Co-parenting with a narcissist can be very difficult.
A narcissist has many of the following traits: arrogance, superiority, grandiosity, preoccupation with success, sense of entitlement, requires excess admiration, exploits others, and is envious of others. But the trait that may have the most negative impact on your ability to co-parent is a narcissist’s lack of empathy; and this is what makes co-parting with a can narcissist feel exhausting. The lack of empathy shows up as an inability to love deeply, a lack of remorse, and a lack of guilt. When you are co-parenting with a narcissist, even if you’re doing your best to work together for the good of the children, these traits can significantly hamper the ability to come to a compromise. A narcissist is unable to understand your point of view.
Another difficult aspect of co-parenting with a narcissist is that you may suffer from low self-esteem as a result of how your ex made you feel throughout your marriage/ relationship. The narcissist may have made you feel bad about yourself for many years. You may be exhausted from years of dealing with your feelings around the narcissist’s difficult behavior and you get triggered by his or her attacks. How can you engage in healthy co-parenting with a narcissist co-parent when you can’t control your emotions?
Follow these 6 guidelines to make co-parenting with a narcissist more effective:
- Build your self-esteem and be patient with yourself. Treat yourself as well as you would treat a friend. Be patient with yourself – if you mess up, recognize that you are learning how to deal with a very difficult situation. Focus on your strengths. List your strengths and the qualities that make you feel proud. Change your self-talk from “I’m stupid for staying so long.” to “It’s amazing that I was able to get out of the relationship. I’m very strong.” Getting out of a relationship with a narcissist is not easy. The fact that you’re getting out says so much about how strong you are. Gaining self-esteem is a day-by-day process.
- Avoid communication by phone, instead, communicate by email. Email will allow you the time to think about how to respond. You’ll have time to calm down and think about the best way to handle the situation.
- Don’t get triggered by your ex’s provocative remarks. This is easier said than done. A narcissist likes to trigger other people. It makes them feel more important and gives them an enemy. If you can take a pause before you respond, you’ll give yourself the time to think through how you’d like to handle the situation. A pause enables you to respond rather than react. Take a few deep breaths, meditate, call a friend – anything that helps you calm down.
- Seek a parenting coordinator or a Guardian Ad Litem through the courts. Courts can appoint a parenting coordinator to coordinate scheduling and communication issues between the parents. If you need someone to determine custody because you can’t come to an agreement, the court can assign a “Guardian Ad Litem” (GAL) to determine custody based on the best interest of your children while you’re going through the courts. It’s helpful to have a professional who is trained to deal with high conflict divorce handle these issues.
- Develop your divorce strategy. What are your priorities? What kind of life do you want in 6 months or 1 year? Without a strategy, you can get derailed by your ex’s behavior. Remind yourself why you’re leaving the marriage and what kind of life you want going forward.
- Do not make your child a pawn. Don’t use your child to send messages to the other parent, don’t vent to your child about the other parent and don’t ask your child for information about the other parent. Let your children know that it’s not ok to do those things and if either parent tries to do any of those behaviors, they will know that it’s not ok. They can learn to set boundaries and tell the parent, “That’s not ok.”
Your ability to be calm in the face of provocation by your ex, control the way you communicate with him or her, know what’s important to you and keep your children out of the conflict will take away power from a narcissist. Although this can be difficult at first, it becomes easier with practice. By integrating your ability to engage in co-parenting with a narcissist into your life, you will become happier. Your interactions with your ex will be less stressful and you can focus on developing your new life. The life you want is waiting for you. Bring your attention to your own life. Ignore the noise that’s coming from your ex and celebrate that it can’t control you anymore. Focus on the present moment, breathe deeply, notice nature, appreciate freedom. Once you recognize that finding your peace has nothing to do with anyone else, you’ll have the life of your dreams.
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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
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