Note from Tina: There are many faces to this battle and I am currently featuring a total of six different people who are all affected by narcissism. Some are divorcing a narcissist, some share custody with a narcissist, one is a man who is affected by his ex-wife’s personality disorder and one is an amazing young woman who is away at college but still feeling the effects of her father’s narcissism. While we are all different, we share the same story—the same trials and tribulations. There are many faces to this battle and I am happy to share them with you. -Tina
“An Uphill Battle” ~ Blog 3
I struggled under the dual weight of emotional hostility from my mother and then-husband, who had by then become allies in their abuse efforts. Prior to that time, my mother had completely rejected my (then) husband. She would not even refer to him as my (then) husband when introducing him to strangers. Now that he had proved his willingness to put me down, they were bosom friends. I became the butt of their cruel jokes and the target for their constant criticism. My mother’s favorite tactic was to call me horrible names or make personal attacks about my looks or activities, and then praise my husband for “putting up with me.” If I expressed any discontent with their treatment, I was immediately subjected to a pack of wolves (my mother, father, husband, and occasionally my sister) telling me to “lighten up” and “quit causing problems.”
Work became a favorite target for attack. I was constantly put down for having goals and taking steps toward achieving them. I made the decision to quit my job under the duress of all the pressure and regular bashing. However, I did so under the condition that I would enroll in school full time and attend nights in order to finish my undergraduate degree and start my teaching credential. I would be finished by the time our youngest started school. This plan seemed to please my (then) husband, but my mother would never be happy. I wasn’t concerned with her happiness with my plans. I just needed to get out of the dynamic that we were in at the time.
It was very difficult to give up my job. I felt like I was leaving my safe place. I confided in a few girlfriends about the transition and the reasons behind it. Their feedback assured me that what I was experiencing was not normal or healthy.
I felt like I was always looking for the guide post to “normal” treatment. I was beginning to realize that I didn’t know how to find it myself. I became absorbed with kids activities, preschool, and my studies. My days were spent adoring my sweet kids (and sometimes weathering out temper tantrums) and my evenings were spent attending class or studying. As it turned out, I was as successful attending school as I was helping to teach it. I was happy with my life outside of my marriage.
The happiness did not have a chance to last too long. Graduation was approaching quickly, and finances were becoming a real problem. My ex’s spending was out of control. He was making purchases, lying about them, and then blaming me for his lying once he was cornered with evidence. If he was home, we were fighting. I started to dread him being home, no matter how badly I needed a break. He routinely ignored our children unless I prompted his involvement. Although he would engage with them, I was punished later for it. Soon, he had no patience at all with our small children. Their needs frustrated him and sent him into a torrent of rage about my failures as a wife, mother, house keeper, or person in general.
I soon discovered that my ex had another addiction that was resurfacing. He was addicted to pornography. On several occasions I caught him looking at it with our children in the same room. On every occasion, he would lie about it. Although I was aware that almost every man looks at porn from time to time, I was not ok with it being used around my kids. I was not ok with being lied to about it. I was not ok with being compared to those women or their activities. After looking at porn, my ex would put me down for being prudish, boring, and failing to satisfy his needs. We stopped being intimate altogether. I could not stand being lied to or compared to porn. He offered no affection. It was not long until we separated altogether. He moved in with a friend of ours, and I stayed home with our kids.
My college graduation was only a few months away. My thesis was almost completed, and my kids were my number one priority. I helped in each of their classes each week and spent a great deal of time in the doctor’s office with our son, who had severe asthma. As I juggled all of these responsibilities, my ex turned on the charm. He wanted to move back home and started volunteering to help out. He took an interest in our kids. He expressed remorse for his behaviors. He showered me with compliments and the words of affirmation that I had been deprived for so long. He even agreed that my parents were not treating me well. In fact, the situation with them had escalated to a point of intolerable cruelty.
My (then) husband and I agreed to enter marriage counseling and work toward moving him back home. The therapist, a highly respected LMFT in our community, was appalled at the dynamic between my parents and (then) husband. He strongly recommended that we implement boundaries with my parents. One of these boundaries was that they were not permitted to put me down, especially in front of our children. I committed myself to following through with these boundaries. If my parents could not treat me with respect, they would not be invited to spend time with me.
My son’s fourth birthday party was the forum they chose to walk all over the boundaries I set up. My parents showed up to the party uninvited. (I found out years later, at the custody trial, that my ex had actually invited them without telling me.) My ex and I were still separated, working on getting back together, although at that time we were not getting along at all. Our friends arrived to our neighborhood park with their children and birthday presents in tow clueless as to what was about to unfold. I was busy supervising our children, greeting guests, and serving pizza when I saw them approaching. The sight of my parents walking toward our party sent me into an indescribable panic. Our marital problems were already enough for our kids to handle, I could not fathom a birthday party being disrupted by my parents’ antics. I continued with my business, hoping and paying the party would continue smoothly. Fortunately, my children were unaware of the underlying chaos that day. In fact, until the party was over, I was also unaware of the chaos that was going on. My parents spent the entire party interviewing my friends, investigating my “behavior.” They had also left without explanation. Several of my friends approached later and informed me that my parents had asked them about my drinking.
To be very clear, I did not have a drinking problem. I occasionally enjoyed a low carb, low calorie beer or two. My parents believe ANY form of alcohol is a sin and sure sign of impending destruction. I found out years later that my ex had informed them that I was binge drinking and he was at a loss for what to do about it. I believed we were working on our marriage, and he was setting up the stage for the custody battle. At that time, I was clueless as to where they got their inclinations that I was “binge drinking.”
The night after the party my father came to my home uninvited. My ex was there, having dinner with us. I told him I did not want my father to come in, and asked him to ask my father to leave. Instead, my father came into the home and started raging at me right away. He screamed at me, opening my fridge and pulling out a bottle of Michelob Ultra. I was frozen in that instant in my 12 year old self, frightened of the fists I knew would follow the screaming. I ran upstairs, where my children were playing. My father followed me. Not wanting him to scare the kids, I ran into my bedroom hoping he would leave. I asked him to leave, voice shaking. He opened my door and bull dozed into my room, still screaming. His face was red, his eyes were enraged, and the vein in his forehead was protruding. I was terrified. To this day, I remember parts of that experience in slow motion. I heard him say “I will kill you Goddammit.” I remember wondering where my husband had gone and why he wasn’t stopping this. He was a police officer. In fact, they both were. I caught a glimpse of him calmly getting the kids into the bath, as though nothing out of the ordinary were happening. Terrified, I summoned my sense and told my father to leave immediately. Thankfully, he stared me down and left without another word. I erupted into tears and called our therapist as soon as I could speak.
Bio: “Uphill Battle” is an autism therapist and freelance writer with a background in special education from Southern California. She has ridden the family court roller coaster for more than two years after ending her troubled marriage of 10 years. Her harrowing experiences in the system have awakened her inner crusader. She is a loving mother to two amazing children and one wonderful step-son. Raising her children is her utmost priority, and she has taken on an incredible uphill battle in order to preserve her right to do so. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking, volunteering, and writing.
To see the rest of the posts from “An Uphill Battle,” click here. ###
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