Alejandra Gutierrez, LCSW

How to Co-parent with a Narcissist

Coparenting is hard enough as it is. What do you do when a difficult or narcissistic ex makes it even tougher. Foolproof tips on how to co-parent with a narcissist. I’ve helped countless clients leverage the things that are in their power to find their own ground in this difficult dynamic

How to tell if your ex is Narcisstic

If you’re here chances are you already know but if you’re wondering how to co-parent with a narcissist can be helpful to define it. Your narcissistic ex does not prioritize the needs of your child in conversations. They are constantly trying to rehash old conflict and seem more focused on fighting than finding solutions. Your narcissistic ex can’t seem to move past the relationship or feel like they need to get you back. Finally, they are the ones who continuously lead you on using the child as leverage. They may say things such as getting back together is “best for the kid.” They may also claim they’ve changed and attempt to lure you back into the relationships

5 Ways to co-parent with a narcissist

1. Keep your feelings out of the conversation

In order to co-parent with a narcissist, you have to have excellent emotional boundaries. No matter how your ex works to hurt you and engage your emotions don’t take the bait. When trying to incite you your ex may say incredibly difficult and hurtful things. Find a safe space to process this and consider your limits. If you consistently refuse to take the bait and fight with him he will eventually learn that his energy is wasted.  Consistency is Key.

2. Don’t fall into the trap of discussing your past relationships

You have to protect your feelings if your co-parent is a narcissist. Especially if you are still in love with him and you are holding out hope that he is going to “get it together.” If he truly is doing that you’ll be able to tell from his words not his actions. No amount of negotiating or rehashing is going to guarantee a change. If you feel like there may be a chance for relational recovery this entire process is separate from your need to collaborate on coparenting. If you intertwine these two pieces (your relationship and your role as a parent to your shared child) the outcome of one will impact the other. Anytime you and your partner are getting along, co-parenting will go well and when you are not co-parenting will fall apart. This pattern is ultimately harmful to your child.

3. Refuse to talk about anything besides your child

When he tries to steer the conversation in a different direction, stay silent. Once he’s done rehashing the past, return to the conversation around your child. An ex may use the time during transfer of care to talk about your relationship. This is not the point of this time and if he wants to have a conversation then he will follow through on setting up a time to discuss that. When working to develop a co-parenting dynamic, keep the conversation firmly focused on your child.

4. If your co-parent is a narcissist minimize in person communication

In-person it’s harder to stay calm and be deliberate about how you respond. Use text and email as much as possible. There are also apps deliberately set up to help you navigate co-parenting conversations such as WeParent and OurFamilyWizard.

5. Practice Self Care after Difficult Conversations

This starts with knowing when to end the conversation. These interactions can be draining. Especially if the relationship ended poorly. Engage in self-soothing activities. Remember, they have no power over you anymore. That chapter is closed and you are working hard to make this work for the benefit of your child.

If you’re looking for help setting or keeping boundaries or you haven’t done the work of processing the impact of that difficult relationship it may be time to reach out for help. Your ex’s choices may continue to impact you and your little one if you aren’t able to set the necessary boundaries and move forward from a place of healing and wellness.

When communication will not work with a narcissist co-parent

Many of you who have been in a relationship with a narcissistic ex may have experienced abuse. Narcissists are notorious perpetrators of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. If there is a history of abuse you are not required to find a way to get along with your ex for the sake of parenting. You have the right to step away completely. If you’re looking for information on how to find wellness in your home as a co-parent or you’ve made the choice to transition to single parenting check out our free Modern Family Wellness Checklist