Can It Be?

fingers-crossedThey hadn’t seen him in three weeks.  On Friday night, they spent over five hours with him.  When they walked in the door, at the end of the night, I did a quick scan to check for rapid blinking, slumped shoulders, nervous pacing or shell-shocked expressions.

Nothing.

Will and Jen spoke animatedly about the event they attended.  They talked of what they’d had for dinner and the stories shared.  They spoke of the folks they saw.

They didn’t mention the  baby voice, or the martyr tone.  There was nothing about being overly embarrassed – other than the typical ways that all parents embarrass their kids.  Nothing about hurt feelings, or insults, or critiques about hair, dress or table manners.

__________

I’m writing this while we do our lazy Sunday morning routine.

Normally, by now, one of them would have come up with an, “Oh, Mom, you know what he did?”

Nothing.

The only question I have asked was, “Did your dad mention anything about when you might get together again?”  They both answered, “No.”

Does that mean he’s sticking with the plan?  Does that mean he’s still letting the kids determine when the visits will happen?

Did I finally get through to him in that Wednesday morning meeting?

Have the kids developed thick enough skins to withstand whatever he dishes out, without them having to vent, react, or suffer bruising?

Has he changed?

When he came to the door Friday night, he had a gift for one kid, and not the other.  Clearly, he still hasn’t made much headway in the empathy department.  Because we’ve seen him play favorites so many times, the kids took it in stride.  I saw them share a glance.  Jen looked at Will with an expression that said, “Sorry, but last time it was you, wasn’t it?”

I know Jen and Will have grown, adapted, and matured.  Apparently, they’ve developed some powerful tools for dealing with their dad.

Have we turned a corner on this whole mess?

Have we found a playing field where all parties can relate without any casualties, setbacks or attempts to run away in the middle of the night?

Can it be?

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13 comments

  1. Never say never . . .

  2. Hooray for the kids and Hooray for you! What a blessing to have one evening to remember enjoying themselves with him. Like a gift.

    Well done on that toolbox! They are coping so well! You are an amazing mom!

  3. Kate,

    I can’t think of anything better than for Jen and Will to have a healthy relationship with their dad. My goal was to set them up with the tools to learn to relate with him. I so hope this trend continues.

    You know… normally I’d brush off a compliment. But this time, I’m going to gratefully accept. I deserve it. Thanks! ;)

    Love you.

  4. Thanks for that little glimmer of hope, Jesse… it was through your website that I actually began to consider that my ex was a NPD sufferer, causing everyone around her to suffer as well.

    After 16 years of wondering what was wrong with me, having a name for the demon, and being able to recognize a big part the cause of my despair and stress has let me detect some faint breeze of fresh air. My counsellor told me about the work of Patricia Wilenski on Children of Narcissistic Parents, after my suspicions were raised here. The challenges of men with narcissist exes seem to be very different than that of women; both situations are crazy-making, but in societally different ways.

    Thanks for shedding some light.

  5. Hi Bruce,

    I remember when you tweeted about Patricia Wilenski. I did some google searches and I wasn’t able to find much. Can you more specifically point me in her direction? A book? A site?

    I’d love to know what surviving narcissism is like from a man’s perspective. I only have a few ideas, based on men in my family, and the men in my ex’s family, but it’s all conjecture.

    Would love to hear your perspective.

    All the best,
    Jesse

  6. That sure makes my heart happy!

  7. Donna,

    Can you enjoy a happy heart whilst keeping your fingers crossed? ;)

  8. Hi Jesse,

    I am so happy for you too. My ex is having an extended period of being nice. We’re going on 5 months now. I don’t hold any hopes that he has really changed, I just think he has found a way to maintain his narcissistic supply without too much fuss. I think if I had to spend any prolonged periods with him he would slip back into his old ways. I want the niceness to continue so I treat him as if he were just a normal guy with empathy. That gives him incentive to maintain his nice facade. That is my theory anyway.

    However with me it is a fine line between being too nice to him and not nice enough. I don’t want him to get any ideas that I would take him back. If he thought I wanted him back he would be sadly mistaken. If he asked me on a “date”, for example, I would have to reject him, and that would be a narcissistic injury that would probably trigger his contempt.

  9. Hi Reese,

    Just yesterday I was thinking of you and yours and how this will be your first holiday season living under your own roof.

    When you talk of how you are treating your ex, and how he’s “acting” so nice, it made me realize how it’s all about acting with narcissists.

    Last night, when I was on the phone with Mark, I realized I was measuring my words, so as not to upset this delicate balance of ‘niceness’. And then I realized I’ve always acted with him.

    What a farce, to be in a marriage with someone for X amount of years and discover that the whole time, I’ve been acting a certain way to keep the peace, and I’ve never shown up as myself.

    I sense a bit of nervousness (is that right?) in you. It’s necessary to be civil and nice, but you sure don’t want to be TOO nice and send the wrong signal, and tip the balance. It reminds me of a TV movie about a hostage situation. The hostages do everything they can to fly low under the radar.

    Gad! My whole marriage was like a bad TV movie hostage situation.

    Amazing how I’m still having these epiphanies about narcissism.

  10. Flying low under the radar is exactly what I try to do. When he comes to pick up the kids, I do my best to ensure the conversation stays on small talk. When he mentions that he’s been “reflecting” on his life, or how his new fantastic work-out regime helps him “deal with his anger” , for example, I gently change the subject to something trivial. I pretend that I don’t notice his veiled suggestions that he has changed. Yes I am nervous, but it is a good nervous, because I feel like I have it under control for now and I know how to play this game.

  11. Reese,

    How does it feel to be in control? Hooray!!

    Not sure if you read the post about dropping keys, but you dropped some serious keys with these two comments today.

    Great tools for the survivor toolbox.

    Thank you!

  12. Can’t tell you how nice it is to sense a big sigh of relief in your writing. It’s been a long, rough road. Let’s hope this is a new chapter,and that it’s a chapter with at least a million pages.
    You’ve done amazing things for you and the kids. Just maybe your patience has paid off. Keeping my fingers crossed for you all :)

  13. Debbie,

    Thanks for this, and for always being there ready to listen.

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