Some people are legitimately narcissistic. Others happen to be self-absorbed, inconsiderate, and egotistical way too often.
Whether your ex has been clinically diagnosed with narcissism or exhibits some unsavory characteristics that convince you they should be, co-parenting is going to be especially challenging. We have some tips to help you and your co-parent work together as amicably as possible for the sake of raising healthy, well-adjusted kids.
The term “narcissist” gets applied to a lot of people these days, but very rarely as a professional diagnosis. The good news is that only about six percent of the population is actually narcissistic. The bad news is that your ex could belong in that six percent.
Honestly, many cases can go undiagnosed because narcissists rarely agree to see a psychologist for diagnosis. After all, there’s nothing wrong with them; everyone else is the problem!
Only a licensed psychologist can diagnose a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). If your ex has a clinical diagnosis, you probably already know the kinds of difficulties that lie ahead for co-parenting.
Common behaviors exhibited by a person with NPD include:
It’s easy to imagine why a person with this personality type can be difficult to work with and even easier to see why these traits go against those of a responsible parent. However, mental health professionals and the court system strongly agree that spending time with both parents is in the child’s best interests.
Parenting with your narcissistic ex will have its unique challenges, for sure. On the flip side of that coin, it will present some incredible learning opportunities for you and your children.
For example, you can model how to effectively deal with difficult people and situations through your mature demeanor and actions. Also, you and your children can work with a family therapist to better understand this challenging personality type and learn successful strategies for handling the complications it brings, like:
A narcissistic ex has a greater chance of dabbling in risky behaviors and being irresponsible. However, they aren’t necessarily detrimental to your kids and deserve the opportunity to rise to the occasion. To do so, you and your co-parent must develop alternate problem-solving methods and raise your children together.
Start by communicating less often and in writing with your co-parent. Texts are way better than talking in person or by phone, but even better than that are specially-designed apps for divorced parents.
We have some suggestions to get you started in your research. Download an app (or several) to help you do everything from sharing calendars and medical information to scheduling joint custody and child support payments.
Not only can co-parenting apps help you communicate more amicably with your co-parent without talking to them, but they have a host of other benefits, including:
Next, recognize and rid yourself of preconceived notions about how your co-parent will act. Conduct yourself in a business-like manner when dealing with your co-parent. Doing so, you reduce their excuses for poor behavior (with your co-parenting apps, you’ll have proof that you didn’t instigate).
In addition, stick strictly to the subject when communicating. If you want to talk about changing pick-up and drop-off times, keep it at that. Avoid the “and another thing!” fights where past grievances get added to the mix.
If there is a problem with your parenting plan, bring up the problem with at least one possible solution. For example, you feel your co-parent lets the children stay up too late. Try saying something like, “I know it’s tempting to let them stay up until midnight–you all are having fun and trying to make the most of your time together. I would like them in bed by 9:00. Can we meet in the middle and have them go to bed by 10:30? It might be easier to switch them back to their regular school schedule if they don’t stay up too late and sleep late on the weekends.”
Remember the Golden Rule–treat them the way you want to be treated. Compassion, empathy, cooperation, and negotiating in good faith will take you far. Though you may disagree with the majority of their parenting decisions, don’t try to alienate them. Though you may despise them, don’t start conversations with harsh words and attitudes. Be open to their suggestions, remembering that no two people will parent exactly alike.
Take the high road when dealing with a narcissistic co-parent. At best, your co-parent will rise to your standards. At worst, you’ll be an outstanding role model to your children. Use your co-parenting apps to help you avoid arguments and communicate most effectively, all while maintaining indisputable documentation.