When I divorced my Ex Husband 20 years ago, he threatened to make sure our daughter knew who "I really was." Not surprising his view wasn't particularly flattering. Several months later he jumped into a relationship with his now former Wife and Elle's former Step Mom, Malus. In short order, Malus self appointed herself the enforcer of my Ex Husband's promise and took over 99% of his parenting duties. Which by default meant I was co-parenting with a narcissist that was not my Ex.
Co Parenting With A Narcissist That Is Not Your Ex
I didn't immediately see that Malus was a narcissist. Initially she seduced me into thinking she was my friend, greatest ally - bringing me into her inner circle. The circle that the outside world never sees because otherwise they would be total outcasts. The circle that becomes a nightmare once you're inside.
I thought Dick turning over the majority of his parental duties to Malus would be - well - grounds for say full custody? Let alone given that I considered her behavior to be that of a narcissist. Ummm not so fast. As my attorney gently explained, my Ex and I were each entitled to parent with whomever we chose to and allowed to give them however amount of authority to do so. Short of solid, overwhelming proof Malus had caused irreversible trauma to my daughter it was a crap shoot as to who would get custody given our current 50/50 arrangement. She recommended a therapist for Elle to keep both Dick and Malus in check. That plan worked for a number of years.
Inside the inner circle is where the battle to expose my poor parenting and personal failings took place. Debate about my ability to chose to "right" kind of underwear for Elle to wear - understanding that every good mother insists their child has bangs - just flat out because it's abuse otherwise. Don't you understand Lisa? You're just not smart enough or capable enough to chose an appropriate doctor for your own child.
For the better part of 14 years, I kept thinking things would change, but they never did thanks to my classic mistakes. Narcissist's don't respond the same way people who feel emotions, sympathy or empathy for others. All the things that would warm your heart - encourage you to change - only feed a narcissist further down the rabbit hole.
SIX THINGS YOU SHOULD DO WHEN CO-PARENTING WITH A NARCISSIST:
- Understand the issue is never the issue - conflict is the issue!
- Never ever apologize - even if you did something wrong. Narcissist's consider an apology as total weakness - further justifying their thinking that you deserve to be torn apart into little tiny pieces.
- Never justify your decisions or actions. Remember CONFLICT is the issue so nothing you do will ever divert them from their goal of feeding conflict and "winning" the battle.
- Do not respond with ANY emotion. Respond with unemotional hard facts. Emotion is what drives their crusade - don't give them any.
- Silence is golden. Not engaging in a debate with a narcissist sends them into a tail spin. Letting their words stand alone - gives them zero ammunition to continue and escalate the conflict.
- Hire a Therapist for your Child. A narcissist likes to portray themselves in the best possible light to the outside world. A therapist often time keeps them in check with regards to your child.
Malus' favorite saying was - "I'm not interested in the wah wah Lisa show." Always followed with a laugh of sheer pleasure. Then going in for the kill. At the end of every confrontation she would say "Remember Lisa, I've got your back." I felt like saying great could you pull the knife out of it while you are back there?
The silver lining to Dick's drinking problem was Elle was given her freedom from Malus, thereby releasing me as well. Dick and Malus' crossed the line of no return five years ago when they let the outside world into their true inner circle. No amount of spin could frame the horrors in their home in a positive light or that their parenting was anything less than abusive.
It isn't easy to Co Parent with A Narcissist, that is not your Ex. So learning to contain the amount havoc they spread is paramount to both your sanity and that of your child.