Co-parenting is always a challenge, but if you’re also dealing with a narcissistic co-parent, things can get insanely problematic. Unfortunately, the nature of narcissism is such that there’s not really a true prospect of cooperation.
You’ve just got through what was surely a hell of a divorce. Narcissists are notoriously difficult to divorce from. Now you have a whole new battle to fight. You’re bound to feel exhausted and like there’s no end to the turmoil.
But things will get better, eventually.
Here are a few tips on how to survive the most demanding period:
1. Set clear boundaries and stick to them
The narcissist will not do this for you. As the matter of fact, they will do quite the opposite.
Remember, a narcissist, when they get attached to something or someone, considers them to be an extension of their own world. Not that they love them so much. No, they are there to build their fantasy of self-worth which is why you were required to be perfect when you were married too.
So, now that you finally got out of such a marriage, you need to reestablish the boundaries.
These will concern not only the channels and the frequency of your communication with your ex but also your ex and your children.
Prepare for your narcissistic ex breaking the rules, but you stick to them. In time, they will give up on trying to get you riled up.
2. Never agree to making your child a pawn
By now you surely know how your narcissistic ex can make you do things you would normally never do.
They’re master manipulators and don’t possess something that you do – empathy and a sense of other’s well-being.
So, they will try everything possible to get their way, including using your children as pawns in their game.
You’re the one who needs to decline to play the game. Whatever they do, you keep abiding by your principles. Never use your child to convey messages to your ex.
Don’t badmouth your ex in front of your child. Don’t yield to the temptation to compete with your ex over your child’s attention. Just honor your own values and things will sort themselves out to your advantage.
3. Be assertive and calm, no matter what
As we already said, the narcissist can live to get you all worked up. They might get a true pleasure in seeing you losing your calm. And, as they’re manipulative and opportunistic, they might use your normal reaction to their absurd behavior or abuse to portray you as the unstable one.
For this reason, you should vow to maintain your cool at all cost.
When you feel that you’re about to get anxious or angry and burst out, take a moment. Excuse yourself and return to the conversation, if necessary, later. Ideally, you should keep your conversation in a written form, emails would be perfect.
That way, you’ll have a moment to reconsider your reactions, and you’ll have it all documented if the need arises for you to show who’s the abusive one.
4. Be twice as supportive of your child’s uniqueness
Narcissistic parents are extremely difficult for their children. They have a negative effect on their self-esteem, identity, and emotional development.
Moreover, many adult patients of psychotherapists are children of narcissistic parents. The reason for it is in the fact that the narcissistic parent isn’t at all interested in the child, they consider him or her to be a part of their own grandiose self.
This is why you should always support your child’s uniqueness and let them know they’re no one’s extension. They’re an individual, imperfect but beautiful. And loved no matter what they do. They’ll never please the narcissistic parent. But you should make sure that they are twice as loved and supported by you.
5. Tend to your own needs
Finally, you can’t be a good parent if you’re drained out of your capacities.
We know how damaging the marriage must have been. Then, the divorce from a narcissist, which tends to be the worst kind of a divorce. You now have to figure your life out, while still fighting your ex. Any divorce is tough, tougher when there are children involved, and setting yourself free from a narcissist is a true challenge.
This is why you must tend to your own needs too.
Get a therapist to help you rebuild your confidence and find the new zest for life. Explore your old interests, get back to your hobbies, and find new ones. Get support from your friends and family. Take care of yourself the way your ex should have been taking care of you. The ordeal will come to an end.