Establishing a workable co-parenting arrangement is hard enough on its own. As many parents know, underlying mental health issues can complicate the situation even further. One of the most common factors in a high-conflict separation or divorce is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). NPD is clinically defined as a mental condition characterized by an inflated sense of their self-importance, an intense need for attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy. Although separation and/or divorce is a useful step towards mitigating the effects of NPD on your family, your ex-partner’s behavior, if left unchecked, can continue to wreak havoc in the lives of your family.
Whether your co-parent has been formally diagnosed with NPD or is simply exhibiting typical behaviors, it is critical that you learn to manage their high-conflict personality effectively. Not only will this help you navigate your parenting relationship, but it will enable you to model practical conflict management skills for your children.
Read on to learn coping strategies for dealing with a narcissistic co-parent, as well as how Pathways Family Coaching can help you and your child thrive amid a high-conflict separation or divorce.
Coping Strategies for Parallel Parenting with a Narcissist
To paraphrase Carly Simon, narcissists probably think your parallel parenting arrangement is all about them. While no two narcissists are the same, there are numerous strategies parents can use to effectively manage a narcissist’s behavior while establishing healthy boundaries in your parenting arrangement. By utilizing the tactics below, you will be able to minimize the impact of your ex’s narcissistic behavior, while modelling and teaching your children the critical thinking skills to resist the emotional manipulation from their other parent.
1. Develop a detailed parenting plan that includes enforceable consequences for failure to follow terms. Where possible, include a police enforcement clause for parenting time, and ensure that the agreement is approved and registered with the courts. Even if the narcissistic personality feels entitled to cross boundaries, the threat of consequences may deter this behavior. Check out our Ultimate Co-Parenting Plan for a step-by-step guide to developing an effective plan.
2. Minimize contact with your co-parent. Arrange for parenting time exchanges to occur at a public location, or, if possible, at activities like before or after school or your children’s extracurriculars.
3. Always use written communication to speak with your co-parent. When dealing with a narcissist, it is critical to document all communication. Only correspond via email, text message or other written means. If you feel you may have to use this documentation in the court system, consider using our Behavioral Pattern Finder to log and categorize your communication with your ex accurately.
4. Keep communication brief and to the point. Always stick to objective facts and ignore aggressive or demeaning jabs. Narcissists often use long, drawn-out conversations to suck you in. Don’t let them goad you into another pointless argument. There is no need to explain or defend your actions and decisions. Wherever possible, stick to “yes/no” or other one-word answers.
5. Do not get caught up in their drama or sob stories. Narcissists are master manipulators who twist and distort the truth to suit their needs; take everything they say with a grain of salt. If they come to you to commiserate, avoid engaging beyond a simple, “I’m sorry to hear that,” followed by quickly returning to the task at hand. Do not take on their problems.
6. Do not share your feelings or details of your life with them. Not only is it likely that they are incapable of actual compassion, but any information you give them may become ammunition used against you later.
7. Treat your relationship in a business-like manner with clear and firm boundaries. Narcissists feel entitled to anything and everything; if you give an inch, they will help themselves to a mile. Lay down the law early and often to keep your boundaries intact.
Learn more about understanding and handling the tactics of narcissistic personalities here.
Building Your Repertoire with Pathways Family Coaching
While the coping strategies above are some of the most effective ways to deal with a narcissist, developing the confidence and grace to use these tactics consistently can be challenging. It can be hard to regulate your emotions and resist the tactics of a well-practiced narcissist. However, learning to approach parallel parenting in the correct mindset will allow you to manage your relationships effectively, all while leading by example for your children.
Pathways Family Coaching offers a wide variety of online courses, one-on-one professional coaching, and other valuable resources to help prepare you for parallel parenting with a narcissist. Our expert coaches and comprehensive resources are ready to integrate with your existing legal and therapeutic teams, helping to guide you towards a productive co-parenting arrangement.
Pathways Through Conflict is our flagship online course, focusing on building the skills to help you navigate the challenges of co-parenting with a narcissist through effective communication and conflict management strategies. Consisting of an eight-module online course 12 one-on-one coaching sessions, and access to the Ultimate Co-Parenting Plan, Pathways Through Conflict gives you all the tools to manage conflict while providing a nurturing environment in which your children will flourish.
Parental alienation is a tactic often wielded by narcissists against their co-parent. The best way to equip yourself against these tactics is to understand how they work. The Alienation Code online course gives you knowledge and insight into the processes behind alienation amidst the challenges of high-conflict separation and divorce. With six fully-customized online modules (including dedicated material on handling narcissistic personalities), The Alienation Code will give you a comprehensive understanding of the forces at play, as well as to overcome them and become an effective parent and leader for your child.
Ready to Get Started?
Pathways Family Coaching offers solutions for all stages of high-conflict separation and divorce, empowering you to heal and move forward with your family. Request a free consultation today, or contact us to learn about our library of online courses, coaching, resources, and other services.
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