How To Respond To An Ex’s Narcissistic Attacks
Divorcing a narcissist can be emotionally, psychologically, and financially taxing. They will find anything they can think of to trigger you because they want you to feel the pain they feel on a daily basis. Does it make it right? No. But, most likely your ex is unable to see outside of their needs and wants because as a child their basic needs were not met by one or both of their parents.
They are internally stuck in conflictual trauma response and will resort to being defensive during your interactions with them. Your ex will project this trauma onto the co-parenting relationship because they tend to thrive on chaos. Their goal, sometimes conscious and other times unconscious, is to inflict drama and watch you come undone. Your emotional reaction, positive or negative, makes them feel powerful. The more they play on your insecurities or emotional wounds, the better they feel about their own.
It is time for you to take back your power!
Here are five steps to healing triggers and shutting down the narcissist:
1. Emotional Regulation
Regulating your own emotions is the first step to not letting the narcissist have control over you. If you cannot regulate your emotions, then you will stay in reactive mode when they attack you which causes you to unleash and fight back.
The key to staying calm and collected is practicing releasing these emotions as they come up in a constructive way. This can be done through the power of pause, deep breathing, journaling, or going for a walk. You have to decide what works for you when you are being triggered to get yourself back to a baseline. In the meantime, you will not want to respond to the narcissistic comment until you have reached an unemotional state.
We know this can be hard. It's one of those things that is easier said than done when you’re really upset but we promise you it is worth it. You deserve to be free from their unhealthy habits, as you aren't responsible for helping them heal. No emotion is the only way to converse with a narcissistic co-parent.
2. Recognizing Triggers
For years your narc co-parent has probably been using your weakness or insecurities against you anytime there was a disagreement. This was to hurt you so they could gain control or power over you in the situation. Whether they choose to attack your character, parenting style, body type, or poke at your weakness they strategically use these comments to deflect or avoid responsibility for their behavior.
Most likely you have some sort of idea of what your triggers are, but if you don’t then we recommend writing them down on paper. We want you to write what emotion you are feeling when they use this trigger against you. This can help us gain insight into their motive if they have one. It could also just be they want to inflict pain in general.
3. Healing Triggers
This step is probably the hardest because most triggers start way before the co-parenting or marital relationship. A lot of emotional triggers are deep-rooted us in from years before whether in childhood or past relationships. The narcissist knows this and probably even asked you about them at some point in your relationship so they could use it against you as ammo when they needed it the most.
The trust you built confiding in them about your hardest moments they choose as their weapon of destruction to twisting the knife deeper into the wound. While we know this sounds awful, keep in mind they are suffering deep down but they are too scared to face it so they stay stuck. They choose the easy way out but it is an endless cycle of misery for them.
Healing your triggers requires a well-defined self-love regimen. It takes only ten to twenty minutes a day to begin healing your wounds. You can choose first thing in the morning or right before bed at night or even during your lunch hour at work. The time of day doesn’t matter as long as you make time for yourself. Self-love looks like journaling about your feelings and wounds, where they originated from, and rewriting the memory and how you would handle them today. We are teaching the brain the wound happened but it no longer defines us and is moving forward with grace and patience.
4. Avoid Responding Right Away
The reason you don’t want to respond right away is that you may be in an emotional state. You may react and feed right into their game of pain-provoking dialogue. The more they can get emotion out of you the more they feel they have won. They see problems as me vs. you, not we vs. the co-parenting problem which is why they are highly conflictual.
Pausing before you respond is key to catching yourself in the moment and giving yourself time to process what they have said before sending a reply. You can practice pausing by counting to ten, deep breathing, putting your phone away until you’re ready, taking space through alone time, doing a creative project, or working out. You have to decide what is best for you until you don’t feel emotionally reactive.
5. Respond By Staying Outside Of The Attack
We really don’t learn this skill anywhere. And to be honest, I’m not sure where I learned it myself. When responding to attacks you don’t necessarily want to respond to their direct line, instead, you want to look at the bigger picture of the behavior you’re experiencing. This is what allows you to diffuse the power of their statement and become neutral in your response.
Now, if the attack has nothing to do with the children, then you don’t have to respond. But, if you feel obligated to because you want to shut it done, then here are some examples.
Narc: You’re so immature
You: Thank you for sharing
Narc: You’re the worst parent ever
You: It seems we don’t align on this topic. We will need to respect our differences.
Narc: You are nothing without me
You: You are entitled to your opinion
Narc: Don’t talk to the doctor without me ever again
You: We both have access to open communication with doctors. Please check our parenting plan.
Narc: We can just go to court
You: We can go to seek mediation if you think it’s necessary for our children’s best interest
If you are struggling to co-parent with a challenging personality type, then we understand how hard this can be to heal and move forward. We are here to support you in any way we can. Please reach out if you need to speak with a co-parenting coach and want to find inner peace.