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Narcissism in Parental Alienation: Clarifying Examples

Narcissism Parental Alienation

Narcissism in Parental Alienation

Co-parenting with your ex after getting divorced can sometimes get tricky, and even more so if they are prime examples of narcissism and parental alienation. If your ex is indulging in the toxic practices of narcissism and parental alienation and is trying to destroy your relationship with your child, then it’s a huge cause for concern.

I recently received an email from a reader of my blog posts on parental alienation listing several examples of what he perceives as his ex’s narcissistic behaviors and attempts to alienate him from his child.

I’m sharing Jeffrey’s experience with my readers, with his permission, to help other parents—as well as lawyers and judges—to recognize narcissistic behaviors.

Examples of Narcissistic Behaviors in Parental Alienation

Narcissistic behavior occurs when a hyper-focus on one’s own beliefs, desires, and preferences overrides hearing or responding to others’ concerns.

Parental alienation describes attempts by one parent to turn children against and block the relationship with the other parent.

Here is Jeffrey’s story:

—At the end of our first trial, the judge dropped the contempt charges that my ex-wife had put on me. The judge also put in the new order that if I were to move closer to my child, I and my ex could talk about extending parenting time.

That is exactly what I did. I moved right down the street from my child. When I then wanted to talk about adjusting our parenting time, my ex refused. I was stunned.

—In video calls to my child, my ex would be there in the room with her. My child repeated over and over, looking at her mother, “I don’t want to talk to him.” 

Then in court, my wife told the judge that she did not encourage her to talk to me because it stressed the child out. She was very convincing. The judge took away my parenting time and told me that if I call and my child refuses to talk to me, I have to end the call “in order not to stress the child out.”

Shortly after this judgment, I watched when my daughter went to play soccer for the first time. She was crying, “I don’t want to play soccer.” My child was even more stressed out than she had been when I was on the phone with her. Yet her mother encouraged her to stay and play soccer. Her mother would not encourage her to talk to me but would encourage her to play soccer. From my perspective, it was all about what her mother did and didn’t want, not at all about our child’s, or my, desires.

—I had arranged that in my parenting time my child and I would go on a vacation together. I informed the teacher in advance that my daughter would not be there Monday and Tuesday. My ex sent me a text message to inform me that she would be at the school on Monday to be a helper. I then informed her that our daughter would not be there.

I know that narcissistic people often get mad when they don’t get their way, but this was like talking to Dr. Jeckll and Mr. Hyde. She went off on me, screaming, “This is always about you and what you want.” 

I didn’t react though because I remembered that her accusing me of selfishness could be seen as a perfect example of projection. She is the one who is totally selfish.


—My daughter will not do simple things like changing her own clothes, using the bathroom, or sleeping in her own bed. She always asks for help. I am afraid that is how she gets her mother’s attention; otherwise, her mother is too focused on herself to pay attention to her.

—In my view, this narcissism thing has been going on since day one. At the hospital, just before my ex left with our child, she told me. “By the way, her last name is going to be my maiden name.” When I asked why, she said, “Because I can.”

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Susan Heitler Ph.D.

Susan Heitler is a Denver clinical psychologist and widely-read author. Educated at Harvard and NYU, Susan Heitler offers self-help information for individuals and for couples. She also writes for therapists, offering new understandings and treatments for anxiety, anger, depression, narcissism, and relationship challenges. Dr. Heitler’s office also serves as a center for the evaluation and treatment of parental alienation. She and her husband of more than 45 years are proud parents of four happily married adult children and grateful grandparents of fifteen grandchildren.View Author posts