Four Steps to Survive and Thrive Co-parenting with a Narcissist
So, you have survived the emotional and financial battle of divorcing a narcissist. Now what?
Well, if you have children together, the struggle continues. Just because there was a divorce, it doesn’t mean that the narcissist will gain any insight or claim responsibility. They didn’t change in the marriage, and they won’t change in divorce either. A narcissist, whether male or female, will find anything they can to try to trigger you. They are stuck in their own internal prison of trauma and drama. They will likely continue trying to inflict this chaos into your life, consciously or unconsciously. The more they can project their own insecurities onto you, the more powerful they feel. A narcissist likely won’t change, but if you change your tactics in dealing with him, then you can begin to get off of the emotional roller coaster. Below, I outline some ways to keep your sanity and protect your children from conflict while co-parenting with a narcissist.
If your co-parent is confronting you with false accusations or slinging insults your way, do not respond. Take a deep breath and walk away if you need to so that you can regain your composure. Show no emotion. As much as possible, try to limit the number of face-to-face interactions. Insist on communicating through written means, such as email whenever possible. There are two apps that I frequently recommend for co-parents for communication and accountability: Our Family Wizard and Talking Parents. These apps feature messaging, a shared calendar, a child’s schedule, file, and image sharing, payments, etc. and all activity is timestamped. This will allow you to take the time you need to think through your responses and navigate the communication in a healthier manner that is saved and admissible in court if needed.
Narcissists expect immediate responses because they so badly desire an argument. Begin by waiting 15 – 30 minutes to respond to texts and an hour to an email. Progress from there by delaying non-urgent responses up to 12-24 hours (maximum). This will set more appropriate expectations and allow you the time you need to regain your composure and respond from the high road.
You may feel like defending yourself and fighting back but this is exactly what they want. Don’t fall into their trap. Narcissists feed on disruption and chaos. If they can lure you into an argument, they win. They have effectively controlled you and brought you down to their level of pain and misery. Take the high road. If communicating via text or email, always pause, allow yourself to regulate your emotions, and only answer when you can respond in a non-controversial manner. Maintaining a cool and collected demeanor will demonstrate that this tactic will no longer work for the narcissist to rattle you. You will remain confident in your own integrity, and you will prevent the situation from escalating.
Do not tolerate any abusive behavior. This includes threats, name-calling, character assassination, belittling, insulting, yelling, screaming, and swearing. Setting a boundary is like drawing a circle around ourselves and delineating where one person ends, and another person starts.
Boundaries allow the narcissist to be who he or she is but communicate what you will or will not allow into your life.
Three basic steps to setting a boundary:
The Request– Calmly ask the other person to stop doing the thing that infringes on your property (literally or emotionally). Example: “Please stop yelling and calling me names.”
The Consequence– Tell the other person what you will do if they do not comply with your request. Ex: “ I value our co-parenting relationship, however, if you continue to yell and call me names, I will need to discontinue this conversation and hang up the phone.”
The Follow Through– Calmly do what you said you were going to do. Failure to follow through and act accordingly sends the message that the boundary does not truly exist.
Boundaries can be set via all types of communication such as in-person conversation, phone, text, email, or co-parenting app communication.
A narcissist tries to always have control. He or she does not like to be disagreed with and takes it as personal criticism. Use the sandwich method anytime you need to disagree or make a statement that contradicts their control. The layers are a compliment, confront, and compliment. It looks something like this: “I appreciate that you are really skilled at helping Johnny with his science project, however, we need to stick to the parenting schedule so Johnny will come to my home this week as per our parenting plan. I am grateful that you are such a dedicated father.” A narcissist’s ego needs regular stroking so this works nearly every time.
While these strategies will help you survive co-parenting with a narcissist, they will not keep the narcissist from behaving badly.
Please remember to remain on the high road. Be the person YOU want to be and do not allow the narcissist to pull you into the emotional ditch by arguing back or defending yourself. If you remember to pause, refrain, set boundaries, and use sandwich statements you will be able to keep your own emotions in check. Soon you will not only survive but thrive as a co-parent! And, most importantly, you will help to shield your children from conflict.
Begin Working with A Co-Parenting Coach in Orland, FL
If you are struggling to co-parent with a challenging personality type, then we understand how hard this can be to heal and move forward. We are here to support you in any way we can. Please reach out if you need to speak with a co-parenting coach and want to find inner peace. At Successful Solution, we also specialize in divorce mediation, parent coordination, and life transitions. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps:
- Contact me for a free consultation.
- Get to know me and my coaching process
- Start thriving as a co-parent!