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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  • Theresa

    July 10, 2017 at 10:06 am Reply

    Where are the comments from men coparenting with mothers with narcissistic personalities?

    • Zari Ballard

      July 10, 2017 at 2:49 pm Reply

      They are scattered around under various articles but many of them are here….

      • Mike

        July 21, 2017 at 9:32 pm Reply

        I’ve read a lot of articles regarding co parenting with a narcissist and they ALL portray the narcissist as the dad. It’s tough enough as a ultra dedicated single dad to deal with a heavily narcissistic ex wife, but reading all of these articles portraying the male as the narcissist and the assholes makes me feel like I’m the only one with a narcissistic ex Wife.

        • Zari Ballard

          July 23, 2017 at 8:22 pm Reply

          Hi Mike,

          The only reason that this blog speaks of the narcissist as a male is because I write from my own experience. I’ll be the first to say that the female narc is the WORST of the WORST and has her male counterpart beaten hands down. Please, if you can, download my book When Evil Is a Pretty Face from Amazon. I wrote it for the guys and it’s all about the female narc. I have a chapter in there about co-parenting as well. It will really help you:)


          • Gable Young

            July 30, 2017 at 8:31 am


            Dear Mike, I can imagine that it must be hard for you. So many articles state that male narcissists outnumber female narcissists. I personally don’t really believe that. I think that psychiatrists are just more reticent to put the label of narcissist on a female. They may instead diagnose them with a cluster “B” disorder. Bottom line there just isn’t enough information or research on this topic. By the way, I am female with a narcissistic soon to be ex husband.

  • Jennifer Anderson

    July 6, 2017 at 6:13 pm Reply

    I am trying to divorce my N husband and he uses my 10 year old daughter.. she will not go with me anywhere because he makes her feel bad by telling her if she goes with me she is choosing me over him. I have been staying with friends and family and still paying all the home bills because if I don’t he will loose the home. I feel like I’m right for keeping the bills paid but feel I’m wrong because I can’t get my own place… he has not worked going on 4 years. I don’t know what to do…. I keep coming to the conclusion that I have no choice other than to go back….. I am lost and don’t know what to do!!

    • Zari Ballard

      July 10, 2017 at 3:22 pm Reply

      Hi Jennifer,

      I don’t know about paying those home bills, girl. If I was paying the home bills, I’d be living in that home! It doesn’t make sense since your plan seems to be to get your own place anyway. If you want to get your own place then let the home go. OR KICK HIS ASS OUT TO THE CURB and move yourself back in. One or the other but I would NOT be paying those bills so he gets to live there comfortably. That makes no sense at all. You need to stand up for yourself and your life and for your daughter. He brings NOTHING to the table even as a father. Right now, you could divorce him, get full custody, let the home go or put it on the market, get your own place and be done with it. How is he going to fight you? He can’t!! What are you thinking? You can do this. Your daughter will be fine and I hope she is with YOU. If you can, sister, book some time with me so we can work through this. I’ll help you do what is right. He is running the show and he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Makes no sense.

      Zari xo

  • Martha Fleming

    June 18, 2017 at 8:59 pm Reply

    I was married to a narcissist for 15 years. I had a four year divorce from hell. He even tried to kill by running over me with his truck, but ha ha I’m still here. He didn’t pay support for years and took two of my four children for 2 years, but hence the courts had to return my boys to me because of over 20 tardies and absences, failing grades, suspensions from school, and they were in trouble with the law. I learned from a counselor that I could lay down and let him kick me around or stand up and fight back. I am still fighting back. I am fortunate that I have the support of family and friends. I only communicate via Our Family Wizard which has been Court Ordered. I have been to court so frequently that they all know me. Don’t let a narcissist ruin your life or your children. Have faith in God and know that the narcissist will eventually show his true colors to all. Mostly know that we are all stronger than we know we are. Stay strong and keep on Knocking!

  • Mindy

    May 31, 2017 at 5:01 pm Reply

    I have a 3 year old son with the devil and have no choice but to share 50/50 with him , he has money and lawyers and now a days that’s all you need, I won’t get into the strangling me in the bathroom or cheating but that I struggle every second knowing my son is in his care , not because I think he will abuse him in fact he adores my son and gets so much attention through him now( sounds great right) I wish i didn’t know who he really was because I know and see how he uses words to try and manipulate my sons thoughts towards me,

    For instints , when we meet to pick up or drop off he will cling to my son and tell him that he will cry all wknd that he is gone and that he HAS to go to mommy now
    or he will do the opposite and what should be a quick exchange he immediately start jumping around and tossing my son in the air an trying to be purposely be super fun right before he pretends to try and let my son go to me but when he sees that my son easily goes for me he attempts to pull him back and act as though it’s my son who doesn’t want to go and continues to use words like ” you HAVE to go with mommy” and I know you don’t want to go but you have to”. Regardless of my sons willingness to want to be with me.

    Or we can go to the route of buying my sons love, and always trying to “one up” anything I do with my son or give to my son, he’s in a constant competition game that I am not playing,
    but I know its going to ruin my son, at age 3 he bought my son iPhone 7 for his birthday and insisted that he needed it because he alwYs wanted his phone , also he already told him that he has a car for him and it’s his own car, he is in this race to give my son everything first, to do everything first with him and if I do happen to have or give him something he doesn’t have yet, he will be sure to run out and buy the same or do the same over and over again until it’s no longer fun for my son, Christmas is already like nothing to him,
    My son will not know the value of a lot of things no matter how I am with With him , it is and always will be a constant mental fight to teach my son to be honest , true, normal
    And when my son crys simply because I don’t give him his way , I will not give in and baby to that emotion, I will do my best to teach my son that attention doesn’t come from a negative reaction or manipulation or deals or appearance but attention will come from good honest human behavior and I will love his pure innocent soul and I will sit down and do puzzles with him and teach him colors and do simple things like walks in the woods and exploring ant hills ,these are things you cannot buy or fake,giving him my simple honest self and teaching him things that I know are too time consuming for the Devils selfish needs.

    For all the woman out there who feel hopeless like I do at times , just remember that he will try manipulate words with your child and twist there thoughts to try and make himself the king of there world, but always remember that the devil doesn’t know real and normal and simple things he simply can’t see it, he only know BIG, POWERFUL, Overbearing things but you know what I remember as a kid, it was playing in the woods , riding bikes, and how my mother always put time into making holidays and birthdays special, I don’t remember a damn toy or material thing , so give your child the simple things in life , the things that take time and energy.
    try not to get caught up the Devils games that only he plays.
    Show your child that being himself is enough .

    • Zari Ballard

      June 12, 2017 at 12:18 pm Reply

      Hi Mindy,

      What a great post and I agree with you on every single count. You sound like a wonderful, loving mom and you’re son will grow up to be an awesome kid if you just keep up the great work. Your ex sounds like a complete douchebag just like my son’s father was when he was little. That type of manipulation is the worst of the worst and they will continue to do it until the cows come home. The truth, however, is that all the money in the world can not buy love and you are and will already showing him this.

      An iPhone7 for a 3-year old…how absolutely ridiculous!!! Yikes!

      Zari xo

  • N McClain

    April 25, 2017 at 1:28 am Reply

    Sorry, but you can’t “refuse” to send your kids to a co-parent – especially a narc. Because he will call the police, and the court orders will be followed. This is an impossible situation.

    Also, if the narc’s new girlfriend is someone he cheated on you with – or, in my case – the goddamned escort/prostitute he HIRED and then decided to move in and become your only child’s caregiver – you simply CANNOT have a relationship with this OW person.

    It’s impossible.

    I feel sick to my stomach in a way that I can’t describe.

    My 8-year old daughter has spent half of the last three years living with an active drug-addicted felon hooker (and her teenage pothead sex worker daughter) and my ex, the narcissist from hell.

    None of the traditional methods work here – not ‘grey rock’, not ‘no contact’, and not ‘let it go’.


    Because every second my daughter is over there, I have to be vigilant that she isn’t harmed in some way.

    We are 100% responsible for our kids, yet in divorce, somehow, we’re expected to forget this half the time.

    On top of all this, he has destroyed me financially and he was the one to initiate the divorce.

    I’m nearly broken.

    • Zari Ballard

      April 25, 2017 at 3:34 pm Reply

      Hi N McCLain,

      No, when we have children with these people, we can’t go completely silent but we don’t have to allow them to continue to control our lives. I understand about visitation but I just don’t believe that there is nothing you can do about the fact that your daughter is living 1/2 the time with drug addicts and hookers. You can always go back to court, I suppose, with documentation about what you know to be true. How does your daughter feel about what goes on when she is with her father and his minions? Does her father actually WANT her to be there or is he doing it to get back at you? Is he out of state?

      I wish I knew a little more about your situation. You can write me via the contact page if you like with more details and I will respond accordingly. I know that co-parenting with a narc or sociopath is devastating but most of the devastation is based upon intimidation and this is where we give up the control. There are strategies you can use to try to get back to a place where you at least feel some semblance of control.

      Wishing you the best, sister….

      Zari xo

  • Nicki

    April 5, 2017 at 3:50 pm Reply

    Thank you for this! I am split from my ex-husband now for 3 years and we have two kids; a son who is 8 and a daughter who is 6. I have learned to not let his tactics get to me but he is starting to use the kids to get to me, and it hurts. I don’t want my son to turn out like him! He badmouths me in front of my kids and then praises them when they disrespect me. However, I’ve witnessed him punishing the kids for the very same actions in other situations (for example if they disrespect him or another adult in the same way, he yells and there are major consequences like grounding, etc.). I’m sure it’s extremely confusing for the kids. However, he takes care of them “well”…. keeps them clean, fed, takes them to school, has a great family, lots of friends. There are no signs that he is a bad parent from the outside, but I know how he used to treat me is how he’s treating them now, and it’s painful to know that. This is very helpful to read through. I guess I have to keep strong on my end and set a good example, and maintain excellent records of all interactions just in case it goes too far. Thank you again!

    • Zari Ballard

      April 8, 2017 at 12:06 am Reply

      Nicki wrote…I guess I have to keep strong on my end and set a good example, and maintain excellent records of all interactions just in case it goes too far. That’s it, girl. The records are so very important. At some point, believe me, you will need them and – man o man – will he be shocked that you have them! Stay strong, girl…xo

  • Suzie

    March 19, 2017 at 6:05 pm Reply

    My Narc husband has three other children two girls and one boy. He managed to get full custody of his two girls .and he is living with them. I feel sorry for them. I have a son with him and a baby on the way. We currentllly do not talk he discarded me the day i found out i was pregnant. And until i went on youtube and found out that there is such a thing as Narcissism never knew that his behaviour is.evil for lack of a better word.. now what? Is the only question i am left with

    • Zari Ballard

      March 31, 2017 at 11:58 am Reply

      Hi Suzie,

      I am sorry that he discarded you the day you found out. That’s awful. But now, you have no choice but to move forward. There are babies to tend to and you are all they are going to have, for the most part. I do hope that you will take him to court for child support and get the financial support that you need. To many times, they get away with shirking every single family responsibility. Just because he has other children does not mean that your children with him are any less important. However, when you ask “now what”, I think you know what the answer is. He will never ever change and this is a fact. Knowing this, don’t blame yourself. Time will ease the pain but you must be proactive. He counts on you fading into the woodwork until he’s ready to reappear. Do not be there when and if he returns but definitely take legal action to get what you deserve.

      Zari xo

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