Co-parenting With A Narcissist Is Cruel, But You Can Take Your Power Back

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of abuse which may be upsetting for some. 

Leaving An Abusive Relationship

“Leaving the abuse should make it end, right? Not if you have children with a narcissist.

I thought the day I walked out the door the abuse would be over. I envisioned a very hard road ahead because the thought of leaving him felt like I was losing a physical piece of my heart; however, I believed over time, I would be free of the gaslighting, manipulation, mind games, and psychological torture. I had no idea he would throw even more fuel on the fire using what little control he had left of me: the children.

He threatened me before I left that I would never take his kids from him. It caused me to fear for my safety if I tried, but eventually, I was more scared of what would happen if I stayed. In the beginning, there were little boundaries with our shared custody. It was a mistake of mine because it allowed him to attempt to get back in. I started to realize you cannot give a narcissist any wiggle room with your boundaries. They will take any advantage over you they can. I had to put my foot down, something I struggled to do at any point in my life.

Once he exhausted all of his resources trying to get me back, the true version of himself started to shine through. He began his punishment stage. I was his object that escaped, and he was not pleased about it. The biggest insecurity a narcissist has is a fear of abandonment. They need a constant supply of affirmation that will never be enough. They are truly insecure people, and when that fear becomes a reality, they want to make sure that person pays for it. They want them to feel as low as they do inside, and this is what he attempted to do with me.

Narcissistic Punishment

He was the first to find a significant other. I knew it was only a matter of time because even in our marriage he constantly cheated. We agreed he would take the kids on the Fourth of July. He showed up while I was alone to make sure I wasn’t with another guy. He even forced himself on me to hug me and I pushed him off. Little did I know he was taking the kids to meet this girl behind my back that day, using the kids’ amusement park passes I paid for.

When I found out through my children, I lost it. I hysterically cried, and a million thoughts raced through my mind. I was so angry I wasn’t given the respect of talking to me about what was going to happen first. He barely knew this girl, so it was irresponsible of the kids’ feelings. I didn’t know what they would feel, and I couldn’t be there to protect their hearts. The hardest thought was they may like her more than me. I was still reeling from post-traumatic stress. I was a mess, and she was probably fun. The whole situation knocked me off my feet, and he loved every second of it.

The next few months he would bully me in every way. Our divorce wasn’t final, so our parenting plan wasn’t officially legal. He would record me or have others do it at our exchanges (a trigger of mine since he used to record me when I reacted to his abuse in the marriage).

He verbally abused me in ways that were a brand new low for him, including telling me he wished I would die young like my parents did, I was fat, he wanted me removed from this life and that our kids would benefit if I was, I deserved all the abuse, I was a whore, I wasn’t a good mom, I was messing up our children with my mental issues, my family didn’t even want me and no one else would, and he was better off without me because I would amount to nothing… among hundreds of other insults.

He would play mind games when he had the kids, travel with them hours away in the middle of the night, and if he thought I was on a date, he would try to intervene. I was alone in a little trailer with my children, so I felt unsafe the entire time.

It escalated to the worst level one day while I went for a jog around the neighborhood. I had my three kids most of the time in a small space, so I needed fresh air. I didn’t go far, so I left them with a phone inside. He called them as I was out, and my son told him. As I came back toward the house, I saw his car. He was shoveling the kids in.

I jumped in the passenger side and told them to get out. They were crying hysterically, and he told them to stay. I noticed he also had his phone on with his friend listening. I got out so the kids would calm down and not feel conflicted. He had called the police on me, trying to get me in trouble for child abuse and abandonment (which the cops told me was absurd). When I spoke to them, they told me there was nothing I could do to get the kids back without a custody agreement, but I could file a restraining order since he was violent. So, that’s what I did, and they honored it.

Overcoming Their Control

The next few months till the present time, he would be in and out of jail and almost nonexistent in their lives. He moved on and started a new life. The kids were ultimately an extension of me, and once I found someone who could protect me, and his schemes started to not work, he lost interest in being a father.

I am so blessed my now-husband is their dad, but it’s sad to me that he wouldn’t care about them. It’s taken me so much time and hard work as well to enforce child support, another tool in the arsenal of narcissists, but I will keep fighting because this is about more than money. This is about responsibility and accountability for all the years I let him slide.

Narcissists use and abuse like none other. They leave wounds no person from the outside can see, with absolutely no remorse. They lack empathy on every level, and any empathy they seem to show is fake. They are typically very likable to the world, so many people think the other person is the problem. They play the victim constantly and truly believe the words coming out of their mouths. They typically never change and get worse as the years go by. They feed off control and manipulation, and children are no exception to the carnage they cause. They often will leave wounds on their hearts as well, and it’s up to survivors to pick up the pieces.

Co-parenting with a narcissist may seem cruel, and it is, but you can do your part not to feed into the games. Respond instead of react, as they love to see you upset. Take your power back by never bending on boundaries that are put in place. Limit contact to as little as possible, and if a third party is needed to help with the exchange, do what you must. Don’t take it personally (easier said than done) if they move on very quickly to the next person or family. They need attention one 100% of the time. Try to not use the children as ways to communicate with the narcissist, as they are dealing with enough.

Above all, never lose yourself and know you did the best thing you ever could have done the second you walked out the door. You are more powerful than you will ever know.”

baby hand reaching up to hold adult's finger
Courtesy of Dana Rutherford

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dana Rutherford. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story here.

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