Working Tips on Co Parenting with a Narcissist
Co parenting with a narcissist- yes, it sounds like a contradiction in terms. I hear and understand your frustration Mama. My abusive ex meets 6 of the 9 ICD traits for narcissism. In the best interests of our now 3 year old daughter, we have a co-parenting relationship. In this article, I will share tips and ideas to help you navigate the challenges of parenting with your narcissistic ex partner. You can co-parent AND keep your sanity, while protecting your children from narcissistic abuse.
What is Narcissism?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), as defined by medical professionals exists on a spectrum. There are different kinds of narcissism. NPD people are affected to different degrees. Being in a relationship with any type or degree of narcissist is impossible. A narcissist will eat away at your self esteem and self worth. Additionally, these people tend to be emotionally and verbally abusive in personal relationships. When triggered, a narcissists rage may turn into physical violence.
What follows are behaviours common in narcissistic partners. If your former partner has shown more than a handful of these behaviours, there is a good chance he is a narcissist.
- NPD Dad is self important or vain. His low self esteem feeds on his self image being validated
- Commonly, narcissists often have big dreams and plans that are fantastical. As an example, my ex would join every new online business scam around. He would wax poetic about how now he would become a millionaire. He would proclaim intention to pay back everyone he owes money to. The fact is, he is a scam artist and owes 7 figures plus to private citizen investors. His “plan” for recompensing people was to have them invest in his next fantastical business opportunity. He would often wax poetic about starting a holistic wellness centre. On and on and on….ad nauseam.
- Narcissists always play the victim- everyone else is wrong or bad. This man simply can not recognize or take any responsibility for his part in misadventure. Case in point, every time my npd partner got a job, he was never able to hold work consistently. He would complain constantly about how everyone around him was incapable and incompetent.
- A narcissist never apologizes, or when he does he is not genuine. (See victim behaviour- in his self absorbed world, he never did anything wrong!)
- He bullies, cajoles and manipulates to get his own way. People are tools to get what HE wants. Service to others never occurs to him. For example, my ex asked a buddy of mine to help fix his car. When my friend fixed the issue temporarily until my ex could get to a garage, my ex drove off without so much as a “thank you”.
- Narcissistic people get very defensive. They tend to perceive even gentle criticism and differing opinions as a personal attacks. They will lash out defensively like a viper trapped in a cage.
- Your ex is “set in his ways” and resists change. (Sorry to tell you, a narcissist will NEVER change)
- Your former partner demands your time, attention and praise. He will often accuses you of “neglecting him” emotionally. He gets deeply offended when you are legitimately busy or unable to listen. How did you not notice he took the garbage out on trash day! Heaven help you if you fail to wax poetic about how WONDERFUL Mr. NPD is!
- He delights in making you “loose your cool”. NPD Dad fights “dirty” and makes vicious attacks in any argument. He aims to make you upset so he can vindicate himself. Suddenly YOU the are the “bad guy”. When you remain calm, quiet and unemotional it drives him CRAZY! A narcissists emotional food is your misery. My ex would “poke” at some imagined or misconstrued wrongdoing or event. This would go on over and over for weeks on end. He would never drop the topic until I either finally lost my patience or was in tears. The calmer and quieter I got the more enraged he would become. Then his verbal violence would escalate to physical aggression. At the end of the relationship he got increasingly agitated and physically violent.
- Your ex will violate boundaries constantly. Everything from not respecting personal space, to sharing personal details inappropriately with third parties or not respecting your time. For instance, my ex shared my hours worked and hourly wage with HIS landlord. This was a “reason” he could not pay HIS agreed to rent. He did not understand why I was upset he shared my financial information with a complete stranger.
- He is very sensitive, and quick to display his hurt feelings but lacks any empathy to even acknowledge yours.
- You often feel not listened to, and emotionally short changed or abandoned. You feel hollow and empty in your relationship with this person. This is because narcissists tend to see their partners and children as objects, not co-equal humans.
- NPD Dad uses people. He likely sought you out for a relationship after getting to know you because he thought you were “good enough for him”. When his “shiny new toy” syndrome wore out, his narcissistic love bombing ended. At is point, you became the scapegoat for all the wrongs in his life.
- He gaslights you, twisting facts and events around. You need to understand that gaslighting is a serious form of psychological abuse. It can make you feel crazy! Because of gaslighting, you may question your own sanity, perception of reality and memory. My ex gaslit me continuously.
- NPD Dad doesn’t have any/many friends. In four years my ex never talked to or visited friends- he did not have any friends. But a narcissist sure wants to “steal” yours. On the surface and to outsiders they appear to be “a great guy”. For this reason, It is not uncommon for the victims of abusive partners to not be believed by police, courts or other outsiders. Narcissists are the ultimate chameleon con artists
- They put themselves FIRST, never the children. Because of this, NPD dads are prone to using the children as a weapon to get back at you for rejecting them.
- Narcissists are very vindictive. A narcissist will often threaten, spy on and slander former partners for decades. They will use your children to “spy” on you. Additionally, he will have zero qualms about practicing parental alienation to “get back at you”. This is why I will keep a restraining order or peace bond on my ex until our daughter is 18.
- He is the “pot calling the kettle black”. It is not uncommon for violent narcissists to accuse their partner of violence, mental illness or worse. In my case, my ex claimed I was the violent one, have PTSD and was/am a paid escort. None of those things are remotely true, and when I get the “evidence” he will likely face more criminal charges. Which leads me to:
- Narcissists do NOT take well to being called out. NPD Dad will do anything to “save face”. The most common defence of a narcissist is to make the victimized party look bad. Because narcissists are great at portraying themselves as ideal parents to outsiders, it is critical that you document EVERYTHING mamma!
Co-parenting with one of this exceedingly challenging personalities is not easy. However, it can be done. Unless your ex has a no contact order with your children, you Mama, must rise to the challenge!
How to Co-Parent with your Narcissistic ex
First and most importantly, put your CHILDREN and their needs first. Always. You, dear reader must take this role alone. Your narcissistic ex can’t put anything ahead of his own perceived needs. He will likely try to use your children as a weapon to get back at you for leaving him.
Never put your children in the “middle” of adult issues. Never force your children to choose between their parents. Particularly if your children are small, they are naturally hard wired to adore BOTH of their parents. Thankfully, if your child is in the small, cute and sweet phase of life where they adore their daddy, he will see him/her as the “golden” or “favourite” child. Sadly, it is when children become older, more independent and mature that problems for them with the NPD parent often begin. When children begin to become more independent, the narcissistic parent will often tend to blame, cajole, manipulate, vilify and accuse the scapegoat child.
Always validate your child’s feelings and experience. NEVER criticize your co-parent. Its critically important to never say anything negative about your ex to or in front of your child. It is important to understand that the victims of NPD often believe they are somehow to blame for events and accusations made by a narcissist. Make certain your kids do not blame themselves. Listen to your child carefully. And then model appropriate emotional response to the conflict they have with their other parent.
Narcissistic parents lower your child’s self esteem. Kids feel low about themselves when the narcissist blames them for perceived wrongs. The NPD parent might deny the child’s feelings. He might say things like “Don’t be such a baby!”. The narcissist will retaliate when children defend themselves. The narcissist tactics of ridiculing, shaming, or emotionally abandoning their kids as ‘punishment’ is abusive. It’s best when you respond by saying things like “I am sorry this happened. That was unfair. It was not your fault.” Critique fathers ACTIONS, not his person. Always clearly send the message that your child is LOVED by both parents.
Always be the calm parent. Never, ever be reactionary no matter what the situation is with your ex. Children of narcissists usually don’t develop narcissism where there is one emotionally healthy parent. However, they can be prone to low self esteem, have trouble having healthy attachment in relationships, as well as anxiety and social issues. For example, my exs teen daughter from a previous relationship has major social anxiety, difficulty making friends and believes she is omnisexual. His teenaged son has behaviour issues, and is significantly overweight.
Get your older children therapy. Having a “neutral” adult to speak with really helps a young person get perspective, coping skills and emotional resilience.
Practical Co-Parenting Techniques for Narcissism
The Co-Parenting Agreement
Have a very clear, detailed custody and visitation document. Attempt to lay out every detail, for example:
- Establish set times of Pick up and Drop off. Ideally you should exchange your children at a neutral location.
- Additionally, never go into your exs home. Conversely, never allow him into yours. Doing so will only lead to confrontation, accusation and stress. With narcissists LESS information for them to twist and manipulate (gaslighting) is always better.
- I also recommend that you list every visitation date in detail. I suggest making note of special days like holidays, birthdays, school breaks etc
- Be certain to outline communication rules and guidelines. After all, you realize your ex will try every which way to contact your child outside of the set parameters. Consequently, use a secure trackable system like talkingparents.. This will help to avoid text bombing, calls at inappropriate times etc. Additionally, make sure the document states no inappropriate discussions with your child/ren.
How You Should Deal with NPD Dad
- Keep all communication with your ex strictly about the children. Stay factual, not emotional. As the saying goes, never complain or over explain. I highly recommend you learn about grey rocking. In order to maintain your sanity, use email or a portal like talkingparents.com. This way, you will have time to calmly respond when your ex is trying to push your buttons. I know he knows exactly how to drive you up the wall!
- Ignore any commentary made by your ex that is not specifically about the children
- Keep notes about everything. Over time, his late arrivals, missing dates etc will show his patterns.
- Never question your children about anything to do with their other parent. For instance, wait for your kids to bring up the topic of Dad. But then LISTEN and respond calmly and appropriately to their experiences and feelings.
- Do not triangulate- for example if your child calls from your exes home and asks you to pick them up, do not get involved! Unless their safety is threatened. Then act appropriately.
- Undoubtedly, If you ex gets physically violent with your children you should contact the authorities. Be sure to gIve the police copies your detailed notes. Narcissists will never get help on their own. Showing their pattern of abusive behaviour leading to physical violence may help him get help to be a better parent. Or, at least a tolerable one. Moreover, do not be surprised if he is ordered into care to see the children, he refuses to go. His fragile ego will not be able to handle agreeing to anything being “wrong” with him.
- Sadly, if you live in North America, your narcissistic ex will likely never have access to your children revoked. For that reason, the best thing you can do for your kids here is model healthy parenting, and get them therapy.
I know how difficult co-parenting with a narcissistic abuser is. If you recognize your ex as a narcissist, it is highly recommended that you learn all you can about it. Since you have a narcissistic ex, you must drive your co-parenting relationship in the right direction for your kids. Without question you must be the responsible parent.
Stay calm and establish rigid, strict and clear boundaries for communication and visitation. Remember, you can’t reason with CRAZY! Additionally, keep very good notes and insulate your children from the effects of narcissistic abuse by modelling healthy emotional behaviour.
As I have said, it is critical to listen to your kids and validate their experiences and feelings. NEVER say anything depreciating about your ex! Although you know very well he is a poisonous snake, keep it to yourself. Your kids will figure him out for themselves one day. You don’t have to plant the seed, he will.
Get your children to see a good therapist if they are being scapegoated. Be sure to keep your communication with your ex to a bare minimum. Also, keep communication unemotional and factual. Remember to grey rock!
Lastly, and most important: report any physical abuse of your children immediately. As previously mentioned, provide the authorities with detailed notes of your ex’s behavior patterns.
Keep your chin up, Mama! Your kids will turn 18 one day!