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Can an ex-spouse’s narcissism impact a parent-child relationship?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2022 | Family Law |

In any family law case in California, issues that are specific to the situation will arise. While that might sound complicated, in truth, it simply means that everyone has their own obstacles to overcome to complete a divorce, move forward with child custody, parenting time and more.

There are cases where the sides are relatively agreeable and part ways without rancor. They will try to ensure that the other party has a positive relationship with their child and do not interfere to create a negative perception. In other cases; however, a parent might have psychological factors that can lead to problems. One is narcissism. In situations like this, it is wise to understand how to prevent the child from being manipulated by a narcissistic co-parent.

Recognizing and combating narcissistic co-parent behaviors

A parent should be attentive to attempts on the part of a narcissistic co-parent to sabotage the parent-child relationship. Since children naturally attach themselves to a parent, acts that cast doubt on that attachment are problematic. The child starts out in life with a caregiver and they are linked in various ways through all senses. The type of response the child gets from the parent will determine what type of attachment—secure or insecure—they have.

With a secure attachment, the child’s needs are met. An insecure attachment means their needs are not always being met. Regardless, when there is any form of attachment, it could be exploited by the narcissist. They might blame the other parent for ending the marriage in front of the child and categorize themselves as having been wronged. With the attachment, the child wants to provide protection sparking a rift between the child and the other parent.

A second way the narcissist will damage the relationship is by becoming the child’s emotional outlet. They might make sure to be affectionate to the child, giving them the care they need. Once the child is feeling safe and shielded, the narcissistic parent can find reasons to speak negatively and make the child feel shame as if they are no longer getting that same feeling of love and it is their fault.

A parent who notices this pattern of behavior from a narcissistic co-parent is advised to understand what they are witnessing and make sure to try and nip it in the bud. Instead of being upset with the child, recognizing the signs can deal with it effectively. That can be done by assuring the child that there is nothing to be ashamed of and they are protected. It can also help to speak directly to the other parent about what they are doing and put a stop to it.

Assistance that directly tackles the case itself is helpful in family law

Personalities inevitably get intertwined with a divorce proceeding. Rare is the case where the sides simply disagree over property, support, custody, parenting time and other factors and do not have lingering ill will. If there is a psychological issue with a spouse being narcissistic, this must be considered and addressed as part of the case.

Part of being prepared for a divorce case is understanding how to handle every possible eventuality. If the other party’s narcissism is causing a rift between a parent and child, it is imperative to take steps to mitigate it and protect that relationship without sabotaging the narcissistic spouse’s relationship with the child.

Caring and experienced guidance throughout the family law process can strive for workable solutions. This can be helpful to achieve a fresh start and prevent the other spouse’s issues from negatively impacting a parent-child dynamic.