I had originally intended on posting more of an update rather than a full blown article. However my plans changed when I came to a realization that what I had originally planned on sharing in my update was a topic that after much research could benefit people who may be fighting the same battle we are, particularly my husband.
Around 8 months ago, my husband was asked by his brother to be the best man for his wedding, which of course he was honored to accept. He began his plans early with saving up money for travel costs and communicating with his new command on taking leave when the time comes and a date was set. This was something he wasn’t going to miss for the world.
In the beginning of this year, my husband received a lengthy text message from his brother rebuking us for in essence limiting contact with his mother, who has a history of treating my husband horribly. Even after we both responded to him with a lengthy explanation, apparently that wasn’t enough.
It was silenced on both ends until we receieved a short message from his mom telling us the wedding was the following day.
Yes, you heard me. The wedding my husband was supposed to be the best man for. The one we saved up money to go to. Was the next day.
In short, we weren’t even invited. And no one even had the gaul to tell my husband that his role as best man was being taken away from him.
He was more than upset, and rightfully so. He became emotionally bankrupt, and within a matter of a day I watched him turn into a guard dog against his own family.
I feel the combination of hurt and betrayal alongside him. We were always ostracized on a general level, but this was different. This was unforgivable. During one of my usual sleepless nights I was trying to figure out how to properly help him heal. He already did the hard part of limiting and ceasing contact, but he still needs to work through the emotions of it all. My husband is one of those people who would rather clean toilets than work through his emotions, so I knew this was going to be a challenge.
It was then that I came to the realization of what was happening. Given the history of the dynamic with him and his mother being abusive and the complete lack of insight from his siblings, it clicked:
This is a Scapegoat Family Dynamic.
The more research I did, the more I realized that this pattern wasn’t actually the result of my husband being a horrible human being as everyone made him out to be. He is the scapegoat child, and he always was.
What is a Scapegoat Dynamic?
“one that bears the blame for others and/or one that is the object of irrational hostility.”
-Merriam Webster Dictionary
When a parent is deemed to have a narcissistic personality, it isn’t uncommon for there to be a scapegoat child and a golden child. There are plenty of articles and videos that explain this better than I can, but the short explanation of the difference between the two is their contrast in how they’re treated. For example, a golden child’s accomplishments may be raised significantly whereas the accomplishments of the scapegoat may be diminished or even dismissed.
I found an article that details everything pretty well here. It’s written in a mother-daughter format, but you get the idea.
I would hear stories of the treatment that my husband had undergone as a child. Some I can’t even repeat. He could do no right, being belittled for even little mistakes and errors. He would be compared to his brothers on how wonderful they were, and how abnormal and different he was, even to go as far as being asked “Why can’t you be more like your brothers?!”. Usually any issues regarding family was pinned on him. It was always his fault.
Even since I came into the picture this was obvious, only this time I was also in the line of fire. He would be thrown out of his home for negligible things that never made any sense, leaving us to fend for ourselves quite often. Even as a teenager he had a bag packed and hidden outside because of the frequency of how often he’d be kicked out. Our engagement was picked apart because his mom wasn’t the first to know, even a miscommunication about the wedding invitations resulted in insults and having financial help pulled out from under us. In fact, it wasn’t until a week before the wedding day that miraculously they were attending.
After we were married, it still never let up. When my husband passed his ASVAB with a 99, we couldn’t wait to share his accomplishment with his family, which was followed by being told we’d “be nothing without family support” and that our marriage would “turn into a statistic”.
We were left depressed and upset.
We always felt like an inconvenience. That feeling never went away after we got married, and it certainly never went away after we moved. His first graduation in the Nuclear pipeline his family came to see him. His mom praised his brothers, and talked about how they were missing a church camp, and how mad everyone at church was for them having to miss it. Following his graduation, after he crossed the stage in his dress whites shaking hands with all the higher ups at his command, he returned to meet us, to be rebuked for not looking at the camera.
We felt like a burden.
We traveled 13 hours to visit them on a family vacation during Thanksgiving. We were rebuked for being unable to afford to fly to California for Christmas. His mom yelled at him, went to her room, and slammed the door. She never said goodbye to us when we left.
We felt guilty.
Each time we tried to move past it. We tried to move on. Eventually it got to a point where until things improved, we needed to limit contact with his mother for our own well being. There was no use in staying in a volitile evironment that we couldn’t do anything to positively change. No text message or fulfilment to every demand was going to change this. We already tried that.
But after being punished for doing just that, limiting contact, I knew any hope of things improving was virtually nonexistent.
When a scapegoat makes the decision to limit contact, it isn’t uncommon for there to be a manipulation of other family members. They will convince those around them that they are the victim, which leads to poor treatment from not just the narcissist, but also the rest of the family. The intention is to draw the victim back in, since the abuser now has no one to pin blame to.
And that’s exactly what is happening.
It’s important to realize that it may never get better.
Rarely does this pattern fully end on its own. In most cases, it only ends when the victim decides to leave the situation and “go no contact” as they call it. For us, this is a pretty bittersweet thing to realize. You want everything to be okay and normal, but the odds of that happening are slim. And succumbing to their demands won’t make things better, it just allows the dynamic to continue.
It’s not your fault.
Narcissists are good at making you feel like it’s your fault. They’re also good at convincing others that it’s your fault. They’ve done this for years now. The latter option would be the abuser having to accept their faults and apologize, which realistically is unlikely to happen. It’s important to remind yourself that it’s not your fault. You are not the cause of blame. You never have been.
Cutting contact is okay.
Sometimes this is the only solution to end the cycle of the scapegoat dynamic. It’s hard, but it’s necessary for your emotional and spiritual well being. This is even more vital if your family is also being hurt. Maybe your spouse and children are also getting the same treatment you did, where your spouse can’t live up to their brother or sister in laws, or your children are being singled out from the rest of their cousins. This was one of the reasons we came to the decisions we did. I most certainly was not an exception to the rule. I know my husband has heard his mom pick me apart on what a terrible wife and housekeeper I am, and I’m sure we’ll also be picked apart for our choices in parenting.
If this is how they treat us, how will they treat our children?
Confrontation rarely ever results in anything positive.
Expect to get lashed out at if you want to try to point out their errors. You will be rebuked for challenging their authority, followed by being blamed for the division or wrongdoing. If your trying to defend yourself to family members who have been manipulated, you may not be successful at getting them to hear you. In our case, this is exactly what happened.
Why isn’t it “Forgive & Forget”?
I’ve heard this quite a bit. “Jesus forgave you of your sins, so therefore you MUST forgive your abuser.”
Does this mean that we don’t have to ask for forgiveness when we are in transgression? Does this also mean that we can continue in sin because we’ve already been forgiven? Of course not. Forgiveness should always lead to repentance, which means if someone comes to us asking for forgiveness, it should be followed by a strong attempt to change what caused the wrongdoing in the first place. If a person is not repentant and feels no reason to be, blindly forgiving and forgetting will not change the dynamic. It will not lead your abuser into repentance. If anything, it will show them that what they are doing is okay. AND IT’S NOT OKAY.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t forgive someone who has wronged you. However, I will say that no one, including the person who wronged you, has the right to demand your forgiveness.
Remember & Recover
- Remember that this is not your fault.
- Remember that there may be nothing you can do to change the dynamic, and sometimes the best thing you can do is to discontinue contact with the narcissist and those who have been manipulated by the narcissist.
- Remember what you’ve accomplished and achieved.
- Remember that you can heal. You can recover.
Recovery is important for those who have been treated as the scapegoat. Working on tackling boughts of depression or improving self esteem are all things that need to be addressed. Most importantly, getting help so that you don’t continue the cycle in the next generations to come.
We have to take it a day at a time. Healing is a process, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.