Are your children being used as weapons?
If your ex is refusing to see your children or withholding your children unless you give in to their demands, then you’re dealing with a manipulative personality, aka a narcissist (if they have been clinically diagnosed).
The way you WIN with this type of personality is to disengage directly from their attack.
But, maybe you’re fearful of what they will do next…
Fearful of how they will treat the children when you don’t have them, fearful of what antics they will come up with next to hurt you, and perhaps you’re fearful they will convince your children to no longer love you.
If you’re living in fear, then this is for you.
You can’t achieve anything operating from a place of FEAR.
Here Are 5 Steps To Become Fearless When Co-Parenting With A Manipulative Personality:
1. Obtain A Parenting Agreement
A parenting agreement will give you guidelines to operate from when communicating back and forth with a difficult personality. The agreement will clarify when each parent has the children while simultaneously giving the children a structured life. Children thrive within a structure, especially when they are living in two separate homes. They need consistency to feel confident and secure throughout their development.
Your parenting agreement will also give you a place to operate from when conflict arises with a co-parent. For example, if they are trying to keep the children longer than set out in your agreement or are refusing to even see the children altogether unless you fulfill their demands, then correspond by sticking to the facts laid out in your agreement. This minimizes discord and protects you as a parent, resolving matters much quicker.
Egoless communication leads to less distress.
2. Stay Outside Of The Attack
If you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, then most likely you’re receiving aggressive or emotionally abusive texts. Their sole purpose is to elicit a reaction from you. They don’t care if you give them a negative or positive response, as long as they get one and it impacts you at your core. That is their motive - to have control over you or the situation. It’s all about the win.
How do you respond to their invasive attack? You don’t. You stay outside of it and become indifferent to their statements no matter how hurtful it may be. The less impact they have on you the less they will attack you. They will simply move on and find a new victim they have power over.
For example, if your ex sends you a text saying “You’re the worst mother on earth. I can’t believe how awful you are. Even your own son doesn’t love you and thinks you’re crazy.” This statement you have no need to respond to because it has nothing to do with co-parenting. It is simply a personal attack. Or if you feel the need to respond, then simply say “We all have our own perspective. Thank you for yours.”
However, if your ex sends this “I’m not bringing home our daughters until you agree to pick them up every day from school. They will not ride the bus.” Your ex cannot withhold your rights as a parent, especially if you have set days laid out in your parenting agreement. It’s against the law and you’ll want to keep documentation of these occurrences.
Given this statement, your ex is only trying to evoke anger in you because they are feeling out of control, so you’ll need to stay one step ahead in your response versus reacting. You can respond back with “I understand your safety concerns for our daughters and respect where you are coming from. Unfortunately, my work schedule doesn’t allow me to pick them at 3 pm. I’m open to hearing your ideas to resolve this. What do you suggest?”
At this point, you’re disregarding the threat and trying to work with your ex in resolving the scheduling issue. Developing a resilient mindset will get you through their threats to the point they have zero impact on you.
3. Follow The Three 3’s When Communicating
If you are trying to resolve conflict from a heightened emotional state, it will be challenging to communicate and reach a resolution. It’s important to implement self-care exercises prior to responding, so you can be in a more peaceful state and learn to respond versus react. This will save you from additional stressors in the end and prevent from escalating the situation.
Here is the communication style to follow when conversing with a manipulative co-parent:
Constructive: Keep the conversation collaborative and positive so you and your co-parent are able to achieve an agreement. And if emotion becomes heightened the conversation derails into negative territory, it may be best to reschedule the conversation later that day. Unless of course you’re dealing with an urgent situation.
Also, avoid making threats to call a lawyer when things reach an impasse. Hire a Family Mediator or Co-Parenting Coach to help come up with a resolution, as it will be your most cost-effective option. This route will also focus on repairing the relationship versus going to court.
Calm: Using a calm tone of voice will allow you and your co-parent to effectively communicate in a respectful manner where each of you actively listens to discuss your children's lives. Studies have proven tone of voice accounts for 90% of conflict, and 10% is only words. When using a calm, medium pitch tone you are likely to do business without making it a stressful situation.
Concise: Having a firm and direct point when conversing prevents the conversation from going in another direction then intended. It's much easier to understand each other to avoid any misunderstandings when trying to come up with a solution.
4.Set Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries are your lifeline to any healthy relationship in life. Without them, you can be left feeling disrespected, emotionally worn down, and worthless. Establishing healthy boundaries when co-parenting with an ex will save you a million headaches.
Boundaries are clear guidelines that will meet your children’s needs and yours as their parent. They clarify what is acceptable and unacceptable based on a set of limits and values and allow you to operate from a place of confidence versus fear. To learn more about how to set healthy boundaries, check out our Powerless To Boundary Badass.
5. Get Support In Our Resolve To Evolve Co-Parenting Program
When co-parenting with toxic personalities, it is not something that is always resolvable without support. It can take months or even years to learn how to really break down the language and the tactics of a narcissist unless you’re a trained professional. Getting support can help set you on the path to freedom, so you no longer have to deal with emotional pain and the aftermath of your ex’s threats or demands.
Not only will you set yourself free, but also your children. They need happy parents to be happy themselves. Living with years of resentment, frustration, and turmoil not only wears down your mental health but also your physical health.
It’s time to own your worth, rise above the chaos, and become confidently invincible.
You can join right here, with other mothers just like you.
While no co-parenting relationship will be perfect, we can try to make them as peaceful as possible. Not only for your sake, but for children so they can thrive and develop a healthy relationship with both parents. Their success in life depends on it. For any additional questions you may have about co-parenting, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.