The 3 biggest mistakes counseling makes when you are getting divorced or separated from your narcissistic partner and you have children together.
Whether you're just getting divorced, or you've been separated from your narcissistic ex-partner (nex) for 10 years, when you have children together, sooner or later a justice assistant, social worker, or other support services will be involved. And what strikes me? That they all make these 3 thinking errors that cause a misconception with these families:
A (high conflict) divorce is always between 2 adults who are both psychologically stable and emotionally mature.
Any problem with (1 of) the children is due to a loyalty conflict resulting from the divorce.
You are a parent who can't handle the situation and needs help, and they are the ones who know the situation and are going to tell you how to do it.
Psychologically stable and emotionally mature parents do not engage in child abuse, right?
That a (high conflict) divorce always involves 2 adults who are both psychologically stable and emotionally mature is a first major fallacy when dealing with a nex. Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder or severe narcissistic traits, is not a psychologically stable and emotionally mature person.
In any case, there are still few literary sources to be found in terms of information and insight related to high-conflict divorce. This means that it has not yet been researched much and therefore little is known about it. Consequently, all social workers in training receive very little information about what high-conflict separations are and what underlying issues (such as personality disorders) may be at play.
When the social workers start working, they apply the little info they have learned at school and which is given to them by the organization where they work, to your family. And they don't see anything outside that framework, no matter how hard you try to make it clear to them. It is as if you expect them to make your situation, which is triangular, fit into the square shape of their thinking frame. It doesn't work.
The social workers who get involved in your divorce case don't realize that someone with narcissism can set up and run a high-conflict divorce all by himself. No matter how hard you try to be conflict-reducing and have the real best interests of the children in mind.
(Read my blog on The Best Interest of the Child for more insight into how someone with narcissism interprets this 'Interest of the Child')
A classic phrase that recurs in many social workers' reports is this: 'Both parents are so consumed by the conflict of the divorce that they lose sight of the welfare of the children'. This means that you, the psychologically stable and emotionally mature parent, are partly responsible for the high conflict divorce and the situation in which the children find themselves! And that while you are trying to achieve the opposite.
As long as courts and social workers hold you jointly responsible for the situation, nothing can change. The only way the high-conflict divorce will disappear is if you leave the children, all your money and all your possessions to your nex and either completely dance to his or her tune or just disappear from the planet.
Since you have made the decision to divorce, it is clear that the latter is not an option. You have chosen not to go down in the relationship with your nex. You have chosen to be an example to your child(ren), to make it clear that a loving relationship is not what you and your nex had.
A second major fallacy of counseling is that every problem that arises with (1 of) the children has to do with a loyalty conflict, which is the result of the (high conflict) divorce,. This is a hidden way of holding you responsible for the situation, in this case the children's situation. Because, as described above, the social workers assume that you are partly responsible for the high conflict divorce and therefore also for the problems of the children.
The real situation with a nex is often completely different. Whereas the children may well have a loyalty conflict because of the high-conflict separation that your nex brings about on his own, problems with children and teenagers are often not the result of the separation, but of the fact that they grow up to see through this narcissistic parent. The children in turn become victims of the nex and are besieged by threats, manipulations and gaslighting, and are often also physically forced to e.g. write and sign statements that put you in a bad light or indicate that they have chosen something themselves while it is forced.
(for more info about gaslighting see STEP 7 of the 8-Step-Transformation program)
In their studies, social workers teach that problems with children (large and small) with divorced parents stem from a conflict of loyalties, as a result of the (high-conflict) divorce. The fact that the children are victims of psychological child abuse does not fit into their framework. After all, they assume that both parents are psychologically stable and emotionally mature, and psychologically stable and emotionally mature parents do not engage in child abuse, right? That you are trying to explain what the children are suffering from, that is just your dissatisfaction with your ex-partner, and is dismissed as such.
For example, it is simply said that it is only your "idea" of what an education should be. The fact that you cite the Convention on the Rights of the Child and that it is about the violation of fundamental rights does not help. If you think that your child deserves respect and has the right to physical, emotional and mental integrity, then according to the social workers that is only your 'idea of parenting'... Sometimes it is even recommended to make it clear to the children that it is better to keep their mouth shut and to endure the transgressive behavior, because then the problem is not there and that is easier for everyone. (sigh...)
And a third fallacy that social workers often make is that they think you know nothing because they are in the role of 'social worker' and you are the 'person who needs help'. The fact that in reality you are the only stable parent who still knows how the situation works and that you are the expert is not seen as such. They have the knowledge and they will tell you how it is, all limited to their learned square frame of thinking.
Don't get me wrong. People who work in social work in most cases really do their best and they are often limited in their mandate as well. But if we can't think outside the learned and handed down frameworks and make this negotiable, then we are not gaining insight and knowledge. There is an urgent need to understand high conflict divorce and to what extent personality disorders play a part in it.
That is not to say that social workers should judge the parent who is likely to be suffering from narcissism, or some other personality disorder. That is not their place. But it does mean that social work with this parent should focus on "damage control" and "containment. The stable parent must be given full support so that they can maintain the position of stable parent and put the welfare of the children first.
And a final important item is that the children are assigned an independent expert (e.g. child psychologist). An expert who starts from their position, where they have a free forum, where the situations they experience are clearly framed and where they can call when something goes wrong. Behavior of the narcissistic parent that cannot be tolerated must be named by this expert as behavior that really cannot be tolerated. In this way, the children are supported in their experience and their version of reality so that the gaslighting of the narcissistic parent has less impact.
Assigning an independent expert should not depend on the consent of both parents. We often see that 1 of the parents does not give permission. The children are then left out in the cold.
Research has proven that 1 stable parent in a high-conflict divorce offers the children protection from the trauma of the divorce and the instability of the other parent. Making the stable parent co-responsible for the high-conflict divorce stigmatizes them and undermines the only protection children have left in those situations. Taking that risk cannot be the purpose of counseling.