When your narcissistic ex gets a new partner you’re likely to feel either relieved or hurt, maybe even jealous. But when you’re dealing with a narcissist it’s important to act from your head, not from your heart: you need to get one step ahead, to be ready to outsmart them.
I know this advice won’t go down well, but I’ll say it anyway: if you have children with an abusive or controlling ex please do all you can to befriend their new partner. Or if not befriend, at least be on speaking terms. Your ex will do all they can to ‘divide and conquer’, to ensure you are enemies, because the last thing they want is the two of you comparing notes and blowing their cover.
There are two other reasons to befriend the new partner. Firstly, the narcissist is most likely to have targeted another lovely empathetic person similar to you. This may not be immediately obvious as your ex will no doubt be making the most of the love-bombing phase to manipulate the new person in their life into hating you, with their lies about the dreadful things you’re supposed to have done. But if your children are spending regular time with their narcissistic parent it should be reassuring for you to know that there is a more normal person present who will hopefully look out for them. And if you can have some dialogue with them then that has to be good for your children.
Secondly, if you’re in court proceedings you may be able to use the new relationship to help you if there’s any evidence that all is not well. Your predecessor(s) may also be able to help you and you may want to reconsider all your ex told you about them, and be in touch with them if you’re not already.
Of course it’s hard enough to get your own abuse recognised by the family court, let alone someone else’s, but the recent case of R v P could be helpful. This case is extreme in many ways, not least the court’s mismanagement of it: there had been at least 15 different judges involved, and this was the sixth time it had been listed for a fact finding hearing. There also appears to have been an enlightened Welsh social worker who really understood the abuse, and police and local authorities who spoke to each other!
The father (F) applied for contact with his children, aged 5 and 2, whom he had not seen since he separated from their mother. Her allegations of F’s coercive and controlling behaviour included:
- He insisted on her abandoning her studies.
- He mispresented his name, occupation and financial position to her parents.
- He sent messages to her family purporting to be from her.
- He isolated and alienated her from her close family and friends.
- He made baseless allegations to public bodies, including the police, against her family.
- He required her to move constantly to isolate her and to avoid them being found by her family and public bodies, to the extent that her parents hired a private detective to locate her and their grandchild.
- He shouted at the older child.
- His behaviour led to a wholesale change in her demeanour and character.
Three months after the mother left F, he began a relationship with Mrs D. She lived in London with her 11 and 9 year old boys, who saw their father regularly.
A year later the police advised a Welsh local authority to contact the London local authority dealing with this case. They reported their concerns about the D children and their mother’s relationship with F. Mrs D had moved with F and her children to Wales and all contact between her children and their father had stopped. As a result the court transferred residence of the children from their mother to their father. The Welsh local authority had concluded that F had behaved in a coercive and controlling way towards Mrs D and thought the information was likely to be relevant to the enquiries of the London local authority.
The mother said the Welsh report was relevant because it was so similar to her own allegations in that:
- Mrs D left her job as a primary school teacher within months of meeting F and that the school was sufficiently concerned to make a referral to adult and child social services.
- Mrs D quickly became estranged from close family relationships and friends.
- Mrs D lost the care of her much-loved children and appeared not to have made efforts to keep in contact with them.
- F had made baseless accusations to public bodies, including the police, against Mrs D’s family, claiming harassment by them
- F and Mrs D had repeatedly moved around (including with the D children) to avoid detection by family and public bodies, leading to Mrs D’s parents hiring private detectives to try to locate her and their grandchildren.
- F had repeatedly shouted at one of the D children (this was videoed by a concerned neighbour).
- F mispresented himself to Mrs D and her parents including in respect of his name, occupation and financial position.
- Mrs D underwent a rapid and wholesale change in her demeanour.
and therefore it should be included with the evidence in her own proceedings. The judge disagreed and, as so often happens, took the side of the abusive parent saying she didn’t see how F could have a fair trial if the report was admitted, and she was highly critical of the mother’s solicitors.
Fortunately the mother had a good barrister for her appeal. She argued that the judge was wrong to exclude this report as F’s relationship with Mrs D and her children showed a strikingly similar pattern of behaviour to that alleged by the mother. The barrister pointed out that it is often difficult for a parent to prove that the other party’s behaviour has been coercive and controlling because that sort of behaviour is a pattern rather than an event. This issue is underlined at page 55 in the Harm Report.
Do familiarise yourself with this report if you are in children proceedings and be sure to use it whenever you can. And the literature review gives valuable research you can use too.
The appeal judges found the original judge was wrong to have regard only to fairness to F, when exclusion of such significant evidence would be unfair to the mother, and they allowed her appeal. The case was transferred to the High court for the fact-finding hearing to go ahead with all of the mother’s evidence included.
Whilst it’s unlikely your case will be as extreme as this, other partners could be helpful to you. Narcissists tend not to learn from their mistakes or change their behaviour, so if you can remember what they told you about their previous partner, you can predict what they will say about you to their next one. For instance if you can say “I expect X has told you that I’m a crazy, selfish gold-digger” they will be struck by the exact words and more likely to think twice before dismissing you, even if they don’t instantly believe you. You may at least be able to stop the narcissist recruiting them as a flying monkey against you. (Flying monkeys are people narcissists use to abuse a victim on their behalf. The term comes from The Wizard of Oz where the Wicked Witch dispatched monkeys to fly and get Dorothy and her dog. The monkeys obeyed her command, doing her dirty work for her, taunting and terrorizing Dorothy as she tried in vain to get back home.)
Of course it’s possible that you acted as a flying monkey at the start of your relationship with the narcissist in which case you may need to eat humble pie and be apologetic towards their previous partner. Nevertheless, they may still be willing to help you – just think about how you might react in their position. Even if they don’t want to help you, they may consider giving evidence for you in order to help your children. What have you got to lose by asking?