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I have an almost 18-year-old son. He has lived with his narcissistic father for the past 16 years. My son and I had a good relationship until his father packed up our son at the age of 7 (without my or a court's consent - we have joint custody) and moved to Arizona for about 5 years.

During this time, my narcissistic ex deliberately began, what I feel were tactics or mind games, reassuring me that I was doing the right thing for our son by not fighting for my rights, because our son was happy there. I never expected to slowly be removed from my son's life. I was lucky to see him once a year when they returned to Tennessee to visit my ex's in-laws and his new wife's parents. I was not even the first person to see my son. Me and my family were able to get my son after seeing his father's parents and step mother's family.

I'm a single mother of two more children - his half siblings - an older son and am 11-year-old daughter. My oldest son is very kind to my 17-year-old. Since I raised these two alone on just my income, I couldn't afford to visit him. My son left Tennessee a happy, smiling, loving boy and returned home to Tennessee with his father a stranger to me, he had grown a mustache, his voice was like a man's, he had braces and glasses and we found ourselves looking at each other like strangers.

That was 5 years ago. And we just can't seem to get back on track. I know it got bad enough mentally and emotionally for me that I had to unattach or I would have done something to myself. Through past therapy I know how this happened and why and that I should have fought for him. He doesn't act out in a rude way towards me and he's very polite, does great in school - he's an amazing young man. But due to school activities etc. you know being a teen, he never visits. I have to text and call sometimes for 3 months straight before he will respond - it's like me and his siblings here and my family don't exist.

I told him the last time I saw him in July 2016 that I miss him so much and he said

I don't get people and the whole miss you thing. I don't miss you... I know you're ok mom and where you are and that's enough for me. And that goes for everyone.

It made me hurt for him that he doesn't feel love, he's just ok. I have written my son a few letters of love and reassured him that none of this broken bond is his fault and that I've loved him everyday of his life. I don't want to just blame his father because it will only hurt him and make him reject me more. Even if his father took actions to alienate me.

I had no addresses, he has not ever listed me as the mother on school records, he listed his wife - well, now ex wife - and the school board has verified that. My ex refers to me by my name and when I reach out to ask him to help me with this, he laughs and says I abandoned our son and he's smart enough to make his own choices. But not when I asked if our son could skype with me or any calls like that was absolutely forbidden, because he isn't allowed to have social media. But my ex has many accounts.

My question is what is the healthiest way I can connect with my son without forcing him or bashing his father or making him feel unloved by me for just accepting all this?

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    I don't understand the term Narc, can you clarify for me and other users? I'm also wondering if you can clarify whether your other kids are full or half siblings. Either way it's tough for everyone involved, but a less direct relationship could explain why he's not particularly interested in connecting with them. (Also from your previous question, your oldest son didn't sound like a sibling if want to get know!)
    – Acire
    Nov 8 '16 at 0:50
  • Narcissist is Narc . And they are half siblings. My oldest the one from my previous question is very kind to my 17 yr old son but critical to 11 yr old sister.. Nov 9 '16 at 4:58
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First I would like to say I'm sorry that you are in this situation Christina, and I wish you and your family all the happiness. Concerning your eldest and his estrangement, I think that it is quite natural for him to feel that he doesn't need you. He spent many years way from you and in the care of another 'mother'. Also your views on your husband carry a sense of residual anger or disappointment from many years ago. Maybe that shows when your with him. Whether your ex is really a narc or not, that is for him to realise and deal with. What I mean is, do not judge him when you have your own faults too. The worst thing to do is criticise his father (when you have those brief moments together) when he might think the world of him.

I think your son is growing and maturing. His moods are changing, his perspective is equally changing as he grows older. He's feeling independent and he's doing real good in school so perhaps it's the wrong time to be throwing emotional bombs at him. Basically learn to be really patient. You need to wait it out and sometimes it will feel like you're not doing enough but believe me, if you just keep it happy and civil when you meet him. It will bring him around eventually.

There will be a time as he gets older, when he will reflect on his childhood and will get the urge to call you up out of the blue, to tell you he loves you or misses you and even ask about his half-siblings. But he might first call to confront you with how you let him go so easily, etc... . The most important part of this confrontation is to listen, to be honest, balanced and caring in your responses. After all what you did may seem, the wrong thing to do, to him or others. You let them just walk out and move away without standing up to protect your relationship with your son. That was your instinct, that was your judgement. You thought it was for the best. What happened over the next few years, as a result, is not your fault too, so be honest about it.

I'm sure he has a big heart, so always remember and accept the fact that he could love his dad too and his stepmom too and her family, along with you and his half-siblings.

All the best.

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  • Honestly I don't show any hard feeling towards his father to him or infront of him I've never spoke bad about his father infront of him. And I would have had to fight him in court to get him back here because he was packed and gone when I was told. But naturally yes I have lots of anger to his father wouldn't you if you continually revive major information on your child after the fact. Like recently his ex step mother told me my son missed 3 weeks of school due to a GI infection i knew nothing about and that's happened alot. I'm very supportive of his relationship with his other mom. Nov 14 '16 at 12:25
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Your best bet is to think about him in positive ways, and make yourself available for conversations. You can send him things that show you are thinking of him, for example a fall collage of leaves, a drawing, a photograph, a funny story about his half-siblings, a funny memory of him when he was little. Avoid anything that might make you appear needy or smothering.

And then be patient.

What might help you be patient is, when you think of him, remember lots and lots of positive things about him. You gave him a great start in life. You can be proud of who he has become.

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  • I'm very proud of him he's a fine young man but how long do I sit back allowing him to think this is all ok. It's wrong and what his father has done is wrong and he should be held responsible for it. I've always say back and thought will this hurt him or harm him. Maybe that mind set harmed him in the long run. Allowing his father to push me aside harmed him me and others. I love my son very much so much I couldn't drag him thru ugly Court battles but I should have. Nov 14 '16 at 12:34
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    @christinagg - there is a special place in heaven for parents who have been cut off from their children. Nov 14 '16 at 22:20
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This may sound unhelpful to start with, but it does get better - stay with me, if you can.

Where I'm coming from

I recently reconnected with my biological father - at 33 years old. He stopped calling when I turned 16, and said from there it had to be my decision to contact him. Everything had been thoroughly positive up until that point. I had felt that my life was otherwise 'complete', and so didn't feel a need to reach out. So for the longest time, our relationship died there.

I can relate to your son, who doesn't feel that he 'misses' you. This is perhaps not as bad as it appears - he is somewhat healthy and 'happy', at least to the extend that he has reached a relatively stable mental state, at least on the surface, or as far as he's willing to share at this point. As humans, we're often good at this - we adapt to new places and new combinations of relationships, and find equilibrium with them. So to start with, that's something positive - he's doing okay.

On the other hand, I did feel a building resentment at my father's lack of contact. I didn't care and didn't need him in my life, but the lack of communication came across as lack of care, even when he did really care but just wasn't communicating it.

Do you know what ultimately began the path of reconciliation? My sister reached out when she turned 16, on the virtue that she was now an adult and could make choices for herself. We turned that into a regular connection point, and then (far too long after) that eventually opened a path to wider reconciliation. You see, whilst reconnecting was never really 'on my radar', she viewed me as her brother, and had all these memories of me that she recalled far more often than I did. And so in having to face up to that reality, it helped me rediscover the importance of these relationships for myself. I belonged to them, and they to me - even when I didn't see it.


What I would suggest in your situation

Essentially, the problem is the same good thing I mentioned above - that equilibrium. Your son is healthy and happy, and frames his life in terms of what's going on now. He doesn't think of himself as incomplete. He probably doesn't recall his past connections with you very well, and they have perhaps been reshaped by your ex. So he doesn't have a 50/50 view of his life and relationships. This is made worse by the face that he's 18, and beginning the horrifically self-focused stage of life when many (not all) people really struggle to think outside of their own thoughts and feelings, especially towards parents and relatives.

So, ultimately, the solution to the problem isn't so much reminding him of how you feel, so much as it is reminding him of who he is:

  • He has a mother, he has siblings. Somehow, you all still belong to him, and he belongs to you.
  • You're not trying to threaten his stability or force your way into his life.
  • You want him to know his siblings, and for them to know him. (and maybe for him to know any others? Grandparents or aunts/uncles?)
  • You're happy as long as he himself is happy and stable - but you do want to get to know him better too.

The healthiest way to reconnect with him is to be as patient as you possibly can, and just keep reminding him - occasionally - of these realities. If letters are your only available avenue, use that. Do it reliably, politely and consistently. Send photos of yourselves, and photos of him with you as a child. If his siblings have a desire to connect with him, encourage them in that (without pushing them into it - it has to come from them). This probably isn't far different from what you're doing right now anyway, but hopefully this is encouraging for you.

Ultimately, be patient. Your son is at a crucial moment in life, where a lot of things are about to change. He may move out and go do his own thing for a while. He may not respond to your letters. But if you are patient and persistent, at least the message should come across loud and clear that you care and you want to be involved.

Perhaps once he is out of his father's house (which sounds like it may happen not too far in the future) it will be a safer moment to try and meet up with him in person - ideally together with his siblings, to make it less awkward and reinforce that sense of belonging together.


A note about the ex

With regards to dealing with the ex in this situation - if he's controlling like that, you want to come across as non-threatening as possible. Which probably sounds stupid when he seems to be the one in control, but chances are the idea of you connecting with "his son" as his mother is threatening to him, because it destabilises the life he has been building and threatens his control over it. If you can just keep reaching in gently with the contact routes that are already familiar and agreed, this will avoid overstepping boundaries there and allow the relationship to grow without being squashed.

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