For parents who have gone through a legal separation or divorce, co-parenting can already be an uphill battle. However, when dealing with a narcissistic ex, these challenges multiply, and co-parenting can become even more exhausting and difficult.
Co-parenting with someone who is self-centered and manipulative can leave you feeling drained and constantly on edge. However, there are ways to handle this type of co-parenting relationship, and with effort and patience, it can be made easier. In this post, we will delve into some critical strategies to help you navigate co-parenting with a narcissistic ex.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
The Mayo Clinic defines narcissism as a personality disorder where people “have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance.” Narcissists “need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them.” They may also lack the ability to care or understand other people’s feelings. However, despite appearing to be extremely confident, people with this mental health condition are unsure of their self-worth and are easily upset by criticism.
Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can include:
- Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, or beauty.
- Believing they are superior to others and must only spend their time with equally special individuals.
- Taking advantage of others to achieve what they want.
- Becoming impatient or angry when they do not receive special treatment.
These are only a few of the symptoms narcissists may experience. Even if your ex has not been diagnosed as a narcissist, they may still exhibit narcissistic traits or tendencies, as narcissism can also be a personality trait. Regardless, this can make co-parenting difficult.
Tips for Co-Parenting with a Narcissist
1. Establish a Legal Parenting Plan
When dealing with a narcissistic co-parent, it's essential to establish a solid parenting plan to ensure that the children's needs are met and that both parties' rights are protected.
A parenting plan can outline and include the following:
- Decisions on religion
- Decisions on education
- Medical decisions
- Visitation arrangements
- Holiday arrangements
- How to handle disagreements
It's also essential to document any agreements you make with the narcissistic co-parent to reduce the likelihood of future conflicts. Working with a child custody lawyer who has experience in dealing with such situations is particularly beneficial as they can offer legal guidance and support, ensuring that your parental rights are upheld throughout the process.
2. Avoid Bringing Your Children into Conflict
As a co-parent, it's important to keep any conflict or disagreements you have with your ex away from your children. This means avoiding heated arguments or discussions in front of them, whenever possible.
Even if your co-parent says something negative about you, resist the urge to retaliate with name-calling or ranting. Constantly involving your children in your disputes can lead to them feeling as if they have to choose sides and further stress them. It's best to communicate with your co-parent in a respectful manner as well as you can and out of ear-shot of your children to help create a positive and healthy environment for them.
3. Try to Remain Calm
Working with a co-parent who exhibits narcissistic traits or has NPD can be a daunting task. They may try to elicit a reaction from you to gain control and fuel their ego. However, it is important to remember that you can control your reactions. Maintaining a calm demeanor while communicating with your co-parent can be extremely helpful and avoid escalating the situation.
It's important to keep your interactions business-like and avoid sharing any personal information, as this can give them leverage over you. Try to keep conversations strictly about your kids to avoid speaking about more personal topics.
Key topics to talk to your co-parent about may include:
- Holiday living arrangements
- Children’s performance in school
- Children’s health conditions
- Changes in pick-up and drop-off locations
By adopting a professional and controlled approach, you can better maintain your emotional wellness and exert greater control over the situation. However, if you become emotional in a discussion with your co-parent, don’t be hard on yourself.
4. Parent Positively
When dealing with a narcissistic co-parent, it can be frustrating to feel like you have no control over the situation. However, it is important to remember that you do have control over your own behavior towards your child. Expressing love, care, compassion, and empathy towards your child is essential, especially when traits like these may not be demonstrated by the narcissistic parent. Research shows that positive parenting can set up children for success in school, help establish stronger mental health, and lead to better relationships and well-being in adulthood.
By displaying these positive emotions, you create a safe space for your child to confide in and rely on you, which can have a significant impact on their overall wellbeing. While you cannot control your co-parent's actions, you can control how you respond to and treat your child, which can make all the difference in their life.
5. Consider Therapy
It can be difficult to deal with someone who constantly puts their own needs above others, and this can be especially hard when trying to co-parent. However, it is important to remember that you don't have to go through this alone. A licensed therapist can work with you individually to help you navigate this difficult situation. They can offer guidance and support, and help you come up with strategies for dealing with your ex-partner's behavior.
It is also important to consider therapy for your children or even family therapy. Research shows that parents with NPD can have negative effects on their children. Children of narcissistic parents may suffer from life-lasting behavioral issues and experience traumatic situations. As a result, a child can develop low-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Finding a licensed child therapist for your child can help mitigate these effects and teach your children how to cope with this situation.
However, it is important to note that if you feel your child's welfare is in danger, you might want to modify your current parenting plan/custody plan.
Hire a Child Custody Lawyer
At the Law Office of Alexandra White, P.C., our team of experienced child custody lawyers strives to provide compassionate and effective representation to help you navigate this emotionally charged process. Our commitment to our clients means that we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and fight for your desired outcome.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us help you with your custody case. Dial (303) 647-4245 or contact us online to learn more.