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The Scary Truth Between Toxic Home Environments and Adverse Childhood Experiences

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Home should be a place of comfort, safety, and unconditional love. Home is where children learn, grow, and develop their identities. Ideally, it is where they should feel supported and nurtured by their families.

Unfortunately, for many children, home is anything but idyllic. Within the confines of white picket fences, trouble lurks. Likewise, this toxic environment can make even the most beautiful home feel like a prison. And when home feels so unsafe and so miserable, children are susceptible to adverse childhood experiences that can impact them for the rest of their lives. 

Lack Of Secure Attachment

We enter this world utterly defenseless. We don’t know how to take care of ourselves; we don’t understand our own needs, and we cannot survive without adult supervision. We rely on our caregivers to provide for these basic essentials. Thus, in early childhood, there is nothing that can truly replace the bond between the caregiver and child. 

In healthy and loving homes, our caregivers are sensitive and attuned to our needs. They give us affirmation. They respond to our physical needs (changing diapers, feeding us, taking care of us when we are sick). Moreover, they also attune to our emotional needs. They provide a sense of safety and validation in this new world we’re supposed to navigate.

Unfortunately,  in toxic home environments, caregivers do not adequately meet the needs of their children. Physical neglect is one thing (and an incredibly dangerous thing at that!), but the toll of emotional neglect can be far more insidious. Because the parent is often preoccupied dealing with his or her own emotional needs, there is less support to provide for the child. 

As a result, the child may grow up feeling insecure, anxious, or even abandoned. He or she may experience distrust in others. This lack of secure attachment makes it challenging for children to feel like they can safely rely on people to truly be there for them in times of distress.

Nonexistent or Inconsistent Structure

Structure is the cornerstone of healthy growth, and all children need boundaries. They need to know their limits for maneuvering their way around the world. 

In healthy environments, parents create and enforce appropriate boundaries for their children. These boundaries are not meant to be punitive or spiteful. Good boundaries are carved with love, intention, and protection. They are clear and enforced, and healthy parents stay consistent in implementing them. As a result, children grow up learning how to respect the needs of others.

In toxic homes, boundaries tend to be either nonexistent or wildly inconsistent. The child does not know what mood the parent will be in that day. One day, a rule will apply. The next, it won’t. 

Sometimes, the child is permitted to “run the show” and make his or her own guidelines. As these children grow, they often struggle with rebelling against authority. They don’t know who or how to trust others. Hungry for guidance, they are desperate to cling onto something- even if that something is just as toxic. 

Poor Modeling of Healthy Relationships

When we think of adverse childhood experiences, we often think of overt displays of abuse. However, parental modeling can be just as important in shaping a child’s well-being.

When children observe happy and healthy parents, they learn about the core tenets of respect and love. They internalize how adults should treat each other- even in times of stress or conflict. Parents play a crucial role in directly and indirectly modeling how adults should communicate and engage with one another. 

But what if the parents are always arguing or insulting one another? What happens if one parent is physically or emotionally toxic? What if children grow up witnessing constant criticism, blame, and intense conflict? 

They tend to struggle in intimate relationships themselves. This adverse childhood experience often causes children to repeat these ugly cycles in their adult lives. They will often choose partners who resemble one or more of their caretakers. They may become abusers or victims of abuse. Even though they desperately didn’t want to become their parents, they are at risk of becoming exactly like their parents. 

Stunted Identity Development

Children start exploring their preferences and passions from a young age. One day, they profess they want to be an astronaut. The next, they plan to be a doctor. This experimentation is normal. Children enjoy expressing themselves- they react to the world around them with curiosity and insight. 

In healthy homes, parents encourage this authentic exploration. In other words, they show interest in their child’s life. They ask questions without judgment, and they embrace the child’s joyful spirit. While it is normal to have some preferences for what your child does and doesn’t do, these parents don’t force these expectations.

However, in toxic environments, one or both parents may be rigid with their children. They have set ideas of what the child will and will not do. They may criticize, stunt, laugh, or downright refuse the child from pursuing certain interests. If the child does pursue interests outside the rigid rules, parents may react with hostility and threats.  

This rigidity can be detrimental to identity formation. Children can experience an immense sense of shame and low self-esteem. The child may grow up trying to “please the parent.” Likewise, he or she may struggle to distinguish individual needs from the needs of others.

Broken Trust 

Toxic environments (such as those where one parent is high on the narcissism spectrum) tend to breed broken trust, which tend to compound the vulnerability of adverse childhood experiences.

Without trust, the home simply isn’t safe. It becomes a place for survival- rather than a place of nurturing.

Children need to trust their parents- both implicitly and explicitly. After all, they depend on their parents for basic life necessities. They need to feel like they can rely on them. Even as children get older, this trust is still important. Adolescents and teenagers must know that their parents love them- even if they are rebelling, drifting apart, or spending more time with friends.

In toxic households, people don’t trust each other. Parents don’t trust their children, kids don’t trust their parents, and parents often don’t trust each other. It’s a constant cycle of shame, fear, and resentment. 

Children in these households often grow up feeling neglected and unloved. They may be desperate for approval for others. With this sense of emptiness, they may spend their adult lives seeking for this love in other people or things.

Protecting Your Children From Adverse Childhood Experiences

As a parent, you want to do right by your children. You love them, and you want to provide them with the best life possible.

However, when you choose to stay with an abusive or toxic partner, you compromise your child’s safety and integrity. You choose to accept the negative, awful behavior. And that choice can have devastating consequences on your children. 

With what we now know, we can almost predict that children who grow up in toxic home environments where one parent is narcissistic and emotionally abusive will develop narcissistic or codependent traits.

Although it may seem frightening, the best choice may be to consider leaving this negative relationship. Sometimes, with conscious effort, partners are willing to change and grow. However, if you’ve been running in the same circles, fighting the same fights, and suffering the same abuse, the chance for this transformation is slim because this is an indicator that you’re dealing with a narcissistic individual. And then, sadly, you are unwittingly taking part in the dynamic that could have harmful, long-term outcomes for your children.

Yes, your exit strategy may take time and planning. Yes, it may feel painful and devastating. However, as a parent, you have an obligation to protect and love your children to the best of your ability. The longer you stay in the sickness, the more you risk hurting the people you love the most.

Furthermore, you deserve to be happy! If you feel miserable and trapped in your relationship, that’s a problem that won’t improve on its own.  Join the many wonderful folks in The Break Free Program who have finally found freedom and are healing their own lives, and their children’s lives, as well.

If you’ve just found this site and are ready to begin your first steps to freedom, download your beginner’s healing roadmap below!  You get everything you need to start your healing journey.  It’s free!

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Leave a Comment:

Anonymous says May 2, 2023

I feel confused ,trapped and lonely, I don’t know what is it or how to describe what Iam going through,marriage of 5yrs with less interaction and minding owns business I don’t know what to call it apart from raising kids together

Maz says December 7, 2022

After 23 years of marriage I finally found out when researching depression that my husband was actually a narcissist. It answered all the questions about what was wrong in my relationship of 30 years. My eldest son who was targeted by his dad has now become a narcissist and has turned on me who protected, defended and supported him growing up. I never thought it would turn out like this. If I had’ve known the damage it would do to our 3 children I would never have married him and tried to make it work for 30 years…

Anonymous says December 6, 2022

It’s all so scary. A nightmare of a life.

Bj Lesher says December 6, 2022

Your experience sounds so much like mlne. At 74 years old I’m grieving sti ll t

Yoamny says December 6, 2022

I’m the second child, out of three, born to a narcissistic father and codependent mother. This article hit on all the struggles, as well as codependency issues I’ve been working on overcoming. I believe the age and time my parents grew up were different, my mom was raised to be a stay at home mom. She grew up in a toxic home herself. Its sad to see how they’ve hurt and passed on their hurt on to us. I’m grateful that information like this is coming out more and more, and that these topics are being talked about and that resources are available to change and recover from growing up in toxic home environments. Thank you for being one of those lights, showing us a way out of the darkness. God bless.

Tracey says February 18, 2022

I’m a Christian mother of 2 teens, married 22 years, and didn’t understand what narcissism was until at a school Wellbeing meeting with the whole family someone who witnessed my husband’s attitude and lack of engagement spoke to me alone afterwards and said she thought I was being “gaslighted”, and suggested I should contact an abuse helpline. I’ve learned a lot since then, but had a hard time really taking it in. I can’t “unsee” that my husband fits the definition of a covert narcissist, and my life as I understood it has completely unravelled. I also realised I would still rather go on believing it was all my fault, crazy as that may sound, partly because it was so hard to accept that my relationship with my husband was a lie and he only cared about himself, but also so I could still tell myself I had some control over the situation, and maybe one day make things better. Realising there was nothing more to be done hit me like a punch in the gut. Meanwhile, after a little “love bombing” my husband is living temporarily with his mum, acting very distressed but still making no effort to either save or end our relationship, so it’s all going to be down to me. My son misses his dad, and my husband’s side of the family are on his side and have asked me to go easy on him. I’m still wrestling with thoughts that I’m making a terrible mistake, but I can see no other option but divorce now. However, divorce can be a particularly hard decision for a committed Christian, and my husband is quoting scriptures at me suggesting it is against God’s will. The main thing keeping me sane at this time is videos like this one.
Thank you Kim for your insights, may God bless you.

    Kim Saeed says February 18, 2022

    Hi Tracey, thank you for stopping by. Many women feel the way you do, as I used to. You may find helpful answers from Leslie Vernick. She’s a Christian counselor who helps readers see the truth about marriage where narcissists are concerned. Simply Google, “Leslie Vernick narcissist” and you’ll get some good material.

    Wishing you the best! Kim

Karin says February 18, 2022

I grew up with a narcissistic mother. As the oldest from 3 children, I became almost directly de scapegoat. I never did good enough (even though my grades at school were much better than from my siblings), my feelings weren’t right. I didn’t remember correctly what happened. Furthermore, I was told that I was overreacting. What I liked was not likeable, etc. I can go on for hours. Everything I did was some kind of wrong. Even now, 56 years old and at No Contact since I was 48 years, I get tears in my eyes writing it down.

Nobody, nobody in the huge family, our family doctor, nobody believed me. When there was somebody nice to me (for example, the mother of a school friend) I was told that I wasn’t allowed to come there any more because she was a bad person.
Everything I did was monitored. I was always tiptoeing for her mood. How should I react now, and can I react the same way a few minutes later for the same??? (I can tell you, no, I couldn’t. One minute “this” was correct, a few minutes later the same was as wrong as it could be in her eyes).

She checked my tidy room (my sister her room was a mess but was never checked) to check if I had written in my diary. My closet, books etc. etc. If I had items, I wasn’t allowed to have.

Clothes I got new only when there weren’t items she could remake into clothes for me. When I behaved bad in her eyes, I was locked in the attic (old dark, spiders) without food or water. For hours and sometimes a night. My father was often from home for work. And I didn’t dare to tell him. Afraid of more punishments.

I was learned I was not good enough. That my feelings weren’t correct. That what I loved wasn’t lovable etc. etc. So, I was learned that I was not a good person. I believed that until I noticed that with the few friends I had, it was different at their home. At least it seemed so (later I learned that indeed it was different there). When I was 15 years old, the only thing I wanted was being dead. Yet, I didn’t make an attempt (although, I had the tablets in my hand already), as I didn’t want to leave my father behind.

What I learned very young, though, is that I never wanted anyone to have the awful feelings I had. So, I started to help the children who were being bullied. I couldn’t help myself, but I could help others. I became friends with the few who didn’t have any friends. Because they were new in the very small place I grew up and were bullied because they had a different accent than we were used to. I became friends with the girl who was bullied because her mother was very, very overweight etc. Not many but a few who I could help at this very young age.

I loved to learn and that is what I did. No internet in these times, so you could find me often in the library. One place I was allowed to come. I learned as much as could. From all topics I found interesting (and that was a lot).

Later, I wasn’t allowed to choose the profession I wanted. I had to become a nurse. I didn’t become one, as I got a severe eczema on my hands during this education. And I had to stop just before I could finish it. Then I had to become an accountant. I didn’t become this, either. Luckily for me, computers were coming on the work floor, and finally (after some healthcare & IT related courses and training) I started to work in IT/Intake in the hospital I did my nurse training. In the meantime, I followed as many courses as I could. Work related and also as hobby.

I hardly have been without work, only in the time with the severe eczema. After that never. Still, I couldn’t do anything good. My youngest sibling, brother, has been without work for many years. And still was the Golden child. Couldn’t do anything wrong. As my sister. One of the enablers.

In and out of therapy I have been. For years. Didn’t understand what was wrong with me. That I must be a terrible person to be treated this way by my own mother. Or, that I had been the devil himself in a previous life. Narcissism wasn’t common or well known. Therapists hardly knew anything about it. My last therapist was the first person mentioning to me the word. Somewhere in the beginning of the 2000s.

I had to write a letter to her. Not to send to her, but to read it out loud with the therapist. I thought I could talk about it. I never had cried before with the therapist. Until I had to read the letter. I broke down. And had an enormous mental breakdown. It took me almost a year to recover. In which I had to send a letter about how I felt to my mother. At that time, we weren’t in contact. My father became ill and started to become her enabler too. I contacted her, and she told me she was sorry etc. etc. Only to start belittling me and humiliating me a few minutes later again.

I moved around the country several times. I have to say, they were there to help. But was it really helping? Nope, it wasn’t I recognize now. It was keeping herself in my life, so she could mingle herself into my stuff. My belongings. Check them etc.

Finally, I moved to another part of Europe. That year, my parents would be married for 45 years. They never celebrated anything big about their anniversary. Some (horrible) dinners, and most of the time weeks or even months later. Because my siblings worked 24/7 jobs. I didn’t at that time. Their anniversary date, September 24.
I asked numerous times if they were to celebrate their anniversary. The intention was that I would come back to the country somewhere the end of September. As I would be sent to another country (by my employer) in October.
Nope. There wouldn’t be a celebration of any kind.
I flew to my home country the 29th of September. For 10 days. I was picked up by an aunt and uncle (sister of my father and her husband). And the first thing she said was, after saying hi etc. “Your father looked good”. So I asked her when she had seen him (they didn’t live nearby each other). Her answer was, “Well, at the party for their 45th anniversary. Everybody was there”. We were still walking in the Airport. I stopped, threw me suitcase into stop and said “Everyone?” “Euhmm, no, clearly not everyone”. Was her answer.

This still makes me cry. I wasn’t even important enough to be informed that my parents were having a party for their anniversary!
Let me tell you, when there would have been an opportunity to fly directly to my new destination, I would have done that. But there wasn’t.

Later that week, I asked my mother why I wasn’t informed and invited. Her answer, “You don’t like parties”. My answer, “No ma, YOU don’t like parties. Don’t project everything you don’t like to me”. It was a horrible week, I think you can imagine.

I moved all over Europe for work. And I hardly came back to my home country and family. The last time I visited them was the end of 2012, beginning 2013. When I was a few weeks back where I lived at that moment, she began to try to interfere with my life all over again. The worst way. Trying to contact my employer. Luckily, her knowledge of English was almost zero. German worse. And my boss only spoke Spanish and some German & English.
After that, I went on No Contact.

My father died 14-12-2014 and I heard it via WhatsApp. Although he became her enabler when he became sick, I didn’t want to start WWIII on his funeral. And I decided not to go. I celebrated his life the day of his funeral with a good friend.

A few years later, I tried to get in contact with her. She was becoming old. Yet, I decided not to make excuses for things I hadn’t done any more. I tried and that was it. There was hardly a response. Then and there I decided to stop this nerve wrecking thing.

Decades later, I recognize things I do that harm me. Or have harmed me. Sometimes, after a trigger, I become so angry. When I see someone bullied, and I have to help (even though it might be a dangerous situation), and stand up for that person. And it might be someone I have never met. Possibly as I have hardly contact with people. Online the same. I have been involved with some humanity & refugee help communities.
I left jobs where people, other than me, were treated terrible. I can not stand to work for companies who are not good for their employees, environment etc. I try not to buy items from companies like that (difficult!).

Yet, I am coping. And pretty good when I compare it to last year, 2021. The year I broke a love relationship with… You guessed it, a narcissist. There is an enormous difference between a narcissistic parent or romantic love relationship. I grew up with her. She was already a narcissist then. It was my normal. I was never love bombed by her. Yes, I didn’t feel normal, this love relationship. But I gave credit for this “not feeling as normal” to my abnormal youth.

Talking about it normally doesn’t make me cry or give me other emotions after so many years. Being in long time therapy. And recently having done Life Coaching. Sometimes yes. And that is OK.

Deep in my heart, I hope to find a new lover. But how? I don’t go out. Hard for an introvert (INFJ). Work from home. Friends, all has gone lost after getting on NC. Friends a very few, but nearby.
I tried internet dating in the past. But I am a narcissist magnet, at least it seems this way. Therefore, I don’t think it’ll happen.

At the moment I live in Bulgaria. I love the country, but I hate the winters.
Maybe, somewhere in the future, I will get the opportunity to go back to one of the Canary Islands, where I lived several years.

Jelena says February 18, 2022

Thanks for another interesting article.
I’ve grown up with at least one narcissistic parent and a violent sibling. My parents never protected me from the sibling. I’m not sure if my husband is a narcissist, but I was depressed both in pregnancy and after birth. I’m worried how it affected my daughter. She seems fine, does well at school and is popular.

bg says October 31, 2021

TyVM IMPORTANT and ‘educational’…

Jill M says September 1, 2020

please help my adult child age 38 just got arrested. Is living with Me. I can’t handle it. I see no blogs for…Parents with adult narcissist children.

Anonymous says July 29, 2020

I finally left, filed a police report & a restraining order to get him away from me & out of my house he would stand over me screaming, “YOU WILL NEVER GET ME OUT!!!!!! My childhood home my parents worked so hard for and sacrificed so much for our family. Definitely not for him to abuse their daughter and grandchildren in. He walked around with his chest puffed up not putting out a dime toward our expenses here. How did I finally get to this point after my sons 16 & 20? I started to do the rosary every single day. I called my church, spoke with a priest who suggested I come meet him for confession from there he suggested a book “true devotion to Mary” I learned to ask specifically in prayer for what I needed. I learned to not react or respond to those who correct or accuse you, but instead pray for everything in the silence of your heart. That is What the Blessed Mother wants us to do. Exactly what she did while watching Her Son Being wrongly crucified. From my increase in prayer & knowledge of my catholic religion, I came upon Kim’s amazing site and also found an amazing therapist. No matter how bad & hopeless you think it is, there is nothing more powerful than a praying mother. I am still very new, 8 months into my freedom from him, but we are left with all the residual effects that come with living years with this. I start my day with Thankfulness. Not only for what I am already blessed with, but all that is to come for my family & all those I pray for that have no one to pray for them. I am learning to pray that I can live my life knowing how to love Jesus best. Replace fear, complaining, hopelessness with faith. “Your will, in Your time be done” Money will come to join Kim’s recovery program & everything else we need. I learned I was blocking my prayers with my anger & aggression. My kids now see me calm, & smiling. I have a long way to go, but I know with faith and effort I will get there, step by step.

    bg says October 31, 2021

    Catholic background here, also….very interesting, yr experience and now more available…ty…

Anonymous says July 29, 2020

Hi Kim

First off I love your blog, you have been such a great help to me it is almost God sent. But as much as your articles bring me a sigh of relief, now being able to identify the toxic environment I was living in, I still shudder at the thought to ever being exposed or involved in the situation I have been in.
My ex-husband is narcissistic, text book even. And even after all this time fully knowing it still bothers me as if I am still in the marriage I still feel the same sense of unhealthy attachment… right now we are dealing with maintenance and I am determined not to have him have custody. I would never deny them seeing his children, he can see them anytime but to long that it would have any emotional affects on my children.
My lawyers may not understand how damaging he can be as a parent but I am determined to ensure my children don’t suffer the way I did. My biggest concern is getting the court to understand this.

Karen Estampa says July 29, 2020

Unfortunately my girls grew up in a toxic environment. After my oldest’s father disappeared when we divorced, I thought I needed to stay with my youngests father so he would be in her life. The physical and especially the mental abuse got increasinglly worse after I had our daughter. He is a classic narcissist, has 3 additional daughters from 2 different women and his ex is very good as his flying monkey.

I worked two full time jobs to provide for the family. He did nothing to contribute and nothing I did was right. He was good at spending money & if he was home he was usually sleeping. At one point I drove almost 2 hours each way to work because even though he did not work I still paid for full time daycare and had to do all the transportation. I knew it was important for the girls to participate in extra curricular activities and was able to keep one playing competitive softball and the other in cheer. I did the best I could with very little help because I could not tell anyone what i was going threw. I tried to break away but never did completely until he married a woman he had just met in a bar 2 weeks prior. However, he still managed to terrorize me when he took me to court for custody of our daughter. We eventually got a no contact order & my daughter did not talk to him for 3 years. Either did I but went throw all the emotions woundering why I was not good enough. I also would not date because I felt I needed to focus 100% on the girls. I also do not feel I am worth dating.

My oldest now has a masters degree is clinical physchology and works with children with behavior problems. My youngest has trouble with anxiety and other health issues but does work in retail. My ex narc is no longer with his wife & still floats in and out of my life. He almost got me fired from a very good job of 38 years so I retired early.

I cannot fully get through articles about the damage I did to my girls without completely breaking down. My daughters witnessed things kids should not see & I’ve blocked out; seeing me thrown down stairs; lifted off the ground by the neck with my feet dangling, sleeping in the car to get away on my daughters homecoming night or us locking ourselces in the bathroom when we tried to vacation. My oldest remembers me stealing food at the end of the month even though i had a good job & did not qualify for assistance.

They both know he took money, disappeared for days and saw him cheat on me. They also know I worked 7 days a week, rarely had a day off, plus I transported them to all extra curricular activities. Yes I ran myself ragged & they use to say if I sat down I fell asleep. They saw me stress over money and worry about paying the copay if they had to go to the doctor. They know they did not have the best childhood and I often break down when we talk about the negatives but they try to make me feel better by saying I did the best I could with what I had. I see signs of narcissim in my youngest but then maybe cause she saw what my ex does and gets away with she thinks she can do the same. She is also dating someone who im afraid is narcisistic as well but then maybe both of them are just self centered.

I am getting stronger but I am broken, I dont think I will ever heal…. or date again. I just try to take it day by day and I’m trying to learn how to smile again,

    Geraldine says August 2, 2020

    Look at how strong you are, what you’ve been through and survived.

Anonymous says July 28, 2020

I was telling my daughter why I read your email every day Kim Ma’am, you give me the theory why things are to be done . I was always feeling guilty when I secretly left my spouse with my children. The society wants us to continue marriage for the children at all costs a big Big lie. After understanding narcissism I knew it was Jesus who lead me out and your articles give me a theory I can explain to men and women who are suffering. Many trainers have recommended your book how to go no contact like a boss. Thank you ☺️

Bernadette says July 28, 2020

Dear Kim, thanks for the great article. I finally left an abusive relationship at the end of February this year. I was with him for 37 years, married for 31. We had 6 children and I feel extremely guilty for not leaving earlier. I was not allowed to work and I simply had no way to leave. One good thing is that he wasn’t home often and then the kids and I would be more relaxed. But having a chronically depressed mother is also harmful to kids although I really tried my best to be a good mom. Most of them turned out well, but some of them battle with low self esteem and my eldest daughter is a lot like her father except that she is not violent. She married a man exactly like her father the same as I did,but is now divorced. I was always against divorce. My parents, grandparents and other relatives all had life long marriages. I believed for better or for worse, but this year I couldn’t take his abuse and cheating any longer. Every one of my kids is now standing beside me and helping me in every way they can. They found out about my husband’s cheating with prostirutes and that he has had a relationship with another woman for almost a year. He is living with her now. At the moment the kids are extremely angry with him and have and a few no longer speak to him. My youngest is 22 eldest 35. All of them say they feel their whole lives was a lie,because their father wasn’t who he portrayed himself to be : religious and against the things he was actually doing. All while abusing me in every way. I now have to move out of the house I have been living in to a a small place behind someone’s house. My husband has not being supporting me financially and I work for my son for a small salary and do what I can for extra income selling beauty products. It has been hard, but I am much happier. I am closer to my kids than before and they are also closer to each other now that he is out of the picture. I just wish I had left earlier when they were still young.

Melanie Bartels says July 15, 2020

Hello, I just want to let you know that I feel for you! My heart hurts for you because I know exactly how you feel! I have a narcissistic ex and we share 50/50 custody and my daughter loved coming to my house it’s a break from chaos at his house. And then all of a sudden she didn’t want to come and see me at all making excuses reasons of why she couldn’t or things she had to do and it broke my heart she is my reason for breathing! I was devastated I didn’t get out of bed for what seems like an eternity and then one day I decided you know what if he gets to talk horribly about me in front of my daughter trying to turn her against me then you know what all’s fair in Love and War and I’m not about to lose my daughter to some sick twisted psycho. So I decided I was going to fight and I was going to get my daughter back! I 10 hours finding things on Pinterest that pertained to my situation, symptoms that my daughter showed, and things that outlined events that has happened that could only be a result of narcissism. I have a hard time speaking face to face with people because I was abused as a child so I recorded a voice message to her and explain how much I loved her and explain that her daddy was sick. I explained it wasn’t his fault it was because his mother is narcissistic but, I also showed her how damaging it is to a child to be raised by narcissists. The next time that she came to my house I presented her first with the recording and then I gave her the folder of things I hit print it off and I told her just to read them at her own pace and to talk to me about it whenever she was done. She came to me later that evening with tears in her eyes and said that she was so sorry for any pain that she would cause me and that she loves me very much but she was afraid of her daddy and she knew she would be rewarded for her bad behavior toward me. I’m so thankful that I did that that I educated her she was 9 years old when I did this she is now 11 and we couldn’t have a better relationship. So my advice is educate your child you will not be sorry that you did!

EJ says March 11, 2020

I have young children and have stayed because I am terrified of him being alone with them. After reading this, is this a bad idea? He terrorizes them (that’s what I call it): invalidates their feelings, doesn’t provide comfort when they are hurt, insists on instant compliance. I want to be here to advocate for them and validate them when he is doing this to them.

Melissa Noble- Contreras says February 17, 2020

I’m having a terrible problem having left the narcissistic ex. We have a daughter who is still a minor and one that has just left for college. The daughter who is home has had to live with my narc ex in a 50/50 situation. It has had detrimental effects on my daughter who now shows an absolute disgust for me due to ex’s venomous opposition to me. When she is with me she will not talk or just be her normal self. It’s like my ex and his wife have a spell on her. I see that she has been brainwashed by him. How can I get help I can’t seem to undue this damage it’s too much for me to handle. I escaped from him left the marriage but now my child is abused by him! The courts don’t help by giving these people the same rights as non abusers. Please help with any and all advice.

Olivia says February 15, 2020

Many of these situations ring a very loud bell with me. Thanks for summarising what happens in unhealthy homes.

Anonymous says February 15, 2020

I was with a narcissist for 4 years. I believed I had found my soulmate and the love of my life. Their were bad times and looking back I know it was his manipulative ways now. He had an older child and we instantly bonded. I was his safe haven and protector when his father acted up. I tolerated a lot because I felt like I needed to stay to protect him. I became sick and actually ended getting pregnant myself. Within weeks of us finding out his mask came completely off and physically became abusive with me. I left that day and never went back. I was emotionally distraught because I felt like I needed to return since he was the father of my child. I was torn. Later I found out that her had another woman in our apartment 3 weeks later. I pray for his son to find the stable person in his life, but I knew no matter how emotionally tied I felt to that man, I did not want my child to have the emotional abuse that I went through. Sometimes you really can’t see the reality until you remove yourself from the situation.

Kendon Lowe says January 16, 2020

I really appreciate your article on the devastation that a toxic home environment has on children. I have been in a physically, emotionally, sexually, and financially abusive relationship for 15 years. I’ve literally been stripped of all my rights and privacy as a human being. I want to leave, but I need help because I dont have any family or friends. Would you have any advice to give me? He is a narcissist, and has been cheating on me, his wife, with a man he met on a gay website. I’m totally disgusted and am afraid that if I stay, this will inevitably have a severe negative effect on me and both of my young girls.

Thank you,
Kendon M. Lowe

    RecoveringGirl says February 20, 2020

    Kendon – it has been a month since your post. I was in a marriage with a narcissist for 8 years and thankfully we did not have children. We were trying, and I thought that if I did, and he treated the child like he treated me that it would give me the strength to get out. Luckily, it did not come to that. But, now that you know what a narcissist is and does, you will see his actions and words unfold into a textbook definition. Children know. I grew up with 2 borderline personality parents, and both my brother and I are our 40s and single. Love yourself, love your children, find the strength to move forward and somehow get away from this person. You will never thrive with him around, and scared and still is how he wants you. Once you detach yourself from this toxic person, you will start to see doors open that you never imagined. be strong.

Nicky says October 8, 2019

Dear Kim, when I realised that my son was picking up some nasty characteristic traits I put the emphasis of my troubled marriage onto my husband and it resulted in him leaving me. My son has witnessed certain things, been taken away from me for over a year. He ran away from his father and he was making progress but 2 weeks ago he just decided he wont go to school anymore and I’m saddened to say that my son fights with me just like his dad and is full of excuses. I’m handling him with honesty and sticking to the truth and facts. He is listening and bumping his head and I’m certaintly not rigid and my son has had a good childhood and lots of love and effort has been put into him but he has not had the greatest role Model as a father and he is angry and hurt but I dont understand why he feels he can take it on me? I have come to understand that he is either feeding his ego or when he suffers from low self esteem he looks for sympathy and if you dont nurse what he needs he looses self control. He has broken so many things in my house and then he blames me for triggering him. He has become the same difficult boy that he became after witnessing his father almost kill me when he was 7 years old. He is 16 now and has the mentality of a 6 year old with an attitude of a miserable 61 year old and let’s not forget the frustrated 16year body.

Liz says October 5, 2019

I have found patterns of narcissism,co dependency,enablers,scapegoats,etc on both sides of my family.Domestic violence,abandonment of families,alcoholism,high school drop out,low self esteem,fake selves,parents died and the children are separated to live with extended family members,etc over 3 generations

Elizabeth says October 5, 2019

I was in an emotionally/mentally/verbally abusive relationship with my daughter’s father who is mostly certainly a narcissist. It was after my daughter’s birth that I finally summoned the courage to leave. We were able to move away from him, so I am hoping that he will not choose to exercise frequent visitation. I worry, however, about the impact on my daughter (either way). Will she resent me for not staying with her father? How do I best support her?

Indra says October 5, 2019

Yes , Children should be the reason we leave . It takes an immense amount of unconditional love for our kids to finally navigate the dynamics of how toxic their home lives were and why the non narcissistic parent had to leave

Andra Liquori says October 4, 2019

I was thinking about this today and having difficulty getting over the abuse of two highly narcissistic parents at age 60. My life was destroyed in every area because of their toxicity. There was never a feeling of love (never one hug or kind touch, only being hunted down like prey every day when my father came home from work in a blind, seething rage with me as his hated target). I frantically cleared volumes of clothes and boxes from the closet and under the bed to hide myself in terror from fear of being killed. When I begged him not to kill me he would come on stronger. He seemed to gain power and joy from it. My mother knew about all of it and didn’t care one bit. She enabled the abuse. Both were very rejecting of me otherwise.
There were inconsistent boundaries too. When I was around 13 I left home for a week and when I returned not a word was said. Ever since I was a very young child they didn’t care if I even went to bed at night. I sat up in the attic once and no one checked on me. However, if I put a fingerprint on the door I would be screamed at and punished. The punishment and bullying from my father was a constant thing. Yes, he hated me. I later found out that my mother hated me even more.
As an adult I became extremely depressed and was obsessed with thoughts of suicide, which were precipitated by a severe eye and face injury. At this point my mother told me that she wanted me to commit suicide, which I think got me started with the obsessive thinking. I lived in E.R.’s from attempts on my life and psychiatric institutions. I wound up in a very abusive marriage. The story of my marriage could make a movie they were that bad. The craziness outside of the marriage was a miserable nightmare too. I’m not exaggerating at all.
I realize I had abandonment issues throughout my life and co-dependency as well. No one would tolerate that kind of treatment. I did because I was disabled in every way though (invalid confined to bed and a wheelchair, for example) and I thought that was all I deserved. That I was a hideous person as my parents told me I was and led me to believe by their actions.
Looking back I think that had my mother left my father things could have been a little better. Way back then we didn’t know about narcissism and narcissistic abuse. Now people are more aware.

Manoj Jain says September 4, 2019

No two narcissist can be with each other they need an empathetic person to be with, so it is impossible that your dad and mom both are narcissist, probably your mom is not

    Pamela Lundgren says February 17, 2020

    Please do not comment on things of which you know nothing about. I, too, had TWO narcissistic parents and am in my 60s still dealing with the shame, abuse, etc. that has negatively affected my entire life. I’m trying hard to come to terms with it but the damage is deep. All I can do at this point is make the best of the remaining days I have which I hope are few as the pain is triggered virtually every day. No child should EVER have to grow up in an abusive home.

    Andra Liquori says July 11, 2021

    That’s not true. I have read that two narcissists can tolerate each other quite well even though it’s not a very healthy relationship. You might want to check your information better. I know for a fact that both my mother and father were narcissistic. I think that having me as their scapegoat to abuse kept the focus off of their unhealthy relationship dynamics for one. There are other reasons as well. You say my mother was only an enabler? She was a very self absorbed woman who stole every conversation, whose every thought was about her, who would never answer a single question, who got angry with me when I told her I was sick, who told me many times I should “kill my self “ when I needed her the most, who viciously lied and made up a smear campaign against me, making me look dangerous, and recruited flying monkeys, telling everyone who tried to contact me that “I came after her with a knife “ and MORE. I don’t appreciate you invalidating what I know to be true. I hope you do some research on the topic.

Anonymous says August 12, 2019

I would like for more information on being in a long term narcissistic marriage (30 years) and with children and grandchildren. Without giving them a reason to blame the being left out on you? Mostly just being older and deciding to leave and healing.

Vivi says July 7, 2019

Excelente aporte. Desearía haberlo sabido hace once años, cuando mi hija mayor aún era niña, quizás habría reunido el valor que necesitaba para salir de un matrimonio tóxico. Aún tengo dos hijas más que están creciendo y al fin pude salir. Fue ver el daño en sus vidas, a causa de la toxicidad de la relación con su padre, la que me impulso a salir y procurarles un ambiente mejor. Gracias, por tu apoyo.

Mary says July 7, 2019

So very true, Kim. My father, and possibly my mother, now both in their 90’s, are narcissists. My brother has NPD, my sister is on anti-depressants, and I am starting treatment for co-dependency. All of us ‘kids’ are are in our sixties, so yes, this definitely affects children over the course of their lives. I am grateful for the awareness that encourages me to repair the damage. Thank you so much for your insights, and for sharing.

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