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Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Cooler weather and a new schedules as school begins make me happy, and Halloween runs as a close second to my favorite holiday, Christmas.

My kids are getting older now, so the holiday is changing for us. No more scary music playing out the windows or silhouettes of witches upstairs. Now it’s about “teen things” and all about friends. This year they are at their dad’s house for the holiday, and I’m looking forward to doing my own thing.

A friend asked me today if I missed the days when they were small, and I most definitely do. I have such fun memories of the Buzz Lightyear, the 50s poodle skirt girl, the Dorothy and the ghoul dressed in black. But I also have memories that cloud my mind.

Halloween 2002 was the day I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child. My ex was unsure he wanted to have more kids when we discussed having a fourth, but I felt there was one more baby waiting for us up there in heaven. We agreed we would “try” for a month or two but we really weren’t “trying” that much at all. To say I was shocked when I found out I was pregnant is probably a large understatement.

On Halloween evening, I was nervous when my then-husband came home. How would I tell him? Would he be happy? Or upset? He came home from work in a grumpy mood, so I kept the pregnancy to myself as we walked around the neighborhood with our 3 kids.

Later that night, after getting the kids settled with a few of their favorite treats in the other room, I sat at the kitchen counter separating candy into piles. My then-husband watched as I was going through Kit-Kats and skittles and said to me, “Maybe we can actually have sex tonight…you probably have cobwebs growing in your vagina, it’s been so long.”

I could hardly believe my ears. My blood pumped inside of me, and I was angry he was lashing out in the passive-aggressive way as he always did to make me feel guilty. Note to husbands out there: this is NOT the way to make your wife feel special and loved and close to you. It pisses her off.

I stood from my stool, dropped the candy from my hands and said, “Oh really? Well, I’m pregnant, so it obviously hasn’t been that long, now has it. Congratulations.” and I stomped upstairs.

Why would a husband say such a thing to his wife? Why would the person who was supposed to love and cherish me great me like I didn’t matter one ounce and my feelings meant squat? Who the hell knows. Today, I know better and don’t have to tolerate any of it.

That day was not the best of days for me, I must say. But my beautiful girl arrived 8 months later, and she is one of the greatest things in my life.

Halloween will always be a favorite time of year for me. And no bad memory, even that one, can ruin it.

*image: Flickr

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Over the past few years of my life, I’ve learned to maneuver and grow post-divorce. Some days have been easy. Other days, not so much. Writing, reading, and focusing on myself has given me strength and opened doors for me that I never imagined possible. I’ve met wonderful people, received strength and support, and share my thoughts and life with others as inspiration or simply for an “I’ve been there.”

I did the work. I spoke to a counselor and was sure to look inside so I didn’t repeat the same mistakes moving forward that I did in my childhood and during my first marriage. I’ve read tons about narcissism and NPD personalities, and I’ve now learned how to stand up for myself.

As a child, I tried to please everyone around me. One of those people was my mother. As I grew, I noticed that she eventually began attaching herself to my life more and more. It wasn’t until after my divorce that I had the guts to let her know that I needed her to work on her own life rather than depend so deeply on me for happiness. I wasted many, many years trying to please her and do what I thought she wanted me to do. Dumb.

The concept of the parent who lives through his or her child is familiar to anyone who has stood on the sidelines of a youth soccer or baseball game. The narcissist’s reaction to her child’s life is qualitatively different. It’s not just annexation; it’s the redrawing of the borders to completely absorb the other life into her own. (Huffington Post)

This article from Psychology Today speaks volumes about narcissists and their victims. Sometimes you cannot even try to understand where their brains are, because it’s just not possible. How can a parent try to control her child so much that her child would rather be over at a friends’ house than be at home with her? Why is it that a narcissist tries to take-over and control everyone around them and squashes the real, deep development of the individual?

But, enter the condition of narcissism. What if you married a narcissist who is all about what is good for him or her, rather than what is in the best interest of the children? The narcissist makes unrealistic demands, is not emotionally connected to the children, may be emotionally abusive or worse, but will fight to the end to gain revenge or fight in the interest of his/her own needs. The fight may be economically based, or more likely what is known as a narcissistic injury. That person will never get over or forget that you filed for divorce or abandoned them, and will continue to make life difficult for you and the children. What do you do?

To reiterate, if you marry a narcissist and then divorce that person, the narcissist will not forgive and forget. They do not move on easily. They cling to “how could you abandon me or do this to me” and the anger lingers for long periods of time, sometimes years and years. To imagine that one could process through an amicable divorce with a narcissist and stay friends and co-parent in a reasonable manner is not realistic with narcissists. They do things such as excessively disparage the other parent, resort to making up unfair and untrue allegations, and do not want to financially support the children because that somehow means to them that they are giving money to their ex-spouse. Their entitlement needs get in the way of fairly dividing property and money and in the end they do not think of what is best for the child or children. They think about what is best for them! “It is my parenting time!” “You cannot have sporting events on my time!” “Your mother (or father) is taking all my money.” (Psychology Today)

If you are dealing with a high conflict individual in your life, don’t try to understand them. You won’t. But you can get educated! Spend time reading. Spend time learning. Surround yourself with support. Most of all, understand the disease. Because, as Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

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It’s amazing the vantage point you have when you carefully follow a path, one slight step after another, and reach high ground during a long journey.

If you look one direction, you see where you came from. Your eyes analyze the terrain and you may even be surprised at the progress you made to get to the sunlit spot where you stand.

As you turn your face to the sun, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride for all the miles you’ve covered, the danger you’ve faced, and the challenges you’ve overcome along the way.

Standing on this high ground, you can also see the path that is outstretched before you. What a glorious thing to look beyond and feel the adrenaline rush through you as you consider which direction to go, what experiences might lie ahead, and what obstacles may be in your way.

The thing about being on high ground, is only the people who have taken the high road, walked the walk, and put in the hard work along the way will be blessed enough to join you for the rest of the journey. For this, I am thankful. Because carrying someone along the path only to realize they didn’t belong there can be an exhausting thing.

Tonight I stand on high ground. I feel the sunshine, warm on my skin, and deep love surrounding me as I stand here with my husband and my kids. My journey has been long, my obstacles large, but those obstacles are very much desperate, insignificant, and left in our past.

Here’s to the journey. To loving along the way. To knowing that life is about people, emotions, caring and giving, because those things are what bring you love and happiness.

For those of you who are still on your journey through divorce, or for those of you trying to co-parent with someone who is a narcissist, remember this…high ground is safest in a storm. Your children can see the clouds and lightening around them, and you are their safe spot. Keep walking the high road. Your kids see who walks the journey with them because they see with their own eyes from their vantage point. Walk with them. Walk together. And enjoy the next phase in the journey!

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During the first 3-or-so years post divorce, I found myself trying to keep everyone happy. My kids had issues with their dad, their dad would get mad at me and blame me if they were rude to him or voiced how they didn’t want to go to his house, the list goes on. He’d say I was turning them against him.

I found myself more in the position of mediator than mother/ex. I’d try to help my kids understand that their father wanted to see them, but they would reply with a, “That’s not fair! So-and-so invited me over tonight!” And so the battle would begin.

I took on the negotiator role–trying to make it a win-win for all parties. All that caused was more stress, more pain, and more problems for me. All of them were being heard, but I dreaded any time an argument would come up between one of them and their dad. I was stuck in the middle and a pawn in a vicious, frustrating game.

I learned a lot of lessons along the way. When my kids were younger, I supported more. I stepped in more to help with the communications with their father when he was being demanding in his “my way or the highway” style. They wanted me to back them and he wanted me to jump every time he said to. (Please note that when a decree says something, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it exactly HIS way. You just have to do what the decree says.)

The day has come where I’ve turned the kids’ relationship with their father over to them. I can’t force a 17 year old who is bigger than me to get in my car and go see his dad during the specific court ordered days. Hell, I’m lucky if he has time to squeeze me into his schedule!  But I always allow him to go when he gets an idea to spend the night up there, out of the blue. And if my 11 year old is broken hearted because she realized her dad has lied to her, I don’t defend him any longer and make up excuses for him. I simply tell her, “I’m sorry” and that she needs to reach out to her dad.

Just because some of us were once married to a narcissist and did everything his way, when and how he said, does not mean we have to continue to do it his way. Nor do we have to make his kids do it exactly his way. Now, try getting the NPD personality to accept that–that’s like moving the great pyramids of Egypt. Ain’t likely!

I know it may be difficult as a mother with young children to step back and not get caught up in the game your ex plays when he throws the kids smack dab in the middle of his manipulation. And your role now is important–first and foremost to look out for them and be an advocate for them. But as they grow, remember, you are a mother, not a mediator. Give your kids the confidence to speak their true feelings and not be afraid of people. Remind them that sharing how they feel about something is justified and human. They don’t have to put up with put downs, and it’s okay to tell a parent how they feel.

if a parent can’t respect that in them, that’s their problem.

 

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I was married to a bully for 17 years.

I think about that life and now it’s hard to imagine. I kept a spotless house for fear of angering him. I changed the way I dressed, dropped friends, and gave up hobbies to make him feel more secure. I admit: I pretty much changed everything about myself because of him. Leaving him opened my eyes to true love, integrity and loyalty in a partner.

So here’s the thing about bullies: once they know their control games and manipulation tactics don’t work anymore, their insecurities grow and so does their anger.

The man I was once married to was told about this blog by one of my children’s coaches.

He’s read each and every post on my blog. Multiple times.

Imagine my surprise when I was served papers to appear in court and attached to the documents were printouts of my blog entries.

Absent from the documents were the blog posts where I speak of my love for Brandon, his love for me, my healing, my moments of clarity as I’ve grown through the power of writing and love received. All of it.

The only things included were posts about him.

Documents state I’m harassing him. He states I’m vindictive and can’t move on.

Blogging about the journey to my wholehearted, vulnerable, authentic self has helped me and many others heal. And I’m proud of the roads I’ve taken. I’m also proud of my writing.

I know that many of you were once married to a similar type of individual. I know that many of you long for a healthy co-parenting relationship and dance the dance, still, just as I do.

I’m proud of myself for leaving a bully. I’m thankful for all of the connections I’ve made through this and other blogs. And most importantly, I’m not afraid to write.

My children see healing and strength in me. My husband sees my heart and my integrity. And everyone sees the truth.

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