Co-parenting can be challenging for a divorced couple. But it can be more daunting if you are co-parenting with a narcissist. And it can be impossible to work out a deal.
Cooperation is the most crucial thing in co-parenting. However, if your partner is a narcissist, this would be a problem, as people with narcissistic personalities are known for being uncooperative.
People clinically diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder have arrogant behaviors and strong self-importance. They think they are more advantaged than others. They also lack empathy and have an excessive need for admiration. Therefore, co-parenting with someone like this after the separation won’t be easy.
Parenting requires teamwork, and you would prefer to avoid teaming up with a narcissist. Healthy co-parenting involves communication and collaboration whenever needed, being flexible, compromising, and sharing the burden of parenting.
It would be impossible to establish healthy co-parenting with narcissists as they tend to react poorly. When you decide to co-parent with a narcissist, you have to remember that the parenting responsibilities won’t be divided equally, as fairness isn’t something they would understand.
If you decide to co-parent with your toxic ex-spouse for the sake of your children, here are some things you need to do.
1. Create a Legal Parenting Plan
When establishing a custody agreement or a legal parenting plan, you must put everything in writing. So that if your ex demands more time or tries to manipulate some situation, it’s formally imposed by a party outside your relationship.
When writing a plan, you must include a parenting time agreement, childcare, healthcare, and more. Everything covered under your custody agreement should be documented or written down. Make sure that it is detailed so there are no gray areas that can be exploited.
It would be best to find lawyers who have dealt with narcissists, as they know how to manage this kind of situation or people. Although it can be expensive, this will help you during the entire time of your co-parenting years.
2. Apply Parallel Parenting
In co-parenting, two parents mutually make decisions regarding the child’s needs and welfare. This setup is used when the divorced or separated parents have a mutual interest in their child’s well-being, development, and growth. However, this approach hardly works if you have a narcissistic partner, as compromise is often challenging, if not totally absent.
Another approach you may apply is parallel parenting. This method is when parents minimize their interaction with each other and only coordinate in several aspects of child-rearing.
Parallel parenting is used when the parents don’t have amicable interactions, and co-parenting is not the best option as there is conflict in the adults’ interactions. This approach requires more prior planning and structure to reduce potential issues.
The narcissist tends to coordinate only essential details and prefers to keep their world separate from the other parent to maintain a greater sense of control over the child. Also, they may use minimal contact to their advantage to obstruct or neglect their commitments or responsibilities.
To make parallel parenting work, learn not to care. Don’t allow your toxic ex to create any emotion in you. It will help you protect your children from the selfish behavior of their narcissistic parent.
Don’t discuss your manipulative narcissists with your children to insulate them from unhealthy triangulation. Establish self-confidence and develop your belief in yourself. Keep the peace by communicating with your ex only if required.
3. Set Boundaries
It’s necessary to set clear boundaries when dealing with a narcissistic partner, as they feed on the reactions they get from others. Be clear about your expectations and what won’t be tolerated in parenting.
Boundaries will free you and the child from guilt and other emotional damage when dealing with the narcissist’s challenging and unstable behaviors.
For example, you should communicate only via text or email so you have time to react before responding to their requests. It will also help with your documentation.
4. Always Think About Your Child
Child co-parenting with a narcissist can be irritating sometimes. But you have to keep in mind that the relationship should focus on your mutual care and desire to be part of your child’s life.
You should also remember that your reactions affect your child; therefore, you must act and respond more pleasantly, even when triggered or irritated.
Furthermore, avoid speaking ill of the narcissistic parent in front of the child. Keep conflict with your ex and other complaints to yourself or another trusted person like a friend, family, or therapist. Ranting to your child adds stress and the pressure of taking sides.
5. Consider Counseling
If you feel everything is too much to handle on your own, reach out. Seek help from professionals that can help you work through your issues and provide you with answers for those challenging scenarios. A licensed therapist can help you reassess your situation and allows you to process what you feel.
Your child may also need therapy as it would be difficult for them to handle the situation. Also, if you notice your child is having a rough time or acting out, you may ask their pediatrician for a recommendation to a child therapist.
How To Co-Parent With a Narcissist
It can be grueling to co-parent with a narcissist. Choose an approach that allows you to control what you can, and don’t let your ex manipulate the situation. Don’t be afraid to seek out the help you need from your support system. Lastly, be strong, focus on your child, and be their best parent.
If you have difficulties handling co-parenting with your ex-partner and need legal help, you may consider consulting a respectable legal firm like Nussbaum Family Law. They can help you draft your custody agreement and other family legal matters that must be addressed.