It is never easy to co-parent following a divorce as there is always so much emotion involved and even when both parties have the best interest of the children at heart, it can still be challenging with lots of ups and downs. I have been chatting to alot of men and women recently about co parenting when the ex partner is a narcissist and by this I mean, they have either had a diagnosis of a personality disorder or they tick all the boxes associated with narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissism can be a term used too readily these days and there are very specific character traits that consistute a true narcissist not jutst the fact that it is not amicable with your ex partner. Myself and my ex husband had counselling before we split up and I carrried on after and I was told my ex was narcissist. I knew nothing about this personality disorder at the time and actually thought it just meant someone who loved themself and I thought yes that was my ex husband but my goodness, this is the tip of the iceberg of the personailty disorder.
When I got divorced, I truly hoped that we could co-parent our 2 children in an amicable way and was totally open to do that even though I had been emotionally abused for many years. My confidence and self esteem had been chipped away but I still wanted what was best for my children and my relationship with their dad was not their concern. When I look back, our “co-parenting” never actually happened as I would get text after email after message all the time having a dig at me or harassing me. Due to the after effects of being married to a narcissist, I tried to justify myself, try and make it amicable, but all to no avail. The harder I tried to make it amicable, the harder and more abuse I seemed to get. The more I researched narcissistic disorder, the more I realised I had little hope of co parenting with a narcissist. You can NEVER win with a narcissist. There is never any middle ground, never any room for negotiation, what you say is always wrong, what you say will be twisted and turned and you will be made to think you are going crazy. You will alternate between feeling hopeless to feeling maybe one last message and they will see you are only trying to do the right thing for the children and it may be ok!? I am a true empath and always wanted to believ that one day it would be ok but the day I realised, it would NEVER be amicable was the first day of my healing and recovery. My ex barely saw my children for the first 6 months after we split up and then when he eventually asked to have them overnight with his girlfriend, he refused to give me the address of where they lived saying his girlfriend was not ready to give it to me. I refused to allow my children to go somewhere where I did not know the address. I was made to feel obstructive, crazy and jealous, all of which I was not as I had zero feelings for my ex but I did want to do the right thing for my children. Eventually 6 weeks later, he did give me the address.
There is very little research into parenting with a narcissist, something of which I want to change. I believe that when you have a true narcissistic ex, as long as you have all your consent orders in place, you should completely block all contact with your ex. If you know when they are having the children, you need not subject yourself to a continual barrage of abuse and harassment because this will deeply impact the speed of your healing and recovery. I have my ex husband blocked on everything except email. This means I can take my time to respond and not get into ping pong messaging as text is quick to respond to and involves a lot more emotion. When he has the children, which isn’t much, I unblock him on my mobile in case of emergency and then on drop off, I block him again.
Rather than trying to co-parent with your ex, rephrase your role with them to “parallel parent”. Doing this immediately alleviates you of the stress of “co” parenting as this implies both parties are on the same page. This does not mean either of you are any less of a parent but you need to protect your mental health when your ex is a narcissist. Setting these boundaries will actually make for an all round better experience for all of you, the children and both mum and dad. The narcissist may get angry at their lack of control but maintaining and sticking to these boundaries is so important for the children because if one parent becomes so deeply mentally affected due to the narcissistic ex, this is not good for anyone. The children should not become pawns in the middle of your divorce as this will be hugely detrimental to them.
The word ‘co’ would almost suggest being a team or working together with the mutual goal of caretaking the children, such as being able to collaborate healthily for the good of the child but this is NOT possible in narcissistic co-parenting situations. Parallel parenting is a powerful, revolutionary way to have strict boundaries and even hold the narcissist accountable for their narcissistic behaviour.
Parallel parenting is about having joint custody with your children in a way that works, as effectively as possible, given the difficult circumstances. This is why I am working hard to create a paradigm shift in the way we parent when the ex is a narcissist.
In conclusion, co-parenting with a diagnosed narcissist is impossible, the goal should be to parallel parent to ensure your mental health is protected or it will potentially destroy you. I advise people to treat their ex like a business partnership where the product are your children and the goal is to have happy and secure children. You wouldn’t walk into a board meeting and argue, shout and justify anything, just as you need to take the emotion out of your parallel parenting with a narcissist. Narcissists can be men or women and both can have equally devastating consequences on the partner. I spent years trying to co parent with a narcissist and now I am in control and parallel parent with my ex husband. My children are very happy, secure and valued. My ex will still try and control situations and blame me for his tenuous relationship with ur children but UNDERSTANDING this is normal behaviour for him and the fact that I know this is like a weight liften becuse it is not my fault and it is not yours either.
If you want to receive my 6 Step Guide To Dealing With A Narcissistic Ex, pop me a message with your email address and I will send you you as I hav eyears of experience in dealing with one and use positive psychology tools to deal with it. I feel so strongly about this subject as it nearly broke me but I did not just bounce back but bounce forward and as strange as it may seem, I actually feel gratitide to my ex as this has led me to where I am today helping others recover from their divorce or breakup. If you are divorcing or have recently broken up from a narcissist, I am sending you much love and light and please feel free to reach out to me at any time.