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Dealing with wife's narcissistic and toxic ex

Jnb150's picture

Quick overview:

My wife and her ex have been divorced for over 7 years. They have an 11 yo daughter together, and split custody 50/50. My wife filed for divorce after his multiple affairs (and an abortion with one of them) while she was pregnant with their daughter. He's very narcissistic and tries to bully her any chance he gets. Knowing that she's not going to put up much of a fight unless it's a big deal. I wouldn't say my wife is a push-over, but she doesn't like dealing with conflict.

I have a great relationship with my step-daughter, and virtually no communication wit the ex to help prevent conflict. Recently, step-daughter("SD" going forward?) has been expressing that she wants to live with us full time. The dad doesn't physically abuse her, but him and his new wife definitely verbally abuse. Asshole, stupid, idiot, etc... anything degrading they can say to make their kids feel bad for making a mistake,.... they say to them. It's the complete opposite here.

The issue we have at hand now is that my wife and ex used to coparent pretty reasonably, and now that I've come into the picture he's been extremely eratic, and I would assume jealous. From my SD's POV, the new wife is also like a little devil on his shoulder.

He's constantly trying to push his weight around (and money) when he feels like he has no control over his daughter, and more-so our household. Threatening court action if my wife doesn't stick exactly to the custody agreement (neither parent does), and then telling her he lost all respect for her and will no longer be civil. This specific example was a misunderstanding around New Years day custody. Something he agreed to initially, then got pissed about after he read the agreement (and talked to his wife) and blamed it all on my wife while assuming no responsibility.

He also just threatened to take us to court because he doesn't want us using her image for posts on social media for my photography business. Meanwhile, her pictures are posted frequently by another photographer who takes pictures at her dance studio, and she's posted online by the studio as well. His arguement was that's ok for them to do because they're established business', and this is a hobby for me.

Besides it being a BS arguement, we know what this is about. Trying to control us, bully us, and trying to deter me from bonding with his daughter. We initially had talked this out, and decided my wife was going to tell him he had to send the same cease and desist letter he sent to us to the other 2 businesses as well if he refused to stand down from his position, but she omitted that from their discussion. Yes, he sent us an email threating legal action if we posted any more photos of her, and he said he is performing "social media scans" to make sure we're abiding by his request. Instead of just speaking to us directly and having a conversation about it.

How do we keep him from trying to keep interfering in this household?  How do we handle someone like him to ward him off? I don't take kindly to bullies, and I've always laid lay to prevent conflict, and to keep SD out of any crossfire, but I'm getting fed up with it. He's picking and choosing what to threaten us with only when he knows it can hurt us. It's never a conversation, it's always a threat.


juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

Seems pretty easy though.

Go to the magistrate. He/she is there 24/7. Bring abusive/harrassing comments (pictures/screenshots on a phone). Tell your wife to inform the magistrate that his harassment is causing stress/anxiety issues.

The magistrate will issue a temporary peace order (no contact-at all).

A court date will be issued, and a judge will tell him to only contact your wife if it directly pertains to changes in the kids visitation schedule, and over a monitored court-sourced app.

Trust me, this is exactly what my wife did and this is exactly what happened. Her ex even got drunk and drunk texted her a couple of weeks ago. He has a hearing for violating the order at the beginning March.

If she refuses this obvious solution to the problem, it's because she WANTS to be contacted by him.

Jnb150's picture

Ya, that's not a bad idea. I'll have her comb through recent messages. The only problem I see is that he's sly, and he's not dumb. Just full of himself! It's not like he's going out of his way every day to threaten her. He just does it when he feels his self-esteem lower.

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

What's great about no contact orders, is that there doesn't even need to be a specific reason, and it doesn't matter if children are in the picture.

As long as she says it's causing her distress, the courts will order it stopped immediately. Then he can only send her messages over an app that is monitored by the sheiff's department. I predict that my wife's ex will get fined a few hundred bucks for his breach, and it just adds to his record.

GrabitAndGo's picture

Why in the world are you calling OP's skid such a hateful and derogatory name?  What made you think that's appropriate or necessary?

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

I'm trying to think of something witty and sarcastic to say, but I feel it would be wasted here.

Because it's an accurate representation, and I wanted to. My comment really is relevant to his situation though.

tog redux's picture

He likes his stepkid. Not everyone hates their skid. She's innocent here, why call her names? She doesn't even sound like a bad kid.

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

I guess he could call his local magistrate to confirm. It'd take 3 minutes. Peace orders are pretty close to being uniform all around though.

GrabitAndGo's picture

Not really since they vary from state to state, and sometimes county to county.  You go on with your bad self, though.

tog redux's picture

OP - IGNORE is your friend with a guy like this. Just ignore. Let him send letters, get your own attorney if necessary - but your wife should not respond to his nonsense. Unless an attorney tells you he has a legal right to override your wife's permission to use her daughter's image, then IGNORE. 

I'm personally doubtful you can get a restraining order with what you said here, but it's worth a try.  She needs to use a communication program like Our Family Wizard, so that if he harasses her about the kid, it's all documented.  But narcissists HATE to be ignored, so do that as much as possible.

And just create a loving environment for your stepkid - but she doesn't get to decide where she lives at 11.  She may learn to manipulate as well, having a father like him. 

thinker's picture

I really liked the book, Coparenting With a Toxic Ex.  Another great resource is a blog called One Moms Battle.  Same author has written a few books. 

If I were you I'd stay out of the conflict and I'd also stop posting pictures of SD - even though you may be right on this issue, it's not worth the fight, IMO.

My advice to your wife is that she should learn to communicate only where absolutely necessary for coparenting and in a way that is very formal, polite and business-like and calculated to produce a favorable parenting result, and ignore everything else he says or does.  This method of communication is often referred to in coparenting literature as grey rock (or yellow rock, by another name).  This means she should just ignore all the insults and anything that doesn't require a response in order to coparent.  When I deal with the narcissist in my life and get some crazy-making text or other drama, I take a few minutes to remind myself that this person is mentally ill.  I never battle with this person anymore, as doing so is completely futile and only drags me into their darkness.  Just respond to the things relevant to the business of coparenting and ignore everything else.  And take up a hobby to deal with all the frustration - running, kickboxing, whatever works to get it out.  

tog redux's picture

I agree, I'd stop posting the pictures, it's not worth it.  Pick your battles with an ex like this.

ESMOD's picture

I agree that OP needs to back away from the pissing match over the posted pictures.

Of COURSE.. we know that DW's EX is only complaining about it to be an ahole.  Of COURSE it's not about any real concern about pics in the public arena.. Of COURSE it isn't hobby vs business.. 

But.. what does OP have to gain by proving any of that? nada. He is just likely to make things even harder for SD at her dad's

The bottom line is that one of the parents of the child has asked that you not use her pics in advertising or promoting your photography.  She isn't the only subject you could use.. she isn't centrally important to your craft.  Clinging to the "right" to do it is just causing drama to escalate and get drawn out.  I would take the photos offline.  Once the girl turns 18?  of course you can all do what she wishes (sd).  

Yes.. her EX is being ridiculous and he is just doing it to get your goat.. but it's not a fight worth waging.. really it is not.

Jnb150's picture

I haven't continued to post photos, and believe I only did so once (before the threat). This isn't really about the photos though. It's about allowing him to continue to dictate things like this, and then bully and verbally assault my wife. It's just the latest in a long string of things where he gets butt hurt, and then blames us and issues some sort of threat or abuse.

Yes, I agree she needs to ignore his BS, and deal with everything very matter of fact. I've heard of the grey rock method and told her about it. We're educating ourselves about dealing with a narcissist. BUT, IMO, that doesn't mean we keep letting him encroach on our lives, and our household. Why is the blanket advice to the people acting normal to just accept the bullying and turn the other cheek? If it isn't bad enough to the point where there is physical harm or threats being done, to just let the person keep harassing you. I feel like we're letting a mentally ill person tell us how to run certain aspects of our lives.

tog redux's picture

You aren't turning the other cheek.  She can block him from all forms of communication except email and force those emails into a folder that she checks once a week. She can use our Family Wizard.  She can take it back to Family Court and ask for limits on how much he's allowed to communicate with her. She can try to file a restraining order.

But the bottom line is that unless some authority finds that he's doing something criminal, she has to deal with him because she had a child with him.  Find the best way. My DH found that ignoring BM worked wonders.

If you want to, try responding and go in swinging. Quickly you will discover that you are no match for someone like this - they will always win at that game because they are experts. And that's where they want you - in a war of words. They will destroy you.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

Your wife has a High Conflict Ex, so it would benefit you both to learn everything you can about handling one.

The goal should be to reduce/eliminate the amount of stress and influence this narc has on your household. Winning is not having to speak or interact with such a personality. Your wife should switch to parallel parenting (can't coparent with a HC ex) and ask the court to order an online coparenting platform like Our Family Wizard. All communication needs to go through a third party program in order to 1) document all of the ex's bs, and 2) insulate your wife so he can't bully her. Also, go over the custody agreement with a fine toothed comb for any loopholes or gray areas and tighten those up. It will cost a bit to have an attorney do this, but it's money well.spent if it buys you peace.

 Then all you have to do is stick to the C.O., provide a loving environment for your SD when she's there, and enjoy a narcissist -free life.

Jnb150's picture

I think the parallel parenting route may be our answer. If he knows that everything he's saying will be recorded he may bite his tongue. Plus it eliminates any unnecessary conversation.

tog redux's picture

Yes, this stuff really does work - to the extent that it can work with someone like that.  He will be a thorn in your side and a damaging factor in your SD's life forever.  But they can be neutralized to a degree.

Steptotheright's picture

I would personally go to war with a person like that. 

Is he not infringing on DW's rights to decide things, if they have 50/50 true blue custody? I think it's outside his jurisdiction to say you can't photograph his daughter if you have permission of your DW.

Also men typically have less rights than women in family Court. That's just usually how it plays out. He's bluffing, don't you see...

I would call the mess out of that bluff. Have DW threaten that she's going to try to change custody if he doesn't back the F off, because his obsessing over small things is making y'all fear for the safety physical/mental of the child.. If your DW was willing to go to war with this dude I guarantee you he would back down. Trust me, this guy does not want your DW to truly realize how much power she has in court.

Then it's just on you to support her as she did. But she's the one with the rights here, and when it comes right down to it, she's the one that has to stand up to him.

Jnb150's picture

I tend to agree with you, but there are 2 things that I think keep us from going that route unless necessary (like when SD decides she wants to live with us full time).

1. I don't tink DW will fight tooth and nail about anything until it's time to fight for full custody

2. He has a sizable income over us, and would literally take everything to court just to prove a point. 

We also have a 2 yr old we have to think about so it's not like we can drain our bank accounts. I know what he's doing psychologically. He's flexing muscle, and pushing his weight around to make himself feel big. I agree he's also bluffing now, but I don't have confidence in my DW's ability to back him off.

I'm thinking the coparenting app is a great place for us to start. I think DW needs to send him a "legal email" like he did to us, demanding he only speaks to her via the app. If he doesn't comply she'll take him to court to make it court ordered. Then go from there. At least that way it limits contact with him, and records everything he says.

Rags's picture

To deal with this asshole you call his bluff. DW needs to roll up a copy of the CO, smack him about the head and shoulders with it and tell him "See you in court asshole!" when he plays his games.  His cease and decist letter is complete crap. You hae parental approval to (from your wife) to photograph your SD and use her image in your photography business.

Daddy can F-off.

Going with a coparenting web service and forcing communication only through that, and making sure he understands that all communication will be sumitted to a Jjudge, is a great idea.

If your DW won't grow some testicular fortitude and deal with her X nothing will improve in this situation. Daddy may have the financial big stick, but your DW has the overwhelming advantage of being the mother which is a clear and proven advantage in family law court.  She needs to go all in and give her X absolute clarity that he knocks his shit off or she will go after custody, an RO/PO to keep him from having any contact with her and when she wins custody she will nail his ass to the CS wall for big $.

She needs to play her advantages and do nothing but bow up on him when he so much as twitches out of line with the CO and standards of reasonable behavior that you set.

strugglingSM's picture

I second the parallel parenting approach. There is no requirement that divorced parents agree or get along. If they need to operate two completely separate households where neither knows what goes on in the others, then they need to do that. 

However, in order to do that, you need to model the way: 

1) You must follow the CO completely, no deviations. If you need to change things, get a lawyer and change them, but any modification is an opportunity for drama with a high conflict ex. 

2) You need to stop asking your SD anything about what goes on in BD's home and to not get involved when she talks about what goes on in his home. If she wants to move in with you, then speak with a lawyer first about how best to proceed, but do not assume that BD will become reasonable simply because his child is involved. Otherwise, don't ask her about what goes on when she is with BD, don't ask about her SM, nothing. As far as you're concerned that home is separate and none of your business, just like your home needs to be for BD. 

3) Your wife needs to be ready to relinquish complete control over what her daughter is doing when she is with BD. The only way to reduce conflict with high conflict individuals is to be no contact. And that means you can't make any modifications and can't request that anything happen at BD's home. You need to operate as if he doesn't exist, which is difficult when there are children involved. 

Maxwell09's picture

Meh, here a parent can't control the other parents authority on social media posts and who's allowed to post them IF they are doing exactly that on their end. I would ignore that cease and desist and make sure you block him and his girlfriend on Socials as well as make sure youre things are as private as can be. 

Jnb150's picture

I agree with everything that you guys are saying, and it's really what I've been trying to echo to my wife. We live in different school districts, and SD goes to the school where BD lives so that's going to be the one major factor with custody hearings I think. So we're trying to hold off on that route until we can move on 1-2 years.

I haven't really thought about her pushing her weight around as "the mother" regarding courts siding with her. I'll need to look into that more as well.

shamds's picture

Bringing it up in court the verbal and emotional abuse the dad and stepmum are inflicting shouldn’t bode well for the dad and stepmum but problem is if magistrate wants to hear from the sd she is likely gonna feel intimidated and if the bio dad doesn’t have custody cut off for the abuse and unstable environment he provides at home for her, then the dad and stepmum may take the abuse further. 

Seek some legal advice too because i’m not sure what the court system is like in your area.

Jnb150's picture

Thanks everyone for your help. I think this points us in the right direction and gives us some valuable info!

ChzyBob20's picture

I would be very leery of taking a step teenager at his or her word when it comes to hearsay. My husband's prior kid lied about me in front of me. He even lied about his BM.