How Do We Protect Our Children?

by PresenceNow

My story began with a marriage that lasted almost 14 years, which also produced two wonderful children who are now teenagers. I was not one of those folks who was completely in love, totally bowled over, etc., but I was resigned to the fact that most marriages are “good enough.” I didn’t keep looking for the man I thought would be my true partner in life — I thought that although we all usually have good feelings about our spouse, most everyone has troubles and things to work on and our marriage would be no different.

I quickly learned that life went smoothly when I did what was expected of me, didn’t rock the boat, and dutifully reported everything in my day. When I “supported” my husband by agreeing with him and attempting to anticipate his every need or wish, he was happy, and life seemed okay.

When we had kids, I kept them occupied and clean, and encouraged them to spend time with their dad (which they didn’t like, and he didn’t push- heaven forbid anyone should see that his kids didn’t like him.) Things changed even more over time — my feelings were never validated or even acknowledged; he used gaslighting like it was going out of style; projection was a favorite pastime, and he was master of passive-aggressiveness.

We did what he wanted, when he wanted, and the kids and I got out of the way the rest of the time. He was charming in public, a great con man, and a big drinker.

No one knew what life was like at home.

I’m not sure what exactly sent me over the edge and helped me leave this relationship for a better life for myself and my kids…I remember feeling exceptionally frustrated at some point, confused and foggy, my physical health slowly heading downhill with stomach problems, insomnia, anxiety attacks, weight loss, depression. I remember asking myself how I had arrived here, in a life I had never imagined for myself, and why I was not happy.

I remember asking my husband why we were together when we were so different — an understatement, I know, but that’s where I was at the time.

That was the beginning of the end. He panicked at the implication that I might leave, began monitoring my email and phone, going with me to everything or coming home during the day at odd hours to “check” on me.

He tried to enlist the help of my parents, my friends, his family in convincing me to see the light. He tried religion, guilt, fear, blame, isolation, and shame to keep me from leaving. He accused me of having an affair, of not giving him a chance, of making him scared and feeling unsafe.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and broke free. I found a place to live nearby and insisted he could have the kids, but only every other weekend. I filed for divorce. The years since then have been made of bittersweet healing. I have spent as much time as possible trying to build the life I always wanted, with many moments of joy that I cherish- have to cherish- as we journey through the next few years.

In true narcissistic fashion, my ex has spent inordinate amounts of time continuing to try to manipulate me directly or through the kids or courts. The kids started out scared, but they denied any troubles except to say that they didn’t want to see their dad any more than they were. Slowly, they have become more aware of and angry at how they are being treated, and new sets of problems arise from this.

For the most part right now, things are good. I’m with a man who is truly my soulmate and life partner, I have a great new job, a new house in a new town. I go to yoga and other activities I love, and I’m learning to meditate. I got some great counseling for a couple of years, and still go when I feel the need.

The kids are doing well in their new school, they have good friends and enriching activities. We travel together, something I’ve always wanted to do with my own family. We do a lot of talking and laughing together, too- so necessary. =)

Even though things are relatively good, we have our share of rough times. When we’re really struggling, I have a hard time not wishing the next few years go by quickly so I don’t ever have to deal with my kids’ dad ever again.

Then I give myself a reality check: 1) I want to enjoy the next few years, not wish them away, and 2) I’ll always have to deal with my kids’ dad. Forever.

Sometimes I think it’s my punishment for being so dense as to not have seen him for who he is, way back when. But I know I’m not to blame. It’s something I needed to learn.

Now we’re in court because my ex wants me held in contempt for not bringing the kids to his house a few times this summer and fall. I contend that the kids are getting older and want more say in their lives, and that the real problem is their relationship with their father.

He refuses to take responsibility for this. Blaming me is so much easier, and people tend to believe him. I brought the kids to counseling, then was told by the court I couldn’t do that anymore because I hadn’t consulted with the father. I’m at the end of my rope trying to teach the kids to be respectfully assertive, and to go to their dad’s even if they don’t want to, when all they do is talk back to their dad, getting bolder every time.

When they’re really feeling obstinate, they lock themselves in their rooms or run to a friend’s house when it’s time to go to their dad’s. They’re getting to the point where I can’t physically put them in the car, and I can’t pretend like nothing’s wrong. But my words only go so far, and they sound more and more hollow every time.

How do we, as the stable, sane parents, protect our children from their narcissistic parent? How do we justify sending them to a home where they (and we) know they will be treated in an emotionally abusive way, every time?? The courts don’t help. And we can’t say anything about the other parent that will be even remotely construed as “bashing” or we are seen as bitter, hysterical exes who just want to keep the children from the other parent!

It’s an infuriating paradox. What I want most is to move far away from this man, and for my kids to have the power (legally) to say when, or if, they will visit their dad. I know this isn’t possible, but I don’t want to see him around town. Now I don’t talk with him in person or on the phone, if I can help it — email only.

So how do we “move on” when we know that our time under the power of this awful person still stretches out ahead of us, sometimes seemingly indefinitely?? How do we take back ourselves and help our children NOW?

I read many of the stories and posts of people on your blog, and I am most amazed at those who remain calm and strong in the face of the narcissist in their lives. I’m not there. Don’t know if I ever will be, or want to be.

As you can see, I struggle most with the concept of forgiveness. I must have a streak of vengeance in me- I rejoice internally every time he does something “wrong,” as if it justifies or validates me. I know this doesn’t help the kids, but I also want them to always be able to see abusive behavior and not tolerate it.

Anyway, that’s my story. Thanks so much for “listening,” and for all that you do with your blog. =)

Peace to you!

Updating Site

Yes, I’ve crawled back out from under that rock of depression that periodically seems to hammer me, and I’m back.

For how long…who knows? *sigh*

But while I’m here I want to update this blog, use a new template that makes it easier for us to comment to one another’s posts. I want a conversation tree, so we can respond to specific comments and our comments will publish under the one we responded to. I think it will make it easier to follow that way.

So I’ve got a little “template shopping” to do, and hopefully this site can get a new look for the new year.

Hoping you are doing well.

Here’s to flexing our wings and flying again 🙂

PhoenixRising

Staying Put

By EyeOfTheStorm

I’ve recently reached a milestone in my journey distancing myself from a narcissistic personality. Like each journey, mine has some unique characteristics.

– I am a man. My wife is the narcissist. That is my own non-professional diagnosis, but I’ve been studying narcissism for about eight months now, and am confident in that statement. Having a wife who is a narcissist puts me in the minority. Apparently, being a man who will write about it online makes me even more of a minority!
– We have three children. Not that this is so terribly unique, but it is the central point of my decisions. Otherwise, I would have left after her affair and never given it a second thought.
– I am choosing to stay. Looking at how a divorce would work, the kids would spend half their time in each location. Not only is that a difficult life for a kid, but I do believe I can diffuse some of the anger/guilt that gets directed toward the children. I would not want to leave them completely with her – open to any amount of anger/guilt/manipulation. Therefore, mine is an emotional distance.

I have found a lot of advice online for leaving a narcissist and recovering, but not as much for staying. And the advice for staying with a narcissist includes things like catering to their every whim and building up their ego to stay protected. That is of no interest to me.

I have started down my own path, and am interested in sharing it as I progress. I am interested in any advice you have, as well! I’ve started with three giant steps I need in order to move forward.

Step 1 – Be Honest about the Relationship

This is not going to be a loving, giving relationship. Gone are the days of constantly giving out of love. In that mode, my return is blame, guilt, infidelity, and anger. Oh, and lots of confusion! I realize that my wife picked me because it helped to bolster her own image in some way, not because she ever wanted to share a life with me.

Moving forward, I realize that she views the relationship as part of her image, and simply wants the relationship to exist in a way that protects that image. For example, we are more successful than our friends if we have dinner at home during the week. Great – I agree. And I make sure I am a part of that and that I have the kids in the right place at the right time.

There are examples of me not conforming to her image, though. Our neighbors mulch in April, and we are apparently inferior to them because we do not. I mulch in June every year. I do it on time and do a decent job. But I do it in June so the mulch is at its best during the dry season.

How do I manage the April-June season of complaints about not having mulched yet? I am coming to grips with that. I know to first observe any comments, questions, or snide remarks without responding immediately. I simply try to figure out what part of her narcissistic image is being disrupted, and see if I can understand how that triggered her response. It is more of an ongoing experiment than a relationship. And since I know my motives for being here are the children, I am able to view it as an acceptable situation.

Step 2 – Learn the Image and Reactions

We’ve been married for well over 10 years, so I have fumbled my way through many of the landmines that come with a narcissist. I know not to mention my writing hobby because it will trigger all kinds of issues. That is not an acceptable hobby in her eyes.

But only recently have I come to put together a framework of what a narcissist values and how they respond. They value the image they are trying to protect, and they respond with various ways of trying to manipulate the outcome. Anger, lies, using other people, or whatever it takes – the goal is to protect the image, and they subconsciously use those emotions to manipulate everything back into alignment with the image.

You also need to throw in a healthy dose of randomness, because you cannot accurately predict responses. You can spot trends. I know if someone enters the house, trouble is ahead. Having an immaculate house is something that she sees as part of the image she has of herself. If the house is messy at all (there are 5 of us here, so there’s always some mess), what follows is either blame for me or the kids, new resolutions for how we live our life, or inquisitions as to why a person was ever in our house in the first place.

Step 3 – Set Your Own Goals and Methods for Achieving Them

This is a bit like advice for anyone. But it is different when done in the context of living with a narcissist. I eliminated the goal of having a wife who publicly supports me in my career and charitable endeavors. That cannot matter if I am with her. And with the other goals, how I work around her narcissism impacts how those goals can be achieved.

I can go through those specific goals later if you are interested. But for now, I’ll just give a couple examples of how I work to achieve them by either ignoring the narcissistic responses or working around them.

In some cases, like taking care of my own health, I now work toward my goals regardless of what she thinks. Every day she complains that my exercises are silly, I’m wasting my time and hers, etc. Note that she exercises every day as well, which doesn’t seem to be a contradiction to her. I ignore the comments, and am back into a healthy BMI and athletic percent body fat. I’m happy with this, and my confidence/results help me to ignore her reaction.

In other cases, like keeping a clean house, I already learned that cleaning can be a problem. I will insult her by doing her work. I will make her angry by doing a lot of housework one week when she is busy, and then going back to letting her do those parts as she becomes available. Instead, to achieve this, I work with the kids to make sure we clean our rooms, leave no clutter, etc. We do certain jobs that are clearly ours, making sure that the house can be easily cleaned any other time. I do more than my fair share, but stay away from jobs that seem to disrupt her stride.

That is the framework for how I am progressing from now on. I am only a couple months into the process, and still have frustrations when she gets angry for no reason. But I feel much better now that I have a clear path and have started to see some progress in the kids and myself, despite staying in the relationship.

I would be interested in any similar situations or advice, and look forward to providing more details and updates as I proceed.

Best wishes,
EyeOfTheStorm

When It’s So Hard to Let Go

by resdien

I am in my early 30’s and have a 2 year old with an ex N. We were together for 6 years and I recently broke it off several months ago. The first year of our relationship was GREAT! I felt like a queen. We were so in love. We were inseparable.

I started to get insecure with him working with really attractive females. Part of it was my own past insecurities, but the other part was intuition…maybe more. I found out he was hitting on his female coworkers. This was 4 years ago. I confronted him about it and of course, i became the bad person not him.

He eventually apologized. We were already living together at the time. I didn’t want to move back to my parents. From there my self esteem started to go down hill. I was always having thoughts of him doing something. A year goes by, and it comes to my attention he’s hitting on his coworkers again. I confronted him. Again, i was the bad person.

He told me to pack up all my s*it and i did, but i caved in to his pressure to come back, and we were boyfriend and girlfriend the very next day.

Through time, i became overly jealous. I would look through his phone and was always living on edge. Oh, and the emotional and verbal abuse escalated. But I was on medication and I felt like i was the one with the problem and was convinced it was just “my depression.” He said that too.

Anyway, years go by.. we would fight and he would be verbally and emotionally abusive. Once my son was born it got worse. I was called “bitch”, “slut”, “motherfucker”, “stupid”,” etc., in front of my son many times.

When i look back, i realize he was the problem to my depression. But he always made it seem like it was my fault and I kept hoping for us to work out especially now that we had a son together.

It’s been only been a few months since the break up. The first few weeks he cussed me out because we got into a fight about him lying. He countered and said i had a fake disease (relating to my depression). I was at rock bottom. My work and school was affected. I have a degree and a teaching credential. I was VERY successful and loved working with children until I met this man.

I am slowly rebuilding my confidence so that I can be motivated to work. Looking back, I realize how much i loved him through all these years, how it was always about him. He chose the places we’d go to. I was a stay at home mom and we did everything he wanted to do.

When we exchange to see my son, i never know what to expect and my heart is always racing. When i try to resolve something, he turns into this 10 year old kid and i hear “what about me, “it’s always what you want.”

I am still trying to move on but i find myself really sad most of the time. I see families so happy together and i think, this could have been us. If only he got help. He once said to me, even if someone was to put a gun next to his head, he will never get help.

He plays a lot of mind games till this day. He still says things like “it’s your fault that we’re not together” or “you’re not in a relationship because your parents are divorced.”

It breaks my heart that we have a young child together and i keep thinking he will see the light and want to change especially for the sake of his son.

I have also converted to Christianity and have learned that God can do all things. How can God change a mentally sick person? This is where my faith is shaken at times. But I know that i pray for happiness and that God took him out of my life for a reason.

I am slowly realizing that I can do better and deserve someone who will never make me suffer. But I still think about him too much. I think of all the good times when I know there were so many more negative times.

I also wonder, how the hell can this man move on with his life so easily while I’m trying to pick up all the broken pieces of my heart. I am confident to say that i will never take him back. But i still obsess about him. After all the abuse i’ll think of his great qualities — he was a great dad…he was a great bf when he wanted to be …

And I think how he will treat his next girlfriend better…maybe i was just really jealous…maybe i should have let him have his freedom…

How can he be so cruel?…how can he let our family down? And the thought of him with another woman and him charming her keeps running through my head…

But then i realize.. after 6 years of dating. it was all a lie… he never loved me…and he makes me sick.

And i am sick to my stomach EVERYDAY knowing i won’t be able to spend 100% with my son.

How sad it is that he can easily move on and i am still so emotionally attached. I talk about my situation EVERY DAY! I am sure people at work are sick of it, but I can’t seem to just let it go.

Everyone says to let go…and I know I have to, but sometimes I just want to cave in at times and run back…but I know I can’t…and I won’t.