Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs in the world, let alone co-parenting complicating things even further. Sharing the duties of deciding what’s best for your child with another person sometimes feels like a constant battle; but what if this relentless problem-solving was so difficult because you’re dealing with a narcissist?
Narcissism is a personality disorder that, according to Sane.org, affects less than 1% of the population (though 50-75% of diagnosed narcissists are men). Symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder include a lack of empathy, a need for constant attention, a strong sense of entitlement, and truly does not understand how they could be wrong in any situation. They also have little motivation to change, do not take responsibility for their actions, can be superficial, overconfident, and sometimes even forceful when having a discussion.
The first and most important thing to understand when co-parenting with a narcissist is to ignore their attempts to make you feel guilty. Narcissists will try every trick in the book to gain the upper hand in a situation that’s supposed to be co-operative. They will bring up anything from the past to use against you. In their mind, the one time you were five minutes late three weeks ago is enough evidence to say you’re irresponsible. They might further do this through guilt trips, backhanded comments, or even by manipulating others to make you feel isolated, powerless. If this happens, just walk away. Giving in to their deceitful and hurtful behavior provides narcissists the attention they crave, meaning that they will repeat these kinds of actions every time they want control. The less of a spotlight you give them, the less they can manipulate you.
Some of the most difficult topics to tackle while co-parenting surround schooling, electronics, acceptable forms of discipline, and health matters. Narcissists take the stubborn position of ‘it’s my way or the highway,’ and can make decisions based on what best aligns with their personal beliefs rather than what is best for their child. Narcissists also refuse to change their mind after settling on a solution, even if that solution has obvious flaws. When attempting to talk about and resolve issues surrounding schools, discipline, or any other co-parenting problem, don’t be afraid to be blunt, confident, and the voice of reason. While the narcissist plays their game, you have the opportunity to support your child and ensure that what’s being decided is in their best interest.
Overall, when co-parenting with someone as difficult as a narcissist, try and minimize contact and set rules for both yourself and your former spouse. The less emotion you give a narcissist, the less control they have. Conversations about your child can quickly turn into a debate, but keep the conversation centered around what’s best for your child and not about the narcissist himself. You’re not here to talk about him, you’re here to talk about your son or daughter. Furthermore, don’t pity your co-parent or criticize them in front of your child. Since half of the co-parenting duo isn’t pulling their weight, that means you must be even more mature and level-headed when trying to make decisions.
Co-parenting already seems like a constant battle, but co-parenting with a narcissist is even more difficult. In summary, don’t give in to any of the narcissists mind games. Understand that their difficult behavior isn’t going to stop anytime soon, but don’t let their self-absorbed nature negatively affect your child. As difficult as it is, try to limit communication and stay goal oriented. They might be playing a game, but you’re trying to do what’s best for your child.