You may be surprised to learn that not every attorney or every judge in the state of Texas has a great deal of experience with persons with a narcissistic personality. Narcissists (from my personal experiences) are great at acting deceptively. This helps the person to be able to hide certain pieces of information in favor of other pieces that are more favorable to whatever position they are advocating for. If your spouse was advocating for more money, more time with your kids or more of both during your divorce then yours was likely to be a very unpleasant experience.
If you are a parent whose child is under the age of eighteen, it is the unfortunate reality for you that your relationship with your ex-spouse did not end at the time that you both got divorced. Rather, your relationship is now going to evolve to where you and your ex-spouse will be co-parenting your child together. If you cannot be sure that your co-parenting partner is telling the truth, or that they are looking out for the best interests of your child then you are unlikely to find success in parenting your child together.
Generally speaking, today's blog post will be about how to co-parent with a narcissistic ex-spouse. You likely picked up some tips and tricks during your marriage but co-parenting can be different than simply raising a child with your spouse. The fact that you and your ex-spouse just went through an emotional divorce will only stand to make this a tougher row to hoe for you and your family. Fortunately, you can rely on the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to provide you with helpful hints that can make co-parenting after a divorce relatively pain-free- even if your ex-spouse can think only of himself or herself.
Why co-parenting with a narcissist with so difficult
The personality traits of a person who suffers from narcissism can be especially toxic about parenting. Children become caught in the middle when one parent (you) does not have a personality affliction that impacts their ability to parent and another parent (your ex-spouse) who cannot seem to handle reality on reality's terms. Instead, the narcissist will attempt to bend circumstances in a way that will benefit him or her. This is to the detriment of everyone else involved- including your children.
While your children are defenseless on many levels, you can combat your ex-spouse and their narcissistic ways. However, you will likely suffer some degree of harassment via your ex-spouse when it comes to parenting issues. Unfortunately, you should expect that your narcissist ex-spouse will attempt to use co-parenting issues against you as weapons. Hopefully between you, your attorney and the judge you were able to implement some safeguards into your parenting plan that will keep your children safe and you sane while co-parenting with a narcissist.
If you were not able to do so that is ok. As long as you know now that narcissists are at their core imposters, deceivers and people that use charm to get their way, you have a chance to be able to co-parent effectively.
Be aware that going back to court may be in the cards for you and your family
The last place you would like to end up after a difficult divorce is right back in a family courtroom. The unfortunate truth of the matter, however, is that because your ex-spouse and co-parent is a narcissist the odds of that happening are fairly high. Narcissists crave control. Narcissists crave attention and believe themselves to always be in the right. Unfortunately for you, a way to get this attention, control and affirm their superiority is in the courtroom. Whether it is from a modification or enforcement case, there are ample opportunities for you to wind up right back in court.
So, how can you reduce the chances of your ending up back in court? To some extent, it may be inevitable that you go back to court at some point. The simple truth is that the circumstances of most families will change over the course of a few years. As a result, a modification case where you or your ex-spouse seek more time with your kids or a reduction/increase in child support may be unavoidable. This kind of situations is warranted forays into the courtroom. What you want to avoid are needless trips to court just to satisfy the ego of your narcissist ex-spouse.
The first thing that you can do to avoid any unnecessary trips back to court is to know your court orders backward and frontwards. If you do not have a copy of the orders you should get one from the county clerk's office and keep a copy of it around your house for reference. So, if your ex-spouse tries to convince you that he gets an extra weekend in June or that Christmas break ends a day later than your order says, you will be able to counter his arguments.
Knowing your order means that you will be able to nip in the bud any argument that your ex-spouse puts forth as far as your supposed violations of the order or any attempts to justify a modification of the order. Like I said earlier, you may find yourself back in the family courts at some point but it should be for a good reason not just because your ex-spouse wants some attention.
What is it about narcissists that allows them to do what they do?
Narcissists display their negative personality traits in ways that are harmful but not always immediately obvious. For instance, if your ex-spouse were verbally abusive with you or your child it would be obvious to you. Four letter words, put-downs and things of that nature can be documented and acted upon readily. If those verbal assaults transition into physical assaults there is no way that you would let your child see the other parent.
However, what ends up happening with a narcissist is that he or she will act on those personality traits by wearing your defenses down with an onslaught of needling. Telling you that he or she is going to take you back to court if you don’t do something a certain way. Telling you that your child doesn’t want to come to your house anymore. Telling you that the way you do something regarding your child is incorrect. None of these things rise to the level of being called a nasty name in front of your child. But in the long run, they can be equally as harmful to your relationship with that child.
Even if these traits were seen by a family court judge it isn't as if visitation would be restricted to a minimum. Judges believe that unless there is violence, sexual abuse, or something similar that poses a risk of physical harm to the child, there should not be much standing in the way of a parent building a relationship with their child. Many parents will walk into our office and tell one of our attorneys that their goal in the family law case is to make it so their spouse gets no visitation time with their child. We will typically have to walk that parent through the reasons why this is not a likely outcome.
Where does this leave you? For starters, you do not have an easy way to manage your relationship with your ex-spouse. Simply cutting him or her out of the picture would be ideal but it is likely not going to happen. As such, you will need to figure out a way to play ball with this person while maintaining your sanity. Besides coming to court with a consistent list of grievances against you, a narcissistic parent will act in ways that do not immediately make sense.
Legal actions without merit- the calling card of the narcissist ex-spouse
If your ex-spouse had to hire multiple attorneys for your divorce and now has filed a new custody lawsuit against you with a new attorney, that alone may be enough to tell you that he or she is a narcissist. Issues regarding abuse from your marriage, problems with their new relationships or jumping between jobs will help you to anticipate that you will be in for a bumpy post-divorce road with this person.
Issues related to school
Do not be surprised if your ex-spouse goes to your child's school and attempts to create problems by having you removed from the list of emergency contacts for your child. This can happen even if you are your child's primary conservator and your ex-spouse rarely sees your child. I have seen it on multiple occasions that narcissistic parents will get into a new relationship after the divorce and attempt to remove a parent's name from the emergency contact list in favor of the person that they are in the new relationship with. Some schools will allow them to do so. Other schools will have the sense to contact you before your name being removed.
Another problem that some parents have with narcissistic ex-spouses is that problems can occur when a new romantic partner attempts to pick the child up from school without your permission or the permission of the school. When that person goes to the school on a day where your ex-spouse is charged with picking the child up, the school will likely call you. The new girlfriend will then call your ex-husband and he will come up to the school demanding to know why your child couldn’t leave with her.
The truth is that these situations add drama into an already dramatic situation. Attention seeking and an opportunity to wield power are two calling cards of the narcissist. These situations can either be used as a reason to start a new court case where you are painted as the parent interfering with a visitation or can merely be used as motivation for you not to want to get in the way of your ex-spouse when he wants something to happen. If you were to back down and allow these sort of activities to occur then all bets are off when it comes to what he or she will attempt to do in the future.
Minimize contact and become as blameless as possible
A narcissist cannot accept responsibility for their actions. There is always someone else who is responsible for the problems in their lives. Odds are good that you will become that person in the co-parenting relationship. If something goes wrong in their mind you are the likeliest cause of those actions. What can you do to help ensure that you are not dragged into the drama of your ex-spouse's life?
Minimizing contact with him or she is a great place to start. Plan when it comes to your child. If you know that your child needs an assignment completed for school on the following Monday you can work with him ahead of time. That way if your ex-spouse wants to cause a problem regarding why it wasn't brought to their attention you can inform him or her that you have already completed the work with your child. If nothing else, you should anticipate the moves of your ex-spouse and do everything you can to minimize contact. Communicate only when necessary and only in writing. That way your words cannot be twisted and there is an accurate log of what is said between the two of you.
The potentially harmful effects on your child of being raised by a narcissist- tomorrow's blog topic
In tomorrow's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss just how important it is to protect your child from as many of the harmful side-effects of being raised by a narcissist. That may mean you bearing more of the burden yourself, but in doing so you can save your child a lot of stress and heartache.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we covered today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys hold free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity to learn more about your case and to receive direct feedback about your situation.