The alternating residency model as a narcissistic strategy


Can he take the children away from me?

Suspected narcissistic fathers like to intimidate their (ex-)partners with this threat again and again.

As a rule, the standard answer is: No.

We could actually close this topic with that, but I notice that this topic tends to bug newly-separated mothers a lot. It was the same for me during the first two years after the separation.

So if you don’t have a drug or alcohol problem and have always taken good care of your kids, the children will not be taken away from you at the request of your Ex!

Even if one or the other hateful aggro-Narzi may have tried and succeeded. Such cases are a great misfortune for all involved, but still the exception.

The normal-narcissist, however, chooses a different strategy, and there you really have to watch out, because it is really very much on the rise!

Resist the beginnings!

At the time, I was very eager to compromise and openly respond to everyone’s needs after the breakup. And felt very liberal and modern with this attitude.

No, I didn’t want a fight. We weren’t the kind of parents who tore each other apart in court, and you hear about them in the media all the time – highly conflictual?

No, I’m not that kind of toxic and bitter witch!

Do you feel the same way?

Welcome to the club – most women who break up with a suspected narcissistic partner are anything but self-confident or even riotous.

And they love to cut themselves some slack. Just don’t cause any stress yourself!

He wants to stay in the house? Fine, I’ll move out. He wants to visit the kids at my place two afternoons a week? Okay, that should work. He wants to keep the silverware? All the same to me. In addition, grandma should get a kid’s day during the week? Hmm. Doesn’t sit well with me, but the kids love grandma, so what the heck. He can’t pay me my own child support for the first 3 years? True, would really be quite a bit, I realize. The main thing is that he pays for the kids, I still go to work part time.


If you think like that, then you’ll be hitting your head in 2 or 3 years at the latest. Then, when you have gained emotional distance and have to admit that you yourself have created a lot of facts that are very disadvantageous for you – and the children.

The motto, then, is: You don’t have to get mean – just be smart!

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About the paternal metamorphosis

I always find it interesting what metamorphosis takes place in narcissistic men as soon as they have been abandoned by the mother of their children.

The inconspicuous, ugly, and slowly crawling caterpillar, which has made itself at home in its cocoon and has placed nothing but its own thinking in the center of its being, turns into a wondrous butterfly feeling fatherly feelings.

Isn’t that fantastic? A miracle of nature!

The same person who spent the two months of parental leave – if he took any at all – mostly in the hobby cellar or on the road, now feels it as an unacceptable hardship if the children are “taken away” from him.

It is irrelevant whether you actually intend to do this. After all, the children have to live somewhere, and if you move out and your soon-to-be-ex hasn’t cared or shown a shred of responsibility, it makes sense to take them with you to the new apartment.

You work part-time, he works full-time – or is self-employed – how could it be otherwise?

Ha – what possibilities do you think there are all of a sudden? Especially if you have made the decision to leave him.

I’ll show her! Exposing myself like this in front of my acquaintances and relatives!

And – oh miracle! – suddenly the man has the time! Every week Wednesday and Thursday and Saturday and Sunday.

Judge, alternating residency model please!

How good that he doesn’t have to pay alimony then. She should not believe that she gets something from my hard-earned money! But the children are still so small… No way! I am also a main reference person, they will feel comfortable with me. Such an old wives’ tale with early bonding and such a mother hen!

My tip for you: don’t get involved in the alternating residency model when your children are small. If they are grown up and want it against all odds, that’s something else, but think about an alternative anyway.

Please be warned: an alternating residency model with a narcissist cannot work. So much has to be coordinated, you have contact with each other again and again, you have to agree again and again.

Do you have an important date in court soon?

Let me help you prepare mentally.

More information

The alternating residency model really only works if:

  • the children are older and expressly approve of it (they sacrifice a considerable amount of their time and nerves for the back and forth), AND
  • if you live close to each other AND
  • if you can still communicate well.

After all, if you’ve broken up with a narcissist, there’s a golden rule: distance, distance, and more distance.

In communication. In physical proximity. In everyday life.

You were under tension in your relationship every day. If, even after you moved out, you have to coordinate the children’s everyday life with him every day by email or phone, you will never be able to relax.

With the alternating residency model, he still has control over you and your life.

Therefore: No alternating residency model with a narcissist. Never ever. No way.

The residence model (the children live with you and visit their father e.g. every two weeks for the weekend) is fully sufficient for a reasonable potential for trouble.

Don’t get involved in the first months of separation on a trial basis. Otherwise you will quickly create facts that he can present in court in his favor.

Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?


The organization behind it

You’re probably wondering how he’s going to implement the alternating residency model so quickly, when he hardly had time to be home on time for dinner before?

With the help of his mother, of course.

And she has a score to settle with you anyway. Why are you leaving her golden boy anyway? So irresponsible! You’ve got kids! Well, in the past you used to grit your teeth and go through bad times, but young women nowadays only think about themselves…!

So it can happen that the children have to go to grandma’s on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons after school, are with you again on Friday, and are with their dear dad on Saturday and Sunday.

Of course, each parent is free to decide how to arrange childcare during contact. So you might want to go to a nice concert (or date) on Saturday later on, you’ll be glad yourself if your Ex doesn’t talk you into your choice of babysitter.

But it is quite a bummer, to say the least, when an alternating residency model is enforced and enforced in court, which provides as an integral part not the caring father but his – presumably also narcissistic – mother!

With the exception of the two egoists, everyone suffers: The children, because they are only wandering and do not come to rest, and you, because you suffer with them and simply cannot cut the connection between you and these energy vampires or lower it to a reasonably tolerable level.

So don’t get involved in any comparisons and attempts. Stay stubborn.

Conclusion: Don’t make it too easy for him.

I’ve been told that judges tend to rule in favor of whoever is most recalcitrant. They want the case off the table; that’s what they’ll be judged on later.

Yes, court dates are the most stressful and draining. If you haven’t been married to the guy, the number could still be low from the beginning, so that’s a plus.

So if he comes to you without a court date – and right in the first weeks of separation – with a flimsy alternating residency model agreement that he wants you to sign (and calls it trial or trial or or or), don’t be lulled by his sudden niceness!

You know how charming narcissists can be – when they want to be!

If he demands something from you and you are unsure, then for God’s sake let him go to court. And you look for a good lawyer who knows how to deal with such guys.

No, you are not the high-conflict parent – but the protective, smart mother who doesn’t let anyone take the butter off her bread and stands up for her rights.

You can do it!

P.S.: By the way, there is a third model, which I mention here only for the sake of completeness: the nest model. But this is so unusual and expensive that it is probably not feasible in most cases – and it will not work with a narcissistic Ex-partner.

In the nest model, it is not the children who migrate, but the parents by the week or day. One needs 3 apartments: One each for the parents and a central family apartment. In coordinated alternation, either the father or the mother lives in the nest apartment.

But just the idea that the narcissistic Ex was in the apartment before, surely has some clothes hanging in the closet and his aftershave scent still hangs in the air in the bathroom, might already send a shiver down the spine of one or the other mother and cause a gag reflex.

Yes, the nest model would be by far the best for the kids, but only for well-heeled families who have separated for some reason – but never for psychopathic ones.

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