Ask Cindy: What Do I Do With My Frustration?

What do I do with my frustration? I am going through a divorce that my narcissistic ex filed earlier this year. He refuses to respond to nearly all my communications (which I keep neutral and minimal) regarding our co-parenting. He refuses to tell me where our 6-year old is, or who is watching her (he makes it clear that he is refusing to do this and does not care about the anguish it has caused me). He is gunning for custody in order to save money and to punish me, I guess. He did terrible things, he cheated, he lied, hired a prostitute, took advantage of our finances to his own benefit, screamed in my face, hurt me physically - even in front of our child, called the police on me just for attempting to discuss why he was cancelling all of our accounts and credit cards, has turned my friends and his family against me, bullies me (even the mediator acknowledged this), and he can afford a lawyer, but I cannot. He is living the high life (literally, champagne, boats, trips to Vegas, a new girlfriend, expensive gifts, new business ventures, etc.) while I am on public assistance and am struggling to piece together a support network and a life (my family is back east, and they are destitute). I am “not allowed” to express any of my anger or frustration, because then I’m the “crazy b*tch”, even if I am simply firm or stand by my boundaries. If I am “nice” (which I can’t stomach lately) it’s taken to mean I am weak and to be taken advantage of. I am in turmoil, in agony and doing all I can to overcome all of this (support groups, positive books/tapes, seeking work, etc.) My identity has been torn from me and he took advantage of my vulnerability as a stay at home mom. He continues to be infuriating yet points to me as the problem. I am not playing games, I am not being materialistic, and I am not attempting to get him back. I simply want to be treated with respect and to co-parent as a team. He is living as though I am dead. And the courts and the law are siding with him (the protection order I filed originally was denied for “lack of evidence” which he’s taken to mean that nothing he did was wrong). I know you advocate forgiveness and moving on, but I am in the thick of it and am on an intense emotional roller coaster. When I see intact families, nice homes and hear of vacations or kids going camping I burst into tears. I want to create a good life for us, but it seems nearly impossible. Every other week I am reminded that I will never have the family and life I envisioned. I’m older, overweight, pathetic, broke and alone. And I am now stuck in an apartment, neighborhood and city that is flooded with memories of our life together for at least the next 12 years. How the hell do I move on when everything reminds me of our broken family? How do I manage with this narcissistic nightmare of an ex (I do avoid him in person as much as possible, and only email/text, calling only for emergencies or urgent issues).  ~Tasha in Washington

Wow, you said a lot. I do understand your frustration and the emotional roller-coaster that you are on. Your frustration is to be expected.

First off, to help with your frustration, I would suggest you find a lawyer that will help you. Call your legal aid department and see if you can get assistance there. Start calling attorneys and ask if they would take you on pro-bono and/or request that he pay your attorney fees. (Yes, this does happen!)

Regarding your emotional roller-coaster, I believe you may benefit from having a “getting unstuck” conversation with me. We will discuss the following questions that you asked, so that you will be able to move forward with confidence and clarity about what your next step(s) are.

How the hell do I move on when everything reminds me of our broken family?

How do I manage with this narcissistic nightmare of an ex

If you would like to schedule a time to talk about your frustration, please visit

Tash took me up on my offer. This is what she wrote me after our call:

I realize I am mired and must pull myself out. I also feel for you and all you’ve been through, and appreciate your honestly and sharing your victory with me - it is inspiring.

With your guidance, I now see how I have a lot of work to do ahead of me and have a better grasp of the whys and hows. I look forward to learning more about your program and evangelizing for you.

Here are my takeaways that I am implementing already (do let me know if I misunderstood anything in any way):

1) Repeat the serenity prayer until I really “get it”.

2) Come up with an open-ended list of the many ways I am grateful and do this very often.

3) Be aware of the ongoing -thoughts in my head and transform/challenge them into +thoughts vigilantly

4) Ask myself how everything is working out for the best (e.g., “How do all my bills always get paid in full on time?” or “What is this wonderful new job I have that I love?” and “How is my daughter’s life so wonderful and beautiful?”

​5) Imagine myself 6 months from now and describe my great new life​ in detail as if I’m already living it.

6) Focus on my attitude and approach to life and shift it ever upwards; avoiding ruminating or meditating/praying if I am in an especially bad space (i.e., wait until I am open and ready).

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