The Challenge of Co-parenting With a Narcissist

According to recent estimates, 1 in 20 Americans has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Those with the condition often have difficulty sustaining long-term relationships and may exhibit manipulative, controlling, and self-centered behavior. This can pose a unique challenge for people who are trying to co-parent with a narcissistic ex-partner.

Co-parenting Requires Cooperation, Respect, and Boundaries

In order to be successful, co-parenting requires ongoing communication and cooperation between both parents. This can be challenging, if not impossible, to achieve when one of them is narcissistic.

Unfortunately, narcissists often lack the ability to empathize with others and may be resistant to compromise. They may also try to control or manipulate the situation in order to get their way. This can make it difficult to establish boundaries and agree on decisions related to child-rearing.

A Narcissistic Parent Can Have Damaging Effects on Children

It’s important to remember that children are often caught in the middle of parental conflict. They may feel torn between their parents and may struggle to cope with the emotional fallout of the divorce.

When one parent is narcissistic, this can exacerbate these challenges. The narcissistic parent may try to turn the child against the other parent or use them as a pawn in their own game. This can damage the child’s relationship with both parents and cause them to feel insecure, confused, and anxious.

Recognizing a Narcissistic Co-parent

When dealing with a potential narcissist, it’s important to keep in mind that not all people who exhibit NPD have been formally diagnosed with the disorder. That’s why you should know which behaviors indicate narcissism in a co-parent.

For one, narcissists often have a need for control. A narcissist may demand to know, in detail, every activity that occurs during the other parent’s parenting time. They may use threats or other toxic behaviors to try to control the children or the other parent’s parenting choices. In extreme cases, they may refuse to let their co-parent see the children at all.

Lack of empathy is also common. A narcissist may seem unconcerned with how their actions impact the children or their co-parent. They may also be insensitive to the children’s emotional needs or dismiss their feelings altogether.

Additionally, a narcissist may regularly belittle, criticize, or demean the other parent in front of the children. They may also try to undermine the other parent’s authority or interfere with their parenting time. For instance, they might tell the children to take photos of their other parent and send them to the narcissistic parent.

You may also notice patterns of manipulative behavior. A narcissist may use the children to gain sympathy or support from others. They may also try to turn the children against the co-parent or use them as a pawn in their own game.

Tips for Co-parenting With a Narcissist

If you’re struggling to co-parent with a narcissistic ex-partner, here are a few tips that may help:

First, keep communication to a minimum. Try to communicate only about matters related to the children. Avoid sharing any personal information or getting into arguments with your ex.

Also, be sure to document everything. Keep detailed records of all communications, child-related expenses, and schedules. This can be helpful if you need to take legal action, file for custody, or seek any other type of assistance from a New Jersey family law attorney in the future.

Finally, establish boundaries. Make it clear to your ex what you will and will not tolerate. For instance, you might tell them that you’re willing to discuss child-related matters, but you will not tolerate them trying to control or manipulate you.

Remember, you are not alone. There are many people who have successfully navigated the challenges of co-parenting with a narcissist. With patience, understanding, and a strong support system, you can too.

If you are dealing with a narcissistic co-parent who refuses to respect your parenting plan, is engaging in abusive behavior toward you or your children, or is otherwise making it problematic to co-parent, you may need to seek legal assistance. A New Jersey family law attorney can help you understand your options and take action to protect your rights and the best interests of your children. Contact the Cherry Hill law office of Morgenstern & Rochester at (856) 489-6200 for a consultation.