You were married to a narcissist. Things ended badly. Now the hard part starts.
How do you send your child(ren) into an environment where you know they will be abused, but cannot prove it? There are no bruises, cuts, or broken bones, but the abuse is real. You know your child(ren) will be manipulated, threatened, love bombed, verbally assaulted, humiliation, yelled at, or ignored. How do you stop it when you can’t prove it? Was it easier to stay with your ex than to worry what will happen when your child(ren) is alone with them, because you won’t be there to protect your baby? The courts will give them time alone with your child(ren), and without concrete proof of abuse, you cannot stop it.
These are all fears going through the mind of a survivor of a narcissist that has children with their abuser. You left to take your child(ren) out of that environment, in hopes that he/she wouldn’t have to deal with or witness the abuse, and even higher hopes that he/she wouldn’t think the behavior was okay and become a narcissist themselves. Studies show it is more nurture than nature.
First, true co-parenting with a narcissist is not possible. I know this doesn’t give much comfort, but a true narcissist is not capable of teamwork. Nor is a narcissist parent capable of putting their children’s needs first. They will, however, use your child(ren) to get to you, if you let them. That’s what they do, what they need, what they crave…control.
Concrete and Clear Boundaries
Talk to your attorney (hopefully you have one). Make sure everything possible is spelled out in your custody agreement, if you have one. For example, when the court’s guidelines say the non-custodial parent can call at “reasonable time” for “reasonable duration” and you are not to hinder communication with the child(ren), make sure definitive times and lengths are put in the agreement. Otherwise, what is reasonable? Any time they want to call is reasonable, so long as it is after your child(ren) wakes up or before they go to bed. Therefore, you will be fielding calls and texts all day. Reasonable to your ex becomes whenever it is inconvenient for you, and you had better not deny them communication, otherwise they will threaten to have you back in court. Stick to the plan. If your child(ren) are with you, there is no emergency that requires you to answer the phone outside of these defined times. The first time you deviate away from the parameters set, your ex has control again.
Do Not Ask to Change the Schedule
Your child(ren)’s other parent may allow you to change the schedule but will then hold it over your head for years to come. You are ALWAYS changing the schedule. They are ALWAYS making accommodations for you. This will be taken to the attorneys, to the courts, to your friends and family. They will text you and call you, try to argue over it…because arguing is still a form of communication outside of the set boundaries, giving them control. Anywhere that they feel they can use it to gain control over the situation, and over you, they will.
Do Not Engage in Conversation
Unless the conversation is an emergency about the child(ren), and they have the child(ren), do not engage. Once the conversation becomes about ANYTHING ELSE, end it. Your ex narcissist will call to discuss the child(ren), but the conversation will quickly turn into asking how you are or they will try to pick a fight. Maybe your new job leaves the child(ren) in daycare or with your parents? They will call to discuss an “emergency” and quickly turn this into you cannot be there to take care of your child(ren), and they will be taking full custody. Anything other than discussing the child(ren) will give them control. They may say something that they know will get to you, just to start an argument or make you upset.
Try to keep all your communication via email. Emails can be printed if they are needed. This will also allow you to read it, think about it, and respond as professionally as possible. Keep your response to only things pertaining to the child(ren) and their needs. A verbal conversation is susceptible to immediate emotional reactions. DO NOT allow this to happen. It only prolongs the healing process for you, and you need to heal to be the best parent you can be.
Find a good therapist and/or support group. You need to start the healing process. You have been through a serious trauma that can cause issues throughout your life, including your ability to be a good parent. Everyone dealing with this has been through a similar, but different situation, and talking it out can be HUGE in your path to recovery.
Also, see about counselling for your child(ren). Sometimes our child(ren) want to talk to us but are dealing with fear due to things the other parent has told them, or because of your reaction to their other parent. Their other parent may argue with you or try to say that their child does not need to see a shrink. Take your child(ren) anyway. They need a safe environment to discuss their feelings, as well.
This is not a complete list of every way to deal with a narcissist co-parent, but it is a start.
I want to thank Shauna for her article which I know many will relate to. A month or so ago I had the delight of speaking over the phone with Shauna, I always find it enjoyable to be able to direct those who want to write about the subject of domestic abuse and find out why its a burning passion. I am looking forward to hearing how Shauna’s writing in progress develops in the hope that she will release her book. Keep an eye out for her name popping up and I am sure Shauna will share it here with us all so you will be notified of this development if you are a follower of my blog. Thank you again Shauna.
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