Be the Lighthouse in the Narcissist Storm — 7 tips for Co-Parenting
It seems the term “narcissist” has become quite the buzz word these days with current affairs surrounding the world of self-gratification. The reference to someone being “a narcissist” is quickly becoming almost normalized in daily conversations. We often hear sentences like “He is so selfish, what a narcissist.” and “He is acting like such a narcissist today.” This term is tossed around freely, but most people don’t understand what it feels like to truly interact with this personality disorder. A true narcissist is mentally and emotionally exhausting to deal with on a daily basis. It can trigger trauma responses, induce panic or massive amounts of anxiety, and leave you depressed and/or in a paralyzed state of mind even after one interaction or conversation. It is not for the faint of heart, and I have found it’s necessary to have a supportive tribe around you as you navigate co-parenting with this personality.
1) Co-parenting doesn’t exist. There is sharing children, not co-parenting. This is because to co-parent one must be an emotionally intelligent individual, able to give and take with another individual. A narcissist is not capable of this. Most importantly, if you give a narcissist an inch, he/she will take a mile! You are living in reality, while the narcissist is living and operating in a false reality of their own creation. This can be very difficult to accept and often needs its own grieving process. It is hard enough to face the scenario that your marriage ended, but the hope of a co-parenting situation is not a possibility and that illusion must be released.
2) Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. These have to be ironclad and set early on. Also, if you set a boundary such as “I will not discuss my dating life with you.” and they continue to explode about other people being around their children, then let the volcano explode and leave the conversation. Do not engage with a conversation about the scenario. If the volcano is erupting, move up your boundary. If he mentions the date you went on, you have absolute silence. This will mean the narcissist volcano can’t even blow smoke, let alone explode.
3) Be the Lighthouse. When the storm rages, stay still and weather the storm just like a lighthouse. Imagine this image in your head if it helps. Know that when you set your boundary, the storm will rage (the narcissist storm) and you will need to be solid in your boundary without budging. Hard as hell, but necessary to keep your sanity.
4) Have a Mantra on Repeat Have one or two sentences that you can repeat over and over that when in doubt can be sure you will not engage in conflict with a narcissist, which is what he feeds off of. Narcissist love the debate and the energy they get from the conflict with you. When this is taken away, the narcissist eventually will tire of your non conflict and engagement and not try to cause as much conflict with you. For example: If a narcissist tries to switch weekends with you from your custody arrangement and this does not work for you. He/she will try every tactic to manipulate you into switching (guilt, anger, fear, threats). As a lighthouse, you will imagine this image and hold tight to your one or two sentences to reinforce your boundary. “That weekend is not your weekend according to the paperwork”. The reasons for why you are not switching, really is not his/her business. You have set your boundary, get in and out of the conversation as quickly as possible.
5) It’s Not About YOU You can imagine narcissists like a set of golf clubs. Each club is a manipulation tactic and has a name: Fear. Manipulation. Guilt. Anger. When one club doesn’t work, then he/she will attempt another tactic and pull another golf club out of their bag. This is very common amongst narcissists and you feel like you have to explain or defend yourself. You Don’t. You never have to explain yourself again to them in this capacity. You can’t rationalize with a narcissist because they are irrational and they are living in their alternate reality. Simply just say ok. Or 10–4 and remove yourself from the conversation.
6. Holidays Are The Most Difficult Narcissists love to ruin holidays because the attention is often not on them. This is often not even a cognizant move by the narcissist, but knowing and expecting this is helpful. This will often happen around mother’s day/birthdays/Christmas etc. It is very important to not have any expectations and prepare to have strong boundaries going into the holiday season. Try to not let their behavior steal the joy from your holiday.
7. Have A Tribe Of Lanterns It is crucial for your mental health to discuss your boundaries with those who can hold safe space for you. Those few people that can be a lantern and illuminate the dark path of dealing with the narcissist. It is so easy to get sucked back into the guilt, manipulation, and fear cycle that narcissists use to control us. It is so important to have a person or tribe to reach out to for support when you are feeling down or overwhelmed by The Narcissist Cycle. You need someone to speak truth into and over you. We get to choose how we react, respond, and move forward when dealing with a narcissistic co-parent. We are finally in control of us, and that feels liberating and free!