3 Ways to Effectively to Co Parent with Narcissist
Raising Kids with a Narcissist Ex
When you first decided to co-parent with your ex, you thought, that co-parenting is better than raising kids as a family with your ex. You will benefit from your independence and your children will learn to lean in on the healthy environment you will create for them.
You thought the situation will get better with time. Bickering will subside. Tolerance will be learned. And you will muster letting go.
Still, the dynamic is far from healthy. And you are left wondering if you can ever win the battle of raising emotionally healthy adults in the wake of all this drama.
Chances are you can. But you have to adhere to the tried and tested principles of dealing with a narcissist co-parent.
You don’t just have to know these strategies rather they should remain as your frontline defense force.
What is a Narcissist?
If you have forgotten the narcissistic tendencies of your ex – or if you want to find peace in the delusion that your ex is a healthy human, here is a reminder of the psychological construct you are dealing with.
A narcissist is a person who cannot feel and connect with the emotions responsible for social connections among humans. It appears as a lack of empathy and eventually robs the narcissist of the feelings of love.
In a nutshell, people struggling with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) cannot love.
Signs You are Co-Parenting with a Narcissist
This lack of love manifests in different behaviors in different relations of narcissists’ lives. Here are some narcissistic behaviors they show as co-parents.
They use children as their tools. So, you may get less time with your children than what you negotiated for. Or you may experience dreaded parental alienation.
You feel that your boundaries are disrespected again and again. Emotional abuse is a paramount part of communication coupled with broken promises, missed appointments, excessive demands, and invasion of privacy.
They seem to micro-manage your communication with the child. It may be more subtle like trying to know everything happening between you and your children or obvious like complaining about your methods and decisions.
Complaints and dissatisfaction are the norms. They will make it appear that you are failing as a parent. They may also use children’s voices to express this dissatisfaction. If coming from the parent, this dissatisfaction may escalate to verbal abuse pretty quickly.
Needless to say, these lies and manipulations may impact your quality of life and the safety and security you promised to your kids.
How to Coparent with a Narcissist Ex
Luckily, you can minimize the conflict and its impact on yourself allowing yourself to become the parents your children need most.
Set Boundaries for Yourself
You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Your emotional, mental, and physical health matters. Stop taking excessive calls. Learn to understand the difference between conflict and abuse and commit to walking away when the latter arises.
If possible, move away from co-parenting toward parallel to minimize communication.
The best strategy against narcissistic bullying is going no contact. Of course, it’s impossible when kids are involved. But you can still limit this interaction.
The DEEP technique is at your service to protect your sanity. Dr. Ramani Suryakantham Durvasula is a thought leader in research on narcissists. She came up with the DEEP technique for Don’t Defend, Engage, Explain or Personalize. If you have to enforce a decision, state it assertively without mentioning why it’s necessary or how they were responsible for you to reach that decision. For example, just let them know the kids’ drop-off time without referring to past experiences when they failed to abide by the agreed time.
Understand that nagging or reasoning isn’t going to help anyway and the narcissist will only do whatever they deem feasible regardless of how much you have emphasized the point. On the contrary, engaging in arguments, offenses, or defenses will help them to derive the narcissistic supply from you prompting them to become even more disrespectful towards your boundaries.
Keep Communications in Writing
If you want to stay out of reach of the narcissist co-parent, your best bet is to prevent issues from arising. You can do this through proper communication. Verbal communication leaves room for argument and manipulation. So, keep it written. Make sure they remain up to date. Archive your communication over the internet.
This history of recorded communication will prevent them from twisting your words to gain favor in front of the court or children. Also, you are able to control when you check your messages, when you reply and how you reply at your own pace. Don’t feel pressured to react emotionally to their baiting. Instead, use the “schedule” functionality in your email to help manage your anxieties.
The Bottom Line
Dealing with a narcissist co-parent is neither easy nor temporary. You – or your children – wouldn’t outgrow this phase even when then all have grown and flown. But the harm can be mitigated with two key elements – self-love and love for your kids.
Always keep in mind that although the narc is the biological parent of your child he is never going to offer the emotional and moral support to the kids that should come from a parent. You are the only parent they can rely on.
And you can only be the best parent you are by being compassionate towards yourself.
Are you struggling with coparenting with a toxic ex? What areas are most stressful? What are your coping strategies?
We are all ears.