I grew up with my parents divorced. I was 3 when my Dad moved out, and 6 when the divorce was final. This was during the 70's, so my Mom got full custody and we saw Dad for dinner once a week. He was not involved, never came to our sports games, practices, concerts, etc. He didn't know my friends and they didn't know him.

When I got married, I took my vows seriously. I lived with a narcissistic alcoholic and stayed married for 10 years. We divorced last summer. I put up with more crap than I ever imagined would be possible. I stayed for my daughter. I wanted her life to be better than mine. I wanted her to grow up with her Dad.

Knowing that he will never put her first breaks my heart. He doesn't show up for her softball or basketball games. He skips taking her to practice on his nights and guilts her into not wanting to participate. I offer to change nights, give him more nights or whatever I can. Because I want better for her than I had.

He barely works and can't afford the gas to come pick her up. So I offer to drop her off, and pick her up. He recently got a DUI, and will be losing his license for 90 days for refusing to take the field sobriety test. So he called and asked if I would talk her out of playing basketball this season, because he wouldn't be able to come. He missed several games last season, and had a license at that time, but constantly chooses his new girlfriend over his daughter. I like the new girlfriend, so I'm not bitter about any of that.

I know that dealing with a narcissist is ridiculously difficult. I know he won't get help. I just want the best for my daughter. I don't know whether to sign her up and watch her be disappointed that he doesn't show up or save her the pain. My heart hurts for her. I'm sick of enabling him, but I do it to protect my daughter. Is it possible that I'm going about all of this in the wrong way?

  • 5
    It's not enabling him to shield her from the repercussions of his irresponsible behavior by doing things like take her to her activities when he fails to. At some point, she'll probably realize that her dad just hasn't shown up when he was supposed to an awful lot, and he will have to deal with the consequences of that. It would be enabling however, to push your daughter into not doing something she wants to, just so he can avoid her noticing he's not reliable.
    – user14172
    Sep 24, 2015 at 15:53
  • Welcome to Parenting.SE, Jenn. How old is your daughter now (I'm guessing 9ish?), and was he failing to show up to games/practice before your divorce as well?
    – Acire
    Sep 24, 2015 at 16:07
  • Thanks so much for the welcome. She is 10 (good guess!) She sees him now more regularly than she did when we all lived together. He would spend 3 or 4 nights a week out drinking. Now, at least she knows that she will see him Wednesday's and every other weekend. Although he does sometimes cancel. He missed a couple games before the divorce, but more often missed dinner, homework, etc.
    – Jenn v
    Sep 24, 2015 at 18:47
  • This may sound like a troll but it is a serious question: If you took your marriage seriously, why did you marry a narcissistic alcoholic?
    – gillonba
    Apr 17, 2018 at 20:46
  • @gillonba: I'm struggling to accept your question as anything other than victim blaming - even if you did so unintentionally amd without malice.
    – Flater
    Jul 4, 2023 at 1:39

6 Answers 6


I say this with trepidation. You are in a very tough situation, and for anyone to speak into it, without having been in your shoes, is ... well, not sure I really have a right to speak. So, please feel free to just totally ignore this - saying that I don't know what I am talking about is probably a fair assessment.

Bottom line, no amount of work on your part will change who this man is. It is impossible for you to make him something he is not, and I know you are not trying to change him, but you are trying to change how your daughter experiences who he is. That will ultimately be impossible, and is probably not even a positive thing to do. Maybe it's better for her to know what her father really is like and what she can and cannot expect from him. I think you are pretty awesome to go to such great lengths to try to give your daughter a better life than you had. But you must recognize that you cannot give her a better dad than what she has. He is who he is. You can be there for her and communicate to her how much you love her and how awesome she is. Leave her no doubt on that. Part of what hurts with absent parents is the thought that maybe we are not worth their love and care. Make sure she knows from you how much she is worth and how excellent and awesome she is and how much you love her, and that, more than any extra effort you put on that absent father, will put in her a confidence that she is worthy of love and attention.

  • Thanks for your reply. I think it's exactly what I needed to hear. It made me cry, but I needed to hear it.
    – Jenn v
    Sep 24, 2015 at 18:48
  • I am praying for you and your daughter.
    – user16557
    Sep 24, 2015 at 19:10

I have a narcissist as a father. My mom tried to keep the family together for the sake of being normal. She thought it would be best for us. It was hard to live with my father and to take the emotional abuse. I am 33 now and he has never changed. In fact he is still trying to have control over me with guilt trips, abusive language and mental games. I do still love my dad but distance is best for myself and my own family. As a child it hurt to not have him involved or even care but for me it was worse when he was around because I constantly felt bad about myself and unloved. It is best not to hide who your daughters father is. Kids are really smart and likely she already knows. Just make sure she always hears that it is him who has a mental illness and it's not her fault. Best wishes.


The whole situation is very difficult, but I will only try to answer the bit about basket-ball :

I don't know whether to sign her up and watch her be disappointed that he doesn't show up or save her the pain.

My advise would be: do sign her up and let her practice the sport she likes.

Even if she doesn't play basket-ball this year, her ineffective father would probably disappoint her in many other ways. So cancelling basket-ball is not a very effective way to protect her from frustration.

But you should have a talk with your daughter first to explain to her that she should not expect her father to show up for games. Lowering the expectation will lower the disappointment.

She should play for you (if you attend the game), for her team and friends, for her own pleasure, but not especially for him. When, and if, once during the year, her dad shows up and congratulates her for her play, well, she will love it all the more and this will probably become the one match she remembers afterwards rather than all the ones with the slightly bitter taste of her dad's absence.

Tell her to try to enjoy her year of basket-ball, to do her best, and not to do it for her dad. At the very least, not only for her dad.

  • 1
    This is what I would say. Shield her as age appropriate, but as she gets older give her the skills and boundaries to handle the situation and be okay on her own.
    – stan
    Jul 25, 2023 at 14:13

I have no personal experience on the matter thus no direct advice, but I can tell you a relevant anecdote that I think might help. I have an uncle who has 3 children with his alcoholic now-ex-wife. He only divorced her after all three the children were out of the house, despite the relationship being sour from when the kids were only little. All three they agree he should have done this way earlier. He would have been happier for it, and so would they. It's not like the mother disappears; it's just that they see her less and both the parents can find someone they are happier with.

  • I think this answer is spot on, even though you have no personal experience with it. The only line I find troubling is, "...and both the parents can find someone they are happier with." That kind of replaced one problem with another, which is neither addressed nor really asked for (by the OP.) May be picky, but that's jmo. Apr 12, 2018 at 18:03

I would not analyze if he is a narcissist, but rather say the following (as somebody who as a kid has undergone a similar situation - alcoholic mother with personality disorder):

  • If it is his wish to see his daughter, he should be able to be there, on his own responsibility at the time which was agreed, otherwise he is not just affecting her life but also yours (and giving here a wrong image about how adults should take responsibility in relationships.), so stop enabling him.

  • explain to your daughter that she should not be doing any specific sport because somebody expects this from her.

  • You should take your daughter to sports as a favor to her, not to him - explain to him that he has no right at all to ask you to bring her anywhere because it is his wish.

  • Explain to your daughter that he is not well currently and that nothing here is her fault.

Until he does not seek help to get his addiction problem and his personal disorder addressed in some real way (self help, therapy etc), i think it may be wise to reduce the contact to what is legally required.

Log every incident where he did not show up as agreed in case that he wants to make weird twists later. Potentially bill him for unexpected costs (babysitters?) on your side.

Currently he is making your daughter a part of a power/revenge game (not being able to predict if your daughter will be with him at a specific day) toward you, which will be bad for her. If things go bad he may even transfer his anger/revenge plays towards her as she gets older, and then anyway their relationship may break (which is what happened in my case).


No child needs a narcissist in their life!

To grow up healthy happy and strong a child needs one adult in their life that truly sees the child and makes sure that the child's basic needs are met.

Two adults in a child's life has benefits, but one adult is enough.

Can a narcissist be an adult that truly sees a child and meets that child's basic needs?

The answer is no.

Narcissists might appear to be reasonable parents when their child is very young, because very young children see their parents as all knowing and all powerful beings. When the child grows beyond that, the narcissist loses the child as a source of adoration, and then blame the child for what is a normal healthy change.

At every stage of a child's development a parent has to adjust to their child's expanding world. A healthy parent celebrates their child's growth. A narcissistic parent punishes their child as that child grows into as adult, because that child is not really a person, they are simply an appendage of the narcissist.

If you have the ability to choose whether to allow a narcissist into a child's life, and you let the narcissist in, understand that the narcissist will gaslight their own child, blame their own child for normal kids stuff, and invalidate their own child's thoughts, feelings, and existence. This is just the sort list of the unhealthy ways a narcissist treats their child.

No child needs a narcissist in their life!

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