Why it does not take two to argue


This article is for you, dear outsider.

For the mother’s family members and not-so-close friends, for the neighbors, the children’s teachers and educators, for the judges, the youth welfare workers, and yes, even for the guardians ad litem who are supposed to represent the children’s interests in court.

This article is also for the Next from the Ex and for all the uninvolved bored people out there who are so sympathetic to the poor fathers on social media and mercilessly ram every pro-mother comment into the ground.

I’m a coach for moms with toxic ex-partners. When I first started specializing in this supposedly small group of women in early 2017, I still called exes “difficult.” However, that has since become too euphemistic for me.

When I use the term “toxic,” I’m referring primarily to the men with narcissistic personality disorder, but it could just as easily be borderline personality disorder. Or whatever. I don’t care if these men have been officially tested in this regard yet.

Because they usually aren’t. Because they rarely get tested.

Part of the lunacy of narcissistic personality disorder – to which there are several gradations – is, above all, to think oneself infallible. And who, if infallible, would need to undergo a test that could possibly confirm that there is something seriously wrong with him or her?

For this reason, there are hardly any reliable studies about the actual extent.

There is a statement that 1 – 5% of the worldwide population should have a narcissistic personality disorder.

I personally don’t believe that. I think it’s more like 20% and up, but maybe that’s just the filter bubble I live in.

In any case, toxic people have an immense impact on the emotional state of their immediate environment.

A toxic boss is already a tremendous burden. A toxic neighbor causes leisure time stress and robs a comfortable home.

A toxic (ex-) partner, on the other hand, is hell.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter what disorder exactly the ex of one of my clients has. The effects are all similar, and I help mothers learn to cope with their current, often toxic, circumstances and find their way back to strength.

I am not a therapist or a psychologist. Therefore, I don’t need to know if my client’s Ex definitely has a narcissistic personality.

After all, I don’t want to cure him, but I want to work out with my client how she can better protect herself mentally from his attacks in the future.

How do toxic relationships classically work out?

As a rule, couples live the classic breadwinner model before they separate: He works – often in an established position – and she takes care of the children and the household. At best, she has a part-time job.

On the outside, the family often looks like something out of a picture book.

Inside, however, it looks quite different.

Everyday life in the family revolves around what dad wants and demands. He is away more than he is present. He’s always working overtime – not because he has to, but because he’d rather do it than have to put up with children screaming at home.

He cheats on his wife – not just once. If she finds out, he doesn’t even deny it, but he also makes it clear to her that this is a good arrangement after all: she still has the family and the status of wife and partner of a respected member of society, and he has his fun outside the home.

And anyway – if she should leave, the children will stay.

The children are also sometimes grabbed or pushed by the sleeping bit if they don’t do as he wants them to.

The mother becomes more and more insecure over the time of her marriage. She lets herself go – she becomes either too thin or too fat. The husband has only disparaging words for her and pulls on her in the company of family and friends (“don’t be so sensitive – it’s just a joke!”).

When she wants to speak, he interrupts her or mimics her when she makes a mistake.

In general: she can only make mistakes. He is laser-sharp in his mockery of every wrong word and every wrong sound she utters.

Some of them even hit her – in front of the children. But not all of them. The disparaging looks, the verbal boredom, the disinterest, and the exhausting self-centeredness and demanding attitude are emotional stress enough for the woman.

Because of everything and nothing there is a quarrel. The man makes the woman feel more and more that it is her fault. She refused to have sex with him – so it is her fault that he is going to another woman.

She did not tell him in the morning that he is a great pike – and the day, at the very latest when he returns from work becomes hell. He then doesn’t speak a word, immediately withdraws and is no longer available.

So she makes sure to become more and more well-behaved and to do everything he asks for, so that at least this one day will be good.

She becomes more and more a shadow of her self.

Mothers who, despite everything, pluck up the courage and leave the toxic partner with the children at some point, not infrequently find themselves facing an unfathomable war in court later on.

Attachment-intolerant mothers?

Also such a nice killer argument. The club of the mother’s attachment intolerance (i.e., unwillingness to tolerate the children’s attachment to the father) is readily wielded in court.

The truth could not be further from the truth.

The majority of these mothers with a narcissistic Ex partner are more than putting their money where their mouth is after they move out. So as not to – because they already suspect it – invoke his unbridled wrath.

They move in close to document that they want to maintain the father-child-relationship.

They allow the father to visit the toddler in their new apartment, which is supposed to be their shelter.

They agree to an alternating residency model on a trial basis if the Ex makes this proposal after the separation and they cannot yet outline what they are actually getting into.

These mothers are often extremely addicted to harmony. They comply with most requests, leave the furniture and the car behind, or even forgive the debts he has incurred with them over time. Or are willing to forego a lawyer because they believe they will avoid even greater mischief. (Fatal mistake, by the way).

They wish nothing more than to show the world: Look, I’m doing everything so that we can be good, separated parents in peace!

But it all helps nothing.

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When it comes to the court case with the toxic ex-partner

Did I mention that toxic men can hold good positions in business or society? They can even be prominent?

They are very often excellent speakers – nothing comes from nothing – and like to use the courtroom as a stage to present themselves as victims of the ex-wife.

Funny, isn’t it? Especially those who appear so determined and demanding see themselves as victims of a protective mother who tries to let her children grow up need-oriented.

A picture is drawn of him as the chortling mother who did everything to prevent him, for example, from being allowed to put the children to bed himself at night.

They lie so much that the beams bend. By the way, this works very well in family court. No witnesses are needed there and the public is excluded. So what?

It is also important to know that a narcissistic personality projects. The mother becomes the one who wants to alienate the children. Or who makes communication difficult. Or who manipulates or even beats the children.

But they are who they are. I have seen cases in which the fathers, after they have been granted the right to determine place of residence for the children by the court, do everything in their power to prevent visits with the mother. Yes, you may look incredulous, but they do indeed exist: vindictive and attachment-intolerant fathers.

But whoever can talk so well must be right, right?

In the end, the cliché of the emotionally unstable and gurgling mother is served in family court.

The mother stands as if moved by a thunderbolt, begins to justify herself helplessly and sees herself powerlessly unable to refute the lies.

She sees the others nodding their heads in understanding. She is then allowed to hear that the father wants to see his children regularly and that this is great and that it must now be fair.

At this point, by the way, it’s no longer about the children.

It’s about power and control over the mother.

I hope you understand: These mothers absolutely need your understanding and support – and not another shot across the bow from you, too!

What they certainly don’t need is this saying from you:

“It still takes two to argue!”

Oh come on, go away!

Anyone who has ever had to deal with a narcissistic, toxic person – be it in business, be it in the family, be it in a love relationship – knows that even one alone can cause wonderful quarrels up to war!

And woe to us, if such a person comes to power and to the top of a country… Shall I enumerate examples or would you rather watch the news later yourself?

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


The outcome

Those who are in the middle of the madness are the children.

Who is supposed to protect the children from toxic fathers if not the mothers?

The family courts and youth welfare offices do not do that.

This protection does not even have to look like that the children should not have any contact with the father! As a rule, these mothers are interested in a good contact concept and have already submitted proposals for it.

But how do you think a mother should behave if the children are not brought back by the father after the weekend of contact or if those who run away from the father because they do not want to spend the weekend with him are simply dragged into the car?

Is that what good fathers do?

Such men need clear boundaries. From the courts and from society. Such behavior must no longer be tolerated and swept off the table with a wave of the hand.

Therefore, my request to you, dear outsider:

Consider for yourself who has caused great strife in your past. You alone were unable to resolve the dispute amicably, although you tried and did everything possible. Yes, even though you have been trained as a mediator and have not been able to use your own tools!

The other person remains intransigent and stereotypically repeats some assertions that are not true at all. Even if he seemed to be cooperative at some point and you agreed on a solution with him, you had to find out a short time later that he does everything the same way again.

This is the kind of person your daughter/girlfriend/appraiser was with.

I can assure you that she wants nothing more than to finally have her peace from court cases, lawyer letters or nasty emails and phone calls with crude threats!

For this mother, the whole situation is a seemingly never-ending nightmare.

And please don’t come at me with, “They used to love each other!” or “It’s their own fault! If the guy is such an ass, why did she father one or even more children?” or “Then why was she with him for so long?”

Everyone who says such a sentence to the face of an affected mother contributes to further emotional intimidation – after all, she keeps throwing these sentences at herself and cannot comprehend it. The awakening can take years, and for a long time mothers hope that everything will change for the better. And they go to couples therapy with their partner. They hold out for an extra long time – precisely because of the children and because they don’t want to give up the family lightly.

But just between us: How should mothers who are still living in such a toxic relationship feel encouraged to leave earlier when they see how other mothers can fare after the separation?

How much courage do you think is appropriate?

  • Are you more likely to reach out to her
  • Help and support her by allowing her a safe space in the family environment that is not about the toxic Ex. A space where she can vent, where good things happen to her, and where she can rebuild her strength.
  • Help and support her by taking a clear stand and stance for her and clearly separating yourself from the toxic Ex partner and his other vicarious agents.
  • As a man, help and support the mother in protecting and strengthening the children as best you can. By setting a good male role model for her children. With a straight back and incorruptible integrity.
  • Help and support them by clearly and firmly saying “No!” to the alternating residency model, which these fathers want to enforce in court.
  • Inform yourself about narcissism in order to better understand the often not simple connections.

So that you can make your own picture of the situation before you evaluate and condemn the mother.

Thank you.

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