Living in A Nightmare writes,
I divorced my narcissist husband 6 years ago after a long ugly marriage where he was not involved with me or our children very often. I was a stay at home mom and did everything with my kids and loved every moment of it and I still do! We are both remarried. We have two sons 19 and 15. We have 50/50 custody which I would prefer to have my son more but have to do what's fair.
He moved his wife in with him about 6 months after we split. She has always tried to be too involved in my children's lives. I tried in the beginning to accept her and hope for the best but found out quickly that she was overbearing. Our older son moved in with me when he was 16.
Over the years this has turned into a nightmare for both of my children. My older son, still wanting to have a relationship with his father, was told either you accept us a family or don't bother coming over. Meaning every thing they do his stepmom has to come, she calls all the shots, lectures both my children all the time. My ex recently threw my older son out shoving him because he came over to protect his brother during one of her rages.
My children are really good kids. I'm not just saying that either. They have chores at both houses, go to school full time and get good grades etc. but that's not good enough for her. There's always a lecture. My son has no alone time over there either. She follows him around, forces him to watch movies with her and spend quality family time together, basically forcing her down the kids throat. He wants nothing to do with her.
They have made it clear to me they do not recognize me as the kids mother - because "you don't have to be a birth mother to be a mother," have started restricting phone calls with me and have tried to take away some of the hours that are mine by early pickup. If I say I am his mother my ex freaks out and tells me I have to stop saying that. I really think they are twisted and delusional. They also tell my son that she is a better role model than me and has trash talked me numerous times to my son.
Recently over a two day period they sat him down and trash talked me for over 2 hours saying vile things such as I was a slut, a liar, and numerous other horrible things. When my son came back to me he was so upset and doesn't want to live with them any more. They have no respect for me as the children's mother in any way. What should I do??? I feel horrible for my son to have to put up with this abuse.
From what you describe, this is textbook parental alienation, where one parent tries to make the kids think that the other parent is a terrible person. I discuss this dynamic in my book. You cannot allow your ex to talk about you in this way to your son. You are correct, it is highly toxic and emotionally abusive. They obviously have a lot of anger toward you that they are inappropriately taking out on your son, trying to get him to see you through the lens that they do. This is extremely stressful for your son and can cause long term psychological damage. Read about the effects of one parent trash talking the other one here and here.
You need to call a lawyer and figure out what your options are. They are taking away your hours with early pickup and this goes against the custody agreement, from what I am inferring. This is not legal and not okay. You also need to share with your lawyer that you feel that your ex and his wife are attempting to alienate you from your son via telling him bad things about you, and subjecting him to rants that slander you. Do not take this lying down. It is a terrible and unhealthy situation for you and for your son. Your husband (and his wife) appears to want your son to view them as all good and you as all bad. This is called "black and white thinking" and, along with the profound lack of empathy and violent impulsive behavior that your ex displays, smacks of tendencies toward borderline personality disorder. Although of course I haven't met him and cannot diagnose him, you may want to read up on this so you know what you're dealing with, as his issues may be beyond the narcissism that you mention. A classic about BPD is the book I Hate You, Don't Leave Me.
Once you know what your legal options are, you also need to have your son start seeing a therapist that can work with him on ways to communicate and assert himself with his father and stepmother. He needs to figure out how he can have a relationship with them while not allowing himself to be subjected to emotional abuse under the guise of them "explaining" how awful his mother is. Plenty of adults have trouble asserting themselves to their emotionally abusive parents, so it is no wonder your son is upset and struggling. Hopefully, this same therapist can meet with you and with your husband and explain the psychological ramifications of parental alienation.
Do not take this lying down; your son's emotional wellbeing depends on you doing all you can to end this emotional abuse. Keep me updated, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, The Worst Thing Parents Can Do Is Poison Their Kids Against Each Other.
Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice, including therapy, coaching, and consultation, here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.