I have read so much where people complain about Trump’s dishonesty, incongruency, inability to take responsibility for his actions, and just plain ignorance. I have stood by while people detail his character faults and psychologists point out his obvious narcissism. In every way, I agree with these assessments and have had the same feelings of horror as my fellow Americans deny or enable his deadbeat behavior. I have wondered about the psychology behind this support of a narcissist, when the proof is right there.
I know some people will say that excessive narcissism makes for a good corporate leader, since they are so money-oriented, driven, and ruthless. These people do not count the human costs and this makes for financial success. But more compassionate, relationally-minded people look down on this behavior in disgust, knowing it goes against common ethics and morals to exploit your fellow human beings.
At the beginning of my marriage’s unraveling, my ex-husband gave me a list. His list was a list of requirements for my staying married to him. On the list were dictates that included: begin every sentence with an “I” statement, agree with 100% of what he says, agree with 100% of his parenting decisions, he has to be in charge of where my things go, that I cease to have strong feelings, that I spend what he tells me to spend on groceries, that I inform him when my menstrual cycle is happening, that I believe everything he says, and that my Facebook and emails are always open to him. When I asked him what the point of this list was, he replied, “Control. I need control.” I was one broken person then, and also scared of what he would do, so I told him I would give him his list. That wasn’t good enough, as he told me, and so we were soon divorced. Several therapists and attorneys I met along the way told me the word I did not want to hear, knew nothing about, and could not see: narcissist.
Fast forward to today, where we are entering year five of family court proceedings. I have been blamed by a judge for my ex’s behavior, have been punished for things he has done, and have been fined despite the fact that he has initiated 75% of our court proceedings in an extended effort to financially cripple me. And forget co-parenting. If you think of yourself in a room, trying to reason with Trump or asking him what his thinking is on something, then you know what it is like to co-parent with a narcissist.
America’s relationship with Trump is actually a good metaphor for someone divorcing a narcissist in family court. Just plug in different players: my ex is Trump, family court is Trump supporters, and I am the rest of America. America’s angst over Trump becoming president rests on the fact that he has major supporters. A man like him having supporters is indicative of how people and systems can be blindsided, can lose their own integrity to support someone who has none.
And so family court is the last great social justice frontier, for it is here that everything wrong with our justice system is crystallized. Black men don’t get out of paying child support without being punished, but rich white men do. Women are not seen as equals, and if they don’t put up and shut up, they lose their children. Children are rarely given a voice, and this is one place that sorely lacks the knowledge and resources necessary to deal with a narcissist.
I know we all mean well, including workers in family court. But there needs to be a change, otherwise family courts across the nation are just becoming factories for minor Trumps, with their rallying cry of “this is big business” and completely ignoring family values.