There’s always one in every narcissistic family.
The Scapegoat: the one who always makes the bad decisions, who is continuously shamed and derided for their choices, who is seen as the “black sheep” of the family, who bears the brunt of all disappointments.
They are in sharp contrast to the Golden Child: the Child Who Can Do No Wrong, who is the apple of the narcissistic mother’s eye, against whom the Scapegoat is constantly compared.
For the longest time, it’s just been us three girls. Me, my sister Rane, and my youngest sister Joy. Now there’s a fourth addition to the family: baby Jo, who has no idea what she’s gotten into.
The dynamic of my family is such that the Golden Child and the Scapegoat alternate amongst the three of us, with at least one child (gloriously) left alone at any given moment.
It seems at this point in time that I am lucky enough to be left alone. Joy is the Golden Child, and Rane has become the Scapegoat.
Just a few years ago our situations were reversed; Rane was finishing up an internship at Disney, and the family was so proud of her. Meanwhile, I’d just graduated college with no job, and was talking of getting married to my fiance. I was the Scapegoat.
I know what it’s like to be the shunned one, but I’ve been the Golden Child as well. Our family has made it so that we all get to experience what it’s like being on both sides of the coin.
So I know how hard it is for my sister now that she’s the black sheep of the times.
I want to do what I can to support her, but I don’t want to get mired in their drama all over again. I’m still struggling to pull away myself. Rane will be ready to make a clean break – she’ll go completely NC when the time comes – but for me, I want to be able to maintain at least VLC with my relatives. And I can’t do that if I’m sucked back into the whirlpool.
Still, I want to support my sisters in whatever way I can. I’ve learned a couple of things in how to be a source of trust for my Scapegoat sister, while still maintaining my distance from the rest of The Family.
How to Support Your Scapegoat Sibling
Probably the most helpful thing you can do is to remove your sibling from the situation. My sister is currently living with our mother. She has no other choice. The father of her child hasn’t found a livable situation for the two of them. She doesn’t make enough to pay rent, and she’s got a baby on the way, meaning most roommates wouldn’t consider her anyway. She’s pretty much stuck where she is, and I know how terrible that can be. The feeling of being stuck has caused me to consider extreme options of escape on more than one occasion.
So I know that the best thing I can do is to get her out of that house as often as I can. This past week I took her to see an advanced screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It was something to get her mind off things, but most importantly, it got her away from our mother.
Make yourself available.
If you can’t get to your sibling in person, let them know that you’re there to talk to when needed.
I try to text my sister as often as I can, just to check up on her and let her know that I’m here. She doesn’t always respond, and I let her know she doesn’t have to; but the simple act of reaching out makes her much more likely to seek me out when she does need someone to talk to. And having a shoulder to cry on can be the one thing that makes or breaks you in tough situations.
Listen actively and keep your mouth shut.
My sister doesn’t need me to tell her what to do or how to live her life. We’ve suffered enough of that through our mother and her flying monkeys; we can’t do that to each other, too.
Now, that’s not to say that I’ve never done it, but I’ve made a conscious effort recently to simply listen without interjecting my own thoughts and opinions. It’s that whole ‘shoulder to cry on’ thing. You wouldn’t want to cry on the shoulder of someone who’s just going to say ‘I told you so,’ would you?
I don’t have to agree with everything my sister does. We’re so different, it’s pretty much impossible for us to ever agree on anything in the first place. But the one thing we do agree on is that our mother is batshit crazy. And sometimes, she just needs me to listen to her rant.
KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.
I can’t stress this enough. This is a mistake I’m still making to this day. If your Scapegoat sibling tells you something, you should probably keep it between the two of you.
Our family is super fucked up in that secrets tend not to stay secrets for very long. In fact, secrets are treated more like common knowledge that everyone should have access too, so you’ve got about 2 phone calls before the whole world knows.
In trying to maintain a VLC relationship with my family, I tend to be a bit more open and honest about my own personal goings-on than most would recommend. Unfortunately, this has spilled over into me being more open about my sister’s goings-on than she would like, too.
I didn’t realize it until she called me up one day and said, “If I tell you something, I trust that mom won’t find out. Why am I gonna talk to you if I know you’re just going to rat me out?”
Of course I didn’t see it as me ratting her out, but regardless I heard the message loud and clear: what happens between you and me, stays between me and you.
Maintain your distance.
This is to protect yourself more than anything.
If you’ve gone NC or VLC with your narcissists, or you’re in the process of detangling yourself from their toxic web, you cannot allow yourself to get drawn back in.
It will ruin you, and everything you love.
Sometimes when my sister is complaining too much, I can feel the drama curling around my heart like a vice, sucking the life out of me. It’s at these times that I have to do what’s best for me, and kick her off the phone.
“Sorry, I’m at dinner so I’m gonna have to go now…” Even if I’m not out at dinner.
She doesn’t need to know that.
But I need to know that I can still safely maintain healthy boundaries for me. If I’m caught up in their web, how can I support her? How can I help her if I’m in need of help myself?
I don’t know how Rane is going to handle her situation. I’m worried for her, and for Jo, who’s too young to do anything about it.
But they are the reason I’m still fucking with anyone else in that dreadful excuse for a family. They are my real family, the people who have gone through – who will go through – what I’ve been through, who understand just what it’s like to live underneath this narcissist’s roof…
Who’ll need to find a way to get out, just like I did.
And I can offer them my support, until I’m the Scapegoat again.
And then, they’ll support me, too.