If anything will give you heartburn and overall anxiety, it might be when you have to respond or communicate with your ex. Here’s how to communicate with a narcissist.
You probably already know this – but it’s best to only respond or communicate when necessary. Take your pride, your need to be understood, your anger – and put it on the shelf for now. Toxic people feed off of attention…positive or negative. Understand this and realize you are communicating with someone who enjoys and feels power by getting a rise out of you – and unfortunately, often at the expense of your kids and what he knows you hold dear.
Maybe you are ahead of the game and only ask questions or engage with your ex when absolutely necessary. If so, you have exercised extreme self control and are adulting well. I tip my hat to you.
HERE ARE TIPS THAT HAVE WORKED FOR ME:
- Our Family Wizard (ourfamilywizard.com). This is the only forum where my ex and I communicate. Understandably, if there was a serious emergency, I would text or call, but that very rarely happens. You need a platform like OFW that can be tracked, and if necessary, you can add administrators (lawyers/parent coordinators/etc.) to your account to view emails. Emails via other platforms can theoretically be forwarded (thus edited) so you really need a one-stop-shop to documenting your communication. You pay for OFW, but it is well worth it and shouldn’t break the bank. Unfortunately it took a directive from our parent coordinator (a mediator of sorts) to wrangle my ex into signing up for this service, but we have used this now for more than a year. I really love how you can set up notifications so that OFW texts you when you receive mail. Awesome.
- Write to your ex as if your child will read it. I think this is going to keep you on track on being professional, simple, and direct. In other words, treat this as a business. How would you respond to a co-worker, or manager? How do you start an email to them? Leave opinions, or snarky comments at the door. This is not the time to talk about your feelings, what he did when, etc. What’s the issue? Write it down and pretend you are writing to someone you work with.
- Look over your email. Highlight words or phrases like ‘should’, ‘request’, ‘would like to’, ‘please’, ‘if you are ok with’, etc. Now edit. Here’s an example. Let’s say I have a work meeting that will prevent me from picking the kids up from school on my designated day:
- First Draft:
- “Hi there, I was wondering if you would be able to pick up the kids on Monday, as I have a conflict with work that just came up, and requires me to be there. I really hate to not be able to pick them up, but this is really unavoidable. Can you help me?”
- “Unfortunately, I have a sudden work conflict on Monday and I will not be able to pick up the kids from school. Let me know if you would be able to get them that day. If I have not heard from you by tomorrow at this time (3pm), I will secure other arrangements for the girls to be picked up. Thank you.”
- So this is a subtle change – but in many cases, you don’t want to appear to be ‘asking for help’ – because really, this is for the kids. Appearing to ask for help in any form is leverage for your ex. Things come up, and change is normal, so treat it as such. If you have been a ‘pleaser’ for most of your life, you might not realize how often you are trying to make the other person feel better, or padding your words so you don’t sound too direct. Hey. Be direct. Seriously.
- First Draft:
- If you are entitled to vacation time with your kids, DO NOT REQUEST IT FROM YOUR EX. This is your right, so you simply INFORM. Start being more assertive (this does not mean being an asshole) within your communications. Start INFORMING! Remember, pretend you are writing to someone at the office – someone you don’t know very well.
OTHER EXAMPLES AND EDITS:
No! Don’t put your feelings into anything. Edit that out.
“I was hoping…”
You are opening up dialogue for conflict. Try “I will be” or “It makes sense if”
“Would you mind”
Of course he would. Try “can you” or “if you can”
WAYS TO SHUT DOWN A TOXIC EX
Let’s say your ex gets personal, and starts to piss you off. For the sake of example, he tells you that you are a spoiled brat, because that is how you were raised. I’m just giving an example, but you get my drift. How do you respond? I’ve had luck with these phrases. Long story short…do not engage. Shut it down.
- “Sorry you feel that way”
- “Thanks for your input”
I have to strongly advise you to look at your response and make sure you’re not being passive aggressive here, because you will invite another response.
So if you decided to say “It sounds like you’re still really angry, so I’m sorry you feel this way” you are opening up dialogue. A simple “sorry you feel that way” shuts things down, and keeps everything simple. Maybe you are really pissed off and want to engage. Walk away, come back later, and do not allow someone like this to tick you off. There are better ways you can use your energy, and this person does not deserve yours.
PerSisters, I get it. It’s fucking hard as hell to keep your lips pursed and your temper in check. Look at it this way. Do not engage, because if you do, you are allowing him to control you all over again. The best thing you can do is write very unsatisfying, simple, and short responses that do not play into his attempts at getting your goat.
You can do this. It just takes practice. It also takes practice to tell yourself that you DO NOT need validation from this person. Stop looking for it, because you will never get it. Shut down the cycle of abusive conversation. You will find people who love and support you, and a toxic person’s affirmation is not what you need.
Comment below with any other tips or tricks that you found work for you! If you have any questions, add those as well. Hugs to you!