What can we do to help our children

I’ve been thinking about this, and am researching it as well.   At this point in time, with the information I have so far, I think that the most important thing we can do is to show our children what normal, healthy, quality relationships and interactions look like.  What is respect, what are boundaries, what does it mean to care about or for someone without taking on their issues?  What does bullying look like (in all forms), what controlling behavior is, and how to be resistant to this type of behavior from other people.

Our school system has been stressing the importance of not using any type of bullying behavior.  I’m so thrilled to see this – as I think it can make a big difference on the next generation.  Even if there is bullying at home, the kids can recognize it for what it is through what they learn at school.  My daughter even brought home a worksheet that was titled “do you bully yourself?”.  Awesome!  It discussed whether the child did any negative self-talk, or did they use “I can do it” language and encourage themselves throughout the day.

Since my kids are little, we are still at very young concepts on bullying – but I certainly try to ask the questions to help them recognize the behavior that they deal with for what it is, and to encourage the fact that they don’t need to feel sorry for or feel guilty when interacting with their dad or their extended family on his side.

I’m thrilled that they are getting information at school too and that this helps to reinforce what I am teaching them!  Woo – hoo!!

Just a thought… if you’re school system isn’t doing these same things… consider talking with the PTA, the principal or the school counselor to see what can be done to boost the anti-bullying education and policies.  There has certainly been enough terrible results from bullying evident in school massacres and such to support it beyond just saying that it would be good for the kids to learn.  It’s a great thing that things aren’t the same as when we were growing up and that we’re getting smarter as a society!!

“It is only when you exercise your right to choose that you can also exercise your right to change.”

-Dr. Shad Helmstetter

I am so glad that I am not my ex

Think about it… aren’t you glad you aren’t your ex as well?

I do have a lot of sympathy for him.  I can only imagine that his childhood must have been really, really difficult to wind up with the issues that he has to deal with in life.  To be highly narcissistic must be particularly painful inside.  I remember countless conversations with me Ex when we were together discussing where happiness comes from and how to have it.  I tried to explain – I’m happy INSIDE.  It doesn’t matter if the lights are on or off, if I have money or I don’t, if it’s rainy or sunny, or if it’s cold or warm outside.  I’m happy inside and content.  He had NO idea what that felt like.  He looks for his happiness outside himself – which is why having money (a way his parents measure his success) and a big house and a nice car, etc – seems so important to him.  But as the hallmark card says… money doesn’t buy happiness.  My ex doesn’t remember much of his childhood, except that it was cold, dark and hungry.  Seriously!!  This is what he’s recounted to me many times.  Given what I know of his parents – I’m sure there was some form of abuse that occurred.  Maybe emotional via anger and hatred, maybe physical as a means of controlling him.  Nonetheless – he still is looking for their approval even as an adult.  Even in the women he looks to marry, he wants to marry someone just like his mother (I didn’t fit that mold :).  He literally looks for someone who dyes their hair blonde and is far older than him!  (He wanted me to dye my hair blonde.  I wouldn’t… it wouldn’t match my skin color and I would look silly, I’m sure).

Anyway… my point is that when you’re dealing with your ex – include a small amount of empathy.  Empathy with a “barrier”.  In other words… consider where they are coming from and the sad way in which they’ve been taught to deal with life.  BUT you don’t have to feel sorry for them or fix them or hand over your personal power, or feel guilt for them.  Put up a barrier on that part!!  Consider where they are coming from in order to figure out how to interact with them in the best way possible, but other than that consider that their issues are THEIR issues.  I hope that makes sense.

I’m glad I am who I am.   I had a really happy childhood, have more and more self-awareness and self-understanding, and on a daily basis … I’m happy.  And he can’t take that from me 🙂

Happy weekend!

PEACE in my ex’s presence

My ex came by my daughter’s lesson today to watch.   It was a wonderful day… it didn’t bother me whatsoever.  I didn’t care that he was there, I didn’t really acknowledge him (we’re the only ones there, it’s not like there are other parents or people to diffuse things).

It’s not that I was peaceful/aka happy he was there, per se.  It really had more to do with the fact that I felt peaceful and happy inside before, during and after he was in our presence.  I had no emotional reaction to his presence.

That felt like a major accomplishment worth acknowledging!

Now… I have to say that I find it curious, interesting and also sad that my kids basically avoid him, whereas in an opposite situation where he has them and I show up — then they are glued to me and thoroughly excited to see me.  Today, my little one still stayed by my side and requested my attention and company… not going over to his father.  My son was caught nearby his dad for a moment right before we were leaving and my ex engaged him in play for about 5 minutes.  My little guy then finds me and requests that I put him in the car.  I didn’t ask why, but I think it was so he could feel he was securely leaving there with me.

Anyway… back to celebrating!  My bubble and the peace within was working today and it was soooo joyous!!

“Mom, can we go back to before I was born and pick out a new dad for me?”

This is what my daughter asked me the other night, in the middle of screaming tears…. “Mom, can we go back to before I was born and pick out a new dad for me?”

Do narcissist parents impact their parents?  You bet they do.  That’s why there are books out there for adults who are trying to heal from growing up with narcissistic or personality disordered parents!!

So what do I say to her?  She was a mess… so I held her, tried to calm her, told her that changing her dad in that way would change her and that I wanted her just as she was.  Told her to please not lose faith in God to fix our lives for the better.

We’ve taken to doing a simple act together that has profound effect on my daughter.  We stand facing each other, hold hands together.  We imagine that my ex/her father is sitting on our arms.  We then throw him upwards to the heavens and “release” him to God.  “God… he’s your’s, take him and make it so our situation is better – you decide how or in what way because we’ve released him to you”.

When Ido this with her, I can literally feel her energy lighten and feel her become happier and more peaceful.

Example of “communicating” with a narcissist “effectively”

Recently, with both my kids in turmoil and feeling frustration that they have to see their Dad, my daughter’s awesome therapist suggested that I try to see them every day that they are at their father’s.  She said that even if it’s for a very short time, it should help (especially for my five year old) because he can keep in mind that “I’ll see Mommy tomorrow”.

So the last weekend they were there, I put the idea out to my ex, via email.  I asked the therapist first if she would back me if I say that it is something she recommends (note to those of you in custody battles…. this is learned over the years.  I asked her in text because she prefers it over email, and I have all my texts sent via “backup to gmail” to my gmail account.  It’s a wonderful app that can be downloaded on android phones).  The therapist said yes.  My ex said “the schedule is the schedule” and that he wasn’t about to let me see them.

Another important thing to note is that I really impressed on him how I was offering for him to chose the best way to do so, and that we could make it win-win for him by giving him time to do something he needed to do for work.

Ironically, within a few minutes later and in the same stream of email as “the schedule is the schedule”, he offers to me to take the kids on Saturday to a birthday party for my daughters friend and return them to him.  This was the idea I threw out to him which had the longest time period to it.  In exchange, he wanted to be present for an hour the following weekend, and to switch his evening time period the next week.  He ignored my request for seeing them on Sunday.

“Sure” I tell him.  Done.  When I saw my kids on Saturday, they tell me how their dad was adamant that “mommy is not allowed” to see them on Sunday.  They are sulking and upset.  I say “I’ll see what I can do” and that I need to think through whether I can do it without making him too mad.  Here’s what I did.

On Sunday morning (I wanted to see them at an event, with him present, at noon), I sent my ex a text which said that I wanted to go to my daughter’s class to see them.  I then actually said in parenthesis that I didn’t actually want to have to drive all the way out there, but the kids wanted me to and I didn’t want them to resent their Dad.    I didn’t actually explain that they ALREADY resent him 🙂

My reasoning… is that it gave him perfect ample time to respond in a blasphemous way.  Now … since we have already been through court and a million calls to the police, and even help from the police to retrieve my kids when he wouldn’t return them… EVEN though NONE of this has had a repercussion on him … he’s gotten smart enough to know that he needs to be careful how he words things in email.

So what happened was that I saw my kiddos – and my son’s face absolutely LIGHT UP when he saw me telling me how excited he was to see me.  (so worth the drive! :).  And my ex said nothing.  We actually wound up having a slight conversation about my daughter not doing well… which can be an interesting post for another day.

Whooo-hoo!

 

The importance of “the bubble”

This is something I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, and something I use with my kids regularly.   It’s good for adults, and for kids.  It is taken from various things that I’ve heard or read – some from law of attraction.  It’s a great tool.

Here’s the deal…  when you are interacting with someone else, think of yourself as having an impenetrable clear bubble around you.  Whatever is in this bubble is your world.  You get to say what comes into this bubble and what doesn’t.  You can imagine it full of rainbow colors and happy thoughts if you want. 🙂

Now, imagine that you’re chatting with someone else.  They are furious.  They are raging about something.  It doesn’t matter what, really, but they’re yelling.    This is important… THAT is their experience, not your’s.   What’s going on in their life at that moment is THEIRS.  It doesn’t have to enter your rainbow colored happy blissful bubble unless you let it.    You can observe.  You can empathize.  You can console them.  You can do all this from inside the realm of your happy place and not let it permeate you.

My daughter, who is almost 8, is working on this.  She has almost no bubble naturally.   She is VERY sensitive to ANYTHING going on around her and absorbs any negative energy in the room.  This means that anything that is going on with my ex, or even with me, will get to her.   For example… if I am stressed because we’re late and spinning out the door like a tazmanian devil on cocaine… she melts down.  She sees it entirely as a reflection of herself and totally personal.   Now… I’m normally happy and upbeat.  Resilient.  BUT I’m human!!  There are times when I’m frustrated, and it has nothing to do with her, but I have to be very careful around her because her bubble is only barely formed.  I explain to her that my frustration about the situation is my experience and doesn’t need to be her’s.  She can ignore me completely.  She can stay happy inside if she wants.

Another example with my daughter… she is very susceptible to name calling.  Even if something is said in lovingness – like “you silly kid!”.   So… I tried an example with her and tried to teach her that it doesn’t matter what someone SAYS, that it doesn’t make it true of her.  I called her a “pink pillow!!”.  She bawled.  I asked her to look at herself.  She did.  “Are you a pink pillow?”  I ask.  “No” she sobs.

And that is where the bubble theory started….   when I realized that she needed more to deal and cope with life.   She needs to develop harder boundaries with the world.   So, we are working on it – and hopefully this theory can help you all too.

After all… it does for me, and I use it when interacting with my ex all the time 🙂

 

Parent Coordinators and Narcissism or Personality Disordered Ex’s

In my humble opinion, the role of a parent coordinator is perfect for two normal people who want to work together but have to learn how to after having been hurt from their marriage falling apart, but just don’t know how to do so.  It’s great for those ex-couples who have to figure out how to do it together but need an extra hand because their styles are so different.

Unfortunately, those who are normal but hurting usually and realistically don’t need a parent coordinator.  They love their kids and will work together to do what is right for them.  They might not be able to converse well for a while, but over time it settles out and things move on.

In my opinion, most parent coordinators are ill-equipped to handle parents with personality disorders.  Despite the fact that they SHOULD be coming from a psychology background and SHOULD have experience with it… they either don’t have that experience, or they don’t have the personality themselves to deal with nasty, combative, personality-disordered abusers (oh, and did I mentioned that they can fool the pants off anyone anyway?).  OR… here’s the other truly possible case… that the parent coordinator is personality disordered themselves.

What I can offer that in my own experience, it didn’t pan out at all well.  The parent coordinator that we had was very helpful to ME as long as we were not near a court situation.  He acknowledged that my ex had issues and told me the names (strong narcissist, definitely borderline, likely bi-polar).  This actually helped me tremendously in that I then learned about the issues.  He didn’t diagnose, however, so it didn’t ever help in court.  He originally helped me try to get what I needed from my ex for our separation agreement, and in understanding how to parent our kids.  He was fooled, though, by my ex who put on a good show about being comfortable with the kids.  I also learned that this parent coordinator had his own narcissistic father, which is what drove him into the profession.  I also learned over time, that this parent coordinator was highly narcissistic himself.

The sad thing is – when we reached court and he testified… he lied beyond belief about me, and even about consulting our daughter’s therapist (he said he did, but he didn’t).  As a matter of fact, at the point in time that he found out that my ex was suing for custody… he actually turned a complete 180 degrees.  It was completely un-nerving, and to this day is something that I don’t want to remember.  I do remember asking my lawyer about it and learning that he had done this same thing to many other people.  I asked why they didn’t file complaints or do something to warn others.  She said “I don’t know”.  And here I am in the position myself where I haven’t warned others.  Why?  Because I can’t bear to think through it, and because if we go to court again, it will be used against me to have filed a complaint against his license since he didn’t testify in my favor.

This parent coordinator was eventually court-ordered after trial to remain our parent coordinator.  It took months of careful ‘influencing’ that he needed to resign, and a victory dance on the day he did six months after court.

After that first parent coordinator resigned, I called about 25 parent coordinators in the metro area in which I live in to see if I could find one that would work for our situation.  MOST of them wouldn’t begin to consider handling a case which is possibly considered “high conflict”, or even a “contested custody or visitation” case.  (by the way… I am not exaggerating the number I called).  Some of them clearly had issues themselves.  One parent coordinator was the BIGGEST ASSHOLE I have ever spoken to, and it was easy to see that there is no way that I would go near them.  However… they had a reputation, and this was exactly WHY I called… to poison the waters so that my ex would say that we couldn’t use that person because I had already biased them 🙂

Another parent coordinator that I spoke with had an ego the size of Texas.  I was put through the ringer to even have the privileged of speaking with him for a few minutes to ask questions.  (again, this was someone I was intentionally ruling out).

There was another who I have to say I enjoyed speaking with – simply because it was reinforcing to me that I had healed and grew stronger.  This was the guy who authored the video that the court system requires every divorcing couple to watch before their court day.  This was the guy who charges $30k for a custody evaluation.  So why was it fun?   I messed with his ego… I asked him that if he wasn’t available to take our case, who would he recommend?  He stammered… and then asked “you’re asking me to name my competitors?”  I said “sure”… “it’s commonplace in many professions to rate your peers”.   He couldn’t do it.  I chuckled inside as I thanked him and hung up.  Narcissist.

In the end I found only two that I would possibly go near.  One sounded phenomenal.  He seemed to really grasp that he needed to see if one or both of the parents had a personality disorder, and he required regular routine check-ins with the court.  He said he found that this was the only way to drive accountability with someone who has issues.  What eventually happened is that we had him assigned as our parent coordinator – and after that he refused to answer or return any phone calls.  My only guess is that he wanted to see if we would be a good match with him before having us sign a contract to use him, and we thwarted that process by having the court assign him.

So… in the long run, we didn’t wind up using another.  It was difficult at first since there is a desire to have someone buffer me from my ex, and there is hope to build a case with a professional who would accurately testify.  What I think it did do was lower our communication further, and therefore help to diffuse my ex.  I think that the key to this was that because my ex’s narcissism is soooo high, that he saw the conversations with the parent coordinator as “being on trial” and having someone “tell me how to live my f-ing life”.    This was hurtful to my ex in a way that I can never understand, as I don’t have the same sensitivity to “criticism” or “perceived criticism”.    So, for us… this has been a decent plan and one that I could elect to use as leverage if needed, but not a route I plan to use unless really necessary.

Please see my other posting on the ‘defined’ role of parenting coordinator.

Learning about Narcissism, Pathology and Personality Disorders at a YOUNG age

A few of the things that I think are blessings in disguise in the situation of having to co-parent with a narcissist are:

1.  My children will learn how to recognize personality disordered individuals early through experience.  I firmly believe that we are all born with a fairly high level of intuition, and that it degrades over time as we use brains and reasoning over intuition.  I hope to be able to keep my children’s intuition in tact.  I ask them regularly how they felt about something.  I ask them to “tummy check” things.  Does it feel like a red flag?  Did it feel good when their dad said that, for example?  (ever notice that sometimes, oftentimes, the awful degrading comment is said in disguise?  “oh, your mom is sooo good about making cakes from a cake mix!  Aren’t they wonderful??”).  So I ask my kids… did it FEEL good to hear that?  Does it FEEL good to be around that person? I ask that about various people – adults and children that show up in their lives.  Heed the little red flag in our stomachs.  When something doesn’t feel right… it probably isn’t.

I also let them point out and discover what doesn’t work about their relationship with their dad, and then affirm what they observe.  It’s not the same as putting down or degrading my ex.  It’s like this… my son says “I like kid food. Daddy only makes grown up food, and I hate the grown up food that he makes!!  He doesn’t care about what we like to eat.”  I don’t deny that this is how my son feels, because it is what he is observing and feeling about his dad.  If I deny it and try to tell him it’s all okay, then I’m literally lowering his level of emotional intelligence (see my books section for one by Daniel Gotman).  If I confirm how he feels.. “wow. you’ve noticed that your dad only makes grown up food and you really don’t like it.  I’m sorry that is what is happening.”.  Now, he’s felt EMPATHY (something my ex cannot provide) and CONFIRMATION that he read the situation correctly.  And… I didn’t have to say anything – they figured it out themselves.

2. My children will learn early on that not everyone can be TRUSTED and that they need to pay close attention to that.  This stems from a sad story… one which I really which my daughter didn’t have to learn this early.  Here’s what happened… I left her stay home from school one day.  She had been sad, despondent, crying a lot, having great difficulty focusing on homework.  They spent their winter break at their Dad’s, and she really took notice this year about how she felt he took that time from her.  Even her teacher said that she seemed out of sorts.

For anyone here reading this… you know that this is a breading ground for a major issue.  And silly me.. I simply forgot to tell my daughter that she probably shouldn’t mention to her ivy-league dad that she missed a day of school.  So… she did.  She tells me how she was a ‘chatterbox” with him the other night (nervous talking maybe?) and that she shared with him how she stayed home from school, and all the funny/awesome things we did that day, etc etc.  Gulp.  So I told her… flat out and honestly… Daddy gets mad at me for almost everything.  I wish that she could share things like that with him and it wouldn’t matter, but with him… it does.  It’s the kind of thing that he will use to say that I’m a bad mom, and that they shouldn’t be with me because I don’t do a good job taking them to school.

Since she is aware of us going to court and a judge deciding how they have to spend their time, it is okay to say this as she (unfortunately) has the context to understand it.    She then says “But here’s the thing, Mom… Daddy was being so nice!! When I bowled a spare, he said I was great!!.  When I spilled my drink by accident, he said it was okay., etc etc.”.

“Yes, honey, I’m sure he was being nice!  He was happy because you were telling him things that he could use to get me in trouble!”  I then had to explain that it was a hard lesson for me to understand as an grown up… but sometimes people use what you say against you, and you can’t just trust everyone even if they seem like they are being nice.

So, in short… I hope and I pray that my kids will know, without question… when to trust, when not to trust, and what the face of pathology looks and feels like.  And they will be all the smarter as a result.

 

Do sociopaths, psychopaths or narcissists ever move on?

I am at a loss for this one part of dealing with my ex, and haven’t found much information on it – but what I found I will share in a moment.

The piece that I am at a loss for is that my ex still has not stopped trying to get me to be back together with him.  It has been five and 1/2 years since I said I wanted a divorce.  He has consistently told people that it was me that wanted the divorce, that he still wants to be with me, etc etc.  He has told this to counselors, therapists, friends, strangers and even our children.  “It’s mommy that’s doing this.  It’s her fault we are apart and you have to go back and forth”.  Most kids can adjust to divorce when they are in a normal divorced family.  When this is what you hear… adjusting doesn’t occur.

So why?  He has said this in one breath and cursed me to no end in another breath.  He literally hit on me continually through until August 2009, when we had a court date scheduled for November 2009 – initiated by him to sue me for custody.  He stopped then because he found someone new – who he immediately said that he was planning to marry and she would be moving in within months (uh… warning sign of an abuser).  When that relationship went south, he returned to seeing if I would take him back.

I don’t have an answer as to what causes this, other than it is likely related to the borderline component of a personality disorder, and the fear of being alone.  He clings because I was the one that showed him love and the most likely prospect he had to being in a loving family the way he wanted (regardless of the fact that he didn’t treat me that way).

I often feel like it is something within me that attracts him to me, and want to rip it out of my body.  This is another topic … one I am exploring about our “energy” and whether there is any validity to it and whether I can actually heal myself and therefore not attract him into my life.

Here is what I have learned.  It is a danger sign.  It is a factor used to consider the dangerousness of someone who is pathological.  The stronger they hold on, the more messed up they are and the more likely they are to explode one day.   There are two sources for this:

1. Gavin de Becker’s Mosaic Threat Assessment System:  https://www.mosaicmethod.com/

The ability of a person to move in is a factor in this assessment.  It’s free… take it if you can online and then print out the results and give it to a friend as part of a safety plan.

2. Sandra Brown’s Institute for Relational Harm Reduction:  http://saferelationshipsmagazine.com/

I think that this is the best group going for trying to get the word out on the impact of dealing with a pathological person.  If you think that you are at risk, contact Susan Murphy-Milano, and work on a video with her.  Unfortunately, it targets providing proof should anything ever happen to you… but at the same time it could be great protection for your child/children.

If anyone who happens to pass by knows of anything more on understanding this component or what to do with it… please leave a comment!

I have to admit…

I try my best to stay positive.  I try my best to have faith.  I do firmly believe that God will change our situation and hear my prayers and my children’s prayers.

We are two years into this, and inevitably, I leave them for the weekends (especially in the case of a long weekend like this), and sadness fills my heart and soul.

I firmly believe I wouldn’t feel that way if I were exchanging them with a normal person where the marriage just didn’t work out.  It’s not, though, and they know it too.  My daughter whispered in my ear several times how she didn’t want to go.  My son did too.  I said repeatedly “I know, baby.  I know.  Keep praying.  God is going to show us the way out of this.”   I’ve given up on acting like I want them to go – it’s not truthful or honest.

My son was so worried that he wouldn’t remove his hand from in my shirt and his thumb from his mouth all day.  He is five now.  I asked his sister if she would sleep with him tonight.  She said “yes, but I will have to be sneaky”.  Huh?  “Dad will get mad… he wants us to sleep alone.” she explains.  She reassures me that she can pull it off.  My son relaxes at least a little.

Yesterday, they only went for three hours in the evening, and upon walking in the door, my little guy says “I missed you, Mom.”

My heart hurts to hear this and not be able to do anything about it.

I feel horrible that maybe I made the wrong choice… I just recently pushed my ex to “switch” weekends so I could have memorial day and labor day weekends this year (he’s had them the past two years) and so it would avoid three weekends in a row with him at another time of the year.  What it means, though, is that they have this three day weekend, and then potentially another four day weekend with him coming up.  Maybe I should have risked court action in February instead of now?

And yes… literally… he had them through the winter break, then wanted them the following weekend, saying it was his weekend.  His email was threatening to me, and to his attorney he wrote that he wanted to “prosecute to the fullest extent”.  All I did was say that it was my weekend and we were alternating from there.  It was what I thought was my best chance to switch things.

But yet… it’s not considered threatening because he has learned to be very covert in his emails by now.  He writes kind words, then writes in a sentence saying he will “escalate” the issue, then more kind words.  I can’t do anything with it from a protective order standpoint.

Anyway, I’m rambling, but I thought it might be good to know that I’m normal and that my heart – like all of yours – is torn out of my chest sometimes.   I will now go and pray for peace in my heart, faith that my children’s angel’s “force field” keeps them safe, and that the next three days goes quickly.  I will literally ask God to take these feelings of fear and sadness and the burden I feel from me, so I can go free.  I will remember and be thankful for the fact that they are with me most of the time.  I will remember and be thankful for the awesome connection that I have with them.

And I will focus on what I can do to make our lives wonderful, happy and filled with love.  To see and BE the change I want to see in the world.

I just had to do it

My purpose of this blog is to stay positive and

share the journey of healing where I’ve found

that I can find peace no matter what.

So I ask myself… should I really post this picture?

Oh sure, what the heck…. laughter is such great medicine!

I won’t say anything with it, just that it reminds me of

narcissists in general 🙂

 

The importance of being assertive with a narcissist

When I first started the divorce process, we saw a marriage counselor.  Shortly after, we were using counselor for our daughter and a parenting  coordinator– as suggested by my attorney.  Both of these “professionals” suggested in our pre-court environment that I needed to stand up against him.  They said I needed to be more assertive, and to demand respect, and that the more I did that – the more he would back down against me.

At the time, I heard them and understood what they meant, but putting it into practice was a whole ‘nuther story.  After all, my ex wasn’t just “assertive”… he was aggressive, bullying, terror-inducing, and a self-proclaimed walking time bomb who would occasionally remind me that he thought he would lose it one day the same way as a suicidal gun-man in a McDonald’s.   Assertive?  Really??  How can I possibly do that when I have to consider that I am PREGNANT and also have a 2 year old in my care??

Later in the process, when it became closer to court and my ex had more time to spin his story and garner their sympathy that I was an awful ex who withheld his child from him — they stopped giving that advice and even turned their stories to what I should do to try try try to calm him down so that he didn’t keep being so aggressive towards me.

Now, years later and a whole lot of healing and emotional work completed, I understand better and can execute it more.  However, I still choose the battles in which I will be assertive so that he doesn’t think I care about most things and won’t battle me on them.

I am also working on giving my kids the words that they can say to help themselves without me, and they can learn in the long run to recognize someone like my ex and not be intimidated.  This is SO MUCH easier said than done!

I also am keenly aware that I need to exhibit the behaviors that I expect of them.  This means that when my ex starts to go ballistic in front of the kids or even just to get angry or bullying – that I call him on the behavior immediately.  Literally.  For e.g. – one way he tries to be controlling is that when we exchange the kids, he tells me that I can’t walk them to his car or get them buckled in.  I simply look directly at him (or admittedly sometimes I don’t), and say “stop bullying“.  period.  He sometimes responds with “I’m not bullying, stop your bullshit” or something to that affect.  I will respond, “yes, you are, and you need to treat me respectfully – in particular in front of our children”.  And then I won’t engage further.  He can talk, but I turn my attention happily to my kids and get them tucked into the car.

The words I use are issued WITHOUT EMOTION.  I don’t raise my voice at all.  It is said calmly and as matter-0f-fact as “the trees are green”.  I’ve found it to be pretty effective.  I’ve done this via text too, and then found when we met up with him shortly after the text exchange that he was congenial and (ha ha) “kind”.

More thoughts later on this topic, as I do feel it’s important – as well as the ability to interact with my ex without emotion (very important!).

 

 

Holidays and narcissism

AAGGGG!!!  They all lose it around holidays, birthdays and special events.. don’t they?

There are definite times of year when I feel more tension and worry about what’s going to transpire and how it’s going to go than others.

The holidays is one of those.  My ex is always amp-ed up, and I want to make sure my kids have a good time no matter what crap is going on with him.

Here’s some suggestions on what I’ve found can help, and how to work around it:

1.  Any day and every day is a holiday.

If you’re christian, yes… Jesus was born on December 25th.  BUT.. that’s not to say that you can’t declare another day to be Christmas for your family.

The first year that my kids spent Christmas away – they were old enough to know the calendar and understand what was happening.  They were distraught with it, so I had to come up with a way to help them cope and deal.  So… we moved Christmas 🙂

I waited until their last visitation time with their dad prior to Christmas, then left a note from Santa on our door the next day, asking us if it would be okay for him to leave our presents at our house early – as he had a full schedule on Christmas Eve anyway, and he knew that it was more fun not to wait.

They were ecstatic!! So, that Saturday morning, we woke up to a pile of presents!  We stayed in our pajamas all day, cancelled all plans, ate festively, went to church that night to celebrate Jesus’ birthday early.  It felt like Christmas in every sense of the word.

And the next week, when it was 12/25 – They opened presents at their Dad’s which were presents that their Dad liked rather than presents that they wanted (he is narcissistic, right?  and the very definition of that is that he can’t see past himself… so of course all the toys are the toys that he had as a kid and liked!).  However … it didn’t quite matter to them, because they knew that they would return home the next day to a wonderful, loving environment filled with the real stuff that they asked Santa for Christmas.

Now.. how did I explain that away?  Well… Santa is only allowed to bring what the parents give permission for him to bring, right?  I mean… right???  So, their dad must have told Santa to bring those gifts that were there – and mom didn’t change their list from what they really wanted!

2. Remember that different teams of elves wrap up the gifts for each house.

Christmas can seem disconnected for children who’s parents don’t work together or communicate whatsoever.  So how is that explained?  Here’s what I tell them … Santa has teams of elves that wrap up presents for each house.  The elves do all the prep, and they can do it whatever way that they like, as long as it is okay with the parent(s) at the house.  So… each house gets things differently.  That means that their friends get things different, and so does each house in their family as well.

So far, this is working quite well.

3. Make your holiday be what YOU want.

Don’t feel pressured to change what you do or compete against the other side.  Your values that you want to instill often come into play during the holidays.  Making sure your kids get the right amount of gifts (not too little, not too much) can be one of those values.  It is for me – and so I make sure that they get the stuff that they care about the most, but that they don’t get too much.

Happiness is in the heart – not in what you have or what you don’t have.

And that’s what I stress to them.  So even if they are getting a ridiculous amount of present’s at their dad’s house… who cares?  What matters most is that they feel loved, taken care of, nurtured and respected.  Chances are, if you’re co-parenting with a narcissist… they are getting their needs met with YOU and not your ex.  And trust me… they know that, and they like it that you have boundaries and rules and morals and values.  They need it from you – and especially because they aren’t going to get it from the other side.

4. Pick your battles.

Choose carefully.  Is there a reason to argue certain things?  The less you let your ex affect you – the better off YOU are, and the better off your kids are.  It’s also a great example for them on how to not let their parent bother them.  In another article, I will cover the “bubble” theory in more detail, as I think it is important.  It works for you and your kids.   Imagine a protective bubble around you.  Inside your bubble is happiness and bliss.  It is your experience in life, and you design it.

Imagine that your ex also has an experience bubble around him.  It may be unhappy, desolate, filled with fury and discontent.

Who cares?  That’s his experience.   It doesn’t have to be yours unless you let it.  You can let it bump up against the outside of your bubble and go away again.  You don’t have to let it in.

Choosing your battle is a part of this.  What do you want to deal with and what can you let go of?  What alternate ways can you deal with the holidays?  His bubble is amped up with anxiety… but do we have to let that into our bubbles?

5. Christmas/holiday strategy number #2:  OVER-DO IT ALL.

Yep, you read that right.  Do so much Christmas stuff that you AND your kids are so DONE from Christmas that they can’t stand any more of it by the time that Christmas comes around.

Heck… put up your tree in OCTOBER.  Give Christmas cookies to the whole world throughout NOVEMBER.  Volunteer in every Christmas or holiday activity on earth for months before Christmas.

Then, by the time Christmas rolls around… it’s truly a non-event for you and your kids… and whatever your ex does, no matter how crazy he gets … who cares??

Are you Jewish?  No problem… have the eight days of lights be sixteen or twenty, and schedule them on the calendar for the days that work the best for you!!

 

In conclusion… my biggest take away is to remember that there are other ways to handle it all.  There are ways to find joy in your life despite the challenges that your ex brings.  There are ways to give your kids the life you dreamed of giving them despite having to deal with a scrooge of an ex.

You can do it!  I’m sure of it.  Super-parent powers… ACTIVATE.

Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with YOU

 

School pictures and divorce

For divorced families where the parents work together for the sake of the kids (ahhh… fantasy bliss :), the aspect of getting the school pictures ordered for both parents probably doesn’t cause any alarm.

When you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, bully or “jerk” or you-name-it, it can be a very annoying experience.

That said, I have to say that I am very grateful and lucky in this department personally – as my ex doesn’t  pay much attention to what goes on with this and doesn’t even ask me about it.  My children are with me through the school weeks, and the teachers work with me to make sure that everything gets sent home to me specifically.  If he asked me about it or cared, I would happily give them to him.  However – he doesn’t, and we are best with communication kept to a minimum, so I don’t reach out to him about it.

For my friend, though, who shares custody of their daughter – the landscape is different.  School pictures, projects, report cards, school directories, etc, are a stomping ground of passive aggressive behavior.  She struggles each year to  make sure that she gets copies of these, and that what she pays for and orders is rightfully coming home to her.  This year was no different, and I helped to pick up the pictures on a day I was in the school just so they wouldn’t go to her ex.

During our conversation, I offered some thoughts on the situation… so I thought it might also be good to put that here for others who may be caught in the battle of “controlling behavior”.  Here’s what I wrote to her in email, verbatim:

“The picture thing…  one really odd thing to do is just throw your hands up in the air and decide that you don’t need them.  You can take her to Sear’s and get pics done each fall as a tradition (use a scrubby blue background and tell her to mess her hair up, and not smile.  Then – if you want the whole effect, make sure to OVER-pay for them without looking at them first!! Ha ha ha…lol).

Seriously, though – it might give you peace of mind.  it’s kinda like that analogy of “if there’s nothing there to fight…” or agreeing with someone who is just disagreeing with you and they lose all steam.”

The last comment is really important, though.   It can end a lot of battles quickly to just give up and not resist with your ex.  Make it a non-battle wherever you can, and then they have nothing to argue with you about.  It sucks, yes.. but practice the words “You’re right” and “My bad”, and leave it at that.

In the end, you’ll have peace in your heart even if they are still stewing!  What’s more fun than that?

Plus… when you get to the point of being able to do this, please please please, take a moment to stand back and congratulate yourself.  You just moved yourself another notch forward in the land of “healing”.

Courage, strength and hope

possess my soul…

I will stand firmly and without fear.

– Gothe

Have faith

This was in the church bulletin a few weeks back.  I’ve been carrying it around as a cut out.  It helps me – maybe it will help someone else?

“Live wholly to the Spirit; live gently and in peace.  Be quite confident that God will help you, and in all that happens, rest in the arms of God’s mercy and goodness.”

New book from Patricia Evans

There’s a new book apparently being released from Patricia Evans:

Victory Over Verbal Abuse: A Healing Guide to Renewing Your Spirit and Reclaiming Your Life
Patricia Evans

I’ve personally read and used a bit out of her previous books, so I thought I’d put this out here to let anyone know.  The verbal abuse component is, in my opinion, one of the toughest aspects of dealing with a narcissist – together or apart.

My daughter has been really struggling with her father’s abusive words, guilt trips and negative influence.  This past weekend, she used the ‘f’ word in anger – clearly an influence from her dad.  I turned on an audio book in the car, which my children normally both love.  This was Winnie-the-Pooh.  I wasn’t sure if it would be fun to listen to or not – but much of the classic Pooh is timeless and ageless.  My daughter screamed out, annoyed and angry that she hated Pooh.  A few of her comments led to me asking her a question or two and finding that her dad had told her she wasn’t allowed to watch it because it was “too babyish” (she’s only 7).

We spoke about her using a bubble around her with her dad.  She pretends there is a bubble that surrounds her – and then when he says stuff or is emotional around her – she can see him and hear him, but it bounces off her bubble and doesn’t impact her.  I told her that whatever he does – it is his ‘experience’ in his life, and it doesn’t have to affect her (or ‘get into her bubble’) unless she lets it.  It’s a hard concept for any age – but the bubble part makes it easier for her to grasp.

Boundaries are a good thing 🙂

 

“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” – Jack Buck

A wonderful quote to remember!

Is it crappy to have to coparent with a narcissist?  YES!

Tree in Bloom

Tree in Bloom

It is toxic to have a narcissist in your life? YES!

It is toxic to have them in your kid’s life? YES!

Is there something that we can learn from it?  CERTAINLY!

Can we make the best of it? YES, WE CAN.

Can we teach our children EARLY about dealing with dangerous people, how to set BOUNDARIES, and be ASSERTIVE? YES!!

Will it benefit them in the long run and buffer them from future challenges with dangerous people?  YES, and this is the cool part.

Yes… we can be positive and make the best of the way things have turned out.

Narcissists are Entitled

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have a “strong sense of entitlement”, by definition.  But what does that mean?  Here are a couple examples from my own experience.   Paying attention to the source of the behavior will help to recognize the behavior as it’s happening, to not accept it as normal, to not except it as “maybe a bit eccentric”, and most important – to not take it personally.

Example 1 – When we were married, we walked into a Brooks Brother’s store.  My ex was looking for a new suit.  As a narcissist, he has to portray a particular image to the world – and the words “genuine” and “real” don’t really cut it for him.  Within a few minutes, he is aggravated.  “Why isn’t anyone helping me?”  he complains.  “Well, maybe they figure most people just want to look around themselves first.” I reply.  He gets more aggravated.  “Don’t they know I’m here to spend $2000 with them? They should be greeting me the minute I walk in the store”.  At that point, I didn’t realize the source of his behavior, and I commented back “Oh? Are you wearing a sign that says you want to spend a lot of money and need their help?”.   We left a few minutes later, with his sense of entitlement driving us out the door because they neglected to care for him the way he expected.  I mean really… “Don’t they know who he is??”

Example 2 – We relocated for my job once.  He was fired from his, and I had us move so that I could keep mine.  Moving is, well, an adventure in patience, as anyone who has moved knows.  There were various things broken along the way.  He was pissed, to say the least, that the movers would have the audacity to not treat his stuff with extra care.  He did nothing to help (he’s entitled to not lift a finger, ya know), and when things were misplaced or broken… he yelled at me: “How do the rich people do it?? I bet they don’t put up this lack of quality!  What are they (the movers) going to do, break a baby grande?”

Example 3 – This example is a mix of being entitled and a sense of “grandiosity”:  My ex has been fired from every job he’s every had.  He’s an ivy league graduate for both his undergrad and graduate degree’s, but for some reason, he can’t hold a job.  However, he always manages to get a new one – as the ‘grandiosity’ sense of  his disorder means he can portray how great he is and inflate his accomplishments to extraordinary, unfounded levels with such remarkable ease.  Oh – and as a sidebar – this isn’t really lying – he really thinks he’s this great and did all the wonderful things he speaks about.

In negotiating for a new job, he can completely rationalize how he should except nothing short of a $300,000 income.  Now, mind you… this is an individual who hasn’t made more than $100k ever, and his argument is not at all based on how his contributions to the company will make it worth it to them to pay him $300k.  Why $300k?  Because he’s entitled to it.. it’s his right.  Right?

Example 4 – CUSTODY.  Even though he did nothing as a parent to our children (see other posts on parental behavior before and after separation), he is entitled to legal custody of our children and time with them.  He IS their parent.  It is his LEGAL RIGHT.  ‘Nuff said….