Do Narcissists Really Cooperate?

Most of the time, I have posts which I’m working on stacked in the background.  Information that would be helpful to others who are walking down this same path.  Might as well try to forge some value from the experience, right?

On occasion, I have to share the moment.  This is one.

Does someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder really coorperate?  I can only imagine the pie chart of those that read this …  % who are adamently shaking head no, % who are laughing loudly, and truly the % who are thinking “sometimes they do… or it least it seems like it”.

A person who deals with NPD has flawed thinking.  Truly – it’s flawed.  It doesn’t make sense.  I’m all for creating your own path in life or coming up with something new and amazing, or even creating ‘art’ in ways no one thinks is artful.  I love, literally love, diversity and originality.  But… a narcissist… well, it’s not original (they all do the same thing) and it just doesn’t rhyme.

Let me provide some examples to illustrate:

  • Last week, a friend of mine’s daughter was supposed to be returned from a week with her NPD dad for vacation.  Out of the blue, the dad said he wasn’t returning because the daughter was scheduled to go to a sleep away camp the next day, and he wanted to exercise “right of refusal”.  Right of refusal was the right to be able to care for the child in lieu of the other parent using someone else to babysit/care for the child.  It’s sleepaway camp, dude… not babysitting, and regardless – it doesn’t start until tomorrow and she’s legally due back today.  This is strange reasoning #1.
  • Same situation – reasoning #2 – after hours of not answering his phone, the dad finally speaks to my friend around 10pm (daughter was due back at noon).  They go back and forth on the phone, with the ex bringing up long ago issues.  He finally concedes that if my friend doesn’t send her to camp, he’ll return her the next day at 6pm.  He tries to bargain out something else, and finally my friend said “whatever… I’ll see you tomorrow at 6.”  Thirty minutes later, the daughter is knocking at the door. “Mom, I’m home”.  WTF?  Narcissists just want to win.  Especially this guy.  My friend has learned to ask her questions to him BACKWARDS because he’s that oppositionally defiant that she knows he’s fight her the other way.  Unfortunately, in this case, the daughter was caught in the middle for 10.5 hours.
  • Years and years ago, my ex owned a house in another state which he rented out.  The renter stopped paying rent.  My ex, who has an Ivy League MBA (go figure), decided that if he wouldn’t get paid rent, he won’t pay the mortgage company.  “If I’m not getting my money, the bank isn’t getting their’s”, he declared.  Really?  It was two months before I realized what he was doing, stared at him and said “WTF?  You are only hurting yourself”.  And that he did… for years his credit was a wreck.  Stupid me… because I made sure he fixed it.  Now I know better!
  • My ex wants me to compensate him for a three hour dinner evening missed 1.5 years ago because my dad was in intensive care our of town and I was there with the kids and him.  He also wants me to compensate for a recent weekend day where he was registered into a trade show on his weekend, and I kept the kids through the show time.  Lastly, he wants me to sign up our five year old for horseback riding lessons.  IF I do this, he will consent to a psychological evaluation (sorry for being repetitive if you’ve read the other posts).  Yesterday, he offered the following – “if you let me keep the kids until Saturday at 8pm, it will make up for both the 24 hour period you owe, and the dinner night”, he wrote. “Then all you need to do is write an email to the farms about the horseback riding and we can start the evaluation next week”.   I wrote to him that we were leaving to visit my sister and couldn’t extend the time.  Here’s the reply I get: “I think we know this is not the case. <Our daughter> is expecting to ride Sunday and the children weren’t expecting to leave. If you won’t cooperate, you can’t expect me to.

The thing is… even when they seem like they are cooperating, like the first email I got with all the nice tones to it, it’s really not.  There’s always a catch, always flawed thinking, and always something that they are trying to do to manipulate you.  The minute you don’t walk their walk, you’ll see the nasty comment or the lashing out that follows because they realize you aren’t being manipulated, and they can’t understand why it’s not working.

So… to answer my own rhetorical question… “NO”, narcissists cannot cooperate.  They can modify for their behavior for a portion of the time, but certainly when they are in conflict with someone or seeking revenge, I haven’t seen the genuine ability to cooperate.

17 Responses to “Do Narcissists Really Cooperate?”

  1. JK says:

    “If you won’t cooperate, you can’t expect me to.”


    My ex asked me to tell him if I decided to introduce any boyfriend to our child. I said OK. And he said “That’s a no if you aren’t going to co-operate I am not going to co-operate with you”

    It makes me want to bash my head in to a wall. It does not matter what is really going on he hears what he wants and will not co-operate unless he feels he is winning.

    • JK says:

      Or – when he bought a new house and wanted to renegotiate child support to afford it and I said no – he told me he would never discuss our child’s financial needs with me ever in the future if I did not agree to talk to him about HIS needs now.

  2. Ann Marie says:

    Our former marriage counselor and two friends that are therapists have told me that my soon-to-be-ex is NPD but I did not “see” it until reading these posts. You have all described HIM!
    Problem is we are in mediation over visitation. He physically and emotionally abused the kids (and me) before I got the protection from abuse order three years ago but now he is re-opening the custody. It has been five months and he still has not submitted WHAT he wants besides for his “kids to know him”. I still do not know how much more time he wants because he won’t tell me.
    We spent a terrible hour in a session today. The mediator wanted us to “paint a picture” of the children. He spent 20 minutes talking about himself. I talked about the children, their needs, their problems. He actually told the mediator that this was the first time he ever was told our oldest is developmentally delayed (high chance from abusive head trauma) and our youngest has a serious medical condition! They were diagnosed years ago, before the PFA, when he lived here but he couldn’t be bothered to attend any doctor’s appointments. He didn’t even come from home a business trip for the five days our son was in the hospital because “nobody told him to” The real reason? He was in Hawaii at a meeting so he did not come home. He told the mediator I keep this information from him. I keep notes so I have proof but it is SO frustrating.
    Every interaction is like this – HIS needs, all about HIM, nobody helps HIM, nobody cares about HIM. How do you mediate with a NPD?

    • Hi Ann Marie, I apologize for taking a while to post your comment and respond. Since mediators are supposed to help people find middle ground and not provide much in the direction of what’s really best for.the kids… my first response to your question was “you don’t”. The only way its possible is with someone who can recognize the self centered concerns.and is strong enough to push back on them. That’s not easy to find! I have found stories of people finding someone who can successfully mediate within the (ironically) “cooperative divorce” discipline. In this process, there are therapists involved who have.recognized the issues and used boundaries to push for what is right for the kids.
      Even recently for me, my ex is calling my daughters therapist because “this is very difficult” for him when she is refusing to go. For him??? What about for his 9 year old who has finally found the courage to say she won’t tolerate being called an asshole??
      I hope you find something and someone that can help. Keep prodding along, and gently point out that your ex’s concerns are about his and bring your kids needs back into the picture. I think keeping it focused on kids is the best you can do.

  3. StrongerMe says:

    You know when you read something and you find yourself nodding your head and all of these things come to mind that you want to share because THAT SOUNDS LIKE MY LIFE! Yeah, I’m having one of those moments.
    My ex threatened to keep the kids and not return them if I didn’t return his repossessed truck. We had tickets to an MLS soccer game. The kids were in a panic about missing it and begging me to give in and help him. When he realized that bullying wouldn’t work and started to fear contempt charges, he returned them. We missed the first half of the game, but the worst part was the emotional scarring for all of us.

    • The positive in that is that you were able to provide them a good example of not backing down or allowing yourself to be bullied. They need to learn that too so that they can stick up for themselves with their dad — sad, but true. Thanks for writing!

  4. Grace says:

    these examples make me feel like I’m not alone. Also, like all of you guys were also married to my ex?! 😉

    if he hasn’t already done/said these things, I can easily see him pulling this on the kids and I.

    I just finished dealing with his manipulations and attempts at control over a kid-related issue, and I’m glad that I was able to take deep breaths and see exactly what he was trying to do. It helped me keep moving forward instead of getting mired in his crazy logic and finger pointing, and as of tonight we have resolution (hooray for fake deadlines that force them to make a decision, too).

    but in the end-I HATE THIS.

    why can’t they be normal?

    • Ahhh… Exactly how I feel… The wish for normalcy. I’ve pondered the theory of “acceptance”, and still struggle with accepting the unacceptable. Guess I have to settle for accepting that this is my life!

    • heather says:

      lol @ Grace. They are all cut from same cloth, yes!

    • Heather says:

      You are so not alone Grace!

      I do think that he’s teaching me patience. I think I’ve become a much better mom since dealing with his Axis 2/NPD stuff and all of the drama around it. Somehow a 4 year old is just not that challenging. So I thank him for making me a better parent.

  5. heather says:

    BTW…how many had hoarders. Mine actually hoarded…his ENTIRE FAMILY HOARDS…is there an overlap between NPD and hoarding objects. Once I threw away a blanket that he had washed and that was moldy b/c he never dried it. No matter how many times we washed, it was still moldy and gross. He took it out of the trash. I then threw it away with a note pinned on it “It’s gross to use this moldy blanket.”

    Another time I threw away some crappy candle holders he gave dollar store crap and also such an example of narcissism b/c it was something he liked but if he bothered to notice me at all, it was totally not me. They were terrible and a fire hazard. He TOOK PICTURES OF THEM IN THE TRASH! I caught him and he explained that he was going to use the pics in court to show how abusive I was when we divorced. (He had just kicked in a door the week before after I had locked him out of the house b/c I was so scared of him threatening me).

    • Hoarding is, ironically, a component of obsessive compulsive disorder. While some people do the OCD behaviors most people are aware of – like excessive hand washing and germophobe (like the tv series “monk”)- the other side of it is compulsive hoarding. I haven’t heard of that being a typical comorbidty, but it’s possible.

      • heather says:

        Research indicates that we’ve matched OCD with hoarding poorly in the DSM. So I wonder. Maybe just my exes family though honestly.

  6. heather says:

    They cooperate when it suits them and don’t cooperate when not cooperating suits them. Them. Them. Them. Them. Them.

    Ideas re: camp

    1) “Ok…you keep her for the next week.”

    2) Send the police to pick her up if he’s violating the court order

    3) “You win. When do you want to get her back to me again?”

    I got first rights of refusal removed from parenting plan and realize I was pretty darn smart to do so. : ) I did it for custody reasons. Basically, before he can fight for custody he needs to meet the 35% he has now (he doesn’t last I checked he was at 28%) and also we need to actually follow first rights of refusal (he didn’t…he was having his family watch the girls). I have a month of documented evidence that he wasn’t following first rights.

    I might also recommend spinning it where HE takes the kid to camp. “You know…it’s not the same as babysitting, but it’s a totally cool thing to drop her off…I think she’d LOVE it if you did that. ”

    Then in the future, never tell him about cool plans ever again. I actually coach my kids to NOT tell their father about cool things we do. I say to tell him how incredibly boring I am…how they hate it with me. I don’t want to increase envy with a narcissist. Very very bad emotion to increase b/c that brings rage which will translate into things like killing my dog (he did that with his first wife) or kidnapping the kids (he threatened to do that last year when we first separated). Keep all cool things on the down low. Tell him uncool things that he can’t use against me in court.

    They are completely incapable of empathy, so “cooperation” is only behavioral for them of course.

    But if “cooperation” helps them feel important and powerful, that’s useful for you.


    • heather says:

      I will say it matters whether they have financial resources or not regarding my ideas. Mine does not. So I’m not being dragged to court much from mine.

  7. Julie says:

    Agreed, an NPD cannot cooperate. They manipulate and when that doesn’t work they get very nasty especially if they feel you took something from them (because every issue is really a thing). Hence your ex is still upset about a perceived slight from you..a year ago? WOW, here is the crazy NPD logic..He equivicates you giving him the time (that you took)and him giving you the evaluation for your son. Note, the welfare of your son is nowhere in this thought process. I have noticed how werid an NPD is about possessions, everything wether it is time, an item, or children is a possession. A friend who was studying psychology explained to me that since the NPD is a black hole of nothing (and subconsciously they know they are a black hole) they get aggressive and vindictive when you take because then they feel a loss and they get a glimpse of the nothingness that they are.

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