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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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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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It’s not often when I run into someone’s personal post and share it on Facebook. I might share someone’s photo or a quote, but never a post. I’m not a big fan of “spamming” all over the internet by sharing other people’s postings. It just feels weird. That all changed when I read Sean Whalen’s post about his divorce, growth, and peace.

I saw this vulnerable, authentic post in my feed on Friday morning, because a friend had liked it. I was intrigued–the happy little girl in the photo caught my eye along with the first few sentences when he mentions divorce. I was curious to see what looked like a post about a bad divorce could have to do with a sweet photo of he and a baby smiling. So I read on…

Take a second to read and look into a moment of Sean’s personal journey:

Sean Whalen

Facebook Post

After reading his post, I had tears in my eyes. What a courageous thing for this man, a complete stranger to me, to share out into the Facebook world. What a hard journey he must have experienced. And wow, the reward he now enjoys because of his personal growth and ability to move forward.

Divorce isn’t a game to win. It’s not a side to choose. The two adults’ time is over. The time is now for the children, for giving them all you have, and for loving what they love. Including their mother/father in a new way. And Sean did just that–He loves his ex and he loves his ex’s baby, too. That right there is awesome!

There were approximately 3,000 likes that Friday morning when I first learned about Sean’s journey, and now this one moment of revealing truth has now reached over 550,000 likes! The numbers rotate through like popcorn popping in the microwave. This man has made an impact. People can relate to his openness and sincerity. I know I did.

What a wonderful thing healing can be.

*photo and post from Sean’s Facebook post: http://www.facebook.com/swhalen

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As a survivor of divorce, I often feel like there are two parts of me that make up the whole me. One part was developed during my childhood and first marriage–40 years made me who I was. The second part of me is the part of me that has evolved post-divorce. The stronger,more confident, survivor that I am.

Sure, I suppose that some of the qualities I’ve developed along the way could have taken shape during the first 40 years of my life–the confidence ebbing and flowing and retracting throughout my life is something I’ve seen come and go. But for the most part, the second part is the real me. It’s the me I fought hard to become. It’s the me I gave myself permission to believe in.

For those of you that are going through divorce, or are fresh out of the war of court hearings, I urge you to take a moment and look at yourself. ONLY yourself for a moment (not the kids, not the family as a whole…you).

Ask yourself this question:

Was I really happy in that marriage? Or was I just comfortable?

There is a huge difference between the two.

While you’re in the trenches, duking it out with your soon-to-be ex, you’re either in survival mode, kill mode, or eff him/her mode. Whichever mask you’re wearing to hide the pain, don’t fool yourself into thinking your “happy marriage” is coming to an end. If your marriage was a good one, it wouldn’t be ending, really, would it.

I used to think me and my ex were happy. I used to think we could have made it work. Even as recently as last week, when Brandon and I were having a particularly rough day, I wondered if my life would have been easier if I just would have never gotten divorced. Short answer to that question: um, hell no.

Choosing to be with someone and be in a relationship takes work. Getting married takes work. Getting married for a second time takes more work!

After a divorce, it’s easy to go into shell-shock mode and lose yourself. Don’t do it. The main reason you’re probably getting divorced in the first place is because part of you is probably already lost…at least to some degree.

Each day after divorce is a day to discover who you really are. My divorce has not been a smooth one. I still deal with abusive power struggles and I get bumped around a bit. I did not see this side of my ex until I blew the whistle on his misbehavior and ended our marriage. But rather than letting it make me who I am, I remember why I’m on this journey. To find the real me. Not the husband-pleasing me. Not the take care of everyone and forget about myself me. But the real me.

At times, that may feel like I’m selfish. That may make me sound like I don’t care about anyone. But really, what life is about is growing and loving people and growing into the you you are meant to be.

Divorce can be a blessing. Divorce can be hard as hell. Divorce can be both things all at once. But if you peel away all the masks you’ve worn along your path to divorce, and you take on each day as a new day to have a good day, you’re bound to go to bed each night and be thankful for the opportunity to live your life. And guess what? You may live that life on your own… Or maybe, you’ll find a “happy marriage” along the way.

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