5 Tips for Co-Parenting with a Narcissistic Spouse
Co-parenting with a spouse who is a narcissist or has narcissistic tendencies is extremely difficult. A divorced or separated parent who is trying to do this should see a psychologist, therapist, or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). The mental health professional can provide support and feedback as to the non-narcissist’s progress.
- Practice the “Gray Rock” technique.
The most important step in the process is to mirror a gray rock. This means that the non-narcissist should work to develop quiet, steady, and low-level methods of interaction with the narcissist. The non-narcissist must learn:
- not to direct extremely positive or negative energy toward the narcissist
- not to put out high levels of any type of energy when the narcissist is around
- not to engage the narcissist in conflict
- not to badmouth the narcissist when the child is present
- how to develop solutions to problems without the narcissist, if their input is not needed
- not to give in to desires to enter into a romantic relationship with the narcissist
- not to depend on the narcissist emotionally in other ways, such as turning to the narcissist for advice about friends and
- not to depend on the narcissist financially, other than for court-ordered alimony or child support.
Learning how to take these actions requires time and energy. The non-narcissist should create a plan with their mental health professional as to what issues they need to address. They should update them on what strategies worked.
- Anticipate the narcissist to initiate frequent and difficult conflicts.
The non-narcissist should expect the narcissist to create problems. They should be wary of sudden fixes that seem too easy. Often there is a hidden catch, like the narcissist will demand that their former partner spend time with them.
The non-narcissist should not agree to new arrangements without speaking to a lawyer first. There may be legal consequences to certain actions. The non-narcissist should work with their mental health professional to imagine several likely scenarios in which the narcissist’s actions will require extra time, money, and energy. Also, it is unlikely that any type of cheap divorce in Birmingham or wherever you live will be possible since it will be difficult to reach an agreement on your marital issues with a narcissist.
- Develop a small financial savings and other resources in case of an emergency.
The non-narcissist should save money, accumulate time off, and plan to have other resources on hand in anticipation of the narcissist creating a problem, particularly one that relates to the child. For example, the narcissist may say they will take the child on a month-long vacation after school gets out. The non-narcissist may ask to see receipts for reservations. Even if the narcissist shares receipts, the narcissist may cancel the reservations. Narcissists often design plans to fall through.
- Don’t let the narcissist know too much information.
The non-narcissist should avoid sharing a great deal of information with the narcissist. The narcissist is likely to use information about a change in circumstances at work against the non-narcissist in court. The non-narcissist should work with their mental health professional to develop the courage to say, “I don’t feel like answering that question” or “I will share when I am ready.”
- Make sure the child sees a mental health professional.
Being around a narcissist is damaging. The non-narcissist should make sure their child is seeing a counselor. The narcissist may fight them on this. The non-narcissist should be prepared for the narcissist to be resistant and angry about this demand.
Key things to remember about narcissists include:
- they rarely admit they need mental health services
- they very rarely make progress on mental health issues
- they are extremely manipulative and
- they may be successful in convincing mental health professionals and legal professionals like mediators that they are not narcissists.
When a non-narcissist develops coping and parenting strategies as a single person, they are re-learning how to parent. They are going to be doing more work than before. They now have to repair all the bonds that were broken, with themselves, the child, the narcissist, and other parties that witnessed conflicts, like the child’s coach.
A non-narcissist succeeds by returning to the “Gray Rock” technique. They should strive to be firm, thoughtful, and dependable. They should work toward anticipating problematic behavior. They should also congratulate themselves on their milestones.