10 Signs You are Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

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Co-parenting is often a challenging process, even for the friendliest ex-partners. But co-parenting with a narcissist can turn into a real struggle. Although you don’t live with your narcissistic ex anymore, you are tied to them through children, so learning how to co-parent with a narcissist can help you set boundaries and keep balance and rationality.

What is a Narcissist?

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have an exaggerated sense of self-worth and an inflated self-image. They always put their needs first, lacking empathy and compassion for others. A narcissist requires an excessive attention and needs other people to admire them. They tend to blame others for their own failures and mistakes. 

Many individuals with narcissistic personality disorder grew up in dysfunctional families where they learned to cope by developing a sense of superiority. However, they also developed hypersensitivity to criticism, rejection, and abandonment.

Narcissists typically experience sudden mood swings, and impulsive behavior with angry and aggressive outbursts. They are often manipulative, controlling, or abusive in relationships.

A person doesn’t need to be diagnosed with a narcissist personality disorder but can still have narcissist personality traits that will make co-parenting impossible at times. 

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Challenges of Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Co-parenting requires cooperation, understanding, and teamwork. However, narcissists tend to have an inflated sense of importance and a fundamental lack of compassion. So, you may find it impossible to cooperate with your narcissistic ex when it comes to co-parenting. 

After you end a toxic relationship, your ex may feel entitled to keep bullying, controlling, or abusing you. Narcissists tend to believe that they are above the law and that rules don’t apply to them. They always feel like victims, so don’t expect your narcissistic ex to co-parent in a healthy and mutually-satisfying way. 

When co-parenting with a narcissist, expect some of the following challenges:

  • They may refuse to agree to custody. 
  • A narcissist may not agree to arrangements made in court.
  • They may try to manipulate you by saying how much they miss you and your family. 
  • Your narcissistic ex may intrude on your boundaries and interfere with your child’s routine.
  • They may use triangulation and pull kids into your relationship to maintain control.
  • They may try to turn kids against you.

Signs You are Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of superiority, believing they are better than anyone else. Sharing custody with a narcissist can be one of the greatest challenges you’ll have to face, a real torment at times. Here are some signs you are co-parenting with a narcissist:

  • Your narcissistic ex may use gaslighting, challenging your perception of reality, to maintain control and dominance.
  • They are always putting you down, undermining your efforts as a parent
  • They ignore your rules and have no respect for your boundaries 
  • Your narcissistic ex expects children to fulfill their needs
  • They lack empathy even towards kids
  • Your narcissistic ex always criticizes you in front of children
  • They talk behind your back to your kids
Uncover the signs of narcissism, strategies for recovery, and ultimately, the path to healing and freedom. Learn more now.

How to Co-Parent with a narcissist

If there is no abuse or some other significant reason to keep your narcissistic ex away from children, it is wise to find a way to co-parent with a narcissist and make the situation bearable at least. Here are the ten tips to help you out.

1) Set Firm Boundaries

Even though you have separated from your narcissistic partner, you must stay in touch as you share children. So, make sure to establish firm boundaries and make your expectations apparent. 

Limit communication with your ex on essential calls and texts around co-parenting and always stick to the facts. 

2) Strike a Legal Co-Parenting Plan

Even after you separate, a narcissist may want to be in control. To prevent them from demanding things you haven’t agreed upon, have your legal custody agreement in writing. 

3) Avoid Drama

Narcissists thrive on drama. While co-parenting with a narcissist, try to ignore their sarcasm and hostility. Stay calm and resist the impulse to engage in the drama your ex is creating.  

4) Be Prepared for Challenges

Don’t expect co-parenting with a narcissist to run smoothly. Adjust your expectations, so you feel less stressed out if issues arise. 

5) Keep Record of All Documents

Narcissists tend to twist the truth, so make sure to document everything divorce and co-parenting-related. Make copies of relevant correspondence and other important documents.

6) Take Advantage of a Guardian ad Litem

A judge can appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to your child if you have a custody dispute with your narcissistic ex. A GAL acts as an advocate, providing support and taking care of your child’s interests. You can also have your attorney request a Guardian ad Litem

7) Build a Support System

To regain confidence and boost mood, surround yourself with the people who love you and understand you. Although you don’t have to discuss your co-parenting issues if you don’t feel comfortable sharing the details, it helps to know that your loved ones are supporting you.

8) Practice Self-Care

Co-parenting with a narcissist can be draining. So, don’t forget to put self-care in focus. Make sure you eat healthily and get enough sleep daily. Exercise, practice mindfulness and go for long walks in nature. Spend time with positive people, practice gratitude, and keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. These simple self-care strategies can help you cope with stress, improve your mood, and help you feel safe. 

9) Keep Your Feelings in Check

Don’t allow a narcissist to see you upset. Your ex might send accusing messages or say things to provoke your emotional reaction, expecting you to jump, react and defend yourself. However, the best response to a narcissist’s provocation is to remain calm and collected. 

10) Seek Counseling for Yourself and Your Kids 

Psychotherapy can be a safe environment to address your co-parenting issues, work through your emotions, and develop strategies for making co-parenting with a narcissist work.

Also, such high-conflicting family situations can impair a child’s wellbeing, especially if your ex exhibits narcissistic behavior towards children. Counselors trained in working with kids can be a great help to you and your child(ren).

How to Set Boundaries when Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

narcissist co parenting quote

Boundaries are an essential aspect of self-care that allows you to stay in control and feel safe while co-parenting with a narcissist. To maintain boundaries when co-parenting with a narcissist, don’t let your ex pull you back into their trap of gaslighting, blame, and guilt. Avoid engaging in arguments with the narcissist – don’t feel pressured to defend or justify yourself. 

To prevent your ex from controlling you, don’t make compromises and avoid accepting arrangements that don’t work in your favor 

Parenting challenges can be hard for any new or existing parents. Here is more information on what you can expect when working through a parent coaching program.

Conclusion: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Co-parenting with a narcissist may feel like the most challenging thing ever. Learning what you can expect and how to co-parent with a narcissistic ex can help you stay in control and keep sanity. 

If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to your support system and don’t hesitate to seek counseling for yourself or your kids.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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