My favorite question about co-parenting with a Narcissistic Ex is, “How do you do it?” My answer is always: YOU CAN’T.
The idea of co-parenting is separated parents working together amicably to raise their child. Narcissists can’t put others before themselves so the idea of co-parenting is impossible. What you have to do when raising a child whose other parent is a narcissist is to develop coping skills in order to handle their behavior while putting your child’s wellbeing first.
I will cover a few tips on how to “communicate” with your narcissistic ex via virtual communication.
Number. One. Rule.
The Number One Rule for all communication with your narcissistic ex is:
Take ALL Emotion Out of Your Communication
In the past, if trying to convince my ex why I need/want him to do something I would write up my question and/or statement followed by 1 to 20 arguments why it needs to be done. My reasoning behind this was to prevent all the questions that he would possibly ask. In reality this is me emotionally explaining why I think he needs to do something.
Daughter has a birthday party to go to at 2:30 on Narcissistic Ex’s Saturday.Emotional:
Hey, June has a birthday party at 2:30 on Saturday. This is her best friend’s party so it is really important that she goes. She will be really upset if she is the only kid from her class that doesn’t go, so don’t do that to her.
June’s Friend has a Birthday Party at 2:30 on Saturday. You can RSVP to her mom at firstname.lastname@example.org
or simply text the invite with no other comment
Keep. Emotion. Out. Of. All. Contact.
It doesn’t help your case no matter how much you think it does. When dealing with a narcissistic ex, using emotions to make a point is pointless because they are incapable of putting others’ emotions before their own. They also love to use your emotions as ammo. Either to make you upset or for future arguments.
My rules for texts might seem silly but they help me.
1. Delete The Contact Name
The reason behind this is two fold.
First, when taking screenshots of conversations to use for court or mediation, it is easy to say that you saved their name to a conversation with someone else. It’s easy to fake texts conversations (DO NOT DO THIS EVER) but a screenshot with the phone number is less questionable than one with their name as the contact.
The second reason is merely seeing my narcissistic ex’s name has a tendency to put me in a bad or anxious mood. When I see a number it becomes less personable. I now see it as information coming from a phone number, not my ex texting me.
2. Put Him On Hide Alerts
I am an iPhone user but I’m sure Android has this feature also.
You would be surprised how much stress and anxiety seeing a notification from your ex can cause. Even if you don’t read it right away, knowing it is there while you’re in the middle of something important can ruin your concentration or put you in a bad mood.
I check my phone enough that his texts don’t go hours without being replied to so not seeing something isn’t an issue. It also allows me to reply on my schedule, not on his, which drives a narcissist up the wall.
3. Stopping Inappropriate Texts
My Narcissistic Ex loved to bombard me with angry texts. Texts about me being a slut or a stupid bitch. I am 100% guilty of falling for this trap of responding to defend myself.
Stop. Stop trying to defend yourself to someone whose opinion isn’t going to change. It becomes an argument. Do you really think because you say “I have a boyfriend,” or “I don’t sleep with every guy I go on a date with,” or “I am a grown woman, dating multiple men doesn’t make me a slut,” is really going to make your Narcissistic Ex stop calling you names???
Who cares if he thinks you’re a slut. Who cares if you are or you aren’t. It has NOTHING to do with your ability to be a good mother. It is all about him using communication to control your emotions and gather ammunition to use against you in the future.
It hit me one day, when my narcissistic ex says these things, arguing back is rewarding him. How can I “punish” this bad behavior? It hit me. Operant Conditioning. If you have taken a psychology class, you might recall The Skinner Box. Where animals would be rewarded or punished according to a specific behavior.
If arguing with my narcissistic ex is rewarding his inappropriate texts, what would punish him? The exact opposite of arguing, silence.
Unlike the rats in Skinner’s Box, I informed my narcissistic ex of his punishment.
Me: If you cannot stop texting me inappropriate texts, I will have to block you till you can speak nicely.
Ex: I DGAF YOU STUPID BITCH
Me: You are now blocked for the next 12 hours. If there is an emergency have your mother contact me.
You have no idea how freeing it is. Yes, he could contact you from other numbers or a different form of communication but block those too. It took maybe 6 times for him to get it. Raising the amount of time he was blocked put a stop to it. He realized if he sent me a rude text not only would I not argue back, he would be blocked for 2 days.
At first, the kids would call him for their nightly call, but his inappropriate behavior continued during the call. I let him know that if missing his nightly phone call with the kids was a result from a block due to an inappropriate text or during a call with the kids, then that was his choice.
I say this as a mother whose children don’t really care about talking to their dad on the phone. I would NEVER tell my children they couldn’t call their father, I just didn’t make them when he was blocked. If your children enjoy their daily phone calls or they are court ordered do NOT do this. Do NOT punish your children for your ex’s behavior. Merely figure out some other natural consequence for his behavior.
But what if there is an emergency? Well if you have the kids, you can unblock him to let him know and if he has the kids which leads me to the next section…
1. Stop All Phone Calls
The only phone calls that should happen are between the kids and him. If they are old enough, dial your Narcissistic Ex’s number, hand the kids the phone, and walk out of the room.
If your Narcissistic Ex tries to ask you a question or tell you something while on the phone with your kids, let him know he can text/email you and you will respond when you have the time.
My Narcissistic Ex would love to text me “I have a question but it is too much to discuss via text.” I would call. It took me a while to realize that he uses these calls to gather information to use against me, make promises that I couldn’t prove he made, or to say inappropriate things to provoke me.
I know a lot of things are easier to discuss on the phone than in an email or text but when my narcissistic ex made the choice to use these phone calls to fulfill his narcissistic need for conflict they had to stop. If whatever he needs to discuss is important then he can take the time to write it out and send it to me. It might take longer for both of us but there must be a consequence for him not respecting me and my boundaries.
2. Blocking Him
At one point I had zero communication with my narcissistic ex. I was unable to communicate without getting emotionally charged, so for myself I had to block him.
If you have to go this route, make sure to have a set time when the kids can call. If they are young and you have to sit there on speaker with them, learn to hang up if the phone call becomes about anything other than how your child was that day.
If your children are with him and you are worried about them or him not being able to get a hold of you, you can either unblock him when they are with him or have a 3rd Party relay information for you.
At one point even my parents blocked him because they too were targets to his narcissistic rage. His only way to contact me was through my best guy friend’s number. The thing about narcissists is they are careful who witnesses their narcissistic behavior because they don’t want others to think poorly of them. This fear of being exposed keeps him from harassing my friend and me but allows an open line of communication for emergencies.
3. Get a Google Voice Number
If you don’t have someone who is willing to be an intermediary for you and your Narcissistic Ex, try getting a Google Voice Number.
If you are anything like me, organizing all my documentation of his texts and calls overwhelms me. Having a Google Voice number is the equivalent of having a second line on your phone. Only give him the number. That way your call log and texts can be in one place. Your Google Voice Number App will have the call log to show how many times he calls and texts instead of having to take and organize screenshots. Though keeping a backup of screenshots isn’t a bad idea.
Also, you can set the Google Voice notifications to your preference. If you want it to ring like a normal phone call you can, if you want it to be silent and only able to view it when you open the app, you can. You decide what notification settings are best for you and your children.
1. Get a Separate E-mail
You can do this two different ways. You can set up an email for all communication between you and your Narcissistic Ex about your children to go through. The other choice would be to use it as a “safe” for your documentation. I would forward emails that were sent to me from my Narcissistic Ex along with a description of what they were about that way you don’t have to read the whole email chain to figure out what it is about. If you have hundreds of emails, reading through them gets annoying fast, I know from experience!
2. Reading Emails
When your Narcissistic Ex’s Rage Texting becomes impossible due to you blocking him, Email Bombardment starts. Back and forth, back and forth, they are worse than texts because they are longer. Like an addict who replaces one addiction with another, my email became my Text Inbox 2.0. The anxiety and stress that the calls and texts cause became the exact same with my email.
This is when I decided that I would turn off the notifications for my email account and only check it once a day at a certain time. Not only does this stop the back and forth it also allows him not to control when you respond. I have a rule that I will not respond to emails that are emotion triggering for 6-12 hours. That way I do not let my emotions get the best of me by defending myself or starting an argument, aka Letting The Narcissist Win.
Even if the email says he needs to know right now, odds are it really doesn’t. This is your Narcissistic Ex’s way of controlling your headspace and how you spend your time. Will your Narcissistic Ex finding out the answer in 6 to 12 hours really change what happens? If it does he knows he can contact you through a 3rd Party. If he blames you for the lack of communication ruining whatever his email is about, remember it is his behavior that cause this, not yours.
You can decide if letting your Narcissistic Ex know this is for the best. Letting my ex know I wasn’t going to be going back and forth with him all day seem to prevent him from starting up. Also, if the daily emails become ridiculous, as in “Hey a year from now…” tell him to write up a weekly email with everything he thought about wanting to discuss with you that way you can do it all at once. Odds are you will never get a weekly email, if you do I will be shocked if you get more than 2.
Showing Up Unannounced
1. Make Boundaries Known
Make it clear that your Narcissistic Ex is NEVER allowed to show up at your home unannounced. If you allow it once, he will use that as permission to do it over and over.
Decide what your boundary is and stick to it. Unfortunately this might cause short term problems but in the long term you are saving yourself from loads more. If your Narcissistic Ex shows up saying he was by the neighborhood and wants to take the kids to dinner and you could use a break, allowing him to is setting a precedent that this behavior is acceptable. If this happens, let him know that it is not ok to show up without a phone call or text first and unfortunately the kids will not be able to join him.
If this upsets your kids, calmly explain to them that it is your time with them and if Daddy wants to take them to dinner it needs to be planned ahead of time. They might be mad for a little bit but in the long run this type of disappointment won’t happen. If he blames you for himself being blocked, remind him that his behavior is the cause for the lack of ability to communicate and next time to contact the third party to set something up.
2. When It Gets Serious
I unfortunately am no stranger to having the police being called to situations. The only time I called was when my narcissistic ex was physically blocking my car from leaving his driveway for 30 minutes with no end in sight. Every other time was because my Narcissistic Ex was upset and called. Every time nothing happened to me and he was chewed out by the police.
If your Narcissistic Ex shows up drunk, tries to take the kids, or threatens you, do not be afraid to get the police involved. This might be too nice of me but I would give a warning, “If you do not leave my property, I will have no choice but to call the police.” The catch is you HAVE to follow through or it just becomes an empty threat.
Before you use it as your defense, decide if your narcissistic ex’s behavior is worth the trauma of having your children see the police getting involved or is it more traumatic to have them witness this inappropriate behavior over and over again. Seeing Daddy get arrested for a Public Intoxication or a DWI is much less traumatic than witnessing their father show up over and over again drunk. However, calling the police because you’re mad he forgot their shoes or he was late is much more traumatic than locking the door and ignoring them.
3. Special Events
I have already written a post about Special Events you can find it here: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: How to Handle Special Events