Co-Parenting in a perfect opportunity for the NSP (Narcissist/Sociopath/Psychopath) to use and abuse. After all these years of dealing with my kids' NSP father, I have learned what not to do. I have to remind myself constantly to not engage.
In my mind, the idea of co-parenting is to make life easier for children by creating consistency between households. Co-parenting done well promotes order and routine - because shared custody in itself is a disordered (DIS-ORDERED) lifestyle. Think about it: do you want to live 1 week at one home, with one family -- then the next week in another home with another family? Back and forth for your entire childhood? I certainly don't. I want to live in ONE home, with ONE wardrobe, ONE kitchen, ONE consistent life. Then, when I feel like it, I want to visit friends and extended family.
I think shared custody is stupid and insane. It is in my situation. Most parents I know who start with shared custody, over time, reduce it to more of a (generally) kids-live-with-mom most of the time, and visit dad every other weekend and some holidays. That is what I know to be normal and good for kids.
What I have observed (and what has been reported to me from long-time psychologist-type professionals) is that the parents that insist on shared custody, when it doesn't work for the kids, and even though the kids object to it, these parents are NSP types.
What I Do NOT Do...
I resist the temptation to communicate with the NSP in a way that I communicate with normal, non-psychopathic people. The NSP considers me a target. He wants to create havoc, miscommunication, difficulty, etc. In a our shared custody situation, the concept of co-parenting is a perfect playground for the NSP.
Here is a great example. A very simple example. It seems harmless.
During Winter Break (and summer break), like most mothers, I take time to clear out the kids' rooms. My kids and I go through their clothes and discard/donate what no longer fits. Old toys are sent away to make room for the new.
My kids' NSP father does none of this WORK. He does not HELP his kids. Because this work needs to be done, in order to have a functional life, I end up helping them even though I don't live at his house. I coach. I instruct. "When you are at your father's house over break, you can/should do this same Cleaning Out and Cleaning Up work." I tell them all the reasons why...coaching, discussing, instructing. Sometimes we make "How To" list that they can keep in their school bag. Sometimes the kids come home and tell me all about it, how good a job they did, etc.
It is my impulse to remind their father that this is a good activity, a helpful activity, that the kids could use his help sorting and discarding.
It is my impulse to share that we have done this work at my house, and that it would be helpful to the kids if they could do this at his house.
Likewise, it is my impulse to remind him that the kids need certain items (like shoes that fit, or hygiene products, or this or that).
I have learned to NOT do this. It is hard. I care about my kids and they frankly need some help with these kinds of Life Skills. I have learned that when I communicate with their disordered NSP father, it is an opportunity for abuse to occur. The less I say, the better. Every extra communication becomes fodder for more abuse, more nonsense. To be clear, the NSP's abuse doesn't just come at me, it also comes at the kids.
It is so sad.
So, I do my best to Not Engage with the Psychopath.
I do what I can to help my kids and buffer them from pointless suffering. I have learned the hard way, that any attempt I make to smooth the way for them, by communicating with their father, always blows up in my face, and my kids' faces too.