DEAR JANE: My narcissist husband has made my life a living hell – now he is using evil tactics to turn our daughters against me

Dear Jane,

I spent 28 years married to a narcissist who made my life a living hell. Gaslighting me at every available opportunity, verbally tormenting me, making me feel horrible about my looks, my personality, my life… everything.

You might ask why on earth I chose to stay with him for so long – and there are two reasons: my daughters.

Despite his hideous treatment of me, he is a wonderful father. He doted on both of our girls so lovingly, so much so that there were times where I actually started resenting them, wondering how he was capable of showing them so much love, when all he showed me was hatred and evil.

I couldn’t reconcile those two people.

Dear Jane, I spent decades married to an evil narcissist – now that we have divorced, he is using his evil tactics to turn our daughters against me

As soon as our youngest daughter turned 22 and graduated from college, I told my husband I wanted a divorce. He was shocked, and immediately responded with every vile insult you can possibly think of, and then some more on top of that. 

He threatened me, told me I’d be nothing without him, and even said he would take my children away from me – something that terrified me to my very core, even though I knew it was legally impossible for him to do so once they were adults.

I was resolute in my decision and, thankfully, the divorce was pretty swift.

But then my daughters started slowly turning on me thanks to the lies he fed them. 

He made himself out to be the innocent victim in all of this, made it seem like I had blindsided him with the divorce and left him heartbroken, and both of them quickly ran to his side to offer him support and comfort – leaving me alone, being eaten up inside by the truth of what really transpired between us.

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on readers' most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on readers’ most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

The last thing I want to do is damage their relationship with him. Not because I care one bit about causing him pain, but because I don’t want to destroy the image that they’ve held of him for so long.

But I’m going out of my mind feeling like my own narrative is being swept under the rug – and, even worse, rewritten entirely.

Is there a way that I can share the truth with them without destroying their father-daughter bond?


Trauma Survivor

Dear Trauma Survivor,

I have known many, many women who have gone through exactly what you are going through. 

Little girls love their daddies, no matter how narcissistic or toxic they may be, and it has been painful for me to watch men like this engage in parental alienation, turning their children against their mothers.

Your children are old enough to know the truth, without having to throw your husband under the bus. 

I would sit them down and explain that there is always more than one side to the story, and you would like to share your experience. I would add that you will never say anything detrimental about their father, and that you recognize that whilst your marriage didn’t work and you were unhappy, he is a wonderful father to them.

I have found generally in life that the truth will out. 

Give things enough time, soar and ignore his bad behavior, and I suspect your children will likely come to see the truth. 

Their father is already pushing them to make a choice. Do not try and pull them in the other direction. Support them lovingly, don’t try and turn them against their father, but explain why you were unhappy enough to leave. 

You are likely to be surprised at how much they already know.