Co-Parenting with a Narcissist
So, you are now divorced to someone you believe is a narcissist, and you have to co-parent with him? This is tough. We understand!! We have felt the same way.
What Is A Narcissist?
A diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder can only be given by a mental health professional. There are signs and symptoms you can identify and read about all over the internet. A general internet search will typically identify this as a disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance. Narcissistic personality disorder is found more commonly in men. Symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement.
Although understanding and recognizing the characteristics involved is helpful, this knowledge will not give you the help you need to co-parent with this man and keep your sanity intact not to mention your children’s sanity!
A great resource for dealing with difficult personalities in key relationships like a co-parent can be found with Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., creator of New Ways for Families and founder of The High Conflict Institute. We have compiled a list of tools we feel are helpful when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse. Some are from Bill Eddy’s work and some we have used ourselves.
Tips for co-parenting with a narcissist
Establish a legal parenting plan
Your divorce decree is your safety net. You have created it with your attorney and now this is your new life. Is it sometimes inconvenient – yes. However, if you are following the rights, duties, visitation schedule and other rules set in your decree there is less room for argument and contention which will help you have peace. (I am speaking from experience here.) If I know my ex-spouse will want everything and give very little back, then I just stick to what is legally binding in the divorce decree.
Limit face to face communication
The less ‘face’ time you have with a difficult ex-spouse the more peace of mind you will likely have. It is amazing how limiting exposure will bring peace of mind. With that, be at your kid’s events for your kid. You are there for your children, not to discuss parenting decisions with your ex-spouse. Refuse to have difficult conversations in person – leave them for the parenting app or email.
Practice what Bill Eddy refers to as BIFF Response (Be brief, informative, friendly and firm)
These responses are designed to convey necessary information without intensifying conflict. Eddy states they are best used first in written form – this will help you strengthen your BIFF response muscles. There is nothing like a BIFF response to a two page, single typed litany of how awful, messed up and wrong you are.
Avoid speaking ill of the other parent in front of the kids.
This is stressed over and over again by any mental health professional or adult child of divorced parents. This does not help you nor your children. Avoid doing this. This is what girlfriends are a therapist are for Do Not Do It.
Spend time nurturing yourself.
This is so critical. You deserve this. We all do. Exercise. Take warm baths. Enjoy a nap. Whatever it is – nurture yourself. This will help you emotionally cope and give your stress levels some down time which will also help you.
Change how you react.
Focus on what you are doing to hurt communication (yelling back, caving and giving in) and change it. Odds are when you change how you react, your ex=spouse may change how he acts.
If you are dealing with a difficult ex-spouse, it is critical to have a solid plan for communication and decision making. This will save not only your sanity, but your children’s sanity. Please reach out for your complimentary initial consultation. We will give you the information and confidence to decide how to best move forward and have the life you deserve – a life of joy, love, and peace of mind. Contact us today!