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Is it possible to co-parent with a narcissist?

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2021 | Child Custody |

After years of putting up with your spouse’s narcissism, you might have decided that you have finally had enough. You might have stuck with them due to their charm and confidence. Yet, their self-centered and manipulative behavior likely harmed your relationship.

Despite your spouse’s challenges, you may – if you two are parents – recognize that it is important for your children to have both of you in their lives after you get divorced. For this to happen, though, it may not be possible to have a traditional co-parenting relationship.

Narcissism may require parallel parenting

A strong co-parenting relationship is one where parents put aside their feelings and work together to provide their children with safety and stability. While this may seem like an ideal arrangement, it is unlikely that it will work for you if your spouse is a narcissist. Rather than focusing on your children’s needs, their priority will be “winning” their affections, as well as your custody dispute. Fighting your spouse, though, will only cause them to respond in kind. Thus, it is crucial you find a way to disengage from them while making sure they have access to your children. You can accomplish this through parallel parenting.

Parallel parenting is an arrangement where you and your spouse’s communication will be limited due to the nature of your relationship. Likely, you will have to work together to make major decisions about your children’s upbringing. But you will discuss these in a manner that reduces your chance of conflict, such as through email or text. In a parallel parenting relationship, you and your spouse will handle your children’s day-to-day care on your own terms. Your exchanges of your children will happen in a neutral location where you do not have to interact with each other. And while you both may be able to attend your children’s events, conferences and appointments, you will not take part in these together.

Possible benefits of parallel parenting

While parallel parenting may not curb your spouse’s narcissistic behavior, it will help you minimize your contact with them. By having a strong plan for how you will handle parenting matters, you will lessen the chance of having unplanned interactions. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of conflict between you two, which can also shield your children from the strain in your relationship. As a result, they will likely feel less inclined to take sides in your divorce. And they may experience a greater sense of security than they otherwise would have.

Divorcing a narcissist is difficult, especially if you two have children. By parallel parenting, though, you and your spouse can both remain part of their lives while minimizing the contact you have with each other. With the help of a family law attorney, you can determine if parallel parenting is appropriate for your circumstances.


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