by 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.
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.