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Can You Co-parent with a Narcissist?

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A narcissist is an individual who excessively admires themselves, craves attention and believes they are the most important person in the world. Attempting to co-parent with someone like this, who puts themselves before everyone else and wants to control everything around them, can understandably be incredibly difficult.

Children being raised by a narcissist often suffer long-term consequences. For instance, they may feel like they should put their parents’ needs before their own and might have their opinions of another parent manipulated.  

There are, however, a number of ways to survive co-parenting with a narcissist. This may include things like having a talk with a child law solicitor about a legal parenting plan, setting firm boundaries and giving your child a sense of stability.

What are the different types of narcissistic parents?

There are a number of different types of narcissistic parents. Understanding how your co-parent functions can help you to make more informed decisions moving forward. Here are just a few of the different types of narcissistic co-parents:

  • Obsessed with achievements - This type of narcissistic co-parent will push their child to perform well in all tests, get into the best schools, find the best job, partner, etc. If perfection is not achieved at every stage, they can become angry and may withhold love/affection.
  • Demands admiration - This parent believes that they should be admired by everyone around them, especially their child. They require the child to constantly agree and worship their opinions. When they do, they are rewarded, but if they don’t, they are punished.
  • Neglectful - A neglectful parent is incredibly damaging, as they care only for themselves. A narcissist is more likely to leave a child with other people and even older siblings. They cannot be relied upon to look after their child.
  • Favouritism - When multiple children are involved, a narcissist may choose a favourite child, believing them to be an extension of themselves. This child could be showered in love and affection while other children are ignored.

Difficulties you may face when co-parenting with a narcissist

Financial responsibilities

When co-parenting with a narcissist, you may find yourself being sent the bill for all sorts of little things related to your child, for instance, a pair of socks.

A narcissist is likely to want to exert control over your finances by doing things like signing the child up for a sports club or organising a holiday and asking you to pay for it.

When stay at home parents are involved, this can be even more damaging as a narcissist may believe they have a right to your finances.

Spreading rumours and lies

Another common difficulty someone co-parenting with a narcissist may face is rumours and lies.

A narcissist may feel like they need to manipulate the people around them with lies and twisted truths. They will portray themselves as the perfect parent and a co-parent as the villain.

Bad-mouthing you to your child

A narcissist will often attempt to gain control over their child by attempting to take their love from another parent. To do this, they make the parent look bad in front of their child, spreading false information and saying nasty things about them.

Regular invasions of privacy

Whereas co-parenting usually involves a child staying with one parent for a certain amount of time and then swapping to spend time with the other, co-parenting with a narcissist is more challenging.

A narcissist will attempt to keep the attention on them and retain control by impeding the other parent’s time with their child. This is often accomplished through constant phone calls, texts, showing up at places/events they weren’t invited to and stirring conflict whenever it’s time for the child to leave them.

How to co-parent with a narcissist

Deciding to co-parent normally comes at an already turbulent time in life, so narcissists are often desperate to regain control and attention. But how can you navigate the already difficult task of parenting with someone who is more focused on their own needs?

Here are seven ways to successfully co-parent with a narcissist:

1. Parallel Parenting

To begin with, you should consider parallel parenting. Co-parenting with a narcissist can be a nightmare, with constant harassment, conflicts and no guarantee that they will keep any promise they make.

One way of protecting yourself and reducing the amount of conflict in your child’s life is to attempt parallel parenting. Unlike co-parenting, parallel parenting is a legal arrangement that aims to minimise the contact between parents.

This includes neutral collection and drop-off spots, separate parent-teacher conferences and total control over the parenting of a child whilst they are in your care. The benefit of parallel parenting is that there are solid boundaries in place regarding childcare and legal paperwork enforcing it. This allows the parent to focus on building a safe and secure environment with their child without the constant input of a narcissist.

2. Have a clear legal parenting plan in place

A narcissist may want to have as much control over your child’s life as possible. To ensure you have the time and space to care for your child as you see fit, having a legal parenting plan is important.

This plan can decide things like who is financially responsible for what, when each parent has care of the child, what type of communication is allowed, etc.

This parenting plan should be as detailed as possible to avoid miscommunication, manipulation or disputes.

3. Avoiding conflict

If you do have to co-parent with a narcissist, it’s important to stay in control of your emotions. Conflict is what a narcissist wants because it means people are focused on them. Additionally it helps to drive a wedge between the other parents and their child.

Not engaging with attempts to cause conflict, avoiding being alone with a narcissistic ex, and walking away if they do attempt these things is the best way to begin moving forward.

Moreover, having limited or even no contact with a narcissist can be a great way to co-parent more harmoniously. If this is done, the rules should be put on paper, for example, confirming that you will only communicate via email, deciding on a holiday schedule ahead of time, etc.

In some cases, a restraining order or another form of legal protection may be necessary, or even installing security measures on your property.

4. Maintain boundaries

Having legal measures in place can help both parties to maintain boundaries, but this is still something that those involved will need to constantly work on.

A narcissist is always trying to get attention from others, so they may try to elicit a reaction by pushing any boundaries you’ve put in place. This is why it’s so important to maintain these boundaries as much as possible, especially at the beginning.

Eventually, these habits will become the new normal and having received no reaction from you, the narcissist will learn to accept it.

5. Resolving disputes

Unfortunately, disputes tend to be more likely when co-parenting with a narcissist, so it is important to have strategies in place for how to deal with any issues that arise.

In an ideal world, it would be possible to resolve any disputes without the need for court proceedings using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. Even where the person you are co-parenting with is difficult, ADR can often still be effective if you have the right legal support.

Common ADR methods you can try may include:

If you are unable to reach agreement with your child’s other parent through ADR, you feel this is not appropriate due to the circumstances or you need an urgent solution, you can apply to a family court to resolve any concerns. It is important to have an experienced family lawyer’s support with this to help give your applications the greatest chance of success.

You can apply to a family court for matters such as:

If you have experienced domestic abuse, there are also a range of measures you can potentially take to protect yourself and your children, including applying for a non-molestation order, occupation order, domestic violence protection order and/or starting criminal proceedings.

6. Documenting everything

Throughout this process documenting everything is necessary. Make a note of any times where your narcissistic ex did not meet at the time they agreed, is contacting you when they should not be, etc.

If it becomes necessary to take further action based on their failure to adhere to the legal boundaries you established, it’s important that you have evidence to back up your claims.

7. Therapy

In situations like these, attending therapy or organising therapy for your child can be very beneficial.

It’s important to remember to focus on mental stability and health during turbulent times in life. Therapy can help you to come to terms with your situation and begin to work through any issues you may be facing.

Additionally, group or sole therapy sessions can be very beneficial for a child. It can help them better manage the effects of a narcissistic parent and help them manage their own emotions.

What is it like co-parenting with a narcissist?

Co-parenting with a narcissist is challenging and emotionally draining. They may do things like:

  • Invade your privacy and infiltrate every activity you attempt to do with your child
  • Cause conflict and refuse to follow the parenting schedule
  • Constantly question your child about what they have done with you
  • Spread false and negative information about you to friends and other parents
  • Place blame on you when discussing the situation with your child or other people
  • Make important decisions regarding the child without telling you
  • Threaten to harm or bankrupt you

Overall, they are seeking control and attention from both you, your child and everyone else, putting their desires before anything else.

Can you successfully co-parent with a narcissist?

It is possible to successfully co-parent with a narcissist with the right approach and the right support. Key tips for success include:

  1. Ensure you have a clear plan and solid boundaries when it comes to co-parenting the child.
  2. Don’t allow a narcissist to manipulate your feeling and cause further conflict.
  3. Care for your personal mental and physical health.
  4. Give your child a safe, loving environment that they will feel happy in.

How do you survive co-parenting with a narcissist?

When trying to co-parent with a narcissist, it’s important to look after yourself and your child.

Take every legal step to ensure that your child’s wellbeing is protected and then ensure that you don’t argue with your co-parent over small things. This will simply work to put a wedge between yourself and your child.

Be open to support from your loved ones and don’t give the narcissist the attention or control they are looking for from you. This is the first step to helping your child and you to survive and thrive.

Get in touch with our family law solicitors in London & South East England

For help co-parenting with a narcissist or any other area of family law, please get in touch with our friendly, expert team.

You can contact our family lawyers in London and across the South East now by calling 020 8017 8962 or contacting your local Crisp & Co office.