Co-Parenting & The Importance Of Keeping Minimal Contact With A Narcissistic Ex/ Unmasking The Narcissist
This article was originally posted on Unmasking The Narcissist ( link below)
There are certain things in life that you have to learn the hard way and the reason for sticking to no or absolute minimal contact is one of them. Of course, as is the case with me, if you have a child with your Narcissist then there must be some form of contact, assuming your Narcissist is going to stick around and co-parent with you. We couldn’t be so lucky to have them wave goodbye forever as they drive off into the sunset never to be seen or heard from again. Nope! They’ll stick around and try to make our lives as miserable as they can and will even use their own children to try and get supply from us.
Please know that there will be situations where you’ll have to be around your ex and you have to be ultra-aware of ambush techniques. I’ve had this happen a few times and the effects can be very, very damaging if you allow yourself to be set up for more needless abuse.
Remember all of the degrading things they would say or do to us and how badly they hurt? Remember how we even questioned ourselves if those things that the Narcissist was telling us about ourselves could be true? Once the truth of what was lurking behind the mask of our Narcissist revealed it’s ugly, evil form, we knew it wasn’t us at all. It never was about us. We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all of those awful things we were told about ourselves were not true and even learned that the Narcissist was projecting the image of herself/himself onto us.
Contrary to what pop psychology tells us, Narcissists do not love themselves and in fact they hate themselves so much that the instant they see a reflection of their inner monstrosity, they instantly project what they see onto us so they no longer have to feel the self-hate and loathing of seeing themselves in the mirror. We are normal, emotionally healthy people and the Narcissist hates the very essence of who we are because they know they can never be us. Even in the best of scenarios with years of therapy, they still cannot even come close to expressing unconditional love and experiencing empathy that is equal to our level of understanding or having the ability to express and feel empathy towards others. They’re incapable of unconditional love and are so incomplete as healthy, normal, rational people are and they cannot even begin to understand the most basic, elementary definition of empathy that we learned to express in our early childhood developmental years.
So what is an example of being ambushed? I’ll share with you two recent examples of my Narcissistic troll stepping out from her dark underworld and how to mitigate the hurtful words, head games and projection.
I was taking my daughter to her first counseling session since her mother and I separated just 3 1/2 months earlier. I have Sole Legal Custody of our daughter and the laws in the state in which we live, state that the parent with Sole Legal Custody can make all legal decisions regarding such things such as schooling, religion, medical treatment and even child counseling without consulting the other parent. Of course these are not always easy decisions to make and in the spirit of co-parenting, I have and will continue to discuss these issues with my ex. When I first broached the idea of taking our daughter to see a child therapist who specializes in children going through divorces, she simply said, “I have no problem with that.” I told her that I would let her know the name of the therapist, the contact information and the date of her appointment to which she replied, “that’s fine.” These emails took place around 3-4 weeks after I moved out and since this topic was brought up, she never once mentioned it again.
As promised, I sent her all of the information that I said would and even explained to her that this counselor was for our daughter, not us. We were not to ask what was talked about, coach her in any way regarding what to say if asked certain questions or interfere with her relationship with her counselor as it’s imperative she trust her. I couldn’t emphasize this enough to her. If our daughter was going to have a fair shot of dealing with all of the changes (parents separating, her mother instantly bringing her paramour around, having overnight stays with her paramour in the presence of our daughter etc.) that had taken place in such a short amount of time. Our daughter needed to have a confidant that could help her talk about her feelings and not be concerned that she would get into trouble for anything that she might say. She is very guarded with what she tells her mother because she is afraid of angering her. With me, she tells all because she’s learned through experience that she can tell me things without getting into trouble. I allow her to express her emotions and validate her for doing so (as long as she is not disrespectful towards me). This is parenting and reminds me of a quote from Karyl McBride – “I often say to people in therapy that putting a roof over your child’s head and giving him or her food is not parenting. A child can get that in an orphanage. Tuning into your child’s emotional world is parenting.” There is no truer or more profound statement as it pertains to being a parent.
As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed my ex’s vehicle; I had no idea she was going to be there and had little time to prepare as I walked through the door. Right away I knew she was going to play the ever-involved, wonderful parent. A Narcissist can turn on the charm and morph into whatever role they need to play in an instant. When my daughter and I walked in, my ex put our her arms to hold her in her lap. She read her books, coddled her and made sure everybody noticed her stellar performance while we waited for our daughter to be called into the session. She even painted our daughter’s nails the night prior, something she had not done in months. She could have won an Oscar Award – it was that convincing. These things are not the norm for my daughter to experience with her mother. In fact, all summer she did nary a thing with her and she spent all of her time with her new lover/victim (new as far as me finding out about it). When my daughter would visit her mother, she would be fed things like chicken nuggets and yogurt for dinner and sometimes no dinner at all. I remember my daughter calling me on the phone crying saying that she was hungry. I asked her what she had for dinner and she said, “a bagel but that was when we first got home.” Needless to say, I was furious but telling my ex to feed our daughter would only put her into a rage and take it out on my daughter. I told my daughter to tell her mother to fix her something to eat. I would like to clarify that I have never witnessed any physical abuse towards my daughter or her two children from a previous marriage but the emotional abuse is very real as everything revolves around their mother and they know to stay out of her hair or else there will be hell to pay.
The therapist came out, I made the introductions and once they were on their way to her office, I took my seat and then my ex took a seat across from me. I would have been better off to sit down in a specialized chair to get a root canal and colonoscopy both done at the same time. What a mistake! She unleashed a tirade of wrath that would have caused Satan to pick up his pitchfork to defend himself from this fork-tongued, delusional monster. She reared up in her seat, spread her arms to the side and glared at me. She reminded me of a demon seating there and the image still haunts me today. She briefly touched on all of the grotesque things she used to say to me once she started me on my constant and painful diet of devaluation. Then she started on how horrible of a father I was, how she now has a real man in the children’s lives for the first time, all of the reasons why I don’t have any friends and will never find another lover again. She even went on to attack certain family members of mine who never were anything but kind to her. I kid you not, this went on for 45 minutes until I said “no more talking” about a dozen times before she stopped. I finally just put my head back and closed my eyes.
After my daughter and I left I was drained. I felt like I had all of the life sucked out of me. I had not let myself anywhere near this monster for quite some time but I was ambushed in a place I considered safe and neutral ground; a waiting room in a counseling center turned into a battleground in which I didn’t stand a chance. It was brutal but not too long after I left, a couple of very wise close friends/family reminded me that none of that was about me. A friend told me that the monster had slipped from behind her mask, and indeed it had!
So, how would I do things differently when faced with a similar situation? First, I would choose a seat as far away from her as possible and second, I would not even speak to her. You see, I had my attorney put into the Separation Agreement that neither one of us are to call the other unless it’s an emergency and that ALL communications will be in the form of email or text message and even that communication shall only be about legitimate things regarding our daughter. I did this to maintain as little contact as humanly possible with my ex. We need to keep a watchful eye at all times because given the chance, the Narcissist will sink his/her fangs into our jugular and start feeding and once they get a taste of blood, it’s very difficult to get them to stop feeding and often times they won’t stop until we physically crawl away or they’ve fed so much there is nothing left of us but an empty shell, much like the abandoned exoskeleton of a cicada.
Another recent example is one of the times that I dropped my daughter off at my ex’s house. It was a typical morning where I got up, made some coffee, checked my emails, read the morning news and headed down the road with a fresh cup of black goodness. I pulled into the driveway as usual, carried my daughter up to the door, kissed her goodbye and told her that I would see her after school. She went inside and I turned around and as I was walking to my car, my ex told me that she had a question about her dog before I left. She asked the question, I answered and before I knew it, I was sucked into a one hour tongue lashing about everything that was and is wrong with me. She even found a few new items of dysfunction to beat me with since I moved out.
She used a legitimate but unnecessary question about her dog to lure me away from my car and leaving. That’s all it took. In an instant the fangs came out and my otherwise routine and non-eventful morning turned into a nightmare. By the time she was finished feeding and I was turned loose, my coffee was cold and I was left wondering how I could allow myself to get sucked into her dark world of deceit, severe emotional abuse and projection when I could have simply left at any time.
The answer is quite simple and we all know it. They are professional manipulators, have our resume memorized and know exactly what to say to evoke a predetermined reaction from us. This is why we cannot let ourselves be put into situations where we let the abuse continue. I know there are times (because I have them too) where we must be in the presence of our Narcissistic ex’s but there are ways to minimize or completely stop the abuse. Maintain no contact and if spoken to in a situation where others are present and not responding would make you look the like problem, respond using short responses instead of elucidating and divulging too much personal information that WILL be later used against you. You can respond by saying such things as, “that’s good”, “that’s nice” or my personal favorite, “interesting”. Basically it is disengaging the abuse trigger before the Narcissist fires off a shot or two.
Leave it at that and if other people don’t understand, too bad. They’ve not a clue of the severe abuse that we suffered and can’t begin to comprehend what we must do to protect ourselves and recover from the abuse, much less keep it from happening over and over as the Narcissist will always try to get supply from us. You may no longer be their 24/7 source, but make no mistake about it, you are still supply to them and you are their guaranteed source of supply because after all, you have a child together and will be in each other’s lives for many years to come. This being the case, we still never deserved the abuse and will not tolerate it going forward. Many years were stolen from us and we will not allow one second more to be taken from us.
Come up with a plan that is workable for YOU to keep contact with your Narcissist to a bare minimum. Implement those boundaries and stick to them. Be proactive instead of reactive which just allows you to be sucked into their abuse. If you know you could be in a situation that could leave you ripe for abuse, plan ahead to mitigate the interaction and don’t ever give away another second of your life to these duplicitous creatures!
Developing and sticking to a no contact or a minimal contact plan is crucial to not only your own well-being and recovery but is also necessary for you to remain the stable and balanced parent in your child’s life. When in doubt, simply say, “interesting”, walk away and reward yourself with a great cup of coffee and press on with living life free of Narcissistic abuse. ☮Vali