Shared and Co-parenting is HARD, especially in the beginning after the fall out of the break-up or divorce. Native to the environment of shared parenting is the continuous presence of two adults at odds with each other. There is a mental and emotional defensive mode that is turned on, while trying to accommodate the shared child(ren)’s need for both parents. In addition there is residual hurt, anger, resentment and the need for healing that must also be addressed. All of that is wrapped in an anxiety equivalent to the feeling of walking into a lion’s cage every time you’re around the Ex. This anxiety gets even worse when the animal in the cage is a Narcissist.
Having endured a certain level of emotional abuse and manipulation, makes having to work with a narcissistic person feel like punishment. They continue to jab at you. They continue to emotionally manipulate you. In some cases, they continue to lay claim to your very being and dare you to act different. You’re constantly under duress, feeling like you’re in some kind of extended prison or marital halfway house.
In our book, we touch on breaking our ties from toxic people in a shared child(ren) circumstance. However, the question we are getting more often is how to navigate a co-parenting relationship with that toxic person. More specifically, with a narcissist. Because so many are struggling with this issue, we wanted to share one of our most recent responses to the question with our blog readers.
When it comes to shared parenting with a narcissistic person you must understand that 80% of the environment and your experience will depend on YOU. You were in a long term relationship with a narcissistic person. This relationship formed your habits, perceptions, thoughts and responses to this person. The natural tendency of a narcissist is to seek control of you. Due to your past in the relationship, your natural tendency was to respond to their controlling. Think about that…
“Their Power Comes From Your Response!”
Narcissists need external validation. Validation must come from an external source, mainly you. It takes TWO participants for this dance. So the first thing you must do is break the habit of moving to their beat. This has little to do with them and everything to do with you.
RULE #1 – Self-Discipline
This means that the child(ren) must be priority at all times. The child(ren) must be the topic and subject of all discussions. The child(ren) must be the sole reason for any interaction. The child(ren) must be the only focal point of your interest regarding the other parent.
Do not entertain conversation. Do not express consideration of their well being. Do not invest in quarrels of theories and reasons why such and such happened or who’s right or wrong. Most certainly do not indulge in a hearing out of apologies (at least not until you’ve completed the program).
Your response and interest must be limited to the child(ren). You must discipline your focus and your tongue to this end.
The second rule is similar to the first rule of self discipline.
RULE #2 Self Control
Narcissists thrive off of emotional manipulation. They need to get a rise out of you. If they cannot move you to empathy and compassion towards them, then they will attempt to aggravate and anger you against them. When you respond to them, you lose. The worse thing that can happen to them is that you withdraw your energy and become in control of where you expend your energy and your attention.
The emphasis of Self Control is Controlling yourself.
Controlling your emotions and the expression of your emotions is key here. Again, being a part of a toxic relationship has molded and trained you to emotionally respond. So don’t. You don’t have to respond. You are not obligated to react. You don’t owe them any interaction whatsoever.
We promise you, the hardest part of getting them out of your head, is RECLAIMING you! Once You own yourself, your mind, your thoughts and your emotions you’ll be much more at peace, even around them. This will take practice and intent. Capture ever single thought and bring it under subjection.
Now, when a narcissist or one with narcissistic tendencies, senses that you are slipping out of their range of control, they will extend that range and will pull every string to get you to move:
- Social Media
- Even the Child(ren)
Nothing is beneath them.
SO… you need a plan!
RULE #3 Strategy…You need plans.
- You need a plan of physical escape.
- You need a plan to become mentally and emotionally free.
- You need a plan to STAY mentally and emotionally free.
- You need a plan for each and every engagement and conversation.
It is important that you dictate the intention, purpose and length of EVERY interaction with them.
“Our Family Wizard” is an app that allows you to share information about the children, important dates, school information and anything else that the other parent needs, without having to interact with them if you don’t want. This is an awesome co-parenting tool that limits personal interaction.
This app is already being used in many states and some courts have allowed its use in custody decrees. If you have a custody decree and you find this useful, see if you can have the decree amended to force use of this app. “Our Family Wizard” is robust and it WORKS!
Now, 9 times out of 10, the narcissist will bail on plans or be purposefully late in order to frustrate you. This is another level of emotional control and manipulation. So plan for it. You need backup plans. Make sure your needs are covered when they are being who they are… in other words, don’t depend on them.
Expect them to not show up or to be late. Have alternatives. Keep all documentation of their failure and be willing to allow local courts to mediate. This is where we MUST beyond stigmas of using law and law enforcement in domestic situations. You are going to have to be willing to use the law and law enforcement to serve your interests…Which leads to #4
RULE #4 Safety
YOUR SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT.
Your child(ren) NEEDS YOU! Your mental safety is important. Your emotional safety is important. Your physical safety is important. YOU are important to the wellbeing of your child(ren).
We have yet to meet a narcissist who is not on some level abusive. Either emotionally or physically or both. Some can escalate to physical abuse when they don’t get their way. You can’t use your historical knowledge of them as a barometer of whether they’ll attack you. You’ve never seen them in LOSE YOU in this way before.
Control is necessary for narcissistic personas. They feel owed it, they need it and when they lose it over a person, they feel personally attacked. So be willing to get the law involved. Be willing to protect yourself at all times. Be willing to testify if need be.
RULE #5 SAY BYE….LET GO
You are going to have to Forgive and let them go.
We’ve found that many narcissists continued to have influence and control over their “ex’s” because of the simple fact that their ex can’t let go.
You’ve been love bombed, pushed away, pulled in again, gas-lighted, confused, guilted, shamed, bullied … and in many cases broken. You lived in a constant cycle of hope and hell, and it has become a habit. Part of you may still have some hope, another part of you is angry for what was done, but any part of this is still hanging on. You must let go.
You may still love them out of hope
You still may hate them for how you were treated
You can’t let go out of habit
That residual anger and hurt and even love, is a part of your connection to them. That’s why you and so many like you may entertain phone calls, arguments, apologies, thoughts and other traps that capture your attention. This is where the biggest crack in your armor is… you still feel something and You’re going to have to let that go.
We’ve helped people to move forward and finally let go of emotionally toxic connections through our powerful book and program…Learn More Here