The Heartbreaking Reality of The Enabling Parent

Marlena Eva
3 min readApr 21, 2022
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels

If you were raised by a narcissistic parent you are familiar with the “other” parent or the “enabler”. The enabling parent is the partner of the narcissist who allowed the abuse to happen. He/she did not protect the victim and take them to safety.

There are many reasons why the enabling parent stood and watched the abuse without doing anything to stop it. Low self-esteem, lack of confidence and courage. Lack of empathy may be another reason.

In my case, my father was the “other” parent. He has little empathy and is not able to feel compassion, not even for himself.

My father never defended me from my mother’s emotional and sometimes physical abuse. He would leave home often (he was working a lot) and, when home, he’d pretend nothing bad happened while he was away (even though he’d see me in tears or/and with bruises).

If your “other” parent was like mine then I assume you, too suffered due to his irresponsible and neglectful behaviour.

I can accept the fact that there are some enabling parents out there who tried their best to defend their children from abuse. They stood up for them and helped mould a positive role model. Some of these “other” parents even divorced the narcissist or the borderline they were married to.

As a result, they were able to have a somehow normal relationship with their adult children, without the interference of the narcissistic parent.

However, I believe that enablers are very often abusive themselves.

They lack the empathy and self-awareness needed to understand that it’s not OK to let your child be harmed by another person and not do anything about it. That it’s unhealthy to sit by and watch someone messing up your child’s mind and playing with their version of reality.

Someone who is indeed emotionally connected to their children will not have the “heart” to let something bad happen to them.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas

The enabling parent adds so much fuel to the fire. He may even take a little comfort from the fact that his narcissistic partner is engaged in abusing you instead of themselves. Isn’t this a bit cruel?

I have experienced my father using me as a “shield” against my mother’s narcissistic rages. I think he mostly did it out of fear, panic and lack of compassion. For this, he was (and still is) a big coward.


All in all, the enabling parent has abusive characteristics himself which are why he can stay in a relationship with someone as damaging as a narcissist.

The parent who watches it all and doesn’t do anything about it may be abusive themselves. They may have either learned to become “abusive” to survive the relationship (see how Sam Vaknin explains this phenomenon here) or they were abusive all this time but in more covert ways.

Either way, don’t rely on the “other” parent to get the validation and love you always wanted. Trust me, it doesn’t work.

If your enabling parent hasn’t been there for you and protected you when you were small and helpless, they won’t miraculously start doing it now when you’re an adult.

The best and healthiest thing to do is to let them go. They may or may not stay with your narcissistic parent. That’s not your concern or worry.

Your concern should be to get yourself to safety and stay away from both parents. Accept the fact that your enabler has thrown you into the lion’s den for too many times without batting an eye. He has done this before and he will do it again.



Marlena Eva

Content writer, tea drinker, Romanian girl living abroad. Writes about narcissism, relationships, health and finances.