During this first year post- divorce, I’ve gone through about one million stages of grief, denial, accceptance, peace, and anger only to loop around and feel them all over again.
When things in my “real life” (my life oustide of the Narcissists reality filled with warped emails, and confusing communication) get stressful, as real life does, I find my resolve to take the higher ground with my ex nearly impossible.
One email filled with his usual eye- rolling accusations and wildly circular language is usually all it takes for me to fly off the handle. I turn into a version of myself that I knew, had I stayed in that marriage, I would have been 100% of the time. I would have had to have been, just to stay alive in that union. I’m mean and calculated. I find myself feeling happy when I think I’ve caused him pain. I find joy in catching him in a lie.
This happened recently during an extended parent time visit with my son where my ex flew with my son to Chicago and gave him to me with no winter coat (the coat I had purchased and sent out with him to his dad’s). We were in the middle of the “Polar Vortex” and it was regularly below freezing temps. When I asked where the coat was he told me (again and again and again) that I hadn’t sent one out with Brandon.
I knew I had, but then again, maybe I hadn’t, I second guessed myself (Hi, gaslighting! My old friend).
I still was unsure for months until I stumbled upon a picture Brandon’s dad had sent just a few months before when I sent Brandon out to him, wearing that exact coat! I KNEW IT! I hastily wrote up a victorious, scathing email. I lashed out at Brandon’s dad for being a lying, manipulative snake. I rejoiced in my find and excitedly told Trent (my significant other) my find that evening.
He looked at me quizically, “Allison, you’re a little too excited about finding that out.”
I didn’t understand. He didn’t get it! I caught him in his lie! I WIN.
Oh no, I thought. I didn’t win anything! Brandon is the one that loses. He has to suffer until I find him another coat and he has to live with that snake. Oh no.
I felt so ashamed. I had just mirrored the same narcissistic tactics I had used against me.
I remember during the marriage, if I ever imitated those classic Narcissistic tactics, it was likely the only time Alex would give me a response and I could catch him off gaurd. It “worked”. Whatever that means. Even then, though, I could see that wasn’t who I was. Not only that, but it just fueled my ex and allowed him to point at me and say “See! You do it to me too!”. Which was an awful feeling.
Moreover, the reason I left my marriage in the first place was so that my son would not see his father acting like that. That means I have to be double the better example for him because he already has a really poor example of a man that he lives with 50% of the time.
So, more as advice to myself than anyone, I’ve come up with some helpful techniques. Some echoed through much more wise and seasoned Narc handlers like Pauline.
1. Emails – Just don’t respond!
I try to keep my communication strictly to email. Alex’s email go straight to another folder so I can choose when/ if to read them. When they are particularly nasty and have nothing to do with the immediate care or safety of my son, I DO NOT respond. At least I try.
2. Texts – Block the number.
Texting gets too out of hand and is not the easiest to submit as evidence, if he/she were to say anything worth noting. It’s better to just block them from the start. Unfortunately, I use FaceTime on my phone so I have to manually unblock my ex each FaceTime scheduled session, but I have MUCH less stressful days not having my phone constantly dinging with the next piece of harrassment.
Besides, texting is too tempting to write back just one quick and nasty reply. Floodgates, my friend. Do not open.
I have some firm rules in place for myself. If the messages, calls, or voicemails do not have to do with my child’s immediate care or safety, I don’t respond. Easy!
Bonus: The Narc doesn’t like to be ignored so the silence usually provokes them to show their true colors as they start to lose it and yell with LOTS OF CAPS and MANY EXCLAIMATION POINTS!!!!! so you will listen. Which is ironic, because I usually stop reading.
4. Example for the children
As in most of my life, I try to live how I want my son to be when he grows up. I want to lead by example. I want to be proud of the things that come out of my mouth and my actions towards others so he will see the proper way to treat people. As a last resort, before I hit send, I think to myself, “Is this how I’d want my son to react to someone?”.
Those are my quick preventative measure to keep yourself in check when dealing with these problem people and narcissistic tactics. Remember to keep yourself above the fray and focus your positive energy towards other people.