The 6 Worst Things You Can Say to an Adult Child of a Narcissist

I am an ACoN (which stands for an adult child of a narcissist).  I found out my mom was a narcissist back in the summer of 2013.  It was after a stint of her not talking to me for almost 3 months because I had the nerve to publish a blog under a fake name about the abuse I endured as a child at the hand of my father.  My cousin's daughter got a hold of this of blog, showed her mother, and her mother showed my mother.  It was chaos.  My mom 100% denied that any abuse ever took place and literally said to me "I thought you had a perfect childhood!  I have no idea what you're talking about!"  I was floored.  I went home, totally confused, and utterly conflicted in my wondering what the hell was wrong with my mother.  She had been there, she had had her head bashed up against a brick wall by my father when he could not find his keys to go to the bar (when they were in his own pocket), so why was she pretending our life was all Leave it to Beaver?  Did she have brain damage?  Did she have amnesia?  Was she insane?  

So I did what any girl would do in today's day and age and took to the internet.  I found Danu Morrigan's website and all of sudden, my life finally made sense.  All of a sudden, I stopped feeling crazy, and stopped wondering what I did wrong, and realized it was now and always, my mother.  So for three blissful months, I finally found out a little more who I was and learned to live without her.  But that wasn't the only uphill battle I had.  I also had to learn to deal with her once she started talking to me again (I was forced to let her back into my life due to financial issues--a narcissist loves to control you with money, and my mom was no different).  And after I learned how to deal with her ups and downs (which I am still even learning more today), I had to deal with one thing I didn't expect: getting anyone to believe me.  

My husband believed me.  He not only experienced everything firsthand with her, his own mother is a narcissist.  My kids believed me, because they've known her their entire lives and dealt with her playing favorites with them, and also dealt with her childish rages.  But getting my family to believe me?  Getting our friends to believe me?  That was another story altogether.  

In the end, I went no-contact with my entire family (besides my mother) as their narcissism wasn't needed in my life.  I didn't have to deal with them, so I chose not to.  And it ended up being one of the best choices I've ever made in my life.  As for getting our friends to believe us?  We only ended up convincing one ("our" as in mine and my mother's).  But that's enough.  But even to this day, some of what is said below still comes out of her mouth.  But I am patient with her, as I know understanding this disease is hard.  She means well, as do most people, so I can't get angry at them.  All I can do is educate them as best I can and hope it sinks in.  

And sometimes, it does.  

So here is my list of some of the most common things we can hear as adult children of narcissists (and what we can ask those people to say instead):

(I only use the term "mother" for the situations below, because my mother is a narcissist.  But these apply to both narcissist mothers and narcissist fathers.)

1.  "Why do you put up with it?  Why not just walk away?" 

Because if we could, we would.  Unless you have a narcissistic mother and walked in our shoes, you have no idea what it's like to be us.  Or more particularly, me.  Every child of a narcissist will have their own reasons and their own issues for having to have their mothers in their lives.  We need support, not judgment.  Walking away sounds so easy, but I assure you, it can be one of the hardest things we'll ever choose to do.  And believe me, this is always on our minds.  We just have to do it at the right time for us.

What you can stay instead:
"If you ever choose to walk away from her, I will stand by your side and help you with whatever you need.  I fully support any decision you make, as I know it will be hard either way." 

2.  "Nobody is that bad, I think you're exaggerating..."

If you only knew, that not only are they that bad, they are most likely worse.  They've done things that will make your skin crawl and your teeth itch.  If you think I am exaggerating, then you're the one with the issue, not me.  And if you say this to me?  I will be walking away from you, as you're not a true friend or a supportive person in the least.

What you can say instead:
"Wow, that sounds really horrible, I had no idea that parents could treat their kids that way.  Tell me more about what's going on so I can understand."

3.  "Are you sure it's not you who has the issue?"

Yes, I am the one with the issue.  Because narcissists don't think they are doing anything wrong.  So they don't feel there's an issue at all.   But I am not making an issue over nothing.  Even though in the moment it may seem that way--it's hard to pick and choose your battles when narcissists make every little itty-bitty thing a battle.  They do it so underhandedly that others won't even notice they dig they are taking at me, but they know that I know it.  And that's all it that matters.

What you can say instead:
"Can you tell me more about narcissism?  Because I don't understand any of this and would like to know more about what you're going through."

4.  "You are always complaining about her, I don't want to hear it anymore..."

Fair enough.  Living with a poisonous person in our lives is hard and sometimes I may tend to constantly complain about them.   It's not that I want attention, I just need to vent so I don't keep it bottled up inside.  I need an outlet other than you to do this.  I know, I will start a blog!

What you can say instead:

"Look, I am not equipped to deal with the drama that is yo mama (haha just kidding!  Instead say "with all the drama your mother causes") and while I feel for your situation, I just don't know how to help you.  Can we talk about something else right now?"   

(Though, if a person never wants to hear your complaints about your mother, then they aren't supportive and I suggest distancing yourself from them or choosing to have a "surface relationship" with them.)

5.  "If that was my mom, I'd..."

 I get this sentiment.  We like to think we'd not put up with that kind of treatment if that was us.  But the truth is--the only way that would happen would be if she became your mom today--with who you are right now.  But had you grown up with her?  Had her tear you town every single moment of your life?  Been abused your entire life?  You'd not be who you are right now.  And you may be acting just like I am right now.  But if I were you?  Looking at this mess?  I'd feel the same way.  I'd get angry and say "If that were my mom..." complete with shaking a fist in the air.  But when we think this way, and say this to someone reaching out to us to vent, we make the person we're talking to feel like they aren't doing things right because you'd do them differently.  She isn't your mother.  She's mine.  And I am the one who actually has to deal with this.

What you can say instead:
"The way your mom treats you makes me so angry!  Arrgggh!  If you want me to stand up to her for you, I will, but if not, just know I am here for you whenever you need to talk or vent."

6.  "She's your mother, of course she loves you!"

Sigh.  I hear this one a lot.  I am sorry, but vaginal birth, c-section, or adoption does NOT guarantee love.  Let's repeat this again for those in the back: motherhood (or fatherhood) in any way, shape or form does not guarantee love.  Being parent doesn't make you different than anyone else.  You can be a parent and be extremely flawed.  And with being extremely flawed, love can be something that you just don't understand.  While narcissism may look like extreme self-love, it's actually quite the opposite.  So, if a narc can't even love themselves, how can we expect them to love us?  I hate the fact that unless a person is educated on narcissism, they cannot fathom a mother not loving their child.  But the sad truth is, it's everywhere.  And when you tell me that "of course she loves you", you're demeaning my entire existence by trying to convince me that what I know to be true is wrong.  Not only that, most people who say this to us have only known about the actual situation for all of five minutes (if at all) and we've been in it our entire lives.  I get it, mothers are supposed to love their children.  It sounds like it's against human nature to not do so.  But, I think it's time to start changing what we believe about human nature and see the reality of things: that not all people are capable of love, mothers or otherwise.

What you can say instead: 
"I can't fathom a mother who doesn't love their child.  That's really upsetting.  I am so sorry you are treated this way.  But just remember: we don't need the love of our parents to feel validated as people.  You are worthy and worth loving, with or without her love."


Having a narcissist parent is one of the hardest things you will ever have to deal with.  But, after years of their abuse, when you finally figure out they are a narc, and then you try to explain to others what is going on?  It will be like running into a brick wall, over and over again.  Most people either refuse to believe your parent is who you say they are or just won't understand.  You will have to remind them, over and over again until they get it.  If they even get it at all.

Education about narcissism is key.  But just know, the more you talk about it, the more you share, the more you blog, the more you don't keep things private, etc.?  The more the world will understand what narcissism truly is and and the more others will see in in their own lives and families. 

Back to the friend above that I convinced my mom was a narcissist, the other day she said to me "I think our mutual friend is one, too!  Haven't you noticed the way she is?"  Of course I had, but I don't like crying narcissist constantly, so I try to pick and choose my battles.  Hearing her understand what narcissism was and being able to identify it without me saying anything?  That was amazing!  When others finally "get it", is when I know I am going through this for a reason.  Maybe not a destiny reason, but at least I can take my mom's abuse and spread the word, so others can walk away from their abusers as well.  I can use my life experiences for good.  As can you.  So keep on talking, fellow ACoNs.  You are helping to save others from enduring the same crap you had to 😉 

And as X-Files once taught us: the truth is out there.  So, let's get the truth out there, and peel back the curtains to expose these charlatans who are posing as wizards, but who are really only expertly disguised wolves in sheep's clothing. 

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  1. Christmas and New Years are finally over. I’ve been looking for articles to help me deal with my anger, thank you for this. Although sad that there are others out there who grew up similarly to me, it’s nice to read things and realize that I’m not alone, she really is/was that way, and I didn’t imagine or exaggerate anything.

    1. I feel you! I live with my narc mother and it's so very, very trying. I am so glad you got through the holidays, though. Those are the worst!

      And finding out your mom is a narcissist, is at the same time the worst and best possible thing you can deal with at the same time. It's the best because finally you know it wasn't your fault. But the worse because there is no cure and no fixing it. But we get through it by building boundaries and keeping ourselves safe. I wish you luck and feel free to visit my other site at: