You will see many blog-posts from me on co-parenting issues with a narcissist. My biggest concern (as with most of you reading this blog) is my daughter and her physical and emotional well-being. I read a lot about coparenting with a narcissist/sociopath/psychopath. My conclusion: I will do my best but it’s frustrating knowing that there is little I can do to prevent it. I, like most parents, want to protect my daughter from this man, even though it is her father. I stayed longer than I should have with my N-ex because I thought I could protect her from him. I thought as long as I was with her, that I could protect her and shield her from him. What I didn’t realize was that, while I thought I was protecting her, she has also been protecting me.
My daughter was only 2 when I left my N-ex. From the moment that she could respond, when we had an argument in front of her (despite my trying to redirect it to a better time, when our daughter wasn’t present, you KNOW there’s no stopping a narcissist!) he would yell at me, whether I engaged or not. After these arguments, or during, our daughter would not go to her dad. She always “sided” with me. Perhaps she sensed that I was the one being attacked. I was the underdog. She would be angry with her dad for yelling at me and she wouldn’t want anything to do with him. He, of course, would “make me” tell her everything was okay and that it was safe to go to him. This makes me angry to this day! Now that I’m out, I can’t imagine why I stayed and put our daughter through this, but it’s easier said than done, as most of you unfortunately know. Many of you reading this may still be struggling to get out. To those, I wish you strength. I’m happy to help in whatever way I can with advice and support. I know how hard it is. My biggest concern is: will my N-ex abandon our daughter when she falls from his graces? How will she handle that? What can I do to help? She’s four years old now. She still adores her daddy (or pretends to, as she tells me. She doesn’t want to hurt his feelings). She tries to make him happy. Will he start to degrade her too when she develops her own opinion more and more? Is he already degrading her? I know there’s not much I can do in court. Is there anything else I can do?
If you are wondering if your spouse, boyfriend, ex is a narcissist, you may want to check out this Narcissistic Personality Inventory on http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/narcissistic.htm . Here, you can read the questions and assess whether the person in your life falls into this category. Chances are, if you THINK they are, they are, but this narcissistic personality inventory will help. The narcissistic personality inventory is a commonly-used test by psychologists. The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), is included in the book, The Mirror Effect.
As you can see, I have many reasons to be concerned with co parenting with a narcissist. I recently read, on http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/relationshipwithyourex/a/Co-Parenting-With-A-Narcissist.htm about the 10 Commandments of a Narcissistic mother or father. It didn’t click with me at first, until I read the author’s contributions. Some of them really hit home and offered new insight for me. First of all, please read the 10 Commandments of the narcissistic parent (below).
The Ten Commandments of the Narcissistic Parent:
- I am who I tell you I am.
- You will tell me things I want to hear or you will not be heard.
- You will feel the way I want you to feel or you will be forsaken.
- Love is conditional upon the aforementioned.
- Intimacy is vulnerability, and thus, death.
- There is only one road in and out of here.
- Children are like toys that become useless when they break, which is why they must be replaced with better toys.
- Parents are really one person in two bodies. When they individuate, they die.
- Conversely, siblings are really one person in several bodies. When one individuates, that person shall be hunted down and slaughtered for the greater good.
- Narcissism is a myth.
As the author said, most of your time is spent attempting to undo the damage a narcissist can do to his/her children when coparenting with a narcissist. I definitely agree with this statement. The narcissist isn’t capable of “normal” maternal or paternal instincts. They view their children as objects meant to fulfill their own needs, instead of the other way around. It is not always easy to combat narcissistic behavior.
1. I am who I tell you I am:
Since the N’s (narcissist’s) children are people who know he is not who he tells them he is, he chooses to surround himself with people who will believe he is who he tells them he is. I wonder if our daughter has figured this one out yet. I hope she is smarter than I was! Of course, she’ll have me to help, but I’m not quite sure how to do that. I don’t want to alienate her from her father, but I wait until she brings a problem up before I address it, usually. It is a work in progress, I guess. Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated! We’re here to help each other. Please help!
2. You will tell me things I want to hear or you will not be heard:
My N-ex has always ignored what he didn’t want to hear. If our daughter isn’t talking to him when she makes the “required” calls on the phone, he ignores her.
3. You will feel the way I want you to feel or you will be forsaken:
This is the one that does the most damage. The N puts no value on his/her children’s feelings. In the author’s example, she wrote: “When we don’t value other people’s feelings our actions can do irreparable damage to those people. Our son was upset over something his father wrote him in an email. He responded and told his father, “Dad, when you say things like that, it hurts my feelings.”
His father responded and told our son, “I am not responsible for your feelings.” And then he went on to explain to the child just how unreasonable it was for his son to expect him to care about his feelings. You can’t tell a child in one voice, “I love you” and then tell them “If your feelings got hurt it is your fault” in the next and expect that child to not be emotionally damaged.” This hits home to me because, while my daughter was barely able to communicate when I last lived with her dad, he would say to me that he wasn’t responsible for how I “take things.” He’d try to say that I misunderstood, but he’d never succeed at explaining what he “truly” meant, or he’d say that he wasn’t responsible for my feelings. He actually said the words, “if your feelings got hurt it’s your fault”. Am I naïve to hope that there’s a chance that he won’t do it to our daughter? After all, he tells her damaging (and false) things such as: your mother doesn’t love you, your mom isn’t capable of love, your grandma doesn’t love you, etc., etc., etc. my hope is that if she falls from his good graces, he’ll just leave for someone who will give him more attention. That sounds terrible to say but I think that would be best for her.
4. Love is conditional upon the aforementioned:
Who doesn’t want to be love conditionally? Sadly, if a child refuses to feel the way the narcissistic parent needs them to feel, then love, attention, caring, concern, etc. will be withheld. Wondering how my daughter will handle this, I found comfort in this article, where the author wrote: “The bad news for the narcissist, children eventually adjust and move on. That old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” works against the narcissist. I can, thankfully say that as adults our children rarely think about or mention their father. When you withdraw your love from someone they will eventually “let go” of their love for you.” This gives me hope that one day, he will just fade out of her life without irreparable damage. I know she’s a strong little girl, I just hate to see her have to go through this. While he’s telling her that I don’t love her, it is he who is incapable of love. Also of note: One thing I’ve realized when dealing with the narcissist is that whatever he is accusing you of is very often what he is guilty of. Perhaps HE is incapable of love and he is incapable of loving her as a parent should. Maybe deep down he realizes this and he reflects it back onto me.
5. Intimacy is vulnerability, and thus, death:
True intimacy with another person means allowing yourself to become vulnerable, emotionally dependent. Vulnerability and dependency are the kiss of death to the narcissist. Your child will love the narcissistic parent; the narcissistic parent is only able to love what the child can do for him/her. I never felt that my N-ex ever really knew me. I felt that he had a version of me but he was incapable of seeing who I really AM. Most people that know me would say that I am honest, trustworthy, and giving. He constantly accused me of lying, and being selfish. I never felt “close” to him. He was never vulnerable. He never admitted anything he was ashamed of, unless it was an underhanded way to brag (ie., he always felt bad about beating up all of those people who picked fights with him (hmm, wonder why?!) No matter how much bigger than him they were, he always felt sorry for them afterward. Supposedly. And, why was he getting in so many fights? I’ve never found myself in a physical fight, except the one scuffle with my sister as teenagers… Anyway, I can relate to this one.
6. There is only one road in and out of here:
I’m not exactly sure what the author of this list meant for this one but what I get out of it is: It’s MY (the N’s) way or the highway, and I control the highway!
7. Children are like toys that become useless when they break, which is why they must be replaced with better toys:
Sad but true, children of N’s are replaced. Be it with a step-daughter or step-son, or a new son or daughter. He/she will forever be the recipient of his goodness, that is, until she questions a behavior or, disagrees with a belief of his. (Oh, and by “forever”, I mean, “for as long as it lasts”.)
8. Parents are really one person in two bodies. When they individuate, they die:
Similar to the author, when my ex and I divorced in his mind I was no longer important. I was no longer an object of any use to him. Any feelings, needs or desires I had had become of no consequence to him. He likewise expected our daughter to view me as someone who was unimportant.
9. Conversely, siblings are really one person in several bodies. When one individuates, that person shall be hunted down and slaughtered for the greater good:
I don’t have any experience of my own in this regard since our daughter is only 4, and it’s just her. I’ll leave the original author’s comments as it helped me:
“When we divorced our children were 14 and 7 years old. The older child was quick to call his father out for hurtful behavior. The younger child made excuses and did whatever he could to keep his father happy. All the younger child cared about was spending time with his Dad. Due to that he detached himself from the emotional pain and focused on pleasing his father.
Our older child individuated, became separate from his brother and had to be done away with emotionally. Our older son in now 28 years old. His father has rarely acknowledged him since the divorce. He came to his high school graduation after 4 years of never attending a parent/teacher meeting, extracurricular activity, regular visitation and refusing to enter into counseling. That is the only time since our divorce that he has shown interest in our older child.
His child was “hunted down” and “slaughtered” emotionally.”
10. Narcissism is a myth:
I believe that a narcissist knows they are different. They realize there is something wrong but they can’t admit that THEY have anything wrong. Therefore, it must be YOU. They don’t have a character flaw. It’s how you’re taking it. My ex would bring in “proof” that I was crazy by putting words in other peoples’ mouths. “Just ask the neighbor. She said (insert something that “proved his point” here).”
Keep your expectations low. Narcissists can’t or won’t put themselves aside to focus on a child, even if it IS their own. Be diligent in cleaning up the emotional messes caused by narcissistic behavior and get your children into therapy. I know this is little consolation, and I’m not always sure how to clean up those messes. It leaves me feeling hopeless and depressed, but not as hopeless and depressed as I would have been keeping my family in that situation! Life isn’t easy, ESPECIALLY when dealing with narcissistic behavior. There are always going to be challenges. If you keep being the awesome, loving parent that you are, your child will be fine. Tell them often that you love them. Show them that you care and think about them often. If the N is the custodial parent, your job will be harder. Love and prayers! Keep reading. Knowledge is power. We can help each other. Comments, suggestions, please! Thanks! Coparenting With a Narcissist Coparenting With a Narcissist Coparenting With a Narcissist Coparenting With a Narcissist Coparenting With a Narcissist Coparenting With a Narcissist
P.S.- As I mentioned, there will be many more articles about co-parenting on this website. I wish I had more advice, but I’m learning just as you are. Best wishes!