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Understanding Narcissism and Co-Parenting: How to Co-Parent With a Narcissist

by | Oct 27, 2023 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

Are you co-parenting with a narcissist?

How do you know?

I remember when I first started co-parenting with my ex.

It was so hard, and the stress and confusion led me to depression.

Then I started learning about narcissism, and my situation started to make sense.

It wasn’t me. It was him and his narcissistic traits.

With that understanding, I started to find strength.

I was able to take control of the situation and figure out how to co-parent with a narcissist.

And you can too!

Let’s start by jumping into the world of narcissism and recognizing the signs.

We’ll also look at how this impacts co-parenting and how you can use this information to make things easier.

Narcissistic Personality Traits and Behaviors

Before we get into co-parenting with a narcissist, it’s important to understand narcissistic behaviors.

This will help you understand what you are dealing with. It will also make it easier to handle your ex’s behaviors if you know what they are.

Here are some common narcissistic traits:


Narcissists typically display grandiosity, an inflated sense of self-importance. This can also include an overwhelming need for admiration.

They see themselves as superior to others and often expect special treatment.

For co-parents dealing with a narcissist, this can look like a constant need for praise and affirmation. This can make it hard for you to express your own needs or opinions without their approval.

They might also exaggerate their role in your child’s life, taking credit for everything. While they are taking credit, they will likely downplay your contributions.

Example: If your child is doing well at school, your ex might say that it’s because of their influence. This undermines your child’s role in their success.

Lack of Empathy

Narcissists have a hard time empathizing with others, particularly their children. This can make co-parenting with a narcissist challenging and frustrating.

The narcissistic co-parent may disregard your child’s emotional well-being and focus only on themselves.

They may also use emotional manipulation to control your child’s feelings. This can make it difficult for your child to express themselves freely.

Example: Your child may be upset about something that happened at school, but their other parent brushes it off. They don’t show any concern for your child’s feelings or offer support.


Narcissists are skilled manipulators. They may use different tactics to maintain control, which can create co-parenting challenges.

They may use gaslighting, which is a way to make someone doubt themselves. This includes doubting their perceptions, memories, and feelings.

The narcissist might deny saying something or doing hurtful things, making you question your reality.

They may also involve other people, which is called triangulation. They pull family members and friends into co-parenting conflicts just to make things more confusing and difficult.

Example: Your ex might deny making a parenting plan about visitation, making you question whether you misunderstood the agreement in the first place.


Narcissists often have a sense of entitlement. They believe that they deserve special treatment and attention.

When it comes to co-parenting, they might insist on having their preferences catered to, even if it’s not good for you or your child.

Or they may ignore the boundaries you have set, believing that their demands are more important.

Examples: Your ex may insist on scheduling parenting time based on their availability without considering your plans or your child’s routine.

Fragile Self-Esteem

Underneath their outward confidence, narcissists usually have fragile self-esteem. This can be easily wounded, which may lead to overreactions to criticism.

Even constructive criticism can cause a narcissist to become defensive and even angry.

Example: If you point out a mistake they made in co-parenting, they may react with extreme anger. This makes it difficult to resolve issues effectively.

Signs You Are Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

We’ve looked at narcissistic traits and behaviors, but let’s talk about what that looks like when co-parenting.

Recognizing that you’re co-parenting with a narcissist is important so you can adapt your approach effectively.

Here are some of the signs to watch out for:

  • Constant Need for Control: A narcissistic co-parent will insist on controlling every aspect of the co-parenting relationship, from visitation schedules to parenting decisions.
  • High-Conflict Interactions: Arguments, disputes, and power struggles become common occurrences. In most cases, the narcissist will initiate these on purpose to get a reaction from you.
  • Manipulative Behavior: They may use your children as pawns or manipulate situations to their advantage. They may use your child as a messenger or use their existence as an excuse to overstep your boundaries.
  • Inconsistent Parenting: Their parenting style may be erratic, often influenced by their own moods and desires.
  • Neglecting the Child’s Needs: Narcissistic co-parents may prioritize their own needs over those of their children, neglecting their parenting responsibilities.
  • Emotional Manipulation: They can use guilt, emotional manipulation, and blame-shifting to maintain control.

Once you start recognizing these signs, you can implement ways to protect yourself and your children from the impact of narcissism on co-parenting.

The Impact of Narcissism on Co-Parenting

This is the last thing I want to talk about before we get into how to deal with a narcissistic co-parent. ????

Remember, knowledge is power! Knowing this will help you better approach the situation.

Here’s what you can expect when you are co-parenting with a narcissist:

  • High Stress Levels: The constant conflicts and manipulative behavior can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety.
  • Children’s Emotional Well-being: Children exposed to narcissistic co-parenting may exhibit symptoms of anxiety, depression, and confusion.
  • Parental Alienation: Narcissistic co-parents may attempt to turn your children against you, leading to parental alienation.
  • Instability: The erratic behavior of a narcissistic co-parent can create an unstable environment for your children.
  • Legal Battles: Narcissists often thrive on litigation, leading to prolonged and costly legal battles.
  • Isolation: Co-parenting with a narcissist may lead to feelings of isolation, as few people truly understand the complexities of your situation.

How to Co-Parent With a Narcissist

Okay, it’s time to talk about how to co-parent with a narcissist!

With the right strategy, you can focus on your child’s well-being. This strategy is called parallel parenting, and it’s a game-changer.

Let’s look at some of those strategies:

Maintain Clear Boundaries

Boundaries are important when co-parenting with a narcissist. Make sure you have a solid parenting plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, and parenting schedules.

If you can’t get your ex to agree to a plan, you can get a court order. This is a legally binding document that you both have to follow.

Stick to agreed-upon terms, and avoid deviating from the plan unless necessary.

The plan can also include how you will communicate (text, email, etc.) and how to resolve disputes.

By having a plan and boundaries in place, you can reduce conflicts and manipulation.

Limit Direct Communication

Try to limit direct communication with your ex whenever possible. Use written communication, like texts or emails, so you can document conversations and keep a record of agreements.

This can serve as evidence in case conflicts escalate.

When necessary, keep your interactions brief, factual, and without emotion. Focus on matters related to your child’s well-being.

Prioritize Your Child’s Well-Being

The focus of all your efforts has to be your child. Protect them from conflicts and make sure they get the love and support they need.

Encourage open communication with your child. They need to feel comfortable expressing their feelings and concerns about the co-parenting situation.

If you are afraid their mental health is affected by the situation, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a therapist or counselor.

I did this for my daughter when she was dealing with anxiety, and it made a world of difference!

Legal Assistance

In the end, you may have to speak to a lawyer. Legal intervention may be necessary to enforce a co-parenting agreement.

This will hold your ex accountable and protect your child’s best interests.

I know going to court can be scary. But as long as you try to be respectful and reasonable with your ex, you have nothing to worry about!

Legal parenting plans can help manage high-conflict co-parenting situations.

Don’t be afraid to talk to a lawyer who specializes in family law.

Understanding Your Situation: Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Co-parenting with a narcissist may feel like an uphill battle, but you can overcome these challenges!

Understanding narcissism is key to knowing how to co-parent with a narcissist. With the right strategies, you can make things better and protect your child.

I know it may seem impossible now, but it will get better. I’ve been there, and learning about narcissism helped me take control of my situation.

And you can take control of your situation too!

Are you co-parenting with a narcissist? What is your biggest struggle? Let us know in the comments below ⬇️⬇️⬇️

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Let’s create a supportive community and navigate the complexities of co-parenting with strength and resilience!


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