuable for me. I appreciate your 2 cents too! I think about that a lot.
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what PDs don't do for their children - recognizing and meeting their needs as it relates to comfort or independence.
Couldn't have said it better! This is what I've noticed too. I'm amazed sometimes how my PDw doesn't keep a routine, my D gets tired or hungry, gets cranky etc. and my w gets frustrated thinking my D is a bad kid or something. She's a normal kid!

I asked my T for a recommendation as well. She suggested I read: "The Whole Brain Child". I'll definitely add your books to my list. Thanks again.

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raindrop

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Re: Feeling hopeless when I see my inability to protect my daughter
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2020, 12:06:03 PM »
Hey there,
As the child of a situation much like yours, I want to say first thanks for caring and trying to make things as good as possible for your daughter.

This last year I have been learning a lot about attachment patterns. Although I had a generally loving dad, I had a baseline fearful avoidant pattern (moving toward secure now). Here are my thoughts about why:
-attachment is laid down really early, in the first few years. Someone said you can wait till she's older to show her secure attachment relationships. This is not true. Please don't wait, surround your daughter with as many good protective relationships as you can right now, while she's still young enough for it to help her little brain form correctly.
-my dad never showed me how to set boundaries or how to work with my emotions. Even naming my emotions was something I learned as an adult. Naming your needs, emotions and limits is a vital skill which again, cannot be started too early. It sounds like you are already doing this as much as you can, but I'll say it anyway - please facilitate this learning through demonstrating that you do it yourself, and also by helping her own her own emotions, needs and limits.
-my dad turned a blind eye to my mum's bad behaviour which in itself was kind of like gaslighting me. Don't let your daughter feel she has to abandon herself and her reality to get your love.
-when he wasn't passively enabling, my dad was angrily yelling at my mum. This was very destructive as well.
-lastly, my dad parentified me. Since his actual wife was shit, he kind of turned me into his confidant. This is so, so damaging for a kid. They need to feel safe, not like they're in charge of the emotional well being of the family. My advice from that would be to ensure you are getting your emotional needs met with a safe adult friend so you don't unwittingly use your daughter for this.

I hope none of this came across as harsh. Its coming from a place of hope and gratitude that you have a heart for your daughter and the knowledge to succeed in places my dad failed. If you can save that little girl some of the pain I have faced due to my upbringing, I will be personally grateful to you.

Warmth and gratitude
Raindrop
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
- A.A. Milne.

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rubixcube

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Re: Feeling hopeless when I see my inability to protect my daughter
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2020, 10:36:44 AM »
Raindrop,

Please forgive my delayed response. I read your reply over a week ago, but didn't get a chance to give a thoughtful reply until now.
I really appreciate your insight form experience.

I have a friend in his 60s, with a BPDw. His kids are grown, and he has shared the same thing with me, that not standing up to his wife caused his kids to feel unprotected and alienated. I take that to heart.
In following the toolbox here, The Kids come first has become my focus and motivation for what actions I take.

At the dinner table if my wife is trying to manipulate or shame my 3.5yr old D, I stand up to her, protect my daughter, and show her that it's ok to say no and stand up for yourself. This doesn't come naturally to me, and I really have to force myself, because any contradiction of my uCovert/VulnerableNPDw is rewarded with silent treatment, passive aggressive, coldness, and shaming/scoffing looks. EVERY SINGLE TIME. I've never seen such a hyper fragile shell. But, I do what I need to protect my D and model healthy behavior. When assessing when to be assertive, I basically use what I learned from SonOfThunder here, his box model... If it's hurting someone, dangerous, or illegal, then I speak up.

I had a long discussion about this with someone and they weren't quite sure if I it was sending a bad message because I was contradicting my w. I had to explain exactly what you observed, that it's better to model boundaries against abusive/manipulative behavior and that it's ok to say no. If I don't then I'm just enabling a disordered, shame-based person, and not doing my job as a father to protect my D. The "it's ok to say no thing" I had to learn. I have a great therapist whose specialty is children, so I often use her for advice on how best to raise my daughter at this point. She really opened my eyes about a child's ability to say no. I wasn't allowed to say no as a child, and violence and terror were used as tools to suppress my ability to say no. Perfect recipe for creating a codependent. Because I wasn't allowed to say no, my boundaries were dissolved by a Narc Father, I was susceptible to repeated sexual abuse, I was narcissist bait, bullied, and the first time a friend said "hey, wanna smoke some crack", I couldn't say no. Having no value system or moral structure in place, why would I say no anyway, there was nothing to check the decision against. These are all considerations in how I undo my own codependence and how I raise my D.

I've also thought a lot about the emotional incest aspects as well. Being a deep codependent and people pleaser I am constantly checking my reasons for doing things as I come OOTF and recover. Am I hanging out with my D, giving her attention, because of a selfish reason ("if you're ok, I'm ok"), or is it genuine interest?
Again, in following The Kids Come First, her protection is my priority, and that definitely means protecting her from the unhealthy parts of myself as well. I am very conscious to NOT use her as my source of companionship or codependent people-pleaser supply. She is my daughter, and her job is to play, learn, and grow, not to hear about grown up problems or hear me talk about her mother. I reinforce the good things her mother does anytime she asks about something.

I worry about my one thing with my D, her attachment style. She basically sees two people who live together, don't talk(medium chill and grey rock), she sees her mom go through surreal mood shifts often, and the furniture rearranges weekly. This doesn't model healthy attachment or stability. The one thing I really work on is that my D's house doesn't change, that we don't split. We don't argue at home( no way to resolve things with a narc so I just don't JADE anymore) so my D's life isn't traumatic. Her attachment might suffer though from the bit of adversity. She may grow up thinking a family is just people living together. I often wonder if it's better to divorce and remarry to eventually show her what a healthy relationship looks light. Who knows...

Thanks again for your reply! It is great evidence and food for thought.