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Dear Chump Lady, I’m afraid he’ll turn the kids against me

Dear Chump Lady,

My covert good guy narc is killing me with his fake “I’m an awesome person and an awesome dad” act. Mine never raged, he controlled in small insidious ways. By the time the devalue was over and he left, I felt two inches tall. He is just so dang skilled at doing it in imperceptible ways. He is just as good at faking being an awesome dad. He was never that awesome when we were married, but now he does everything in his power to show the world that he is an awesome dad. He tries to be the one to sign them up for every activity, he even has his girlfriend helping out in our kids’ classroom. I see through the fake because I know how he can turn the switch on and off and because I saw him parent for years before he was trying to win a popularity contest.

I am so scared that somehow he will manipulate my kids against me. My kids are the most important thing in my life. All of my decisions are based on what is in the best interest of my kids. It is as if he is trying to get to me through our kids. I hear chumps on here talk of how their teens moved in with the cheater because the cheater showered them with gifts and no rules.

Please, please address these narcs that blow up families and still manage to come out looking like Mr. Awesome to the rest of the world.

K

Dear K,

It sounds like you have young kids, if they’re still at the age where people come help out in the classroom. Don’t worry, by the time they’re teens, all the shiny, small-child adulation will wear off and your ex will probably discard them too. Teenagers are terrible kibbles.

Meanwhile, I have some advice for living with the shit sandwich of Mr. Awesome Impression Management Dad.

1.) Narcs love a triangle. Don’t be the hypotenuse. Let’s work from the assumption that your ex isn’t into the kids, he’s into his new starring role as Awesome Dad. The kids are props. He’s making the girlfriend do the pick me dance to prove her worthiness, to “win” over the kids, to demonstrate she’s a better mother than you. (BEHOLD MY FROSTED CUPCAKES!) No adult person wants to volunteer in a classroom, and sit in a tiny seat, and show infinite patience to small, irrational, sticky children, and construct things from pipe cleaners. The only people who willingly do this (or sit through 8th grade sports banquets) are parents. Her attempts to be a parent come from a place of insecurity, an insecurity your ex most likely encourages and triangulates with. If you can’t ignore her, pity her.

Your ex is also trying that pick me dance shit on you — let’s compete with the kids for the Awesome Parent award! K, do NOT dance. These are your children, not props. You are the Sane Parent. Sane Parents do not dance because Sane Parents know their worth.

2.) Be the Sane Parent. I’m not gonna lie, sane parenting is not always fun parenting. It’s not always popular parenting. (As I tell my son, “This is not a Democracy.”) It is, however, meaningful parenting. You are the authentic parent. You’re the person who shows up, day after day after day. You are the parent who tells the truth. (“No, a box of sugar-coated marshmallows is NOT a proper breakfast. I don’t care what your father feeds you.”) You are the SANE PARENT. Do your job. Raise good kids who share your values. There are no guarantees. Maybe they’ll grow up to be flaming narcissists who rob banks. Nonetheless, you still must to do your damn job. Every day.

You don’t control what happens on your ex’s time, so let that crap go. Will he try to manipulate the kids against you? Oh sure. And guess what — he’d be doing that if you were married to him too. That’s why you must…

3.) Be awesome. The best defense against all your fears is to invest in your own awesomeness. Right now your ex has an advantage over you (because he’s incredibly shallow) in that he appears “happy.”

Children, like most people, would rather be around happy than a collapsed heap of brokenhearted resentments. You have every right to your grief, (this shit takes time), but the fact is you need to build a life for yourself.

Just because you’re a Sane Parent doesn’t mean you’re a chump. Make yourself a priority.

My kids are the most important thing in my life.

Great. Show them how much you love them by being the Sane Parent. You love them so much you won’t let them be undernourished, dirty-faced, back-talking brats. You love them so much you’ll sit through that sports banquet. You love them so much you won’t pick me dance to be their mother — you ARE their mother.

And remember YOU are an important person too. Your needs matter too. Don’t do so much for your kids that you lose sight of yourself. This is how chumps are made, and people take advantage of you. Have boundaries with your kids. (Sane parenting!)

All of my decisions are based on what is in the best interest of my kids.

That’s great. Document everything you do in their best interests for the court. If he challenges you, you have a record.

It is as if he is trying to get to me through our kids. I hear chumps on here talk of how their teens moved in with the cheater because the cheater showered them with gifts and no rules.

He probably is — and all children, not just teens, enjoy gifts and no rules. Look, I enjoy eating sugary carbohydrates, but I have to rein myself in. If you’d like to gift me some sugary carbohydrates, I probably won’t say no.

Who teaches children limits and consequences? Sane parents. Children WANT limits and boundaries. It makes them feel secure. They want to know someone is awake at the helm. Sane parents who teach boundaries means that kids will have boundaries as adults and not live in chaos.

You can give your kids gifts (or sugary carbs) too — but it means something, because you also give them the life skills that matter.

Relax K. Do your job, and let go of the shit you don’t control. Single parenting is hard enough. ((Hugs))

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  • The narcs use fear to control us and maintain the kibble supply… Have you noticed that most letters begin with, “I’m afraid that…”. Grab on to the anger of you betrayal. THAT was horrible! Use the anger to overcome the fears and go! BE mighty. You are valuable…Don’t let the narc diminish you! Ever!

    • The girlfriend seems desperate (or feeble minded). She doesn’t seem to realize that you can’t just step into Momma’s shoes. Bold, brazen bitch…needs to be slapped down.

    • My worthless sex addict husband can be replaced by a decent, honest man (stepfather, boyfriend). I as the mother of my children…cannot ever be replaced. A bimbo who shows up for school functions….is NOT a mother.

  • I have learned that I don’t make my decisions based on my kids any more. Not when I know they are being pulled in a direction by the other side.
    I have learned….the hard way…ME first. Just like they tell you on a crashing plane…put the oxygen mask on yourself then your child.
    I am of no use to my children if I am a mess…and manipulated. Which my Ex does with his Oscar award winning “Dad” performances.
    My girls are 21 and 22. They play his games. It’s the hardest part when you see those same traits you hate in your Ex Narc…in your own kids. It’s like dealing with him all over again.
    So now….I take care of ME. They know I am not playing their games. I call them out on it. I also let them know when they are behaving just like him. They don’t like it. But I’m not reliving that nightmare over again.
    If they end up hating me….so be it. They will be miserable like their father.

    • I agree with not playing games. My kids are adults but still have the same games. Two of them fall for it and I am heavily criticized why they accept crumbs from his table. A couple of months ago I took myself out of the game. I no longer explain or justify the accusations coming at me from him through them. I have made it clear I will not compete in the mom/grandmother Olympics. I stand on my reputation of being their mother. If they choose to rewrite history along with their dad? I have no control over that. I just do the best I can as I’ve always done and let it go. It’s hard but I’m not pick me dancing anymore for anyone.

      • I have been divorced for almost 4 years! My 32 year old son has not spoken to me or my ex in all of that time! My friends tell me he hates both of us and he has now alienated his younger 27 year old brother because he has contact with both of us! My contact with the 27 year old has to be minimal because my ex uses him to keep track of me and has used him in the divorce to take assests! I lost furniture! Money and alimony because he used my son against me! It’s shocking ,,,,I was a stay at home mom until the youngest reached 18 years old! This asshole was the worst father… but he is the best imposter ever! No easy answer when you make babies with Lucifer!

        • I am very sorry Gail. That’s a double whammy right there 🙁 take care of yourself and I wish you all the best.

          X

      • This is a hard area for me. My kids 30 and 32 have been isolated from me since their dad narcula left me 6 yrs ago. Growing up my kids were my life. I was one of those ” everyone moms.” But I realize now he was turning my kids against me way back in high school. The lies he Lyell my kids about me are incredible, and they eat every word. My son now has 2 exes, and they talk to me. I’m finally allowed in my grandkids life. The exdils see his game. It’s so painful

    • Your post nails a very difficult reality. I call these men “Disney Dads.” They can’t (more like won’t) pay child support and yet they take the kids on all kinds of fun vacations, buy their children’s love with lavish gifts, and let the kids eat candy for breakfast. Dad is the fun one, dad is the cool one, dad never tells them no. (I am quite sure there are women who do the same thing, but my experiences have been mostly with non-custodial parents who are men). The mature parent is made out to be the bad guy at every opportunity.

      I have seen this in my family with my niece, She works every single day to put food on the table, while her X scams his way through life. His latest brilliant idea was that he, who possesses a GED, was going to home school their 12 year old son. He went so far to take the kid to a lawyer and try to convince the kid to tell the guidance counselor that his mom uses drugs (she doesn’t). It was maddening. Quite frankly, my brother wanted to use “remedial” methods to stop the madness.

      It is very clear that this man is threatened by the fact that his child will be educated in a way he never was. Education is for snobs and people who “think they’re better than everyone else!” We have decided as a family that the best we can do is model good behavior, make every educational opportunity available to this young boy, and document his dad’s behavior. A threat to seek an order changing custody was thwarted when it was made clear to him that every single one of his misdeeds was going to be brought before the judge, including the fact he hasn’t paid child support in years (another story for another time).

      We still struggle with being the bad guys and I know the day is coming when this sociopath succeeds in turning his son against us. Why? Because I see it already happening. It reminds me of the scene in the Pinnochio movie, where they boys get turned into donkeys after they are lured into their doom with the promise of good times.

      One thing that we do not do is bad mouth this man to his son and I sometimes wonder if this is a good thing. While we stand silent, he fills his son’s head with lies about how awful we are and how we don’t really love him. The boy will say something he has heard and, while we correct the lie, the damage is already done. It breaks my heart to see the way this kid’s future is being intentionally sabotaged by his dad, but I see no way of altering this outcome. Co-parenting with a malignant narcissist is impossible and even the best efforts to protect the child often fail.

      • I flipped the script on the Disney Dad image and became Disney mom. We have a slightly different dynamic because my ex was a killjoy and hater of fun, so for the nearly two decades I was married to him he tried consistently to snuff out all activities, adventures and celebration. Now he plays at being Mr. Common Sense while spending insane amounts of money on musical instruments he can barely play. Enjoy banging on that glockenspiel you talentless hack, I’ll be with the kids enjoying Mickey Mouse.

        • Hmmm, mine never wanted to do anything either. He was so tired from traveling for work all the time. After DDay and my finding CN I realized he just didn’t want to be seen in public or on social media as enjoying time with me or having fun with me. That would have ruined his whole “my wife is so miserable” image. Of course as our child was not old enough to do things without supervision it was up to me to show him the world outside our windows. I haven’t stopped. I still plan activities for us every week. I can be sensible, sane and fun.
          Since the divorce Narkles the Clown takes my son on a couple trips a year but mostly to activities that Narkles enjoys.

        • I am with you there. I used to put a lot of effort into enforcing STBX’s rules until I realized I was being a tyrant over things that didn’t really matter to me. That’s when I backed off and he had to enforce his own rules. Then he became upset because he had to be the bad guy instead of making me do it for him. He once took our son’s I-Pad away for four months because he was annoying his sister in a restaurant. I would have only taken it away for a week, but I did not interfere or say anything. He still complained that I didn’t have his back because I didn’t do it for him. He also wanted to censor what books the kids read (kids over the age of 10). I never believed in censoring books because I trust my kids instincts. I read all kinds of things he probably would not have approved of as a kid and I turned out just fine. He doesn’t like them reading Rick Riordan because he uses words like “suck” and that isn’t refined enough for his tastes. Since those days my daughter has gone on to read the entire original Sherlock Holmes because she wanted to so I don’t think letting her read the Lightning Thief ruined her much. Now I am just afraid he is going to find out that I have been letting the 11 year old watch SNL in spite of the naughty bits and he will take me to task over that. I think the therapeutic effects of a good belly laugh will outweigh any damage it might be causing, however.

          It seems that Schmoopie shares his draconian approach to child rearing (maybe they really are soul mates). She doesn’t just make her kids do chores she makes them do everything so she can relax (with STBX grrr), and she also doesn’t believe in dessert. In other words, kids are not allowed to enjoy childhood. I guess she and STBX never enjoyed their childhoods so they wouldn’t think it was fair if their kids were able to enjoy theirs.

          • Early on, I had people telling me how I would have to co-parent with Stbx and i just couldn’t phathom how when he had just abandoned us. Then I heard the term parallel parenting and immediately knew that would be the only possibility for me because our entire relationship and its demise revolved around his unilateral decisions- nothing was ever co.

          • Chumpinrecovery
            Anyone who thinks about books and reading that way is a sane parent. Game over. You are awesome.

            • He bans Percy Jackson books?! They are full of Greek Mythology, cleverly translated into a modern setting…and “suck” is hardly an offensive word. Your daughter losing her iPad for 4 months reminds me of my ex’s punishment for DS13 accidentally breaking an old pan in a holiday rental house this summer – he has to wash XH’s luxury car every time he goes there for A YEAR, in addition to the hours of chores he already does to “repay” his school fees. I told my son that when his dad was young, he accidentally broke a neighbour’s window playing cricket, and lost his pocket money for an entire year, which we both regarded as totally unfair. Sadly, 30 years later he has reverted to the same punitive dad script.

        • Same here! I’ve scrimped and saved to take my daughter to Disneyworld each year since we separated. I was worried it would be hard to go alone with her and see all the happy families, but it has been tons of fun and we just do whatever we want to do without worrying about him. Much more fun without him there being a wet blanket.

          • Yes, this!!!

            The kids and I enjoy going out and doing stuff or just staying home so much more now that the wet blanket is gone!!!

          • Tracy, it’s late, maybe you will miss this. But I want you to know that I know how you feel. Inconvenient truths run the family dynamics in our situation. I just sent my eldest son packing, told him I had NO MORE ROOM for mediocre people in my life at 65 years of age. He turned around and listened to me and my words sunk into his skull. He completely understood.

        • “Enjoy banging on that glockenspiel you talentless hack, I’ll be with the kids enjoying Mickey Mouse.”

          Hahahaaaaa, best laugh I’ve had all day!!!!!!

      • Stand by silently and let him badmouth – the kid will process and formulate an individual opinion. My bitter mom badmouthed my dad for years. He may have been a bad husband to her but he was a good dad to me (and the better parent). She invested years trying to manipulate me, tearfully saying ‘you’re not on my side.’

        I wasn’t on anyone’s side. Their marriage was their own mess and I shouldn’t have been dragged into it.

        • Unfortunately in this case.He wants everyone to know that she is the bitter one and the children to know that he is the better parent.

    • Tracy your comment about reacting to kids’
      traits that remind you of their narc parent rings true here too. My youngest is the spitting image of his dad, wants to have the same career as him and has developed a disturbing talent for lying too. I have to keep reminding myself he is a young teen, he not his dad, and that I also had some dishonest behaviours at the same age, to avoid overreacting.

    • My POS porn junkie/voyeur husband tried to make himself out to be a martyr. Look at me kids….I’m married to the crazy, unforgiving bitch……poor me. I ruined her life with my penis activities kids…but she’s a bitch- a crazy one! Worst of all…..she is not a real Christian….because she won’t forgive and forget.

  • Brilliant. All brilliant. Great advice.
    I think it boils down to ‘trust your kids’. As much as is humanly possible ignore the narc parent and OW/M. Focus on doing your job as sane parent with extra love thrown in for yourself because being betrayed and recovering from it is HARD.
    I have a nice guy STBX but he is quite lazy and uninvolved and mine are a bit older, so I do not have the same immediate hurt as you but even then I am worried about them seeing him for long summers and when he gets a new kibble supply.
    It kills me that they have to know him at all. In some ways I want to ‘win’ them to hurt him and show everyone how bad he is because his kids hate him too but I know this is just the hurt part of me talking. So I work on myself. I try to heal myself while not showing the boys how much I still hurt.

    Parenting is the longest of long games. So settle in to be good to yourself. That will be the thing your kids learn. When they grow and they begin to understand what happened, their respect will have been well and truly earned every single day with the myriad things that sane parents do.
    I had narc parents and I was still trying to make them love me years past the point where I should have stopped. Kids always need their mom. Always. You are their root. So you can relax and ease up and trust them.

    One other difficulty will be that if he loses interest and he probably will as you know it can hurt them then. I read a quote the other day about a child’s absent dad “you were the absence he was always trying to impress”. Love them all you can because unfortunately he is their dad, he always will be and that is unfortunate for them if he treats them badly or with neglect. Not your fault also for breeding with him. Let that go too.
    Our job as sane parent is to keep our eye fixed clearly on that most important ball of loving them ‘properly’ with all the boundaries that implies to ensure they have the best start. Not just the fun one but the one they can absolutely rely on.
    It’s insanely simple but the most difficult thing in the world. Just keep trying. ❤️

  • Perfect timing – I am living it. Daughters 19 and 16 get it – one lets it roll off and just ignores his lies and does what she has to do so he’ll continue to pay for college. One is in tears because he’s called a dinner with her to “talk through some things” – they haven’t spoken in weeks and she avoids at her brothers sports sidelines. She doesn’t conform to the happy new shiny family image role management BS (doesn’t help we know he’s cheating on current wife). And she is going and was in tears because it is tonight. Therapist and I gave her tips and she is well informed on the narc personality. Sees her two younger bros being manipulated HARD right now and that is part of her issue with dad. But – she still needs him to pay for college. Such a shiny, very covert narc – and he has lots of money while we struggle. Flew off on expensive vacation spring break with new wife and daughters find out on FB. The 13 yr boy is buying the BS and no rules right now – actually said the other day to me “when I’m 14 I can legally decide” – well guess who is feeding him that line? I pity the current wife (#3) – and just try to focus on my job being the same parent thanks to this page and all the advice I’ve learned. Literally as little contact AS POSSIBLE – even in email. Could file contempt on about a dozen items right now but it isn’t the finances so I hold off – he wants me to and have me look like the bad guy to kids cause he plays the “poor dad, I have so little time with my kids” on them. And yet for spring break he ditched them 48 hours early and could have been having mid week dinners with them for years but just isn’t convenient until now as he ramps up the manipulation of them because he gets NOTHING from me. Can’t control them – can only control us – our mantra here. It sucks and its hard and I shed tears when the boys aren’t looking but I have a strong faith and hope in the Karma bus! We sane parents are in it for the long haul and need to do our best to raise kids that break their sociopathic cycle – can only do what we can do!

    • Truth–your daughter does not NEED her father to pay for college. Would it be wonderful to have fully-paid tuition? Yes, of course, but there are plenty of ways around having to play the pick-me dance for a narc father who will hold that tuition over her head at every chance.

      There is at least one high-quality public university in every state. Go armed with knowledge about professors, long-term career goals, and efficient learning techniques, and every child who can get accepted has the opportunity to get an excellent education (much of that education is under the student’s control).

      Check with a school counselor about financial aid and low-interest loans; almost all students at public universities work at least part-time to help with expenses. I would think trying to be Dear-Old-Dad’s puppet for the next few years + 4/5 years of college is going to be soul-sucking. A great quote by Nomar is relevant here, ” Some money is too expensive.”

      • So true and I think if the kids have to work for that tuition, they will appreciate it more and be less likely to follow in the narc footsteps. My stbx has totally abandoned the kids day to day and only swoops in when he wants them to do one of his extravagant hobbies. The kids know that I am there know matter what and they appreciate that. It is still hard when they go do something with him and I have to learn not to make it a competition.

        I feel like I am lucky compared to some of you other chumps because my narc sucks at pretending to be about the kids. He expects them to obey his every whim without question and he angers easily if they question him. He is quick to criticize and gives very sarcastic replies when they don’t do as he wants. He is constantly accusing them of being immature! Isn’t that the definition of a child? What is his excuse?

        Your situations make me glad that my narc is not good at sucking up but I hope your maturity will win with your kids over time. Just remember the narc is making it about winning and that is not love.

        • That sounds like my STBX. Of course he will end up blaming you when the kids don’t turn out the way he wanted.

        • Indeed, “some money is too expensive.” Most kids have no choice but to take out loans, but there are many, many ways to do college less expensively–including commuting, doing the first year or two at a community college, and excelling at something that will encourage a school to give the student more aid. I teach in a small college, and if I had kids, I would require them to participate in paying for their education, because paying their own way (as much as possible) past the age of 18 is preparation for real life. I put myself through undergrad with only pin money from my parents (which I was so grateful to get, let me say). It’s tougher now because college is proportionally more expensive, but students who work for what they have usually do better as students.

      • Thank you Tempest – the therapist and I both told her that too – that WE (my parents can also help) will figure it out. I like your line about some money is too expensive. I told her not worth her sanity and compromising who she is — morals, ethics, health,, sanity, peace of mind. She is an empath for sure and also so very focused on the Truth in everything that wants to point out his BS when the lies come out – she will learn over time I hope or she’ll be complete NC if not. Your posts while I lurk here often have been tremendously insightful and very helpful – thanks for the time you give to all of us! I keep thinking I need to organize a meet up for the Atlanta area members of CN – I know I’ve referred several over time and have found sanity in knowing I’m not alone.

        • Truth

          Don’t know if you will see this. But does your D qualify for HOPE? Is she a good student? Several of the lesser known State Us offer money on top of HOPE for good test scores and grades….

      • Just to add-some community colleges have tie ins to 4 year (state) universities and if your daughter excelled at liberal arts degree at a community college, the entire degree would likely transfer and a lot of them offer scholarships (full and partial) for students transferring to a four year college. It’s worth the effort to research it in your area.

        Bottom line-there are very few jobs that look for degrees from specific colleges; but most if not all jobs require a four year degree at a minimum. It’s like a high school diploma was 30 years ago: expected. Lately a lot of jobs also require some sort of advanced degree as well. No sense spending 6 figures on an undergrad when it’s likely she’ll have to pursue a graduate degree as well. As a bonus she doesn’t have to pick me dance for dad.

      • There is a good lesson here for other life relationships. I’ve always worked full time in a corporate environment where I’ve tolerated ego-maniacs to earn my pay check. This blog helps me find perspective & turn my magnifying glass off of the toxic ex. I’m turning a light on in my own home today. Thanks for sharing. I identify & it often seems never ending.

    • Truth- I echo Tempest. Most states have excellent state universities and community colleges. Nothing wrong with two years of community college and then on to the state school to finish. Or even two years at the CC and then on to a private liberal arts college– students drop out and they often want to fill in the ranks.
      My daughter and I are currently trying to plan this out right now as she starts applying to colleges next year. My ex will not support my daughter’s college expenses unless she ‘consults with him extensively and asks him for the money.” She has been NC with him for 1.5 years, and is struggling with what to do right now. It pains her that her father wants to blackmail her into contact, that he does not love her unconditionally.

      • What a giant turd. HE is the parent is their relationship, and it’s his job to reach out and tell her that he’s interested in being involved in her college choice. Discarding her and then expecting her to grovel for money is really low.

        • I can show you the exact text my ex-wife sent me when I told her that she was destroying our finances and the children’s future. I said we have a daughter heading to university this year and the money you are wasting on Lawyers should go to that…..her reply and I am quoting “she can get student loans, everyone else does LOL”
          I literally stopped moving I was so stunned by this I was completely immobilized and once about a year later when my daughter was ranting at me or basically parroting her mother about expenses I finally lost it and said “you really want to know what your mother thinks about your schooling here read this” handed her my phone and I walked away while she read it…my daughter knows I don’t bullshit and she saw it herself. It was painful for me to do but I had to set her back on the tracks her mother has been mind effing her (all the kids) too much and I was dealing with a soon to be Narc all over again.
          She was quiet after that and didn’t say anything but she saw it…she knows and its sad they learn the truth about their parent.

      • Zyx321–my X won’t pay for youngest daughter either, nor did he continue to put money into her college funds once she went NC with him. I felt like I should tell her this so that she could make an informed decision about her future relationship with him. Her response was that she would not be bribed to keep in touch with him (one instance where her stubbornness was awe-inspiring!).

        • My POS found money and time for web cam hoes, hook up skanks and prostitutes. But….he couldn’t find time or money to support our daughter through college. Now that I rid myself of him….he’s trying to be “father of the year” with my adult kids. They never had much of a relationship with him. He was there….but not there at the same time.

      • I was in exactly her position in the 80s. I decided to work my way through college. Disadvantage-missed a lot of keggers. Advantage-got real world skills that I could live on until I got work to do with my degree. When I graduated I knew that MA was all mine!

        It sucks but for me personally doing it on my own was best. Kiddo thinks the same.

  • Ugh, K. I feel your pain. Mine is not very covert of a narc (he’s pretty out there with his narciness) but he has turned into “awesome dad”-if awesome dad means showing up most of the time now, buying her love and doing family things with the new shiny chump (when I couldn’t even get him to wake up on days he had off!)
    CL, once again, has helped me so much with this response (and I hope you too!) There is f$&@” all we can do about the way they choose to live their lives (other than document). The main thing I try to do is not to focus on him and instead focus on myself, and my new life with my little person. Some days I feel so free from the disfunction, other days I worry that she will be hurt by him yet again when his “new life shiny” wears off. Oh well. Tuesday is out there!

  • K that must be creepy and infuriating, him delegating classroom duties to his girlfriend! Dont worry, the people who matter (probably including the teacher) will know it’s a farce.
    CL is wise; do not react. He is unlikely to keep this act up forever, and by the time your kids are at the perfect age for potentially playing the good cop- bad cop game, he will have found some new toys to play with.
    A friend of mine has teens with a similar covert narc dad. He undermines my friend by doing things like picking the teen son up & driving him to school when the mum wants to teach him the consequences of repeatedly sleeping in late and missing the school bus. And pays for extravagant skiing trips for the kids, while refusing to pay maintenance and other basic expenses. All we can say to each other for comfort is – one day we will be free of them…

  • Speaking as one of the parents whose ex has turned a child against them, I just want to reiterate that truly it’s an issue between your ex and your child, and really has little to do with you. I threw ex out in winter of 2015, and older DD, who’d just turned thirteen, had been incredibly supportive. I didn’t give her every gory detail, but she was smart enough to figure it out and put it together herself. Of course I was a bit of an emotional wreck at the time (she has a twin brother, and I also had a then nine-year-old and an infant) so felt I had to cling hard to rules and normality to keep the family together while I grieved and the divorce process grinded along.

    Ex was abusive toward the kids and even me toward the end of the marriage, so there was that sick bond of loving and needing the abuser she dealt with, along with her own blossoming mental health issues (binge eating, depression I fear is turning into borderline personality disorder etc.), so as I reinforced rules at home, she kept finding ways to break them.

    Nearly one year ago, I caught her stealing and lying yet again. And, in a rage much like that of her father, she said she hated me, hated living here and would rather live with her father. I did play into it and said he was her father, yes, but he wasn’t a good parent, because good parents don’t cheat and abandon their families. She said she didn’t care, was on the phone with her dad, and packing garbage bags as we argued. He picked her up for the dance classes I’d paid for, said we both needed time to cool down in the most condescending fashion possible, and left with my daughter. I’ve only seen her twice since then and she doesn’t return texts or calls.

    All this to say that she clearly has a lot of my ex’s problematic personality traits, has been poisoned by ex’s indulgence and for whatever reason, the parenting I’ve done didn’t “take” with her at this time in her life. But I haven’t changed how I parent.

    Why did she leave? Because at dad’s house she can eat whatever and whenever she wants, she can play games literally all day or have her face in his laptop or a sketch pad all day, she has no responsibilities and very little in the way of consequences. When I saw her last on her birthday in February, she’d gained a large amount of weight, confessed she doesn’t really have any friends (she’s even dropped her best friend since kindergarten) and she seemed absolutely miserable. It was so hard not to dive in and wave that olive branch, but I didn’t because triangulation and I’ve done so in the past with no results.

    It hurts like hell. I’ve lost not only my marriage, husband who was a best friend of sorts for a time, my security, friends and worst of all, my twins. Older DS had to move in with dad due to dangerous behavior toward the younger children (he is Autistic) and losing my daughter has made me realize I’m not entitled to anything, even the unconditional love of a child. Apparently it has conditions. But I had to hold firm and not negotiate with an out-of-control child. She needs help, refuses to get it and I hope will regret what she’s done not just to me, but her little brother and sister who love her very much.

    So there are no garantees. All you can do is try to be the sane and “normal” parent, and if things start to get lopsided, just cling harder to being the one who loves, cares for but also parents your children. My therapist compared us to veggies (me) and candy (ex), and of course most children will choose candy. But the smart ones realize they need the veggies along with the candy, and end up doing all right. Here’s hoping our kids choose a balanced diet (or are even a bit of a health nut lol) and can do what’s right and what they need with regard to relationships with our exes. It is scary, and one of the most painful experiences of my life, but I’m living through it day by day, and remind myself that I have two young people who love me as I am and need me to hang in there, so I do. And that’s all any of us can do as the normal, overwhelmed and uncertain single parent. We can only do our best and hope it will be good enough.

    • Cakeless
      How sad and painful this is and how sane you are to be able to set out what you have suffered with such calm grace.
      This reply does have a point but I may take a while to get there! I was raised by a mother (who knows what her diagnosis would have been, my school even suggested she go for counselling which in England at that time late 70’s early 80’s would have been like trying to book a space flight i.e. not at all easy). She didn’t want children. She made that obvious by saying it often. We were presented well to others but inside the house (I hesitate to use the word home) coldness and fear were the order of the day. I’d have LOVED a wire monkey mom. Mine was walking talking inflicting pain. Anyway I turned out great anyway thanks to a batty grandma and a series of seemingly batty adults I crossed paths with.
      So as I ever told people my experience (I was still trying at age 30+ to please the bloody woman) EVERYBODY had a story about wayward relations between children and parents that eventually resolved in a good way. Teens or tweens who had gone of the rails suddenly saw the light and came home. I heard so many stories and personal experiences of family reconciliation that it kept me striving for it with my female parental unit. It was not to be for me but I do believe that if you do just keep doing what you are doing she will come back to you. It might not be easy and I know it may be that she is cut from the same cloth as he is, or may not but I think the chances are high that she will.
      Same sex parenting can be tricky around the teenage years and some narcs are spectacular at manipulation. I would say don’t hold it against her and good luck. ❤️

      • I’m so sorry Cap. I had a mom like that too. She was incredibly mentally cruel to me and left us for a time as teens. She should have just stayed away. It was her conditioning that led me to marry my sociopathic narcissistic ex at 20 and lived with him 2 years prior after she kicked me out right before final exams for high school. I was a good student worked and had just a few friends because of the chaos at home. I ended up with my ex because of her. I really never stopped trying to win her but of course she couldn’t be won. It is just so sad and infathomable to us that someone could be incapable of loving their children. She died and I don’t miss her at all, and I finally don’t miss my stbxh either at 18 months out. Jedi hugs Cap

    • CiK, good to hear from you. Remember our teen daughters did the same thing at the same time last year. I’m sorry to hear your DD hasn’t come around yet.

      My dd3 is also still living in the shiny glass highrise apt with X and OW downtown. I do see her though – holidays, Sunday dinners, she went on vacation with me and her youngest sister in February.
      She texts and calls me whenever she has a frequent crisis. So I know that she knows I am the sane rational reliable parent. It still kills me every time I think of her sleeping under the same roof as those evil narcs.
      She is moving away to college soon so life marches on……

      Hard not to grieve for the lost opportunities and her youth and security and innocence and sweetness: after X devalued and abandoned she took it the hardest — suicide attempts, arrests, drug addiction, OD, psych ward stays, rehab for 6 weeks, getting into an abusive relationship with bad DV.. . . Dropped out of cheer and leadership and high school — lost all her HS friends. The list of what she lost by X’s behavior is endless…..???????

      Huge hugs to you! I feel your pain!

    • And that is what good parenting looks like–we do what is right even at cost to ourselves. Losing a spouse’s love is peanuts compared to losing the love of a child; it is a horrific betrayal. Cakeless (and everyone it happens to) can only hope the child will see the light in the future and know who the sane parent is. But we shouldn’t make them do that by handing out candy instead of vegetables. Hugs, Cakeless!

      • I’m not convinced that decent parents (what my old therapist called “an adequate parent”) ever lose the love of a child. It’s just that kids are little developmental narcissists. It’s not “we are the world,” for them, it’s “I know everything.” Most of the time, all they can do is navigate the difficulties of growing up with only a partially developed brain to work with. In a very dysfunctional family system, as any family with a narcissistic cheater/abuser will be,” kids will do some pretty self-destructive things. Sadly, they are dealing with: 1) having 1/2 of their DNA from someone who is missing some essential human parts, and 2) one parent who is lies and manipulates. Been there, done that, in my childhood, and came to figure out what enough of the truth was as an adult. And for all the damage they did, I always loved both my parents and appreciated those things they did for me. But I’m pretty sure that didn’t always come across when I was a teenager and I KNEW EVERYTHING.

  • When my narc left in Jan 2016 he filled our middle school daughter withe tales of how he was so unhappy, we argued behind closed doors and made him so miserable that 22 y.o. coworker had to ‘save’ him and move with in with him to makes ends meet and how horrible I am to want spousal and child support he cannot afford! And because we will lose our home – it will be sold!!!

    Now, if narco wanted a place he could afford it wouldn’t have a rental house for $2,00 a month in high end neighborhood where be immediately purchased nice furniture, $1,000 bbq, $400 race motor for one of his many toys, a new Rzr for the desert at around $25,000, diamond ring for schmoopers, etc, etc.

    For 10 months I didn’t say much. Didn’t want to badmouth the ‘happy’ couple. And then one day my daughter says to me – you don’t like dad’s gf! And I’m like, well, no she was sleeping with your dad for months while he was not coming home – it was horrible. And then he left to go move in with her. And after a discussion, she stopped and said, “He’s been lying to me.”

    I said it’s typical – they run around and when the wife gets upset they cry about how ‘mean’ we are, etc. to have a justification for what they’ve done. When he found I told her the truth he was furious about how I was turning her against him.

    It’s like, no the truth didn’t turn her against you – your lies and deceit did that. But was he was fixed on how I was turning her against him – left his rage and revenge begin! She didn’t want to see him for a while and he demanded to know what kind of games we were playing! It’s almost comical. What kind of games are WE playing.

    Her grades tanked. My Honor roll student just didn’t care much anymore. Skankers says she can get Cs. Way to go. It’s ok for your A student to get Cs suddenly. But then he’s Disneyland dad with all the toys and XBox games and stay up night…. There’s more, but you guys know the drill.

    It hasn’t been easy being the sane parent. If I could go back I’d do a log of things differently.

    • Oops rental house for $2,600 a month. I was going too fast.
      Oh year and stbx and gf who is now 24 are having a baby was supposed to kept a secret. I feel sorry for the baby. It’s not the baby’s fault. I feel sorry for the parents that kid has. I feel sorry for the parent my daughter has.

  • I can tell you from my own experience that this is excellent advice. I would add – never shame, blame or comment to him on anything he does. You already know that he is in full manipulation mode – stay out of all of it. Give him nothing to go on. You will be discussed and picked apart with everyone possible no matter what you do. Give him no ammo.

    Communicate only in email and only about pick ups and drop offs and whatever actually has to happen. Have no relationship with him at all. You are the ice cube now. Imagine yourself closing all the windows and doors of your heart and shutting down the shop forever. That was my little meditation every time I wanted to shout him down. It sincerely helped. You also are making room for whatever good thing will happen next in your heart.

    This is essential to being the sane parent.

  • I can’t add much to the great advice except to say I’ve been there. It’s been five years since D-Day, separation and divorce. XW and OM (whom she moved in with weeks after introducing my kids, then six and nine). They tried and tried to turn my kids against me in subtle and overt ways.

    It didn’t work. I gritted my teeth even when they came home with tales of “Mommy and OM said such-and-such about you…” I said “Oh. Well, you know daddy. OM doesn’t. You know if I’m a good dad or not. So you can decide about the truth.”

    OM tried to buy their “love” at the beginning. Didn’t work.

    Now both my kids can’t stand OM, they love their mother but sense her alliance is to OM and don’t truly trust her. Dad’s home is their safe place. No girlfriends running in and out. I’m always there for them. My actions speak louder than their mother and OM’s cheap words.

    Trust your kids to see the evidence and draw their own conclusions. I know it’s so hard and scary, but they and you will be ok. Hang in there.

  • Mine is so covert. But all the broken pieces of his facade entwine to give him something to hide behind. Looking back now 3.5 years on I can see where his behaviour during or marriage was deliberate to bring me unhinged so he could glow in contrast with his passive aggressive approach to life to my outspoken and at times aggressive reactions.(foo issues, now resolved as they are no longer being triggered weekly, daily, hourly) Which only seemed to grow in contrast the more crazy he made me by denying to may face there being any validation to my suspicions of infidelity, or when ever I would be made question my grasp on reality due to his doing things or saying things and then denying it ever happened or that he wasn’t being a dismissive prick it was just how I was taking it.
    Oh my ex is a closeted, Jesus cheater so the whole passive aggressive covert narc personality really works well for him.
    My ex hooked a single mum from our youngest kids class during her being treated for cancer, spun some sympathy inducing crap about how lonely he was and needed a friend, yeah his having our entire church was not enough, he needed her too, and being in a Christian school his desire for other men (the premise for my divorcing him) was quickly replaced with his being the victim of emotional abuse.
    Our school is not that big so everyone knew what had happened to our marriage but surprisingly every suffered amnesia when they became engaged 7 months later, and now that they have been married a year he cannot set a foot wrong. Only the other day one of his biggest critics told me how great it was that he was choosing to be a nice narcissist as apposed to being a mean, violent type. WTF? Because he was picking up this persons kid from school and dropping her home once a week. Sadly having to collect his own children from school sporadically over a decade was listed in his court documents to validate his claims of me being a neglectful mother. But is such the nice guy doing it for others.

    With a narc everyone does the pick me dance, or they are discarded, it is that simple. Those who do not dance will soon find themselves being a wallflower often watching the narc putting on such a display of awesomeness that they find themselves questioning why they are not involved so they gravitate back into the sphere of crazy. Everyone just loves to be around him as long as they only work on an emotional level that is skin deep. It is only the strong who see this shit for what it is and can make a conscious decision to engage or not depending on the cost.

    Your sanity is important because it will contrast their need to control, lie, and manipulate others at any cost.

    • Very insightful thoughts about the Narcs, Thankful. And, I know a few! They seem to be crawling out of the woodwork lately?
      I just have a hard time figuring them out, their agenda always leads to Trouble, so why keep doing it? Over, and over, and over…,

  • Mine is so covert. But all the broken pieces of his facade entwine to give him something to hide behind. Looking back now 3.5 years on I can see where his behaviour during or marriage was deliberate to bring me unhinged so he could glow in contrast with his passive aggressive approach to life to my outspoken and at times aggressive reactions.(foo issues, now resolved as they are no longer being triggered weekly, daily, hourly) Which only seemed to grow in contrast the more crazy he made me by denying to may face there being any validation to my suspicions of infidelity, or when ever I would be made question my grasp on reality due to his doing things or saying things and then denying it ever happened or that he wasn’t being a dismissive prick it was just how I was taking it.
    Oh my ex is a closeted, Jesus cheater so the whole passive aggressive covert narc personality really works well for him.
    My ex hooked a single mum from our youngest kids class during her being treated for cancer, spun some sympathy inducing crap about how lonely he was and needed a friend, yeah his having our entire church was not enough, he needed her too, and being in a Christian school his desire for other men (the premise for my divorcing him) was quickly replaced with his being the victim of emotional abuse.
    Our school is not that big so everyone knew what had happened to our marriage but surprisingly every suffered amnesia when they became engaged 7 months later, and now that they have been married a year he cannot set a foot wrong. Only the other day one of his biggest critics told me how great it was that he was choosing to be a nice narcissist as apposed to being a mean, violent type. WTF? Because he was picking up this persons kid from school and dropping her home once a week. Sadly having to collect his own children from school sporadically over a decade was listed in his court documents to validate his claims of me being a neglectful mother. But is such the nice guy doing it for others.

    With a narc everyone does the pick me dance, or they are discarded, it is that simple. Those who do not dance will soon find themselves being a wallflower often watching the narc putting on such a display of awesomeness that they find themselves questioning why they are not involved so they gravitate back into the sphere of crazy. Everyone just loves to be around him as long as they only work on an emotional level that is skin deep. It is only the strong who see this shit for what it is and can make a conscious decision to engage or not depending on the cost.

    Your sanity is important because it will contrast the cheaters need to control, lie, and manipulate others at any cost. Including their kids, mostly the begin to identify the signs of discard which will show every time the kids want what the cheater just can’t give, honest love and care.

    • Thankful – posting twice. I have no idea how it did that either but, I, for one – read thoroughly through both posts and started wondering if my brain was predicting was I would read in the next post. I’m getting old – so no worries of my state of mind. That was an excellent post.

  • I’m not sure how CL does it. Brilliant. #nailed it.

    I really needed this today. Just got a text from XH telling me I shouldn’t put our daughter in the middle of soccer schedule and I need to speak to him directly. NC is not working for him I guess.

    All this from an almost 50 y.o. man who used our tween-aged daughter as bait to screw around with her 20-something assistant high school soccer coach.

    • Sign up for Our Family Wizard. The soccer schedule can go on there and you don’t have to “put your daughter in the middle” (ugh-these narcs are all the same) and you can still maintain no contact with the ex.

      Easy Peasy

  • This is what I needed to read today, being Easter was dirtbags (STBX) holiday, and he used his Disneyland dad powers to spend money taking them to professional sporting event; all while complaining he’s going to have to cash out retirement to pay for our daughters jaw surgery insurance won’t cover. I have an idea for him, why doesn’t he sell that boat, or take equity in the $350,000 cash he paid for his house, or cancel that trip he’s taking his new GF and all the kids (one big happy family). My STBX definitely uses every tactic in the book trying to get back at me for divorcing him.

    He’s convinced our eldest daughter that she raised our two youngest children. Hmmmm… he didn’t seem real concerned about my parenting ability back when he spent his time working late trolling Craig’s list, or off on motorcycle trips, or traveling for “work” (aka escort hook-ups), or one of the other 100 latest and greatest hobbies he had picked up. Or telling our daughter if it wasn’t for him I would have aborted her, total lie! What kind of wingnut says that to their child!!!! Let’s not forget the social media posts with forced smiles and captions that read “LOVE THEIR DAD TIME”

    Here’s a really good scholarly research article on tactics used during divorce (unfortunately, it isn’t free, but the diagram is, and overviews the tactics used). My STBX has used every single post marriage power and control tactic. I swear they research this crap to know exactly what they can get away with!

    https://www.researchgate.net/figure/235749627_fig1_Figure-1-Power-and-Control-Coding-Schema

    It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when an article completely describes what it is you are experiencing, and yet, the court system just doesn’t care! There’s no law against being a fuckwit!

      • Got-a-Brain – ‘Or telling our daughter if it wasn’t for him I would have aborted her, total lie! What kind of wingnut says that to their child!!!! ‘

        After reading this, my blood started to run up from my toes, into my torso and started boiling out the top of my head. What a fucking fucked up fucking EVIL sentence to say to your daughter. I’ve never heard something so cruel. And, doing that to a child?? A confused child because of her parents splitting besides? The guy does not love this little precious. And, that is something I would show a judge. Please. It says a lot about his character and it’s nothing he can even prove. Just when I think my problems are big – they become very small when I read things like this.
        I’m so sorry your daughter heard that ‘colored comment’ – the worst language you can perfect.
        Peace to you. And GOOD LUCK! We have your back.

        • Brain, as CL always says, there are words and then there are ACTS. So, when fuckwit brings up this abortion crap, ask daughter if she is a word floating in the air or a real live human being with a Heart beating because YOU, with two legs, two arms, a brain and a will willed her into being. Not fuckwit’s words.

  • Here’s a couple a Commandments for Parents:
    1. You are BOTH the parents and we come hardwired to bond with BOTH of you.
    2. Remember to keep wholly your word. And if ya can’t, a simple explanation and a sincere “I’m sorry” reverberates positively through the decades
    3. Honor the reality each one of your kids are unique human beings in their own right: They are not “just like” anyone else and when you disapprove of something and tell them they’re “just like yer “FAATTHHEERRR!” you might as well tell them they have no Identity of their own. That hurts. A LOT. And the unspoken is we’re a no good SOB “just like him/her.”
    4. Don’t deny scheduled visitation and don’t grill the kids like a Burger King Whopper when they get back. Visitation has nothing to do with Support. Don’t stick us in the middle, ever.
    5. Thou shalt not murder the other parent. (Thankfully, there are no Thought Police or we’d all be in prison.)
    6. Thou shalt not commit adulting with the kids: We’re kids, not your best friend or mini-adults. We can not enter your adult world because we’re not “done” yet so ya gotta enter our’s.
    7. Thou shalt not steal or deface our good memories of the non-custodial parent. (See “no thought police” above.) If you’re here, you still have some good memories too. Not many, but at least one drunk hook up and here we are.
    8. Never, ever, ever, evah shit talk the other parent. You are shit talking us when you do that and we know it. You absolutely can Reality Test with us if we bring something up but do it matter of factly, not explosively.
    9. Do not covet thy ex’s house, car, vacations, boat, lifestyle, hairline, teeth, fuck buddies etc. The best and most enduring example of good Character is the one you provide. The material stuff is fleeting.
    10. Do not covet an aspirational lifestyle because you teach us we’ll never be satiated or have any value unless it has a price tag: There will never be “enough.”
    10. Do not loose your sense of humor even if it’s black out there, and especially when it’s black out there. It’s temporary, just a total eclipse and it’ll pass-ya don’t have to sacrifice your first born or yourself to make it happen.

    Above all remember this: *FORCE THE KIDS TO CHOSE AND YOU’RE GONNA LOOSE.*
    And frankly, you damn well should: We are not widgets or adult midgets. We are not Hostages, Bargining Chips, Two Legged Trophies or Walking Court Orders. We are human beings and just like you we’re doing the best we can at being kids in a difficult situation NOT of our making. You think it’s “not fair?” Show us what gracefully handling or at least fairly competently handling the reality life isn’t fair looks like and we’ll show you a generous heart and a helping hand. Maybe not as teens because that’s a form of temporary insanity but trust we don’t suck: We come from you and you don’t either.

    The way your life is today is not the way it’s gonna be forever. Admit you also got side tracked by irresistible shiny things and expect we will too. But in the end, if you act like the “groan up” we’ll be passing the remote and the popcorn bowl for decades to come. Home is where we’re loved every day, not just when we behave like little adults because your parenting style is best characterized as Terrorizing, Terrifying, Guilting and Withdrawing Love because we screw up or decide we like the other parent as well. There’s enough love in us for a whole bunch of “us.” Show us the same, please.

    Of course, by the time we’re finally adults you’ve bitten your tongue off completely over the years and damn, those people make the best parents an Adult Child could ever Adult with! We’ll love you, honor you and celebrate you all the days of our lives and our children’s lives because of who you are, not what you purchased for us. All that endures is Character; the rest is just details.

    • Tundra Woman.
      I have copied that out. I’m going to print it and use it for living. Applies to kids but seems like a lot of other situations.
      It’s tough to get right but important to try.
      I’ll be remembering you a lot in the years to come! So when your ears burn….
      My grandma would have loved you. She was a crazy wild old bird too. And didn’t she know it.

      Thank-you. ❤️❤️❤️

        • Especially the part about not coveting an “aspirational life style.” So much of what is marketed to us is shoddy, unnecessary, and a distraction from what really matters in life. We should aspire to live simple and focus on the love we have for each other.

    • WOW! How I wish my family had had that to read when I was growing up. My therapist would have a much cheaper car.

      Beautifully done!

  • Cheaters will soon tire of doing the “narc disco” if you stay off the dance floor.

    Everything CL said is true. Believe it.

  • Don’t underestimate the kids. 3 years ago, my oldest son was 17 and blamed me for the divorce. He thought I should just “suck it up that Mom cheated” and realize that “she was entitled to be happy”. Yeah, he bought into her narrative completely and stayed with ex and my 3 younger daughters. He would come over and visit maybe once a month and we stayed in contact. I will admit at first I was really upset that he was buying into the lies, but what could I do about it? The more i tried to convince him, the more he believed the ex. So, I just gave up on this tactic and just moved on. We still had a relationship, although not the one I had hoped for.

    6 months ago, he came up to see me and asked if it would be okay if he moved in with me and went to college near me as well (I was already paying for his tuition anyway). This caught me by surprise to say the least. I asked what had happened since I never heard of any arguments between my ex and him, nor any problems from my ex about him. Seems that over the course of time he overheard conversations taking place between my ex and the love of her life. Wait, make that love of her life #2, as #1 dumped her when the financial gravy train expected from the divorce never arrived. Anyway, my Son heard enough from the 2 lovebirds to piece it all together and realized he was wrong about this whole thing. He told me that after seeing my ex’s behavior and hearing conversations, that he had been used. And he didn’t like it. He apologized to me and said he just believed her and couldn’t understand why she would lie like that. I just told him that I tried to explain all of this to you way back then, but you didn’t want to hear it. At least now you know the truth.

    The point is that I just stuck to the truth, accepted that he was buying into her narrative and moved on with my life. No more trying to convince him of anything, as it was pointless. And in this case, he put the pieces of the puzzle together himself. The Ex is furious that I must have “brainwashed” him somehow, but in reality I think she is angrier about the fact he is not paying rent from his part time job to her anymore! I am not kidding. And the ex is still coming up with things that our son supposedly “owes her money” for and trying to get me to pay for it! Every week it is something else. I have now taken to telling her, produce a receipt and proof it was for him, or stop bothering us.

    • My now 19 y/o son was 17 y/o at the time his dad told me for the 3rd & final time in 20 years that he wanted a divorce. Based on previous history, I knew that he was having yet another affair. Right after my XH dropped the bomb to me, our son came home & he sat him down & told him the same. Our son was hurt & confused & asked if he’d consider counseling or a separation & my XH refused both at this time. XH’s comings & goings kept getting worse & worse. He’d come in drunk, late in the evenings & just go to bed. He detached from all of us, yet he never did go file for that divorce he declared he wanted. This was my son’s Senior Year of high school. I didn’t want to taint it with a divorce, so I decided to wait until after he graduated before I filed. From October 2015 through May 2016, we lived a never ending roller coaster ride. During this time, my son & my 15 y/o daughter told me that they would not only support me in filing for the divorce, but they both actually encouraged it. My son even had a HUGE meltdown during this time in which he cried & yelled & screamed that he didn’t even know who his dad was anymore. I was so concerned that I called his best friend’s dad and asked if I could bring my son in to talk to him…they were very close & this man had been more like a father to my son than my XH was being. My son lived in this hell hole right along side me & moved out with me when his dad & I separated after he graduated.

      Then, when he went off to college, he moved in with my XH’s mother. Look up the definition of pathological liar in the dictionary & you will find her picture there. Between her & my XH, and my XH husband’s brothers…they have completely turned things around on me that I am at fault for the divorce. To quote my son, “Mom, you didn’t have to file for the divorce. Dad was trying to be better & you went & filed for the divorce behind his back!” Dad & his brother had started buying him alcohol. I got to hear stories from some of my sons’ friends of a Snapchat story floating around of my son funneling Jack Daniels at a party one night. He found out I was going on a date & put me through the Spanish Inquisition & in the next confrontation I had with my XH, I was told how it didn’t take me long to move on. This, coming from the man who had 3 affairs on me in 20 years and had hooked up with a co-worker while we were trying to reconcile. My son became friends with her on FB BEFORE I filed for the divorce, so I know he knew about their relationship & he knew me & his dad were still married trying to reconcile. But, yeah Dad was really trying. When he threw this up in my face, I informed him that I had been talking to the husband of his dad’s AP, the one he was with when he announced that he wanted the divorce. I offered to give him the man’s number & let them talk about how his dad was “trying” while he was fucking this other man’s wife. Naturally, my son didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I had discovered some articles on FB about narcissism & shared them on my page…no tags, no “this reminds me of my POS XH”…just shared. He told his dad I called him a narcissist. He became his dad’s FB spy on me. He is in a snake pit with these pathetic people & there’s nothing I can do. He has abandoned me & his sister & is feeding into their bullshit. I continue to keep him on my phone plan until next month when he graduates from school…to me it’s the right thing to do even though he has been treating like shit for the sake of his dad. At least this way, he can’t say that I didn’t help him out in every way possible. I don’t try and talk to him about anything anymore. His dad went on a violent rage on me several weeks back & I ended up with bruises on my arms from it, but I haven’t told him anything. At this point, it won’t do any good. He’d say something to his dad & it would be dismissed that I deserved it. Whatever.

      I am his mother & always will be, but I will not tolerate him treating me like his dad did. If that means I have to keep him at a distance until his dad does something to disappoint him (& I believe this will happen soon) and he comes to me & wants to hear the truth & fix things between us, fine. I have myself and my daughter to think about right now. I am figuring out who I am now & what I want out of life & how to pick up the pieces of this broken life & move on. Being the best I can be for both myself & my daughter…that’s my priority. I don’t have time for all the other unnecessary bullshit that my son & his dad & his dad’s family are creating. I’m above that.

      • Just wondering how/why your ex got physically close enough to you to touch you. It’s scary that he was close enough to you to do that and no one saw. Are you no/low contact with him? And since he touched you rough enough to leave bruises, you should call the police.

        • Daughter witnessed. We had met up for me to get the rest of my things from our shop/garage (didn’t do it in winter time…too cold). I was trying to get him to repeat something he said to me that I didn’t quite catch (I sometimes have a hard time hearing, so I met him by the driver’s side door of the pickup). Anyhow, he had gotten in the driver’s side of his pickup & I was in between him & the door asking him to repeat what he said. When he wouldn’t repeat it, but resorted to calling me ugly names, I smarted off that just like always, he didn’t have the balls to stand behind anything he said, so he shut the pickup door on me, put the pickup in drive & took off. I had put my left arm up to stop the door and then when I stepped back from him moving the pickup, my right arm hit the bed of the truck. He’d never been physical with me before, but I shouldn’t have underestimated his anger. I had been really good with NC up to that point & am back to it. I even told my daughter that under no circumstances is he ever allowed in our house & she understands why.

          • OMG that is indeed scary. I’m glad you are ok but also sorry it happened. Being cheated on is so horrific and then you realize that the person you are dealing with is a walking, talking Wild Card. You no longer know WHAT they are capable of. That is truly terrifying.

            Did you get all of your things??? If not, take someone (a male friend) with you next time. Don’t be alone with him. Pick up and drop off should be sending the kids out or making sure they get in the house safely. No need for you to get out of the car if kids are old enough to walk to/from car on their own. IDK. He seems awfully angry and you are the easy target.

            • I am glad to say that I have all of my things. He picks up our 16 year old daughter on Thursday nights for supper. Pickup & drop off takes place before I get home as I generally set this night aside to either go out with friends or go to supper with a man I just started seeing here & there. The only other time I have to be around him is when we close on our marital home (hopefully sometime next month).

              You’re right about him being angry. My daughter said it perfectly, “Mom, he’s this mad because he knows he screwed up. He’s mad at himself & he’s taking it out on you.” I really think she’s right, plus, I have never really stood up for myself with him. I did that day & it wasn’t what he was expecting.

      • I’m sorry BrandiB, that is horrible. Your son is modeling his father’s crappy behavior as a way to feel close to him. I do think divorce is often hardest on the same-sex children of the cheater, but that is no excuse for how your son is treating you. Stay the course; your daughter knows who the sane parent is; hopefully your son will see it in the future once he’s out from the spell.

        These constant reminders that the world is not a fair place suck.

        • Thanks, Tempest. I had a hard time with it at first because we have always been so close. It’s just a matter of time that he remembers his dad for what he truly is. I think you’re right about the needing to feel close to his dad. Dad checked out on him last year & he’s trying to get back what they used to have.

          • After my mom died when I was little, Dad married a child abuser. When she was nice to me, I was just so grateful for the crumbs that I was like a puppy. Doesn’t mean I didn’t recognize her for what she was. Maybe your son is going through something along those lines. You he can depend on to be there, knows he needs to kibble dear old dad.

            Might just be a survival mechanism.

            • Funny you should say this. This very thought has actually crossed my mind…maybe I’m being hopeful that he hasn’t completely been turned against me.

  • Dear K,
    A glimpse into the future perhaps will hep you see better the horizon.
    It’s an act. Stop buying tickets to his cheap show.
    Once you detach (as in you don’t give a s* on what he or she does), he will lose interest.

    And another thing you must take into account: children are smart. They sense. They know instinctively who is fake and who is real. They will always seek refuge to the real person.
    You are their mother, they are growing like vines, on you! What you give them is your legacy. Every little minute you give them, they grow from it. Teach them to think for themselves, show them what is good from bad. Listen to them. You are the only one who knows them.
    It will get better, trust me.

  • My ex says things to our daughter about me being crazy(I’m not and spent a lot of time with a counsellor to help heal the “psychological damage” as she called it that he caused). There is mental illness in my family so she buys it. She said something to me that clued me in that he was doing it. I just pointed out that her dad did terrible things to our family not just me. It did hurt though. She is 28 and I still have to be careful to be the sane parent. Of course no mention of her nutty grandfather or her nutty father. Apparently I’m nuts for reacting to the abuse and they are not nuts for the evil they did.

    • Apparently I’m nuts for reacting to the abuse and they are not nuts for the evil they did.

      Hi. My name is [betrayednomore] and I freely admit I’m mentally unstable. I am not the sane parent because I happen to be emotionally in-tune and connected with my feelings – in complete contrast to the covert cheater-wife narcissist who possesses super-compartmentalization-powers.

      Funny thing… When you cheat on me, lie to me, gaslight me, blame me for your shitty behavior, and then dominate the counseling sessions ganging-up on me (because it isn’t your cheating that was bad – it was my reaction to your cheating) … I tend to have visceral allergic-like reactions.

      After learning she was fucking another guy (and girl, and another guy, and God-know who else) I took a baseball bat to her perfect-image Pottery-barn catalog home (pages 16, 17, & 21) – she and the kids were out of the house BTW…

      I was never more at peace with myself than when swinging for the fences that night. It was the most stable rational thing I could have done to demonstrate my anger because for years I had been bottling it up every time she (and by proxy my own narcissistic parents) put me down.

      I am not sorry. I’m glad I did it because it was liberating. It freed me from having to play “normal” while she ran all over me and blamed me for everything. Fuck. That. Noise. I gladly own my brand of crazy (registered trademark).

      • Good for you. I agree. He is the one that made me crazy and the calm I now display proves that. It just hurts that he is pursuing that narrative with our daughter behind the scenes because we are no contact. My child also shows some of his narcissistic traits, something that bothers me even more. Hugs betrayednomore

  • Managing my fear about the ways the kids were(are) being manipulated has been absolutely the hardest part of the last five years for me. I sympathize with you completely, and I can also testify to the usefulness of CL’s advice.

    Here are my own additions:

    Don’t sweat today’s antics and the ways your kids respond, because a few months from now, there will just be new variations. So, while your EX might be Disney Dad right now, he might be AWOL Dad a year from now. Similarly, the kid who sneers at everything you do this month because Dad does it better will be reluctant to share so much as a phone call with Dad down the road. Your kids will keep on changing–some of it may be in response to parental behaviors but a lot of it is because they aren’t fully grown yet.

    Acknowledge your worst fears are possible ( i.e all the kids move in with their Dad and speak to you only twice a year on forced phone calls). And then do what is right regardless. If you make your parenting choices out of fear that grounding the 12-year-old or denying a cell phone to the 6-year-old will make Dad look more attractive, you will only teach your kids that you can be manipulated. And they will begin manipulating you immediately. Set your rules and expectations and stick with them. And if someone stomps off muttering, “I want to live with Dad,” pretend to be deaf. Because, your real worst fear is that your kids will grow up to be manipulative, narcissistic, jackasses, and preventing that means being the sane parent no matter how tough it is.

    Acknowledge that co-parenting will always be hard. Sometimes it is hard because the EX is doing the charm offensive (as you are currently experiencing). But it will also be hard when the EX does the discard. It is hard when the EX has custody and you are alone. But it is also hard when the EX stops wanting any custody time and you never have so much as two consecutive hours to yourself without paying a babysitter or bribing a relative. It is hard when your kids natter on about how fun and sparkly everything is at the EX’s, and it is hard when your kids are watching the door at the 8th grade sports banquet to see if the EX will arrive (he/she won’t). It is hard when the kids are down right shitty to you because you are the safe parent–the one they can whine at, complain about, and yell at–and you still make them dinner and pick them up from flute lessons. They won’t do that to the EX because they are terrified that the EX will reject them. So, don’t dwell on today’s version of “hard.” Instead, work on being the parent you want to be with the knowledge that only the details of “hard” will change.

    Know that a lot of people do see through Mr. Sparkles. Not as many as you might wish or as many as should, perhaps, but more than you might guess. A lot of us have been there. And while we might not say anything out loud, we know what it means when Girlfriend Sparkles is helping at the Valentine’s party instead of Daddy Sparkles. We notice when Dad drives up with Wife #2 to drop off a kid at soccer, chat breezily to everyone, and then drives away but never puts in an hour of volunteer time. You won’t see the invisible CL army at first, but after five years I’ve learned that several women in what appear to be happy first marriages are actually in happy second marriages. The oldest child is not a product of that marriage. They know what lousy EX’s look like, and they spotted mine a mile off. They haven’t brought up the fact that this is their second marriage because they want to be best friends with me all of a sudden–they are letting me know that they see what is going on and they have my back. I’ve met many smug marrieds and some skittish marrieds (afraid my divorce is contagious), but I’ve also realized slowly that there are quite a few survivors out there too. Be a strong, sane parent. Try to do things that are good for you and make you happy even as you do the hard working of parenting. In a few years, you’ll be one of the people lending an ear or a hand to another recently divorced parent whose EX is being a jackass.

    Your fears are real, but so are your strengths and your value.

  • Love and structure. Children need both. Some believe they just want love, and no rules, but they don’t benefit from that.

    Our job as parents is to turn our children into moral, competent, compassionate adults, capable of learning and of independent living. Sadly, their liking us is not in our job description. We hope that they do, of course, but when confronted with a choice, our decision should always be to do what is right for our children–establish boundaries, issue consequences for bad behavior, support them in pain. Even when they wail about how mean or unfair we are, even when they punch holes in walls, even when they threaten to go live with the cheater.

    I had to remind myself of that 2 weeks ago, after a very painful few days with my rebellious youngest daughter. Once I reminded myself of the “parent” job description, I did what was necessary–set limits, issued consequences, and stayed calm in the face of great disrespect. I got lucky, and my daughter responded well to this (they won’t all–see Cakeless’s post above). If a child turns on you for doing your job, handle the pain with as much dignity you can muster. Many (most?) children will return to their stable base (the sane parent), others, heartbreakingly, will not. But we signed up for a gargantuan task upon birthing those children, we didn’t sign up for a new best friend.

    • Thank-you. I needed to read this today. My 6 year old daughter recently threatened to move in with her dad. It hurt to hear those words but I know she only said it because she wasn’t getting her way. Her Dad has no rules and it is “Disneyland” at his place.

      • Hang tough, Cricket. Kids can be master manipulators (and most of ours trained at the hands of masters). Not easy, but under threat the best thing to do is to stay calm. Often they are just looking for a reaction from us.

  • Reading these posts makes me so grateful for my kids. I know all of this has been hard on them, but they have taken a mature approach to dealing with their grief. I try to help by keeping things as normal as I can in their daily routines and by relying on other people to deal with my own grief. The boys (11 and 14) have done an excellent job of showing me their love, loyalty and concern while still loving their father too (without condoning what he has done). My daughter (16) hates Schmoopie (even before she knew she was in a relationship with her father) and is pretty upset with her Dad, but she still wants to have a relationship with him (most of the time) while maintaining her loyalty to me (in and around typical stubborn teenager stuff). My daughter also says she is going to find me a boyfriend who will treat me right, a kind good looking nerd with glasses. I am truly blessed to have the kids that I do and I think STBX is now starting to realize he is lucky to have them too.

    • I also don’t have to worry about STBX turning the kids against me because he wants me to look after them for him while he goes off to play with Schmoopie. If he turns them against me he might get stuck with them all of the time and that would seriously interfere with his “me” time.

      • Lol chumpinrecovery. Stbx tells me I am mentally ill and he was abused for years but I am a wonderful mother who alienates him from his children. Does any one else see a disconnect here? He totally can’t risk giving up his “Me time”!

      • Oh yes, “me time” MUST always come first!!!

        He hates having his child support taken out of his check, resents me.for holding him accountable, tries to portray himself as the “family man” with OWife and her two kids, and of course a better parent than me, but any given moment if I would offered or suggested extra time with DD, he feigns off.

  • As my ex is learning on a daily basis that just being your self and always putting the children first pays off after a few years of the mystery science known as “co-parenting.”

  • Needed this reminder after yesterday. I have to remember to stay the course, no contact/gray rock and you can’t coparent with a fucktard!

  • 1) Don’t be the hypotenuse
    2) Be the sane parent.
    3) Be awesome.
    Good advice. Just focus on these 3 things and keep plugging along. I’ve finally reached “meh”. In the beginning I thought “meh” was just another unicorn, but I chased it out of desperation. Guess what? It’s real. It really exists. Head up, hang on, and vent when you can. You are stronger than you know. ((Big hug))

  • Really needed this column today! For Spring Break a few weeks ago, ‘Disney Dad’ picked the kids up midweek & literally took them straight to DisneyLand!!! (But he doesn’t pay a dime in child support) When the kids returned from Easter wknd at Dad’s last night, they came back with enough candy, toys & junk to fill a wheelbarrow (the g/f is a shopaholic & always trying to “one up” me). They even went to Easter service at church as a family…the cheaters + my kids, sitting in a sacred building…waiting for lightning to strike?? Thanks for the reminder that I don’t need to do the ‘pick me dance’ with my own children…my kids (13, 9) are way too smart for that!

    • Word.
      Last year, The Evil One had DD for Easter weekend and sent her back to me with probably 20 lbs. of candy and trinkets.

      Cha, as if all that candy makes up for blowing DD off the rest of the time.

      All about his image.

  • I don’t co-parent, my son visits his Dad every other weekend. He loves his Dad but tolerates the situation of him living with OW and her son. Before Ex and OW moved in together, they were preparing my son for all the “luv” my son would experience with them, so he was given hand-me-down toys from OW son. He thought it was so cool. He thought he was going to get a “family” at Dad’s house. Fast forward a few months. The novelty of having my son in their home grew stale for OW. The son seems like a surly teenager who never comes out of his room. So, my son didn’t get that happy family. He got….boring. His dad always complains he doesn’t have money to do anything. I’ve had to buy sheets and a blanket for my son’s bed over there at his house. Unreal.

    Early on I learned to let my son tell me all the things he did at his Dad’s house. He had fun in the beginning. I learned to say “cool buddy!” “wow.” “nice”. He was heard and I got to hear that he was “ok” over there.

    I fully expect my son to change his mind during his teenage years and say he wants to live with his dad. Sadly his dad will say no. He doesn’t want that responsibility…and neither does OW. Both are assholes.

  • Dear K,
    I was never the other woman, but I was the third “wife” (life partner) and the traitor has 3 sons from his first wife, one son from his next life partner (turned out she was the OW in his first marriage and … more in a moment!). I completely fell for the bitter first divorce spiel of poor dad who was denied custody of the kids he loves by his awful first wife after they had grown apart. I completely fell for first wife was a crazy bitch who neglects the boys but doesn’t want poor dad to have them, second “wife” is a crazy bitch who was molested as a child so we’ve got to be on egg shells and do everything she wants because poor dad is afraid to lose 50/50 arrangement with her. So I spent 9 years doing everything he wanted (and she wanted) but he praised me as the only sane mother of his 4 boys. Year after year, the same story and I said I am not their mother, a child only has one mother. When 2 became adults he wanted me to adopt his eldest kids from first wife as he tried to talk them into disowning their mother . That was after 7 years together and when I started thinking there was something really unhealthy going on his mind!. I refused of course. But I still preened my feathers under the compliments and did even more for the kids to earn more praise…
    Cut a long story short, he was cheating on me with second life partner, while I looked after her child (remember he had 50% custody so we had him 50% of the time) and while I also looked after the other 3 during school holidays and later on when they became “adults” and required even more attention because they moved in with us, failure to launch …
    These cheaters will do anything. The new girlfriend in your case (the OW?) is pick me dancing like crazy. You’re the real mother and as long as you do you job, sane parenting, you don’t even need to be a mothering star, you are doing fine. What the kids will do, how easily they can be corrupted, I don’t think anyone can predict. Chumps’ stories on this differ, from those who disown the betraying spouse to those who dump the chump. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the chump’s actions unless you act like a nut. And that doesn’t sound like you.
    I completely understand that you live in fear of him turning them against you. Because that’s what he is doing. No question in my mind, and he’s making the girlfriend do the hard work for him…Been there and I fell for his stories. Be aware the girlfriend may be gullible enough to believe him. I was.
    It’s out of your hands in any case. He’s a twisted POS.
    CL’s advice is the best, look after you, define your boundaries, do your job, your duty, be ethical and let the chips fall where they may.
    Despite the traitor’s best efforts, the 3 older boys did not disown their mother, he sent them to have words with her and she listened to everything and continued to welcome them and ignore him. Relations are not great, but he hasn’t managed to cut her out. She’s their mother, she graduated as a nurse while raising the 3 boys on a benefit, she writes novels and she’s the one who warned me that he hadn’t even divorced her (12 years after leaving her and another kid later…). But I wouldn’t listen to her, I listen to his explanation instead: I am divorce in my heart and that’s all that matters, I was afraid she’s take the kids to England if I signed the divorce (absolute non sense legally but I never checked).
    Now he’s got the 4 boys discarding me completely. I don’t know what he’s telling them, but I can imagine because I probably heard it all before about…their mothers!
    It’s out of my hands. I can’t blame the kids for poor judgement, mine was no better. I can only hope that in time they will see the truth, but it takes a really long time and he is their dad, I was just a step mum. So I won’t hold my breath. Only one option, keep moving forward even if we have to crawl for a while. Don’t play his game, the only way to win is not to play.

    • Kiwi.
      I think you are amazing. I love you and your posts because you are so honest which takes great courage, and you are doing it to help others. Your wisdom is hard earned and I hope more than anything that the next phase of your life is filled with love, fun, gentleness and pure joy. ❤️

        • LOL Cap! Not sure I wish for a lot of gentlemen or even one at present, but thanks anyway!
          All the warning signs and red flags were waved in my face in the first year or so with the traitor and I refused to see them. Whenever I had a question I doubted myself, and the traitor gave me some explanation and berated me for my trust issues. I gave him plenty of ammunition by telling him so much about my FOO and previous relationships. Yes, that openness and honesty can backfire. Yet he kept saying I wasn’t open and trusting! I basically rolled over and offered my weak belly for the kill. This site is great because it can also teach us not to make ourselves such easy targets for these people. It’s like Self-Defense 101 and we really need it.

  • I agree with ChumpLady to “Document everything you do in their best interests for the court. If he challenges you, you have a record.”

    There may be a legal reason that motivates his current behavior in addition to the image control. Perhaps he wants to decrease child support or get more custody or simply hurt you using the courts.

  • My DS has began spending time with his dad after 2 yrs NC because of encouragement from his GF parents. They have no idea what portal they opened. Yes, my son is really happy with dinners out every night and copious amount of cash . He’s 18. The very first evening he returns telling me he has animosity towards me but can’t figure exactly why, how much dad hates my lawyer, plus all types of bullshit that came directly from camel boy because those questions would never come from son’s mouth. He’s baiting him for information about our life. I went through the drill that he is not to speak about us and I don’t want to know about him before he went out with him the first time.He is being so manipulated and I try to educate him. He has paraded him to everyone he knows for image management and get the word that he’s not bad since my son is hanging with me now. It makes me want to throw up.
    The real problem is that ex can’t be alone and will NEVER give up the Disney status. He will do whatever he has to financially to keep him under his clutches. Promises of cars and houses which erases ambition and gives entitlement. If DD doesn’t speak to him then she gets nothing. My DS said he has no problem being dad’s favorite. He can do Disney all day but can’t pay court ordered med bills. I’m seriously considering giving up on the bill collection. DS needs thousands of dollars of dental work. I don’t have it. I guess if they become painful he can ask Disney dad because I am not going to borrow it and get stuck owing the whole amount and then having to pay the lawyer to help recoup it. Its all a vicious cycle and he gets away with everything!

  • Truth will out. Your actions will always outweigh their words. Children, even young children are very perceptive.

    It is hard to accept, but you cannot stop the other parent from manipulating and using your children unless you find a way to completely remove the other parent from their lives. Which, unless there is physical abuse, is nearly impossible to do.

    It’s the shit sandwich we have to eat forever. And our kids have to eat it too. It’s not fair, it’s wrong and completely unacceptable. But it is, nevertheless. God help us.

  • I think fear is a wonderful and terrible thing. As a long-time reader and admirer of Gavin de Becker, I see fear as a potent early warning system; when we feel legitimate fear, our instincts are warning us that we are in danger. So it’s important to pay attention when we feel fear.

    The other side of fear is not as healthy. When fear becomes a focal point, a way to live, it’s no longer any use as a warning system. I think this kind of fear is often a by-product of abuse. As a kid raised by a narcissist parent with huge and uncontrolled emotions, I grew up afraid all the time: afraid to fail at anything, afraid to make choices, afraid of angering my mother by saying the wrong thing, afraid that something terrible would happen if I wasn’t perfect. I carried this way of being into adult life, when I (thereoretically) was free to choose something better. But those old, ingrained patterns left me with a defective picker, and I picked abuse and control, over and over again.

    Just because an abusive partner has abandoned us or we have gotten the steel to kick the abuser out, it doesn’t mean that the ingrained emotional patterns of fear are gone. And the stress and struggle of single parenting, especially with a narcissist on the cruel side, just reinforces that old programming.

    The biggest weapons K’s XH has is the fear he instills in her. That’s his weapon. That’s what he uses. Her fear of losing the kids. That’s why getting the GF into a pick-me dance is such genius. He’s got GF dancing in the kids’ classroom saying “pick me!!!” and he knows how that will drive a dagger of fear into K’s heart. Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s the ability to move forward and do what needs to be done in spite of fear. Most of the things we fear never come to pass. But too often, fear keeps our eyes locked on the wrong things and we freeze like a deer in the headlights and stop moving forward to save ourselves. Oh, K, of course you are afraid. But trust yourself.

    And listen to CL. The key to overcoming your fear is focusing your attention not on XH and Miss SchoolPickMeDancer but on building your own awesome life. Your kids need, more than anything else, a role model of healthy adulthood and you are the only one providing that. Your kids are of course the most important part of you life, but as the old airline analogy has it, you can’t put an oxygen mask on your kids to save them if you don’t put yours on first. I’d take a long look at scheduling software to make sure all communication from Mr. AwesomeCheaterpants is documented and you have little or no contact with him or that pitiful GF (just saying, but if she had a career and a life of her own, as you do, she wouldn’t be volunteering in school and dancing for a fuckwit cheater). It’s OK to be afraid; just keep moving forward anyway.

  • I really can’t add much to the already wonderful, kind, supporting comments to K, but I will share my experiences as I’ve been in both sides of the fence if the divorced-parent-shit-sandwich-deluxe:

    Exh#1 cheated and not only chose OW over me, had also convinced our boys, then ages 9 & 3 to live with him— months of special “daddy and his boys” days, lots of comments to them in front of me… this was a premeditated, well-executed process and I was so dumb and blind… In short, they chose “fun Dad” over me, but within weeks of leaving me, he shacked up with OW, the fun ended …It was a tall, stacked shit sandwich I had to choke down for those first few years. I took full advantage of every opportunity and visit I had with them and emphasized that it wasn’t the quantity, but the quality of time spent…
    It was a long road, but now, 16 years later, my boys and I are very close, and in the end, they saw their dad for what he was. After the first few years passed, he and I finally got better about coparenting and putting our boys first. Of course, this was after OWife threw his ass out to the curb, but that’s a Karma story for another day…

    Exh#2 The Evil One and I parallel parent. DD is not easily swayed by his trips to ChuckECheese, step-grandmas pool, or whatever else they drag her out to when she’s there every other weekend for 48 hours.

  • Oh My! this! I needed this article. My Cheater is also the master manipulator when it comes to the kids (who are now adults) And everything I say is manipulated to work against me. He even said it once ” do you think I am actually trying to sabotage your relationship with the kids?” It is what keeps me in the cycling mode. I am so afraid of losing the only thing meaningful to me. esp my daughter. I lost it on DD and they know he truth but my daughter does not hold him responsible. He is fun, happy; and I am messed up, depressed and made every mistake in the book. Crying in front of them, trying to explain why I am the way I now am etc. He is the proverbial nice guy narc cheater.

  • Im going to just blurt…..
    Im the one who pays for their activities – the fees, the registration, the equipment and clothing. The fuel to get them there. Organising the three with their radically different interests and schedules. Im the one who begs to pay things off over time and keeps them doing what they love.
    I pay for school fees, books etc, uniform, shoes…. all the good stuff. The last minute “please send $5 by tomorrow” I manage it somehow. I deal with the teachers, the behaviour things, the certificates etc
    I organise Xmas and birthdays. The outings in school holidays. The friends coming and going, the sleepovers. (None of mine are old enough to drive by a long shot)
    I do all the medical things. In the first 2 yrs of my youngest’s life he spent 105 days in hospital. I doubt his father could FIND the dam hospital on a map. I also pay the gap between medicare and the bill

    BUT

    I have to smile and not kill people who praise him up for being such a great father for taking two days off work to watch his daughter swim at the inter schools…. Really? Wont pay for shit, wont go and watch practise or squad stuff (boring as hell but I do it…) Wont watch a basketball or football game or go to training for Tae Kwon Do, wont do anything = But knows she will get a medal so off he trots to the public accolade of MY daughter the great swimmer, she gets it from me you know. I mean look at her mother, you can see she isnt sporty at all…..

    Gives the kids $20 for Xmas, only buys one a birthday present – oh they wont even notice they get enough. Wont pay for clothes – they have too many. Wont go anywhere with the 3 of them – too hard….
    Ive started enforcing limits instead of trying to accomodate him – these kids LOVE him and they so want him to love them…. Im being shredded for it. Fathers have rights you know….

    • Yep, it sucks, I woild rather chug a pint of cold vomit.

      This post could not have been more timely-driving Kiddo to work (she is being a pill, lots going on). We had been talking about how that now she is nearly 18, and headed for college, that her job is to let me and her dad know about fees, when due, etc. I suggested she talk to the school college counsellor because she really helped us at the filling-in-the-fafsa-why-is-there-no-box-for-deadbeat-babymen stage. Not in those words. Kiddo replied that her dad never talks about what I have done wrong, does not put her in the middle and is as generous as he can be. I said, no comment, bullshit and only if you dance for it. She got mad.

      But I stuck to my guns-because in the name of punishing me, he has seriously shortchanged her in terms of financial support ever since I took sole custody and we moved to another continent (her idea). Going forward, I explained, it is in your interest to not get fucked over by anyone, financially, so it would be good to keep in mind that, as Uncle Nomar says, some money costs too much. I will do what I can, but fact is I am fifty with no pension (snorted) no property (forced sale) and no career (back at entry level in another country). Gaaaah, now I am just spinning.

      But I am scared he will do to her what he has done to me. Total,gaslighting. Honestly, it is magic money he sends: $350 a month pays for half her rent, food, transport, glasses, medical, sports gear, activities and shrink. Yeah, wanna buy a bridge in Brooklyn? I worry he’ll leave me holding the bag for her educatio, as with everything else so far.

      Poor kids. As we know, hopium is hard enough to kick after the narc isn’t around to feed the habit. She hates the situation, but, as everyone describes here, it isn’t safe for kids to be angry at their narc parents, so they take it out on the sane one. Equally, DAMN SHE ACTS LIKE HIM.

      Grrr. Not meh. Tomorrow, however, is Tuesday.

      love to all Chump Nation.

    • I think this is where we really have to play the long game. People tell me that the kids will realize the invisible and financial parts of our parenting about the time they hit their mid 30s (especially if they have kids of their own). I hope so.

      I worry that instead they will learn that it is okay to have kids but make no financial contributions to their lives.

      My kids know their father is financially unreliable (well, unreliable pretty much all around), but they never call him on his “I’d help if I could!” claims. I think they alternate between believing his pretty fictions because they truly wish to see him as “a good dad” and disbelieving his explanations and B.S. but not wanting to pick fights or risk criticizing him. For kids, the desire to have an admirable and loving parent trumps a lot of facts and experiences.

      There are no good options to financial manipulation. We go on doing the right thing because it is the right thing–not because it pays well!

      • Thanks, Eilonwy. You are right, long game…..

        Hugs, Meh

        PS-you share a name with one of my favorite fictional characters

  • I’m only at the very start of my parenting journey, and it scares me to death that I now have to navigate it on my own whilst dealing with my STBXH. My son is only 2 1/2 and 2nd baby is due in 6 weeks so we haven’t had much time together as a family before he ups and leaves us. He has been lying to me for 2 of those years and pretending to be a good husband and father but had just been lying about so many things. He has always been good with kids and young people. He was very active in helping me out with the youth group I run at church. His affair partner now girlfriend is the best friend of one of the girls who attended our group and who he was therefore ministering to. I pretty sure that he wasnt thinking ‘what would Jesus do’ when he was lying to and cheating on his wife whilst she was pregnant.

    Now he has shown that he is not a good husband but he still wants to be a father. I obviously want my son to have a father but his father is not who I thought he was. How do I navigate dealing with the next 18 years+ with someone who has shown themselves to be a pretty shitty role model.

    • Do you have a lawyer? If not, you should get one to help you outline a custody and child support agreement.

      You aren’t going to be able to do a lot about his shitty role-modeling, but you can set some basic expectations about time, money, and what decisions will be yours (i.e. who decides on the child’s daycare and school options, etc.)

      Frankly, it is not your job to make sure your son has a father. That is his father’s job. If there is a custody agreement, your EX can choose to step up and be a great father or not. If there is not one, you will be much more vulnerable and so will your son.

      If your EX turns out to be a great dad, more power to your son. But focus on getting what you need right now–especially in terms of legal protections. You cannot make your EX be a good or bad dad. You can only be a good parent yourself.

  • The ex narc/serial cheater has turned my children (23,22,18 yo) into narcs, so they’re often against me I n every little thing just as he always was belittling me for years. His words come out of my children’s mouth even though they’ve seen evidence of his cheating and financial damage. He behaved regardless of the sanity of all family members, I constantly protected them from his rages while growing up. Now they repeat his verbal abuse mindlessly, I realize they view me as the loser. Not even the truth under everybody ‘s eyes overcomes the covert narc’s lies.

    • M that is tough. I empathise as my young adult/teens also repeat verbally abusive things mirroring the x their cheater father. It sucks. But one small silver lining I note is that by being calm and assertive as to what is and isn’t acceptable they get a chance for new learning. I have noticed them applying it in their side of conversations on occasion. I think this is an age when kids try out different tactics. Hugs and best wishes for surviving calmly and protecting yourself with sane parent on the way to meh bubble armour.

  • Huge sympathy K. I felt the same when my ex-husband turned from Useless Father/Husband to Divorced Disney Dad too. When we were together, if he changed a nappy in a week, it was cause for celebration and endless praise for the great job he did. He did no cooking, no cleaning, no helping around the house, no childcare (unless we were in public, where he was flipping awesome). Behind closed doors – there was NOTHING.

    Then we get divorced and he is forced to have them every second weekend – although he reneges, reschedules and just doesn’t turn up – as often as he can get away with. But when he has them, they eat out every meal, go to every attraction the city has on offer and get bought stuff and eat so many sweets they come back to me frazzled with sugar and stimulation overload. His bit on the side acts like supermum and they play at being happy weekend families. I was really worried. However, I shouldn’t have been. It was all an act and they really were just playing at it. I think children have inbuilt bullshit detectors and within a very short space of time they saw it for what it was. They soon noted that he wasn’t turning up to their school shows, their parents evenings, that he didn’t stick to arrangements and that as soon as the bit on the side became pregnant, her interest tailed away to almost zero.

    These narcs can’t sustain long-term properly supportive relationships. They aren’t ‘parent’ material, they are just fully grown toddlers with their mental development still arrested at the “me, me, me” stage.

    Despite having had to be bad-cop, lay down boundaries, say no to junk food and all the other seriously dull stuff that good parents have to do, my kids know that I always have their best interests at heart. I’ve been slogging away on my own now for 14 years and they adore me as much as it is possible for two teenage children to adore their mother. They turned down a flash ski-ing holiday with Disney Dad this Christmas because it meant they couldn’t spend Christmas with me (and I had no holiday tucked up my sleeve to offer them).

    You ex will soon come unstuck K – just give it time!

  • My sister-in-law gave me the best advice. She said the most important thing you can do for your children is to be happy, because then they will want to be around you. Do things that fill you up and make you feel good about yourself, and help you to enjoy your life, because then it will spill over onto your children.

  • Trust, trust, trust – they eventually work it out.

    They really do. These people do not change who they really are, and they eventually reveal themselves.

    Mine did it so spectacularly, he ended up having an affair (hiding, lying and cheating) on his own kids. They got to see who destroyed their family, because he did it to them. They discovered that the Christmas they had been feeling so sorry for him being all alone, he was with his ‘other family’ they didn’t know about.

    Just carry on being the sane parent, and being safe.

  • Looking back, my STBEX used to martyr himself in front of the kids.

    Now kids…..look at poor dad, he’s married to a mean crazy, bitch- who won’t forgive me for screwing her over when you guys were babies. I went to church….got religion and I even read the Bible on occasion. She’s being an unforgiving bitch to poor me and she doesn’t trust me. Look what I have to put up with it.

    Thank God when the kids grew up….they figured out what really happened.

  • I am so frightened that I am loosing my 19 year old daughter. I can see she is doing the pick me dance with her father. He has seen her 8 times in 10 months and now he has moved closer to where she is going to uni because he ‘misses her so much’ when in reality he has moved for work.
    Time and time again he lets her down and she forgives him. And each time she treats me with less and less respect. I saw her phone one day and all their txts were just picking on me. It’s so hurtful.
    I’m trying to be the sane parent, but it’s killing me to see that this narc who everyone has seen thru his lives still has so much power over his daughter.
    Yes I am being the same parent but what else can I do.
    Please help.

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