Parenting, Co-Parenting and the Role of Validation with a Narcissist

Posted by tonyoverbay

Tony tackles the topic of co-parenting with a narcissist or emotionally immature spouse/ex-spouse. He discusses the significance of a child's reliance on external validation from a parent and what that looks like when couples stay together purely for the children. And he breaks down the article "How a Narcissistic Co-Parent Can Manipulate Your Child," by Erin Leonard Ph.D. And Tony shares a poem from a person who is on the path of healing from parental narcissistic abuse. Go to to sign up for Tony’s “Magnetize Your Marriage” virtual workshop. The cost is only $19. You’ll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage. 

With the continuing "sheltering" rules spreading across the country, PLEASE do not think you can't continue or begin therapy now. can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link, you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your mental health a priority, offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

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Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here

------------------------------------------------TRANSCRIPT------------------------------------------00:00:10] Hey, everybody, welcome to this episode of Waking Up the Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast, and I highly encourage you to go check that one out as well. And I will any kind of business, so to speak. Let me just get out of the way, right out of the gate. I have put the marriage workshop. I've continued to have that up on my website. It's at Tony over Macomb workshop, and that is a very inexpensive hour and a half workshop that I did where I tried to lay out all the things that we don't know heading into marriage, heading into relationships, because I'm convinced, seeing, I don't know, 12, 1300 couples now over a long period of time that we just don't have the tools naturally to go into a relationship. We all come into a relationship where all that's an all or nothing statement. I feel like most everyone comes into a relationship somewhat emotionally immature, seeking external validation, and then it is the process of getting into a relationship where we can grow and we can be edified and we can learn what really matters to us. But if that is not your experience, because you don't feel like you can open up your spouse or you feel like you are losing your sense of self, then I really feel like this workshop may help make a little bit of sense of that, and then you can find that again at Tony Macomb workshop.

[00:01:26] And if you're looking to help, therapy therapists are becoming really hard to find now. And I know most of the therapists I know have a pretty lengthy wait list. So it can be hard, but you can go to, slash virtual couch and get 10% off your first month's treatment. And you can typically be seeing someone within 24 to 48 hours. They have a really nice intake form and you can do that through its text or phone call or video chat or any of those kind of things. So there's all of that. But I want to start today with a really it's a really well written email. It's a really beautiful email that just talks about what this whole process is of waking up the narcissism of just finding your self and what that process looks like and how it can be a little bit different for everyone. So I want to read that and then we're going to get to an article today and we're going to talk a lot about parenting. We're going to talk about what the narcissistic parent, how they show up in the relationship and what that may look like. And I am going to throw out some some theories that I am simply putting as that that I've really been thinking a lot over the last few months about the need that we all have as kids for external validation.

[00:02:37] And then what that looks like to the kid who's in a relationship where there is a narcissistic parent and a parent who is trying to buffer or protect the kid and what that can look like if the kid is looking for this external validation to develop a sense of self. So we'll talk about that a little bit today. So first to the email, the person says, I have been greatly appreciating your clarity of mind and self understanding in your most recent episodes of Virtual Couch and Waking Up to Narcissism. I find it important to include as much of ourselves in the work that we do as possible, insofar as it is helpful to the client or the person that we're working with. And I really appreciate those comments and it has been my own waking up to narcissistic traits, tendencies, emotional immaturity that has allowed me, I feel like over the last few years to really start to share stories of struggle in the podcast. Or there's a I practice a bit of a type of therapy called talk so much about acceptance and commitment therapy, but there's a it's called person centered or client centered therapy where you develop a relationship with the person that you are working with. And there's a lot of cool data that says that the relationship that you have with your therapist is possibly more important than even the modality that they choose.

[00:03:47] Because if you don't trust the therapist, if you don't feel like you can really open up, then it's going to be a little bit more of a slog as far as the work goes. So I love being open and honest and talking about the fact that heading into my 32nd year of marriage, the reason why I love talking about couples therapy and on the Virtual Couch podcast, whenever I talk about my four pillars of a connected conversation, I love giving real time examples that happen maybe within that week where there was miscommunication. But at least we had a framework to get back to a place where we both feel heard and understood in a connection along those lines. I will tell you an example just of this weekend, I'm also looking more and more into ADHD. I'm pretty open about my diagnosis, and there's an amazing book out called ADHD 2.0. There's a point where it talks about the concept of the ADHD brain. There are only two timeframes in life. One, it is now or later, and if I don't need to do it now, I will do it later. And boy, it makes sense to me. And we had to cancel a flight. We were going to lose some flight credit. So I just had to book another flight and then I had to essentially immediately cancel it again.

[00:04:51] And my wife was along by my side. I rebook a flight and then she said, Do you want to go in and cancel it? And I said, Oh, I'll do it later. And I really meant it. I had every intention because I didn't need to do it now, so I would do it later. My wife is one who would say, Well, why don't you just go out and do it now so you don't have to think about it anymore and. What am I pretending not to know? I won't be thinking about it till later. And then later it will all of a sudden be due now. We can probably see where that's going. I happen to actually be on the phone with her when I got an email from the airline that said, Hey, it looks like you missed your chance. In essence, they didn't say this, but hey, thanks for the extra 300 bucks. And there were so many things that were happening there where I felt so I became so aware of the fact that I my wife knew that that wasn't plotting and scheming all day, that here's how I could get us to lose money. And and it was an honest mistake. And I owned up to that. And I said, oh, man, I did not take your advice. I didn't do it now. I didn't cancel it immediately.

[00:05:45] And so that vulnerability I feel like, is something that I hope that you can get to in a relationship, that you can find someone or that you can work to be in a relationship where you feel like you can just share that you have human experiences. Because I feel like we've all had those experiences. Now, if I was an emotionally immature, truly narcissistic person in that moment, I can only imagine the guilt I would have felt the shame where I would have assumed that now she's going to think I'm a horrible person. And so what would I have done? I might have lashed out to protect my fragile ego and even said, Well, I thought about this. I thought, man, how many times do people say things in that situation like, well, you know what? I didn't even I didn't even want to do it in the first place. You're the one that had the idea to get the new flight credit, so you should have done it yourself. What did you expect to put it on me? And boy, can you just feel that energy versus me saying, Oh man, my bad. And I think I even joked with her and said, Do you want me to say that you told me so? Or do you want to go in and say it? And what I love and this is where when you feel a real connection and you feel like you can go to your spouse and you're just two people and you're going to make mistakes, and being able to process those with another person sure makes the it helps you not beat yourself up in a healthy, emotionally mature relationship.

[00:06:54] But there was this feel of leaning in toward each other of her saying, Hey, no, it's okay. And I said, I know. I love being able to share those stories on podcast or in therapy. And again, I really I share that not because I want you to go, oh, my gosh, Tony, that's so amazing. But I want you to see what a healthy relationship should this is a healthy shooting on. Someone should look like that. You can go to your spouse and you can share the mistakes and say, check this out. I meant to do it. I didn't. I'm wondering what I can do in the future. I can set some alarms or I would love for my spouse and I imagine this will happen is the next time there's a situation where I know that I could probably do it now, but I want to do it later, whatever it is. And if she's there, I can imagine I will now feel that. You know what? I am grateful for her and the safety that we have now. And so I think I will do it. Now, back to this email, he says.

[00:07:45] So that being said, he talks about that it is helpful to share as much of ourselves in the work that we do. That being said, boundaries are crucial to any healthy recovery, and it's essential to keep the correct amount of distance to allow the individual to make their own realizations and achieve their own victories. And I don't think this is exactly where he was going here. I've read this several times before reading it right now, and it's interesting where you can make a lot of sense based on how whatever you're dealing with in your own life. And so when he says the part about boundaries being crucial, absolutely. But keeping the correct amount of distance to allow individuals to make their own realization. So often, I feel like, especially in the relationships that we have with emotionally immature people, we continue to try to help them understand. We just want them to know or we want to explain again the things that we feel like they might be missing or we want to say, Oh, but you did say this and we talked about a couple of weeks ago confabulation, where unfortunately the emotionally immature, narcissistic person, they are going to change the narrative on the fly. And it needs to be a narrative that fits their experience and continues to put them in the position of power or victimhood or whatever their version of narcissism is.

[00:08:50] So giving them the distance and backing off and not engaging. When I talk about setting healthy boundaries and disengaging from unproductive conversations and realizing there's nothing you will say or do to cause them to have the aha moment or the epiphany that is trying to give them that distance and not engaging in that just narcissistic struggle. But when you are able to step back from that again, they don't immediately say, Oh my gosh, you're right, but you don't feed that supply. And that is the distance that they need or you need to give you some sanity. But if there is ever a potential to help someone begin to heal or wake up to their own narcissism, then it is going to come in them being able to sit with that, those feelings or emotions, and do not engage and relieve the anxiety that they feel and that insecurity. He goes on to say, he says, I hope this isn't redundant. As he says, I'm very I'm sure you are very familiar with these concepts through your work. Anyway, he says, I wish in this message to say that you seem knowledgeable of the kinds of suffering that afflict the souls of this world, as well as the mental prisons each and every one of us inhibit until we achieve enlightenment. Essentially, the truth that he wants to share is, he says, we are all narcissist, we are all in narcissistic relationships with our deeper selves until we decide to end our suffering.

[00:10:06] A lot of depth there. So are you in a narcissistic, codependent, enmeshed relationship with yourself until you decide to end your own suffering and be able to step back and say, okay, I am a human being, nothing is wrong with me. And I do have thoughts and I do have opinions and it's okay for me to express them. He says there is no crueler animal than man because we have learned to and become addicted to our own suffering, we think. And therefore we hurt, we compare and therefore we envy, we evaluate and therefore we disparage and discriminate. The only solution is to become so engrossed with our own experience of living, from our own perspective, that our fake exterior self disintegrates on our own. And we are left with the true visages of each other and we stop thinking. He said this ego transcending practice is known as sadhana, which essentially refers to any kind of meditative ritual. And he says for him, that's art in nature. But I feel like in that paragraph he's sharing that by becoming more engrossed with our own experience and living from our own perspective, that then we can let down that I need to be someone else for some. I need to be someone for somebody else because I want them to like me, because I want them to give me the validation.

[00:11:14] We need to have that self love and self validation so that we can show up emotionally mature in conversations, and now we can have conversations that are really about connection or about shared experiences and not trying to figure out if we can say it. Well, is this the wrong thing to say? I hope I'm not going to make this person mad because that is not a place to operate from. When you're operating from that place, you are having to look, compare, how do I fit in here or you are trying to. That is where we disparage or we discriminate, or because we don't come from a place of strength of, hey, I'm okay. And so I don't have to prove myself. I show up as myself and again. Then that's where I'm going to find healthy relationships. Relationships I can I do believe they do not need to be as difficult as we make them out to be. But we don't know what we don't know. And if you have ever just stumbled upon a relationship with a friend, or if you happen to be one with a spouse where it's easy, that is okay. That does not mean we lack depth. It means that we can communicate effectively and that person is not trying to break us down or tell us that our experience in life is wrong. It's our experience anyway.

[00:12:21] I could go on and on about that, he says. I've been manifesting self compassion in myself for many years after enduring the trauma of a physically and emotionally narcissistic mother and an absent, scarred and avoidant father through the methods, you yourself describe his own incredible therapist, he says, as well as the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, Bessel van der Kolk, Ram Dass, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Nietzsche, Michael Newton and Emily Dickinson. I have discovered the vocabulary with which to liberate myself and I have done so. The vocabulary was art, science, photography, poetry, plants, yoga among many, many, many things. And what I love about that is my rule number one is self care. Raise that emotional baseline that find the things that that that give you joy and find the things that you are passionate about. And again, in an emotionally healthy relationship that that your partner I would I want to say it should be encouraging of you finding your self as yours, encouraging of them finding their selves. And now we're looking at those experiences with curiosity and we're sharing those moments and we don't have to. It's okay to have your own life. It's okay to have your own thoughts, your own experiences, your own passions. So when someone else is trying to tell you that you know how that affects me, or do you know what that means to me? That again, that is that is not a healthy relationship.

[00:13:37] He said, I am no longer afraid of living and I'm able to speak the truth without aberration or abstraction, no longer afraid of living, and I can speak the truth. What does that feel like to live authentically? Do you have moments? And I ask this from my clients often Do you have places in your life, moments in your life, where can you be the most authentic? And if you are saying right now to yourself, there isn't one, it's okay, it's more normal than you think. I ask that question often in therapy because it's it becomes pretty obvious that the person doesn't have anyone or any place where they can just be themselves and just share their thoughts. I love the point, as in therapy, where someone just says, I know this might be crazy, but here's something I've been thinking because again, not crazy. It's just here's something I'm thinking. And so even the fact where somebody has to feel, is this crazy? Should I be thinking this means that they have been in a relationship where they're they have been criticized about their thoughts, their experiences, the emphasis on being criticized about their your experiences are your experiences, your thoughts or your thoughts. And being able to share them is absolutely okay. So again, he says he's no longer afraid of living and he's able to speak the truth without aberration or abstraction, he says. Each day I have conversations such as these, and with each shift in consciousness, he says, I know I am healing a vast emotional wound sustained by the world, meaning that being able to speak your truth and come from a place of authenticity is healing.

[00:15:03] It is absolutely healing, he says. The Jewish community of which he is from. Describes the practice of I believe it's tikkun olam or the healing of the world, one soul at a time. He said, I find it more Buddhist than Jewish and practice. He said, I think that you've probably felt this suffering in the world because it makes you feel like grieving or apologizing or swearing out loud when absolutely no one is around. And I have felt that I would imagine many of you listening and felt that just when you do start to understand the manipulation, the control, the things that are going on in people's relationships, in their lives, it really can be heartbreaking. I remember early on in grad school, one of my professors who I still love, she's been on my Virtual Couch podcast, Arlene Davis, but she had said, you're going to get you're going to get a decade or more into this profession and you're going to know a lot of things and you're going to feel very confident about the things that you know. And so sometimes you're going to want to just tell the person who's coming into your office.

[00:15:57] I skip a lot of steps for you and really just share like bear my soul to you of what I really feel like would help. And I know I feel that when I get people coming in that are in these narcissistic or abusive relationships. But I feel like what she was not saying but this email brings up in me is that it is hard to not watch people a double negative thing, that it's hard to see people not following my four pillars of a connected conversation. I'm not saying that that that is my thing and they must follow me, but it's hard to not see people communicating effectively. I feel like the last few years I just continually see people telling other people what they're supposed to do, how they're supposed to think, or people that are saying, No, you don't understand. This is what you really are saying. And so many people that are not sitting with their own thoughts, their own emotion, but are trying to make sure that they can control others and make sure that they can put themselves in this one position. And so it is hard to not to not see that healing the healing the world one soul at a time. To me that says, how about start with yourself? If you can heal yourself now, you are going to put yourself in a position to let your light so shine that you can then be an example to others.

[00:17:09] So therefore you may be able to be a factor of change in other people's lives. He said My empathy allows me to sense the vibrations and the emotional consciousness. I felt a profound suffering, as I mentioned. But through my friend's efforts, a rippling wave of realization is coming or has already arrived or is arriving. If this person doesn't write poetry, I think they need to. That part there, this rippling wave of realization, is coming or is already arrived or is arriving. I think the answer to that is D all of the above. He says Your work is crucial. Your intentions resonate purely many blessings, not mistakes. So I so appreciate that email and I know a lot of the emails that I read that we get to are some heavy things that people are going through. And so I just want you to I wanted you to hear that and to hear what some healing or recovery can really sound like. And and I just I hope that you are, as you are, waking up to this reality or the narcissism or the emotional immaturity or whatever that looks like in your relationships, that as you are waking up to those situations, that you are starting to with that clarity, understand or feel a little bit of hope, it can feel like despair. It really can. But boy, you're on the right path.

[00:18:15] You're on the A journey, and that journey can take a little while. That's fair. Just continue to self care, raise that emotional baseline, get that PhD in gaslighting, get out of those unproductive conversations, learn how to set healthy boundaries and know that that boundary is in fact, a it's a challenge when you set the boundary, that does not mean the other person is going to say, okay, I've been waiting for you to set that boundary. That is a fair point. I will back off now. Now it's going to be what a boundary. How dare you? Well, I'll show you what I'll do with your boundary. So just know that that is part of this process. And as you start to become differentiated your own self, your own person, that pushback is going to be stronger. Bless your heart for that, because that is a difficult point, but it's absolutely a necessary part of healing and recovery. The reason why I wanted to go down this path today and I've talked about parenting and narcissistic parenting, scapegoats and golden children and those things in previous episodes. But we're going to go back to it today because it is another one of those questions that I get so often is what is the effect of narcissism or a narcissistic parent on the kids? So many people say that they're going to stay in the relationship for the kids.

[00:19:19] And we are going to get to an article by Aaron Leonard, PhD from Psychology Today called Howie Narcissistic Co-Parent Can Manipulate Your Child, which is a fascinating article because Dr. Leonard goes into great detail about attachment. And I love talking about attachment, and I feel like she goes even three or four layers deeper about what that looks like to a child who is in the middle of co-parenting, co-parenting relationship with their parents. Let me just throw this out there and I want to be so honest. Here is where I want to be as emotionally mature as I can be and say that I'm not a child of divorce. My wife and I are not experiencing divorce. My youngest is 18 and about to graduate from high school. So this is anecdotal evidence, but here are some of the pieces that I was putting together over the last. Few weeks, I was thinking about that concept of everyone as a kid, by definition fits this definition of emotional immaturity. Or I'd like to joke and say that every kid is a little narcissist because they only think of themselves. They are very egocentric and they do not have an understanding of the troubles or the plight of those around them. They need external validation to start to develop a sense of self. That's just a fact of childhood. So what that looks like is a child is then seeing if their parent comes to them and their parent is upset or their parent is sad, then it's built into the child to feel like, okay, I must have done something. That must be my fault. There must be something that I have done that has caused my parent to look or feel or talk the way that they are doing.

[00:20:54] Because, again, they're egocentric. Everything is through their very own lens. I mean, everything is through our own lens. How hard is it for you as an adult to step outside of your ego and to think of other people's point of view? It can be really difficult because the only point of view we really know is the one that's coming at us all the time. It's our point of view. So take that to the next level for a child and then if the parent is excited and happy, then the kid thinks, I must be good, I must be doing something right. And I know it's more complicated than that, but in a sense that's the fundamentals of needing this external validation to find a sense of self. So I can only hypothesize that during a split, during co-parenting, during a divorce, when as a therapist, I had just begged the parents to not put the kids in the middle of it, or what, in essence, that looks like is to not unload your problems on the child and not talk bad about your spouse, your soon to be ex spouse with the child, because they are going to take that upon themselves because they're looking for that external validation. So when people say that they want to stay in the relationship for the kids, here's what I'm wondering and I'm wondering if the let's just say it's the wife and she is in the relationship with the emotionally immature husband. And I know that I get the emails that say the narcissism, always the guy and I absolutely understand.

[00:22:15] But for the sake of this example, we're going to go with that example. We're going to go with that dynamic. So the wife is telling me that then she is staying in because of the kids and so is she being her best self. Are the kids then seeing her continually in this state of fight or flight or fawn, or is she trying to buffer the kids against the husband? Again, you can swap the gender here. Either way, if it's the narcissistic wife, then is the husband doing the same thing saying I need to keep the peace and so I'm going to stay in this relationship in order to protect the kids. But if the kids are trying to find their sense of self and they are doing that based off of the validation of parents, and if they are feeling that and negative energy, if they're feeling that anxiety, if they're seeing their parents, even if they're not in a constant state of fighting, but are they seeing just this tension? Are they seeing the parents walking on eggshells around each other? And if so, if they are gaining the sense of self by the external validation of parents and the parents, both then are not truly being their best self because the parents are really struggling in their relationship. Then does that have a an overall negative effect on the child where if you then take the parents and this is where I'm saying if they could get to this place of emotional maturity and say that we may not get along, the marriage may not be something that we feel like is salvageable, but we have these kids and we care about these kids and we want what is best for the kids.

[00:23:42] The kids are not there to be a pawn to show the spouse, look how bad I am hurting. So then if they are apart, if they are separated and they're in two individual places, then can the kids now see, let's say, mom in this scenario and Mom's excited to see them and she's being her authentic self and then they are going to build their sense of self off of that external validation. Now, if they go home to Dad and then Dad is just wanting them to know this is not his idea, he's very frustrated and he wants them to know that, hey, your mom is the one who wanted this, which I have many adults who will say that to their kids. Whatever age I will have them in my office and they'll say, Well, my kid asked, What am I supposed to do? And I know this is going to be a hack bit that I say. But do you hide things about Santa Claus or your sex life or your paycheck stubs? But why now do you feel like, okay, now I must be completely honest? Or is that me wanting to get validation from my child or me wanting to make sure that my child goes to mom now and says, Man, Dad's really sad. Or Dad says that you're the one that caused this because what is a child supposed to do with that?

[00:24:47] When people are staying in relationships for the kids, they didn't want their kids to come from a parent or a home of divorce. And I and again, that would be really difficult and I don't know what that's like. But if the kids are developing their sense of self from external validation, maybe you can see where I'm going here.

[00:25:05] And I know I am beating this thing into the ground, but just throwing out another scenario.

[00:25:11] Let's just say in this situation that the dad has been in this relationship for years and the kids, all of them three, four kids are then continually they're on edge because dads kind of buffer against the narcissistic tendency or treat wife. How are they developing their sense of self? They are also now becoming these little miniature, highly sensitive people where now they are trying to read the room. What's the feel here? Seems okay, Dad. Seems cool, Mom. All right. I've seen that look before. This is all going on in the subconscious. They are developing. This is not a secure attachment. It's not a they can be found in the room and trip and accidentally knock something over. And they know that mom and dad are like, Hey, bud, it's all right. What are you up to? No, it's all crap. Dads probably would get nervous and his mom going to react. So Dad's like, Oh, hey, can you be more careful? And then the kids, like, didn't mean to. Didn't want to come in and just, like, kick over the base. But, boy, I better now even what the kid's going to do. Maybe they might want to say, Well, I'm going to get in trouble. I didn't do it. It just kind of fell over again. Maybe gaslighting is a childhood defense mechanism, anyone? My whole point with that is that a little kid needs external validation. If the parents do not have a healthy relationship, if they are fighting continually, or even if one parent is trying to buffer for the other, then what is that child learning about developing a sense of self? So then what does that look like? If then the parents I mean, if one parent in particular understands that this is not an emotionally healthy relationship and they have now try to set boundaries and they don't feel like they have a sense of self and they've lost themselves and they can't be their authentic self with their spouse, with their kid.

[00:26:48] So they say, okay, we need to separate or we need a divorce. Now, when the kids go with the parent that is now freed from this emotionally abusive, narcissistic relationship, now they get to see that parent, that parent, be excited, be doing the things that they want to do and just interacting and not worrying about what are we going to tick off, mom? And now true when they now are with mom, that might be a challenge because they are not going to get those emotional needs met and they are going to probably be more of a caretaker role as a kid. And I think one of the hardest things, the most difficult things about dealing with co-parenting and narcissistic relationships and I don't feel like a lot of people talk about this is the concept of where it's an acceptance that that is the way that things are going to happen. So then so many people stay in the relationship because they don't want their kid to have 50% of the time or whatever that looks like with the narcissistic parent. But then this is again all my just anecdotal data or my thoughts of doing this for a long time.

[00:27:49] Which version of that is better for the kid who is developing a sense of self based on external validation? Is that the kid continually seeing a relationship where the mom and dad are just it's not a good relationship. It's easy for me to say that you're not modeling a healthy marital relationship, but I have not thought about this until a couple of weeks ago, that also the kid is trying to develop their sense of self. So is that a net positive effect if that kid at least has one relationship with the parent where that parent is their authentic self and is giving genuine praise and helping build inner wealth with the child so that they now are developing a healthy sense of self versus yes, now they're going to develop maybe more of a surface relationship as they grow older with the emotionally immature, narcissistic parent. But that's the part that then everything came back together. And I've worked with a lot of people that then the kids have grown up maybe with a narcissistic parent, but the parents have divorced, separated, that they go to the emotionally healthy parent and have always now viewed them as the rock that is that is the person I can go to emotionally and the other parent I can go to and talk about recipes or sports. I know that's a lot of data to process, but but I think that there's some gold to be mined there.

[00:29:01] What we want is for both parents to be emotionally mature and both of them to recognize we may not get along as parents, but we can sure show our kids that we care about them because we are helping them develop that sense of self and a secure attachment. So that's just a theory that I have. I didn't try to Google it to find something that will back me up. I don't know if there is data out there or not. I have Ros Rosenberg, author of The Human Magnus Syndrome, coming up on the podcast, I think next week. And I will ask him about this and what his experience is and working with people who are in these narcissistic relationships for he's got about a decade on me. I'm approaching 17, 18 years. I think he's pushing 30.

[00:29:40] All right. Let's shift over now to an article from Psychology Today. And we're while we're on the topic of parenting or co-parenting with the narcissist, this is an article entitled How a Narcissistic Co-Parent Can Manipulate Your Child. And this is by Dr. Aaron Leonard and Dr. Aaron Leonard. I read a little bit about her background. Her most recent book is How to Raise a Secure Child Parenting with Empathy. In the article, she has a subheading that says two ways they can underhand at least sabotage your bond with a child. The key points that she addresses our children are hardwired to protect their attachment relationships. And that's a big reason why I wanted to refer to this article. I talk so much about attachment and abandonment, and I feel like Dr. Leonard lays out just beautifully what attachment looks like. And I start from the womb. She goes back even before that. She also says a narcissistic co parent who plays the victim automatically positions the other parent as the bad guy, and a narcissistic co-parent controls the child by giving love when the child does what he or she wants. And I think some of this will sound familiar if you are in a co-parenting relationship with a narcissist. And just a little sneak preview of some things that will be coming up in upcoming weeks. I'm going to do a little bit of a deeper dove into the concept of parallel parenting, and I think that will give you a completely different perspective on how to co-parent.

[00:31:02] But I think that Dr. Leonard really lays out well, the I don't want to say the damage that can be done, but I don't know if there's a better way to put it. And that's why I wanted to lay out what I laid out earlier in this episode about attachment and needing that external validation. Let me get into this article, though. This is she it's a pretty short one. So Dr. Leonard says a narcissistic co-parent often influences a child in two potent ways. These maneuvers exploit a child's fundamental need to protect his or her attachment relationships and are difficult to undo once enacted. Understanding how these dynamics impact a child may be pivotal in assisting a child who is under a narcissistic co parent. Spell is how she puts it, she said. A healthy child enters the world neurologically, physiologically and emotionally, hardwired to attach to primary attachment figures. Even before the infant is born, he or she is able to recognize a primary caregivers voice, and at six weeks, an infant is able to smile at caregivers. And at three months, an infant can recognize an attachment, figure's face, smell and voice rooting, crying, grasping, smiling and babbling, or examples of an infant attempting to attract attachment figures and solidify the bond. So I love how she talks about that. It's neurologically, physiologically and emotionally hardwired to attachment figures.

[00:32:16] And I think this is truly speaking to the fact that if the baby can can bond to the attachment figure, then they are going to get their needs met. And so then she lays out that how that rooting, crying, grasping, smiling, all of these are the attempt to attract the attachment figure because they need to solidify that bond in order to survive. So, she said assuming a caregiver's response is consistently empathetic, the infant may develop a secure attachment style. If a parent fails to routinely meet the infant's biological and emotional needs, which is to provide comfort and to soothe in times of distress, the young child may develop an insecure attachment style. And I've talked about that dance of the insecure and avoid an attachment and how we show up in our adult relationships. But she's talking about that a secure attachment style is developed when there is that constant, empathetic attachment figure and that if the parent is there, hit misses is maybe not the way to put it. But then if a parent routinely fails to meet that biological and emotional need for attachment, it can develop a insecure attachment. However, she said the worst case scenario occurs when the infant's physiological and emotional needs are repeatedly neglected for prolonged periods of time. In response, the infant may adopt an avoidant attachment style, and then this often results in the infant's constant and continual withdrawal from the attachment figure. So she said that provided that the infant has a secure or insecure attachment, they may progress through childhood with a strong instinct to protect their attachment figures as well as the bond that they share.

[00:33:47] And it's a compulsion often exploited by a narcissistic co-parent. So in essence, that secure attachment or the insecure attachment that in either one of those scenarios, then the infant is going to be the one that is going to continually try to make sure that that parent likes them. In essence, that the infant is going to continually be checking to say, hey, are we are you there for me? Can I count on you? Do you have my back? Do you love me? And they're doing this, of course, all of it's subconscious. But then she says that compulsion can be exploited. Then by the narcissistic co-parent, she lays out that first the narcissistic co parent frequently frames himself or herself as the victim in a divorce. And this is that part where I've talked about this in previous episodes. When I watch people leave my office, they say they're going to do what's best for the kid or the kids, but then how do they show up as a co parent? But she says, for example, he or she may say to the child, I never wanted this, or I'm broken or I'll never be the same. I'll never survive this. All I wanted to do was love your mom and I'm all alone.

[00:34:46] These sentiments allow the narcissistic co-parent to position himself or herself as the victim in the scenario, while simultaneously posturing the other parent as the person who hurts, mistreats and abuses. So in a millisecond, the child's perception of the healthy parent changes due to a child's inclination to protect an attachment figure. And in a. Attachment bond, the child may rush to the aid of the vulnerable parent. So this is why it is absolutely imperative to be adults if there is separation. If there is fighting. If there is a divorce. That when a child says, Dad, why did this happen? If the dad say, and I don't know, you're going have to ask your mom and then I will have that that dad show up in my office and say, What was I supposed to do? She was asking me a question. I supposed to lie. And I know I'm making a I'm oversimplifying this, but do you tell your child what's going on at work? Do you tell your child about Santa Claus? What are the things that you are saying? You're pretending not to know from an accountability standpoint when the adult in that scenario can be the husband or the wife, whoever it is. But if they're saying, well, you probably have to go ask your go ask your mom or you're going to go ask your dad. I didn't want this. He's the one that that left.

[00:35:53] He's the one that was that put an end to all this that you are parental fying, the child, you're becoming the victim in that relationship. And and if in your mind you think, yeah, but I'm hurting and she needs to know. My nine year old needs to know. Then take a look at your own emotional maturity and what are you doing to your child? So she said, ironically, the narcissistic parent does not need to say anything derogatory about the other parent in order to successfully position him or her as the ultimate bad guy in the child's eyes. By painting himself or herself as the wounded party, the narcissist automatically positions the other parent as the antagonist and seizes the opportunity to invite the child to take care of him or her. In many cases, the child immediately strives to help the narcissistic parent and then feels responsible for the parent's emotional welfare, coaxed into turning away from the healthy parent and convinced that she is the narcissistic parents life saver, then she is trapped. She talking about the child. And I just you can see how this can really be detrimental to a child who gets their sense of self off of the validation of of the parent of the attachment figure. So if that attachment figure is then saying, I am dying here, I am so hurt. I can't believe your I can't believe that this is what your dad did. And then the kid now goes into rescue mode, then that is a really unhealthy dynamic.

[00:37:13] She said the second way a narcissistic parent manipulates a child is by obtaining emotional control of the child and emotionally abusive parent lavishes a child with love and affection when the child does what he or she wants. However, when the child offers a feeling or perspective that the narcissistic parent does not like, he or she blames the child and immediately withdraws his or her love. The child experiences emotional abandonment, albeit temporary, and that can be traumatizing event. And Dr. Leonard says to avoid this emotional obliteration in the future, the child complies with the narcissistic parents request because that child is now going to want to figure out how this game is played, how do I get my needs met? And it appears that the way I do that when I'm around the narcissistic parent is that I need to do whatever I can to meet their needs where what a secure attachment looks like with a child is that that child is there to be a child and to grow and to play and to question and to find things that they like and don't like. And you as the parent, what a wonderful gift and opportunity you have to be there right beside your kid and help them make sense of the world to help them know that you provide a secure base, a secure attachment, where they can then go and explore and come back and know that they are okay, that it isn't.

[00:38:24] They have let you down. So then they need to to be so they are unsure of what they need to do or what they like or what they how they can go out in the world and explore because they're always worried that will that be okay? Will I get in trouble for this? Well, I get in trouble for the things that I say or the things that I do. So she said. In addition, the child instinctively realizes that the healthy parent provides unconditional love. She intuitively senses the healthy parents attachment is secure. It's not going anywhere, ever. Alternatively, the child is quite aware that the attachment bond with the narcissistic parent is completely in jeopardy and constantly with the narcissistic parent is constantly in jeopardy. If she gets it right and is able to do and say what the narcissistic parent wants, then she receives love. If not, she's emotionally abandoned, avoiding the pain of emotional abandonment. They become the child's goal because the attachment relationship is secure, while the other is constantly at risk. Because one attachment relationship is secure while the other is constantly at risk, the child may feel compelled to attend to the elusive love or it may vanish. And that's where you will. Over time, I feel very confident that the secure attachment with that parent, the more emotionally mature parent that the kid will know, they will sense that they will feel that that's really hard to talk to somebody about when they have young children and they're just beginning a divorce or there's a co-parenting situation going on.

[00:39:42] But they need to continue to nurture that emotionally healthy relationship with their child because the on the other, when they are with their ex spouse, then if that is the narcissistic person, the emotionally immature person, these are the things that are happening over there that the person now is that the kid is trying to figure out, how do I show up here to get my needs met? She is an example. He says that all those manipulations, although these manipulations are as plain as day to a healthy parent, the child may not be able to decipher them. And pointing out the narcissistic co-parent as a manipulator may not help because the child has already been convinced that the secure parent, quote, has it out for the co parent. She gives the example two people are fighting over a doll. She said one person has been pulling the doll's arm for a long time and has successfully wrangled the doll onto his or her side. If the other person begins tugging on the doll's opposite arm, the doll may be ripped apart. Although a child should never be compared to an object, the analogy may help a parent understand why attempting to get the child on his or her side safe from the narcissist may backfire.

[00:40:42] It may be best to empathize with the child's feelings when she opens up about her inner conflict without directly calling out the narcissistic co-parent. If she realizes that she can talk about her feelings without drama ensuing. She may be more inclined to continually ask for help, for example, saying it hurts to feel like you can't say what you really feel in a relationship. I can understand or feeling guilty as awful. I can understand people who make you feel guilty for not doing what they want are really hard to deal with and I can appreciate that. Thank you for sharing that with me. Or it's scary to feel like you lost somebody's approval. I would feel that same way. And a few episodes ago, I talked about using my my four pillars with your kid. So knowing that if your kid then comes to you and says, hey, dad says that you're really being mean to him. I have to fill her one, assume good intentions, or I have to assume that there's a reason why my child is saying that. Yeah, because they've been manipulated by the narcissistic co-parent. And one of the keys that I think is my second pillar is I can't tell the person that that's ridiculous or they're wrong. Even if I think, no, it's ridiculous and it it's wrong because if I say that what I'm telling the child, if I say no, that's literally that's ridiculous.

[00:41:46] I can't believe that they told you that. Now, what I'm doing is I'm telling that child that, hey, if you come and tell me something and I don't like it, I'm going to I'm going to shut you down. I'm not going to I'm not going to agree with that sort of thing. So my pillar three is questions before comments, and I think that's where she nails it. So I like this article so much. Is that I'm going to say, man, tell me about that. What's that like? How does that feel when you feel like you when you're hearing this information or what does that feel like when you feel like you've disappointed somebody? And then pillar four, I'm not go into victim mode yourself. So if you have met that, there's a reason why your child is presenting that information to you, you're not telling them that's ridiculous. Even if you think it is and you're asking more questions. Tell me about that. What's that like? Pillar Force to lean in. It's to stay present. It's to not go into a victim mode. Victim mode is what the narcissistic parent is doing of saying, man, yeah, I'm just really bummed. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I never wanted this in the first place because that parent is wanting the kid to rescue them. So by staying present, it's saying, man, but I can understand.

[00:42:43] That would be hard. But I want you to know I appreciate you sharing that with me. That takes a lot of courage. That takes a lot of effort. I'm really grateful that you feel like you can come talk to me about that. What a strength based response. And if again, if we look at the fact that the kid is wanting external validation because they are a kid, then boy, they just got it, didn't they? They know that that feels okay. They may have felt icky coming in, but then they're able to express that to you. You validated them, you empathize with them, you ask them questions they felt, heard and understood. And then you were able to thank them and let them know I am a safe place, that you can share this information. So I really feel like this is one of those moments, this article, there's a lot of people I continue to get emails from people that are saying I may be waking up to my emotional immaturity. And so I feel like if you are listening to this and thinking, Yeah, I've done that. I have said to my child, my kid, my teenager, that just kills me. I don't know why I'm supposed to do it breaks my heart. And then are you looking for your child to rescue you? And this is that place where I want you to self confront and take a look in the mirror or the proverbial mirror, so to speak.

[00:43:46] And and if that is the way that you are showing up, then that is time to wake up to the narcissism, wake up to the emotional immaturity, because this is a point where I beg you to to lean in, to to stay present. This is the part where healing and growth can occur. If not, if it's not going to affect or if it's too late for your marriage. Let me just put it blunt then do not pass this on to your kid. Do not go into victim mode because you want your child to know you are hurting. That is not a way to pass on confidence and attachment skills and to be able to help this kid make the most of their. And so I really feel passionate about that, she says. Although it seems as if the narcissistic co-parent is won, stay in the fight without ever throwing a punch, be there for the child and empathize with everything that she feels. Sticking with her feelings and refraining from attacking the narcissist may help the child realize one parent is not pulling your arm. Discussing the manipulative dynamics instead of the manipulative parent may keep the conversation safe for both the parent and the child. Covered a lot of ground today. We had that beautiful poem at the beginning and then external validation. Kids, child, how do you work with your in a co-parenting situation? And then this article, How a Narcissistic Co-Parent Can Manipulate Your Child.

[00:45:00] I know that's a pretty heavy topic, but I appreciate you for hanging in there. And I hope that there were some takeaways today. If you have questions, if you have examples of any of this where you're at in your relationship, please go to Tony of and shoot them through the contact form. And if you're interested in being a part of the women's group for women in relationships with narcissistic partners and again, that can are narcissists in general in your relationships, whether it's a parent, a spouse at the office with a sibling, any of it. And if you are someone that is starting to wake up to your own narcissism, I'm hearing more and more from you and I see you and I appreciate you. I want to hear more from you. I want to do episodes that can address some of your concerns as well. So please feel free to send questions, comments. And if you are a guy who feels like you are in a relationship with a narcissistic female, whatever that entity is, whether it's mom, whether it's spouse, etc., I see you as well and I'm starting to get more people that are reaching out to be there too. And I would love to put a group together in the not too distant future to have an amazing week, and I will see you next week. On Waking Up to nurses.

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