A common question people with children with a narcissist ask at one point or another is, “What does co-parenting with a narcissist feel like?”

Generally speaking, co-parenting with a narcissist feels frustrating, confusing, exhausting, isolating, angering, saddening, and overwhelming.

In this article, I will guide you through the causes of these feelings to help you better understand what co-parenting with a narcissist feels like.

Frustrated

The first feeling co-parenting with a narcissist can cause is frustration. 

This is the feeling of being upset or annoyed due to being unable to change or achieve something.

Generally speaking, frustration arises when co-parenting with a narcissist because of how arrogant and selfish narcissists can be.

For example, your narcissistic co-parent could frequently change plans at the last minute without considering the impact this has on you and your child.

A narcissistic co-parenting switching up plans.

Or, if you try to speak with them about the challenges your child faces, the narcissist could dismiss or belittle you, focusing on how the situation impacts them instead.

Over time, this type of behavior can cause you to become frustrated and harm your child’s well-being.

Confused

Confusion is the second feeling co-parenting with a narcissist can cause, and it means uncertainty about what is happening, intended, or required.

This feeling is typically a result of narcissists’ manipulation tactics to maintain power and control over others.

A simple example of this happening in a co-parenting situation could be the narcissist you’re co-parenting with using emotional blackmail.

To do this, they might say, “If you really cared about our child, you wouldn’t ask to switch weekends,” causing you to second-guess yourself.

Suggested Reading: 10 Tactics Narcissists Use to Make You Feel Guilty

Another example could be the narcissistic parent “forgetting” agreements when it suits them, leaving you feeling unsure of what was truly agreed upon.

This toxic dynamic can confuse you, leaving you doubting yourself, unsure of what’s truly happening, and causing you to question your parenting decisions.

Exhausted

The third feeling co-parenting with a narcissist can cause is exhaustion, which is a state of extreme physical or mental tiredness.

When you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, this feeling is usually a result of constantly:

  1. Being manipulated.
  2. Defending your views.
  3. Explaining your decisions.
  4. Managing power struggles.
  5. Feeling triggered.
  6. Facing smear campaigns.
  7. Navigating mixed messages.

In fact, some members of our community have said co-parenting with a narcissist is like running a race where the finish line keeps moving further and further away. 

A picture of a woman running a race.

Experiencing this on a day-to-day basis can be physically and mentally draining, leaving you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

Isolated

The fourth feeling co-parenting with a narcissist can cause is isolation.

This means feeling detached physically or psychologically from others.

It is a common feeling that arises in co-parenting situations like this because narcissists purposely use tactics to isolate you from others. 

Suggested Reading: 5 Ways That Narcissists Isolate You

For example, they could spread lies about you to drive wedges between you and mutual friends or even between you and your children. 

Over time, these lies and the other isolation tactics narcissists use could cause you to become isolated and, subsequently, struggle with feelings of isolation.

Angry

The fifth feeling co-parenting with a narcissist can cause is, unsurprisingly, anger.

This is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.

It goes without saying, but there isn’t a shortage of reasons co-parenting with a narcissist can cause feelings of anger.

However, a survey we conducted within our community revealed that a narcissist’s need to be seen as “right” or “superior” is one of the most common sources of anger.

Let me explain…

The persistent need of narcissists to be “right” or “superior” can be a significant source of conflict in co-parenting. 

This need often causes them to trivialize your parenting decisions, constantly move the goalposts, or refuse to cooperate on jointly decided-upon agreements. 

This repeated experience of having your contributions dismissed or decisions sabotaged can lead to intense feelings of anger.

But, when asked, many of our community members who are co-parenting with a narcissist mentioned that it isn’t the repeated experience that makes them so angry. 

It’s the feeling that instead of working together for the child, they’re caught in a battle of wills against the narcissist, who prioritizes their ego over the child’s well-being.

Sad

The sixth feeling co-parenting with a narcissist causes is sadness.

Sadness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of unhappiness and low mood.

Suggested Reading: 10 Ways to Build Self-Esteem After Narcissistic Abuse

Generally speaking, co-parenting with a narcissist causes sadness because parents want to provide a unified front for their children, even if they are no longer together. 

When co-parenting with a narcissist, creating this unified front is nearly impossible.

A broken family.

Why?

Well, I touched on this earlier, but instead of working together, there will be a perpetual tug-of-war, where the child becomes a pawn in the narcissist’s game. 

This realization—that instead of sharing the joys and challenges of parenting, you’re constantly in defensive mode—can be profoundly saddening. 

Overwhelmed

Overwhelming is the seventh feeling co-parenting with a narcissist can cause.

You see, co-parenting, even under the best of circumstances, requires constant communication, compromise, and collaboration. 

When co-parenting with a narcissist, these requirements are never met.

The unpredictability of a narcissist’s behavior, combined with their frequent disregard for consistency and the well-being of others, can lead to chaotic and challenging situations. 

This constant barrage of chaos and challenges can quickly become overwhelming, making even routine parenting decisions seem impossible.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

As a general rule, co-parenting with a narcissist feels:

  1. Frustrating
  2. Confusing
  3. Exhausting
  4. Isolating
  5. Angering
  6. Saddening
  7. Overwhelming

I hope this article has brought you value. Thank you so much for reading it.

About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

If you’re ready to heal, visit The Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse to get started.
Share this post to help others trust their experiences.

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About This Article

We used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create parts of this article to enhance its accuracy and readability. It underwent a strict human editorial process before being published. See additional information.

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