If you are divorcing a narcissist, you may find that conventional co-parenting advice doesn’t seem to apply to you. You’re bombarded with hostile emails and texts 24/7. Conversations that should be straightforward turn into World War III. Whenever the kids have a problem, your narcissist ex tells you it’s your fault. With things as hard as they are now, you can’t imagine how you’re going to survive the years until your children are adults. There is no doubt about it, dealing with a narcissist co-parent is exasperating. But rest assured, there are strategies to help you cope:
Practice radical acceptance. Co-parenting with a narcissist is unfair. Your ex is fundamentally incapable of compromise, or putting the children first. Narcissists behave this way because of their underlying personality structure: they’re rigid, emotionally reactive, lack empathy, and feel superior. They are not ever going to change. Hoping, or trying to get a narcissist to be different, will just make you more frustrated than you already are. Practicing radical acceptance – accepting circumstances as they are, not how you’d like them to be – will bring you clarity. When you stop wasting your energy being angry at things you can’t change, you’ll be better able to cope with the situation at hand.
Learn how to disengage. Reacting to your narcissist’s crazy-making behavior will just inflame conflict and make co-parenting harder than it already is. Your ex loves to hook you emotionally, so don’t take the bait! Stop taking what they say personally. Resist the urge to counter-attack. Recognize your ex’s behavior for what it is – drama. It’s okay to feel angry and scared, but try to let these feelings go. If you see your narcissist as the unbalanced person they are, you’ll be better able to detach from the crazy.
Implement low-conflict communication. Your ex’s vitriol and rigidity makes co-parenting communication difficult. But did you realize that you might be writing in ways that actually inflame conflict? Take an honest look at how you respond. Do you lecture? Are you overly emotional? Do you try to prove your point and appeal to reason (good luck with that!). You will not be able to make any co-parenting decisions this way. Defuse conflict with the following protocol: be brief, informative (no opinions or feelings), neutral in tone, and firm (set a limit and stick to it). If you focus on the solution, instead of the problem, you’ll be less aggravated and more likely to come to an agreement.
Parallel parent. Conventional co-parenting requires flexible thinking, conflict resolution skills, and emotional regulation – all things that a narcissist lacks. Parallel parenting takes less communication and cooperation, so it’s often a better option with challenging exes. When you parallel parent, you eliminate sources of conflict by having separate house rules and parenting philosophies. You also avoid being together by hosting separate birthday parties and attending separate parent-teacher conferences, when possible.
The key to co-parenting with a narcissist is to minimize opportunities for conflict. Utilizing these strategies won’t change your ex, but it will make life more manageable for you and your children.
Are you coping with a narcissist co-parent in your divorce? Get legal answers and start safeguarding your future today. Contact us today for a free confidential consultation. Secure your future with your children. Call us: 888-888-0919.