names have been omitted in this post
I kicked off my shoes, pulled on sweats and soon settled on the couch; curling up in the quilt my grandmother bought me many moons ago from Mervyn's for my apartment… the apartment I had leading up to when I got married at twenty- two. This quilt with a background of gray-blue graced with pink flowers has gone everywhere with me. It's worn and faded, soft and slightly frayed in a couple spots… but well loved and cherished. It's covered my bed, it's been my go-to when I've been sick with the flu, it's been a spread for the floor for babies to coo and roll over on, it's been a picnic blanket at the park and botanic gardens, it's been a protective cover for transporting fragile items in my SUV… that well worn and loved blanket has made it's way to Colorado, California and back to Texas. It's been everywhere… it's graced my lap during laughter, wrapped me up while in tears and more. Something so simple… and yet its presence so comforting. My mother sat on the opposite end of the couch munching on some popcorn she'd made, alternating handfuls of popcorn and m&m's. It was Saturday night and my daughter was gone for the week at her dad's. I had poured myself a glass of wine and glanced at the time on my iPhone nearby. No phone call tonight from my daughter. She usually didn't call until Wednesday or Thursday night if her call even went through... her father usually blocked them. When she had discovered what he'd done she unblocked me and when he noticed he told her to not unblock me again. I didn't know how he thought by telling her that she was going to want to have anything to do with him... much less like him.
My mother tossed some popcorn in her mouth and spoke "Wow, I think this season is going to be a real doozy." She remarked in reference to the newest season of the Bachelorette we had saved on the DVR and started watching.
I glanced over at her. "Um, yeah... Did they pick potential suitors at a three ring circus?" I asked, referring to the male contestants hoping to be chosen. "They have a guy dressed as a penguin, one guy who can't stop making noises and one who says his job is being a tickle monster." I replied. "What's with all the gimmicks? What happened to just 'nice to meet you'"? I asked, "You know, normal."
She laughed wholeheartedly, "Whatever that is... "
It had been a tension filled last few weeks with all the child custody litigation amping up. Despite having a relaxing evening I was ready to have all the custody mess over with and release a big sigh of relief. On the twenty first of May things had come to a head. That afternoon my daughter had realized she didn't have her school t-shirt she would need for a class field trip the following Tuesday. I didn't want her father at my house and had previously let him know via phone and message on Our Family Wizard. During our divorce while I'd lived in the marital home he'd broken in at least twice. He had harassed me at my previous job numerous times and had continually broken boundaries I set because he just felt like it. I recommended to my daughter that she call him and ask him to drop her t-shirt by the school for her on either Monday or Tuesday morning. Proximity-wise it made much more sense for him to drop the t-shirt at her school rather than bring it to me. She called him and explained and then as I breezed by with laundry to do I overheard her saying "No... no, I asked you to... No! I told you... No, I want you to bring it to the school.... No! I told you no... " and finally just hanging up the phone with irritation and frustration.
"What's the problem?" I demanded then spoke "Is he bringing that t-shirt over here?" I asked her, my volume rising.
She sighed. "Yep! Well, he wouldn't listen to me. So he is. He just does what he wants!" She snapped and flounced to the couch. I sighed and went to the laundry room to begin tossing clothes in the washer.
If you told him the sky was blue he'd say "No, it's not!" If you told him white he'd say black. If you told him go he'd stop. If you told him don't come over he'd show up. It was like an adult version of Oppositional Defiant Disorder on steroids. When was this nonsense going to stop? I had dreams of that day. He didn't give a care about boundaries. I set them but he just plowed right through them and did whatever he wanted.
There was no logical reason for him to drive all the way over to bring it. Not when the school was closer. He was so out of line. What part of I don't want him here did he not understand? I had a right to not have him here... I had the right to privacy and him not lurking around. I had the right to him not being allowed at my home... regardless of shared custody. But when it comes to a narc they disagree. In his eyes he was enjoying crossing my boundaries and YET at the same time could say how HE was trying to co-parent and really make an effort and THIS was in the best interests of our child. At first glance it appears that I was being adversarial. But that's the thing about narcs... they are exceptionally good at crossing boundaries and silently laughing about it all the while making it look as though THEY are the ones who are trying and you're not. It takes a skilled Ad Litem, therapist, attorney, judge etc to look at the situation and realize that this person had other options to get the t-shirt to the child and since they have a history of abuse they are doing this merely to push buttons and create chaos.
Narcs don't respect people so they don't respect boundaries
We need to look at what is important to us... What are we willing or not willing to accept? We need to know what we need to bring peace and self-respect into our lives. Once we have figured that out then we know what we need to stick to. Otherwise it's incredibly easy to doubt ourselves, doubt our standards become wishy-washy because the narc attempts or is successful in making us believe our boundaries are ridiculous and unneeded. They will cry to everyone they know how they are simply trying to help and co-parent but you keep causing all these problems and making it so hard for them... how you obviously don't care about your children, etc. But we know when it comes to a narc it's all lies and they merely twist it to their advantage to make themselves look good. Instead of them saying "She (or he) doesn't like me coming to her (or his) home so I'm going to find another alternative to getting our child the shirt"... instead they whine and cry to everyone how you don't care if your child has the shirt and you've made it impossible for them to bring it to you and how awful you are.
Examples of Boundaries That Narc's Try To / Or Do Cross:
1. Insist they will bring the item your child needs to your home versus to the alternative you've given them.
2. Insist on "family dinners" despite you stating you will not attend.
3. Sending electronic devices with your child to your home despite you not allowing them.
4. Taking your child to see a relative whether its yours or theirs that you know is not healthy for them to be around and you've forbidden it; whether its witnessing inappropriate behaviors such drinking, drugs, enduring emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc or being subjected to the risk of.
5. Drinking and driving with your child in the vehicle.
6. Continuing to take your child to a therapist or doctor etc that you don't believe is being fruitful and have stated so. Or refusing to use a doctor or therapist that would be more affordable.
7. Placing your child in expensive extra-circular activities you cannot afford even with the child support because the narc wants to drain your bank accounts.
8. Calling, emailing you at all hours of the day and night despite you telling them to stop.
9. Not sticking to the subject of your communication which is your child but instead questioning/harassing you regarding your whereabouts, your job, your income, your friends, etc.
10. Stalking you on social media, having their friends and co-workers do it for them.
Yes, ten may seem like a lot but really that's just the tip of the iceberg with a narc. That's truly not that many, those are merely the high points... there are many more and although I've experienced all ten of these there are countless others.
So we need to keep in mind that we can set boundaries and yes, a narc may not follow them; they likely will not respect them. But keep setting them anyway. Eventually (hopefully) someone will see that you are doing what is best for you and your child... and even if they don't, at least you know you are doing what is necessary to teach your child boundaries, that they are needed and don't make you a mean person when you set them. So hopefully this cycle of crazy-making doesn't continue into another generation.
names have been omitted in this post
A man once told me that the sign of a truly great driver was someone who always had an out... someone who no matter the situation they were always deftly aware of how and where they could maneuver to avoid catastrophe. Sometimes that theory can correlate to life and relationships in general... or maybe we feel trapped by our own thoughts all the while knowing they really serve no healthy purpose... but it's achingly and admittedly where we are at the time in our journey so instead of swerving around them and avoiding we must ride this out and continue to cling to hope.
"Are you seeing anybody? Dating?" He asked me as he slipped his fork into a bite of Spanish rice.
"No... "I shook my head. People sometimes acted like if you weren't with someone you should at least be interested or looking. Like you're incomplete or something. And sometimes you get that pity look while they say like clockwork "It will happen. You will find someone." Really? Where are all these great fish in the sea everyone keeps talking about? Hiding under rocks? In a witness protection program? Coma's? What further frustrated me is single men are often like: "Well, I'd treat you great if you were with me. You say you want to meet a great guy. I'm a great guy but you won't go out with me." They fail to understand it's really not a rejection of them. Maybe they are a great guy... but for someone else. If you have a certain type or handful of types you're attracted to it really doesn't matter how great they are if they are polar opposite to said type or types and you have zero chemistry and merely see them as a friend. Or alternatively perhaps you find them attractive but you share zero common interests. If I don't like bike riding I'm not going to want to date someone who wants to spend the majority of his free time doing that. If he doesn't like art he's not going to enjoy going to art exhibits at the local museums with me. It comes down to basic attraction, chemistry and common interests.
"I'm really hesitant to go there again... you know? I mean, I took some time after the divorce was final and then dated a little and that all went south so after that last one I'm pretty hesitant." I replied.
"What happened with that last guy?" He asked me.
As I dipped my nacho into some sour cream on my plate I spoke "Oh you know... the actions didn't match up with the words... the usual. I think I'm just too jaded about it all. I'm really struggling with it so my way to cope is to just not date." I admitted. "Maybe I'll just get a dog... aren't they always loyal and happy to see you?" I said with a smile.
The ugly truth was I had slipped back into a quagmire of wretched and stinking thinking that men sucked. Yes, I know... it was embarrassing and generalizing but mentally I had been sliding like a car hitting oil on a wet street back into the idea that there was not a single one that was capable of true love and being loyal to you. I kept fighting it... I kept trying to put the brakes on those thoughts but they persisted. I felt like I was in a current tug of war between having faith that surely God wanted more for me and the devil whispering there was no man on earth who could measure up so I should just give up that pipedream and cry forever defeat. I either observed men griping about their wives and how much of ***their*** money they were spending or observed them checking out other women while their wives were present or not. Being someone who had a difficult time keeping my thoughts off my face when something disgusted me it was really hard to edit my reaction to all that mess. I was currently witnessing all these behaviors and more from men in all aspects of my life and it was honestly depressing as hell. And it wasn't much better where women were concerned. It made me question if there was anything better out there. It would make anyone begin to think marriage was nothing but a sentence of false advertising and punishment and somewhere between all the laughs and joking about wives and husbands I was beginning to think there was semi hidden truth to it. All I could say right now to a hypothetical marital future was huff no thank you and yet simultaneously go bawl my eyes out in a corner somewhere at the bleakness of it all. I was trying to do my usual of smiling, putting up a strong front and using the tools of distancing and humor to hide the thick armor I wore but inside I actually felt fragile, exhausted and uncertain when it came to love.
One coping strategy of dealing with the aftermath of narc abuse
may be keeping people at arms length and not letting people get to know you. But when we meet someone that we click with and feel we can let those walls down it's a much needed connection and welcome friendship.
"Yeah... well, a dog might help!" He laughed but then added... "I mean, you're usually pretty upbeat about being single. I think this is a rough patch right now. Take a break but don't give up." He advised.
"Yeah, I enjoy being single and I wouldn't mind dating but dating means they always want more. More than I'm willing to give. It's no time before they want to be exclusive and marry you. It's like instant." I told him. "I see no problem with dating several years. But they aren't willing to do that." I shared with frustration.
He nodded and gazed at me intently "That's because generally speaking if they are interested, attracted and feel you'd be wife material they pursue hard with that intention. No, in that context they won't be satisfied just going out for however long. Not gonna happen." He shook his head.
"I'm very leery of anything rushed. "I replied, "But the other thing is I want to move at some point. When my daughter is older and shared custody is no longer an issue. If I met someone between now and then how can I ensure they are telling me the truth that they would be willing to move at that point in time? I don't know that I can believe them if they tell me yes." I shared.
"Where are you wanting to move?" He asked as he cut into his enchilada.
"I'd prefer Florida... but anywhere with a beach really. Much of it will come down to what's affordable." I replied. He nodded and I continued, "Plus, you get into the possibility of them having children. Hypothetically speaking if I met someone who had kids that were older it wouldn't matter but if his kids were younger? Am I going to be willing to wait around a few more years for his kids to grow up so we can move? Um, no. " I shook my head and took a sip of my drink. Then dipping my chip in salsa I added, " That's another reason why I think it's best to just wait. Maybe meet someone after I've moved. I guess that's around seven years off. " I surmised.
"I think if it's the right person all that stuff will fall into place. I mean, I agree you shouldn't back down on what's important to you..." He stressed "But you also don't want to use that stuff as an excuse to not get out there and meet people. You might meet someone who really does want to move to the coast. Or who has a place both here and there." He pointed out.
I think one of the biggest issues people often don't realize regarding adultery is when it's discovered by a spouse there is such a huge magnitude of damage done. There is the initial shock of realizing the past few weeks, months, year or even worse, years have been a lie. This person was telling you they loved you, laughing at your jokes, sharing the stress of juggling a family, bills and errands and sleeping beside you each night all the while hiding another life from you. In that you question how this person who stood beside you and made vows before God and witnesses of loved ones took it so lightly. You wonder what on earth brought them down this path to such destruction and deceit. You of course when being rational know it's not your fault as they made a conscious choice to destroy what they had... but your emotions betray that rationality and at times you wonder why or how you no longer measured up. Was it the fine lines and gray hairs you developed? Was it the nagging about the dirty dishes they left in the sink or voicing the annoying antics of your in-laws? Was it the differing views on parenting and exhaustion from work that contributed to the distancing and resentment? Or all the above? Who knew... and at the end of the day did it really change what's happened?
We question anyone's and everyone's motives after being cheated on. Even those we don't date... whether it's friendships, bosses, co-workers or new acquaintances... we may be hesitant of people in general and do more observing than talking. You don't have to date someone to be gas-lighted and thrown under the bus There are occasional snakes in all arenas.
Regardless, as you continue down the path of divorce and it becomes final you realize how adultery has completely changed you. The one who cheated just goes on their merry way unscathed as you continue to pick up the broken pieces scattered along the sidewalk. They leave you in the dust as they scamper off like a rabbit to meet up with someone new. You stand alone... and now a completely different person. You look back at the old you.... maybe naïve, sweet and trusting. Now you feel more skeptical, perhaps jaded and uncertain. Maybe the idea of love sounds great, in theory but the reality seems much more scary.... it's not like when you were twenty and had your whole entire life ahead of you not yet realizing the magnitude of how dire your choices in dating and marriage could be... being the innocent lamb you had a horizon of beautiful possibilities and promise ahead of you and no idea the terrible potential weight of one poor choice in a person. Adultery strips you of the ability to trust in another human being. The thought of marriage might be terrifying and in that even if you dared can you really subscribe to a philosophy of complete and utter trust or alternatively one of "trust but verify"? Is that any way to live? To have your spouse followed, tracked etc only to discover they are truly going to the grocery store as they said they were. Is it really fair to put someone else through that game of hoops and ladders? No, not a bit.
I believe so many can relate to this and I'm not sure how we bridge the gap between wanting to be able to trust someone again and actually doing it. Perhaps it's just a day by day watchful eye of matching their words and actions to see that they really do line up... and yet for some time in the back of our mind waiting for the other shoe to drop.... when does that no longer occur? For how long? At what point in time can we really release a huge sigh of relief and say "Oh, okay.... I don't have to worry anymore they are going to turn on me." I don't know. I don't have the answer to that and it's not only frightening but disappointingly depressing as well.
Maybe it's on the one we meet and them proving time and time again they have a heart that's true. Maybe it's prayer.... maybe it's clinging to God's goodness and not letting the devil further prey on our doubts that try to creep in. Aside from prayer and being aware of the early red flags in relationships we also pray for protection against the enemy. Maybe we pray for someone who will recognize the precious gem they could share love and life with and will be more than willing to patiently be that rock... not wavering or walking away... but consistently standing steadfast and being that Godly man or woman we need through actions, not empty words and unfulfilled promises. We've had abusive evil... we've had lies... we've had manipulation that for some of us has continued through our children in unprovoked custody battles. We didn't deserve that nor do we deserve for it to continue. You deserve a love that will risk everything for you... you were with someone who looked out for themselves and ultimately their own happiness... and you shouldn't settle for anything less than amazing the next time. Is there nothing sweeter than for two people who have been through hell to find each other and live the next chapter beautifully together?
Where are the men of courage? A man of strength in morals and character and not just a flimsy imitation but instead taking a substantial walk with God and willing to prove their love? Where are the men who stand on God's promises of an eternal home due to His son's ultimate sacrifice and actually take it seriously in leading his family with tears of humble gratitude? Likewise for the men where are the women who walk with words of salt and grace and strive to live her life filled with Christ's truth and thanksgiving on her lips? Where is the woman who is willing to work hard but also recognizes prayer as a shield and needed force of life in her day to day steps as wife, mother, sister, friend, etc? Where are the women who speak life into their husband's ears and heart and know he won't stray?
Be of strong faith and hang tight to the good promises God has for you... it's not in His plan for you to settle. So many of us have been through much more than we ever anticipated and yet in that we are not meant to live in despair, defeat or depression. We are meant to soar like eagles in a blue joy-filled sky with a love that's true... not be unequally yoked to someone that does nothing but lead us to a pit of misery and darkness. Proclaim to God you reject any counterfeit person from walking into your life and instead welcome the one who wholeheartedly loves and adores Him and his son Jesus Christ your Savior. Stand firmly on what love truly is and refer to God's definition of it as your guide. The one who truly loves you will faithfully follow through... not leave you hanging, wondering, sinking in sin or betrayal. True love never fails.
names have been omitted in this post
"If I don't lose a few pounds I'm going to have to go buy all new clothes. Like, seriously. This is getting to be ridiculous." I told my mother as I tossed another pair of pants that no longer fit in a heap on the small settee at the end of my king sized bed. With a sigh she followed me out.
"Yeah... it would be better to lose the weight than have to spend the money on all new clothes." She told me.
"Tell that to my sweet tooth!" I quipped "I'm hungry all the time. I eat and then I feel guilt. But if I didn't have all this stress I probably wouldn't be eating so much!" I retorted. I opened the refrigerator and began searching for something to eat. "I guess it's plain chicken and steamed broccoli tonight." I commented and then added "After dinner I get to start printing all these messages off Our Family Wizard so I can mail them to the Amicus. Oh, yay!"
"I hope this is going to go well this time." She murmured.
"I hope so... because personally I'm getting real sick and tired of people screwing up and enabling him. The last Ad Litem was a waste of money. This is ALL such a waste of my time and money.... print all this stuff and for what? Are they going to actually do something about him and what's in the children's best interests? He's the one who filed all this crap and then I have to pay to deal with it... with a huge disparity in income and with no guarantee something will be done about him. How is that right? When is someone going to step in and shut down all his aggressive litigation? It's bad enough I had to deal with what I endured being married to him. And now I've been dealing with his abuse for the past five years... him using the kids. I'm completely disgusted with the whole system." I told her.
We may be told that someone who is an abusive partner can be a loving and healthy father or mother. But the truth of the matter is that is not only a misconception but a lie. Not all domestic abuse is obvious or even noticeable. Some domestic abuse is so subtle that it's not even picked up on by others. Emotional abusers have the keen ability to say and do things that even their target begins to second guess if they are being abused... even verbal abuse is easily hidden behind closed doors and often smoothed over by profuse apologies and affection... even gifts and empty promises of not hurtfully unleashing their tongue again.... yet always of course these gestures are proved over and over again to hold zero value as the abuse is repeated.
If an ex husband or wife was verbally abusive and shut you down during your marriage and used tactics such as stonewalling to avoid discussing a subject; using intimidation to make you quiet and to get their way.... it only stands to reason that at some point those same tactics will be used on your children. If your child exclaims they are frustrated because Mommy doesn't pack them a sandwich for school lunch... all they get is rotted fruit and a few leftover pieces of candy from Halloween... and yet when they explain this to their Mommy... and Mommy replies "Tough!" and walks off... that abusive parent is merely mimicking what they did in their marriage with their child. If that same mother (or father) is fighting for custody of said child.... they don't truly care for their child. The obvious take away from this scenario is the Mommy is just using the child as a weapon to "win" them in custody... they are not even meeting this child's very basic needs; a healthy and basic school lunch. The mother's true feelings for the child shine through in her actions toward the child. Yet how often do the court systems ignore the actions of a parent? One might say "Well, it's just a school lunch. Maybe they didn't get to the store that week. Maybe they were busy. Maybe they were stressed." But when you look at this scenario combined with so many others they begin to stack up... to more than "just an isolated school lunch". The child not only doesn't feel loved and adequately fed but also not heard... they tried to explain to their parent how they feel but were shut down.... that speaks volumes.
The family court systems today often want to give fifty-fifty to parents as they deem that is what's fair. But what is "fair" is not necessarily what is in the child's best interests... the two are not one in the same. Often the only way more time is granted to a parent is if one parent is a drug abuser or pedophile.... but is this low standard really what we want to set for our children of today and future? Is this the level of expectation we are holding for our young ones lives? If we aren't going to bat an eye at emotional and verbal abuse and we are going to merely sweep it under the rug then what hope do we have in the fight against domestic violence? If we are going to pat parents and children on the head and say "Well, it's not like you're being beat... you're not being molested... you're not being exposed to drugs.... it's just that your mom or dad needs a little help... they just lack in some areas and have said some things they shouldn't have... maybe your Daddy didn't really mean to say "If you tell anyone you want more time at Mommy's house I'm going to throw your baby doll away"... I'm sure your Daddy was just stressed out... maybe we can rehabilitate your Daddy... or maybe your Mommy and Daddy can take some parenting classes on how to co-parent.... Oh, okay... and in the meantime that child is learning to accept that what was said to he or she is perfectly okay; if I don't conform and do what Daddy wants, my baby doll gets thrown out.... I'm already scared and I don't want to lose my baby doll so maybe I better do what Daddy says....
So then what? Fast forward time to when she's thirty and we shouldn't bat an eye when she goes out and picks out a piece of you know what just like her Daddy.... and then one day when her husband says to her: "If you tell anyone I hit you I'm going to throw your dog out." We shouldn't be surprised when this happens, right? I mean, the court okayed it. Everyone acted like it was no big deal... she grew up thinking this kind of behavior was okay.... she didn't believe she deserved any better.... it was comfortable... it was what she knew... yada, yada, yada.... I mean.... if you really think about it... this has to be all her fault right?
She ****picked him out**** right??? I mean, why didn't she just leave? Why did she stay? You get what you tolerate, right? Isn't this the mindset so often today?
If your spouse or ex is abusive they are not capable of being a good parent. They are not able to live a life of kindness, self reflection, growth, empathy and love. No parent is perfect.... we know this and it's not about perfection. But it is about self awareness and having empathy. Those are two traits that abusers do not have. They are self serving and do not care about others or in what form or route they go to get what they want. An abuser feels satisfaction when they "win" and get their way... when they come out on top and feel superior as it strokes their ego. This is why abusers are so dangerous when it comes to child custody... because they are often enabled (wittingly or unwittingly) by the court systems who give them too much length on a leash or completely release it and try to play down the real damage they are doing.... the abuse is merely continued from the marriage and the children become objects to fight over and used as weaponry in the abusers new continued battle.
If only an abuser realized that when he or she uses the children to continue his or her domestic abuse there are no winners. He or she may think they've won but it's all a lie. The biggest losers are the children... having the knowledge that in their parents eyes they weren't worth exuding love to but instead wielding control and seeking ownership. These children grow up not feeling loved and then even worse realizing they were mere puppets... also seeing the frustration and wear it's put on their healthy parent.
Today, I want to give you encouragement... no matter how frustrated, depressed or bleak we may feel in our outlook regarding the custody of our children we can cling to hope... even if it's as small as a mustard seed. Even as we spend our last dime fighting for our children, even as we waste trees and precious time printing the same information over and over... we pray. Some of us have had our faith shattered in being able to trust anyone again after discovering betrayal, some of us have had our faith shattered at the idea of marriage again, some of us have had our faith shattered at the thought of whether we will have a relationship with our children again... or maybe we have seeds of doubt... will it get better? And if so when? And how?
Maybe we believed strongly for a long time our situation would improve but as the years go by that faith begins to dwindle to less and less. If you have struggled with any or all of these I understand. You are not alone. Even if it may feel like it at times there are others who know very well what you are going through. Today my prayer for you is renewed strength, and knowing He knows your situation intimately and no matter how tiny your faith is or tiny the steps may seems to be in restoring what you've lost He is there alongside you... for He replied: "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea', and it will obey you." Luke 17:6