Helping Children Cope with Visitation – Empowerment

One of the readers here, Jenelle, also has her own blog and graciously wrote a post upon request outlining what steps she takes to help her children deal with their narcissistic father.  She focuses on empowering her three children through this negative situation and seeing it for what it actually is, limitations and all.

I love how she teaches her daughters about boundaries and healthy relationships, and that when they set a healthy boundary and it is ignored – it is an unhealthy relationship.  This is a great way to explain that it, that is correct to expect that the boundary be respected, and to identify an unhealthy relationship.

And oh my… boy can I relate to trying to battle the father’s perspective that every activity that they do should be focused on winning.  It’s not always about that (yes, sometimes it may be), but for the most part – there are a lot of activities in life which are done because we enjoy them and they make us  happy.

Thanks, Janelle!

Helping children cope during visitation with a narcissistic parent

Once upon a time, there was a very naive mother.  Naive mommy didn’t know that her soon to be ex has strong (very strong) narcissistic and sociopathic traits, and didn’t quite grasp that he really couldn’t co-parent (or co-anything, for that matter).  Naive mommy looked up best practices for parenting through divorces and sincerely hoped to implement them.

Yeah… right.

Many years later, the naive mommy (yes, that’s me) realized the depth of what she was dealing with in her ex.  However, there are still parts to be gleaned from what I researched way back in my hopeful stage.

Here’s an article on staying connected with your kids if you are parent who parents from a distance.  In my situation, there are three things which we use from their list, although 2 of them haven’t been implemented as solidly as I would like.

1. Give the kids their own phone

My daughter has a phone which she takes with her and her brother to their dad’s house.  It infuriates my ex, who wants to control and/or eliminate any contact with me during their time with him.  Nonetheless, we stuff it into the very limited amount of things he allows them to tote to his house and it is there as an emergency.  She has instructions to call 911 if his behavior is frightening them, and to do this by retreating to their rooms and calling from there.

2. Keep a journal

I have started this with her in the past, and she just picked it up again this weekend.  The point in the article is to have the kids write something while they are gone, and that the parent has one as well and writes in notes for them while the kids are gone.  When you are back together, you can read each other’s journal.

3.  Have the child have a reminder or momento.

A long time ago, I sent with my kids some pictures of us doing fun things together.  Like #1, this also infuriates my ex, who said it is “unnecessary”.  He brought it up with our parent coordinator, who said “I don’t think it’s important, really.  As a matter of fact, I think it causes more anxiety in the children”.  It was a delightful moment, really – because I said to our parent coordinator “do you have pictures of your son and daughter on your phone?” (as I’m looking directly at the pictures he had of them in his office).  He momentarily forgot our conversation and started to light up, saying “sure”.  So I asked him… “Does this cause you more anxiety?”  (LOL)

So, my kids sometimes carry pictures with them.  At the suggestion of my daughter’s current therapist, they also bring with them a bear from Build-a-Bear workshop which has my voice recorded into them.  They made up what they wanted me to say, and we recorded it and tucked it into the bear’s paw.  Since the suggestion from the bears came from the therapist directly, my ex couldn’t say much or block it.   The kids still see his frustration, but stubbornly ignore it (yay kids!).

 

Boundaries – what are they?

After giving some thought to the last post, I thought it would be interesting to take another look at the various facets of personal boundaries.  Sometimes it takes different ways to look at the same issue for different “ah-ha’s” to surface.  If the same topic is said to us in a different way – that may be the moment where we say “Oh geez, it just hit me that…”.  So, what they heck… let’s look at boundaries in another way!

First, a personal boundary is basically what defines you.  When violated, warning signs go off inside with a ‘gut feeling’ or as much as anger and resentment.  Certainly we all dismiss or ignore warning signs, but why we do that is definitely enough material for a completely different post.

Healthy boundaries means a healthy relationship.  Read More…

Boundaries & Personality Disorders (especially borderline, narcissism)

Boundaries are important around those with personality disorders as they generally don’t have any themselves.  It’s important for adults as well as children with a personality disordered parent to learn about boundaries from somewhere.  I think that boundaries are implicit many times in society.  As long as a person sets that space and behavior expectations around them, the word “boundary” and it’s definition may never even be used to describe what is that they are doing.  However – what they are doing keeps them safe, and for those of us who don’t do it as naturally or are just learning it (children & adults), we need to specifically call it out and focus on it. Read More…

Family Court Reform Movements

There are various efforts out there by different groups who recognize the need to change the way that things are done in our family court system.  Some states have “family courts”, while others utilize Juvenile & Domestic Relations, or Circuit Court.  There seems to be a lot of different ways in which managing divorce and custody matters is done, but one theme is clear: It isn’t as effective as it could be for the sake of the children involved.

Below is a list of organizations or individuals which are active in this space.  Get involved. Make a difference! (It feels good to take a stand, and I tell you – I am the  least politically active person I know): Read More…

A Legal Motion on my Door (again)

I’m human and I’m frustrated.  I returned home last evening to find the motion to reduce child support on my door.  It was filed on 9/6/12, without a date set for the court.

I felt sheer frustration.  My kids were with their ex, so at least they didn’t see that on the door.  But then again, I’ve come to find out that our daughter is quite well aware of my ex paying child support (err..rather that he’s not paying it), so what difference does it make if they saw the motion anyway… Read More…

Children’s Behavior after Visitation with Narcissistic Parent

When my kids started spending more than a few hours with their dad, I noticed that their behavior changed – significantly.  They became more sensitive, grumpy, controlling, angry (omg …. yes, angry), more physical hitting of each other and more issues with sleeping (unable to fall asleep, nightmares).  There were also regressive behaviors – more toileting accidents and desires to do infantile behavior.  There was also clinginess…  the inability for me to walk 10 feet away without them running behind, sometimes in pure worry. Read More…

Out of the Mouths of Narcissists – Common Phrases

Along the way in my relationship with my ex, I came to terms with the relationship having been abusive.  I also came to realize that my ex likely has narcissistic personality disorder, borderline, some antisocial traits and perhaps bipolar as well.  When I read the book “The Wizard of Oz”, I remember being shocked in the common traits of those with narcissistic personality disorder.  I was even further amazed to find that oftentimes, there are phrases common to almost every narcissist.  Spooky, right? Read More…

The Impact of Domestic Abuse

Since I left an abusive relationship myself and began to heal, I wanted to do something to give back… to help in some way others who were also leaving abusive relationships.  I began a couple years ago volunteering at a transitional housing organization focused on women and children who are left homeless when leaving an abusive situation. Read More…

Dad, I wrote a letter to the president and law makers

My daughter must have met her wit’s end last evening with her father.  She arrived home to say that her dad was being rude to them, and that she told him how she wrote a letter to the president.  Read More…

Unemployed, Going to Court, Car Broken Down & Feeling Thankful

Yesterday was one of those days…  but yet I still felt happy and thankful.  How?

First, let me explain that I’ve been unemployed for 2+ years now.  When the going got tough for my kids making the transition to a new schedule with their dad, I began taking too much of a flexible work schedule with my job.  I didn’t travel as they wanted me to, and I often worked until late in the night to compensate for going in late or leaving early to go to parent coordinator meetings, taking my daughter to her therapist and getting my son his life saving aquatic survival skills training.  My employer & I came to agreement that it was time for me to stop working for them after 12 years of stellar performance reviews.

At first, I steadily looked for work in our dismal economy.  Then this past summer, I specifically decided not to look until September, and to love the moments I had with my children.   I have made it this far by the grace of God (I truly can’t explain how I have financially made it through) – what’s a little longer, right?  I can make money later, but having my kids with me is a “now” kind of thing.

In the meantime, my ex has been through a couple jobs, termed for performance and trying to start a retail business.  He has already filed to reduce child support once even though he knew I had no income.  He is at it again.  He hasn’t paid for August or September, but did find money to pay his attorney to file for a reduction in child support.   Miraculously, he’s also found the money to pay for his daughter to take horseback riding lessons (ch-ching).   Oddly, I don’t care.  I truly would trade every dime from him for our freedom.

So yesterday, I picked up our children from school.  I drove them to the after-care and stayed with them there for a while before their dad would arrive for an evening dinner.  My car started sputtering in a strange way as we made that trip.

Thankfully, it started again as I left the daycare.  My little one requested something from the grocery store to celebrate kindergarten.  I headed there, thinking I would take the car to the repair place the next day.  However, the car didn’t start again at the grocery store.  Despite all the challenges, there are wonderful blessings in my life.  At that moment, I easily found a store employee who jumped my car.  Ironically, he was driving a beat up old Honda Civic, whereas I was driving a much newer car.

Made it to the auto repair place, to find a long list of things that needed repair.  They took me in only 1.5 hours before closing.  They then graciously and easily gave me their loaner car “to make it easier for you”.  I arrived home 10 minutes before my kids.

During this time at the auto repair, I met this woman who was filled with a wonderful spirit.   As she was getting ready to leave, she sent her friend and daughter ahead so she could talk with me a minute.  She was inspiring.  An executive in the federal government, and owned three companies on the side – “for the fun of it”.  We chatted about the job hunt.  She told me really great, encouraging things about how she perceived me during the short time there.  Her recommendation to me was to “Follow your passion”.  She said “if you want a life where you can be with your kids, then focus on that and build around it.  You can do it, it’s out there for you.”

I love people like that, who warm your heart in an instance.   Despite the pending $850 auto repair, I am so thankful for how it played out.  My car stopped working when I didn’t have my kids with me, there was someone there to jump it, the auto repair place took it in immediately (even though all bays were filled), and God put this wonderful woman in my path to encourage me.

Life is Good.

 

The truth will set you free

On my phone,I have an app which delivers a daily bible quote to the screen.  Today, I read John 8:32 and thought something different than I have before.  It is “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I have prayed to know the truth about what goes on for my children with their father.  Particularly in regards to sexual exploration behaviors which seem to be outside the norm of the average child, along with their irritated, red bottoms.  This is how I have traditionally thought about that bible quote.  When these things first started occurring, I almost felt as though I didn’t want to know – because what if there was something happening that I couldn’t successfully change?  At this point, I want to know the truth, and take my chances if there’s anything going on to do whatever I can to change things for them.

Today, I thought of the phrase differently.  There’s another truth that shows up for almost anyone who has been in a relationship with an abusive, personality disordered, narcissistic or sociopathic individual.  At the beginning of the relationship, it is different – a false facade to the real person is presented, which we all willingly believe.  At some point, things change, and the facade isn’t as rock solid as it was before.  Eventually – the truth becomes evident and we realize that the relationship isn’t good for us.  Maybe we know at this point that this person we are with has issues, maybe we don’t.

It hurts to find out that the person we fell in love with isn’t actually what they professed to be.  It sucks to find out it was all a delusion.  We feel fooled, hurt, and find it hard to accept that the world isn’t what we thought it was.  That’s a hard part to get past in many ways – as we then subsequently doubt ourselves in many other aspects of our lives.  We wonder if we’re reading the situation correctly, or see the geniune side of nearly anyone we meet.

I’m using the word “we” because I have heard this from many people who have walked the same road as me, and feel it’s safe to use “we” without offending others.

The great part about this path, though – is that through learning this truth – that is when we can be free.  We can make an informed decision to be with that person or to leave.  We know the truth, and we are free to make our own choices based on that truth.  We learn the truth, and oftentimes set ourselves free from the corrupt, destructive person.

So maybe instead of looking back with remorse, we can now use our knowledge that we have found freedom.  We can look forward to the fact that we did learn the truth, and we can now move forward to a better life.

To Truth!  To Freedom!

 

Happy Labor Day

My kids and I just concluded a week’s vacation at the beach with my parents.  My youngest, nerves and all, will begin kindergarten tomorrow.  The last week has been blissful.  We have played in the sand, romped in the waves, fished off a pier (saw someone catch a shark!) and lazily rode bicycles around the streets.  Even with a few “hiccups” along the way – the letter to the president, a number of complaints about their dad, a few nightmares and a conversation with my lawyer about filing a motion – it was such a great de-stressing time.  One of the best parts was that we had 7 days without communication with their father.  No communication = no stress. Read More…

Dear Barack Obama

My children returned after a particularly difficult weekend with their father, and within the first hour, I heard my five year old son scream at his sister: “You f-ing idiot!”  (although he didn’t abbreviate the word like I just did).  I asked my kids how the weekend went, and to talk with me about what happened.  My daughter hesitated to say, and instead told me how some countries have laws that parents cannot hit their children, and she would really like to see our country have that law.  I thought about conversations I’ve had with her or others she may have overheard, thinking “crap.. has she heard me say something to this fact?”  So I asked her “have you heard me say this?”  She looked at me puzzled, and explained that her therapist told her this.  She asked if she could write a letter to the president.  I said yes, you can.

Here it is.  On the bottom, she signs her name, and puts in parenthesis (I am a kid).:

“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them who curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you and persecute you.”

The Presence of Light

I heard a phase the other day, which I love and have been trying to keep  on my mind.

“Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light”

There are some religious perspectives on the phrase, but from the perspective of dealing with a narcissistic personality, I am concentrating on being a “presence of light” so that I may outshine the ability for “darkness” (my narcissistic ex) to exist.

 

Narcissists Repeat Destructive Relationship Patterns

I find it interesting that we all (personality disordered and “normal” people) have trends or patterns in our lives that repeat themselves.  I do believe that we are given certain lessons in life to be learned, and until we learn them – they will be played out over and over again.  In my own life, I found that there was a definite pattern of coming across people with NPD traits, or at least having to deal with bullying, controlling, manipulative people.

given that Narcissism is a DIS – order, the patterns that are almost always present are most likely to be destructive.  Often times, they are self-defeating patterns.  A common example may be the need to be rich, fabulous, famous and oh… did I say wealthy?  So then… if that’s the case, why do narcissists often times not pay their bills reliable and so often wind up completely broke and in trouble for their debt in some way or another?  Exactly… because it’s the self defeating action that they take to keep themselves from truly and solidly meeting their goals (maybe they do become rich here and there, but it’s often not longstanding).

To that end, I thought it would be interesting to outline my ex’s primary pattern in his life, so others may see if there’s similarities.

My ex’s need to become wealthy means that he doesn’t “work for the man”, and that he ideally owns his own business, and that most of all – it must be “scalable” – i.e. it can be grown to a large business.   This means that while he started out working in NYC for large financial institutions, he eventually left to open a wine store in a much more rural area.  (as I later found out, he was fired from multiple jobs there for ‘altercations’ with other employees).  He always described his wine store as “large” and compared it to a chain store.  He had a girlfriend whom he started the business with as a business partner.  Somewhere along the way, the relationship went south and along the same time, the business tanked.  Legal documents from this ex girlfriend/business partner were bone-chilling for me to read. I read them just after he left the house, having not paid attention to them for years, but before facing a legal battle with him.  I had no idea what all had happened – and when I read what she wrote about him, I saw that I could have written the same words about my experience with him.

It took them years and years to undo the business partnership and settle it out.  In the meantime,  my ex was in debt in multiple six figures from the small business loans, legal fees, etc.  Looking back, I think that the only reason he moved on was that at the time, I began dating him.  I didn’t know much about the situation at the time, but simply kept encouraging him to wrap it up and move forward.  Eventually (2-3 years into our relationship), he did.  So – this was the first instance of starting a business, failing, and a contentious legal battle.  Note, he actually pursued and received an order of protection against HER.  From what I read – she said he hit her and her son on multiple occasions.

The second “business” venture occurred a few years later.  He was dismissed from another job for failing to “build relationships” with co-workers.  There was some particular instance that really pushed the poor reviews to the breaking point, but to this day I am not clear what it is.  I believe that he left a message for his manager using a lot of foul language.  He was lucky at this point to receive a very liberal severance/non-compete package which gave him a salary for two years.  During this time, he worked on starting his own business again.  He failed to job search – just to try to ‘build a fund”.

True to narcissistic form, he refused to do this at home, and rented an office downtown where he dressed up in a suit everyday and showed up.  I tried to explain that even Ben & Jerry’s operated out of their garage for years, my ex refused to believe that it was acceptable for him to do so.  In the meantime, despite having a salary, he refused to pay his portion of the bills.

Eventually, this business failed as well, and he had to accept another corporate job (amazing that he kept finding them, isn’t it?).  In this case, he did have a couple people as business partners, and they did have complaints of his lack of communication and inability to cooperate.  It was, however, smartly set up with limited liability to anyone, so it disassembled easily.

The third venture is what he is doing today.  It is also financial yet retail in nature, and frankly, given the economy, it makes no sense to have opened a store selling this particular product, but he did.  What he did learn in all of these is not to take on a business partner.  So, lesson learned, he is the sole proprietor even though his website acts as though it’s a huge company.  At this point, he has almost drained any financial resource he had (including retirement), and is filing to decrease (aka “seek relief”) from the child support payments.  One important note is that he did have a job as he started this, and again was fired due to performance.  Again, he failed to really look for another new job.

Again – I find it interesting how the patterns repeat.  I am also somewhat interested in watching how it all pays out for him both from the business perspective as well as the not-so-pretty financial side.

So, to turn the focus back from the narcissist… what patterns are in your life?  What lessons do you have to learn, and what did you learn from your ex?

 

 

Using “I” Language and other Assertive Communication with Narcissists

The awesome dialog that we had recently about responding to emails made me think maybe it would be helpful to have a post of links to resources which discuss ways to communicate more effectively with a narcissist or other personality disorder.

In the comments, Grace provided one link to an article written by Randi Kreger. She’s a great resource for divorcing a narcissist, and it’s definitely worth the while to look up her work and Bill Eddy’s.  In the article, she references using a “BIFF” approach.

Another approach is the use of “I” language.  This is in the realm of “assertive” communication, and can be used not only with someone who has a personality disorder, but also as a respectful means of communicating at work, at home or with friends when working to resolve a disagreement or to convey how something is impacting you.

It takes some work to slow yourself down and make sure to change the way you express something, so this can be a process to learn how to adapt to it.  The premise is simple – instead of starting a sentence with “you are” and directing it at another person’s behavior or actions, start the sentence with “I”.  For example, “You are hurtful when you ignore me” puts someone into a defensive mode, consciously or subconsciously.  The alternative is “I feel hurt when you ignore me”.

Here are a couple articles with more depth:

http://blakeflannery.hubpages.com/hub/Effective-Communication-Strategy-Communicate-Assertively-With-I-Statements

http://drraysmith.com/communication/i_message_format.php

Lastly, speaking of the above makes me think of my quest to say things in a positive phrasing (although I’m sure I’ve missed the mark here many times 😉 )  It’s a way way way “simple” change which takes the power of stopping your thoughts before speaking.  It’s great with kids – very well received.

Some more simple examples:

Telling a kid to “Walk!” instead of “Don’t run!”

Saying “I like to be on time” in lieu of “I don’t want to be late”

Telling your ex “I love how you returned the kids on time last time, thank you” instead of “Don’t be late like you always are” (hee hee)

With my kids, I also try to practice the ‘caught being good’ approach, and when they are interacting with each other, I point out things that they do in very considerate ways, and ignore those that are… well… subpar 😉

Now, that said, sometimes it doesn’t always work as effectively as the alternative – like when they are wearing socks and dangerously close to stepping into a puddle.  “Keep your socks dry” just isn’t as satisfying as “Don’t you dare put one single toe in that puddle”!

To that end… “Have an awesome day!”

Empaths & Narcissism

I ran across this article  a little while back, and found it quite fascinating. In my view of the world, it’s not all that different than co-dependent personalities attracting narcissists, but it’s nice to view it from a more positive perspective.  The article speaks about “empaths” and explains some traits of an empath.  They also align this with how empaths attract narcissists.  One such common character trait is “highly sensitive”.

My daughter is ruthlessly sensitive… so much so that I have tried to teach her not to let things bother her, and we’ve had many conversations about it. After reading this, it makes sense that she may feel the way she does and that I should take a more validating perspective in working with her. As such, the other day when I was frustrated with her behavior and she then worked to try to cheer me up afterwards when I remained frustrated, I spoke with her about it different. I explained that it’s not her responsibility – it’s okay for me to have my feelings and have to work through them myself (especially since I’m an adult), and for her to go about her day being a kid and giving me space. We then talked about how she does the same when her dad goes through rages. It was eye-opening and helpful. If I can help her to learn to distance herself and not be an emotional sponge for his issues, it will help her both in her relationship with her dad, but all throughout her life. Yay!

I wouldn’t have come across this information if I wasn’t focused on my own healing and considering what aspects of my personality attracted a narcissism to me, what I need to heal within me and what core beliefs do I need to change to move forward more healthy. This depth and level of desire to heal is in many ways linked to doing this blog – as I have a deep, completely unfounded, belief that the more we heal and the stronger we are – the less likely a personality disordered individual would want to be in our lives anyway. I.e…. the more likely they would be to chose to fade away or at the least, the less likely they will be to continue to stir conflict.  As I said – it’s certainly an unfounded belief and perhaps it can easily be called “wishful thinking”!

Nonetheless, I thought I would pass along the link.  Is it possible that you can also identify with the traits of an “empath”?  At least enough to understand how they are more likely to be attracted to you than someone else?

 

The Narcissist’s New Girlfriend

A while ago, I wrote a post about having met my ex’s new girlfriend.  She was 28 (he’s 42), sweet as can be and my kid’s loved her.  She had many enduring, similar qualities as I did and I could see how easy she would be hooked into what he seemingly offered.  While I was frustrated that my kids were put into her care when he fought so hard for the time with them, I was glad after meeting her that it was someone so nice and so caring about their needs.

I think the term “immersion girlfriend” is fitting.  I think that they dated just under 3 months, but she was there every minute of every minute my kids were with their father during that time.  She seemingly moved in, with 3 cats, a turtle and a few other zoo animals at his house (which cracks me up, cause he hates animals).

Well… she’s gone.  About a month ago, she “poofed” away.  Within a week, the kids announced that they had dinner with Daddy’s last girlfriend again.   The 28 year old was there when I blew up at my ex for not returning phone calls when I was supposed to meet him at the airport, landing and driving away with immersion girlfriend.  My daughter said she also confided in the things that “Daddy does” to her and her brother (yelling, hitting, calling them asshole and f-you).   I wonder if it had anything to do with the end of their relationship.

Apparently, old girlfriend is going to turn into immersion girlfriend #3.  (there was one before that he swore he was going to marry… well, that is until she was pregnant with another man’s baby).  From what I hear, she shall be moving in soon.  It’s going to be interesting, I suppose.  From what I understand, she is very different than her predecessors.  She’s asian, small, and tells my children what to do a lot.  My daughter says she is “good for daddy” because she “helps him do what he needs to get done”.  Go figure…

I’m just so happy that it isn’t me 🙂  And that I can look at the situation objectively and as a psychological case study of a psychopath.

Immersion girlfriends… I salute you!