Problem: Narcissists Don’t Understand Boundaries.
What should you do when your ex comes to pick up the kids and screams curse words in front of your children and the neighborhood? You may be divorced, but you feel defenselessness to these outbursts.
Solution: Set Your Boundaries — and stick to them.
Make it clear that behavior like that won’t fly on your turf, Narcissists don’t usually like having others set boundaries on them but this is a must as you co-parent to protect yourself and the kids. The key to making boundaries work is to stick to them. It may mean hanging up the phone, walking away, closing doors or driving away to enforce your limits. Setting boundaries does not have to be done in a hostile manner; with practice, patience, and restraint it can be done with courtesy.
Problem: Your ex tries to turn the kids against you.
You get wind that your ex is bad-mouthing you to the kids and telling them lies about the end of your marriage. (This is also known as Parent Alienation).
Solution: Talk to your kids about what was said and consider therapy.
If your children are old enough to understand, sit them down and talk them through why you and the other parent can’t seem to see eye-to-eye. It’s OK to tell them, ‘You may be hearing things from me and things from dad/mom that are different. And I am sure that’s confusing for you. I am sorry for that and sadly, that’s part of two people getting divorced. You can always talk to me about it.
Problem: Communicating is increasingly challenging.
Just like when you were married, your ex thrives on keeping you engaged, for better or worse. (Usually for worse — angry tirades over something as small as being five minutes late picking up the kids are par for the course.)
Solution: Limit your communication to email, if at all possible.
Unless it’s an emergency, condition yourself to only use email to contact your ex. Better yet, create a separate email account for communication with your ex.
Problem: Your ex still knows how push your buttons.
Being married to you all those years taught your ex quite a bit about how to rile you up. When s/he rants about how you left your daughter’s ballet shoes at your place, you can’t help but respond in an emotional way.
Solution: Develop a calm, cool and collected approach to communicating.
Your communication should be short, monotonous, business-like and boring. When communicating with a narcissist, less is always more. Your goal is for the narcissist to begin looking elsewhere to receive their narcissistic attention. Sift through the email communication and only respond to the items that are relevant to co-parenting. Save your anger over the emails for when you tell your mom or best friend about it. Implementing strategies like this allows you to take your power back.
Problem: The kids are on to your ex’s selfish ways.
You’ve known for years how selfish your ex can be and how difficult it is for him/her to relate to people. You’ve tried to shield your kids from his/her ego, but now that they’re older, they’re starting to catch on.
Solution: Be there for them always.
Watching this happen can be both gratifying and heartbreaking all at the same time, but your way of approaching the issue needs to be consistently level-headed.