Tag Archives: coparenting with a narcissist

Communicating with a Narcissist

Communicating with a Narcissist

Communicating with a Narcissistby Tina Swithin

I was recently asked to chime in on a Huffington Post article titled, “6 Ways to Maintain Your Sanity while Parenting with a Narcissist.” Maintaining your sanity while parenting, co-parenting or parallel parenting with someone who suffers from a Cluster B disorder is an experience that few can comprehend.

My submitted response was cut down significantly so I thought I’d share my two cents in full:

Taking control of communication while co-parenting (or parallel parenting) with a narcissist is absolutely critical to your emotional well-being. Since the narcissist is no longer able to control you in the relationship, they need to obtain their “narcissistic feed” in other ways. The desire for a narcissistic feed is similar to a drug addicts’ need for his or her next fix and their appetite can be insatiable. For the narcissist, keeping you engaged, whether good or bad, is their driving force.

Learning to communicate with a narcissist is just like learning another language. First, you will want to limit all non-emergency communication to emails and I often advise clients to create a separate email account for communication with the narcissist. Better yet, Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents are both programs designed specifically for couples in high-conflict custody battles or shared parenting situations. Narcissists are known for their lengthy emails and something as simple as a pair of mismatched socks on your toddler can open the door to a barrage of attacks about your parenting.

The first step is to decode the email which is generally chock-full of projection and just enough lies to make your head spin. Over time and as you take your power back, you will even find humor in decoding the narcissist’s emails. As a way to shed light on the painful verbal assaults that I would receive from my ex-husband, I invented the Narc Decoder which scrubs down the projection, lies, attacks and ulterior motives that are typically found in a narcissist’s email. Learning to understand the communication style of the narcissist is similar to learning a foreign language but once you understand it, you will experience greater peace and sometimes, even a good laugh.

Next, it is important to “gray rock” your communication style. Because the narcissist wants to evoke emotion (good or bad) from you, it will be imperative that you refrain from any and all emotion. The Gray Rock technique teaches us that 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 feed. Sift through the email communication and only respond to the items that are relevant to co-parenting. If you must write a lengthy response, send it to your mother or best friend as a way to vent but do not send it to the narcissist. Do not engage your ex on the topic of your toddler’s mismatched socks. If there are untruthful attacks on your parenting that are more serious than mismatched socks, my favorite go-to response is simple but direct, “Your attempt to portray me in a negative light is noted.” Co-parenting or parallel parenting with a narcissist can be emotionally exhausting which is why it is so important to implement strategies that allow you to take your power back.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Raising Healthy Children

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Raising Healthy Children

OMB Healthy Childrenby Rebecca Davis-Merritt

Remember your journey with the Cluster B in your life: the lies, manipulation, wooing, broken promises, his/her victim status but how at first you fell in love with the charisma and apparent ability to look into your soul. You may have thought s/he was your soul mate. Now your eyes and thoughts are unclouded. You see the Cluster B in a non-distorted way but your children are caught up in the Cluster B world during their parenting time. How do you help protect your children by teaching them to recognize manipulation, to set healthy boundaries, but not badmouth their other parent (recommended reading: Divorce Poison)? You have to arm your children to make it to adulthood relatively unscathed from their love for and contact with a Cluster B parent.

Ideally your children will have an excellent therapist who understands domestic violence (the emotional abuse and extreme need for power and control of a Cluster B is DV, although not all DV agencies understand this. See the Duluth Model of DV power wheel). Many DV agencies have support groups for children that teach them to recognize pathological need for power and control and how to protect themselves from abusers. Hopefully they have a very healthy other parent in you who understands the pathology of Cluster B, resists their efforts to antagonize, bait, and agitate you, is able to “grey rock it” by not showing emotion to Cluster B, communicating only via email or Our Family Wizard, Two House, Talking Parents, etc, and who teaches the children empathy in various ways. Start by reading aloud a Bucket Book (Amazon) to children 3-9. This costs around $10 and is a powerful tool for parents and children. The child learns about bucket fillers (kind people) and bucket dippers (angry,controlling, bullies). They learn the relationship between kindness and thoughtfulness and feeling safe and happy or the relationship between meanness and feeling unsafe and unhappy. Parents can help children understand how empathy is related to people choosing to respect others’ feelings and lack of empathy is not caring and often deliberately hurting others.

Many OMB parents teach their children that empathy is important by volunteer activities serving the vulnerable or by having zip lock packs of food, water, and grooming supplies in the car to give to homeless individuals. Even TV and movies can be a teaching tool. Frozen depicts a Cluster B who is charming, wooed his way into Anna’s heart  but turns out to be a lying scoundrel. This provides a good discussion about how first impressions do not matter as much as longterm behaviors and how we always need to date someone a long time observing them in many environments and situations before giving our heart to them. It can also lead to a discussion of the qualities important in a husband/father or wife/mother. Healthy parents have to seize every teachable moment to arm their children in a protective manner. They also have to learn how to deprogram their children without bad mouthing their other parent when the children return from parenting time in demoralized, angry, or confused states.

TV and movies have many examples of when a boundary set by a person is violated by another. Help your children recognize such boundary intrusions. The first step in children learning to set boundaries is the belief they have the right to safely do so. Safely means the boundary will be acknowledged and respected, not ignored, made fun of, etc. Children need much practice with their healthy parent in understanding everyone sets boundaries but not all people have the same types of boundaries. Eventually the child will understand boundaries, realize they have the right for appropriate boundaries to be respected. At this time they can then, especially if familiar with bucket book philosophy, learn that there are people who refuse to honor other people’s boundaries. They are bucket dippers and they intentionally violate others’ boundaries because it makes them feel powerful. They like to bully and boss others. At this point children learn the difference in trustworthy and untrustworthy people. Unfortunately for children with Cluster B parents, their parent is often the latter.

It is very scary for a child to set a healthy boundary with a Cluster B parent. It might be saying, “stop talking about mom/dad that way.” Setting the boundary will likely result in punishment and a Cluster B tantrum designed to bully the child into feeling sorry for or fearing the Cluster B. Yet it is important that the child feels empowered to set healthy boundaries and to do so when motivated. Otherwise the child grows up catering to pathology and avoiding confrontation often picking their own life partner to recreate such dynamics. It is also okay for children to know what boundary they wish to set but to acknowledge it would not be safe for them to do it with their Cluster B parent. This is not avoidance but self-protection. This information needs to be shared with therapist, GAL, etc. It is up to the healthy parent to give their children the cognitive tools  to understand empathy, lack of empathy, excessive need of power and control, manipulation (tv commercials are great examples), and boundaries. If you respect your child, allow appropriate boundaries, and model empathy and kindness you are cultivating the best environment for your children to flourish, withstand a Cluster B parent without developing pathological narcissistic, manipulative features themselves. Examine yourself. Have you done enough self improvement to be the kind of parent who can provide this environment for your child? If not find your own therapist, join your own DV support group, join an OMB state chapter and participate in meetings, check out OMB’s suggested reading list and start educating yourself more intensively.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

Standing Up for Myself: The Principal of the Matter

Standing Up for Myself: The Principal of the Matter

Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself based solely on the principal of the matter. I believe that choosing your battles is equally important. At our court date in October, I came across a declaration from Seth’s Aunt which disturbed me on multiple levels:

  • The declaration from Seth’s aunt was hidden from me. Seth often submits paperwork to the court and doesn’t provide me with exact copies of the items that he submits. The Commissioner is then weighing things out that I am not privy to. I have learned to go to the courthouse and compare what the court was given to what I was given.
  • The declaration was a complete lie. His aunt used letterhead from the non-profit agency that she works for in an effort to make herself look credible to the court. She is an advocate for children and she wrote a declaration about a conversation that she had with me in 2009. According to her declaration, I said the following, ““If Seth gets any custody of the children, I will destroy him.”  I am accustomed to Seth’s family completely fabricating stories but this one was more than I could handle. Even to this day, with ALL that has gone on- …nothing like that has ever left my mouth. Ever.
  • The fact that she misused her position along with non-profit funds and time to damage my case and credibility did not sit well with me. She wrote a statement on the company letterhead, therefore, acting a representative of the non-profit organization.

I struggled with this situation for several weeks before finally writing a letter to the President of the Board of Directors of the non-profit agency. Today, I received a letter from the Executive Director. In the letter, he thanked me for bringing the issue to his attention and assured me that Seth’s aunt was not acting on behalf of the organization in any capacity. He stated: “I have informed (Aunt) that the use of our letterhead in this manner was inappropriate and have made it clear to her that she is not to use our letterhead again regarding this type of personal matter or in any manner in which she is not acting in her role as an advocate for (our company).”

Seth’s aunt’s dishonesty and manipulation has weighed against him multiple times throughout our case and I look forward to submitting the most recent letter to the courts to further show what type of family that I am up against. I will continue to combat their deceptive nature with honesty and truth and I will continue to stand up for myself based on principal alone.

“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or follow on Twitter @onemomsbattle.com

To purchase Tina’s new book, “Divorcing a Narcissist- One Mom’s Battle”, click here. You will find insight, red flag reflections and strategies on how to survive while divorcing a narcissist or co-parenting with a narcissist. Tired of panicking at the site of a new email from the narcissist in your inbox? Learn how to de-code the emails and see them for what they are. You will learn to forgive yourself and to begin healing. 

Understanding Narcissism: Accepting Reality and Becoming Strong

Understanding Narcissism: Accepting Reality and Becoming Strong

I am on a constant quest to understand the disorder that has caused so much turmoil in my life for so many years.  If you are married to an alcoholic, there are a multitude of resources and support services available to help.  If you are married to someone who is physically abusive, there are resources available for that also.  If you are married to someone with a personality disorder, there are not a lot of resources readily available.  It requires digging and weeding out the good from the bad.

For starters, personality disorders are difficult  to prove.  Most people with personality disorders are charming, charismatic and intelligent.  They are so good at manipulation that sometimes they leave you questioning your own sanity.

Educating myself on personality disorders has been empowering.  The more I learn, the more power I have.  It helps me to understand and accept my reality.  In the beginning stages of my divorce, I didn’t have a clue what I was dealing with.  No clue.  I thought that these things were normal to some degree— some people have a difficult time coping with divorce and I thought my X fell into this category.  I kept hearing from people that he would hit rock bottom and move on with his life.  I also hoped that he would pull it together for the sake of our children.  While “pulling it together for the sake of the children” is a driving factor for most people, it isn’t for a Narcissist.

Many times, I felt so alone because I knew how crazy my situation sounded.  I didn’t even know the term, “High Conflict Divorce“.  It’s somewhat awkward to go to coffee with a friend and say, “I started sleeping with a hammer under my pillow last night.  By the way, how are you doing?”.  After a while, I accepted the fact that I wasn’t dealing with a normal man who was going through a rough period of time: I was dealing with a completely unstable person who couldn’t put his children’s best interest first because there is one person who matters: him.

My turning point came when I accepted him for who he is: a narcissist.  I accepted the fact that he wasn’t going to change.  I became realistic.  I stopped playing the victim and saying, “Can you believe he did this?”.  I expected him to do the unbelievable.  I didn’t expect sanity from insanity.  You wouldn’t expect your pet gold fish to take an evening stroll with you and you can’t expect a narcissist to put the best interest of his daughters first.  It is not possible.  Period.

Once I let go of the hope that he would change, something unexpected happened: I changed.  I became stronger.  I became empowered.  It was like playing chess.  I stayed one step ahead of him mentally at all times.  This man who once touted how brilliant he was didn’t seem so brilliant after all.  I watched as all of his court documents came in with ramblings, misspellings and lies.  I watched as he couldn’t control himself and manically rambled in emails and voice mails.  All of these things further helped me to accept my reality.

Several people have recently pointed out that he sounds like he suffers from anti social personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).  I agree with those people– a God-like ego and zero regard or feelings for other people.  That is who I am dealing with.

Here are a few great resources if you are dealing with someone who is NPD: