A communal narcissist is yet another peculiar aspect of the narcissistic realm. When we think about narcissism, more often than not, we think about grandiose narcissists. They are entitled, arrogant, lack empathy, hypersensitive, but also charming and charismatic.
While communal narcissists definitely embody those characteristics, they have a horrifying ability to appear overly empathic.
The only thing keeping a narcissist from imploding emotionally, is narcissistic supply; the validation and admiration they receive from others. Narcissistic supply allows narcissists to neglect their own emotional inadequacy.
Communal narcissists accumulate narcissistic supply in a very grandiose manner.
They are the type of narcissists to help build schools in developing nations, start a business designed to help the community in an astronomical way, or even make a large donation to a charitable organization of their choice.
They aren’t doing these amazing things for others out of the goodness of their heart, they are doing it for the narcissistic supply their generous actions bring.
In fact, if they don’t get the validation and admiration they were looking for after doing something generous, they become passive-aggressive and rageful.
In the public eye, communal narcissists are outstanding and admirable people. They often receive awards, honorable mentions, and even attention from local and major media outlets.
But what many victims of communal narcissistic abuse run into behind closed doors, is a rageful, demanding, and mean-spirited person who only takes an interest in others if it coincides with their need for narcissistic supply.
Communal narcissists have all of the arrogance, manipulative behavior, need for validation and admiration, entitlement, and a need for control that the other types of narcissist have, but it’s often overlooked because the way they seek out narcissistic supply is admirable to the untrained eye.
What Should You Expect When Co-Parenting With a Communal Narcissist?
When co-parenting with a communal narcissist, you should expect the lives of you and your children to circulate around the communal narcissist’s desperate need for validation and admiration.
It’s very unlikely that a communal narcissist will have a genuine relationship with their family. What is much more likely to happen is that they will maneuver their family to formulate the ultimate source of narcissistic supply, an admirable family.
Using the Children For Narcissistic Supply
The children of communal narcissists are a huge source of narcissistic supply. They’ll ensure that their children are always involved with charitable organizations, excelling in school, and doing whatever they can to help the community.
While these are admirable and oftentimes helpful deeds put forth by the communal narcissist, it’s never about ensuring that their children are good people, it’s only about creating the perfect family in the public eye to attract as much narcissistic supply as possible.
Feeling Extremely Isolated
Having a communal narcissist as a co-parent and parent is extremely isolating because in public, they are outstanding. They are very proud of their children, a loving partner, and someone that may make others jealous about how good of a person they are.
But when nobody is looking and it’s just the family, they are rageful, weaponize guilt, and even quite absent.
So victims of communal narcissism experience a tremendous amount of gaslighting because they are told by those on the outside looking in, how lucky they are to have their parent or partner, while being forced to live in a pervasive environment of abuse when the doors shut.
The Weaponization of Guilt
One of the hallmarks of communal narcissism is guilt that circulates around their need for narcissistic supply.
Due to the way that communal narcissists drag their family to every source of narcissistic supply they can find, it’s normal for the narcissist to experience some resistance from the family at one point or another.
When faced with a child or co-parent who doesn’t want to do exactly what the communal narcissist wants them to do, they’ll often guilt them with tactics along the lines of comparing their lives to those less fortunate.
Another source of guilt that the family of a communal narcissist may experience is from enablers. Enablers are people with a significant lack of knowledge when it comes to narcissism, so they approach the situation as they would a non-narcissistic person.
This often leads to them accidentally contradicting the victim’s reality by making ignorant statements.
Summary of What You Should Expect When Co-Parenting
When co-parenting with a communal narcissist, you should expect to feel very isolated and guilty for not constantly praising the communal narcissist for their “good deeds.” You should also expect your children to suffer a significant amount of psychological damage as well.
Having a parent who loves you in public and ignores, despises, and rejects you behind closed doors has the potential to corrupt a child’s perception of a healthy relationship so severely that they develop people-pleasing patterns because they believe that they need to make others proud of them to have value, and be loved.
This type of people-pleasing behavior is one of many factors that causes victims of childhood abuse to develop trauma bonds, gravitate towards abusive relationships in the future, or becoming narcissistic themselves.
What to Expect While Co-Parenting and Divorced With a Communal Narcissist
Divorcing a narcissist, any type of narcissist, will always be a difficult task. With that being said, divorcing a communal narcissist may be one of the most challenging types of narcissists to divorce.
The problem with divorcing a communal narcissist is that they will most definitely want enough custody of their children to uphold their shiny image in the public eye, making the custody battle nearly impossible to win.
Another problem victims of communal narcissism face is that their abusers’ superficial generosity will be a huge factor, most likely their strategy, in the divorce. Especially if their generosity has anything to do with the children, like being involved with their school, sports teams, or other extra curricular activities.
Communal narcissists are incredibly selfish, and they’ll expect you and your children to help them maintain their superficial public image, even after you’ve divorced and moved on.
“We’ve been divorced for almost 1 year now and he still asks my daughter and I to show up to his events because he doesn’t want people to think that we hate each other. He even went as far as to suggest we hide our divorce by continuing to live in the same house to make sure the neighbors didn’t gossip about the divorce.” Evy
How to Co-Parent With a Communal Narcissist
There’s no getting around it, co-parenting with a communal narcissist is extremely challenging because you’re going to have to constantly walk a fine line between somewhat supporting the narcissist, because the good deeds they do in public are really important for children to witness. This is usually done by explaining to your children why it’s important to help others, or be an active member of the community.
And ensuring your children remain grounded and emotionally supported. This is no easy task, after months, years, even decades of abuse, the idea of supporting them sounds horrific, but as with anyone suffering narcissistic abuse, bluntly telling your children that their parent is a narcissist is one of the most unhelpful things you could do.
Another very challenging aspect of communal narcissism that you and your children will experience, is a sense of abandonment intertwined with unworthiness. It can be really difficult to watch one of your parents walk to the end of the earth to help other children but be really cold, distant, and mean-spirited when it comes to their own family.
Going head-to-head with a communal narcissist is never going to be easy. It’s important as a co-parent that you make sure to set boundaries with the narcissist. The psychological damages your children could endure from being put on display and worshiped in public, but neglected and belittled at home, are detrimental.
Last but not least, ensuring that you provide a safe place for your children to find themselves and/or talk about their thoughts, feelings, and concerns is the most important thing you can do when co-parenting with a communal narcissist.
And as always, seeking out therapeutic guidance from someone who understands narcissism is a fantastic step to take towards healing.
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Gebauer J.E., Sedikides C. (2018) Communal Narcissism: Theoretical and Empirical Support. In: Hermann A., Brunell A., Foster J. (eds) Handbook of Trait Narcissism. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92171-6_7