Recently my client’s son was struggling with his feelings about his father. On one hand, he adores his dad and wants to spend lots of time with him. On the other hand, he feels very angry with his dad and calls him a liar. He was hurt because his dad chose to bubble with his girlfriend and her children through the pandemic. Yet his father claims he loves him the most. The child is confused by his dad’s hypocrisy.
What is a hypocrite?
I am not a psychologist, but here is my take on this subject. A hypocrite is a person whose behaviour does not conform to the moral standards that they pretend to have.
Many of us feel that our ex’s are hypocrites. And if your ex is a narcissistic, hypocrisy is the narcissist’s hallmark.
Hypocrisy is the exact opposite of integrity. A narcissistic ex will declare themselves as principled and perfect while pointing out your inadequacies. They have very high standards and expectations of others, but they don’t hold themselves to the same expectations. In other words, they don’t walk the talk of their self proclaimed virtuosity.
Their children pick up on this and may become confused.
Why are we so bothered by a hypocritical ex?
My clients get highly triggered by the hypocrisy demonstrated by their ex’s. I think it is because hypocrisy is a sneaky manipulative form of lying. Hypocrites are a special type of liar who put extra effort into disguising their misbehaviour and sending the world false signs of moral superiority.
If we are going to be lied to, we would rather it be overt. We may well have more tolerance of a “run of the mill” liar than a hypocrite.
How to deal with a hypocritical ex
- If your ex is narcissistic, just realize hypocrisy is part of his or her unique toolkit.
- Expect hypocrisy. There is no longer any need to feel disappointed, disgruntled, disgusted, dismayed by your ex’s behaviour. That is what I call optional suffering. Do this by dropping the Manual you have for your ex.
- Don’t expect your ex to behave like you. Their hypocrisy is not yours to fix.
- When your kids feel confused, you get to validate their experience. They are experiencing cognitive dissonance. Let them know that you understand it is confusing when someone says one thing and does not act according to what they were saying. Hold space for them to share their feelings of anger and disappointment. It is not your job to convince them to feel otherwise about your ex. Lead with curiosity and compassion.
You are not going to change your ex. If you could, you probably would have done so while you were together. Managing your expectations and your reactions to their hypocrisy will reduce the effect that it has on you and your children.