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What to Do if You’re Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Ten years in the past, when Cat Blake divorced her husband, co-parenting their daughter was comparatively easy. “We have been co-parenting comparatively effectively, with some hiccups alongside the way in which,” she says.

However a number of years later, when she revealed an autobiography about her struggles with co-dependency, issues took a flip for the more serious.

“My ex-husband and his new spouse obtained phrase of the ebook and sued me for full custody of my then 8-year-old daughter and defamation of character,” says Blake, who’s now a divorce coach in Boston, MA. The authorized bills upended her funds and he or she needed to promote her residence and file for chapter.

Blake realized later that her ex-husband, who she says is a narcissist, didn’t even need extra time with their daughter. “He simply needed to punish me,” she says.

What It’s Wish to Co-Dad or mum With a Narcissist

“Co-parenting with somebody who has a full-blown character dysfunction is extraordinarily difficult,” says Mark Ettensohn, PsyD, creator of Unmasking Narcissism: A Information to Understanding the Narcissist in Your Life. Narcissists have a extremely unstable self-image, he says. They’re typically rigid, defensive, and handle the scenario in unhealthy methods.

In case your parenting accomplice is narcissist, they could ignore, push, or take a look at your boundaries. Or they may mum or dad with much less construction, empathy, or respect than you’d like. They typically get indignant while you give them suggestions or criticism. It may be laborious to achieve compromises. Their negativity may put on you down.

Easy methods to Acknowledge a Narcissist

Narcissists have a powerful sense of grandiosity and self-importance. Which means they assume they’re extra vital than others and lack empathy.

Different indicators of narcissistic character dysfunction embrace:

  • Smug perspective or behaviors
  • Making the most of others to get what they need
  • Believing that they’re distinctive or particular
  • Exaggerating achievements and abilities
  • Extreme want for admiration
  • Feeling envy towards others or considering others envy them
  • Lack of empathy
  • Obsessive about fantasies of brilliance, energy, or success
  • Sense of entitlement

What to Do if Your Co-Dad or mum Is a Narcissist

Take these steps should you’re co-parenting with a narcissist:

Settle for it. In case your parenting accomplice is a narcissist, they in all probability received’t change. “It’s important to wrap your head round the truth that you’ll need to co-parent with any person that you just simply may not like,” Blake says.


Set boundaries. Be clear and particular. Draw the road on what’s OK and what’s not. Don’t allow them to cross it. Narcissists like management and can do no matter it takes to get it.


Make a parenting plan. Make a plan for easy methods to drop off and choose up children, and easy methods to deal with after-school actions, holidays, and self-discipline. Determine the way you’ll speak and the way typically. Put the plan in writing, signal it, and stick with it.

Restrict communication. Your parenting accomplice might attempt to get your consideration by over-communicating. They might abruptly let you know about one thing they want a solution for straight away. Attempt utilizing e mail solely, so you will have an opportunity to take a breath earlier than you reply.

Keep calm. When your accomplice lashes out or makes you indignant, attempt to keep calm. Keep away from participating in insults or blame. “Use clear language, phrases with out emotion, robust physique language, and voice,” Blake says.

Have perspective. Attempt to not take private assaults to coronary heart. As an alternative, acknowledge that what they are saying is extra about them than you.

What To not Do

Listed below are some issues to keep away from should you’re co-parenting with a narcissist:


Don’t argue. Narcissists make it laborious to win an argument. They typically speak in circles to confuse and overwhelm you. Hold your solutions clear and quick, with out emotion. Don’t clarify your self or give an excessive amount of info. That is additionally known as the “gray rock methodology.”

Don’t be afraid of them. “They thrive on concern,” Blake says. “Narcissists are really easy while you notice what makes them tick. They solely need consideration and kudos.” Acknowledge after they do one thing effectively. However stick together with your boundaries.

Don’t attempt to management all the pieces. “So long as you do your job, attempt to let go a little bit of what the narcissist is doing in parenting,” Blake says. “Do your kids come again fed and in a single piece? That’s fairly good.”

Don’t use your youngster. Your accomplice might use your youngster to get what they need. They may have them spy on you for personal info. You could be tempted to do it too, but it surely’s finest to not.

Easy methods to Defend Youngsters

“It could be laborious to guard children from a co-parent’s character points while you’re not there to see what’s taking place,” Ettensohn says. Concentrate on what you possibly can management.

Speak to your youngster. Assist them perceive their different mum or dad’s conduct. Make it age-appropriate. Train them that their mum or dad’s conduct is about that mum or dad, not them.

Watch what you say. Attempt to not say unfavorable issues about your parenting accomplice. “It may well flip your youngster in opposition to you they usually would possibly really feel obligated to select sides,” Ettensohn says. “Concentrate on non-verbal communication, speaking to family and friends inside earshot, and evaluating your youngster to your narcissist,” Blake says.

Look ahead to indicators of abuse. Search for something that crosses the road into bodily, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Be a wholesome mum or dad. You possibly can’t select how your accomplice mother and father your youngster, however you possibly can offset it with wholesome parenting. Be a very good function mannequin. Coach your youngster by tough patches. “The antidote to your accomplice’s narcissism is acceptance, heat, sensible appraisal, and consistency,” Ettensohn says.

Co-parenting with a narcissistic ex-husband hasn’t been simple for Blake, however she retains it in perspective. “Youngsters solely want one high-functioning mum or dad to be able to develop right into a thriving grownup,” she says.

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