After my divorce, I joined a Facebook group for divorced women. It didn’t take long for me to see a pattern. A lot of the women had been married to and were now co-parenting with a narcissist. I don’t know if the men were officially diagnosed, but from what these ladies shared, at a minimum, they showed narcissistic tendencies.
Surviving divorce is hard enough, but if you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, you know a whole other level of tension and conflict. And it might even feel laughable to imply that there is any cooperation going on. But there are ways to minimize conflict and make the situation better for your children. Here’s what a narcissist looks like and 7 strategies for dealing with one.
Some Signs of Narcissism
He always needs attention and affirmation. He’s over-reactive to criticism. He feels he’s always right and is more knowledgeable. Also, narcissists are manipulative and controlling. They lack empathy and often have high levels of aggression. This is an oversimplified description, but a good start to recognizing what a narcissist looks like.
Now here’s how to deal with one.
Accept that you won’t be able to reason with him and you can’t change him. While you can’t tame a lion, you can build a fence around it to keep it from harming you.
Assertively ask for what you want and need. Be confident! Have a good sense of self about who you are as a mom and what your priorities are as a mother because the narcissist will try to break you down. If you need to, write a Mission Statement and run your decisions through it to stay focused.
Then stick to your guns. Don’t engage when he pushes your buttons or tries to manipulate you. You have to stand strong and stand up for yourself or you may begin to believe the seeds of doubt he tries to plant in your head.
Check your emotions. Your narcissist enjoys the fact that his behavior is getting a reaction out of you. And normally the emotions and words that want to come out are not the ones you want your children to see. Most importantly, when you are emotional, don’t speak negatively about him in front of the kids. Imagine what it’s like if they hear someone say, “Aw! You’re just like you’re daddy,” and the next day you’re venting about him being a creep.
Boundaries are essential when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist. Set boundaries for meet-up times. “Lateness beyond 10 minutes will be documented.” Use boundaries for communication. “The only way to contact me is through our agreed-upon co-parenting app. No texts. No phone calls.” Setting boundaries with a narcissist minimizes his ability to manipulate you.
Speak succinctly with the facts without added small talk or emotion. If you linger longer than you have to, you are just opening windows for narcissists to work their way in to push your buttons. Less is more when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist.
Work through your issues with a counselor. You might be saying, “He’s the one who has issues and he’s not willing to get therapy!” Unfortunately, his issues have affected you, and to be the healthiest mom for your children, talking to a professional might be the appropriate plan of action. Don’t be afraid to talk to your children’s pediatrician about taking them to a therapist, too.
What have you done to minimize conflict while co-parenting with a narcissist?