Many, many separated family members describe the difficulty of co-parenting with high-conflict ex-spouses who they believe suffer from personality disorders, most often Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder.
Of course, few of these “diagnoses” will ever be confirmed by medical opinion, and most are probably applied mistakenly.
In many cases, these disorders become shorthand mis/labels for the challenges of high-conflict co-parenting; in others, people begin to doubt their own sanity in the face of behaviour patterns that seem completely incomprehensible.
Certainly, blogs like The Psycho Ex Wife describe conflicts so hideous that we can only begin to imagine the human cost of dealing with such depleting levels of crazy.
Hopefully, most of us (and the small ones we care about) will never have to cope with pathological narcissism, but if you do, it’s surely better to be informed and gather some strategies; resources are listed at the end of the article.
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How Narcissists Abuse Children During Divorce
The emotional abuse by a narcissist is pervasive and insidious. It impacts not only the narcissist’s spouse but his or her children as well. Once divorce proceedings begin, the narcissist’s abuse will likely escalate. Narcissists will use any means possible to gain control of the situation or to make themselves look better. Children become perfect pawns for narcissistic parents to use against their spouses. Identifying how narcissistic parents abuse their children is the first step to devising strategies to minimize abuse and help children cope.
Using Children as Pawns in Divorce
Narcissistic parents will often seek custody of children during a divorce even if previously they were not involved parents. It’s important to them to appear to be the better parent. Also, if they have custody of the children, it gives them another way to continue to control and abuse their spouse.
If narcissists don’t get custody of the children, after divorce, they may use visitation as a means of control and harassment. They may ask for many changes to visitation schedules to accommodate optional work, social and vacation events. Most often these requests will be to not to have the children when they are scheduled to. Narcissists may refuse to accommodate the spouse’s requests even when the requests are made for the benefit of the children.