I’m co-parenting with a narcissist. Sometimes it works okay, and sometimes it’s a living hell.

Excuse me for my French, but co-parenting with a toxic person can make you curse when you don’t usually use that language. You see, I was married to someone with a narcissistic personality disorder for around 20 years.

Living in that manner was extremely difficult. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make sense of things. You see, I was younger then, and I had no idea what a narcissistic personality was.

In case you have no idea about narcissistic personality disorder, here are a few indicators so you can follow along:

And much more. You can continue to research this issue if you want. We have many posts about the narcissistic personality and how it affects others. Now, back to the topic at hand.

How I navigated co-parenting with a narcissist

To be honest, I’ve gotten along pretty well with my ex-husband up until about 4 months ago. We had no problem discussing issues about the children for years after the divorce.

This mostly included the basic joint-custody issues such as switching days for personal reasons and working out holiday divisions. It seemed as though we’d had it planned out pretty well. All of a sudden, something else seemed to take over, and it was almost like he was possessed.

I made a crucial mistake. I’d forgotten who I was dealing with, and I should have known that the toxicity would surface even though we were no longer married. And it did.

After years of helping me with providing for the children, he took away the child support, a verbal agreement mind you, so I couldn’t take it to court. Meanwhile, he bought a house, a brand new car made this year, and a ridiculously priced lawnmower.

What I was thinking was, oh, he’s bitten off more than he can chew with these expenses, and so he has to get money from somewhere. Boom! cut off the verbally agreed-upon child support. I did manage to get half of it back, however.

So, while I do have some tips on how to deal with this co-parenting narcissistic behavior, I’ve also researched a bit more as well. As parents in a divided family like this, we need all the help we can get. As much as I wished both sides could get along, I guess it’s just a dream. So, I will deal with it like a pro.

How to co-parent with a narcissist?

Communication and protecting your emotions

When I say communication, I don’t mean talking to your ex-partner all the time. No, please don’t do that. I’ve tried being friends, but it just falls apart eventually. You must put boundaries on your communication. If you can, talk through email because co-parenting with a narcissist can damage your emotions.

Emails cannot show emotions as well as talking on the phone. Narcissists feed off emotions, and without that, the playing field is a bit fairer. Even texting can cause issues sometimes. Boundaries and limits: that’s how communication will work.

Catch those triggers

Narcissists have always been the best at aggravating triggers you already have. They can create many more as well, even after you are divorced. Even when you have joint custody, a toxic person like this will try and disrupt your plans and act as if you never told them.

It’s a trigger used to make you angry. Those lies they used in the relationship will be used after the divorce at their discretion. As soon as you recognize they are about to trigger you, cut it off, and stop the conversation.

Be firm and stand you ground

If you make an agreement with your ex-wife concerning the kids, and it seems to go over well, then no problem, right? Wrong. When co-parenting with a narcissist, you will notice they still attempt to use gaslighting. So, when it comes time to take the kids on that trip or to that event you discussed, they will argue that you’re cutting into their custody time.

Well, you probably are, but since you discussed an exchange, everything seemed fine. You just switched days, and they agreed with this. Well, they will try to finagle around this to overpower you. They will say you lied, you’re mistaken, or just “being crazy” like during the marriage.

They usually tell the new wife this sort of stuff. The solution: You must stay firm and continue with the plans. Even if they threaten you, it’s probably a bluff. I say call it.

Don’t argue, just take action

Never try to argue with a toxic person. You will never win the fight. For twenty years, I argued back and forth with my ex-husband, trying to keep my footing and save our relationship. But nothing you can say or do will stop the narcissist from doing or saying what they want.

Even after the divorce, the narcissist will thrive off your arguments. They remember the fights from before, and they know you cannot make them see your side, so they sit back and have fun with it.

What you must do is say your peace, and stop. Walk away, and stop responding to messages until the subject is stale. Let them sit in their own stupidity and think about the harsh things they’ve said. Sometimes, as narcissists grow older, they actually gain the ability to feel guilt. It’s weird.

Are you dealing with things like this?

If you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, I feel for you. I went through so much pain in my marriage, and there was little compassion from my ex-husband. I raised three children, and the first one I practically raised on my own.

You see, my ex-husband was gone most of the time with friends, cheating, drinking, or doing drugs. I was left many times alone with my first son, teaching him, and doing the best a new mother could do. Of course, I wasn’t perfect. Just putting that in there too.

There were times after the birth of our other two sons that it seemed like things were getting better, and maybe they did. But under the surface, the toxicity sat and waited. At random moments, the narcissist came back out and reminded me why I had to get away from him.

And I did just that. While my ex-husband played a larger role in the upbringing of my two younger sons than he did the first one, he still wasn’t there for them like he should have been. I guess that’s why he tries to be there more now.

But you cannot use your narcissism to gain back lost time either. And so is the case of co-parenting with a narcissist. So, if you have a similar story, I understand how hard it must be. Just take my advice and keep a good support system, and most of all, don’t let your ex-partner ruin your life.

Blessings to all.


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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. kellly

    I’m not sure a narcissist can or will ever really change. it’s what they’ve done effectively their entire lives so why change? They are so good at manipulating others to get their way, I don’t think they could grow empathy for anybody unless they thought it would serve their own needs in some way.
    I feel for you trying to deal with this while raising children and commend you on your escape.

    1. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

      I’ve lived with more than one person with a narcissistic personality disorder. Since we all have narcissism at different levels, a disorder would mean residing at one drastic end or the other of the narcissism spectrum. There are other articles here that can explain that.

      Those with this disorder are extremely difficult to help. I see it every day. They actually believe that you believe their lies, which is insulting to an intelligent person. I get angry by it often, and not because it’s being done to me, but because of the assumption that I am stupid enough to believe the lies. So, I do feel where you’re coming from.

      But I want to have hope. I see these people are people like us, with feelings too, true feelings that still may reside deep down somewhere. When I look at them, I see a hollow shell, or a puppet being controlled by an evil source, its chilling. They can look at you and say some of the most ludicrous stuff. I did raise children with a narcissist, and I still deal with much of his toxic behavior, and I have also had to deal with this same kind of behavior from others too. It truly saddens me that therapy and help doesn’t seem to work so well with them. That makes me angry too. But, I will tell you, much of the reason they cannot often be helped is that they deny their narcissistic disorder, and refuse to get help. They call you crazy, thus gaslighting, and walk around as if they are normal people, kind, considerate, and giving. They fool people who don’t know them well and even come across as absolute angels, but to us who are on the inside, we see the truth, and it is so hard to get that truth out in the open. They will hide it, and bask in their spotlight while you look like the enemy. Just know one thing, Kelly.

      You know the truth, and that’s all that matters.

  2. Anna

    I have one who works in my office…She is a smooth talking, smiling all the time PHONEY. It amazes me all of the people who fall for it too! Controlling, NEVER owns up to anything she says or does and think she’s above everyone else and on top of it all? Claims she’s trying to “help people”…with spirituality…She truly has been one of my biggest lessons in life.

  3. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.


    Since we all have a bit of narcissism within each of us, we must be compassionate. So, instead of letting her feed your anger and distaste, try to emphasize. Most people have underlying issues that have made them this way. I’ve known people like this, maybe I’ve been a person like this before to others. Did you know that sometimes they don’t even know they’re doing this?

    The point is, she’s imperfect, and as I see here, irritating as all get out. When you notice her not taking responsibility for anything, show her. Tell her that, “Yes, this is your fault, and I know that whether anyone else does or not.” That is one thing she doesn’t need to get away with, otherwise, it will get worse, not just hurting others, but destroying herself in the process. No human being can live their entire lives never being at fault without badly damaging themselves.

    She should try to help people, but she should help people in many ways, not just spiritual ways. The smooth-talking, smiling and all that – that means she has a hole inside that cannot be filled. She craves attention, and no amount of ‘phony” is fulfilling that need. I bet there are others who aren’t falling for it either. I am sure you’re not the only one.

    And if you cannot help by showing her the truth about herself, then limit your time around her. You don’t need toxicity to infect you. Take care of yourself.

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