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You Can’t Co-Parent with a Narcissist (But You Can Do This Instead)

August 24, 2021
by Chelsy

You Can’t Co-Parent with a Narcissist (But You Can Do This Instead)

By Chelsy
August 24, 2021

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.

Narcissists Counter-Parent

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.

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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

84 Comments

  1. Samantha

    Thank you so much for this article. My husband’s ex is exactly as you have described and it is so refreshing to read from a non-biased perspective.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      When I started reading about narcissism, I felt like I was checking off a list of my ex’s behaviour! Although narcissism is likely to never go away (I mean, the narcissist would have to admit they are narcissistic first. Ha!), knowing what it is makes it a bit easier to deal with.

      I’m glad this article helped you out and my heart goes to you and your husband. It’s certainly not an easy thing to deal with.

      Reply
      • Sha

        Omg. For a long time I just thought my ex was an asshole, which he IS but he’s also a complete narcissist. He literally went as far as threatening to take away my daughter’s phone because i had a parental control app set up (she 4) and I have the ability to lock or unlock her phone. He went on a 45 minut text rant AFTER I unlocked her phone (which automatically locks at a certain for bedtime) and even went as far as saying he would not pay her cell phone bil anymore because I control her phone. Like THAT’S when it became absolutely CLEAR he IS a narcissist! Rather argue, get mad & possibly hurt my child’s feelings by taking away her phone ALL because HE doesn’t control the parental control. Its so disheartening and I just know that this article helped put it into perspective. I blocked him from my phone after repeatedly not getting him to understand that his actions were hurting our child & not me. Sickening what hurt grown ups are capable of when their childhood issues were never resolved. Thank you for this article ????

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          My husband’s ex wife is a narc. She has been abusing me for 5 years, out of what I believe is her jealousy that he moved on. We now have 2 kids together, who are now 2 and 3 years old. She even went as far as calling the ministry of families to have my children removed from me, claiming physical abuse happening in our home. The fact that she made up a lie and basically told their shared 7 year old son something about us and made him believe it, makes me sick. She manipulates her own flesh and blood just to hurt us. I have been sent to emergency many times because my body has shut down, due to stress and court battles every month for 4 of those years, straight. Do u have any advice for her attacks on myself. I’ve thought of taking her to court for harrassment but we allready spend so much time in court between her and my husband that I would not be strong enough to start another battle.

          Reply
          • Chelsy

            It’s a shame that this situation has had such a negative effect on your health. 🙁 The only thing I can advise, since it worked for me, is to learn how not to let her personal attacks affect you. You know who you are, your husband knows who you are, so her words have no meaning to those that matter.
            Take whatever precautions you need to in order to limit or shut down all communication with her. If that means blocking her number, social media accounts, etc. then do it. She may attack you via your husband, but his best bet is to limit communication to texts and emails and only in regards to information about their son.
            Most of all, don’t respond to her attacks. That just fuels narcissists and reinforces their behavior.
            I’ve written some other helpful articles about narcissism, parenting and healing. You can check them out under the Narcissism category of my site.
            Good luck to you and your family! <3

      • Brandi

        Thank you so much for this! I just split up with my narcissistic ex two days ago and it has already started. You took a lot of weight off of my shoulders with this article. I was having a hard time trying to figure out a way to effectively co-parent with him. I’m taking your advice and running with it.

        Reply
        • Chelsy

          Hey Brandi! I’m so glad this article helped! Good luck moving forward with your ex.

          Reply
        • Gail

          Yes the ex is a high flyer narc and sociopath. The more I disengage and further I remove myself the more absurd he gets. His pattern of girlfriends is predictable now…..they all look the same and talk the same and even work in similar fields. I just sit back now and wait for the roll out. Eventually the girlfriends pack up. His supply will run out. My job now is to ensure the kids are healthy and make sue they have great people in their lives.

          Reply
      • Samantha J.

        UGH thank you! It is the hardest thing in the world to try and remain calm and not fly off the handle when its your child who is suffering. Having to send them to a household where both parents are narcissists and then pick up the pieces when they return home.???? Sometimes I’m just at a complete loss of words and so heartbroken for my child. There is so much of this that goes on in the world…. Thank you.

        Reply
      • Shadele

        This feels like me writing this! I have a 4 year old little girl, I left her father when she was 2 and didn’t realize he would want custody. Now in CA she has been ripped away from me 50% of the time because the courts here don’t care unless he’s physically hurting her. His behavior is exactly as you describe your ex. I’m dealing with him better these days but the first 2 years have been brutal. I worry daily about the future damage he will have on my sweet child. Just doing my best to create a loving home for her here. She’s happy here and gets anxiety every time she has to go to him. It’s heartbreaking. And a very helpless feeling.

        Reply
    • Kavya

      Your words reflected my situation. Thank you

      Reply
      • Chelsy

        You’re welcome! 🙂

        Reply
    • Robyn

      My husband ex is exactly like this too. Before I knew what it was called, if describe her as not caring about how their son turned out as long as he failed as a parent.. even if it meant their son will not be a functioning member of society.. she’s horrible. He’s almost 18 and she can’t stand him and blames us for how he turned out!!! Even though she would always call him and say ” you need to talk to your son, he’s being a little a-hole” when he was only 9… My husband was always calm and communicate with the boy but in the end, she made him a spoiled, co dependant, jerk with a massive ego who thinks he is above all else..

      Reply
      • Chelsy

        Kudos to your husband for keeping his cool. It can certainly be hard to keep a level head when your child is being constantly attacked…especially by their own mother!

        Reply
    • Gwendolyn

      I cannot express how this article has blessed me. Every time my ex husband upsets me or lies, I pull this up and read it to remind myself I’m not alone and I can get through this. Information on these types of situations are so biased & it is crazy to me how so many people tend to not believe this is actually happening. Thank you again, bless you & you’re awesome!!????

      Reply
      • Chelsy

        Thank you so much! I’m so happy that this article is helpful to you. You are definitely not alone but I know how hard it is to get people to understand how difficult dealing with a narcissist is. Just because you don’t have bruises doesn’t mean you weren’t hurt deeply. I have a few people close to me who try to claim my pain as their own because they were negatively affected by my ex but they have no idea what it was like to live that nightmare. <3

        Reply
    • Jenny

      Thank you! My ex husband is also exactly what you describe. He has done the unthinkable and feels no remorse. We are at a zero communication yet his emails beg for communication. Whenever I have something that needs addressed about kids, he ignores bit when he needs something he demands then blames. Then says I am the blamed and shamed. It is mind bending .

      Reply
    • Nicole

      Thank you so much for this great advice. I can fully relate to your struggle and find it so draining. It’s good to know that there are others dealing with the same crappy situation and that your not on your own.

      Reply
  2. Poppy

    Great article! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      You’re welcome! 🙂

      Reply
    • Brianne

      I am living your same story right now. Our daughter is 4 and we live with her daddy and I’m am losing my mind, my self and am trying to be the best mom I can be at the same time my heart is breaking. Thank you for your story it truly hits home

      Reply
      • Vic

        I left my narcissistic bf when I was 37 weeks pregnant. Even at that moment, he said I’m the one who caused all the problem and abnormal to leave him when I’m pregnant. What kind of woman who is about to deliver a baby terminates the relationship unless she couldn’t take it anymore? That was me. I had enough. And he has been tried to control me by using my son’s custody. He is insisting unrealistic co-parenting schedule for the infant and accusing me I’m the worst mother who tries to take father’s love away from my son ( meanwhile he never asked me how my son is doing even though he knew about doctor’s appointments).

        This article helps me a lot and thank you for the virtual hug at the beginning.

        Reply
  3. skäggvård

    I loved this post! i try to read your blog very often, and you’re consistently coming out
    with some great stuff. I embedded this on my
    blog, and my followers really liked it. Continue the good work :
    )

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Hey! Thanks for your genuinely sweet and thoughtful comment! 🙂

      Reply
  4. 999sweden.com

    Thanks for finally talking about >You Can’t Co-Parent
    with a Narcissist (But You Can Do This Instead) – Motherhood + Mayhem
    <Loved it!

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Someone had to! LoL Seriously, I wouldn’t wish away my daughter’s existence because of her whackadoo father, but knowing how to deal with him has made my life infinitely better.

      Reply
    • Chelsy

      Thanks.

      Reply
  5. Jennifer Guerrero

    This is great! You can’t co parent with a narcissist. They counter parent. You took all the words out of my mouth. My ex is all of the above. My son has seen too much and I was always trying to defend myself when he’s verbally attacking me. When he alienates my son against me, I just want lose it. This will help me. Thank you Chelsy.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      You’re so welcome, Jennifer. I’m glad I could offer some insight into your situation. 🙂 I hope it works out for the best for you – it’ll never be perfect, but it can be easier!

      Reply
  6. Chelsea

    This has explained my life for the past few years to a T! Still not a solid solution to deal with this craziness but it’s all I can do! Thanks for putting it in writing

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      And you know what? Sometimes all you can do is the best you can do for you and your child! 🙂 Especially with people like narcissists. Recognizing your “good enough” is a great step in making as much peace with the situation as you possibly can. <3

      Reply
  7. RM

    Thank you so much! Trying to make future decisions and scared for the narcissistic abuse my child would go through when I’m not around

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      You’re very welcome! <3 It's hard when you can't control what the other parent does, but you can always compensate for their garbage-ness by giving your children love and support. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Andrew J Hayes

    Hi Chelsy,

    Loved the post, so true and so honest, you did miss that this isn’t gender specific. There are so many similarities between our situation, even asking how my daughter was feeling after an accident where she broke her arm was met with please stop testing me these inane questions. I was at this time overseas working 3,600 Km away, I was told “if you cared at all you would be here now”. That was a month after being told “your nothing but a deadbeat dad, a Fxx@ing moron”, this was after loosing my job through no fault of my own. Like you I know that any form of retaliation is useless and simple questions like “how did Lolly break her arm” are met with extreme escalation.

    Andrew

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Hey Andrew! I certainly did not mean to alienate those who deal with narcissistic women – which is why I try to describe narcissists as neutrally as I can. 🙂 But I’m glad you commented and I hope your situation gets better. It must be hard dealing with a narcissist when you are far away from your little one. 🙁

      Reply
  9. Shanell

    This hit the nail on the head. I’ve been so focused on co-parenting with my ex. My problem is he refuses to communicate with me and insists on having our kids be the middle man. I love the idea of the courts making everything very specific.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Family court may drop the ball on many things but the one thing they do well is make very specific court orders. 🙂

      Do you guys have joint custody? Do you have to make decisions about your kiddos together?

      If not, then you can really limit your communication with him. Otherwise, send everything to him in writing (email and text). If he refuses to acknowledge your communications, and tries to accuse you of not consulting him on certain issues, you have proof that you tried.

      When it comes to custody, the courts look at the communication capabilities of both parents. If it can be proved that you can’t communicate (such as his refusal to) then you can’t make decisions together in a joint custody situation.

      At least that’s how it worked out in my case.

      Reply
  10. Darlene

    Thank you, this is so helpful for I am going through hell with my soon to be ex husband and his narcissistic ways. Took me a long time to realize the issues were his behavior, not anything I have done. Still living in same house but articles like these give me hope and slowly I am making my way out. Two teens together so trying to keep my mouth shut around them is key.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Wasn’t it relieving when you realized it was all him and not you? Just having that clarity will lend to the strength you’ll need to get through this.

      I’m not one for conflict, but I imagine my interactions with my ex as a battle – I always gain the upper-hand by keeping my mouth shut and he has to slink back into his narcissist cave to come up with another (stupid) plan of attack.

      Hang in there and you’ll get through this! 🙂

      Reply
  11. Andrea

    Thank you so much for this, I am preparing to go through a divorce with a narcissist. He is very good at deflecting, and getting reactions. Between the emotional and physical abuse he still is playing the poor me cards all over and cannot see where he has done any wrong. My daughter is going to have time with him soon and I truly needed to read this. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences to help others! ❤️

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      You’re more than welcome! It’s one of those situations that you really can’t define until you’re in the thick of it. I’m glad I could give you some insight as you prepare for this separation. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Alyssa

        You have no idea the battle I’m in and every drop of this hits the nail on the head ..thank u for the advice and this is so hard bit I’m glad to know t
        It can’t last forever

        Reply
  12. Summer Louden

    Really needed to read this today. Dealing with this right now. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      I’m glad my article could help. 🙂

      Reply
  13. mom of 2

    I enjoyed your view…. my ex is a narcissist and with the help of the court system has figured out how to legally kidnap me oldest…. I ended up with majority custody of our youngest but haven’t seen our oldest in almost a year,…. for think his plan was to take him so that i suffered from the loss….. the court system is no help… my fear was a no longer about me but the next mom that suffers the same as me

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      The courts are shit when it comes to dealing with narcissists because they know how to come off as normal and charming.
      How old is your oldest? I’m sure there must be some entity (not the courts, obviously) that can help you out. Where do you live?
      There is no reason why a mother shouldn’t be able to see her child for over a year. 🙁 Don’t give up fighting for your kiddo.
      I’d love to try to help you out. Email me at chelsy@motherhoodandmayhem.online.

      Reply
  14. Toddler Mama

    How would parallel parenting work in regards to things like potty training? Discipline? Children need consistency. My x wont even get on the same page about when and how to potty train which is going to make it difficult (I plan to start soon)

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Children definitely need consistency but they are probably not going to get it when their other parent is narcissistic. That’s just something you’ll have to (sadly) accept.
      Parenting your child while the other parent is a tool takes a lot more work and effort.
      However you decide to potty train your little one, you’ll have to be super consistent when he or she is with you. Try things like using potty-related visuals and stories to use as reminders for your child. You can even implement a meaningful reward system as simple as a sticker chart.
      When your ex is narcissistic, you almost have to put in the effort of two parents. 🙁

      Reply
      • Chelsy

        FYI, you can always email me at chelsy@motherhoodandmayhem.online if you have any other questions or just need some support. 🙂

        That goes for anybody! <3

        Reply
    • Rebecca

      Thank you so much for this! My ex made my whole side of my dads family turn away from me and my mom, and dad, bro, and sis. They totally believe his lies. I have two girls with my ex, both who are special needs. He plays with their minds. He also cheated on me with his now wife, who is also a narcissist, so now I have them against me! I blocked her from everything so now it is my ex and I who only email, because my heart skips a beat when he texts. It breaks my heart that he does not think about the girls, he used them to control me. I’m going to try these things that you suggest. I pray for my kids daily, that they will know the truth and feel love and accepted everyday that they are with me!

      Reply
  15. Sarah

    Thank you so much for this. I am currently in the final stages of a divorce from my children’s father and it is a series of constant attacks on my character. This information is so helpful!

    Reply
  16. Angela Amos

    It’s like I wrote the article. You hit all the nails on the head. I am newly separated from a Narcissist. I have been struggling with communicating with him about anything to do with our almost 2 year old son. My anxiety is thru the roof. Your article was definitely helpful. Thank you

    Reply
  17. DD

    I needed this article so much right now. Thank you for writing this. I have been trying to find a way to protect myself from the emotional attacks and your words are exactly what I needed. Thank you ♥️

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      You’re so welcome! I know once I started readying stories of other people going through the same thing, my situation became much clearer – and much easier to deal with. Not perfect, but easier. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  18. Renre

    This is spot on accurate. You can’t go “no contact” when you have kids but you can go “gray rock”. People look at me funny when I tell them there is no co-parenting with my ex. He doesn’t waste an opportunity to slam me especially in front of my kids. Luckily my kids see it and they know it’s not right. He’s always lost our oldest who has gone no contact. Matter of time before he loses the other two. Hang in there and stand your ground. You have done nothing wrong to deserve this. Just loved unconditionally.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      I love that term – “gray rock”! And, yes, it is all a matter of time. Once my daughter reaches the age where she can decide, it’ll be his influence over that decision, not mine. Thanks for sharing your story!

      Reply
  19. Alison

    I’ve recently started ignoring all the negative comments from my ex. He still does them but I know it’s best to not engage. Our court situation is tricky because the judge gave Us joint custody and gave him domicile of my son and me domicile of my daughter abut she didn’t want to split them between us so we get periods of physical custody. Him having 5 days. Me having 10. He uses the word domicile as a weapon, thinking he has all say and control over our son and I don’t. But doesn’t think it would be the same for me with my daughter. Also he had a narc of a gf that butts in and harassed me with texts such as “I’ll always be more of a mother to them than you ever will” “your just stupid” I pray things change one day and the judge will rethink custody orders..but for now I will stick to your method

    Reply
  20. Janey

    Completely on point!!!!

    Reply
  21. Erica

    This is the exact situation I have been in for the last 7 years! Due to my ex’s narcissistic views I won full legal and physical custody of our daughter. However, he still has visitation and will stop at nothing until he gains custody back. I deal with weekly visits from DCS and the cops about how I’m abusive. He has successfully alienated my daughter from me and convinced her to “hate” me. My lawyer says it is near impossible to get him to have even less visitation than what he has but it is nearly impossible for me to continue living like this (I am remarried with two boys and this is affecting their life and ruining my marriage). I have been “parallel parenting for 3 years and it is helpful but not good enough in my situation. I am about to give up custody of my daughter (which I don’t really want to do) just so it will all stop! Do you have any suggestions for me? I’m desperate!

    Reply
  22. Mollie

    I just signed the final divorce papers yesterday and am very soon to not be legally tied to my narcissistic ex, except for the two amazing children we created. It’s been over a year since we separated and in that time I have been through every thought, emotion, and situation that you touch on in this article. My therapist and I have been working hard on disengagement and I’m finally to a point where I realize that parallel parenting is the only way, at least for now. I still have moments in which I feel like I’m “the crazy one,” like he must be the level headed person in this whole situation and I’m the one who caused it all. It’s hard to get past that after living it for 10 yrs. But you can get past it, and our children can get past it (mine are 6 and 3). On the midst of it all it feels so utterly lonely, but your article is a reminder that so many people have or are going through the same thing. I would recommend to every one of those people to read the poem “She Wasn’t Crazy,” by Pierre Alex Jeanty. A lot of his works hit home. Thanks so much for your honesty and transparency. Keep your head up. We got this!

    Reply
  23. Jen

    Wow! It’s amazing what clones narcissists are. They write from the same playbook. I deal with the roller coaster of nice one day and insane the next. He often threatens to terminate his parental rights (he only has visitation anyway) because he thinks it will prevent me from moving on. It amazes me that he would do this just to get at me. It has nothing to do with our daughter. I am learning the no contact is the only way. I often fall for the back and forth when he is being “nice” but I have to pick a road and stay on it because his personality will not change.

    Reply
  24. Heather

    All of this is great but- when he doesn’t adhere to court orders and the court chooses to let him off every time? “It wasn’t malicious” “Don’t do it again”. How do you navigate that.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Unfortunately, the courts can really suck. Depending on how he’s not adhering to the court order, if it’s not detrimental to the children then they are likely to let it go. If it is detrimental to the kids, I would suggest getting a lawyer or, if you have one, a better lawyer.

      Reply
  25. Bre Haywood

    so on point! I had to be very very specific in court and my ex tried to loophole around me during negotiations and because I felt like I was punched in the stomach I knew he was lying. I used his loophole/lie as a clause and he’s since lost all parenting rights to our child. I highly highly recommend guardian ad litem for your child during custody agreements in court especially since great ones can see the truth from the outside if you remain calm and allow them the opportunity to see for themselves what you’re dealing with.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Thank you for sharing such great advice! 🙂 I wish this could have been an option for me, but you’re right on point about remaining calm. It’s what awarded me sole custody in court – he still has access but the judge could see how vicious he could be.

      Reply
  26. Danielle

    This was the best thing I’ve read. You were right in point with everything I go through. I’ve always felt my ex uses my son against me and he tells my son all kinds of things about me. My son also has ADHD/Anxiety/Mood disorder. This makes it even worse. My ex won’t work with me or communicate. Everything is my fault. He doesn’t get to know my son. My son is already seeing who his dad is. I’ve recently read about Parallel Parenting, I do this already. When I say our son doesn’t do certain behaviors with me, he turns that around on me. He wants full control on everything. He causes a lot of stress in my life. The last time we talked he was going on and on trying to tell me I was wrong, I finally stopped him and said this is not the point, let’s go back to the subject. I do a lot of breathing and think about what I want to say to him. Realizing he is the problem and not me. I’ve been doing this already for 10 years. It’s so great to know that you have experienced this too. Great article. Thank You.

    Reply
  27. Jillian

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve been divorced for a year now and I have two children with my ex!! This article was so helpful – thank you for sharing!!

    Reply
  28. Tammy

    Spot on article. I am thankful that my children were a little older when we divorced. It’s still not easy at any age. It took me a long time to realize what was going on and not believe the lies he was feeding me. So many things that he accused me of that were not true. It’s hard to understand, but you said it so right that the narcissist isn’t thinking about the children, only ways to hurt you. I still struggle with that one, but I am doing better because I have a lot of people that know me and love me and don’t believe his lies.

    Reply
  29. Dena

    I just sent this article to my 21 year old son who is struggling with his decisions as a result of the damage his dad caused. They haven’t spoken in almost two years and throw covid on top and he’s in his head. Luckily I have done so much work I can help. But this article is spot on.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      I really hope this article can help your son. I also wrote one about healing from narcissistic abuse – I wonder if this will help him as well. You can find it here. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  30. Dimitra Karathanasi

    I’ve alienated him. Strongly believe kids shouldn’t communicate with dangerous, harmful and remorseless people narcissists are. Plus I don’t have the reserves to be going back and forth in court for my kids to interract with him or any person like him. Thankfully there are other wonderful people who have showed up after closure and we are moving on in safety, love and peace with good and reliable support in our lives ????

    Reply
  31. Sam

    I am currently going through a divorce with a narcissist. It has been anything but easy and he uses our children as a way to get to me. It has gotten to the point where we have to meet at a certain location to pick up or drop off our children. I find that it has really affected my youngest and that I have turned into the bad parent. I don’t know how or what I am supposed to do, when everything is used against me with him.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Hey Sam. I’m sorry to hear you are going through this. 🙁 One of the biggest struggles with narcissistic exes is that they do use your children against you. It’s so unfair to them! I also wrote an article about how to parent your children when your ex is a narcissist – you can check it out here. Thanks for your comment and I hope things get better for you. <3

      Reply
  32. Kimberly

    The past almost two years since I left my ex has been eye opening and yes he fits exactly what you have described and worse. The slanderous accusations have been hideous in nature and damaging to both myself and more importantly our son. He can’t and won’t ever see this and is always pushing for more custody and control. It’s sick. He even says the therapist I have sought for both our son and I are incompetent and tells our son not to trust them. I have an opportunity to settle the custody situation soon for awhile and no matter what my feelings are will do what’s best for our son and his future, I know in time he will heal and be able to see the difference. Thank you for sharing your story. When I first left my ex did everything he could regain control of me including using our son, why people have to be so hurtful I will never know. But will do everything I can to help our son be a loving, balanced man. Someday.

    Reply
    • Workinprogress

      You are right. Both my sons saw him for who he was as they turned 13yo. One even told me it was because he could see the difference between the two parents. Stay your course of stability, transparency (of appropriate information), and unconditional love. Your relationship will prevail, even if having half time with the Narc. They know what feels good and what doesn’t and even have their own “life lessons” from it. They’ve acknowledged that to me themselves.

      Reply
  33. Cynthia

    My ex is a narcissist and I’ve been trying to parallel parent for years. Having a parenting plan and court ordered communication guidelines has been very helpful. However, due to Covid a lot of this has had to be adjusted. I’m wondering if anyone out there has found a way to navigate this. For example, I tested positive for Covid. I followed the cdc guidelines and isolated. My daughter was suppose to be quarantined at his home but now he’s refusing to give her back until I produce a negative test. I know this is his way of trying to hurt me with the little ammunition he has left but now I’m worried that the only way I’ll get her back is if I involve the police. I hate this so much and I worry about my daughter while she is in his custody.

    After reading all these comments- I am so sorry to see that so many of you are going through similar situations. My heart goes out to you.

    Reply
  34. Heather

    How do you prove he’s a narcissistic? He’s never been diagnosed.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      There’s really no “proving” anyone is a narcissist without a diagnosis, but the signs are very clear. However, even if you could prove it, it doesn’t change a whole lot technically (courts, access, custody, etc.) – but it really helps when it comes to how to deal with the individual and parenting with them. Thanks for your question. 🙂

      Reply
  35. Tiger

    Thank you so much for this article. It’s very helpful in just validating my feelings and experiences dealing with a narcissistic ex husband who is currently trying to turn my son against me. He tells me his daddy says mean things about me. The character assassinations, attacks, accusations, etc. are so much sometimes. I have mastered the disengage and never defend. In the end it doesn’t matter. I’m only concerned about my son. My loving, stable, consistence serve as the environment for him to thrive. I hope at his very young age he will not be turned against me. I worry so much about his well-being. Thanks again. It’s really comforting to know I’m not alone.

    Reply
  36. Fellow survivor

    Been there. Am there. I could have written this.

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      I’m so glad that I’ve been able to share my experience and that many other people, especially women, have connected with this article. Not that I would wish my experience on anyone but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone and I’m glad I can give others that same sense of comfort. 🙂

      Reply
  37. Workinprogress

    30 yrs together, 2teens and 1 preteen before I figured out exactly what I was dealing with and why so much pain for so long. Same as you described. Then, 3.5yrs of court and attacks. Finally starting to feel free and implementing what you recommend organically since it felt better than the defensive and worry methods that initially came natural. It’s hard work to get myself back and especially hard when my closest supporters tell me his antics should have stopped affecting me as soon as we split. I know it’s hard for others to comprehend. But, it makes me wonder if recovery (where nothing he does or says even remotely affects me), is taking too long and how much longer it might take. The continued connection through timeshare and court appearances seem to hinder progress. Your statement of 6 yrs for you is very helpful. I pray and work towards total recovery (total detachment) and self partnering. It’s definitely work isn’t it! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  38. Sarah

    Thank you for sharing this. How would you handle a narcissistic ex who is also verbally abusive towards your child? My son doesn’t even want to see his father but he is only 10 and we have a custody agreement. How can I talk to someone who can’t possibly see that his way of “parenting” is harmful to our son?

    Reply

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