As a father of two girls, I think that there is no more special relationship than that of a father and daughter. I may be biased, but I think that fathers are in a position that mothers are not, as far as being able to teach their daughters lessons about life, love, and everything in between. I'm not going to speculate why or hypothesize how this could be, but if you are a parent I am willing to bet that you agree with me. There's just something about girls and their fathers that is special.
That you and your spouse are going through a divorce does not in and of itself make that relationship any less special. I would argue that the relationship can become more special and even more important as a result of a divorce. I will offer you a theory on this: time is our most scarce resource. We can always earn more money. We can always spend less money. We can change our habits, educate our minds and go through the effort of bettering ourselves in order so that we can become wealthier and more productive. However, time is something that we can never get back no matter how hard we try.
Fathers often bear the brunt of the "time crunch" associated with divorced parents and their children. Usually, mothers maintain primary conservatorship rights over their children after a divorce is finalized. Fathers will typically allow mothers to assume this role without much of a fight. When a father loses time with his daughters that can be a hard thing for everyone to deal with. This is true even if your child's relationship with their father is strong.
What happens with narcissistic fathers, who likely don't have good relationships with their children, divorce their spouse? How would your daughter's relationship with him be impacted as a result of the initial separation and eventual dissolution of the marriage? In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will seek to answer this question in detail. While every family is a little bit different, I believe that the nature of your child's relationship with their father will have similarities with those daughter-father relationships that I have been able to witness in my time as a family law attorney.
Your daughter may be in for some hurt feelings associated with divorce and their father
Narcissistic people think about every relationship that they have with another person in terms of how can this person improve my life or give me some sort of positive feeling. It always takes, takes, takes. This is sad to hear since we are talking about your child, but the reality is that your husband likely wants to draw away as much as he can from the relationship as possible. As a father, your narcissist husband is not primarily concerned with imparting lessons or love upon your daughter unless there can be at least an equal amount of benefit for him in return.
What happens if your daughter is a teenager who is starting to make decisions on her own, independent of you and your husband? Suppose that your daughter has decided to quit playing a sport that your husband enjoys her participation in. How do you think your narcissistic ex-spouse would take the news that your daughter has quit playing basketball to focus on doing something that she is more interested in? By her making that decision, your child has not only asserted her independence from the wishes of her father but has drawn his time away from something he enjoys and into something he may have no interest in. These are three realities that your ex-spouse will meet with resistance and likely hostility.
Do not be surprised if your ex-husband shows less of an interest in your daughter if her interests and pursuits do not coincide with what he wants. Your child and your ex-husband may have shared activity that brought them together for bonding time. If your daughter were to change course and engage in other interests that could cause your ex-husband to feel as if he is being pushed away. Of course, this is not your child's motivation to stop participation in the activity but a narcissist cannot see it from this perspective.
What your daughter studies in school are important to your narcissistic ex-husband
Academic pursuits can be especially treacherous for your child in relation to their narcissist father. Does your ex-husband have a grand plan in place for your daughter's education? Was she supposed to be a doctor or attorney like he is? What have you seen from him if your daughter has decided to go in a different direction? It is not uncommon for your child to experience the same pulling away by her father that we discussed regarding their extracurricular activities.
Your ex-husband may be more reasonable and just expect that if your daughter wanted to change her college major that she should talk to him first. I think this is what most parents would expect- narcissist or not. However, narcissistic parents and fathers tend to be more extreme and hold views that are more or less their opinion needs to be heard about schooling. If your daughter wants to change what she is studying in school, expect some push back from her father if he is a narcissist.
Possessiveness and the narcissistic father
If you attempt to co-parent with your ex-husband through these sort of issues you, too, can expect some degree of push back. Narcissists live to control other people. Your child, by exhibiting independent traits, will be going against what your ex-spouse wants. If he begins to feel like your child is becoming less and less willing to listen to him or be controlled by him that will push him to want to possess your child even more.
We have discussed in prior blog posts to what extent that narcissist parents will use alienation techniques to push you out of the picture and assert his status as the decision-making parent who is in control over their child. The combination of not getting the acknowledgment, attention, and respect that he feels that he deserves may create an atmosphere where you are the object of parental alienation. If he can't get the attention that he craves naturally, he will try to get your child to push you out of their lives and to take the attention that you used to receive.
The impact that divorce and a narcissistic father can have on your child
If you haven't figured it out already, teenage children and narcissistic fathers often have conflict issues. You will have to guard against your child receiving emotionally abusive words from your ex-husband as much as possible. I realize that it is impossible to guard against everything that your ex-spouse could tell your child, but if he feels like your child is slipping away from his control he is liable to say just about anything. The bottom line is that it will seem like your child is not able to say or do anything good enough for him.
In the period immediately after your divorce, you should watch for characteristics like low self-esteem, more stress than usual, a lot of self-doubts and a lack of confidence as being problems that your child experiences as a result of having contact with their narcissist father. These parents do not have a filter as far as what they say about your child or who they say it to. I have seen instances where parents will talk to other adults about the bad decisions that their child has made in their eyes.
How you can talk to your child about verbal abuse and narcissism
You can and should talk to your child about these issues in an age-appropriate manner. Reassure your child that he or she has done nothing wrong. Your child did not cause your divorce and did not cause your ex-husband to act in the way that he does. Your ex-husband may have tried to tell your children that they have a role to play in the problems in your lives. This is not true and you should do your best to re-affirm that in the mind of your child.
Your child should be aware that you are only a phone call away, no matter where he or she is. You can use these circumstances as a way to help your child learn conflict management and relationship building at a relatively young age. If your child is a toddler there are only so many lessons (if any) that you can teach. However, you should speak up and help your child if you feel like there is something positive that you can teach him or her. Even if you are not quite sure of what to say, simply being there for your child can be helpful.
Closing thoughts on narcissism, divorce, and parenting
There is no way to be able to perfectly anticipate what your spouse will or will not in response to various situations. If he is a narcissist the one thing that you do know is that he will turn any situation on its head and force everyone to look at him as the center of attention. This is difficult in many ways, but it should allow you to better anticipate the type of reactions he has because you know how he will be approaching each circumstance from- what's in it for me?
Telling a judge that your husband is a narcissist and requesting restricted visitation or time is likely not going to get you very far. Restricted visitation is more or less reserved for parents who have abusive pasts. Narcissists come in all shapes and sizes. Many narcissists walk among us just like any other person. It is only after a long time of getting to know him or her do you finally learn that the person is narcissistic. However, other parents who are narcissists will use verbal and even physical abuse as a means to control you or your child. You need to be able to rationally approach the situation and determine what sort of threat your ex-husband is to you and your child if he is a threat at all.
All in all, you have your work cut out for you if your ex-spouse is narcissistic. If you thought that divorcing him was bad, try co-parenting. The thing that you have to remember is that you are doing all of this for your child. Every interaction with your ex-spouse may be painful and difficult, but if you can do something in each conversation to better the life of your child then you should work to do so. Sometimes you have to understand that there is nothing you can do to help your child when interacting with your ex-spouse. In those circumstances, you should remove yourself from the situation for your well-being.
Thank you for spending the better part of a week on our blog reading this series of blog posts about narcissism and family law. Keep in mind that when hiring a divorce attorney, you need someone who has not only experience in family law, but an attorney who knows people and knows what makes people who they are. Our attorneys and staff excel in applying our skill and experience in each situation that our clients find themselves in.
Questions about Texas family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
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We write unique blog posts every day of the week and hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we continue our analysis of Texas's family law.