(names have been omitted or changed in this post)
Unless you've been through a divorce it can be quite hard to relate to what others have experienced. I can say there is much to be learned from the divorce process and though the lessons can be painful they are worth sharing with others so their path is a little easier to navigate.
10 Lessons I've learned About Divorce:
1. It takes a whole heck of a lot longer to get one complete than what one might think. In Texas we have a 60 day waiting period before a divorce can be completed at it's earliest. I only wish that was all the time it took. For many it takes a year, for some even longer, two years. It seems so backward… we can say "I do" on a whim but trying to undo that knot takes oh so much longer.
2. It takes longer than you expect to get your life put back together. If you've been a stay at home mother you might find yourself scrambling to find a job, a sitter or some form of daycare and keep the lights on. It can seem overwhelming at first now that everything rests on your shoulders but deep breaths… take it one day at a time and try not to look at the big picture if all it does is serve to stress you out. It truly does get better in small steps and one day you will look back in awe at how far you've come with God's grace, power and strength.
3. We may go through our divorce process regarding the kids with the mental outlook of: "Okay, we have a plan in place. Done, let's move on." And really… if it's working why shouldn't that be expected? But often times our ex can have other ideas… constantly changing ideas and chronically wanting to change up the parenting schedule, possession, etc. Purposefully instigating custody litigation just to "win" no matter what. It will mean being served with papers, attorneys being served on your behalf and having to re-write what you have in place, often with negotiations that are not what I'd really call negotiations but more like the other side bullying his (or her) way into what he (or she) wants through a court system that very often does not have the first clue as to narcissistic personality disorder.
4. Mediation can be a lifesaver or an absolute waste of time and money. Typically with a narcissist mediation is waste of time but in some states you're required to try it before going to court. The mediators job is to get both parties to agree and they could care less about whether you like the results as you will be who lives with them. I would never pay for an attorney to be present at mediation again. The fee for a mediator is a grand give or take so paying an attorney to simply sit and hold your hand seems pointless. The process can be undeniably intimidating if you've never done it before but really having been through it twice now… I can safely say that it's not that big a deal. You know what issues you're willing to agree on or not. If you can reach an agreement, great. If not, reply "no" to everything and head to court, it's pretty simple. Mediation may be used by your ex as a tactic to find out what you're willing to agree to and not… so then they can then be better prepared for a court battle. I personally feel it's better to not share what you're wanting in mediation and keep it to yourself. Find out what they want. Then prepare for court if you don't agree.
5. Divorce won't "fix" your spouse. Your ex-spouse if narcissistic is likely still cheap, still stubborn, still conniving, still making poor choices, morally corrupt, spiritually bankrupt, crass, a user and an abuser and seriously lacking empathy and basic parenting skills, etc… guess what? Just because you're divorcing them doesn't equate to all their ways now changing. You will realize (if you hadn't already) you cannot change your ex. You will realize that your attorney can't change your ex. And then you may realize that the therapist can't change your ex into the parent they need to be. That is why sometimes judges have to get involved and change the possession schedule accordingly. Because unless folks want to change often times it's the children who end up suffering.
6. The person you divorce - divorce tends to reveal their true character, whether it's for better or for worse. You find out who you were really married to when divorcing. And with a narc you will realize that the divorce is just the beginning of their heightened abuse toward you not the end.
7. You will cross paths with people who you don't even know personally but that think they know you… that believe they know who you are based purely on what your ex has said about you and they dismiss your existence or even sneer at you in public. Keep your chin up, a smile on your face and move on… they are not worth your time or energy (read that again if needed). It's a lesson you've learned from the receiving end; never base your view of someone on a third person's opinion, get to know them yourself.
8. Folks will naturally be curious as to why your marriage ended… they may attempt to ask in a roundabout way or outright. It's up to you how you handle it… it's your call. You can either be direct or just gloss over it as "there were unresolvable issues"… it's about whatever you're comfortable with. Personally I think it's over stepping boundaries to ask something so personal and such an entitled perspective.
9. Your ex may try to bribe your children with gifts and freedom. This is all tied into alienating behavior. He or she may even be bad mouthing you and causing alienation between you and your children. Your ex spouse has zero right to speak negatively about you or your home to the kids. Recently my daughter told me that her Dad told her: "Well, if Mommy would ever allow you to have a phone in her house I'd buy you one." The fact is, it's your house and your rules; you have every right to decide what comes in your home. He is overstepping boundaries and is in fact dismissing your choices to your child. Document, document, document. Check out my coaching sessions and support if you need help with how to respond to a high conflict ex.
10. He or she who has the house typically has more control. If the photo albums and scrapbooks (that you lovingly made by hand) are important to you make copies for your soon to be ex or ask if your soon to be ex can legally be removed by asking your attorney. Ask your attorney if you can stash photos at a relatives for safe keeping until they are copied and divided later. People can often be under the impression that everything is "frozen" when a divorce begins and nothing can be removed when in fact for many divorces it becomes more like a free for all due to people behaving badly. You have to check with your attorney on all laws and what your rights are as they vary. The smartest thing anyone can do is have a savings nest egg your spouse knows nothing about. Be smart. Be prepared and don't think just because your marriage is fine right now it always will be. That just isn't the case.
(names have been changed or omitted in this post)
A parent who runs a home without rules… an alienator who instead of having a healthy father-child (or mother) dynamic the children are treated as equals… or at least specific children are… (the golden child) whomever it benefits the father most. The father or mother placates their children with a constant flow of promises, gifts and free will. It's a home where order and boundaries don't exist… kids that run amuk and candy flows freely. Foul music abounds, meals are served in front of the television instead of eaten as a family, children are taken along on business trips and treated as adults, personal boats are promised to boys as young as eleven, movies are uploaded to iPhones to keep the younger children out of his hair… and fits are met with "Now… if you don't stop that I'm going to take your cell phone."
The kids leave one parents; the alienating one, hopped up on excitement from their week or weekend in paradise and go to Mom's (in this example) where they are met with "No, you can't eat an entire bag of M&M's in one sitting… yes, you have to brush your teeth… no, showers are not optional… no, you are not going to get a phone, you're not old enough… what do you mean the park is old hat? I'm not buying you a boat, sorry."
Rules are stated and attempted to be enforced and instead are met with much derision and anger. Now mom is dealing with kids who don't want to comply… who yell her rules are stupid and they want to be at dad's house exclusively. "Dad is more fun!" they wail and their faces glare at her as she tries to wrack her brain for what exactly just happened. Since when is life like an amusement park everyday? That mentality has become normal for them. Since when does everything have to be a "big deal"? Whatever happened to reading a book, relaxing, playing a family board game and eating supper together? Now comparisons run the gamut and she is quickly losing the race… a race she never knew she entered into… a race she believe is ridiculous and is nothing but spurred by her ex's insanity and insecurity.
Instead, she feels she's losing control, her life has become a train wreck and she's met with contempt by her son. This was my life for a couple years. This is what I and my son endured to the final point of complete alienation by his father toward me.
Here's the truth:
This father is not a good parent. He's not modeling healthy parenting for his children… his "parenting skills" in reality suck. He is sitting back with glee… basking in the gratifying joyful supply he gains by hearing how the children are acting out at mom's house… how they defy her, they scream at her, maybe even hit her and mock her ideas of fun. The truth is… he's angry she left, he's angry she has the audacity to ditch him… so he uses the children as his pawn of anger toward her. She's a great mom who is doing the best she can considering the circumstances. She is dealing with an Ex who is insidiously conveying to the children that mom's rules don't matter… that her ideas of fun are stupid and inadequate… just by having his home be a free-for-all… the two homes are at such extreme ends of a spectrum of parenting it's no wonder that she's frustrated. To a court she may appear to be the inept parent… after all, how much backlash can a dad get if he's giving in to every whim his child has? To the outside world it appears he has everything under control. But the courts need to look closer… and therapy is a must.
So what needs to happen?
The parent needs to be held responsible for his or her actions. A good therapist needs to step in who is educated in manipulation. Finding a therapist who will work with the family in getting the help they need is essential… if all else fails... for the therapist to document and finally come to the realization that the children are better off with their healthy parent… and voice her findings in court. Perhaps the toxic parent can be allowed supervised visitation until he or she realizes their parenting may make their children the happiest on earth under their roof… but if they are happy at the future expense of society and others then the children need to be removed from the home and placed with the healthy parent. We sadly learn that we cannot make someone be the parent they need to be nor guilt them into it either.
The Manipulative /Vindictive and Guilt Tripping Parent:
This parent knows exactly what they are doing… his or her behavior is calculated and purposeful. All folks go through angry and sorrowful phases of loss right after divorce. But eventually most people heal and begin rebuilding their life. Their anger subsides and in it's place is peace and a desire to move forward. Not so with the alienating manipulative parent. He or she is focused on a long term agenda to make their ex pay… example; maybe he's been discarded by his spouse and is bitter about it. This dad then uses the children in his vendetta to make his ex wife suffer and even attempt to gain full custody. He believes by convincing his children he is that he is "most fun parent ever" they will then voice their desire to live with him full time. This is essentially all about control. This dad (or mom) truly feels bad for the divorce and believes being a guilt tripping parent makes up for it and at the least makes himself feel better. Granted, he may not have malicious intent or narcissistic but his actions are still not healthy for anyone.
7 SIGNS OF AN ALIENATING PARENT:
1. Excessive bad foods that children love; fast food, dessert, etc.
2. Too many experiences allowed for their children too early in age… the parent erroneously believes that allowing his children to have a lot of "adult-like" experiences earlier than typical for their age gives them an advantage in life… it sets them up to be more mature than their peers. However, it can actually lead children to position themselves as equals to the adults in their life… and lead them to become spoiled… and expect preferential treatment.
3. Parent provides material things that he knows mom could never afford or doesn't have the ability to provide even if the money was there. Example: Dad offers to buy son his own boat and he lives along a lake. Mom, on the other hand not only can't afford a boat but has no way to use one if she could.
4. No rules… if babysitters are quitting, if dad can't seem to keep one hired, if kids are being allowed to stay home alone that have zero business doing so… especially young children or special needs children, if children upon acting out are just given empty threats of consequences and nothing is followed through… then those are all red flags of serious issues.
5. These parents buy their children's love. They believe everything is a "deal to be made" and don't recognize the value in spending time with their children, in connecting with them and listening to their thoughts, needs and feelings. Instead, they make these big sweeping gestures through purchases or experiences.
6. These children often feel empty inside unless they have a loving caring in-tune parent to help offset the damage a parent is doing. They often don't feel heard by one or both parents or truly loved. Instead, they are given a bottomless supply of "things" to help fill their needs within. These are the children who later go on to max out credit cards, compete with the Jones' and look for love in all the wrong places.
7. The alienating parent often plays favorites amongst his children… he may target one child whom he feels he can brain-wash the easiest and then once he's been successful in forming that alliance move on to the other children and seek full custody. One child may be the golden child and another pegged the black sheep of the family (the child they were not able to alienate).
(real names have been omitted or changed)
If anyone has perfected the art of saying the right things and making you believe that he means them it's a narcissistic sociopath. He is skilled in charm not sincerity… he excels at superficial not substance… he is a man of much nonsense and riddles like a joker or magician but not meaning or truth. A sociopath has a typical set of phrases he uses as there are always commonalities between them. It's been said so many times in the support groups I belong to that when the members post messages that their Ex has sent them… they could have been sent from anyone's Ex sociopath… as they all appear to speak the same language… astonishingly, it's as if they are all one and the same person… as if they went to the same school and were taught from the same bag of tricks.
When I was dating my Ex, (even a large part of the marriage) for the most part he was doting… he listened… in fact, part of my attraction to him was the fact he listened… something I didn't have from a father who simply talked at me. What I didn't know then is that people of a manipulative nature may very well listen… they may not be what is expected… dismissive… at least in the beginning… as it behooves them to listen to you and listen well. They excel at listening to what you have to say… hanging onto every word… learning all they can about you so they can reel you in… and in this crucial time period offering bits of sage advice, comfort and affirmation. When we date someone who appears to be the picture of care, of kindness and empathy we believe we truly have what were seeing… we take it to heart and don't doubt that what were experiencing is real.
Any of the typical phrases a sociopath uses may not come to the surface until much later on… once you're immersed in a marriage and dependent upon him. It's not until he has you captured in a corner like a defenseless little ladybug does he begin to show his true colors… and for a while he may even dance back and forth between charm and seemingly genuine care and contempt for you… leaving you completely confused and off balance… because you can't figure out where you stand with him… and he knows it.
Often times when were so close to a situation or person we don't have the distance to step back and be objective. It may be difficult for us to not beat ourselves up later down the road upon the full truth revealed… or block out the "What was I thinking?" thoughts going through our head… but we have to forgive ourselves for any blindness that kept us in the wolf's path… this is part of the healing process. It's a mental barrage of "coulda, shoulda, woulda's"… and it can go on forever if allowed. At some point we have to say "What's done is done and it's unfortunately reality" and then begin self care… making a conscious point to be gentle with ourselves, to journal, pamper ourselves, surround ourselves with healthy, supportive friends and family… doing the little things including the big, leaning on God… asking Him for comfort, strength and healing.
10 PHRASES A SOCIOPATH USES:
1. "Trust me" My Ex used this all the time and amusingly even later during the divorce process. What he's really saying is "Please be a sucker and let me trick you once again." Why on earth would you trust someone who has continually lied and cheated that you have proof of? For a sociopath to tell their target "Trust me" after they've shown (perhaps repeatedly) they cannot be trusted is merely laughable. You absolutely cannot trust them and shouldn't. It will bite you time and time again.
2. "I love you" He will use this phrase over and over again. Another lie. He will use this with every woman he's with. All that fake "soulmate" garbage that they like to spew at you along with the intense love bombing; adoration, affection, gifts, words of affirmation, compliments and placing you on a pedestal. The truth is a sociopath is incapable of love. What he's really telling you is: "I love the way you make me feel. Being with you is like a rush for me at this moment." Unfortunately, eventually the rush will wear off and you'll be replaced by a new piece of supply that gives him another "high" and bit of so called happiness... and the broken cycle continues infinitely. This seems so personal to you, being "loved", used and discarded yet the truth is it isn't... it is how they operate in every single relationship they have... or more accurately manipulative-ship.
3. "Happy?" or "Happy now?!" Said in a snarly little way. This is his little guise of a remark of ensuring he has taken care of your needs or desires but in reality is a short, dismissive way of telling you: "You're a pain in my butt and inconveniencing me big time. Now go away." My Ex used this one all the time and still does with our children.
4. "It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission." Ugh. My Ex used this all the time. Another statement they use to try to justify their actions and believe that whatever recent ordeal they just put you through (or shady business deal) will merely blow over… that by just saying: "Sorry!" in their usual dismissive tone that everything will smooth over, consequences will be nil and he will be able to wiggle his way back into your heart. They are never ever sorry and if they tell you this they are lying to you.
5."You're so sensitive." A classic line that all abusers and bullies use. A way to justify his negative actions or verbal abuse toward you when you naturally get upset or mad. Then you begin to question yourself and your own feelings. What eventually happens is later on (even perhaps after you're divorced) it strips you of confidence and you begin to question every interaction you have with people… the natural response is a phase of being unsure… the good news is your confidence will return as you heal and become stronger. Keep in touch with friends that know and love you and don't allow yourself to become isolated.
6. "I can never make you happy. My God! You are so negative! Why do you think I'm never around? Because I can't stand being around you!" Self victimizing statements to make you appear and feel like the hard ass in the relationship and they are really trying. Again, lies. Justification on his part and twisting for why he's cheating or a workaholic.
7. "What about you? What about your issues?" This is his comeback to you when you call him on the unacceptable choices he's made. He will spin it back onto you and try to bring up any faults or flaws you have (or make any up) to get the heat off him. He will use any and all regrets of behavior from your past you've confided in him against you. He will use them in a smear campaign about you all over town. Do not share any secrets with a narcissist even one you're married to. You cannot trust them.
8. "I could do that for you." Could. Interesting choice of words. He could, but chooses not to. He could do that Honey-do on your list that you really need finished but he won't.
9. "I only get this negativity from you." In other words…. he isn't getting what he wants so it's easier to attack you. Bullies, users, abusers all use this classic line against you to make you feel like you're the problem when really the truth of the matter is they lack any and all empathy and do not care about you. They are the negative ones and if you react to their abuse they will say you're abusive when it's really a normal reaction to the abuse they are spewing at you and you finally could not emotionally take it anymore and broke down and snapped at them; defined as "reactive abuse". Yes, you reacted - that's perfectly normal. They baited you.
10. "The more you tell me to do something the more it makes me want to do the opposite." Oh, okay… it's comparable to a three year old boy having a fit. He doesn't wanna just cause you want him to so he ain't gonna! These are toddler sized fits in a grown mans body and that is exactly what a narcissistic sociopath is; a over-sized bratty whiny manipulative entitled boy-man that never grew up and don't wanna!
(names have been omitted or changed in this post)
I gently pick up the bundle of bright green stems off the tan leather seat and exit the white SUV. Slamming the door shut and clicking the key fob the doors lock and I turn to see my daughter's small hand reaching out for mine. I slip my hand in hers and my son joins me as we walk along the December grass; our vision colliding with green wreaths gracing burial plots and spots of Christmas red, shiny metallic or velvet ribbons adorning them.
Pockets of dry leaves crunch under our feet like a rhythmic marching band of three.
We walk in silence.
There under the giant tree is the spot.
The three of us stand there fixed to the spot, silent…
huddled together in the cold wind…
freezing, despite the sun beaming down…
It had been five years since that horrible day in September 2012.
Five years and no marker.
My phone ringing on my bedside table…
Groggy, I answer my cell phone. It's my dad telling me to go to the front door. Confused; was I dreaming? I was disoriented and groggy. It was almost midnight. Nudging my husband beside me in bed to wake up... "Wake up! Mom and dad are at the door, I don't know what's going on." Stumbling... bare feet on carpet then hardwood. Throwing on a turquoise terry robe over pajamas. Sticking dirty fogged over contacts in my eyes quickly. Headed to the front door, him following close behind me. Opening it. Parents huddled on the front porch. My mother's forlorn expression...
The news that she had died.
"No, Mommy, no… " I gasped, whispered.
I hadn't uttered "Mommy" in two decades.
Shock. No. No. No. NO! Denial.
Pinch me. This can't be real. Shaking... make. it. stop.
Physically shaking... like I have a cold, my are teeth chattering.
Talking to one of the officers on the scene… there was a video of the altercation between my sister and her boyfriend outside the gas station… minutes before he gunned the truck and sped off onto the highway… right into an SUV head on. His truck had burst into flames trapping my sister. Someone managed to pull him out but not her… not her... why not her? Why him? It infuriated me. It made me see red. When he died the following morning I didn't care… in my hurting heart that next morning I saw justice of some sort. All the hell that had happened… his abuse toward her… six years of hell… her bruises… my talking with her, my pleading with her to leave him… the strained phone calls… the begging, the arguing and yet she died because of him… because he chose to get behind the wheel… I wondered if she had been yelling at him… if the altercation was her attempting to get his keys from him. It was stated by witnesses this might have been the case as there were comments made that she was trying to get out of the truck at the gas station before he pulled out onto the highway. She had been trapped. Some dumb person had retrieved him from the truck, from the flames but not her. That infuriated me. That made me see red. They rescued the wrong person. That made me physically react with rage. How dare they. He died the next morning at Parkland hospital... I cannot honestly say I was sad. I was angry at all the injustice of losing her. I was furious at God. How dare He. No one prepares you for truly how unfair life can be. So many people just don't have a clue and sail through life with a charmed disposition and rose colored glasses and a fairy godmother. So many people think they are the exception to horror, to loss, to grief so unimaginable. The officer on the scene uttered phrases no one wants to hear... the words "toxicology report" and "dental records"... infiltrated my mind and made it scream to please wake up… her boyfriend had been driving; it was all his fault. And then going to the funeral home to choose a coffin, the flowers, white gladiolus, the card, constant tears, sobs… heaving shoulders, the kind of drippy runny nose that won't stop... wet upper lip... Kleenex. Lots of Kleenex, I think I went through several boxes just that dreadful month of September.
The nightmares began… and then more nightmares
My mother's birthday… now my sister's funeral, burial day despite her protestations…
my vocal outrage toward him…how insensitive… how un-empathetic… how horrible…
met with my father's indifference, coldness and detachment.
My complete and utter disgust at him…
The first words he had spat toward my sister once buried were:
"Well, you won't be causing anymore trouble!"
The unmarked spot that is his daughter, brought here by the hands of her abusive boyfriend. That was another story entirely. We had tried. For six years we had tried; my mom and I to get her to leave her boyfriend. His mother would never ever admit later that he was ever any issue. He was abusive toward my sister; I had seen the bruises and my family had as well. He had influenced her negatively in so many ways, through drugs and yet much of the time she worked and supported him. He was a user and abuser through and through. And now here was her unmarked spot that to others may appear to be empty to hold no significance; yet it's the spot I visit her, it's a spot of grief, loss and also eternal hope. One day I will see her again. I miss her every day and wish more than anything I could talk to her, see her again. I wish she could have a redo. I often wonder who she would have been if she'd never met him. I often wonder who we all would have been if our family had been different.
For now I was replaying my entire childhood in my mind like a bad movie and questions were coming at me.
How is this possible? How can someone behave this way? He appeared to have little to no empathy.
His behavior toward my mother during this time period became ever worsening. In fact on the one year anniversary of my sisters death there was a horrible storm that night and instead of staying in and being a comfort to his wife, to my mother he chose to leave and go out to a party he had been invited to. It was just another cruel slap in the face to all the years of emotional trauma we had all already endured. I hated how much hurt my mother had endured due to him and while he went to a party and behaved as though nothing had happened and there was zero loss she sat at home alone in grief and loss.
Questions… questions… questions… racing thoughts…
wracking my brain for answers…
"Personality disorder" the therapist told me like she was telling me the weather.
Everything began clicking and the answers I'd needed for the whole length of a childhood.
The answers stared me down. It was a mute point. Answers that came too late…it was all too little too late.
I sat across from my therapist sobbing in the midst of stark reality.
Dismal gray day, rain in the forecast…
her dismal gray coffin that matched the sky….
Hymn of Promise by Natalie Sleeth…
birds chirping and suddenly taking flight overhead as the service came to an end…
I wanted to sit there all day and into the night with her…
I didn't want to leave.
But I got snapped at like a child to get in the car…
"Let's go!" came the angry words from him.
I had never seen my mother look so frail.
My heart ached for her.
For my sister, the horror of it all, it ached for all of us.
I got in the limo and looked back at the coffin…
thinking this must be just a nightmare.
I would wake up….
Surely I would.
Back at home life continued on but I didn't. I went through the motions of caring for children, of shuttling them here and there. tending to needs and running the necessary errands. But it was mostly now being at home. Grieving was a lot of work and exhausting quite frankly. It took a lot of energy. My husband wasn't a big support. Oh sure maybe the first month or so and then it was time to move on. Everyone puts a time line on grief and yet it's not linear or quick. In fact, I learned later years into it that you never really quit grieving. I hate to say that but it's true. The truth is we have to learn to grieve and live simultaneously. It's tough. Because no one ever tells you that or prepares you for it. We keep thinking we are going to get to this destination of healed in our grief and trauma but later we learn we really never do. It's just this weird adaption we do. Our couch at home, I took up residency on it… masses of crumpled tissues did too… pajamas… dirty hair, dirty sweatshirt… month by month... seasons changed from winter to spring... staring listlessly as The Today Show airs and Matt Lauer babbles on about crap that doesn't even matter… why were they so happy, anyway? I thought to myself… feeling no motivation… I notice a "Life Is Good" t-shirt magazine ad and want to scream and cry "Like hell!"… grabbing the remote control, flipping, flipping, flipping channels trying to find something to watch… nap after nap… I change from pajamas to jeans to pick up my kids from school… homework… dinner… bed… tomorrow... next week… repeat of this depression…. people act like the problems they have are monumental... it's such a bad joke I think to myself as they complain about all the paperwork they have to fill out at the doctors office or the fact the pump at the gas station is out of receipt paper or how the neighbors dog won't stop barking... their tolerance level is low and mine is at an all time high because I just learned how really short and fragile life truly is and their problems do not matter or compare to a heap of beans in this screwed up world. It's a repeat tomorrow and the next day and the next. Repeat of this cycle I want off and yet don't know how to remove myself from….
nightmares… more nightmares… make. them. stop.
riding in the car was debilitating and sent me into a panic
"panic disorder" my therapist told me
Reaching out… angry and sad… crying out for God.
It was like that song… it was like He went off for a cigarette break…
and was off the job… like He wasn't watching out for her.
Why? Why? Why? Why, God? Where were you?
Needing comfort. Needing strength.
Needing something or someone good to believe in.
No one tells you grief is so exhausting, that it's comparable to a full time job... tiny steps, zig zagging through the stages of grief… therapy… talking about a loss helps so much as it helps propel you in healing… growing stronger… and as you muddle through the grief the "Why? Why did this happen?" nags at you like a hangnail or snagged sweater… trying to wrack our brain and figure out why God allowed this destruction to happen can drive us crazy. It's chasing something that we never can catch. This chase never ends well, it simply keeps us running in circles… like a little terrier after his tail, fraught in the circle of dissatisfaction. At some point we have to stop chasing and simply stand still… trust Him to bring beauty out of ashes, out of hurt, pain, loss and destruction.
keep. pressing. on.
Little reminders of my sister are always bittersweet... hearing her name always gives me pause... wishing for one more day... one more moment... yet thankful for having the time I had…I think of her every day and I'm so thankful the last words I told her were "I love you". I'm so thankful for God. He truly was there all along. It just takes time to realize that.
(real names have been omitted or changed)
It had been another one of "those nights"… one where I had asked or "told" my son one too many times to go brush his teeth. Unfortunately by about the third or fourth time he'd had enough and stormed off to his bedroom. Moments later I heard the predictable bang! bang! bang! against his bedroom door. In the kitchen I stood at the counter gripping the edges with white fingers. Ugh… when does it ever stop?! I thought to myself. He'd had "fits" since he was about two and although when he was younger they initially appeared out of his control due to a lack of coping skills they had progressively changed to calculated, premeditated... purposeful.
For years I had prayed for change. I had cried for intervention, for help from above. For years I had spearheaded his advocacy and like a force to be reckoned with had determinedly sought help for him… therapies had abounded… tests had run the gamut, help had been had with speech, applied behavior analysis, sensory therapy, role-playing, educational aides, you name it… he'd done it. There had been medication after medication tried and yet nothing seemed to be the answer needed. There had been profound changes of improvement and reason to celebrate… and yet this issue of physical rage and defiance still remained… and not small issues at that. The issues had grown to monstrous proportions as he'd grown in strength and willpower and although his behavior had tamed at school for the most part thankfully… home still proved to be challenging.
Soon would come objects thrown against the door and walls. His die cast Thomas The Trains he'd clutched in his tiny hand at two and once upon a time happily carried in his pockets along with treasured rocks, Starburst and marbles were thrown against his door. Soon would come bigger objects like lamps, chairs and storage bins being hurled down the hallway toward the kitchen. You had two choices: ignore it or go confront it. Ignoring it meant having your home destroyed. Confronting it meant going into battle and physically trying to restrain him (or risk getting annihilated)… something that if you have lived this life yourself… you know it's not what you exactly pictured doing one day… it's the furthest thing you pictured dealing with when you had a mental picturesque snapshot of your family life.
Instead you're met with fists in your face, your son spitting at you, your arms being bitten, your foot stomped on, your stomach punched, your legs kicked and bruised... all because someone didn't want to comply with a simple task such as teeth brushing, taking a shower or going to bed at 8:30 p.m. You try to stay strong… you keep trying to push forward, you keep telling yourself "It will get better"… but for whatever reason it only appears to get worse. You wonder why God is allowing this to happen. You sometimes wonder why this is your life… having a temporary pity party for one. You wonder why he is behaving this way… what is needed to change it… to help it and to conquer it. You're left baffled and wondering why it had to happen to your child, to your family… because it affects each of you. You see your daughter running frightened to her room to hide. You have to have talks with her of "If he goes into fit mode run to your room and lock the door." You wonder why on earth it's right for her to have to grow up like this. She tells you "I don't know why he acts like this. I didn't want a brother like this." You nod and hug her… because who could scold her for being honest? It's affected her life and you worry who she will choose one day because of it… because this is what she has always known… and it's not normal, you tell her. This is not healthy. Healthy families don't have this… you stress… because you don't want her to believe for a minute this is okay or acceptable.
The doorbell rings… it's dark, night has arrived and against my better judgment I had called him, my ex to come help. He stands on the porch in running shorts, a black Northface jacket and I let him in. He's accosted by the twinkle lights on the Christmas tree in the otherwise black room and stands awkwardly by it.
"Where is he?" He asks me and I nod toward our son's bedroom. He makes his way in there and I follow close on his heels. I take a seat on the mini cream papasan chair across the room from our son's twin sized bed draped in a navy comforter. His father sits on the bed beside him and pulls him into a bear hug… something so out of character for him. He plants kisses atop his brown head and speaks to him a low soothing tone dripping with manipulation… it could have been a scene straight from the Godfather… and I watched as it eerily played out... wondering who this newest impostor was… because before when we were married he would have gone into an unhinged blind rage at our son's behavior.
"Now… You are so very, very lucky to have everything you could want at my house… but Mommy has rules at her house… and you need to follow them." as he spoke he planted more kisses on his brown haired head… "Now… do you think you can do that for me?" he asked softly.
I sat across from him perched on the papasan with crossed brows and an outraged expression.
"Excuse me? Can we talk?" I spoke… meaning it more of a statement versus a question.
"Sure!" He chirped at me cheerily rising from the bed… "I''ll be right back…" He promised our son.
Walking into the next room our inky silhouettes were framed against the dark gray painted wall from the Christmas tree lights beside us.
"What was that?" I hissed at him "Are you saying you don't have any rules at your house? Are you saying you don't make him brush his teeth?" I asked him.
"What? What did you want me to say to him?" He asked me expectantly, playing the innocent face.
I stood there staring at him in disbelief. Surely no one was that stupid. No one was that inept. This was like we were married again. It was happening all over again. Him gas lighting me… acting like he was in the right and I was just off my rocker imagining his behavior. But I knew now from enough therapy, enough insight into his manipulation, most importantly enough distance from him and enough coaching of how to handle him that this was not a time for me to doubt my instincts. I knew the truth. This was all calculated manipulation on his part to send a message to our son that I had zero authority, my rules were stupid and that yes, indeed his home was Disneyland and mine was comparable to living with Cruella De Ville.
I told him… "I want you to tell him that this behavior is not acceptable! I want you to tell him that you're not going to put up with him hitting me! Kicking me and destroying everything! That he can't behave this way! That's what I want!" I strongly told him. Inside though I seethed with exasperation. I knew it. I knew I shouldn't have called him. My therapist was right, of course. And yet this one time incident would show time and time again how he did not act like the father he needed to be but instead continually used our son as a pawn in his own agenda.
I would like to say things have improved since then… but unfortunately they haven't. I miss my son's laugh, silliness, and spirit of always wanting to help. Who he's become is someone nearly unrecognizable to me. The fact is, unless parental alienation is counteracted early on it's extremely difficult to turn around. Not impossible, just very challenging and the process takes time. The last day my son was in my home was March 30th and it's been extremely trying… ninety percent of my calls have gone unanswered, my texts have been ignored, my attempts rebuffed. Parental alienation can begin as benign but grow to monstrous proportions… especially if a parent is relentlessly using his (or her) children as pawns. I pray that with counseling and prayer that my son along with all the other children who have been successfully alienated from a warm, loving parent are helped to see the light… that they see what their parent has done in their own selfish agenda and hopefully reconciliation takes place with the other parent. Below I've listed five signs of parental alienation.
If you or someone you know is dealing with parental alienation don't give up! Keep praying for help, for change, for hearts to be transformed. Check into reunification therapy and look up Ryan Thomas Speaks who has a parent alienation reunification program available.
5 Signs of Parental Alienation or Dv (Domestic Violence) by Proxy
1. The child views the alienating parent as all good and the other parent as all bad. There is zero basis for the child's contempt and blatant hatred toward their targeted parent. The child doesn't have remorse, sadness, disappointment etc toward losing the relationship with their parent.
2. The child denies being coached or talked to privately by the alienating parent but in fact has. This damages the relationship the child has with the targeted parent because it takes away their role model; the better of the two parents.
3. The child's negative attitude toward the targeted parent extends to all of his or her extended family. This is very much black and white thinking… "I've decided he or she is bad so all of them must be as well".
4. The child doesn't have a concrete reason for the hatred toward the target parent… it's all unjustified and even spills over into their relationship with their siblings; they say hateful untrue statements to them about their parent.
5. Nearly all parents who have been alienated from their child report a relationship that at one time was very close, warm and loving… only to now be baffled why they are hated. This complete turn around is not normal… and has a source… the alienating parent.
(real names have been omitted or changed)
"Mommy, this is the song Daddy listens to all the time in his car…. " A small voice called out from the backseat of the SUV. "Gone" by country singer Montgomery Gentry crooned on the radio. Sunlight peeked through the open sunroof overhead and the mild fall day that brought a nice warmth, a light breeze, rolled plaid shirt sleeves, skinny jeans and boots made me relish this time of year… when temps were perfect for walks in search of the perfect yellow leaf, timers dinged that apple crisp was baked to golden perfection and front porches were adorned with pumpkins and Indian corn. I heard plainly what my child told me but merely responded with a neutral "Mmmmhmm, oh, that's nice…" as I maneuvered the traffic, filing away that bit of information and promptly changing the subject because I didn't want to feed into a conversation that would ultimately lead to their daddy painting himself as a wounded animal in the aftermath of divorce.
The Art Of Subject Changing…
With divorce we become masterfully skilled at being subject changers. At being distractors. It may not come naturally but with kids it seems to be a skill that is much needed to acquire, to divert our children's attention away from the negative, away from the self-proclaimed victimization of one of the parents… because at the end of the day the true victims in divorce are the children as they are dependent upon their parents keeping their you-know-what-together… because when both adults are doing what they are supposed to do… like being faithful, honest, loving and selfless… putting the marriage first... then the marriage won't fail and consequently, their children's world as they knew it won't fail also.
What No One Tells You About Divorce…
What people don't usually tell us about divorce is that just because the divorce is final doesn't mean your ex has decided to roll over and play dead or just be good. If you've been married to someone who has been manipulative, dishonest, who has been a cheater, who is cunning and narcissistic… possibly even a sociopath… you know the crazy train you've been tossed on isn't about to pull into the station anytime soon so you can get off… they have hijacked you for the long haul and unless you know Jason Statham personally to transport you off there are limited ways to deal. The train is going to continue at a zillion miles per hour and you have one mission… to try to handle this ride that is now your so-called life to the best of your ability. It will be trying, yes… no doubt and there will be zingers thrown your way, in the form of your children saying "Daddy/Mommy said such and such"… but with practice, with focus and your eye on living a life of calm in the midst of the storm around you…. peace can be yours.
Divorce: 6 Things A Parent Should Never Say To Their Child(ren) Regarding The Other Parent:
1. "I wanted our family to work... I really did but it's your Mom/Dad that didn't. She/He is who filed you know..."
This is so not okay. Can we say grandstander? This is playing the martyr, the one with the violin, perched on a soapbox, a one man or one woman performance of nausea intended to paint themselves as unblemished when maybe reality is that the other spouse filed because they had good reason to... maybe they were sick and tired of being cheated on, lied to, treated as inferior or some other myriad of justifiable reasons to say "enough." It's maybe time to accept that fact of life and realize that instead of crying "woe is me" the best thing to do is either speak positively of the other parent or at minimum remain neutral so as not to bring anymore negativity to an already not so great situation.
2. "I miss Mommy/Daddy..."
Let's please not go there. Ever. It places the child in a very uncomfortable situation. One, they feel they have to play the role of nurturer toward their parent... that's actually the adult's job toward the child as a parent. Secondly, the child feels as though they are being asked (even if not outright to) to relay this pertinent piece of information to the other parent… which they will because in their child-sized rose colored glasses (and watching the Parent Trap too many times) imaginary world it might, just might mean you will both get back together and that gets their hopes up for no good reason... they are the child.... not the messenger. Third, the child listens to the one parent crying "I miss mommy/daddy" and in turn thinks to themselves… "This is crazy… if you miss them SO much and loved them SO much then why did you do what you did? Why did you cheat? Why did you divorce? Why did you cause so much grief?" This creates confusion for a child. If the parent truly misses their ex-spouse then they should not be going to their child(ren) about it but instead contacting a therapist who is skilled in helping with their feelings.
3. "I don't have any money… Mommy has all my money."
Once again, playing the victim and drawing the children into your budget, finances and adult world. This is not a mature reaction to an innocent child's question on the toy aisle at Target asking "Can you please buy me that Barbie dream house?" It's not the chid's responsibility to be drawn into money talk, child support etc. The purpose of the child support paid from one spouse to another is to provide money for what the child needs in regards to everyday living. Children don't need to hear anything financially related that could cause them upset or a feeling of being unsettled. As adults even if we are struggling it's up to us to provide a secure environment for our kids so they don't take on our adults worries and burdens. A parent might merely say "Oh, that Barbie dream house looks like fun! Not today… maybe that is something to ask for on your birthday or to write Santa Claus for" ...and leave it at that.
4. "Mommy doesn't want to see you."
It was scheduled in the court papers to exchange the children on this upcoming Friday. Instead, your ex-spouse out of "the goodness of his heart" suggests to you that you take the children early, let's say on Tuesday…. because in reality he has to travel for business, his babysitter has quit or maybe Las Vegas is calling. The truth is… you would love to have them early in a heartbeat… yet since it was dictated in the papers that you weren't getting them till Friday your work week is now filled to the brim… and you know it will be like pulling nails to rearrange everything to take them a few days early. So you tell your ex that you think it's best you both just stick to the court papers. Guess what? Now you are the bad guy… you get deemed by him as "not wanting your children" …. another manipulative ploy by him to be the shining parent. What's worse is he tells the children this. This is manipulation, hurtful, not true and is unacceptable. Twisting reality to suit a parent's personal agenda is not okay. It's best if a parent doesn't relay to the children that the schedule may change until it's a done deal. And even then in life things come up and we all need to be understanding… the best explanation to your child is: "Something came up. No biggie… you will see her in a few days."
5. "My girlfriend is hotter than Mommy."
Okay. Let's just keep this simple… children don't need to hear a comparison of hotness, of boob size, waist dimensions, of sex appeal, of lust, gloss and flesh. They are not their father's comrades at the local bar, not his buddies in the locker room and not his best friend whom he shares his every thought to over lunch. They are children… which means they don't need to hear about their father's sick comparisons of physical attributes they deem better over another. In cases like these it's best for a parent to keep their mouth quiet and let's be real here… if and when this bit of comparison gets back to his ex-spouse it will likely send her into an enjoyable laugh at his expense and her drink to spew out her nose at the pathetic attempts to make her jealous… because a man who goes there just ends up making himself look as a silly as a high school boy.
6. "I don't care what Mommy/Daddy tells you to do."
Telling your child(ren) this only leads to a co-parenting relationship that is not unified but instead actually adversarial. If one parent tells the children or intimates to them that they don't have to listen to the other parent, that he/she doesn't know what they are doing, doesn't know what they are talking about or his/her rules at his/her house are stupid… that parent is belittling the other parent's authority, discipline, rules and weakening their power over the children. They are painting them as inept in the children's eyes, hence giving the children voice to derail any instruction by the one parent. Ultimately, this manipulation done by one parent leads to the children seeing the other parent as "the bad guy" and the child begins slowly voicing opposition of going to spend time at that parent's home. This is subtle brainwashing and alienation that eventually grows into a whole new monster of gigantic proportions. This requires immediate family therapy in a group setting to clear the air and get down to the business of setting the children straight on the fact BOTH parents are indeed important in the children's lives and one parent is NOT going to overshadow the other to create purposeful unnecessary chaos that leads to a damaged relationship between one parent and their child(ren).
When we choose our words carefully, when we look past ourselves, our own egos however wounded and realize that our children's healthy emotional well being should trump any and all manipulation, self-victimization, snide remarks, etc voiced to our children about our ex-spouse we will be doing our job as a parent. We must set aside any unresolved feelings we hold toward our ex for the sake of our children and live our lives with maturity, grace and create the best possible environment for our kids so that they live under the direction, protection, united wings of BOTH parents even though they are residing in two homes. That is a successful co-parenting relationship and one that only includes love.
(real names have been changed or omitted)
"I would just like us to reach a point where we can be friends... you know, I'd really like to be friends and maybe go to dinner occasionally with the kids. I don't see why we can't do that." He told me very casually, sitting beside me.
My body language was one of distance as I shrank back away from him sitting beside me and I hugged the left side of my hard backed plastic chair attempting to put some space between us to my right.
"Friends?! Friends with you?!" I exclaimed.... no longer willing to hold back any more as this had been a continual issue cropping up for months.
"You want to be friends?! You don't treat a friend the way you've treated me and our kids! You don't treat a friend the way you have destroyed our whole family!" I snapped at him gaining momentum to continue, "You ran around on me with multiple women, you now add insult to injury by being so insensitive toward the children as you now have a girlfriend you are telling the kids about and having in the house, you traveled all over the country for "work trips" all the while I was at home doing EVERYTHING while you were NEVER around, you were always gone, you always had "to work", you missed all the doctor appointments the kids had and then suddenly we were getting a divorce and you swoop in and act like some star parent like you are involved and now attend all the appointments when all you've previously been is an absentee dad and a sperm donor... the kids themselves cry you've ruined their lives... not to mention the fact you've put my physical health at risk because you were selfish and caused me to have to go get a full std panel done! Yes, yes, that makes a woman really happy to have to go do that.... and then you want to whine to everyone about how I'm so mean because I can't be your "friend" and go to dinner as a family and how I must be turning the children against you because they vocalize they don't want to be at your house... No, no and no.... You did this. This was all your choice. This is all you... so don't try to continue this innocent facade you've continually tried to paint the past nine months of this process like you are "super dad" because in reality you have decided to continually act like a sorry, sorry sack of shit! And then you want to know why I'm angry and don't want to be friends?"
"Ahem, ummmm..." our son's psychiatrist interjected with a clearing of his throat, slicing the tension in the air of his office. He looked at me and spoke, "I'm glad you got this out and said what you needed to... " he acknowledged understandingly to me, then turned to my estranged spouse with a wary look. "Look..." he began... "Let me say something and this is very, very important what I'm about to tell you... " he paused taking a deep breath... "Do not... Do not ever, ever, ever tell her ever again you want to be friends. Is that clear? Because you may be fine with everything and in a good place but she is dealing with raw emotions and hurting and also hurting for the kids too... You two being friends.... not a good idea, okay? The expectations are too high. No dinners, either. You both need space and time apart. And any communication would best be done by email not phone, text or in person. This relationship needs to be kept strictly professional. Maybe you can have a binder of information you pass back and forth on exchange day.... does that make sense to you? Because we really need to get some distance between you two." he affirmed once again, shooting me a quick look of sympathy as my lower lip began to quiver and I silently cursed it to stop so the tears wouldn't begin.
When we use ugly, accusing, attacking words, it's a sign we are not just angry but truly hurt. We are suffering in a deep quagmire of hurts, injustices and disappointments. We may not just be feeling our own hurts but the hurts of those around us.... especially any hurts our children are experiencing which as a mother are always felt ten fold to our own pain and grief.
It might take months or years to heal from the pain of divorce. For even if you were in a less than great marriage or one that smacked of abuse, you can rest assured it's completely normal to be upset, sad, hurt, disappointed and angry... the reason for this being because we are grieving "what should have been" and what we wished for our marriage and children. Naturally no one marries planning to get divorced.
6 Practical Tips For Healing:
1. Just grieve. Trying to stuff the grief, anger and pain down will only serve to stall healing. It's important to allow yourself to feel the emotions of anger and sadness so you can eventually reach the goal of healing and forgiveness. Some people take longer than others to heal from the pain of divorce and each person is unique in their grief.
2. Explore what it is that is possibly holding you back in the healing process. If you had a spouse who refused to acknowledge that what they've done has been detrimental to the family then it's understandably frustrating and infuriating... its not possible to get closure from them. And if you've felt there has been a lack of closure due to one spouses inability or unwillingness to discuss the dissolution of the marriage, the healing process for you may very well take longer. If you are expecting an apology in order to move on that you never get.... it may be about accepting the fact you may never get what you are desiring. Exploring the reasons why we may be stalled in the stage of anger may be greatly beneficial to us. At the end of the day we truly cannot expect to get healed from the person who hurt us. And a narcissist is not going to feel guilt, shame or regret over hurting us at all. They will always justify their terrible choices and actually blame you. They will never take any personal responsibility for their behavior.
3. If you were unaware your spouse was cheating during the marriage, once you find out it may be comparable to being hit by a Mack truck... despite any existing marital issues perhaps you likely didn't see a betrayal coming and with that we may find ourselves reeling from shock while our spouse has already moved on because they've started their new life within the marriage some time ago... it was just you who didn't get the memo. When this happens the grief may feel one sided. Narcissists don't grieve their relationships when they end. They are also unable to feel any empathy for your grief. It's understandable to feel insult to injury when our hurts may feel overwhelmingly in our face yet the other person appears to be sailing through their new life largely unaffected. This may compound our hurt but also know that this doesn't necessarily mean the other person is 100% healed... they may be squashing and stuffing feelings that will come back later with a vengeance.Try not to focus on where you believe the other person is in their healing process as it will serve no positive purpose.
4. Some people may want to have a post divorce friendship with their ex and others may have zero contact... the choices have a wide spectrum and you have to decide for yourself what is best for you and your personal situation. If there has been physical or emotional abuse in the marriage then it's always best to keep contact to zero or minimum for parenting. Utilizing email, a binder or using a communication app may be beneficial to keeping the lines of communication open regarding any children but no more than needed. It's up to you what type of relationship you are willing or comfortable in having with your ex. People may believe you are not making the right choice going minimal contact but it's your life and your decision and only you know the intricacies of your unique position. At exchanges of the children, soccer games, school plays etc, keeping conversation minimal and polite is always a good rule of thumb no matter how much animosity you may still currently feel for the other person.
5. When there are children involved you may occasionally feel placed in the middle. If your son or daughter is calling you crying that "Daddy is being mean and yelling at me.... come pick me up" and/or your ex is talking to them about their dating life, it's going to pull you in and there will be decisions that have to be made of how to react. A good rule of thumb is to tell your children "I'm sorry you are upset and I see that's really frustrating you. But... you are at Daddy's and I am not able to pick you up. This is something you need to try to talk to Daddy about, tell him how you feel" or "I'm hearing from you it hurts your feelings that he's dating someone. Have you told him how you feel about it?" By encouraging your children to use their speech and express themselves in a healthy manner but also being a soft spot for them to go to from a distance when they are on the other parents turf is a win win for everyone involved.
6. Whatever personal issues your ex and you have between you can be eased when each parent is stepping up and being the parent the children need them to be. Some parents are capable of this and some are not. If one parent is lacking skills and makes a concerted effort to improve and makes wise decisions in not flaunting their dating life in front of the children too soon after the divorce is final when wounds are still fresh... not only do the children benefit from that but the other spouse does also. Because when a mother can see that the father of her children is making good decisions to not inflict further pain upon the kids it does something positive.... it allows her to see him in at least some positive light. At that time she can at say to herself "Okay, he and I may have all this mess between us but at least he IS being a wonderful dad!" This does so much to benefit not just the children but mom's healing because she knows the children are being well cared for and loved. That may very well be the stepping stone she needs to move into a better place and heal. A narcissist however will flaunt and brag about a new relationship even to their children making everyone more upset and ironically if you filed due to betrayal your ex will likely still blame you for the divorce due to you filing... even going so far as to telling the children the divorce is all your fault. The best response to that is discussing how when we are not truthful, when we lie and when we cheat there are consequences to our naughty behaviors and sometimes that is someone filing for divorce on you.
Divorce is hard. It's always a mess of muddied emotions and each person's situation is unique and their own. Being friends may not be possible (and never is with a narcissist) and setting the bar too high may certainly place unrealistic expectations upon us and unnecessary pressure. Post divorce it's not a written rule that friendship is a must or even a preferable goal for exes. What is the goal for divorced parents in particular is one of just being polite as we would any stranger or acquaintance we occasionally see. Keeping things polite and professional will go a long way in instilling healthy boundaries needed in the post divorce relationship. Being too chummy with our ex may even send a mixed message to our children who may think if we are able to be so friendly with one another why did we divorce to begin with? The other extreme in delivering regular doses of bashing in front of the children to our ex which will not only create further strife but land you in court with accusations of alienating behavior.
Taking healing one day at a time and placing whatever amount is necessary of distance between you and your ex will go a long way in getting yourself to a healthy place. We can meditate and pray for God to intervene and help us in the process, having faith we will make it through and reach a place of healing and peace.
(real names have been changed or omitted)
When you realize you aren't married to who you thought you were you may discover that this person hid who they really were and made fake promises of forever to you. He wasn't in it for the long haul. You supplied a fleeting need, a deep empty hole to be filled, a momentary time of idealization of you. It worked for a while. He made you feel special at first and adored you, pinched himself he got you, bragged to everyone about you. But eventually he will become bored. And he will begin to treat you less and less well as he once had. He bitches to his mother in secret about his unhappiness. She in turn will enable his poor behavior on you. Because it's what she knows. And what she does. The hurt he inflicted on you and the way you saw him dismissively treat others for years made you cringe. You witnessed him being short with waitstaff, cashier's and valet's. You voiced your concerns of this which were repeatedly dismissed and denied. Then you internally question his negative behaviors because he proudly parades you around on his arm like a trophy unbeknownst to you at the time that he is further feeding his sick twisted need within him that he has someone so pretty, so talented and so good.
He tells everyone,"She's so good."
A narcissist is good at keeping their public persona intact all the while behaving like the monster he is behind closed doors at home. He may be very complimentary of you toward others. At home he may treat you terribly and abuse you. He is cunning and manipulative and presents a facade of "the good guy." He wants the best for himself. He wants the best for you... because when you have the best of everything he feels puffed up and like an addict who gets his momentary high. IT MAKES HIM LOOK GOOD WHEN YOU LOOK GOOD. But it wears off and there is withdrawal. Like an addict he always needs more and more. He buys you the diamond earrings. He buys a Jaguar. He buys a boat. He buys a big house. He buys art and toys and gadgets. His ego continues to inflate like a hot air balloon. There were glimpses of a larger issue than just ego and image but you second guess and self doubt. Later of course these moments are always crystal clear.
The hurtful words toward you increase, the criticisms of how you are not doing this right, you are not doing enough. It's never enough. He tells you.... You don't give him enough sex even when you are. You don't hug him even when you do. You don't give him enough back rubs when you do. You don't do it right. You don't text him enough. You don't go to lunch with him enough. You don't watch his movies enough. You don't relax. Ah, but today you are relaxing too much... get off your ass and do something! You gain weight and now you're too big. You lose weight and as my ex said to me, "You look like shit. Go look in the mirror. Gain some weight." A narc twists and turns everything to be your fault. He poisons the children with bribery and indulgence to like him more. He undermines your authority and sabotages any good character and responsibility you try to instill in them. He takes zero blame. Because at the core he's criminal. He evades taxes, he speeds, he lies, he breaks rules, he's underhanded in business. You can't keep up with the pressures from him and keep him happy because the rules change daily, by the hour and by the minute. He changes the game on you so you never know the rules in this ongoing cycle of confusion. You can't be enough now. He has sucked you dry like a vampire, he has used you up. You are exhausted and chronically emotionally and physically spent. But the demands increase. He wants anal sex, he wants this, he wants that. You stand your ground and are disgusted by him. You lose all respect for him and for good reason. You are repelled by him and you tell him so.
He pulls further and further away and he seeks new attention outside the relationship to fill that hole. The distance between you widens as that HE MUST FILL his emptiness just like an addict in withdrawal. The man you once knew that adored you, that boasted of you, that loved you.... seeks a new supply to fill that gaping hole. He plays the victim, sighs and shakes his head to others as he lies about you and says "I know... she has issues. I just couldn't help her. I've been so unhappy for a long time." You find out he's been cheating and see the evidence... the ugliness... the outright lies, the hateful words written about you and even the new women... how as my ex so put in in his messages that "all women are dumb". Male narcs laugh at how truly dumb women are in their eyes.. because they fell for his lies, his manipulation and facade. He is discarding you. You are worthless now to him. You mean nothing to him now. Because he's used you up. You shudder and realize this isn't love, this is the devil.
The devil has been in your bed. Sleeping beside you every night. You just THINK you know who you married. The devil has been in your home. The devil has been helping raise your children. The devil has been conning you. The devil has been pinching himself and laughing the entire time.
The devil has infiltrated every aspect of your life.
Who is this devil?
A NARCISSIST at best.
Maybe a Sociopath.
Maybe even a Psychopath.
You married this. Maybe because it's what you knew. Maybe because this was your dad. It presented slightly differently so you erroneously believed "different was okay" ... but just because it's "different crazy" doesn't mean it's not crazy.
You don't have to live with this.
You can kick crazy to the curb.
You have one life.
And it's too precious to waste on the devil.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ...
2 Timothy 3:1-7
(real names have been changed or omitted)
I glanced at my Coach watch as I sat in my children's psychologist's waiting room noting it was nearly a quarter to ten. It was almost time, I thought to myself as my eyes surveyed the brightly lit sparse room with magazines, plastic backed chairs and an ocean mural on the opposite wall. My cell phone began ringing and I dug through my purse for it, finally extracting it from an inside pocket. Rising from my chair and seeing who the caller was displayed on the screen, I answered it and slipped outside into the breezeway... leaves scuttling along as my camel hued boots trekked through them... a slight breeze was stirring and caused my hair to whip around my shoulders... "Hello?" I answered.
"Hey..." came the all too familiar voice over the line like that of warm baked bread but today, this morning, it sounded slightly off, like it was pinched and in pain. Two hours earlier I had told him goodbye unbeknownst to him for the last time over breakfast and making two school lunches in our kitchen as he hurried out the door to work.
"I just got served... I wish you would have talked to me first." His words came slowly at first but then rapid as if they were like steam being released from a tea kettle in a quick spurt.
My breath caught momentarily, reality had arrived, and the October wind carried my breath away. "You wish I'd talked to you?" I repeated what he'd said because I couldn't believe anyone could disperse such an unnerving utterance like that. "Oh, I'm so sorry... Well, I wish you'd talked to me first... before you decided to go screw other women." I replied into the phone as my long hair whipped around my head.
"You had indiscretions!" came the verbal assault back at me ninety to nothing and I clutched the phone so as not to drop it on the hard pavement in shock.
"What?!" I gasped.
"Yeah! With Jeremy! You did!" He half yelled, half retorted back and I was now thoroughly convinced he'd fallen and hit his head, maybe suffering some sort of stroke or early dementia because his accusation was just plain crazy.
"Are you crazy?!" I asked him, my immediate world, my surroundings... the bench, the floor to ceiling glass windows revealing other doctor offices along the corridor of the breezeway suddenly began reeling around me in a dizzying kaleidoscope of colors...
"Oh my God... have you lost your mind?" I asked him coldly yet not really expecting an answer from him. Shock and fury overwhelmed me that I was standing accused when I had not stepped out and yet he had multiple times. What was worse is he'd pushed for marital counseling through our church which I'd agreed to and yet not during a single session with our Pastor had he once mentioned any infidelities.
"You fool!" I cried into the phone, You were so insecure, so certain I must have done something you convinced yourself I did, you continually threw him in my face... You're throwing everything away over nothing! I haven't done anything! I don't appreciate being accused of something I haven't done and I don't appreciate you accusing him of doing something with me!" I informed him... pity overwhelming me for him on the line... sudden pity that anyone could be so blind, so insecure, so damn stubborn and not see what had stood before him... faithfulness and two sweet children but instead... looking, fishing, for ludicrously "justifiable" excuses in his twisted paranoid mind for his failing concious choices he had made out of selfish sin. Likewise years ago when I'd been single Jeremy may have walked away out of mounting frustration and I had failed out of weakness to share my heart when we'd dated but the man who had vowed to honor, love and cherish me before God had not followed through and now had the nerve to justify his actions on baseless lies he'd created.
"I'll take the stand and a lie detector test! I have nothing to hide!" I told him... "You're the one who cheats and then you come back and accuse me. I am done." I hung up.
When a spouse has been cheating they may come up with the false idea you have been too. This is called projection. The thief judges by his own condition. They are transferring all of their indiscretions, lies and the facade they've carefully orchestrated for however long as your behavior and the reason for the failure of the relationship.
But this couldn't be further from the truth. They have lived in their alternative world of lust and lies for so long they have convinced themselves the person they know and love must have done the same as they have, that they too are swept up in a quagmire of extramarital sex and conniving deceit fueled by deeply rooted jealousy and insecurity within. But they are wrong. Cheating spouses who are often also narcissistic may twist and spin the truth to suit themselves, to help them feel better, to massage their egos and to justify their meandering souls. But it doesn't work.
You may feel rightly incensed by the false accusations when you've done nothing, like a piece of your heart has been ripped out and in that you may feel bewildered that the one you're with doesn't appear to know you any better than that. Because even in the worst days of your marriage, the days of frustration and irritation, those dark days together when it would have been so much easier to throw in the towel and walk off, but instead you clung to those orginal vows you made, took a deep breath, dusted yourself off and walked in the next room to begin again... you have remained faithful to the marriage no matter what your emotions of the heart have been, no matter what past regrets you may hold and yet now you stand on the pavement among dry brittle detached leaves of October being told all those many many times you dusted yourself off and vowed to begin again, to not give up and tucked yourself under his chin with your hand clasping his in quiet resolve were essentially all for nothing... to now be told it was essentially a waste of your time. It's one of the most tragically tear jerking experiences to realize this and the sadness that goes with it.
You know who you are to your core and eventually you just have to move on and live your life no matter how many times the person continues to falsely accuse you. There are always signs of a cheating spouse however subtle... the signs are there... waiting to be noticed or discovered in the busy day to day activity we call life. Some signs may not be realized until much later, after the fact, in hindsight and you will have moments that cause you to take pause and say to yourself "Now I see why he did this or that... "
That knowledge certainly doesn't make it any easier to swallow and you may beat yourself up (unnecessarily) but don't.... because it's not a reflection of you... it's a reflection of their character. The truth is... you are brave. You gave your heart... you trusted, you believed, you tried. There will always be things you see later with more clarity that you could have done better in a relationship and in that there is grace too... there are always second chances in life and an opportunity to grow.
Signs Of A Cheating Spouse:
1. Any changes physically; working out suddenly, new hair style, tanning, teeth whitening, hair growth regime, new wardrobe, etc.
2. New products; new deodorant brand, new music preferences, new cologne, new shampoo, etc.
3. Shady-ness; won't put his/her cell phone down and seems to be worried you might look at it, now goes to the movies "alone", his work hours change, he/she begins traveling for work more often, hides his history on web browsing, hides calls, deletes texts and photos, makes calls in private or outside, suddenly spends more time with a co-worker, etc.
4. Cleanliness; suddenly he/she is keeping their car cleaner and their clothes go to the dry cleaners with promptness.
5. It's all about them; suddenly he/she needs more "me time" and less couple time... he's off to "play golf" or "see a movie" etc when in reality he's meeting "her" or one of many he's seeing.
6. Sex; he's either withdrawn from you and is never in the mood or he's like a raging horn dog all the time... well, more than usual.
7. You're wrong; and he/she is always right, you can never seem to please them anymore and he/she always seems irritated with you.
8. Turns the tables; he/she used to be a self professed conservative... now their a liberal and wants to make pot legal... you sit there staring at him/her thoroughly convinced they've had a batch of brownies from Portland Oregon over-nighted because clearly he/she's high as a kite.
9. You're "delusional"; you tell him your concerns that he is going on a work trip and will be riding in a vehicle for several hours alone with someone of the opposite sex. You voice how you don't believe this is appropriate considering he's a married man. He/she dismisses your concern and says you're dreaming up a scenario that will never happen and does what he chooses.
10. He/she turns on you; he tells you that you look horrible. He says you need to lose/gain weight, he tells you that he's not happy, he accuses you of being unfaithful when you haven't and he has zero evidence of such.
Telling The Children You're Getting A Divorce: You Will Be Blamed By The Narcissist As The Reason For Divorcing
Friday, October 26th, 2012
(real names have been omitted or changed)
Setting two dinner plates of steaming hot fish sticks, macaroni and cheese and green beans on the dark stained kitchen table I called the kids into the kitchen, "Dinner's ready!" Fresh cups of milk stood ready for them at their place settings and a bottle of ketchup sat on the table. I rounded the brown speckled granite bar counter-top that divided the eating area and kitchen to fetch Parmesan cheese from the refrigerator. Two excited children came running in and slid into their white linen draped parson's chairs, exclaiming happiness it was time to eat and affirming they liked what they saw on their plates. This was the night... he was supposed to be packing a bag with a few days clothes in it with plans to go stay at his mother's house. I had surprised him with divorce papers earlier that day around ten at his place of work after discovering his infidelity three days before. I didn't bother having a conversation because I wasn't going to be married to a cheater. If he didn't have the respect toward me to not cheat I certainly wasn't going to give him the respect of a discussion about it. I'd not said a word, merely filed and had our twelve year marriage come to a legal dissolution process once he'd made the selfish decision not to be loyal. If I had been thoroughly aware of who I'd been married to and what I was dealing with (narcissistic personality disorder) I would have had the locks changed on the house, him locked out, his crap thrown on the front lawn or a bag tossed out and a cop standing guard at the door to keep him from forcing his way in. But no... I had underestimated him. Upon the children getting home from school it was agreed that he would pack an bag and go to his mother's house until arrangements were made about our living situation during the divorce process. In the papers I'd had him served with there was a protective order and he was to vacate the home. Unfortunately though he was taking his sweet time and seemed to be in no hurry... biding his time to come up with a plan of how he could twist and spin this entire situation around to make himself appear to be the victim and instead me the one who was cruel and tossing him out; as if he had never committed infidelity.
As I rummaged in the fridge I heard a loud thud. Turning to my left I see him. Standing there with a huge over-sized suitcase on rolling feet beside him he'd carried down from upstairs. The type you take with you overseas it's so over-sized. Talk about over the top. With a dejected expression on his face he looks past me as if I'm invisible avoiding my eyes to search out the children's eye contact across the room. They meet his and get up from their seats with curiosity to walk around the counter-top. They stop short when they see him with the suitcase standing there with a forlorn expression.
"What's going on?" our son asks. "Where are you going?" He looks confused and likely wonders if he's forgotten about a business trip that was to take place that night. But there was no business trip planned.
"Mommy doesn't love me anymore and is kicking me out of the house." came the pitiful reply marked with a victimized voice of manipulation.
I stop short. I stare at him in disbelief.
He. did. not. just. go. there.
"Excuse me?" I say… but there's no response.
He doesn't look at me. He won't look at me. He purposefully avoids.
I stand there and for a second, a split second everything is still. Then all hell breaks loose.
"What????!!!! She's what????!!!!!" came the cries and then the ugly glares at me from the two little people I love most. The most ugly, accusatory looks filled with contempt joined with pure screams of indignant "How could you???!!!!"
I hear a barrage of "What???!!!" and "Why???!!!" coming at me like mini torpedoes and I am engulfed by them... I can't get a word in edgewise. I try to speak and each time I'm cut off mid sentence, mid word. They hover by him and cling to his arms and begin mercilessly begging him to not go…
The scene painfully horrifically plays out before my eyes… and there's no way to stop it.
"Please don't go Daddy!" they cry out to him and I watch in horror as my son begins yanking the suitcase out of his father's hand, physically un-prying his fingers from the handle in a desperate attempt to keep him there.
Just. pure. evil.
What he's done.
"Mommy told me she doesn't love me anymore. She is kicking me out, guys. I have to go. I love you but I have to move out. She's divorcing me." the tone comes out as manipulatively sad and dejected.
"What??!!! Mommyyyyyy!!! How could you???" our daughter cried out.
I stand in frozen horror as my daughter's sweet little face crumples into what resembles a wadded tissue and she begins wailing like a wounded baby animal hurting and lost in the wild. She glares daggers at me that hurt me to the core… like knives of pain…. like she had been betrayed by her own flesh and blood, me, the mother who had birthed her, then buries her wet face into his shoulder sobbing into his dress shirt.
Oh my God... my heart sank…
this. was. not. happening.
He looks at me now. Directly in the eyes.
With a steady dark-filled gaze and a curled lip of triumphant satisfaction that silently says…...
"Too bad for you."
At the kitchen table my mother sits in frozen silent shock as this atrocious scene plays out and knows as I do this is not how it was supposed to go.
It had been discussed previously that afternoon he would collect his essential things needed and vacate the home quietly as stated in the papers before the children got home from school and we would decide how to tell them in a civilized manner together. Having a calm transition for the kids was of utmost importance to me but that unfortunately was not the way things would turn out. It had been hijacked and there was no turning back now. I decided right then I wasn't allowing this to continue. I wasn't allowing him to make me the fall guy… I'd had enough. It was enough to make your stomach turn and cause you throw up in your mouth.
"We need to sit down and discuss this." I spoke loudly but firmly above the chaotic fray trying to get everyone's attention. Finally everyone settled down and tears rolled down cheeks silently, cheeks that were hot and ruddy… little noses dripped and sniffed as I wrapped my arms around them and gently rocked them.... talking about how some things had come to light and it was best that we not live together anymore…. that mommy and daddy needed to live separately… yes, we were getting a divorce, yes, it was for the best… and that it was not at all their fault… that they were loved. Questions came through sniffs and mumbled words…
My back stiffened and I spoke, "Maybe Daddy would like to answer that question." I replied pointedly turning to look at him.
Silence. Another steady glaring gaze at me filled with what one can only describe as dark hatred. "I'm not taking the fall for this." I told him quietly but matter of fact. "Either you tell them, either you be honest and fix this or I will tell them." I warned him.
Silence in return.
No eye contact.
"Daddy and I have had some issues..." I told them. "And part of that has been him dating another lady. And when you're married you don't do that. That is why I filed for divorce." I told them quietly. I was not taking the fall for this. I was not allowing his agenda to continue. I was not letting them believe this toxic twisted package he had wrapped up with a bow and tried to pass off as legitimate was acceptable. It was beyond evil and sick what had just transpired and only further solidified I'd made the right decision to file for divorce.
Questions were asked and answered as best as possible… but there was no reassuring our son that Daddy was not leaving in the permanent sense but just going to live separately from us for awhile. The damage had been done. Before either of us could stop him he took off running, out of the house, through the open garage and out into the fifty degree night air barefoot… running… running… running as fast as he could down the dark tree lined street… I didn't know if it was the impulsivity of the ADHD or merely simple fight or flight kicking in out of fear, but as we chased him down I waffled between wanting to scream and cry. This couldn't be my children's life…. the destruction caused and the hurt inflicted in this night that could never be undone. Finally, later after physically bringing him back, him fighting like a baby cub, finally, after much talk and trying to stress how it truly wasn't their fault... what would change, what wouldn't, everyone calmed down combined with lots of reassuring and hugs.
When all was said and done and coming to an end he refused to leave. I busied the children, getting them distracted eating their long forgotten now cold dinner as he began lugging his suitcase back upstairs. I left the kids to their dinner and rounded the corner to the hallway… and hissed at him under my breath at the foot of the main floor stairwell,
"Where do you think you're going?" I demanded in a low tone.
"Back upstairs. I'm sleeping here tonight." He replied cooly toward me.
"Not up there you're not." I snapped and shook my head. "You can sleep on the couch downstairs. You're not sleeping in that bed!" I told him.
"It's my bed. I'll sleep in it if I want." He retorted, "You can sleep on the couch downstairs." He added smugly.
I didn't want to call the police (in hindsight I should have that second) and have him escorted out, especially in front of the children yet he was making this all unnecessarily uglier than it should have ever been. "I'm not sleeping on the couch!" I informed him. Eventually he agreed to sleeping in our son's trundle bed and vacating the house on the following day. But the damage had already been done. The children had been put through hell for no reason.
This is obviously a worst case scenario come true. This is not the way to tell your children you are divorcing…throwing one parent under the bus. This is an unfortunate reality if you are dealing with someone who is a narcissistic sociopath. The personal agenda of a sociopath will always trump what should be done in the best interests of the children. Narcissists do not care about their children nor doing what is right. They will always do what they wish and actually enjoy, get pleasure out of seeing you suffer by their dirty hands.
10 TIPS FOR TELLING YOUR CHILDREN YOU'RE GETTING A DIVORCE:
Obviously as can be seen above things don't always go as planned but in the hopes that doesn't happen to you here are some tips.
1. Make a plan together when the children aren't in earshot of you. Figure out exactly what you are going to say. I cannot stress that enough. Usually "We've grown apart", "As you know we've been fighting quite a bit more lately" or "We've tried to work on some issues and it's just not working, we believe this to be best for the family..." etc are good, neutral statements to use when talking to your kids. This doesn't place the blame on anyone but instead acknowledges that yes, there's been a issue(s) and this is the decision that's been made.
2. Do not use a self proclamation of pity and throw your spouse under the bus to earn sympathy points from your children. In the days following telling our children we had a counseling appointment in place for them. At the therapist's office I told the therapist what had transpired the night in telling the children. He looked horrified and turned to address my soon to be ex who in turn pointed out how I'd then told the children he had stepped outside the marriage. The therapist nodded and spoke "Well, yes, I guess she did since you threw her under the bus!" and proceeded to sternly reprimand him for what he'd done. As he spoke his eyes flashed with steely anger at him "Take some responsibility. You need to fix this. You need to man up and tell your children you handled this wrong... that what you did was wrong."
3. Get counseling in place for your children as soon as possible. They are going to need it and be sure to tell any close family members, babysitters, teachers etc. They all need to be aware of the divorce so they can be sensitive to your child's needs and any emotional fallout or acting out that occurs. Children's behavior does tend to worsen during divorce and even in the aftermath of it… for months on end… this is completely normal for them… they are trying to gain some control in a time they feel absolutely none. Continue to set limits and boundaries and rules as you would… like no hitting, no bad words, use your manners, etc… and with that make sure to give lots of extra attention and affection.
4. When you tell the kids do not under any circumstances leave the room. You can't be sure what will be said behind your back and you need to be fully present for such an important conversation.
5. If things get heated be the peace maker. Be the soft place, don't add to the chaos and fray. Be a comforter and focus on their hurt not yours. This is about telling them and focusing on how they feel not how you feel about it.
6. Have another person in the home, someone who is there but doesn't get involved, maybe stays in the next room but merely as a safe extra presence of comfort for your children to go to in their hurt.
7. If the person is abusive use extra caution. Another reason to have someone else there; if anything as a witness and to phone for help if needed. Make sure you have in your divorce papers that are served that they are to vacate the home. Get a protective order if necessary.
8. If you have children who have special considerations and needs like ADHD or are on the autism spectrum, etc be sure you have safety in mind. This is a time when someone may be a flight risk and bolt out of the house, run down the street and/or threaten self injury. As parents it's important to be prepared for the unexpected.
9. Your timing matters. Don't tell them the night before they have a big test, prom, graduation, any major life event or the week of their birthday, around Christmas Eve/Day etc. They will always remember "the day" they are told... don't cast a dark light on an otherwise positive event/day in their life.
10. Do not under any circumstances tell them you're divorcing unless you are 100% sure that you are doing this and you've made the right decision. The last thing you want is to drag your children through an emotional conversation of "were splitting up" then retracting it, creating lots of confusion and resentment. Make certain you are solid with your decision before you include them in this life changer called divorce.
Jennifer Gafford is a writer, speaker and divorce coach who helps guide parents through the pain of trying to co-parent with their narcissistic ex, and shares tips for custody and healing. She began her website gracepowerstrength in 2012 and over time her blog and audience grew to over a million views. Jennifer was married for twelve years, has two children and is very well versed in the facts regarding narcissistic abuse and the challenges involved in healing. Today, she shares daily posts and stories on Instagram for thousands of followers regarding npd abuse and believes everyone deserves a life of peace, love and freedom.