Co-parenting with a narcissist can feel a whole lot like Groundhog Day. You keep trying to be civil, but you’re met with hostility. You keep trying to solicit answers, but you are met with innuendo and indirect responses. You try to plan, but you’re ridiculed and threatened.
You think to yourself, “I’m doing everything right, why am I still hitting these roadblocks.” The answer is that it has nothing to do with you. You can keep trying in hopes of getting a different response, but you’re spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
And that’s by design. The narcissist loves to create chaos and uncertainty. The narcissist loves to keep you in a constant state of second-guessing yourself.
So what are you to do? Well, not the same thing over and over again.
Instead, try these strategies when co-parenting with a narcissist:
1. Document Everything: For example, keep a calendar of every time your ex canceled parenting time. This will help you when your ex alleges that it was your attempts at alienation that caused him or her to miss out on time with the child. Remember, narcissists are masters of mirroring – labeling the victim as the aggressor to deflect attention from their own wrongdoing.
2. Communicate in Writing: Email or text. Avoid phone calls. This will help you prove a pattern of conduct. Otherwise, litigation may devolve into a he-said, she-said exercise. The judge won’t know who to believe. Evidence in black and white provides more insight into who may be at fault.
3. Do Not Engage: The narcissist loves to engage with you in order to keep a strong hold. This is not to say that you should just roll over and accept the narcissist’s abuse. It means that you need to identify the narcissism and accept that the narcissist says or does certain things as a result. Let the digs wash over you assuming they don’t materially affect you or your children. Focus on providing a loving and healthy environment for your children when they are with you.
4. Stick to the Schedule: Because narcissists view isolated incidents as global issues, if you change the schedule just a couple of times, in their mind you will “always” be changing things around. Likewise, don’t make a habit of providing makeup time every time the narcissist does not show up. They thrive on last-minute schedule changes to create chaos. Don’t enable him or her by accommodating every unreasonable request.
5. Seek the Advice of Professionals: If you have children with a narcissist, you are going to need long-term strategies to cope with the difficulties inherent in your daily life. Family therapists, Guardians ad Litem or Forensic Psychologists can be extremely helpful in navigating these types of issues.
Eliana T. Baer is a contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a partner in the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.