Those Sudden Changes

One day he calls. He’s as nice as can be and engages in friendly conversation.

I’m civil, but I learned long ago not to read anything positive or hopeful into such behavior. I have no desire to linger, but I’m not rude. Sometimes it helps to leave him in a good mood. My daughter might benefit from it, when she has to be with him tomorrow. For her, I’ll play along.

The very next day he appears at my door. Knocks once, and steps in, not even waiting for me to answer. I look at his face. His eyes are shiny, almost wet, his face is red. He’s not drunk. No, it’s not that. I can feel it. There’s that familiar rage, the one I know so well. It’s just underneath the surface waiting for the slightest excuse to explode onto the scene. He cannot hold it.

He asks if she’s ready. Well, almost…he’s early. He immediately starts yelling. He needs her to be ready when he says he’s going to be here. His hand is jabbing at the air as he speaks. He’s daring me to a fight.

I point out he’s early. He immediately argues, like he’s pained at my thoughtlessness, like he’s had enough. It doesn’t make sense. He’s irrational. I realize he just wants to punish, to dump on someone. Something happened, something offended him. He wants to strike out…and I’m there.

But I’m no longer willing. This isn’t the yesterday of long ago.

I cut him off short. “What’s up with you?” I ask. “Time has nothing to do with anything. You came in here with an attitude. Chill out!”

“I’m not mad”, he lies. Classic response when he’s called on an outburst. “I’m not yelling.”

“Um…yeah, you are. Cut it out!” He looks at me like I’m the one who suddenly changed. Maybe I have, but it wasn’t sudden. It was only after years of putting up with shit like this. And it’s been years since I’ve stopped. But he’ll never see me. He’ll always treat me according to his need.

I turn my back on him, and walk toward my daughter’s room. He heads out the door and waits for her in his car.

I never used to fight back like that. I used to argue, all right, but I tried to argue with reason. I’d point out how unreasonable it was for him to demand she be ready to walk out the door when he arrived early. I’d say she started to get ready beforehand, how nice it was she had already gathered this or that in anticipation, etc.

And I would have wasted each breath it took for me to push out those words in the midst of his rage.

No more. I don’t waste my time. I address only that he’s being abusive now – not the alleged reason for it.

Funny, to recall how back in the day I would have been blown out of the water with this sudden changed behavior, trying to figure out what made him go from being so nice to so vicious in less than 24 hours.

But I didn’t even blink an eye. Because, you see, when you’re involved with a narcissist, it’s just *sigh* another day, another episode.

It does get better though. Not because they do, but because you do.

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About PhoenixRising

Singer/songwriter, human rights activist and author of the book series and podcast, "Where There's Smoke: Covert Abuse". Demian Yumei's creative focus is on reclaiming your dream and healing the wounds that prevent that. Her artist activist site: keepingthedream.com
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17 Responses to Those Sudden Changes

  1. Anni says:

    I try to be civil to ex narc too, but he keeps asking me to stop being rude, cold and disrespectful. He says that even though books tell ex to be businesslike “to get rid of them” we didn’t have to resort to that because we could be amicable since we had our kids to co-parent. He also accuses me to affecting our kids by my modeling this behavior of being “rude” to him. He doesn’t think email communication is enough and wants face-to-face communication because that is the only real communication there is. He doesn’t realize that I can easily “get his mood” even by his emails – super-sweet in some, angry and accusing in others, sulking in others, etc.

    Besides ignoring such comments, how do I respond?

  2. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi Anni, and welcome to this blog 🙂

    “Besides ignoring such comments, how do I respond?”

    Unfortunately, that’s about it. A narcissist will use any method he can to get a response out of you. It’s what he wants. It’s all about control – his control over you, the conversation, the children.

    What’s important to remember and easy to forget, because it’s not how normal people act, is that reality has no bearing on how a narcissist behaves or treats others. Reality is irrelevant – personal needs (his needs) and agendas rule the day.

    So you can be civil or you can kiss his ass, and if it’s to his advantage he will accuse you of being rude, cold etc.

    You must also accept the fact that you will be the reason for any action of your kids perceived as negative by the narcissist. He will not look at his choices, how he relates to them, his interaction with the children nor will it even occur to him to consider those possibilities. So don’t let his accusations about the kids sway you into giving him what he wants as if that would rectify anything.

    Doesn’t matter if he doesn’t thinks email communication is enough. Enough for what? And for who…him? Like that’s the most important factor, right?

    And “the only real communication there is”? So…it’s not real enough for him unless he can be verbally abusive in person?

    You respond in the way that is best for you. Don’t use what he desires as a standard of measure you have to live up to, meet or even consider.

    As much emotional detachment as you can is a life saver for those who have to deal with narcissistic people. Civil is good. Civil is more than a narcissist deserves, but your children do…so do it for them. You owe your Ex NOTHING. So don’t let him attempt to manipulate you into giving him anything you don’t feel comfortable.

    You do not have to satisfy him or please him or cater to him.

    “Sorry you feel that way” and then changing the conversation, or redirecting, to specifically the children or ending it altogether worked best for me. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was futile to discuss anything else, and to venture there got me burnt enough times to stop altogether.

    Civility out of respect for who I am and for the good of my child, and any conversation only on specific and bare bones matters that concerned my child only. Of course, I used my own judgment from time to time to be a bit more flexible on that…but sparingly. “Give an inch – take a mile” applies here, and you have to be careful you don’t find yourself robbed.

    It’s hard. In the beginning, my ex was able to push my buttons over and over and over again.

    I got exasperated, angry at myself for letting it happen AGAIN, forgave myself, resolved to learn from it and tried to make better choices the next time.

    Over time, it got better…because I got better.

    Also, helps to have some good friends who understand to blow off steam to, and eventually share a good laugh about it. The good laughs happen sooner and more frequently these days.

    I worked hard to get here…Not that a narcissist isn’t capable of doing one more thing that blows you away by the depth of their entitlement, meanness or nerve…but as time goes on, you grow and your empowerment grows.

    Hang in there 🙂

  3. Anni says:

    Yes I agree with all that, and have to remind myself over and over again.

    Re. good friends, I was devastated to find out today that a good friend (who suffered many years of abuse) had him over at her house when I phoned to chat. I already had to put up with that when my best friend/neighbor used to have him over for dinner after he dropped off the kids because she felt sorry for him. When she left the neighborhood, ex moved into her place! Long story.

    It is hard enough to forge new friendships (had to discard all the old ones), but when he weasels his way into a friend’s life, I feel vulnerable. I don’t want to tell her not to talk to him, because she really wanted him to fix something (he offered before), and we have been great support to each other through our ordeal, but how do I handle this with sensitivity? She is going through a very rough patch herself.

  4. PhoenixRising says:

    Oh, now that’s sticky, isn’t it?

    I don’t know, Anni. I’d just be as honest with her as you can. Maybe you don’t have to tell her not to talk to him, but you can reiterate how important it is for you to keep him out of your life. Is she aware of how manipulative he is? Does she truly get what a narcissist is? Because if she doesn’t, you have to be very, very careful.

    Narcissists are disarming when they want to be, can read you like a book without empathizing – an incredibly dangerous combination. He will try to hang on in any way, use anyone in any way, find something or someone to hook onto to keep tabs on you. It’s not going to be easy to break away…it will be ongoing.

    This is definitely a situation where you have to tread carefully – not wanting to inadvertently offend her. But you know…if he is a narcissist, and she is going through a rough patch, then you would be a good friend to warn her about him being an emotional predator. Even if she already knows. It doesn’t hurt to hear it again.

    Maybe you can approach it that way…out of concern for her welfare, rather than you wanting her to not have anything to do with him for you. Because you would be right to be concerned for her if she’s vulnerable right now – blood to a shark, even a tiny drop can be picked up miles away by one.

  5. Anni says:

    Well, this friend had her sentencing in court the other day, and I had the gut feeling not to attend, even though I am one of her closest supporters. It turns out that ex-Narc was there! He had the cheek that morning to ask for S8 to go on “errands” with him like he used to with his own father, but I said No, I would like to stick to routine.

    It turns out that it was no errand – it was a visit to the court to watch her sentencing. She got a great result and he phoned me immediately. I didn’t answer as I was on my cell phone, but S15 did, and passed it to me.

    This is exactly what I was afraid of – him getting to friends he finds out about, then corners them, makes himself their friend, then he can find an excuse to go anywhere he thinks I will be. And look like a caring dad if he had S8 with him.

    Talk about sudden changes, yesterday he asked for the two younger boys to go to a picnic with his bible study group. I haven’t responded but don’t know how to. Do I have to give a reason – he will ask why. And would the judge (if we went to court) see it as unreasonable if I say no? After all it will school holidays next week and I think the standard arrangement here is for them to go to Dads half the time, although I have never suggested that.

    Another question – today he sent me an email thanking me for “pointing out his faults” and how God is changing him because he is “willing and committed”. He says that both our fears are unfounded, his fears of me controlling and abusing him as well as my fear of him abusing me. He even apologized for the abuse! Then he ended by saying that he didn’t expect me to respond because he knew that I was still hurt and needed space. How weird that is, to tell me he knows I need space and yet send that to me, expecting me to read it?? I feel like responding saying that the reason why I don’t respond is NOT because I am hurt, but because it is futile. If I don’t, that’s what he tells all our friends and I find it hard to be in our network of friends when they don’t know the truth.

  6. Survivor says:

    It sounds like you are stating chapters from my own life. It can be very difficult dealing with the exNPD. I try to remove myself emotionally from situations even though I slip and can’t believe someone would be so mean. I then tell myself, he has no sense of reality and he is ill. Only ill people would act like that. Therapy has helped when going through these situations. My therapist reminds me that this situation is temporary. My kids will become adults and the thing he hangs over my head will be gone. My responses to him are minimal because he can’t control them. If he takes digs at me, I don’t respond to give him the control of making me upset. I don’t want to say I am perfect but I am learning. The more I can disengage from the craziness the healthier I will be. I also have a great spouse now who has a NPD father. My support system gets me through the moments of weakness. I promise it gets better. The more I learn, the less things disrupt my life. I can plan better when disengaged from the NPD world. It will be ok. I know, too much rambling. 🙂

  7. mydaughtershero says:

    HI there, I am new here but am so glad to join! How I wish I had known what a “narcisissist” was before I married “daughter’s father”. Anyway, I wanted to share my experience with make up days for a missed visitation.

    We initially argreed to flip weekends so he could take my daughter to a birthday party and I could then take her for Easter weekend. A few days later he realized that flip would mean his next visitation would be while he was on vacation. So we came up with make up days of the immediately following Monday through Wednesday with me taking her from school Wednesday.

    Although we went over this 3x on the phone he never the less called a few days later and demanded that I give him my weekend since school days weren’t “quality time”. He was so adament that he threatened to cancel the birthday party trip and “take back” my Easter weekend if I didn’t give it to him. (Truly interested in what’s best for the child right??)

    But I stood my ground and after a lot of huffing and puffing and calling me “manipulative” while he had been so “decent” and threatening to call his lawyer he gave in, and the 2 weekends and make-up days went as planned…..until the pickup.

    Of course he has to get in the last jab, so he tells me the pickup will be at 5:15 instead of after school “because she already has a play date planned and her friend is coming home with us afterschool”. Way to go – play me because you KNOW I will put my daughter first and wouldn’t think of canceling a playdate!!! Holy crap, after all the posturing and threats and me feeling like I had a victory – he trumps me!

    I was sooooo angry, more than I had been in a long time! But…there’s justice!! I am in a wonderful relationship, my daughter adores the new man and we are going to be a normal happy family! To drive this point home to the smug jerk I put those corny family member stickers (mom, dad, boy, girl and 2 cats) on the back window of my car and parked so he couldn’t help but see them as he dropped her off.

    Woo hoo – that is the ultimate revenge!!! My daughter gets a playday and he has to be reminded how happy I am whenever he sees that new family smiling at him from my back window! My victory is small but very satisfying. He will never change. I have to learn to ignore him, get everything in writing or on tape, and deal with the emotions. He, however has to live with the fact that he lost the 2 best things that ever happened to him…me and our daughter who already sees right through him.

  8. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi, and welcome mydaughtershero!

    I had to smile as I read your comment. It’s amazing, isn’t it? the games they play, the games they put us through?

    It doesn’t matter how many times you go over it…3x or 30x. My ex will ask me the same questions over and over again until I give him the “right” answer. The one he wants. And he will pretend that he’s asking me for the first time!

    That’s what’s amazing to me. Like my original responses didn’t exist…but why would they, when I don’t except as what he needs me to mirror for him.

    Of course, he doesn’t always get that “right” answer – not anymore. And if he does, it’s coincidental, because it happens to be what works for my child or for me.

    Congrats on your revenge of happiness! And especially, on your daughter who can see through him. It’s hard to have a parent who is a narcissist, but if you do, it’s great to be able to learn from it and use that knowledge in your own empowerment. It will come in handy especially as you get older.

  9. strongwoman2011 says:

    Hi everyone, reading your stories has been like reading my own.I am a new mom to a three week old boy. My ex is a NPD man. I don’t feel alone in my struggles. I work in mental health but feel I have zero tools to deal with ex. I haven’t resolved my feelings of hurt and anger from being cheated, lied and manipulated. I am angry with myself for falling in love with someone with no soul. Its been helpful reading your blogs.

  10. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi StrongWoman, congratulations on your new baby, and welcome!! And yes, you are strong. And you will heal. Give yourself time. It will happen.

    I’ve worked in the mental health field as well, plus, I’ve been a feminist for years, and yet…

    How can we not see? How is it that we’re so perceptive when it comes to other women but not our own selves?

    And yet, this happens all the time. I spoke with Patricia Evans, author and expert on verbal abuse, on the phone once, and I was sharing my confusion with her. I told her this was like an awakening for me to realize that in many ways though he never laid a hand on me I was a victim of domestic abuse. I was stunned at this realization…just thought I got my heart broken a lot…well, isn’t that just life? But never thought of myself as a victim of abuse. It was sickening…and liberating for me to realize that. It changed my life and its direction forever.

    She told me it’s amazing how many of her clients were lawyers, judges, owners of companies, career women, outspoken activists in their communities, and yet when they went home they suffered from some of the worst emotional and verbal abuse by their spouses. She said it was not uncommon. She told me not to feel bad or stupid…even though it’s normal to feel that too! So don’t beat yourself up over that either!

    If you love someone, then it’s so natural to give the person you love the benefit of the doubt, to be forgiving, to overlook outbursts or to accept apologies as sincere. And N’s are really good at taking advantage of that.

    It’s also so easy to forget that not everyone plays by the rules or holds the same standards. Love really can cloud your vision, and the manipulation and constant discounting of your perception can fill you with a cancerous self doubt, so even if you know the signs, you doubt your ability to read them…cos maybe you really are wrong, over sensitive, imagining things like he says.

    And then there’s the shame…wonderful shame that can anchor you to one spot.

    Lots of reasons to not see the signs or leave earlier…even if you do work in the mental health field!

    The good news is you’re opening your eyes now, while your baby is still young. And that truly IS good news!

    So congratulations on that, and give yourself a loving pat on your back for giving this gift to that precious baby of yours – a mother who is growing in awareness and empowerment.

    Educate yourself, create a strong network of friends, and educate your friends – not so much about him but about the nature of narcissism as you learn. That way they’ll be better able to recognize the behavior and be more capable of supporting you when you need that cheering section of friendship.

    Even if it does suck being a single mother, and you have to deal with feelings of being used, lied to and manipulated…really, you are the lucky one…not anyone who may walk into your Ex’s life.

    You escaped. Because of your baby, you won’t be able to completely walk away from the Ex, but keep your eye on your child and the life you will create together. Someone good and fine will want to share it with you some day.

  11. strongwoman2011 says:

    Thank you for your warm and encouraging words. It has been a difficult few weeks. I am feeling like I am out of the post-partum haze. My ex has been around minimally. He insisted I pack an overnight bag and bring the baby for a visit because its easier for him! I know that if I tell him how selfish and inconsiderate he is behaving, it will be fight. I lied telling him I fell asleep nursing. I feel like I have to be manipulative to deal with him. My family has been encouraging me to file for full custody. I don’t have the stamina for that battle right now. Eventhough, he is happy to cancel seeing his son for dates, concerts, plays etc. He would play a magnificent jilted father in court. I desperately want to protect my son from his toxicity. I haven’t behaved well. The one night my ex stayed over to help with the baby. I read his text messages on his phone. He is dating two women. I sent them messages warning them to stay away from him. I felt bad for stooping so low as to invade his privacy. He became very angry, insisted he has one girlfriend and would like us to be friends so she can help me with the baby! I have taken a huge step back. Limiting my communication with him. I document each time he “no shows” on our son. I know I have to release my anger and hurt feelings in ways other than sending text messages. Those women will be feeling like me in a few months. They don’t deserve my wrath. I love my baby boy and I am going to enjoy being a new mom. The road won’t always be easy but its worth it.

  12. strongwoman2011 says:

    I feel like I have to resort to manipulative tactic to deal with Narc-ex. I just had our baby one month ago. He complains that he has a difficult job, blah blah and it would be easier for him if I packed an overnight bag for the baby and I to spend the night at his house. He could help me better at night. I don’t want to do this. I want to be in my own space, I am too exhausted to be driving. He continues to push this issue. I finally agreed , but then I went to bed and ignored his calls. The next day, I told him I fell asleep with the baby. Worked like a charm..he made some snide remarks about me “not having it together” he hasn’t asked again. He spent one night on my couch previously and complained like he was sleeping on a bed of nails! Made me feel like my home wasn’t good enough for him. He was not helpful with the baby. I had to hear my baby crying and a 37 year old baby snoring. Any suggestions? I know being manipulative is not healthy. Expressing my needs, feelings in an assertive manner doesn”t work with Narc

  13. Survivor says:

    The best thing I did was to go into therapy. I had been so manipulated and so hurt by my exNPD, I needed someone that was not emotionally involved in the situation to help me talk through things and how to respond appropriately. These professionals should have the knowledge to help deal with these issues. If money is an issue, usually local domestic violence centers can help or an organization like Children and Family Services. That is where I first went. The therapist said something that was very eye opening. She told me I didn’t have to be hit to be in a domestic violence situation. Hope this helps. Take care and hang in there.

  14. mydaughtershero says:

    I would say don’t feel guilty for using whatever you have to do to get what you and your baby want or nee!!! He sounds just like my ex and every other one I have read about. With my daughter’s father I love any chance I get to throw a wrench into his plans. Yes, he will blame me but it’s OK if I know in my heart I didn’t let myself get bullied, intimidated or bossed around. Packing your baby a bag for him sounds so familiar! My exNPD is a millionare and still expects me to provide everything for our daughter when she’s at his house – all because he pays child support. He also wants me to pack her a bag to take to his house and wash those clothes when he returns them dirty. He even tries to tell me where to leave the bag at her school for when he picks her up. On all those issues I have been sneaky and manipulative (which again, I think is not a bad thing when you are dealing with an NPD!! It’s survival!) and gotten my way.
    Hang in there!! Put yourself and your baby first!

  15. EMA says:

    PLEASE HELP!!!

    I am thankfully recently divorce from one of these. Our son is only 2… It’s incredibly painful to even think about what our son will suffer, it’s hard dealing with this person and the constant fear that the “switch” will occur because of this and that. I know I can’t control the “switch”, I know I can’t change him or help him but HOW do I handle the anxious feeling waiting for it? How do I handle the fear for what these “swithes” will do to our son? This is like a nightmare that you can’t wake up from…I know with time I will learn more coping and dealing, more techniques.

    ANY ADVICE, ANY would be more than welcome and begged for.

    Thank you – a very worried mother

  16. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi EMA and welcome. So sorry it took me so long to accept this comment. I’ve been away. But all your other comments will publish immediately now.

    Read, read and read. The more knowledge you get the better you will be. Educating myself and hearing the experiences of other people who have gone through the same thing did more to help me find my way out of this labyrinth of manipulation and emotional abuse than anything else.

    Having said that, if you have a child, do find out what your legal rights are and start laying the foundation for yourself as soon as possible.

    I’ll be back later to share some more thoughts, but just wanted to welcome you now. 🙂

  17. strongwoman2011 says:

    Hi EMA, I worry about the toxicity. I tell myself every day that my son will see and experience healthy loving mother. That will make him strong to deal with his father. Document! Document! Document! I also keep the contact and conversations about our son. Currently he visits Monday, Wednesday, Friday so I can attend a fitness class or visit with a friend. I try to spend very little time around my exNPD. My little boy is three months old. He does not have overnight visits yet. Take it one day at a time one moment at a time. It can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting worrying about the future. I just had to stop.You are not alone. You are resilient! You found the strength to leave and find this Blog. I still feel manipulated. My exNPD has “switched” to his charming side. He shows up with movies and is flirtatious. He is very handsome and manipulative. I remind myself that his behaviors have zero to do with me and everything to do with his ego. Its easy to find one self back on the rollercoaster. These NPDs are very seductive. Hang in there! Welcome!

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