THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER WHEN CO-PARENTING IS THAT YOU MUST ALWAYS STRIVE TO SAFEGUARD YOUR CHILDREN FROM CONFLICT.
Everyone who has been through it knows that co-parenting takes effort. There is no easy way to plan, coordinate, and properly execute every aspect of a child’s life, especially when you must do it in two separate households, with a self-centered non-cooperative team member.
Co-parenting with a narcissist is impossible.
The notion of co-parenting with a narcissist does not exist.
Get that stupid thought out of your brain.
Completely remove the term co-parenting from your dialect.
Forget about trying to follow any normal co-parenting guidelines. It will be ineffective with your narcissistic ex, and will make you lose your sanity. You don’t want to lose your sanity; your kids need you. You have the job of providing non-narcissistic family dynamic, so that you have a 50% chance of preventing your child from growing into a self-revolving human like your ex.
There are so many problems when attempting to co-parent with a narcissist. You cannot be effective when working with someone who refuses to collaborate. Here are a few problems and solutions to the long, tedious, pain in the behind task you will have ahead of you if you attempt to co-parent with a narcissist:
ISSUE 1: Boundary Overstepping
Boundary overstepping is one of the biggest problems when co-parenting with a narcissist. Any attempt to communicate with the narcissist will make them believe they have the right to overstep your boundaries. It can range from insults, curse words, or other similar exchange during pickups, to unpleasant shouts barraging doctors during visits, to constant emails, texts, and calls filled with nasty threats. The problem will persist unless you address it. Here is where you grow a big pair and put your foot down. You must establish a set of boundaries from day one, and you must stick to them. An established set of boundaries means structure that will provide a safe, predictable, and secure bumper for your children from your ex’s crafty psychological crap. Make no mistake: the emotional roller-coaster at the mercy of a narcissistic parent can have detrimental effect on a child’s development.
How do you establish boundaries?
You can take a variety of approaches, but whatever you do, you must stick to it. Just make sure you are always the adult. Start by calling them out on their behavior each time it happens. From giving you grief because you are a few minutes late, to behaving like an idiot during a parent teacher conference, to refusing to administer your children’s prescribed medication, make sure you let them know that it is not okay to act like a class act child just because they feel like it.
Just remember never to do this in person, and most importantly, never ever feed your narcissistic ex’s ego by retaliating in front of the children. Remember that the narcissist is going to take advantage of every attempt to communicate from your part to push your buttons, and you must not fall for the bait. Your children are watching. Be the one with the balls.
If possible, limit all communication to email messages. Narcissists don’t like when others set boundaries on them. You must stand firm on your decision. Remember: you are your child’s advocate and protector.
ISSUE 2: Total Lack of Communication
Communication with a narcissistic person is non-existent. Trying to communicate with a narcissist to co-parent is like trying to land on the moon with a hot air balloon: it’s just not going to work no matter how much effort you put into it. Don’t waste your time on that, you need all your energy for your children. The narcissist thrives on trying to keep you engaged, usually for negative reasons and seeking negative results, Do not fall for it. They feed off your weakness when you continue to reply to their verbal or written bullshit. Don’t do it, get into meditation instead. You must break free from the vicious entangling communication cycle. Learn not to give a fuck. It is not worth it.
How do you solve communication issues with a narcissist?
From their part, you can’t. Give that one up already. In a co-parenting world, you cannot expect for your narcissistic ex to communicate. Having false expectations sucks, but it is better to know where you stand: do not think for one second that a narcissist will communicate something about anyone other than themselves. Their feelings of grandiosity are far too established and enlarged to consider you as important enough to receive information. Which leaves you with the task of having to communicate with your narcissistic ex about your children, and everyone who has had to call their narcissist ex to ask a child related question knows that never ends up well. Here is where the glass of wine comes in handy. No, I am not suggesting you get hammered and call your ex. Please don’t ever do that, especially with a narcissist. It’s like reverse fuel up the wrong way.
The rule is simple: unless there is an emergency that needs to be addressed by both of you, which requires a phone call, limit your communication to emails, and if necessary, text messages when contacting your ex. If the situation is too high in conflict and you cannot deal with it, you can request that all communication with your ex happens via a program designed to address communication between high conflict co-parenting relationships such as Our Family Wizard and Talking Parents. There are others out there, and many of them have apps. The idea is to avoid giving them ammunition to create high conflict situations, get you all upset, and you end up replying like a baby, acting like your ex. No, hell no. Keep in mind that their email replies are most likely going to come back filled with negative words projecting their anger, discontent, resentment, and of course, narcissistic tendencies towards you. Let it go. Let it all go.
ISSUE 3: The Button Pushing
Regardless of the length of your relationship, narcissists have the uncanny ability to rile you up and get under your skin like no other fucker on this planet, especially after a divorce. From personal attacks via email, text, and during drop-offs and pickups, the narcissist will go to extreme lengths to rally you up and get you to reply, retaliate, respond. Do not do it. Remember: let all that shit go away. It makes them feel important. Powerful. And it’s extremely pathetic that you fall for it. Seriously, WTF? You are you child’s advocate and protector. So, when they start with their narcissistic need to engage you in discord, whether it is giving you grief because you’re five minutes late or had to send someone else to pick the child up, your narcissistic ex find a way to say or do something that pushes your buttons to the limit.
How do you un-push the buttons?
Although it sounds impossible, you must develop a calm, cool, and collected style of communication with your ex. Stick to brief, monotonous, strictly child-related, boring, business like replies. Treat the relationship as if you had a tenured job and had to communicate with your asshole boss. Carefully read through your ex’s emails and limit your response to matters relevant to co-parenting.
If you are too upset because their comments are too much, you can punch a, call your best friend, or rant to your mother about what an asshole they are, but don’t fall for the bait. No matter what they said, do not reply in an angry manner. You must remain calm and corporate. Remember, your children’s happiness comes first. You are their advocate and protector. Do not fall for that crap.
ISSUE 4: Kids Are Far from Dumb, They’re On To Them
As their advocate and protector, you will do everything in your power to shield your children from conflict. This is an uphill battle carrying to sacks of rocks, while walking on broken glass, with a blindfold, while you are being beaten with your own belt. You cannot control the way a narcissist behaves and acts around the children. Your only hope is that they will one day get tired of your corporate, boring, monotonous email replies and lack of desire to engage, and they will find another target for their narcissism. You must make sure it is not one of children.
How do I keep my kids from realizing my ex is a selfish ass?
The answer is: you cannot. It is impossible to shield your children from the unknown, and your ex’s erratic narcissistic behavior is unpredictable enough to fall under the category of unknown. There is nothing you can do about their rants and screams in public and the fact that your children are witnessing this. Depending on their age, they will form their own age appropriate images of their other parent. You just make sure you are always there for them, as corny as that sounds. Watching your ex behave like an ape in front of the children can be slightly gratifying, but it is heartbreaking at the same time. Your children love this person.
ISSUE 5: Turning Children Against You, Fucker!
It is almost a given that a narcissistic ex will poison the children against the other parent. After all, they must be the ones to look good always. They will badmouth you to the children, and will surely tell them lies about the way in which the marriage ended. They will try to turn your children against you in any way they can. And if they have one of those clan-like families, then there’s back up.
What can I do to prevent this?
Nothing. You do not have to do a thing. You are your children’s advocate and protector. Children tend to gravitate towards the parent who allows them to grow independently. A narcissistic parent is the direct contradiction of that. A narcissistic parent will try to force a child into a specific type of development: the one they experience while growing up. It will be the only acceptable one.
Your job will be:
To nurture your child’s uniqueness and independence, and allow them to grow into their own person. Your narcissistic ex will have a hard time when your children want their own independence. Just be there for them.
To make sure you are the calm parent who considers the impact of your actions on your child.
To teach and model social/emotional intelligence. Your child will soon grow, if not older already, and will be capable of abstract observation. Be honest. Be age appropriate. I am a believer of saying it how it is. Period.
To be the parent who does not criticize, poison, or ill-speak of your ex in front of your children.