Q: My daughter was diagnosed with BPD/NPD when she was 19 – she has cut me out twice since her diagnosis and the most recent silent treatment has been since March of 2010. She will not speak to any family member or respond to any form of communication. I have reached out to her in short emails attempting to connect but as time passes I see this more and more as a narcissitic form of punishment and something she learned from her alcoholic father who I divorced when she was 11. He has not spoken to her since that time – she is now 26. I know her issues of abandonment are very valid because of that, yet even though I was the one who was there for her, I am the one being “punished”. – I know I should not take this personally but it is easier said than done. Should I refrain from any communication and just take care of me and move on with my life?? I feel as a parent this question is a little more difficult to come to terms with than someone in a love relationship. Thank you for your input! J.C.
A: I am sorry to hear that her silent treatments last so long. It is possible that she is taking her issues out on you because she knows you will still love her- you are the “safe” parent. She is doing to you what her father did to her. It is also possible that because she is NPD, she will come back when she needs something from you. Unfortunately, she is at an age where the only thing young adults want from their parents is independence. Typical of BPD/NPD, she is taking that need for independence to the extreme by cutting you out completely- that is the most convenient way to resolve this need and NPD individuals usually take the path that is the most convenient for them.
Continue to reassure yourself that it is not anything you did and that it is not personal. Why do you feel you must do one thing or another…why not both? Continue to send short emai in an informal, chatty way about your life. Do this consistently but not too frequently, maybe once a month or whatever you are comfortable with. Do not try to “re-connect”, just keep her up to date on your life. (examples: “Last week I bought a new chair for the living room. I thought of you as it was your favorite color.”; “I adopted a new dog this past month. His name is Beanie and he is a black Labrador”).
Perhaps view it as a simple writing exercise you do every month. Meanwhile, your focus should be on taking care of yourself and moving on with your life– with and without her. Without her communication, but with the full knowledge that you have a daughter whom you will always love as your daughter. Don’t pretend she doesn’t exist. Use the time between now and when she does eventually return to learn everything you can about BPD/NPD so that you will be prepared for the cyclical hurt and drama that the future holds. Having a family member with NPD is different from having a love relationship with one as you often can’t just walk away/leave. But both relationship situations hurt deeply and can have lifelong negative effects.