If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…

How much are a thousand pictures worth?

Excerpt from Divorcing a Narcissist- One Mom’s Battle:

Dating Seth: As we started driving, Seth pulled out a photo album of his two dogs. He knew that I owned a pet sitting business and wanted to show me how much his dogs meant to him. His photo album showed every stage of his dogs’ lives, and I could feel his excitement as he talked about his pets.

These were not just any dogs, based on Seth’s descriptions. Seth and his father had driven almost one thousand miles to personally select one of the dogs, and Seth bragged about her lineage being the best that money could buy. The other dog had been Seth’s dog in college, and he talked about how much attention he received while walking the dog around the college. Seth told me that he owned another vehicle, a Jeep, solely to transport his dogs. I found it sweet to see how much he loved his animals.

  • Red Flag Reflection: While it was touching that Seth loved his dogs, it was odd behavior for a grown man. It also made for a socially awkward situation because there were only so many times I could comment about how great his dogs were. Seth was trying to prove how much he loved his dogs by bombarding me with photos.

Hindsight is 20-20. It is my belief that because Seth is incapable of regular feelings and emotions, pictures are his way of “capturing love.”  I was recently reminded that during the beginning stages of our divorce, Seth would show up at my daughters’ preschool and insist that the teachers view the photos that he had taken of the girls having fun. In his hands, he held solid proof of love. One teacher at the preschool told me that he didn’t even listen to her speak at a parent-teacher conference because he was so preoccupied with searching for photos on his laptop computer.

Throughout our custody battle, Seth has bombarded everyone with photos. Anyone who will listen to him is “shown” that he loves his daughters. Several people who are on Seth’s Facebook account messaged me yesterday to say that he had uploaded lots of new photos showing himself to be the doting father. My response: “Of course he is. We have a custody evaluation on the horizon. He is snapping pictures as fast as possible” I am hoping that our evaluator sees through this game. While I am guilty of being camera happy, I have yet to have to prove my love to the courts through photos. I am confident in my relationship with our daughters and don’t feel the need to capture that love to show everyone who will give me five minutes of their time.

Since I strongly believe that they all use the same manual in life, I am curious: does the narcissist in your life “capture” love by photo?


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To purchase Tina’s new book, “Divorcing a Narcissist- One Mom’s Battle”, click here. You will find insight, red flag reflections and strategies on how to survive while divorcing a narcissist or co-parenting with a narcissist. Tired of panicking at the site of a new email from the narcissist in your inbox? Learn how to de-code the emails and see them for what they are. You will learn to forgive yourself and to begin healing. 


32 Responses

  1. Oh those red flags when I look back now! I remember being in the hospital delivering our twin babies after a horrible pregnancy of being bed ridden. My ex was way to busy on the computer emailing his family about “his arrivals” coming that he pretty much ignored me during the entire labor process. I was so stupid at the time, and I thought, “He’s so into having these babies”. I didn’t realize everything was about HIM and what would draw attention to him.

    Funny thing in common with the dogs, a few years before our split we got a family dog that is a cute little maltese. My ex used to like to walk it because he said people would often stop on the street or in their cars to remark how cute it was and that the dog drew lots of attention. He would often tell our family members that the dog was a “traffic stopper” .

    It is all about any attention they can get to make them feel special. I wish I had payed better attention to all the red flags that I can now look back on and see were so obvious had I listened to my gut and inner voice.

  2. OMG!

    I got a letter from my narc ex this summer, and he uses the number of photos and videos he took as evidence that he is a good father. Here is an excerpt:

    “There were many things that held my life and family together over the years, including my kids, my in-laws, my beliefs, my vision, and my work. You definitely became the lesser factor in the later years, as I frequently found myself calculating the reasons why I should be happy about my marriage. In reflecting on my relationship with my daughters, I have come to the conclusion that i was a very good father, as I am a very good father to the boys now. It is pretty humiliating to be reduced to groveling to try and win back their respect and faith in me, and I have concluded this summer that I won’t
    stoop to that.

    However, I did spend thousands of hours taking family photos and
    making family movies, which I made because my family was more
    important to me than anything in the world. They are not for sale, nor will they ever be. And I always enjoyed how the kids gravitated to the screen whenever I played the family movies. I preserved the one thing that is most perishable in this world: memories. I am not really in the photos or videos, because nobody else took the time to include me.
    I was definitely the outsider a long time back, and generally not that happy looking when I was photographed or video-taped. The videos are pretty much useless to me now, having lost my family, but i do intend to compile a dvd for each of the kids.

    My kids are obviously hugely important to me, as I have spent several tens of thousands of hours processing my relationship to them over the last five years. I can still get sucked into it for weeks at a time, processing, processing, processing, eighteen hours a day, with no means to work it out with the girls, and no other means to resolve the situation or delete them and all the files attached to them. But the bottom line is that I am actually a freaking good father, and they can choose to recognize it or not. I will always be here for them, whether
    or not they ever decide that I am worth having in their lives. It will be their loss if they don’t.”

  3. And are these narcissists all the same? When I left my abuser, he was awarded supervised visitation only. During one of his visits he gave our daughter a copy of a picture he had taken from his wall on his apartment. It was a couple years old photograph that he had printed off of his computer of her and he framed it and put it on his wall. He then took a picture of the picture and presented it to her at his visitation time. It was as if he was giving this to say “see I have a picture of you framed on my wall and this proves my love of you”. She brought home the copy and asked me why in the world would he give her a picture of a picture. I just said “I don’t know”.

    They are beyond understanding.

  4. Absolutely !!! Every visit our son makes is a ‘photo op’ which pics immediately are put on FB to show everyone how loving and caring a father he is . NPD at it’s finest – pics are proof that his son loves him and that he’s a great Dad. I will note that our son hasn’t visited his Dad in well over a year – he’s 13 and is setting his own boundaries. At a ‘graduation’ of sorts a few months ago the Narc Ex (and his mother) cornered our son and took a few staged pics – which were promptly posted to FB with comments on what a great time they had ! In reality – they probably spent 2-3 mins together (long enough to take the ‘proof’ pics)

  5. Yes. Unreal.

    I used to have a standard poodle and I would often dye her PINK (don’t throw rocks at me!). He didn’t mind walking her because she drew a crowd. Other men would cringe when we walked by but not Seth…he liked the attention.

  6. To answer your question: yes. I am convinced that there is a manual that they follow– or a computer program that allows them to “cut and paste” stock responses and attacking emails.

  7. “does the narcissist in your life “capture” love by photo?”

    Most definitely, although I have a bit of a twist to share.

    During the first few weeks of my divorce when I was gathering as much evidence as I could to show what kind of person the N is, we came across over 300 photos of himself — mostly him naked and in graphic poses (the others were various stages of him undressing). Some photos even showed him wearing some weird penile contraption that not even the GALs who viewed the photos in deposition could figure out the purpose of (under direct questioning he said it was for “decoration”). One photo for certain was taken after two of the boys were born and about 5 weeks before my 3rd son’s birth. Not fun to discover that’s the sort of thing that was happening when I left the house to go shop for the baby’s coming home outfit.

    So the N I divorced absolutely captures love in photos and it’s not surprising what the object of his love turned out to be. And, yes, he is also guilty of believing that taking as many photos as he can of himself with the boys is “proof” that he’s father of the year — in reality it’s just more chances to look at himself.

  8. I was speechless too. I had sent him an email saying his daughters were hurt by comments he made on his website/blog about how adopting them “looked good on his resume” This was part of his long and nasty reply.

    Thank you for being a witness to these things. I have many more nasty and disturbing emails. I have been afraid to share them because my ex is well liked and seen as a good guy that does great things by many people. He is just nasty to his immediate family.

  9. Every weekend that they spend with him there are uploaded pictures on facebook showing them at one or more outings “having fun”. I’m assuming to show everyone what a “good” father he is and how much he does with the girls…

    Needless to say they always come home exhausted (5 and 6 years old) and it takes days to get back to normal.

  10. LOL…should have been a huge red flag when my husband, on our honeymoon in Hawaii, was more interested in videotaping the romantic sunset than enjoying it with me!! Who videotapes a SUNSET??

    ..and yep….he shows up to court with a rolling cart filled with photos that he considers proof of him being a good dad!

  11. OMG! My ex is a self proclaimed “videographer” and although we are in the middle of a custody battle right now and he has very limited visitation, he snaps pictures as soon as he sees the kids. The pictures go straight to facebook and emailed to his mom to keep the money coming in. The kids are only a source of N supply for him. He does not have the ability to actually feel anything real. I thought i was the only one that experienced this weird use of pictures to prove this fake life he wants to portray. It’s sick!

  12. When my narc left he asked for the TV and took his games console. I offered him pics of the kids. He did not reply. I went through them and they were all of him in happy shots with them. I did not like being on pics myself. They were totally staged and were not happy events. He had no relationship with either child ever. Now I’ve left him he wants more and more access. It shocked me to the core as I’d not seen it in 15years of marraige till I viewed the pics. So reassuring to know they are all the same.

  13. Facebook – if it wasn’t around I wouldn’t know what my son does every other weekend. Each and every “fun” moment is caught for friends and family to ew and ah over. What a great father he is! What an idiot I am for divorcing such an amazing person! The whole family does the same thing, it’s disgusting.

  14. Wow…your website as well as “MEV” have giving me so much confirmation in the past few months of the type of “FOG” I have been in for the past 10yrs! But this post concerning photos really just gave me not only an “ah ha” moment, but also gave me the creeps! I was looking thru family photos a few months ago and came across pics of all the “newborn” children (as well as grandchildren) that have been born since we have been together, and before I met him. Every single picture of him holding a baby is the exact same pose, with the same “forced” empty smile he uses when he is trying to look sincere or innocent! Creepy!

  15. I am a big scrapbooker. My SD (sperm donor) N never asked to see the pages I made. Being an artist and very detail oriented, I would often spend 15+ hours per page. I used to ask him why he never wanted to see the pages of him and the children. (Of course there was rarely photos of me because he would never take a picture of me or the kids). He would always say If I wanted him to see them I would show them to him. Now of course it makes lots of sense.

    Since our separation & divorce, on FB he posts inspirational quotes about how much he loves and is involved in his kids lives. Of course, everyone believes that he is a caring involved father. They don’t know that during his kids baseball games, playoffs, world series & school graduations, instead of being at work like he claimed, he was surfing live teen porn sites & making dates on cheating spouses sex sites to meet for secret no commitment affairs. He even stole over $23k I gave him to open college accounts for the boys. All this while I was in liver failure & told I needed a transplant. He moved me 500 miles away from family, work & friends, didn’t sign up for Cobra, kept me out of the hospital & told my family I was fine so they need not come. (He was telling me he told them how sick I was and they apparently didn’t care enough to come). He told his friends & colleagues how grave I was and got LOTS of pity. I had a $500K life insurance policy. He cried hysterically when we were told I responded to medicine and wouldn’t need the transplant. I actually thought they were happy tears. I had never seen him shed more than 1 tear just 1 time. I felt so guilty to have put him through this. Now I know he cried because I was going to live. That’s when the rest of my money started disappearing. He had taken over the finances because I was sick for a long time.

    Yeah, he’s husband & father of the century alright. That’s what his friends & family think.

    My attorney said I had no case against him because it was too long ago that my money disappeared. It doesn’t matter that I was too sick to be involved with the bills. It was also my fault because I trusted him.

  16. When they use the same playbook and have the same insecurities and use the same tactics to attack and destroy—no longer just a flavor of crazy.

    I swear this stuff has a bunch of clinical names, personality disorders, syndromes, etc.

    But for us of the layman variety–flavors of crazy will do.

    I have *got* to get around to labeling the flavors of crazy so we can all describe ours quick and easy…..

  17. After our divorce, my ex narc would take our then 3 and 5 year olds with him to sailboat after-race parties because they were (still are) so cute and great “chick magnet” material. He also had the walls of his apartment plastered with their pictures to try to show what a “loving” and “doting” father he was. Since they’ve become teenagers and have minds of their own and no longer blindly worship him he never takes pictures of them and does not ask for a school picture like he used to. The pictures he hung in his new house a year ago are all of when they were much younger. I guess you could say the “devaluing” stage is in full swing as he is doing everything he can to alienate his children and focus on his new N-supply wife of one year. Very sad and pitiful.

  18. This post makes me so sad. I recall a time when I was pregnant that both the N and I each had a dog. My dog was a Siberian Husky that I rescued, and his dog was a pure bred pit bull that he insisted I buy for him. If we walked the dogs together, he insisted that it be a competition of whose dog was cuter and would draw more attention. It made me ill and I actually refused to walk our dogs together any more.

    Since the N has stolen my son from me and claims I have no relationship with my baby, I have submitted pictures to the court. Of my son with me during Skype visits while he is in the N’s care. Only to show that this family KNOWS my son is bonded to me and they are lying about it. Would you say that is on level with what your N exes have done?

  19. No- not at all, LA. I’ve read your story…totally different ball game.

    If you inundate people (teachers, friends, etc) with photos to prove that you are a good mom…that’s one thing. My x cannot read social cues. I assume that’s a common trait with narcissists. I am very in tune with social situations and emotions. I used to watch him interact with people at parties, meetings and work situations and cringe. Now I can imagine those same situations but it involved pictures and my daughters.

    I also have copies of a text message that he sent to a stranger out of state — it was a photo of he and my daughters and he was using it to set the stage (I am normal…I’m a dad…I have kids…you can trust me). What stage? He was stalking a woman and got contacts out her phone– he text messaged a man that he was jealous of to tell him horrible things about the said-woman. He used my daughters for this purpose. 🙁

  20. I am so sorry for the things you and other women have experienced!

    I find myself cringing when I read some horror stories and terrible experiences that parents have experienced at the hands of N Ex’s. The things that the members of this community describe as being done by their X’s and the things they have to do to in order to protect their children from N’s. To fight for their children in custody battles.

    The things I’ve heard members of this community say about their N Ex’s are the same things my N ex is saying about me in court. It cuts straight through my heart because I know that people are really experiencing these kinds of things from their ex’s. Staging, manipulation, aggressiveness, being uninterested in the children unless it looks good in court, lying, changing their stories over and over again. These are the things I am accused of in court by the man who has stolen my little boy. I know the stories I read here are true, but I wonder how to tell my own story. Do I sound like an N who doesn’t acknowledge their own faults?

    I have borne this fear and this anxiety in my heart for a very long time. Until I was in court yesterday. My N Ex testified in open court some of the most insane things I have ever heard. He even stated that people he has never met who have nothing to do with him have a vendetta against him. He testified that my fiance is hostile and MUST be out to get him because last November my fiance wore a trench coat and kept his hands in his pockets.

    I do hope that people understand a Narcissist will take the same valid reasonings and complaints that real parents use to describe the things Narcissists do – and will use them against a real parent who is genuinely interested in the children. In our fight against Narcissists, we also give them tools to use against us, and they will use them every chance they get.

    The only true defense against a Narcissist is to have hard documentation for EVERYTHING.

  21. My N used photos not only to shine a positive light on himself, but when he took photos of me, they were aweful. He would intentionally tell me when he supposedly was taking the picture, because of course, you smile for the camera, but when I would look at the photo he would actually take, I always looked aweful, miserable and unhappy. Granted I do not photograph well, but I am more than convinced now that was his cruel, calculated and warped intention of “capturing memories” to commemorize his distorted take on reality. Not just to make me look bad, but to make himself look and feel good. Just reminding myself of how totally twisted his mind is, was, and may forever be 🙁

  22. That is SO TRUE. My ex-husband’s Facebook page is a testament to how much he loves his children. He posts pics of their championship win or them receiving awards. He makes sure that EVERY time he sees them, he takes a picture. There isn’t much FB activity, but if you were to glance at his page, you might be fooled. We go to court on Dec 17th. His phone calls to the boys are starting to increase with the date on the horizon. But they are teenagers, so the amount that they respond is declining. Especially since he took his girlfriend and her kids to an NFL football game instead of them. I guess he didn’t need those photo ops.

  23. My twisted photo story is like M. wrote about. After my Narcissistic Abuser left our house I started going through all our family photos. I was looking at our photos in a whole new light. All the pictures of me were taken at an unflattering angle or focusing on a fat part of my body. It was like he was trying to tell me he hated me which he did while whispering sweet nothings in my ear.
    As I looked closer at all our photos I noticed things like what I thought were pictures of landscapes he took on vacation were really pictures of other women. Each and every landscape had a naked woman on the beach in the background, or a woman’s toes, or just a face of a beautiful woman with half my kids face in the picture to make it look like he was meaning to take a picture of our kids, it was so creepy and he is a voyeur in addition to being a wife beater and an N. The other day my daughter and I were watching a family video of trip we took with cousins. My 12 year old daughter was asking me why dad would be taking a picture of her 13 year old cousin who weighs 300 pounds, waddle across the yard and “why was dad” videoing his butt crack coming out of his shorts? I told her that was dad’s way of saying he doesn’t like something or does like something. He once took my daughter to the ocean and videotaped 26 miles of the road trip. When they got to the ocean the battery was dead. Another thing about photos is that in the divorce he did not ask for one baby picture, video, first day of school photo, artwork. He did not ask for anything personal from the girls. Oh and I almost forgot. When the GAL was coming to his apartment my then 16 year old told me he was taking and hanging pictures of him, his girlfriend, and the kids together as one happy family. Ugh. He is so creepy. But of course everyone just loves him and thinks he is the greatest and knows he had to leave me because I am so awful…….Last month I got a court ordered Family Wizard only contact! And a two year Protection Order. Thanks Tina.

  24. I forgot to add something about the picture taking. Once I was really sick and I was in bed for about a month. I did not clean the house and did the bare minimum in taking care of my kids. Did he help me? No. Did he care for the kids? No.
    He went around the house and took pictures of a dirty bathroom, kitchen, living room ect. I was so appalled that he wouldn’t even help me get to the doctor and yet he was photographing the mess. I thought he was going to send them to his mom to prove how awful I was. My attorney told me he was gathering pre divorce evidence to use against me. Fortunately I had enough police reports and third party evidence to prove him wrong.

  25. Tina,
    I just found your website, Thank you for the work you are doing ! There are only a few people in my life that understand the NPD I’ve been dealing with for 14 years. I finally left him this past July, after 10 years of marriage (so selfish he would not move out of our family home) I moved out with our children, 11 & 8 years old and only took a few things. He has since locked me out, sent emotionally and verbally abusive emails and wrote a ranting declaration of complete lies about me. I have many, many stories and am in the beginnings of a court battle that has taken its tole on me. I’m realizing how manipulative he has been all this time, how sick he is, how much of an HF alcoholic he is. I’ve been very fearful and am trying desperately to find strength in this. I’ve always been the nice, kind, forgiving and loving person, willing to compromise my life away for this man all in the name of the illusion of the family life that I created for our children. I’ve realized nice does not pay and never did me any good all these years, except for one thing, model goodness to my children. They now see and are beginning to see who he really is without my overshadowing his selfishness. The hardest part about all this is he is so good at being such a terrible person to me all behind closed doors, and no one, not even his family knows the depth of his sickness. He holds a high position in a company, makes good money and immediately started a relationship with one of his employee’s. I realize the N needs to have someone else to talk constantly about himself right away to and woo this woman into his world. He’s not doing a very good job of hiding it with our children. My daughter has seen pictures of them already and tells me he spends most of his time when they are with him, calling or texting her. It seems the courts and Attorney’s don’t care about this kind of behavior.

    On the subject of Photo’s, yes, he uses them to try to prove he is a loving Father. Repeatedly when we were married he would take photo’s I took of the kids and I somewhere (while he was at home drinking to access) and put them on facebook as if he was there. When I confronted him with it and asked him at the very least to give me credit for the image and tell the real story he blew me off. Once I moved out and he did not show interest in seeing the kids or calling them, (it got in the way of his drinking and manic behaviors) I noticed he consulted an attorney, The Men’s Legal Center, he immediately put up pictures on his FB profile that I took of him and the kids over a year ago, simple shots that they ran in the picture for, not any real time spent with them. He then demanded to see them more often because that’s what he was advised. You all know that story. He never took the time to get our Son involved in any organized sports, and actually told friends in front of me that it was my fault and that I was to lazy to do it myself. I found a great flag football team for him, payed for everything, and he demanded that I tell him the schedule instead of talking with the coach himself. He came to most games and talked on the phone during them, then snapped some pictures and put it right up on FB as if he was the one that did all the work. This will continue I’m sure of it, and I have to get use to it and not let it consume me with anger. Its very, very hard as you all know.

    I’m going back and remembering all the things that happened during these years that represented his mental illness’s. There are many, but I will share one. When our first child was born, our daughter, I woke up the morning after we brought her home to find him on the couch with her telling her his “life story”. It sat with me as very strange and selfish, and I thought he was just stressed out about being a new father.

    I can’t believe I stayed so long or even married him in the first place. I lost myself in his sickness, but I’m on the way to getting me back.

    I’ll be purchasing your book Tina, and checking back here often… Thanks

  26. You have a long journey ahead– cling to the people who understand your battle. They will be your lifeline at times. I’m happy that we’ve connected– and happy that you are on the road to being free. -Tina

  27. Wow. Just wow. I’m a little late to the party on this post, but it rang a bell for me! When I met my narc, he brought his dog EVERYWHERE. I thought it was strange, as he would go to non-dog-friendly places and leave the dog in his car for hours, regardless of the temperature. He claimed he had to bring the dog everywhere because he had seperation anxiety. I see now that he just liked the attention. He has a new dog now and does the same thing to that poor fella.

    My narc began his abuse when I became pregnant. I left about 4 months later. Now he has supervised visits with our infant daughter and spends the majority of each hour-long visit taking photos of her, which he then posts one at a time to Facebook over the course of the next few days to give the impression that she is with him. Weeeeiiirrrd.

    I swear, the more I understand the narc pathology, the creepier it gets.