One of the reasons your marriage ended in divorce was because living with a narcissist just wasn’t worth it any longer.
You hoped that by getting divorced your life would be infinitely better. You’d do your work to overcome the PTSD, low self-esteem, depression, and whatever else you were suffering with in your marriage and things would be better for you and for your kids.
And now that you’re divorced, some things are better.
But when it comes to co-parenting with your ex, the torture you experience is the same as (or worse than) it was when you were married.
You chose co-parenting for your children because “experts” promote it as the best way to parent post-divorce. You followed their advice that the key to being successful is to set boundaries when co-parenting.
Well, you’ve tried and tried to establish boundaries to make co-parenting with a narcissist work, but life is still a living hell whenever you interact with your ex.
The crux of the problem is that co-parenting with a narcissist doesn’t work any better than marriage with a narcissist does.
But there is hope.
You must set entirely different boundaries when co-parenting with a narcissist than you would if your ex wasn’t so self-absorbed.
Ditch the idea of co-parenting.
It may work for people who have a sane ex, but it won’t work for you. Since co-parenting is impossible with a narcissist, you’ll want to switch your model to parallel parenting. (This might mean modifying your current parenting plan to make things black and white.)
Set firm boundaries for your children.
Because life with their other parent is so unpredictable, you’re the one who will need to provide stability for your kids.
Limit your children’s contact with the off-parent.
Limiting your ex’s time to interact with your children when it’s your time is a pretty obvious boundary to implement. But limiting your kids’ contact with you while they’re with their other parent is important too.
Unless there’s an emergency, your kids shouldn’t be contacting you because it sets them up to hear what your ex thinks of you and perhaps puts them in jeopardy for the anger to spill over to them.
Remove yourself from the reign of terror.
Part of moving on from a narcissist’s control is by being assertive (not aggressive) and unemotional when dealing with them. When they start berating you, fight your instinct to defend yourself and hang up the phone, block their number when your kids are with you, close the door in their face, or leave their presence.
Establish boundaries around your home.
Your home is your (and your children’s) sanctuary. Don’t let your ex into your home because they’ll bring all their hatred with them.
Teach and model both social and emotional intelligence for your children.
You’re the only parent who can do this in a healthy way. Make sure you’re doing your best to help you children learn how to productively interact with others.
Keep records of everything that happens between you and your ex.
Your ex will use everything they can think of to win and make your life miserable. And this definitely includes taking you back to court. So follow the Boy Scout’s motto and “Be Prepared!”
Be brief, informative, friendly, firm and NEVER admit to making a mistake when you communicate with your ex.
If you deviate from this communication style, all you’re doing is giving your ex ammunition for hurling insults and abuse your direction. (A great book about this communication method is BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns by Bill Eddy.)
Nurture your children’s individualism and independence.
Your ex, the narcissist, sees your children as extensions of themselves who need to be controlled – not nurtured. So fostering individualism and independence in your kids falls squarely on your shoulders.
After reading this list of boundaries when co-parenting with a narcissist you probably noticed that all of them deal with you eliminating contact with your ex and taking the lion’s share of responsibility for raising happy, healthy children.
These new rules for your life might even seem exhausting. But making these changes and putting in the effort will be totally worth it because the reward is the better life you were hoping for when you got divorced.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach who helps people just like you who want support in learning to parent post-divorce. You can join her newsletter group for free advice or schedule a FREE 30-minute conversation with Karen directly in her Time Trade calendar.
This article originally appeared on Dr. Karen Finn
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