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.”