Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, divorce, Marriage, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Parental Alienation, Psychology, relationships > What to Do When your Abusive Ex-Wife or Girlfriend Tries to Maintain Contact with your Family and Friends After the Break-Up or Divorce

What to Do When your Abusive Ex-Wife or Girlfriend Tries to Maintain Contact with your Family and Friends After the Break-Up or Divorce

So you finally had the courage to end your marriage or relationship, are moving on with your life and discover that your abusive ex is now trying to maintain or strengthen her relationship with your family of origin after years of trashing them and trying to cut them out of your life. Why?

When you’re in a significant relationship your social and family circles grow to include your partner’s friends and family. Some of her friends become your friends. Some of your friends become her friends and you both, hopefully, develop relationships with each others’ families. What happens when you break-up or divorce? Who gets custody of friends and family members?

The Best of Circumstances

When a relationship dissolves between two healthy adults, especially if they’ve been together for a considerable length of time and/or share children, the separation can be just as difficult for family and friends. Psychologically mature individuals don’t take sides or get in the middle and understand that the nature of their former relationships with the ex will change. The couple and the people who have been in relationships with the couple all experience a sense of loss and go through a kind of grieving process.

The Worst of Circumstances

When one member of the couple is dysfunctional, abusive and/or has a personality disorder, friends and family become just another mechanism by which to control and hurt the non-abusive/non-disordered partner. Abusive women often view friends and family (including their own children) as war trophies, human shields and weapons during and after a break-up or divorce.

The irony is that most abusive women try to isolate their partners from family and friends during the relationship. This kind of woman does this in order to consolidate her power and control over you and to suck up every ounce of your attention. She deeply resents her in-laws and your friends. If she’s not overtly rude and disrespectful to their faces, she’ll put on a sweet face in their presence and gun them down behind their backs.

After the relationship ends, many of these women try to cozy up to the same people they spent years vilifying. This is extremely confusing for most men since their wives or girlfriends incessantly complained about and trashed their friends and family while together and created crazy drama whenever a visit, trip or family/friend event loomed on the horizon.

Here are some possible scenarios after ending a relationship with an abusive woman:

1. The relationship ends and she leaves your family and friends in peace. Although, she may make it difficult for your family to see your child(ren). If this is the case, count your blessings and find a good attorney to help you work out a fair custody arrangement.

2. She demonizes both you and your family. This is fine when you don’t share children. Let her spew her venom and stay as far away from her as possible and ask your family to do the same. However, if you share kid(s), this is highly destructive and understandably painful for you, your family and the child(ren). This is a case of blatant Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAS) and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), in which case you should find out your parental rights in your state and pursue swift and strong legal recourse.

3. The relationship ends and all of a sudden your ex spends more time with your family than she did when you were together. Why? It’s not as if some miracle occurred and she suddenly realized how wonderful your family is. She’s desperately trying to retain control over you by staying involved with your family. This kind of woman is especially likely to do this if you’ve begun a new relationship. She wants your family to like her more than you or your new love interest and/or she wants your family to take her side to show the world she’s “right” (whatever that means) and that you’re “wrong.”

She also does this to portray herself as the victim and you as the bad guy. She wants to try to turn your own family against you. She makes up egregious lies. Some of these women will even go so far as to claim you abused her and the children. For example, “He’s crazy. He’s changed. He’s having a mid-life crisis. You have no idea what I put up with all these years. How could he abandon the children and me?” The projections never stop.

I call it the Crocodile Tears and Sympathy Tour. It’s just more of her manipulative and controlling nonsense. She’s in a much better position to do this if there’s a child or children involved. She pretends she’s spending time with your family so they can see their niece/nephew/son/grandson all the while distorting the truth and playing upon your family’s sympathy. Bottom line: You should be the one who takes the kid(s) to visit your side of the family.

In a relatively healthy relationship/marriage, it’s natural to want to maintain relationships with people who became your family through your intimate relationship. A relationship with an abusive woman is not a normal relationship. It’s like a cancer you need to cut from your body, your psyche, your life and your family of origin. You shouldn’t try to maintain a “friendship” with her and neither should your family because it allows her to continue to hurt you. Keep contact to a minimum and make it brief, civil and business-like. Give your family links to this website if they have a difficult time understanding the situation.

Why Some Families Go Along with It

1. Fear. If kids are involved, your family is probably afraid they won’t get to see them if they explain to your ex that it’s not really appropriate to cry on their shoulders or accompany the children to family get-togethers. She needs to use her own family (if she’s on speaking terms with them) and friends (if she has any) for support or hire a professional with whom to spin her tale of woe and victimhood.

2. To be nice and get along with everyone. This is commendable, but it doesn’t allow all parties involved to grieve the end of the relationship/marriage and move on. It also allows her to continue her manipulations and abuse, which need to end.

3. Cluelessness. Your family has no idea what your ex was like behind closed doors. They think they’re being supportive of you by allowing your ex to cling onto them. They think they’re being “big-hearted” when, in reality, they’re allowing your ex to manipulate them and hurt you, their own family member.

4. Dysfunctionality. Well, you were probably attracted to your ex for a reason and it would seem that your family is it. In which case, you need to mourn your relationship with your family in addition to your significant relationship/marriage, so that you don’t make the same poor relationship choices in the future.  This may require that you put some emotional and/or physical distance between you and your family while you work through it and get some therapy.

What You Can Do About It

1. Tell your family exactly what’s going on. Educate your family. If you kept your mouth shut about the abuse you suffered out of misplaced loyalty, shame and embarrassment or because you wanted to “protect” the mother of your children you need to speak up now. If your family doesn’t know what happened behind closed doors, it will make your ex’s smear campaign more effective because the break-up will seem out of the blue when the reality is it was a long time coming.

Tell your family all the nasty things your ex said about them over the years. Explain how much she hurt you. Tell them about the abuse. Ask them to support you in this. You don’t want to badmouth her? Telling the truth isn’t badmouthing if it’s the truth. The best way to stop abuse is to bring it to light. Rest assured, your ex is badmouthing you to anyone who will listen. If you didn’t stand up to her during the course of your marriage you need to do so now. This type of individual’s behavior is wrong and destructive, so don’t sugarcoat it and don’t let her get away with it anymore. Those days are over.

2. Ask them to invite you and your child to family events; not your ex and the child(ren). Abusive borderlines, narcissists, histrionics, etc., don’t respect boundaries nor will they accept that the rules of common decency, consideration and civility apply to them. Therefore, you need to create the boundaries within your immediate and extended family. This kind of woman will continue to push everything to the max for as long you let her.

3. If your family won’t respect your boundaries and actually believes her nonsense, you need to disengage. It’s yet another painful letting go process to contend with, but it may be a necessary one. Furthermore, these women are like small children; the more they know a specific behavior is getting to you the more they do it. Therefore, try to let it roll off your back and focus on the things that make you happy and bring you fulfillment. Your abusive ex will probably escalate her desperate and pathetic attempts for attention and to screw you over, but if you resolve not to give her that satisfaction she’ll ultimately frustrate herself; not you.

Endings are painful, but the longer you allow her to play her  shenanigans with you and your family and friends, the longer it will take for you to heal from this relationship and move on. Additionally, if you starve her of these sources of attention, she’ll be forced to look elsewhere for it, i.e., her next victim.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.


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  1. secondlife
    August 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    What a great article. It described my husband’s ex to the T! It is also very conforting to know others are in similar situations. Our situation is the same as many others on this blog. My husband’s family thinks the ex does no wrong. They have been in denial for the past 7 years. They cannot understand why we have the problem with her and why we want them to hate her. The ex has managed to bad mouth me and my husband whenever she can especially at big family events which is why we don’t go to family events but no one seems to think thats a reason to not come. She has brainwashed the boys to the point that she is the “greatest” and their father is almost nothing to them. The oldest said that his “father needs to “show” him he loves him because all they are is a trophy to him” How sad is that that their own mother has put that in their heads. She has won my husband’s family and friends and yet she is still not happy. She ackowledges in her many pathetic letters to him that she is aware that he may despise her but then turns around and always invites him to family events and holidays telling him they need to be together at these events for the family and kid’s sake. Why would someone want to be with someone that can’t stand them? Now she has involved the family especially my husband’s father to fight her battles which is pretty low. His family are all mad at us now because in their opinion we are the ones with the”problem” The ex does not get tired of playing her games so when does this all end?

  2. Brian
    August 3, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Another great article, Tara!

    I have personally experienced this from my ex – the attempt to maintain contact and CONTROL of family members, friends and acquaintances during and post-divorce.

    What I find personally so difficult is that in her (my ex-wife’s) attempts and level of effectiveness to control relationships (other couples we were friends with) and poison me in the process is how a) sinister her acts really are, how she has “played the victim card” at our place of worship (a protestant church in a conservative community) and the resulting shunning (no, this is Michigan, not Amish country) and has been so effective at alienating me from our past mutual friends and within the community at large.

    While I have read all of Dr. Tara’s articles I think some further discussion on how woman with the PD’s attempt to control and manipulate their spouses and children within some faith-based communities (as a whole) may be in-order?



  3. Rick R.
    June 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Dr. T. I can’t tell you how comforting it is to have discovered your website. I am in the early stages of divorcing my wife, a PBD. Unexpectedly, during this process, I’ve have met and begun a relationship with a truly wonderful woman. Though she is tough, she’s very protective of her 3-children and is (understandably) fearfull of the potentially abusive behaviors of my soon-to-be former entering her life and kids (I have 2-young children also). And, she’s already become a victim of general harrassements such as phone messages, emails, etc. I don’t want to loose her, but feel the need to be completely honest about the dangers just the same. What advice can you give me at this early stage in terms of preparations, suggestions, etc., to minimize, or help keep the BPD’s behaviors at bay?

  4. June 8, 2010 at 3:23 am

    Wow wow wow. I was ostracised from my family and friend…though my mum ended up telling my ex she was a evil person and now she wont have anything to do with her.

    I rang some old friends last week and found out that my ex had phoned them about my leaving and told them I had met another girl and had been abusive etc etc… I have found out she done this to all of my friends.

    They were really shocked when I told them the truth that I had been abused, had been forced out of the house and had to live in my van for six weeks and that 14 months later I was ringing them to tell them I was getting married and inviting them to the wedding…

    What shocked them more was when I told them I had not even met my new wife to be until 6 months after I left the house….

  5. NoSeRider
    March 26, 2010 at 6:22 pm


    Borderline Personality Disorder has been estimated to be in 5.9 percent of the general population, men and women.

    Other research indicates that a least 6 percent of the American population suffers from Narcissism.

    Assuming that these disorders not compounded, that would indicate you have at least a 1 out of 10 chance of encountering these predators.

  6. frustrated 2nd wife
    March 26, 2010 at 10:55 am

    thanks for this website – when reading the content i felt relieved. Like Debra Langford my husbands ex wife delights in seeing my husband suffer. Sad thing is that even though my husband and his ex have been divorced for over 9 years now she still is revengeful and nasty. My husbands family and all of us have had to ensure her abuse for years.
    Recently we have realised that my husbands parents are happy to see his son to his ex wife but do not wish to see me or our children. My husband expressed his discontent with the unequal and would not let his parents see his 1st child unless they were willing to accept his new children and his new wife but they decided that they’d rather go to his psycho ex wife and befriend her rather than try and work thru things with him and his new family. What should he do? He found out this week that his parents have been seeing his ex wife behind his back which she has been rubbing in his face. His parents want him to leave me and his kids because we are coloured and have tainted their bloodline. His parents have also turned the whole family against him saying they had no alternative but to go to the ex wife so they could see their first grandchild.

  7. Debra Langford
    February 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    This article is the best piece of advice I have come across. My husband’s ex-wife hated his family the whole 12 years they were married. Since they divorced, she has befriended my husband’s sister (who is a busybody that loves to stir up hate and discontent). Now my husband’s entire family has sided with the ex-wife and they all think I am the devil. I could care less how they feel about me, but I feel so bad for my husband. She uses the kids as an excuse to stay in contact and his family laps it up like hungry dogs. She even showed up at a family funeral recently and it annoyed my husband to the point that he left. Nothing in my husband’s life is sacred with this bitter, revengeful woman. She delights in coming between my husband and his children and my husband and his family, all the while playing the role of “victim.” It is nauseating. My husband has decided that for his own protection he has to cut off all contact with his family. How sad that they would rather lose thier own son than to tell that wench to go spew her venon elsewhere. Thanks for the article. I am going to recommend that my husband read it and hopefully it will be of some comfort to him that he isn’t the only one living with a psycho ex-wife.

  8. JZ
    February 9, 2010 at 4:08 am

    This is something downright scary I never gave much thought to before. However, there are no kids in the picture so I’m not too worried. (I’m presently separated from an N/BPD and soon will be divorcing.) And by now my family is already clued into the abuse that she perpetated behind closed doors. They wouldn’t dream of willingly coming w/in 100 miles of her at this point. And yet some of the behaviors described here indeed were prevalent at one time or another when we were together, before my family was fully aware of what was going on. She did at times try to play them off against me (or someone else) and spewed lies about me to them. The silver lining (if there is one) is that N/BPD’s often so poorly understand the protocol of friendships/relationships, that they overestimate the influence they can have on in-laws etc. I was always my parents’ son, and a few things spewed out by el sicko now and then weren’t going to change things overnight (contrary to what she naively thought…).

  9. A Lonely Dad
    February 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    WOW!! NPDs and BPDs only make up 2-3% of the general population?? That must be the biggest story, lie, since Chicken Little said the sky was falling!!! How many of us know or know of someone, several someones, who are on the hunt for something “new’ every 3-5 years?? This happens, quite convenently, when all the gullible, good people have been taken advantage of in a certain area, or “So and So just started doing this, or that”. Remember, NPDs are never at fault for anything and are, in their eyes and the eyes of the uneducated, very good, honest people!! Far from these people being only 2-3% of the population they are everywhere with their lies and the trashing of people’s families and lives. And when they do this it is only their own little, little, minds that benefit, no one else. A good way to fewtter out a possible NPD is to checkout their FACEBOOK. This seems to be quite a bastion for those of great self agrandizment, such as a NPD!!!!

  10. Mellaril
    February 7, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I read that NPDs and BPDs make up 2-3% of the general population. It amazes me that such a small percenatage of people can wreak so much havoc and leave such a trail of misery and destruction in their wake.

    But, they do.

    • Ms Reason
      March 26, 2010 at 5:33 pm

      Actually, Mell – honestly I think they make up over 25%…They just remain undiagnosed. You know you commonly here nice girls complaining that ‘men are jerks’ and nice men complaining ‘women are bitches’? The ‘nice’ ones do attract these vampire Bs and Ns – it’s just not diagnosed. I’m reading an excellent book ‘Evil genes’ by a smart lady systems engineer prof Barabara Oakley who tracked down how psychopaths exponentially increased in the history of mankind undetected. I strongly believe that while psychopathic men might become leaders, criminals etc. – the psychopath women wreak havoc in the relationship arena. They also bully the good girls early on to scare them out of the dating pool. The kind women go into ‘hiding’ for survival. I think in ancient times the psychopath women used to group together and burn off the beautiful, introverted, intelligent and good hearted girls as ‘witches.’
      Do you know what I think happened? Remember Cinderella’s story? She was good, kind and bullied and the evil sisters were abusers. Only as time went by, the evil ones decided to wear masks and pretend to me the ‘damsel in distress’ to hook the Prince. As for the real-life Cinderellas, no fairy godmother really came. The evil sisters bullied and killed her way back and donned her mask. If you are a physically beautiful, good-hearted, smart and kind women these days, the way of survival is really being safe and in hiding. Or otherwise to feel safe amidst men who know these crazies and can decipher the difference between the good ones and the bad.
      This is my story which I finally found therapeutic to share. I want to make sure that when I choose a man, there are no psycho BP exes lurking around to fool him any more. https://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/how-emotionally-abusive-women-control-you-the-fear-of-loss-and-the-need-for-approval/#comment-6697

  11. February 7, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Dr. T once told me the most key thing in dealing with one of these women. After all the abuse and unreasonable behavior, if you end up leaving, she’ll think it’s all your fault. =) Amazing, but true.

    • finallywokeup
      February 7, 2010 at 3:50 pm

      Exactly, bd. I filed for divorce only after being sued myself, abandoned with children, half of the assets taken, and finally receiving insider info that she wasn’t coming back, but wouldn’t divorce so she could keep her financial hooks in and look saintly at church.

      But to this day she apparently maintains that it was ALL my fault, and old acquaintances get Christmas and birthday cards saying simply “He divorced me!”

      These women have a pathological inability to admit even the slightest fault for the smallest thing. As soon as you realize the depth of this inability, it is actually easier to handle, both during and after the relationship.

  12. Wobbegong
    February 6, 2010 at 11:04 pm


    My one is doing that right now! Great site Dr T.

  13. February 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Dear Doc,

    i am a woman recovering from the biggest wakeup call on Earth. I thought abuse only came from men, and only happened in relationships. I was in an emotionally abusive friendship with my ex best friend a female for years. I am currently trying to recover from her abuse. I’ve never been a doormat or someone easily walked on, but i was tricked. Everything came to a head when my ex best friend brutally assaulted me in public, my family were outraged, each had their own shouting match with her. We threatened to call the police, two days later she had the nerve to call me and my family up, crying and begging for us to give the friendship another chance. I told her to go to hell, crawl under a hole and die there.Very extreme i know. But this was a person who had been manipulative throughout our friendship, she was painfully insecure, controlling, she couldn’t even go to the toilet on her own. When she was asked on dates she’d have a go at me because i refused to go with her, if i didn’t do something she wanted she’d give me the silent treatment for days. She’d play other people off against me, and everytime i tried to do something independant of her like make new friends, start a business, i’d be punished in some way. My friend craved attention and if she didn’t get it, there was trouble. Being around her i began to feel really insecure. She’s an attractive girl and she got a lot of attention, we started off on equal footing. But when she started to see men found her attractive, and she had access to superficial things she changed. She started thinking she was superior to me, but was still jealous of the fact that i was ambituos and outgoing, even though she was seen as the more attractive one. It began to come to a head when i stopped trying to fix her, stopped apologising for her random, bullying moods and tantrums, stopped trying to please her and decided it was time to build up my own self esteem. My friend had other conflicts as well, she was extremely paranoid and heard voices. In public we looked like the picture perfect friendship. People envied our relationship, but they didn’t know what with time i knew. We weren’t so close because she thought i was the most amazing person in the world, we were so close because she was terrified of being on her own, she didn’t trust anyone, and felt safe with me because she felt i was easy to control. Not in obvious ways, but with sob stories, tears, victim tales. I remember one time i missed her phone call by accident, and she called back threatening to ‘switch’ if i ever missed her call again. She didn’t like me being too close with anyone because she felt she owned me. Yet she made friends with a girl that was really outgoing and was happy when this girl was convinced that i was the reason her and my friend weren’t close. I spent most times begging my friend to socialise with other people, go on dates, share herself with the world, she was always too scared. And that fear was taken out on me. My friend became extremely jealous when i started seeing a guy, who by my standards was a nightmare to date, yet who by her standards treated me like a queen. The guy she was dating never picked up her calls, told her he was better looking than her, was too ashamed to be seen with her in public even though she’s a good looking girl, and was always seen with a number of different girls on his arm.

    Our friendship was too intense, and it gave me such satisfaction to challenge the person who had bullied and controlled me for three years. I never understood emotional abuse could be dished out by women, but now i get it. Mine wasn’t just emotional though it was a full out physical assault. I know my friend was a weak person, at the end of it she was really pathetic. But i think to myself sometimes…how did i let someone get away with doing that to me. And what made her think she could get away with it. I also am glad because in someway i defeated her. She had such a power over all of us in the group and i was the only one that ever challenged her. It’s been six months since her assault happened, how do i get it out of my mind for good? It was quite traumatic at the time.

    • Nick
      February 6, 2010 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Sara,

      Glad to see you checking out this forum. If I were female, I don’t know that I would…lot of guys venting…not always a pretty sight. I sympathise with the lousy treatment you got. My ex cluster B was beautiful, dynamic and sucked the air outa the room….center of attention. She had her run ins with the public at large now and again….many had a bad business story to tell, but in general people liked her…..UNLESS YOU GOT TOO CLOSE! I like to call it the “circle of abuse” all family and employees saw a real whacko…especially me…the ex husband. Totally hidden until she had the hook set…I then joined the never good enough club. She put forth what is called the “false self.” Well anyway….ya can’t fix crazy.
      Best regards,

    • Vantage1
      February 17, 2010 at 6:58 pm

      @Sara Rosenberg: I’ve been where you are (though my NPDXG smashed a wine glass into my head but I’d rather not dwell on that anymore) as far as friends are concerned!

      NPD/HPD Friend 1: Early 30’s, met her at work almost four years ago, very attractive but relied heavily on her looks, needed to be complimented over and over again, insecure to an almost asinine level, treated me wonderfully/praised me in private and was quite hypercritical over everything from music, clothes and how much wine was served to her when we went out for a drink, the smallest imperfection of any kind set her off, had fights with other friends in her circle over all manner of superfluous stuff from guys to small criticisms about clothes…the list could get quiet exhaustive, great wrongs went unchecked and small mess-ups were looked at as capital offenses…

      NPD/Manipulative Friend 2: Early 40s, met her while out with NPD/HPD Friend 1 (see above)…for a period of 1.5 years before hanging out with me and my friend above, she played the “perfect” friend: wrote/called/texted me incessantly over everything (couldn’t even drive in her car by herself after we met for a post-work coffee (we work in the same building), quickly started to ingratiate herself into my “social circle” of sorts (read: more like drinking buddies, in retrospect) and my NPDXG…she started to change quite a lot when she began enjoying everything I did with these people and, post-break-up (she was there the night my ex and I fell apart and it was some thanks to her for not listening to my pleas to call it a night…my NPDXG had a problem with booze)…a month or two after I stopped hanging around with these people and my split, she and I stopped speaking altogether…even when we rarely pass each other in the building, i can look her in the eyes but her eyes go straight to the floor!

      Bottom line: both were just FALSE…FALSE…FALSE friends (good riddance)!

    • Closure, at last
      March 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm

      Sara, Good luck on your recovery and good riddance of that emotional vampire. I can relate – I had a very narcissistic older sister who bullied and manipulated me since childhood and was VERY jealous. Last year I cut contact with her to my own peace and healing and also realized that toxic female siblings/friends can ‘train’ you to become tolerant to abusive men too, and also become tolerant of crazy exes of the guys you may date. Since cutting her off, both my love life and mental peace has healed incredibly. I realized that BP/HP/NP girls ‘hone’ their abuse skills on the nice women and then later use it to manipulate the men.
      I now make it a point that my girl friends are smart, rational, kind, non-jealous, secure and truly beautiful (in and out) women.
      This site is a great healer. Good luck.

  14. Ron
    February 4, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I’ve had a bit of the opposite expierience, in that my XNPDW’s family has continued to contact me and support me. These folks were my friends and I never let them know what their daughter was like until I discovered her affairs.
    Once I revealed this stuff, together with all her financial,emotional and verbal abuse to them, they were forthcoming with information about her past.
    Her dad told me she was a habitual liar who had to re-invent herself every 4-5 years, as she left behingd a long list of people she had hurt.
    I learned that she had quit college in her senior year, falsified transcripts which she sent to her parents and had an affair with a married man in her college town.
    I learned she had slept with her highschool soccer coach for years behind her boyfriends back and that she had affairs with married guys in the past.
    All this info came from her family and freinds as they told me how I should never consider going back to her.
    So, I guess I did stay in touch with her family. She was infuriated by their public display of support for me, as it contradicted the picture she was trying to paint to justify her affairs.
    Her dad did apologize for not revealing this stuff to me earlie. He said he had hoped she had changed and did not want to interefere, as we had a child coming.

  15. Don't-want-to-fight
    February 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Everyone else posting here has already stated how on-mark or “prophetic” this is so I don’t need to add. When my wife and I agreed to divorce in November I was stunned at how she became insistent on holidays with the family, especially Christmas. She even invited herself to my aunts party after Christmas. Before we were divorcing she functioned with basic annoyance and disgust for most members of my family.

    Anyway – I have a question. After I filed for divorce she decided to call off our separation – at least in the sense that she won’t leave the house. This is not for reconciliation that she’s back – she’s back to fight.

    Now every moment, every act, is combat. Before the separation nighttime care of the kids was basically my job, going all the way back to them being infants, so was weekend day and nighttime care and homework.

    Now she fights me for every scratch – she tries to impose herself on everything, all the while picking any opportunity to criticize my competence as a parent, something that didn’t bother her when it allowed her to go out at night before we separated and during the separation.

    I’ve documented our real patterns in diaries for seven or eight months before the separation, … will this stuff matter? Will it matter if I just stand aside and let her run the household for these few months until she has to go someplace else? I can’t stand fighting her for the appearance of being the better parent. That’s all that it’s about to her, and I already know the answer, but will it matter for the divorce?

    • shrink4men
      February 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      Hi Don’t-want-to-fight,

      I don’t know if those records will matter to your court case. It all depends on your state and what judge you get, I think. I encourage you to consult with an attorney. I think it’s wise to do due diligence by keeping records. If they do help with your case, you will be very, very glad you have them. If she gets nasty with you in front of the kids or abuses you separately, I’d invest in a small digital recorder you can keep on your person and get her on tape. In family cases, it’s usually a matter of he said-she said and in the absence of evidence, the courts tend to believe the women. It’s crazy.

      Is there a reason you can’t remove her from the home? If I were you, I’d be very careful. Many women call the police with false DV charges in order to remove the man from the home. I’d also consult with an attorney about what you can do to protect yourself from this as well as having her removed from the home as soon as possible. Its not healthy for you or your children to be exposed to this.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

    • jp
      February 5, 2010 at 11:29 pm


      I strongly urge you to check out the site, DadsDivorce.com. The forum there is loaded with advice for dealing with this and all kinds of other divorce-related situations. There’s a sticky post in the forum called “The List” which tells you everything you should be doing now to prepare for, and succeed, in your divorce and the custody and child support issues involved. The regular contributors in that forum have seen it all and can really help.

      It’s great that you’ve kept that journal. In he said/she said disputes, the party with the documentation is believed. Also, start carrying around a small digital voice recorder to capture any verbally abusive tirades from her or anything that might protect you from a bogus restraining order or false clai of domestic abuse, which are real dangers in your situation. And don’t leave the house, lest you be accused later of abandoning the children when the custody battle is on.

      Sadly, the only way to protect yourself is to train your mind to think of her has an opponent in a fight for your life. Forget about compassion. It’s likely to get uglier and the more Machiavellian, practical and coldly dispassionate you are now, the more likely it is you’ll end up with access to your children and out of the poor house. No normal person wants to fight, but there are times when you have to in order to protect yourself and your children and your relationship with them.

      Don’t be the guy who brings a knife to a gunfight!

      Good luck!

      • jp
        February 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm

        Oops…sorry Dr. T, just read your full reply…didn’t mean to crib your bit about journaling and recording. :)

  16. finallywokeup
    February 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    My family is not gullible enough to fall for this kind of BS, and I think she was always a little intimidated by their ability to see through her phoniness (or anyone else’s for that matter). Just before she left, she briefly tried telling both of my parents, one-on-one, some things that just did not make sense about she was afraid I might do if she were to take me up on some of my offers to improve things, and they immediately relayed it to me and said “What, is she crazy? That makes no sense!” I did not know she was talking to them, and was kind of surprised since she always rolled up the welcome mat and treated them like dirt when they showed up, in contrast to the dog-and-pony shown she put on for her own family.

    After that, she gave up on my family and went after the church. This became her audience, and she suddenly became the ultimate high-energy volunteer and charity organizer around that place. They were much easier to fool (or they wanted to be fooled, is maybe more accurate). So I simply dropped out after spending a little time protesting to deaf ears what was going on. I did not have the time or energy to compete for the attention of people who ultimately did not care much.

    Lately, from the thirdhand info I can glean, she is not involved much at the church anymore, either. I guess you can only play the martyr or saint or best buddy for so long when you are an NPD underneath.

    • shrink4men
      February 4, 2010 at 5:21 pm

      Hi finallywokeup,

      Yes, it can be difficult for some narc’s to maintain the false mask of goodness for long periods of time. Although, some manage to never let it slip in specific situations.

      Alternatively, your ex figured out that you no longer cared about the church people’s opinion of you, so play acting the super-helpful martyr lost its appeal. Many narcs are notoriously lazy and are loath to do anything resembling actual work. Therefore, once you stopped caring, she probably tired of doing her volunteer work.

      Dr T

  17. GulfCoastLover
    February 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    My ex does both 1 & 2. She has no contact with my family, does not encourage contact with my family, and does what she can to make vacations to see them short. Then she and her family vilifies me and my family to them. Fortunately, my family is very supportive of me and cannot stand her games.

  18. GFtotheBF
    February 4, 2010 at 2:29 am

    I’m with shellshocked – this is a timely post for me.

    I am always amazed at how textbook my boyfriend’s ex-wife really is. I don’t why the things she does continually amaze me, but somehow they do. I think it’s because deep down I still can’t convince myself that people like her really do exist. I think that somehow, someday, she’s finally going to get it. I know she won’t, but there’s that little glimmer of hope that probably says more about who I am than who she is.

    Thanks for this post…it again brings me to center, knowing there’s nothing I can do but live my life and move forward with the man I love.

    • shrink4men
      February 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      Hi GFtotheBF,

      I know. After awhile it’s like, “enough already.” These women are so tiresome. Shrink her down to irrelevant. Think of her as an annoying character on a bad sitcom, “Uh-oh. Linda’s at it again (insert laugh track).”

      These women are actually very sad and pathetic creatures. They live to make others miserable. She has nothing better to do with her time and life. Trying to hurt and control your ex and you is like a job for her. At heart, these people are losers who aren’t capable of true happiness, love and don’t have the ability to embrace the positive in life.

      I’d feel sorry for them if they didn’t cause so much damage to others.

      I agree with your approach: Live your life and keep moving forward with the man you love. She would like nothing better to come between you and make you turn on one another, so don’t let her. She’s a sad, tragic joke.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

      • GFtotheBF
        February 4, 2010 at 11:07 pm

        Thanks for the response, Dr. Tara. I am so glad you are out there.

  19. Steve
    February 4, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Dr. Tara, you are prophetic. My STBXW started cozying up to my parents about a year before I filed for divorce. I think she knew it was coming. She started calling them once a week to “share” what was going on, when before it was a chore to see them twice a year. My parents didn’t buy it then, and they’re not buying it now, especially after I told them exactly what was going on in the marriage for years. My STBXW even sent my folks an anniversary card saying how hurt she was by my wanting a divorce, how disappointed she was that I didn’t continue counseling, and how she never “intentionally” tried to hurt me, and how she’d like to remain friends with them, etc…. Oh, yeah, and by the way, Happy Anniversary. Good grief. When my sister read the card she said, sarcastically, ‘Gee…. I didn’t know you were to blame for everything brother!” The fact is the STBXW can’t cozy up to her own parents because they are dysfunctional and abusive. My parents heard via a Christmas card from one of their friends how terrible I was, what I had done, etc… Their friends heard all this from my father in law…who is a mere casual acquaintance. And get this, he told them all these personal things in the church… at a funeral! Yikes, talk about boundary issues. I’ve gone no contact with the in-laws too because I think the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Lucky for me, my family has been extremely supportive. They’re not gullible and they won’t buy the games. Too bad they have to put up with them though!

    • shrink4men
      February 4, 2010 at 4:10 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Good for your parents and the rest of your family! Was it a relief for you to finally tell them what had been going on with your STBXW? Knowing the truth about people like your ex makes it more difficult for them to manipulate others. With a little information and explanation, it becomes incredibly easy to see right through them.

      When women like your ex engage in these behaviors after breaking up/divorce, it’s like having a lingering cough after getting over a bad cold. You just want to be done with it for once and for all.

      Dr T

      • Steve
        February 4, 2010 at 5:36 pm

        Dr. T.
        Yes, it was a relief. Ironically, one of the SBTXW’s threats when we were talking divorce was that I would have nowhere to go because even “she had a better relationship with my own parents than I did.” Shows how clueless she is/was….and how sad that somehow is so unaware of how true relationships develop, mature, and last. Oh, and after my decision to divorce was clear she accused my mother of being repressed and I was just like my father in controlling her, etc…. Wow, it all turned on a dime when she didn’ get what she wanted from then.

  20. shellshocked
    February 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Everytime I read your posts it’s like you’re writing specifically about my situation. This is exactly what I’m dealing with right now and it’s making me crazy.

    For years my wife had nothing good to say about my family. She was rude to them at family holiday dinners, disrespected them to me regularly and often refused to see them with me. Since I filed for divorce she’s pretending like they are her new best friends and the 20 years of contempt and hostility to them were all in my imagination. She even has my 70-year old mother feeling sorry for her–the same mother in law she ridiculed for being overweight and “controlling” for the entire length of our marriage.

    My family has said they wish us well and don’t want to take sides, but I don’t understand. It’s like they have forgotten the last 20 years of open hostility and my ex making scenes at family weddings and other occasions. Its like they have amnesia. I have tried telling them what it was like being married to her as you suggest and they don’t want to hear it. I don’t want them to take sides. I want them to stop allowing her to manipulate them and me through them.

    I expect the worst from my ex, but I didn’t expect my family to play into her crazy manipulation.

    Anyone else experience this and how have you handled it?

    • shrink4men
      February 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm

      Hi shellshocked,

      I know how frustrating this can be. Hopefully, your ex will tire of her game. Try not to let her get to you by seeing her behavior for what it is—desperate and pathetic attempts to control you and hold onto the past. Why when she never liked your family? Because she’s twisted, that’s why.

      Like I said, the more she knows she’s getting to you, the more she’ll keep doing it. As for your family, from what you’ve written, they don’t seem to be malicious, but rather utterly clueless. Some people will never be able to wrap their minds around the treachery and cruelty of individuals like your ex. Why not send them a link to this post? It might help get through to them.

      If they continue to allow her to cling onto them and interfere in your life, I hate to say it, but maybe you need to distance yourself from them until she finds a new man to torture. Eventually, they’ll get tired of hearing her victim story that she plays for them on an endless loop. If not, then maybe they deserve each other. Meanwhile, focus on spending time with people who are immune to your ex’s games and support you.

      To other readers, this is why it’s important to tell people what’s going on behind closed doors very early on. When you keep quiet about how an abusive wife/girlfriend is treating you, you give her power. Stop protecting her by keeping quiet and protect yourself by speaking up.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr Tara

      • GulfCoastLover
        February 4, 2010 at 4:23 pm

        “To other readers, this is why it’s important to tell people what’s going on behind closed doors very early on. When you keep quiet about how an abusive wife/girlfriend is treating you, you give her power. Stop protecting her by keeping quiet and protect yourself by speaking up.”

        That recommendation is as good as gold.

        My ex and I almost divorced in 2000, then finally divorced in 2007. When we almost divorced my ex was so miffed when my parents told her “sometimes these things happen” as she try to garner thier support against me that she actually came to me to complain about what my parents said. We ended up reconciling at the time because I gave in to her threats that I would never see the children again -> and we went through the gambit of counselors over the next 5 years.

        Fortunately when I told her I wanted to end it again, I did not make my decison in a silo, I had talked to all my close friends and family about the problems. However, I did not talk to most of the mutual “friends”, and aquantances (from church) in advance, because of the very personal nature of the problems. Those “friends” turned out to be not friends at all so it is probably a good thing I kept them out of the loop -> however they did use that as justification for thier siding with my ex, general badmouthing of me, accusing me of not being a Christian, etc, etc.

        • Vantage1
          February 4, 2010 at 6:28 pm

          @GulfCoast: I couldn’t agree more! When my NPDXG and I had our first fight/break-up and she made the move to patch things up with, I told my two closest friends about what happened and both were very supportive and understanding.

          The second and final time? Complete 360! Add on the fact that I decided to stay with my nephew/godson one night for his b-day as opposed to one of my “so-called friend’s” b-day celebrations where my ex was going to be…and guess how badly tarred n’ feathered I got?

          Tough decision time: hanging with a bunch of sham friends (and a BIGGER sham of an ex-girlfriend) drinking until the we hours or hanging with and having cake with my three-year-old nephew on his b-day w/family? Hmmm…tough choice but the latter won out!

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