I’ve been accused, in the past, of being “disloyal” to my ex-husband when I write about my experiences with him either during the marriage or since the divorce. What some fail to realize is that when you are divorcing a narcissist feelings of support and allegiance toward that person are hard to come by, if not impossible.
Any loyalty I owed my ex flew out the window the day he walked away from his family. I have no sense of loyalty toward a person who left me in a truly untenable position with two children to care for and no concern for how his conduct impacted his children or me, their mother. Plus, why would anyone who takes a scorched-earth attitude toward those who loved him think he has the right to claim the protection of confidentiality?
I have to admit though that it took time for me to realize that I owed my ex-husband NOTHING and that I had more power in our situation than he did.
I spent a couple years capitulating, attempting to negotiate and fix the problems between us believing that if I gave respect I would eventually receive respect. I did what a lot of women do who are dealing with the aftermath of divorcing a narcissist. I rolled over and over and over playing nice doggy hoping that one day he would rub my belly, begin to co-parent civilly and we could put all the conflict behind us. You know, for the sake of our children.
What Does Rolling Over Get You?
You get nothing from all the effort you put into being civil with the narcissist. As long as you are in any type of relationship with a narcissist, you can bet the only person who will benefit from that relationship is the narcissist.
A narcissist has an inflated sense of his own importance. In his mind, you are supposed to roll over and often. You rolling over or giving in only cements his belief that he is all important and his needs must be catered to. And his belief that you are to cater to him only gets you more of the same emotional abuse you suffered in the marriage.
You roll over expecting a positive return on your emotional investment in your post-divorce relationship with the narcissist. A sensible expectation to have! He has his own expectations…you do as he feels you should do. Take it from me; his expectations will be met before yours if you continue to roll over.
Things You Should Not Expect From Before or After Divorcing a Narcissist
1. Civil discourse. He doesn’t have it in him, let go of expecting him to converse with you as if you are an equal. To feel good about himself, he has to treat you as if you are beneath him. Don’t buy into!
Behind his mask of superiority lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism. He knows it, you know it but humbling himself and admitting it would be tantamount to emotional destruction for him. Take it from me; he will attempt to destroy you emotionally to keep from having to face his own emotional frailties.
He can’t feel good about himself unless he is actively trying to make you feel bad about yourself. Every email you receive, every conversation you have will be him focusing on putting you down. Your best defense against his degradation is a “whatever” attitude. If he is nasty in an email, don’t respond. If he is disrespectful face to face, shrug your shoulders and walk away.
2. Healthy Co-Parenting. This isn’t going to happen. The narcissist can’t separate his relationship with his children from his relationship with you. In his mind, you and the children are one package. And he has no qualms when it comes to using his children to further destroy you emotionally and financially.
The narcissist views his children as objects to be used to further his own agenda. This makes it impossible for him to engage in healthy co-parenting. He is a fine father as long as those objects (his children) fit into his agenda or reflect positively upon him. When those objects no longer fit into his agenda…when he moves onto another relationship, remarries and needs to focus on his step-children or suffers the wrath of his own children after mistreatment WATCH OUT. This is when your children will begin to feel the full force of his narcissistic abuse.
This is also when you have to put your guard up. It will be your place to guard your children’s hearts against the damage a narcissist father can do. You are the healthy parent, the parent who will teach them what unconditional love is. The parent who will teach them their value by role modeling how to respond to those who do them emotional harm. The parent who will keep them from becoming adults with fragile self-esteems and emotional vulnerabilities. You are your children’s only defense against the narcissist. On Guard!
3. Concern for Your Well-Being. Once you stop feeding the narcissist’s ego your needs and the needs of his children become inconsequential to him. I’ve been divorced from my ex-husband for 14 years. Our sons were 7 and 14 when we divorced. Their father has not once shown concern for whether or not they have what they need since we divorced. No phone calls or emails asking, “Can I do anything for you son,” or, “I’m here for you if you need me son.”
I had custody of our children, due to this in his mind they were an extension of me, the woman he wanted destroy. They became collateral damage in the war he waged against me.
Our youngest is now 21 and experiencing health problems. The other day I called my ex and left him a message…”Alan needs you, can you call?” I got no response. I expected no response but the opportunity came up for him to do something for his child and the choice of whether to take that opportunity was his to make. He did as I expected but by reaching out I took away any ability he has to blame me or his children for the distance between him and his children.
My ex-husband’s refusal to respond when his child was in need is an example of the total lack of empathy that is characteristic in narcissistic personality disorder. I’m sure that if you asked, my ex-husband would tell you he has, over the years attempted to have a relationship with his children.
My children would tell you that the total of ten years of no contact from him does not feel like an attempt by him to have a relationship with them. The narcissist doesn’t care about how someone else perceives a situation. Their perception of the situation is the only perception that is valid. They don’t care about the thoughts and feelings of others and are unable to listen to, validate, understand or support others.
My ex-husband and all narcissists are not capable of stepping outside themselves and seeing a situation from the other person’s perspective. The world revolves around them and their feelings and due to that, others aren’t allowed to feel, unless of course, they are expressing concern for the narcissist’s feelings.
The narcissist, my ex-husband, for example, can’t view ten years of no contact with a child as abandonment or abuse because those ten years are not about his children, they are about him. And I’m certain that a narcissist would find it highly offensive that a child would not express concern for the narcissist rather than expect a show of concern from the narcissist.
Outfoxing the Narcissist:
You will never be as cunning as the narcissist. You can’t outfox him. You may be crafty, clever and shrewd but you also have the ability to empathize with others and it is that pesky aspect of your personality that will keep you from ever being able to outsmart the narcissist if you engage in conflict with him.
The only way to get one over on the narcissist during divorce is to disengage, distance yourself and don’t feed the tiger. As I said before, have no expectations of the narcissist. But the big one, the one I struggled with myself was the need to do something, to find a solution, to fix the problems between him and me for the sake of our children.
Few things are as emotionally painful or produce as much fear and anxiety than being in a high conflict relationship with a narcissist. It is the emotional pain, fear and anxiety that spurs you into action, into attempting to fix the situation. After all, how are you ever going to have peace of mind and heart again if the situation isn’t fixed?
No matter how much you try to fix him, outsmart him, or stay one step ahead of him, the narcissist will always trump, one-up, escalate and create more damage in response. To stop the continued emotional damage to yourself and your children you have to exit the stage, step out of the ring and take back your power by letting go of your need to fix the problem.
When you do that, you show the narcissist who is in control of YOUR life. You show the narcissist that no one has power over how you live your life and the narcissist is completely out of his league when faced with true power…especially YOUR power over his ability to cause you pain, fear, and anxiety.