Co-parenting is hard at the best of times. Include narcissism in the mix and it can equate to a whole new kind of chaos.
For anyone who has ever gone through a divorce or separation when children involved, you know how many challenges there are to deal with. There are custody arrangements, financial and property settlements, communication barriers and conflict. Then, let’s not forget the emotional turmoil that comes with all of that – both personally and from the children’s point of view.
Dealing with a narcissist adds to the pressure. It is very likely you’ll get to see how insidious they truly are during this process … not to mention childish – narcissistic tantrums are a very real, pathetic thing).
Narcissists use their kids to play the game
Unlike those of us who have normal human qualities like empathy and compassion, the narcissist does not, and will use every single trick in their monstrous book to use you like a puppet, especially when it comes to co-parenting.
So much of their power has been taken away because you’re not in a relationship with them anymore, so what do they have left that can hurt and control you the most? Yep, that’s right – the kids.
Sadly, I know this behaviour all too well, and it will heighten your anxiety at a time when you’re trying your utmost to have some semblance of normalcy – for yourself and for your children.
Just when you’re beginning to feel like you might be free from the narcissist’s mind games and controlling behaviour, and you couldn’t possibly take on any more heartache and confusion, they start using your children as a way to keep their twisted game going.
Narcissistic behaviours when co-parenting
The narcissist does this in many ways, and unfortunately, I’ve experienced them all. From covert verbal and psychological abuse, threats, and putting me down as a parent. To refusing to spend more time with our children as a manipulative tool to upset me. They all revolve around co-parenting, because the fact is, that is the only thing remaining that enables the narcissist to have any control.
Personally, the anxiety from knowing I would have to put up with this for so many years moving forward was extremely overwhelming.
After all, ongoing co-parenting with this person is a reality that has to be faced. Knowing that I had to communicate with him for some time as the children grow older meant I had to do something, anything, before I completely lost my mind.
What happened next
I found myself reading countless books and articles, and I worked with psychologists looking for any tools to help me manage this battle to maintain my own sanity. But everything I tried seemed to just aggravate the narcissist even more and made things much worse.
That was, until I was made aware of the Grey Rock Method.
This is a method used to prevent the narcissist from getting under your skin.
It’s brilliant, I wish I had known about it sooner. In a nutshell, the aim is to have the narcissist become bored of you (like a boring Grey rock that goes unnoticed). To give them absolutely no fuel to continue their twisted games. If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know that the fuel they love most is drama.
So, giving them little or no reaction is a very powerful one … I learned that very quickly with this method.
Communication with your narcissistic ex
Firstly, I began by changing my communication method to email only (but you could even try to use a communication book) where possible.
This of course, aggravated the narcissist, but it was the first step I tried in using the Grey Rock Method. I stated everything that needed to be communicated with him about the children simply and professionally. Every word I wrote was brief and to the point.
But, here’s the key: I included zero emotion. When he begun responding in anger (naturally, because not getting a reaction from you irritates them), I simply reiterated what I had already communicated in exactly the same way. I would state only the facts, and stop responding altogether if the same topic was being re-hashed as a way for him to try and get a reaction out of me. This is so important when using the Grey Rock method for co-parenting.
Note: The beauty of using email as the main form of communication is that you have everything in writing for legal purposes, and you’re in a better position to reflect before responding. If in doubt, when communicating over the phone or in person, simply request that the communication continue via email.
Further reading: Why parallel parenting could be the answer to shared parenting.
Direct contact with your narcissistic ex
There are times when you must have direct contact when co-parenting with a narcissist. For example, during changeovers with the children.
This is what you do:
Do not share any information with them unless absolutely necessary. Don’t discuss personal matters or anything to do with the past. Don’t ask them questions unless you need to. Don’t elaborate on any topic. Speak in a monotone voice. To put it simply, be as boring as you can possibly be.
They will try to get a reaction from you, any reaction, and you’re not going to give them that satisfaction any longer. Discuss only what needs to be discussed and leave it at that. And remember, zero emotion. They are no longer entitled to have access to that part of you.
This is where your power lies, and damn it feels good to get back that control so easily.
I thought that this would be the most challenging part of using the Grey Rock method for co-parenting, but I tried it once and it was extremely effective and empowering. It has now become second nature to me.
As we know, the narcissist will try anything possible to draw you back in emotionally, and when communicating with your ex in person, it is easy for them to do so if you’re unprepared.
How using the grey rock method for co-parenting has helped
I have only recently begun to use the Grey Rock method for co-parenting, but the changes I’ve noticed have been incredible and have occurred quite rapidly.
Not only have they helped me personally, but it has helped my children because they’ve noticed my tension lift and my anxiety ease.
More importantly, now my ex is no longer able to use the children as a manipulative tool against me, he spends more time with them, which is a positive thing for their relationship.
Using the Grey Rock method has truly given me a renewed sense of confidence and the ability for me to better handle situations that could otherwise have been nightmares. This includes mediation for parenting arrangements and court proceedings relating to family violence.
My final words on the grey rock method for co-parenting
As I said, in the beginning, using the Grey Rock method for co-parenting aggravated the narcissist, and you know why?
Because he realised he was very quickly losing the very last grip of control he had over me.
But, after using it consistently for only a couple of months, I can honestly and confidently say that it has worked. The narcissist has completely lost interest in manipulating or trying to get a rise out of me – because I’ve shown him that he just won’t get it.
For anyone doing shared care with a narcissist (or any toxic person), I encourage you to look into and practice the Grey Rock method for co-parenting. It truly works, and because we want our children to be happy and healthy, it starts with us.
Having a successful co-parenting arrangement with a narcissistic ex is possible, but first, you must take back the control that they have made you believe for so long that you don’t have.
The Grey Rock Method will absolutely remind you just how much power still resides within you.