Co-parenting with a Narcissist will make you feel like pulling your hair out, hourly. Perhaps you don’t even know you are co-parenting with one? You just feel like you are spiraling out of control, stuck in a miserable vortex and unsure if you’ll ever find your way out. Below are some usual suspect phrases a narcissist co- parent may use:
You must change the parenting schedule when they request it but it is never reciprocated.
You must change the children’s diet to reflect the newest fad diet your co-parent has readabout (usually worded in such a fashion that presumes the food you feed the children is so nutritionally deficient it is causing them harm).
You must dress the children in shorts and a t- shirt. It’s too hot outside for them to be wearing jackets, they’ll overheat and get dehydrated and it will be all your fault. And when it rains, you are scolded for not ensuring a rain jacket and rain boots were packed.
Do you notice the common theme, “You must?” Narcissist co-parents can’t help themselves. They believe they are superior to you, that they have to tell you what to do or you won’t know how to do it. But what’s even more frustrating than constantly being told what to do is if you actually do as they tell you, and they still find fault in your actions.
If you are co-parenting with a narcissist, you can do no right. Starting to sound a little familiar? The DSM-IV defined Narcissistic Personality disorder as follows: A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
Hasagrandiosesenseofself-importance(e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions.
Requires excessive admiration.
Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her.
Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
How do those traits play out in a co-parent?
They are always right, you are always wrong.
Zero insight into how their behavior affects the children.
Extreme emotions – a flare for drama.
Rigid thinking, only one solution to a problem – theirs.
Manipulates language to suit their needs/ perceptions.
Do you see some narcissistic tendencies in your co- parent? Does it shed some light on the challenges you’ve been having trying to raise children with this person? If you are (or suspect you are) co-parenting with a narcissist, you need strategies that work to keep your sanity intact. Your narcissistic co-parent is not intentionally trying to make you insane. But because they have no insight into their behavior, they don’t realize they are making you crazy, they honestly believe they are helping you become a better person.
5 strategies for co-parenting with a narcissist:
1) Disengage, Disengage, Disengage Do whatever you need to do to emotionally disengage from the attacks, lies and manipulations your narcissistic co-parent repeatedly throws your way. They will not change. You know what they say to you isn’t true, so stop letting it hurt you.
2) Understand your Triggers You can’t disengage if you are continuously being triggered. Make a list of 10 things your narcissistic co- parent says/does that trigger you. Being aware that you have been triggered is the first step in understanding your triggers. Every person has different triggers; what bugs you, may not bug me.
3) Create a Communication Plan Your narcissistic co-parent will try and get you to dance the dance they want you to dance – but you need to hold firm on the communication plan you created for yourself. You are creating it for a purpose: to help you stay sane. Your communication plan will be created around your triggers. If face to face communication triggers you, only communicate by text and email. If you are constantly receiving condescending text messages, block the number and communicate only by email. You get the idea. The key is to create a plan to help you avoid triggers and implement it.
4) Stop Attack/Defend Behavior It feels impossible not to respond to someone who has criticized your parenting, lied about your family and manipulated your words against you – but what good is responding? If you defend yourself, it just opens the door for your narcissistic co-parent to continue issuing insults. There is nothing you can say or do that will change your narcissistic co-parent’s mind about how they feel about you. Save your time, energy and brainpower for more important things – like playing with your children.
5) Dance There is no better way to stay sane when co-parenting with a narcissist than to kick up your heels, shake your shoulders and dance. Dancing is the number one stress reliever for quickly changing a person’s mood. Try it, shake your shoulders – are they stiff? Mine were when I first started; I looked and felt like a robot, but I didn’t quit. I was alone in my house, who cared what I looked like. Whether it’s country, rock and roll, pop or Jazz – put on a song you love and have a dance party in your kitchen. Seems simple, right? Try it – it’s tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it, and your sanity will thank you.