So you are finally divorced from your narcissist, and no longer do you have to endure the day-to-day covert domestic abuse, the passive aggressive manipulation, or his constant attempts to make you look like the bad person. Or do you? Just because he is your ex, doesn’t mean his behavior ever stops. You will, after all, still have to communicate with your narcissist if you have children.
There will be times you need to communicate with your ex, especially if you must co-parent. But because he is a narcissist, the simple act of communicating seems close to impossible. He may not respond to you at all or play games with you via text or email, making you want to pull your hair out. Or the simple request of having him take your child to a sports function ends up in a full-blown argument.
Beware of the narcissistic vortex. It’s his attempt to suck you into his narcissistic fantasy world, where he is always the victim/martyr, and you are his aggressor. It’s his need for narcissistic supply – the gasoline that provides fuel to his ego. He needs to remind himself (and others) that he is still truly special, but because you are now divorced, he knows you no longer consider him the prince he is trying to be. And for that, he resents you greatly.
So how can you communicate with someone who feels constantly threatened by you? While it’s not ideal, it is possible, as long as you never get trapped in his vortex. It just takes a little bit of work and focus on your part.
5 Communication Tips For Dealing With a Narcissist:
1. Do not engage:
While you may have to discuss logistics about joint assets or your children, it doesn’t mean you must engage in every comment he makes. Should he insult you, or jab at your self-esteem, do NOT engage. This means do not defend yourself, insult him back, or threaten to take away the said assets or children. Stick with the goal at hand. Repeat the question and wait for your answer. If the behavior continues, walk away, hang up, or do not reply if it’s via text or email. By engaging him, he has won another round of supply, no matter how negative. It makes you look like the crazy person, and he the victim. Mission accomplished.
2. Reply with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers:
Unfortunately, with narcissists, they can never write an email or text without passive aggressively knocking your ability to function as an adult. The true is secret to communicating is, ironically, little to no response. Reply with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, or merely factual replies like, “yes, I am picking kids up at 5 pm today.” Ignore all other stabs or attempts of getting a heated reaction from you.
3. Ignore his “love bombs”:
Perhaps for years, you hoped for just an ounce of empathy from him or anything that shows he truly loves you, but to no avail. But now that you are divorced, he may send you “love bombs,” which are texts or emails that say, “Whatever happened to us?” or “If only you knew how much I truly loved you.” They can come out of the blue when you least expect them, and if you have any hope of reconciliation, these love bombs are dangerous. Don’t fall for them! A narcissist will never, ever change, so don’t think he has somehow had a divine intervention. He is likely low on supply, and because you have always been that one consistent supplier, he comes chasing after you. Ignore them and do not respond. If you do, you’ll be sucked right into his vortex.
4. Manipulate the manipulator:
What do narcissists want more than anything? Approval and adulation from others. So if you really need something from him, you may have to compliment him. Think of this like a communication strategy, as if he is your potential customer. If you want your customers to buy, you must use persuasive language and make it about them. The same goes for your narcissist. Should you want him to drive Sally to soccer practice because you are stuck at work, simply asking him may not cut it.
Rather, try this approach: “Sally asked me if you could take her to soccer because she loves spending time with you. I know how good you are with her and thought that extra time would make her feel so special. Would you mind taking her today?” Yes, this may feel nauseating, but it really does work.
5. Set firm boundaries:
When you first met your narcissist, you likely had few boundaries, and continued to ignore the red flags because you wanted to please him. Narcissists hate people with boundaries. They take and take from people who give and give. So if you stop giving, he will have nothing to take. This means stop doing him favors, even if it benefits your child. He may ask for an extra day with your child, despite the custody agreement stating set days.
Or he may ask you to have the kids on a weekend you weren’t expecting, so you cancel your plans just to be nice (after all, that means more kid time, right?). Doing favors for healthy functioning people means a favor in return. But not with a narcissist. You will likely get burned because a narcissist is never thinking about you or your well-being. Stick to the plan. Do not tolerate him being late or adjusting his schedule. Always have the saying, “That’s not okay with me” ready to fire off. If it isn’t okay with you, then say so.
No matter the form of communication with your ex, ask yourself, “Does this require a reply?” He will never behave the way you want, and you will never change him. Once you are aware of his inabilities, it will free you from the exhaustion of ever trying or hoping he will be different. Above all, try to remember tip #1, “Do not engage.” it will save you a lifetime of stress and headache.
FAQs About Parenting With a Narcissistic EX:
How to deal with a narcissistic ex who insults you?
Limit communication, refuse to react and set boundaries while dealing with a narcissistic ex who insults you. Many women feel threatened and confused when dealing with a narcissistic ex because of children. You can ask a friend or a family member to communicate with him on your behalf if your narcissistic ex misbehaves. Have him stand at the door when he comes to pick up or drop off your children at your residence, refuse to talk to him about anything else except the children, and see him off as quickly as possible.
Why does my narcissistic ex show love after divorce?
When your narcissistic ex shows love after divorce, consider it another ploy to perpetuate his malicious control over you. Ignore any text messages and emails that claim he is still in love with you and that your divorce was a mistake. Always remember that narcissists are incapable of changing themselves.
How to build a working relationship with a narcissistic ex?
Your working relationship with a narcissist will rest on how well you communicate with him while maintaining a safe distance. If you want a narcissist to pick up the children because you are busy, you will have to massage his ego a little. Tell him how good he is with children and they would appreciate him taking out some extra time for them. Make it about him!
What is it like to co-parent with a narcissist?
Co-parenting with a narcissist will make you think if the purpose of your divorce has been defeated because you still get to see him, talk to him, and at times ask him to do you a favor when it comes to kids. All this evokes the pain he had been inflicting upon you when he was experimenting on you as a guinea pig. Keep your cool, be tactful and understand that this shall pass too.
Lindsey Ellison is the founder of Start Over. Find Happiness., a coaching practice that helps women navigate their divorce or breakups. She specializes in helping women with narcissistic abuse and coaches them on how to break free from their narcissistic partners. She offers a free video series on how to break free, and they are available by clicking here.
Kim Gentry says
Great tips! This book is also extrememly helpful. If you only communicate via email, it helps, too!
I love the narcissistic classification thrown around today. There are reasons why a spouse that’s been hurt reacts in such a way as not answering texts and emails or simply not letting go of anger. There are actually people alive today that still believe in the promise of wedding vows and are willing to work on their marriages. I know this is hard for people to understand today but there are those rare people out there that actually put all they have into a marriage and end up being cheated on or left blindly and are forced to listen to lame excuses on how they caused it. All you so called experts probably never felt the emotions of being left in the dust or cheated on. The anger and emotional turmoil exists because contrary to the popular belief of a control issue, the hurt party had actually loved their spouse and children more than themselves which today seems to be taboo. Today it’s all about me me me and it’s pathetic. Our kids, the next generation will be even worse as they’ll only further increase the numbers of people who marry, have children, and leave. And why wouldn’t they leave when there are so many great excuses like abandonment, neglect, narcissism. Ridiculous.
Cathy Meyer says
Joe, this article wasn’t written by an “expert.” It was written by a woman who went through a divorce with a narcissist. I, on the other hand, am an “expert.” And you are wrong, this expert was left after 17 years of marriage by a husband I adored. He gave me no notice, no reason and when I asked him why he was leaving after 17 years and 2 children he told me he didn’t owe me an explanation. That didn’t stop me from being civil to him. I had children with him, what would I be teaching my children if I refused to communicate with him and act like a baby? If, as you say, someone loves their children more than they love themselves they don’t behave like juveniles and make a bad situation worse on their children. Only a narcissist would refuse to respond to texts and emails when left. An emotionally healthy adult is going to put their children first and do what is right by their children to keep from causing damage to those children. What’s ridiculous is being a grown adult who behaves like a 2-year-old who didn’t get their way.
Jenny Folk says
Cathy I agree!!!!….I am also dealing with an Narc. Always and I mean always wants to argue and never understanding. My 13 year old daughter is unfortunately becoming brain washed from her fathers negative ways. He tells tails and the sad thing is that he believes his own stories. He likes to make himself look like the “favorite” fun parent and BUYS BUYS BUYS my daughters love. Its so hurtful. He just recently cheated on his ex girlfriend with this 25 year old girl while his girlfriend was having cancer removed from her cervix and not to mention in the ex girlfriends car. My daughter was very much her because she loved this women and this women loved my daughter also. I could never get along with his ex girlfriend because he wanted it that way. He didn’t want the truth about him to come out so he kept us as much as enemies as possible. We talk now. I just wonder how one person can cause so much turmoil and negativity in the lives of good people and still come out smelling like a rose. I just recently took him to child support as I would have to beg and plead for a couple hundred bucks a month. He also claimed my daughter twice on income taxes and knew that I always claim her. I am just totally exhausted. I feel like I have to teach my daughter he good that her father lacks…
and what if he has used his “skills” to get your children? THen what?
One fault with this article… references are to “him”, “he”. There are female versions too and the behaviour (and therefore strategies) are the same.
Ummmm. This article was written for MOMS…
Why? It sure works for DADS too!
This article was bang on in describing my ex-wife. I wish I had read it before going through what I have – could have saved myself a lot of suffering. I thought I had to communicate – would have been great to know I didn’t have to (it’s all you ever read). Great point Darren. Thanks for the tips in the article – will try and follow those.
Yes, Yes, YES! No Contact was the best thing I ever did while going through my divorce with a Narcissist. You can read about my story at: divorcinganarcissistblog.wordpress.com