Getting a divorce, going through the court system, and dealing with the ex up close and personal is bad enough but when you add in child support agreements it gets downright nasty. Let’s face it, when in court, especially for child custody issues, the narcissist is on stage and performing at his finest. The narcissistic behavior is mercurial – heart-wrenchingly dramatic one minute and solemnly resigned the next. If it wasn’t so frustrating it would be entertaining.
Keep your expectations realistic.
Your Honor, Meet Dr. Jekyll
When you are in court you can expect your narcissistic ex to channel Fred McMurray. For those of you too young to remember, he was the wise, gentle, pipe smoking father on a 1960s sit-com called My Three Sons. He always had the perfect answer, always had a gentle tone, and was loving beyond belief. He’s just the guy to convince the judge that you are to blame for everything and your perception of his parenting is based on your hormonal imbalances.
Since most judges and other people at court are not schooled in the social habits of the wily narcissist they relate to them like they were normal people.
How crazy is that?
What’s going to happen is that your dear narc is going spout off all of the right words. He will convince the court that he has desperately tried to see his children but you have blocked his every attempt. No doubt the judge will look at you sternly and say those words that you’ve hear so many times before.
“You need to be more cooperative.”
Don’t cry. Don’t flip off the judge. Just pull out the diary that you have been keeping and show each instance where his actions speak louder than his words. You don’t owe him a thing. I felt that I owed the ex something for a long time and then I started to get real with myself. He cheated, he lied, he left without one hint of concern about how I was going to raise the six kids at home. I didn’t have a real job, not much income, and I’d been out of the work force for 30 years. He left the state and left me to deal with the fallout.
Owe him something? I don’t think so.
Kids Are Trophies, Too
Narcissists are really not any different with their kids than they are with you. Children exist to glorify their narcissistic parent. Many times there will be one child who is favored because of their grades, talents, or successes while the other child is largely ignored. My ex has given some of the children birthday cards, some birthday money, and some nothing at all depending on his whim when their birthdays came around. There may be times when he actually visits when he says he is going to and other times when he just doesn’t show.
I’ve known narcissists that dress their daughters up like dolls and then take them places just to show them off but let that child screw up then the trip is over.
A narcissist will disappear when things start getting real. If the child begins to be honest about how she feels, if she expresses her anger or frustration over the divorce or the way the narcissist is acting then he will disappear. Game over. Taking my ball and going home. I’m outta here.
Here’s where it gets tricky. You can’t protect your kids from it no matter how much you want to. They have to learn for themselves the truth of who their narcissistic parent is and what being a narcissist means. It is painful but you can’t take that particular bullet for them.
Keep a diary of everything so that you have good records to show the court if necessary. Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Juliejordanscott
Manipulating the Children
Manipulation is a big part of the narcissist’s life. When he can manipulate someone’s emotions or responses he can control their lives. When it comes to your children he can manipulate them to control you.
It’s not unusual for the narcissist to use gifts and unusual privileges to get the sympathy of the children. He may pull them out of school at lunch and head off to the pizza place, for example. Whatever he does is done with the idea of winning their admiration in the same way he won you over all those years ago. At the same time if the children become and inconvenience then he will drop them back with you in a heartbeat – no explanation, no excuse, no nothing.
It’s sad but you need to prepare yourself because many children go through a time when they lay the blame on their mother (or the non-narcissistic spouse) for the issues they are having with the narcissist. If he doesn’t show up it is your fault. If he drops them off early it’s your fault. I have had one of my children express to me that I should let the ex “off the hook” financially because I was earning more money than he was.
Things like that will tear at your heart but my theory is that the kids, your family, and your friends will be more likely to expect you to make his life easier because you are doing just fine. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the ex is milking their sympathies for all he is worth.
It’s going to be tough but all you can do is wait it out. The truth will come out eventually it’s just a matter of being patient and being the mom. You know how that goes. You swallow your hurt and you wait for them to figure it out. They will, I promise.
Remove Healthy Co-Parenting from the Table
If you are expecting some sort of healthy, fair co-parenting you can forget it. It isn’t going to happen. He will lavish affection on the children when it is convenient and ignore them for weeks on end when it is not. My ex let everyone know how amazing our artist son was, how proud of him he was, and how blessed he was when our son was invited to enter a juried art show at a well-known gallery and art museum. However, when I was paying for that sons’ college tuition, books, and art supplies and asked for financial help I was told that the son was over 18 and he was no longer obligated.
That is a classic narcissist move right there. I made the financial sacrifice but he was sure to share in the glory.
File a Parenting Plan
Remember, the best way to deal with a narcissist is to let the court handle it. Don’t argue or play in to his drama. Have your lawyer draw up a parenting plan that you both can agree to. Make sure that it mentions every, single scenario from Christmas to high school graduation. When he deviates from the plan you can let the court enforce it.
Courts are chaotic environments and not always fair but you can, more often than not, allow the child support division to force your ex to do what he was ordered to do. Trust me, it’s nice not to have to be the bad guy. You can just shrug and smile and say, “It’s not me, it’s the court”.
Are you dealing with a narcissistic ex-husband and trying to navigate the co-parenting thing? You’re not alone. Join First Wives’ World today and learn more about how others are dealing with co-parenting issues.
Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Photopin