A breakthrough towards happiness

I have just had a breakthrough….and it has NOTHING to do with my husband’s affair.  Well, that is not completely true. this discovery has provided me with answers to so much in my life, that it will have tremendous impact on my marriage moving forward, my relationships, my self-image, the way I see the world.

I posted a few weeks ago about some huge fallout that happened while my family and I were away on vacation.  Within a one week period, I lost my lawyer, was angrily dismissed by a long time family friend, and estranged from my aunt’s life completely.  It was as if a bunch of people close to me were all killed in a plane crash at the same time.  POOF, they were gone.   I also learned that my mother was capable of a deceit I didn’t believe could be possible – from a mother.

I’ve been to therapy 4 times since the last post.  Twice with my individual therapist, and twice with my marital therapist.  Before I’d even set food in their offices, I had started researching the internet for mother-daughter relationships.  I wanted to know more about the deceit that can happen, the betrayal, the pain, the complexities.  What I came across was something absolutely amazing   I came across a site that talks about emotional invalidation , a form of psychological abuse whereby someone continuously invalidates the feelings and experiences of another person, denies that events happened, recreates history for them, minimizes their pains, their hurts, and makes them feel faulty for having felt them in the first place.  It is one of the most vicious forms of emotional abuse, and I’d never heard of it, and yet I have lived it my whole life.

When I say that stumbling upon that site was amazing, it is an understatement. It was completely transformational for me.  In reading all of the ways that people can be invalidated, so many of them were familiar to me.  My parents were both that way, my mother most of all.  Throughout my life and childhood, I’d heard about 85% of the things on the list, things like: “you are so overly dramatic”, “why can’t you just be like _______”, “why do you always have to be so hard to deal with?”, “that never happened”, “you have a very vivid imagination”.    All my life, I’ve had this tense relationship with my mother, and I didn’t know why.  I knew there was something odd, and I knew she was never wrong, but now I have a term for what has been happening.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been invalidated emotionally my entire life.   There, I said it, and it felt great.

Well that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Knowing that this has been happening, I started to feel angry.  I started to feel sad.   “Why would she do that to me?”.  I started to feel sorry for myself, “Why can’t my mother love me for who I am, and accept my feelings?”.  I’ve always lived with a hope that maybe someday, she would see.  Maybe someday, I would be able to find a way to talk to her that would turn things around.  I just needed to find the magic method of making her hear me.

Sitting in my therapist’s office yesterday, with my husband at my side, I told him about what I had learned about ’emotional invalidation’, and how I really felt as though I understood better why I do the things that I do.  For example, as a result of all of the years of not being heard, my feelings not being accepted, my reality being rejected and replaced with her version of events, I find that I do not ask for what I need from people.  I take care of things myself, and don’t ask anyone for help – ever.  In my world, asking for things, and sticking your neck out claiming that you NEED something means that you are going to have your neck cut off.  You will be ridiculed for being ‘needy’, and then you will be told that your feelings don’t matter.  There will be put-downs, cloaked in claims of being ‘concerned’, and insidious comments that injure but that can all be denied under the guise of “we are just trying to help you”.

Sitting across from my therapist, I told him that with my mother dying, I really felt the need to make this right.  I wanted to talk to her, to show her how she has impacted me.  I want the apology.  I NEED the apology.  I wanted to know why she would allow others (my aunt) to send me such hurtful things, and not protect me as a mother should.  How can she watch people dismiss me, walk away from me, not support me, and not feel the need to jump in and defend me?   Why does she choose not to care about me?   His response was shocking and eye-opening, and would give me the key to my childhood in one sentence.  He said ” your mother isn’t choosing to not give you the love you need.   You crave this as if you think it is possible.  She doesn’t do it not because it is a choice.   She is incapable of doing it”.  He then told me to look up mother daughter relationships online with a specific focus on narcissism in the mother.  “My mother is a narcissist?” I thought.  My first instinct was to defend her…until I read the previous link, and it was like reading the script of my life.   The description was uncanny.  It reduced me to tears.  The dissonance it created within me was immensely powerful.  I was simultaneously relieved and horrified at the same time.  At times, the pain of reading through it was unbearable. I had to take breaks, and yet I couldn’t pull myself away from it.  It was like a drug – I had to read more, to know more, to understand more.  I spent the next 9 hours combing through the website, and its related links, except for a short break taken for dinner.   I went to bed last night with the most complete picture of my childhood I had ever had.  What I knew was amyss, and broken, without an understanding of why now made complete sense.

If you took the time to read the previous link, my mother does triangulate my brother and I.  She selected her favourite, what they refer to as “The Golden Child”, and that was my brother.  She cast me as the scapegoat in the family, paints me as flawed and difficult and then smears me to others to provide herself with support.  She cloaks her comments as “concern”, and martyrs herself impeccably.  She is never wrong, I am always wrong, and I have never in my life ever heard my mother apologize….to anyone.   I mentioned in a previous post how my mother had taken the furniture that was willed to me by my grandmother as her own, claiming that it was “too nice for someone so young to have”.  This is a classic example of how a narcissist violates boundaries and takes the scapegoat’s things without their consent.  She tries to make me look crazy to others, something she has done just this week in numerous emails to friends and family claming that “my daughter has lost it and needs professional help”.  Because the narcissist is so careful in how they injure and so careful to paint themselves as caring, compassionate, and loving, people on the outside won’t ever believe it.  They’ve been told numerous times how flawed the child is, how needy, how irrational, how hysterical, how difficult….and when the child (me) protests the treatment and screams out “Look at ME for who I am, talk to ME, help ME, love ME”, it feeds into everyone else’s fixed false beliefs that “There she goes again.  Her mother was right about her, it is always about HER, she is so selfish, so needy.  How dare she do this to her own mother???  And now, with my mother on her deathbed, and my distancing myself from her and the pain she causes feeds, my distance feeds the beliefs further. I must be insensitive. I must be uncaring.  I must be all of the things she has claimed me to be.  How dare I…. It is the perfect lose-lose situation, and I’ve been carefully trained for this role my entire life, without even knowing it.  Until now.

With this knowledge, I feel like I am now armed with the tools to heal my past.  Even though I want to sit down and make it right, I now understand that this would be futile.  A narcissist will never see fault in their actions.  A narcissist can’t open up to see another’s viewpoint.  It would simply end up with me presenting myself for the slaughter.  I simply have to do two things:

  1. Grieve for the loss that I never had the mother that I wanted – that I deserved.
  2. Prepare myself for the upcoming grief of losing my parent and the resulting emotions that will arise in others close to us
I struggle with whether to talk with my father about this.  He isn’t a narcissist….but he has been married to one, and in being so closely involved with one, he has had to adapt and take on a role that he is likely unaware of.   Part of me wants him to see this from the outside so that he can have a better view of me…he’s been tainted by her for many years, and has come to believe much of what she says about me.  I want him to know me.  When my mother dies. I want one of my parents to finally know me, accept me, care about me.   But, in reading about narcissistic mothers, I’ve also learned that alongside each narcissistic mother is an enabling father.  He has to take that role in order for their marriage to survive, and sadly, it makes him incapable of seeing the problem because he is living inside the bubble.  I also don’t want my father’s final memories of my mother to be sullied.  I don’t wish for her to die with judgment form others.  Maybe, in a few years….maybe we will talk about it.  Until then, it is my issue to heal within me .
If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you.  I know this post wasn’t about my marriage, the affair, the mistress, or the infidelity….it was about me, my life, my family and the person that it has created.  The person who is recovering from the affair with scars from her childhood which inform how I cope…and how sometimes I don’t.  All I can do is make sure every day that I love my children completely, and be the mother to them that I never had.  It stops here.
Thank you for reading.





  1. Foolish Woman says:

    What a fascinating and sad post.
    My heart goes out to you. Good mothering is one of the basic needs a child has and it’s so sad that you never got this, either as a child or later in life.

    Parenting isn’t easy. None of us gets it entirely right. Most of us are so busy trying not to make the same mistakes our parents did that we commit a whole new set of mistakes.
    This is not in any way to negate the damage your mother did – that was a whole nother thing. In my book, what she did is inexcusable.

    Kudos to you for surviving and for your determination not to pass this on to another generation. You are brave, intelligent and strong and you will surely find your way through this morass.

    • Thank you. Asking my mother to give me the unconditional love and acceptance that I needed is akin to asking a handicapped person to rise from a wheelchair and walk. They simply can’t. Part of my healing is knowing this and not continuing to think that it is because I’ve done something wrong or am undeserving. Mental illness is one of those things that sadly we can’t control but knowing that it is an illness helps me understand her limitations and provides me the answers that I’ve been seeking a while.

      It also helps me understand why I do some of the things that I do in my marriage – things that contribute to communication breakdowns and now that we are understanding where it comes from, we can tackle it. Together.

      • I just stumbled upon your blog, and completely relate to having a mother like yours. Only, she is my only parent, so the only source of parental (non)love since birth. I am also dealing with the aftermath of my husband’s affair. I would LOVE to read the link you included, but can’t get it to work, it states it is broken. Could you please post the site? I believe it would also help me. Thanks so much!

  2. I found your blog a few days ago and was reading it in order from the begining. But when I found this post, i checked that link out of curiosity. I want to thank you, because now I know what exactly my own mother is! I thought it was just emotional abuse, but it actually has a name. As I read the link, I saw my childhood flash in my mind and like you I read it between many tears. And like you I am dealing with my husband’s infidelity, we are just 3 months out of DDay. While its over, and he’s showing remorse we have one other problem. I am currently in Afghanistan on deployment, he’s back in the States. So all our communications is via text/phone/Skype. We won’t be able to seek counseling until Feb 2013, a whole 7 months AFTER the DDay. I saw a counselor here for about a month but his tour ended so now I self help through the internet. I too feel completly like you in that with my husband I found the one person who completly loved and accepted me, I was lovable. Now I feel from his affair, I feel as if all that was destroyed. My insecurities that I thought I squashed by suceeding in the military and my marriage, is now completly back. I do want to ask a question; how does your husband handle the double factor of the trauma of your childhood and what he did to you in the affair? Thank you again, now I have a direction to go in counseling….when I get home!

  3. Ditto on the narcissist mom. And mine beat me as a small child too. S’Ok when they die… You see the injured messed up person inside, and forgive them.

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