When you are co-parenting with a narcissist, rather than cooperation, collaboration, communication, and compromise, you come to realize you are in an altered reality. Usually the victims of narcissistic abuse continue to delude themselves into believing somehow they’re going to figure out the “trick” or just the right words to say to their children’s other parent, that is going to somehow get him/her to see the light.
It never happens.
Instead, you are in constant turmoil and angst over the reactions and machinations of the other parent. If you are trying to figure out how to navigate this quagmire, then this “War Guide” is written for you. Listed below are some tried and true strategies for taking on this parenting situation:
Realize you are in a battle.
Perhaps the term “battle” is too light, “war” may be the proper term. Whatever term you prefer, make sure you arm yourself accordingly.
Understand that you do not have a “normal” situation on your hands. Not only has the narcissist managed to destroy your sense of self in many ways, dash your dreams for love, and crush your heart; now he/she is bound and determined to take away something you value more than anything – your children.
At the very least, the narcissist definitely makes your parenting less enjoyable. This is for many reasons – he/she undermines you at every turn’ tries to take the children’s loyalties away from you; and constantly manipulates both you and your children.
Build your arsenal.
You cannot fight any battles without weaponry. When fighting for the hearts of your children, you must understand that “laying down” or “giving up” are only going to work if you’re willing to say goodbye to your right to parent your own children.
Since the battle is at hand, make sure you have some “weapons” or “tools” to proceed. Remember, your battle is psychological, so the majority of your weaponry must also psychological. This is a battle involving your heart, mind, and emotions.Some of the psychological tools you can use are listed below.
Develop your plan.
Be on guard. Know who your enemy is and plan accordingly. In addition to this, never use the frontal-attack approach, instead, use the back door. You need to plan ahead; based on what you know about your narcissist, and make sure you fall into none of his/her traps.
Some common traps include, “Trying to get him/her/them to see,” “Defending yourself,” “Giving your narcissist what he/she wants,” “Believing what he/she says,” and “Giving away your power just because the narcissist is so convincing and confident.”Here are some suggestions to help you develop your plan:
- Imagine you are your child and try to figure out what he or she needs. If your child is alienating you, try to get inside his/her head and figure out the payoff he/she is experiencing. For instance, if your child is being disrespectful to you, ask yourself why he/she might be doing this? Is he/she angry? Is he/she trying to win favor from the other parent? What does your child need?All people do things for a reason – a payoff – figure out what your child is getting from his/her behavior. Then, figure out how to change it.
- Ask yourself if you are giving your children and yourself an attitude of positivity and strength; or, are you generating weakness and hopelessness? Kids automatically will gravitate toward strength. Make sure you exude it.
- Try to demonstrate a non-issue attitude towards the situation. Don’t act as if things are on the verge of collapse. Rather, exhibit an attitude of non-concern with respect to all the drama the narcissist creates.If your children are acting up, don’t let them think their poor behavior is getting to you.
- Try to keep the oldest kids on your team. Usually siblings stick together. If the oldest child in your family is being alienated by the narcissist against you, determine a way to stop that from happening. You can do that, but it takes work.
At all times, even when you don’t feel like it. Stand tall, square your shoulders, and act as if you own the world. When you take on a narcissistic ex there is no time for weakness or hopelessness. You have to be ready for battle at all times and you have to arm yourself with confidence and strength. You cannot take this too seriously.
There is probably very little that is more challenging than the battle you are in. First of all, you have to rescue yourself, which is hard enough because your self-esteem and self-worth have been devastated. Your dreams for a happy marriage have been dashed. And to add insult to injury, your children are being taken from you.
It feels like you are fighting on multiple fronts; and in some respects you are.A common tendency is for the non-narcissistic parent to feel impotent as a parent and falsely believe that the narcissist holds all the cards. You must eliminate this belief from your psyche and hold on to yourself. Even if you don’t feel confident, you must act “as if” you are. “Fake it till you make it.”
In particular, be aware of your own weaknesses. The other parent already knows your weaknesses and he/she will capitalize on them. Trust me, this is his/her primary weaponry. He/she knows how to hurt you and will use that knowledge as his/her target of attack. In addition to this, your children also know you well and will learn to do the same thing. Be alert to this reality.
The best way to counteract the other person’s use of the knowledge of your weaknesses as a weapon, is to know what your weaknesses are, be honest with yourself, and work within the context of having your weaknesses exploited.While this may sound impossible, it really isn’t. Once you identify all your weaknesses, you can learn to accept them as truth about yourself; and from there, embrace them. This is a great exercise in self-acceptance.
Once you can embrace your own fears and perceived faults, these things about you will lose their hold on you. Once you can be okay with all of whom you are, neither the narcissist, nor your children can use these weaknesses against you.
Know your enemy.
Understand narcissists are not going to react like other people. You know this better than anyone else – narcissists are not going to talk or act like most of the people you know. They will confuse you, manipulate you, and cause you emotional discomfort. This is because narcissism is a disease of interpersonal relating. It is really pointless to try and communicate with these people at all.
Even if the narcissist in your life says something reasonable, this will merely trick you in to believing that he or she is capable of normalcy.You can help yourself by understanding that nothing is at it appears with a narcissist. The best defense is a good offense. The best offensive strategy is to keep communication off the table. Have as little contact as possible with the other parent.
Keep everything legal.
Give up guilt.
For some reason, no matter how much or how often someone is abused by the narcissist in their life, he or she still feels responsible, sorry for, and guilty about the transactions in the relationship.This applies to co-parenting as well.
Give up any feelings of guilt for trying to protect your children from the influence of the narcissistic parent. It is a Catch-22 for you. That is, you want your child to have a relationship with the other parent, but at what cost to your child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being? It’s a hard call to make, but whatever you decide to do, do not feel guilty about it and stop feeling sorry for the narcissist.
Live one day at a time.
No matter what is going on in your personal life, particularly with regards to the problems you are having with the other parent and your children; don’t spend all of your energy focusing on what doesn’t work. Instead, focus on the day you have today to live, and commit yourself to living well today.It is much easier to tackle any problem or any difficult situation if you allow yourself to only focus on what you can do, either in the moment or for the day.
Remember that saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” This applies to any problems you face. All you can do is chip away at them, one step at a time.And while you’re living one day at a time, don’t forget to enjoy this day. None of us have a guarantee for tomorrow, so don’t waste your energy fretting over a future that hasn’t happened yet.
I hope some of this advice gives you the beginning of a strategy to manage all that comes your way when co-parenting with an alienating parent. Even if none of the strategies give you the outcome you desire, it is best to “go down fighting” rather than simply surrendering those most dear to you to the “enemy.”