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How to help a victim of a narcissist?

My son is an an abusive relationship with a woman who has him completely in her thrall; so much so that she has alienated him from us, (his family), friends (one he used to call his brother), and she also emotionally abuses the children. Her manipulations of my son have recently led to him being beaten so badly that he needed to be hospitalised. I've tried everything I can think of to help him but his fear of losing her is greater than any talk or evidence of the truth. Anybody dealt with helping someone in a similar situation?

By Philosopearl
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20 comments

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Thank you all for the helpful comments. The biggest problem now is that she has convinced him that my daughter and myself are bad people, and he has swallowed it. I can't say a word to him about this, because he is on her side. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my son would do this. He and is wife attack my character by telling me I'm 'negative', and a 'gossip', and that I always have to be right, which is pretty funny, since it's just projection. I would love to have all this go away, and just surrender to them for the kids, but if I do, everything will go back to the same drama. Something has to change here. I'm just so sad I can't see my kids. What am I supposed to do about the fact that they just don't like me? I'm not about to change for them, especially at the age of 68! I am their mom, for crying out loud. I would never have thought to criticize my parents for the way they were (we all have flaws, right?). I loved them unconditionally. I would have done nothing but hurt feelings, and wouldn't have done any good.

Joanlee Level 3 July 12, 2018
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Ugh, having witnessed the effects of serious NPD I'm sorry.

Qualia Level 7 Apr 25, 2018
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Not to that degree, but yes. My son is not the kid I raised. She has complete control of him and the kids, and has succeeded in fooling me for 11 years. She is hateful and vindictive, and always creating drama where there shouldn’t be any. I am so sad about it all, but nothing I can do but watch it unhappily unfold.

Joanlee Level 3 Apr 23, 2018
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I know exactly what you mean. It's gut wrenching and makes me so, so sad.

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Sadly, it may be that your son has traits of dependent personality disorder - a favorite target for narcissists. See this: [goodtherapy.org]

pc10101 Level 5 Apr 23, 2018
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Thank you. I think this site pretty much nails it. Makes me understand that my parenting has played a huge part in his current mindset.

@Philosopearl I was married to an alcoholic for 36 years. I know now after going to Al-Anon that I was codependent, even though I thought I wasn't. Obviously this relationship spilled over onto the kids, and my son ended up being like me. The sad part about all this is that he has held a grudge against me for a few years now, and has seemed unhappy. Unfortunately we had a terrible texting experience in which my daughter in law went off on me, calling me an asshole and saying I talk behind peoples' backs and say all sorts of bad things (totally fabricated). I have known her for 12 years, and always thought she liked me. So she has been lying all this time. After this blowup, I made a bad decision to write them a letter, and now I realize it was a mistake. I didn't blame anyone for anything, but I tried to defend myself, which I shouldn't have done. Now I've made matters worse, and my son won't talk to me either, and I can't see my beautiful grandkids. It's the worst. I have no idea what to do but let time take its course.

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Avoid all talk of evidence or truth. Until he's away from the situation he will only see her truth. Praise him, value him and love him keep telling him how important he is to you and to the children. If maybe that he has no sense of self worth left and feels he deserves to be treated this way. Hard as it may be if it's possible cultivate a relationship with her, appeal to her ego, she'll love to talk about herself if she's properly narcissistic. But be very careful it will be hard to keep up with the lies. Don't let her isolate him wedge yourself in there somehow. Don't say anything negative about her, instead be positive towards him, build him up and hopefully he will have the strength to leave. If you think the children appeal to his protective side it may strengthen his resolve. It took 30 years before my dad finally left. I wish he'd left years before but he's happy now.

Josephine Level 7 Apr 23, 2018
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Thank you. I'm doing exactly what you suggest with him (I'm not capable of having her in my life) and thankfully he's allowed me to still have a relationship with him. He thinks he's doing the right thing for the children by "keeping the family together", but hopefully that will change.

@Philosopearl my Dad did the same thing, when he finally left we all said why didn't you do this years ago. He didn't help us by staying. Hopefully your son will see that too. Find yourself some support groups and talk to people who have left similarly abusive situations, maybe your son could met them to? Just don't trick him into it. That's what he expects from his wife.

My dad was definitely passive in my parents' relationship. He would have never left my mom. They loved each other but couldn't stand each other, and were married till they died, after 64 years.

@Josephine this is what I wondered after my 36 year marriage. didn't I leave earlier?

@Joanlee you left, you survived. Don't ever forget that you saved yourself let leaving be a positive and move forward.

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Other than encouraging that he break it off with her, there is not much anyone can do to help. Encourage him to get therapy with her maybe?

JK666 Level 7 Apr 20, 2018
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When they are that bad it's impossible to fix them.
And from what I've read if the person with NPD sees a therapist need someone well versed in dealing with it.
Those reading feel free to correct me on that. I don't think everyday talk therapy works for NPD or the victims.

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I have several extremely narcissisic family members and few exes - been there, done that. One tool I found extremely helpful was to learn NVC. NVC stands for Non-Violent Communication. It took me three tries to read the book to fully understand and be able to apply in real life with very difficult people. The point of NVC is that we must listen to people, then identify their hidden needs that they don't even know about. Then have them figure out what they need. When I applied to three very difficult people --- they all felt heard, and immediately their attitude and behavior changed. It's a whole different approach compared to how we're used to "communicating" with people. I am reading the new 3rd edition of NVC and it's even filled with more insights. Please study it and try applying it with your son when you converse with him. But practice a lot with everyday other people first to get used to it and tweak methods until it's perfected. [cnvc-bookstore.myshopify.com]

(Warning: in their site, the NVC 3rd edition is sold out - try Amazon perhaps). Best wishes with you and your son.

DeafGypsy Level 4 Apr 19, 2018
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Thank you so much. I look forward to reading this. It sounds like a gift! I was able to get it from an Australian bookshop.

Edited

Thank you! The library had a copy, but must be good because it’s checked out. Ordered on amazon 👍

Just got the book, thanks. I'm halfway through, and I will have to read it again for it to sink in. The paraphrasing part is the hardest for me.

@Joanlee Yes, it took me 3 times to let the methods really sink in. We are all raised to communicate poorly in our society. If you want to have a phone-buddy to practice NVC... we can try to meet 2 times a month on the phone and work it out. I like "group" study as it makes me more motivated. (And I now got reading glasses, easier to read books, lol).

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I feel deeply sorry for anyone in a relationship with or working for a narcissist. There is not much to do but walk away.

I have been a volunteer at an organization for about 20 years that now has a narcissist for a CEO, I no longer volunteer and I am actively campaigning for his removal.

Lincster45 Level 6 Apr 19, 2018
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A friend's brother (back from active duty with PTSD) was in such a relationship for six uglly years. Eventually he grew out of it and dumped her. Hope you don't have to wait that long.

NoMagicCookie Level 7 Apr 17, 2018
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There is some very good advice here. I hope you and your family get through this whichever way works for you.

idoubtit Level 6 Apr 17, 2018
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Thank you. The advice here has been fundamental to my understanding and future approach to the situation. I'm grateful to have found this site.

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He has to put on his big boy pants, find his balls, and dump her on the curb.

ArthurPhillips Level 6 Apr 17, 2018
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Consider this for a moment -- every one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses and this varies from person to person. One person might be weak to gambling while another might be weak to chocolate chip cookies. While I appreciate your logic about dumping the narcissist, realize that this personality type has a true power over certain personality types.

@Scoobs I realize that, but I was in the same boat.

Always easy in hindsight.

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He has to see his problem himself. you can only guide. hitler had a mum who loved him.

LeighShelton Level 8 Apr 17, 2018
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My heart goes out to you. My mother is a narcissist. It is an extremely difficult thing to deal with. Mostly because the narcissist will never admitt they are wrong or even have a problem and they have a special way of making their victims doubt themselves and accept fault that isn’t theirs. I really wish there was a magic answer but the reality is that he has to admit the problem and make a clean break. Easier said than done, I know...

Christiep77 Level 5 Apr 16, 2018
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The key to control is lack of self esteem. Create pride and give ones self a path to victory, set responsibility goals that include the children. I don't know your son and these goals are difficult even with strong people. You would know better how to achieve this.

clarkatticus Level 6 Apr 16, 2018
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Thank you so much. It's something that I've believed, but not really known how to address.

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You can offer him, and especially your grandkids, safe refuge.

sarahjustme Level 8 Apr 16, 2018
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Thanks, have done that. And will continue to do so.

5

Having divorced a narcissist, I suggest finding a therapist who is experienced with personality disorders. They well be able to help you understand better the many layers of manipulation your son has been subjected to. I'm certain he's been threatened with harm to the children and never seeing then again were he to leave. It sounds like he has evidence of her willingness to execute such threats. You may also wish to contact local shelters for battered women to see what resources they can connect you with.

Helga Level 4 Apr 16, 2018
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That's a good point. You are right. She almost certainly uses the children as leverage, and that he won't see them if he leaves or goes against her.

Thank you so much. I never thought of that! There must be some supports for people in his situation. There certainly seems to be a need for them, given that there seems to be a lot of men with similar experiences.

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I have been in his situation, except for being beaten to the point of hospitalization. The problem with being in his situation is that it is like religion. There is such a deep emotional investment that any semblance of logic flies right out the window.

I am generally against the idea of taking antidepressants, but that was what helped me. I became almost entirely emotionless, but in that lack of emotion, I was able to start logically assessing my dire situation and find the strength to file for and pursue a divorce and custody of our son who was a toddler at the time.

I didn't fully appreciate just how bad the situation was until I was out of there and was documenting things for court. Things that I took as a matter of course or that I "deserved" when I was there became big, ugly textbook examples of blatant abuse, once I could see it from the outside. Right now he can't see it from the outside.

Meep70 Level 7 Apr 16, 2018
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Thank you. It's heartbreaking to watch him normalise the behaviour and to think he feels that it's the kind of treatment he deserves. And that he can't see or acknowledge that his kids are suffering.

@Philosopearl I hope he gets the help he needs, whatever that might be. It is a miserable life to live as an abuse victim.

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Feel for your family - maybe counseling would help you personally.

sassygirl3869 Level 9 Apr 16, 2018
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Yes, I think it's something that I need to try to manage the absolute powerlessness i feel knowing that there's nothing I can do to influence what's happening to my beloved son. Thank you.

7

As a therapist I see this scenario way to often. It is confusing and frustrating for the people who really care about the person in an abusive relationship. I'm guessing the more you point out her characteristics to him the more he defends her. It's tough. Therapy could help if he's willing to go. Not couples counseling. Individual counseling. Even with therapy it's no guarantee, but I've had people who were able to get out of their "psychological entrapment" and leave. The chances of a narcissist changing is slim. You are in a tough position. It's hard to do a balancing act. If he does open up to you about his concerns with the relationship just listen. If you start agreeing too much with him he very well could "flip" and go back to defending her. I guess, as corny as it sounds, just be there for him if he decides to face his fears and get out. And take care of yourself. It's hard to be in such a powerless position, especially with a child and "grandchildren?". Good chance he will come around on his own time. If you can, talking to a therapist might help... wouldnt hurt. Take care

Rudy1962 Level 8 Apr 16, 2018
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Thank you so much. You're exactly right. My agreeing with him resulted in exactly the "flipping back" you talked about. Wow.

@Philosopearl in some ways human behavior is very predictable

3

I suggest you talk to a professional.

Bodhichick Level 4 Apr 16, 2018
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