Close this search box.

Here We Go Again…

After more than three years, more than $300,000 in expenses, countless hours of wasted time, and untold emotional anguish, my divorce finally (finally!) became official on September 11th, 2017.

Only eleven days later, I was served papers; my narcissist ex-wife had filed for a change in our custody arrangement.

More often than not, such is life when you get out of a marriage to a high-conflict partner.

Lisa and I have been working on Been There, Got Out for several months, and we’re in the process of writing blog articles to get some good content up on the site covering some of the core issues that people in high-conflict relationships can face.

But when I was served with this summons, it was a cold reminder that I’m not now in some new phase where peace has replaced conflict and I can simply get on with my life.

I’ve learned a lot about high-conflict people over the past three-plus years, and this is textbook. They are known for driving up legal costs, scuttling agreements at the last minute, and restarting legal battles over and over.

Why do they do this? It’s about power and control.. Over our three-year legal fight, my ex slowly saw her power erode, and she lost her ability to control me (though she still frequently tries.)

Over time, I have learned how to enforce personal boundaries, despite her constant attempts to probe my defenses) My boys and I have a great life in our modified family, and they get along very well with Lisa and her kids.

But, here I find myself, about to plunge back into the legal system over nonsense. No real surprise.

This strikes me as a completely apropos topic for BTGO’s first-ever blog post, because it really speaks to the core of who we are. We’ve Been There, and we Got Out. Our clients know that we’ve been through (and are still going through) the same things they’re likely to face. In short, we get it.

Lisa and I often encounter people who are freaking out over a watershed event in their relationship with their high-conflict partner; something that made them, essentially, “hit bottom.” Our first conversation with almost everyone consists of:

  • “Calm down”
  • “We understand”
  • “You’re going to be OK”

I clearly remember my first freak-out back in July of 2014. At that time, I was facing the end of my marriage (a blessing in disguise) and a nasty custody battle.

One of my first calls back then was to my college friend Carol, who’s a family law attorney in Virginia. She started by talking me off the ledge. My first attorney – who I met with later that week – gave me the talk, too.

I have two sons, currently thirteen and ten. I love them to pieces. I’m a very committed father. And the biggest fear I had early on was that my ex would destroy my relationship with them. She tried, but she failed in the end.

Now, she’s trying again, but she has nowhere near the ammunition she had back then. Truth be told, her biggest weapon was always fear. She had abused me emotionally with such skill that I became convinced that the world – specifically, the powers-that-be in the legal system – would see her as a great mom, and me as a flawed father.

I know better now. Still, when I saw the papers and realized I’m going back to war, the knot in my stomach returned… the fear returned.

So I needed the talk again, and I got it.

I have an attorney now who understands how these monsters operate and how to shut them down. I’m ready to go on the offensive. I have to, because my eyes have opened to the fact that she is abusing my sons as well. Narcissists are inherently abusive – they abuse everyone they bet close to.

If you’re early in your own battle, you have my sincere empathy. Believe me, I know how hard it is. I’d be happy to talk with you and help any way I can. I think, for Lisa and I, working with others who are embarking on their own battle is analogous to how sponsors in AA draw energy from their work.

People are going to say, “It gets better,” to you. You’re not going to believe them, and you’re not going to believe me now, but… it really does.

Help someone else by sharing this story

About the Author:

Leave a Comment:

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds very familiar. After the love-bombing phase, constant texts “I love you baby, I miss you baby” all day long, flowers, dinners, etc., which swept me off my feet, after two years, I became pregnant unexpectedly at 46 years of age. Even though my son and daughter from my only marriage were almost grown and off to college and I had no intention of having another child at that stage in my life, I did it for him because I loved him and he did not have any children at 55 y/o. Then, my narcissistic partner moved out of my house on our son’s first birthday saying he couldn’t stand my older son and daughter, couldn’t stand my mother, and falsely accused us all of being drunks and drug addicts, made homophobic slurs against my older son, stopped coming home to be with us, etc. In short, just did a 180, started a smear campaign, and left. Then came all of the court cases even though I voluntarily shared our 1 y/o son 50/50 in an effort to keep us out of court and never asked for a penny in child support even though he earns significantly more than I do. That was 4 years ago and our son is almost 5 now. I have been through paternity, DVROs, been sued civilly, and now he’s coming after me for child support by lying about his own cash income and being 50% silent owner of a liquor store, having his business partners perjure themselves for him, and basically has no mercy, shame, or empathy. I am a nursing teacher and make a modest income, all of which has gone to defend against his multiple court cases he initiates against me. In August, at 5:00 AM, I heard someone outside my house, and went out thinking it was Ed, the local homeless guy I’ve helped a lot in the past, but when I got up next to the recycle bin, I was shocked to discover a man of my ex-partner’s exact height and build in a black ski mask and gloves going thru my mail. He ran away and I ran back inside. I later checked and only my mail was taken, not any cans or bottles. A few days later, I awoke with my left arm paralyzed and was admitted to the hospital for 3 days. I’ve always been healthy and never been hospitalized, so this was a big wake up call for what stress can do to you physically. The Drs ruled out stroke and told me I’d better decrease my stress levels or the effects on my health will only get worse. Although what he has done to me is bad, the worst part of all of this is what he is doing to our son. The emotional abuse is unfathomable. Our son has said to me, “I love you too mummy, but daddy won’t love me if I love you.” “Daddy doesn’t love me.” Daddy says you hate me. I hate myself. It just goes on and on and is heartbreaking and unforgivable. However, I have been rendered powerless and impotent by the courts. When I tried to get our son a child psychologist, she said I needed the other parent’s consent, but when I asked him for consent, I am sure you can imagine the response. “Don’t you dare take my son to a psychologist without my permission and violate the court order or I will prosecute you.. As a matter of fact, I took him to one a year ago and they said he’s fine because I’m a great dad.” Then he went on as usual to degrade and belittle me and bring up things that have nothing to do with him, make false allegations, and just be a miserable piece of garbage. He never even asked what was wrong or why I thought our son might need to see a child psychologist. He has to control everything, doctors, dentists, refuses me authorization as the mother on our son’s health insurance which was very dangerous as I tried to get our son care when he had a 104.4 fever at 2 years of age—I could write forever on all of the craziness and meanness from this guy. I have read some other stories here where the narcissistic parent has left and now ignores the family and, although hurtful to the ex-partner and children, I honestly think the children are better off without that daily influence and emotional abuse. Because my ex-partner is a gambling, playboy, liquor store owner, having a son has given him a newfound respectability and admiration from his customers (and other dumb women like I was) and even his sisters in Iran who he hardly ever spoke to before our son, but now video chats with daily. Our son is the only male offspring in this Iranian Muslim family (my ex is the only one in the USA) and has given my ex a new status (source) that he just loves and gloats in. I dread to think what will happen to our son if he ever gives his dad trouble or starts to diminish his dad’s image in any way. I have very little faith in the family courts here in Los Angeles. Despite video evidence of my ex striking me in front of our son in his parking lot at an exchange, the Judge reversed his initial indication that he agreed and even went as far as to state “it was a set up.” This floored me and any other person and legal professional who have seen the video and has caused the worst fallout. Now my narcissistic ex thinks he can get away with anything and literally does and I am powerless. The comments by people about this judge on the Robing Room are very scary as he seems to have a hatred for women. I have court in December where I will likely be ordered to pay this monster child support even though he earns 5X what I do, has already stolen my $60,000 cash life savings and a $123,000 medical laser from me. I have never called the police or sued him because that is not my nature and he is my son’s father. My only option now to escape this monster who terrifies me is to leave. I moved here from the UK at 12 y/o, but am now considering going back just to have some peace and stay alive. I really do not know what this man’s limits are and every time I have thought he can’t get any worse, he does. I will ask for my son, but have little faith in the courts here and the lawyers after my experiences. They all just take your money and do nothing. I will ask for my son though and pray that it will be granted. Please pray for us too. Thank you.

    1. Oh Joanne,

      Your story made my skin crawl…we just had more court yesterday, and I feel like the progress I make is mincing at best. On the record, I said to the judge how the courts not only embolden these people by teaching them that they can get away with everything, but they REWARD an abuser’s contempt of court orders by not enforcing any punishment! It is maddening.

      I recently had a conversation with a lawyer and law professor who directed me to some excellent resources, and I discovered the term “abusive litigation.” It COMPLETELY describes my experience, as well as yours. I’m thinking that one of our future workshops will be on this topic – have unfortunately become an expert, as have you.

      Please keep in touch and we will definitely pray for you.

      With the utmost strength and support,

  2. Thank you Lisa. In my experience, the courts and judges don’t care at all. They give lip service to “the best interests of the child,” but you’re lucky if the judge even reads your declaration or looks at your exhibits. It all just seems like a racket to fatten the judges’ and lawyers’ pockets, provoke more conflict and expense, and not truly resolve anything. I have been very unfortunate to have a judge who seemed to delight in causing more injury—at a hearing in January, he indicated that he agreed that being able to take our son to see his maternal family in the UK was a reasonable request since I am English and visit my family often, and also for our son to have both parents’ surnames (which I had requested in an RFO a full year earlier). But the judge said since we had just agreed to several issues after a 2 day PPA (parenting plan assessment), that he wanted to wait for six months to let us “adjust” and would grant my requests at the next status conference. However, at the status conference six months later, the judge denied my requests and when I said “your honor, you indicated in January that you would grant these in July,” the judge actually said very slyly and with an unsettling smirk, “well, you don’t have the transcripts” and walked off the bench. I tried desperately to get the transcripts from the court reporter (who charges a lot of money for them and, in my experience, puts you last on the list if you’re self-represented), but she failed to provide them to me in time for the next hearing, even with 2 1/2 months notice and a willingness to pay extra for expedited transcripts. I came back twice more, once after filing ex parte to be heard and the next at the next hearing in September, and the judge still denied the request for the passport, even after I showed the nonrefundable tickets I had purchased for our son based on the judge’s indication that he would grant these. He did, however, grant the name change –a full 20 months after I’d filed the RFO for it. Even with the court-ordered name change, our son’s father currently obliterates my portion of our son’s name on the preschool sign-in sheets, despite the school telling him not to do it. He also continues to file court cases against me and still refuses to add my name in defiance of the court order and nobody cares. He teaches our son that is not his name and our poor son has cried to me and told me his dad punishes him if he uses my name in his name and begged me to be one name in my house and another in his dad’s house–this was at 3 years of age. The sense of injustice, frustration, impotence and powerlessness is overwhelming sometimes. You are right that the courts not only embolden abusers to continue, but encourage it with no threat of punishment even when brought to light. God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *