Co-Parenting With a Narcissist (& the Agony of Defeat)

coparent-narcissistThe only thing harder than breaking up/going No Contact with a narcissist is breaking up/going No Contact with a narc who also happens to be your baby daddy/momma. Based on the countless emails and comments that I receive from victims (both male AND female) who struggle to co-parent with a narcissist ex, it’s clear to me that there are no easy solutions. In fact, up until I began to write this post, I was beginning to fear that perhaps there were no solutions but this answer simply wasn’t acceptable to me. How am I supposed to help if there are no solutions? So, I gave the subject a good deal of thought and decided tom put a slightly different spin on this very unique co-parenting scenario. Ultimately, what I decided was that co-parenting with a narcissistic ex AND having a peaceful life can happen because it must and that the Agony of Defeat was not insurmountable.

Can a Narcissist love his/her children?

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This is the big question, of course, and I believe that the answer to that is ‘no’ – at least not in the way normal people love their children. In fact, it’s not even close. The truth is that a narcissist can no more love his or her children than he or she can love a partner, friend, family member, or anyone else.  I’ve never seen it happen. I’ve never read about it happening. I’ve never heard about it happening. It’s just not possible.  An N is an N is an N. If history showed that even the slightest possibility existed  that narcissists could, in fact, love their own children, I’d be tempted to think that narcissism perhaps was fixable. But there is no history any where that does this…no history, that is, that is based in fact and not in wishful thinking. No, narcissists do not and can not ‘love’ their children.

Now, having said that, do not be misled into thinking that narcissists do not find their children useful under certain circumstances because…oh yeah…they most certainly do. In fact, the N who is a combination “ex-partner” and “co-parent” has the luxury of circulating, surviving, and thriving at levels of evil far beyond that of the typical narcissistic asshole. The narcissist co-parent is indeed a SuperPower in his own right! Yes, he/she who holds this coveted position is awarded the type of false entitlements that a single non-parent narcissist only dreams about. And for the victim partner who wants to get away, a break-up with this narcissist superpower appears too often to be a hopeless situation…a brand new narcissistic show of chaos that promises to be far more damaging than the first, second, and third. And, this time, it is the children who get bumped to the top of the N’s hit list.

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Is it possible to go No Contact with a narcissist co-parent?

No, not in the way that No Contact was originally intended. Victims who want/need the torture to stop but still have to deal with co-parenting issues are left to their own devices without a single one of the privileges that many other victims may take for granted. As a victim who co-parents, how do you block a phone number, move away, refuse to answer the door, blow off the in-laws, and so forth when children are involved? You can’t. How do you flat out refuse to communicate with a parent that the children (bless their hearts) have been duped into loving? How do you deal with the fact that the narcissist talks shit about you to the kids and you can’t even defend yourself (because you choose to do the right thing and stay quiet)?

narcimpressBecause the N is not a normal human, he/she is going to use the children as a narcissistic tactic and weapon of choice to cut you to the very bone. Since the N has no conscience, dragging the children into the dirt is nothing but a thing and the easiest way to hurt you. The N will use every excuse in the book pertaining to the children to intrude upon your new life. At some point, the narcissist may even threaten you – either with CPS or by saying that he simply won’t be bringing them back. Granted, the latter scenario isn’t likely because a typical N honestly can’t be bothered (but the thought is nonetheless horrifying since you know the boundaries that this person will cross both in court and out).  Sadly, you will now have to watch the torture that was your relationship played out towards the children. Since the narcissist (again, male or female) can no longer Idolize, Devalue, & Discard you, he will turn his pathological relationship agenda upon the children. It’s likely he/she will make plans with the children and then not show up.  The N may promise to call and then conveniently forget – for days, weeks, or longer. He/she may even miss holidays altogether, choosing instead to be with a “new” ‘victim’ family and partner. He will relish the thought that even now, with the relationship being over, he can still continue to torture you by torturing the children. And since the children, at least while they’re young, tend to love a narcissist parent unconditionally no matter how neglectful and indifferent he/she may be, the N ultimately gets nearly a life time to make sure you are never happy again!

So, what is the answer?

The answer, first, is to know that the relationship between you and the N is over. At this point, despite how he appears to others, you already know the type of parent that he really is and must proceed to use this information to (for once) serve your own purpose. How much time did the N really spend with the children anyway? Narcissists are historically not doting fathers and mothers or even participating fathers and mothers. Over and over, I hear stories of narcissists walking out just weeks after a child is born. Silent treatments!! Can you imagine that?? Silent treatments when there’s an infant and new mother at home? I hear about narcissists who walk out just days before Christmas, leaving the children with not the slightest idea where daddy went. This may not be exactly the case with your ex-N but I bet its close. Use this knowledge to your advantage. You are a good person. He is not.

As a co-parent with an N, you, too, must strive to be a SuperPower! You must develop thicker skin than you ever thought possible so that every nasty comment he throws your way rolls off your back. You must be able to take an emotional beating without anyone being the wiser. You have to learn to detach, detach, detach and commit, commit, commit to setting boundaries and making rules of engagement. Communication, if possible, should be limited to text, email, and the sporadic phone call…and it must only concern sensible/reasonable issues about the children (and, really, how many of those can there be that have to involve the N?). Above all else, do your best to react to nothing (the point of the N’s game, after all, is to make YOU the psycho co-parent) unless it’s life threatening to the children and even then pay no attention to him/her specifically.

Do not worry about and/or feed into the enormous amount of trash-talking going on behind your back. In fact, say nothing and simply observe, allowing the N to talk trash about mommy (or daddy) all day long if he/she wants to. Sit quietly on the sidelines while the pathetic narcissist digs his own parental grave – and he will dig it because he just won’t be able to help himself. Take comfort in the fact that children are strong, resilient, and smart. They will grow up one day and see the narcissist parent for what he/she is and you will come out the winner. The mask always slips and that’s a fact.

From co-parenting with a narcissist, nothing good ever comes… this we already know so where else can we really go but up?  You must believe in your heart that no matter how hurtful the narcissist is or how evil his intention, you are still free! The relationship is over. You may now look upon the Narcissist as nothing more than an annoying sperm donor and treat him accordingly. He deserves nothing less, nothing more. For years, the narcissist has been methodically managing down your expectations...preparing for this very day….setting the stage for this break-up because he knew it would come…it had to come. The narcissist co-parent counts on the fact that his passive-aggressive conditioning of your responses to his words and behaviors has stuck and that you still fear what he could do, might do, will do.  He counts on his control in this situation and your emotional fragility. The fact that he gets to use the kids against you is just an added bonus!

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Turn it around by having no more fear. It’s time to up the ante.

First, if the narcissist has a girlfriend, tell him you want to be communicative with her about the children. Now, the N will hate this but that’s too bad. Normal couples in normal break-ups speak to “the others” all the time. In fact, you should simply refuse to send the kids unless you at least get to speak to her on the phone for five detached minutes about Suzie’s sort throat. If you show that you’re willing and actually prefer to communicate with the OW, the N is likely to begin behaving immediately to ensure this never happens – and that’s fine too (it’s what we want). I’d be willing to bet that, within a short amount of time, the narcissist will begin to back out completely since the fun of making you suffer will have been taken out of the equation. Using this particular communication twist clearly sends a message to the N that says: I don’t care about you anymore.

Do not allow fear to keep you from being free. You have to let it all go (narcissist included). Do not let your emotions rule your actions. You can still initiate and implement your own version of No Contact with the narcissist co-parent. You can still move on with your life. Chances are high that if you show indifference, detachment, and a refusal to play the game on his terms in any way, the narcissist will do what he has always done and vanish anyway. The children will still grow up to be wonderful people. In the end, you – as the co-parenting ex victim – will be stronger than any of us who have embarked on this journey.  Your decision to end it with the N despite the fact that you have children together will always be the right decision.

I tip my hat to you, sisters and brothers. It’s going to be a challenge but I know you can do it. Change your perspective and change your life. Do not let the N twist the rules of the game to serve his/her own purpose. Allow no more manipulation because that part of your life is over!! Don’t allow the co-parenting dilemma to become an excuse to stay connected with the N.  Instead, beat the co-parent narcissist at his/her own game by playing by the rules. You can win. I know you can!

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  • Kelley Smith

    October 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm Reply

    he’s most recent stunt is pushing ALL communication regarding our child onto his girlfriend. she has printed out emails between her and I and turned them into his attorney to try and use them against me at a DR hearing. with that said – how do I set a clear boundary moving forward that any communication regarding our child must come directly from him and that I will no longer be receiving her texts and emails?

    • Zari Ballard

      November 12, 2017 at 11:07 pm Reply

      Hi Kelley,

      One option is to check out this website……it works wonders. It will FORCE him to be the one who communicates with you and, in addition, the interaction (which takes place through the website) is admissible in court. The second option, of course, is to flat out REFUSE to communicate with the girlfriend. That’s it, plain and simple. There isn’t a court in this nation that would demand that you do that. You set a clear boundary by just SAYING IT. He’s being an asshole and an irresponsible father and you need to stand up for yourself. Demand that the FATHER of your child contact you or you will see him court. It’s that simple really.


  • Shanna

    September 14, 2017 at 1:52 pm Reply

    How do you deal with a manipulative Narc parent with a lot of money who claims to threaten 50/50 custody if I do not trade all weekends to match girlfriend’s schedule? Children are teens who have some say and one thinks he hung the moon. The other one wants more time with him but not half custody…but will likely be brainwashed or pressured to go along. I was willing to trial one week on and off with the older child only and the second day of the trial, he wanted to know which day I would take the child that week..could not even handle a trial week. I have remained firm with boundaries and all communication in writing, but he made it clear that the children want 50/50 and we are going through with the plans. Put together a calendar through the end of the year for us. Either I lose child support if I trial 50/50 and he shows a judge I have agreed to that schedule or if he takes me to court for 50/50. I do not want to lose the kids. I have no confidence in the legal system to handle a Narc.

    • Zari Ballard

      October 16, 2017 at 5:57 pm Reply

      Hi Shanna,

      I don’t know how I missed your post – so sorry! You say you have no confidence in the legal system to handle visitation with the narc but doing it on your own is obviously not working out. Going through the courts will at least put something in writing that you can monitor and that he will likely NOT keep anyway but I do understand about losing support and if it’s about that, then you will simply have to make a schedule that is on your terms and stick to it. The kids are old enough to make a decision and you probably should ask them what it is they REALLY want. Tell them what’s up…that dad wants 50/50 and he’s saying he will go to court for it…is it what they want? Other wise, you will simply have to struggle this way having confidence in the fact that he wouldn’t keep 50/50 even if he had it. It’s good that you keep boundaries and the court would allow you to use ourfamilywizard to facilitate communications that would then be admissible in court if you took him back for not keeping to the schedule. It’s really about choosing the lesser of two evils, I suppose, and deciding how you want to spend this time until they turn 18.

      I’m sorry again for the long delay in responding. Let me know how you are doing…I will keep an eye out for a new post from you…


  • vv23

    September 3, 2017 at 8:36 pm Reply

    The one thing that confuses me about my ex-N is that, despite fitting the N profile in every other way, it appeared that the one thing that seemed truly genuine was his love for his daughter. He’s divorced and has a 12 yo with his ex (who, of course he couldn’t stand and was a terrible person that he bad-mouthed all the time). He spent as much time as he could with her, would drive hours to see her (she lived with her mom and step-dad about 6 hours away from where he did) and talked about her all the time, praising her intelligence, beauty, and talents as a doting parent does. It honestly seemed that she was the ONE thing in his life he may have had true feelings for. So either his acting skills were that marvelous when it came to her, or it was possible that she was the only thing that could inspire something remotely close to real love? Was it that, as his daughter, she was an extension of all the “great” qualities he saw (or wanted to see) in himself? You say a N can never love his children in the way non-Ns can….but this throws me for a loop because he just seemed so very affectionate with his child. What gives?

    • Zari Ballard

      October 9, 2017 at 8:02 pm Reply

      Hi vv23,

      Does he really care about his daughter? Who knows? Right now she is 12 and still highly controllable and he does have the appearance of being a great dad to keep up. The fact that he bad mouthed the mom tells me that part of the trip up there is to check in on the ex wife and get the scoop from the girl…prove to HER how awful MOM is and how wonderful HE is. Who knows? No, they can’t “love” their children like a non-narc because that would make them a non-narc. Narcs have their reasons for being around their children and it is usually self-serving. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a bad dad or that he and the girl don’t have fun together. It just is what it is and his relationship with his daughter will ultimately go through the same twists and turns that his other relationships experience. All in due time…and a narc has all the time in world.


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