“Don’t Upset Your Mother”Narcissistic Mother/Passive-Enabling Father

Find out if you are a Good Daughter!

( The Passive-enabling father says )

-“Don’t upset your mother.”

” You know how your mother is.”

Or the worst…

” Go apologize to your mother and make things right with her.”

You wonder-

is it possible Dad is in the dark when it comes to mom? Is he blind to her manipulations, or is he so snowed by her that he genuinely thinks it is all okay? You can’t be sure.

But it leaves you wondering if he genuinely cares.

You may have felt sorry for him and saw him as a victim. Even so, you can’t reconcile the fact that, at the end of the day, your passive-enabling father will side with Mom, no matter how unreasonable or cruel she is to you (or him, for that matter).

With a passive-enabling father, you wonder if anyone is truly on your side. You can’t understand why Dad doesn’t protect you. That’s what really hurts.

The daughter of the passive enabling father

If your mother is narcissistic, borderline, or difficult mother, life is hard enough without Dad totally flaking out and leaving you out on a limb… when it comes to dealing with her Mother.

For the life of you, you can’t understand why he let’s Mom get away with it.

But the truth is if Dad has stuck around this long, he has gotten by keeping his head down and doing his wife’s bidding.

He has learned there is hell to pay if he goes against her.

It’s how he has survived thus far. He has learned to go along to get along. …

This is a reason, not an excuse.

Often, in private, Dad might agree with you and tell you how he understands that Mom is unreasonable,… but when it comes time to back you up, he caves or denies his feelings altogether.

That’s almost worse. You are lured into thinking that he’ll help you handle her, but when you see that he is defenseless in the face of her dominance over him and holds no real power, it can make you feel even more hopeless.

It can come as quite a shock- to discover that your passive enabling father is a two-for-one deal; take Mom as she is and put up with her exploitative ways without complaint… or lose both parents.

It can be a rude awakening and a cruel choice for a daughter to have to make when you realize Mom and Dad are a package deal.

The passive-enabling father is often overlooked in the intricate dance of mother-daughter relationships. If he’s still in the picture, he’s likely mastered the art of staying out of the line of fire by keeping his opinions to himself and following his wife’s wishes.

But let’s be clear: this isn’t an excuse for his behavior; it’s just an explanation.

Many dads may privately acknowledge their wife’s unreasonable behavior but find themselves unable or unwilling to confront her or stand up for their daughter.

It’s a tragedy for daughters whose fathers are not psychologically equipped to stand up to their spouses.

When they can’t muster the courage to do so, they may feel caught between a misguided loyalty to their spouse and their desire to support their daughter. Unfortunately, their daughters often bear the consequences of their silence.

You can soon learn that confiding in Dad offers you no protection.

Discovering that your passive enabling dad is unwilling or unable to advocate for you can be a harsh reality check. It shatters the illusion of familial unity and leaves you feeling alone in your struggles.

But it’s important to remember that your dad’s silence or compliance doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t care about you. It’s a result of his own upbringing, conditioning, and fear of rocking the boat.

Unfortunately, this leaves you with little to no protection from a mother who is hard enough to deal with.

It can be some comfort to know that it is part of a familiar pattern that isn’t unique to you.

It’s not you; a narcissistic Mom can lord her power over the entire family -each family member is trapped in a role that binds them to her and sets family members against one another.

What can you do about a passive-enabling father?

Although you might be tempted to call Dad out, convince him that Mom is manipulating him, or confront them both, in the long run, this is likely to backfire.

Although you would be in the right, their long-standing unspoken agreement has deeper roots that date back to before you were born.

You can however, free yourself.

To do is a journey with many steps along the way-

 Awareness of the big picture

  1. When you zoom out, you will see that Dad’s passivity is only part of a larger, more complex picture. With Mom’s narcissism at the center, you will begin to see how it touches every facet of family life.  This awareness can empower you. You see that it isn’t your bad luck or your fault but part of   with the awareness.

Acceptance –

Once you become aware of the big picture, the long road to acceptance begins. When you have exhausted all the avenues available to you, you reach a point of surrender. You accept that you can’t change them. You can only change yourself.

Freedom –

There is always darkness before the dawn.  When you truly let go of trying to change, explain, and plead with your family to act reasonably, you can begin to see the road to freedom. You start operating outside of the family system rather than sinking in the quicksand of fighting them.

There is a measure of relief in this. When you stop trying to change a dynamic that is stubbornly not going to change, you can move on with your life.



Do you relate?

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  1. Elsa

    My dad was somewhat passive/enabling of my narcissist mom. There was a certain amount of go along to get along. And my mom also hid a lot of the worst of how she treated me from him, since now and then he would stand up for me. Then dad became hyper -religious when I was in my teens, which was actually a stroke of genius. Mom couldn’t publicly object to it, since she was so concerned with her image as a pillar of the community. And if you’re a straight, white man then religion really hands you a lot more power. Suddenly dad had a team of people in his church who would back him up and agree that the husband is the head of the household. Dad was thoroughly lambasted about it privately – there were some truly traumatic fights- but mom couldn’t just leave him without losing her image as the perfect wife and mother. In the end she joined his church and is in the process of talking over whatever she can grasp of the administrative role.

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Dear Elsa,
      Thanks for writing about your experience. As anyone who has encountered this phenomenon will attest, it is not always straight forward and has many twists and turns. In the end, I hope you are afforded some level of protection.
      Take care,


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