Boundaries with Narcissists – give a little room and they want to take a mile

This is a post which we all know well.  I am grappling this morning because I opened my own can of worms with my ex.  I looked ahead with our schedule, and thought that if I could have his normal Thursday evening prior to the next week vacation he has with our kids, that this would be better than taking the Thursday evening I have this week as a part of having my own “summer vacation week”.  So, I sent him a text and asked him if he would like to do that.  I also asked him about whether he had responded to a friend’s birthday party request in a seperate text.

This is why I am normally a proponent of sticking directly with whatever the court order or schedule says!

My question to him was “Would you like to do your normal Thurs dinner, in exchange for 8/9?”

His response yesterday was: “That’s fine thanks.  Can you drop thurs about 5 at the shop. What’s the deal with switching w 7/27 for the weekend we split? What are your expectation of hours? You can accept <friend’s> party if you want to take <son>. I have to work a trade show that day.  Any chance i can keep the children sunday evening and return to you monday am?”

Now let me share some points to explain:

1- He’s supposed to pick up the kids on Thursdays.  He immediately jumps into “here’s what you can do for me” mode.

2- I’m not entirely sure what he’s talking about with 7/27, but I think he’s mentioning the weekend of 6/28, when he wanted to do another trade show and asked if I would half the weekend so the kids didn’t have to sit through it.  I kept them through to Saturday evening that night to accommodate.  I specifically offered for him to keep the kids last Thursday evening through Friday to make up for it.  He said Yes, but then proceeded to return them at 8pm per the schedule (ok, he actually returned them 30 min late, at 8:30pm)

3- As for Sunday evening … I’ve posted my daughter’s pleading pictures … why do I want to volunteer that they have to deal with more time with him?  Plus, he moved 30 miles away, making it impossible for him to deliver her to the camp she’s registered for at 8:30am on Monday morning.

4- This is a test in his eyes – he wants to show the court how I never grant him extra time with the children – how I’m such a terrible person – and if I say no, it’s one more piece of evidence that I’m “withholding the children”, even when I have no obligation to do so.  Unfortunately, it’s also the catch 22 of the court system.. the “friendly parent provision”, which doesn’t make sense in the case of an abusive environment when a parent who needs to protect their children from the abusive parent… simply can’t be “friendly” in that way.

Now – the reason why I’m in a quandry makes this a longer post.  The quandry is that I can feel him loosening his grip on us overall.  He doesn’t really want to have all these child responsibilities and cheerfully take kids to their friend’s parties, etc. (note he gave permission to me to take our son to the party – which serves him in that he doesn’t have to watch our son at the tradeshow, and can look like he’s super nice to me at the same time).

What I really want to tell him is (a) you missed your chance for make up time, (b) you need to take the responsibility of coming to get your kids, and (c) you need to stop taking them to work with you – because that’s what taking them to a trade show where your sitting at a booth selling stuff for your business is.

BUT… that’s going to put him in fighting mode, rather than ‘releasing mode’.  If he thinks he can get a few things here and there for me, he may be more likely to start the route of cancelling visitation time and fading from our lives.  All in all, we are lucky because he does really stay out of our lives in regards to school and many other activities.  What I think he actually cares about is simply the narcissistic portion – to appear to be a good dad to others, to gain a source of supply from his kids occassionally, for this kids to fulfill his social needs in that he doesn’t keep up with any other friends, and to have them ride horses and pretend they are rich through the clothing they wear.

I’m honestly not sure how I’ll respond.  I’m praying for the answer and the patience to tread carefully and correctly with him so that I can acheive the best outcome for our kids.



6 Responses to “Boundaries with Narcissists – give a little room and they want to take a mile”

  1. Katie says:

    I feel like I’m reading a post I could have written about my ex. The similarity of details is eerie. I’ve also gotten the same response about taking our son to birthday parties – my attempt to explain that it is developmentally appropriate for children to socialize with kids outside of school fell flat. If I think it’s so important, I can pick him up and take him (and I have several times!). And the manipulation around schedule changes and ‘deals’ we have to make – in his best interest – are ridiculous. My ex’s mother also works with him, and I believe he manipulates her, to dramatize the situation. My ex consistently asks his parents to watch our son during his visitation time so he can hang out with his friends and hobby, so I often have to deal with his mother as well. It’s often unclear which of them is making the situation more tenuous, as they are both manipulative and narcissistic. She often complains directly to me through email about agreements that my ex and I make about our son’s care, including the piece about ‘interference’ during my ex’s visitation, which my ex acts ambivalent about. It’s maddening.

  2. Julie says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m having the same kind of situation the last two weeks. It can be so nerve racking to deal with trying to set schedules and activities. It’s true when you say no or set a boundary they often go into attack mode and can take it to extremes but… they use that to control. I read an interesting article that said you set a boundary and then let go of the outcome. When I lived with him I was always in fear and trying to second guess how he would react – this is victim mentality. Instead now I “try” (because recovery is a long process) to set boundaries limits and schedules that are true to my child and my needs without considering his reaction. It is better then living in fear because when you set a boundary you must be prepared to defend (which i had to do) What is the alternative ..fear walking on egg shells not doing what’s best for my child.

    • Thanks, Julie. I will work on trying this as well. Although, i think i need to release my fear of the court system and everything being a court battle even more than my fear of my ex. I tried to act in my children’s best interest before (and remove them from his presence when he was raging, for example) – but the judge held it against me. So clearly this fear needs to be released too so boundaries can be set easier. Life is learning process…

      • Hi – I wanted to put an update to this post, and thought a comment might be the most logically attached way to do so. Here’s how the weekend eventually unfolded:
        – He picked up the kids from daycare and hour after he said he would on Friday. Note – I was there with my kids and his car reeks of cigars and alcohol. (Note to self)
        – I picked up my kids from him on Saturday from his trade show 30 minutes prior to the party and returned them 45 min after the party ended. I kept the mom informed of the ‘ex isn’t replying’ situation. She understands and accommodates – as I’m so grateful so many people do.
        – On Saturday night, I received another text asking me to meet our daughter at her horse lesson at noon the next day and to bring the kids to his trade show afterwards. In the text, he requests immediately afterwards. In person, he verbalizes “really, there’s no hurry, they are just going to sit at the show anyway”. I agreed via text – resisting an urge to reply that I’m only doing it for the kids sake.
        – On Sunday, after the horse lesson, I went to get something repaired on my car – keeping him informed and with him saying “no problem” the whole time. I never make it to the trade show but he meets us back where we were. The way I figure it – I was doing his tail a favor anyway so he can deal with what he gets. However, he returned the kids 30 minutes late on Sunday. When I mention it – his first passive aggressive response is how I didn’t return them to him on time. I said “look, when I said I was going to get my car repaired, you didn’t say that in turn you would return them late or I wouldn’t have done it.” He then backpeddled to “it took us longer than I thought”.
        – Yes, it was disruptive to my weekend. However, I acknowledge and clearly see that it wasn’t a “give and take” situation but a “take take take” situation on his part. I did it, though, so our kids could do what mattered most to them, and felt that it was well appreciated when I repeatedly heard on Sunday afternoon how they were glad to be with me and not their father. So – that made it worth it 🙂

  3. Stacey says:

    I don’t want to seem like a big downer here…but you feeling him releasing his grip on you all, if you agree to what he wants, rather than telling him no, sticking to the court order, etc, just to bypass him getting all pissed off…he’s still manipulating you. You’re just trying to justify why is ok to let him do it.
    Yes, the court system sucks and these little games of “look how nice im being” vs “look how terrible she is being” – yes, its counterproductive and not about good parenting at all.
    However, after reading this, I was moved enough by what you’ve said to feel the need to point out that he is continuing to manipulate you here. Its easier to say than to do – but you have to stand your ground. If he thinks he can get a few things here and there, then he’s going to keep pushing…maybe he’ll fade away, but more likely, he’ll just keep popping back up, shoving his way back into your lives, screwing with your kids sense of structure and consistency…it is, afterall, all about him.
    Thats just my two cents…Good luck to you 🙂

    • Thank you! It’s a very valuable two cents. The times I see myself waiver is when I can get some arrangement that makes it easier on my kids. In this case, there were two – one on 6/28 when they didn’t have to sit through a trade show with him (where he’s likely to get angry with them), and the second would be on 8/9, where they wouldn’t have to have three hours with him on Thursday evening, then go back with him the next day at 5pm for a week. Oh, well, I guess there’s a third – the third is that I can take my son to his friend’s party tomorrow instead of him having to miss it. You’re right about his manipulation – it has to be in his control, and frankly, I also push to be in control as well to try to keep things sane. I guess in many ways, things are lining up fine – we have a “change in circumstance” to go back to court for a visitation schedule change (he’s taking the kids to work), and at least my daughter is verbalizing the issues with his anger. Anyway – I appreciate your pointing this out since being close to the situation sometimes makes it harder to see the real deal.

%d bloggers like this: