9 Signs You’re Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Co-parenting — it’s a term we use often, but when you’re doing it with a narcissist, it becomes a battle.

Navigating the tumultuous waters of ego, manipulation, and lack of empathy can be a significant challenge.

According to psychology, co-parenting with a narcissist extends beyond mere frustration. It involves coping with an individual who prioritizes their own needs above all else, often at the expense of their children’s well-being.

So, how can you tell if you’re co-parenting with a narcissist?

Well, there are certain red flags that can help you identify this and in this article, I’m going to reveal 9 of them.

1) Everything revolves around them

In the land of co-parenting, narcissists have a unique way of twisting things.

It’s a bit like being caught in a whirlwind, really.

When you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, every decision, every event, every conversation somehow becomes about them. They have an uncanny ability to turn the spotlight onto themselves, often undermining your authority in the process.

Their self-absorption isn’t limited to blatant boasting or grandstanding either.

It can be subtle – like subtly shifting the focus of a parent-teacher meeting from your child’s progress to their own achievements.

It can be manipulative – like using guilt or emotional blackmail to shift blame or avoid responsibility.

2) Lack of empathy is the name of the game

Now, let’s delve into a critical concept in psychology: Empathy.

In its simplest form, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagining how they must be feeling.

However, when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, empathy often goes out the window.

Why is that?

Well, for narcissists, everything is about them. They struggle to grasp that other people have feelings too. Your concerns, your fears, your hopes for your child – they all somehow become secondary to their needs and wants.

Imagine raising a concern about your child’s behaviour or academic performance. Instead of understanding and working together to address the issue, a narcissistic co-parent might dismiss it outright or worse, blame you or your child for it.

This lack of empathy isn’t just frustrating; it’s damaging to your child’s emotional well-being.

3) They’re charming, but it’s a trap

Ironically, despite their lack of empathy, narcissists can be incredibly charming. This might seem counter-intuitive given what we’ve just discussed, but it’s this charm that often masks their narcissistic tendencies.

Narcissists are masters of manipulation. They know how to say the right things, paint the perfect picture, and create an illusion of being caring and considerate. They’ll charm their way into your good graces, only to use it as a tool for manipulation later.

You might find them being excessively sweet or overly concerned just when you are about to make a significant decision regarding your child. Their charm offensive might sway you into thinking they’ve turned a new leaf. But it’s usually a ruse to get their way.

This charm-trap is another sign you’re co-parenting with a narcissist. It’s crucial to keep in mind that genuine concern and empathy don’t switch on and off based on convenience. If you notice this inconsistent pattern, be wary.

4) Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells?

Does it feel like you’re perpetually one wrong word away from an argument or a showdown?

Narcissists have a way of creating a tense atmosphere where you’re constantly worried about setting them off. This is especially true in a co-parenting situation. You might find yourself avoiding certain topics, tiptoeing around issues, or even withholding information about your child to avoid potential conflicts.

This isn’t just about avoiding arguments; it’s living in a state of constant anxiety and fear.

It’s important to understand that in a healthy co-parenting relationship, open communication is key. You should be able to discuss your child’s welfare freely without the fear of backlash.

5) The blame game is their favorite sport

With narcissists, it’s always someone else’s fault. They excel in the art of deflection and denial. When you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, you might find that they:

  • Never take responsibility for their actions
  • Blame you or even your child for any issues or problems
  • Refuse to acknowledge their mistakes
  • Dismiss your concerns or accusations as overreactions or fabrications

This relentless blame shifting isn’t just exhausting; it’s a classic narcissistic tactic to maintain control and superiority.

6) They disregard boundaries

Boundaries – we all have them, and they’re key in co-parenting. They provide a sense of security and respect for personal space and decisions. But when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, these boundaries often get trampled upon.

I’ve seen it happen more times than I’d like to admit. The narcissistic co-parent unilaterally makes decisions that should be shared. They may show up unannounced at your home or your child’s school, disregarding set visitation schedules.

You may have had conversations about this, laid out clear boundaries, but they just don’t seem to respect them.

Let’s face it; this blatant disregard for boundaries isn’t just being inconsiderate. It’s a deliberate attempt to exert control and cause disruption.

7) They use your child as a pawn

Picture this: You’ve planned a weekend getaway with your child. You’ve packed the bags, made all the arrangements, and the excitement is building. But at the eleventh hour, your co-parent suddenly changes plans or makes an unexpected demand.


It’s not what’s best for your child. It’s control and manipulation. Narcissists often use their children as pawns in their game of power. They manipulate situations to cause disruption, create conflict, or simply to get their way.

Have you found yourself cancelling plans, changing arrangements, or bending over backwards to appease your co-parent, only to keep the peace for your child’s sake?

8) They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where a person makes someone question their own reality, memory or perceptions. And sadly, narcissists are pros at it.

I remember a friend who co-parented with a narcissist. She would share incidents where her co-parent completely denied conversations they had or decisions they made together. He would twist facts, making her feel like she was losing her mind. It was a heartbreaking situation to witness.

When you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, you might find yourself constantly second-guessing your memory or even your sanity. It’s not just confusing; it’s emotionally exhausting and can lead to feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem.

9) They’re incapable of genuine change

This is the final, and perhaps the most crucial point to understand when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist: they’re incapable of genuine, lasting change.

Narcissists may promise to change their behavior. They might even show signs of improvement for a while. But more often than not, it’s just a facade, a temporary adjustment to get what they want.

You might find yourself clinging to those moments of change, hoping that they’re finally turning over a new leaf. But the sad reality is that narcissists rarely undergo deep, fundamental changes in their behavior.

Recognizing this truth can be difficult and painful. But it’s also the first step towards finding effective ways to manage co-parenting with a narcissist. And you’re not alone in this journey.

So, where do we go from here?

Navigating the challenges of co-parenting with a narcissist can be overwhelming. But understanding and recognizing these signs is the first step towards managing this complex situation.

Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Establish clear boundaries and stick to them
  • Keep communication focused on your child
  • Avoid getting drawn into arguments or power struggles
  • Seek professional help or join a support group
  • Take care of your mental health

It’s not winning or losing against the narcissist. It’s ensuring that your child grows up in a healthy, loving environment.

As you reflect on this journey, remember that it’s okay to ask for help. You’re doing the best you can in a challenging situation. And with time, patience, and the right strategies, you can navigate this path more effectively.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey

Tina Fey is a nomadic writer with a background in psychology, specializing in child development. Born and raised in diverse cultural settings, she developed a deep understanding of human behavior and the intricacies of parenting. Driven by her passion for helping others, Tina now contributes to Careful Parents, offering practical advice and insights drawn from her expertise and experiences. Through her articles, she aims to empower parents with effective strategies for nurturing healthy relationships and fostering their children's growth.

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