After a 3 and ½ year custody battle my ex-spouse who has severe Narcissistic Personality Disorder was forced to settle on a shared parenting plan for our 6 year old daughter. This was after 3 ½ years of parental alienation tactics with me as the targeted parent. The child psychologist that had been appointed for our daughter during the custody modification process suggested that we present the changes in the custody plan to our daughter together. My ex-spouse also suggested I sit next to her and her parents at school events for our daughter. After they spent close to $100k during the divorce process attempting to cut me out of our daughter’s life they wanted me to sit with them at her pre-school graduation. I was shaking on the inside and said, “No thanks, I’m ok back her.” I couldn’t hold back in the child psychologist’s office. I said, “I’m not going to sit with these people, I have no respect for you or your parents after all of you including my personality disordered mother have been gaslighting me for 4 years and attempting to sever my relationship with our daughter.” The child psychologist said, “Well Michael there has to be some level of trust.” I said, “Trust is at a zero, I can bring it up to a 1 or a 2 for events out in public but it’s at zero.” The child psychologist then said, “Have you ever heard the term ‘Fake it til you make it?” I said, “Ok I’ll work on faking it out there but I’m not going to fake it in here.” I called him the next day to apologize if I over reacted. He said, “There is no need to apologize. I understand. If I had to be psychologically evaluated to protect myself to get more time with my kids I would be frustrated too.” He was referring to the full custody evaluation and psychological evaluation I ordered on both of us the previous year. I ordered the evaluation to defend against false accusations from my ex-spouse and members of my own family that I was Bipolar. Through this process I was cleared from the false accusations and they discovered that she had Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Antisocial traits.
Prior to the new custody recommendations communication had been very poor. I had suggested renewing the Our Family Wizard app that we were using but she disagreed. Anytime I came up with a reasonable co-parenting request she would usually disagree. Instead we had been using email only to communicate. She violate these boundaries and attempt to call or text me on my cell phone. I would send a friendly email reminder to please stick to email communication only. I believe it is imperative that you set limits on how you will communicate with a narcissistic parent in a co-parenting situation. If they attempt to violate the boundary that you set it’s important to stick to it and remind them of how will communicate moving forward. It is also helpful to take your time before responding and not emotionally react. I find it helpful to take emotion out of my responses and respond back as if you were responding to a coworker you are not fond of.
In my situation my ex-spouse continues to manipulate my daughter to attempt to get her to think less of me. My daughter recently told me that mommy says mean things about me to her new boyfriend. She constantly tells our daughter that I lie, I’m bad, and I don’t remember things correctly. She wants our daughter to doubt me and look to her as the superior parent. There were also times in the past my daughter would get hostile with me and tell me she hates me if she didn’t get what she wanted. At these times I would stay calm and repeatedly tell her that I loved her no matter what. This is very important to be the stable rock for your kids. She would eventually calm down and let me know she didn’t mean the things she said. She would also open up and tell me she didn’t like her life and didn’t like herself. When one parent is bad mouthing the other I’ve found from talking to numerous parents in similar situations that the child will turn on themselves. If one parent that they love is bad they will believe that they are bad. This was really sad to hear her say these things. When this would happen we would talk about all of the good things and about accepting the negatives about the situation that we couldn’t change. It is difficult for a child of any divorce to accept a new person coming into mom or dad’s life, but much more difficult when one parent is a narcissist. They often bring the new person in and start having adult sleepovers with the child around with little consideration for the child. This will increase stress and anxiety for the children. This is the time that you need to continue to be the stable parent with the more stable environment. It’s sad but this will most likely always be the case and the child or children will be able to feel this as time goes on.
My suggestion for co-parenting with a narcissist is to have as little communication with the other parent as possible. For me I have separate birthday parties for our daughter. We had one joint one it was very uncomfortable. If our daughter gets older and wants to have one party I will consider it. Overall I try to decrease the tension as much as possible. I also have a highly narcissistic mother that attempts to manipulate to spend more time with our daughter. She is very good at doing this. I encourage my daughter to have a relationship with her and always make time for that. It’s important to set limits with toxic grandparents and have your own life with your kids. I always talk positively about my daughter’s mother and toxic grandparents in front of her. It’s crucial to be the bigger persona and to do this even though it can be extremely difficult. This will benefit the kids in the long run. Attempting to co-parent with a narcissist will put anyone to the test but it can be managed by setting healthy boundaries and taking care of yourself during the times you are not parenting will set you up for success!
Thank you Michael Sunset for submitting this great article! Check out his book below!