Being married — then divorced — from a narcissist is bad enough, but when you must co-parent with one, the difficult becomes the almost impossible. Your co-parent narcissist thrives on dysfunction, which makes for a miserable co-existence.
However, if you are aware of their tactics, you’ll be in a better position to deal with them. Here are some tips for identifying those tactics and how to cope:
Expect spiteful behavior and learn to ignore it.
The narcissist thrives on getting an emotional reaction, and is often able to get one by making nasty comments to prompt your response. Learn to ignore these comments and recognize them for what they are: an attempt to manipulate your emotions. Don’t get drawn into their trap.
Be on alert for triangulation.
This tactic is common among narcissists; it’s when they try to line up others against you. In a divorced family situation, they usually try to align the kids against you so you are perceived as “the bad guy.” You can deflect this if you first assess whether a situation is unsafe. Say your ex-spouse allows the children to eat ice cream for dinner. This is not ideal, but it’s not really unsafe so you should ignore it. However, if your ex-spouse allows your children to ride in the car without seat belts (or car seats if they are very young), this is an unsafe situation. You need to document when this happens, and then talk to your kids about the importance of staying safe in a vehicle. Email your ex-spouse and calmly request that he keep the kids safe while in the car. If he responds with anger, ignore him and then talk with your attorney about your documented evidence of his putting your children in harm’s way.
Don’t give in to guilt.
If your ex-spouse is constantly interrupting the time you have with your kids with phone calls or texts, ignore him. You need to establish health boundaries and protect the time you have with your children without feeling guilty.
Watch for a tendency to play favorites.
While this is grossly unfair to the other children, a narcissist will often play favorites with one child. Don’t try to talk to him about it; narcissists by definition have little ability to understand another person’s point of view if it differs from his own. Instead, talk to your kids about the importance of sharing their feelings and empathize with them when they do share.
Parent with empathy.
Narcissists lack empathy, which is harmful to a child’s emotional development. You will have to compensate for this lack of empathy from their other parent by making sure you stay emotionally attuned to your child, empowering and encouraging them and validating their feelings.
Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne understands the nuances and complexities of family law, and we are here to help guide you through the process.