Narcissistic Single Mother and Only Child

by Michelle Piper

The narcissistic single mother and only child dynamic often accelerates the cycle of narcissistic abuse, enmeshment and neglect. For this child, the stereotype that “only children” are spoiled and overindulged is an added confusion to one who’s experienced the painful chaos of a narcissistic mother.

Whether or not a child acts chronically spoiled of course, largely depends on the kind of parenting the child experiences, not on their inherent character. Being an only child does not guarantee unconditional love from the narcissistic mother.

There are perks as an only child, like not having to compete against other siblings for mom’s attention, but the child pays dearly as the mother’s only captive source of narcissistic supply. The narcissistic single mother, especially without the temporary relief of a partner around, will force the only child to wear many hats.

An only child of a narcissistic mother may be placed in many roles such as golden child, scapegoat, mascot, and best friend. Sometimes, several roles are demanded in a single day, depending on the mood of the narcissistic mother.

With a single narcissistic mother, the only child is at risk to care for her, make her the center of attention and assure her she’s constantly adored. This is tough on an only child, for they have to do all the work to survive without hope of a sibling or healthy parent with which to relate or commiserate.

The child gets the blame for everything because there’s no one else for the narcissistic mother to put it on. Of course, she’ll never say anything is her fault or has caused any problems unless she has an ulterior motive.

An only child often has to play the role of empathetic counselor for the narcissistic mother. The child has to listen to her problems, hear about perceived or real illnesses, and have his or her ears burn upon hearing of the narcissistic mother’s latest intimate relationships.

Relationships with a single narcissistic mother are tumultuous, to say the least, and those in her romantic life aren’t spared. She sees her chosen partners as objects. She can walk into a room and know which suitor wants her the most, which ones to avoid, and which ones will give her the most narcissistic supply.

She has no shame or conscience, which makes it easier for her to partake in affairs with those who are committed or married. If that person’s committed to someone else, it just makes the chase more exciting and intriguing.

Narcissistic mothers look for the next best thing, something more exciting and exhilarating. Relationships are a zero sum game for a narcissist mother and she aims to win.

Narcissistic mothers have difficulty maintaining real relationships because they do not seek out people for love. They do it to boost their own egos and to make themselves feel wanted and adored as another source of narcissistic supply.

Sex can be a potent weapon for narcissistic mothers. They know how to work a room, gain interest, and make people putty in their hands. Narcissistic mothers often forget to parent their children when they are out prowling for a partner.

An only child may be left alone to fend for his or herself while mom is out finding her next source for an ego boost. The child, her captive source of narcissistic supply, is enmeshed with mom until pushed aside for something new to fill that void.

During the time the child is her main narcissistic supply, the child may feel cherished or needed but when a new partner comes along, however briefly, the child is often emotionally and sometimes physically abandoned.

Narcissistic mothers don’t have children for the same reasons other parents do. Narcissistic mothers do not enjoy the process of watching the child grow up but are instead threatened by the child’s increased ability to exercise healthy free will.

The child is born for a source of narcissistic supply and for someone to be able to take care of the narcissistic mother. She does not measure successful child rearing like other mothers may do.

My clients express fear they will somehow turn out to be like their narcissistic mothers. I explain that true narcissists don’t worry about narcissism, so the fact they examine themselves in a such a way is a good sign they are ok.

But, yes, if we’ve had a narcissistic parent, we do need to develop awareness of our own behavior and evaluate whether it repeats what we saw modeled. I think of the adult child’s repetition of the narcissistic mother’s behavior as a “remnant.”

Most of us have noticed we can regress when around our narcissistic parent or family system as adult children of narcissists (ACONs). But some of us have not yet fully evaluated how we treat others in our lives in order to find less than useful behavior and shed it for a happier life.

What “remnant” behavior do you either imitate from the old family system or do out of a habit of defending yourself from the dysfunction of a narcissistic parent that does not serve healthy relationships in your life?

When you let yourself notice remnant behaviors and place them aside without beating yourself up, you are on your way to reclaiming your own true value system and building more self worth.

Praise yourself for catching the remnant and commit to extinguish the old behavior, instead of criticizing yourself. If you skip the self criticism, your ability to catch the bad behavior in yourself actually raises and then you can gain traction in getting rid of it once and for all.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

barwin November 23, 2012 at 11:17 pm

This is helpful. I can relate as my older half brother is much older and we’ve both had
Our times as our mother’s only solace. Only to be set aside for the boyfriends. We were
Both separated from our fathers. I had times of custody with both parents and physical
and emotional separation from both. Funny, this weekend I’ve been battling with my deep
Fears of being ‘replaced’. Relating this to my mother and my father as when I was 5 they
Both got new partners. True to this type of dysfunctional system my brother and I have
Never been close.
I suppose its a good place to be when we see patterns in our other relationships that show
How these fears interfere – so painful! I just hope there comes a time when I can relate to
Others with less fear, anger and withdrawal.
Thanks for the last few hopeful sentences on the remnants! You put things so clearly.

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Michelle Piper December 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Hi Barwin,
As always, thanks so much for telling me what’s helpful in the post. I’m only accustomed to helping people verbally in my coaching and psychotherapy work so I often am challenged by putting these concepts on the page.
I see you’ve identified a few “remnants” and so your hope to ‘relate to others with less fear, anger and withdrawal’ is a realistic one. Another thing you can do is become aware of your body response to those feelings…that way you can recognize when you are reacting to the old trauma of when you were a child and your trust was betrayed. For instance, some of my clients notice the feelings come with responses like holding the breath, shallow breathing, fist or jaw clenching and so forth.

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barwin December 10, 2012 at 8:14 am

Hi Michelle,
That’s great! To become conscious of my body is a goal of mine. Maybe others
With narcissistic parents can relate to numbing, shutting off emotions and so on
And then struggle to be aware of their bodiies, being in the world, the present etc.
Thanks for the examples!

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Sophie December 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Hi! Thank you for this article… This is the first time I have seen anyone address single children and single mothers. I was a single daughter with a single mother. Child protective services was able to ‘save’ my half sister when I was an infant, but left me to the ‘wolf’, who quickly picked me up and moved me to another state where she could ‘properly’ isolate me and work her ‘magic’. She actually never had boyfriends (guess who’s fault that was???). She said that was because she loved me so much, and that male animals always wanted to hurt baby animals that weren’t biologically theirs (whatever that means), so she was protecting me (COUGH – blaming me). Whatever. Anyway, the thing that actually was interesting in this article was something I hadn’t thought about, and is very accurate, about having to fulfill ALL the roles for her, (and not having anyone to take ANY of the heat ANY of the time – I HAD thought of that, LOL), and the other thing was her switching from Golden Child to Scapegoat. That was very difficult for me. I remember her saying that she didn’t like to repeat herself, and ALWAYS having to listen very carefully, even when I was in the bathroom, lest she say something in the other room, and I miss it or misunderstand what she said… she would fly into a rage just out of the blue. Wierd things like that. Never knowing when I was playing scapegoat or golden child was very difficult. I have never actually put it into words like that. I am now 32 years old, and have been in ‘treatment’ for this for several years, getting better! One of the things that I have struggled with was suicidal behavior, thoughts which started at a very young age, when I thought that the only way she could possibly be happy (because I caused all her problems) was if I was gone. I am wondering if this is more prevalent among single children of only parents? This is definately not a crisis situation. No suicidal thoughts now or anything, just something that happened for years, and I’m still trying to understand. Any thoughts are appreciated!

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Laura August 23, 2014 at 9:54 pm

I am just reading this article today. I just wanted to tell say, i am also the only daughter and only child of a narcissistic mother. My dad had other kids after he left my mother… he tried to fight for custody of me for awhile but lost. My mother isolated and pretty much had me brainwashed to absolutely hate my dad for years. I can’t believe it never even occurred to me that it was inappropriate for my mother to constantly remind me how my real dad never cared about me, never really loved me, never really gave me attention as a baby (i didn’t know i couldn’t remember) She would remind me of that stuff off and on and seemingly randomly. I had zero contact with my dad so of course i believed every word of it for my entire childhood. Even when i was bawling my eyes out and crying to the point of of vomiting she would just continue saying things like “even tho he left you for all the kids he has now with his new wife, I decided to stay and be with you.” which never lasted more than a couple weeks bc you see. My mother had a still born baby boy a couple years before i was born. She named him David. And David was the real Golden Child and he would have been the perfect son had he lived. And if he had lived, she most likely would have never had to get pregnant again and put her body through the pain and suffering of having another child… a girl that looks way too much like her dad. I don’t even know the 1st clue about where to find help. I don’t even know if i can be helped. I don’t know how not to hate and detest myself.

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Laura August 23, 2014 at 10:01 pm

i apologize. somehow a couple sentences of mine were cut off above. i don’t know what happened exactly. i should have made sure to edit better before i submitted. either way.
I made mention that i wasn’t exactly “suicidal” but i did go to bed every single night starting around 7 and full swing by 9 wishing either to “never have been born.” or to “not wake up”. Life was miserable and still confuses me today. But all i know is that i would not repeat my childhood for a trillion dollars.

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Anonymous January 20, 2015 at 3:05 am

Hi Laura!
I am very touched by your story. If you do not mind I would appreciate you writing me an email

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hish July 15, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Hello Laura, I swear reading your comment was like reading about my life! but only difference is I’m a guy, but her excuse was he’s gay (which he isn’t) and she was afraid i would get sexually harassed by him. talking about taking it to a whole new level huh haha
Friendly advise, stay strong if you lasted with her until now i swear, you either will make history or be the parent of a kid that will. don’t ever let her think she got the best of you. words can’t describe how much it hurts even reading a million articles won’t even give you a slight sense of relief. i know.
there wasn’t a single thing i wasn’t hit by starting from shoes, all the way to chairs (small ones thank god) she couldn’t lift heavy things again thank god. you probably got used to the word failure all the time no? accept it because she’s not talking about you she’s basically talking about herself.
As for hate yourself, well don’t because you are beautiful inside out based on how you write, and the world is yet still to be discovered. only thing you can do with her is cut her off, i did but text her from time to time just for that guilt feeling that haunts me, but it slowly goes away and i promise you will feel better, energetic and nothing could stop you to getting what you want. Let go of the past, yes easier said than done but you will manage to do so in the best way. Remember winston churchill once said “if you got through hell keep going” now my idea of this is theres heaven on the other side and you will reach it! stay strong and best of luck to you!

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Another Scapegoat January 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for writing this post. I was a child of a narcissistic single mother until I was 6. I remember being completely engulfed by her, her needs and her emotions, until she met and married my stepfather. I was suicidal at a young age. I believe now that was because my mother projected all of her emotions of being rejected by my birthfather on to me and, of course, I couldn’t handle these intense, adult, feelings at such a young age. What ended up happening due to this reaction is that I was labeled from there on out as “defective”.

I wonder if there are other ACON’s who have had the experience of their single narcissistic mother getting remarried to another narcissist or otherwise personality disordered partner? When my mother married my stepfather and started having more children, the abuse escalated. I could never do anything right and I was treated as a live-in, on-call domestic worker. My SF nit-picked everything I did and constantly complained to my NM about how “bad” I was. He would lie to her about things I’d said to him and I was often punished for no reason. Sometimes, NM would defend me, they’d get in a huge fight, and I often felt guilty. To this day, when people argue, I start feeling very uneasy, like it’s my fault. I know it’s not, and I have to bring myself back to the present and reality and then I’m ok, but the initial reaction is still there after all these years. I’m 40 years old, now.

I have several (don’t want to give the identifying feature of how many for my privacy) half-siblings that I helped raise. They experienced their own abuse, but it was different from mine. Most of them had none of the responsibilities that I had, growing up. They were allowed a certain amount of freedom that I never was, but, as I said, experienced their own version of this abuse.

That being said, there was definitely favoritism by my SF and NM to their “new” family. My SF only solidified with my NM my “defectiveness” and “over-sensitivity”. They did many things for my siblings that they didn’t do for me.

To the outside world, they seemed normal. I attempted to get help at church, from time to time, but my parents could always justify or minimize their treatment of me, and I was never believed by anyone outside the family that I was being abused. At church abuse meant beatings, and that was not happening. Spankings with a belt while my SF laughed at me because I was terrified didn’t count.

My only advocates were my grandparents, my NM’s parents. They have their own dysfunctional issues, clearly, but they at least believed me when I told them what was happening. I know that they tried on several occasions to protect me when they were visiting. The only result was a huge fight with my parents, and estrangement with my grandparents. My happiest childhood memories are with my grandparents. Once, I visited them at their home, far away from SF and NM for about 2 months. It was only supposed to be for a few weeks, but I became upset every time I was faced with going home. My GP’s arranged extensions for my stay until I had to go home to start school.

To this day, my NM and SF do not acknowledge or see anything wrong in the way they treated me. In their view, I was a strong willed, belligerent and overly emotional child and they raised me in an appropriate way according to my “defects”.

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Roger January 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Another Scapegoat,
Thank you for sharing your story, I feel for you. The worst part about having a NM is that she never will truly understand the abuse and what she put you through. I think NMs actually believe they are being good parents when all they are really doing is hurting us more than any person should ever have to deal with…and by your own mom! It hurts, but you are not the problem and never were! Your NM was the screwed up one and will continue to be this way until she is gone. The best thing to do is forgive, forget, and move on…easier said than done, I know. But it really is worth it.

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Another Scapegoat January 23, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Hi Roger,

Yes, that is what I’m trying to get my head (heart) around, now. I mean, actually my head gets it, but my heart still clings to the fantasy (some what) that NM will figure out what she did to me and attempt to be the mom she was never capable of being in the first place. Working on getting this info from my head to my heart. I’m hoping that writing about my experiences will help that, help me see her for who and what she is, so that I can accept it and move on. Forgiveness is another matter, and I’m not sure if I can quite get there. Maybe someday. I have a hard time with forgiving someone who isn’t sorry. But, it just may be that I’m not ready to forgive.

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Roger January 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Hi AS,
Forgiveness does take a long time, sometimes it doesn’t happen. But it is for you, not for your mother. Just another step towards healing. I found that writing it and getting it out there is very helpful, even if it just in a journal that no one else will ever see. Getting the words on the page makes it real. I think being able to come to a blog like this and being able to share with others is also so helpful.

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barwin January 22, 2013 at 3:38 am

Hi Another scapegoat,
How incredibly couragous you wwere to speak to your church and even your grandparents.
Thankfully you didn’t totally believe you deserved the abuse.
How incredible that you survived two parents like this.
My father is very wounded but I don’t think he has any disorders. He did ignore me
(Like he just didn’t see me) but I felt his concern occassionally. I think he was probably
Devastated by my mother and then he met my stepmother who was very insecure. She
I’m sure had a narcissistic mother and she basically thought I was bad, listing my many
Bad behaviours every time I visited. I can relate to the guilt you felt when they fought. I
Used to hear my dad and stepmother fight – often it was about me – stepmother believing I
Was spoilt etc. I went between mother and fathers’ homes where I was the problem in each
In different ways. Its so helpful to read these posts and hear about experiences we can relate
To. Its very valuable. The recent post on enmeshment was spot on and came at just the right
Moment because I’d been realising the cost of it and how it played out and still does..

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Another Scapegoat January 23, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Hi barwin,

Thank you, sometimes I can’t believe I survived this myself, with some sense of self intact. I definitely have some things that come up for me, but I’m working through them. It’s helpful to me to read your story, too. I can relate to hearing all my faults and flaws laid out like your stepmom did. My mom would do the same to her mother as well. Yes, I read the newest post about enmeshment and it is spot on. Most of my enmeshment occurred before my stepfather entered the picture, but NM went through cycles of engulfing and ignoring behavior. I was simply not ever good enough for SF. I wish you all the best in your healing journey! I’m glad you have found support as I have!

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bambi January 24, 2013 at 4:10 am

Yep, I am an only daughter of a single narcissistic mother. She had me with a man who was married and already had children and of course stayed with them. I only recently met him on my initiative but he’s not really interested in me, anyway that’s another story.
About (non-)separation from my mother: I am 30 now and I had about 7 years of group and individual therapy where I came due to depression, being suicidal and rage issues. After highschool I went to study in another city, where I stayed for 11 years. I finished my studies (and got somewhat better thanks to the therapy), but alas had to come home to live with my pensioneer narcississtic mother (who never married or had a partner longer than a few weeks), because I have been unable to find regular employment to support myself. Not to mention endless broken relationships which have left me somewhat hopeless. I literally feel like in hell many times and I know I should do something about it, but I just can’t because I have major separation anxiety which persists regardless of everything I learnt in therapy. I don’t trust myself and then there’s all this unemployment going on in my country. Many people are out of jobs so it’s not only my own issues. I try to tell myself that, but I feel have no life, I am her hostage again. What do I do? I am becoming desperate and I fear depression because if I lose my grips now she will have me in her claws forever. I hate her sometimes, I really do. I know it’s horrible. Everything is about her, she treats me like an incompetent child and barely gives me room to breathe. On top of that I am jobless, single, childless and very shame&guilt-based. I feel so powerless, although I have all this knowledge and awareness I cannot seem to be able to put it into practice.

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Roger January 31, 2013 at 11:43 am

Hi Bambi,
I think if, due to your situation, you are forced to be around your NM, you need to emotionally withdraw from her. Don’t let her get under your skin and meet her with emotional indifference whenever contact with her is going on. I think the helplessness you feel is something your NM instilled in you from very early on to make sure you always do need her. When really, it is her that needs you. Without you, her narcissism cannot flourish. When you quit giving her the satisfaction of indulging her narcissism and don’t let her get to you, you will have the upper hand. I believe that things will get better for you and things will only get better. The fact that people like us can come to this blog and understand we are the victims of NMs is a sure sign that we are on the road to recovery and have people who are here to help us and listen to us and get each other through the difficult experiences we have had with our NMs. Best of luck to you.

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Lisa February 9, 2013 at 4:20 am

Wow, Bambi, our stories are exact, except i’m a little older than you and have had no real therapy. I think you msy have more of a chance than you know of overcoming this. Don’t give up hopr. Finding this site tonight saved my lifr. At leadt we now know we are all not stark-raving-mad. This is real, and as scary as it is we cannot give up hopr for ourselves.
I was in crisis mode earlier tonight but feeling the comradrrie on this site, and seeing people respond.who are having some quslity of life is uplifting.

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Erin March 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I too am the only child of a single mom. I was pretty much the Golden Child all of my life, there would be moments of being the scapegoat, they were horrible. The one I remember most was when I was 18 and all my girlfriends had gotten their belly buttons pierced and I wanted mine pierced too…because I was an 18 year old girl and that’s what they do. My mom said no. When I started really pushing the issue she flew into some weird rage about how all I wanted to do was show my body off to boys and was just looking for ways to seduce them. When I tried to explain my true intentions and have a conversation with her about it, she just kept telling me that I was lying to her and that she knew my real intentions. I felt like I was talking to a stranger who hated me and thought I was a horrible person.

Other than that particular instance and a few other isolated ones, I was very much the Golden Child. I was and still am very much afraid of my mom and what she’ll do or say. Looking back, the only way I was able to keep my golden child status for so long was because I would go to almost any length to make sure I kept her happy. Starting at about the age of 8, I would clean our entire house and do the laundry so she didn’t have to. I would make sure I got straight A’s. If I didn’t, I would come home with a plan to prevent it from happening again. I would apologize to death and ask my mom to please forgive me and help me be better, and that I was so lucky she tolerated me and how she was an amazing mom. My mom never remarried or dated after my parents divorce because she “didn’t want to do that to me”. So it was my job to play counselor, listen to all the financial problems we had, and be my mom’s very best friend. It was exhausting and emotionally taxing. My mom painted for me a picture where she was the perfect, caring, selfless mother and the world was a dark, scary, evil place that I needed to be protected from.

I still struggle with anxiety, paranoia about my safety, the intense need for praise from others since I never really developed a sense of self or self esteem, and needing others to define my values and ideas.

Reading this article and the articles on this site has been such an eye opener and a HUGE relief. I’ve always felt afraid and confused by my relationship with my mother. For the first time, a site has nailed every behavior I’ve seen exhibited from my mom and the emotions I’ve felt since I was a child. I’ve already distanced myself from my mother over the last several years but have struggled with guilt over it. I’m looking forward to gaining autonomy and developing my own sense of self. I know the path to healing is going to be a tough one, at least I know what I’m working with now.

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Worried Step-mother March 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Reading this, although I find it very helpful, actually causes me more concern about the situation that my step-daughter, now seven, is currently in. I’m a mental health provider, and so I’m familiar with the mental illnesses that can arise as the result of difficulties in childhood.

My husband and I are trying to provide my step-daughter with stability, love, and support, but for seven out of every fourteen days, she’s with her mother, a narcissist. The fact that this NM lies every time she speaks to my husband (which we’ve had to legally make only once per week due to her contacting him at all hours of the day and night otherwise) and to my step-daughter all the time is just the beginning. NM isolates her and has her watch movies that aren’t appropriate for her age when she’s with her– after school, NM, who works on a few hours per week, takes my step-daughter home and naps while my step-daughter watches movies. NM has told my husband that she doesn’t intend to support my step-daughter attending summer camps this summer, because NM believes that the child needs to spend more time with her mother and needs a “break” from her friends, who her mother believes we have her spending too much time with (in order to prove this point, she emailed my husband an article before 5 am from Psychology Today regarding the topic of parents today “over-booking” their kids). She’s also said that my step-daughter “wants” to spend more time with her. When she’s with NM, my step-daughter rarely gets opportunities to interact with her friends, whose parents NM doesn’t interact with except on rare occasions. One weekend recently, NM didn’t let her go to a birthday party because we “keep her too busy” on the weekends and she “needs some down-time.” NM also scolded my husband for “telling” my step-daughter to ask her about the party, when the reality is that the child whose party it was had been talking about it at school, and the mother asked him if she was going while she was with him.

Additionally, she is married to a man who lives in another state, with whom she takes extravagant vacations about which she tells my step-daughter in great detail each day. We try to have rules and expectations in our home and create an environment of love and support; we’ve been told that at her mother’s house, the rule is “don’t do that.” When I talk to her on the phone when she’s there, she often gets yelled at, and she’s told to get off the phone to watch a movie or eat dessert. That’s when she’s allowed to talk to us. It’s frequent that we go through a weekend without being able to speak to her on the phone, because her mother doesn’t let her answer it and has told my husband that she’s “not willing to fight that battle” of having my step-daughter call us. For us, it isn’t a “battle”; we tell her to call her mother, and she picks up the phone and calls.

My worry is that her isolating behaviors are increasing, partly because she’s realizing that not only can she not control my husband, but also because she’s learning that my step-daughter is being affected by others as well, and since she can’t control what everyone says, she’s working hard to keep my step-daughter away from everyone else when she has her.

All this, and she’s trying to get us to take my step-daughter for almost half the summer so that she can go on vacation with her long-distance husband as she “makes this marriage work,” her self-reported goal.

I’m struggling with watching all this going on, while documenting the things that we can (things NM says to my husband during weekly phone calls, behaviors of hers that we observe, things my step-daughter tells us), and being powerless to do anything about it, because, as Another Scapegoat says, there’s no overt abuse that can be reported, and others can’t see what we see happening, except that my step-daughter looks “sad” when they see her with NM. She behaves like a completely different person when she’s with us than when she’s with NM–she’s playful, silly, charming, loving, smart, artistic. When she’s with NM, she often sounds despondent, lonely, sad. NM calls her defiant, manipulative, a liar. We had her attending therapy last year with the school therapist, and NM had her court-ordered to be removed from it, because she believed that my husband was bad-mouthing her to others (by stating that she was married to someone who lives in another state)

I’m not entirely sure what we can do beyond what we do– provide a loving, supportive home where she has a sense of family, and a place where her feelings are validated and she’s being taught coping skills and how to socialize with her peers. I just worry that she’s going to suffer in the ways that others who have shared here have suffered– with suicidal ideations and/or attempts, as well as self-harming behaviors, eating disorder, substance abuse disorder, etc. There’s so much more I could say here about what I’ve been witnessing since I met my step-daughter nearly five years ago. My husband is managing it much better than he was when I first met him, and much better than I do (mostly because I can identify with the struggle she’s going to have when she’s older and wants a mother who can be the mother hers will never be, and reading that up above made my heart drop….)

I’m both glad to know that others can relate to what my step-daughter experiences with her mother and at a loss for how I can help her with this (short of fighting for full custody, since I don’t think we’d win that battle at this point).

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Meg March 31, 2013 at 8:51 am

Worried Step Mother, She will eventually see her mother for the manipulative person she is. The normalcy you and her father provide are going to be invaluable to her as she grows up. Keep documenting and keep your own noses clean so to speak so that the courts continue to allow her to come to your home. As a caring person it must hurt your heart to see her hurting. But remember how strong and resilient people are. She will grow up a caring person with your and her father’s example.

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Marie April 18, 2013 at 9:13 am

My nephew, an only child, has a narcissistic father but I see elements of narcissism in my sister as well. I see how it affects him and feel powerless as his aunt to do anything for him, other than pray. My sister is manipulative in her relationships. She doesn’t trust me or his other aunt to take our nephew anywhere and won’t even let me babysit, painting me as untrustworthy. (I am an educator for over 10 years and babysat her friend and three of her siblings when I was 16!) Much of her “trust” in me has to do with her ex’s manipulation of her. He did not like our family and sought to sever her ties with us. I called him out from day 1, warning my sister of his character. She sees it now, but won’t give up the facade. My sister has always preferred the bad boys, but I have been emotionally and physically abused (by both) in trying to protect her. It has cost me dearly. (She is on her own next time!) She is medicated now, so doesn’t go into rages and he’s not around to manipulate her into one, which he would do often. But, my nephew is still affected from his early years and even now as narcissistic daddy sends birthday cards 3 months in advance saying, “This card is for you, not for mommy.” and, thankfully, does not honor court orders to show up to visit his son. The whole thing just sickens me. Evil just breeds evil. There is something about my sister that makes her blind to her own selfishness and the narcissism of her ex. It’s like they try to control each other.

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Marie April 18, 2013 at 9:41 am

. . . or maybe she is just trying to win an argument with a narcissist, which you all know is impossible. She has to learn she cannot change him.

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Riley D. August 12, 2014 at 7:44 am

I am a daughter of a narcissistic mother. I consider myself an only child although I have a half-brother who my mom had when I was 17 years old. I didn’t realize that my mom was a narcissist until I was an adult in my 30’s. I just thought she was always a negative person and she never really loved me or never really wanted me. (She had me when she was young). My father never married my mother and soon left her after she had me. So I grew up alone and only with her. Although she never physically abused me, I was TERRIFIED of her because she would often become upset with me and then go into a rage. I was always walking on eggshells and I still am. She mentally and emotionally abused me during my childhood, my teen years and even until this day as an adult, even though I have moved to another state. I know that she is this way because of her horrific childhood which involved repeated sexual and emotional abuse, which started at a young age. All the men in her life were losers and she could never make any of her relationships work long-term. I specifically remember she took my very first paycheck from me from my first job because she said I didn’t deserve it because I never help her clean the house. I will never forget how much that hurt me and bad it made me feel. She has been to therapy, has been on antidepressants (which she said made her feel worse) and has extreme anxiety issues. As a grandmother, she embarrasses me in front of my kids and makes me feel incompetent in front of them. What’s really crazy is that she is actually a nice person with a good heart and is always willing to help people, BUT is quick to tell me everything I’m doing wrong and how I can never do anything right. As a young woman (age 23) I sought the solace of a man (any man who would ask me to marry him) just to get out from under her claws. I was desperate to leave her. I needed an escape. My escape ended up being worse … I married a narcissistic man who never loved me and mentally and emotionally abused me for 17 years. I tried to leave him several times, but in true narcissistic fashion, he would always make me feel guilty and tell me I couldn’t leave because of the kids. Now divorced, I have tried to get back into the dating world, but all I seem to attract are men that don’t take me seriously and men who want me a ‘side piece’ (Married men or men that already have GFs). I keep telling my therapist that I think somehow these men can feel the emotional abuse that I have endured, so they think they have an easy shot at me, which is not the case. So i have pretty much given up on dating or finding a valuable relationship with someone. I’m currently in therapy – I have a great therapist who I have been seeing for the past 7 months and I have a feeling that I will be seeing her for quite some time, as my issues are very deep rooted and have affected the quality of my life so far. At times I feel hopeless, doomed and that no one understands me or ever will. But I do have faith in myself that with my therapist I am going to become a better person and have a better quality of life. I refuse to let her personal issues bring me down.

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Anonymous November 22, 2014 at 5:04 am

Your story sounds just like mine, word for word except
I dragged my abusive husband into therapy on & off for ten years
and after he got sober, he finally stopped being abusive after 15 years.
Keep up the therapy, once you are more healed, you
will find a nice guy to date. Best wishes.

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Rebecca Danis November 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

I can relate. Pretty much the same deal. The “gift” that keeps on giving….

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Desperate January 18, 2015 at 2:57 am

Hi all. I know this post is a little outdated, but im currently hoping on a miracle. Im 21, will be 22 soon, and I am the only daughter to a Narcisstic single mother. My life has been filled with constant threats and ideas of what a perfect daughter i should be. No matter what i am never good enough. I can have the spotlight for 10 minutes, and the rest of the day im wishing i was dead, beating my self up for upsetting her.

I do understand that she wants the best for me. And i know that deep in her heart she means well. & because of that i cant seem to get away. Ive gotten into bad relationships looking for that perfect family that i didnt have. Looking for love in other mothers who did believe in me, and showed me genuine love.

I am able to avoid her during the week bc shes a fulltime worker. But the weekends always come, amd everything bottles up and explodes. I m currently in the driveway of her home. Scared to go in. im fed up. I want to grow up, i want to start my life. & everytime i try, i feel bad and turn around.

Everytime i try to leave, she cries, screams and tells me horrendus things. She has starved herself, gotten sick, and has fallen into deep depressions for what she claims is my fault for leaving her.

How can i move foward and detach? I need to brake this viscious cycle. I want a family, i want a happy, healthy life.. Im tired of feeling miserable.

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Marcie May 3, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Dear Desperate,

The one thing that helps me not feel guilty and anxious is to remember all that my mom has done against me or shall I say in her words, “for me” and never felt bad herself. We don’t owe our lives to our mothers. Let her scream, cry, starve herself, chancers are good she won’t really harm herself because I think they think to highly of themselves. Everything is and will always be your fault, but know that it’s not.

You must find a way to go out on your own. You can do it and even then, she will likely call and try and work her way back into your life. Be strong and watch the manipulation working on you, see it for what it is, unhealthy guilt. You won’t get the perfect, happy family from your mother. It’s a sad truth. Make your own friends and turn to any family that may be distant from her is my best advice.

I’m sorry, I’ve lived this my whole life, different story but the weight of the world on my shoulders because of my mom. I left home at 17 and am now in my 40’s just figuring out all the damage she has done. You at least see it and you’re young.

Best!

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Letty July 28, 2015 at 4:50 pm

I’ve been looking for an answer for so long, I started crying whilst reading this article and the stories shared. I hope someone can help me.
I’m an only daughter of a single mother and I have always felt immense guilt for trying to keep my distance. From a young age any accomplishments of mine were quickly branded as hers, or I was told I wouldn’t have gotten any where without her and her sacrifices. When I got into university, I still remember her first words being ‘im so proud of myself for raising you’.
When I was much younger I was repeatedly told that my father left because of me. He wasn’t interested in me and I was hassle. Even now (I’m 24) I’m told I’ve always been hard work, but any contact between me and my father (who i recently connected with)) result in a huge fit of crying and shouting. She says he’ll take me away from her after all the hard work she’s done.
After my grandma passed away, she became violent and would often come in to my room just to tell me how she never wanted me, if I didn’t respond she would throw things at me and hit out until she got a response. The following morning she’d be apologetic and tell me that she’d kill herself if I left her to go to school with out telling her I loved her and wouldn’t leave her.
I moved away as soon as I could but it’s not enough. She visits whenever she wants without asking. When I see her its constant reminders of how terrible I can be, what she’s achieved and why I should thank her. Even my partner has asked that she doesn’t come back because he can’t stand the way she speaks to and about me. The rest of my family have told me that I have to give her what she wants for their sake.
I don’t know what else I can do. My self esteem is at rock bottom, and although my partner is fantastic, I feel lonely and like I’m missing something. Moving away from her has already cost me the friendships that were there, I can’t lose the few bits of family I have left too. Please help me…

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Shana January 29, 2016 at 3:58 am

I know its been a while since you posted this but I hope you’re doing better. She’s as crazy as the day is long and you are the victim here. Please take care of yourself!!!

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Shana January 29, 2016 at 3:55 am

The line about relationships being a zero sum game that she aims to win really hit me hard. I often describe my feeling about relationships to my partner, which is that there are these jars, and every time I mess up, I get a marble in the “bad” jar. Rarely do you get marbles in the “good” jar, but whatever. So the bad marbles pile up, a testament to how I’m “losing” at being in a relationship. My point is that she was always counting the score, always trying to manipulate and be in control. Relationships for me now are about having x amount of bad marbles, and once I’ve expended them, I’m no longer loved. My experience of being loved is trying to win against someone, not win with someone. I know my metaphors don’t exactly line up here, but who ever said this stuff made any sense…. I don’t know what love is now. My partner loves me, but I can’t feel it, because what I expect is for him to be keeping score. And he’s not, for whatever reason.

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Jeff May 8, 2016 at 8:48 pm

I was an only child but my mother was a MN and my father was one of those “flying monkeys” you read about who was all but useless to me therefore I may as well have had a single mother. I also should specify she was a “negative cycle” narcissist, so she’d be like “I may not have accomplished much but you’re a TOTAL loser” even when I really did do something of merit. The other thing I should say is the only job she succeeded at was telephone operator, probably because she could force people to be nice to her before they’d put through her calls. Do I need to explain she therefore “interpreted” all my relationships, told lots of negative stuff to my friends so therefore I lost ALL of them and mostly before I even got to even know them myself? I was under such stress it actually caused me to develop severe strabismus that I just recently had operated on (and then of course anyone who looked at me thought I was too weird-looking to have as a friend, and had no idea how I couldn’t know about it myself but I could never really see my OWN face through both eyes) and nowadays I don’t sleep AT ALL without taking a strong antipsychotic drug first. She prevented me from developing hobbies or sports (and told any story she could to prevent me from getting anywhere close to success at ANYTHING) and now I don’t feel I have any knowledge or skills about how to make friends especially of the opposite sex. I finally have a decent trauma therapist to help work on my C-PTSD (after nearly a decade of CBT was just about wasted), she’s giving me EMDR therapy but I’m really getting the impression that if you’re a true “year zero” ACoN it’s not likely to take hold by itself and a more structured approach like the one advocated by Pete Walker might be necessary (even as I realize Medicare would NEVER pay for it), does anyone have any advice based on experience that could help me with this?

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Mark June 24, 2016 at 8:38 am

Hey Jeff

I am a son of a single mother, and an only child. My mom wasn’t necessarily a typical narcissist, but she had a drinking problem and was diagnosed ptsd after the trauma of my father’s death.
There were times my mom was easier to be around and times when she wasn’t. I had good times and bad times with her. I didn’t always know what to expect from her, ergo I didn’t know what to expect of myself and of life. I’m not going to get into the whole story – It was dramatic and very confusing for me; but it wasn’t really anyone’s fault.

My only advice is that, no matter how bad your mother has been – it’s going to make your life easier to let go of blame and work on forgiveness and or acceptance.

I used to be hung up on my dysfunctional childhood. I would focus on it a lot. And I secretly hated my mom sometimes, I blamed her. After maintaining some distance and learning about healthier boundaries with people, I got to see my own perspective better. I realized that I had started to use my childhood as a reason not to take responsibility for myself, I used it as a reason to hold me back and lower my self esteem. As I became conscious of my behavior; things started to change. I don’t hold my mother accountable for who I am – I decide who I am.
I also understood better why my mom is the way she is – she’s been through a lot of pain and she doesn’t know better. It’s not my responsibility to change her because her drama is not about me.
It takes time to process the past and really feel what’s inside. But after awhile these things can become repetitive, and downright boring honestly.
I’m 28 now and these things have become easier with time – nothing instantaneous. I still have times where I have difficulty with her, but I thank god for text messaging because it gives me some good boundaries (she still wants to talk to me very often). I do talk to her and visit her and she’s getting better too. I try to help her as much as I can without compromising myself. I love my mom, and don’t blame her for anything anymore. I want the best for her, but I can’t change her. I can only change myself.

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Anon August 10, 2016 at 10:38 pm

This is pretty spot on. I’ve had the ‘privelage’ to be an only child raised by two narcissists, and then when they split up I was with either one or the other, so I also had the joy of the ‘single parent narcissist’.

This article is verrry close to my own mom the only difference is her sexual behavior wasn’t exactly the same, but a lot of the points in that section are close enough. No two people are 100% alike so I just chalk that up to this particular article’s author having a slightly different mother.

Another aspect that they didn’t touch on here, that I did experience, was when mom would live with a boyfriend, that boyfriend was without exception, also abusive and crazy, and put me through a bit of drama themselves on top of everything else.

Anyway, yah, this article is uncannily accurate, this person may as well have seen this part of my life through a window and wrote it down.

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Lonely Only Child August 11, 2016 at 8:34 pm

This post had me so choked up. Its like you’ve watched my whole life and written about it. I grew up with a NM but was in total denial until I hit my 30s. My father died when I was a baby and she has had me in her clutches my entire life. She badmouthed all our family members and drove them away, turning me against them in the process. None of them knew the extent of the abuse I was receiving. I was often written off as a spoilt only child with a lovely, hardworking single mother who would give me anything. Haha if only people knew! I was her carer, her counsellor, her confidant, her scapegoat and her golden child. She loved the drama of me being sick and I was often a sickly child. She used to read though the personal column ads WITH ME looking for someone to date (back in the 80s before we had internet dating). Who does that to an 8 year old? Its only been in recent years I reconnected with my Aunt (my NM’s sister) and realised what a wonderful, warmhearted woman she is. My NM has massive sulks if I have contact with my Aunt, who in her eyes is the devil. Due to her crazy choices and relationships she ended up in prison a few years ago (not her fault of course) and I got my first taste of freedom. Of course there was drama, she was bailed out to LIVE WITH ME (without even asking me) for 4mths while she appealed her case. That is a whole other story entirely. Finally after my life completely emploded after her living with me and causing drama I lost my relationship, home and car. She was was forced to move back to her friends house an hour away and I started to get some relief. Not long after she lost her appeal and was sent back to finish a year in prison. This is when I got my true freedom. With her calls limited and only able to write letters, I started to heal and become the woman I truly am. During this time I met my now husband, did lots of counseling and got a taste of what life can be like without her suffocating. She has been out for 4 years now and is back to her old tricks. The move good things that happen in my life, the more bitter, dramatic and sulky she becomes. When I miscarried my baby at the start of the year it was after an intense phonecall with her where she dumped her venom on me for 45mins, bitter that I was on holiday and not there for her birthday. The bleeding started afterwards and I went on to lose the baby. To this day she still talks about how hard this year has been for HER. How depressed she’s been since it all happened!! I am now pregnant again and just can’t bring myself to tell her. I saw her once when I was 8 weeks and she started again about how I missed her birthday and a crazy plan that we had to attend her half birthday lunch instead. I started to feel panic and had heavy bleeding start again straight after seeing her. My body and my baby were telling me to stay away from her. I’m now 4mths pregnant and haven’t seen her since that incident. The pressure is on to see her but I just can’t. On what would have been the due date for the baby I lost, she rang up distraught over finding out a friend of her ex partner had died 6mths earlier. She did not give a sh#t about me and my loss. I would be so happy to never see her again. But the guilt always sucks me back in. Love and blessings to all the people who’ve commented. What survivors you all are!

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