How to Co-Parent With a Narcissist

Perhaps the only thing worse than being married to and having children with a narcissist is being divorced from and attempting to parent with a narcissist. Narcissists are people who are so concerned with their own life, their own happiness and their own anything that they may emotionally abuse those around them and focus more on their own well-being than the well-being of anyone else, including their children. For this reason, co-parenting with a narcissist is not an easy task, but it can be done.

Obtain court documentation requiring child support for your children, advises Karyl McBride, Ph.D. and licensed marriage and family therapist. As long as you have primary custody of your children, your ex is required by law to pay child support. However, if you need his child support payments during the divorce process, don't take his word for it; have your attorney draw up documentation with his signature agreeing to pay the specified amount in the meantime, advises Dr. Phil McGraw, talk show host and therapist. When you have children with a narcissist and then divorce him, he is unlikely to forget that you left him and in his own mind, ruined his life. He will not see things the same way as you; he will not see that his behavior or personality or anything else helped you make the decision to divorce him. He will only see that you are upsetting his life and causing problems for him, which he is unable to forgive due to his particular personality type. For this reason, he is unlikely to want to help you support your children financially, which is his obligation. When it comes to co-parenting in the financial aspect, it’s your best bet to have legal documentation requiring him to financially support his children to avoid the risk of having to support them on your own.

Talk to your ex about using his narcissism against the children. According to Deesha Philyaw, co-author of the book, “Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce,” and co-founder of the website, your narcissistic ex is highly likely to lie to your children to make himself look better in their eyes or even ask the kids to lie for him so that he can look better in front of you or others 1. This behavior is a form of emotional abuse that causes children to feel conflicted, confused and unhappy. You may ask your ex to stop telling your children that you don't want them to see him because he's a better parent and you're just jealous, which is why you left him. He's not going to handle this well for many reasons. One is that he does not want to be called out, and is likely to respond negatively and try to turn the situation around on you. He may accuse you of sending the kids over to spy on him and report behavior to you. The best thing you can do is remain calm and ask him to put it in writing that he will not speak ill of you or treat your children poorly; narcissists often respond better to written agreements than verbal agreements.

Respect your children’s desires and wishes, and ask your ex to do the same, advises Philyaw. Unfortunately, your narcissistic ex is more likely to make empty promises to your children to make them happy in the moment and then choose their own happiness over your children’s, such as not taking them to the birthday party they really wanted to go to on a weekend they are with him because he doesn’t want to go.

Tell your children over and over how important they are to you and how much you love them, advises McBride. A narcissistic parent fails to realize his children’s emotions and is unlikely to put them above his own, which can cause your children to realize that they don’t matter much to that parent. Co-parenting with someone like this means you may have to pick up some of the slack and show your kids they are important at all times.