narcissistic, challenging or high conflict ex

10 Strategies For Dealing With a Narcissistic, Challenging Or High Conflict Ex

narcissistic, challenging or high conflict ex


One of the most crucial things to keep in mind post-divorce when you were married to a narcissist or challenging person is to set good boundaries and abandon any thought of co-parenting successfully.

If one of the reasons why your marriage ended was due to your spouse being a narcissist, you probably hoped that things would get better for you and your children after your divorce. Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments might be that co-parenting with a narcissistic ex-spouse doesn’t work any better than being married to him or she did.

While co-parenting is advised by experts as an optimal situation for a child’s well-being after divorce, attempting to do so with an ex who has a high conflict personality or a personality disorder is usually unsuccessful. In most cases, an amicable relationship can’t be achieved between parents and parallel parenting is the only paradigm that should be attempted.

Parallel Parenting

Many parents don’t realize that there is an alternative to co-parenting when their ex is high conflict or has narcissistic traits. During a recent conversation with Briana, she shared her insights about the hazards of co-parenting with her former spouse who was challenging and self-centered.

Briana put it like this: “Justin made our life miserable after the divorce. He was argumentative, controlling, and late picking up our kids – or worse he’d cancel at the last minute, or not show up.”

During our conversation, I explained a solution for parents who want to co-parent with an ex who is narcissistic or challenging.  According to Dr. Edward Kruk, Ph.D., “Parallel Parenting is an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner.”

Truth be told, parallel parenting allows parents to remain disengaged with one another (and have a parenting plan) while they remain close to their children. For instance, they remain committed to making responsible decisions (medical, education, etc.) but decide on the logistics of day-to-day parenting separately.

10 strategies for dealing with a narcissistic, challenging, or high conflict ex:

1. Accept that co-parenting is not in the best interest of all children – especially when one of their parents is high conflict, self-centered, or lacks empathy.

2. Don’t tolerate demeaning or abusive behavior from your ex and be sure that you and your children feel safe. This might mean having a close friend or family member on hand when you talk to your former partner. If you plan for the worst (and don’t expect that your ex will have moved on or be caring) you’ll be less likely to be blindsided by his/her attempts to control or get back at you. Be sure to save all abusive emails and text messages. Don’t respond to them since this can perpetuate more abuse.

3. Limit your contact with your ex and try not to take calls from them when your children are nearby. It can be very hurtful to them to hear you and your ex argue – especially about them.

4. Set firm boundaries for your kids. Since their life with their other parent is unpredictable, you will have to provide stability. High-conflict personalities thrive on the possibility of combat. Be prepared and write a script to use when talking to him/her and try to stick with it, using as few words as possible. For instance, if he/she tries to persuade you to change the parenting plan, say something like: “I’m not comfortable with this idea. I’m sure you have good intentions but this won’t work for me.”

5. Be the parental role model your kids need to thrive. Show compassion toward your children and don’t bad-mouth their other parent in their presence. Children are vulnerable to experiencing loyalty conflicts and shouldn’t be in the middle between their parents. Be aware of your tone and facial expressions during interactions with your ex in front of your kids.

6. Keep your eye on the big picture in terms of your children’s future. Although it’s stressful trying to co-parent or even parallel parent with a difficult ex, it’s probably in the best interest of your children. Adopt realistic expectations and pat yourself on the back for working at this challenging relationship for your kids.

7. Focus on the only thing you can control – your behavior! You alone are responsible for your reactions to your ex’s comments and behavior. But don’t be persuaded by your ex to do something that you’re uncomfortable with just to keep the peace. Adopt a business-like “Just the facts, ma’am” style of communicating with him/her.

8. Don’t express genuine emotion to your ex or apologize for wrongdoing in the relationship.  If your ex is a perilous or abusive narcissist, they might interpret your apology as proof of your incompetence and use it against you, according to Virginia Gilbert, MFT.

9. Make sure you have a parenting plan that is structured and highly specific – spelling out schedules, holidays, vacations, etc. to minimize conflict. Using a communication notebook to share important details with your ex can be an essential tool and help you stay detached and business-like.

10. Do accept help from counselors, mediators, or other helping professionals. Make sure you have plenty of support from a lawyer, friends, family, and a therapist. Use a third party mediator when needed. Educate yourself about strategies to deal with a difficult or high-conflict ex. Therapists who utilize cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) are usually the most successful dealing with survivors of a relationship with an ex who has a personality disorder.

Under the best circumstances, co-parenting is a wonderful opportunity for children of divorce to have close to equal access to both parents – to feel close to both of their parents. Experts agree that the outcomes for children of divorce improve when they have positive bonds with both parents. These include better psychological and behavioral adjustment and enhanced academic performance. However, few experts discuss the drawbacks of co-parenting when one parent is hands-off, has a high conflict personality; or a personality disorder such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

However, it’s crucial that you take an honest look at the effect your ex’s behaviors and the dynamics in your relationship are having on you and your children. Once you accept that you can only control your own behavior – not a person with a difficult or high conflict personality – your life will greatly improve. After all, you and your children deserve to have a life filled with love and happiness!

Follow Terry Gaspard on TwitterFacebook, and Terry is pleased to announce the publication of Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship (Sourcebooks).

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the narcissistic parent

The 10 Commandments Of The Narcissistic Parent

the narcissistic parent


My son walked into the room and handed me the phone. “Dad can’t talk right now; he just poured a bowl of cereal and doesn’t want it to get soggy.” My ex, who hadn’t talked to his son in twelve days, was more concerned about his cereal becoming soggy than a few moments of communication with his child. That is what it is like to co-parent with a narcissist.

In fact, there is very little co-parenting that occurs, most of your time is spent attempting to undo the damage a narcissist can do to his children. The narcissistic parent isn’t capable of “normal” paternal instincts. They view their children as objects meant to fulfill the narcissist’s needs, instead of the other way around.

A couple of years ago I found the list below on a blog that is no longer online. I’ve not read a more appropriate description of how the narcissistic parents. If you are divorced from a narcissist, I suggest you print out The 10 Commandments of the Narcissistic Parent and tape it to your frig. You will be referencing it often!

The Ten Commandments of the Narcissistic Parent:

  • I am who I tell you I am.
  • You will tell me things I want to hear or you will not be heard.
  • You will feel the way I want you to feel or you will be forsaken.
  • Love is conditional upon the aforementioned.
  • Intimacy is vulnerability, and thus, death.
  • There is only one road in and out of here.
  • Children are like toys that become useless when they break, which is why they must be replaced with better toys.
  • Parents are really one person in two bodies. When they individuate, they die.
  • Conversely, siblings are really one person in several bodies. When one individuates, that person shall be hunted down and slaughtered for the greater good.
  • Narcissism is a myth.

Let’s go over each briefly. Allow me to add my own two cents to what Jay wrote based on real-life experience.

I am who I tell you I am:

Our children learned this about their father the hard way. I don’t suppose there is an easy way! Their father would say one thing, do another and when they questioned his behavior, he would become highly offended. He thinks of himself as a loving, involved father even though he goes years without contact with his children.

In his mind, he is loving and involved but doesn’t see or talk to his children because they have the audacity to point out to him that “loving and involved” fathers behave in a loving and involved manner. Since his children are people who know he is not who he tells them he is, he chooses to surround himself with people who will believe he is who he tells them he is.

Confusing huh? Imagine being a child and attempting to intellectualize and rationalize such behavior from a parent.

You will tell me things I want to hear, or you will not be heard:

Refer to the example above. Our children didn’t tell their father he was a loving and involved parent, so he know refuses to hear anything they have to say. He ignores text messages, doesn’t respond to emails. He is completely out of touch because they failed to tell him what he wanted to hear.

You will feel the way I want you to feel or you will be forsaken:

This is the one that does the most damage. The narcissistic parent places no value on his children’s feelings. When we don’t value other people’s feelings our actions can do irreparable damage to those people. Our son was upset over something his father wrote him in an email. He responded and told his father, “Dad, when you say things like that, it hurts my feelings.”

His father responded and told our son, “I am not responsible for your feelings.” And then he went on to explain to the child just how unreasonable it was for his son to expect him to care about his feelings. You can’t tell a child in one voice, “I love you” and then tell them “If your feelings got hurt it is your fault” in the next and expect that child to not be emotionally damaged.

Love is conditional upon the aforementioned:

Yes, if a child refuses to feel the way the narcissistic parent needs them to feel, love, attention, caring, concern, all will be withheld. The bad news for the narcissist, children eventually adjust and move on.

That old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” works against the narcissist. I can, thankfully say that as adults our children rarely think about or mention their father. When you withdraw your love from someone they will eventually “let go” of their love for you.

Intimacy is vulnerability, and thus, death:

The narcissist alludes to intimacy without becoming fully engaged in intimacyTrue intimacy with another person means allowing yourself to become vulnerable, emotionally dependent.

Vulnerability and dependency are the kiss of death to the narcissist. Your child will love the narcissistic parent; the narcissistic parent is only able to love what the child can do for him.

There is only one road in and out of here:

And, it is a bumpy road! The road out is far more difficult to navigate.

Children are like toys that become useless when they break, which is why they must be replaced with better toys:

My ex replaced our children with a step-daughter. She reveres him, she extols his wonderfulness. She is much like his children were before the divorce. She will forever be the recipient of his goodness, until she questions a behavior or, disagrees with a belief. When that happens, she will learn how bumpy that road out can get.

Parents are really one person in two bodies. When they individuate, they die:

When my ex and I divorced in his mind I was dead. I was no longer an object that was of any use to him so any needs, feelings or desires I had become of no consequence to him. Since I was no longer important to him, he felt our children should view me through his eyes…I was someone who didn’t matter.

He could not co-parent with me; doing so would mean acknowledging me as an individual outside himself. To him I am not an autonomous human being, I’m something he tired of and discarded. The fact that our children love me and refused to also abandon their relationship with me plays an important role in his inability to continue to have a relationship with them.

Conversely, siblings are really one person in several bodies. When one individuates, that person shall be hunted down and slaughtered for the greater good:

When we divorced our children were 14 and 7 years old. The older child was quick to call his father out for hurtful behavior. The younger child made excuses and did whatever he could to keep his father happy. All the younger child cared about was spending time with his Dad. Due to that he detached himself from the emotional pain and focused on pleasing his father.

Our older child individuated, became separate from his brother and had to be done away with emotionally. Our older son is now 33 years old. His father has rarely acknowledged him since the divorce. He came to his high school graduation after 4 years of never attending a parent/teacher meeting, extracurricular activity, regular visitation and refusing to enter into counseling. That is the only time since our divorce that he has shown interest in our older child.

His child was “hunted down” and “slaughtered” emotionally.

Narcissism is a myth:

I believe that a narcissist knows they are different. They realize they are unable to form normal emotional attachments with others. Admitting to that difference would mean becoming vulnerable to the opinions of others. It is for that reason that most narcissists will deny their disorder.

The narcissist is awesome, just ask him. Awesome people don’t have personality disorders dontcha know? For the narcissist, any relationship problems are about YOU, certainly not about them and their awesome selves.

I tell clients who are co-parenting with a narcissist to keep their expectations low. Don’t expect the narcissist to tackle parenting with the same parental instincts they have.

And, never believe that you can “get through” to the narcissist and hold them accountable. Focus on your parental duties, be diligent in cleaning up the emotional messes the narcissist leaves behind and get your children into therapy. They are going to need it!

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8 Constructive Ways To Confront Your Passive-Aggressive Abuser



What do passive aggressive behavior and domestic abuse have in common? Physical and verbal abuse are easy to identify, but psychological and emotional abuse may lurk for awhile before the victim realizes it. These types of covert abuse are subtle or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, even loving and caring. In certain circumstances, passive-aggression could be considered covert abuse; if you are in a relationship with someone you think is an abuser, you can find resources available at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

According to Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, “Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them.” Their feelings may be so repressed that the person doesn’t realize they are angry or feeling resentment.

When confronted with their behavior, they may appear surprised or disappointed that anyone would think that about them, as if they are misunderstood or held to unreasonable standards. They have a real desire to connect with others emotionally, but their fear of such a connection causes them to engage in self-destructive habits.

Common Passive-Aggressive Behaviors

  • Ambiguity/Lies: Take the proverb: “Actions speak louder than words.” A passive-aggressive person is known for being deceptive in their word. The best way to judge how they feel about an issue is to watch their actions.
  • Blaming/Victimization: They have difficulty taking responsibility for their actions and will find many excuses to avoid doing so. This includes when they shirk deadlines and ignore agreed-upon itineraries and timelines. Victimization is a related symptom of passive aggression; since nothing is their fault, they are always the victim.
  • Lack of Anger: Passive aggression is marked by misplaced anger. The passive aggressive person may have been taught, as a child, that anger is unacceptable. They may appear indecisive or “down for whatever”; however, by not expressing their personal ideas and preferences, a passive-aggressive person may build resentment for others through their own repression.
  • Fear of Dependency/Intimacy: According to Scott Wetlzer, author of Living With The Passive Aggressive Man, “Unsure of his autonomy and afraid of being alone, he fights his dependency needs, usually by trying to control you. He wants you to think he doesn’t depend on you, but he binds himself closer than he cares to admit. Relationships can become battlegrounds, where he can only claim victory if he denies his need for your support.” With that, it would be difficult to create an enduring, intimate connection with them.
  • Obstructionism/Power Grab: Passive-aggressive behavior shifts power in a relationship to make the perpetrator feel bigger and more entitled to affection or other gestures, while the victim will feel undeserving of their partner’s love. Similar to their willful deception mentioned above, a passive-aggressive person is also prone to emotional manipulation.

Below are 8 constructive ways to confront someone with passive-aggressive behavior.

1. Focus on one issue at a time. Don’t bring up everything at once. You may have a laundry list of grievances but it won’t be very helpful to go through everything in one sitting. Remember, they avoid conflict so take it one grievance at a time to help them feel comfortable.

2. Have a time limit. Confrontation should not stretch on indefinitely.

3. Make sure you have privacy. A public display will only exacerbate both sides of the issue. Shaming someone never gets positive results.

4. Don’t attack their character. You may feel angry and want to strike out but, doing so will only cause the passive aggressive to withdraw and refuse to engage in communication.

5. Focus on your feelings. Make your feelings the subject of the conversation and not their bad behaviors. Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. It will lead to more productive communication if you make the conversation about the marriage and how you are feeling.

6. Stay on topic. Someone who avoids conflict may also be inclined to deflect or go on tangents during the conversation. You do not have to defend yourself for wanting to discuss your feelings, and doing so would derail the conversation.

7. Respect their space. If they need to retreat from the conversation allow them to do it with dignity. Tell them you understand their need to leave the conversation but, before they do you’d like to agree on another date and time to continue discussing the topic.

8. Remind them that you care. Be sure they understand that you care about what happens to them, that you love them and that you are not trying to control them. You are only trying to get to the bottom of your disagreements and make the relationship better. Nothing is more important than helping the passive aggressive to feel safe in engaging in what they will view as a conflict.

The Passive-Aggressive Person and You

A passive-aggressive person attracts and is attracted to co-dependents or anyone who is quick to make excuses for other people’s bad behaviors. This may not be intentional, and rather is a natural mesh of personalities—psychological abuse is never the fault of the victim.

The most important factor in saving a relationship is both parties willingness to change. A person who expresses passive-aggression likely has deeper issues that a therapist or counselor would help them to work through. Victims of such behavior may also choose to seek therapy to heal from the wounds of the relationship.

The passive-aggressive will say one thing, do another, and then deny ever saying the first thing. They don’t communicate their needs and wishes in a clear manner, expecting their spouse to read their mind and meet their needs. After all, if their spouse truly loved them he/she would just naturally know what they needed or wanted. The passive aggressive withholds information about how he/she feels, their ego is fragile and can’t take the slightest criticism so why let you know what they are thinking or feeling?

God forbid they disclose that information and you criticize them.

Confronting the Passive-Aggressive

Beware, if you confront the passive aggressive they will most likely sulk, give you the silent treatment or completely walk away leaving you standing there to deal with the problem alone.

There are two reasons for confronting the passive-aggressive. One, if done correctly you may be able to help them gain insight into the negative consequences of their behaviors. Two, even if that doesn’t happen, it will at least give you the opportunity to talk to him/her in a frank way about how his/her behavior affects you. If nothing else you can get a few things “off your chest.”

Below are 8 constructive ways to confront someone with passive-aggressive behavior.

1. Make your feelings the subject of the conversation and not their bad behaviors. Use “I” statements and not “you” statements. More than likely you will get a more productive response from the passive aggressive spouse if you make the communication about the marriage and how you are feeling.

2. Don’t attack their character. You may feel angry and want to strike out but, doing so will only cause the passive aggressive to withdraw and refuse to engage in communication.

3. Make sure you have privacy. This is only common sense. Do not call out your passive aggressive spouse in front of others.

Shaming someone never gets positive results.

4. Confront them about one behavior at a time, don’t bring up everything at once. You may have a laundry list of grievances but that doesn’t mean you have to communicate the entire list in one sitting. Remember, the passive aggressive fears conflict so, take it one grievance at a time to help them feel comfortable.

5. If they need to retreat from the conversation allow them to do it with dignity. Tell them you understand their need to leave the conversation but, before they do you’d like to agree on another date and time to continue discussing the topic.

6. Have a time limit, confrontation should not stretch on indefinitely.

7. If they try to turn the table on you, do not defend your need to have an adult conversation about your feelings. Having dealt with the passive aggressive you know that one of their main tactics is to try and turn the tables. Be on the lookout for that to happen and instead of becoming defensive insist that they stay on topic.

8. Be sure they understand that you care about what happens to them, that you love them and that you are not trying to control them. You are only trying to get to the bottom of your disagreements and make the relationship better.

Nothing is more important than helping the passive aggressive to feel safe in engaging in what they will view as a conflict.

Inside the Passive Aggressive’s Head

The passive aggressive has a real desire to connect with you emotionally but their fear of such a connection causes them to be obstructive and engage in self-destructive habits. They will be covert in their actions and it will only move them further from their desired relationship with you.

The passive aggressive never looks internally and examines their role in a relationship problem. They have to externalize it and blame others for having shortcomings. To accept that they have flaws would be tantamount to emotional self-destruction. They live in denial of their self-destructive behaviors, the consequences of those behaviors and the choices they make that causes others so much pain.

The passive aggressive objectifies the object of their desire. You are to be used as a means to an end. Your only value is to feed the passive aggressive’s emotional needs. You are not seen as a person with feelings and needs but as an extension of them. They care for you the way they care for a favorite chair. You are there for their comfort and pleasure and are of use as long as you fill their needs.

The passive aggressive wants the attention and attachment that comes with loving someone but fear of losing their independence and sense of self to their spouse. They want love and attention but avoid it out of fear of it destroying them. You have to be kept at arm’s length and if there is an emotional attachment it is tenuous at best.

The passive aggressive has a real desire to connect with you emotionally but their fear of such a connection causes them to be obstructive and engage in self-destructive habits. They will be covert in their actions and it will only move them further from their desired relationship with you.

The only hope for change in the way they deal with relationship issues is if they are able to acknowledge their shortcomings and contributions to the marital problems. Facing childhood wounds, looking internally instead of externally to find the cause of problems in their life will help them form deeper emotional attachments with a higher sense of emotional safety.

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What It

This Is What It’s Like To Co-Parent With a Narcissist

What It's Like To Co-Parent With a Narcissist


“Imagine every other weekend, your life and family are put on hold, hindered and incomplete – that’s life with divorce and visitation.”

It’s easily one of the most frustrating and difficult situations in divorced families with children where co-parenting is not an option. And, unless you live this life, chances are you don’t understand.

You won. You were awarded full custody and now you are in charge and everything just goes your way, right? Wrong!

First, winning shouldn’t be a term in child custody, and neither should be awarded.

When my ex-husband took me to court for full custody – I was sickened with worry, stress, potential heartbreak, and fear.

Basically, I am expected to go into a courtroom, with a stranger whose sole purpose is to judge me, going against the only person in the world who gains a sick satisfaction out of manipulating, emotionally and mentally breaking me down and hates me for sport. And then, convince this judge in a limited time frame that not only am I a good mother but that I am a better mother than their father is a good father.

That is essentially what it comes down to; who is the better parent for the children. And, one wins, and one loses – but truthfully in our case, one wins and three lose, either way. There are a handful of days in my life that I can remember in vivid detail – and the day I “fought” for full custody is one of those days I still play back regularly.

While that day is not really the point of this post, I will just say a couple of things that are relevant. The words “full custody awarded to the mother” echoing in the half-empty courtroom were the loudest, emptiest, angriest and most relieving words I had heard up to that point.

That morning I came prepared to fight for my life, for my children and I was not going to lose them. Thankfully for me, I didn’t lose them. But, their father did, and looking back now you can see that day was the beginning of the quit.

What It’s Like To Co-Parent With a Narcissist

The beginning of all the “I can’t make it’s”, the schedule conflicts, the manipulation tactics, reverse psychology and narcissism that, we live with today. And, when someone else sees it or hears it, they say the same thing – “don’t let your children go there, stop the visits” and I have to explain that is not how it works.

There are a set of unspoken (but written) rules in divorce decrees that have a trailing visitation order. If you are the custodial parent, you are expected to encourage and foster a relationship with the non-custodial parent and the children you share between you.

This includes their family and friends as well. You are expected to not speak ill of the other parent or withhold visitations out of pure distaste of the other parent. Sports, extracurricular activities, school events etc. are supposed to be avoided if at all possible, during their weekend, and if they do land on the other parents’“time” they are not required to take them – because it is their time. Their time, not your child’s time.

You learn to maneuver around the schedule, and you do your best with what you get.

There were a few civil standbys when the selfish stubbornness kept my children from attending games simply because their father didn’t feel like going in the beginning. Those days sucked for everyone but him, I’d ultimately have to leave without the children, the kids would miss their games/events and he would essentially win.

The officers didn’t enjoy it either, they know the situation, they see it, but they can’t get involved and most don’t want to. It started with school events and games, and then slowly oozed into birthday parties, family events, holidays etc.

The first time I had to tell my child they couldn’t attend something because it was important to spend this time with their father it was okay – but the more frequent they became – the harder it was. And, not because they shouldn’t want to spend time with their father – but because he refused to spend time with them doing the things they enjoyed.

Co-parenting with a narcissist is like being the tin man from the wizard of oz, having motion sickness, on the downward spiral of a roller coaster, with a loose harness, after eating ice cream and 5 corn dogs – doing the tango with a peg leg and an eye patch all the while sewing back together and re-stuffing down feathered pillows your dog chewed up and scattered throughout the back forty – it’s freaking difficult!!

Not everyone is able to join the elusive and all-inclusive co-parenting club, no matter how hard they try or pray. And, people don’t register the impact this has on your family’s life. What looks to friends and family as a minor schedule change, is an asteroid headed for earth sure to destroy life as we know it.

I always love when someone asks if I would like them to call dad and tell him he needs to bring them to an event – as if that would do anything?! He doesn’t care, plain and simple and there is nothing anyone can do to change that than God, and he isn’t a believer, so… ya!

So, what does a parent do when you really have no control or say every other weekend? We don’t. We literally don’t do anything. We found that we stopped doing things. We stopped making plans. We stopped inviting people over or going out as a family – because now someone is gone.

And, truthfully that hindered the weekends the kids were home to because we wanted to be with them, so we would not do anything, ever. Plus, everyone always asks “where are the kids? Why aren’t the kids here? They get out of everything” etc.


But, just as much as people don’t understand, we can’t expect them too either.

They can’t just decide – there is a COURT ORDER that requires them to go. It is not a suggestion, it’s a requirement. The only way they are allowed to miss or skip a visit is if they get permission from that parent – or go back to court.

Which makes our situation all the more complicated because my daughter did just that – she requested through the court to not be required to visit her father anymore when she was old enough. He will never tell this story because no one wants to say the part that makes themselves look bad – but he had to okay it – which he did.

So, we have one child who is still court ordered and one who is permitted to not attend. Navigate that one…

As a parent, a normal parent, you want what is best for your children. It is your job to not only provide for them but teach the importance of opportunity, achievement, dedication, commitment, work ethic all while loving, encouraging and supporting them.

When you have one parent who is against every part of these – how are you supposed to make it work? We have our children in 4H, FFA, sports, etc. to teach them the importance of responsibility, the importance of teamwork and working hard for the things they want in life.

But every other weekend – it’s a headache. And for my son, every Wednesday too.

My son was excited to sign up for Track, which he has never done, and to be honest, I was slightly dreading it because track meets drag on all day. But I was supportive because it was something new, something he was interested in and running keeps him active – so heck ya! go for it bud!

Then Wednesday comes around and he is gloomy because his dad already questioned him last week if he was going to get his Wednesday visits back now that basketball was over – and he didn’t have the heart to tell his dad he signed up for track. So, now he stands in front of me at 6:30 am and has to choose – either track and telling his dad or quitting track and going to his visits.

Our family is serious about sticking to a commitment, once you start a sport and the fee is paid, you have to finish it out.

But I can’t force that in this situation, so I tell him my thoughts and that I support him in whatever he chooses.

On the car ride to work, I am having a serious discussion with God and I get a text from my son saying he chose to give up track, so he doesn’t upset his dad – and I am equal parts heartbroken and pissed. He asked if I was mad and for the first time I responded with the truth about his dad, “No, I am not mad at you for wanting to not upset your dad, I’m mad that your father has put you in the position where you care more about letting him down than letting yourself down – and I can’t fix that and it breaks my heart for you.”

And, that is the truth folks – we are stuck a lot of the time, and we aren’t supposed to say the other parent is bad, or wrong, but damn it – he is wrong, and it is not fair. But as the repairer, I called his coach and explained the situation and we were able to come up with a plan for him to still practice 4 of the days and remain on the team and make visits with dad.

That’s what we do I guess, we rearrange, we maneuver around and come up with other options to still afford them the normalcy of childhood, opportunities, and a healthy life – even if we are the only ones doing it consistently.

So, the next time you see a blended family jigsawing their way through life – maybe you’ll understand a little better that they are simply attempting to navigate a different normalcy.

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20 Divorce Means For Those Who Understand The Realities Of Divorce

20 Divorce Means For Those Who Understand The Realities Of Divorce

A divorce wouldn’t be complete without conflict, anger, and emotional pain. However, for those who experienced a lot of hardships and complications in their marriage, divorce might mean freedom and getting their lives back. Lucky them!

If you or someone you know has been through a divorce we promise, it will get better. So, to help you remember all the good times (sarcasm), check out these divorce memes we’ve collected just for you. Enjoy!

20 Divorce Memes

1. Raise your hand if you’ve dealt with this!

divorce meme


2. Let’s not hold our breaths!

divorce meme


3. Fingers crossed!

divorce meme


4. I know one of those “persons.”

divorce meme


5. Seriously, this isn’t hard to do!

divorce meme


6. Any good mother will make this look easy. 

divorce meme


7. Crazy? Who me? Nah!

divorce meme


8. Can you say, narcissistic fathers?

divorce meme


9. Get on out of here now!

divorce meme


10. If you’ve got any damn sense at all you do.

divorce meme


11. Don’t you dare forget!

divorce meme


12. Those little eyes and ears!

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13. Head held high and a smile on your face.

divorce meme


14. Love yo self!

divorce meme


15. No more dysfunction junction for those babies!

divorce meme


16. Sounds like someone needs help with the bills!

divorce meme


17. When he says no one else will want you, he doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about.

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18. We’re going to harness that power too!

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19. Listen, just NEVER settle!

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20. He is her problem now!

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Things a Narcissist Will Never Be Able To Do For You

6 Things a Narcissist Will Never Be Able To Do For You

Things a Narcissist Will Never Be Able To Do For You


During my divorce, the one thing my ex insisted on was fighting me for full custody of our sons. This, of course, meant me fighting back for what I felt were my rights as the mother who had spent most of my time caring for and raising them.

You see, my ex was never interested in them other than in peculiar ways. He never went to any of the athletic related games, never went to a parent/teacher conference or a doctor’s appointment. When his lawyer asked him what grades they were in, he couldn’t remember.

He did, however, want the boys front and center to show off to his parents. It was my job to make sure they were properly dressed and behaved and his job to take credit for what great kids they were. It was the same with any career functions that included family. He showed them off as if they were a reflection of him.

Our fight over custody became so heated and he was so certain that he was the better parent that he asked his attorney to request a psych evaluation for both of us via the court. That is when things got interesting and he cost himself any small amount of custody of our sons.

According to the psych evaluation, he was a malignant narcissist with anger issues. Not only did that diagnosis mean full custody for me but, it also helped me understand what I had lived with during our marriage.

Narcissism is one of the most toxic personality traits a person can have and can do untold damage to the people around them. Their lives revolve around their own wants and needs, how much other people love them, admire them and show deference to them, and how best to manipulate other people to get their own way.

After some research, I realized there were things I’d never gotten from my ex and, although, I longed for them. Being married to a narcissist, they would never have come.

6 Things a Narcissist Will Never Be Able to Do:

1. Care about your feelings.

A narcissist will do horrible things and not give one hoot about how their actions cause you or their children to feel. They lack the ability to empathize or own their own bad behavior. They are literally incapable of giving a f*ck about the pain or discomfort they cause other people.

And they become quite arrogant and offended if you even hint at them that they’ve done something you find objectionable. If you’re attached to a narcissist in any way, your job is to keep him happy with no return on the investment you’re making into his emotions.

You are responsible for THEIR feelings, they are in no way responsible for YOUR feelings.

2. Be interested in your problems.

Not unless your problems impact him in some way. Telling them about things that are bothering you or hurting you in your personal life will be shrugged off or ignored, and they’ll immediately launch into a diatribe about all the crappy things they’re dealing with.

Your problems are boring.

The narcissist isn’t someone you can go to for comfort or understanding about life issues you may be struggling with. Having problems at work? Expect him to roll his eyes over your menial issues. The kids driving you crazy? Expect him to tell you a better way to parent. They belittle you and your problems but, when they have a problem, expect you to be all ears and compassion.

After all, it’s all about them, all the time.

3. Say “I’m sorry.”

During my 9-year marriage, I never heard my ex say he was sorry about anything. Even when caught red-handed his response was to try and make me doubt myself. The narcissist will try to convince you, you didn’t see what you saw with your own two eyes. Or that you aren’t recalling it correctly.

They don’t apologize for wrongdoing, they try to turn it around and make it about a problem with you.

Remember, they never do anything wrong. They’re perfect and wonderful and if you have an issue with something they’ve done, then that’s all on you.

4. Offer you emotional support.

Not unless it suits their agenda, anyway. Example: It was very important to my ex that my parents viewed him in a positive light. When they were visiting, he was husband and father of the year. When they or someone he was trying to impress weren’t around, he treated me with contempt for being “too emotional.”

In fact, the more off-kilter I was emotionally, the more he liked it. The more he could dismiss me and treat me as if I were helpless and nothing without him. You see, the more emotional or fragile you are, the better they look.

Suffering from post-partum depression? Don’t expect empathy. Lost a parent or friend? They’ll belittle you if you don’t “get over it” on their timeline…a very short timeline.

5. Appreciate what others do for them.

The narcissist only cares about his wants and needs. For that reason, anything you do for him is expected, he has earned it by the mere fact that he exists.

My ex was fond of say, “I don’t owe you anything.” Our good friends helped us move across the country and then flu home after we got settled into our new home. I suggested we buy their airline tickets home to return the favor. His response to my attempt to show them appreciation was, “We don’t’ owe them anything.”

The narcissist has a grandiose sense of self. Grandiosity refers to an unrealistic sense of superiority, a sustained view of themselves as better than others that causes them to view others with disdain or as inferior, as well as to a sense of uniqueness. My ex didn’t feel he should express appreciation because whatever someone did for him, he was owed.

6. Love you.

They will treat you kindly as long as your presence fits into their agenda. They form an attachment to others but only based on how you can better their lives. There is no give and take, only take, take, take.

A narcissist can seem to love you. A narcissist can make it look like love. A narcissist can say the words of love. A narcissist can think it’s love. Unfortunately, when involved with a narcissist, you are enmeshed but not in love. You can be enmeshed and mistake that for love. But enmeshment and love are not the same things.

You exist for the purpose of the narcissist. You are an “extension” of the narcissist. He doesn’t view you as separate from himself with wants, needs, and desires of your own. You are part of him, there to do his bidding.

You, as a separate, distinct individual cannot be appreciated, you can’t be loved because if he viewed you as autonomous, he would also view you as a threat to him getting his needs met.

If you’re in a romantic relationship with or married to a narcissist don’t expect too much when it comes to getting what you want or need from the relationship. In fact, you need to either resolve to do the relationship their way or get out before they do too much damage to you.

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recovery from narcissistic abuse

4 Stages of Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse

recovery from narcissistic abuse


Recovery from narcissistic abuse comes in stages. The early stages are chaotic and, at times, you feel as if you have no control over your recovery.

You’ll blame yourself for problems in the relationship with the narcissist. Hell, you’ve been conditioned by the narcissist to take responsibility for all the problems so, it’s only natural that you continue to do so after the relationship ends.

That relationship has destroyed your self-confidence, self-esteem and a great portion of your self-identity. It will take time to realize you’ve been abused and due to that abuse lost parts of who you are.

In the beginning stage, all you’ll know is that you are hurting more than you’ve ever hurt in your life. The thing for you to focus on is that you’re not alone and there is always hope of recovery.  Everything is eventually going to be OK.

4 stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse

1. Devastation

Emotional symptoms you’ll feel during this stage:

Emptiness, shock, suicidal thoughts, inability to focus, depression, numbness, bitterness, anger detachment from family and friends, preoccupation with the loss of the relationship, an inability to experience joy.

Physical symptoms you’ll experience during this stage:

Inability to sleep, loss of appetite, weight loss, headache, fatigue, digestive problems, somatoform disorders.

About the Devastation Stage

This is the stage immediately following the divorce/breakup from the narcissist, in which you feel all-consuming desolation. Your heart and mind become numb, and you are unable to function properly in your day to day life. Your job performance drops. If you have children, focusing on caring for them will become almost impossible.

You’ll do what you must do during this stage to keep up with your daily responsibilities but, at the end of the day, you’ll not remember what you’ve done or how you managed to get it done. I refer to this as the stage of lingering haze where you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms akin to those experienced by a heroin addict.

You will feel more fragile and vulnerable than you ever have in your life.  Psychologically, you are extremely raw from the erosion of your self-identity that took place during your relationship with the narcissist. At this point, you are still the victim of the narcissist. I’ve known women who talk themselves into believing they deserve the pain they are experiencing.

It is easy to become so manipulated by the narcissist that, even after he is gone, you still believe you were too needy, clingy, worthless, and crazy so, it all must be your fault.

2. Taking Care of Yourself.

During the entire healing process—but especially right now—you must remember to treat yourself well, both physically and emotionally. Mentally you are processing a lot of complex emotions. It’s well known that emotional stress can cause negative impacts on your body. Learning to regulate your physical response to your emotional reactions is imperative to keeping you physically and mentally healthy.

  • Practice meditation whenever you can. My beautiful friend and ice-skating partner, An Old-Fashioned Girl, has shared many techniques on our website that you can try throughout the day. She offered one example where you simply take ten deep breaths in a row—and you can do this anytime, anywhere!
  • Take a multivitamin with B complex each day. This will ensure you’re receiving all of the nutrients you need. B6 and B12 can also help to combat depression. Fish oil is an excellent supplement to keep your skin and hair strong, but it also has some great antidepressant qualities.
  • Exercise! Go for a walk each day. Spend half an hour at the gym. Don’t worry if your workout is less intense than it used to be. Your goal is to work off pent up emotional energy by getting your heart rate up. A walk around the block, dancing to music alone at home, or working up a good sweat at the gym are all appropriate forms of exercise. As long as you’re moving, it doesn’t matter.
  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep. Adequate rest is essential to your mental health, and you won’t be able to get through this if you’re exhausted every day.
  • Go outside and get some sun. Wear sunscreen, of course, but enjoy the natural light of the outdoors, and absorb some vitamin D from the sun. You’ll feel better.
  • Take care of your basic hygiene each day. Don’t skip out on brushing your teeth or taking a shower. The more you get into a routine, the easier it will become to form good habits.
  • Get away from the mirror. Seriously, you look fine. The narcissist conditioned you to feel especially self-conscious about the way you look, but no one is judging you as they did.

3. Denial

During the denial stage, you’ll feel, volatility, pseudo happiness, manic moods, substance abuse, impulsivity, attention seeking, cyberstalking the narcissist.

You lash out at everyone and everything except the narcissist. You may go out drinking, partying, and dating recklessly—all in a monumental effort to convey the message that you are fine. You may become very impulsive, blowing your savings and harboring delusional thoughts of returning to the narcissist.

A big part of the denial phase is still believing they must be interested because of how amazing things were when you were in love. It doesn’t seem possible that they could already be in love with someone else (and it wouldn’t be possible, in a normal relationship). You believe that what the two of you had together was true and beautiful and that he is missing it as much as you.

Instead of recognizing that things are over, you spend a lot of time wondering what you could have done differently to save your perfect relationship. You look back on every single moment that led to the “downfall” and wish that it hadn’t gone that way. You think of creative ways to fix the things that you supposedly broke. You find yourself longing for another chance to make it right.

You forget that your “mistakes” during the relationship were perfectly reasonable responses to unacceptable behavior from the narcissist.

4. Education

During the education stage, you will feel, uncertainty, anxiety, curiosity, disbelief, enlightenment, a compelling urge to learn more.

This is where things start to change fast. Somehow, you come across the topic of psychopathy or narcissism or sociopathy. Whether it be through a lucky Google search, some prior life knowledge you picked up, or a skilled therapist, you now have the biggest piece of the puzzle. This is why the label matters. From here, everything starts to fall into place. You begin to understand why he behaves the way he does.

How could someone who thought you were perfect be the very same person who intentionally hurt you? How could they go from obsession to contempt in the blink of an eye? It isn’t possible. There’s no way you dated a narcissist. They loved you. Right?

The more you question and educate yourself, the better you are able to understand what it is about you that made you vulnerable to the narcissist. What you need to change so you’re never in that position again. Best of all, you’ll begin to feel less shame and self-blame and realize that, as much as he tried to erase who you are at the core, you’re going to survive, become whole again and armed with very valuable information about yourself and what to stay away from in your next relationship.

Knowledge is power to survivors, and poison to psychopaths. The more information you have, the better. And once it all begins to sink in is when the true healing begins.


Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

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relationship with a narcissist

Relationship With a Narcissist: Here Are 50 Things to Expect

relationship with a narcissist


While you may not be physically hit or physically abused in a relationship with a narcissist, your heart will be broken 10,000 times. Even if you think you are a “strong” person and can handle it; your strength is not really strength, but rather, denial.

The following list is not exhaustive, but it is informative. If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist you’ll recognize them all. If you’re presently in a relationship with a narcissist, buckle up because you’ll eventually experience them all.

Here are 50 Things to Expect When in a Relationship With a Narcissist:

1. He will always define the terms.

2. You will live by a set of double standards.

3. You will not be truly listened to.

4. He will never resolve conflict, as a result, they will continue to repeat.

5. He will rarely consider your feelings; and will only do so if it serves him somehow.

6. He will never apologize in an authentic way that acknowledges his behavior or your suffering.

7. What will matter most to him is how he appears to others.

8. He will ruin all of your birthdays and holidays (unless he can somehow make it about him, i.e., HIS favorite band will play at your birthday party, a trip planned “with/for” you will be to a location that HE wants/needs to visit, etc….).

9. He will be sullen during events that are important to you because they are not about him.

10. He will NOT show up for you at times when you need a partner the most and will be rageful if you are upset about it.

11. He will demand forgiveness for his bad behavior yet do nothing to earn back your trust or change his behavior.

12. Your expectations will be managed down to mere crumbs; to the point where you will be happy just because he isn’t giving you the silent treatment, yelling at you, or cheating on you.

13. You will never win.

14. He will be dismissive and, at times, cruel to your pets.

15. Beyond the initial stages of dating, he will make NO effort to befriend your friends or family unless knowing them benefits him in some way.

16. Your value will be diminished to the point of nothingness in his eyes. In fact, mere strangers will hold more weight in his eyes than you will.

17. He will tend to make you his scapegoat.

18. He will dump his shame and rage on to you.

19. Simple conversations will become crazy-making endeavors.

20. You will find yourself walking on eggshells.

21. You will lose yourself because you will be trained to focus only on his feelings and reactions; never mind yours.

22. You will experience the silent treatment.

23. You will experience cognitive dissonance, confabulation, and gas lighting.

24. You will find yourself telling a grown adult (Him) how to have normal interactions with others.

25. Your relationship will revolve on a cycle: waiting — hoping — hurting — being angry — being punished — forgiving — forgetting — again.

26. He will isolate you from your friends, family or financial support and then blame you for depending on him.

27. He will say cruel and judgemental things about the friends closest to him while being nice to their faces.

28. He will blame you for all of the problems in the relationship.

29. You will blame yourself.

30. He will use your weaknesses, traumas and intimate secrets against you.

31. You will experience many dramatic exits, followed by a reappearance of the N acting as if nothing unusual had ever happened.

32. He will act like Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

33. He will not do his fair share of household responsibilities and will criticize your efforts.

34. He will come and go as he pleases.

35. When you try to hold him accountable he will fly into a rage.

36. He will not answer questions directly.

37. He will never ask you about your day and wish you to “have a good day.” He will never show genuine concern for things that you care about.

38. You will feel stuck and unable to leave him.

39. You will miss him and wait for him all the time.

40. He will project his bad behaviors onto you and you will project your good intentions onto him, neither is accurate.

41. When you finally break up because of his crazy-making behaviors and the insanity of the relationship, he will call you a lunatic, others will think you are a lunatic, and you, yourself, will believe that you are just as bad as him (realize, there is no moral equivalence between expressing frustration and intentional abuse.)

42. No one else will see it. This will cause you to question your reality.

43. The entire experience will result in trauma for you because it is interpersonal violence.

44. He will compare you unfavorably to other women, especially his ex.

45. You will begin to feel crazy; then, over time, you will begin to feel numb.

46. If you go to couples counseling it will not work, and will most likely backfire on you. Please realize you do not have a marriage problem, your partner has a mental illness.

47. He will triangulate you with the other women in his life, causing tension and drama between them and you, while he remains unscathed.

48. Once you start to wise up and pull away he will begin to smear your character behind your back in an attempt to turn people against you. In fact, he was probably doing this throughout your entire relationship.

49. The negativity and cruelty with which he speaks about his former relationships will befall you as well should you find the strength to leave him. Brace yourself.

50. Most people will never fully believe your account of the relationship and the psychological trauma can take years to understand and recover from.

The narcissist has no concept of the model of love and relationships that you do. They don’t understand the concept of “give and take.” For them, it’s all about taking. His values, needs and the neural pathways in his brain are as different from yours as night and day.

The post Relationship With a Narcissist: Here Are 50 Things to Expect appeared first on Divorced Moms.


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