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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  • Jasmine

    May 11, 2015 at 4:45 am Reply

    I googled co-parenting with a narcissist because I needed some kind of emotional support in knowing how to deal with my narcissistic ex while co-parenting with our 2.5 year old. While I no longer mourn the relationship, and see him discarding me as the best thing he ever did for me (apart from “donating” his sperm to create my beautiful daughter), it is so frustrating and honestly quite painful knowing that I have to deal with him on one level or another for the rest of my life for the sake of our daughter. And unfortunately, his fiancé is probably just as narcissistic as he is (it definitely seems that way from the unsolicited verbal abuse I cop from her from time to time…). It hurts me that the court system is protecting his “rights” as her father and gradually giving him more and more and more time. He loves that he gets time with her purely so that its time away from me. I know that because he said tha about his ex wife in regards to his other daughter… I watched how he treated that custody situation and see the same thing unfolding here. It hurts me knowing that he will relentlessly use our daughter to try to get back at me for emotionally moving on and no longer needing him in any capacity. It hurts me to know that as he gets more and more time with our daughter, he will have more and more time to influence her and to ignore her and devalue her. I already see him ignoring her at the McDonald’s playground between drop offs and pick ups. How I wish he didn’t just give up completely on her so that the both of us could live a life free from his emotional abuse. I may be able to deal with it now but she should never ever have to. She deserves so much better than this.

  • Anne

    May 4, 2015 at 7:49 pm Reply

    That is the most interesting advice I read in over two years-ask the ex if I can phone the new girlfriend to show how much I’m moving on!!! Now, I just have to figure out what I could say to her in case he actually follows through with that!! That said, he never showed up at any children exchange with her, even after they all went to the restaurant together…I would like to test that theory and/or hear of people who actually asked the ex NPD for their new girlfriend contact number!! Anything to keep the hope to chase him away…

    • Zari Ballard

      May 6, 2015 at 2:19 pm Reply

      Hi Anne,

      Thanks for writing:) The purpose of asking to communicate with the new girl is more about having “no fear” than it is about proving to them that you’ve moved on. And it also may help quell the narcissist’s bad behaviors since the way in which he treats the co-parent is usually indicative of how involved the new girl is. Here’s what I wrote:

      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.

      My suggestion is basically to throw it out there if he’s being particularly “bad” or making you feel threatened or worried or anxious. His having an emotional affect on you shouldn’t be happening now that the relationship is over but you and I both know that’s not the case. You have a right to peace and calm and since the new girl usually hasn’t got a clue how bad he can really be, the last thing the N wants is for you to talk to her. But besides all that, if this girl is spending any length of time around the kids or if they are now living together, you have every right to “know” her at least enough to communicate about the kids, know what I mean? If he can’t be a decent person towards you then my next step would be to say…”Okay, you know what, you’re still being a dick to me and I’m done with that. If you can’t communicate with me even about the kids like a normal person, then maybe I should talk to XXXX. Would that be better? Because I’m just not going to put up with this. Maybe you oughta let XXXX handle it since she does spend time with them. Think about that and let me know which way you want to go because I don’t have to put up with your shit anymore. This is about the kids so figure it out.” CLICK! Know what I mean? The narcissist co-parent is all about instilling fear in the ex because it’s the only bit of control he even has anymore. He should already know that you’ve moved on. All conversations with either of them should be all about the kids. In normal break-ups where there are children, it is NOT unusual for the ex and the new girl to actually “know” each other at least enough to talk if there was an emergency. Now, I’m not saying you have to be able to talk to ALL his girlfriends, just the one that seems to “matter”. You know what I mean.

      It’s all about taking the power back from these jerks and finding the happiness in life that you deserve. Since you have to be connected to him forever because of the kids, it might as well be on your terms:)

      Good luck!!

      Zari xo

  • Emma

    April 20, 2015 at 6:10 am Reply

    Hang on your girls. you are doing a great job. just be there if you can in the after school hours and work your job if you can aroundthose hours and the school holidays. my psychologist said that if one parent is stable and loving then kids will be ok. just be there for them. only go out on dates when they have access and be there for your kids. it is not long -until they turn 18. have your fun when they are away with their father and you just have to cope it until then. don’t leave your kids alone to go out on dates. they grow up so quickly it will be here before you know it. explain the truth if you can without running their father down as much as you want to… the kids will learn soon enough the truth by observing…. children learn by example not by orders or words – be an example of loving devotion and your children will soon know the truth. hello dont we all.

  • Alexander Bird

    April 14, 2015 at 5:33 pm Reply

    Hey more god news passes my psych evaluation for Mimi Beach, so I guess I’m not the crazy one, lol. now I’m trying to figure out motives. She has been punishing me since February, because I went to my bosses wedding. A few weeks ago my friend’s wife braded my daughter’s hair and now when ever I pick her up her hair is now braided. I know it’s a small matter but knowing my ex there is something she is trying to do. Then she has gone back into hover mode since she found out about South Beach, I guess because it is the party spot for the stars.

    Thanks Alex

    • Zari Ballard

      April 15, 2015 at 11:02 pm Reply

      Congrats, Alex! Whew! Thank God you passed that psyche eval….now you know for sure!! (just kidding:) LOL But – hey – yes, she’s up to something alright. I told you in the beginning, it’s going to go from sweet to nasty to kinda sweet to silent to nasty and back again. She’s sounds like she’s in “sweet” mode right now but just be aware that it’s all for the wrong reasons. I know that you know that. I bet you’re right about the South Beach thing. She’s thinking “Hmmmm…I’d like a piece of THAT action” and how what’s her subtle strategy for getting her message across to you??? THE BRAIDS!!!! Yup, you caught the clue, Thank God, and I’m here to confirm it. hey…I bet she’d be okay with those swimmin’ lessons now too HA_HA!

      Be a good boy and stay as far from that demon as possible. She’s gonna stay sweet as long as possible (even if it kills her) in hopes that you’ll kinda forget how evil she was. That’s what they do. But don’t worry….if you hang in there and remain detached and indifferent long enough, she’ll slip right back into devil mode and things will go back to normal. Serves her right. No matter what – no matter how she acts either way – have no reaction.

      Sounds like you’re spending some real quality time with your little girl and I’m so happy about that:) Thanks for the update and keep ’em coming!

      Zari xo

  • willow

    March 30, 2015 at 11:55 am Reply

    I am only 3 weeks into my breakup with my N. We were together 11 years, have 3 kids (the youngest is only 14 weeks old). He’s 10 years older than me, I was only 19 when we met. Tbh after reading this, and all the comments, I feel terrified of what’s to come. I honestly think it would be easier to take him back then deal with this. He is still managing to make me feel sorry for him, crying and talking about suicide. All of a sudden i am the “love of his life”. He talks like we are going to fix things and live happily ever after, even though I know after 11 years that’s not possible. When I remind him its over, he flips his shit and threatens to take the kids off me. 2 hours later he rings me like nothing’s happened. I wish he would just disappear tbh. This is so hard.

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