I remember the days when the term “narcissism” simply referred to someone who exuded a high-level of self-love and selfishness. Over the past few years I learned first hand that this condition is highly volatile and involves more than an individual’s effort to fulfill their own needs and wants.
Narcissism means that an individual will hurt, destroy and manipulate in order to self-preserve.
They can only understand and sympathize with themselves – they have no concept of how their actions affect or impact others. Ultimately, they feel no remorse or guilt for their actions.
I share a daughter with a narcissist. Throughout our relationship, and after I left him during the pregnancy, I was constantly at fault for everything that had happened and all my attempts to reason with him fell on deaf ears.
I am constantly threatened, harassed and gas-lighted by my narcissistic ex even as I remain civil and unprovoked.
Every interaction with him causes panic and anxiety. The idea of co-parenting was completely off the table but I had to find a way to deal with these interactions while allowing him to spend time and build a relationship with our daughter.
What is Parallel Parenting?
Parallel parenting is the answer to the narcissistic ex. It involves completely disengaging from the other parent in order to avoid conflict through controlled communication. It also means controlling your own reactions and emotions while focusing your attention on what is best for your child.
Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years when it comes to parallel parenting with a narcissistic ex:
Limit Communication With Your Narcissistic Ex
I had already found myself completely uninvolving myself from my ex, except to provide and receive important information about our daughter. In fact, limited communication was eventually court-ordered in our custody agreement – the judge implemented that we only communicate need-to-know information via text or email.
We also agreed to specifics when it came to visitation and access and had those included in the court order. My ex loves to use the smallest details against me, so having everything in writing helped to ensure that he couldn’t manipulate the agreement in any way.
Not that he doesn’t try. Even now he twists statements made in court and threatens to have me arrested for violation of the order. However, I know what is written in the order and I don’t respond to these threats.
Narcissists Love A Reaction – Do Not Give In
Actually, there’s a lot I don’t respond to because narcissists love a reaction. They will poke the bear, so to speak, until they get one. Parallel parenting is more effective if you refuse to engage with their accusations and attempt to defend yourself or correct them.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is extremely difficult. It took me a long time to learn how to bite my tongue but, I assure you, it has made all the difference in communicating with him. Whenever I rose to the occasion and pushed back against him, thing would escalate and by the end of it my nerves would be shot.
Mind you, when it comes to how he speaks to our daughter or behaves around her, I don’t keep quiet. I simply communicate my concerns in objective and concise terms without injecting any emotion.
Your Children Come First
As a parent, I can’t control every action my daughter witnesses in the world – but I can control mine. I don’t want her to see or experience the anxiety and frustration my ex causes me. In the end, that is her father and she loves him.
However, even at the age of six, she is starting to recognize that her father is not a warm and caring parent. We talk a lot about her daddy and how he speaks to her and about other people.
While I would love to openly agree with her on all points, I simply listen to her and validate her feelings. I explain in age-appropriate terms that daddy is different, sometimes daddy isn’t nice and that she doesn’t have to like what daddy says or does.
I don’t lie or sugarcoat the situation. I do tell her that her daddy loves her because, I think on some level, he does. It’ll just never be the healthy and caring way a parent should love their child.
In the end, my parallel parenting strategy is to simply avoid confrontation with him (unless necessary) and help my daughter navigate her perceptions and emotions.
While it’s not a perfect situation, it is far less frightening and stressful as it was in the past.
From the day my daughter was born, I vowed to provide her a life of stability, safety and love. While she’ll never get that from her narcissistic father, she will get more than enough from me.