Can You Co-Parent With a Narcissist? How To Make It Work

Rewritten: Dealing with co-parenting while dealing with a narcissist can be extremely challenging. It is important to recognize that narcissists struggle with maintaining a consistent self-image, which often leads them to ignore boundaries. ERROR: Unable to process the request due to encountered difficulties.

You may find a narcissistic co-parent to be pushy one moment and completely ignoring you the next.

Their parenting style may be less structured, and they may display less respect, understanding, and empathy than you’re expecting or comfortable with.

Providing criticism or feedback may result in anger and negativity, which over time, can become exhausting. 

Is co-parenting with a narcissist possible? While co-parenting may seem like a constant battle, it’s not impossible. You must set and stick to a strict parenting schedule to make it work. This requires hashing out all the details involved with parenting. It’s also a good idea to decide how and how often you and your ex will communicate.

Narcissists will do almost anything to control situations, but you don’t need to back down or lose your voice in the matter.

You will need to work out important details such as who will do pick-ups and drop-offs and when, how extra mural activities will be handled, how holidays will be worked out, and what’s expected in terms of discipline and “family rules.”

Read on for top tips on recognizing narcissism, what to expect as a co-parent, and how to co-parent with a narcissist. 

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

If you suspect your co-parent is narcissistic, your mind is probably running wild. You’re probably trawling narcissism-info websites and researching the topic to the point of nausea.

You’ve done the overthinking, the pacing, and nail-biting, and you’re at the point of acceptance. Your ex-partner is a narcissist, and now you’ve got to spend the rest of your life co-parenting the one human you love most in the world with a narcissist.

First off, take a breath! There are worse things to befall the human race than a narcissistic co-parent.

If you know what you’re dealing with and how to work around narcissistic behavior, you can thwart the potential co-parenting warfare and successfully raise your child without any excessive fallout.

While there is a multitude of information on narcissism, this post serves as a quick yet deeply insightful overview of everything you need to know about recognizing narcissistic behavior and how to co-parent effectively with a narcissist.

Signs You Are Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

There’s nothing subtle about narcissism. Narcissists lack empathy, are grandiose about their self-importance, and, quite frankly, see themselves as the most important person in the room, but that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you.

If you’re still not sure if your co-parent has narcissistic tendencies, here’s what to look for:

  • Arrogance
  • Entitlement
  • Lack of empathy
  • The belief that they are special/unique
  • Delusions of being powerful or more successful than they are
  • A deep desire to be admired
  • Doing just about anything to control situations
  • Exaggerating achievements or skills
  • The belief that others envy them

What To Expect When Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

You can expect co-parenting with a narcissist to be downright challenging, but if you’re prepared for it, you’ll be able to strategize to work around it.

Narcissistic co-parents are typically less structured in their parenting approach.

They tend to challenge boundaries, ignore their co-parent’s requests, have a negative outlook, make it impossible to compromise, or push others to the point of frustration.

You may also find that if you offer suggestions, make requests, or provide constructive criticism, you’ll be met with an argument, anger, or lashing out.

Two sad kids sit at the kitchen table while listening to their parents argue behind them.

Dangers of Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

You might be worried that your child won’t make it through being co-parented by a narcissist unscathed, and that’s a real danger.

A considerable amount of research indicates that some children who grow up with narcissistic parents may develop self-esteem issues and suffer mental health disorders themselves.

Of course, you want to protect your child from this. Therefore, having calm and gentle discussions with your child is important to help them understand your co-parent’s behaviors.

At the same time, be careful not to trash talk your co-parent, and keep a close eye on any potential abuse.

How To Co-Parent With a Narcissist

  • Have a parenting plan in place so that there’s a schedule and structure that both parents follow strictly.
  • Maintain calm, and always be respectful by choosing clear language that can’t be misconstrued as an “attack.”
  • Make decisions with your head and not your heart (emotional) to eliminate making poor judgment calls.
  • Limit contact with your co-parent so you’re in touch only when necessary, and try to keep communication to email or a format where you can stay calm and think before you respond.
  • Consider parallel parenting if previous attempts at remaining civil aren’t working.

What Not To Do When Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

  • Never use your child to make a point, bargain, or hurt your co-parent. In the end, this will only impose damage on your child. 
  • Don’t drop your guard and allow your boundaries to be breached. If you do this, it shows weakness. You don’t have to be on the offensive always, but be consistent. 
  • Don’t get into an argument as narcissists have a way of running circles around others in an argument. Be frank, brief, and to the point. 

How To Checkmate a Narcissist

Checkmating a narcissist requires a simple strategy.

  • First, aim to communicate as if you’re already on their team.
  • Set boundaries and keep them in place while limiting your reactions.
  • It’s important to speak carefully and be to the point when communicating.
  • Narcissists seek admiration and validation, which you can withhold from them while acquiring a confident stance and approach.

These simple actions/approaches can help checkmate a narcissist.

Traits of Children of Narcissistic Parents

Sadly, children of narcissistic parents often suffer adversely and may develop certain traits. You should keep a lookout for the following traits in your children:

  • Putting themselves last (people-pleasing)
  • Lack of trust
  • Insecurities
  • Aloofness (lack of emotional closeness)
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Inability to make confident decisions (indecisiveness)
  • Feelings of inadequacy

Related Questions: 

Do Narcissistic Parents Raise Narcissists?

It’s normal to fret over the prospect of your narcissist co-parent possibly “turning” your child into a narcissist; this is where your role becomes important.

Narcissism occurs intergenerationally. This means that your child could take on narcissistic or codependent tendencies without your confident parenting style that instills confidence, self-esteem, and balanced development.

However, all hope is not lost! With positive input from your side, your child can grow up well-balanced, happy, and non-narcissistic.

Can a Parent Lose Custody for Being a Narcissist?

Yes, a narcissistic parent can lose custody of a child but not simply for being a narcissist.

It would be your responsibility/task to convince and prove to the court that your co-parent’s behavior has a negative and damaging impact on your child.

Final Thoughts 

Scheduling, limited brief communications, and a parenting plan are the cornerstones of a successful co-parenting relationship with a narcissist.

To protect yourself and your child, be cautious but confident. Co-parenting with a narcissist is challenging but not impossible if you know how to approach the situation.