Group photo from The Kronzek Firm

Red Flags of Narcissistic Parenting: What to Watch For in a Divorce. (Pt 1)

Although narcissists suffer from a hugely inflated sense of their own worth, and the belief that they’re superior to others around them, they actually have very fragile egos. They need constant validation from outside sources. So a divorce, which can be seen as a type of failure, is often taken very personally offensive, as in personal rejection by a narcissist, and tends to incite a lot of rage and an intense desire for revenge. When there are children involved, this can be devastating. Our team of divorce attorney sees the same recurrent patterns almost every day. 

A large wooden hammer coming down to crush a fragile egg, symbolizing a narcissistic parent damaging a child

Divorce from a narcissist is usually high-conflict

Narcissists aren’t going to “go quietly” in a divorce. Their ego simply won’t allow it. They are going to work very hard to make sure that they come out looking like the good guy, while their spouse is the villain, no matter what the facts of the situation are. (And those are rarely the facts. We know because we’ve helped countless people here around Lansing and Holt who were made to look like the bad guy by their narcissistic husband or wife! And that’s why we want to share our list of red flags with you. Because we think it’s important that everyone knows what they need to look out for. Even if you live outside of the Lansing, Eaton County or Clinton County areas, these same red flag alerts will apply. Narcissists show the same behaviors in Jackson County as they do in Livingston County and in Ionia County. 

Red flags that your spouse is a narcissist (and how that could affect your kids)

  • The narcissistic parent will always portray themselves as the victim to their kids.

This will mean finding ways to blame you for what’s happening, and making it look like they had no control over what happened in the marriage. It’s all your fault, and the result of your choices. So if your kids are unhappy with what’s happening to the family (and they probably will be) then your narcissistic spouse will find a way to blame you for it.

  • Trash talking the other parent to the children

A narcissistic parent will make it a point to trash-talk the other parent, especially to the kids, or where the kids can overhear them. Name calling, pointing out flaws and faults, shaming, and playing up mistakes are all part of the repertoire of negative over-sharing that narcissists engage in. Watch out for one-sided versions of why your marriage is ending, especially if you’re hearing them from your kids!

  • Narcissists shift between idealizing and devaluing the kids

This has to do with whether their own needs are being met in the moment. If they’re being treated as the “good guy”, and getting a lot of attention and sympathy, the kids will get their undivided attention. If they’re not having their needs met and people aren’t keeping them front and center, the kids will suddenly become pointless burdens and they’ll shift their focus onto someone else. This can be extremely emotionally harmful for children, who can’t understand the motivations behind why they’re suddenly not important to their own parent. 

  • Going out of their way to be the “fun” parent

Whether it means fewer rules, giving the kids money or candy or something else they really want, or simply spending lavishly in an effort to make themselves look good, narcissistic parents will go to great lengths to make themselves look good to their kids if it serves their purposes. And if it makes you look like the boring, rigid parent who doesn’t know how to have a good time, then it’ll be high on their priority list. Watch out for a parent who suddenly ramps up the fun factor, and for kids who suddenly want to spend all their time with the “fun” parent.

Narcissists are extremely manipulative, so divorce is going to be really tough!

Join our family law attorneys next time for the wrap up on our list of tell-tale red flags to watch for that your spouse is a narcissistic parent. And if you’re planning to get divorced but you’re worried about how your spouse will react (especially if you suspect they might be a narcissist) you’re going to need a lot of help. And not just from anyone – you’re going to need help from compassionate family attorneys who can recognize manipulation when they see it, and understand what you’re up against. That’s why you should call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 517 886 1000 and make sure the team that walks you through this difficult time understands the particular difficulties in leaving a narcissist. We do. We have been. We are expert divorce and custody attorneys with extensive understanding of narcissism.

Testimonials

After my previous attorney passed away, I hired Chuck to move forward with my parenting time modification. He helped me through the process. He even tried to save me attorney fees by suggesting that my ex and I work out the issues with a parenting time coordinator. Well, that didn't get me anywhere and he did not agree with anything that the coordinator came up with, so he filed a motion on my behalf. I ended up getting more time with my boys that my ex couldn't be there for. Thank you Chuck! I will for sure hire you again if I have any future issues!!

Erica on Avvo, 2014

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