Do you share custody with a narcissist or borderline? If so, it’s time to face the harsh reality. Co-parenting with a narcissist means “being the asshole.” Therefore, you may as well get comfortable with it. Or, better yet, embrace it!
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think you’re an asshole. Well, I don’t know you, so maybe you’re an asshole, maybe not. Nor am I encouraging you to behave like an asshole as most reasonable, rational adults define “being an asshole.”
Before getting into the nuts and
bolts nuts, allow me to clarify a few things.
First, it’s impossible to cooperatively co-parent with narcissists, borderlines and other high-conflict people. They neither cooperate nor compromise. If you don’t want to be endlessly steamrolled, you’ll need to accept that co-parenting with a narcissist means “being the asshole.”
Second, parallel parenting is the most sensible way to manage custody with these individuals. Parallel parenting is a low contact model of shared parenting that typically involves a highly detailed, unambiguous custody order that implements boundaries and accountability. Narcissists and borderlines dislike and push back hard at both of these things. Once again, co-parenting with a narcissist means “being the asshole.”
Third, narcissists, borderlines and other personality disordered individuals see and experience the world quite differently from codependents and neurotic “normals.” Therefore, the operational definition of “being an asshole” differs greatly between the two groups. In which case, have you considered that “being the asshole” might actually be a good thing?
Fourth, relationships with narcissists and borderlines can cause one to see things through the narcissist’s distorted subjective reality. In other words, you become stuck in their backwards logic and quagmire of emotional reasoning and projections. In their alternate universe, everyday is Opposite Day. For example, you now believe you’re selfish for no longer tolerating the narcissist’s anger and cruelty. Or, that healthy boundaries are controlling and accountability is abuse. Like I said, Opposite Day.
Is it starting to sink in yet? Okay, repeat after me. Co-parenting with a narcissist means “being the asshole.”
Here’s how I define being an asshole. An asshole is someone who:
- Thinks only of her- or himself (even when they have minor children).
- Doesn’t care how their choices, words and actions impact others, including their partners, kids, extended family, colleagues, neighbors, employees, etc.
- Takes pleasure in being cruel and punishing persons with whom they’ve a grievance. This includes people they see as enemies, rivals, obstacles and nuisances. Again, no one is immune from their cruelty and selfishness, including their own children. [*Side note: Some assholes see their kids as rivals for affection and attention and, in some cases, as sexual rivals.]
- Lies about things great and small. In other words, they’re pathological liars.
- Creates drama and chaos for amusement, as a smokescreen by which to manipulate and hurt others or as a form of attention-seeking.
- Takes no personal accountability, blaming everyone and everything for their choices, life circumstances, shortcomings and failures. In other words, they take no responsibility.
- Has a pathological sense of ENTITLEMENT. This includes grown adults who refuse to work and demand others support them especially people they hold in contempt because they feel “owed” or “wronged.”
- Plays the victim when, in reality, they’re the aggressor.
- Lacks integrity and good character.
- Bullies others to get what they want or to avoid accountability and consequences.
- Feels zero remorse or empathy toward people whom they’ve hurt.
- Lacks a conscience or sense of shame.
- Lives by double standards. They have one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everyone else. In other words, assholes are often also great big honking hypocrites.
Of course, this list of traits isn’t exhaustive. Distilling it down to the basics, an asshole is a person of poor character who only considers their needs, feelings, wants, fear, hopes, dreams, suffering (usually self-inflicted) and rights. Not so coincidentally, many of the above characteristics describe behaviors and attitudes commonly associated with personality disorders and other “high-conflict” personalities.
Now, let’s travel to the Batshit Banana-pants Republic to identify how narcissists, borderlines and psychopaths define being an asshole. To narcissists et al, an asshole is someone who:
- Holds them accountable for their dishonest, cruel, selfish, criminal and/or otherwise shady behaviors and attitudes.
- Exposes them for who they really are. Or, someone they fear as an exposure threat (e.g., an ex-husband or ex-girlfriend, former business partner, etc.)
- Sets and enforces healthy, reasonable interpersonal boundaries.
- Possesses good character, kindness, compassion, empathy, a conscience, integrity and a sense of fair play. Narcissists think these qualities make you a weak sucker who’s easily manipulated.
- Expects interactions and relationships to be two-way streets.
- Doesn’t enable them and make excuses for their pathology and other immature, irrational self-serving bullshit.
- Doormats themselves hoping to appease the narcissist or gain their love (such as it is).
- Practices self-care instead of sacrificing their well-being in the service of the narcissist’s or borderline’s bottomless pit of un-meetable ego demands.
- Refuses to feed the narcissist’s sense of entitlement and play along with their professional victim narrative.
- Isn’t easily manipulated via pity, sympathy, flattery, sex and other forms of seduction, fear, obligation and/or guilt.
- Insists upon dwelling in the realm of facts and logic instead of circular arguments, trivial distractions and emotional reasoning.
- Calls them out on their crap.
- Doesn’t slavishly flatter and fawn over the narcissist’s or borderline’s false self or curated social media false self. That is, how the narcissist wants to be seen by others, which is typically wildly different from who they actually are. For example, mother of the year, successful entrepreneur, super Woke or a “good Christian.”
In many ways, comparing the two lists is like stepping through the looking glass. If, like me, you’ve a strong attachment to objective reality, this can be incredibly crazy-making. That is, until you understand what’s going on. Namely, their character pathology. In case it still isn’t clear, co-parenting with a narcissist means “being the asshole.”
What do narcissists, histrionics and borderlines think makes you, their ex and fellow co-parent, an asshole?
Trigger warning: Eye rolling sarcasm ahead!
You want 50/50 shared physical custody. You’re being an asshole! You follow court orders and the custody agreement and want the ex to do the same. You’re being an asshole!
You believe a grown adult should financially support her- or himself. You’re being an asshole! You find a constant stream of texts to the kids during their custody time with you intrusive and disruptive. You’re being an asshole!
You want joint medical and educational decision-making and to be informed and included in the kids’ medical, dental, psychological care. You’re being an asshole! You set reasonable boundaries with your ex regarding communication and ignore attempts to control how you parent in your home on your time. You’re being an asshole!
You ask the ex why, if you’re such an abusive asshole, he or she texts and phones you constantly, demanding face-to-face contact. You’re being an asshole! You insist the ex not schedule kid activities during their time with you as you respect the kids’ time with the ex. You’re being an asshole!
But, wait! There’s more!
You expect reciprocity when you do the ex a favor, for example, trading days for the ex’s once in a lifetime very special, family occasion because “the-kids-will-be-scarred-for-life-if-you-don’t-trade-days-with-me!” du jour. You’re being an asshole! You tell the ex no in response to, well, anything it’s in your interest to say no to. You’re being an asshole!
You refuse to be the co-signatory on the ex’s new car (they can ill afford) after years of mistreatment, including a false abuse allegation and trying to get you arrested to destroy your custody rights. You’re being an asshole! You don’t want to pay thousands of dollars in addition to the court ordered child support for kid “necessities” (for which the court ordered child support is supposed to pay). You’re being an asshole!
You don’t want the ex badmouthing you, your family or new partner just like you refrain from doing to them because it hurts the kids. You’re being an asshole! You refuse to agree to homeschooling because you want the kids to experience peer socialization and healthy adult role models plus BPD mom already refuses to share information regarding academics and extracurricular activities. Not to mention the ex’s well-established lack of work ethic. You’re being an asshole!
You hold the ex to the custody order requiring them to pay their share of medical expenses within a 30-day billing cycle. You’re being an asshole! You refuse to participate in the ex’s pointless, endless text tantrums and attempts to bait you into the same old tired conflicts. You’re being an asshole! And you’re REFUSING to co-parent!!! I’m telling the judge on you!!!!!
I could do this all day, but I won’t. So, what’s the take away?
Believe it or not, when a narcissistic or borderline ex calls you an asshole, it usually means they’re angry about no longer being able to deceive, bully, control, manipulate and exploit you. So, well done, buddy! Also, it’s often a sign that you’re making healthier choices, enforcing boundaries and are no longer being emotionally rattled by their ridiculous behavior and drama. Or, at the very least, not letting on that you’re being affected by it. Seriously, hat’s off to you.
Obviously, a rational human being should be able to cut through the aforementioned histrionics and determine who is the actual problem. Alas, it often takes teachers, physicians, therapists and family court deciders longer than one might hope to stop getting things backwards. How can you facilitate their awakening, or in trendy parlance, “woke-ness?”
Basically, it begins and ends with you.
So, how do you embrace being the asshole? Especially if you struggle with codependency and are easily bullied and manipulated by guilt, threats or sympathy ploys? Check back next week for part two of this article, How to Embrace Being an Asshole When Co-Parenting with a Narcissist or Borderline.
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