Co-parenting with a narcissist is pretty much impossible. There is nothing more draining than co-parenting with someone who is high conflict/drama. There is no middle ground with them and in order to “win”, they will use the children as pawns every chance they get.
The first time this happened to me, it was on Mother’s Day. My ex had worked around the house and then finally said, “Let’s go to the Lilac Festival for Mother’s Day.” Never asked what I wanted but that was okay because. for me, it was about the kids. I remembered he did not like what I had on and I didn’t understand why. One thing led to another and next thing I knew he was telling the kids they could go with me or they could go with him. I was heart broken when my oldest looked at me and said, “You understand right Mom? We never see Daddy.” I let them go and spent Mother’s Day alone. When he returned with the boys he asked me what was for dinner. I looked at him and said, “Whatever you want. I’m not cooking.” As he cooked dinner he was slamming pots and pans and saying things to the kids under his breath like, “She’s not my Mother. I don’t need to show her any kind of Mother’s Day. See what she does? She’s a bitch.”
My ex never taught my kids to love and respect their Mother and while I have wonderful boys, there are times, that lack of teaching from their father rears its ugly head. Like parenting isn’t hard enough, now I’m feeling the repercussions of his influence on my 19 and 17-year-old? So what can you do?
- I had to immediately stop feeling sorry for my boys when the familiar behavior of their father started coming out of them. I set up boundaries and let them know, it would not happen again. I would put them in jail if they got in my personal space and acted inappropriately.
- I try to limit my contact and theirs with my ex, although, at their age, I really have no control over their contact.
- I’m still parenting. The 19-year-old may be an “adult” but I’m trying to teach both the emotional maturity and still trying to teach how to have a successful relationship with mutual respect and understanding.
- I’m trying to model good coping skills and healthy habits and solid relationship skills.
- I point out narcissistic behaviors in them that model their fathers in order to call attention to what they need to work on. Some would disagree with this but I find it to be effective and have also taped them so they can see or hear how they are acting. Since they lived it, it is an eye opener.
- I have set clear boundaries and they think I’m being “bitchy” but I have had to do that. I have had to claim my own space and let them know that the climate within our house has changed. I will no longer feel bad that they got the short end of the stick when it comes to their Dad and I will no longer allow them to believe that I need to be perfect and make up for his shortcomings. I have my own shortcomings.
- I no longer make excuses for their Dad and his behavior and refuse to be quiet when he slams me. I speak up. I will say, “I’m not lying to you, would you like to see correspondence?” They are old enough now that if he lies to them and makes me play FEMA, that I will now give them the option of believing me or seeing the truth. I don’t bring this on myself but I defend myself now when I have too.
A narcissist has their own pretend world. One in which everything goes their way and they don’t have to follow the rules of normal society. It’s our job as the other parent, to set that straight with our children so that history does not repeat itself.