Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Lessons from Court

Pretty simple actually…this post is about the lessons I’ve learned from going back to court with my ex over a vacation.

1. Don’t go to court.  My kids were going on that vacation no matter what, so my family and I decided that we would fight it because it was a poor decision on my ex-husbands behalf.  I knew I wouldn’t win, but I wanted to set a precedent that if he would make bad decisions, I would fight them to protect my children.  This was a [relatively speaking] inexpensive lesson that I never need to revisit.  Letting a complete stranger make a decision for your family however, not worth it.

2. Judges are humans who don’t know you from Adam.  They don’t know your story.  They don’t know what poor decisions your ex will make, or that he doesn’t parent well, or that he doesn’t have positive role models in parenting.   They will say “50-50 custody order- he can take them on vacation.”

3.  Learn to get along.  It took 3 years but we have finally figured out how to get along.  We don’t see eye to eye- but my ex and I know how to come to the same decision.  It takes compromise and manipulation.  For example, it is very important to me that my children continue at the private school they go to… he doesn’t want to pay for it.  We have compromised over money to keep us both happy.  I don’t need his money- it’s my children’s right to receive support as I’ve mentioned before.  I cannot rely on support because my ex will do anything to keep it from us.  Currently he’s completely hiding his income because I have a wage withholding order and when he gets paid, I receive support.  If he was getting paid, I’d be receiving support.  (I’m not- yet he has money to make private payments to the state to us). That is a whole other story that deserves exposure of his despicable Mormon-run company…for another post.  Just trust me on this.  He hides money from us, puts his girlfriend and car payments before his children… but we still have to get along. The alternative is a complete stranger making a decision for your family.

4. When you have children with someone, you never have complete control over their lives.  We never have complete control, but I mean more like, where they are, where they live, where they stay etc.  There are two parents; in the eyes of the law, both have equal rights.  A father can require you send your small children on a plane to Minnesota if that’s where he moved for work.  You can fight him in court, but the judge will probably say the kids can go- and that’s on you if you let a stranger decide.  For example, my new(er) attorney laid it out very clear to me that there are 4 judges in Cecil County and some of them sent their kids to private school and some did not… so if I left that decision up to one of them, who knows what they would decide.

This was definitely a moment of change for me.  My kids were allowed to go to Hawaii despite my telling the judge that Dad has a drinking problem and doesn’t always require seat belts and life jackets.  She ordered he use them but there wasn’t someone in Hawaii to monitor that!  I had to let it go and I decided to spend this difficult time in Boston with my best friend of 20 years.  She made sure we were happy and relaxed, and I survived.  Without control.  It was good for me.  All of the lessons were good for me and will change the way I go about things in the future.

Here’s me with my God-daughter when I arrived in Boston.  Blessed.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Custody Agreement- What I Wish I Had Known Then

It took me a moment to decide how I wanted to write this, as I try to offer what I think people may both want to read and need information about…

I am in a pickle with my ex-husband.  Nothing new, but this Thursday will be the first time we’ve actually gone to court since our divorce.  In short, I have a very vague (shitty) custody agreement.  In my agreement, it says that each parent may take the children on vacation for a week with two months notice given to the other parent.  During the school year, it says that the other parent must agree.  That is pretty much it when it comes to vacation guidelines in my agreement.  It has no previsions to protect my children from their father who drinks excessively, especially on vacation.  It also has no previsions to protect my children from a parent who isn’t too serious about car seats and life jackets.  As a result, I am now going to court with him because I will not agree to this vacation during the school year or at all, for that matter. Not at such a young age, as it is also a 17 hour plane ride for a 4 day vacation for my small children.  There are also four children on this trip and only two adults.  This doesn’t make sense to any responsible, rational person I’ve spoken to.  I didn’t have children with a responsible, rational person.  I had children with a Narcissist.  This trip is not about my children, it is all about my ex-husband.  All of the information he has shared and all the communication we have had on the topic has been completely centered around him.  This is evident in his wording and his absolute refusal to meet with me to discuss the logistics of the trip. I have many safety concerns and in addition I do not trust someone to take my children around the world who will not even meet with me to discuss their well-being.  He is a true Narcissist.  Alas, we knew that, and a judge will decide on the trip.

That being said, had I known how imperative our custody agreement was – the wording of it – I wouldn’t be in this situation.  We made this agreement when I was not even thinking clearly three years ago.  It is so important because if there is ever a conflict between parents, a judge will look at the exact wording of the agreement and most likely determine the outcome that way. That makes sense to most – but it is almost impossible to predict all of the possible situations that may arise when two people get divorced and no longer are raising children “together.”

My next step is to request a modification in our custody agreement so this situation never happens again.  It is my job to protect my children and this is part of it.  There are many issues and specifics that need to be covered in a custody agreement.  Some of the topics that need to be covered are the process in determining schools for my children.  Right now they go to a private school that I pay for and that we are very happy with.  My ex hasn’t fought me on this decision, but he also has not made the decision with me and alleges that I made it alone.  I have documentation of my requesting he help make the decision, requesting he see schools, requesting he help research, and he just couldn’t be bothered.  If anything ever comes up regarding their school, I need to make sure this decision is solid.

Sports are another topic not mentioned in our agreement.  Our oldest is in sports now and my ex had him in a winter sport near him- keep in mind, he moved 35 minutes away from us last spring. Now our oldest is in a different sport at a league close to our home.  He alleges I didn’t “run this by him” which again, I have documentation that I did.  Narcissists live in their own lies.  Their truth is whatever works for them and comes out of their mouth.  If I showed him my documentation, he would simply say he didn’t remember saying it… I know this because I can predict his behavior based on his past behavior.  He is a Narcissist.

I never even pressed the issue of his moving away from us because I didn’t want to negatively affect the children.  Since he moved away and out of state, I could insist that he meet us for exchange.  Right now, I drop off at night, he drops off in the morning.  I think that is in the best interest of our children as they are dropped off at our homes, not in a parking lot somewhere.   I will always make decisions based on the best interest of my children.

As of now, I have some work to do and so does my attorney.  I will keep this post up to date in case I know anyone else who may have a similar issue.  I am very interested to learn other topics and suggestions that I may need to address while I seek this modification.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Vacation in Arrears

I started this post a while ago, not because my ex was going on his second exotic vacation this year, (he is) but because I am disgusted with the child support system my family has had to deal with.

Then I came across this across this article:

Travel Ban for Parents Who Don’t Pay Child Support

Interesting article from Australia.  The problem with the article is that it only takes one’s Passport.  How about a driver’s license?  If he is over 45 days late.  This means NO payment has been made in 45 days… and this is only if the custodial parent has gone to court to have the case enforced.  This process can take over a year.

What am I even talking about?  I can only speak for the system in Maryland.  I actually don’t live in Maryland, but couldn’t have my case transferred to my state until it was enforced in Maryland.   The social worker’s manager told me they had no way to verify payments already made.   I tried for a year. Called weekly and even offered to go to the social workers office to log into my MD Human Resources account to verify payments.  I offered to send my bank statements.  After a year of calling and meeting and sending paperwork, I conceded my loss and applied for enforcement in Maryland.  I had been avoiding this task because I knew it meant having to drive two hours away to the county our case had been heard.

To clarify, I had a “collect and disperse” case.  When I was divorced, the one thing the state did in my favor was explain that it was my right to request my ex’s wages be garnished for support payments.  At that point, I had never received regular payments so that was the arrangement, they would be garnished from his checks.  When he decides not to work, because he’s in full-commission sales, my children do not receive support.  Arrears added up, and the only way to have that addressed is to have the case enforced.  Ok, problem solved.  Except that process also took a year.  I applied; the application was lost.  I called; she sent me a paper copy.  I verified my payment.  Finally.  After a few months, we had a date.  My ex husband and I sat down with the assistant DA and agreed on a number he owed the children.  This would be resolved by adding to his monthly payments until the arrears were paid off.  The payments would now be 15% more.

That’s it!  That is it.  Two years, balanced hasn’t changed.  The weekly payment is more, when I receive it.  Now, what happens when I receive $60 for the children over two weeks instead of $600 I need to help pay for childcare?  Nothing.  If he doesn’t work, I don’t receive support.  In the words of my attorney, “That’s the system.  I didn’t say it’s a good system.”

What happens when he spends $4,000 on vacation but owes his children $6,000?  Nothing.  Two separate cases. I could go on and on but my point is to expose a flawed system.

About Me (Mommy Mels)

Three Rotations Around the Sun

Ok so while I don’t write at work, I’m doing hall duty and it’s far too distracting to get anything worthwhile done.  Our kids are awesome- don’t get me wrong.  Our systems have narrowed it down to just a few that don’t follow policies but I’m blessed to have fans who stop and chat with me on their way to the bathroom while I’m out here.

This past Thanksgiving marked three years since my ex “Ninja Vanished” on us. I could not be at a better place. I am blessed to spend the majority of my time with my children and I feel like I have mastered the art of making the most of my time while they are with their dad.  I’ve realized that the best way to spend my time is in self-care.  Many times that means I’ll fill my night up with the gym, maybe some sushi take-out, and cleaning or organizing my house.  Maybe one night a week I’ll go out to dinner with work friends.  I also go to bed early and catch up on uninterrupted sleep.  It’s not always easy- especially because as I write this- tonight is a Monday and they are headed to dad’s tonight… I’ll miss them, and never a day goes by where my heart doesn’t ache without them.  But, alas, it is what it is.  I’m doing the best I can.

I can say, that as long as I am with my children, I am as happy as I could be.  I have short, short moments when a friend in a happy marriage gets to do something incredible with her husband and I think- How did I screw that up so badly?  But- they’re short.  I had some entertaining insight this weekend when my ex accidentally sent me a long list of screenshots taken of our conversations…including his call log…to show his girlfriend all of our correspondence.  Whoopsie on his end!  I had to call him out- my mom yelled at me for even responding- but it was an impulse thing.  I just said “wow” and “why doesn’t she realize I’m the LAST person on Earth she would need to worry about?” and “It’s sad, and why would she want to isolate herself from me?” That about covers my reaction.  And it was exactly that.  A reaction.

I had to reel myself in and remind myself that I am not dealing with sane people.  My ex-husband has a personality disorder and as my mom reminded me, his girlfriend takes her clothes off for money- clearly not a stable person.  She is very threatened by me- a concept I understand but nonetheless cannot wrap my head around.  Immediately after my reaction, it was turned to “my fault.”  “Because of things I’ve said in the past” she needs to know all that is said between us.  I can’t even remember what I could have said- but the point is, that is a typical response from a Narcissist.  It has nothing to do with me, but he must deflect his  shortcomings onto me.  That is how he functions.  In addition, I found out that he has me in his phone as “Lucifer” with the middle-finger emoji next to it.  Again, his shortcomings, not mine.  It is sad that I have to share my children with someone who has such blatant disrespect, but this is the cross I have to bear.  I wouldn’t trade my children for anything in the world and I have an incredible support system to remind me of all of my blessings when I’m faced with any abuse from their father.  It’s up to me to react to him.  Reacting to him is acknowledging the abuse.  I need to remember that next time.  Sorry mom, you were right.  As always.

As we go into the holidays, it’s amazing to reflect on where I’ve been and where I am now.  I have no pain in my heart like I have in previous years.  I have only joy when I’m with my children and family.  I do not feel like there is anything “missing” from our family, despite my being a single- parent.

On a side note- This past weekend my mom brought some wrapping paper to my house and it was exactly the roll from Walmart that I was going to get…until I saw a better deal with four rolls for the same price.  It took some searching, but I’ve realized that she and I are about the same person.  I can’t think of someone else I’d rather emulate.

Dating 101 at 36 with Little Ones at Home...

7 Laughable Characteristics You’ll See if You’re Online Dating (exclusively Bumble) at 35

OK, this is a blog I’ve been working on for a while… I consulted with friends older and younger than me… and I’m between considering it a PSA to the men out there and just plain ol’ entertainment for my sis’s that are in the same boat as me.  Disclaimer, this post can sound a little judgy to those who choose plural marriage.

  1. If you’re 34, I’m 35. I have my (old) Bumble profile set between the ages or 32 and 42… I’m 35.  That should be right in the middle.  I come across men every now and then that have “34” listed as their age…they might look 45… and it’s just laughable.
  2. Your kids have been through enough; keep them off of Bumble! First of all, if you’re on Bumble, you most likely are not committed to the mother of your children.  That has it’s on complications, don’t make more for your children by posting selfies with them on your dating profile!  Second, I don’t want to see your kids, just like I don’t want to meet them, unless we are dating.  If we go out and I ask to see a picture of your children, that’s different. Don’t post them for strangers to view.  Let them be innocent.
  3. The guessing game.  I will be completely honest here- I will not date someone who hasn’t graduated college.  I need security at this point in my life. I would make an exception if I met someone with a solid trade in a union etc.  Please don’t make me guess.  I had a guy who said he was a teacher, but when we chatted, it turns out he never finished college and worked as a paraprofessional.  I almost married a guy like that.  Bullet dodged.  Just give enough in your profile so that potential swipers have an idea about your career and values.
  4. “You statements”  You need to live life to the fullest. Just stop. I’m not on here for advice honey, and I clearly don’t take it anyway or I wouldn’t be in this position in the first place.
  5. Jean Shorts. Never OK.  Never.  I see some on my high school students but they’re high school students. Please stop.  Throw them away or send pack to the 90’s.
  6. Fish Pics. This one is debatable.  I don’t mind them so much, but EVERY MAN has one… nice tuna.
  7. Negative Nancy. New to this app, all the same, same results.  I think I took that right from a guy’s profile. I was thinking, “oh that really makes me want to reach out and talk to your cynical ass!” Oh and the punctuation was wrong.

 

P.S. I’ve recently found “Hinge” as an alternative.  I’m still shook over a bumble date with a “38 year old” who admitted he’s really 52.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

A Narcissistic Co-Parent

OK, to the nudge of a good friend who’s been there through it all for me…I am going to finish my post on dealing with a Narcissistic Co-Parent.  I have always known that my ex (well since the point in which he showed his true colors) was a Narcissist…but it wasn’t exactly an a-ha moment until I started my research.

I came across this amazing article on Facebook…

New Research Says Anxiety Disorders And Depression Are Linked To Narcissistic Abuse

When I read this article, I began to realize exactly why my ex and his flying monkey (girlfriend) are able to make me feel so terrible.  It was life-changing.  The article, along with the fact that none of us were getting along, prompted me to go to a therapist to seek help in co-parenting with very uncompromising people.  At first I was drawn to the article because I have very situational anxiety.  I never had anxiety before I met my ex-husband.  When we were married, and even before that, I felt very anxious all of the time because I felt like I had all of our shared responsibility on my shoulders alone.  Still, my anxiety can be directly linked to him but I am able to recognize it and deal with it.

What was so astounding to me was the fact that both my ex and his girlfriend were constantly abusing me.  They are both awful to me, but he is very verbally and emotionally abusive.  Today, for example, he called me an “idiot” and “retarded” because of an email I wrote our son’s school asking if “my ex-husband” could please be added to the email distribution list.  He felt the need to write the administrative assistant back with “by ex-husband she means her son’s father.”  I was so embarrassed but mostly for him.  This is an example of his true, Narcissistic behavior.  It has nothing to do with our son.  He didn’t even use punctuation and yet accused me of not being professional.  Nothing to do with our son.  This was simply a need for him to receive attention and try to make me look bad because that makes him actually feel good.

Narcissists lie and sabotage others to feel better about themselves.  I know all of my ex’s weaknesses and insecurities.  I know that they exist, even though he strives to portray the idea that he has none.  I bought this book at the beach that I posted on my Instagram and it guided me through endless situations that I have been through with this man that exemplify a Narcissist.

Once I was able to put a name to this abuse I was receiving, I was able to put a stop to it.  I have had amazing support from my friends and family, but seeing a professional about the situation helped me realize that I’m not crazy, I’m dealing with someone with a disorder. His main goal in life is to make me feel crazy.  She simply said, “You tell him you will discuss “who, what, where, when” about the children and only communicate with the girlfriend in emergency situations.  I have stood by this policy since then and my “care-factor” has greatly decreased.  Before, I was wound up in the idea that enough time has passed, we should all be civil and friendly.  Now, I know that is simply not possible and I accept that.  I could never be friends with him.  He is a Narcissist who, when “done” with the people he’s dealing with, chews them up and spits them out.  He uses people for what they have to offer him and when he’s not receiving anything else from the relationship, he cuts the person off.

Narcissists also have no empathy.  I used to assume this just meant that they can’t put themselves in another person’s shoes.  What it also means is that they simply do not care how other people feel.  They do not care because it does not serve them. He does not see anything wrong with how he abandoned his family because it positively affected him.  That made it OK… Narcissist’s do not concern themselves with how others feel unless it directly affects them.

I think a lot of men and women probably deal with Narcissists and don’t even realize it. Many are married to them. For a long time I used to just write off my ex-husband’s behavior by thinking he just has a “salesman’s personality.” Once I discovered my reality and behavior patterns to anticipate from him, his silly name calling and incessant anger towards me barely even phases me. It’s very freeing.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

City, Sea Air, Babies, and Gaslighting

I was so sad when I looked back at my blog and the last post was about me feeling off-balance.  I haven’t felt that way in so long!  I haven’t written since then because I have been having too much fun I guess?  What’s funny, is that I did write a blog about the humors and ironies of “Bumble” – the dating app.  The majority of this post (still saved in drafts) is a list of all the things I loathe about trying to find and meet a decent human, male specifically.  I deleted the app after canceling probably 4 dates with potentially decent humans.  Luckily for me, the one I was destined to meet, asked me for my number just prior to my deleting the app.  He’s wonderful.  I may have to show him my cynical “Bumble” post and see if there’s anything to add from the male perspective.

I cannot be thankful enough that I chose a profession that allows me to spend the whole summer with my children.  We have spent the summer back and forth between the beach, the city, and our pool.  We’ve laughed a lot and most importantly, caught up with all the lost time we experienced with my parents when my mom was receiving chemo treatments the last two summers.  Not enough can be said about an attitude of gratitude and the positive effects it can have on the soul.

What I am most thankful for is the answer I finally received in my heart about the father of my children.  Because I am in the most vulnerable state with him- he’s the person who cares for the center of my world from time to time- I feel like I’ve been in this bubble of his gaslighting – this is a form of abuse where the abuser makes the victim question his or her sanity and abilities to perceive reality.  For example, when we would disgree on something he would say these triggers such as “it’s all in your head” or his favorite, I’m “batshit crazy.” This came to my attention when I listened to an awesome podcast on “Stuff Your Mom Never Told You” – seriously, check it out.

Gaslighting 101

As the ladies in the podcast explain, it’s very freeing to be able to put a name to the treatment you’re receiving from someone.  This also started my investigation into Narcissism.  My ex is surely a Narcissist but some of the things I’ve been reading are really bringing to light how very naive I was in my marriage and how I can take control of my thoughts and feelings now.

Stay tuned : )