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.

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 : )

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

What in the Hell is it actually like?

Seriously, I used to tell my ex-husband that my best friend was living my worse nightmare (a couple of friends, actually- one was single, ones husband left).  I used to wonder what the HELL that would be like at my age and status.  Then, low and behold, he pulled the rug out from under me when I had a 5 – week – old baby.  Oh and a two year old.  This was almost two years ago.

What is it like?  Most days are great.  Most days.  Most days I look at my two beautiful children and think, “boy am I lucky I have these two little miracles and DON’T have to deal with their father!” He’s someone else’s baggage now.  Thank the sweet baby Jesus.  No, really.  He was an awful husband but I would have stayed with him for the sake of my family for at least a little longer.

So there’s the relief of not having to be stuck in a miserable marriage.  Then there’s the insanity of dating.  I call it insanity because sometimes it’s sooooo fun, and sometimes it really sucks.  I’ve fallen in love again since my marriage ended, only to have my heart broken.  It stings, but nothing will ever hurt as bad as what my husband did… so I don’t fear heartache. I’ve had suggestions from dear friends to not date at all- that it’s a waste of time because I’m not ready and have things to deal with.  This may be partially true, but at the same time, I feel like dating is definitely more fun than not.  There is no shortage of men to go out to dinner with and as long as I take things slowly (which I admittedly have not always) then I think it’s a safe bet. There is so much to learn about myself still and I really pride myself on the fact that as soon as I see red flags, I remove myself from the situation.

My ex and I are usually on good terms but it has NOT always been that way.  For this reason, I won’t even go on a date with someone who is only “separated.” I had to navigate through some serious uncharted waters in the first AND second year of my separation. The one to finally reel me in wasn’t ready himself.  Like I said, it hurt and I miss him at times, but what a revelation.  This is the beginning of year 3 without a husband.  I still have so much to learn. I am however, at a very happy and confident place.  I’ve never been more confident in what is important to me, and who I am as a human.  I am out of the water in terms of treading… my parents are well and can watch my children when I need to do adult things… like bachelorette parties.

One thing I have found really astounding was that I firmly have no desire to have more children.  When I first was alone, my friends would re-assure me that I would have a girl someday with my perfect husband that I was yet to find.  I appreciate that but my ex-husband has another baby on the way and that has me feeling all types of ways for my own children.  As if he hasn’t given them the shaft enough in this lifetime, he’s going to bring yet another person into this world that will take away from the time and attention he gives them.  It’s heartbreaking for them, and I will never do anything to make them feel that way.

I’m on my 3rd holiday season without my ex-husband.  He left the day after Thanksgiving.  Since that Thanksgiving was a 2-day bender for him that resulted in my discovering an affair, I didn’t even enjoy that last holiday together.   Last years holidays were pretty good, but the ex and I were still not getting along too well.  This year is much more established and no part of him or that family facade I tried to paint will be missed.

So here’s to year three… may I be smart, resilient, have fun, and stop over-thinking.

And save more money.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Let it Linger…

(from the Cranberries)

Recently I’ve been dealing with lingering effects of my divorce.  I was kinda set back when I received the email and paperwork for the sale of our house.  I’ve had to push the the materialistic elements of this relationship out of sight and out of mind to focus on my children and career but now that they are all rolling again, so to speak, some things crept up to me.  It was really difficult to see the names of the people who are going to be living in and taking over my dream home.  I reached out to my old neighbors who I probably haven’t spoken to in a year once I received the house emails.  I wanted to let her know that the sale is going through and to apologize again for the way things went down.  When my ex was out of town or working, they were always there for me.  The couple next door and their adorable son were very supportive to me.  They also had an impeccable yard and once we moved out, ours wasn’t cared for and the husband ended up cutting the grass for us.  I know I had almost no control over the situation, but I’m more proud than to let my home go.  It was painful.  I put some serious blood, sweat, and tears into that place, customizing it to my liking and personality.  It was seriously amazing, perfect for our family, and I thought it was the only house I’d ever live in…

The funny thing is, I was talking to someone the other day and mentioned that losing my house was the most painful part of my whole story.  If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that losing my only chance at a nuclear family was what pained me.  When I reflect on this, it really speaks to how far I’ve come.  It’s actually amazing.  I have to allow myself to feel the pinch of losing my first home because my second home is right around the corner and that is going to feel even better because of all the work I put into myself to get it…  My little family and I will be on our own again in June and I don’t have to ask anyone to agree on paint colors with me.  I also have all summer off to paint our new home and design it to my liking- without having to run any changes by anyone.  Even better, this house is near all my friends and family!

We had an awesome time at a birthday party yesterday and although they can sometimes be hard and a lot of work for a single mom, it was awesome to be around all my people- for the second time in a week!  So, although the reality sometimes hurts, I am allowing myself to feel the pinch, and then absorbing all of the joys that came out of my life detour.


My new Trader Joes’s bag…

They didn’t realize there’s no shore in Delaware… just beaches