How to (Successfully) Co-Parent
with a Narcissist
What is the best piece of advice I can give to someone that is a co-parent with a narcissist?
Work towards acceptance…
…that your co-parent is not going to change.
Being a co-parent with a narcissist ain't easy!
All the reasoning, wishing, and hoping won’t change your co-parent.
Because- if they are truly narcissistic- they are not capable of changing.
When you come to realize this, it is absolutely normal to go through grief…
after all, THIS wasn’t what you wanted or dreamed of when you started a family. Things were not supposed to turn out this way.
As you go through grief and work towards acceptance, it’s also critical to focus on what you can change in your situation.
Below is a list of things that you can change when you co-parent. with a narcissist:
1. Create an Uber Specific Parenting Plan when you Co-Parent with a Narcissist
The less you have to communicate with your co-parent, the better. Creating a very specific plan will lead to fewer conversations (read: arguments).
And when I say specific. I mean super specific!
Just to get you started, here’s a short list of things to consider:
- What children’s items will be kept at each home?
- What happens when a cherished item gets left behind at the co-parent’s house?
- Who picks up the children each day?
- Where and what time will drop-offs/pick-ups take place?
- What about the schedule will be different over the weekends?
- How will holidays, birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day be determined?
- How will it be decided who gets the kids during school vacations?
- How far in advance do you need to inform the other parent that you would like to take the children on a vacation?
2. Consider Parallel Parenting when You Co-Parent with a Narcissist!
Traditional co-parenting arrangements may not be possible with a narcissist.
You may decide that parallel parenting is the only way to maintain any semblance of peace between you and your narcissistic co-parent.
What is parallel parenting?
It essentially means that you will limit all interactions as much as possible.
You likely won’t be unified in parenting in the same manner.
Additionally, you and your co-parent:
- Won’t attend the same functions, appointments, and other child-related events
- You limit your communication to co-parenting apps
- Limit yourself only to written interactions between you and your co-parent
I suggest using some sort of co-parenting app for ALL communication
By using a co-parenting app, all communication will be in writing, with time and date stamps, and can be downloaded and used as trial exhibits if need be.
If the relationship between the parallel parents is highly volatile, it is essential that the parenting plan be signed by both parties and then rendered into some sort of court order.
3. Set Clear Boundaries when You Co-Parent with a Narcissist!
The narcissist needs very firm boundaries.
A legal document is necessary because, without it, the judge will have no authority to assist with enforcement when the narcissist violates the agreement… which will likely happen
REMEMBER- use only one form of communication: A parenting app!
- Communication should NOT be via text (texts can be manipulated).
- It should NOT be via telephone (there is no paper trail)
- it should NOT be in person
Plus, none of the forms of communication are iron-clad for the court.
Additionally, only discuss matters pertaining to the children. The narcissist is a pro at starting off a conversation about the children but throwing in passive-aggressive insults and shifting focus to you or your relationship.
Keep track of the most mundance details when. dealing with a narcissist co-parent.
Record non-written communication, such as:
- What time the narcissist picks up and drops off the children
- When they ask for a schedule change
- When they show up late and how late they are
- What activities the children do during their parenting time.
Why record these details?
Because- in the future- you may need to establish there is a pattern of behaviors.
By having dates, times, and details, you will be ready with evidence that backs up your assertions.
Keep in mind: the court doesn’t care if your co-parent is a narcissist and isn’t interested in hearing about your co-parent’s antics.
The courts work with rights under the law. This means that the legal system views your children as assets.
4. Don't let your narcissist co-parent see you squirm
What does the narcissist want more than anything?
To see you squirm!
They enjoy seeing you struggle.
They thrive on drama
They try to use communication as a weapon exploiting your vulnerabilities.
Here’s an example:
Your co-parent narcissist knows that you worry you don’t spend enough quality time with the kids.
Therefore, they will accuse you of being a deadbeat that doesn’t pay attention to your children.
The human reaction is to jump up and defend yourself.
But don’t let them bait you.
If this is a predictable pattern of behavior, as soon as the conversation turns into something else, walk away, hang up up the phone, or don’t respond to the text.
You’re not giving them narcissistic fuel by keeping your communication business-like and boring. What they are looking for is attention, power, and control.
Try your best to exude calmness. Stay calm and don’t justify, explain or overshare.
The more boring your communication is with your narcissist co-parent, the better!
Eventually, they will realize that this supply source is all dried up and they’ll leave you alone.
**You must realize when you implement your boundaries, it will get worse before it gets better**
You may find it helpful to have a mantra when you communicate such as:
“Don’t Take the Bait!”
“Don’t Take the Bait!”
“Don’t Take the Bait!”
Returning back to where we started, it is worth repeating: Accept that the narcissist won’t change.
No amount of trying to convince them to change is going to work.
But creating clear boundaries and practicing a cool, calm, and collected demeanor does work.
It isn’t easy.
However, over time, as it becomes clear to your co-parent that you will not be a narcissistic supply, it will become more manageable.
If some of these traits sound familiar, please keep in mind:
Narcissism varies in degree of severity.
Your co-parent might have narcissistic traits but not full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
We ALL have narcissistic aspects to our personality! It is actually healthy and important to possess some narcissistic traits.
They help build and maintain our self-esteem and self-worth.
The key difference with someone that has lots of narcissistic traits or NPD is that the person has:
- an inflated sense of themselves
- believes they are very important
- need lots of admiration and attention.
And these traits aren’t simply with you or your children. When a person has NPD, these traits will be persistent across all relationships.
This means that the traits don’t suddenly show up out of nowhere.
The traits tend to develop in childhood due to past traumas.
In fact, the traits are old coping mechanisms that the individual needed in the past.
Therefore, behind the mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.