The top 10 mistakes a single mom can make with a narcissistic ex in the first year of separation


When you have a narcissistic ex who also happens to be your child’s father, you’re going to make some mistakes.

No one is immune from making mistakes. Neither am I. After all, we’re all just people, and people do make mistakes.

That’s ok.

Mistakes also have something good – we can learn from them, and the bigger the mistake, the bigger the insight. The learning gain.

I will definitely never make THIS mistake again!

You know that, don’t you?

Or our parents back then. Standing by anxiously when we got our driver’s license at 18 or brought home our first unkempt boys.

“Just watch out, this or that can happen!”

And we laughingly swept parents’ admonitions off the table with a wave of our hands.

All parents have to let go at some point and let their kids make their own mistakes. Our parents had to go through that, and now so do we.

But there are such and such mistakes. Our parents, for example, usually had no idea about personality disorders, and which mistake can have which effects.

If a mother tells me today that she is thinking about separating from her partner, and she tells me incidents that set off all the narcissism alarm bells in me, then I take her aside.

Anything else would be foolish.

Because at that time I would have liked someone to take me aside and tell me what I have to pay attention to now. Who wouldn’t have told me, “Think again! Think of the child!” after I had explained the reasons for my desire to separate.

If I may note: Despite my experiences, I do believe in long-lasting, healthy, mutually developing partnerships and in love! Yes, I know of such relationships in my family and circle of acquaintances.

I know that a family first has to get together, and that it doesn’t work without friction here and there. The first year of having a baby is stressful for everyone, and I can understand any part of a couple that at some point thinks, ” Oh, I can’t take it anymore!”

If one partner in the equation has a personality disorder, on the other hand, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that things will never get better. Instead, it will only get worse.

Then you have to take your chances, gather up your courage and courageously take your own future into your own hands again!

You have a right – and the responsibility – for your own, beautiful, fulfilling life, my dear!

So once the decision is made – this is not the way to go on, I’m going to the dogs here – then it’s important to avoid certain mistakes that many women with a narcissistic (soon-to-be) ex very often make right in the first year of separation.

I have not personally made all of these mistakes – but in conversations with my female clients, these mistakes have emerged as the most serious.

Here is my list of the top 10 most popular mistakes

Mistake #10) You want to please and be sweet to everyone, even if you are now destroying the family and you have a mega guilty conscience, and you are cutting yourself way too much slack.

If the decision is fresh in your mind, the conclusion is pretty devastating. With the best of intentions, you went into the relationship and became a mom. You were so happy! The man was still so different! Of course there were various signs – but you ignored the warnings of the others (if they existed at all).

This man is something special. The love of your life!

And now it is over. YOU put an end to it. It’s your fault. Isn’t that what he tells you over and over again – that your relationship only got so bad because you didn’t care for him like you did in the beginning? Isn’t there a grain of truth in that after all? You don’t tell him anymore that you love him – so he has to look for confirmation from other women and vent his displeasure on you?

And the poor children! You never wanted your children to grow up without a father. What are you doing to them? Wasn’t Herbert in the sixth grade also a child of divorce? Constantly grubby and stuffy?

Or the stories of those unspeakably highly contentious divorces, of which there are enough examples in the tabloids.

No, you’re not like that!

You just want your peace. To find peace in your own apartment. To gain distance. To have your soul and heart stroked again. To keep the children away from the quarrels and strife to which they were inevitably exposed within the four walls you shared.

And you’re not the kind of bitch who grits her teeth and blurts out: “Just you wait, cheeky devil! I’ll show you! You’re not getting the kids!”

And you’re doing everything you can to prove just that. Out there. To the ex. To the in-laws. To the youth welfare office.

The problem: If anyone “out there” notices at all, then no one will know later with what intentions you acted in the first months. No matter what you do, a narcissist will argue everything so that you end up in a bad light.

He will also simply claim behind your back to his friends and family that you have already threatened to take the children away from him, even though you never said that. Simply to prepare the minefield of opinion.

Please keep that in mind. This is by no means about sharpening all the knives and rushing forward.

It’s about acting calmly and prudently and, above all, smartly and attentively at this time.

So don’t let guilt take the butter off your bread. It’s not your fault that the relationship fell apart.

It’s his fault.

Mistake #9) You tell him too soon.

Yes, this is a tricky point. You want to be extra fair and give him a chance to adjust as well. Some predecessor of yours had once left him with a bang on a men’s getaway weekend, which he still doesn’t understand. You, on the other hand, are different…

You are still not like that. You don’t want to do that to him.

Now the example is extreme. However, it is indeed the only way to move out reasonably unscathed, especially if you are afraid that he might flip out and hit you if you tell him beforehand.

Keep in mind that if he knows, he might act unpredictably during that time, and you’ll still get an unpleasant surprise or two from him.

That, among other things, was one of my mistakes. Three weeks before I moved out, he unhooked all the doors in the house to bring to his friend to lye and then re-whitewash them. All the doors. Even the one to the bathroom. Of course, I wasn’t asked or involved in these last-minute modernization plans – and there was nothing I could do about it! It took over a week to get the doors back on their hinges.

So can we please agree that the earliest you’ll tell him you’re breaking up is when you already have the other apartment?

And if you feel more comfortable doing the move out in a fly-by-night: You have my blessing.

Don’t be put off if they say you can’t take the kids with you. If the guy’s behavior is that of a true narcissist, and you have always taken care of the children around the clock, then of course you will take them with you!

If necessary, plan the move out with your lawyer. More on this point below.

Mistake number 8) You say yes and amen to everything, just so that you don’t have to go to court.

A bad trap. It is also related to mistake #10 above. Yes, there are some who follow through on their threats. But they do either way, no matter what you do, as long as they get justice. So if your soon-to-be-ex is up for a ruckus, he’ll take you to court too.

So there is no need for you to just make concessions. Because if he is just bluffing, you will be the loser in any case.

Mistake #7) You get yourself a lawyer around the corner, but you don’t have a good feeling about it and you feel insecure after the talks with him.

Changing lawyers in between is not nice. Please make sure that your lawyer knows how to deal with these types of people so that he/she can work out the right strategy with you. And see if your lawyer shows compassion and understanding and makes you feel comfortable. Recommendations are best, of course, so ask around in time.

You can, of course, apply for legal aid. But it is certainly also good if you have money up your sleeve to be able to pay for a more expensive lawyer if necessary.

I would even recommend to consult a lawyer before you move out, even if you are not married.

Mistake #6) You sign something from your (soon-to-be) ex that you didn’t discuss with your lawyer beforehand.

Nah, sweetheart, you don’t do that, please. Don’t sign anything without your lawyer’s blessing.

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Mistake #5) You don’t seek out a strong community of other moms who can give you support.

If you are coming from a narcissistic relationship, it is very likely that over time he has separated you from your friends and from your family and you have devoted your free time exclusively to his friends.

Even if you have to start from scratch again: make sure as soon as possible that you build up your support network. This is really elementary.

Please don’t underestimate the power of support in difficult situations – even if it can only be given in virtual space. There really are some very good moms groups for single parents on Facebook – not just my own of Strong Single Moms.

Mistake #4) You let him into your new apartment, or invite him to family events after you move out, or let him watch the kid.

Once you’ve happily moved out, hold back on friendly offers. Of course, you are interested in the ideal scenario of a super friendly relationship and want to contribute to it.

But first, let time go by and prove to him that he also contributes his part to a respectful dealing.

Otherwise, you open all flanks.

No one wants to hear funny stories about the new girlfriend when you are just stirring the cream in the communion coffee.

Or cleaning up the nursery mess after the kids have had a fun afternoon with dad.

Also, don’t underestimate the effect of negative energy coming into your new, immaculate home with him. You’ll feel it.

Mistake #3) You stay in his condo or house and sign a lease with him as the landlord.

Yes, there may well be pragmatic reasons. The older the children are, the more reasons there are not to want to tear them out of their familiar environment. Friends, kindergarten, school, friendly neighbors who are even available for babysitting now and then – all big plus points.

Only: If the house or the condominium is not completely signed over to you and he only offers you to sign a rental contract: Don’t do it!

You must absolutely try not to create any financial dependencies through which he can bully, harass and control you in the future! See also the next point.

He may still have a key to the house and could theoretically rummage through your things while you are on vacation with the children.

Or he can give you an ultimatum to move out if you don’t give in and meet his demands.

Or he can increase the rent every year. Even if he does this outside the legal framework – if you are constantly cited by him in court because of various custody disputes, then you will no longer have the strength to start a court battle yourself because of an illegal rent increase.

Especially since no judge will be able to tell which of you is the bitchier one.

So: look for your own apartment. And please not too close. At least not within Sunday afternoon walking distance. He will do the same, preferably with the new girl on his arm!

Mistake #2) You remain financially dependent on him even after the separation.

This is closely related to #3.

It is important that you free yourself from him at all points. But first of all, financial freedom from him. Otherwise, you open the door for later control and further abuse!

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the common stories that you will end up on unemployment benefits and never get out of it. Let me tell you: It is better to go to the office and ask for support so that you can buy your children something to eat than to have to crawl back to your ex and let him bully you.

The office has rules that it has to abide by. That can be a comforting thought too!

Think a lot more about what you can do to make more money if the separation puts you in a financial bind.

Yes, it may not be easy – but it’s also an opportunity to develop creative ways to solve the problem. And most importantly, to finally give certain beliefs a good kick in the butt!

Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?


And at number 1 on the top 10 mistakes a single mom can make after separating from a narcissistic ex:

The experimental alternating residency model

Yes, this is the mega cardinal mistake. The super bummer. Don’t get hung up on anything here!

This is especially true if:

  1. your ex has hardly or not at all taken care of the children before and
  2. when the children are still small.

Also, don’t get involved if you can’t find another care solution at first glance.

Any unusual care solution that is not feasible at first sight is better than creating facts here that can fall on your feet at a later date.

Your task: Do some soul-searching. Brainstorm possible solutions. Mobilize your family, neighbors. Ask about child-sitting services. Check Rent-a-Grandma. Ask your girlfriend. Talk to your employer. What else can you think of?

Everything is better than a proposed alternating residency model from your tormentor!

For the most part, the expected alimony payment might have brought your ex to this offer. Therefore, together with your lawyer, think about the possibilities of a counter-offer.

Of course: The maintenance actually belongs to the children and not to you. And if you receive unemployment benefits, you theoretically have to insist on the alimony, because otherwise it could be deducted from you. Nevertheless. Think about an appropriate strategy with your – good (!) – lawyer and weigh it up.

In summary

You see, to quickly get financially independent upper water and not to get involved in any nonsense in the first months, which has not been approved by your lawyer, is already a good prerequisite for you to be able to circumnavigate the worst hurdles smartly.

How do you see it? Have you had an experience you’d like to comment on below this post? What advice would you give to a mother who is in the process of separating from a suspected narcissist? Have I forgotten an important point?

Know a mom who is at this turning point right now? Then share the link with her.

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