Your experience with the "other" parent

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jennsc85

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Your experience with the "other" parent
« on: August 10, 2021, 07:10:22 PM »
I came across a YouTube channel where a psychologist talks childhood trauma, toxic family systems, etc. and one of his videos focused on "the other parent" in a household- the partner of a PD parent.

It really struck a chord with me. He said that typically in that sort of family dynamic, you as the child are so focused on not upsetting your PD parent that your other parent automatically feels "safer" and you really idealize them just because they don't fly into a rage or ask you to deal with adult things or whatever your PD parent's MO was.

He said that you end up unknowingly giving your other parent a huge pass but really... this parent had the power to make things better for you but chose not to. This parent has a very martyr-like attitude and will bond with you over the abuse from your PD parent. They also subconsciously teach you that boundaries don't matter because they teach you how to walk on eggshells with the PD parent.

All of this rang so true for me and I never even realized it, not to that extent anyways. I've always thought that my father was this picture perfect parent because he did things as simple as taking me to the movies or decorating the Christmas tree with me or going for a walk and talking about my day (things that my mother would have NEVER done). It led me to put him on a very high pedestal that honestly was not deserved! He told me he couldn't leave my mother for fear of what she would do to him... which I can understand, but as a father he kept me in a toxic situation when he did have the power to leave!

Also: My father was a HUGE martyr. He relished in people telling him "How do you put up with [my mother]?" and "You are a saint!" Then in turn he and I would bond over her rages and he would give me pointers for keeping her anger at bay, he taught me how to lie to her.

Maybe the thing about this video that surprised me the most was when it was mentioned that the other parent is often pretty detached from their children, if not in childhood, in adulthood but wants to appear as an active loving parent. My father is extremely detached from me but wants to make it appear that he isn't. He'll tell me that he misses me and my kids and wants to see us... but then goes a year without even trying to visit, or schedules a trip to see us then cancels it at the last minute,

Anyways... I was wondering if anyone else had experienced a similar realization about their "other parent" and what your experience was like with them.

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Andeza

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2021, 07:46:01 PM »
Dad was definitely the enabler, but also the (verbal and emotional) human punching bag. He would get the worst of the rages, the worst of the yelling and screaming and nonsense. This is the stuff that happened after I went to bed and was supposedly asleep. uBPDm reserved the nastiest of all abuse for him. We had a period of time where we would look back and discuss what happened, not as a bonding thing, but as validation. We both needed validation that the various abuses were wrong, and that they happened, and that it was the result of uBPDm having mental health issues left untreated.

He's not a saint though. Never has been in my eyes. I've known from the moment of defogging that he was an enabler because he stayed. He didn't try to leave and get me out of that environment. On that knowledge, since he did divorce her after I got married, I've been able to have a relationship with him. It's still rocky at times, because he's having some serious difficulty seeing me as an adult. But that's on him. I just carry on as I would otherwise and hope he'll eventually get the message. He's detached in that regard simply because he has an almost impossible time relating to me as an adult, but otherwise he's actually fairly engaged with my FOC.
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JustKathy

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2021, 09:52:15 PM »
I also grew up feeling like my father was a picture-perfect parent. I thought I was his special girl because he'd take me as his date to movies, concerts, and work events (he worked in television and even took me to awards ceremonies). I didn't know at the time that he only took me because my mother refused to go. I also heard people say the same things that you did about him being a saint for putting up with my mother. A few of my aunts told me how lucky my mother was to find him and that he was "the best thing to ever happen to her." Everyone thought he was this amazing guy so I spent most of my life convinced that he was her victim, just like I was.

I didn't come to the realization that he was her enabler until she passed away. When my Nmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer she had him disinherit me out of spite. Even then I told myself that he was being forced to do it and would change the will back after she died. My therapist told me not to expect anything to change because enablers remain loyal even in death. She was right. After Nmother died he doubled down on it, had his lawyer send me some very hurtful things making sure I knew the disinheritance was my punishment for "hurting" my mother. I was 55 when I finally realized he was no better than she was. I felt like someone had hit me in the face with a brick. Now I look back on my childhood and can see that it was there all along. I was blind to it. I guess I just had to believe that one of my parents loved me.

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Call Me Cordelia

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2021, 11:56:10 PM »
Just tonight a neighbor described the wife of our unstable and evidently abusive neighbor as “a saint.” I wish I had shot back that she was much more likely an enabler. It peeves me off when that misperception floated around. My mother likewise reveled in her martyrdom. :barfy:

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Now I look back on my childhood and can see that it was there all along. I was blind to it. I guess I just had to believe that one of my parents loved me.

 :yeahthat:

That says it all, Kathy. I used to believe the same about my mom, even that we were “close.” Really it was enmeshment.

She did not love me, her whole psyche was consumed by my father. I came across the concept of “inverted narcissism,” and oh my goodness so many lightbulbs went on for me. Your father seems to fit that description too.

She was also very detached as a mother and grandmother in my adulthood. Always too busy to visit, and when she did it was obvious was a huge sacrifice she considered herself to be making. And when I started setting boundaries and my father’s psychotic flag was flying high, she stayed firmly on his side. Just like when I was a kid and would beg her to leave him after the latest rage and sometimes beating. How could I betray my father???

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Amadahy

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2021, 12:00:09 AM »
Yes! My EnDad died 21 years ago and I knew my grief was over the top.  Turns out, I was grieving the father I had created -- the one who was the "good" parent, who was nice to me, who didn't rage, who didn't hit me.  He also did not protect me from molestation, from physical abuse, from total lack of boundaries.  He became awkward and aloof when I hit puberty and really did not know me any better than Nmom.  I gave him a huge pass and actually became protective of him.  Once I realized all this, a few years ago, I was red-hot angry and had to work through that. I had to realize, like Nmom, that he had his own generational trauma and could not give me what he didn't have. Still, his actions/inactions scarred me deeply, so I forgive him, but no longer idolize him. It is a strange, empty feeling, but it came when I could cope.  Healing is not for the faint-hearted!  xoxo Best wishes, Jenn!
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Leonor

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2021, 04:56:43 AM »
Yes, this is what I'm seeing in my FIL.

They also switch places sometimes: who is the irresponsible one, or who was the worse parent, or had the worst childhood, or sacrifices the most ...b :roll:


All of this comes hand in hand with which parent gets close to which child. It's like they hand off their children to one another, and then switch it up when they feel like it.

Meanwhile I watch my dh and sil fall for it every time. They feel like they're getting closer to the lost parent, or the relationship is improving with dad, or mom is coming to her senses, etc.

It's how they conquer and divide their kids. But mostly it's about them: I sucked this one dry, gimme that one for a bit.

I grew up with a grandiose narc mom and alcoholic dad with crap step parents, so it's easy for me to say, This is why I'm NC or this is why they were crappy parents.

It's very hard and painful to allow that awareness with invert narcs.

I'm so sorry that you are going through this.



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Arnelle

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2021, 07:33:24 AM »
I have been struggling with this realisation lately. I am angry at my uBPD dad for being so verbally, emotionally (and rarely but sometimes physically) abusive, but with him I still make the excuse "but he is ill". I am working on that, because I know having BPD or any other illness for that matter doesn't excuse abusive behaviour, but I guess I understand his behaviour by now  and know what causes it. My mum was definitely our go-to person when we were little, so I do still remember my mum as the safe person, and the one who looked after us.

Lately I have started to realise that she should have left him a long time ago. When my little sister was a baby, she didn't react welcoming enough when my dad came back from a trip, and in return he didn't look at her for two weeks. The baby would look at him and he would turn his head. That, or other occurrences like it, should have been such clear signs that he was not fit to be a good dad and that we had to be removed from him. I do see how it was hard for her financially, I guess women often have that disadvantage, so I do understand her staying. He was also abusive towards her, and I think similarly to us, she didn't realise quite how bad his behaviour really was.

However, the thing I am struggling with most now is that when they broke up she continued to be an enabler, she would invite him for Christmas for years, so until we all made it very clear we wouldn't come home unless he wasn't there, we had awkward "walking on eggshells" holidays (all to make him happy). She created an environment where even after they had been broken up for a decade, he could drop by unannounced, which is how he caught me being in the city where my parents live without telling him once (that didn't go down well). I realise she can't seem to shake all the things she has been conditioned into, but I just really needed her to be strong for us and make us finally feel safe. When I was at Uni abroad, I only came home for 3-4 weeks a year while my classmates spent months at home over the vacations.

The thing that hurt most lately is how she has been reacting to me going NC with him. This has been happening gradually for 1.5 years now. Last Christmas, she let my dad's new wife drop off presents at the house minutes after I arrived, meaning I had to hide upstairs while having an anxiety attack which is how any contact with my dad and this woman made me react at the time. None of us wanted those presents because they were just a way for my dad to be able to say he is trying so hard and we give nothing back, but my mum kept talking about how nice they were. Last month when I came home to visit her, she asked me if I was going to visit my dad. She said it as if she had forgotten I don't talk to him. We were talking about weddings as well, and she said that I needed to invite him to my future wedding because he would be so upset if he wasn't invited. So after 10 years of being separated (because he cheated on her for years), she is still putting his feelings over mine. So yeah, still working on that one.

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raspberryoxygen

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2021, 09:13:16 AM »
My enabling, codependent, enmeshed Dad is this tall, deep-voiced, people-pleaser to outsiders, but his main goal in life is keeping my uBPD mother stable. When I was little enough to reason with, he taught me that my job was to keep her happy and rage-free. If she was upset, I was supposed to be good so she would calm down. So all my life, I thought I was bad because I couldn’t cure my mother‘s uncurable mental illness. Even when I visit now, which I barely do, he tells me to apologize so she’ll be happy, or to talk something through so she’ll calm down, or not to tell her anything upsetting or “get her upset.” My mother launches into a psychotic rage when my young children cry in developmentally normal ways. She did this to me repeatedly as a child, also adding in physical abuse and teaching me to dissociate in a flash. I said to my Dad, “gee, Mom gets really upset when little kids cry, huh?” and he just laughed it off, “oh, your mother gets ‘funny’ sometimes, but it’s always okay in the end.”  :aaauuugh: :stars:

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Hazy111

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2021, 12:28:25 PM »
Funny, how these same subjects turn up over and over again on threads.   The realisation that the other parent wasnt innocent, the enabler co - dependent other parent , who i would argue is PD also .

The posts read like "The men they marry " section of "Understanding the Borderline Mother" by Christine Lawson

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moglow

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2021, 02:04:32 PM »
My experience is somewhat different because of time/distance - Daddy passed away 25+ years ago, quite some time after they had divorced, plus his career kept him traveling a large part of our early years. Mother remarried within a year of their divorce and I became close to my stepfather as well. Both dads were both very much buffers for me with mother. I don't remember either of them ever being there during her meltdowns - unless I missed it they literally weren't witnesses to the worst of it.   Mother truly seems to have reined it in at will, according to her audience/lack of same.

Edited to add: I lost both dads to cancer within three months of each other. Is it really any wonder mother truly let loose after that? She had/has no buffers left, no reason to pretend any longer.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2021, 05:45:30 PM by moglow »
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Cat of the Canals

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2021, 06:31:09 PM »
I have definitely given enDad a pass in the past. Overlooked his immature and selfish behavior. Discounted the fact that he had a very rough patch during my childhood where he was just angry and on the brink of raging all the time. (And never apologized for any of it, just like PDmom.)

There's some talk in Understanding the Borderline Mother about the spouse who sort of "disappears" to get away from the PD parent. My dad spent HOURS in the garage when I was a kid. Tinkering with who-knows-what and motivated to do so to avoid my mother. He even kept the door locked!

And only a few times did he stand up for us when she was being irrational. I can really only remember twice: once when I got a forbidden C+ on a report card. My mother was raging, and he sort of joked, "My parents would have been THRILLED if I'd gotten C's on my report card!" That went over like a lead balloon. She turned her death stare on him, and he just gave up. Another time, I got grounded for a really stupid reason, and he offered to take me out on the lake with my best friend (a forbidden activity, obviously) when my mom wasn't home. Again, he didn't so much stand up to her as teach me it's better to sneak around behind her back. Which I already knew... There was certainly no sitting me down to tell me, "Your mother has issues, and this has nothing to do with you."

In fact, I only know he's aware of her issues because there was one summer where she was really putting him through the wringer. She was insisting they had to move because she hates the next door neighbor (he had the gall to build a large dock). My dad was pointing out that they'd literally just paid off the house, and it was absurd to talk about moving. She told him, "Well if I stay here, I'm going to be miserable. And I'll make you miserable, too." He was relating this story to me (which I now know was an inappropriate thing to do) and he said, "I thought I was going to have to tell her she needed to talk to someone." It took me a while to realize he meant a therapist. This was before I was even Out of the FOG, so I was pretty shocked by that. No one questions the queen's sanity in our house.

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JustKathy

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2021, 08:35:48 PM »
I said to my Dad, “gee, Mom gets really upset when little kids cry, huh?” and he just laughed it off, “oh, your mother gets ‘funny’ sometimes, but it’s always okay in the end.”

My father's line was, "Well, you know how your mother is." No matter how badly she was abusing me, no matter how much I was suffering, "Well, you know how your mother is."

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raspberryoxygen

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2021, 11:22:34 AM »
My father's line was, "Well, you know how your mother is." No matter how badly she was abusing me, no matter how much I was suffering, "Well, you know how your mother is."

Wow, yes, this too! Usually after I’d gone to him with a story of some ridiculously crazy stuff she’d done. And it’s just, “Well, you know how your mother is." Yeah, thanks, that feels good to connect.

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JustKathy

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2021, 12:38:54 PM »
Wow, yes, this too! Usually after I’d gone to him with a story of some ridiculously crazy stuff she’d done. And it’s just, “Well, you know how your mother is." Yeah, thanks, that feels good to connect.

My enFather gave vague and ambiguous responses to every question he was asked. After he disinherited me he acted like everything was fine and called to make small-talk with my husband. Hubby told him he no longer felt comfortable talking to him since he had hurt me so badly. My enDad replied he had to disinherit me because of "that thing she had with her mother." Hubby asked him what, exactly, "that thing" was. The answer was, "Well, you know, that thing." Guess what Dad, that THING was called child abuse. I'll never know if enFather knew that and was trying to whitewash it or if he really thought I was the bad guy in that story. He could never commit to an answer. His entire life he mumbled his way through everything with, "Well, you know, bla bla bla ...."

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blacksheep7

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2021, 12:58:50 PM »
My other parent was the enabler, let everything pass telling us we were bad kids because we acted out to NF's Rages.
He died 12 yrs ago and NM took over escalating her covert behaviors, especially with me, the scapegoat.

In an article it clearly stated that usually the overt narc parent is partnered with a covert so kids tend to see the latter as the «good» parent.

My NF knew that he was marrying a «soft spoken» woman.  He did not want one with a strong character in order to remain  the dominate one.  These men or women know exactly who they want  as a partner. :sly:
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Jolie40

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2021, 01:54:35 PM »
when I was preteen/teen, enabler parent would could home drunk after all us kids were in bed
I'd check on siblings-all fast asleep fortunately

so they never heard slurred words of enabler as PD parent hysterically screamed/threw things on floor
as I listened, alternated between thinking one parent was the worst & then other was worst
« Last Edit: August 13, 2021, 02:00:54 PM by Jolie40 »
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JoJo

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2021, 10:01:04 PM »
I came across a YouTube channel where a psychologist talks childhood trauma, toxic family systems, etc. and one of his videos focused on "the other parent" in a household- the partner of a PD parent.

Maybe the thing about this video that surprised me the most was when it was mentioned that the other parent is often pretty detached from their children, if not in childhood, in adulthood but wants to appear as an active loving parent.

Whoa. This was definitely my FOO. Codependent, enabling, enmeshed mother SAYS very loving things, definitely "wants to appear as an active loving parent" but, in truth, it just all seems too difficult for her. So, in reality, she is very detached. Months go by and she just can't work up the energy to make an effort. She drifted through my childhood like a wraith and has pretty much continued to do so. Would you be able to share the youtube link? I'd love to watch this. :) Thank you for sharing this info! It's nice to know we're not alone.

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xredshoesx

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #17 on: August 14, 2021, 10:10:33 AM »
i didn;t see my father from 7-21 save ONE phone call and ONE visit *supervised*.  in my mind i made him into something he wasn't- like we would go roller skating and i would pretend in my mind i was going to call him on the pay phone and he would come rescue me.   i never was able to dial the number in reality and probably by mid 4th grade i figured out he was NEVER coming back to get me and take me home.

what i had to come to terms with after i had my reunion with him at 21 was that he was also an addict, possibly mentally ill and trying to self medicate- and although he loved me, he wasn't ever strong enough to overcome the storm that was my biological mother.  my half sisters shared some things that show that he may have been abusive to their mom (who is the best bonus mom i could have ever asked for when you get a stepmom as an adult) and that it was clear that both my parents played a part in the DV in my childhood home.


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Hazy111

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #18 on: August 14, 2021, 10:31:12 AM »
My other parent was the enabler, let everything pass telling us we were bad kids because we acted out to NF's Rages.
He died 12 yrs ago and NM took over escalating her covert behaviors, especially with me, the scapegoat.

In an article it clearly stated that usually the overt narc parent is partnered with a covert so kids tend to see the latter as the «good» parent.

My NF knew that he was marrying a «soft spoken» woman.  He did not want one with a strong character in order to remain  the dominate one.  These men or women know exactly who they want  as a partner. :sly:
  :yes:  :yeahthat:

I often looked at my parents and others parents for that matter and think "What have you actually got in common. Why are you married? " I used to listen to cliches like "attraction of opposites" and all that garbage, " Oh hes a Virgo and shes a Cancer"  and yes i still hear this guff. But then when i discovered PD and Narcissists and Borderlines , it all seemed to make sense. The need to dominate and control or the need to be dominated and submissive. It certainly wasnt about mutual love and respect. Though they will tell you it is.

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JustKathy

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Re: Your experience with the "other" parent
« Reply #19 on: August 14, 2021, 06:53:22 PM »
These men or women know exactly who they want  as a partner. :sly:

They do, and I've always wondered how they manage to meet that person. My Nmother met and married my father at a very young age (maybe 18-19) and got pregnant with me right after marrying. She was working as a secretary and met him at the office.

I was baffled by their marriage my entire life. They had absolutely nothing in common. My father's taste in music, movies, food, everything, was the polar opposite of what my mother liked. How in the heck did they meet and start dating when one was disgusted by the food choices of the other? The only thing they had in common was the need for one to dominate and the other to enable. I mean, people don't go up to co-workers and say, "Hi, I'm an enabler, want to go out."