Worried that your high-conflict ex will be the grinch who steals your holiday good cheer? You can’t control what your drama-seeking former spouse does, but you can strategize ways to manage the crazy so you and your kids can enjoy this special time of year. If you keep in mind what motivates narcissists, you’ll know what to expect — and know how to cope!
Why High-Conflict Personalities Create Chaos
High-Conflict Personalities (HCPs) generally had childhood experiences of feeling unheard and invalidated. Even if they command attention now, they remain stuck in the past. They either anticipate being ignored or interpret benign events as mortal slights. Because they’re emotionally reactive, HCPs throw tantrums instead of resolving conflict appropriately.
HCPs operate in extremes, meaning they must have the biggest, snazziest, most expensive holiday, or they try to dampen your festivities with their bah-humbug attitude.
Dirty Trick #1: Overspending to make you look bad.
Narcissists will try to outshine you with their holiday purchases. They’ll buy the children presents they know you can’t afford, don’t want them to have, or were saving up for, i.e. tickets to Hamilton or Disneyland. Or they’ll try to out-dazzle you by having the tallest tree and busiest light display. If you have the means, you can turn the holidays into a competition, but is that the message you want to send to your children? Kids don’t really want all the stuff they think they do; too many gifts are overwhelming and can heighten anxiety (“I didn’t get what I want!” or “Jeremy’s present is better!”). Aim for affordable, meaningful gifts. The focus should be on spending time together, not amassing the largest Visa bill.
Dirty Trick #2: Upstaging you at your children’s holiday performance.
The only thing better than stealing your thunder is doing so in front of a live audience! Putting members of their posse in your assigned seats, ostentatiously presenting your 8-year-old with a $100 post-performance bouquet, or bad-mouthing you to the kids so they snub in public are all ways to seek revenge. Be proactive by arriving early to the performance to ensure a good seat, bringing members of your “team” with you, or just concentrate on videotaping the performance. Most important, remember the reason you’re there: to support your kids and their school.
Dirty Trick #3: Intruding on your celebration.
Your HCP ex doesn’t want you to enjoy your holiday, and if that means spoiling the kids’ festivities as well, then so be it. Favorite techniques? Dropping the kids off late on your travel day so you miss your flight, FaceTiming in the middle of Christmas dinner, or, if they’re the bah-humbug type, telling the kids that Santa doesn’t exist. So how do you protect your time with your kids? Review your custody arrangement and parenting time plan. Set limits around Skype/FaceTime/phone calls: take the kids’ phones during festivities (or don’t answer yours if your ex calls). And if your children tell you’re their other parent informed them that Santa isn’t real, don’t react; just explain that Santa exists for those who believe.
The best way to keep your HCP ex from hijacking your holiday is to stop focusing on his or her childish behavior and be grateful for the blessings your children provide all year long.
Are your holidays being hampered by the mind games of a high conflict ex? Are visitation swaps tense? Have questions about your child custody arrangements? We can help. For answers to your legal questions about keeping a high-conflict ex in check, call us to schedule your free attorney consultation at 888-888-0919 or click the button below.