20 Signs Your Ex Is Narcissistic

20 Signs Your Ex Is Narcissistic

You leave and you’ll never see the kids again

Narcissistic mother

Things started so well.  They seemed perfect and, even better, they made you feel perfect too.  They lavished praise and attention on you.  It felt wonderful.  It was everything you ever dreamed of.

Then they stopped being so affectionate.  They started talking about someone new at work.  Everything they once said they loved most about you suddenly seemed to irritate the crap out of them.

What changed?

They tell you it was you but you aren’t sure.  Nevertheless you try everything to win back their acceptance.

But it’s not enough and although you do anything and everything, nothing works.

It’s all your fault

Or is it?


Individuals with narcissistic personalities tend to be grandiose, entitled, and self-centered.  They are often impulsive and anxious, have ideas of grandiosity and “specialness“, become quickly dissatisfied with others and maintain superficial, exploitative interpersonal relationships.

It’s why they find it so easy to  move on to the next “supply” and so easily discard you.

They react to criticism with feels of rage, stress or humiliation (even though they will never express that).  They take advantage of others to achieve their own ends.  

Other personality disorder processes are high levels of over-dramatic emotional displays (silent treatment or rage), paranoia (jealousy and suspiciousness), antisocial behaviours (aggression, domestic abuse and verbal abuse) or obsessive compulsive behaviours (rigid moralistic rules).  These are often evident throughout the relationship, although not at the start as they usually have another person who is able to be their “regulatory other” (the person who regulates their emotions). 

Overt narcissist (sometimes called grandiose narcissist)

Overt narcissists are characterised by grandiosity, attention-seeking, entitlement, arrogance and little observable anxiety. They can be socially charming, despite being oblivious to the needs of others, and are interpersonally exploitative.  They engage in superficial relationships and seek out external feedback that supports their grandiose sense of self and protects them from their fragile self image

Covert narcissist (sometimes called vulnerable narcissist)

Coverst narcissists present as vulnerable, fragile and thin-skinned.  They are characterised as inhibited, distressed and hypersensitive to evaluations of theirs, while chronically envious and evaluation themselves in relation to others. Interpersonally they tend to be shy, outwardly self-effacing (modest) and hypersensitive to criticism, but are covertly grandiose and jealous.

Malignant narcissist

They are characterised by the typical symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder as well as prominent antisocial behaviour, paranoid features and sadism towards others.  they engage in chronic lying, intimidation and financial or interpersonal secondary gains which maintain their malignant pattern.

10 Signs Your Ex Wife/Girlfriend Is Narcissistic

I watched Gone Girl for the first time a few months ago and I thought Amy (pictured above, credit: thefincheranalyst.com) was one of the best depictions of a female covert narcissistic I have seen.  She played the part of victim so well at the start to lure in her husband (Amy’s mother was a overt narcissist) and then later in the film to restore her delusion as “loyal wife”.  Apologies if I have given too many spoilers away there, trust me that there is so much more to the film.

The female narcissists I have dealt with personally and professionally were covert and loved to act like the perfect partner and parent.  They go to extreme lengths outside the family home to project this image of perfection.  Obviously within the relationship things are very different.

Here are ten signs of a female narcissistic ex:

Continuous sense that she is disappointed

Take sides against you by default, assume the worst, distrust

Fantasies, several would involve another partner, not subtle

Your were paying for others mistakes against her

No true connection, emotionally distant, and callous

Ruined your special occasions by refusing to acknowledge them but wanted excessive displays of devotion on theirs

She prevented you from making friends, venting frustrations, or seeking support

Double standards in everything (they expect praise but gave you nothing but criticism, even if you did the same/similar thing)

You were made to feel guilty for wanting to be intimate

She regularly threatened to leave, threatening to pursue support in Family Court in order to destroy you financially (and may have followed through on this)

If you have children with a female narcissist, I recommend reading our blog 13 Strategies for Dealing With A Female Narcissist 

10 Signs Your Ex Husband/Boyfriend Is Narcissistic

I hate to admit this but I loved the first season of You.  Joe was a terrifyingly good narcissist.  So good that I think he lovebombed half the female audience! He displayed anti-social behaviour (malignant), vulnerability (covert) and was incredibly socially charming (overt). He was a full-house.

The male narcissists I have dealt with have also displayed all of the criteria.  I have had men ring me telling me that their ex is stopping them from seeing their children only to make false allegations against me online 24 hours later because HE didn’t answer the call HE arranged. I have spoken to men who have overtly spoken of their own grandiose sense of self by stating how they were capable of doing x,y and z even though they emailed me for advice. I have also had conversations with someone who claimed they were alienated only to later discover that they were in fact a registered sex offender.

Here are ten signs your ex was narcissistic:

Infidelity is common but they will also engage in sexual fantasies and try to get you involved

He wanted to control your appearance appearance

His and your emotional needs were not attended to

Triangulated the children into arguments and expects the children to take his side

Was only interested in doing things he wanted to do

He was extremely jealously of other men

He was envious of any of your successes (including your relationship with the children)

He never listened, but expected a lot of attention and perfect memory

Downplayed the contribution of raising children or taking care of the household

Sees you as his only being there to meet his needs

If you have children with a narcissistic ex I recommend reading out blog The Realities of Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Narcissists dispaly a pattern of self-centeredness and grandiosity.  They have an exaggerated sense of their own abilities and achievements, require constant attention, affirmation and praise and believe they are unique and special and should only associate with others who are equally unique and special (you).  These are all brilliant reasons they are your ex.

As stated, if you have children with a narcissist do check out our resources on parental alienation and divorcing the narcissist.  Forewarned is forearmed.

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Parental Alienation and Accountability



Disordered parenting and parental alienation affects hundreds of thousands of children every year in the UK alone.  And yet cases are often misrepresented and misinterpreted leading children to being left in the care of abusive parents, all  under the supervision of agencies whose sole responsibility is to protect vulnerable children.


Child protection issue


Parental alienation and disordered parenting is child abuse.  It is emotional, physical, psychological and sometimes sexual abuse.  The main categories are:


  • Rejecting (spurning) 
  • Terrorizing 
  • Corrupting  
  • Denying essential stimulation, emotional responsiveness, or availability  
  • Unreliable and inconsistent parenting  
  • Mental health, medical, or educational neglect  
  • Degrading/devaluing (spurning)  
  • Isolating  
  • Exploiting




Legal issue


  • Family courts are often adversarial, unaffordable, slow, and even intimidating – characteristics which are profoundly incompatible with “the best interests” of children; 
  • Family courts and lawyers are neither qualified to assess children, nor to assess the competence of other professionals, and insufficient professionals have the highly specialized skills necessary for assessing children and families involved in separation, dispute or litigation, where the incidence of family violence & abusive parental behaviour, including extreme psychological manipulation of children, is very high; 
  • By exposing children to unqualified “professionals”, by taking years to make decisions, and by greatly exacerbating parental conflict & stress, our courts contribute directly to the occurrence of psychological child abuse and family violence; 
  • Our courts restrict public scrutiny and fail to obtain feedback on the outcomes of the thousands of life-changing decisions they make each year; theirs is not the open, evidence-based approach our children need and deserve; 
  • Through the actions of our family courts, which typically result in a dramatic reduction, or loss, of loving, important relationships between children and parents (or a failure to restore such relationships), the UK is failing in its obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child & the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: we are denying some of the most fundamental rights, and needs, to tens of thousands of children and to their families; 
  • The annual cost of our family court system in government funding, consequent welfare dependency and lost income: billions of pounds. The cost in human loss and suffering: incalculable.


Adapted from Family Law Reform Coalition (AUS), 2015, Children in Crisis Executive Summary Urgent actions required to protect children in divided families 


Health issue


Parental mental health impacts the child’s outcomes.  Therefore a disordered parent is going to have a huge impact on a child’s health and well-being.  


Children of disordered parents and those who experience parental alienation often experience the following in adulthood:


  • Depression
  • Low self esteem
  • Substance misuse
  • Reduced ability to self direct
  • Reduced willingness to co-operate
    • (Amy J. L. Baker & Maria Christina Verrocchio 2013)
  • Anger and aggression
  • Self harm and suicide
  • Splitting
  • Long term mental health issues such as narcissism

Education issue

Hostile or neglectful parenting can result in anxiety and stress related disordered in children.  This can make school a very difficult environment for children.  They will be hypersensitive to sensory input and struggle with peer relationships.  This can lead them to be disruptive, withdrawn and eventually non-attenders (through expulsion or truancy).

Social Issue

When a child has chaos, neglect, threat, violence and other adversity, their potential is stunted, distorted and fragmented and when development is delayed, disrupted or impaired, the risk for more self-absorbed, impulsive, aggressive, violent and anti-social behaviour increases.  

Adapted from Bruce D Perry, 1996, Reflections on Childhood, Trauma and Society

Isn’t it time we worked together to address this problem?

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parental alienation

How do I deal with my child rejecting me?

It doesn’t make any sense, we used to be so close, what happened?

Children rejecting their parents goes against everything we know about attachment and parenting.  We are biologically programmed to NEED our parents for survival so when a child turns away from that, it’s a sign of deep emotional and psychological trauma.  

Having worked within Child Protection for many years, I have seen children who have been severely neglected by their parents (through substance misuse or mental health) cling to them like a lifeboat. That’s how parents feel to children.  In a scary world, their parents are (on a biological level) their protectors.

Sadly for many children the reality is that it is their parents who they cling to, who they see as their protector, who are really the ones who are putting them at risk.

But a child does not usually comprehend that.  In many cases they actually profess MORE love for the high risk parent because they need it more.  They have learnt that they need to work extra hard to get their needs met by that parent and so they do exactly that.  They become so eager to please that parent that they can be controlled and will surrender their own wants, needs, thoughts and feelings just so that they can get what they believe they need (attachment) from this parent.

Signs of an insecure ambivalent attachment:

A child’s anxiety and uncertainty are evident as when the incident becomes very upset at separation from the caregiver and both resists and seeks contact at reunion

parental alienation

So what happens when a child completely rejects a parent?


At the core of the rejection is the complete suppression of the child’s attachment bonding motivations towards you, a healthy and available parent. This occurs when the child is put in a loyalty conflict position where they have to align with the higher risk parent in order to retain a relationship with them. This is induced with subtle and covert behavioural manipulations.  The essence of which is a clear message to the child – “it is not safe to love this parent, I am the only parent who can love and protect you, if you show any affection for that parent you will not receive love from me”.


It’s important for you to understand this process as it will help you with dealing with the rejection.  It shows that you have done nothing wrong.  That your child is under enormous pressure and has no choice but to reject you.  


At this point many parents will realise the abusive nature of the behaviour of the other parent and go to Family Court to ensure they remain an active part in their child’s life.  Whilst I appreciate there is little option but to do this, I do feel it is important that you face the rejection and the emotions that brings up first so that you can present the as the healthy, available parent your child needs and remembers.

5 Stages of

  • Shattering – you are in shock, panic and bereft of life’s worth and meaning. Suicidal feelings are normal. You may also begin to feel old feelings of helplessness and dependency

  • Withdrawal – this is an addiction response where you crave the child, feel physical symptoms of withdrawal (unable to sleep, weight loss, anxiety and fatigue (physical and emotional)

  • Internalising – your self esteem suffers real damage, you begin to supress your anger and turn it on yourself or others (The Spring Effect). You may be pre-occupied with feelings of regret and play over in your mind what you might have done differently

  • Rage – as the anger begins to surface it can be used either positively or negatively (positive – regain self esteem and find a way forward/negatively – develop agitated depression and take your anger out on others who you feel responsible for making this better)

  • Lifting – the range has brought your emotions out and that can begin the process of feeling “normal” again. You are able to feel more positive about the sitation and feel stronger and hopeful

Whereever you are at in the process now, know that your feelings are normal and that you will move onto the next stage when you are ready.  

  • Do be kind to yourself

  • Do surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally

  • Do get professional support if you get stuck at any stage

  • Don’t blame yourself

  • Don’t underestimate the emotional toll this is taking

  • Don’t feel ashamed of what has happened (shame keeps you stuck)

Dealing With Anxiety

Part of our series of Free Webinars on Surviving Parental Alienation

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Child Court Order – What Is It And Do I Need One?

Child Court Order – What Is It And Do I Need One?

So your ex has stopped you from seeing the children or is making decisions which you disagree with.  They refuse to communicate and so you have no choice but to seek legal advice and apply for a court order.

What is it?

Firstly, we need to take a step back.  In the UK, applications for care orders will not been heard unless mediation has been attempted.  It is a legal requirement, the aim of which was to reduce the volume of applications going to court.  Sadly, if you are dealing with a hostile ex mediation will not work.  Mainly because (much like co-parenting) it requires them to cooperate and negotiate.  Narcissists don’t negotiate.  They have a “my way or no way” attitude and so invariably you will have your C100 signed off giving you permission to apply to the court.


Child court order (or Child Arrangement Orders) have replaced residency and contact orders.  They decide:

  • where your child lives
  • when your child spends time with each parent
  • when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example)

As long as you have PR, you can apply for a CAO.  In order to apply you must follow these steps to apply for a court order.

  1. Read guidance CB001 on making an application.
  2. Fill in the C100 court form. You must show you’ve attended a meeting about mediation first – except in certain cases (there’s been domestic abuse, for example).
  3. Send the original form and 3 copies of it to the nearest court that deals with cases involving children.


It costs £215 to apply for a court order. After you apply for a court order, the court will arrange a ‘directions hearing’ with both parents if you apply for a court order (known as a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment or FHDRA)

child court order


Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Services

There will usually be a family court adviser from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) at the hearing. Before the first hearing Cafcass will do


  • Safeguarding checks: they carry out checks with the police and the local authority to find out whether there are any known safety or welfare risks to your children.
  • Telephone interview: In most cases, they will phone you and the other party to find out if either of you have any concerns about the safety and welfare of your children. You are unlikely to have a home visit before the first hearing. Only people who are parties to the case will be interviewed.
  • Safeguarding letter: At least three days before the first hearing Cafcass will provide the court with a short report on the outcomes of the safeguarding checks and any child welfare issues raised in the telephone interviews with you and the other party.

At the hearing, a judge or magistrate will try to work out:

  • what you can agree
  • what you cannot agree
  • if your child is at risk in any way

They’ll encourage you to reach an agreement if it’s in the child’s best interests. If you can, and there are no concerns about the child’s welfare, the judge or magistrate can end the process.


The court will make a consent order which sets out what you’ve agreed, if necessary.


If you cannot agree at the first court hearing the judge or magistrate will set a timetable for what happens next.


They may ask you to try again to reach an agreement, for example by going to a meeting with a mediator.


You may have to go on a course if your case is about child arrangements. The course is called a ‘Separated Parents Information Programme’, and could help you find a way to make child arrangements work.


The court can ask Cafcass to provide a report on your case to help decide what’s best for the child (known as a section 7). The Cafcass officer may ask your child about their feelings. You’ll get a copy of the report when it’s written.


The judge or magistrate will consider:

  • child’s wishes and feelings
  • child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • effect any changes may have on the child
  • child’s age, gender, characteristics and background
  • possible risk of harm to the child
  • ability of parents to meet the child’s needs
  • orders the court has the power to make


A judge or magistrate will only make an order if they think it’s in the child’s best interests. 

(from www.gov.uk)

Do you

If your ex is stopping you from seeing the children or making co-parenting extremely difficult, then yes, you need one.  

  1. Your ex will not negotiate with you at all and so it is your own real way of being part of the decision making process with regards to your children
  2. Any parent who tries to erase a parent out of their child’s life needs to be held to account.  Mild cases will usually be resolved through the “Separated Parents Information Programme” but moderate to severe cases often involve a parent with mental health issues which will need to be managed.  If their behaviour is allowed to continue, you can find yourself completely alienated from your own children.

Is it worth it?

I wanted to add this section because although it is absolutely necessary and your only real option at this moment in time, I do feel you need to be aware of the realities of going to Family Court.  


With certain personality types, they will see the court process as an opportunity for them to not only bleed you dry, but also to play the hero and victim in one go.  They will present as a victim of your treatment (abuse claims are common) and the hero for trying to keep the children safe.  They will rope in the children to deliver this powerful and damning report which is incredibly harmful to the children.  In any other circumstance I would also argue for keeping children and families out of court.  However, if you don’t go to court you are not only kissing goodbye to a relationship with your children but also ensuring only one side of the situation is ever heard.  By fighting through court (and unfortunately it is a battle) you are showing the children in the only way possible, that you want them in your life.  


One other point is that even with a CAO, if your ex is determined, they will do everything they can to breach it and not comply.  They will make continued false allegations to delay the process and they will induce behaviours in the children which make them believe you are dangerous and so they should stay away from you.  Sadly, the court doesn’t have a robust system for dealing with this and so breached go unpunished and Fact Finding Hearings delay contact for months at a time.  


I realise this is a bleak picture but parental alienation (the psychological manipulation of a child to reject their loving parent) is a very real issue in the court process and one which you need to be aware of.  Hopefully your ex is not severe but if you check multiple items on the list below, you are likely to be dealing with a personality disordered individual and need help FAST. 

Your Best Weapon Yet

Everything you need to know about parental alienation

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How Do I Parent My Alienated Child?

How Do I Parent My Alienated Child?

I work with so many parents who are attempting to co-parent (I use that term loosely as the reality is that it is about as far away from “co” as you can get) with an ex who wants to punish and erase them.  One thing that comes up time and time again is “how do I parent them?”.  The whole process has robbed you of your real parenting role.  You have been, at best, demoted to the safeguarder of your children but at worst you are now nothing more than the person your children view as the enemy and who they are “forced to see”.  


Parenting, whilst being hard work, should be fun and full of shared moments, love and laughter. It’s the day to day stuff, being involved in their lives and knowing who they are – that’s what being a parent is all about.  When you are dealing with alienation, those moments are few and far between and so you aren’t really sure where you stand as a “parent” any more.  

alienated parent

Why it is so

Targeted parents are continually having their time and relationship meddled with and subverted by the alienating parent, which can make it hard to parent at all. Visits are cancelled at the last moment, plans are changed and the alienating parent (AP) bribes the children with gifts or unique opportunities just as they are supposed to be going to the TP.  


Children are also used by the AP to create anxiety and conflict for the TP.  They will send the child back to the TP with lots of accusations which the TP has to navigate.  Children should never be involved in adult issues because they internalise the situation far too much.  Being asked to choose where they want to live or what they want to do means they have to reject and hurt the other parent, which they internalise and feel shame and guilt.  Even if they don’t show it, it will rear its head in self-sabotaging and harmful behaviours..


Alienated children are not always the easiest to parent due to some of the learnt and induced behaviour they exhibit.  They can like they believe they are superior to you, treat you like you are an idiot, insult you to your face and be outright disrespectful.  When you try to instil boundaries or use discipline, they of course claim you are being abusive and go running back to the alienating parent to share their tales of your disgusting treatment of them, which the AP loves and rewards them for.  


What makes it doubly hard is when you have a great time and you see the “real” them, having fun, sharing cuddles and allowing themselves to be loved by you.  Although at that moment this is wonderful, a few hours later when the AP calls to say they don’t want to see you or the social worker report states the children have no good memories of you it feels like a tremendous punch to your heart.  At this point, you feel the pain of their abuse and for a parent, that is probably one of the worst things you can experience.


The most obvious difficulty though is when you don’t see them any more.  When the alienation is so severe that they appear to reject you themselves.

How Do I Parent Through This?

Firstly, deal with your own emotions around the grief and loss, sadness and anger you are feeling.  Under normal circumstances, we parent better when we are at our best (not that we can be that all the time, but it is the “norm” we aim for).  When we feel sad and angry, it’s harder to be fun and lighthearted and in the moment.  Although we may be able to “fake it” for a while, children are like little sponges and they feel our energy.  So they respond to us where we are whether we like it or not.  You know this is true because of those times when you have felt stressed after work and come home, tried to pull yourself out of it and sure enough the kids start acting up!  They responded to your energy.  So being more aware and in control of your emotions can help you to deal with the turbulent nature of parenting an alienated child.


I recommend looking at positive parenting courses or activities which encourage you to engage your children in the disciplinary process at home.  This can be reward charts, behaviour contracts or family rules.  These methods serve to bypass the “controlling” narrative being spouted by the AP by asking the children to be a part of the process.  They also promote respect for everyone.  Your child has been taught to be disrespectful so it is important to counteract that by teaching them to be respectful and to model respectful behaviour.  It also teaches them about consequences for their actions and being responsible for their behaviour which in turn can, on a subconscious level, help them to begin to process and unpick the manipulation.  Finally they teach them an appropriate level of independence and self-regulation.  An AP does not want them to be independent because they need to be able to control them and they demand their children to regulate THEM (the AP).  These activities will again, gently unpick at those false narratives and the psychological manipulation.


It is important to remember that your child is a victim too.  They are akin to a soldier in war.  They didn’t start the war and aren’t really sure why they have to fight, they just do as the authority tells them to do with a subtle threat to comply.  Always listen to what your child is REALLY wanting from you.  An accusation could be a cry for reassurance for example. 


Finally, consider redefining what the term “parent” means.  It has lots of different connotations.  A parent is biological at the very basic level.  It can also mean caregiver.  What about unconditional love giver?  Guardian?  Constant supportive influence?  When I lost my dad, he didn’t stop being my parent.  Whilst I appreciate a lot of what you hoped being a parent would be has changed dramatically, there is also so much that hasn’t, and never can change.  Take some time to really focus on those things.  It doesn’t take away the pain but it does create a sense of connectedness that no matter what your ex does, they can never destroy.

I hope that these suggestions help you in some way.  I am under no illusion that this is living grief for so many of you but I always offer hope that you can find moments of peace and maybe as you string those moments together for longer, life begins to find new meaning.


Do take care and reach out if you need support.


NB: I am aware that parental alienation can be perpetrated by and to step-parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, new partners and others but for the purpose of this post, I have assumed the TP and AP are the biological parents. 

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Cordell & Cordell Hosting Virtual COVID-19 and Divorce Town Hall

Cordell & Cordell Hosting Virtual COVID-19 and Divorce Town Hall

image promoting COVID-19 and divorce town hall

Transitioning through the divorce process while simultaneously navigating all the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic is placing mounting pressure on men and fathers across the Unites States. Guys are facing unique dilemmas regarding family law issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, and more.

To help educate and guide these individuals during this
trying time, DadsDivorce sponsor Cordell & Cordell is expanding its
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the exact time may change. Registrants will be alerted to any time changes.

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Cordell & Cordell’s Executive/Managing Partner and CEO,
Scott Trout, will host the virtual townhall and give insight into the major
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The participants in the virtual town hall can submit
20-second-or-less in duration pre-recorded video questions for the panelists to
answer during the meeting. Pre-recorded video questions can be submitted via
email at Coronavirus.Divorce@cordelllaw.com.

Since March, Cordell & Cordell began their COVID-19 digital outreach by
producing a series of free webinars and daily podcasts, all of which can be
viewed and listened to on the Cordell
& Cordell Divorce and COVID-19 Information Hub

The webinars have been hosted by Cordell & Cordell divorce attorneys from
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  • Practical tips to ensure the safety and well-being of your children.
  • Child custody issues such as how to arrange custody exchanges while quarantined.
  • The financial fallout of COVID-19 such as what to do if you can no longer afford alimony or child support.
  • How to deal with parental alienation issues when quarantine and shelter-in-place rules are used to keep children away from the other parent purposefully.
Fill out my online form.

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What It Is Really Like To Be Raised By A Narcissist

What It Is Really Like To Be Raised By A Narcissist

Narcissistic parents get a lot of bad press.  I myself have targeted them for criticism. And not without good reason.  Narcissists, by definition, lack some of the core qualities and characteristics needed to make a good parent.  But what is it really like to be raised by one?


One thing that narcissists lack is consistency so I am going to describe some of the experiences but it isn’t as black and white as them falling neatly into one category.  They can be all of them, sometimes within the space of a few minutes.

Disney Parent


Boundaries are like kryptonite to narcissists.  They repel them and so they stay as far away as possible from them.  Therefore children can be allowed to do whatever they want and are often spoiled rotten with material things, all in the guise of obtaining their allegiance.   If the other parent tells them they can’t have a new computer game because they aren’t old enough, the “disney parent” will buy it for them to stick two fingers up at their ex but also to ensure that the child likes them best and criticises their other parent.  It’s a tool used in parental alienation to great effect.  


Disney Parents will take them on amazing holidays, often multiple times a year, to keep them close and buy their children’s affections. Everything is a competition with their ex and the narcissist has no intention of losing.

disney parent

To the child, these things seem great at the time.  They feel in control, they get whatever they want and get to jet off and visit lovely new destinations.  The reality is though that children NEED boundaries. By giving them all they want and allowing them to set their own rules they aren’t creating a safe space for their children to grow up.  Children who aren’t given boundaries struggle with routine, authority and fitting in. They also can grow up to be narcissistic in their own behaviours because they believe they are entitled to get everything they ask for.  

Prison Officer Parent

The opposite of the Disney Parent is the Prison Officer Parent.  These parents rule with an iron fist. They have a “do as I say, not as I do” and “because I said so” mantra.  Children are kept on a tight leash and have very little freedom or independence. They have to ask permission to do anything, often down to the everyday things like choosing their lunch.  Mistakes are severely punished and children learn very quickly that “love” is conditional. Children are made to work extra hard to get their needs met and their allegiance is demanded at all times.  It is an environment based on fear. They will use humiliation and retribution to control their children and so shame becomes internalised for these children.  

Sadly for these children, they have very low self esteem and constantly live in fear.  They don’t have friends and are very fearful of making mistakes because they know they will be punished.  They desperately want to please though and so work so hard to do their best. In later life they will often end up in abusive relationships because they associate “love” with punishment and fear.  They are trauma bonded to this parent and will be enmeshed to them for fear of being seen as abandoning them or failing them.

Barely There Parent

I don’t necessarily mean physically barely there either. Barely There Parents can have full custody of their children but still be barely there for them.  They are inherently selfish and so only want the children to ensure their ex doesn’t have them, not because they actually want them. They will often palm them off onto other people at every given opportunity to pursue their own desires.  Even when they are at home, they aren’t interested in the children. They are neglectful in their care of them and children often grow up to be carers for their younger siblings and even the narcissist.

barely there parent

Children raised by Barely There Parents grow up feeling very unloved and unappreciated.  They learn that others are unreliable and so relationships are often abusive and explosive.  

As I stated, in my experience narcissistic parents can at times be all three but they will have a default parenting style.  They can also have different parenting styles for different children. For example, a Golden Child will have a Disney Parent experience most of the time whereas the Scapegoat is more likely to experience the Prison Officer and the lost child will experience the Barely There Parent.  However, the narcissist isn’t consistent and will make the children vie for their attention by rotating his “favourite” just enough so that none of them are sure where they stand and keep doing what the narcissist wants in order to get their needs met.

Long Term Impact

We know our early experiences shape us into who we are as adults and none more so than our relationship with our parents.  There are some common traits amongst adult children of narcissists:

  • They are people-pleaser and put themselves last – co-dependency is very common in children of narcissists.  They don’t know who they are without some to care for. 
  • They show signs of narcissism – narcissistic parents are very dominant within family structures and so a lot of their behaviours become “normal” for other family members.
  • They have difficult relationships with their siblings – narcissists pit people against one another for their own amusement and so as a child, siblings were seen as enemies not loved ones
  • Their relationship with their parent sometimes boardered on incenstuous – narcissists have no boundaries and so children can be promoted to surrogate spouses.  This can become sexual (although not in all cases) but is often emotional incent.
  • They are desperate to be liked or recognised as special – narcissistic children have a real fear of failure and so will push themselves in whatever area holds the most status for them (if being a wife/husband is the most important thing to them, they will want to be the best and become very distressed if the relationship develops problems)
  • They lack an identity – they struggle to know who they are and what they like without someone else telling them.  They are so used to being controlled by their parent and having their independence stifled that they struggle with basic decision making.


How to recover


The first step, as with any recovery process, is the acknowledgement of what has happened to you.  Understanding that your parent was a narcissist can initially feel like a huge relief because children of narcissists internalise everything as being their own fault (even children who grow up to be narcissists have deep rooted self loathing).  


Now you know, you have a choice about the relationship you want to have with your parent.  Although it has been drummed into you to be obedient and that you somehow owe them, you are entitled to be happy and if your relationship with your parent is negatively impacting your wellbeing, you have every right to go no contact.  This is not an easy decision though and will require you to look at boundary setting.


Inner child world is really valuable for children of narcissists because they essentially need re-parenting.  I recommend seeking out a counsellor who can understand to assist you with this work (I will be running some Inner Child Workshops in my Facebook Group which would be a good place to start).  Check out our One to One Support page for details of the support we can offer.


It is also likely that you suffer from PTSD or complex PTSD and so you may avoid situations which remind you of your childhood, have trouble with your memory and be hypervigilant to the possibility of threats.  Again there are treatment options available (discussed in our free download Recovering from PTSD and on our website)


We look at more ways to recover in our free download, Understanding Narcissistic Families)


Although I was not raised by narcissistic parents, I do write a lot about narcissistic parents and work with many who were either raised by one or are trying to co-parent with one so I feel well placed to write this post.  If you do have experience you wish to share, please do comment below.

The post What It Is Really Like To Be Raised By A Narcissist appeared first on The Nurturing Coach.


parental alienation

How do you explain parental alienation to someone who has never heard of it?

My brother knows what I went through with my ex.  I talked to him about some bits but probably never really told the whole story as there were children involved and it wasn’t all my story to tell.  I don’t think he fully understood because, well it’s almost impossible to understand.  I don’t know if I did back then but last year he moved to a new village and made some new friends.  They had a housewarming party and one of his new friends started telling him about how his ex was blocking contact with his child.  Suddenly my brother looked at me and said “isn’t that what you do?”

parental alienation

Sadly, for victims that look of bewilderment is all too common.  People just don’t get it.  They understand parents using their kids.  They understand dad’s who don’t see their kids any more.  But they have no clue about the reality of it and the damage it does.

Children learn more from what you are than what you teach

With every bewildered look, there comes an element of blame.  They may not externalise it but often they are thinking “you must have done something to deserve it”.  Or they explain it away as “children don’t always want to spend time with their kids past a certain age”.  Whilst there may be some truth within both of these, the reality is that parental alienation and the behaviours associated with them are far more manipulative, insidious and destructive.

Most parents already feel wracked with guilt, they do not need anyone else piling that on them

I am not having a go at anyone here because let’s face it, until we experienced it for ourselves, we had no real idea about it either.  Part of me feels glad that not everyone does know about it because that would mean more children affected but the other part of me wants everyone to WAKE THE HELL UP! This is happening to their friends and family, their colleague, their neighbour.  It’s real and the sooner we all take notice, the faster the abuser can be seen for the true monster they are.

So how do you explain it to someone who has never heard of it?

  1. Well first off I personally would think carefully about who you tell. Not everyone can be trusted and may be gathering intel for you ex.  Equally, it can be really painful when you tell someone and they don’t understand.  You have to relive it every time.  Try to find a way you can answer the “do you have children?” question which doesn’t invite too many questions but equally doesn’t paint you as the problem.  Something like “yes I have two children but they live with their mum/dad at the moment, we are in court to resolve custody issues”.  You can then change the subject.
  2. Avoid using labels like narcissists or personality disorders.  Not because it isn’t true but because the average person won’t understand and it won’t help you as it’s just another thing to explain.  Keep it short and to the point – “my ex has issues and it is affecting our co-parenting relationship”.  Yes that is a huge understatement but remember you are talking to someone who doesn’t understand ANYTHING. So baby steps.
  3. If it is someone a bit closer to you, I would talk about your own feelings rather than the situation.  There is a huge temptation amongst victims of parental alienation to go into every little detail with anyone who will listen.  From my experience this can actually leave you feeling more isolated as two things happen. 1) you think they are sick of hearing you talk about it so you pull back. 2) they struggle to know how best to support you so go quiet which you take as rejection and feel more hurt.  Find a therapist or support group who understand what you are going through and vent to them.  By all means keep people posted but share the details for partners or specialists.
  4. Be aware that your partner is experiencing this too and will be being traumatised by the process.  It’s horrible watching the person you love being abused and not being able to do anything about it so think really carefully about how you communicate with one another.  Obviously you want to share but make sure it doesn’t overtake your whole life.  They may have come into this with no idea whatsoever that people did this sort of thing.  I was a rainbow and unicorns kind of girl before all of this and it has been traumatic to come to the realisation that people can be so evil.  Consider other’s experience when you are deciding what to share.
  5. This is just a personal one for me but remember that there are children involved and so going around telling the whole world your business is actually telling everyone their business as well and I would always seek to protect that.

I want to make the point here that I am NOT talking about professionals who absolutely SHOULD have heard of it.  If they haven’t point them in the direction of industry training (i.e. if they are a Cafcass worker, point the towards their own online training portal).


Finally remember that you actually don’t need them to understand the situation.  If they are close to you all they really need to understand is that you are hurting and may be angry sometimes.  What you need is compassion and love.  


Take care 

The post How do you explain parental alienation to someone who has never heard of it? appeared first on The Nurturing Coach.


get over your divorce sad women holding umbrella

10 Ways to Get Over Your Divorce Before Marrying Again

get over your divorce sad women holding umbrella


I spoke with a client last week who is working her way through her third divorce. We were on the phone for an hour and she spent forty-five minutes talking about problems she had experienced in her first marriage. Problems that happen to be the same problems she is experiencing in her third marriage.

She will soon have three ex-husbands that she still ruminates over, blames for her inability to have a successful marriage and spends an excessive amount of time talking about with anyone who will listen.

Why is her head still stuck in her three failed marriages? Because she didn’t do the work she needed to do after her first divorce before jumping into her second marriage and third marriage. She believes that love and marriage will solve her problems when all she is doing is taking those problems into each of her marriages.

My client didn’t get over her first divorce which only led to more divorces. To keep you from making the same mistake, I encourage you to do the work needed to get over your divorce before jumping back into another relationship and marriage.

Everyone who ends a marriage will grieve the emotional investment they had in the marriage. They will grieve the loss of plans, hopes, and dreams they had with their spouse and for their future. Some experience that grieving process before the divorce, some are left to deal with the grieving after the marriage is over.

Wherever one finds themselves in the grieving process, it’s important to move through it in order to move forward with life and become whole, emotionally, financially, mentally and spiritually. And able to have a successful second marriage.

How does one get over a divorce in a healthy manner? See below:

10 Ways to Get Over Your Divorce Before Remarrying

1. Controlled Communication

It’s probably best to avoid communication with an ex, if possible. If you have children, that won’t be possible so, when communicating focus on keeping the communication emotionally safe. If you must discuss child related issues, stick to talking only about child related issues. If you didn’t want the divorce and are hoping for a reconciliation, it’s important for your own emotional wellbeing to keep any communication strictly business.

2. Let Go of Unhelpful Thinking Patterns

It’s normal after a divorce to wander off into “woulda coulda shoulda” type thinking. Thinking about whether the marriage could have been saved only keeps you stuck and unable to move forward with your life. Indulging in “what ifs” and thinking about how things could’ve been will not help you cope with the reality of your divorce. Thinking about things that could have happened but never will happen is a waste of time and emotional energy. That kind of thinking promotes longings for something you can’t have, regret over something that is over and done with and more emotional pain that you don’t need.

3. Behave Yourself!

Sometimes divorce can make us behave in ways we normally wouldn’t and that can get nasty, quite quickly. Don’t badmouth your ex, don’t call them over the phone and express your anger, don’t use the children to punish your ex, don’t play mind games with child support and visitation. Anger is a difficult emotion for anyone to deal with and unfortunately, it’s a common emotion experienced after a divorce.

Fight the urge to misbehave. Screaming and shouting rarely makes an ex want to have a civil relationship with you. Name calling and finger pointing will make you look immature and irrational. If you need to scream and shout, do it alone or in the company of a close friend who you can trust to keep it to themselves. And, if you can’t get a handle on your anger, get into therapy so it can be worked through.

Have some pride and hold yourself to standards that would never allow you to let anger get the best of you.

4. Stay Away from People Who Don’t Promote Healing and Moving On

Surround yourself with people who are positive and willing to call you out on thinking and behaviors that hold you back from getting over your divorce. Steer clear of negative people who enjoy stirring the pot and encouraging your negative feelings. It’s natural to want to vent to those who will cheer you on and support your point of view BUT even though they feel they are giving you what you need, they are actually keeping you from focusing your energy elsewhere and in a more positive manner.

Spend time with friends and family that offer support and positivity, warmth and comfort. Those who will help you feel good about yourself, where you are in life and guide you in a direction that promotes growth and not stagnation.

5. Talk About Something Other than Your Divorce

Vent if you feel the need but know when enough is enough. Constant talking and thinking about your divorce saturates your mind and before long there will be room for nothing but negative thinking in your head. That can lead to feelings of depression and being overly emotional.

When it comes to getting over a divorce, your head and what goes through your head is your greatest tool. If you drown your brain with constant negative thoughts about your divorce, you’ll find yourself going down for the third time and unable to recover and move on.

Give yourself a certain amount of time daily to talk and think about your divorce. The rest of the day distract yourself with positive thoughts and activities. It’s making room for the good stuff in your head that will encourage healing after a divorce.

6. Don’t Drink Away Your Grief

Alcohol numbs, it doesn’t heal. Drinking to numb the pain of a divorce can have serious effects on your mood, your behavior and your overall wellbeing. Drinking is an easy way to avoid the pain you’re in but, it will only extend the grieving process and stall the moving on process.

7. Evict Thoughts of Your Ex from Your Head

You had a daily relationship with your ex. Even if you wanted the divorce it can take time to stop thinking about your ex. Wondering how they are and what they are doing will be normal thoughts that go through your head. If you didn’t want the divorce such thoughts may become obsessive for you. You’ve been forced to let go of a relationship you wanted to hold onto, it’s only natural that part of your grieving process will be focusing on your ex’s whereabouts, who they are with, how they are spending their time.

It’s important that you remain aware that an obsessive need to keep up with your ex will lead you into harmful and painful territory. Letting go of a relationship you’d rather be nurturing is one of the hardest things any of us is called upon to do. If you’re going to get over your loss and move forward in a positive manner with your life, you need to let go of the need to keep tabs on and constantly think about your ex.

8. Allow Yourself to Feel

Divorce brings with it difficult emotions. You will feel sadness, anger, confusion, fear, anxiety and many other negative emotions attached to divorce. It’s natural to want those emotions to go away and for you to do whatever you feel will soothe them.

It’s important to feel and work through these negative emotions. The biggest mistake you can make is to bury negative emotions or put a band aid over them. Divorce puts us all in a vulnerable position emotionally. Don’t fear that vulnerability, embrace it and work through it by expressing your feelings in a healthy manner. Talk to a friend, family member or therapist about how you are feeling. Allow yourself to feel those feelings, acknowledge them and in time they will fade.

9. Stay Away from Places That Were Special to You Two

To get over your divorce you want to avoid anything that will cause added pain. Visiting a restaurant that you two spent your first anniversary will bring up memories that can be painful. Seeing a movie at the same theater you two frequented may cause discomfort due to reminders of your ex. Consider places you two shared time together off limits until you can go there and it no longer hurts.

10. Focus on You!

Last but most important, focus on you, your immediate needs and your future. No one moves forward if their head and heart are stuck in the past. No one benefits personally if they don’t focus on their emotional and physical needs first.

Be sure you are eating and exercising properly. Daily, take the time to set goals for yourself. Goals that focus on what you want and need out of life going forward. Take the needed steps to meet those goals. Life doesn’t end with a divorce. In twenty years, you don’t want to look back and think to yourself, “I wasted years of my life when I didn’t accept and get over that divorce.”

Smile daily, work at personal growth and learning new relationship skills. Get rid of reminders of your ex in your home that evoke negative memories, treat yourself with patience and kindness. And, move forward rebuilding a life that promotes pride and contentment.

The post 10 Ways to Get Over Your Divorce Before Marrying Again appeared first on Divorced Moms.


3 Ways To Make Family Court More Aware Of Narcissism

3 Ways To Make Family Court More Aware Of Narcissism

Family Court is set up to be adversarial. It pits one parent against another.  This unfortunately feeds into the narcissist’s ego defence which is to win at all costs.  They do this by masterfully playing the role of either hero or victim (often both at the same time).  They will claim you are alienating them or abusing them. They will even manipulate the children to confirm their story thus proving their prowess.

I have worked with hundreds of parents who have sought support and protection for them and their children from Family Court only to be disappointed and disillusioned to see that the court is easily duped by the narcissist and given more time with the children. In many cases the narcissist manages to use Family Court to cut the other parent completely out of the child’s life.

How can this happen?

The Problem

One would think that those highly experienced in law (solicitors and judges) would have what it takes to easily recognise deception, or at least know how to ensure that a person is examined thoroughly enough to make reasonably sure that they are telling the truth. But those in law are just as vulnerable to the highly skilled narcissist as the average person is. 

Narcissists love the court arena because they get to take centre stage and express their grandiosity.  It feeds their ego and they seek to control the process. Some will do this by not turning up, issuing last minute changes to mean you have little or no time to prepare.  Others will keep breaching the order so you have to take them back to court. They will all threaten court repeatedly as a way to control you and get their own way – “if that’s what you want, then we had best go back to court”.  The fact they get to financially ruin in the process is the cherry on the cake for them.

Because narcissist’s are naturally talented imposters, charmers, and deceivers, many judges get duped on a routine basis by narcissistic parents, who are simply using the court and the judge to continue to humiliate, exert control, and abuse their ex, and force their ex to react to them in some way. Narcissists live to manipulate and control others emotions, self-esteem, and behaviours. Many will describe the ‘high’ they get from manipulating others successfully, and if they get the judge to believe them, they will begin to brag that the judge is their ‘ personal friend’.


How Can They Get Away With It

Narcissist’s get away with what they get away with because they are so very talented at presenting themselves as innocent victims of their ex, their boss, their parents, etc. etc. They have an uncanny talent to manipulate situations and people and to twist the obvious facts to fit their lies. You know in your own relationship how they managed to convince you that they were worth falling in love with.  This is their own personal superpower – manipulating others.

Part of the problem is that in the context of family court, no one really believes that a parent (especially ones who presents so well) can be so cold, calculating and abusive to use their own children to hurt their ex in such extreme ways.  Nor do they believe that children would lie about such matters as being abused. I always found this very strange because, having worked in child protection, we know that child abusers ARE highly manipulative and deceptive AND that children will lie to protect the abuser. 

face with mask

Narcissists have survived by understanding people and how they tick.  They know exactly how to get others to do their bidding and convince them it is all of their own doing.  Charles Manson is a prime example of how charming and manipulative a narcissist can be at getting people to do the unthinkable.  The problem in Family Court is that no judge (or professional) will ever want to admit they have been manipulated like that. It hurts their ego as well and so very often, they will continue on the path the narcissist has led them down to save their own ego.  People are inherently selfish and so even those charged with protecting children rarely act from a completely unbiased and empathic place. It’s human nature. We all want to be seen to do the right thing and not be criticised. Narcissists use this to control others.  


How can court recognise a narcissist

Firstly I would always advise against labelling your ex as a narcissist (unless they have an official clinical diagnosis).  You are not a psychologist or psychiatrist and so you cannot diagnose them. To do so undermines you. There are ways however that you can alert the court and professionals to the behaviours which are problematic:

  • Narcissists will continuously be going back and forth to court sometimes with issues which barely make sense or are fully nonsense or are taken back to court for repeatedly breaching the order
  • They will be constantly changing legal representation
  • They may attempt to act as an equal or friend to professionals
  • They can be very demanding about the treatment they receive when attending court
  • They present as being very agreeable but breach the order within days (sometimes hours) of leaving court
  • They will refuse to take any responsibility for anything
  • There will be multiple, unsubstantiated claims of abuse/harassment against the ex 
  • There may be a pattern of behaviours in past relationships
  • There is inconsistency in what they say and how they behave
  • There may be multiple allegations of abuse against the ex but with NFA’s from the police
  • The children display very black and white thinking against the other parent (one is all good, the other all bad)
  • The narcissist has cut contact with everyone involved with the ex including all the children’s aunts and uncles 

How to make judges take notice

The reality is that within the court arena it is very hard for judges to decipher everything.  They are reliant upon other professionals, usually social workers, to provide them with reports and recommendations.  It is therefore important that, as a parent going through this process, you remain child focused and allow the narcissist’s behaviour to reveal itself. 

  1. The court can order both parents into counselling towards the goal of effective co-parenting. Once a custody order is made, the court can monitor the compliance of both parents. This is often when the narcissist begins to show their true colours. They just cannot comply with any authority other than their own self-inflated opinions and will.  In most cases, if they comply at all with the counselling (many do not even make it to one session), it only takes a short time before they will discredit the counsellor, petition the court for some other counsellor, and just stop showing up. What they really want is a counsellor that cannot ‘see through them’ and find one that they can manipulate for their own purposes, meaning supporting their position that their ex is persecuting them.
  2. Another option is for the family to undergo a psychological evaluation.  Usually this will entail the psychologist spending time with each parent individually, the children separately if possible and the children with each parent.  They will then evaluate the dynamics and make recommendations to the court about next steps. It really helps if the psychologist can include a thorough description of the IMPACT and capacity for change of the parents within these situations.  Unfortunately I have seen time and time again where psychological evaluations identify the issues but fail to inform the court what this means. Again, judges are not mental health or child development professionals. They need guidance on what this means for the children moving forward and the impact of any action taken.
  3. As the other parent, you can contribute to this process by not biting when the narcissist tries to bait you.  They will deliberately push your buttons in public to get a reaction out of you which they will then use as “evidence” of all the allegations they are making about you.  It is therefore important that you prepare fully for court both in terms of how you feel on the day but also dealing with your own trauma from the relationship. We have specifically designed our Get Court Ready programme to help you with this. It provides you with tools, insights and activities to rewrite the narcissists narrative, manage your own emotions and protect the children.  Find out more at the Get Court Ready page on our website.

Finally, it would greatly benefit all professionals involved in child protection (solicitors, judges, social workers, court workers) to undergo basic training on personality disorders, domestic abuse and parental alienation.  This will at least provide them with an additional theory to examine the evidence against. I personally have developed numerous courses on these areas which are CPD accredited and available online. Head to my other website, Child Protection Centre, for more details.


What are your experiences of Family Court?  What more do you think can be done?

The post 3 Ways To Make Family Court More Aware Of Narcissism appeared first on The Nurturing Coach.