Many of my clients feel that they are working with Narcissists, so many so that I think people are ONLY divorcing Narcissists. However, it’s probably more a case of the fact that divorce can feel like war and when we feel we are under attack, we go to survival mode. “Me First” is at the heart of survival mode. People do things at in war that they would never imagine themselves doing. Thinking about it that way, people saying things like “I can’t believe I married someone like that, he/she was so different back then” becomes a lot more understandable.
Whether you are divorcing a full-blown narcissist or someone who has slipped back into Narcissistic patterns for the short term, there are ways to manage them and protect yourself.
1. Set Boundaries
When people are in a narcissistic state of any kind, they are always looking to win. They thrive on your chaos, on your confusion, and anything that is unclear in the way that you are relating will be turned on you. For this reason, it is vital, for your own sanity, that your interactions with your co-parent be highly structured. Communicate through one vehicle, preferably email or a divorce app that records every communication and can not be changed. Minimize or eliminate phone calls.
2. Keep Your Child A Child
Always keep your kids out of the middle. DO not use them to communicate nor allow the other parent to do so. If they attempt to communicate through the child email them immediately that playing telephone does not work and would they please communicate directly with you. Let your child know that they don’t have to deliver messages to you and it’s OK.
Don’t vent to your child, use them as a confidant, depend on them for support. No matter what age your child, you are the parent and your job is to show a stable face to them especially in regards to your relationship with their other parent.
3. Have A Detailed Parenting Plan
Detail out everything about visitation that you possibly can in your co-parent calendar, anticipating as many contingencies as possible since the narcissist lives to leverage loopholes. When there are breakdowns, don’t freak out -at least not in front of them, always show them a calm face. When uncertain reschedule any communication until you are certain.
If you negotiated your highly detailed, expecting any contingent parenting plan on your own, make sure that you have a family law attorney to check the legality and wisdom of it. Make sure they understand who it is that is on the other side of the negotiating table.
4. Keep SUPER Detailed Records
Make notes about everything in a journal either through an app or in a small book you have with you always. Courts will honor a written document over speaking from memory.
Note down every lateness, every time your child comes home with a message when you stated that should not happen. Every time they are not bathed, fed, have not done their homework. This may seem like not-picking and it may be. Sometimes, keeping these kinds of notes reveals a pattern of neglect so details really do matter.
5. Support Your Child
Take your child to counseling and don’t be surprised when this becomes a bone of contention. Narcissist have zero concern for the child, all that matters is fighting you. Read up on building resilience in a child, take a workshop or class in building child resilience, this will help you as well.
6. Be Aware Of And Manage Triggers
Managing your triggers is key. Learn what they are and how to not jump when they say to. Mindfulness, meditation, and prayer will all help you unhook from your triggers. A good coach and/or therapist can also be very effective in this endeavor. Be aware of what triggers the narcissist. If and when they are triggered practice committed listening without taking on their feeling internally.
7. Put on Your Oxygen Mask First
Airlines always tell us to put the mask on ourselves first. Why? Because they want us conscious to help our child out of the plane.
Get lots of help from friends, mentors, therapists, coaches, eat well, sleep, exercise. Walk in the woods, make sure you have me time. Journal, practice morning gratitude. There is a wealth of personal care practice available.