Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

The Difficulties of Dealing with a Narcissist

Parenting is never easy, but if you are co-parenting with a narcissist, it can be infinitely more difficult. Narcissism is a serious personality disorder. A narcissist's common traits include an over-inflated sense of their own self-worth, a lack of empathy, and an intense drive to "win." A narcissist often struggles with interpersonal relationships, and they are known to have very fragile egos and react badly to criticism. This can make co-parenting with one extremely challenging.

If you have separated from or divorced a narcissist but still have minor children in common, you are likely in a position where you have to figure out a way to co-parent with them effectively. Though this may feel like an uphill battle now, it is possible.

Below are some helpful tips for co-parenting with a narcissist:

Be Prepared

You likely saw many of your former partner's worst traits come out during your separation or divorce. Many of their worst tendencies will resurface while co-parenting, and you may be surprised to discover even more. Though it may feel pessimistic, being mentally prepared for the worst can help you deal with problems as they arise and help prevent you from feeling blindsided.

Narcissistic parents are known to:

  • Play games
  • Use children as pawns
  • Be intentionally difficult and resistant
  • Disregard existing agreements

Seek Therapy if You Need It

Co-parenting with a narcissist is not only difficult in a literal sense but also emotionally. Many people find working with a qualified therapist highly beneficial when dealing with a narcissistic co-parent. While a therapist or family counselor can help you through difficult periods, they can also help during the good times. Your mental health matters and you should never be ashamed to seek support and help when you need it.

It is also worth considering seeking counseling for your children. A narcissist is not above manipulating, gaslighting, or using their children as pawns. This can be damaging for children, but the support of a qualified therapist can help mitigate this.

Work with a Trusted Lawyer

It is not uncommon for a narcissist to drag their former partner back to court every chance they get. There are many reasons they do this. In some cases, they are driven by their need for attention. In others, they are desperate to "win" or get back at you for what they see as an unfavorable custody or support ruling.

As they try to maintain control and power over you and your children, they may invent reasons to go to court. Working with an experienced attorney, like ours at The Virga Law Firm, P.A., can help you feel more prepared when this happens and can help you put a stop to the narcissist's frivolous suits.

Establish Boundaries & Rules

Narcissists are often unpredictable in their behavior, and this can wreak havoc on your co-parenting relationship. It can also create chaos for your children. Establishing clear boundaries and rules for how your ex will interact with you and the children can go a long way in restoring stability.

As much as possible, communicate with your ex through writing. This is beneficial for several reasons. One, it keeps a written record of your interactions with your ex, which may be helpful if you have to go back to court. Two, it also restricts your ex's access to you both literally and emotionally.

Other boundaries to consider setting include:

  • Establish a schedule for when your ex can contact the children while they are with you
  • Identify a neutral location for visitation exchanges, such as a shopping mall halfway between your two residences
  • Establish official platforms for communication – there are many co-parenting apps, such as Our Family Wizard, that can be helpful when setting communication boundaries

Consider Parallel Parenting

No matter how hard you try, co-parenting with a narcissist may be impossible. If this is your situation, it might be time to consider parallel parenting instead. Parallel parenting is when two parents adopt their own parenting methods when the children are in their custody. Additionally, the interactions between the parents are limited. This approach to parenting post-divorce or post-separation is often the best path for those dealing with a narcissistic ex.

Two significant benefits of parallel parenting are that it creates a routine for the children and limits conflict between the parents. Because everything is kept separate, typically, both parents do not attend the same extracurricular activities, school meetings, or appointments with the children. While each household will have its own rules, the rules will remain consistent as the child moves between homes.

Many people create an official parenting plan as part of their custody agreement. Switching to a parallel parenting model may require modifying that original plan. You should work with a skilled lawyer if you have questions about your parenting plan or need to change an existing custody order. Explore our site to learn more about modifying a family court order.

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