While describing a difficult coParenter relationship, the standard is to throw out a commonly used claim, calling the ex a narcissist. This is not wise, on many levels.

The word “narcissist” Is used without a professional diagnosis or real facts and is now used very commonly in the coParenting world, when someone is describing their ex. The reality is that once a break up has occurred, that separation reverberates in thunderous concentric rings like a bomb that has dropped into the center of everyone’s lives – your life, your ex partner’s live, your parents, their parents, your friends and coworkers and of course, the children’s. That cataclysmic firestorm often replays itself in anger, hurtfulness, stubbornness and vindictive behavior.

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Divorced and separating people often have had the dreams, expectations and intimacies of their lives shredded. Is it any surprise they can’t wrap their brains around these difficult changes? These are individuals that are hurting, scared, angry, covetous or vengeful are difficult to deal with. And when individuals are difficult to deal with, it is far too easy to be a name caller, throwing your hands in the air giving in to the notion that there will always be conflict because after all, she is a narcissist.

That type of exasperated – even desperate name calling – allows the coParenting efforts to come to a screeching halt. Parents just give up. They allow a shouted word in the hallways to be the hallmark of the current state of the familial relationship. Every thing that is wrong with the relationship, the communication, the kids and the household is due to the label someone neatly affixed to the difficult person or coParenter.

The worst part is, this name calling floats around easily both in court, social settings and within earshot of children. Just ask children of divorce today. The best memories of their (divorced or separated) parents is when they did not speak badly of the other coParent in front of the child.

Chances are that your ex is not a narcissist. They may be a difficult person, as many are. Your ex partner may even exhibit some narcissism behavior. I have met too many people who have graced the halls of the courthouse with attorney in tow, that aren’t at some point pounding their fists and wanting it – ”their way!” Sounds a little like narcissism, doesn’t it? Who isn’t a little depressed, nervous and downright anxious when faced with separation or divorce? Or losing the kids, giving up the house or not having enough support to pay the bills, let alone keep junior in private school or piano lessons?

Just because someone is difficult does not make them narcissist. Name calling especially at this level of acrimony is a roadblock to effective and efficient child centered responses to conflict. Every complaint that is made comes to fruition when the mic has been dropped and the name has been called.

Take the High Road

Rather than resort to the hopelessness of the sticks and stones and failure to break bones – why not be less difficult yourself? Take the high road and give your ex the benefit of the doubt and sufficient time to grieve the loss of the life they thought they would have.

If you are respectful, kind and courteous and do not become a vicious name caller, then you can begin to communicate in a child centric manner. Transform the negative name calling to positive child centered decision making. Then, you are actively taking steps to improve the quality of your children’s lives. You are taking control by being a stand up individual, despite the difficulty presented by your coParent.

Remember, name calling in response to bad behavior can leave the lives of your children in cinders and ashes. Exactly what we don’t want to happen. Children should be enveloped with parents who love them enough to grow up and get along without being difficult or responding with the baseness of name calling.



About Hon. Sherrill Ellsworth (Ret.)

Judge Sherrill Ellsworth (Ret.) is the Chief Community Officer for coParenter.

Ellsworth is the Past Presiding Judge of Riverside County, a Judicial Educator and former Family Law Judge.

After almost 20 years on the bench, she has earned a reputation for being a straight-forward, no-nonsense, fair judicial officer. A broadly talented jurist and settlement expert, Ellsworth has effectively handled complex civil litigation cases, family law, felony criminal trials, probate and general trials throughout her almost 30 years of lawyering and judging. Ellsworth was one of the court's most respected and admired bench officers, earning the trust and revere of her colleagues and the lawyers who appeared before her.

In 2014, Ellsworth was named the Lawyer of the year by the J.Rueben Clark Law Society Los Angeles Chapter. Also in 2014 for her Judicial leadership she was named as an Inductee to Western State University Hall of Fame. And from 2012 to 2014, Ellsworth served as a voting member of California's Judicial Council.

In 2013, Ellsworth was awarded the Douglas Weathers Judicial Leadership Award by the California Consumer Attorneys, as well as various awards for her judicial leadership both as Presiding Judge and for Family Law. In 1999, she was named the American Business Women’s Association Woman of the Year for Judicial Leadership. Ellsworth was appointed vice-chair of the California Court Case Management System Justice Partner Advisory Committee in 2010. She was a member of the Strategic Evaluation Committee appointed by the Chief Justice and of the council’s Trial Court Budget Working Group, Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee, Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee, and Task Force on Self-Represented Litigants.