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How do you co-parent with a narcissist?

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2019 | Child Custody

Is your ex-spouse a narcissist? Many divorced people would answer “Yes” to that question. Narcissism is a personality trait that runs on a spectrum. At the far end of the spectrum is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which is considered a mental illness. However, even a person with a high degree of narcissism that doesn’t reach that point can very difficult to deal with — and particularly to co-parent with.

It can be impossible for a narcissist to put anyone’s well-being (even their children’s) above their own. Following are some common traits of narcissists:

  • They have an exaggerated feeling of self-importance
  • They easily feel slighted or offended.
  • They have a great need for constant admiration.
  • They believe they’re superior to other people.
  • They often don’t listen to others and interrupt frequently.
  • They’re easily angered and even enraged if they don’t get what they want.
  • They’re unwilling or unable to understand others’ feelings or needs. Some feel no empathy.

If that describes your ex, you likely faced challenges parenting with them when you were together. However, co-parenting with a narcissist after separation or divorce is even more challenging. They may see themselves in competition with you to be the better and/or favorite parent and rarely compromise.

There are some ways to minimize the stress of co-parenting with a narcissist. For example, limit your direct communication and contact. A co-parenting app can help you exchange information about your kids without having to talk or text.

Have supportive people in your life. This could be friends, family and/or a therapist. You need people who will help build your confidence if you’re dealing with someone who’s constantly belittling or criticizing you.

Model healthy behavior to your kids. Make sure they see that there are better ways to go through life than thinking and caring only about yourself. They probably aren’t getting the love and attention they crave from your co-parent, so be sure they get it when they’re with you.

Have a structured, detailed parenting plan. If the plan you and your spouse worked out needs more detail, your attorney can help you seek modifications to your current plan. The more specific it is regarding custody, visitation and other elements of parenting, the less chance you’ll have for confusion and coercion. It will also help minimize your need for communication with your ex.