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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5110
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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This is related to the first problem I first contacted Just

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This is related to the first problem I first contacted Just Answer about, except instead of my husband's ex-wife this is about his children. Over the past 2 years, they have gradually cut off contact with us, and to a certain degree, our son. No birthday acknowledgements or holidays. When my husband called my stepdaughter Jess over christmas because he had not heard from them, she said she had been to see her mother (20 minutes from us) but got pneumonia and has been in bed every since. Meanwhile, on Facebook Jess talks about the bad cold she got at the end of her holidays but the rest was fantastic. I bought gifts for them and she told her father "we'll have to get together" We have received several such half-hearted invitations in the past and nothing comes of them. The history with their Dad is rocky, I am the first to admit, but everyone reconciled 7 years ago. I even approached them early on to see if they had anything they wanted to say to clear the air because I would understand if they had some ill feelings. And I hate to bring it up, but I can't help thinking their NPD mother has something to do with it, because otherwise I can't make sense of their behaviour. I can't help thinking this is all intertwined. But on the other hand, they are both well into adulthood and should not be that greatly infuenced. Last summer they didn't come to see our son sing at a festival - Jess had pneumonia again?!?-but sent their mother to watch him & report back to them. How do we know this? My stepson left a message saying their mother saw the performance. Their mother is invited to weddings & showers of two of her daughters' friends, photos of which are posted on facebook.(and not by people their mother can control). There was also a surprise 30th party for Jess 3 years ago when I thought our relationship was good, again photos of which were posted for all to see. My husband & I and our son & his girlfriend were excluded and seeing the photos was upsetting since it was by step-son's spouse who posted them. And our son has never been invited to their mother's house when they are visiting there. I used to religiously keep them in the loop by sending fun emails, suggesting a visit in the city they live so they don't have to do all the driving, etc. but nothing ever happens. I am totally at a loss to understand their change in behaviour, other than their mother's underhanded influence. I even helped their mother with her house insurance, which she has through the insurance broker where I work. ( I know, what are the odds?) I made sure she had the right coverage (which she didn't and assumed she did) and got her a much better price. I didn't expect gratitude, I was extending an olive branch,but this did not ellicit any change in behaviour toward us. Nor from their mother either. I don't wish to be friends with her, but we should all be able to attend the same function, and I was trying to neutralize her territorial issues. I can't help thinking mother has a hand in this, although I do hope I am wrong. I am hoping you can help me sort this out and understand what is going on.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

First, let me say that the hurt you feel comes through very acutely. And you are clearly an unusual stepmother. That you want to have a good relationship with your stepkids is really quite refreshing. But it is clear that you are hitting a brick wall.

And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. I am concerned that you not keep hitting your head against that wall. What do I mean?

 

Is their mother behind their actions. It's possible that she's consciously behind their standoffish behavior but it sounds as if she doesn't need to do anything consciously. Jess has already internalized the competition between you and your husband on one side and her mom on the other. The mother doesn't even have to say anything at this point, I'm sure. They are all so used to who are the good guys and who are the bad guys that they just live it without having to speak about it. So this is what you're up against.

And this is what I mean by hitting your head against the wall over and over. You keep trying to make peace gestures that are very sincere. But Jess isn't accepting and it's clear from her excuses that it would upset the balance in her life if she would move closer to you and her dad. That balance is having to deal with her mom. Her mom has NPD. With that in the mix, to make ANY gestures to you could cost Jess emotionally and it isn't worth it to her.

So those are the two stumbling blocks: mom and the kids have already cast you and dad in a role and second, if you would be treated not in that role, then the whole balance with mom would be upset.

So therefore, I recommend for your sake that you just accept it the way it is. Why make Jess' life more miserable than her mom already makes it? Be as nice as you are and accept that Jess isn't going to be able to reciprocate either because SHE's not up to it or because she's scared of setting off her mom. Either way, let it be.

I wish you the very best!

Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5110
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Dr. Mark and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you. I know in my heart you are right, but I am having trouble understanding why it has deteriorated between us and my husband's son and daughter. Everything looking relatively promising until a couple of years ago. I know I cannot get inside their heads, or their mother's for that matter. Their mother keeps herself in the loop enough to be a barrier, the examples being too numerous to mention. And publicizing on Facebook (to which I am totally opposed ) photos and comments that obviously exclude their half-brother means they are totally insensitive & could not care who sees them, or it just doesn't occur to them, although I don't believe the last one. This is very hard to wrap my head around and if I must accept it, maybe you can suggest something that will help me do so. I very much appreciate the depth of your response.
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

You know, you are of course right, we "cannot get inside their heads, or their mother's for that matter." But I can tell you from my experience what the most likely scenario is for Jess. You are sensitive enough to other people's feelings to identify if it might be accurate in Jess' situation:

Living with a narcissist is not fun. It is like learning how to make a life for yourself in the domain of a fire breathing dragon. You never know when the dragon is going to turn on her blow torch and start incinerating. But you can predict some things. So you order your life around what's worked in the past to let you have some autonomy but without setting off the dragon. Then the situation changes as it does every so often. Let's say two years ago. For whatever reason. Maybe the dragon got wind of some loyalty being diverted from her. Maybe she went through a menopausal change. Whatever it was, the wind changed in her domain. Jess had to react. Well, the way that's always worked is to appease the dragon. So, turn up the volume on how dad and his new wife are the enemy. The dragon calms down, the blow torch gets turned away from Jess. Jess can breathe a little easier. So she lost the opportunity to get to know dad and his wife and her brother. But the heat is off her back. And that counts for a lot.

In my practice, that's the leading scenario. I thought of it right away when you asked what could you wrap your head around that would explain it.

I want to share two books with you to give you an idea of what it's like for Jess with her mother. They're not specifically about mother/daughter relationships, but again, you are astute enough to see the points these authors are making that would apply to her mom:

1. The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship by Eleanor Payson. This is a great book that will help you with the lack of self-esteem that living with a narcissist or being close with a narcissist will do to you. Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Oz-Othim-Narcissists-Relationship/dp/0972072837/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284329075&sr=8-2

2. The Object of My Affection is in My Reflection: Coping with Narcissists by Rokelle Lerner. This book is newer but is extremely clear and insightful and has helped people since it came out 2 years ago. Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Object-My-Affection-Reflection-Narcissists/dp/075730768X/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284329075&sr=8-5

Okay. So, I appeal to your genuine desire to have the good relationships with your stepkids: be patient and then more patient. Let them make the moves they can and don't try to force them to make the moves they can't. It will yield the best results. I wish you the very best!

 

Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5110
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Dr. Mark and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Many many thanks for your insights, support and compassion.

P.S. I did add a bonus for your first answer. Your second response left no doubt that it was well deserved.

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
I truly am grateful to you and hope sincerely XXXXX XXXXX a way to navigate closer to your shores. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I should mention my mother also has NPD....again what are the odds? And part of me would like to rescue jess from her mother, but I too had to learn the hard way. I have not had contact with my mother in 5 years. I greatly miss not having a mother figure in my life, but not the one I had.
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
Amazing how life works isn't it? Well, then in a few years, maybe you'll have the opportunity to sit at a Starbucks with Jess and share what it was like for you. Maybe...

Dr. Mark
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I am one of the people who requires all angles to be addressed in order to rest my mind. I mentioned how Facebook creates hurt feelings, i.e. photos of events to which you were not invited, people who are enjoying a visit in your town but do not contact you, etc. I can't be sure if it's meant to hurt people or it is just insensitivity. I would very much like to hear your view on this.

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
You know, narcissists sometimes like to hurt feelings and sometimes just are oblivious that something they enjoy or is a benefit to them could possibly be a negative to others. I really don't know where on that continuum to put her Facebook photos. Because it is a continuum. It starts with pure not noticing of others' feelings on one end. On that end it's that they see themselves as the sun and everyone else as moons around them. If they're happy and bright, then for sure everyone should be bright, reflecting their good feelings. If they're unhappy and dark, then for sure everyone should be dark. On the other end there is a sadistic element to some people with NPD.

What you've described so far gives the impression of someone who needs to have all her moons in a tight formation around her. So I would vote for insensitivity based on what I know so far!

All the best, XXXXX XXXXX
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you. You have been extremely helpful.
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
All the best to you! Dr. Mark
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I re-read your last answer and I gave the impression that is was Jess's mother who posted the photos, but it was Jess's brother, brother-in-law and her girlfriend who posted the photos, and all of celebrations that excluded us and could have been a part of. I think this is insensitivity on their part, but also a sign to me that my husband, son and I are not considered family to be added to an invitation list. Needless to say, Jess's mother is present and, maybe it is my imagination, but there are more photos of her posted at the get-togethers than anyone else. Am I correct in my perceptions, or just hurt that we are always excluded?
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
I think both are true. Again, remember that Jess and her brother know that their mom is looking at their FB pages. You are assuming that the omission is aimed at you and their dad. But we don't know that to be true and it is more likely that the omission is aimed at mom to keep her at bay. Any public recognition is fuel. So it may not be insensitivity at all but rather self preservation...You need to judge that, and if that is the case, you may need to give them some slack over it. It must be tough with mom hanging over them.

All the best, XXXXX XXXXX
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I agree. It is tough for them, and I have immense sympathy for their situation. You have given me so much insight into this situation. I can now be hopeful that one day we can have a close relationship with them.
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
Yes, that is my hope as well. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Same topic. My stepchildrens' mother is invited to her childrens' friends weddings, baby showers, celebrations like that, and not every friend, just their close ones, so it doesn't add up to alot. I have never heard of this. I have asked my close friends, and they too find this strange. Do you think she has her children ask to have her invited? She has used them for this purpose before. Also, somehow she has befriended a relative of my husband's (a relative on his mother's sister side) & they had a small reunion and guess who was invited? My husband and I have no contact with them so we don't really care about this. However,there is talk of reviving the larger family reunions, and that would be relatives from both my in-laws families (neither is still alive). My husband's ex is not welcome by the majority of the family but since she has sucked in (best term I can think of) one family member and that would be the one organizing the reunion, it is guaranteed she will be invited. My husband refuses to go if that happens and I feel the same way. I am very much looking for answers to the following: 1) do you think she is embraced enough by her childrens' friends that they want to include her? 2) why is she making sure to keep/make ties to my husband's family? My stepkids don't appear to see anything wrong with this, or are they too afraid of their mother to confront her about her behaviour? I have read everything I can on NPD because of my mother, but I cannot extricate my stepkids' mother from my mind despite understanding the sickness. She gives the appearance of adoring her children but after everything I have read, that cannot really be true, since she is not capable of loving anyone. She is on my mind because I would really like to see her as she truly is and would like to know if she suffers at all, because she always seems to get her way & 3) My stepchildren frequently make reference to their mother when we are in their company and the conversation rarely calls for it. eg. I said to my stepdaughter that I liked her coat and her response was 'thank you, XXXXX XXXXX me pick it out' and my stepson does the same. I don't think it is deliberate, I think it is a result of years of brainwashing. Am I correct? I would also like to know how to get this woman out of my head. When I first emailed Just Answer about her, Anna gave me mental exercises to use. But sometimes, nothing seems to work. My husband and I are so excluded from everything related to his kids.Their mother never seems to get a life of her own. I very much need your insight.

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