How To Co-Parent With A NarcissistSep 23, 2022
A narcissist is someone who needs total control over situations and other people. Narcissists will use several tactics to manipulate and gaslight their victims to get them to do what the narcissist wants, so they can get the validation that they need.
A narcissist has an inflated sense of importance with an excessive need for attention. Relationships can start off exciting and highly passionate, with a narcissist love bombing their partner to pull them into a relationship. After a while, they can send their partner for a ride through the narcissistic cycle of idealization (where we see love bombing), devaluation, and rejection. Once we are finally able to be free of a narcissist and the toxic relationship, one of the best things we can do is a clean break and completely remove them from our life. However, that is not always possible, especially if there are children involved.
Co-parenting With A Narcissist
Co-parenting is a parenting plan that allows the sharing of the duties, support, and care of raising a child. This means the sharing of schedules, appointments, school events and meetings, medical needs, and more. It is parenting together while respecting the other parent. A big part of successful co-parenting is respect and civility.
However, when we are co-parenting with a narcissist, those important boundaries and healthy communication are close to impossible to receive. A narcissist is unable to let go of their need for control, even if it is for a short amount of time. A narcissistic co-parent will try to infringe on your time with your child with constant calls or text messages, insist on attending activities that you have planned, and will try other ways to push boundaries and invade on your time. The narcissistic parent will even try to insert themselves into the other parent's personal life.
What we will see with a narcissistic parent, includes:
- Ignores and pushes boundaries.
- Parents with less structure.
- Gets angry when given criticism and feedback.
- Difficult to compromise with.
- Demands to know all planned activities that will take place during the other parent’s time.
- Refuses to hand children over for other parent's time.
- Texting and calling non-stop.
- Texting and calling regarding the children, then quickly shifting the subject to create or escalate a past conflict.
- Questioning the children about every detail of their time — what they did, where, who with, what they ate, etc.
- Asking the children to spy on the other parent by taking videos or pictures of the house, activities, and so on.
- Playing mental games with the children to cause conflict between the children and the other parent. This could be making elaborate plans for holidays or activities that is not during their time, so the other parent is guilted into allowing the children to go or being made into the bad guy.
- Harassing the other parent and their friends, family, or the other parent’s new partner.
- Refusing to follow the custody schedule or rules. They will change plans at the last minute to force the other parent to accommodate the narcissistic parent.
What You Should Do
So what should you do when you are forced to co-parent with a narcissist?
The narcissist's goal is to push, manipulate, and get a rise out of you. Though it can be extremely hard at times, it is important to try and stay calm.
Make a Parenting Plan
Make a parenting plan that is not solely based on the honor system. This way, when the narcissist tries to change their plans or decides that the original schedule no longer suits them, you have a legally binding document that they can't simply change.
This one will cause a lot of conflict with a narcissist, but is extremely important to establish and maintain. List boundaries in the parenting plan so that it is obviously stated to the narcissistic parent and lessens the wiggle room for them.
Only communicate relevant information. Try to avoid any conversations that are not directly related to the children or relevant to the parenting plan. When they try to change the subject, swing it back to the relevant topic or stop communication altogether. Try to keep all details simple, clear, and concise, and try to avoid all arguments.
When dealing with toxic or narcissistic ex-partners, it is important to make sure that you document everything. Try to keep communication in written form, like texts, as a way to protect yourself. With written documentation of conversations, you have evidence to show the courts what happened instead of being stuck in a "he said/she said" debate if needed.
You can also look into Parallel Parenting.
Parallel parenting allows you to limit contact with your ex-partner as much as possible. Instead of parenting together like what you would expect in co-parenting situations, parallel parenting allows each parent to parent how they choose. Communication is done when absolutely necessary, neutral drop-offs/pick-ups are chosen to exchange the children, and all events and activities are done separately. Parallel Parenting could be a better option for those who would otherwise co-parent with a narcissist because it establishes the boundaries in place that would be necessary for someone who has control and boundary issues.