Married to a narcissist: Co-parenting challenges

Leslie Barrows
 | Published: 
July 31, 2018
 | Category: 
General Information

Married to a narcissist: Co-parenting challenges

Being married to a narcissist can make life challenging, especially in co-parenting. Not everyone with narcissistic tendencies is to the level of psychological diagnosis, but they can be very challenging to live with. Why would any sane person stay married to someone who puts them down, lacks empathy and tries to constantly undermine your efforts? For some people there is a balance of interests in a marriage with children. Some stay married for the sake of children having a stable home until they are grown and off to work or college.

Even if you do think your spouse is somewhere on the narcissism spectrum, there may be several wonderful things you do love about them despite them being challenging, when you are trying to be a team in raising children.

What is co-parenting?

We often hear about co-parenting in terms of divorced parents of children who are trying to work together in the best interests of the children by reaching agreements and cooperating while raising children and making decisions the other parent may appreciate. Why don’t we hear more about co-parenting among married couples?

Married parents of children should work together like a team in raising children. One aspect of team parenting is agreeing on rules and enforcing them. Otherwise, when one parent says no, the other might say yes. Being married to a narcissist is challenging because the narcissist might undermine your efforts.

Narcissists’ inflated ego and lack of empathy

Psychology researchers suggest that narcissists appear to have strong personalities but are insecure about their true self. The narcissist focus on their self-image, thinking and behavior is said to give validation and stability when they otherwise lack self-esteem.

As a narcissist obsesses over being the boss, being perfect and having power and admiration, the other people in their life seemingly become objects that either confirm or deny the narcissist’s self-concept. They may only care about how any given situation affects them and how they are seen by others, completely missing the point that their actions can hurt others, especially their children, when they have no empathy for them.

How does being married to a narcissist affect co-parenting?

When you are married to someone obsessed with power, success and brilliance it can be difficult to be a team player while raising children together. Many narcissists are said to somewhat ignore others until there is an opportunity to be the hero and save the day, especially when others are watching.

A Psychology Today article offers tips for co-parenting with a narcissist:

  1. Expect and ignore backhanded comments and character attacks when the narcissist is just trying to get a rise out of you;
  2. Beware of the narcissist lining people up to rally against another, such as siding with the children and throwing you under the bus;
  3. Be strong and when threats or guilt trips appear, as the narcissist is trying to prove they can control you and steer you away from what you were doing with your children;
  4. Know when a narcissist is playing favorites, and know confronting them about it may do not good because the narcissist will not likely understand another’s perspective; and
  5. Be a parent with empathy, which children need for their emotional health, and which they will not likely get from the narcissist parent.

You may also read our blog article, Narcissistic personality disorder & divorce, where we talk about some of the challenges we face in divorce litigation when your soon to be ex-spouse is a narcissist.

Leslie Barrows is a divorce, custody, family law, juvenile law and estate planning attorney in Southlake, Texas. Please contact Leslie through the website or call the office anytime by dialing (817) 481-1583.