If your co-parenting partner is rigid, can’t stick to an agreement, is manipulative or, worse, puts your child in the middle of a disagreement between the two of you, these are signs they could be a narcissist. Their lack of empathy, constant patronising, and rigid thoughts and conduct can be nearly impossible to deal with. It can also affect your child’s behaviour and your relationship with them.
How can you deal with this stressful situation? Here are some ways to manage the frustrations of co-parenting with a narcissist.
Don’t attempt to alter the co-parent’s behaviour
Narcissists don’t know how harmful their behaviour is, and they can’t take criticism. It makes any attempt to change their problematic behaviour frustrating. “Accepting the situation versus trying to change the narcissistic co-parent is key to avoiding wasting your energy and setting yourself up for disappointment,” licensed marriage and family therapist Stephanie Macadaan told Parents magazine.
Hold your ground
When dealing with a narcissist, they’ll use any tactic at their disposal, including gaslighting, to hurt or disrespect you. WebMD says that what they say is more about them than you.
“When dealing with a narcissist, you should be assertive with your boundaries and make it clear to them what those are,” therapist Bisma Anwar said in Talkspace’s Ask a Therapist blog. “For example, if you are not OK with something they want you to do, tell them upfront and hold your ground. Don’t let them pressure you into doing it anyway.”
Don’t take things personally
It’s easier said than done, but if a narcissistic partner attempts to get a reaction out of you, stay in control of your feelings. As social worker John Carnesecchi explained in PsychCentral, it’s vital to “keep the relationship as a business relationship and speak only in ‘matter of fact’ terms and do not voice your emotional feelings or share private and personal information.”
Have a legal structure in place
Setting legal boundaries with your parenting partner will ensure that what you want for your children, such as medical care, holidays, finances, and other matters, is lawfully maintained. In addition to having a lawyer put together a plan, you can ask a court to appoint someone to determine the best course of action or work with a mediator to communicate with your co-parent.
“You want to make sure you have proof of every conversation or deal you had when it comes to your children,” neuropsychologist Alexander Burgemeester told PsychCentral.
Don’t get caught in any drama
It’s hard to win an argument against a narcissist, so WebMD recommends the “grey rock method”: Sidestep needless debate by giving clear, emotionless short answers, avoiding the need to explain yourself, and not divulging too much information.
Get the support you need
When dealing with any stressful situation, having a network of friends can help get you through difficult times. There are also online groups and message boards with people going through the same thing as you. And speaking to a licensed professional can help you navigate these difficult moments, or a family therapist can assist you and your child through your new normal.
Make your home a peaceful place
You can’t control how your co-parent parents, but you can help give your child a sense of security and confidence within your own home. Carnesecchi says one parent can work hard to create a safe and loving home through your example. “When in your care,” Carnesecchi continues, “allow for open communication, build up their confidence and self-esteem, and teach them coping skills.”
Try parallel parenting
When dealing with a narcissistic parent, you may have to create a plan that minimizes contact between you and your co-parent. This is called “parallel parenting,” which can be helpful if your partner has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). As Jann Blackstone, a certified divorce and stepfamily mediator, explained to Parents, it can be a way to move forward.
“The parents split responsibilities, like arranging drop-offs and pick-ups at school so they do not have to interact and alternating attendance at the children’s extracurricular activities,” she said. “They may use a co-parenting app that includes messaging and a calendar that records communication and allows them to notify each other of their schedules without discussion.”
The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans
Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.