In Part I of this series about co-parenting with a narcissist, I discussed the simple facts of sharing children with someone who has a narcissistic personality. I explained that, no matter what, the situation is never going to be, for the narcissist, about the well-being of the children. It’s always going to be about you. Once you understand this, all of the mind-boggling behaviors and all of the chaos he/she continues to create will suddenly make perfect sense. Strangely enough, knowing it’s really about you is the very thing that can give you all the power. Do not let this fact intimidate you at all. As the normal parent, this is where you gain the control.
While there’s no magical formula for dealing with a narcissistic co-parent, the process to follow to take to keep your sanity throughout (see below) are, in and of themselves, fairly simple. This process may even seem too simple to you but in order to thwart the narcissist’s obviously nefarious intentions in co-parenting, simple is what it takes and, in fact, is how we need to keep it so that you and the children can live peacefully.
Here is my five-step process for keeping the control while co-parenting with a narcissist:
- Keep all verbal communication (in person and on the phone) to a maximum of ten minutes and no more. There is nothing that the narcissist co-parent has to say to you or you to them that cannot be said in ten minutes. If you have to keep one eye on your watch, do it and don’t be afraid to let this other person know that the time is ticking away so he/she better make it good. Then, when the time is up, hang up or walk away. Of course, if the conversation is unusually civil and sweet, then, by all means, finish the conversation but don’t fall for the ruse. Ultimately, it’s all about what they can get away with.
- Keep all verbal communication between the two of you about the child only and only if it’s necessary information. Moreover, you have to be the judge of what is necessary and what isn’t and then be confident in your decision. This tip goes hand in hand with the first tip above. All communication – even if absolutely necessary – should be ten minutes maximum and no more. Give them a second more and the conversation is guaranteed to take an ugly turn.
- No matter what is being said, practice showing only detachment and indifference. Show the narc no emotion whatsoever even if it kills you. Shut the door and then beat the wall if you have to but don’t let the narcissist ruffle your feathers. This is what a narcissist co-parent obviously likes to do. It is, in fact, the intention. My thought here is that we can fake any emotion (or, rather, non-emotion) for ten minutes, know what I mean? At the same time that you’re training the narcissist to see that he/she doesn’t have the same crazy effect on you as before, you will be re-training your own brain via practice to understand the same thing. In other words, fake it ‘till you make it.
- Document everything…even if the interaction is a good one. Ten minutes of conversation at a shot is easy to keep track of. Keep a journal/notebook handy at all times OR use that parent website where every interaction such as email or text can be recorded and where the courts have access to see it all if need be. Sometimes we have to take this route when one partner is completely uncooperative. From what I hear, narcissists absolutely hate this website because they are basically forced to be civil. The truth is that, for the most part, they can’t help but be bastards and once it’s logged in, there’s no changing it. As the normal parent, this is also a vehicle for showing the court how civil you really are even when faced with nasty responses.
- Be the best parent that you can be when you have your child…she/he will grow up knowing that you did your best and that the other parent was the monster with the smear campaign. I wrote an article about debunking the smear campaign which lends itself to what we’re talking about. Whatever you do (and no matter how hard it is), don’t talk shit about the narcissist in front of your children ever – even if you know the narcissist is doing a job on you behind your back. Your only concern is what your children/child hears coming out of your mouth. This is the only thing that you can control…do you understand this? The children will grow up knowing the difference. I guarantee it!
It goes without saying that, like everything else in life, this process needs to be practiced to become perfect. This process is all about you standing up for yourself and refusing to give in to the narcissist’s absurdity. If you mess up sometimes and engage in a screaming match, don’t beat yourself up…simply do better the next time. Many people have followed the steps and come away successful and you can to. It gets easier as time passes because the narcissist becomes trained accordingly.
Now that the relationship is finally over, there isn’t a reason in hell why you still have to suffer. Take control, stay calm, show detachment and indifference just ten minutes at a time, and watch how the environment suddenly changes. You and your children deserve to be happy – and it is that happiness – at least from an emotional standpoint – over which you really do have total control.