Co-Parenting With A Narcissist: 10 Ways To Deal With Them

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Co-parenting with a narcissist may be a challenging experience due to their rigid and uncompromising attitude. Narcissists usually have a personality disorder and think too highly of themselves. They crave unwanted attention and admiration. They may even take advantage of others’ weaknesses and disregard their feelings (1).

A partner with such an attitude tends to make co-parenting unpleasant. They do not care much about their children’s emotions. This post talks about the challenges of co-parenting with a narcissist. Read on.

Difficulties In Co-parenting With A Narcissist

Co-parenting itself is challenging, and dealing with a narcissist co-parent adds to the challenges. Here are ways in which a narcissist co-parent makes co-parenting challenging.

  • Refuses to accept custody/placement rules and conditions
  • Tries to turn the child against you
  • Declines cooperation with you
  • Speaks ill of you to others and to the child
  • Doesn’t care for the child as they lack empathy
  • Breaks co-parenting rules frequently
  • Fails to fulfill their duties and neglects the child

How To Co-parent With A Narcissist?

A narcissist co-parent will find different ways to make things difficult for you. Here are some ways you can deal with them (2).

1. Control your emotions

When a relationship fails, a narcissist tends to play the blame game. To rile you up, they may put false accusations on you to prove that you are a bad parent. What they seek is a reaction from your end. Do not give them that. Instead, control your anger and frustration. No reaction from you will eventually wear them down, and they will back off without you having to do anything.

2. Acknowledge their good work

To make things a little smoother for you, try acknowledging or praising any good work done by the co-parent. This way, you massage their inflated sense of self-importance, and once they get what they want, they might let you off without a fight.

3. Consider parallel parenting

If everything else fails, you can opt for parallel parenting. In this kind of arrangement, you are not required to interact or meet your ex-partner under any circumstances. This means you do not have to attend parent meetings, school events, extra-curricular activities, and so on together. Such an option is ideal when you are not on good terms with the co-parent.

4. Seek counseling

No two narcissists are the same. So, no matter how prepared you are to deal with them, you will likely experience some mental blows. If their behavior overwhelms you, it is best to seek help from a professional counselor who can correctly guide you through this situation. If needed, you can have your child seek counseling sessions too.

Here are some tips that will help you in case you are separated from your partner.

5. Have a clear allocation of duties

Create a detailed parenting plan on how you will be dividing duties and responsibilities related to your child. Mention everything, from healthcare, visitation schedules for weekdays, weekends, and holidays, to payments and fees. Do not leave any loophole that your narcissist co-parent could use against you. Narcissists often break promises with impunity, so protect your child’s rights by doing everything in writing.

6. Make a legal parenting plan

A narcissist may refuse to listen to you or let you have your way. They are not concerned with their child’s welfare and can be adamant about making things difficult for you. So, it is best to have the parenting plan approved by the court. Once it is duly signed by both parties and stamped by the concerned authority, your partner will have to toe the line.

7. Create clear and strict boundaries

You must create boundaries related to your interaction with each other and daily involvement. If you do not wish to communicate directly with your co-parent, select a co-parenting app and store all your communications. It works when you need to present it at a trial. Avoid conversations in person or on the phone, and ensure that you stick to this rule.

8. Seek help from a mediator

In case working things out with your co-parent seems difficult, seek a mediator’s help. This person is a court-appointed professional, a neutral party who listens to both sides and helps draw a parenting plan. The plan is then presented before the judge who then approves it for both parties to follow.

9. Request for a GAL

If you both come to a mutual agreement, request for a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), a court-appointed professional who will look after your child’s welfare as your fight for custody goes on. The GAL observes the family situation and gives recommendations related to the child’s well-being.

10. Maintain complete records

Maintain a complete record when you are co-parenting with a narcissist partner. For instance, if your ex refuses to pay medical bills that they agreed to pay, make a note of it. If you suspect your partner of abusing the child, then document the information meticulously. Such details will help in case you present a case against them in court.

Tips For Co-parenting With A Narcissist

Co-parenting with a narcissist can test your patience. Before you lose your temper and make a mistake, remember your child’s future is at stake. Here are some dos and don’ts to follow.

Dos

  1. Be there for your child: When involved with a narcissist co-parent, there is bound to be some drama that can affect your child mentally. Try to empathize with your child and talk to them. Allow them to vent frustration or anger and do not let them feel lonely.
  1. Prioritize your child: Dealing with a narcissist parent is not easy for a child. If at any moment you feel your child is suffering at the hands of your partner, get them out of that situation as soon as you can. Do not allow your narcissistic partner to harm your child mentally or physically.
  1. Make a call schedule: Your narcissistic partner might try to contact your child through various means apart from their scheduled time. So, create a call schedule under which your ex can speak to your child only within a specific time.
  1. Set an example for your child: Parents play a major role in shaping their child’s personality. If they see you stoically working through the difficulties, they are most likely to grow into strong individuals. But if you break down before them, it might crush their confidence too. Make memories, share laughter and set stable and predictable patterns of behavior in your home.

Don’ts

  1. Badmouth the narcissist co-parent: No matter how bad your co-parent is, your child need not know it. Share your complaints with an adult and not with your child because doing so will pressure them to pick a side. They will also resent you for ruining their relationship with their parent. Bad mouthing the parent will reduce your credibility in your child’s eyes.
  1. Involve your child in your fight: Your narcissist co-parent is likely to use your child in fights to hurt you. Each time they do that, do not fall into the trap and keep your child away from all arguments. Preparing your child will help them cope better if things go wrong. Their safety should be your top priority.
  1. Be harsh on your child: If your child has suffered at the hands of their narcissist parent, they are likely to have behavioral problems. In such a situation, do not be too harsh on them for not being disciplined or behaving badly. Try to observe the pattern of their problematic behavior and seek help from a child counselor who can guide your child through it.
  1. Fight with your narcissist ex: Your ex is likely to test your patience throughout your co-parenting journey. Know when to hold an argument and when to walk away. Do not keep feeding their ego by giving in to their cheap tricks.

Co-parenting with a narcissist is by no means easy. Accept this fact and be prepared to face it as a challenge. Also, do not compromise on your child’s well-being. Ensure that your child does not suffer because of your narcissist co-partner. Offset the effect of your partner’s parenting by being a good role model. Help your child to have healthy perspectives and grow up to be a wholesome adult.

Key Pointers

  • Co-parenting with a narcissist can be extremely challenging due to the latter’s lack of cooperation and empathy.
  • You may consider parallel-parenting or making a legal parenting plan with clear and strict boundaries.
  • Prioritize your child and set a good example for them to boost their self-confidence.
  • Avoid badmouthing your ex or involving the child in your fights. Rather, try acknowledging any good work done by the narcissist co-parent.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. P Mitra and D Fluyau; (2021); Narcissistic Personality Disorder;
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556001/
  2. 4 Tips for Co-parenting with a Narcissist; The Summit Counseling Center;
    https://summitcounseling.org/4-tips-for-co-parenting-with-a-narcissist/
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Sadhvi Nishtha Om

Monk Sadhvi Nishtha Om is a practicing psychologist and psychotherapist in India. She has worked with children, adolescents and adults using tools such as Therapeutic Meditation, Inner Child Healing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Emotional Empowerment Technique (EET) in a career spanning more than a decade. She holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Delhi, India.... more

Ratika Pai

Ratika has experience writing in various fields including finance, education, lifestyle, and entertainment. After her masters degree in Commerce, she acquired a PG Diploma in Communication and Journalism from Mumbai University. She is inquisitive about human relationships and likes to study people and how they manage their relationships, during her freetime. At MomJunction, Ratika writes insightful and informative articles on... more