So many people write to ask me whether manipulators or other disturbed characters can ever really change that I posted an article addressing this very question a couple of weeks ago (see: Top Question about Manipulators: Can They ever Really Change?). Just as frequently, folks inquire about where and how they might get the appropriate kind of professional help to deal with the disturbed character in their lives, and I have an article posted on that topic as well (see: Character Disturbance: Getting the Right Kind of Help). People also frequently ask me how they can protect their children from the negative influence of their spouse or partner once they’ve become clued into their destructive ways. Often, a person will ask this question in tandem with a question about how to make friends, acquaintances, or others “see” what they have finally come to see with respect to the character of the problematic person in their lives. Somehow, it feels vindicating to them if they can get everyone else around them to appreciate just how much wool the disturbed character once pulled over their eyes.
Before addressing the aforementioned issues directly, I think it’s important to emphasize one of the general principles I advocate strongly in my writings, including my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance. It’s absolutely critical that folks understand and respect the areas of their lives where they do and don’t have power. Why? Because whenever we invest any time, energy, or emotional passion in something we don’t have power over, we set ourselves up for a sense of defeat, loss, and eventually, depression. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to put your energy and effort in what you have power over, namely your own behavior, and not to fret so much about the things you have little control over anyway, like what someone else’s reactions or opinions might be.
Naturally, a caring and concerned parent doesn’t want to expose their child to harm. And there are certain instances in which a parent must take firm measures to ensure a child’s safety. But it’s also possible to become far too concerned about the “negative influence” a disturbed character might have on a child’s development. It’s also often a waste of time and energy to engage in a personal crusade to open the eyes of family and friends to someone’s true character. So I often advise folks to keep themselves focused on their own conduct, because that’s where the power lies. Children are always observing. And they don’t just pay attention to what we say. They mostly notice what we do. We have the power to model for them what appropriate, principled, behavior is all about. They come to understand character by the character we ourselves display. And they’re perfectly capable of contrasting that character with the character of others. The same is true for our family and friends. The better our own nobility shines, the more someone else’s character deficiencies stand out like a sore thumb. We also have the power to assist our children in their own quest to develop character by providing appropriate encouragement and recognition. And it’s crucial to be as attentive to their effort as it is to recognize their successes. Bottom line: the best way to protect children from negative influence is provide them with as much positive influence and encouragement as possible. We all have the power to model, lead, and encourage. And because it’s simply not possible to insulate our children from all the negative influences that exist in the world, the stronger our leadership and support is, the more “inoculated” our children will be against the forces we fear might corrupt them. And to do this effectively requires tons of energy – energy we couldn’t possibly have if we were depressing ourselves fighting the losing battles we sometimes fight to make things happen that we don’t have the power to effect.
Sometimes the fruits of doing the right thing aren’t realized for some time. One parent to whom I gave the advice above remained mad at me for several years thinking that her children would simply be lost to her as a result of the negative influence of her manipulative ex-husband. He would poison their minds, she feared, and eventually estrange them from her. But her children grew up not only to appreciate the big difference in the character of their parents, but to do their mother very proud by the kinds of persons they became (patterning themselves largely on the example she set for them). And she’s glad she stopped fretting about whether her friends, family, or even her children would be deceived or negatively influenced by her character-impaired ex because she now enjoys the fruits of all the efforts she made to exemplify a better course. In the end, she did more than protect her children. She guided them to a place and a level of living none of them even dreamed possible during the darker days. And she had the energy to do it because she didn’t invest herself in the lost causes she was once tempted to pursue.
47 thoughts on “Questions about Manipulators: How Do I Protect My Children?”
Wow. This is exactly where I’ve been stuck the last few weeks, and it’s a miserable place to be. Thanks for posting this. That’s how I want to live.
Simply brilliant i am going putting this wheel into motion straight away.
I have been experiencing the samething with my children. It is difficult as the older two both moved out to live with their father and everything I do or don’t do gets twisted and I am the bad parent, The hardest thing is to let go of my children and not respond to the voice I hear that of which is their father’s the same words I am an over reactor, I am unstable it hurts to hear that from my children.
This site is giving me some hope…just sad to have the little moments gone because I beieved in someone who told me lie after lie and manipulated my entire life.
Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you’re finding the site and its contents helpful.
My question is:
Do you have any suggestions regarding teenagers living with their father and mimic his reality? By pointing out the falseness of the reality, pitfalls etc I have succeeded in alienating myself farther and farther from them. If I did not accept my ex’s reality I was made to be the crazy one, I see this happening with our children. Any suggestions? Do I just smile and say sounds great?
If anyone has any input I would appreciate it. I can not seem to get past the emotional pain and think logically on this one.
After a long divorce process of three years and being cheated on. My ex continues to destroy me in front of our beautiful daughter. It pains me to feel this way and to see how cruel one could be. However I am stronger for it and I am trying to control my own thoughts when he is around me especially when he demises my character in front of our daughter. In hopes that he stops, I am reading as much as I can to stay focused. After all we are all a child of God and I am in his hands. In turn learning to be who I am and doing the right thing is what matters. Hope everyone stays strong from manipulation as the behavior does not seize. Wish there was legal council that would help women who are mentally abused.
Wow… I’m shocked to hear the exact thoughts and concerns I have. I’ve stayed with a very verbally, emotionally, and financially abusive husband. I have tried to build my career up so that I could be in a place to where I could take care of myself and my kids without him. I changed careers mid life and have been highly successful in real estate (it had to be a GOD thing). But that I decided to leave OR what I should say slowed him to push me out of my own home. What I feared most is becoming a reality and that is even though I left and still have primary custody he is now manipulating me and playing really sick games thru my kids. It’s so hard b/c all I’ve wanted to do is protect the reason I stayed and endured so much. It truly makes me feel helpless to know there isn’t much I can do. I will take the advice from the response above and start reading, start studying, and start working on myself so that I can be the best parent possible b/c I will never be able to control what he does. Physical Abuse is terrible but I honesty think the unprovable abuse can be worse.
So many battered women echo your thoughts. The physical abuse is one thing, but what haunts the women is the emotional and psychological abuse. The mental abuse isn’t taken seriously and yet it destroys women so effectively. Takes so much longer to potentially heal and even then, it’s not likely a woman ever fully heals.
I too am going through this and so scared of losing them and I feel it’s coming. I have been holding on for years and he’s now taking it out on my daughter to the point he’s making her sick. Thank you for sharing your post. It helps others like myself who feel alone and are in similar situations ❤️
I totally get this ..my wife is attempting to estrange my daughter after attempting to have me incarcerated and having a friend call protective services. Any updates to your condition or avenues of tactic to change?
NOw that you’re 7 years past this comment, I’d really like to know how you and your kids are doing.
When you respond to old posts you normally will not hear back. People come and go from this site.
If you look at the box on the right of the home page it will show current posts.
One more thing Dr Simon have you found that when people have children with disturbed characters the children can only accept one reality?
Thanks,Dr Simon. I see a lot of logic in what you write. My kids (6 and 2) see me react really badly to my husband’s psychological/mental/emotional attacks while he sits really calmly and calls them to “Come see mommy act all crazy again.” Or my son will ask why I’m always moody and crying . Or my 2 year old daughter will try to get me to hold hands with him cos she sees me avoid any contact with him. And it makes me even more depressed. Last week, I sat through him berating me for hours and when I couldn’t take any more, I tried to towrench the wheel so that the oncoming traffic would kill me (kids were at home).
Noone believes me because he’s stopped the physical abuse after I exposed him by checking into a hospital. He even told the doctors that I’m delusional and the injuries were self-induced to set him up. He’s turned up the mental abuse and takes edited photos of me,records conversations we had etc to prove that I’m insane and paranoid.
Right now,I’m intent on outwitting him and also presenting myself better. I now realize that noone will ever believe him especially with my seemingly neurorotic emotional breakdowns and dependence on sleeping pills and alcohol to numb me.I’d like to hang around for a few more years till my daughter’s older (maybe 7-8 years) . Nigeria’s patrilineal so I’ll lose custody if I fought and I was stupid/naive enough not to have gotten visual evidence of past abuse.
I’d appreciate any suggestions as per which of your books will help me (and my kids ) cope while I’m still living with him and still maintain my sanity.
Thanks for the kind words and for your questions. Although you’re no doubt facing an ordeal, perhaps the readers can offer some suggestions. Then, I’ll weigh in myself with some principles that might help.
My goodness. You have just written about how my life would have turned out had i not spotted the emotional abuse off my husband in front of our daughter.
I left him so that she would not repeat my mistakes and think this was how a man treats a woman. If i’d have stayed i would have never forgiven myself if that had happened.
It is down to you to take a stand. Show your children this is not how people treat the person that they (supposedly) love. He is not a man, he is insecure and using you to make himself feel big and superior to you.
Leave him, raise those children with a strong minded, secure and assured confident Mother who can stand up for herself in any situation.
How did this whole situation go?
Omma I feel your pain and my thoughts and prayers go out to you through this very hard time. I often think of ways I could have done things different during my 15 year marriage to a disturbed charachter, I still struggle with letting go and wondering if I am indeed the crazy one. I do not like to tell people what to do and hated it when people did to me by saying oh just do this or that….but I will say this to you. Your children need you as their mother someone who is present to them and the only way you can do that is by taking care of yourself. I lived with mental abuse berating and got worse when I said I was leaving…started drinking to numb out which only caused me a lot of problems BUT gave me a great road map of how to live….12 steps.
If I could do it different I would not try to out wit, always defending myself to him justifying righteous feelings. I would get support, document, plan how you will leave him if that is your intent if choose to stay, get support from a domestic violence group if there is any around, reading recovery material. Seek help if you can not stop drinking because it does not help but makes it worse it takes away even more of yourself it takes away your power and someone is already trying to do that to you. You are a powerful woman remember that! Read all you can on recovery and all of Dr Simon’s books!
I do everything the therapist says, especially with regard to my special need son. But it’s getting more and more difficult with their mentally unstable dad. On Fathers Day he had apparently taken a knife to himself and threatened to kill himself, but it took my son 7 days to report that to me, and until last night, after many nights when he kept waking up crying that dad was going to die, I had no clue what happened.
What do we do in situations like this? It’s a living nightmare to see your children suffer needlessly. The authorities do NOTHING, other than taping a crime scene and giving interviews to media after everything is over.
Please help. Thanks.
I’m so sorry you’re experiencing such an ordeal. Unfortunately, even though all the information shared on this blog – especially in regard to the principles I advocate in my writings about dealing with impaired characters – might make it seem like I can give direct advice with respect to a person’s situation, I simply cannot. That’s because it’s inappropriate and virtually impossible to assess the nature of someone’s situation remotely and to offer the right kind of advice. There are many possible reasons for erratic, impulsive, and terror-inspiring behavior, some of which are rooted in psychiatric illnesses other than character disturbance. So, best to address these concerns with the professional with whom you are working. But if you suspect that the professional might have either misdiagnosed the nature of circumstances or possibly lacks the appropriate training and experience to deal with the presenting issues, you always have the right to seek another opinion. It certainly can feel frustrating sometimes to think that nothing can be done to help a situation, but sometimes you have to be quite persistent in seeking out the right support. I know I’m being general here, but that’s of necessity. Others are free to comment, but it’s not possible for me to be more direct in the absence of an accurate and reliable assessment of your circumstances.
When a person commits to marriage and family life one is committing to spending time, energy and Emotional passion in something one has no power over – the free will of another person. I can’t see how it can be avoided unless one avoids relationships. Scary!
One puts time, energy and emotional passion into appropriate and well-disciplined self and other loving, which yields its own immense benefits regardless of the response of others. Not so scary when you look at it that way. And making a relationship commitment in the absence of sound character assessment of the person with whom we’ve become involved is always a risky proposition, which is why it’s so important to understand the essential elements of character.
In tribal days, suitors were expected to work for the prospective inlaws and prove their character over a significant period of time. Makes a lot of sense on a certain level.
Not too long ago, “engagements” before marriage really meant something as far as getting to know the character of a person, their history, background, and family of origin, and securing both the blessing and support of family and friends before taking the next step. It made a lot of sense, too.
My daughter who is 21 is living with a manipulative boyfriend. She will put the phone on speaker so he can hear everything. Right now is to the point where she says I am not her mother and she doesn’t have a family anymore. She also uses words like dummy, stupid, and others towards me. I want to help her. I don’t want her to lose herself in his manipulative ways. She has a good heart and always wants to help people. I don’t want her to lose herself by pleasing him all the time and always trying to make him feel ok everytime he victimize himself, which he does often. Please…How can I talk to her so she can see that is not a healthy relationship.
Hi Always Mom,
I guess first thing first… no one has right to call you any names. Get them stopped. Before you help anyone, you should help yourself. Set your boundaries and make sure they are not breached just because you feel responsible for others.
At 21, your daughter has her own free will, and your only hope is that she exercises it responsibly, respecting herself as well as others. It is also an age where you cannot convince her otherwise, especially if she has negative view toward you.
You best bet is probably just to state the morally right, social and responsible behavior and leave it at that. Take care of things that you control. Just point the right direction, and leave it at that. You cannot control others the direction they take.
I will suggest you browse through some blogs here. They can provide you more insight. You may also want to consider reading the book In Sheep’s Clothing after checking some blogs. Consider taking help from professional counselor.
Dr Simon, help. I’m a stepdad to two girls, 11 and 12. Been married to their mum for 1 yr, together for 4. Their dad is rich and as started bribing them with money. He call them names, embarrases them, and they feel they cannot stop seeing him because of the hairdryer shouting they receive from him, very abusive to my wife, was emotionally abusive all their marriage and is insulting me to the kids and to me in a very manipulative way. I am a man, I love these kids and feel by not standing up to him I’m not protecting them. The mum has got counselling and takes the route that however bad he is, he is still dad and she still encourages a relationship with them. I feel it’s doing more damage than not and to see two young girls scared of their dad flying off the handle if they tell him the truth and wanting to protect his feelings by seeing him is heartbreaking. I cannot be civil anymore, I need to take action but cannot work out what to do save hitting him to wake him up. Everyone is scared of this guy but he is just a narcissistic rich bully. Lease offer some advice.
Dr. Simon has excellent book on the very same topic. You should read In Sheeps Clothing. If you like, gift one copy to your wife, this $10 gift will be worth much more than all the counseling that your wife received.
Yep. He is narcissistic bully. He is not so much covert as described in the book, but he sounds like more aggressive variant of the same breed.
I think, he thinks you are weak, when in reality you are just a nice person who sometime let others cross their boundaries with you. This works fine with most people, except few who step over you just because they can! He also think that your wife, and daughters are weak too, so they are fair game for hunting.
Hitting him is an option, and if you can pull it off with at worst a warning from police, then it is a nasty short-cut way to resolve your problem very fast. But, it probably is not best way as it just may have unintended, unplanned consequences.
Easiest should be to figure out your rights, and set those boundaries, and hold those boundaries no matter what comes your way, some examples:
– I am primary caretaker of those girls, and no one has any right to shout at them. Complain to me if you have any problem. Better if you tell this to him on his face next time you catch him in the act, even better if you do that in front of your step-daughters. I am sure your daughters will be glad if you do that. You just need to hold on to “don’t shout at my daughters, complain to me” without hitting out, when category 5 tornado hits you. Hold well, you will recall it nothing more than a loud fart when it passes over, after all your wife survived it for 15 years, so cannot be more than that.
– No one insult me in any underhanded way. I don’t need to see the face of that ****-face. If my wife thinks she needs to subject her daughter to same treatment that she received then she drop them and pick them. I am assuming his highness does not come over to visit them, your family is the way making trips to his palace.
Dr. Simon, I am a dad to 2 daughters age 16 and 18. Their mother and I divorced 14 years ago. She did not want the divorce. I have stayed active in my daughters lives to include keeping a visitation schedule, vacations, travel ball, holidays, etc. This has never come easy as everything is always on their mothers terms but I was not willing to give up. Their mother doesn’t work and never has and I have owned my own business for 20+ years with multiple locations and 35+ employees. My oldest started college this year in our home town and my youngest is a junior in high school. I am engaged to a woman that treats my children as if they were her own and opts to stay out of any conflicts that may arise between myself and my children’s mother. (of course her and I discuss them but never does she get involved with my ex) So here is the problem….. My ex wife talks bad about me in front of my daughters and openly engages them in conversations that her and I have concerning them. She not only tells them about our conversations but she lies about it and turns it around to be about her! She tells them that I “yelled” at her…she has even gone to the extreme of breaking down in tears and telling them that I am mean to her and treat her like crap. She tells them that I am mean, that I don’t have time for them, tells them I am an alcoholic (yes I like red wine..but far from an alcoholic), the list goes on and on. She not only talks bad about me to them but to her family and peers in front of the children and even to my childrens young boyfriends. I limit all conversations with her to only things about our children and so she tells them that I don’t answer HER phone calls because I don’t care about them and I am too busy for them… There are days that she will call me no less than 8-10 times… I simply don’t want or need to talk to her that much! NOW she has started to talk bad about my fiance’. We have been together for 3 1/2 years and she has developed a close relationship with my girls. Especially my youngest…she adores my fiance’ (or should i say “adored” past tense!) The youngest daughter is now her mothers main focus (with my older daughter out of the house now) and she has taken her “bad mouthing” to the next level. My youngest will have crying spells where she can not hold it together (these spells are always when she is at her mothers) and when I ask her what is going on she tells me that she doesn’t know or at times she says “you hurt my feelings”. Never does she have a concrete answer for being upset. I am extremely concerned that no matter happy and healthy my home is for them their mother can convince them that I am bad, my fiance’ is bad and that basically they just have to “put up” with coming to see me. Our home is not a high conflict home….we cook as a family, eat as a family, watch movies as a family, go out to eat dinner as a family…we laugh, smile and have fun! I can not understand why at age 16 and 18 my children can not do some deductive reasoning for themselves and not “buy in” to their mothers lies!! I do not and will not talk bad about their mother to them…ever! My fiance’ encourages them to buy presents for their mom’s bday, Christmas, etc and even shops with them for their mother. I am at a loss and don’t know if I should sit them down and talk to them very factual about this or do something else??? My fiance’ and I are afraid of the pressure that we feel coming our way and the strain that will be put on us now that my fiance’ is being targeted as well. One more important thing that I almost forget…I approached my ex wife about us all (me, her and my youngest daughter) going to counseling to help my daughter figure out what is going on and of course, my ex wife did not want to have any part in that. HELP!!!! Any advice is appreciated. I am absolutely out of any ideas to help my daughters.
I am really sorry about your situation. CD individuals are capable of anything and it is wise to be cautious. I don’t doubt your X is counting the time before she has no one at home and is incredibly jealous of your healthy and loving relationship with your soon to be wife and your girls. The CD X will stop at nothing to be vengeful even to the point of lying, cheating, stealing and finally destroying your daughter.
First of all can you keep all your communication with the CDX strictly via email. This way everything will be in writing. Second can you contact and attorney that does guardianship cases and discuss your circumstances with the attorney.
I think it a very wise decision on your part to suggest counseling and it may be a good idea to have her evaluated by a therapist that will mainly be her therapist to discuss issues with. This way it can’t be construed she was influenced or your daughter feels limited do to fear what she says will be discussed.
This is very hard for a child who loves both parents to have to point out the negatives and have to feel guilty she may hurt someone. I would think she is especially, in fear of your XCD and what she is capable of doing.
Don’t ever underestimate how loathsome the XCD tactics are and what they will do to manipulate and harass an individual that is reliant on them. It’s too bad you can’t build a case against the XCD and get custody.
Dan S, just a few thoughts, I am sure a few of the others will chime in and give some input who have dealt with this kind of situation. I hope you keep posting and let us know how things evolve. What we learn from you may be of help to another someday.
Thanks for your reply! I will keep my posts coming as to the progress (if any). As frustrating as it is it truly helps to get feedback from professionals and parents that love and care for their children! I just can’t seem to get past the issue that it is mine and my ex wife’s responsibility to protect our daughter both physically and emotionally to the best of our ability…why cant I get my ex to understand that???? So terribly frustrating! Anyway, I will continue to post. Thanks so much for your reply!
“I just can’t seem to get past the issue that it is mine and my ex wife’s responsibility to protect our daughter both physically and emotionally to the best of our ability…why cant I get my ex to understand that???? So terribly frustrating!”
For the simple reason that your ex is too selfish to care for others.
And, why does she lies about you, for example, calling alcoholic when you just like to have everyday dinner with two glass of wine.
Again, for the simple reason that it is easier to attack you behind your back. And why attack at all, it is for the simple reason that by showing you in bad light she automatically shows herself in good light, a better position.
Things really are simple, when one figure out that not everyone thinks same way, not everyone is nice, not everyone is considerate even when it comes to impact on husband/wife/children, not everyone feel shame/guilt doing bad things to other.
Some people are simply stealth predators.
I think you will do well to read In Sheeps Clothing book. 🙂
I think you are already doing great for both yourself and your daughters. Just keep doing same and eventually your children will see the difference between both of you. As far as what your children choose, to be like you or to be like their mother, will be their choice, and you have limited control in shaping their choice.
In case you do want to change something, then have an open talk with your daughters. Keep the focus on actual behavior, and avoid feelings/rationalizations/excuses etc. Tell your 16 yo, to keep her feelings to herself and ask her which actual behavior on your part is offending her. Be gentle and keep the focus on one issue at a time, and do not let her change topic… some people, especially kids can be slippery bugger 🙂 Unfortunately, these same kids seeing that such tactics work effectively, refuse to grow up and continue to use them through their life.
And, as BTOV pointed out, your ex- is trying to drag you into her mess. Prefer email conversations over phone calls.
I will suggest that everyday you read a post or two on this website. I am sure you will find them useful. If you like the content, get the books mentioned here for consolidated & concise text.
Thanks for the reply! And, yes, those kiddos can be “slippery” in conversations! I have had conversations where I am gentle and try to plant the seeds for her to see things for how they really are…like talking about the actual day to day things that we do in our home…fun times, dinners, movies, dancing in the kitchen…whatever just little reminders of how things truly are and how “daddy” is with them. I usually get silence from her but hopefully her mind is thinking! Thanks again for your reply..it truly helps to have the encouragement and reinforcement that I might possibly be doing something right! 🙂
A very informative article….
I also believe child safety should be our first priority. We should take care of babies especially while traveling. We have to use toddler seats for safe driving.
Hello I am a mother of a 6 and 8 year old girls. I have custody of my girls and their father has visitations. When he saw them last week he had made up a story saying the kids told him that what goes on my household. Which wasn’t even true. He is putting words in their mouth knowing I know that they didnt say anything like that because they know not to tell him nothing. He’s trying to pick their brain and manipulate them at the same time. I don’t know what to do any suggestions please?
In my opinion, you should stick to good parenting or simply the things that you used to do before you noted your ex-husband’s gaslighting attempts.
As far as this particular incident is concerned just tell your children that some people lie and go to lowest imaginable levels of manipulating their own children just for sake of some small selfish gain. You don’t need to point finger at anyone, they will know.
Do not underestimate your children’s ability to see through things. People including children tend to understand a lot more than they can articulate verbally. At the same time, your children really do absorb a lot more than just what goes on in your life and home, including bad examples at school or playgrounds; All you can do is try to set right examples by showing thoughtful and good behaviour on your part.
Read about gaslighting, if you like.
I totally agree with what AndyD has told you. We don’t give children enough credit, they see far more than we think. Zelda, AndyD has quite a bit of experience in this area and I am sure he will answer any question you may have in this area. He is a wise man, with a level head…
Zelda, I would encourage you to continue posting and keep asking questions if that would be helpful to you. Just know you are welcome to join in any time. We learn from you too. I would also encourage you to purchase a copy of Dr. Simons book: In Sheep’s Clothing. I think this book will be a great help to you.
Be well and God bless
Thank you. You was a big help.
Me and my ex-partner of 17 years were sharing summer vacation custody of my son. Once she realized I was having too much fun with my son. She created a big scene when I dropped my son at her condo. Since then, my son does not want to come to my house anymore. So frustrating to have someone manipulate your son and make him against you. I am hold my ground and keep calm. Manipulators hate that.
Yes, I just ignore him now and he hates it, I don’t let him get to me no more.
I know this thread is out of date, but I wanted to leave something for future readers.
When I was dealing with a sibling’s situation he was divorcing his disordered wife we consulted with the top forensic child psychologist in the State. The long and the short of his advice was:
You have two options when dealing with a combative disordered parent who is innapproriate with the children, in front of the children, or involves the children in the conflict in ways that are emotionally abusive.
Placate the personality disordered parent, or assert authority over them through the courts. THOSE are your choices. Both are terrible options. Get used to choosing between bad, terrible and worse options, bc that’s what it is to raise children with these people, IME.
They say children can be well adjusted if they one good enough parent in their life. As difficult as it is to stand up, take the high road, remain steady, and carry on no matter what’s thrown at you, I believe this is the best possible choice leading to the best possible outcome.
Having said that, there are rules to these things, especially if you’re heading to court. YOU MUST DOCUMENT, and perhaps create situations that can be documented…… I found that being child focused, overtly polite, and diligent with details regarding child safety, medications, and children’s activities would create stress in the personality disordered individuals I dealt with.
I made sure that all discussions were over e mail or text, so they could be documented, and I documented EVERYTHING. The courts can’t do anything for you unless you can prove your case. The courts mostly don’t consider emotional abuse ABUSIVE treatment towards children, which is nuts, IMO.
If you go to court, you have to be prepared to form your case around the evidence YOU HAVE…this is your theory of your case, and it helps you appear stable, bc telling the absolute truth, when it involves unstable personality disordered individuals means YOU’LL LIKELY APPEAR as the unstable person. YOU have to present evidence you can back up with documentation, and you must remain calm, and level.
If you have to testify, keep you answers very short, and direct. As my attorney told me…. give them the hamburger, only. Skip the condiments, the lettuce, tomato, pickles, and bun…. just the short answer. It’s easy to go down rabbit holes, and get lost in emotion when your children’s emotional and physical safety is on the line, IME. It’s also necessary, IME.
In the end, if you remain consistent, and present with your children….
if you refrain from judging the unstable parent…..
if you ask your child WHAT DO YOU THINK? they’ll likely surprise you with their very on target opinion… you simply have to avoid making the child feel defensive of the unstable parent. You have to avoid avoid giving the impression you’re attacking that parent, which is the story the unstable parent is telling your child/ren.
This is a terrible situation, and our culture isn’t set up to handle it well. Our courts are overwhelmed, and at the mercy of those who lie, cheat and steal. We model good mental health for our children, and attempt to mitigate the harm, bc there’s going to be harm.
Stop wishing and hoping it’s not true. It is. Accept it. Make your best plan. Have a limited group of supporters you trust, and ask them to help you document, and stay on track. Don’t talk about the situation with everyone who will listen, bc some won’t be swayed by reason and facts. Some want to be in the middle of the chaos, and don’t want to help your kids… they want to be appreciated by the unstable parent, or they want to harm you for reasons of their own.
Disordered people’s behavior doesn’t make sense, so stop trying to make sense of it. Accept it’s insane, and do what you can to be the mo0st consistent, the most stable, the safest refuge for you children you can be.
Never judge the other parent in front of the kids. Ask the kids what they think when they come to you with an accusation from the other parent. Be kind, and speak with compassion for the other parent, for they will always be your child’s parent…. and they’re likely emotionally unstable, if not mentally ill if they’re behaving this way, IME.
Have compassion for yourself, and remember…. you didn’t create the mental illness, but you did have children with someone who has it. I did it. I still blame myself, and that’s not very helpful, IME.
What is helpful is staying the course, and being my children’s rock.
Being a rock feels thankless, and hopeless at times. During court it can feel that way much of the time. Make sure you interview many attorneys, and ask who they’d hire if they had your Judge. Interview the best attorneys to keep the unstable parent from accessing them. Get your files in order, and don’t be afraid to record the other parent’s irrational behavior if it’s legal in your State to do so.
If you keep your files organized from the beginning, it won’t be so traumatic during trial prep. Make sure you keep your original documents clean, and don’t mark on anything, but copies. IF you must mark on them, use yellow highlighter, bc it doesn’t copy, or tends to not copy. The really bright one is better than the dull yellow.
Good luck, and I pray for the best possible outcome for you and your children. Remember to look those kids in the eye, and really be present with them during crisis and upset. These days are short, and you don’t want to look back and remember only the crisis. Remember doing things with your kids, whatever, art, baking, walking and talking, but be there for them.
Great post Elle! Five stars.
There should be a way to highlight good comments, so that they are easier to find if one happens to scroll through them.
Elle, Andy D
I was thinking the same thing. These comments need to be saved somehow for future references.
I forgot to say…. seek out advocates for your children. A good forensic child psychologist, willing to HELP your child, will likely be dismissed or forbidden from seeing your child, IME. IF you can make it happen, it’s helpful, IME.
With that said, not all therapists testify well. Some are terrible, even if they get it, and want to help your child, IME. Research. Ask questions. DOES this Therapist have experience testifying in court? Perhaps you could ask attorneys for names of good expert witnesses. Just make sure you do your research…. 90% research, 10% execution is a good rule to live by. It saves you time, trouble and resources, IME.
Also, in court be prepared for everyone to lean on you to settle the case. Attorneys and Judges know who the irrational people are, and they tend to be focused on settling cases, not on protecting the kids, IME. THEY KNOW the personality disorered individuals aren’t going to budge, so they, knowingly or not, begin leaning on the parent who cares, and I mean they lean hard….. they threaten, tell you there’s no choice, you HAVE to give in….
Please please please try to take someone supportive WITH you, and have a list of absolutes you can’t live without….. for me it was having the children’s old therapist in place to monitor the kid’s mental health around grandparent visitation, which was detrimental to my children. I refused to budge on that one thing, and the in laws storme3d out of the courthouse, screaming…. showing everyone what they truly were.
I gave in to things that were emotional suicide, for me, and the kids, but I stuck to guns that lead to the disordered individuals blowing up….. remember…. stay super focused on the children, remind everyone you’re responsible for protecting you children, and you can’t budge on X, Y and Z….. at all. Don’t let anything think those things are up for discussion, and you’ll have an easier time resisting making a deal that will be terrible for you.
Once you make a deal, don’t assume it will be signed and go through. IF YOU HAVE A DEAL EVERYONE AGREES TO, go ahead and write it out by hand, and have all parties sign it RIGHT THERE, and get it filed and stamped by the court pronto.
I’ve noticed that some disturbed individuals can’t settle ANYTHING. They’l say they’ll settle, then the attorneys will spend weeks arguing over details, then the disturbed parent will say they want to go to court anyway, which is devastating emotionally, financially, and to your ability to be present for your children.
Trial prep is traumatic, and you never know what a judge will do. You DO Know that the disturbed parent will do what they can to sway, manipulate, and pay off important court officers. They’ll play the victim, and rock you back on your heels, keeping you busy disproving negatives, which is how it goes.
On that note, I found that the disturbed usually over play their hand. They might be able to fool one or two court officers, but they never manage to fool all of them, not unless we lose control, and take the spot light off the disturbed parent, and on ourselves, which should be avoided at all costs. Stay calm. Speak slowly…. like you’re speaking to a small child…. choose your words carefully, and always appear helpful and devoted to working out the best possible situation for your children… including helping the disturbed parent to be the very best parent they can be. Judges don’t like to hear people throw emotional bombs and alienate children. They like calm, steady, parents who support the relationship between the kids and the other parent. BE that trustworthy parent a Judge can give control to.
I can’t tell you how many times SOMEONE in every trial SAW what the disturbed people were doing, and the disturbed people lost every single case they brough, which was multitude… over 15.
IF you can make it to that final courtroom…. where false allegations stand naked in the harsh light of the courtroom…. where all your evidence and proof will rule the day…. you’ll likely do much better than the unstable parent. They don’t typically handle not getting their way very well. Sometimes they snap at the Judge, or you, or other witnesses, but they have a difficult time losing.
Don’t gloat, or change your face, or get snarky…. EVER. Be the bigger person, the one who desires peace, and works toward a calm environment for the kiddos.
Be the professional in that courtroom. Write notes to your attorney, and don’t let your mouth drop open… don’t shake your head and look at the Judge for help when the unstable parent testifies to insane accusations….. just make sure you don’t give them ammo that makes you APPEAR guilty. Be calm. Remember to pretend you’re addressing small children, which helps you choose your words. Stop cussing, bc you don’t want to let one slip in the courtroom. Be calm around the courthouse, bc you don’t want to cut off the Judge, or their deputy in the parking lot…. start very early, and have all documents, even the ones you think you won’t need, in the trunk, just in case. I often found the unstable people throw lie bombs they can’t back up, but I could disprove, bc I brought all documents.
You won’t know what you need till you’re IN it. No attorney knows how these things are going to go, and trials unfold organically according to the crazy presented by the unstable parent.
You focus on safety, medications, and consistent routines and activities for the kids. You focus on helping the Judge understand the nature of the adult conflict, how it affects the children, and how harmful it is….. on how to mitigate that harm, and support the kids with both parents.
Supervised visitation, IMO, is a terrible thing for the kids, but in some situations it’s the best of bad choices. Don’t be afraid to ask supervised visitation be awarded if you can prove your case, and prove it well.
Supervision can be handled by a family member, a friend, or a company. There are different levels of supervision. Some companies record every word, and video visitation at their facility. It’s expensive and the irrational parent should be required to pay for it, bc it’s their behavior that makes it necessary.
Some facilities will send supervisors TO visitation with the kids. They’re to remain very close, within hearing, and it’s not optimum, but it’s the only way to ensure that parent isn’t being inappropriate, or harmful. The kids won’t like it, and the other parent will act like they’re being whipped…. which makes the kids feel bad, and defensive, IME.
Just know that you can’t make this OK. You won’t be able to, so wrap your mind around mitigating the harm you can.
If I had it to do over again, I would have contacted a high powered criminal attorney, and asked for a referral for competent private detectives. Most PIs are incompetent. THIS IS where you can cut to the chase, and prove, with clarity, what you’re dealing with, IME. A good PI testifies well, documents clearly, and can support your case in the best possible way. Engaging their service, bc the instable parent realizes you’re doing so, gives you the best chance at documenting helpful personality disordered conduct around the children, around you, and anything else that will show the court what your children are up against.
Stay centered on the children. Document. Don’t allow the unstable parent to shift the focus TO YOU. Assume you’re being recorded all the time too. Assume everything you write or say will end up in the courtroom, and that it’s stellar, responsible, child centered and focused on the best possible outcome for your children.
Anger is not your friend. Appearing stable IS.
About supervised visitation… it’s a terrible responsibility. Make sure that the supervisor selected is up to the task, bc it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Make sure they’re emotionally stable, physically up to it, and available, bc the unstable parent is going to do their best to make the situation miserable for everyone… they want the supervisor to give up, and go away. THey want things to go back behind closed doors, in private, where they can do and say what they want…. poison the kids, and make allegations about the other parent, and loved ones.
Make sure who you select has the ability to document…. perhaps a nanny cam… perhaps a recorder, but make sure that’s covered, and you know it’s IN PLACE.
Make sure that person can stand up to the personality disordered parent, and their flying monkeys. Make sure they’re a good witness… some people are TERRIBLE witnesses.
Make sure they’ll able to BE available for visitation, and all the chaos that’s coming their way. They have to be very stable, and they have to be on the children’s side. They certainly can’t be a family member of the personality disordered who’s taking orders, and unwilling to document the truth… or God forbid, willing to enable abusive treatment.
You can SAY that you’d like to begin with supervised visitation, moving towards unsupervised visitation as the Personality disordered parent proves they can be appropriate. Even if you know that parent can’t be OK…. you’ll appear reasonable, and get something you need. The other parent won’t likely hold it together.
The idea is to get SOME protections in place. Maybe visitation isn’t over night. Maybe it’s at a relative’s home, and not behind closed doors? Maybe it’s at a public playground, or at your home even.
Maybe you get some small gain, while paying tens of thousands of dollars, and that’s got to be good enough.