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co-Parent With a Narcissistic Spouse

How to co-Parent With a Narcissistic Spouse

Are you co-parenting with a spouse, or ex-spouse, who thinks and acts like a child themself? There’s nothing wrong with being a fun parent, but being child-like and child-ish are two different things. You’ve probably heard us say this before, but people who are narcissistic are emotionally immature six-year olds who never learned to deal with their insecurities.

Dr. Hawkins talks about the chaos of trying to co-parent with a narcissistic spouse, or ex-spouse, who doesn’t know how to assume the role of grown-up, and its impact on the family dynamic. Watch to find out what is needed to re-balance the family.

How to Co-Parent With a Narcissistic Spouse

Co-parenting can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but when you’re dealing with a narcissistic spouse, the difficulty level can skyrocket. Dr. David Hawkins, a specialist in narcissistic and emotional abuse, introduces us to a concept he calls the “Narcissistic Disneyland Dad.”

This phenomenon describes a situation where a narcissistic father engages with his children in a childlike, playful manner while neglecting his responsibilities as a parent and partner. In this article, we’ll delve into the dynamics of co-parent with a narcissistic spouse, explore the implications of the Narcissistic Disneyland Dad, and provide guidance on how to navigate this challenging situation.

Understanding Narcissism

Before we dive into co-parenting strategies, it’s essential to grasp the essence of narcissism. Narcissism is often rooted in extreme insecurity and emotional immaturity. Individuals with narcissistic traits tend to be self-centered, seeking validation and attention while struggling to empathize with others. In the context of parenting and co-parenting, these characteristics can create significant challenges.

The Narcissistic Disneyland Dad Phenomenon

The Narcissistic Disneyland Dad is a manifestation of narcissism that involves a father who, despite his self-centered behavior, exhibits childlike playfulness and insensitivity towards the needs of his partner and children. This dad may be critical, hostile, and defensive, but he can also be charming and fun-loving, especially around his children. This duality can be perplexing and damaging to both the spouse and the children involved.

The Harmful Effects of the Narcissistic Disneyland Dad

At first glance, the playful nature of the Narcissistic Disneyland Dad may seem harmless. However, the real harm lies in the consequences of his behavior. Here are some of the damaging effects:

  1. Scapegoating the Spouse: One of the most distressing outcomes of this phenomenon is that the narcissistic father often scapegoats his spouse, who may have already experienced narcissistic and emotional abuse. This scapegoating can lead to alienation, undermining the spouse’s parenting skills, abilities, and efforts.
  2. Refusal to Grow Up: The refusal to grow up and take on the responsibilities of a mature parent can have profound implications. It can lead to a lack of boundaries and understanding of one’s role as a parent and spouse, causing confusion and instability within the family.

Strategies for Co-Parenting with a Narcissistic Spouse

Now that we’ve identified the issues associated with the Narcissistic Disneyland Dad phenomenon, let’s explore some strategies for effectively co-parenting in this challenging situation.

  1. Seek Professional Help: Co-parenting with a narcissistic spouse often requires the assistance of a skilled therapist or counselor who understands narcissism and emotional abuse. They can help navigate the complexities of the situation and provide guidance on managing the narcissistic parent’s behavior.
  2. Rebalance the Family Dynamics: Even if the children are adults, it’s crucial to rebalance the family dynamics. Family therapy can be instrumental in achieving this. It helps establish clear roles and expectations for each family member, ensuring that the narcissistic parent understands their responsibilities.
  3. Unscapegoating the Spouse: Unscapegoating is a critical step in healing the family dynamic. This process involves acknowledging the harm done to the spouse and working towards repairing the relationship. A specialist can guide this process effectively.
  4. Educate the Children: Children may not always be aware of the harm caused by the narcissistic parent’s behavior, especially if they perceive the parent as a “nice guy.” It’s essential to educate them about the situation through the guidance of a therapist, so they understand the impact of their father’s actions.
  5. Establish Healthy Boundaries: Encourage the narcissistic parent to assume a more mature and responsible role in the family. This includes setting healthy boundaries and recognizing their role as a parent, not a child. Family therapy can facilitate this transition.


Co-parenting with a narcissistic spouse, especially one exhibiting the Narcissistic Disneyland Dad phenomenon, is undoubtedly challenging. It requires patience, resilience, and professional guidance. By seeking therapy, rebalancing family dynamics, unscapegoating the spouse, educating the children, and establishing healthy boundaries, you can navigate this difficult situation and provide a more stable and supportive environment for your family. Remember, with the right support and strategies, it’s possible to mitigate the harmful effects of narcissism and foster healthier relationships within the family unit.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: The Path To Restoration

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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