One of the most difficult things to deal with when you are divorcing is the relationship between the soon-to-be-ex and your children. If he isn’t a total dirtbag, it’s possible that he will work to maintain his relationship with his kids even though he is done with you, if for no other reason than it would look bad if he didn’t.
If, however, you are dealing with a heavy duty, dyed in the wool narcissist you may find that he doesn’t handle single fatherhood very well at all. Most narcissists aren’t good parents.
The problem with that is you are going to have to decide how to handle your children’s interaction, or lack of interaction, with him. Are you going to smooth things over? Cover for him? Tell the kids what to expect? Or, are you just going to let things happen and deal with them as they do?
It’s a tough call. The one way to really get under a mom’s skin is to hurt one of her children. Our entire lives are dedicated to protecting our children from as much pain as possible.
1. When He Plays Favorites
If you have more than one child it is possible that your narcissistic ex will play favorites. OK, it’s not possible – it’s probable. The favorite will be the one (or ones) that supply him with the constant flow of admiration that he needs. The child that consistently makes honor roll so gives him bragging rights, the child that worships him, the child that is socially poised and makes him look like a great parent – these will be the ones that get preferential treatment.
Experts say that there is a scapegoat, a golden child, and everyone else falls through the cracks.
I have one particular child that speaks her mind. She is a very honest, very blunt, very “what you see is what you get” type of person. She was often the one who got a shoe or something thrown at her and was the subject of derogatory remarks. Oh, not cut downs! Oh, no! Jokes. No matter how mean-spirited the things he said were it was never meant seriously.
She has not made a secret of the fact that she was much happier after he was gone.
Shortly after he moved out of state she had a birthday. No card came in the mail, there was no phone call, and need I say it?
There was no gift.
Maybe a week later he called and she asked him about a card. He told her that there was a gift in the mail for her. Weeks went by and there was no card and no gift. It wasn’t the last time, either. He’s pretty sporadic about who gets birthday cards, who gets birthday gifts, and who doesn’t.
She isn’t one of those teenage drama queens. She pretty much keeps her emotions bottled up and they come out as sarcastic comments and angry outbursts. Now she is accused by his family and friends of being disrespectful, spoiled, and unruly. The truth is she is a sweet girl who is on the honor roll, does not get into trouble, and has no tolerance for lies. She does not speak to him.
And I don’t force her to. This is not my fault.
2. Communication Breakdown
Narcissists don’t communicate well unless they have a reason for needing to. My ex could talk to my kids on his level, about the things he was interested in but as far as talking to them about things they did that he wasn’t interested in – no way.
He moved 2000 miles away. He doesn’t call them and yet he accuses me of setting them against him. I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn’t call because it hurts too much to talk to them. I assume it but don’t really believe it. He doesn’t know about what’s going on in their lives. If he cares he doesn’t show it.
Sometimes I feel bad because they kids don’t get him Father’s Day Cards or remember his birthday. In some ways it’s my fault, I suppose. I don’t remind them. I stopped worrying about it when I realized he could care less if they remembered MY birthday or had money to get Mother’s Day cards with. It is totally a bad attitude on my part but I am not playing his one-sided games anymore. And most of the kids are old enough to choose cards for him without my input.
He is just reaping the lack of communication and caring that he has sown for years. He can say it’s my fault all he wants – the majority of our children don’t speak with him by choice.
And I have decided that his relationship with them is none of my business. This is not my fault.
3. Thou Shalt Not Question Thy King
Narcissists don’t like to be questioned by anyone – certainly not their children. It doesn’t matter what they are being questioned about.
A narcissist has his own set of facts. He may remember things that never happened, refuse to believe that some event did happen – even when faced with evidence – and if he doesn’t believe it then by golly it’s not true. He lives under a different law than everyone else and what is frustrating is that he somehow convinces people that it’s OK. If he’ ordered to court he may or may not show up – it kind of depends on if he wants to or not. If you question him he’ll have a completely plausible explanation and you are left wondering (a). why he isn’t in jail, and (b). if you are a totally nut-job.
Narcissism has an effect on your entire family – that need for everything to look good on the outside no matter what manner of craziness is going on behind the scenes.
I am a rebel. I homeschooled my kids and I encouraged them to question everything. I want them to think for themselves and that includes questioning authority respectfully. The fact that they question IS my fault and I am not sorry – the fact that they question his motives IS his fault. It’s the consequences of lies.
4. Mom Is Not the Mediator
In some cases it may be practical and desirable for the mom to mediate between the ex and the children. This is not so if your ex is a narcissist. In fact, if you are co-parenting with a narcissist you’ll need to keep yourself out of the way as much as possible!
It is important that you not try to smooth things over but that you let your children and your ex work out their relationship. As a good friend once told me ‘Take the high road.” Don’t cut him down or tell your kids what a jerk he is. At the same time, if they call him a jerk you don’t necessarily need to correct them either. You’ve covered for him enough in your lifetime, don’t you think?
His relationship with the kids is his own. Mediating and trying to fix thing will only make things worse. He’ll either learn to play nice or he will alienate his kids – that’s on him either way. You need to work on affirming your children. If you feel that the abuse, verbal or otherwise, is endangering them you need to take your concerns to both a therapist and a lawyer specializing in family law.
If your child is hurt by something your narcissistic ex says or does don’t make excuses for him and don’t discount it. Acknowledge that it was hurtful (Oh honey, I bet that hurt when he said that) without letting your child know your inner feelings.
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Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: jDevaun