Rules for Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

By Jenn Rockefeller

In a normal situation, co-parenting should be relatively easy. Both parents work together to help raise the child in a healthy and nurturing environment. But when one parent is a narcissist and abusive, the co-parenting becomes an impossible nightmare.

There are several “rules” or things to keep in mind when co-parenting with a narcissist. 

  1. There’s no such thing
    The first thing to keep in mind is that there is no such thing as co-parenting with a narcissist. They have no concept of working together as a team for the benefit of the child (or children). Everything they do is laced with manipulation, undermining, threats and intimidation. They simply don’t possess normal, healthy parental instincts and lack the ability to put their children’s needs first.
  2. Set boundaries
    Boundaries are vital in co-parenting with a narcissist. They thrive on getting you into a frenzied state of mind in order to “prove” that you are unstable. Don’t let them. For example, boundaries you can create might include things like communicating solely through emails and setting specific times to have them speak with the child. 
  3. Don’t use your child
    Narcissists love to use their children as pawns in their twisted games. They will manipulate the children into spying on you in order to provide them with information to use against you later. Don’t play that game. Don’t be the one who uses the child to gain information about the other parent. 
  4. Don’t give them an inch
    Have you ever heard the saying “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”? This is certainly one rule to keep in mind. It’s important to stick to your boundaries and not let them gain control of any situation. If it’s one thing narcissists despise, it’s to lose control of their targets. They look for any avenue to get back in control. They will pressure you into giving them another chance or to take them up on some new great idea they have. 
  5. Have a clear cut parenting plan
    When everything is spelled out in your parenting plan, you have something to stick to. Make sure you do because narcissists will look to push the envelope when it comes to breaking the rules. They don’t think the rules apply to them. If something is left out of the parenting plan or not spelled out well enough, they see this as a grey area and will be sure to do whatever they want. Furthermore, they may even think you don’t have the guts to file charges with the courts saying they went outside the parenting plan. 
  6. Never argue
    Above all, remember to never argue with a narcissist. You will never win. They are skilled in the art of circular conversations (or, talking in circles where the conversation goes nowhere and you are left confused). Instead, keep your answers short and to the point. Don’t give them more information than absolutely necessary. They will pick up on the slightest bit of extra information and use that against you. Employ the use of the grey rock method – providing short, to-the-point answers with little to no emotion. 
  7. Use written communication
    Narcissists love to overdo it when it comes to “communicating” with you. They go off on so many tangents that it’s difficult to keep everything straight. That’s why it’s important to keep all communications with them strictly to email. That way, you can sift through any parts that have to do with the children and respond to just those parts. Many times, narcissists will attempt to trap you by calling on the phone and spring something on you and expect an immediate answer. When communications are kept solely to emails, you have the option of responding when you are calmer and can provide a more “grey rock” answer. 
  8. Learn the basic terminology
    If you are going to be as successful as possible with co-parenting with a narcissist, it’s important to familiarize yourself with terms and phrases having to do with narcissists, including but not limited to, narcissist, circular conversations, gaslighting, grey rock method, love bombing, loyalty conflict, baiting, projection, cognitive dissonance, and smear campaign. 

The importance of following the rules
It’s vital to remember that following the above rules will help keep you sane in such an insane situation. There is no winning with narcissists. They look for any way possible to keep the abuse going. So the more you know, the better equipped you will be when you need to deal with them and you will be less likely to fall into their traps. 

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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