One of the freakiest feelings I ever experienced was in the days after the narcissist I was married to for nearly 18 years and father of our two children moved out of the house.
It was so quiet. I kept wondering why he wasn’t responding to our children’s calls or emails, especially in those first few days. Didn’t he miss them? What was he doing with all of this newfound free time?
The kids, young teens at the time, were hurt and upset, my son especially confused when his father came by to drop off his own library and YMCA membership cards, which were kept in his dad’s wallet. “Guess I won’t be needing to keep these for you anymore,“ he’d said, with barely a goodbye.
Days turned into weeks. For so long, I’d believed that even with all of his bad behavior, deep down, this man really loved me. And of course, he loved his kids.
In hindsight years later, I have come to grasp that this was not true – was never true – and neither is the belief that all parents just love their children.
Actions speak volumes. When the children’s father left our home, he moved into a tiny, squalid apartment he shared with his own father. There was no room for kids, no beds, and no plan.
The house was so filthy that one could barely breathe because his father owned a dog who was never taken out of the house to walk or defecate. So everything accumulated inside, and he refused to allow anyone in to clean.
What kind of parent would subject his children to something like this?
It turned out to be a non-issue, as once he moved out, he became a “ghost dad,” virtually abandoning the kids. He often would express how much he loved and missed them, but could not acknowledge their pain, confusion, and anger, and became silently furious back at them.
He made no effort at regular visitation or therapy sessions, as stipulated in the mediation agreement, even before the divorce was finalized, and grew enraged at every therapist, believing that his failure to reunify with the kids was everyone’s else’s fault.
His financial abuse was extensive, and directly affected the children. Not only did he drag out an expensive divorce, but he reneged on a promise by his rich father (who died during the divorce process) to pay for their college education. Believing college would be paid for, we put all of our savings into his own retirement accounts while we were married. He kept them after the divorce.
He stopped paying child support until I brought him to court, and a couple years later, he again refused to honor the divorce agreement, which cost me nearly another year in court. Not only did he not comply with helping contribute to the children’s college education, but he also failed to cooperate in the process by not revealing his financial records for our son’s application for financial aid, effectively shutting him out from admission to several universities.
To most human beings, including the judge who heard our case, this behavior, especially toward one’s children, is unfathomable. How is it possible for a parent to do these things?
According to Mark Harris on Quora, the reason is simple. “Narcissists don’t care. At all.” He claims that as long as you aren’t bothering them, they are not even conscious of you, or their own children.
“They are not wired to reflect and regret and feel remorse. They live in the moment and all your moments are in the past. They move forward as if you never even existed. How much can one really care about something that doesn’t even exist?” he continues, and says that this was true, even when they were pretending to care about you. “It’s not even personal.”
A very bitter pill to swallow, especially for my children, who still struggle with trying to understand how a man for most of their lives could appear so devoted, and then become a stranger the moment he walked out of the house, now almost four years ago.
Though their father continues to claim how much he misses the kids, his actions again say something different. He will send a letter every few months, but often nothing for birthdays, Christmas, or graduations. And the letters will focus on himself as a victim, rather than expressing interest or concern for them. Though we share joint legal custody, he has not shared a single holiday with them, or even a meal, in years.
I honestly believe that if he saw our daughter in the street, he would not recognize her.
Mark Harris’ words, though not comforting, are necessary to hear. “You have to firmly grasp to fully understand what things look like from their perspective… They will never miss you because they never cared about you. They don’t know how to do any of these things. Do not place any of your faith or hope in the hands of a narcissist. There is no future in a black hole.”
I was never married to him, thankfully! However, this describes my ex to a T. Even now, years later and years since he’s had any contact with her he suddenly shows up out of the blue and tries to insist that I just give him access to our daughter. He’s a perfect stranger and has not been involved in her life since she was a toddler (she is now 11). She has refused to see him and now he is trying to make the courts force us to bring her to him. Absolutely NOTHING that he has detailed to the courts has anything to do with our daughter. It’s all about him and how he is the victim. Its disgusting. He is putting us through emotional and financial hell and I have no clue how to stop him. I don’t respond to his taunts and his accusations and I’m just slowly gathering all of my proof to refute his lies. It’s all that I know of that I can do. 🙁
Your post it is old but what you wrote will allways be the cruel reality,present and future for many kids and ex partners that had the badluck of encounter such souls. The father of my kids,his only two kids,still my husband because he refuse to give me the divorce, is hiding his income and assets to not pay the fair amount of child support his kids are entitled to and need it so badly. I left with our kids in a Women Shelter more dead than alive. It was the emotional abuse that destroyed a part of me I couldn’t find it back even now,after 1 ,1/2 y. I left him without nothing after 11 years marriage. I do struggle to keep the kids at school ,provide for them what they need,while he brings 30y younger than him Tinder women and ucrainian young mothers with their kids,in our home. He is antepreneur, he earns 0000 a month, first number does not begin with 1,but he is expert in finances and he knows exactly how to hide and how to play with the legal system,to minimize the kids child support. This “father” pays 120 Euro for a month,for a child,while he enjoys life in luxury hotels and bring kids of refugees in restaurants. He sees his kids every third weekend because he doesn’t want it more often but when he does,he brings other women and kids at home and shower them in attention while telling our kids to behave good and share what they have with stranger kids. Our children are sad,they can’t understand that I do not afford to give them more,they can’t understand why Papa would give attention to strangers instead of them. I was a stay at home mom from his wish,dropped my studies because he wanted a family wife and not a woman with career but now for him I’m the Parasit that do not deserve anything and the fact that his kids are struggling because of him,he tells me it is my karma.
Really,this people should never have the honor of becoming parents. Not only they do not care about their kids but they are neurologically incapable of parenting or having a normal relationship of any kind.
Your last paragraph in particular resonated so much…even though your story is unique, it’s awful and you summed it up so well in a way countless people can relate to. Hope you and the kids get through this as best you can.
I can’t go into everything in this comment but I can attest that my ex husband does not care a bit about his children. He lied about his son under oath and tried to prevent him from learning to drive, get braces, a car, attend his senior year at the school he had been attending since 4th grade. Forget about college…no way…he was not allowed to go. He got a perfect score on his ACT, his dad sent a mean text. He still couldn’t go to college. Its in the divorce decree he pays…forget about the court system. As they listened to his dad falsely testify about his son, the judge refused to allow me to get an attorney to protect my son. The court did nothing to protect me or my son. Very long story. While I am still be abused by his continued refusal to abide by the divorce decree in every way… my son is currently a Sophomore in Economics at the University of California and he is excelling!!! So this time his sociopathic/narcissistic father loses!!
Some of the details of your experience resonate so much with my own story…too much to comment on in here, but the most important thing is that your son is moving on and doing so well! Yes, it is his father’s loss, to miss out, but what can we do? I often think about that old song, “Cats in the Cradle”…