Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

After you end your relationship with someone who is a narcissist, it can take years to recover from the emotional damage.  When you have children with the individual, the antagonism and drama you may have thought you left behind in your marriage is likely to continue on through your parenting relationship.  Trying to co-parent when the other parent is a narcissist is not an easy task.  However, by taking certain steps, you can help minimize conflict and stress when it comes to your kids.

Narcissist

The American Psychiatry Association defines someone who has narcissistic personality disorder as having a pattern of need for admiration and lack of empathy for others. The individual may have “a grandiose sense of self-importance, a sense of entitlement, take advantage of others or lack empathy.”  When interacting, a person with this condition may be easily offended and often express rage and belittle others.

Stay Calm and Neutral

A narcissistic parent may believe that they are correct about everything to do with the children.  They are also adept at pushing your buttons and will try to keep you engaged in conflict.  You cannot realistically expect the other parent to interact reasonably or fairly with you.  However, you can keep your contact to a minimum and maintain neutrality whenever possible.

Maintain Boundaries and Stability

When your children have placement time with the other parent, you may have to accept that you can’t control what happens.  You can, however, maintain boundaries and consistency in your own home.  Despite the other parent’s behavior, you want your children to know that your home is a safe and stable place in which they know what to expect.

Follow the Plan

During your divorce, you and your ex will have probably have carefully crafted a parenting plan which sets out the rules and parameters on how you are going to share decisions and time with your children.  Hopefully, you spent time developing a very detailed plan with some idea of how the other parent may behave.  Follow the plan and maintain boundaries when your ex tries to deviate from the terms. Remember, if your ex is trying to move things around it is probably so they can exploit the situation for his or her benefit.  A narcissist wants conflict and chaos, so the less emotional you are during the interaction and exchanges, the better.

Show Empathy and Love

When it comes to being empathetic, narcissists are at a severe disadvantage.   Your children need to know that a parent cares about their well-being and feelings.  Be sure to express empathy when they are with you and focus on making sure they feel loved, supported, and understood in your home.  Additionally, do what you can to avoid disparaging your ex around your children.  If your kids need to talk about the other parent, you may want to consider helping them find a therapist.

Raising children with a narcissist is probably always going to be problematic, but by controlling your own conduct, making your home a healthy space, and refraining from unnecessary interactions with your ex, you can help minimize the stress for you and your children.

Attorney Karyn Youso has experience helping clients create effective parenting plans and understands what it is like when one parent is a narcissist. Call us, and we can talk about your goals and help you take a “first look” at your situation and consider your options.

 

Surviving Divorce: Letting go of anger and embracing forgiveness (forgiving isn’t always forgetting but some research suggests it helps!)

Going through a divorce can feel as though you and your life have been turned inside out.  During this process, you will be in an adversarial posture which can bring out sides of your personality which you barely recognize.  You may also find that the partner you once expected to spend your life with has become your greatest enemy.  As the case proceeds, property, and debt will be divided, child placement and custody decisions will be reached, and then, after it’s over, you are left with a host of negative emotions which can seem to be fused to your very core.  While it may seem impossible, this is the time to move toward letting go of your anger and embracing forgiveness.

Research has found that carrying anger not only prevents us from moving past our pain but places a burden on our physical and psychological health. In time, these negative emotions can result in numerous medical issues and illnesses.  However, those who can attain forgiveness have been reported to reduced stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and stronger immune systems.  Aside from these health benefits, forgiveness offers you psychological relief as you move toward the path of understanding, resolution, and closure.

Forgiveness is a word that can have several different meanings.  For some, this term connotes denying painful emotions just to avoid conflict with the offending party.  For others, it is something we are expected to grant to another person even when they are undeserving and unworthy of in order our own quality as a human being.  Forgiveness does not mean ignoring past hurt, forgetting, overlooking unacceptable conduct, or denying or minimizing your own emotions. True forgiveness means finding a way to examine how we have been harmed, acknowledge what has occurred, and our own participation in it, and releasing the need for revenge.  The goal of the process is to stop perseverating on past wrongdoing so that we can be free of resentment. Achieving a state of forgiveness will not literally mean forgetting what has happened during your divorce, but it does mean being able to remember it without re-experiencing the trauma each time.

Often, the first place to begin being able to forgive is with ourselves.  Even when your former partner committed acts which you feel were the reason for the marriage ending, you may still be carrying feelings which have to do with your own conduct in the relationship. Forgiveness, like love, is not something which can be forced.  However, you can examine your feelings and decide if you are unknowingly holding resentment and anger which you have been directing at yourself.  Once you have done this work, it makes it more possible to move toward forgiving your former partner in a way which allows you to be free of your anger.

Ultimately, the person who is most harmed by your continuing anger following divorce is you.  While it is not a simple or uncomplicated task, committing to resolving and processing these emotions and reaching a space of forgiveness can mean having better physical health, lower stress, and an improved sense of well-being.  Your physical and emotional well-being are worth the effort it takes to let go of the past and embrace forgiveness.

Attorney Karyn Youso understands the pain and anger which can come during divorce and can help you assess your situation and find the assistance you need to move forward.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation.