Co-parenting is never easy, but co-parenting with a narcissist is a whole different ballgame. Narcissists are self-centered and incapable of putting anyone’s needs ahead of their own — including the needs of their own kids! Narcissists love chaos, drama, and control. Truly personality-disordered narcissists keep you off balance by forcing you to ride a roller coaster of abuse and seduction.
Here are four strategies that will help you build your strength and reduce stress:
1. Manage Your Expectations
A narcissist will not change, so it’s critical that you remember that the chaos and drama he creates is not about you. In the relationship, did he make you feel like you were walking on eggshells, always second-guessing, never good enough? Putting others off balance is a narcissist’s secret weapon, and he won’t give that up no matter what. Don’t expect him to step up, become empathetic, or give up his desire for emotional control. Managing your expectations will make things easier. Knowing that he won’t change establishes the groundwork for the next strategy.
2. Parallel Parenting
True co-parenting is impossible with a narcissist, so instead aim for parallel parenting. What does this mean? In your house, your rules; in his house, his circus. Make yours a healthy, safe, and loving home to counter the emotional chaos that thrives in his house. Focus on qualities that are probably in short supply in his home: empathy, love, boundaries, and safety to express feelings.
3. Stick to the Plan
Make a parenting plan that both parents have to sign. If necessary, hire a lawyer to ensure the document has legal weight. To the extent that it’s possible, stick to that plan, even when he tries to disrupt it by shifting times, dates, and so on. Don’t waiver, don’t apologize; just stick to the plan. Narcissists will always try to exploit the situation to their benefit. Don’t feed the narcissist’s desire for chaos by engaging and becoming emotional. Let the small stuff roll off your back, and use email for the big stuff. Email reduces stress because there is no emotional tug of war that often happens on the phone. Not to mention, it’s all documented!
No matter how well you manage expectations, parallel parent, and stick to the plan, you’re bound to feel exhausted by your ex’s behavior. This is why self-care is essential. You have to build not only a healthy household, but also a healthy you! Make sure you sleep, eat well, build a tribe of support, and seek therapy to navigate the perils of co-parenting with a narcissist.
It can be horribly difficult to cope with an ex and co-parent who has serious personality issues. Nonetheless, you can still create healthy environments for your children by planning and managing stress. Once you learn how to deal with a narcissist, the rest of your parenting duties will seem easy in comparison.
Bio: Chaya is a member of ESME [Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere], the best online community for single moms seeking support and guidance.