Co-parenting as a single parent with my Narcissist was simply impossible.
How could I contemplate for even a moment that we could find a middle ground — let alone a common ground — after our son was born when we failed to do so as a couple?
I may have dated narcissists in the past, but I ended those relationships and moved on — alone. I had a reputation for being quite an adept escape artist in my twenties and early thirties. Those interludes became entertaining stories I shared with my friends over drinks, laughs, sneers and tears.
Wrong all the time
Now I was bound to my Narcissist. I must confess that at that time I knew very little about this personality disorder. I just knew his controlling and domineering behavior had been gradually eating away at me.
But by rejecting him vis-à-vis his marriage proposal, I had cut his tremendous ego to the quick, an act that he would punish me for and, through me, our son for years to come.
My very existence with each thought and feeling offended his uncompromising grandiosity. As such, he was compelled to give me his thoughtful course corrections at least four times a day, five to six days a week, for seven years.
I was wrong, always wrong. He was right, always right.
Of course, this is absurd, but this madness underpinned his condescending and insulting verbal assaults about my parenting, personality and intelligence beginning the second week after our son was born.
Communication with my Narcissist was inescapable. Our son lived with my parents and me, and my Narcissist wanted frequent updates — and debates.
To avoid face-to-face or phone conversations, I chose what I believed was the less sufferable form of communication: email. I took comfort in knowing that I did not have to hear his voice and be in his physical presence.
But little did I know, that email would be exceedingly more intrusive and destructive. Somehow, he managed to work a full-time job and write many daily emails averaging four to five paragraphs each.
Every day I opened my email account, they waited for me — in bold.
My responses were measured for the most part. Yes, I had my moments when I unleashed my anger and frustration, but I eventually realized that no response, big or small, compliant or argumentative, made any difference to him.
I was wrong, always wrong. He was right, always right.
Short and to the point
So I followed my attorney’s advice — just answer the question — and tried to keep my responses as short and to the point as possible. My Narcissist ridiculed my short emails calling them Therese-kus, drawing a sarcastic comparison to haikus.
These emails documented our dysfunctional relationship beautifully. They were even submitted as evidence in our court hearings to demonstrate how unhealthy our involvement had become.
I realized within the first year that our disagreements were less about our son’s wellbeing and more about me being wrong, always wrong, and him being right, always right.
This observation was not — and has not been — lost on our attorneys, all of whom on both sides for the past 14 years have supported me as the best full-time parent for our son.
Despite my Narcissist’s daily disparagements, I somehow managed to keep my focus on our son. For some time, he confined his berating to emails and conversations with his family, friends and attorneys. I was beaten and bruised in this proverbial rubber room — not our son.
But I quickly learned that his contempt for me could have consequences for our son when he engaged in private conversations with our son’s doctors. My Narcissist insisted on attending our son’s doctor’s visits, a bittersweet arrangement, which allowed him to learn about our son’s situation without questioning my interpretation and me.
The initial appointments were fine; the doctors focused on our son and were impartial toward my Narcissist and me.
Then, he would speak privately with the doctor and everything changed. The doctor would defer to my Narcissist and his assessment of our son’s health.
When did my Narcissist become a medical professional?
What about our son’s actual condition?
Why was the doctor becoming angry with me? What was going on?
This pattern emerged with nearly every doctor our son had for seven years. So many offices, so many doctors lay in our wake until we met Dr. H.
Enter John Wayne
Dr. H. was listed as a recommended specialist for ear, nose and throat problems. Our son had been suffering from chronic, painful ear infections for at least a year. Previous doctors diagnosed him and prescribed him antibiotics and me a dose of criticism for pumping our son with drugs so I could go to work.
And my Narcissist had their ear.
Finally, I could no longer watch our son suffer and became alarmed when two general practitioners noted that his speech was not clear so I decided to take our son to Dr. H.
Dr. H. was the course correction my Narcissist needed. He diagnosed our son’s problem with the authority and experience of more than 30 years in the medical field.
He was focused on this little boy, and when my Narcissist said he wanted to speak to him privately, Dr. H. shut it down. He was not concerned about my Narcissist; his only concern was our son.
Finally, I found my John Wayne! Dr. H. changed our son’s life with the surgical removal of his adenoids and the insertion of tubes in his ears. His hearing improved almost immediately, his speech became clear and he has not had an ear infection in more than 10 years. Woohoo!
Other incidents elucidated my Narcissist’s insistence in putting himself before our son.
He refused to take our son to a birthday party during his weekend visit after he said he would.
He ignored our son’s pleas to stop speaking German during his weekend visits because he could not understand and felt like he was being made fun of. And when I confronted him, the attacks began.
The abuse and pain were simply escalating. Our son was growing up, becoming more outspoken and pursuing his own interests — as all children do. And I was growing so emotionally drained that I could not imagine how our son and I could survive my Narcissist.
Change on the horizon
Then one day, I decided I could no longer read the emails. I was simply exhausted and so I stopped for an entire month. Then another. Then another.
This emotional distance helped me realize that for our son and me to be happy, we had to make some serious decisions about our future.
Eventually, we moved an hour away and my Narcissist voluntarily agreed to see our son every third Sunday. My Narcissist calls to speak with our son who does so when he can and he still emails me but now less than 20 times a year if I don’t engage him.
It has been more than seven years since our son and I moved and the distance has helped us grow and heal.
For those trying desperately to co-parent with a narcissist, this article provides some ways to survive this journey.
On Thursdays, I will be sharing a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every fourth Thursday, instead of a personal post, I will put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send any comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @parentsonurown and can be found by searching #singleparentandstrong.