Raising children when the couple is no longer together can be problematic at times. However, the problem becomes significantly worse when it happens that you’re actually co-parenting with someone who’s full of themselves. It is important to learn more about narcissistic behavior to be able to co-parent with them appropriately. However, you’d need to know the signs first.
Narcissist co-parents have been found to exhibit certain behaviors. These behaviors include an inflated self-image, lying, blaming, gaslighting, gossiping, criticizing, and such. Not only are these behaviors detrimental to your relationship, but they can also put the children in an uncomfortable situation. When the signs have been found, there are ways you can deal with them and stand your ground against the narcissist co-parent.
Signs You are Co-Parenting with a Narcissist
Are you unhappy co-parenting with your ex? Chances are that you might be co-parenting with a narcissist. There are things you can do about it, but you have to know the signs to look out for first.
They Think They’re Special
Named after the mythological man who couldn’t stop looking at himself until he died, narcissism is the personality trait defined by self-involvement, selfishness, lack of empathy for others, and the need for admiration. In excessive degrees, the DSM-V even considers this to be a personality disorder.
With this definition, it’s easy to see that narcissistic people would excessively see themselves as special people. It is especially problematic forming relationships with these people as they typically reserve love only for themselves. Co-parenting is already a difficult job, and narcissistic personalities just make it even harder.
They Lie to You
If you are co-parenting with a narcissist, chances are that you have found them to lie to you quite a bit. Honesty is not what characterizes a narcissist, it’s their selfishness. They will often lie to the people around them as the promises they make don’t mean that much to them. They will tell you things they know you want to hear instead of the truth if it means they don’t get yelled at.
The worst thing about narcissists lying is when they lie to the children. These narcissists can look their kids in the eyes and tell them something important like “I’ll be there for your big game” and completely forget about it the next day.
It’s important to be on the lookout for this sign because it can be dangerous raising a child with a co-parent who does not tell you the whole picture.
They Never Accept Fault
Narcissists think the world revolves around them which means they cannot possibly do anything wrong. Unfortunately, that means they’ll pin the blame on you whenever they can. Whose fault is it that the kid’s grade is falling? Whose fault is it that no one picked the kid from school? No matter what you’ve already discussed, you’ll often find your co-parent’s fingers pointing to you.
For example, the co-parent wasn’t able to attend the kid’s talent show and blamed you for not reminding them about it. Your child is already disappointed with the parent’s absence, but it makes it more difficult for them if they hear your co-parent’s accusations.
They Gaslight You
Adding to the previous point, narcissists often redirect blame through gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of mental manipulation, common in toxic relationships. It is a form of communication that changes the narrative, making you question yourself.
For example, let’s say your co-parent forgot to pick up your kid for the weekend. You call them, reminding them about that agreement you’ve previously made.
Your narcissist co-parent might gaslight you by saying, “You must be out of your mind. We never had that conversation! It’s always like this. You always make me look like the bad guy when I’ve done nothing wrong.”
If successful, you might take their words and become introspective about how you’ve acted towards them in the past. However, the truth is, they’re just manipulating you. Gaslighting redirects the issue and makes you the villain in every scenario.
They Talk Behind Your Back
Another sign that you’re co-parenting with a narcissist – they have little respect for you. This means it won’t be a surprise if you find out one day that they’re actually talking about you behind your back. This could be to their own friends and family. It can even become damaging if they talk about you behind your back to mutual friends since your exes’ words can change how your friends look at you. However, the worst case is when they talk about you to the kids.
It is not uncommon to find co-parents talking badly about the other co-parents to the children when they are not in a mutually respectful relationship. This is especially true for narcissist co-parents as they want the children to like them more than you.
Thus, they resort to all sorts of things to help leverage their case. For example, they don’t reprimand the children even though they made a mistake so that they will look at you as the scarier parent. These tricks include talking badly about you as much as they can.
They Criticize You
Some narcissist co-parents don’t have to wait to talk behind your back when they criticize you straight to your face. These narcissists think they’re the best parent who can do no wrong, which means they will openly tell you when they think you’ve done something wrong. This is especially humiliating when they do it in front of other people. Their ego won’t let them empathize – in fact, they want an audience to see them speak badly of you to show them how great they are in comparison.
This is especially problematic when narcissist co-parents criticize you in front of the kids. Surely, you do everything you can as a parent to give your kids the best life you can provide. However, when a parent criticizes another parent in front of a child, that can falsely plant seeds of doubt in the child’s mind. This might get them thinking about their situation and wonder if one parent is better than the other.
They Isolate the Children
Due to their selfish nature, it is quite common to find narcissistic co-parents keeping the children all to themselves. This means that they tend to keep children away from people they don’t like such as your friends and family. This can be quite harmful to your children’s social development as it might send them the wrong message about the people around your life.
Giving in to this behavior can lead to a more extreme form of possessiveness that can make it extremely difficult to co-parent with them.
How to Deal with a Narcissist Co-Parent
It is important that you don’t get swept away by the narcissist co-parent’s behavior. Thus, it is important you know the different ways to deal with them.
Having a narcissist co-parent means being in an abusive relationship. One great way to deal with it is to set up a system that would mean less contact between the two of you – the less contact the better.
One of the easiest ways to avoid contact is by sharing schedules and activities with one another through a third-party method. This way, one does not have to contact the other to ask about such details anymore since the information would already be available on the system.
Such a system that co-parents can use includes 2Houses. It’s an app that allows separated parents to organize a system for their children. For example, the app includes a calendar that both co-parents can have access to. This would let both co-parents know what the child has been doing during each other’s time and more. The app also has other features that allow for a smoother co-parenting situation.
Be the Adult
Unfortunately, dealing with a narcissist can be more difficult than dealing with kids. In the event that your narcissist co-parent begins stirring up drama, one of the best courses of action for you to take is to be the mature adult between the two of you and avoid drama at all costs. You have to deal with it like a child throwing a tantrum – you have to let them know they can’t get what they want by acting like that.
Being in that type of relationship can truly take a toll on anyone. Thus, it is important that you take time for yourself. The best time for you to practice self-care is when the kids are with your co-parent. Without anyone else at your home, take the time and effort to pamper yourself. Treat yourself how you deserve to be treated. Do activities that make you happy. Spend time with people who bring you joy. Every smile and laugh you make helps give you the energy to deal with your co-parent.
Talk to Your Children
One of the most important things you need to do when you’ve learned that you’re co-parenting with a narcissist is to have a conversation with your kids. Having separated parents is confusing enough, there’s no reason to make it more difficult for them by being in a difficult co-parenting situation.
It may take some time, but kids can eventually pick up on the narcissist co-parent’s manipulative behavior. Make it your responsibility to make them understand how things are between you and your co-parent. While your co-parent is acting like a child, you have to hold your head up high and be the adult role model for your kids.