cheated on

Cheated On? Why No One Really Cares

cheated on

 

There she is…or he for that matter…seated in front of my desk with tears in his/her eyes and a mountain of papers.  Barely able to compose herself, she tells me, “He’s been cheating on me, and here is all the proof.”  Sure enough, there is the proof! And it is ugly. There are email exchanges, text exchanges, graphic photos, credit card receipts, phone records, PI reports, and sometimes even “DNA” evidence…oh boy. I take a deep breath.

How do I explain that in the context of divorce, here comes the truth, NO ONE CARES IF YOU WERE CHEATED ON?

I get it.  It’s awful, it’s painful, and it may indeed say a lot about the cheating spouse, but as a legal matter (in New York), it won’t make a difference in what you get in terms of divorce entitlements. After gently empathizing with my client, I next deliver the news, “that all being said, as far as the divorce, your spouse can be swinging from chandeliers with his/her paramour, but as long as the children aren’t there, no one cares.”

There it is, the stunned look of disbelief…WHAT? No matter how many times I deliver the news, it’s heartbreaking.  Here is my client, totally distressed. She has inevitably lost at least ten pounds from the stress, hasn’t slept for days, and probably spent at least $5,000.00 on a private investigator. What’s even worse is that she has probably, and unbeknownst to her, illegally obtained “evidence” which she couldn’t use in court anyway.

So what now? Well, first off, stop the investigation immediately. It has no use or purpose other than to upset you. You have plenty of evidence and there is no need to go any further. All this will do is upset you even more and interfere with your ability to make good choices for yourself.

I know that it is hard to do.

It becomes almost an obsession. However, for your own sake, I urge you to stop because it really does not make a difference, and it keeps you stuck. About 15 years ago I had a client whose husband was cheating on her.  She found out in the most awful of ways…in person.

Yes, she came home to a stranger in the marital bed. It can’t get worse than that.  Did you see the movie Silver Linings Playbook? If you haven’t, I suggest you do. It’s a great movie and it’s about a husband who discovers his wife is cheating on him; how he becomes obsessed with it, and it almost ruins his life.

Why No One Cares If You Were Cheated On

Anyway, back to my poor client. She was young, smart, highly educated and beautiful. She was also very trusting and naïve. She literally suffered a nervous breakdown and could not go to work. It was a very short marriage, just under two years. There were no children and no assets.

Other than get her divorced from this cheater, what else did she want? More importantly, what else could I fight for?

I was so moved by her plight and believed that having lost her job because of her husband’s cheating, that he should provide some spousal support while she got her life back in order.

The Husband’s attorney thought I was out of my mind, inexperienced, and all but laughed at my proposal that his client pay my client’s rent for a year.  We went to court.  We had a conference with the Judge. Guess what? The Judge agreed with the Husband’s attorney, told me my demand was ridiculous and that my client had to “get over it.” I was crushed.

I went back to my client to tell her that our demand was too high (translation, as in 100% too high). I will never forget the look of disbelief and disappointment in her eyes.  Persistent young rebel that I was, I went back with a slight modification of my proposal. The attorney basically laughed at me, and we went back to see the Judge.

At that point, the Judge growing annoyed with my persistence and my client’s “hysteria” made a suggestion for a proposal.

When my client would not agree, the Judge told me that my client was “an @# idiot.”  Uh oh.  Now that was just way out of line. With my heart banging out of my chest, and my hands shaking, I said to the Judge, “I think that perhaps we should go into the courtroom and I will ask that your honor recuse himself.” He shot me a look. I added, “respectfully.” The Judge then made a “final” proposal and told opposing counsel that he was to make sure that his client took the deal.

We accepted. It was a moment of vindication for my client, and for me, one that I still haven’t forgotten.

That Judge, by the way, is no longer a judge or lawyer.

Other than that, and maybe one other which would make this blog just way too long (the Husband was cheating on his wife with her sister), cheating is NOT a factor in divorce, and people spend way too much time, energy and money obsessing over it. You are just too good for that type of life waster!

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Lawyers & Exes & Threats: What To Do When He Makes Irrational Threats

he makes irrational threats

 

On a daily basis without fail, I get a panicked phone call or email about a “threat” one of my clients just received.  “Is it true? Can he really do that?” Inevitably the threat, just like a fever, comes in the middle of the night when you can’t reach anyone for help.

Scared and stressed, you suffer all night waiting until morning to call your lawyer for an answer.  The threats, no matter how scary are usually nothing to worry about.

Keep in mind that I am NOT talking about threats of bodily harm or injury.  Those are different, and none of the below applies to THAT kind of threat.  Any threat of harm to you, your home, or children is one that needs to be reported and acted upon immediately.

These are but just a few common “threats” that are made all too often, and reality is, they seldom come to fruition if ever, and as you get wiser you will know exactly how to respond.

“By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll have nothing”

“You’ll never see your kids again”

“I’m getting sole custody”

“The kids are going to have to testify”

“The house is getting sold and you will be on the street”

“I’m moving out of state”

“I’m quitting my job”

“I’m calling your boss”

“Wait until the Judge finds out that you…”

Sound familiar?

What To Do When He Makes Irrational Threats

Write it down. Yes, like my “lists” this too should be written down. Hearing the threat is very different than seeing it. When your spouse calls, emails or texts you in a rant, all kinds of emotions and buttons are triggered. Under this state, it is very difficult to keep calm and impossible to think straight.

Let the threat come and go. Do not respond to the threat. Do not make a “counter-threat.” Write the threat down. Now read it and think about it. Chances are that within a few minutes of calming down, breathing and reading, you can see that the threat is often unrealistic, unlikely and the product of some other trigger.

A good friend, excellent therapist, and colleague who practices in the field of family therapy once told me, “the dynamics of the marriage are the dynamics of the divorce.” Simply stated, if he was a bully in the marriage he will be a bully in the divorce. If she was controlling in the marriage she will be controlling in the divorce. Do not expect your spouse’s personality or style to change during the divorce, if anything, you will see it reach peak extremes.

Tell your lawyer. Do not believe your spouse’s claims unless your lawyer tells you it is true. In a contested divorce your spouse has two basic goals, first to make your life as difficult as possible, and second, to “win.” If you keep that in mind, you will begin to train yourself not to react to his/her threat. If you react to the threat in a way that your spouse hopes you will, i.e. by caving into unreasonable demands and/or giving him or her anything he/she wants just to “end things” then your spouse’s tactics have worked and the threats will keep coming!

A word about “lawyer letters.” Lawyers write a lot of letters. Some letters are necessary, some not so much, and others to appease their angry and upset clients or make them feel better at your expense. These letters can be very upsetting. I know it is probably easy for me to say it, but truly, do not take them personally. Believe me, your spouse’s attorney isn’t (and your spouse is paying A LOT of money for these letters).

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Why Does The Narcissist Emotionally And Psychologically Abuse Others?

why does the narcissist emotionally and psychologically abuse others

 

I’ve researched narcissism for years. Have worked with narcissistic clients and those who’ve been harmed by a narcissist. There is one thing they all want to know, “why am I this way, or, why is he that way?”

Why does the narcissist emotionally and psychologically abuse others?

If you’ve ever suffered narcissistic abuse, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to understand what makes a narcissist tick. Why they behave the way they do, why did you fall prey to your narcissist?

If we’ve been hurt by someone we love it’s only natural to want to find understanding in what happened. We believe that if we can only understand our pain will lessen.

So, whether you’re a therapist, researcher or victim, there is an interest in knowing why the narcissist emotionally and psychologically abuses.

There are many theories. Probably as many theories about why the narcissist is narcissistic as there are people wondering why.

Some of the possible reasons’ the narcissist emotionally and psychologically abuses others:

  • They were abused as a child.
  • They were emotionally abandoned by their mothers as a child.
  • They were abandoned by their fathers as a child.
  • They suffer from a form of attachment disorder.
  • Their needs weren’t met as a child.
  • They weren’t shown love as a child, as a result, never learned how to love.
  • They weren’t taught how to love themselves as a child.
  • They were raised to believe that they are better than others.

Here is what I’ve determined: It doesn’t matter why the narcissist emotionally and psychologically abuses others.

The why, I’m definitely sure has to do with family of origin issues and the reasons may be as varied as the damage done in a particular narcissist’s family.

If you’re ever going to understand why your narcissist abused you, the answer more than likely lies in his family history. You’ll get a better understanding of what happened to you by understanding what happened to him as a child.

But, again, why does it matter?

Why spend the time and energy on trying to figure him out when your time it is better spent on healing and moving forward with your life?

I can tell you from experience that no amount of understanding is going to lessen your pain. Once I fully understood my ex’s behaviors and actions, my pain was still there. Nothing was going to take care of the emotional pain I felt after years of abuse and losing someone I loved except TIME.

I also exhausted myself and put more focus into trying to figure him out than I did taking care of myself. The deeper I dug into information online and his family history the more I became entangled with him and we were divorced!

When I thought about the stories I’d heard about his mother and his absent father the more empathy I felt for a man who was trying to destroy me via the family court system. That isn’t when you want to feel empathy for someone!

Narcissistic men attach themselves to empathetic, kind, and caring women. We’re an easy target during the dating period, marriage and even during the divorce process. Our tender hearts can hold us back from doing what needs to be done when divorcing a narcissist…fight fire with fire!

I remember my neighbor telling me about seeing my ex in the grocery store shortly after he’d left home. Her words, “he looks like the walking wounded,” wounded me. I instantly wanted to bring him home, take care of him and fix him.

I wanted to excuse his behavior, just as I’d done during the marriage and make excuses for him instead of setting boundaries WITH him instead of taking care of myself.

If you’re like me and have dealt with or, you’re now dealing with understanding why the narcissist emotionally and psychologically abuses, I’m sure you’ve made excuses for them also.

  • “He had a rough childhood.”
  • “He had a terrible mom who never loved him.”
  • “He had an absent father and craves love and attention that he didn’t get in childhood.”
  • “He is wounded, so he is lashing out at me from a place of pain.”
  • “He is afraid to be vulnerable with me because he is afraid of abandonment.”
  • “The stress of years of damage has caused him to snap.”
  • “If I had a second chance, I could love all that damage out of him.”

After he left, I made the same excuses for his deplorable treatment of me that I had made during the marriage. Such excuses on my part not only kept me emotionally tied to him but also kept me from moving toward healing from what he had done to me.

Not all people who were abused grow into abusers. I was in bed one night, ruminating on him and his behavior when it hit me…I didn’t have a perfect childhood, but I CHOOSE not to abuse others.

My father was an alcoholic. My mother enabled his alcoholism. I was sexually abused as a child by a family friend. I experienced a tremendous amount of trauma as a child. You know what I did about it, I got therapy! I learned to deal with my childhood to keep it from impacting others negatively.

I lay there and thought to myself, “Hell compared to my childhood he led a pretty cushy life.” That’s when I realized exactly why narcissists abuse emotionally and psychologically others.

Because they can!

They have free will. No one is holding a gun to their heads and making them abuse those closest to them. They know right from wrong. I had witnessed my ex doing the right thing many, many, many times during our marriage.

With certainty, I finally knew he was mistreating our children and me because he was making the choice to mistreat us. It was within his power to treat us civilly and respectfully; he was choosing not to.

I talked with my therapist about my thoughts and his response was, “emotional problems are no excuse for bad behavior.” And he was right. I didn’t have to make excuses for my ex, I no longer felt the desire to understand why he did the things he did. I was ready to focus on myself and recovering from the abuse.

Narcissists emotionally and psychologically abuse because they are bullies. They destroy women, families, and children and cause grave harm because they are bullies. Bullies with bad childhoods but it isn’t my job or your job to fix a bully who doesn’t want to be fixed or feel he needs to be fixed.

You are not responsible for their actions. You are not responsible for their feelings. You are not responsible for their actions. You are not here to take abuse from them or anyone else and that’s what your quest to “understand” is causing…more abuse for you.

When we let go of the need to understand and figure out “why,” we let go of the narcissist and begin to heal. Are you ready to let go? Are you ready to heal?

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Divorced Moms: A Few Father’s Day Do’s and Don’ts

father's day

 

As a single mother on Father’s Day, sometimes it can be a little lonely when the children are not by your side, but it is essential to recognize the importance, in your children’s eyes, of spending time with their father – particularly on Father’s Day.

Just as on Mother’s Day, when, as it should be, the mother is properly recognized for all of her contributions to the family, it is equally as important that the children are able to spend time with and recognize their father on their special day.

A Few Father’s Day Do’s and Don’ts

In order to help prepare for not spending time with your children on Father’s Day, here’s a helpful guide of “Do’s and Don’ts” that I have found to be useful in my consultations with clients on the topic of Father’s Day and visitation when the parents are separated.

It should go without saying these suggestions apply equally to Mother’s Day when the children are spending time with their mother, but since Father’s Day is rapidly approaching, we will start from there. So without further ado, here is my helpful list of do’s and don’ts for a single mother on Father’s Day:

Do’s for a Single Mother on Father’s Day

  1. Do encourage your children to spend time with their father on Father’s Day. Keep any negative feelings to yourself until after the children have left so that they can enjoy a guilt-free day with their dad.
  2. Do step aside for the day and allow the father to shine, even if only for one day.
  3. Do make sure your children – if they do not reside in the same geographical area as their father, or if Dad is deployed or working overseas – contact and speak with their father. If possible, connect them through some video conferencing, Skype, Facetime, or a similar application that allows the children and their father to see each other while they’re talking.
  4. Do have the children create a Father’s Day card and/or encourage your children to make a homemade gift for their father.
  5. Do take time for yourself and enjoy some quality time with your family or friends. Make plans that don’t involve the children, such as brunch, a movie, or a spa day with friends.

Don’ts for a Single Mother on Father’s Day

  1. Don’t make plans or schedule other activities on Father’s Day that would deprive the father of the opportunity to spend time with the children on Father’s Day.
  2. Don’t disparage or otherwise denigrate Father to or around the children. This tip should apply year-round – not just on Father’s Day
  3. Don’t prohibit the children from spending time with or contacting Father on Father’s Day.
  4. Don’t allow the children to dictate the terms of their timesharing with Father over Father’s Day.
  5. Don’t despair: Mother’s Day occurs in May, so make sure these same do’s and don’ts apply for your special day when it comes around each year!

While certainly not an exhaustive list, I hope these do’s and don’ts will help to provide some guidelines on how best to handle – and ensure a smooth timesharing experience for your child – Father’s Day after divorce.

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The Value of Divorced Dads: On Father’s Day And Every Day

divorced dads

Lessons of love always begin in childhood with the parent/child relationship. If children feel authentically loved by a father they will grow up knowing how to love others.

 

Father’s Day is just another day around my house. My father passed away13 years ago and my ex-husband has no relationship with our two sons. I was blessed with a loving father who earned celebrations every day of the year.

My boys, bless their hearts, ended up with the kind of father that perpetuates the old stereotypes about deadbeat dads. I’ve been divorced from their father for 19 years, during that time I’d venture to say that 90% of the time he has been a no-show when it comes to fathering.

When I began this article I was stumped, what can I, a mother whose sons don’t have a father say to divorced dads on Father’s Day? I then realized that the absence of their father has taught me quite a bit about the importance of fathers in a child’s life. Not just on Father’s Day but every day.

Whether you have full custody, 50/50 custody or you are an every other weekend Dad, when your little ones give you a gift and card this Father’s Day it isn’t because you are special to them on one day but, because you add value to their lives every day.

A Divorced Dads Value on Father’s Day and Every Day:

Showing up:

Showing up in spite of a difficult visitation schedule or conflict with your ex teaches your children persistence. If you continue to be involved in your children’s live after divorce, engage in quality time with them regardless of how little quantity, you are teaching your child that when something is important to them, it is worth pursuing with persistence. What a wonderful lesson to teach!

They learn they matter:

You not only teach your children that they matter but, by example, you teach them that what they do matters. You showing them that they matter teaches them to care about others. You teach them that actions, words, and deeds are the true measure of a person when you show up and you show them they can trust your actions, words and deeds.

You give them someone to go to:

If they are hurting or confused over a problem they know you are available. You make a difference when they are down and out. By being there for them, you teach them to be there for others. You have a direct impact on how empathetic and compassionate they become.

You impact their ability to learn:

Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. Fathers who are involved and nurturing with their children impact their IQ scores as well as cognitive abilities, verbal skills, and intellectual functioning. So, show up as often as possible because you are raising geniuses!

You impact their mental health:

Children with good relationships with their fathers are less likely to experience depression or exhibit disruptive behavior. Boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and girls have higher self-esteem. In other words, by showing up you teach your boys the importance of proper behavior and your girls to never settle for that ne’er-do-well boy that every father fears.

You teach your sons how to be good fathers:

Fathering involves commitment, self-sacrifice, integrity, and unconditional love. Responsible fathers are concerned with the well-being of their children, and their desire is to see their children succeed in all areas of life.

Nurturing your relationship with your sons trains them “up right,” as my grandmother used to say, it educates them and fosters healthy development. Do this for your sons and your grandchildren will be rewarded with loving, attentive fathers.

You teach them how to love:

Lessons of love always begin in childhood with the parent/child relationship. If children feel authentically loved by a father they will grow up knowing how to love others. The ability to give love is directly related to the love we receive, especially during childhood. Showing up and filling your children with love will play a huge role in the kind of romantic relationships they involve themselves in as adults.

And that is just the short list! Raising two boys on my own has taught me a lot about the value of a father. Working through the years with clients and hearing from fathers via email, I know that my ex-husband is not representative of the vast majority of divorced dads.

We hear a lot about single and divorced moms but very little about divorced dads. We place value on the mother/child relationship and at times dismiss the father/child relationship. It is my wish on this Father’s Day that divorced dads know that, although others may not be paying attention, their children are.

They are waiting for your phone call, watching out the window, looking for your car, counting the days until your next visitation. They are eager to see you, share their lives with you and love you. And every time you show up your value to them increases tenfold.

If you are a divorced dad who shows up, every day spent with your children feels like Father’s Day to them.

So, Happy “Father’s Day” today and every day.

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What Happens To Men Who Defy Divorce Court Orders? NOTHING!

divorce court order

What Happens To Men Who Defy Divorce Court Orders? NOTHING!

Over the years, I’ve spoken to many women whose ex-husbands were defying divorce court orders to pay child support. What most of them have learned when they take their ex back to court for contempt is that judges rarely throw a deadbeat in jail. They threaten to do so, but in my opinion, it isn’t often that a judge will follow through on a threat.

Not enforcing a court order undermines a woman’s ability to care for her children. For some reason though, a judge seems more concerned with how being jailed will negatively affect a deadbeat father. It isn’t only child support orders that aren’t enforced — in the Family Court System, it’s any order.

In September of 2014, my former husband and I finally went back to court on the post-majority expense issue and another issue having to do with housing. My ex was ordered to pay 93% of our son’s college expenses. He angered the judge by behaving arrogantly so the judge retaliated by slamming him with 93% of the expenses. However, with grants and scholarships, my former husband would have only had to pay a couple of thousand dollars a year. It wasn’t like the man was going to go broke helping his son with college expenses.

The judge also ordered him to follow through on the agreement he had made with me for housing dating back to September of 2010. The judge did something that I thought was very odd. He read into the court record what he had ordered and then he told both lawyers to get together and come to an agreement on how the order would be worded. Once the lawyers had come to an agreement, the judge would write the order and sign it.

My lawyer immediately contacted my ex-husband’s lawyer trying to come to an agreement on the wording. That wasn’t an easy task. When a man has been ordered to pay and do things he doesn’t want to do, his lawyer will drag his feet because the last thing he wants is an order signed by a judge.

I had a son in college who wasn’t getting any help from his father with his expenses and the housing issue was hanging over my head. I was constantly stressed over not knowing from one day to the next if I was going to lose my home. Nine months later, I was still stressed out.

Finally, after motions by my lawyer and threats from the judge, we had an agreement on the wording. In July 2015, the judge signed an order, nearly ten months to the day after we had gone to court. It was an order that my former husband never had any intention of following in the first place.

Shortly after leaving the marriage, my ex developed a sense of entitlement. Having children to care for emotionally and financially no longer fit into his agenda. He did the least he could do as far as supporting them and obstinately refused to do more even though it had been court-ordered. What he has done to them emotionally would cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.

He scoffed at the July 2015 court order just as he had all the other court orders. He was court-ordered to sign mortgage documents on a substitute home for his children. Instead, he went out within days of getting the order and signed mortgage documents for a home he was building for himself. It was a blatant snub and he got away with it.

I took him back to court for contempt of court…once again. The judge yelled at him and threatened to throw him and his lawyer in jail that day. The judge ruled from the bench in February of 2016 telling my ex that he had 60 days to comply with the original decree of divorce, which had been written in September 2010 or he would go to jail.

My ex never saw the inside of a jail and never will because judges don’t enforce court orders. To hell with those annoying written laws, the laws that mandate a judge punish someone for defying court orders. It’s those unwritten laws that determine what really happens when defiance occurs and nine times out of ten, nothing happens.

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Maddie’s Story: How I Fell In Love With a Narcissist

fell in love with a narcissist

I fell in love with a narcissist and lived to regret it.

 

The night we met, the moment I saw him, I wanted to get to know him. He didn’t make a move, though. Every time I smiled at him, he smiled back. I caught him looking at me several times but, that was as far as it got.

Connie and I left and went to another local bar. We sat at a table with friends and were talking. Within a few minutes, I looked up and saw HIM and his friends walk in and sit down. They sat next to an empty table. Connie and I got up, went out the back exit and back in through the main entrance. We sat at that empty table next to where he and his friends were sitting.

I was determined to have at least a conversation with him and, where there is a will, there is a way. I was determined to make it happen. You have no idea how many times I’ve asked myself since that night why I didn’t just let it slide. If wishes were horses, this beggar would be riding a damn fast one!

When we sat down next to his table, he felt the movement and turned to look. He saw me and a HUGE smile swept across his face. With that smile, he sealed the deal and I welcomed him in with no awareness of what that would mean for our children and me.

He was easy to fall in love with. He dropped a love bomb on me that no woman could have resisted. Unless, of course, she didn’t care for dimples and blue eyes.

What do I mean by love bomb, think flattering comments, tokens of affection, or love notes on the mirror, kitchen table, or windshield, or, flowers sent to my workplace. He pulled out all the stops. Within a month I couldn’t imagine life without him. I was full throttle in love.

What were some things he did to reel me in?

He was a jeans and T-shirt guy. I liked my men buttoned down. He went out and purchased 6 Izod buttoned-down shirts.

At least twice a week he would drop by work to take me to lunch.

Every time we got in his car he would reach over and buckle my seatbelt.

If I left his apartment in the middle of the night to go home, he’d give me time enough to get home and call to make sure I was there and safe.

He told me I was beautiful but not often enough that it would sound manipulative or cheesy.

He loved my friends and family. He genuinely appeared to enjoy their company and was always willing to spend time with them.

He shared his life with me. I didn’t have to dig for information about him, he readily volunteered it. He entertained me with stories of growing up with 8 brothers. He shared with me what it was like living in a mining community in Alaska and fishing for Salmon on a big fishing boat. He had led a life of adventure. I was a small town girl whose head was turned by phrases like, “I’ll take you there sometime.”

We planned our first sleepover, and he picked me up and took me to a local department store. He purchased new sheets, pillows, and a comforter and duvet. “Only the best for my girl,” he said. Imagine that? He wasn’t just thinking about getting in my pants. He wanted me to feel comfortable and cozy while he was in my pants. That’s the kind of shit that will make a girl swoon.

Two of my favorite things back then were Dr. Pepper and Snickers candy bars. On Valentine’s Day, he gave me a dozen roses and a gift basket with a dozen Dr. Peppers and a dozen Snicker’s bars. Imagine that, he had been paying enough attention that he knew my favorite soft drink and candy bar.

If I liked Chinese food, so did he. If I like riding Rollercoasters, so did he. He liked EVERYTHING I liked. I like romantic comedies, guess what, so did he. I loved John Grisham books, low and behold, so did he. I bet if I’d told him I like Herpes he’d have done whatever he needed to gift me some Herpes.

His father and brother came to town to visit him. He insisted I be part of all their plans.

He marked his calendar down to my birthday and made sure I knew that he was going to make it special. He told me I deserved to feel special, and “you just wait, your birthday is going to be something else.” And, he was right, he pulled out all the stops.

He was the most caring and giving lover I’d ever had. His focus was on satisfying me and making me feel cared for during sex. It was true lovemaking. Or, it was to me anyway.

He was like a fantasy, a gift of a man.

A man I had never imagined. You can’t fathom that kind of attention, affection, and love. Thoughts of a man like him didn’t lurk in the shadows of my mind because I had no idea such a man was possible. I felt like a 4-year-old who’d been given permission to eat a bowl of sugar.

We dated for a year. A year filled with comfort when he held my hand and feelings of security when he would verbally include me in his future plans. As an adult child of an alcoholic father, he gave me everything I’d ever craved. And then I became pregnant.

That’s when I was devalued, got my first taste of what it’s like to be on the wrong end of a Narcissist

To be continued.

Maddie’s Story Part I

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Why It’s Hard To Leave a Narcissist

leave a narcissist

 

When we fall in love, it’s natural to become attached and form a romantic bond. But once in love with a narcissist, it’s not easy to leave, despite the abuse. Although you’re unhappy, you may be ambivalent about leaving because you still love your partner, have young children, lack resources, and/or enjoy lifestyle benefits.

Outsiders often question why you stay, or urge you to, “Just leave.” Those words can feel humiliating because you also think you should. You may want to leave, but feel stuck, and don’t understand why. This is because there are deeper reasons that keep you bonded unlike in other relationships.

Why it’s Hard to Leave a Narcissist

Narcissists, especially, can be exceedingly charming, interesting, and enlivening to be around. Initially, they and other abusers may treat you with kindness and warmth, or even love bomb you. Of course, you want to be with them forever and easily become dependent on their attention and validation. Once you’re hooked and they feel secure, they aren’t motivated to be nice to you. Their charming traits fade or disappear and are replaced or intermixed with varying degrees of coldness, criticism, demands, and narcissistic abuse. (See “Narcissus and Echo:  The Heartbreak of Relationships with Narcissists.)

You’re hopeful and accommodating and keep trying to win back their loving attention. Meanwhile, your self-esteem and independence are undermined daily. You may be gaslighted and begin doubting your own perceptions due to blame and lies. When you object, you’re attacked, intimidated, or confused by manipulation. Over time, you attempt to avoid conflict and become more deferential.  As denial and cognitive dissonance grow, you do and allow things you wouldn’t have imagined when you first met. Your shame increases as your self-esteem declines. You wonder what happened to the happy, self-respecting, confident person you once were.

Research confirms that it’s common for victims to attach to their abuser, particularly when there’s intermittent positive reinforcement. You may be trauma-bonded, meaning that after being subjected to prolonged belittling and control, you’ve become childlike and addicted to any sign of approval from your abuser. This is referred to as Stockholm Syndrome, named for hostages who developed positive feelings for their captors.

You’re especially susceptible to this if the relationship dynamics are repeating a pattern you experienced with a distant, abusive, absent, or withholding parent. The trauma bond with your partner outweighs the negative aspects of the relationship. Studies show that victims of physical abuse on average don’t leave until after the seventh incident of violence. They not only fear retaliation, but also the loss of the emotional connection with their partner, which can feel worse than the abuse.

Additionally, codependents, who are usually preyed upon by narcissists and abusers, often feel trapped and find it hard to leave any relationship. They can be loyal to a fault due to their codependency.

After You Leave a Narcissist

Narcissists and abusers are basically codependent. (See “Narcissists are Codependent, too.”) If you distance yourself from them, they do what it takes to pull you back in, because they don’t want to be abandoned. Narcissists want to keep you interested to feed their ego and supply their needs (“narcissistic supply”). Being left is a major humiliation and blow to their fragile self. They will attempt to stop you with kindness and charm, blame and guilt-trips, threats and punishment, or neediness, promises, or pleas―whatever it takes to control you so that they “win.”

If you succeed in leaving a narcissist, they usually continue their games to exert power over you that compensates for their hidden insecurities. They may gossip and slander you to family and friends, hoover you to suck you back into the relationship (like a vacuum cleaner). They show up on your social media, try to make you jealous with photos of them having fun with someone else, talk to your friends and relatives, text or call you, promise to reform, express guilt and love, ask for help, or “accidentally” appear in your neighborhood or usual haunts.

They don’t want to be forgotten but keep you waiting and hoping. Just when you think you’ve moved on, you’re reeled back in. This may reflect their intentional spacing of contacts. Even if they don’t want to be with you, they may not want you to let go or be with anyone else. The fact that you respond to them may give them enough satisfaction. When they contact you, remember that they’re incapable of giving you what you need.

You might feel guilty or tell yourself that your ex really still loves you and that you’re special to him or her. Who wouldn’t want to think that? You’re vulnerable to forgetting all the pain you had and why you left. (See “Why and How Narcissists Play Games.”) If you resist their attention, it fuels their ambition. But once you fall into their trap and they feel in control, they’ll return to their old cold and abusive ways. Only consistent, firm boundaries will protect you and disincentivize them.

How to Leave a Narcissist

As long as you’re under their spell an abuser has control over you. In order to become empowered, you need to educate yourself. Come out of denial to see reality for what it is. Information is power. Read up on narcissism and abuse on my website. If you’re unsure whether you want to leave, take the steps in Dealing with a Narcissist to improve your relationship and evaluate whether it’s salvageable. Regardless of your decision, it’s important for your own mental health to redeem your autonomy and self-esteem. Take these steps:

  1. Find a support group, including a therapist, 12-Step group, like Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), and sympathetic friends―not ones who bash your spouse or judge you for staying.
  2. Become more autonomous. Create a life aside from your relationship that includes friends, hobbies, work, and other interests. Whether you stay or leave, you need a fulfilling life to supplement or replace your relationship.
  3. Build your Self-Esteem. Learn to value yourself and honor your needs and feelings. Develop trust in your perceptions and overcome self-doubt and guilt.
  4. Learn How to be Assertive and set boundaries.
  5. Learn how to nurture yourself. This is a life skill and also insulates you from abuse. See “12 Tips to Self-Love and Compassion.” Get the Self-Love Meditation.
  6. Identify the abuser’s defenses and your triggers. Detach from them. On my website, get “14 Tips for Letting Go.”
  7. If you’re physically threatened or harmed, immediately seek shelter. Physical abuse repeats itself. Read about the cycle of violence and actions to take.
  8. Don’t make empty threats. When you decide to leave, be certain you’re ready to end the relationship and not be lured back.
  9. If you decide to leave, find an experienced lawyer who is a family law specialist. Mediation is not a good option when there is a history of abuse. See “Do’s and Don’t’s of Divorce.”
  10. Whether you leave or are left, allow yourself time to grieve, build resilience, and recover from the breakup.
  11. Maintain strict no contact, or only minimally necessary, impersonal contact that’s required for co-parenting in accordance with a formal custody-visitation agreement.

The post Why It’s Hard To Leave a Narcissist appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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being friends with your ex

Being Friends With Your EX: 7 Reasons It Doesn’t Work

being friends with your ex

 

While it’s normal to want to undo the past, being friends with your ex usually doesn’t work out. It’s a noble endeavor to want to be a friend to a former spouse but it can fuel your child’s reconciliation fantasies and prevent both adults from healing and moving on with their lives.

It’s especially problematic for the person who was left – or the dumpee – because having regular contact with the person who rejected them can make a person feel confused or give them a sense of false hope. On the other hand, the dumper would probably admit to feeling guilty upon seeing their ex regularly or worry that they are sending the wrong message.

When my marriage ended, I had the misconception that two good people (myself and my ex) should be able to stay friends after our divorce. In my case, I was looking for closure – but soon realized that letting go of the reasons why our marriage dissolved was a healthier decision. I also came to terms with the fact that I didn’t need to have all of the answers to why my marriage failed in order to move on.

There are many reasons why people strive to be friends with their ex after a breakup or divorce. Certainly one of the main reasons is that they have unfinished business that they hope to resolve. Our they may want to keep the non-intimate part of the relationship going because they have caring feelings toward their former spouse.

Erin, a 40-something teacher confides, “I couldn’t understand why two civilized adults couldn’t visit with our kids and hang out like friends. But Jason told me it hurt him too badly because I broke it off and he was reminded of his pain every time we got together.” This experience is a common one for the dumpee who might feel  –especially hurt if their ex has a new partner and they don’t. It can add salt to an open wound that has not had sufficient time to heal.

Guilt Can Drive You Towards Being Friends with Your Ex

Another reason why people want to stay in close contact with a former partner after a breakup is guilt. Sometimes the person who is the dumper feels guilty about leaving the relationship, especially if they were unfaithful, and they want to remain friendly with the dumpee to help to ease their guilt. In this case, counseling with a qualified therapist is a more effective way to deal with these leftover emotions.

Further, some individuals keep their relationship alive because they hope for reconciliation but they don’t necessarily acknowledge it. According to Susan J. Elliott, author of Getting Past Your Breakup, “Examining your quest for contact and being honest about your real intentions will help you stop making excuses to make contact.”

Conner, 48, reflects, “I did all I could to keep in touch with Karen with the hope that we could fix things and one day get back together – even though I knew she was in love with someone else.”

7 Reasons Being Friends with Your Ex Doesn’t Work:

  1. Most of the time, a post-breakup friendship is a setup for further heartbreak, especially for the person who was left and probably feels rejected.
  2. It does not give you or your ex time to grieve the loss of the relationship or marriage. Like all losses, the breakup of a long-term relationship or marriage causes people to go through various stages of grief. In order to heal and move through anger, denial, it’s essential that individuals have the emotional and physical space to do this. Trying to maintain a friendship may extend the healing process.
  3. You need to forge a new identity: After a breakup, it’s essential to lose your identity as a couple and to return to who you were as an individual, rather than half of a couple.
  4. It can cause confusion for your children. It’s normal for most children to experience reconciliation fantasies and seeing their parents spend time together (social events, holidays, etc.) can cause them to long for their intact family. Children benefit from parents who are collaborative but not necessarily friends post-breakup.
  5. You might not have been true friends and it’s problematic to start now. Sometimes, especially when there are children involved, a person may feel pressured to preserve a friendship that never existed or that disappeared during your marriage. So just say “no” and remain cordial to each other.
  6. You need energy to “take care of yourself” and to form new relationships. Maintaining a close friendship with an ex (especially if it’s emotionally or physically intimate) can delay this process.
  7. Acceptance is the final stage of grieving the loss of a loved one, according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and a post-breakup friendship doesn’t facilitate this process.

At some point, it’s important to accept the breakup of your marriage and come to a place of “it is what it is.” These anecdotes from bloggers help to explain how acceptance and setting boundaries with your ex can facilitate creating a new chapter in your life.

Katie, a 30-something high school counselor reflects, “When I broke it off with husband Kyle, he took it very hard. I thought that if we stayed in touch and hung out sometimes, it would help him adjust but it only made things worse. I let my guilt and his feelings of rejection be the driving force rather than common sense. It took him years to get over our breakup and I was left feeling even more guilty because of the pain I caused him.”

Justin, a 40-year old accountant shares, “It just didn’t work for Heather and me to remain friends. It got complicated without three kids and they felt more confused when we tried to get together. Then when I started dating Susie, they didn’t like her and kept talking about wanting their mom and me to get back together. It wasn’t fair to them and I didn’t want to give them false hope.”

Truth be told, it’s a great idea to be civil and cooperative with your former spouse – especially when you have children. Being allies with your ex can help children adjust and thrive post-divorce. That said, maintaining a friendship with your former spouse probably won’t allow you both to move on with your life after a divorce. Giving yourself time and space to regain independence and a sense of identity will serve you and your children well in the long run.

This article first appeared on DivorceMag.com

The post Being Friends With Your EX: 7 Reasons It Doesn’t Work appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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spouse voluntarily quits his job during divorce

How To Fight Back When Your Spouse Quits His Job During Divorce

spouse voluntarily quits his job during divorce

 

It is a scenario that plays out over and over again in divorce courts everywhere.

You took care of the home during your marriage while your spouse made the money.  When it became clear you were heading for divorce, you discussed your case with a lawyer, who told you that you had a “classic” alimony case.

Then out of the blue, your spouse lost his job.  Now, your spouse’s position is that alimony is not appropriate because the money is not there.

If this has happened to you then take action immediately.  While most State laws will put a burden on you to prove that your spouse is voluntarily unemployed, the divorce courts provide you with all the tools you need to succeed.

Below are the four steps you must take when your spouse quits his job during divorce.

Pull Your Spouse’s Tax Returns to See Total Income Earned When Working

If you and your spouse filed jointly, then you can pull your tax returns yourself in less than 15 minutes.

Simply go online to the IRS here: www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-Transcript. . or simply google “Pull Tax Transcript”, and click on the IRS website.

You will be prompted to create a username and password on the IRS website, and you will be asked private questions to confirm your identity.

Once complete, you can simply download a PDF of your Record of Account transcript, which will provide all of the information you will need.

If your spouse filed separately, then your attorney will have two options to get the tax returns from your spouse.  Preferably, your spouse will simply comply and turn over a copy of the requested returns.  If your spouse is being difficult however then it will be easier to have the Court force the Husband to execute an IRS Form 4056-T and go directly to the IRS to pull the statement.

Gather Your Spouse’s Previous Employment Records with a Subpoena

Now that you know exactly what your spouses reported income, you want to dig further into the employment file.

You will be looking for additional income and benefits as well as nature and reasons that your spouse is currently unemployed.

Your attorney can get this information by sending a simple subpoena to your spouses’ former employer requesting his file.

Because unemployment compensation is a real issue for businesses big and small, employers usually thoroughly document the details surrounding an employee’s’ exit.

You are looking for records that show your spouse either left his or her job voluntarily or that the poor performance by your spouse that led to termination coincided with the divorce.

Frequently, the employment file provides slam dunk evidence when a spouse leaves a job to tactically help his or her divorce case.

Gather Your Spouse’s Medical Records

Is your spouse claiming an inability to work for health reasons?

While this is a common tactic in alimony and child support cases, you can swiftly and quickly debunk this claim by requesting authorization for release of medical records.

Simply, you will ask your spouse to sign a document allowing your attorney to pull any and all medical records related to his or her ability to work.

And if your spouse refuses to sign this document, your attorney can ask the Judge to force the signing of the release.

A common tactic to increase leverage is for a spouse to feign ill health and the inability to work.  By pulling health records immediately, you can disarm this tactic before you enter settlement negotiations.

Find Job Opportunities and Your Spouses Potential Income

Now that you have gathered your spouse’s’ employment and health records, you need to show the Court the jobs in the community and earning potential available to your spouse.

And while you can certainly gather this evidence yourself, when possible you should hire a vocational expert in your community to prepare an occupation report.

These reports typically do three things:

  • First, the expert takes the employment and health records that you and your attorney have gathered and delivers an opinion on your spouse’s ability to work and whether unemployment is voluntary. The best experts are qualified to discuss medical records when giving their opinion.  Judges tend to lean heavily on expert opinions in family law.
  • Second, the expert finds job openings for your spouse. The expert searches your town and neighboring towns for actual job leads, and then calls the job leads and verifies that your spouse is a fit.
  • Finally, the expert draws a conclusion as to the amount of money your spouse is capable of earning in a given year.

These expert reports can be very difficult for your spouse to defend.

Conclusion

A voluntarily unemployed spouse can seriously damage the value of your case unless you take action. While it will require work, you have the tools needed to cut through the gamesmanship and get a fair resolution in your case.

The post How To Fight Back When Your Spouse Quits His Job During Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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