Thursday, January 23, 2014

Collateral Damage with Estrangement and No Contact

Collateral damage is that term defines the damage that can over spill from a bad relationship that effects family members and mutual friends causing them to sever relationship with you or you with them.  When people go through a divorce and lose their in-laws in the process, collateral damage has occurred. 

Similarly, collateral damage can happen when an abusive parent is finally confronted, when boundaries are enforced, when no contact periods are taken, or when an estrangement occurs. When some people are faced with a family member or friend who is going through an estrangement or no contact situation, it just seems easier not to have to take sides. For others, the relationship is severed because it was never really all that important. Also, if you are dealing with a BPD who enlists allies against you (her target of rage),  letting those people go is prudent for peace of mind and your health. 

The estrangements with my mother and Dad were due to their behaviors over extended periods of time (my entire life). With my mother, she shut me out due to her perceptions of my unplanned wedding. With my Dad, he tried to control my husband and me and became upset when he couldn’t. Ultimately with both estrangements, collateral damage happened. I lost touch with the people surrounding each of them.

What kind of collateral damage have you experienced with your estrangement or time of no-contact? Do you think the collateral damage is because you are just letting it be, the relationship was never that strong to begin with, the one with whom you’re estranged turns people against you, or some other reason? Please post your comments below.

Letting Go

First of all, I am not the type to put someone in an awkward position. So, if you are close to my mother or Dad (for example, their spouse), I am not going to over-step the boundaries and expect them to chose me or even speak with me. I am not going to have someone ‘chose sides’ nor feel uncomfortable because they were put in an awkward position regarding loyalty. My mother and Dad have always been ones that placed a high value on loyalty, so with their narcissistic personalities, having their respective spouse not exhibit loyalty would be a huge violation.  

Weak Relationships

I must add also that if the relationship with the surrounding people wasn’t strong to begin with, why would any loyalty shift from aligning themselves or sticking by their spouse? Same goes for other people surrounding my mom or Dad. If I wasn’t close to them in the first place, why would an estrangement cause them to reach out to me MORE?  For example, with my Dad, I was never close to his wife or her daughter. So with the end of communication with my Dad, I didn’t attempt to contact either one of them, nor have they tried to contact me. And even further out in the lineage, my step-sister’s husband and his mother / father have not been in contact either. We never kept up with each other before, so why now? We occasionally visited during family get-togethers but that’s it. 

Campaigns of Denigration and Allies Against Target of Rage

With my mother, the situation is a bit more complicated because she enlists people in her target of rage (me being the target this time) and a campaign of denigration begins. With my mother, when she flew off the handle about her perceived view of my unplanned wedding, she spent her time and energy soliciting people to ‘her side’ rather than spending her time and energy trying to talk to my then fiancĂ© and me. She also has had a history from my birth of controlling the people in my life—basically meddling in my familial relationships since birth. She ousted my birth father out when I was months old. She made it nearly impossible for my brother and me to have a relationship with my paternal grandparents. She wrote off my maternal grandfather shortly after my maternal grandmother died and wouldn’t even allow me to write him letters. She divorced and villianized my adopted father (whom I call Dad) when I was around 11 years old. When it fit into her plan of villianizing my adoptive father, she introduced my birth father back into my life around 12 years old. So, she controlled and molded my family relationships even up to our last estrangement. 

When she didn’t like what she was hearing about my wedding (that I didn’t feel comfortable having all three of my fathers together at the wedding), she said that she was ‘out’ of the wedding (which she was never ‘in’ because there was no wedding planned yet) and that she was going to call my birth father and his family to tell them they aren’t invited either. When she announced this, I became angry- angry because for my entire life, she manipulated who I could talk to. And now, I was taking a stand and speaking about what I felt comfortable with, which didn’t fit her wishes, and she exclaimed that she was ‘out’. Anyway, from that point forward, she made it her mission to  denigrate me to my birth father’s family and to turn them against me. 

I never had a solid or strong relationship with my birth father or his family, although my contact and experiences with them far exceeded my mother’s. So when she came forward to them when she was upset about wedding, I decided not to get into a ‘he said / she said’ with them. They never contacted me, however, so my side of the story was never communicated to them. I wasn’t about to call them in order to defend myself. I didn’t do anything ‘wrong’ so I didn’t feel the need to put myself on the stand to be cross-examined. 

They were under the spell of my manipulative and dysfunctional mother, and she tangled them into her web. I suppose if I had a solid and strong relationship with them that her power wouldn’t have affected them? I don’t know. They are very impressionable, small town folk that are very smitten with the wealthy and city life that my mother and her third husband live. So perhaps they would have fallen into the ‘poor pitiful woman whose daughter ripped her heart out’ trap by a very clever 
con-artist BPD.  

"The borderline enlists others as allies against the person who is the target of her rage. She may seek out friends, family members (including siblings and children), and co-workers of her victim in whom to confide fabricated stories designed to discredit her enemy. She intentionally leaves out discussion of her own behavior, presenting the other person's behavior as entirely unjustified." Lawson (p, 141).

But the bottom line is that I didn’t have a solid or strong relationship and the loss of them as collateral damage was not significant although I am disappointed that they think so poorly of me. I am still amazed, however, that they took the garbage that my mother spewed out of her mouth as gospel and turned to support her (even though they were victims of her toxicity several times in the past). 

"Others may believe the BPD's allegations of mistreatment because of the intensity of emotion. Misinformation is calculated and constructed in order to destroy the victim's reputation. Those who do not know the true situation may not notice inconsistencies in the BPD's story. It is difficult to verify the truth because the intensity of the emotion dissuades others from asking details" Lawson (p, 141).

Minimizing Collateral Damage

Collateral damage is a distressing effect of relationships gone awry. If both parties are supportive and understanding about the people surrounding them, relationships can continue. If both parties vow not to involve others in their own personal disagreement, argument, or split, collateral damage is minimized as well. Saying negative things and slinging insults is not the way to minimize damage. Agree not to bash each other and agree not to talk about the situation to others. These steps are seemingly simple, but to a BPD or NPD who wants to control, manipulate, or prove who is loyal to them, the task not not possible. Ultimately, due to my mother’s campaigns of denigration about me, I was not able to try to maintain a relationship and continue the link with grace with my birth father and his family. And the relationships surrounding my Dad were never that important to begin with.


  1. Collateral Damage has kept me up at night, too. I have been no-contact with my parents for 6.5 years. Through therapy (a lot of therapy), I have overcome much of the damage caused by a BPD mother and Narcissist father. I see it as a rebirth, rising from the ashes like a phoenix. I now live my life for me, and I am truly happy. Anyhow, during that time I have spoken with 2 family members (one from both sides). I have come to the conclusion that if they weren't there with me through this journey of recovery, then they really do not know me now. It's sad, and I miss having the connection to family. They have too been manipulated by my mother. But I honestly think it's just better to 'slip away' for everyone. If they really were so concerned about me, where in the world were they?

    1. Congratulations for the rebirth and being truly happy. How very inspiring for all to read :) And I agree with you-- when it comes to a BPD who is able to manipulate those around her, it's better to 'slip away' as you said. And I agree with, "If they really were so concerned about me, where in the world were they?" Amen.

  2. We are really struggling with collateral damage right now. My wife has cut off her BP mother, who in turn is leveraging our Pastor against us. We absolutely don't want to leave, but he refuses to address the issue, instead pressuring us to see her infant granddaughters.

    We think she may have written a huge check to the church, but no way to be sure.

    Soul crushing, really.

    1. I am so very, very sorry. I completely understand and sympathize. All my best to you and yours.

  3. I really resonate with this post and grieve the collateral damage from my estrangement from my family. Thanks for putting your thoughts out for all the world to read.

    As a pastor myself, I feel both sides of this issue. I have a BPD mother and NPD father (what a wonderful combination!). My family is much like the mafia, where my father is the Godfather running things and my brother became a hitman. Though I cut off contact over 8 years ago, they still track me down, talk to those in my life that they perceive as having authority over me, and try to pull me back in to their nightmare version of a relationship. I was nearly kicked out of one church due to my father's relentless attacks and they are going after me still at my current church.

    Unfortunately, the collateral damage has been severe and painful. Especially in my own heart and life. I found great help in Margalis Fjelstad's "Stop Caretaking the Bordeline of Narcissist and How To End the Drama." I also was able to attend a support group she led in Ft. Collins, CO that was hugely helpful.

    What has been most helpful is learning what a true father is and finding that in God as father. I was blown away to discover that even Jesus had a difficult relationship with his mother and siblings (Mark 3). I love the way he dealt with it: gracefully and with strength though they thought he was crazy and came to take him away. I am in a place of strength in general now, but will have to face off with my brother again in a month, or so he threatens. I am so grateful to be surrounded by people who know my "secret" and have extended me grace and support. In the end, this church I get to pastor has proved to be my true family and a source of strength.

    Thankfully, my family of origin doesn't have to define me; I have a new family that is thicker than blood.