Fear of the Narcissist Parent

My daughter attended her appointment with her therapist last evening.  She apparently did talk quite a bit about how things are going for her.  My children were recently on vacation with their dad, and after a couple days back, my son (age 5) miscellaneous told me how my daughter (age 8) became scared on one of the rides they did and started crying.  Her father slapped her in the face for it.  My son tried to reason it away “but it was only once, Mom”.  I told him it didn’t matter – once is still really bad.  He then said “can we just not talk about it?”  “No,” I tell him.  “It was awesome that you told me – thank you for doing so and please keep telling me about stuff like that.”

I asked my daughter to make sure to tell her therapist about it.  Her therapist and I spoke for a few minutes first.  We contemplated talking with my ex about his behavior.  Her therapist was mostly concerned that in doing so, the past year’s worth of work to build trust with my daughter and have her speak freely would be completely ruined.  She told me that she has suggested to my daughter that my daughter address it with her Dad directly during a time when her father wasn’t angry.   I thought “are you kidding? she’s afraid to tell you about it – how will she garner the strength to tell her dad directly?”.   The therapist also has worries about treading carefully with my ex herself as she thinks that he is expecting her to accuse him of abuse – namely sexual abuse.  I find this an interesting dynamic.

When my daughter and her therapist met next – my daughter apparantly spoke freely but she also said that she is extremely fearful of her dad and what his reaction would be if he found out she told the therapist about it.  My daughter also says there is no way she can find it in her to speak to her dad directly.

The next step for our situation:  My daughter’s therapist is supposed to speak with my ex (this has taken a month now) regarding having our son evaluated for regressive behaviors (which started a year ago) to try to get his consent without having to go to court to request it.  Hopefully thetherapist for my son will be a more aggressive in advocating a visitation change rather than the approach of teaching our children how to deal with it that my daughter’s therapist is taking.

 

Narcissists Who Seek Revenge

In my understanding, there are several types and variations of narcissists, as well as a plethoria of comorbidity within personality disorders.  In other words – most people with strong narcissistic traits also have traits from other personality disorders.  This is why they are reconsidering whether NPD should be within the new DSM-V as it’s own stand alone disorder.  If the professionals can’t decide… I can safely say that there are reasons why I can’t grasp exactly which type of narcissist seeks revenge, or if it is in fact coupled with another trait from another disorder.  Nonetheless, narcissists want revenge in the divorce process. From my gut, it feels as though it is a form of retribution for having dismantled what they thought their life should appear to be to others.  Even if their marriage wasn’t perfect, it was still the facade that they wanted to project to the world, and therefore, when it is split apart – there’s revenge to be paid.

I find it interesting that I know several friends who have dealt with narcissists who are both disinterested in the children and who fight for them at the same time.  I believe this to be a more common trait from what I’ve consumed on the topic.

What I also think happens, and I know I witnessed this in my own life, is that they also go after other stuff that they think will hurt you.  Slowly, one by one, as you learn to not care about what they want to rip away from you – they have to up the ante and find other things that can hurt you.

One friend’s ex said at the beginning of their divorce that he would ‘take the house’ and she should ‘take their daughter’.  Children are property too, in their eyes.  It’s sad, but true – while they CAN seem to have a ‘connection’ with them – the children are really just treated as property (and unfortunately, the family courts often view them that way as well).  They even use phrases which reflect ownership, such as ” the children are in my custody“.

I have read in some forums that there’s a ton of power in acting out how you want them to take the kids for you- ‘be the babysitter, you need to step up to the plate’, ‘I have other things I need to do and you need to care for the kids’, etc.    The commonly seen reaction is that they completely back away from the kids – because  taking them from you is no longer ‘fun’.  It doesn’t cause you pain.  It even so much as triggers their oppositional tendency to do exactly the opposite of what it is that you want them to do.  You want them to take the kids…and the narcissist feels ‘well, to heck with that – I’m not going to do that because it will hurt more if I don’t‘.  Note that I used the word “feels” because I believe that the narcissist is really unaware consciously why they behave as they do.  If they thought that statement – then it would imply that they are consciously aware of their own reaction to your request.  Frankly,  I think that their level of emotional awareness is pretty low.

For me, I would love to be strong enough to play that card and tell the ex to take the kids.  One day when the kids were young and our daughter was sick, my ex came by for early morning visitation time that was scheduled.  Having been out of work already for the day prior, I told him that he should be home with her that day.  His response?  “I’m going to need more notice than that.”   Parents:  do children schedule being sick with us??  Really?  Whatever.

So think about your own journey… what did they go after for retribution first?  What places are you still connected to them?  As you untangle a marriage – each piece will fade away anyway and they will have less and less ‘points of connection’ with you … bank accounts are separated, the house is sold, debts are divided, etc.  The only connecting factor down the road IS the children.   That is the ONLY way left to get even with you for having destroyed their lives (you do realize that you destroyed their life, right?)

Of course they are going to use the children.

The narcissists ultimate revenge – taking the children

I was thinking today about my past with my narcissistic ex.  When our first child was born, he moved away (FAR away) for a ‘new job’.  I stayed behind.  I worked full time, had our daughter in daycare.  It was a transition to go to being in a relationship to what was essentially a married but single parent.  I had to learn a new lifestyle – and even though I often felt alone on weekends by myself with my infant daughter, I still treasured having the time to spend with her as the weekdays were filled with work.

When my ex (then husband) would be with us in town, he wanted me to have a babysitter for our daughter on Saturday’s – so we could go play golf together.  Not just a quick round – but the kind where we hit balls for an hour, then play out a round (5 hours), then a drink & snack before driving back home.  I didn’t want to do this, as I felt that I spent 50 hours away from her during the week while I was working & commuting.  My life changed when she was born, and it was okay with me that it didn’t involve golf for now.  My ex was resentful that it took away attention from what he wanted to do.

I remember one of his first father’s day’s.  He left to play golf by himself.  I was there with our daughter – and said “don’t you want to spend father’s day with your daughter?”  He said “I want to do what I want to do.  I want to play golf”, and he left.  I didn’t know anything about narcissism at the time – in fact, I had never heard of the word.  I did know, though, that his actions were plain messed up.

Once upon a time, he told me he was glad to have children so he had someone to play golf with him.  But what if they don’t want to play golf?  Doesn’t matter… they will play with me.  Why not have friends who you play golf with?  Oh yeah… narcissists don’t really have friends….. or well… at least not my ex (who probably also has antisocial issues).

It’s ironic and painful, though, what he did in revenge.  In the end – he took me to court and he won the trial for ‘every other weekend’.  This same father who didn’t want to be with his daughter for father’s day – just won every other weekend with his kids.  Why?  To get even with me by taking away my children from the time that I treasured most with them – the weekends.

It’s something I have to come to terms with and accept, and at times I think I have, but then there are the times when my kids are crying and complaining about having to go with him – and I realize how much resentment I have still in my body for this person who is ruining both my life and my children’s lives.  I once heard the phrase “you can accept a situation without finding it acceptable”.  I don’t find this acceptable, but I accept that it is what it is for right now.

 

A Plea from a Narcissist’s Young Daughter

My 8 year old daughter wrote a book this week.  She asked me if I could take it to a publisher and shout her story loud so that she could get help to “improve her and her brother’s lives”.

These are two of the pages in the book.   I want to help them, I’m trying to help them, and I am calling various groups to see what suggestions they may have.  If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please comment.  There are many of us in the same situation – maybe we can collectively come up with an answer which we may benefit us all.  I saw a statistic recently that 58,000 kids in the US are ordered into unsupervised visitation with abusive parents each year.  That’s 58,000 voices a year that we could be putting together to build a positive voice about the best solutions for children in these situations.  In my daughter’s words: “Please help me”.

 

Dealing with Narcissism & Abuse: Finding Healing Within

When I first began the process of determining I wanted a divorce, my resources focused on understanding my ex’s behavior and why I had gone from a confident, independent, secure, internally peaceful individual – to self-doubting, frustrated, angry individual.

One of the marriage counselors asked me “what is your bottom line?  How much will you put up with before you leave?”  When I said “I don’t know”.  She said “You need to ask yourself this question”.

It’s a boundary question, but I didn’t realize that then.

A critical resource for me at the time was the book  “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay”.  It has a list of relationship characteristics to evaluate staying in the relationship.  At this time, I looked at those characteristics.  Eventually, I began to understand that the behaviors that I dealt with were emotionally abusive.

Both my daughter’s therapist and the coparenting coordinator advised me that I needed to be more assertive and have stronger boundaries with someone like my ex.  I looked up articles on “assertiveness training”.  I read the book “Boundaries” by Henry Thompson Cloud.  Since I was raised by respectful, loving parents – I took these invisible boundaries for granted.  Interestingly, my ex would tell me that my parents were WRONG for not being in my business and directing the minute details of my life.  After hearing this enough, I had actually (momentarily) began to doubt that my parents respectful behavior (like never opening mail they received in my name), was neglectful as he described.  After reading books like “boundaries” and other books on emotional abuse, I realized that I was actually raised correctly, and that he was pushing me to believe that these were not good behaviors when in fact they were.

My first focus was on understanding that type of behavior and learning how to deal with it and remain confident in myself.  It was difficult, as my ex labeled me the “overprotective parent” and took good behaviors and described them as ridiculous (e.g. ‘it’s stupid of you to wash your hands or our kids’ hands before you eat.  You’re just being ridiculous”.  Heck, now that I think of it, I was the poster child of “ridiculous”. I learned that the anger that I felt and bottled up inside was really a ‘warning sign’ that I should have been paying attention to.  “Anger” is a common emotional reaction when we let others invade our personal boundaries.  I had, for years, been letting my ex break down my boundaries and run over those things that were important to me.  While I stood up for myself in some cases, I didn’t in other instances.

Fast forward to years later…  my focus eventually has turned even more full circle.  Why did I allow someone with behaviors like this into my life?  What did I need to learn from it?  What internal aspects of me did I need to heal so that I could move forward with re-finding me, re-building my life as I knew it, and avoid getting into another relationship?

When I say this stuff – I want to be so careful as to never excuse abusive behavior.  Whether it’s coming from someone who has a narcissistic or other personality disorder, or it’s coming from the non-pathological partner (me or others), abusive behavior is never acceptable.  Every person is always responsible for their own behavior, no matter what happens to us.

One of the best days for me was when I did a Theta Healing session.   Theta Healing practitioners help us to look within at the beliefs that we carry in our physical, energetic body.  We can then realize what beliefs we are still using in our lives and release those that aren’t serving us anymore.   While I have personally stopped going to traditional “Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy”, I have still used Theta Healing to continue to look within and see what I may be doing to contribute to the situation and what I need to fix to find internal peace.  Now – CBT, or traditional therapy methods, are similar in that a therapist helps you to challenge your thinking and find the solution within to your problems.  However, in my opinion, it’s a much slower process, and relies more on the therapist to be able to cognitively bring out those thinking patterns.  Theta looks to our bodies and our energy to reveal to us those thought patterns that we may not even realize we are carrying with us, and then lets us look at whether we need to keep those in our lives.

One of my biggest “ah-ha’s” was the realization that there was a pattern of abusive people in my life going way back to elementary school – and that I let each of these impact me rather than drawing a boundary on their behavior and blocking it out.  It’s wonderfully liberating to know that I don’t have to let this behavior impact me, and that I can know how to recognize it and decide that it doesn’t bother me or impact me.

One of my favorite phrases comes from the book “The Collected Wisdom of Florence Scovel Shinn”.  The book is more likely to be found in the ‘spiritual’ section of the bookstore – but don’t let that deter you if you have traditional religious viewpoints.  She does a wonderful job of using the Bible to show us lessons in life.   The phrase that I love is “So we see man’s work is ever with himself“.

So now – I still try to understand my ex’s behavior, how to deal with it, and most importantly – how my children have to deal with it and the impact on them.   At the same time, though, I try to spend equally as much time looking within at how to strengthen myself and what to do to move forward in my life.  I also focus on what I want my life to be like in the future and what I need to do today to get me there.  It’s a very empowering and uplifting approach, which helps me garner strength in times where I feel limited in what I can do for my children.

 

The Role of a Parent Coordinator: What to consider when co-parenting with a narcissist

What is a parent coordinator?

In the US, the Association of Family and Conciliatory Courts (AFCC) published a document called the “Guidelines for Parent Coordination“.  This is as near as I can find to being a centralized body that defines parent coordination.  There are several states who utilize parent coordination as a standard in their family courts.  I do not live in one which does, although I have experience in dealing with a parent coordinator myself (a negative experience) which I elected to do when I was naive enough that I thought it would help.

Let’s examine the definition that the AFCC provides:

‘Parenting coordination is a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in
which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience
assists high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the
resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children’s
needs, and with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, making decisions within
the scope of the court order or appointment contract.
The overall objective of parenting coordination is to assist high conflict parents to
implement their parenting plan, to monitor compliance with the details of the plan, to
resolve conflicts regarding their children and the parenting plan in a timely manner, and
to protect and sustain safe, healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships.
Parenting coordination is a quasi-legal, mental health, alternative dispute resolution
(ADR) process that combines assessment, education, case management, conflict
management and sometimes decision-making functions.’

Now, to my knowledge… this definition and document is where anything resembling “governing” the professional body of “parent coordination” ends.  There is, again-to my knowledge, not a group that exists in the US which oversees parent coordinators to make sure that they are effectively fulfilling their role.   The only thing that I can think of is to file a complaint with the state board of psychology should there be any dispute with the performance of the parent coordinator.  Also worthy of noting is that of the many that I have spoken to… there are very few who are able to point to this document (or any document) to effectively define what they are doing when “parent coordinating”.

Are they effective?  Well,  I have issues to begin with in the definition.  It states “high conflict”, which I feel is a bit of misnomer and misguided when speaking of a personality disordered or narcissistic or abusive individual.  Yes, sometimes there are relatively psychologically healthy individuals who enjoy conflict and won’t let go… and likewise, personality disordered and narcissist and abusive people are by default “high-conflict”, but the net of it is that I feel like the term leads people to not recognize the extent of the issues that exist when trying to parent with a narcissist.

To answer the question of whether they are effective… I think that they should be in theory, but from the limited perspective that I have, they are unable to truly be effective given the cards that they are dealt.  It also means that you, as a co-parent to a narcissist, are taking the risk that this one person is able to effectively understand your situation and accurately make decisions based on what you and your children as individuals need.

That’s a lofty task, isn’t it?  It’s as lofty as asking a judge in family court to make all the right decisions given the limited amount of information that they are provided in a short amount of time, and without taking into account any of their own personal experiences or biases!

Questions to ask a parent coordinator if interviewing them:

How long have you been doing this?

What guidelines do you have on how to conduct this work?

What is the extent of your authority to make decisions about what our children need?

What do I need to do to terminate the your role as parent coordinator  if I feel it’s not working?  If my ex does?

Do you require us to meet in person? by phone?  together? individually? as a family?

Do you do child guidance?  If not you – then who?  How often to you get input from the child therapist, if there is one?

What authority do you have to speak to either of the parent’s therapists? The children’s therapists?

Do you conduct any psychological testing, or refer the either or both of the parents to receive testing if necessary?

How do you resolve disputes?

Do you handle”high-conflict” cases?  How do you deal with someone who is aggressive?  How do you deal with a parent who refuses to participate or comply with recommendations?

Have you worked with cases in the past where one or both of the parents have a personality disorder?  How do you manage that?

What do you recommend in cases where one or both of the parents have a personality disorder?  Do you have any general recommendations for parenting schedules in these cases?  Any general recommendations on clauses or items which should be included in the parenting plan when this is the case?

What guidelines do you have for yourself if you don’t want to move forward with the family and want to terminate being the parent coordinator?

What guidelines do you have on when we should or should not contact you?

Do you write up or provide a treatment plan?

Do you keep track of the decisions and recommendations made for the family?

Note: You would want to make sure the parenting coordinator has a strong personality to deal with your ex and is excellent with managing boundaries.  This means that they will also keep strong boundaries with you as well, so expect that.  They need to have experience in personality disorders – recognizing and dealing with them.

(as you can see, the list can be exhaustive – but can quickly get a flavor for the person’s ability to manage the situation strongly)

Risks of having a co-parenting coordinator or parent coordinator:

1. Face it…each of us comes into what we do with our own personal experience and biases and personalities.  So do the parent coordinators.  That in itself is a risk… they may or may not mesh with you or your ex.  They may or may not be forthcoming in their basic philosophies and beliefs.

2. You may be stuck using one for a long time, depending on the “out” clause you accept (or if you even have a chance to decide, as it may be court assigned).

3. They may not be on your side, or they may be fooled by your ex.

4. They might believe in parental alienation as being a “real” disorder.

5.  You need to have a parent coordinator that will be consistent and have high moral standards for doing what is best for the kids – both with you, your ex and with the court.

6.  The parent coordinator needs to be a strong witness if called to testify in a court hearing.  Note- parent coordinators and other mental health professionals charge the individual who subpoena’s them to court.  They usually have a set charge for spending the day or any amount of time in court.  Weigh whether this fee is worth if for you and have your attorney make sure that they have a good grasp on what the parent coordinator will testify.

Conclusion:  It would be great if there was an easy answer to dealing with personality disordered individuals.  So far, the knowledge of recognizing them, understanding them and their issues on their children is not broad enough.  Parent coordinators, despite their potential mental health training, are generally not any better equipped, and there is no good mechanism to evaluate them.  As much as it would be great to have a parent coordinator be that middle-person to help advocate for the children – don’t count on it.  Look within on how to deal with the situation and follow your instincts.

 

I was always looking outside myself for strength

and confidence but  it comes from within.

It was there all the time.

– Anna Freud

Narcissistic Rage and Children

Apparently, narcissists have no filter when they rage. It doesn’t surprise me, in many ways, but it saddens me in so many other ways.

My children have been complaining of more and more instances of their dad getting extremely mad in his presence. I know him well enough to know that he can react strongly to nearly anything (a lost tv remote results in a string of f-words). Recently, I have been hearing about him calling my children “@ssholes”, “idiots”, and telling them “fu@k you” or “fu@k-it”. It has then been expanded to “Ya know what’s wrong with you? You’re both @ssholes”. The rage isn’t just verbal – there’s swinging arms coming at the head, back, or wherever he can make contact.

My daughter tells me “mom, I don’t even know what an @sshole is!”.

It’s such a tough situation, because I want to directly address it with my ex. However, I know that what will happen is that he will yell at our kids more for telling about it — risking that my kids stop telling me.

My attorney says it ‘doesn’t rise to the level of abuse’. He doesn’t leave bruises (often) and in relation to more severe cases of abuse that CPS hears, it doesn’t raise a lot of eyebrows (unfortunately).
But this type of behavior is, by many people’s definition, abusive. It meets the definition of domestic abuse, and if a woman called the police about her husband hitting her head – she could request a protective order.
So why is it so different in the land of child custody in a divorce – where the child/children should be able to have their other parent protect them?

More on Fear

“Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed.”

– Chinese fortune cooki

“Fear is misdirected energy and must be redirected, or transmuted into Faith.”

– Florence Scovel Shinn, ‘The Game of Life and How to Play It’

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you

– Isaiah 41:13

The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?

– Psalm 27:1

What’s your mantra?

man·tra Listen to audio/ˈmɑ:ntrə, Brit ˈmæntrə/ noun

1 :a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated by someone who is praying or meditating

2 : a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs

3 : In yoga, one’s mantra is usually given by a Guru. But in the absence of a Guru, the individual may choose a mantra that “rings true” to them personally.

4 : Christian mantras can be sections of common prayers, meant to bring about an awareness of God’s loving presence.

Do you have a mantra to take you through the day?  A saying which can true you back to what you believe in, conjure strength for you in the midst of chaos and deep emotion?   While I believe it can change day by day, others believe you choice it for life.  Either way, it’s a very powerful tool to remain centered in the present and on making the best & strongest choices in your life.  Another similar form of this is the “positive affirmation”.

Here’s a few that might work for you, many of which I’ve seen or read elsewhere.  While a mantra can be adopted from elsewhere or uniquely you, it has to really resonate within:

  • Have Faith, Expect Miracles
  • Gratitude = Abundance
  • I love and appreciate myself
  • Support flows to me
  • I release my past and move freely into my future
  • My power is in the present moment
  • My personal power belongs to me
  • My life is what I make of it
  • Only good exists in my life

The cost of divorcing a narcissist

My apologies … this is not the POSITIVE part of my blog.  It’s the ‘realistic, educating others on the impact of narcissism’ part.  There’s also a little ‘faith’ built in that I know that God will provide for us somehow!  🙂

Many of us know first hand the cost incurred when divorcing a narcissist, particularly one who makes it his priority to use attorneys to communicate everything, and all decisions require a court filing.  Now that said,  I know that I live in an area which has a ‘higher than average cost of living”, but nonetheless – this is what the court system, mental health professionals and legal professionals gain when a narcissist enters their “system”.  With the exception of the court system who hopefully isn’t receiving an upside, it’s no wonder that mental health professionals and attorneys don’t really want to ‘call it like it is’ and keep the narcissist at bay!

Let me break it down, to date:

1. In 2007: Amount of child support withheld until I would sign a ‘Property Settlement Agreement’ which he agreed to:  $24,000

Note: My attorney at the time advised there was nothing I could do – he was living in my house and refusing to pay any bills, but since we weren’t actually separated, I couldn’t file for child support yet or get him to pay or kick him out… In retrospect, this attorney cost me much more than what is written here.  She should’ve had me file for a protective order for me and my children and immediate rights to the house because he was physically abusive while holding our infant son.

2. In 2007: MY first attorney’s fees to draw up the ‘Property Settlement Agreement’: $12,000

3. 2007-2009: MY portion of the co-parenting coordinator who was supposed to be helping us facilitate the Property Settlement Agreement, but then lied in court saying that I called my ex a ‘sperm donor’ and that I wanted a custody evaluation.  Truth is – my ex said he doesn’t want to be seen as a ‘sperm donor’ and the coparenting coordinator had recommended to me that I get a custody evaluation.  But hey… what’s a little twist of the story?:  $5000

Please note the good news… my ex sub-poened the parent coordinator and our daughter’s therapist at the time into court.  These folks charge heavily for taking the day off to come to court and testify.  Since my ex was the one who sub-poened them, he was the one who had to pay these fees prior to the day they showed up in court.  Good news is that I didn’t have to pay.  Bad news is that they are available for hire by the opposing party 🙂

4. 2008-2009:  Cost of second attorney, who I procured because my ex filed a lawsuit for custody of our children even after signing the Property Settlement Agreement: $30,000

Note: I fired this attorney at the same time that she quit, because she had a habit of “yelling at” her clients.  She completely didn’t understand domestic abuse, but instead used very similar intimidation and gaslighting tactics herself with her own clients.  Not a good match for someone who was already psychologically beaten down.

5. 2009-present:  Cost of third attorney, to represent me in court for a three day custody trial, despite a property settlement agreement we had both already signed.  This attorney understands domestic abuse and every facet of my life.  Unfortunately, despite arguing a fantastic case, we had a not so good judge and lost at that time.  Note: “at that time”.  I pray I can successfully represent my children’s needs in the future, or that some other means of getting me and my children’s lives back on track miraculously presents itself.  $60,000

Note:  The retainer I paid was $7000.  Retainers are not reflective of the total cost billed….

6. 2009:  My ex’s legal fees (portion), which the judge ordered me to pay:  $11,000

Note: yes, you read that correctly.  The judge ordered me to pay it even though my ex admitted on the stand to having physically hit me while pregnant.

7. 2008-2009:  Cost of a private investigator, as advised by my 2nd attorney to hire on the hope of catching my ex doing something where we could file an “at fault” divorce.  I guess the aspect of domestic violence wasn’t enough ‘at fault’ for her – but I didn’t understand that at the time.    The private investigators didn’t trail him as planned – because he drove to fast and reckless in the brand new divorce present Porsche that he acquired after moving out.:  $10,000

8. 2007-2010:  Therapy & counseling for me to recover & heal from the emotional abuse, as well as to take a ‘play therapy’ class to try to help our son who was severely regressing –  because my ex blocks therapy for our son:  $4,000

9. 2007-present:  Therapy for our daughter – this is my portion (35%), of the cost not covered by health insurance.  My ex hasn’t paid his portion for either of the two therapists we’ve had, and the first therapist took him to a collections agency.  $4,500

10. 2010: The cost to teach our son how to survive should he fall into the pool at my ex’s new house, which did not have a fence around it.  $800.  It’s an infant swim program which teaches aquatic survival to babies as young as 6 months old.  I highly recommend it: www.infantswim.com

11. 2010:  The cost to send a child safety to my ex’s house to do the baby safety proofing, which he ‘agreed’ to let me do if I paid for it, and he didn’t have anything secured to the walls. (yes, that’s right… there are bookcases in the kid’s rooms which are not secured to the walls because he doesn’t want a hole in the wall).  $1500

TOTAL COST (to date)  to stand up for me and my children and assert our boundaries as we learn how to be emotionally strong no matter what (thank you Mastercard, for the priceless commercials): $162,800

Cha-ching!

Why we are lucky

Why are co-parents and children in divorced houses with narcissistic parents LUCKY?

Because we LEFT.  We have time to ourselves to breathe, to regroup, to step back and look at all the tactics that are used against us as exactly that… tactics.  When we were in the environment, it was extremely hard to remain centered or balanced – if not impossible.

Because our children don’t have to be with our ex all the time!  They have that same ‘break’ from the narcissistic pressures.

Because we have the opportunity to provide a NORMAL, healthy, supportive environment for our children to compare/contrast against the narcissistic environment.

Because we can peacefully go to sleep each night and ‘release’ our ex to God – knowing in faith that he will take his back and do what we cannot do because we are human and their victim – love them.  God can give us that break.

Because we can grow strong and become healthy and be an amazing example for our children on how to deal with people like this.

Because we can -eventually- give our children permission to choose to be in contact with their narcissistic parent or to completely disconnect.  That “permission” is something that from what I see – most adult children of narcissists have to come to terms with doing this.  “Permission” by the other parent can help our children come to terms with it faster and release the guilt that may be holding them from doing so.

Because we ROCK.  Seriously… think about it… if you are coparenting with an ex who is narcissist… you are STRONG.  You did it – probably with God’s help (whether you are faithful and believe in it or not, I believe He gave you a helping hand), but nonetheless… YOU DID IT.  You found the strength in you to walk away, take back your power and stand up for yourself.

Happy Sunday!

A Glimpse into MY Ex’s Narcissistic parenting

In an effort to understand more fully what’s going on for my children, I have decided to send with them a recording device.  I hope to catch one of his rages on record – although I don’t believe I can use it in court anyway.  I have recorded previous rages from when we were separated but it wasn’t court admissible in my state regardless.

What I did learn was a little about what my ex is like as a parent.  See, I asked for a divorce from him when I was 3 months pregnant with our second, and our older daughter was only 2 at the time.  He lived in another state for our daughters first year+, so we have very very little shared moments of parenting – and even then it was at a very different stage of our kid’s lives.

There were a couple things that occurred that were fascinating.  The first is that he hadn’t seen our children in a week, and the major thing he wanted to ‘discuss’ was our daughter’s spelling test score with her.  She didn’t know what she made on this particular test yet – and told him so.  He didn’t believe her and kept pelting her with “tell me what you made”, even telling her “you’re lying” when she said she didn’t know.  Now… something to know as well was that the list of words that they had were ridiculous.  They were taken from a book the class was reading and very much above their spelling abilities.  For example – one of the words was (ironically) “suspicious”.   If it weren’t for spell check – even I would get hung up on that word.  Last week before her test – the prep I did with her was simply to ask if she wanted to review them together or not.  She said no, I said “ok” and that was it.  Who cares, really… it’s one second grade spelling test and in the grand scheme of things… she’ll never remember it and it won’t make or break her for college.

However – for her father – it is very important.  He was raised with parents who only ever showed approval by the grades he received.  His entire self-worth was built on his grades.  He is unable to relate to his kids in any true emotionally bonded type of way – only in the same way he knew growing up.  “How did you DO today? What did you ACCOMPLISH?”   Many of us only have our parent’s way of  parenting to use to model for our own – but also many of us filter from our parents what worked, what didn’t, maybe read a parenting book or two, and then make modifications.  I don’t think that narcissists can do this level of comprehending people skills.

The other thing that I noticed in listening to their evening was that there was very little interaction during the long time in the car, which doesn’t surprise me.  My ex isn’t entirely classic ‘narc’.  He’s very introverted and self-absorbed, and in has some antisocial disorder characteristics.   I think interacting with others is a challenge for him.

Another aspect was that my son – who’s five and the youngest – stands up for my daughter.  Both my kids point out that my daughter is the chastised one, and my son is the honored one in their relationships with their father.  I’ve heard my little guy tell his dad “can’t you just say something nice to her?”  (yes … this is from a five year old), but now I’m hearing more times that he’s stepping up and standing up for her.  Interesting – because my daughter protects my son when they are there and looks after him with all her heart and soul.  But at the same time – he stands up for her against the rage of their father.

Lastly, as they were getting out of the car and leaving the recorder in a bag in the car – I heard my ex ask my son “how’s your bum bum feeling?  Is it better?”.  It startled the heck out of me, and I wish I had the rest of what was said.  WHY is my ex asking?  I don’t know, but I do know that our attorneys met that day to discuss getting an psychological evaluation completed for our son, and I know that my son has been returning from my ex for about a year now with a red, irritated anus, sometimes with fissures.   Is my ex guilty as ‘suspected’, and is he worried that the evaluation will show this?

Anyway – my sincere apologies for a long post.  I found the recording interesting – it was great insight into what my kids deal with when they are with their father, and how he is as a parent (individually – not as a generic narcissistic parent).

“You are the light of the world…”

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

A reminder to myself to do the best I can today and let my own light shine before others in the highest and best possible way, with God’s blessing.

Dealing with Narcissists: The Circle of Control

I am not sure who the author of the leadership tool “Circle of Control” actually is so that I can give credit to them.  For this, I apologize.  It is, however, a great tool for life, not just for work and leading others.

The essence of the “Circle of Control” is that it is a target, with a small circle in the middle, and larger circles around it.  The small circle of control, the bullseye in the middle, represents what we are able to directly impact in our lives with our own talent, time, resources, actions.  The next larger circle is the “Circle of Influence”.  It is the area that each of us is able to impact through our own Circle of Control actions but also through others and through others resources.  The last circle around the outside edge brings us farther away from what we can control.  I’ve seen this called the “Circle of Concern” and represent the things in our life that concern us.

The reason I am bringing this up in dealing with a narcissist is that there are certain things we can control and certain things we really can’t.  The best thing we can do is to focus on the things we can do, and if we use our energy in that space – that’s ultimately how we can make a difference.

So, where can I focus my energy to make the most difference in my life when there is a narcissist in it?  My personal belief is that I can focus my energy most on ME.  This is how I can make the most difference to the situation for both me and my kids.   I can focus on:

– becoming as emotionally healthy as possible

– being the best parent I can be for my children (including understanding what they need from me)

– creating the life that I want, instead of dwelling over that which is in my life that I don’t want

This is why I have, for the past couple years, turned my focus inwards.  I’m not perfect at this yet, that’s for sure.  However, I think about what it is that I do that drives my life to be what it is, and what can I do to make it better.  Why did I get into this situation to begin with?  What life lesson did I need to learn? Did I learn it, and can I let it go and move on so that I don’t do it again?

The narcissistic ex in my life falls predominantly in the outer circle – that which I really don’t have any control over.  I may have some influence on him by working with therapists who can make suggestions to him not to curse at our young children, or I may have some influence with the judge when asking for help in finding a better situation so my kids can know their dad but in a protected way.  BUT, I cannot, and will not, ever be able to change the narcissist himself.  That part is his journey in life… not mine.

So for today… I will focus on my Circle of Control and creating & living the life that I want.

 


Empathy, Forgiveness, and Narcissism

Probably the most quintessential characteristic of narcissistic personality disorder is the lack of empathy.

Ironically, it is –to me, anyway– the most important tool I have in dealing with a narcissist, particularly in combination with forgiveness.

For every interaction with my ex, I try to think about where he’s coming from, what’s happening for him and why is he reacting the way he is.  This doesn’t mean he isn’t FULLY responsible for his actions, but it does help me in changing the way I react to him.

For example, narcissists regulate by what’s going on around them, externally.  “Healthy” people regulate internally – they use their core sense of self, morals and experience to determine how to react to their environment.  Narcissists regulate by that environment.  So, when the environment changes around them – they react.

When I learned that, it was like a new breaking dawn.  All of a sudden, so much came clear for me.  I understood why he would rage at me for things that made no sense.  Just recently – he asked me for 2 hours on my Saturday, and I offered we exchange Friday to Saturday nights instead, and he went into shut-down mode.  Why?  Because the environment he knew and what he was asking for… changed.  And he couldn’t handle that.

Using this type of empathy – understanding where he’s coming from and why he’s reacting as he does, helps me to change my reaction to the situation.  My having a deliberate, calculated response helps ME.  It helps me keep my own emotions in check and helps me to get to what I believe will be a better solution for my kids in situations with him.

Forgiveness is also key.  I try to remember that he is a person.  Literally!  How often does he feel like a looming, sucking field of negative energy that is in my life to drain me of everything I have?  Ok… so, yes… he’s actually that too 🙂  But he’s also a person, and there were at least a few decent times in the beginning which made me wind up in a relationship with him — even if those times were really a false portrayal of a self that doesn’t really exist in him 😉

Interestingly, forgiving someone isn’t for that person’s benefit.  It’s for our own benefit.  It’s also important to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make – like getting into a relationship with an abusive person.  When we carry around rage, hate and resentment for others, it harms us.  I truly believe it is a negative energy in our own body and that it eats away at us physically.  We become sick from this emotionally, mentally and physically.  Whenever I feel frustrated with my ex – like clockwork, I get a sinus headache or infection.  At first, I thought it was a fluke.  I now realize that I bring it on when I focus too much on the issues he causes us or the resentment that I feel as a result. Sometimes, I’m even worried about focusing long enough to write a post that I know others may relate to or perhaps learn from my own experience.

So.. ironically, I wasn’t setting out in this article to write about how narcissists are void of empathy and that they are totally unable to forgive and move forward.  Instead, I was looking inward at myself and how these two things matter most to me.

 

Be the best parent

In the midst of the chaos that dealing with a person with a personality disorder brings, it is so easy to be frustrated. I often feel annoyed because it feels like he pushes into our lives even when he is in our lives relatively little.  This past Thursday, he raged  at my kids angrily again, and when that happens, it affects my children’s behavior during the time when they are with me.  My daughter acts out more – becomes more much more defiant – blatantly ignoring known rules.  My son retreats – he just wants to be home all the time and wishes he were back to being an infant who could snuggle in mommy’s lap and breastfeed.  He’s anxious and worried about everything around him.  He also shows me in his actions, what happened – he uses the words that his dad uses “fuk-it!” he yells at his sister, and he backslaps her head with his hand in the same manner she describes her dad doing to her.

It’s difficult not to feel frustrated, but I have to remember that they need, NEED one parent who can remain calm.  They NEED me to parent with empathy.  These are the things that I feel like they need from me the most:

1- Whisper, don’t yell.  Stay calm.  The more hyper and defiant my daughter is, the quieter and calmer I need to be with her.  She responds to my energy – maybe not right away, but eventually.

2- Be empathetic.  Consider why they are behaving the way that they are.  Everyone acts out because of feelings – sometimes we are ’emotionally aware’ and realize why we feel grumpy and short-tempered, and sometimes we don’t – even as adults.  It is hard enough to remember that I am feeling frustrating because he encroaches on our lives.  I need to remember that they have those same feelings going on inside of them – and that their behavior is driven by those feelings.  Look at what they are doing and consider what’s driving it.

3- Enjoy being with them.  Encourage them, love them.  When they need me, I try to respond with loving, open arms.  Give them that consistent, loving environment that they need but aren’t getting with their other parent.

4- Be truthful and consistent.  They don’t need to know every adult thing that goes on, but they need to know that they can trust in you.  I know my ex tells them things about me that don’t make sense to them – like “your mom and I are doing the best thing for you”.  When I hear this phrase “your mom and I”, I boil … because there is no collaboration (because he can’t do it), there is no “unified approach” (because he can’t), and there’s absolutely no communication between us (because he can’t – and I am working on doing ‘limited contact).  My kids need to know that what I tell them is the truth, that there are no secrets, and that they can count on me to be truthful if they have questions.   If it is something that is too young for them to understand – I tell them we will talk about it when they are older and they can understand better.  This brings a sense of calm to them.

5- Exhibit respectful boundaries.  Again … do what my ex cannot do.  Help them to remember what healthy boundaries are and how to respect others and preserve their boundaries.

I’m sure that there is much more – but this is what is coming to my mind when I think about what I need to do for my little loves.  It’s what I try to keep in mind as I am watchful and mindful of myself and my own feelings and emotional development (we’re all growing and evolving, right?).

Namaste.

 

 

‘Gratitude is the open door to abundance’

This is what my Yogi tea told me today 🙂

So, let me count the ways which I am thankful:

1- I have an attorney who understands domestic violence behaviors & tactics, and even personality disorders.  My attorney & my daughters therapist & my ex’s attorney will be meeting to discuss an evaluation for my son.

2- My kids are with me most of the time, and they are being more and more open about what goes on with their dad.

3- I love my kids (seriously!).  They are sweet, and while there is occasional defiance and other behavioral things – they mean well and just like all of us – they try to do their best.

4- I have people cheering me on – from this website, friends, family.  I feel supported.

5- I have a flexible schedule and time to dedicate to what I need to do for my kids.

I’ll stop here for now (although mentally my list is much longer).

In gratitude…. – N

Battle with a Narcissist

This weekend, I had to confront my ex. He has been putting our 5 year old on a horse for lessons without ever speaking to me about whether this is okay (we are supposed to make those decisions jointly). I disagreed when he put our daughter on the horse at that age but didn’t pursue that fight. For my son – I feel he is less developed and anything else that my contribute to a sense of being ‘unsafe’ or ‘not in control’ is risky for him.

So, I decided to attend the horse lesson! It’s our daughter’s lesson, and her brother has only been doing 10 minutes at the end of the lesson.

I let my ex know I would be there only about 15 minutes prior (purposefully, so he couldn’t hide the fact that he was putting our son on the horse).

Here is our delightful text exchange:

—————

Me: Hey – just a heads up. I am going to come by the horse lesson. Haven’t seen her ride in the last 3 weeks, so thought I’d come peak.

Ex: No.

Me: I’ve given you an open invitation and you’ve exercised it every time you can, yet you’re telling me no?

Ex: Correct.
—————

Wee hee!! Thank you for the evidence, dearest Ex, that you are interfering with my relationship with my children (unlike many narcissists out there – my ex has learned to make sure that stuff doesn’t go in writing/go to court).

The downside was that the ex was VERY combative once I was there – repeatedly saying how I can’t be there. He also told me (all this in front of kids) that he would ‘withhold brownies for our daughter in return. Is that the game I need to play?”. He barked at our son that he had to be near Ex because it was “Daddy time”.   He also specifically bent down to our son and told him “Sorry, but you’re mom says you’re not allowed to ride on the horse today”. And the other downside… our daughter was scared that when the ex disappeared to his car, he was calling the police, the judge or the court.

Upside… when our son was told that he couldn’t ride – he got upset, but he didn’t run to the permissive parent for consolation – he ran to me even though I was the one stopping the horseback riding. He later told me it was a good thing that I came to the lesson and he was glad I was there.

Other upside – my daughter also looked to me for consolation and security. Both of these aspects show we have a very solid relationship. Their dad was walking around pelting mean words to me, but me and the kids were staying pretty strong emotionally.
The other upside is that ‘I did it’. I stood up to him and asserted what I thought would be best for the kids. The lesson instructor said she wouldn’t put him on the horse without my permission (although I’m not sure I believe it as she has a lot of her own issues from growing up with abusive parents, and since her dad was mostly absent – she’s thrilled my ex is involved and cannot recognize the cost of that).

Happy Monday to all!

What goes on at Daddy’s house

My children have been hesitant to say what’s happening at their father’s house, opening up gradually to me and my daughter’s therapist as they grow trust that they can tell without it being conveyed to their father.  I’ve often wondered what’s going on that causes their stressed behavior and continual protest in having to spend time with him.  They’ve given me bits and pieces and clues, but nothing forthright.  The other day, I wrote a child’s story book in an app on the ipad.  It was a story of a little girl and her brother and what happened when they told what happened with their dad.   We read it together and they giggled at how much they were like the two characters (duh!).  I wanted them to know that they would be safe too.  Then a few days later, I chose the approach of writing down a list of things that might be going on, in a check the box format for them.  They were very engaged in the conversation, and added more detail as they were going through.  It worked well, as it was indirect and less pressure than being asked directly about something.

Here’s the statements they were given and how they answered them:

When I’m at my dad’s house:

√ my dad yells (“check”)
√ my dad yells so loud it is scary (“check”)
√ I am afraid he will hurt me (“check”)
√ I am not always sure why he is yelling (“check”)
√ my dad spanks (“check”)
√ … spanks so hard it hurts for a long time (“check” – enthusiastically said)
√ … not sure when you will get spanked (“check”)
√  … leaves a bruise from spanking “(sometimes”)
√  … squeezes arms or legs or hands HARD (my 5 year old son: “all of them”; my 8 year old daughter: “yes” – both adamant answers)
√  … squeezes so hard it hurts for a long time (both kids separately answered with a strong “yes”)
√ …. squeezes so hard there’s a bruise or finger marks left there (check, my daughter said “Yes” with head bobbing)
• grabs ears (“not really”)
• pinches (sometimes he pinches when he squeezes but not because he means to pinch)
• pulls hair (no)
• Hits other parts of my body:
√  head (check)
• face (no)
√  back (check)
√  has squeezed my neck and choked me (“every once in a while”)
√  my dad has done other things I feel uncomfortable about (“check”, but they didn’t elaborate)
√ drinks wine or grown up drinks when I am there – A LOT (“check” – enthusiastically) (and my son says: “and cooks grown up food” – because he won’t let them eat ‘kid food’)
√ drives scary when he is mad (check. “and sometimes will also smash on the car”,  imitating a punching hand into the steering wheel)
• calls me names (no)  (note – during other times she has said he calls her a jerk or “fucking” when he is mad, but I think she realizes that this isn’t name calling – she also says ‘he says I look like a jerk’)
•  says mean things about me (no) or my brother (“no., but he does about you, Mom”)
√  my dad tells me that things that happen with him are private (“a little”)
√ I wish I could sleep in my brother’s room (adamant “yes”, and “I have been sneaking in there, but then while I am sleeping, Daddy moves me back to my bed)
√  Nana has done things which make me feel uncomfortable (check.  examples: verbally disregards what I believe in or what I tell her i think is important.  Speaks badly about my mom)
√  Papa has done things that make me feel uncomfortable (check. same as how Nana does) — I asked these because of the picture she drew of Papa naked with a penis, and because I know that my ex’s parents are abusive
√  I don’t want to get my Dad in trouble by telling about what happens (“true and also not true”)
√  What is more important… (a) that I don’t get my dad in trouble, or (b) that me and my brother are safe and happy. (My daughter said: “That my brother and I are safe”.  My son added “and we never get lost”)

They then shared a story about a time when they “weren’t staying close to daddy in a wine store, and we got lost from him.  We were looking for him and he was looking for us”.