If your ex-spouse is a narcissist or shows narcissistic behaviors, you may be struggling to co-parent with them. Narcissists are known for not being willing to compromise or to admit fault at any time, so resolving parenting conflicts can feel impossible. They may try to punish you by preventing your children from seeing you, and they may speak poorly of you to your children.
Co-parenting with a narcissist isn't easy, but for the sake of your kids, it's essential to remain as civil as possible. Your responsibility as a parent is to put your children's health and well-being first. Establishing consistency with your co-parent is one of the best ways to offer support and stability for your family. Here are five tips for co-parenting with a narcissist:
Create and Stick To A Legal Plan
The law is your best friend when it comes to co-parenting with your narcissistic ex. Once the court finalizes your divorce and child custody arrangement, you have to uphold the agreement. The plan should include every possible detail regarding custody, visitation, finances, emergencies, and any other situations you and your lawyer can think of. The less gray area in your agreement, the better.
Narcissists crave a sense of control, so if anything in your agreement is unclear, they will manipulate it to their advantage. If you and your co-parent disagree about something, you can consult your legal arrangement for the answer. This can help you avoid a power struggle and establish consistency for the sake of your children, your ex, and yourself.
Work With A Guardian Ad Litem or A Mediator
Courts offer several helpful services for separated or divorced parents. If you're concerned about conflict with your former spouse, you can request that a guardian ad litem, or GAL, be appointed. The GAL will learn about your family's situation and make suggestions based on your children's needs. Their job is to be a neutral third party who advocates for your kids so that they can be an excellent resource during a difficult divorce or custody dispute.
A mediator is another third party who can help to facilitate the negotiations between you and your ex-spouse. In some areas, mediation is required when making a custody agreement. Even if you don't need to work with a mediator, their presence can make the process much easier.
Set Communication Boundaries
Narcissists enjoy pulling reactions out of other people, and they know just what to do or say to get the response they want. They also feel entitled to others' time and attention, so you may notice that your co-parent contacts you excessively or at inappropriate times. In this case, the best thing you can do is set and stick to firm communication boundaries.
Many co-parents find that it's helpful to limit their communication to text or email. Written communication gives you time to plan and proofread what you're going to say, and you can keep a record of the conversation. Another helpful rule is to require a specific amount of notice from both co-parents in the event of scheduling changes. Whatever boundaries you decide are best for you and your co-parent, you should communicate these rules clearly and avoid deviating from them.
Your ex might intentionally do or say things to provoke you, and it can be tempting to respond in anger. As frustrating as these situations may be, you should avoid confrontation at all costs. If you need to settle a dispute with your ex, try to work with a mediator or communicate through your attorneys.
Conflict may be what your ex-spouse wants, so engaging will only make the situation worse. Ask yourself whether the problem is really worth fighting over if it doesn't affect you or your children. If possible, try to let the issue go without arguing.
Don't Involve Your Children
Seeing parents fight or hearing one parent talk poorly about another can be upsetting, confusing, and even traumatic for children. No matter how frustrated you may feel with your ex, you should never involve your children in an argument. Don't use your kids as messengers to communicate with your co-parent, and don't criticize your ex in front of your kids.
Having a support network outside of your family can be incredibly helpful if you're co-parenting with a narcissist. Whether you need to talk to friends, a counselor, or even a support group for people in similar situations, venting to someone other than your children is essential.
Co-parenting with a narcissist is difficult, but if you keep your children's best interests at heart, you can navigate this situation successfully. Keep a cool head, avoid emotional arguments, and make every decision official in the eyes of the law to minimize the power struggle between you and your ex.
If you need legal assistance during a divorce or custody battle, Gille Kaye Law Group, PC is here to help. Call us today at (626) 340-0955 to speak with an experienced family lawyer.