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How to Co-Parent with a Narcissist

planet narcissistThoughtful people blanche at labeling anyone a narcissist, but if you divorced a serial cheater, or worse, bred with one, you don’t need the DSM. The flaming dysfunction is on display.

I got a call once for a post on how to co-parent with a narcissist. (You could substitute for the all-purpose FW.) My flippant advice is:

You cannot co-anything with a narcissist. You are only permitted to orbit.

This whole notion of reciprocity and consideration, the idea of being an equal partner is anathema to FWs. There is the narcissist and then there is supply. That’s you, the little people, the creators of ego kibbles. Since your divorce you’ve proven yourself to be inferior kibbles, so why would the Great One trifle with you? Can you be of any use to them? No? Quit that buzzing sound. Go away.

But full of parenting classes and divorce therapy, chumps will tilt at that consensus windmill. Surely we can agree that you will pick up Taylor at 3 p.m. for the sports banquet, right? RIGHT? It’s your day. Says so in the order. Taylor is so looking forward to it. This will happen right? RIGHT?

And then it doesn’t. Or it happens with that half-assed narcissist flair. What’s the problem showing up at 4 p.m., drunk, and leaving early? Why are you being such a dick about this?

Their imperious tone will infuriate you. Their willful obliviousness to obligations will make you want to smother them with a pillow. A leaden, spiked pillow laced with anthrax. Watch as they assume you’ll cover for them when they fail to show, fail to pay, fail to answer…

How do you co-parent with THAT?

You don’t.

Some primers on parallel parenting from yours truly. Remember, I‘m not a lawyer, I’m a chump. Talk to a lawyer for specifics on your situation.

1. Give up the idea of parenting consensus. Parallel parent instead. Your house, your rules. Their house, their chaos. You don’t control it. Your only obligation is to do what the court tells you and hand your kid over at the appointed time, like a hostage drop off.

Crappy parenting isn’t a crime. Realize it has to rise to the level of immediate harm to the child for the courts to be interested. Too many video games and not enough fresh vegetables doesn’t cut it. Physical abuse? Sexual abuse? Neglect? Call Child Protective Services. Everything else, talk to a therapist. Children get introduced to affair partners all the time. It’s the rare judge who gives a shit. Remember, they see hideous cases of abuse in their court every day. Trixie wants to bake cupcakes with your daughter and buy her her first training bra doesn’t count as abuse. It’s a shit sandwich for you. Eat it and try to ignore what goes on over there.

2. If they fail to abide by the order, don’t dance. If your ex fucks up, don’t accommodate them. Let me be clear here — I’m not saying don’t switch Saturdays with them because they have an out of town wedding. (Reasonable request, reasonable accommodation.) I’m saying if they fuck up something like visitation — do NOT chase them. “Thursday’s out? How about Sunday? Could we do Sunday?” or “You’re supposed to give me the summer schedule by March. It’s May. Um, when will I get it?” They don’t get it to you? It doesn’t happen. You’re not obligated (unless your order says so) to dance for them. If they can’t communicate about when they’ll get their kids, DOCUMENT THIS, and then make other plans.

Don’t play the narcissist game of I’m So Powerful You Can Wait. If they break a court order, it’s not your job to make that right and cover for them. Get on without their input. They’ll probably swoop in 40 days too late and demand accommodation. Tell them to fuck off.

3. They don’t care what you think or what’s best for your kids. They only care how they are perceived. You can use this to your advantage. Whether that is how they are perceived by the court (cc-ing your correspondence to your lawyer), how they are perceived by their community or other people they deem important, let them know you have those peoples’ ears.

Some people manage to suck up to narcissists and play this game very well. You’re supposed to flatter them, praise them, tell them how handsome/beautiful they’d look playing the role of Responsible Parent. Everyone is just so excited about them and their accomplished offspring. Do our child a solid and fulfill this small obligation. We’ll throw confetti! Name a constellation after you! Send you home with a tote bag! Won’t that be awesome?

I’m awful at this. Let me know if you have any success with toadying. I find it better to remind narcs that People More Fabulous Are Watching. Or People They Fear Who Can Really Fuck With Them Might Not Look Kindly On This.

4. DOCUMENT. Always cover your butt with email or parenting software. Never make verbal agreements with FWs.

5. Never pull your punches on support. Always dock child support through the state. Because then the state gets to be the heavy and enforces consequences when they don’t pay. Never take an IOU from a deadbeat. You think they’ll do right by their kid? That’s a very iffy proposition. What’s in it for them? No, make the state be Vinny who will kneecap them if they don’t pay up. (Okay, not really kneecap them, but put a lien on their house and take away their passport.)

6. Don’t let them steal your joy. I won’t lie to you, trying to co-parent with a disordered person SUCKS. It sucks for years and years. There are going to be days when it grinds you down to a nub. But get up again. You’re the sane parent and you have a job to do. Raise those kids. These assholes will try and suck ALL the joy out of it — don’t let them. Hold your babies close and know that you’re the parent who cares, who shows up, who pays the orthodontist bill. You know and the kids know it. And the narcissist can go race sail boats or buy a new crossbow or a new set of boobs or whatever it is these idiots value. You WIN. You win the  kids. They get YOUR values, your sanity, and your stability.

It takes a long time to achieve meh about breeding with a fuckwit, but it can be done. Stay the course, CN. You’re mighty!

I’m trying to finish the second book on this topic. Haven’t run this column in awhile. Hang in there, Mighty People!

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • This one hits home for me.
    We have 2 young children, are 9 months from dday, and at the beginning of a very nasty divorce.
    This description matches exactly what I’m experiencing right now. It is absolute agony but I think this is going to be her parenting style for the foreseeable future.
    Did I mention she’s moved away with the kids and dragging her feet, objecting to everything I propose, and begrudgingly proposing only things she knows are exceedingly difficult for me?

    • So sorry you’re going through this Guest. We know how hard it is. Talk to your lawyer about her taking the kids away and making things difficult. You should be able to get a temporary custody agreement in place pretty quickly. Keep that separate from the mess of the divorce settlement and make it the priority.

    • What Sunrise said. Almost every legal custody order does not allow one parent to move away with the children without the other parent’s express consent. And, if they do so without consent, they do so at the peril of their custody time with the kids. Some states have explicit laws to this effect. I’d lawyer up and see what’s what. The longer your ex stays gone with your kids, the harder it’ll be for you to enforce anything beneficial to you and them.

  • “Co”-parenting with my stbx was awful. He paid exactly one child support payment, and then magically was able to change his work schedule to accommodate 50/50 time again and thus avoid paying anything else (our incomes were similar). Never mind the $3,000 back child support I never saw.

    It was horrendous, but I had to accept that I had no control over the other home. I had no control over OW being there trying to parent my kid (such a horrible role model in every way, plus she had no respect for me, or for her own children’s father and had no problem saying so in front of the kids, and would boast about goading her ex into a fury). It still broke my heart, because “chaos” is exactly the word for that house. My son would beg and plead not to go to daddy’s house, and I had to put my crying child in the car and drive him over there, trying to soothe him and tell him it was okay, when in my heart I knew it probably wasn’t. He’d come home an emotional wreck. Sullen, depressed, acting out and having tantrums, disrespecting me to my face. Unfortunately, kids don’t always feel safe expressing their real feelings to a narcissistic parent. My son was afraid of his dad and so put on a brave and happy face there. Then he’d come to me and everything would spill out. The safe parent so often bears the brunt of all the child’s negative emotions. I just tried to weather the storm. It culminated in my child expressing a desire to self-harm and saying things like “I don’t want to live anymore, it’s too hard”. I checked him into a mental health facility. FW was there too (my attorney said I needed him to be) and kept telling the admitting doctor that he had “no idea about any of this”. My kid never expressed his misery to his dad. And it’s no wonder. Once my (autistic) son, who struggles with impulse control, broke FW’s playstation by tugging the controller too hard. My ex made my 8 year old kid write a TWENTY-SEVEN POINT apology, promising never to do that again. Which he then put on Facebook as an example of his great parenting. I screenshot the heck out of it and took it to my therapist, who was APPALLED. As was I.

    I fought like hell for full custody. I had 50/50, but was the “primary” parent for school purposes. I don’t know how it would have turned out in court. OW left FW, taking her two kids and fleeing the state. FW couldn’t deal with being alone. OW refused to contribute any money towards their rather expensive rental home after she left, and FW had wasted an awful lot of money on having his lawyer send spurious and ridiculous accusations to me via long letters, so FW was completely broke. He killed himself. It took more than one try. He completed on the 12th attempt. In the four months while this was going on, I had no clue. FW would call me in a panic saying he couldn’t find our son…when the child was with ME. This happened twice. FW didn’t know what day of the week it was or what time it was. I found out later that that was because he was tripping on medication after a failed attempt. And I had to SEND MY KID to him in that state. I was genuinely terrified to do so (even though I didn’t know the cause, which was worse than what I had thought), but I was forced to by our custody agreement. I did manage to delay for one night, by making FW think I was doing it for HIS sake (“you seem really tired and you say you didn’t sleep for a few days, why don’t I keep [kid] so you can get some rest? I’ll bring him tomorrow, just call when you wake up”). My poor kid was hypervigilant and extremely worried about his dad (he said things like “I don’t like to let daddy out of my sight”). When I told my son (age 9) that his daddy was dead, his response was “I had a feeling it would come to this”.

    So I got full custody by default. And found out after FW died just how horrific that “home” had been. My son is doing so much better without that in his life (or the constant back and forth between homes). FW played at being a great dad. He loved people to see him being a “good parent” (hence EVERYTHING he and the kid did was on social media, often painted in a way that particularly flattered FW). But the nitty gritty of parenting, like handling practical matters, or even recognizing when they kid is struggling, weren’t things he was interested in. And I’d seen already that he was doing to our kid what he had done to me: encouraging those interests and hobbies that were HIS and dismissing as silly or a waste of time (or harmful) those interests of the kid that FW didn’t care about. I was called a bad parent because my son liked gameshow network. FW wanted him to watch Star Wars and Marvel movies. My kid confessed to me later that he didn’t like Star Wars or Marvel movies but watched them because they “were important to daddy”. I could also already see FW’s reaction as our kid was getting older and expressing his opinions more freely. I worried a lot about what would happen when my kid became a teenager and stood up to his father… Now I don’t. have to.

    Being a single mom, completely responsible for everything, is much, MUCH easier than co-parenting with FW ever was (a textbook narcissist if I ever saw one). Turns out it didn’t change my life that much, because I was already doing 100% of the parenting work (like homework, and doctor appointments, haircuts, and keeping the kid in clothes and shoes, etc.). I no longer have to fight about it anymore is all. And I have my kid every day, but I don’t mind that a bit. My kid gets survivor benefits through social security, so I finally get “child support”. At FW’s funeral, a lot of his friends kept coming to me and asking if there was somewhere they could donate money to go towards my kid, and I just wanted to say “we’re fine. We have all we need. I can support us. FW never contributed anything anyway.” But I didn’t, because I can’t be that petty. My kid also got a sizable life insurance payout, so college is mostly covered (or whatever my kid wants to do). Honestly we are much better off now than when FW was alive. It feels kind of awful to say that, but it is the truth. I never wished FW would come to harm (no matter what he did to me), but I cannot feel remorse that he is gone. He made his choices. He will never see his son grow up, and that is very sad. But my kid and I are happy, healthy, and thriving, in spite of everything.

    • “Honestly we are much better off now than when FW was alive. It feels kind of awful to say that, but it is the truth.”

      Yes, this. And as much as my life is easier without him…the tragedy of the fact that this is true never leaves me.

      My kids were older when he died and at first they were honest about it…in the middle of the madness between death and funeral, one of them said “I have to say anything bad but if he had lived and you had died, I dont think things would be going very well right now”.

      As they worked to process their relationship with him, their sense of obligation to see the good in him seemed to increase while I was in another place learning more and more about how bad his betrayal really was. So even though we kinda started in the same place grieving, we ended up in really different places later and it is kinda awkward.

      • Unicornnomore and ISTL–

        What you’ve both been through is where angels fear to tread because how could anyone know what it’s like if they hadn’t gone through it? But I feel like I got a glimpse of that hell of mixed emotions because of my own experience and I’ve come across bits and pieces of information that helped process a bit.

        I knew a guy– call him X– whose abusive father killed himself after his battered second wife escaped him and took the kids. When I later worked in advocacy, I learned that abusers kill themselves at statistically elevated rates. But what X had not told me was that his father had previously attempted to kill himself along with X’s then-infant half sister from an earlier marriage ten years before X was born. The attempted muder-suicide-by-overdose failed.Turns out that earlier wife had also attempted to leave. I lost touch with X so I’m not even sure he knew this history himself because I read about it years later in a review of DV perpetrators who attempt to kill or successfully killed their children to punish their victims. X’s battering father had been a famous and politically protected surgeon so it appears authorities glossed the case over. In any event, this surgeon didn’t spend a day in jail, maintained his status as a “hero” of medicine and went on to marry again and have more kids whom he subsequently traumatized. One of the side notes of this paper was how authorities don’t consistently assess the role of domestic abuse in cases of suicide and murder– including cases where abusers kill themselves, when their victims kill themselves or when abusers commit murder-suicide.

        Now when I hear about abusers killing themselves, I always think of the inverse, evil version of the golden rule of domestic abuse that was discussed in some branches of survivor advocacy: That which the abuser would have done to you (kill or drive you over the edge), they do to themselves. The idea draws from the same notion that suicide can be (but isn’t always) destructive impulses turned inward. It was either you or them. Or in ISTL’s case, also potentially her son.

        This makes an abuser’s threat of suicide much different than that of an otherwise harmless person who is experiencing despair due to overwhelming events or reacting to trauma. Adult abusers’ emotional dysregulation– unlike victims’– is entirely self-generated. Abusers– unlike victims– paint themselves into a corner by fucking up their own lives. Abusers– like serial killers– may try to externalize and deny these emotions/impulses by inducing them in their victims and, failing that, may even be capable of killing. What’s more, I think this is what makes cultural myths that conflate abusers and victims (the “takes two to tango” presumption that victims “draw” abusers to themselves on dysfunctional Voodoo tractor beams, are as inherently messed up as abusers and that that victims’ reactions to abuse only prove the latter) not only damaging to victims’ psyches but also constitutes a failure to warn in the case abusers threaten suicide because it doesn’t mean the same thing when others express suicidality.

        But first the abuse would have to be identified as abuse for abusers’ threats of suicide to be viewed as dangerous to others and fundamentally different than the despair they might drive their victims to.That’s why I’ve found it helpful to realize that, in a just world, emotional abusers could go to jail for the things they do that either drive their victims over the edge or could conceivably succeed in doing so.That may one day be the norm. In 2017, there had been a first-ever conviction for “unlawful killing” in a domestic abuse-induced suicide in the UK. The conviction was a result of an intense and coordinated campaign by advocates and bereaved families to get the legal system to investigate the potential role of abuse in suicides that had traditionally been euphemized as the result of “depression,” “mental illness” and “substance abuse” rather than looking into what may have *caused* those effects.

        This effort overlapped campaigns since the 1970s to criminalize “coercive control” as an addendum to domestic violence statutes because victims typically report that the systematic psychological and emotional torture and control involved with domestic abuse is often more damaging and paralyzing than overt violence. A bit of headway has been made in the US where victims of even subviolent abuse are better able to get orders of protection against abusers (Jennifer’s Law in Connecticut named for Jennifer Dulos whose previously “merely” emotionally abusive husband eventually killed her). In the UK, coercive control has been criminalized and perpetrators can get up to five years in prison. Furthermore, as the Guardian report mentions, CC laws may help pave the way to normalizing investigations of abuse in cases of unexpected deaths, including suicide.

        Anyway, my main point is that I’m glad you and your children got out and I suspect you did so by the skin of your teeth. I also suspect catastrophes like this might be easier for survivors to process if bystanders and the official view recognized that abuser suicide is its own animal, that it bears NO resemblance to victim suicidality, and that these abusers may have just as likely taken out their entire families, either directly or indirectly. If most people understood this I think the way people view and speak to survivors about these things might be markedly different. And that consensus could speed healing and processing. Only sociopaths are completely immune to cultural assumptions and feedback, the rest of us are affected even if we know the damaging assumptions are bullshit because it’s so much harder to endure things without wide support. I wish you peace.

        • It is so true that “the systematic psychological and emotional torture and control involved with domestic abuse is often more damaging and paralyzing than overt violence.” I used to beg my husband to please just hit me if it would make his verbal abuse and emotional torture stop. The pain of the physical wounds that I did suffer at his hands healed a great deal faster than the emotional/psychological ones. And you can show people bruises, but you can’t show them a crushed spirit.

          I found out later that OW had tried to kill herself as well. Apparently FW called 911 and she was hospitalized in time. I don’t think people really understand the effect that abusers have on their victims. I never seriously thought about taking my own life, but I was in such deep despair that I thought that life wasn’t really worth living. The thought of leaving my son in my abusive husband’s care was a big part of what kept me here. I decided that I could live in misery if it meant my son was okay. I truly thought I’d never be happy again. Fortunately, I healed and found peace and happiness, and my son and I are both doing really well.

          • My God, that reminds me of the trail of bodies behind the poet Ted Hughes. How is someone who can drive people nearly or fully off the cliff only using their minds somehow “better” than someone who tries to do the same with their fists? A DV researcher in Canada noted that batterers tend to operate on a beat-by-need basis and only take the legal risk of engaging in physical violence when emotional violence fails to sufficiently flatten their prey. The most skilled might be able to keep their hands in their pockets most if not all of the time. It’s terrifying. And who would even listen to their victims?

            In any case I’m so glad you and your child escaped and found peace despite the best efforts of a psychopath.

          • By the way, you ARE the light. You didn’t just see it. If anyone gets through something like that and is generous enough to tell of it in the face of potential misinterpretation or judgment, that’s what shines through no matter how dark the events they speak of may be.

        • @HOAC
          Thank you for this informative and eye opening comment.
          ❤️ Genesis

      • Apologies that, in the other comment, I assumed that your ex killed himself if he died by other means. Either way I think you’re a true survivor and brave as hell.

        • Technically he didnt suicide but actually, he knew he was sick and had 2 full healthcare insurances and refused to see a doctor – he somewhat suicided passively. I was trying to guess what would happen if he publicly went with OW and their great love failed and suicide was my guess.

          During the worst around Dday, I thought he might likely kill himself and he was a horrible rage driver that could have easily killed us all. He also talked about wanting to commit a massive act of violence which I think was a ploy to get me to report him to authorities and look like a crazy person when he would have denied all his threats if asked. (He had education and status to look good denying it)

          So, on one level he was just a dude who dropped dead, but all those dynamics were still there

        • Thanks for considering me a brave survivor… that means a lot coming from this group of mighty people.

          • You certainly are brave. Holocaust survivor, philosopher and historian Primo Levi discusses the social issues that death camp survivors faced in The Drowned and the Saved. Not to hijack an analogy to the Holocaust but I don’t think Levi would roll in his grave over it. He would understand. Precisely because Levi was writing about his experience at a moment in history when many still didn’t believe it had happened, Levi himself makes analogies and generalizes in an effort to be understood. He generalizes on the fundamental need of anyone who’s survived terrifying events to be heard and believed and the kind of spiritual death they can experience from being censored or having to censor themselves. Levi describes a common nightmare that survivors had where they were finally united with loved ones and began to tell of their ordeals but all would turn away with indifference or incredulity.

            Because the public is still out to lunch about the dynamics of abuse on top of general strictures against speaking ill of the dead, who could you even have talked to about all the intricacies of mixed emotions? It looks cruelly isolating. But at least in places like this people can tell each other, “I’m so glad you’re finally free.”

    • So sorry for what you and your son have been through. You are so strong. Thank goodness your son has you as a sane parent.

    • ISTL – Yours is a mighty story of survival !

      I so wish there were local chapters to advise/support chumps in this situation. It seems that the current legal system is not able to respond to the (mental health?) shortcomings and red flags exhibited by FWs.

      • Thank you.

        I was an absolute mess for the first two years, but I got a good therapist, and I had my doctor, who both helped me get out of the depression, crippling anxiety, and PTSD. I did it for my kid. I knew I had to put myself back together and be there for him.

        I’m 5 years out from D-day, one year since FW died. I am happier than ever. My son is doing great. There is an “other side” to all of the heartbreak and pain. I didn’t believe I’d get through it. I thought I’d be miserable and lonely for the rest of my life. But I’m not lonely at all. I’m still single, but not lonely. In fact, I have no desire for a relationship right now. I don’t have time to deal with someone else’s baggage. I am enjoying my peace and freedom too much.

      • I don’t know the requirements of attorneys in any other state than mine but I asked a friend who practices family law if she ever had to take any psychology classes and she said no. That means knowledge of someone with a personality disorder is never known by those in court. It’s about time that was required. Learning about personality disorders might help DAs, def attys, judges make better decisions.
        I know that everyone thinks that judges go strictly by the law but I have testified in front of too many of them to believe that. Everyone has an agenda including judges and attorneys.

        • You make a good point. However, unfortunately, even many psychologists are fooled by Ns. That’s why marriage counseling with a FW is such a waste of time.

        • Oh dear, watch out. The lawyers that did study psychology might be even worse because they have a certificate to back up preconceived notions which their educations didn’t disabuse them of.

          I can’t remember the name of it but there’s this theory in science that, in order for new ideas to take hold, the old guard literally has to die. Unfortunately the old guard in psychology and psychiatry is still mired in a degree of old-timey victim blaming and perp-coddling in many ways. With some promising exceptions, it’s what’s still taught in schools, still practiced in the field, etc. The same revolutionary thinkers in victimology from thirty years ago are still considered revolutionary because their views haven’t widely been put into practice. It’s depressing. We might see some headway when a few creepy old department heads and “published paragons” whose entire premises in the field of victimology and bodies of work were intended to exonerate themselves for psychologically torturing their families and screwing their students. Ask Professor Jennifer Freyd, the coiner of the acronym DARVO. Her psychologist parents launched an entire psychiatric front group to churn out fake science on victim memory just to snuff Freyd’s reports that her father had molested her.

          Another obstacle to progress is the way research and teaching institutions are funded. Does the big chemical company behemoth sponsoring defensive junk science and entire departments of major teaching hospitals– a global corporation that lays the blame for the human and environmental tolls caused by its toxic products on its victims and even paid for some weaponized sociology that frames eco-activists as inherently disordered, delusional little menaces psychologically akin to terrorists who should be drugged up the ying-yang if not locked up to save themselves before they disrupt the natural flow of the life-giving free market– really want to see the old victim-blamey theories overturned? Not as long as those constructs are still useful for repression.

          I’m not making this up. It’s how it works. Read David Price’s Weaponizing Anthropology for the basic framework and apply liberally across every field of social science. It really puts into perspective that forums like Chump Lady’s represent a cutting edge. I get kind of tired of “being the change” on a few different levels but institutional thinking usually took a long time to become corrupt and will likely take a long time to de-funk.

  • Ex is currently working himself in to a lather that the teacher sent a postcard to my house and not his. And grilling me on why this has happened. I don’t know? I also don’t particularly care.

    Ex also smugly told me he gave our daughter vitamins. I guess that makes up for the fact you give her a bag of chips for breakfast and let her snack on them all day long?

    • The lather! Oh brother.

      This reminds me that when our dog was killed by a coyote shortly after D-Day, my then-husband became irate that neighbors sent email condolences addressed to me and not him. I couldn’t see how it really mattered because he was on the neighborhood email chain and could see the condolences, but, hey KIBBLES!!

      First he demanded that *I* write to all the neighbors to tell them that he, too, was the dog’s owner and deserving of their sympathy. I refused and told him that he could write to all the neighbors himself. He did, much to my dismay. Begging for kibbles seemed so lame.

      One poor neighbor wrote that everyone has to be mindful of all wildlife, including the black bears. Rather than let it go as a well-meaning comment from a caring neighbor, x barked back at this poor guy, telling him that black bears don’t harm dogs and what the hell was he talking about. The neighbor responded with something like, “Dude. I don’t even know you. I was just trying to express my sympathies. Where do you get off insulting me…?”

      To think I ever mourned losing this guy. He truly sucks. #relationshipchallenged #covertnarc #kibblecraver #saddestsausage

  • My husband and I both have the joy of coparenting with a personality disordered wing nut. The ????sandwich keeps on giving.

    Kids eventually figure it out. My 23 and 21 year old sons have. When the 23 year old got married, the best man was his brother. His dad was no part of the wedding and of course didn’t contribute a dime. The 21 year old stays away from the crazy drama.

    Our youngest is 17, ????she gets it soon. Her “mother” says she moving once she graduates high school; don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    Find a way to keep busy while the kids are at the FW’s house. You definitely need to find a way to not think and worry about what’s happening there.

    Good luck! There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

  • Congrats and kudos for the new book, CL. Can’t wait to read it three times!

    Breeding with a FW/narc is my biggest regret. I created another kibble source/victim for him.

    She finally arrived after 7 miscarriages and stunned the reproductive endocrinologists. My science project baby who is now a young adult. She is finding her way, college graduated, and no thanks to FW, who gave her a whole $35 towards university costs. Whoop dee doo. Give that FW a trophy.

    She has practically no contact with him. He predictably acts arrogantly, self righteously, and expectantly with her, demonstrating at each opportunity his distain, centrality, and disrespect of her as a separate human.

    We discovered he has been illegally claiming her as a dependent through illegally signed checks, so I lost no time informing the IRS. Apparently they are above reproach.

    There is nothing you can do right in the adult world with a narc FW. Maybe plan a crime. Which is what they’ve been perpetrating on us the entire time. They are selfish, greedy, entitled, shameless, punitive fuckers.

    • My ex tried to abuse me through taxes too. With input from my accountant and lawyer, I filed a scathing Innocent Spouse package, complete with divorce agreement, police reports, nasty emails he’d sent and the letter in which he was officially reprimanded by his employer for hostile behavior. The IRS immediately ruled in my favor and that package is in the permanent government record, accessible by FOIA should anyone ask.

  • Such a great post. Early in my “co-parenting” days, when I was still trauma bonded, I thought my EX would behave better if he understand the impact it had on the children. Nope. Show up late to a school event, reeking of booze – what’s the big deal? Check out and go radio silent the first week of school – well, he must have “lost track of time” (for DAYS! the first week of school!) Nothing was his fault, and there was no reliability or accountability. My one child’s sudden school struggles were a result of the child’s “laziness,” not the trauma of the divorce. It was hell.

    I still carry a lot of trauma and pain, but things do get better. I recently attended an event where my EX was also present (long story, and yes, it was a bit of a trap, but I did not want to miss this event, as it was important to one of my children). I went, held my head high the entire time, and focused on my own joy and that of my children. In the back of my mind, I kept CL’s post about Tiffany stained glass windows playing on a mental reel. He was merely an idiot who threw rocks at beauty; therefore his opinion of my worth should hold no weight in my mind. Having CL’s wisdom “on call” truly worked wonders, and I had a wonderful time, and was able to grey rock the EX with little emotional fallout on my end. There was a time when this would not have been possible – or I would have lost my composure mid-event when baited, and/or I would need days to recover and be filled with shame and regret. Progress/healing may be slow, but it’s possible. . . . one day at a time.

    • From the day I kicked Fuckwit out, I never sat near him for any of the kids’ events. I brought a friend or family member to help with the initial awkwardness but as FW kept harassing me in court it got easier and easier over the years. I’m so glad that my memories of those events don’t include having had to eat the shit sandwich of sitting next to FW.

      • This was a somewhat unusual circumstance; the details are not important, but my child was not performing, just very interested in the event. In this case, it was not possible to bring someone else as a “buffer” because of various logistics. I’m pretty sure it was a trap, as I don’t think the EX really expected me to attend, but wanted to offer the invite as a hollow gesture so he could have manipulated my absence….. “oh such a shame your mom couldn’t be here, too bad she is still so bitter, unforgiving, etc.”

        • Way to be mighty, MBS! I’m sure he must’ve burned that you didn’t take the bait.

  • Be prepared for them to pawn the kid(s) off on you on “their” parenting days. Whenever FW was sick he would tell me (not ask, tell) to take/keep the kid, whenever our kid was sick he’d do the same. Whenever he wanted a weekend with OW, he’d ask to swap, making up some excuse. OW had kids on a 50/50 schedule too, and their free weekends didn’t always line up. I discovered via social media that the thing he “had” to do was spend his weekend with OW at home. Or go to a concert with her. Or whatever. If I had to work my second job and said I couldn’t take the child, FW would guilt trip me, get angry, and/or threaten to leave the kid in the care of OW, which he knew I did NOT want.

    I took every “extra” day he offered/ordered, even if it meant cancelling plans. Because time with my kid is precious, and he had already robbed me of half of it by leaving me for OW. Since we were in the midst of our custody dispute, I carefully documented every instance, with the texts/emails saying why he couldn’t take the child, photos from Facebook, or whatever I could get. So when he cried to the magistrate that I was “keeping the child from him” I could show that it was in fact not the case at all. FW often complained that he didn’t get enough time with the child, so my attorney had me offer extra days (holidays, etc.) to show that I was willing to be cooperative with him. He invariably turned them down. We documented all of those, too. I also came to find out that he was more than willing to take time off of work to spend with OW, but would cite “needing” to work as a reason why he couldn’t accept the extra time with our kid.

    It’s exhausting. But my view was that my kid was probably better off with me anyway, and I got extra time with him, so it was a win for us.

    I never, ever once asked FW to take our kid because *I* was sick. Because that’s parenting – sometimes you don’t feel well and you have to care for your kids anyway. And it’s important for kids to understand that and accept having a quieter day with mommy because mommy isn’t well. My kid and I would snuggle on the couch and watch movies when either of us was sick. FW couldn’t conceive of taking care of a child when he was unwell (FW or the kid). And FW was sick A LOT. He tended to milk any illness or injury for all it was worth, since he liked being waited on and having an excuse to not do things he didn’t want to do (like housework).

    Keep your expectations LOW, and then you will be prepared rather than disappointed.

  • This was one thing I thankfully dodged during the divorce. Only one was a minor when we left. I was a single parent when married. His go to response was, “ you wanted ‘em, you raise ‘em.” He missed almost every event/ activity to support and show interest. Anything he did participate in, I had to force and it was tense and miserable knowing he’d probably rather chew his arm off than be there. We were much more relaxed without him but it was still a void for the kids who didn’t understand who he truly was or knew the things he said.
    He has zero respect for females and little for males unless they’re of use. He told my mom he was going for custody of DS but he never tried or mentioned it to the attorneys. It’s hard to be worried about that threat when he didn’t even really know his son. Even during child mediation he didn’t ask for any time or holidays. The ex breezed in, dominated the conversation, made snide comments when the mediator said I’d not been able to say anything, then the ex declared we were friends and could work it out and it was over. I often wondered what the mediator wrote in his notes. I was so relieved that dumb ass didn’t ask for anytime that would be documented and court ordered. I was nc by that meeting. DS saw him when he wanted money and I think their relationship is still transactional 8 yrs later. DD has always remained nc and changed her name.
    Side note that I remember was when he walked in to register he was loudly talking to anyone who would listen about how cold it is and he was left paying 4 heating bills. Waa waa. He was paying us temp support and moved to his parents instead of living in our house. I was still paying his phone bill and homeowners insurance because I didn’t trust him to keep up with payments then destroy the property. He’s a dick

  • Great post, CL! Fresh off the divorce or split, the Narc is still being influenced by their centrality when it comes to the decree, orders, and new protocol. Trying to maintain impression management, they might start out compliant as co-parents, which makes you think all hope for your kid’s best interests isn’t lost. Often, that compliance is temporary and fleeting, so don’t get comfortable. After all, it’s the pathological thinking and behavior disorders that got them into this in the first place. Object constancy isn’t present for Narcs, so once their kids are out-of-sight and mind, the connection is lost. Many times their kids seem to be competition to them (usurping the attention and centrality they need), so connection will fade soon. Anytime normal parenting (responsibility and obligations) conflicts with the Narc’s agenda, you’ll see less and less participation until one day very little contact or even full estrangement results. Don’t get into a groove with a Narc co-parent. It’s not going to be predictable, normal, valuable or even permanent.

    • Yes, they won’t let go, so don’t expect that. I naively had great hopes that when the divorce was final (no custody issues), closeout would be easy. He would leave me and the two young adults alone. Boy, was I stupid. As if my ex could turn off all the disorder and crazy from the divorce process. Closeout was as messy as the divorce, particularly because his attorney was ghosting both his client and my attorney at times. Then his attorney died of COVID, so my ex went pro se.

      Supposedly everything is done, and it’s been a while since I heard from my ex, but I’m still figuring that there will be a reappearance at some point. He’s still sending our adult kids cards about how he loves them and/or about how horrible they are for not wanting anything to do with him.

      He’s retired and has health problems, so maybe at some point, but he’s not willingly letting go.

      • Elsie, was it your lawyer who wisely said that you don’t stay friends with the person who burns your house down? Can you repeat the phrase, the way he said it, since I know I’m getting it wrong? I read it somewhere on one of the CL threads, but can’t find it now. I need to type up these gems your lawyer has and tape them to my wall!!! They are awesome and helpful.

  • I’m lucky in that my Ex rarely spends time with his kids and there are NO overnights with him. He “visits” twice a week, and if there’s a weekend occasion where he needs to show off the kids he will drag them along. My oldest is almost 18, youngest almost 16 and the divorce should be final by the end of this year. I do everything just as I always have. Trying to share my one car with all the activities the kids do with my work schedule is difficult, but we manage. He likes to “swoop in” at the last minute and “pick them up from this activity” – with only hours notice to me (meanwhile I’ve altered my work schedule 3 weeks ago to accommodate my kids’ activity). I usually just let this happen because it’s easier on the kids and roll my eyes when the FW acts like he’s a father. He isn’t. If I had known he would spend this little time with his children I would have left him ages ago. Those were the days when I couldn’t even comprehend his complete disinterest in his own children. Now I just plan our lives as if he doesn’t exist and if he occasionally swoops in to pretend to parent my eyeroll game remains on point.

  • Thank you for the reminder! I’m sending to a newly soon to be divorced friend dealing with a narc.

    On another note, I’ve noticed more and more I absolutely loathe when “thoughtful” people cringe and then judge others when the narc. label is used, especially here in CN or other places where it’s supposed to be a “safe” space to share. Most of the time I blow it off and substitute toxic or another fun flowery adjective (FW, douche bag, fuckface, asshole, toxic shit bag…..the list goes on and on) but occasionally the “thoughtful” self-centerness really gets my goat! To me, that is the equivalent of a “thoughtful” person telling a victim of abuse they weren’t abused and downplaying their situation. I get that the term seems overused but what is not being recognized is society IS becoming more narcissistic. It’s like the “thoughtful” people of the world don’t like that mean word “narcissist” so us victims should just change our reality and our vocabulary to fit their “needs”. Fuck them, that in itself is narcissistic! In fact, in situations like this arise, I immediately think that “thoughtful” person is not really who they say they are bc let’s face it….toxic narcs hate the truth, facts, exposure, and when people know their shit! I then exit from the presence of said “thoughtful” person and distance myself. I’ve found that when I do this people either figure it out, shut the fuck up, respect me, my experience, and vocabulary more wanting to positively be around me or they get out of my energy and continue to project their negativity/insecurities onto others.

    • “especially here in CN or other places where it’s supposed to be a “safe” space to share. ”

      Yep, when some ass wipe comes swooping in here and lectures a chump; I automatically label them as “ass wipe” note the name, and skip their posts. (It is much easier now that the responses are not hitting my inbox.) I do miss that feature for the chumps though.

      I have been doing that for quite a long time, but I do remember an ass wipe who would swoop and poop their lectures, and then offer websites to “educate” us chumps. I never looked at any of the sites, but laughed to myself that this idiot thought we would take anything they have to say or offer under consideration. They don’t even understand the basic rules of communication, yet they think they have any value to us.

      • Hahahaha….asswipe! I love it SL! I remember an asswipe experience like that too when it hit my inbox….and you know what that experience did for me???? I quit coming to CN for a while, I quit finding help, I quit on my healing journey and I went to the narc side ????????????(((AGAIN)))????????????. That relationship almost cost me my life!!!! It took me some time but I fled that situation, finally found my way back here, quit giving a damn about other people and allowing negativity in my life, and turned this ship around!!!!! I’ve been narc free/gray rock in all areas of my life for 4 yrs now. Life is so much better now.❤️ It’s healthy!

      • Why don’t you fuck right off is a pretty good response to anyone who runs their mouth about things they know nothing about.

      • Yes, and the ass wipe usually starts off with a statement such as, “narcissist is a term that is thrown around alot.., it’s used as a general term when you actually mean toxic,” (as if you don’t know what you’re talking about). “Unless your cheater has been officially diagnosed as a narcissist…”

        Thank you asswipe, but save your lectures, I know my ex, I’ve done my research and I’m qualified to say he’s a narcissist.

  • Traitor X is too busy with the Craigslist Casual Encounters cockroach and Tinder, etc, to participate much. I am heartbroken for my daughter, whom he also essentially abandoned and claims to love (mindfuck) but I am also glad because I don’t want much to do with a jerk who can do what he’s done and I don’t want her to have much to do with a jerk who can do what he’s done either.

    Sadly and ironically, how he has treated our daughter belies the “I was unhappy and met someone and fell in love” BS excuse for what he did. That he also betrayed and abandoned and continues to lie his own daughter tells the tale of the true Traitor. Only a loser prioritizes a fuckbuddy over their own child, and that is one of a cheater’s top offenses.

    If you find intentional infliction of severe emotional distress attractive, by all means try to reconcile or don’t hesitate to jump right into an illicit entanglement with some loser who is too cowardly and stupid and afraid of intimacy to have one relationship at a time.

    As for me, I’d rather be alone that with a jerk that intentionally hurts their partner and children. It’s not my idea of “love”.

    • TYPO

      “As for me, I’d rather be alone that with a jerk that intentionally hurts their partner and children. It’s not my idea of “love”.

      “I’d rather be alone THAN with a jerk”

      • If you cared about your kids, you’d put your best efforts and time and attention on your marriage and your children and not have an affair. The intentional damage is incalculable.

        I agree with Divorce Minister that infidelity is soul rape. Not just of the partner you betray, but of the children whom you betray, whose security you destroy, whose other parent you incapacitate on all levels indefinitely, whose home you and your AH illicit relationship cohort destroy. They get saddled with the most complicated fucked up Lord God King of loyalty issues in existence.

        No one will ever convince me otherwise.

        Just because the blood is invisible doesn’t mean the murder didn’t happen.

    • This: “ Sadly and ironically, how he has treated our daughter belies the “I was unhappy and met someone and fell in love” BS excuse for what he did. That he also betrayed and abandoned and continues to lie his own daughter tells the tale of the true Traitor. Only a loser prioritizes a fuckbuddy over their own child, and that is one of a cheater’s top offenses.”.

      To those who say cheaters were “just” trying to meet their “unmet” needs and “it’s normal because you didn’t make them happy” (????????????!) —the devalue and abandonment of their own children tell the truth. Selfish rotten despicable people— cheaters and all of their apologists. I loathe all of them.

    • “Only a loser prioritizes a fuckbuddy over their own child…”
      We lived this!!
      He prioritised 2 f-buddies over his kids and me. Then fled to avoid the flames he lit. He’s been away nearly 6 years now and he still can’t pay child maintenance or give a care about the two amazing children I’m raising.
      I’m not a loser, so we don’t need him at all!

  • Exactly. And why, when my ex husband told me he wanted to “co-parent”, I told him if he didn’t give me full custody of my own kids, I would go in front of a judge and make him an unfit parent because I had proof.

    Some acquaintance told me that I was unfair and that he wanted to spend time with the kids. I told them they have kids so if they felt that sorry that he wasn’t hanging “with kids”, they should invite him for the weekend. But with my kids? No can do.

    Seriously. It made me climb the walls that the kids would become “pass the parcel because it’s my days”. If he wanted to be with the kids full time, he should not have had an affair, spend all his time wirh OW, while we were waiting for the Great Stud to come home.

    Me and the kids paid enough.

      • Me too. The times I spackled over his absence and lateness for my girls, no more, they only get the truth now.

  • Even with no contact/temporary restraining orders in place, Fraudster was secretly contacting and threatening Tween, who was terrified. It appears Fraudster did the same to one of Tween’s therapists, because shortly after he requested her name, she quit, emailing me that she did not see patients his age. Fraudster smugly emailed me that after he told her the whole situation, she would not accept Tween as a patient, apparently not realizing she had already seen him for months (and obviously knew his age). I was able to find therapists whose practices shielded them from abusive/violent parents.

    It’s important to find out if your therapist will submit letters to court and testify on your child’s behalf. Some will tell you up front that they won’t do it, so if your child discloses abuse, they will (or at least should) report it to law enforcement and/or CPS, but not to the court. I was lucky that his OT therapist wrote a letter to the court supporting an emergency no-contact order, based on Tween’s disclosures and interaction she observed with Fraudster. In a prior custody case (to get Tween from abusive parents), his mental health therapist wrote a long letter to the court and testified at length. It also is important to learn if your therapist will shield their case notes and refuse to disclose them, to protect the child. Fraudster wanted the notes, probably to be able to use them against Tween, attempt to humiliate him, or as a way to undermine the trust between child and therapist.

    Fraudster is very disordered but also so skillful in conning people (convincing employers that he has MBAs from Harvard AND Dartmouth; convincing a Veteran’s medical organization that he’s a veteran and and MD, when he’s neither, etc.) At my request, the court ordered a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator, and agreed to the expert my attorney recommended, with costs evenly shared. Fraudster put it off as long as possible and repeatedly refused in court to make the final payment (required for the PRE to to release the report). The report absolutely exposed him, and he decided not to fight it. I don’t think he had any real interest in parenting, anyway, especially knowing that Tween now felt safe enough to report his abuse.

    The PRE includes extensive psychological testing, and in my state also includes interviews or questionnaires from therapists, teachers, references (from family or neighbors, etc.), a home visit, interviews with the parents, the child, and usually hidden observations of each parent with the child, either through video or a two-way mirror.

    In my state, there’s an alternative called a Child/Family Investigation, which is lesser in every way. Investigators have lower credentials, are paid a low set fee, and do far less work. I had one previously, and the investigator refused to interview therapists or read reports from therapists and police, stating repeatedly, “I’m not paid enough to do that.”

    Document everything in writing, as it occurs, either through an online app, emails, or by keeping a hand-written chronological journal on bound pages. You can also use videos, although courts may not accept them. Be careful not to ask child what can be construed as leading questions, or seem to coach child in any way. Be factual and concrete. Instead of writing “child was terribly upset,” write, “Child cried hard for ten minutes, sobbing ‘Daddy said I was a good for nothing.'” Instead of asking, “How did Mom hurt you?” ask “what happened with Mom?”

    My PRE agreed to my request to write a longer-than-usual answer to his questionnaire. I foot-noted every statement I made about Fraudster, and provided the evidence at the end. That allowed me to send a comprehensive record of therapist letters, police reports, the no-contact recommendation from Child Protective Services (after he made fraudulent claims about me, prompting their investigation), emails he had sent me, false claims and threats he made online, etc.

    The real champ in all this was the Tween, and what he said in his private/confidential interviews. He found the courage to say what he feared and what he wanted, and the PRE listened and agreed. No contact, unless Tween requests therapeutic supervised visits. Which he won’t. Victory.

    • Very similar situation here: XH never utilized the court ordered path to any residential time. Kids are grown up now. The youngest spent two horrible nights at XH’s (as a teen, by her own choice) and left in tears traumatized by what XH and AP did (drunk drug fueled fighting all night, threats of suicide, police called). I am so glad I fought to protect my youngest. It made all the difference these past 8 years. She is a self confident happy person with great boundaries.

      • FW and OW’s house was like that. I didn’t know how bad it was til much later. I feel so bad for my kid (and her two kids) for having to witness two disordered, selfish, volatile, depressed alcoholics in their screaming fights (that apparently turned physical at times). I am SO glad my kid doesn’t have to deal with any of that anymore (FW died last year).

  • I was raised in a FOO culture where it was considered poor manners to speak ill of the dead. So, I stay quiet, a lot, when I am around other people. I don’t bring up my son’s dad, or stepdad. Most of the time, I really don’t think about them at all. But I can tell you this, my life, and my son’s lives, have been more peaceful and healthier since these two FW’s have departed for the great whatever.

    When they were alive, and I was trying to be the sane, functioning parent, I had a constant low level stress buzzing in my ear to keep me on alert at all times for whatever disaster would come next. Both men “talked” to the boys about how much they loved them, and how difficult I was to work with. I made a point of calling dear ole dad in front of my children to give him dates and times for different school, music, and sporting events. He still tried to pull the “your mother didn’t tell me” card, but they knew better. As the boys grew older, they figured many things out. But here is the thing, they still wanted a dad, and wanted to love him, and wanted his love. I could not explain kibbles and usefulness to my children without risking my anger management abilities, so they figured it out on their own.

    While you are living in the midst of this crazy, just try to control your anger, cover your bases, and slog thru being the sane parent. You won’t be popular at times, but you are a parent, not a friend. This will pass, eventually. Good luck and stay strong.

  • Spot on. You CAN’T coparent with FWs.

    BUT… your attorneys and the courts think you CAN! Or really they would rather send you on a wild goose chase to keep child custody issues out of court.

    That’s why so many of us get strong-armed into coparenting coordination with enabling flying-monkey coparenting coordinators who already KNOW FWs won’t follow directions but will keep abusing you and making you show up to painful meetings with a FW “for the sake of the children” (really so they can collect $300+ per hour and accomplish nothing. But if you refuse to show up, you’ll be tied to it in a legal order).

    Anyone else have to deal with that shit? I finally told all of them to fuck off. I’m not sitting with that FW turd to discuss anymore.

  • It’s horrible how they Manipulate the kids. When I want to take the kids on a special trip, will she allow me one extra day? Nope. But she scheduled trips on my time but tells the kids “your dad won’t let you go to …..” then the kids come to me asking why I won’t let them go to Europe, etc. So I give up my time so they can experience special things. It’s sad.

  • Mu daughter is grown, but she is physically disabled, so FW has to be involved at times. I just can’t do everything myself. I’m doing 98% and it’s exhausting. Sometimes I need his 2% desperately.
    For example, just last night my plumbing all went to hell. Toilets not flushing, sinks not draining, etc. So my daughter and our dogs were going to stay with FW until I could get it fixed. FW was on his way to pick her up when the toilet started flushing again. So I told him to turn around and go home.

    Today I found out that earlier that day he was at a BBQ and some anti-vaxxers were there. He had promised to only attend outdoor social events if there were unmasked and potentially unvaccinated people there and to always wear a mask. Well, the BBQ got rained out, so you would think, well, I guess he left. You would think that if you didn’t know FW, that is. He went indoors and preceded to take off his mask to eat. In his alleged mind he didn’t really break his promise because, well, it rained, so what could he do. Just like he didn’t really break his vows because schmoopies, like rain, are an act of God. Speshul Guy can’t be expected to miss out on either a lame party or a silly whore just for us. Perish the thought. Speshul Guy has his lame, silly, fake relationships with assholes to maintain after all. Who are we? Just some irrelevant non-assholes. He puts idiots who should be irrelevant above his daughter, naturally. The idiots haven’t seen him without his mask on so they’re potential kibble sources. He was going to pick up our daughter, who he knows is terrified of Covid, without having mentioned that he could potentially have been exposed earlier in the day.
    So guess when he mentions it. The next day, after offering to come out and look at my plumbing (FW has plumbing skills) because now my laundry is backing up into the bathtub.
    How convenient. Now that he’s “warned” me about it he doesn’t have to bother working on the plumbing because of course I won’t let him near me, which he knew would happen. I’m immunocompromised, which is why my daughter fears exposure so much. But he didn’t warn her, no doubt knowing that if he did she would change her mind and he would not get the chance to see her and the dogs. Well, I called a plumber and FW can damn well pay for it.

    So that’s an example of how FWs “co-parent.” They manipulate, they break promises, they withhold important information and they just all around suck. They are as parents what they are as partners and what they are as people- self-serving to the end. My FW likes to mask it behind helpfulness, but it doesn’t fool me. One bright spot is that his latest display of lack of concern for us and his breaking yet another important promise didn’t make me cry. These things used to. I cried for years, for my daughter as well as for me, because it’s those things that smack you in the face with the fact that you are not loved. I don’t get sad about it anymore and neither does my daughter. We’ve accepted and integrated a painful reality and it’s only pisses us off now when we are reminded of it, rather than making us miserable.

    I can’t even imagine the horrors of doing this stuff with young kids. My sympathy to all of you living that hell.

  • I am grateful that my children were not small. Being adults (ds28, dd26, dd24) at the time of separation (2 yrs ago) meant they navigated their own relationships with the FW. But this, unfortunately, still is fucked up! Middle daughter, while FW was with me, had the best relationship with him, she worshipped him and he wore the mask well. He had her fooled…. well all of us fooled really. This was the first of his relationships to crash and burn. He royally fucked it up when he refused to meet her and her newborn son in a coffee shop or the park but will happily meet up with her siblings at those places. He wanted to come to the house (she lives with me) and when she explained it would be awkward he flipped to the sad sausage pity channel and sent her a long message that she completely saw through blaming her for him not seeing the baby, when he was the one that said he just couldn’t meet up in a coffee shop or the park!!! It pained her. It still pains her. There were many other incidents where he showed her exactly who he is. He is now doing his best to drive a wedge between her and her siblings….. it won’t happen but I’m like ‘when the fuck does it stop… Its exhausting’. I guess we just sit and wait for him to fuck up the other relationships…because he will eventually.

    Hugs to you all ❤️

  • Our kids were in college as commuter students when we separated long-distance, and I was so very crazy and trying to juggle multiple jobs that I decided to let go of how he was parenting (or not). They didn’t want to talk about him anyway. I figured that was one less thing off my platter, but it was actually healthy for both me and the kiddos. I made a lot of mistakes, but that was a win.

    Periodically they would tell me that it hurt when he had so little interest in their well-being (he was entirely focused on HIS well-being, wanting an orbiting family still), and I would say something general like, “Yes, it hurts a lot when you father isn’t interested in you,” with a hug. Both went through some hard times, and I parented alone on those, choosing not to tell him because we were not communicating much as it was.

    After the first year, they gave up on him and have remained that way. Of course, I struggled with feelings that I had somehow alienated them (because he thought I did), but my attorney and a divorce coach dispelled that myth. He had done that by removing himself from their lives and putting our lives into chaos for several years. Sure, it could have been different, but it wasn’t. I can only imagine what the custody battles would have been like.

  • A 2nd book on this topic?!? I’m so excited to hear that!! ????It is just what so many of us in this horrendous situation of having bred with a FW narc/sociopath need so desperately right now!!! Thank you so much, ChumpLady!!

    Trying my damndest to be the stable sane parent. So incredibly difficult to watch FW act like he’s always been an involved parent so he can get more custody (i.e., pay less child support). The cognitive dissonance of dealing with this, and these pathologically disordered “people” makes me want to bang my head against a brick wall, daily.

  • i just parent on my own. that’s all i can do. and i try to present info info to my adult kids in a straight forward manner. “FYI i’m having meetings with my lawyer re: pension.” that’s it. because my kids are adults, they need to know the financial picture, so i share that with them, too.

    i just show up and do my best. the X is putting in the bare minimum and trying to force the kids to “improve themselves” even though they’re doing just great. he’s image conscious and looking for the kids to represent him. he did the same to me. in the end, i wasn’t enough and i suspect the same is happening with the kids.

    narcissists are exhausting.

  • My advice: Get a Good Lawyer. It’s an investment so make sure you don’t go for the first person who agrees to do it cheaper than the competition—They may fail to disclose a major conflict of interest and have addicts in active addiction be their paralegals…ask me how I know.
    Also make sure they aren’t to good to be true— They can promise you everything during consultation and then assign your case to a different Lawyer who is apart of your “Team” Then your Attorney sellstheir practice to a larger firm less than a month after you sign papers and the merger leads to 90% of your “Team” jumping ship and your original attorney doesn’t know squat about your case… Ask me how I know.
    Suffice to say it’s a hell of a lot less stressful then dealing w/ Fuckwits Attorney directly (paid for by the Affair Partner of Course) They don’t care about the wellbeing of your child and can play your emotions like a fiddle…

    Stay Mighty Chumps

  • Mine as a parent is just lackluster and inattentive to them — ignoring them non-maliciously, just narcissistically. Super harmful, but nothing actionable. I tried to co-parent for such a long time, because it is ideal from a theoretical psychological perspective in a perfect universe. But we don’t like in those, because in those adults with marriages that aren’t working out don’t take unilateral actions that cause trauma.

    When the parenting coach (he stopped going) had heard enough specifics and gave me permission to parallel parent — it changed my whole life. Parallel parenting is all the things. All the things! It lets you disconnect and go gray rock, and it is ALL THE THINGS.

    • I should say – narcissism is malicious, but he is so self-involved he literally doesn’t know he is ignoring them. He thinks he is parenting. I do judge it, deeply — but he’s not manipulative in the classical narcissist definition. I think he might be a sociopathic-adjacent? He is so uninterested in other people, he doesn’t even bother to manipulate. If that makes sense.

      • It sounds as if he might have some schizoid traits.
        Or it could be a high functioning autism spectrum disorder, what used to be called Aspergers. Most Aspies are decent people, and some are actually hyperempathic, albeit socially awkward. However, low empathy is a common trait as well.

        People with schizoid PD are socially anorexic, not interested in others and tend to avoid interacting, which usually doesn’t track with being a cheater. But some of them can put on an act in order to to cheat while remaining emotionally aloof. My FW’s tests showed some schizoid traits as well as narcissistic and borderline traits.

        Sociopaths, otoh, are manipulative, and they are interested in other people- as prey. They aren’t oblivious to others because they are always looking for opportunities to use somebody.

        Whatever flavor of fucked up he is, he sucks, but I do find learning about these disorders helpful in getting to meh, because they can’t be changed, so you soon realize there is no hope.

        • Yeah, his affair partner was my maid of honor/BFF of 20+ years. I don’t think empathy is in there. But I am going to look into that! He got together with her because they got close as she was over a lot helping my while I was going through cancer treatment. Class acts, both of them.

  • Part of my court order with my FW is that I have to make our child available for a phone call with him before bed. All this means is that she has to be ready to answer a phone call, nothing else. I allowed this concession because he wasn’t willing to go along with 4 hours of professional supervised visits per week without another way of seeing our daughter, which, fine, I wasn’t about to allow someone with pictures of adult women photoshopped to look 12, tik toks of teenagers dancing to raunchy music and a plethora of subscriptions to imteractive incest and lolichan themed video games to be alone with her until someone in a professional capacity tells me he’s safe again (if ever.) On the night my mom babysits, he absolutely refuses to call for story time, but says all the time that he’s going to take my mom to court for violating the court order. I just laugh at his stupidity. I’m the one subject to the court order, not her, and I made sure my mom made our child available so my part is done. If he doesn’t want to call because he doesn’t like the person holding the phone that’s 100% on him, but he’s not a smart narcissist so it’s kind of funny to watch him rage over something he obviously knows nothing about.

    • “until someone in a professional capacity tells me he’s safe again (if ever.)”

      If his shrink says he is safe, don’t believe it. Get other opinions, as many as you need to find a competent therapist who knows these guys are never safe. They are good at faking and dumb therapists can be fooled.

      • I want to explore the feasibility of getting an expert witness and another therapist opinion if I can, and I saved every disgusting thing of his he had to bring back to court with me later, but to be honest, I’m not feeling terribly optimistic about him never getting custody of her again after my mediation session in October. The mediator agreed he had a problem and needed professional supervision to determine if he was safe to ever have custody again, but she was very hesitant to make it permemant/take his legal custody away or label him a pedophile because his activities didn’t escalate to criminal activity. And because he wants to be involved with our daughter and expressed that to the courts, she was really pushing the idea that he’s just a sex addict who went too far and with time/therapy he can “recover.” He’s already charmed the pants off of his professional supervisors, who have called him “delightful”, so I’m expecting them to reccomend he gets some custody of her. I sometimes wonder if I have the strength to fight this. My lawyer says a statement from his therapist alone won’t have credibility, but he’s also apparently found a lawyer who said all he has to do is show he’s “finished” his therapy and 12 step group and he should be able to go from 4 hours professionally supervised to 4 hours unsupervised with a step-up plan. I get that some addicts deserve the benefit of the doubt to get better and parent their kids again, but the entire time this has been going on, I’ve been baffled me that there isn’t zero tolerance for materials like this. I’m going to fight because it’s all I can do, but I’m not feeling optimistic and frankly I’m scared as hell that he’s just lying and isn’t actually recovering. He’s inheriting 2 million dollars soon too, so someday he’ll be able to retain as many lawyers as he wants to trample me in court.

        • I feel your concern. All I can say is keep documenting everything. One thing about disordered people like this is that, without serious intervention and concentrated efforts to change, they will always revert back to their dysfunctional patterns. It’s just a matter of time. He may behave well for a while, if he thinks he’s being monitored, but he can’t keep that up forever…if he truly hasn’t changed.

          You need to let him know that, if he gets some unsupervised custody, you will be there every step of the way to the amount legally allowable. That you will not back down, that you will not get lax, and that you will keep eyes on him and his activities as long as he has unsupervised access to your child because you have serious safety and health concerns for your kid, that you will utilize every avenue and resource to ensure he operates in plain sight. You need to document your ongoing concerns with a letter to the mediator and any other involved parties and hire a third-party specialist, if you can, to provide a professional opinion on your ex’s sexual obsession with minor females and the dangers that obsession presents to your child. You need to convey to him that, above all else, he will not be able to operate in the shadows when it comes to your child and that every aspect of his personal life that can be discoverable by you and other professionals and authorities, within the confines of the law, will be discovered.

          Pit his desire to live in his sick little secret world against custody. And do whatever you can to demonstrate your resolve (can you hire a private investigator? can you get your daughter post-visit therapy sessions so her time with him is documented in real time? can you ensure that whatever custody agreement is established is ironclad and requires him to regularly submit his phone and other electronic devices for professional surveillance for inappropriate content? can you (and possibly your daughter) attend s-anon meetings and then document your attendance and participation? etc….be creative but reasonable).

          Best of luck. My daughter’s father has different issue’s than your ex, but they cause her great distress. I’ve learned that eliminating his secrecy on these issues has been tantamount. I make mountains out of molehills (within reason) when I hear something from her that is questionable. I send messages to her doctors and therapists, as appropriate, to create a record, and email him with the “potential concern” to create a paper trail. I make him accountable for every little thing and always connect the dots between his behavior and her emotional distress. It is a pain in my ass, but has resulted in him improving his behavior because I made it too difficult for him not. Sometimes you have to turn the tables on these assholes to protect your kids.

  • Back when Tween was a small tot, I also had to make him available for phone calls, which he refused to take. His dad only made a few sporadic calls and not at bedtime as he had requested, so dad complained to court that I was refusing to let him answer, and Court ruled that I had to make the calls. Let Dad off the hook because he didn’t have to remember to call. I had to be heard telling him to say something so his dad knew he was there. Usually what he said was “NO!” in response to my request to speak or listen to his dad. Dad complained to court that I was keeping him from talking, so I had to use one phone to call and another phone to video myself making the call, his dad answering, kid refusing to speak, then me chasing him down the stairs and around the house because he refused to talk. It took months before the court finally ruled they weren’t required.

    What was worse was that his dad conned the therapist who supervised their visits into believing that he was a loving father and I was alienating his child and ruining their visits. I was responsible for bringing child into their office, and I mean into. He screamed and cried and physically refused to go in, and therapist refused to help me. She saw how I had to bodily drag him out of the car and literally had to peel his fingers off the door frame while holding him up so he couldn’t collapse on the parking lot, and told me that if I didn’t get him in, she would tell the court that I failed to bring him to visits. Awful therapist and practice.

    • That’s horrifying. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that. Your ex is a monster for making his child endure that trauma.

  • A second book! Wonderful! Wishing you everything you need to finish the work! And thank you for all you do, Tracy; you have saved countless lives and made many additional ones better. Oh, so much better. You deserve all the success and every award ????

  • Grey rock. Communicate clearly by email, stick to the facts and be as succinct as possible. It’s been years and I still get a vitriolic email every now and then from ex. Unless there’s an actual issue to address regarding custody, I’ve found that no response is the best response.

    Only communicate by email unless it’s a dire emergency. No phone calls. No texts. When ex tries to start a text exchange, I copy & paste her text into an email and respond to it there. Emails are easily documented for courtroom purposes. I also got into the habit of beginning each email I write with my ex’s name and ending it with my name (even if it’s just a few words), which makes it easier for the court in case there’s a need to keep track of multiple email exchanges. Write every word as if the judge is reading over your shoulder. Only facts. Keep it short. No emotional words. Ignore ex’s attempts at creating drama.

    If ex tries to approach me at a school event I calmly and politely excuse myself and walk away. If I’m talking to someone and ex attempts to join the conversation I simply say to the other person something like, “Will you please excuse me for a second?” and I walk away.

    I’ve found that these things work well for me. Your mileage may vary.

    • Great tips. I do similar things and they’ve created much more peace in my life.

  • I agree that having to parallel parent with a narcissist is a hell unto itself. I have been in this game for almost 3 years now and the best thing I did was learn as much as I could about narcissism as I had no clue what it was prior to the discard. His mask was on so tight for 23 years and once it fell off for me, I had to teach myself who I was really dealing with.

    I keep telling myself that it is a long game and that eventually, my younger children will see him for who he truly is. It’s tough sometimes as there are so many opportunities to toss FW under the bus, but I am determined that the kids will figure him out on their own. After three years, I am starting to see them slowly come to those realizations. It gives me a lot of hope that their relationship will be so much different with him once they see who he truly is.

    There is no way to co-parent with a narcissist. Do your own thing and let the circus continue at the other house.

    • Even at 8 years old my kid started to see it. One time he told me “daddy is a hypocrite” (I don’t think I’d ever used that word to him). I asked why and he said that daddy had gotten mad at someone in McDonald’s for using a bad word in front of him (child), but that daddy said that same bad word at home. Even my young kid could see the public vs. private face of my narcissistic ex.

      Unfortunately my kid was also learning to lie to protect himself. One evening when I was getting ready to take him to his dad’s he couldn’t find his skateboard (gift from FW) and realized he’d left it in the rain, something that FW chastised him very strongly about. We couldn’t locate in the dark, and my son said “I’ll just tell daddy I forgot it.” My poor kid would also be crying his eyes out on the porch at drop off and as soon as his dad opened the door, my son was all smiles. He later told me he was “trying to put a brave face on”. I know FW got VERY angry with my son if he expressed that he missed his mommy while at FW’s house.

  • I discovered FW’s true persona when our kid was just three months old. FW had been cheating when I was pregnant but I’ll never know the full extent. FW was the one to file for divorce and also 50/50 custody of our child. I have a post that chump lady posted in March of 2020 for your reading pleasure. I fought like hell to get more time and ended up with a step up plan that gives FW 50/50 at age five..I have two years until then but he almost has that much time now.

    One common misconception of parenting with FW’s is that they are all lazy and irresponsible. Granted, I do not know what actually goes on at FWs house as our child has been a baby/toddler for most of this but FW does not miss a beat. I think he enjoys looking like a “perfect” father. He pays on time, he kisses the daycare teachers asses, he charms everyone in his path by using our kid to look like a nice person. We use a parenting app for communication and we both keep it to bare minimum communication (you’d think I was the narc the way he gray rocks me). In the beginning he thought we would be friends (of course). I do not know what the future holds for myself or our kid being raised by this person and his dysfunctional family half of his life. It often feels like a prison sentence when you have such a long road ahead of you with young kids involved. Parallel parenting is the only way.

  • We started with half and half then my daughter only wanted to live with me. She saw him every second weekend. He wouldn’t see her any more than that even though she wanted to. He was punishing her for not wanting to go there week about. Then he packed up and unexpectedly moved to another city and hour flight away. He buys a flight once a month or so. He never paid child support consistently so I bargained that away in
    mediation – I simply got sick of the game playing and trying to mess with the tax department and making me prove I had our daughter full time. The money wasn’t worth my poor mental health and the seething anger. Lately he filled out some forms I needed and he put her age as 15. She’s 16. Co-parenting with a card carrying narcissist is pure hell. You can’t do it and I’m my case, when he didn’t get what he wanted he just turned on her and bailed.

  • A new book?! How exciting is that?!?!
    Can’t wait for it to come out, that is too too cool!!
    You should sell autographed copies on your blog site here for a higher price. I know you would have plenty of takers.
    I’d be very happily and very honored to be one of them. Sign me up!
    Congrats to you for making it happen and I hope it is a huge success for you. The more exposure on this topic, the better for all us chumpers out here.
    Bravo for leading the brigade CL!!
    WooHoo!!! Can’t wait to read it!!

  • The part about showing up to the son’s sports banquet hit a nerve. FW showed up for fifth grade father-son day at school but left halfway into the program when all the fathers and sons were transitioning together from one location within the school to another. Perfect time to slip out. He told my son he just had to get to work. Um, no, total lie. Another father stepped up to stand in for FW for the remainder of the program when he (and everyone else) realized my son was the ONLY boy there without someone because his father ditched him mid-program. My poor son.

  • I had a parent who was a narcissist (is now deceased). Embrace the fact that a narcissist is a bucket with no bottom on it. You can fill it and fill it and fill it and it is never enough. Go gray rock, and if you’ve had children with one, for heaven sake‘s get the kids counseling. Having a narcissistic parent takes it’s toll; don’t let them drag that shit into adulthood.

  • Tracy, I am so excited to hear that a new book is in the works! You are the only clear voice out there and I hope you know that you are saving lives every day. Unlike the ex and the AP who want people to bow down to them for being healthcare herpes…I mean healthcare heroes. Dang auto-correct.

    My co-parenting experience with the dbag is so bizarre in its simplicity. He disappeared but somehow tells everyone that I am alienating the kids from him. He has this script that he is the victim and peddles it nonstop to all the professionals involved in our case. Everyone is so confused. The coparenting therapist, the kids’ therapist, my therapist, the lawyers, the mediator, the judge…everyone is wondering that if he wants to see his kids, why wouldn’t he just show up at the door. It is written in the parenting plan that he gets alternating weekends. He has not done one weekend. Not one since we divorced 12 months ago. I’m just sitting here waiting for everyone to turn 18.

    • “I’m just sitting here waiting for everyone to turn 18” ????
      Absolutely nailed it

    • Were we married to the same guy? Yep, mine made a big thing about how I was alienating. Yet, he hardly bothered to participate. Far out!

    • “I’m just sitting here waiting for everyone to turn 18”…perfect. Same. As my kid gets older, some things get easier and others get harder. She truly understands who her dad is now, which is good. But, still has to deal with his BS and it causes her great mental and emotional distress. She knows now though that she no longer has to go to his house if she doesn’t want to. I don’t care what the custody agreement says. I’ll deal with the legal consequences if I have to. Ultimately though, he bates her into it with guilt about abandoning her step siblings.

      Seriously can’t wait until she’s 18.

    • That’s their trick! My Ex did the same; in our jurisdiction where custody time is AUTOMATICALLY 50-50, I suggested 20% for him and he dropped it to 15%. Then he started getting home late on evenings they were supposed to spend about 3 hs with him, and sending them back early. Dropped some weekends with them, starting with the very first one, a long weekend, always without much warning of course. Didn’t utter a peep when I said, sure, I could take the kids for ‘his’ weekend, but couldn’t trade off for the following one, as there were already plans. Kids started cutting into their every-second-weekend with him; sports, sleeping in…. Then about 8 months in, he comes to tell me he’ll be working out of town (in Schmoopieville, what a coincidence!) during the week for ‘a few months’. So kids are with me all but a day and a half, every second weekend. That stretches out until it’s nearly a year. Then (because Schmoopie dumped him, but we didn’t know that), he’s suddenly back in the city full time, wants the kids to be with him that 15% of the time again! Kids refused, saying ‘we’re not toys he can leave on the floor when he has something better to do, then pick up again when he’s bored!’.

      All hell broke loose. His entitlement was immense! (Including, as CL points out, his feeling entitled to forgiveness and every thing going back to ‘normal’ right away.) Within a year or so, the kids decided they’re not seeing him or communicating with him, ever.

      But whose fault is that??? Mine. I’ve alienated them.

      I’m sure that’s the sad tale he tells the new women (because there has to be a new woman, right? Every few years? Because the current ones figure out his bullshit).

  • And don’t forget; STOP spackling and making the Cheater look good to the kids.

    STOP telling the kids that ‘FW loves you’. Cheater Parent can tell the kids themselves, and the kids will eventually figure out that love is as love does.

    STOP making excuses for them, say instead ‘I don’t know why your dad/mom won’t be seeing you this weekend/lied to you about getting you a kitten/hasn’t arrived yet to pick you up’. Then say ‘that really sucks’, and console that sad and angry kid! Then go have some fun with them/get the homework done etc.

    STOP trying to coach the Cheater into being a better parent. No more ‘KId #2’s birthday is next week. Have you thought about what to get them?’ or ‘7 Year Old Kid likes it a lot when you are up on weekend mornings, to help with breakfast and homework.’ You’ve probably managed that relationship for years, the kids have a fantasy for a Cheater Parent. Unfortunately, they have to develop a real relationship with the Cheater Parent they actually have. ‘Protecting’ them from that is NOT healthy or good for the kids. They will later either live in Narc Land, convinced Cheater Parent is great and you are the nagging, boring, no fun person, or be really angry that you deceived them.

    And STOP telling yourself ‘but they need their other parent’. A manipulative, selfish, entitled, dishonest parent is actually WORSE than no parent at all. Perhaps the best you can hope for is that they’ll be a Disney Parent; little time with the kids, leaves the actual parenting and decision making to you, is occasionally fun, pays their child support.

    Kids need one sane parent; be that. The kids will figure it out.

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