I want to preface this entire article by saying that, yes, I am going to share some personal stories but, no, I am not looking for sympathy.
I mothered a child with a complete and total narcissist. I mean, he is text book.
I am only sharing these stories to illustrate the realities of dealing with a narcissist. Because, once upon a time, I believed in co-parenting with a narcissist.
How wrong I was.
If your ex is a narcissist, then I feel you – I really do. Imagine me giving you a big hug because that’s what you deserve.
It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am. I have worked out how to deal with a narcissist through a painful and frightening series of trial and error over the past few years.
And, thankfully, I have come out the other side.
Think your ex is a narcissist? Is co-parenting with a narcissist impossible for you? Read on to see how you can use parallel parenting to deal with a narcissistic ex:
What is a Narcissist?
On the surface, a narcissist appears to simply be a selfish individual who focuses only on their own needs and wants, but narcissism goes much deeper than that.
They think only of themselves and their own self-preservation to the point where they are willing to hurt, destroy and manipulate in order to continue doing so.
Narcissists can only understand and sympathize with themselves – they are incapable of experiencing the feelings of others or comprehending the impact their behaviors have on others.
Because of this, they feel no remorse or guilt for their actions and are incapable of providing sincere apologies.
In fact, narcissists feel entitled to their actions – everything they do is completely justified. They have an extreme sense of importance and hold themselves in high regard. Everything bad that happens to them is a travesty and they victimize themselves in negative situations.
When it comes to how they treat other people, narcissists will strive to control and manipulate those around them as long as it serves their purpose. They only value people based on what they can provide.
When it comes down to it, there’s no reasoning with a narcissist. They have such a stagnant view of themselves – and what they feel they deserve in the world – that there is no convincing them that their actions are wrong or hurtful.
Why a Narcissist Cannot Co-Parent
Successful co-parenting is based almost solely on good communication. Yes, hurt feelings may come into play and both parents may not agree on everything 100% of the time. However, there is no co-parenting with no communication.
This is the number one reason why co-parenting with a narcissist is impossible – but there are others as well:
Inability to Communicate
Narcissists are unable to communicate
Not being able to reason with a narcissist makes communicating with one very difficult. Again, the basis of co-parenting is being able to effectively communicate with the other parent.
When one parent responds to attempts to communicate by attacking or deflecting, there can be no effective communication.
Case in point: Last year my daughter came home describing a music video her father let her watch by the “zombie man”. I managed to figure out that the video was “Lords of Salem” by Rob Zombie, a gruesomely animated video I would never let my child watch in a thousand years.
I typically do not bring anything to my ex’s attention unless it has to do with access but I had to say something. The conversation went like this:
Me: I don’t think Lords of Salem is appropriate for a 4 and a half-year-old.
Him: I don’t play Rob Zombie for her. She wants to see zombies because of you!!! Furthermore I found out a few months ago that your mother drinks beer in front of her. I don’t think that’s appropriate.
I knew my daughter had seen the video: she predicted everything that was going to happen before it did. And my mother does not drink beer – she’s had a can in her fridge for, like, six years.
Plus, who cares if she does?
My point is that when I try to bring a concern to his attention in a civil manner, I get responses like this (and this one is pretty mild).
This is just one example of a typical exchange with a narcissist. They deflect the conversation to your “faults” and your “mistakes”, making it impossible to approach topics in a civil manner.
When it comes to parenting, a narcissist is never truly concerned about the well-being of their children. They are only concerned about you and how they can exact revenge against you or how they can harm you.
They will emotionally manipulate their child against you in order to hurt you. I know on more than one occasion my daughter has come home from a visit with her father telling me, “Daddy says you’re a bad mommy.”
Or he’d comment on the state of her clothes in an attempt to make me feel like an inadequate mother.
Once he even told a police officer that he uses our daughter against me.
Instead of instilling values to their child so that they may flourish and develop, they plant ideas in their minds in an attempt to turn them against the other parent.
If you can’t co-parent with a narcissistic ex, what can you do?
Parallel Parenting – The Answer to the Narcissistic Ex
Parallel parenting, by definition, involves completely disengaging from the other parent and avoiding conflict through controlled communication. So we’re not going to look at how to co-parent with a narcissist…we’re going to look at how you can parent alongside a narcissist.
You need to disengage from your narcissistic ex by completely uninvolving yourself in their life except to provide and receive “need to know” information about your child (visitation schedule, medical issues, etc.).
This can be accomplished by ensuring that any arrangements are very specific and that communication is done in a non-direct manner such as emails, notebooks, text messages, etc.
Make Specific Arrangements
In order to parallel parent, you first need to obtain a court order specifying the particulars of visitations, access, and custody. Narcissists love to comb over details to use against you, so make sure he or she doesn’t have any vague information that can be misinterpreted.
Our original court order stated that our daughter’s birthday would be “shared”. I took this to mean that we would alternate year to year: one year I would have her all day, the next he would have her all day. He interpreted as we would both have her on her birthday.
It was an innocent mistake, but he took great joy in raking me over the coals during one of our court sessions. From that point on I made sure the court orders stated things very clearly.
Do Not Give In
Narcissists love a reaction and will poke and prod you until you give them one. Parallel parenting will be much easier to execute if you do not engage with their accusations or attempt to defend yourself.
This is the hardest part about dealing with a narcissist. I have been called so many names by my ex and accused of doing so many things that I never did – and my first instinct and reaction are to defend myself and prove him wrong.
It took me a while to learn how ineffective this is because there is no changing a narcissist’s mind. The moment I defended myself and gave into his bids for attention, the problem would escalate. Sometimes to the point where I would be so frightened that I would call the police.
Now, unless it’s misinformation about my daughter, I never correct him. When he makes threats, I either ignore him or respond with a vague, “Ok”. When he calls me names I just turn the other cheek.
What I had to realize is that nothing he says is true – so why do I feel I need to defend myself? I know it’s not true. My daughter knows it’s not true. The people most important in my life know it’s not true.
As hard as it may be at times, you need to bite your tongue.
Establish Communication Boundaries
You do not need to get along with your ex. You do not need to have face-to-face conversations or speak on the phone. All you need to do is adhere to the agreed upon, or court-appointed, arrangements and share important information about your child.
In order to control your methods of communication, make sure you block your ex on all social media. They will either use your accounts to contact you or try to use the information found on them against you.
Do yourself a favor and don’t give them any ammunition – even if their accusations are bogus and ridiculous.
Restrict communication to written forms: email, text, notebooks, etc. I find that whenever I talked to my ex face-to-face, he was as sweet as pie and very agreeable.
Whenever I spoke to him on the phone, he was violent and venomous. In writing, he’s still an asshole but at least I have written proof of conversations (should I need it).
Put Your Children First
Sometimes you just want to lash out and attack your narcissistic ex – but is that what you want your children to see and experience?
Trust me, they are going to have their own struggles dealing with a narcissistic parent. They don’t need the burden of yours as well.
Be a role model for your little ones by maintaining calm and civil interactions with your ex. Learn to control your anger or outlet it in healthy ways (or go on a raging tangent away from your children).
Be honest and respectful with your children. Let them know that you recognize and understand their feelings and struggles.
You can validate and support their feelings while keeping your opinions of your ex within yourself.
Most importantly, offer your children safety, stability, and love. They’ll never get it from their narcissistic parent, so make sure they get plenty from you.
Are you dealing with a narcissistic ex? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments