A reader named Veronica is in the middle of a custody fight with an NSP. Her struggle sounds so similar to what I lived through. Here are my thoughts about her post.
I can not offer you any Advice. I do not know you. I am not a counselor or a lawyer. But, what I can do is reply to your post/questions in the following way: Your story, struggle, worry, etc is all so familiar to me – from both my personal experience and also the stories I have heard from others (in Real Life and Online). I will address your comments by sharing my personal experiences and thoughts.
VERONICA: His emails upset me so much but people can't read them like I can.
RLM: In my situation, the NSP’s emails are mostly written in a code of politeness. One thing the NSP continues to do (as he did in our marriage and divorce) is to REWRITE HISTORY. He cannot (does not) keep track of his lies/stories, so I have Conflicting Versions of Reality in HIS EMAILS TO ME. I do not bring this to his attention. I do not argue. It is a trap. I ignore it.
VERONICA: His are exactly as you said--the implied threat. My threats are like the other gal who commented--more subtle and covert--like everything else with this SOB.
RLM: In response to the implied threat, the overt threat, the covert threat --- I choose to IGNORE. He wants a fight. I give him no fight. This was particularly hard for me to do when we were ACTIVELY FIGHTING WITH LAWYERS BETWEEN US, and when custody and child-support were not yet settled. But I also didn’t have the skill set yet developed to appropriately deal with a Narcissist/Sociopath/Psychopath. My experience has taught me to not respond.
VERONICA: But he has me to a point where I cannot read my own emails—
RLM: I would have an anxiety mini-attack/moment whenever I had to open my email account, because: would an awful email from him be there, waiting? It was like he could reach through the internet and grab me, shout at me, etc. I was advised by Experienced Women to sequester his emails to an account especially for him. I have a post that addresses this issue in detail. +LINK+
VERONICA: then he takes me to court and said that I am not working together with him to provide the best care for my kids!! He is winning the war on winning people over. :( He used the "I only want my kids to be cared for and safe".
RLM: The NSP used this line on me also, and anyone willing to listen. “wanting what is best for the children” “in the children’s best interest” In time, however, his argument has become thin. I find that most people don’t give a damn about my personal struggle with my ex-husband. It is my burden. Other people have their own burdens. The court system is dealing with the types of abuse and neglect that makes my middle-class problems look ideal. This is what I have come to learn after many years of struggle.
VERONICA: Then he set about showing that I was mentally unbalanced!! Then he got a professional to say that I what poor judgment.
RLM: There are so many versions of this abuse. The crazy ex-wife. The mentally ill woman. Women refuse to be controlled, refuse to endure the abuse any longer, fight back, are driven crazy by the crazy maker. It is a tactic of the abuser to say that the target is mentally ill. Some abusers are better at perpetrating this crime than others. Plenty of professionals are taken in by the NSP, especially when the NSP is smart, educated, successful.
VERONICA: Then he parlayed that into a judge taking legal custody away from me--after the narcopath lied about me in court. Now he has all kinds of "evidence" that I am a bad mom and that I am damaging to my kids. Now he uses this evidence that he manufactured by parlaying bulshit into reality. Now he is seeking full custody because of those lies nd because the kids hate him--also MY fault.
RLM: This is tragic. I am sorry. I have seen this in real life with women who were married to high functioning, brilliant and successful NSPs. One woman who I know personally and in real life, had been a full-time stay at home mother. The kind of mother who volunteers at the school constantly, who packs beautiful organic lunches, who makes sure her children are beautifully dressed. This mother looked like an angel, she was kind and engaged, and her children were happy and healthy and smart. Clearly, nothing was wrong. Her highly successful and constantly working NSP-husband orchestrated the divorce process to paint her as mentally unwell and unfit to parent. He extracted all sorts of WORK from her to benefit his lifestyle just before the divorce was sprung on her, and then he kicked her to the curb. He got full custody of the children. He did this by getting an expensive, experienced and cut-throat lawyer. She got a moderate and less-experienced lawyer who apparently did not know how to go to battle for her. The NSP and his lawyer intimidated her until she acquiesced. The NSP still works unreasonable hours, and A NANNY cares for her children. But, I can tell you, that this woman has made incredible good out of her life, and several years later, she is living her dream in business, and has an amazing house. And every time I see her in real life, she is happy. The kind of happy that oozes out of her pores. She is an example of how to thrive. So, yes, horrible things happen, and we can rebound from them.
VERONICA: Either I have one of the most cunning narcopaths ever--or I am the stupidest person ever because I have somehow gotten completely destroyed by him--money, reputation, house, credit, life, and now kids are the last to be taken from me totally.
RLM: You may have one of the most cunning narcopaths ever. I don’t think it is our stupidity that gets us conned. I think it is a result of a good heart, a lack of training in the realities of the world, and in my case: being primed for abuse by a parent… Another story for another day (or year, or decade).
Veronica: Can't seem to ever fight back as he is a million steps ahead of me
RLM: I find that fighting back was, and is, pointless. Because, yes, the NSP is always too far ahead, and too practiced in evil. He has had years of experience in being a disordered, lying, cheating Narcissist/Sociopath/Psychopath. I found (and find) that it is better to avoid and ignore than to engage. The NSP THRIVES on the nonsense. The nonsense makes me Literally Ill. During my custody fight, I held on for dear life. I still didn’t get what was best for my children, or for me, but I did the best I could. It has been, in so many ways, consuming and intolerable. But, I have had to tolerate the situation, as my children have also had to tolerate. It is hard on us. During the acute stage of custody fighting, I found that holding my ground was my best defense (looking back).
Veronica: They will never survive the onslaught of boundary issues and gas lighting that they will encounter. How do I stop this and how do I save them???
RLM: I felt similarly. I worried similarly. I can say that my children HAVE survived, so far. They have suffered, but they are ok. Many people told me that my children would be okay, as long as they had me in their lives. I didn’t believe this for the longest time. I worried so much about their health, well-being, safety… They are ok, and I finally believe that they will be okay. Because. They. Have. Me. For so many years, the NSP made me feel as if I was of no consequence. And then, after I left, I felt so desperate and scared. For myself. And for my children. Time has passed, and I can see areas where my children would be happier and stronger and more successful if the NSP had less power and influence over their lives. Yes. It is true. But it is what it is. This is what we have. This is the culture that we currently live in. And we do the best we can do. And, someone who I trust, who has tons of experience, and who knows me and my children TOLD ME THAT MY KIDS WOULD BE OKAY BECAUSE THEY HAVE ME. And because of this, I feel much more peace.
Veronica: I have has 6 attorneys and NONE of them got what he was doing and all were "won" over to his side with something that nobody will share with me. When I meet them--the yare all abou t me getting justice. Buy the time they have talked with or met his attorney--the yare telling me that I am lucky if I would get custody in a trail..... All I have done--ever--was love and care for my boys. However---he has done something to my name that just completely helps him get whatever he wasn't. I have been"set up" with co-parenting classes that HIS attorney picked and now "family therapy" that the coparenting attorney and his attorney picked. I smell the same set-up I smelled when his attorney got to pick th psychologist.!!! They are only meeting wit hme and the boys which at first I thought was a good thing. Now I realize it is to say what he accuses me of--tht I smother, tell them too much, rely on them for emotional support..... None of ha tis true but so ealily provable with a few well placed questions. My son told the therapist tha he helps by hugging me when Icry. That is normal for a boy t odo and I just lose my young nephew and ws crying a lot--but didn't react fast enough in the sessin to say that was why I was crying so they implied thatI am suing him and trying to put him in the "mans role " of the house!!! I am supposedly the one who also treats them like babies--so which his it, right?? Why can't a mom get a hug from her son when he sees her crying an why isn't seen as a good thing-- I have taught them empathy.
They don't ask how often that happens or why that happened--the only tape the sessions and make me feel like I am about to be executed. Really they make me feel like I have been a bad mom and that I will lose custody because of this. He gets off on keeping me in this state of panic.My first nightmare came true--they believe hm all the time. Then I lost 50% custody. Now he is shooting for the rest of the pie. The 50% custody I have and the house and the money and the lack of debt to him.... I have failed miserably to protect my children and made every mistake that I could. I am the poster child for how NOT to deal with a narcopath. My children will suffer. I am out of ideas and options. I was stupid. I lost it for me and now for them. :(
RLM: I have felt that the professionals involved in our situation often sided with the NSP. His credentials and professional (psychopathic) demeanor often won them over. This caused me great pain and worry. I held on for dear life, and held my breath, and prayed and worried. I shook internally for years. I made lots of mistakes that cost me dearly. I fought too hard at times, during the divorce. I was weary of professionals who bought his nonsense and labeled me incorrectly, who didn’t listen, and didn’t notice, and ultimately didn’t care. But I did find a few professionals who did care, who did give good advice, and who ultimately did the best they could.
I wish you the best of luck.
A.K.A. Rose Lee Mitchell
Veronica posted a response at