Archive for October, 2013

Parents call for sanctions on countries that refuse to aid return of children

Posted on October 15, 2013. Filed under: story | Tags: , , , , |

Parents whose spouses flee overseas with their children called Thursday for the federal government to put sanctions on countries that don’t help get those children returned, saying it should be considered a human-trafficking issue, not merely a family dispute.

“I am here today for one reason — to ask the U.S. government to please stop giving Egypt billions of dollars until they release my two American kidnapped children,” Colin Bower, a Boston man who has obtained support from Secretary of State John F. Kerry but no help from Egypt’s “Arab Spring” revolution, told a House subcommittee on human rights.

Chairman Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said the U.S. needs to beef up its diplomatic options in fighting parental abduction, a common problem that walks the delicate tightrope of cultural nuances, legal delays and diplomatic ties.

Mr. Smith singled out countries like Japan and India for confounding American parents who gained legal custody of their children, but can’t get them back from a parent abroad.

He said he will introduce a bill that proposes sanctions on non-compliant nations, such as cutting off foreign aid, canceling state visits and limiting trade with the nation.

Spectators in the sparsely attended hearing room were visibly shaken as, one by one, a quartet of parents narrated the wrenching tales of how they were separated from their children.

“I have done everything that I can think to do in this nightmarish situation, and I will never give up on my children,” testified Bindu Philips, whose former husband took her twin boys during a vacation to India in 2008. “Yet, I am here because I can no longer fight the good fight on my own.”

Witnesses and members of Congress said the issue is complicated by cultural attitudes and mixed international support for The Hague Convention, a treaty designed to resolve parental abduction cases that cross national borders.

Ambassador Susan S. Jacobs, a special adviser for children’s issues at the State Department, said The Hague Convention remains the best channel for negotiating the children’s return, though that means constant discussions with many countries.

“I think that sanctions are a two-edged sword,” Ms. Jacobs said. “I think that threatening countries is often an unsuccessful way to get them to cooperate with us, because most of the relationships that we have are very complex and involve many issues.”

Parents and Mr. Smith disagreed, arguing the mere existence of potential sanctions could spark better cooperation.

They urged the State Department to view parental abduction as a crime on par with child abuse, and not a mere civil matter.

Mr. Kerry has been a champion for Mr. Bower in his struggle with Egypt.

The former senator from Massachusetts got his colleagues to pass a resolution last year that called on the country’s courts and government to do everything they can to bring Noor and Ramsay Bower home.

David Goldman said his fight to return his son, Sean, from Brazil to their home in New Jersey is proof that financial leverage can compel action.

Mr. Smith traveled to South America during the widely publicized battle and obtained results when it became clear that resistance in the case could influence trade between the nations.

In an interview, Mr. Goldman said ex-spouses enjoy “home court advantage” in the nations they flee to by spinning tales of abuse and taking advantage of cross-border views on divorce and child custody.
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What Therapists Don’t Tell You About Divorcing A High-Conflict Personality

Posted on October 15, 2013. Filed under: story | Tags: , , |


Virginia Gilbert, MFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Competent therapists who provide a corrective emotional experience can make it possible for people who never had a voice to find one. Once self-actualized, people generally find the quality of their lives improve: they find the right career, attract the right mate and extricate themselves from toxic relationships.

Unfortunately, this type of personal growth can be disastrous when divorcing a high-conflict personality. When working with a client who is married to, or separating from a narcissist, therapists need to invert the goal of traditional therapy. Instead of encouraging people to be authentic, they need to counsel people to be strategic. Expressing one’s true feelings, admitting vulnerability, and apologizing for one’s missteps can bury a person who is trying to dissolve a marriage with a narcissist — especially when children are involved.

Why Don’t More Therapists Understand How to Treat High-Conflict Divorce?

Graduate psychology programs teach future therapists how to facilitate a client’s personal growth. Students learn what personality disorders look like, and how they develop. But there are no courses in graduate school that train psychology students how to help clients navigate high-conflict divorce.

When treating a client in individual therapy, a therapist doesn’t have the benefit of observing the narcissistic spouse. Even in couples therapy, a therapist might be duped by the high-conflict personality, who often comes across as charming, while the more reasonable spouse, who has spent years being traumatized by crazy-making behavior, can look like the difficult one.

5 Tips for Divorcing a High-Conflict Personality

1. Minimize Contact
High-conflict personalities thrive off of battle. Their agenda, which is often subconscious, is to maintain your relationship by creating drama: bad-mouthing you to everyone under the sun and especially to your children, cyber-bullying, multiple, intrusive phone calls and any other way they can find to keep you from moving on with your life.

While your gut reaction might be to defend yourself, you cannot reason with a terrorist. Anything you say can and will be used against you. To mitigate the chaos caused by a high-conflict personality, you must keep communication to a minimum. Avoid face-to-face contact. Cultivate a “just the facts, ma’am” style of e-mail and text correspondence. When possible, arrange neutral places such as school for the drop-off and pick-up of children.

2. Keep Your Feelings to Yourself
High-conflict personalities are bullies. They like to “win” by making you angry or beating you down. Do not act on your feelings. If you yell, cry, plead, or otherwise tip your emotional hand, you will invite more attacks. Being stuck in the cross-hairs of a narcissist is traumatic, so by all means seek support through safe means: therapy, and online support groups for people with personality-disordered exes are two examples. But whatever you do, don’t let a narcissist know how you really feel — especially if you have a different point-of-view, which will always be interpreted as a threat.

3. Plan for the Worst
Do not listen to conventional wisdom that your ex will “move on” in time. Well-adjusted people move on; high-conflict personalities never quench their thirst for revenge and their desire to feel like “the good one.” Anticipate being dragged into court for minor indiscretions, or worse, total fabrications.

Do not say or write anything that might make you look bad. Respond to even the most frivolous accusations with factual, non-defensive e-mails detailing what actually happened. Document everything; save hostile e-mails, take screen shots of abusive texts, note every violation of your court orders.

You never know if a narcissist will follow through on threats to sue you, so you must be prepared if they do.

4. Never Admit a Mistake
You can, and should be, accountable for your part in the end of the marriage. But be accountable in a safe environment: therapy, 12-step groups, or in the company of trusted family and friends.

Do not admit wrongdoing to your high-conflict ex, especially in writing. Apologizing will not create a more amicable relationship. A high-conflict ex will interpret your apology as proof that you are the mentally ill, incompetent, stupid person she says you are. Even admissions of minor mistakes can be twisted into admissions of heinous acts and spur a high-conflict ex to take you to court, or simply broadcast to everyone with whom they come in contact that you are a terrible person.

5. Stop Trying to Co-Parent
I have written before about the one-size-fits-all co-parenting model. Well-meaning, but misinformed therapists do targets of high-conflict personalities a huge disservice by advising them that they can, and should, co-parent. Certainly, an amicable co-parenting relationship is ideal for children. But attempts to co-parent with a narcissist or a borderline will keep you engaged in battle. You will forever be on the receiving end of intrusive, controlling, chaotic behaviors which will make you and your kids crazy.

Parallel parenting is the only paradigm that should be recommended to people with personality-disordered exes. This means that you give up the fantasy that you can have consistency between homes, or appear as a united front. The more high-conflict your ex is, the more you will need to separate yourself and your parenting. This may mean hosting separate birthday parties, scheduling separate parent-teacher conferences and not sharing what goes on in your house.

While you may feel that you are sending a terrible message to your children by limiting contact with their other parent, you are actually protecting them by minimizing the potential for conflict.

Targets of high-conflict personalities need to accept that it isn’t wise to be “authentic” with their ex. Strategic, limited disclosures and iron-clad boundaries are essential tools in managing a high-conflict divorce. While it may seem paradoxical, true authenticity comes from holding on to one’s sense of self while gracefully disengaging from a narcissist.

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