I opened the email and read, “Cathy, make sure that Taylor has proper clothes packed for our trip to Seattle.” I thought to myself, “Who the hell do you think you are talking to?”
My children had always been spit shined and dressed to the nines! And he had NOTHING to do with it.
My ex was a genius when it came to projecting his own shortcomings off onto me. When he and I met he was wearing topsiders that were losing their soles and cut off blue jeans with holes. He purchased his first pair of Khaki pants at my urging. I threw in a button down shirt for good measure. And here he was, telling me to make sure our children were properly clothed!
He never missed the opportunity to bend and twist reality out of shape in order to shift his guilt off onto me. If you’ve divorced a narcissist you know what I’m talking about.
The Teflon Man
Everything he did slipped right off of him and stuck to me like glue. He would go for months without talking to or seeing the boys but they always eventually heard from him. And his explanation for his absence always had something to do with some behavior of mine. “Your mother has a new phone number and didn’t share it with me.” Or some such twaddle.
Two and a half years after the divorce I made the decision to move to another state. We would be living 4 hours apart. I emailed and informed him of the move, offered him extra time in the summer during visitation, to meet him half way every other weekend and to give him more time during holiday visitations.
I didn’t expect him to take me up on my offer of more visitation time during the summer. He could have the boys for a month during summer vacation but had not taken advantage of that time since our divorce. I did, however expect him to take advantage of me meeting him half way every other weekend and extra time during holiday visitation.
You would have thought that with my experience during the marriage and since the divorce that I would have known to keep my expectations low. That I would have expected him to take advantage of the ability to twist it, bend it and project off onto me his own warped personality deficiencies instead of respond reasonably to my move.
Projection is the psychological phenomenon where someone thinks everyone else is doing and thinking what they are doing and thinking. It is usually seen as the externalization of a person's negative traits, placing blame on an outside force such as the environment, a government, a society or other people.
When it came to negative traits my ex was heavily weighed down (I’m assuming he still is) and I was the outside “force” he chose to blame it all on.
A Fine Example
The ex’s response to my “I’m moving” email is a text book example of projection. The man projected twenty years worth of his junk off onto me in one email. If I was leaving the state he was damn sure going to make sure I took along some extra baggage!
"Taking this action without consulting me is completely outside the realm of common decency"
He made the decision to divorce without “consulting” me. He went to our children’s schools, checked them out of school and told them we were divorcing before I even knew there was to be a divorce. When I, shockingly, found out through a third party…my children that he wanted a divorce and ask him for an explanation he told me, “I don’t owe you an explanation.”
And he had the audacity to tell me that giving him a months’ notice of my move lacked “common decency.” PROJECTION!
"It’s also a direct violation of the divorce decree,"
Not true! I had checked the decree, checked with my attorney and checked state divorce laws pertaining to relocation after divorce. My move was within my legal rights.
He, on the other hand had defied EVERY aspect of our divorce decree from the day he signed it. He defied the decree directly and indirectly. I think he read that damn decree while eating his cereal every morning, checking off ways in which he could defy it. He should have changed his name to “Refuse to Obey Meyer.”
But here he was pointing fingers and accusing me of violating something that held no meaning to him? PROJECTION!
"The suddenness with which you have made and acted upon this decision indicates you are acting out of self-interest."
Ten days before he decided he “had to have” a divorce he told me he couldn’t imagine life without me. He was looking forward to the next 50 years. The day he left we were getting ready for church when he picked up his car keys and said he was going for a coke. He never came home again.
He left me without notice, slammed his children with “I’m leaving and never coming back” with no notice and eventually cut off all contact with them without explanation.
Suddenness? Self-Interest? BLATANT PROJECTION!
"This shows that your offer to enter counseling was purely window dressing."
I had urged we see a counselor before rushing into a divorce 2 and ½ years earlier. He had not responded to my request for counseling. Until the “I’m moving” email and the term “window dressing” jumped out at me like a snake ready to strike.
It is a term that my therapist had used with me to describe our marriage. “During your marriage your husband created a deceptively favorable impression as a husband and father but none of it was real, it was all window dressing.”
That is what narcissists do best though, create deception and when called out on it point fingers outwardly. You see, my offer to attend counseling was sincere. He knew however that if he had agreed it would be more of the same from him…window dressing. PROJECTION
I remember sharing his email with my therapist who shook his head and said, “That is one insecure, vulnerable man.” It was at that moment that I decided to stop allowing his anxiety to cause me anxiety. Something I hope you will consider doing if you are dealing with someone who bends, twists and projects.