As a therapist, I have primarily specialized in teens, parenting and the science of family dynamics. I’ve had a front-row seat watching kids struggle in life because they are caught in the middle of a high conflict custody battle. These situations have such interesting but complex dynamics and there are so few out there that can offer expert insights and advice when co-parenting efforts are failing. For the most part, people are left to just do their best to navigate these situations when they consistently show a long and painful learning curve. Narcissistic types tend to spark fear in their exes which typically results in various knee jerk reactions that do little or nothing to remedy or solve the conflict and the kids get perpetually caught in the middle.
The truth is if you’re trying to co-parent with someone who is narcissistic in nature then you likely feel like you’re at the end of your rope and out of good options. I’ve talked to many parents who have been in over their heads and struggling to find a light at the end of the tunnel. Not only have co-parenting efforts failed but there is always a clear and concerning effect on the kids. In my experience, kids often develop a laundry list of issues, starting at young ages. Parental alienation not being the least of them. Kids need positive relationships with both parents. So many people find themselves feeling desperate when they have long years in front of them before their children are grown and they can wash their hands of their narcissistic ex.
I believe that Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD is more common than perhaps statistics show. Narcissism is, unfortunately, one of those clinical terms that get tossed around a lot and misused. Clinical narcissism is very misunderstood and it is far more complex than people realize. There’s a lot more to narcissism than being self-centered and making everything about yourself when it comes to narcissism. Personality disorders are an extremely complicated set of behaviors and psychology and when I say narcissistic types I’m also referring to people that have Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD. I personally believe that NPD and BPD are just different variations of the same mental illness since we see them exhibiting a lot of similar behaviors. There’s an undeniable overlap with a lot of behaviors just melding together in a chaotic blog. Borderline is definitely narcissistic in its own way.
Making Rules and Setting Boundaries
I talk to a lot of people that are trying to coparent with a narcissistic type and they are perpetually at the end of their rope. They power struggle like crazy, lose mountains of money and sanity with virtually no end. The biggest mistake that people make in these situations is that they take a role that is too passive. You must be assertive and proactive about setting rules and limits and sticking to those rules and limits no matter what. I have specific rules that I teach people and when they follow those rules, they not only have a much smoother ride but they even report that the very nature of the relationship and dynamics of the situation shift entirely. One guy recently told me that his high conflict situation has done a 180 because he made rules, followed certain practices and didn’t deviate.
Conversely, the people that don’t follow the rules and frankly make excuses for not doing so are the ones that live in a state of perpetual stress and insanity. If you let a narcissistic type make the rules and set the tone of the coparenting relationship, you’re going to hate your life. The rules and standards always change, they contradict themselves left and right and their hypocrisy is astonishing. People tell me that it’s hard to make rules, set limits and follow them. I know it is, but so is eighteen or more years of headaches and chaos.
There are effective methods and strategies when dealing with a narcissistic type. If you don’t understand these dynamics and you’re lost in the insane labyrinth, then it’s going to be extraordinarily challenging to find any sanity. I have been able to develop effective methods and strategies over the years with my primary goal being to help create a more healthy and stable situation for the kids involved. When narcissistic types go unchecked, they can cause a lot of problems in the lives of the kids. In all honesty, in the worst cases that I have seen in which a narcissistic type has gone unmetered, the kids experience almost irreparable psychological damage.
I have developed rules to follow for court, rules for co-parenting and developed a communication style that is based on the Socratic questioning method. If you become strategic and deliberate in your responses, you’ll be able to change the course of the outcomes. Virtually everything that I teach is based in assertiveness and I honestly can’t say enough good about assertiveness and assertive practices. There are mountains of material out there about assertiveness and anyone can get started by learning about assertiveness and learning assertive methods.
I also highly recommend that people learn the principles of stoicism which is an old philosophy method based in logic and reason. The principles of stoicism are highly useful and effective in high conflict situations. It helps you have boundaries and approach problems in effective ways. Stoicism will also help you chase away fear. Fear is your enemy and you have to learn to deal with it effectively.
As I already stated, I teach rules and methods to help people in these situations. It’s a difficult process with a steep curve but the payoffs, in the end, are extremely worth it. I teach five mandatory rules for high conflict divorce and custody. I teach 11 rules for co-parenting and I also teach the Socratic questioning methods for improved communication. I offer various consulting type services. Each case is uniquely different which require unique solutions but that is often the nature of providing therapy and counseling services in the first place. Providing unique solutions to uniquely difficult situations.
Here is a link for my online course for 14 rules for high conflict coparenting
Here is a link for my online course for my 5 mandatory rules for high conflict custody and divorce: