There Is No Such Thing As Co-Parenting With A Narcissist

Counter-parenting might be your alternative.

Do you think it’s even possible to co-parent with my narcissistic ex?

My friend asked me. He has been through a nasty divorce with his narcissistic ex. He has a child with her and shares custody. He sees his son every other week.

Let me rephrase this: he tries to his son every other week. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a court order set in stone. He is trying to sort out this toxic situation and co-parenting time amicably with his ex-partner.

I believe there is no such thing as co-parenting with narcissists.

People who show signs of narcissism can often be very charming. They rarely show negative behavior right away, especially early in the relationship. People who show narcissism like to surround themselves with people who feed into their egos.

There are different types of narcissism that narcissistic behavior can fall under. These types also dictate the different ways people will behave in relationships.

My friend’s ex-partner is a covert and vulnerable narcissist. She often goes feeling inferior and superior to others and gets easily offended, anxious and angry when others don’t treat her as if she is special.

She lacks empathy, uses their children as puppets, and manipulates the legal system to suit her own goals. She also attempts to alienate my friend from their kids.

When kids are involved, it’s impossible to go full no-contact with a narcissistic ex-partner unless you are the primary carer.

My friend thought of becoming the primary carer, but the odds are against him, especially in a country like Montenegro, where there is a certain belief embedded in the society and in the legal system:

The child always belongs to the mother.

So all he can do is try to have minimum contact with the ex-partner.

But the problem he faces is bigger: his ex was emotionally and even physically abusive towards him, and that’s what made him leave. He could not go to the police, as they would have laughed at him, especially in a highly patriarchal country like Montenegro. He would be called a “pussy”.

Every time he is about to see his son, she abuses him even more: calls him names, shouts, demands money from him, even though he is paying her child support, without an official agreement.

She has already found a new partner to abuse and use, so she repeatedly changes the schedule when my friend is about to see his son.

The best for him would be to secure an official agreement, but there are no compromises, agreements, or discussions for narcissists.

Narcissists are tyrants.

She is a predator, a toxic co-parent that uses every potential opportunity to continue to abuse and terrorize him.

When he sees his son or talks on the phone with him, he gets anxious. He literary doesn’t know what to say, how to act. After all, he has been severely traumatized. He is battling with his own thoughts: his toxic narcissistic ex, and his own insecurities, especially about his parenting capabilities.

Feeling Paralyzed

Whenever he is alone, he starts re-analyzing the situation. Second-guessing his every move. He feels paralyzed, worried, and helpless. He doubts himself as a parent.

  • Did I say the right thing?
  • Should have I said this at all?
  • Should I have done this?
  • Should have I not done this?
  • How will it be used against me?

Often, he feels like he doesn’t know how to parent anymore.

And that’s because he has been wounded for too long and he is experiencing so-called “trauma-parenting”.

He is a deeply traumatized survivor who has been repeatedly being put down with every interaction with the narcissistic parent. And as a survivor, he has to figure out a way to co-parent with the narcissist, while healing from upsetting emotions — caused by the same toxic ex-partner.

He always wished to be a good father, because his own father left him when he was 5-years old. He is trying too hard to hold on to an “image” of being a perfect father: fixer, doer, the rock.

But he isn’t perfect, none of us are. When he is portraying to be someone who he isn’t, he isn’t authentic in front of his own child. What differentiates him then from the fake persona of the toxic narcissistic ex? When he isn’t genuine himself!

He must stop investing so much energy into trying to do everything exactly right. There is no right or wrong. We all make mistakes. The only right way is to be authentic in front of your children: it’s okay to let them see you cry, be sad, maybe even frustrated and angry sometimes.

Narcissists lack empathy. While you, like my friend, are an Empath. Show your vulnerability to your children, let them express their own emotions, and be there for them when they feel upset, annoyed, or lonely.

My friend was an optimist, he hoped that there come a time when he and his ex-partner would attend parent meetings together, discuss things regarding the child’s schooling, help each other regarding child care with work emergencies or just find a compromise regarding Christmas or Father’s day arrangements.

My friend is naïve.

He can’t decide together with a narcissist — the narcissistic parent wants to make all decisions regarding the child and even his own life.

He can’t parent with a narcissist, so he tried to “parallel parent”.

Co-parenting means that both parents are committed to raising the child with the child’s best interest at heart. The narcissist does not have the child’s best interest at heart. Their aim is to hurt, punish, and alienate you from the child.

When he tried to sign the kid up for an activity, take him out of the country for the trip, she never gives him consent. She just wants to prevent him from doing anything because she wants to control him regardless of what is best for the child.

A narcissist’s need for control will prevent you from being able to do anything with your child.


Try Counter-Parenting Instead

Counter-parenting doesn’t mean that you must show disagreement with the narcissist. On a contrary, it means; you don’t have to have any contact with narcissist.  

Counter-parenting can be an alternative way, doing things on your own, avoiding the drama, havoc, and the need to win. Counter-parenting is providing another alternative for your child. And it entailed:

Do your best for your kids when they are with you

When they are with you — embrace them, ask how their time was. Do not badmouth the other parent and always validate their feelings.

Teach them to trust their gut feeling

As an Empath, you’ve survived the abuse and you know how it feels to be unheard and lied to. You must realize that you endured this to become the best parent to your kids, because you can help them through it.

Learn to disengage

Do not engage with your children while they are with the narcissists, don’t tell them details about your life. Tell them they can call you at any time, but don’t pry too much.

Every phone call is monitored and will be used against your child to make them feel guilty just for saying “I love you, Daddy..”.

Do as much as you can individually and without arguments. Narcissists will use any event to create drama. Do not let them!

If you can — find a therapist and be involved in your child’s school as much as possible. Keep consistency in your child’s life. Attend your child’s important events, but stay away from the narcissist and their “flying monkeys.”

My friend hasn’t decided yet whether he will take his matter to court but he has documented everything: obstruction of contact, lateness at school, abusive messages and emails, but he isn’t placing much hope into the court system

Unfortunately, the family court is a stage for the narcissistic. The never-ending statements, lawyers, threats, court hearings, the witness box, the crocodile tears. The Oscar-winning performance!

Just look at Johnny Depp and Amber Heads trial.

Avoid going to court if possible, but if you must, then go for full legal custody to decide on your own. Be prepared for false allegations and a horrendous, deeply traumatizing process. The narcissist will use every unorthodox route to win the dispute, therefore, ask yourself:

Is it worth going to the courts while your child will suffer in the meantime?

The decision is yours.

In the meantime, when your child is with the narcissist, focus on your own healing, and when they are with you — be authentic and vulnerable.

Be a rock to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, and a pillow to rest the head. Forever and always.

What To Do If You Are Being Alienated

If your children are being alienated from you, act now and seek help from professionals.

At Partners in Men’s Health, you can seek help and support, and contact us to request our trauma-informed Confidential Concierge Coaching services that will help you reclaim your relationship with your alienated children.

It is never late to amend the relationship, even though often the damage seems irreversible, many children who have been alienated come to realization in adulthood and re-connect with the parent that they have “lost”.

PMH will provide you with the right tools to reduce the damage and will suggest effective approaches to addressing Parental Alienation as a form of individual child abuse, and as a child protection matter.

Additionally, PMH specializes in reunification programs and therapeutic services for alienated parents and children, providing best practices and effective treatment approaches.

Parental Alienation should be considered a form of domestic violence, and a criminal matter. We must raise awareness about Parental Alienation and speak about this topic because innocent children are unable to.

In an ideal world, no child should be put in a position to choose between parents. Children are entitled to both healthy parents.

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