"You become a part of your own personality, and you find that there is no other part of your personality better than yourself."
When you become a parent, your focus is on your children and their best interests. They are the ones that you devote your life toward. They are the ones you stay up all night for when they’re crying or sick. They are the ones you drive to specific locations to pick up or drop off. You would have no other reason to go to these places if it weren’t for them. Essentially, when you become a parent, it becomes all about them.
However, when you are a narcissist, it’s never about anyone else but yourself. You become a part of your own personality, and you find that there is no other part of your personality better than yourself. According to Psychology Today, narcissistic personality disorder is a condition characterized by a lack of ability to empathize with others and an inflated sense of self-importance.
What is it?
These characteristics become dangerous during a custody battle. Almost instantaneously, it becomes about winning for themselves and less about spending time parenting the children you have dedicated your life to love, nurture, and protect above all else.
Narcissism is not always apparent and obvious. During custody disputes, it can manifest itself out of the ill will and hurt feelings between ex-spouses. They could display traits that no one had ever seen in them previously, such as arrogance, manipulative tendencies, tendencies for being self-centered, and a demanding demeanor. These tendencies are unpredictable and can last long after a ruling has been delivered.
This level of narcissism can affect co-parenting relationships. The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology did an experiment, examining ex-couples who were co-parents among those that were cooperative in their arrangement and those that had disagreements about how the arrangement should be structured.
The study found that ex-couple co-parents who disagreed about the arrangement were more narcissistic, more interpersonally vulnerable, less able to take another’s perspective less concerned about the feelings and needs of others, more self-oriented, less child-oriented, and more self-important in their parenting attitudes than ex-couple who were in agreement about their co-parenting arrangement.
Narcissism isn’t based around sex either. Research at the University of Nebraska found that despite the widely-held beliefs and preconceived notions that men were more narcissistic than women, there is no systematic evidence to suggest a gender bias in narcissism.
Tips in dealing with a narcissist
If you are dealing with an ex-spouse co-parent who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, and you are concerned about the safety and well-being of your children with custody in the air, there are things you can do to ensure their safety and well-being, that improve your case. Keep a journal, and log every incident as they occur. It creates evidence beyond testimony, which will help ensure custody swing in your direction.
Preparing yourself for legal battle will give you an edge, according to the Huffington Post. One of the biggest things to watch out for is falling prey to the symptoms of a narcissist. If you do not know what to look for, in terms of noticing the symptoms of an ex-spouse co-parent suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, you might blame yourself for the failure of your marriage and might find yourself being painted as the bad guy in the custody dispute.
Not only should you take the high road and not say anything in this campaign against you, you should seek support outside of your case. Counseling can improve your focus and give you the outlet to all of the stress and worry that comes with being a co-parent to a narcissist. Make sure not to forget to take care of yourself.
Make sure to control all communication between the two of you. The narcissist may try to spin the narrative in court, to paint you as inaccessible, but it’s important for your health and the health of your children that you place some limitations on contact and availability.
Given the amount of history in dealing with this person and raising children with this person, being emotional around them can be understandable, but reports from Psychology Today advise not to fall victim to your emotions. For a narcissist who feels scorn by your actions in a custody dispute, communication your emotions in any way can be a sign of weakness, and that’s not a fight you want to share with your children, who are stuck in the crossfire.
Speaking of the children, it is incredibly important that during this custody battle, that you do not feel sorry for them or treat them any differently, because they have a parent who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. Psychology Today reports that showing pity for the child or children only perpetuates a victim mentality and prohibits them from moving forward, as they seek healthy relationships in their own personal development.
Custody battles are never easy, and while narcissistic personality disorder might not be a debilitating sickness that stops one from living an average life, it can create another layer of tension in what can already be a trying time for both the ex-spouse and the children involved. Knowing what signs to look for and how to deal with the symptoms allows you to prepare an intelligent strategy in your quest to protect your children.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.