Five Signs You're Coparenting with a Narcissist

· Narcissists,Main

Use these insights to set realistic expectations and focus on what matters.

As one might imagine, the “narcissism epidemic” facing the world is impacting the divorced parents population. This toxic personality style comes with an array of disagreeable traits that negatively affect co-parenting. Find out if the person you’re trying to co-parent with is a narcissist.

1. You’re Stuck in Confusing Communication Loops

Have you noticed you rarely get a straight answer from your ex about … well … everything? Perhaps you make concerted efforts to communicate effectively. You ask questions in advance, you send reminders, and you are flexible. Still somehow, you can’t get the information you need to successfully solve problems and make sound decisions for your children. Here are some communication methods narcissists employ that make co-parenting a nightmare.

Narcissists are always armed with antagonistic communication. Their correspondence is filled with hostility and opposition. Instead of discussions that facilitate resolutions, you get emotionally charged messages of blame, criticism, gaslighting, manipulation, and responsibility dodging.

Stonewalling: rather than confronting issues and questions, your ex may intentionally withhold information. They might ghost you after asking a question or pretend not to have received your message. Narcissists can even evade your questions up until the last second. Now, you have to frantically adjust your plans to fit their needs.

Another favorite narcissistic weapon is the use of red herrings, a passive aggressive maneuver where certain information is withheld while gushing about other irrelevant topics. Narcissists love to distract from real problem solving to control you and the narrative of their life. You might ask them “what time does the birthday party start?” Simple right? Then the narc responds with some elongated answer of how long the drive is, or some other nonsense.

These communication methods cause unnecessary confusion, frustration, and stress for the entire family.

2. You Never Receive an Apology - Ever  

If there happens to be fallout while managing parenting responsibilities, it is never your ex’s fault. Narcissists will assign blame for their own bad behavior to anyone but themselves. If they miss a doctor’s appointment, it’s because you didn’t remind them. If they’re late to a parent pick-up, it’s because of traffic.

Narcissists will go to great lengths to lie, deny, and deflect any of their parenting failures. Your ex will never take accountability for their misconduct, and they will never say, “I’m sorry.”

3. You Notice Toxic Parenting Tactics

Narcissists aren’t concerned about children's material needs or feelings. Consider these methods your narcissist ex might be using.

Using the children as messengers allows the narcissist to manipulate communications in an attempt to get what they want.

Overreacting to children is a classic signal of narcissism causing unnecessary drama and stress.

Sharing improper information with children can also be a tell-tale sign of narcissism. Your ex might share details about their intimate relationships or discuss sensitive legal matters that should be reserved for adults.

Parental alienation is when your ex unfairly criticizes, bad-mouths, and blames you in front of the children. This is a form of manipulation to get the children to develop negative feelings towards you.

These behaviors cause child trauma and are emotionally abusive.

4. Your Ex Throws Childlike Tantrums

Narcissists are dysregulated and will often erupt in emotional outbursts, resembling a child who’s Halloween candy got taken away.

Their lack of control manifests in angry tirades, silent treatment, cursing, or even pouting and whining. The tantrums are a form of manipulation in an attempt to get you to behave in a certain way. Their stunted psychological development doesn’t allow them to reason like a healthy adult. Rather, they resort to immature overreactions that leave you scratching your head.

5. Your Ex has an Exaggerated View of Themselves

Narcissists are the experts at everything surrounding the kids. In their minds, they are the best nurse, teacher, doctor, parent, or driver. The narcissist feels entitled to unilaterally make decisions that affect the children because of their expertise. It becomes difficult to keep up with all their expertise and brilliance and you might begin to feel you aren’t able to help make decisions for your children.

How do you coordinate schedules, healthcare decisions, and homework assignments with a narcissist? The real answer is you don’t. In these situations, parallel parenting is the answer.

It’s empowering to know you’re working with a narcissist. You begin to understand their personality will never change and finally release into the sunset any starry-eyed expectations of happily co-parenting. Instead, focus your attention on what you can control. You control your time with the children. You control the words exchanged, the meals had, games played, and the moments of love and laughter.

Genna H. is the coufounder of Grey Rock Communications and a Grey Rock Coach. GRC offers monitored 3rd party communications for high-conflict, post-divorce parents with minor children.