Lessons Learned: From Anger to Healing Part 1

(First in a 7 part series)

by Zack’s Mom

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. ~ Anais Nin

I have been parenting a child with a narcissistic ex-spouse for almost ten years. My ex embodies all the worst traits one would expect to see in a narcissistic abuser: he is entitled, reflexively dishonest, lacking in empathy, insistent on getting his own way, and contemptuous of anything I feel, express, or need.

I used to think that if I were kind to him, he would cease to treat me this way, but about four years ago I let go of that expectation and gave up on every improving my relationship with him. Ironically, that kind of letting go made me stronger.

I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time describing my narcissist, although I will add to the list that he is very smart and very wealthy, which means he can afford lawyers and helping professionals who have, in the past, made my life miserable. But with each passing year, I am stronger and healthier, and moving toward what my therapist calls the best revenge: living a good life in spite of him.

I want to share here (perhaps in part to prove to myself how far I have come) whatever wisdom I have gained, in the hopes that it might help another sufferer.

Life can be rich, fulfilling and even joyful (though the grief is always accessible) despite having a narcissistic ex, and we can raise strong children. They will have their work cut out for them, but by taking care of ourselves, we can help them to stay grounded and help them develop the skills to have a better life.

The reality is that the journey consists of daily steps, and the only way to get through is to accept this truth. The situation cannot be fixed overnight. Your life’s work, and mine, is to use the experience to find out how strong we really are.

I have come to see my narcissist as life’s greatest teacher. If I can live well in spite of him, I can handle anything!

Tomorrow Part 2

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7 Responses to Lessons Learned: From Anger to Healing Part 1

  1. PhoenixRising says:

    Thank you for this inspiring post, Zack’s Mom. I have to tell you, this part made me smile.

    I used to think that if I were kind to him, he would cease to treat me this way…

    I think many sufferers of narcissistic abuse believe this at one time or another. For me, that time lasted for a long, long time.

    If only I were kinder, if only I were more patient, if only I expressed myself better, clearer or if only I had picked the right time to talk…

    It took me a long time before I realized it really wasn’t about me, what I said or did or acted. It was about him, always him.

    If he felt like being punishing, he was. If he felt like being magnanimous, he was. If he felt like blowing me off to meet his needs or requiring me to blow my plans off to meet his needs, then so be it.

    Narcissists can tear you down so in your self doubt and loss of healthy self esteem you become just like an abused child, hoping to control your environment with magical thinking. If only I were good enough, they’d be nice to me.

    Doesn’t work that way though, does it? Not as a child, and certainly not as grown women in relationships.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, Zack’s Mom! I can tell you dear readers there’s plenty of food for thought in the upcoming posts. I look forward to some good conversation. 🙂

  2. Flamingo says:

    I stumbled on to this site after googling about coparenting, as I prepare for a custody battle with a narcissistic ex who sexually abused my son and has the spin skills to make my son’s resulting mental breakdown about my not “telling him sooner”. I am at a loss for words as I read others describe MY nightmare. I am happily remarried, but my ex is draining the life out of us. I have heard the term narcissist used to describe my ex before, but never really understood what that meant. Oh wow. Lightbulb moment. I need immediate support to get through a trial to protect my sons aged 13 and 14. Is there anyone here I can bounce off of?

  3. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi Flamingo. I am SO sorry to hear about what you are going through. There are some shared experiences about custody battles on this site. If you want to do a search on it from the search bar at the top of this blog, you may find some perspectives on custody battles. However, I’m not sure how specifically helpful they will be to you in your situation.

    I really do need to create a resource page for women who are going through these battles. I’m usually at this blog only intermittently. It’s a hard and painful process for me sometimes, and I find myself fatigued a lot – something you so well understand!

    If we’re talking about sex abuse here, then your boys need to get help and support for that. Are they receiving counseling? That may be a support for you in this custody thing.

    Unfortunately, it’s not a given, but it is a step to securing the safety of your sons.

    Not sure what claiming you “not telling him sooner” has anything to do with anything – especially, when what you would have had to tell him was that he was abusing his kids…if I’m following you.

    What exactly is his main point in the custody challenge anyway?

    My two suggestions would be 1) Remain centered, always, especially in court and in front of authorities. Unfortunately, right doesn’t make right. Appearances plays a major role.

    And 2) You need to somehow authenticate your sons stories. Hopefully, they have counselors or documentation of some sort to back them up.

    You’re taking the first and most important step. You know who you’re dealing with now. If your support team – lawyer, counselors, also, know, that will further strengthen you.

    Just calling someone a name isn’t helpful though. And may even backfire on you, but your support team needs to really see what he does and how he does it, regardless what label they give him.

    Educate yourself and get the validation you need so you can validate your children.

    Good luck!

  4. bearsmoms says:

    I’m so pleased to have found your blog.
    I’ve been calling “IT” emotional abuse for a number of years until I came upon the term NPD-Narcissist Personality Disorder. I was married to him for 11 years and we have a 12 year old son. He systematically took me apart bit by bit. It’s like having your hair pulled out one at a time, eventually you look in the mirror and the girl you once knew is gone. The relief I feel at finding your blog is unreal. I discuss some of these things on my blog located within my website (myheartties.com. After I left him, the courts forced us into joint custody with this man. This
    is hardest part now. Handing my son over to this
    animal 50% of the time. I’m ALex’s Mom… thank you for writing and making me feel like I’m not alone. 🙂

  5. StrongerThanB4 says:

    Thank you so much for this information. It is so reassuring to know that I am not the only one going through this. At the same time I am really scared as to what my future holds and the things that I am going to have to deal with and go through, as I am currently pregnant by my narcissistic ex.

  6. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi, StrongerThanB4, and you are so welcome.

    It is scary, but you are already more “prepared” just by becoming knowledgeable, by learning and getting as much information as you can. So hard to learn by trial and error, and while you still will make mistakes, because narcissists are SO slippery, you will do fine.

    I’m sorry the father of your child is a narcissist, but I’m also happy that your child has at least one parent with eyes open, and willing to be there for it.

    This is the time to strengthen whatever resources or support network you have or to create one. Narcissists are intimidated by true friends and family. They will want to isolate you if not physically, then emotionally as much as possible.

    But you can make it, and as long as your child has you, they can make it too. Good luck!

  7. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi Alex’s Mom, I don’t know if I’ve commented to any other comment you may have made, but I wanted to address something you wrote here even though it’s been a good while.

    You wrote: “It’s like having your hair pulled out one at a time, eventually you look in the mirror and the girl you once knew is gone.”

    And that is what’s so insidious about being with emotionally abusive people. Losing your self esteem can happen so slowly that you don’t even realize it’s happening – even though you feel the pain. You don’t even see it until when you do you no longer recognize who you are.

    I hope things are going better for you these days. I know how hard it is to share custody. Wishing you the best. And stop by again some time. 🙂

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