Have you ever found yourself wondering why co-parenting with a narcissist feels like an uphill battle that never gets easier?

If so, you’re not alone. Many of our community members have asked questions about the reason co-parenting with a narcissist is difficult.

So, I did a bit of research, and here’s everything I found.

In general, co-parenting with a narcissist is hard because narcissists:

  • Always want to be in control.
  • Use the kids as pawns.
  • Are inconsistent, unreliable, and manipulative.
  • Prioritize their needs over the children’s.
  • Aren’t willing to compromise or collaborate. 
  • Skew perceptions to fit their narrative.
  • React poorly to boundaries.

In this post, I’ll guide you through these behaviors to help you understand why co-parenting with a narcissist is so difficult.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

They Always Want to Be in Control

Co-parenting with a narcissist is challenging because they need to be in control.1

In co-parenting, decisions should be made together, from big things like where the kids go to school to small things like what they eat for breakfast. 

But a narcissist will try to make all these decisions alone, believing only they know what’s best. 

A narcissistic co-parent trying to make all co-parenting decisions alone.

They might ignore your opinions or change plans without telling you, just to show they’re in charge. 

This makes working together really hard because it feels like you’re not a team; it’s their way or no way.

They Use the Kids as Pawns

Another reason co-parenting with a narcissist is hard is because they might use the kids as pawns in their games.2

They might do things like talk badly about you to the kids, try to make themselves the favorite parent, or make promises they can’t keep to win them over. 

In their mind, it’s not about what’s best for the children; it’s about winning. 

This behavior can confuse and hurt the kids, making them feel stuck in the middle of a battle they don’t understand. 

Suggested Reading: 7 Ways Narcissists Turn Children Into Flying Monkeys

They Are Inconsistent and Unreliable

Co-parenting with a narcissist is challenging because they often lack consistency and reliability, which are crucial for creating a stable environment for children.3 

What I mean by this is that narcissists may agree to certain schedules or parenting plans and then fail to follow through. 

A narcissist failing to follow through with their promise.

This unpredictability can disrupt the children’s routines and create unnecessary stress. 

For example, they might promise to pick up the kids at a certain time but then arrive late or not at all, without considering the impact of their actions. 

This behavior forces the other parent to constantly adapt and fill in the gaps, making it difficult to rely on any arrangements made with the narcissist. 

The lack of a predictable structure can confuse children and complicate co-parenting efforts, as it’s hard to plan or trust that agreements will be honored.

They Are Manipulative

Effective communication is vital in co-parenting, but co-parenting with a narcissist is difficult because they often manipulate communication to serve their own interests.4

Instead of straightforward and honest discussions about the children’s needs, conversations may be twisted, with the narcissist denying things they’ve said or accusing the other parent of things they haven’t done.

They might also withhold information, use aggressive or demeaning language, or refuse to communicate at all unless it suits them. 

This manipulation creates an environment where genuine cooperation is nearly impossible, as every interaction becomes a potential minefield.

Trying to navigate this while keeping the children’s best interests at heart is exhausting and can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts that further complicate the co-parenting relationship.

Suggested Reading: 7 Ways Co-Parenting with a Narcissist Makes You Feel

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

They Prioritize Their Needs Over the Children’s

Co-parenting with a narcissist is particularly challenging because they often prioritize their own needs and desires over the children’s well-being.5

Unlike a partnership where both parents put the children’s interests first, a narcissist may see the children’s needs as secondary to their own. 

For instance, they might schedule activities that align with their interests or social plans, disregarding the children’s existing routines, needs for rest, or academic responsibilities. 

This self-centered approach can lead to decisions that benefit the narcissist at the expense of the children’s emotional or physical well-being, making co-parenting a constant struggle to ensure the children’s needs are met and prioritized.

Suggested Reading: How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children? (10 Ways)

They Resist Compromise and Collaboration

Another reason co-parenting with a narcissist is so difficult is their resistance to compromise and collaboration, essential components of successful co-parenting.6 

Narcissists often view any negotiation or need for compromise as a threat to their authority or an attempt to control them. 

As a result, they may stubbornly refuse to cooperate or engage in discussions about shared parenting decisions, insisting on having the final say.

This unwillingness to work together can turn every decision, no matter how small, into a conflict. 

It becomes not just about the issue at hand but a power struggle, with the narcissist determined to “win” rather than find a solution that works for everyone, especially the children. 

This adversarial approach undermines the cooperative spirit necessary for effective co-parenting, placing additional stress on both the children and the other parent.

They Skew Perceptions to Fit Their Narrative

Co-parenting with a narcissist is complicated because they often attempt to skew perceptions to fit their narrative, portraying themselves in a favorable light while casting the other parent in a negative one.7 

This manipulation extends beyond their interactions with the co-parent; it can also involve the children, mutual acquaintances, and family members. 

A narcissist skewing perception to portray themselves in a favourable light to a child.

By spreading misleading information or outright lies, they create an environment where the truth is malleable, and alliances are based on the narcissist’s distorted version of events. 

This tactic can isolate the co-parent, making it difficult to maintain a united front for the children’s benefit. 

It forces the co-parent into a defensive position, having to counteract the narcissist’s narrative without involving the children or others inappropriately, which can be a delicate and exhausting balancing act.

They React Poorly to Boundaries

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is key in any co-parenting arrangement, but it becomes an impossible task when dealing with a narcissist. 

Narcissists often react poorly to boundaries, viewing them as personal insults or challenges to their authority rather than necessary frameworks for respectful interaction and cooperation.8 

When the co-parent attempts to establish boundaries, whether about communication, parenting time, or decision-making processes, the narcissist may respond with anger, guilt-tripping, or further manipulation, trying to erode these boundaries. 

This resistance complicates the co-parenting dynamic and stresses the children, who may witness or become aware of the resulting tensions. 

The ongoing battle to maintain healthy boundaries while managing the narcissist’s reactions adds another layer of difficulty to the already challenging task of co-parenting.

Free Course: How to Set Boundaries with a Narcissist

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article helpful.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you experienced challenges while co-parenting with a narcissist?

If so, what strategies have you found helpful in managing these difficulties?

Or perhaps you have questions about how to establish effective boundaries or seek support in a co-parenting situation involving a narcissist.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

Our Latest Articles

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.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. WebMD Editorial Contributors. (2023. March, 30). Narcissism: Symptoms and Signs. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/narcissism-symptoms-signs ↩︎
  2. Erin Leonard. (2023. November, 26). Inoculate the Narcissistic Co-Parent’s Most Toxic Weapon. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parenting/202311/inoculate-the-narcissistic-co-parents-most-toxic-weapon ↩︎
  3. Kara Mayer Robinson. How to Co-Parent With a Narcissist. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/narcissistic-coparent ↩︎
  4. OurFamilyWizard. Co-Parenting Guide: Tips & Fundamentals for Healthy Communication After Divorce. OurFamilyWizard. https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/blog/coparenting-guide-healthy-communication-after-divorce ↩︎
  5. Stephanie A. Sarkis. (2023. September, 27). The Dire Consequences of Having a Narcissistic Parent. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/202309/the-dire-consequences-of-having-a-narcissistic-parent ↩︎
  6. Nicole Arzt. (2023. May, 9). Co-Parenting With a Narcissist: 13 Tips. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/co-parenting-with-narcissist/ ↩︎
  7. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 28). What Is A Narcissistic Smear Campaign? Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/narcissistic-smear-campaign.html ↩︎
  8. Bisma Anwar. (2022. February, 4). Ask a Therapist: “How to Set Boundaries With a Narcissist”. Talkspace. https://www.talkspace.com/mental-health/conditions/articles/how-to-set-boundaries-with-a-narcissist/ ↩︎

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.