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Six Strategies for Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Posted by Joshua Wilson | Aug 26, 2022

Is your partner or ex-partner a narcissist? There are times when everyone has the potential to be a little self-centered, but the narcissist can take it to a whole new level. These individuals take self-importance to an extreme and often make the lives of their partners and everyone around them unnecessarily challenging and traumatizing.

Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissists tend to emotionally abuse their partners. This type of abuse comes in many forms, including back-handed compliments, accusations, gaslighting, extreme criticism, or even violent threats. The popular guidance when divorcing a narcissist is to cut off all contact. But what happens when you must co-parent with a narcissist? While you may still be healing from narcissistic abuse, you don't have to feel trapped in a co-parenting dilemma. There are multiple ways to not only navigate this complicated relationship but also start to heal and create a better life for you and your child, free from abuse.


The Mayo Clinic defines a narcissistic personality disorder as:

“a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.”

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If your relationship revolves around your partner acting like a victim, gaslighting and manipulating you, or always turning you into the bad guy, you may be involved with a narcissist.

Six Common Signs of Narcissistic Behavior

  1.   Attention seeking: When you first meet a narcissist, you may think they're the life of any party. Their confidence—or arrogance—may make them appealing to most people. But this attention-seeking is not just extroversion—it even has its own name—narcissistic supply. On the website Choosing Therapy, this narcissistic supply is described as a “psychological addiction where the narcissist requires, and even demands, limitless special treatment, admiration, importance, or validation to feed their sense of entitlement and self-centeredness.”
  2.   A controlling nature: Narcissists like to oversee even the most minute details in every situation. Controlling all aspects of an event, relationship, or opportunity gives the narcissist the upper hand. By staying in control, a narcissist ensures that no cracks start to show.
  3.   Lacking empathy: Narcissists think purely of how they feel. They will expect you to have empathy and compassion for their feelings but will rarely grant you the same courtesy.
  4.   A superiority complex: A narcissist feels that they are better than other people. By always remaining in control, they give off the appearance of being smarter, more talented, and more capable than almost everyone else. Unfortunately, this means most people will never live up to the narcissist's expectations.
  5.   Blurred boundaries: By not defining specific boundaries, a narcissist can change circumstances to fit their own needs. They may never pin down an exact time or date, or they may refuse to identify or name their relationships, giving themselves an easy out. Of course, this means you will never know where you stand with a narcissist.
  6.   Fear of rejection: Despite their superiority complex, cracks usually form under the surface of a narcissist's demeanor. Most narcissists use their controlling natures to mask their doubts and insecurities. And they will always reject you before you could ever reject them. If you do reject them first, look out! You could be on the receiving end of some of the narcissist's most abusive behavior.


Six Tips for Successfully Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Here are six strategies for co-parenting with a narcissist:

  1. Create a support system: Narcissists love to isolate their partners, leaving you feeling alone and vulnerable. Connect with others. Enlist family members to tag along when you must meet your ex. But keep in mind venting to friends and family may not be enough. You should also seek out a therapist specializing in narcissistic personality disorder for your mental health.
  2. Establish boundaries: Take control over your reactions by keeping firm boundaries in place. Do not speak negatively about your ex in front of your children. Keep your appointments. Arrive on time and have a professional attitude. Set clear limitations for engaging with your ex and consistently adhere to them.
  3. Set up (and maintain) an action plan: A plan of action can help you maintain your boundaries. Speak with your ex only through your divorce lawyer. But if you must communicate with your ex, do so in writing. Leave out all nonessential information. Realize that narcissists may refuse to compromise even when you steer clear of emotional entanglements. Stipulate your non-negotiables, and don't waver.
  4. Use legal services: In difficult cases, parenting coordination, which is “a child-focused dispute resolution process,” may be invoked to help facilitate scheduling and communication. Also, speak to your child custody lawyer about using a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). A GAL can ensure your child gets protection in cases of abuse. Access all resources available to you through your Cass County lawyer.
  5. Document, document, document: Keeping notes during your divorce may feel tedious, but it could be the key to providing the best arrangement for your children. Record co-parenting interactions, including money exchanges, pick-up/drop-off times, and holidays. And document any problems in a log. Don't forget to file receipts, memos, banking info, photos of social media posts, etc.
  6. If all else fails, go solo: At times, even the best strategies will fail to remedy narcissistic abuse. If you feel your child is in danger, you may need to petition the court for sole custody. Here's where your other strategies will pay off. Your therapist, your child custody lawyer, an action plan, and your documentation will show how you've followed the letter of the law and deserve to parent solo.

Relationships with narcissists can pose many challenges, especially during a divorce. If you are trying to divorce a narcissist, it is vital to have an experienced lawyer.

Divorce's consequences can determine your future, especially if there are kids involved.

As a family law firm, The Joshua Wilson Law Firm will stand by you and help you develop a strategy for divorce, child custody, division of assets, and child support.

With Kansas City attorney Joshua Wilson, you can feel confident that your legal needs are covered.

About the Author

Joshua Wilson

Divorce is complex and highly emotional. Everything is going to change, including your most important personal relationships, your finances, your daily routine, and -- of course -- your home life. This can be a stressful time, and the parties involved often are not thinking clearly. You need some...

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