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.