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My Narcissistic Ex-Husband

Reflections on loving and living with a Narcissist.  Let our experts guide you toward the healing power of moving on and allowing yourself some time in the spotlight.  Get advice on healing from his behavior and finding yourself again.

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“You took that wrong.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You have it all wrong – again.”

Do these statements sound familiar? If so you are part of a large group of women (and men) who have experienced what psychologists call, gaslighting. It happens to be one of the primary techniques that a narcissist uses to manipulate and control those around him. 

Psychologist coined the term after a 1944 movie, Gaslight. In the movie, Ingrid Bergman stars as a woman who, as a child, witnessed the murder of her aunt. She meets a man, played by Charles Boyer, who wines, dines, and charms her until she falls madly in love with him. They are married soon after. The husband begins to isolate his wife from other, allowing her no visitors and not letting her go out in public. He says that he is protecting her, taking care of her, since she is so sensitive and easily stressed. He begins to do things deceptively that make her believe things about herself that are not true. 

Is this starting to sound familiar at all?

In one scene he takes his wife out to a friend’s house and shows her that his watch has disappeared from its chain. He then “finds it” in her purse, convincing her that she really is not mentally healthy and cannot be trusted. He then steps up his plan to make her think she is crazy. When she hears his footsteps in the attic he tells her that she is hearing things and when the gaslights flicker he doesn’t admit that he has caused it. He is, as you may have guessed, the murderer of her aunt and is using his wife to give him access to her aunt’s jewels.

Like Charles Boyer the narcissist is a genius when it comes to twisting reality for their own purposes. It doesn’t matter what the truth actually is – he has a way of ultimately showing you that it really is your own fault and that you aren’t seeing things clearly. Before long you learn to accept that you are so mentally off that you can’t trust your own perceptions.

A Classic Example of Gaslighting

After I had been married for about seven years I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in nearly a decade. My father paid for me to attend art classes with a local artist and I was thrilled to be painting again. I was a stay at home mom with two preschoolers and getting out once a week was heaven. 

I suppose I was concentrating on getting reacquainted with oil paint and turpentine a bit too much, I don’t know. I do know that for the first time in seven years I was doing something that did not revolve around my husband and I used some of my free time pursuing my muse. Dinner was on time, the house was clean, and the kids were cared for but I often pulled out a canvas after I had tucked my children into bed.

One evening he came home an hour late from work. It was late, the kids were already in bed, and I had lost track of time while I worked on a new painting. My husband walked in, slammed the door, and when I looked up from my canvas he snarled, “I don’t appreciate you questioning me about where I have been. I am an adult, after all.” 

He then strode into the bedroom to change clothes.

Was my first response the thought that he had done something and felt guilty? Was it that he had lost his mind?

No. I felt immediately guilty for having a distrustful look on my face. I put my work away and rushed in to try to smooth things over. I apologized and offered to fix him a snack. He graciously forgave me and I put my painting away for a couple of weeks so that he wouldn’t have to be bothered with my messes and my lack of attentiveness.

Image Courtesy of Mitya Ku

I found out about a month later that he had been seeing another women. His snappiness was caused by guilt not by what I had done. Even then he somehow was able to convince me that he was the victim. My concentration on painting made him feel left out and unloved and so he sought solace with someone else.

I felt terrible and gave up painting so that he wasn’t inconvenienced. That was in 1987 and I have not painted since.

The narcissist uses the gaslighting technique with a special skill. It allows him to control his environment, as well as to control your emotions, responses, and behavior. Over time he continuously plants seeds of doubt in your mind about the validity of your own feelings and perceptions. Eventually you stop believing your own opinions and begin accepting whatever he says is truth. You become compliant, confused, and needy. After all, you can’t take care of yourself, can you? Look at how wrong you are about nearly everything!

Getting Your Confidence Back

If you have been living with a narcissist for a long time you may feel that you have lost all ability to function as an intelligent human being. By the time I divorced I no longer felt confident about my looks, my ability to use technology, driving ability, or the reliability of my thoughts and emotions. It’s not an easy thing to come back from but you can do it.

I did.

One: Recognize that You’ve Been Deceived

The first step it to recognize that you have been deceived. Your thoughts and opinions are valid and your emotions are not silly, overly dramatic, or wrong. It’s important to begin to own your emotions even if it means writing out your feelings in a journal. 

Use phrases like – 

  • I am angry because ______.
  • When he does that I feel _____.
  • I have a right to my emotions.

Two: List Your Strengths

If you have been hearing for years how you can’t do this or that very well, or you are impossible with math, or you don’t handle money responsibly then you’ll need to reprogram your perception of yourself. That’s not always an easy thing to do.

Think about what you used to be good at. Maybe you got straight A’s in English or history. Perhaps you are an excellent singer or musician. Whatever it is make a list of as many things that you can think of that you do well. If you have trouble thinking of things ask your close friends to help you.

You’re making a list so that you can refer to it daily. If it’s written down you can see it and remind yourself of who you are as often as you need to.

Three: Begin to Try

Usually those of us who have been subjected to gaslighting stop trying new things. There’s really no point since we can’t do it well anyway. We become afraid to step out and try to do things on our own – especially things that we don’t feel confident about.

The only way to get around this is to push yourself to try new things. Challenge yourself to do something or learn something new each day no matter how silly it seems. 

Four: Call Him on It

When he says something that isn’t true you don’t have to agree! Look him in the eye and tell him he is wrong. If you are in a public place and he says something that is not true don’t just laugh nervously and agree. Don’t assume that he is right and your memory is faulty.

Just tell him that his version is not the way your remember it.

Five: Seek Professional Help

There’s not a thing wrong with seeking professional counseling to help you crawl out of that hole. You have been brainwashed for years and it will take some time to get healing. A counselor can lead you in such a way that you see the lies that you have been believing and show you how to put them to rest and embrace the truth.

Recognize that It Really Isn’t You

When you are first in love with someone it is easy to cover their bad habits in a variety of ways. If you blame yourself for an argument, for example, then you can control it so that it doesn’t happen again. Only it does – over and over again.

You are constantly told that if you were more this or less that then there wouldn’t be so many problems in your relationship. That is a lie that you need to recognize. You are who you are, and while you may not be perfect, you are as close to it as anyone else.

When I first began writing I landed a nice cookbook deal that paid enough to pay off a lot of the debt that had accrued. When I got the email with the contract and the go ahead I was, as you might expect, very excited. I rushed into the room my ex was in at the time and announced gleefully, “I got a cookbook deal!”

He looked up at me briefly, shrugged, and nodded before going back to what he had been doing. I immediately “realized” that a cookbook deal really wasn’t that big of a thing and my pride was heavily clipped.

I look back on that now and know that even if it had been a contract to do a series on Food Network he would have reacted exactly the same. Nothing I could do would ever be more impressive to him than himself.

The gaslighting technique is a powerful way to manipulate someone but it only works if you accept that someone else’s feelings and perceptions are more valid than yours.

Which is, of course, just silly.

First Wive's World is a community devoted to hearing your stories. Register today and share your experience with a narcissistic ex-husband. 

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35 comments

  • Comment Link gi Sunday, 17 September 2017 00:38 posted by gi

    THANK YOU for writing this. Moments ago I was the bulleyes for my partners rage and I sat there wondering, as I have many times before, "is he insane? or am I?" I'm so glad I found your website. I wish that I were alone in this but there is comfort in knowing that other women have grown out of the relationships that keep them hostage. It's inspiring and much needed!

  • Comment Link TriHardMom Saturday, 15 July 2017 14:26 posted by TriHardMom

    Thank you so much for this article. Everything in my marriage is "my" fault or because I'm not strong enough and somehow emotionally unstable. Before menopause it was always because I was on my period. At one point I actually started to believe that women are less capable than men because they have emotions. He has always put himself on a pedestal because he is so patient with me. He truly believes he is smarter than everyone else. Everything has to be done his way. I think the last time he gave me a compliment other than, "You have a great body," was 7 years ago. Now I am discovering lies, deceits, and I am recognizing blame-shifting. Suddenly, he has become nice again as I have pointed out in counseling sessions that he was cold and physically absent when my best friend suddenly died last year and my mother died of pancreatic cancer this year. But it just doesn't seem heartfelt and I have just inherited quite a bit more money than expected. He says he didn't know my mother's dying and death would be so hard on me even though I asked him repeatedly to come down from our condo in the mountains (we live outside Denver) because my son and I needed his support. I need to wait this out a bit longer to make sure I have dealt with my mother's death properly and for my only son's sake to make sure he has a healthy launch into college (he is at camp until then). Here's my fear. He is very charming. Will he suck me back in again? How do I protect myself from his tactics? I do believe he is a good person. I think this is unconscious because of his mother's narcissism. I don't think I love him anymore, but how can I tell when I am grieving for my mother (also something of a narcissist)?

  • Comment Link HH Tuesday, 13 June 2017 11:27 posted by HH

    I negotiated a six-digit contract, from first communication to the final agreement, on his behalf. 'Cause I'm good at stuff like that, that's why I ended up being the one doing it. When the e-mail came in, he said...nuthin. No, it was worse than nuthin, there was an evil negativity coming from the other room, it was palpable.

    Time to get out the paintbrushes. Remember Grandma Moses?

  • Comment Link Mel Saturday, 25 February 2017 23:23 posted by Mel

    Narcissists tend to be unaccountable and destructive and this is incurable. They feel in control by attacking what is important to those arround them, or convincing others to do so, in various ways that may escalate if they are confronted or challenged. They may have some potential for awareness, but their thinking tends to be, ironically, calculated but irrational. Surprisingly some of them can be managed with loving detachment, like a two year old; but this may not be true in all cases. For those who are worn down and discouraged from weeks, months, years, or a lifetime with narcissistic personalities: take heart. The fact that you are here means you are making progress. Now is a hell of a lot better than never. Now please keep learning and reading, and don't stop. There are a whole lot of tools out there to help you get clearer and take care if yourself.

  • Comment Link Neh Thursday, 29 December 2016 03:07 posted by Neh

    . I am currently in a narcissistic relationship and my spouse is verbally abusive and lacks empathy for anyone or anything. He talks down on his co workers and acts like he is the smartest person that ever existed. We had some issues about 2 years ago when I met some guy that was really nice to me and got to talking with him. He helped me financially and encouraged me to go back to graduate sch. Before I knew it...my spouse had my car tracked, hacked my emails and phone conversations and hid recorders in my car, my bag and recorded my conversations...He then went onto play the recordings to my friends, his friends, my family and told every body I was a whore and a bitch and how I was screwing around...My friends and family are very supportive of me and know most of the verbal and emotional abuse I had been going through and also the fact that most of the conversations were were distorted and he only heard what he wanted to hear. We have 2 little kids and so decided to work on our relationship and get counseling. We did about 5 sessions and we're doing okay only for me to realize he had been cheating on me for a long time...caught emails and hotel reservations he had all over the place and confronted him in a peaceful manner and he said that the person was somebody who had helped him in the past during a difficult time and so he Wes paying her back by sleeping with her ... We decided to work through it especially because of the kids and the kids were beginning to ask a lot of questions " mommy did daddy hurt you" " mommy , are you and daddy still friends?"...etc. they live their daddy so much even though he barely has time for them....they are always trying to impress him hoping he will spend time with them. We had been doing well until recently when he started staying out late and when asked he will become angry. He was buying expensive gifts for the person and when asked who the gift was for told me it was none of my business and that it is his money and he can do whatever he wants to with it.... I let it go....but it he got out of hand when I asked him to give me access to our phone contract and he kept giving me the run around one excuse after another. I finally asked for his phone so I could make the call to the phone company and he was about to give me another excuse. I asked him if he was hiding something and he became very defensive and brought up the issues we had 2 years ago and went on and on and on about it...I called him out on his affairs and the hotel reservations and the gifts and he became somewhat abusive. Now he goes out and comes back in the wee hours of the morning...continues to lie about his whereabouts to his sister and actually came back home at 9 am the other day. He barely talks to me and always has this angry look... I have tried to ignore him and just work on myself so I don,t feel victimized.. The saddest part is that I love this man and will really love for this relationship to work out especially for the sake of my kids. He comes from a broken home and is so bitter about it. I on the other hand come from a very close knead and supportive family. I tell that I don't want the kids to end up in a broken home and grow up to have such anger like he does now. He barely talks to his father and lost his mom some years after his parents separated and is still angry that his mother died from the fact that his father was narcissistic and treated her horribly that she became so depressed and eventually passed away. He still has not forgiven his dad for that.....The sad part is that he is turning out to be just like his dad and it is scary....

    Interestingly, my spouse has been encouraging to go back to school but he was in school full time and barely had time to help with the kids and thins around the house. I told him I will go when he is done but he just keeps on going and is planning on starting his PH.D program . When I tell him we can not go to school at the same time, he asks me what is stopping me. My kids are in 1st grade and need all the help and I work full time so it is very hard to balance work, home and the kids but he does not care. He is seeing some old hag who is not married and who is now doing a doctorate program and tries to compare me with her..she does not have my kids no has never been married and so can afford to go to school to whatever level she wants to.... I don't even care anymore abt it.....
    I love this man but I am scared I can not change him...I want to work on myself so I am not victimized and so I can be there for my kids and help them not become like he has become......I need to be strong for myself. I m thinking of talking to my pastor in church. He does not go to church and does not like to listen to any kind of advice.....I really need help from a support group...so I can be strong for my selfish and for my kids.....P,ease help...I can not afford a counsellor!!.
    HELP!!!!!

  • Comment Link M. Friday, 09 December 2016 17:24 posted by M.

    My husband, who has some mental thing going on- I don't know if it's from being abused as a child or narcissm or slight Aspergers or what-- in the beginning, he was kind and sweet and very caring, treating me like a princess. So we could be together, I sold the ranch that I built with my own 2 hands and I sold my my prize stable of Arabian show horses that I spent 20 years breeding and training until I had a barn full of champions with champions babies. The largest Arabian horse futurity is in Michigan and my stud won it 4 years in a row. He was my dream horse, and I gave him up because my marriage was important. I moved far away because he wanted to keep his job - okay, I understand that. But what I didn't understand what was after I moved, life would change. Suddenly, everything was my fault, he refused to create a joint bank account for paying bills. I never knew how much money we had because I could only balance my personal account. One month, he said to me, "We have ten bucks and payday isn't until Thursday," (He told me this on a Monday). I borrowed 120 in cash from a friend and after that, I put 20 bucks in my desk drawer every week to build up a petty cash account "just in case". I cleaned house, remodelled, bought a car, and found financing so we could buy a condominium in a forest on a lake with only a 10-minute walk to town. The view was beautiful and the price was right - a very good investment. Everytime he got upset, he would complain about our home. When a major company laid off all of its technical staff, I decided to go back to graduate school. It was a 4-semester program (2 years total) and 2 of the semesters were at foreign universities. The first semester, I was away and I studied hard. It was difficult for me to relate to people and that's when I realized how isolated I had been for the last few years. The second semester was at home and it was really impossible to concentrate on school because there was too much to do at home - clean, cook, buy groceries, do the laundry, etc. My husband did take care of the car, so that was nice of him. But when I went away for the 3rd semester, I began to regain my sense of self. I realized that I am a smart person (my previous career was IT manager at a Fortune 500 company), I did not have a faulty memory, I was not stupid with money, etc. My previous self - the person I had been before I got married - resurfaced. I regained my confidence and "got my groove back." The last semester was at home, doing my master's research and writing the my thesis. The company where my husband works offered me a research internship in their finance department, which was a very prestigious place for a grad student. After collecting all the data, I had 30 days to write the thesis, which is very little time. So, I spent 16-hour days at the computer and when my husband complained, I simply told him that I didn't have time and we could talk about it after my defense. He learned that he had to help clean, take out the garbage, and do grocery shoppinng. The week before my defense, he finally came unglued and yelled at me, saying that he wanted a divorce. I told him, "That's great (sarcastically). I bust my ass going back to school, I'm 7 days from my defense, I don't have a job, and you want to leave? Be my guest." Then, he said, "No, you are the one who has to leave." I just looked at him and spoke very softly, but firmly, "I have several pages yet to write, then I'm going to proofread my entire thesis, email it to the professors on my graduate committe, and then make the slideshow for my defense. And I am not going anywhere until that is done." He said nothing. After the defense (which he attended), I recieved the highest grade for my master's these of my class. Another professor invited me to co-author a research paper, which will be published. My job prospects are bright. As far as my marriage, I told my husband that I love him, but I think he lacks empathy, that I am not stupid and I have a degree to prove it, and what can we do to make our life better? As usual, his anwers were evasive. I got weeks of silent treatment. And then one day, the ice broke. He said to me, "All I do is work my job and at the end of the year, I don't have any money". To put this in perspective, he takes a summer holiday and a winter holiday. But he probably doesn't have any weekly allowance to buy stuff he wants. So, for the first time in 12 years, he finally made things clear. We agreed on a weekly grocery budget, laid out who would pay for what, and then he said something that blew me away: "How am I supposed to know how a marriage works when there's no written rules?" That's when I decided he has problems understanding other people's feelings and how to read other people's emotions. All his co-workers think he's the nicest guy because he never shows his feelings - he always smiles and never says "no" when the boss asks him to do overtime because the other co-workers can't come in. There's many examples where I have gifted him things that an ordinary person would appreciate - I hired the top designger to build custom furniture (sound board, producer's desk, music gear racks, etc.) for his home studio as a birthday gift and said, "design it however you want" and after it was all done, he wasn't completely satisfied. Now, I know why. It's all in his head. Understanding this has helped me reach him and we can communicate. I've learned not to discuss anything that requires him to make a decision. I propose solutions. I figured out what he didn't like about the music studio and I handed him a design with the solution. His answer: "Maybe this will work." That was a burst of sunshine from the usual, "I don't know." And our marriage continues because I don't buy into the mantra that I am stupid, I spend too much money on food, I don't know anything. This year, I refinanced our mortgage and consolidated our debts, when the engine blew up in my husband's car, I found a better car (same make - his favorite) and told him that I will set aside some money each month so we can re-build the engine in his car. I have learned to provide solutions, not ask questions. And he, God bless him, has learned that yelling at me gets him nowhere and I know that I am not stupid. I've also found that I can get him to help around the house if I give him one task at a time, for example, "here's the garbage, can you take it out?" or "the dishwasher is done, can you put the dishes away while I'm at the grocery store." He does this very well. I think people like him get confused or overwhelmed if you try to do general things - like clean together or expect him to pitch in automatically. In closing, I might never fully understand my husband. But we are making it. When I can't stand it anymore, I take a couple days off and travel somewhere for a restful weekend. Because my husband occassionally travels for work, he understands that I need to also go out and see the world. I invest in my only hobby - breeding & showing longhair guinea pigs. I guess they are somewhat like horses as they also eat hay :) For those of you in difficult relationships, here is my advice: Go see a psychologist. Get therapy for YOURSELF. You are NOT stupid, you are NOT a slave, you are NOT crazy. Get professional help. Then, you can decide if you can work out your marriage or if you are better off leaving the marriage. And VERY IMPORTANT: build your own personal financial base so you have some money in the bank. If you don't have a job, take 20 dollars out of the grocery money and hide it away. It will add up over time and then you won't be penniless if you decide to go out on your own.

  • Comment Link Jennie Sunday, 13 November 2016 23:56 posted by Jennie

    I thought I was crazy and I couldn't be successful. I'm back on track today I told him his a Narcissist and he read it now he's sick and depressed also angry. He might leave because his ego is hurting. I believe God will restore him but if not I'm okay with been alone again after all he made me feel that way.

  • Comment Link Maddy Sunday, 16 October 2016 22:56 posted by Maddy

    I am just amazed that I have spent 30 years with a man, the last 3 were horrendous and I didn't realise. I am now running the gammit of deceit, pretending he is not cheating, hiding out at a grandiose address, but not really there. The divorce process is bad enough, but with a Narcissist he is really prepared. The last time I actually spoke with him he asked me how much I thought I was worth.

    It really is all about the money, took a while to get my head around it. Now the accusations don't hurt, he was at the doctors all the time, not me yet tells everyone I was abusive, mentally ill. Just bonkers that people I once thought of as friends believe him.

    I didn't used to be a phrase I uttered all the time, now I tell him to report me to the police. I am sure it will get worse before it gets better, but a positive is I did lose 2 stone.

  • Comment Link Faith Thursday, 28 July 2016 16:24 posted by Faith

    It's so refreshing to know that I'm not alone, I've begun to get my life back, and learning to understand what has been happening and why for the past 20 years.

  • Comment Link Davi Friday, 03 June 2016 23:54 posted by Davi

    Thank you so much for this article.

    I know now that I am not crazy. What you describe in the article have so many similarities with what my ex did to me.

    Whenever we fight, no matter the cause, I am always the guilty party. I always ended up apologizing.

    He belittled me in so many ways, and undermines my achievements. Criticize how i look, how i walk, everything about me is somehow wrong. I always manage to do something wrong.

    And he gaslighted me so often to cover up his countless infidelities. Turning the table around telling me that I am crazy, controlling and untrusting.

  • Comment Link bob Thursday, 07 April 2016 22:54 posted by bob

    Thankyou so much for this article.

    I have only just realised after 30 years of hell my husband is a narcissist.

    Reading articles about it is like its my (and his) life story. Its incredible.

    Still im thankful for the advice. There is hope.

  • Comment Link J Monday, 21 March 2016 19:49 posted by J

    I m blessed to be rid of my gas-lighting ex but it set me up for the next abusive man, Im no longer dealing with his crap either. I worry about my children and there bad relationships I am after all these years still struggling with self esteem issues as well as an underling feeling of not being good enough. How does a perfectly wonderful person allow this to happen to them?

  • Comment Link TruthTalker Saturday, 05 December 2015 10:07 posted by TruthTalker

    It's interesting that some of the tactics my husband uses I recently began to refer to as gaslighting because they reminded me of the movie, Gaslight. He had me and our therapist convinced that neither of our adult children cared to be around me anymore. He sprang this on me in a marriage therapy session and when I wanted to sit down and talk to both of them he resisted --then warned me I'd better leave it alone or I'd make things worse. It took weeks to ferret out the truth and when he was exposed he immediately became the victim--I was devastated that he was capable of something so cruel.

  • Comment Link Becky Monday, 21 September 2015 14:40 posted by Becky

    2 days ago I kicked my cheating covety narcissist out of my life. I have 2 teenagr boys and I have worked part-time for 16/years. I'm afraid I can't make it on my own. I'm afraid to take him to Court. He had threatened me that if I do. He will make my life a living hell. But I've never been more relieved and proud of myself at the same time. Please, any advice is appreciated.I

  • Comment Link Michelle Lyles Monday, 24 August 2015 03:01 posted by Michelle Lyles

    I've heard the term 'gaslighting', but it never really clicked, until I read this article. I've had 2 marriages, both were the same kind of men. I'm getting a very rare third chance, with a strong, Christian man, who treats me like a princess, and my kids amazing! He calls me his gift from Heaven..... I'm blessed to get this chance... thank you for your story, it's sad that it happens, but nice to know we're not alone.

  • Comment Link Kim Saturday, 16 May 2015 23:11 posted by Kim

    I'm in the process of seeing my marriage is a sham. I have spent my life with him being angry at me constantly. I used to believe him that I caused his anger. But his anger never really matched the situation. His anger is volcanic over the smallest of things. He washed a lovely pair of my fuzzy black slipper socks with whites and when I showed him the socks --they were covered in white lint--he said it was my fault for leaving them on the floor. You ca insert any other incident and I get blamed and he's justifiably mad--repeat over and over again.

    As a stay at home mom, I feel so stuck, but I'm starting to not care as much about the future with him because I'm so terribly fed up with life this way.

  • Comment Link brenda Monday, 04 May 2015 03:45 posted by brenda

    Afraid of the difficult life IF I try to leave again.
    He even convinced the women's shelter staff I was the problematic. He is the best liar. I tell the truth, wear my emotions on my sleeve, he so easily decieves even me at times, before I realize it's a victious cycle. Please help. I tried to sign up for the site that linked me to this. Even that wouldn't accept me, discouraged, and feeling like I am fighting a losing battle to save myself from this tormenting trial of his controling meanness.

  • Comment Link Annie B Sunday, 12 April 2015 21:27 posted by Annie B

    Wow, I'm so glad I came across this article. I am newly separated from a person just like this and every day I struggle to not go back. We've been married for 6 years and have a 4-yr-old with special needs. He has even figured out how to use her condition to inflate himself. He has alienated me from my daughter from another relationship because he decided soon after we were married that he no longer wanted her living with us and made us so miserable that she moved to my mother's. Now I live with the guilt of choosing him over her. And he tells me all the time that I'm a terrible parent, "just look at your daughter". He also often tells me that he will fight for custody of our daughter because I'm such a terrible mother--just look at how my oldest turned out (BTW, my oldest daughter doesn't drink/smoke and is graduating from college in September). He has only worked for 6 months in the past 6 years and has left it up to me to pay all of the bills. I've used my entire life savings and have huge credit card debt because I was short on the bills each month. He refuses to share an account, so his money is his money and my money is to pay for bills. I'm so miserable. I finally filed for divorce when he began yelling at me to find a job (I am a graduate student right now and he still does not work). Apparently, I needed to find a job because when he came home from his 3 hours at the gym, I was doing school work instead of cleaning the house...I gotta laugh, so I don't cry. Now he's trying to make things work while cheating on me with at least 2 other women, but that's all my fault...laughing again. Sigh.

  • Comment Link Susan Melton Saturday, 07 March 2015 01:08 posted by Susan Melton

    A couple of counselors have pointed this out. For 37 years, I somehow thought it would change or maybe it was just that I feared leaving due to the him telling me that his family (and a couple of mine) would help him keep the kids away from me. Considering how they have turned out now, one wanting me to either take her dad's gun and kill him then turn it on myself (her words, literally) or him having me committed on a permanent basis so she and her boyfriend can come in and take over my farming business that I made for my own job when I could no longer get science jobs due to being over 50. I have worked hard for 10 years to get more than 1000 dollars a year, I have the ability to make 20plus times more than that this year alone and the husband keeps gaslighting me but says he doesn't really know he is doing it. Then, when caught he will admit it to my cousnelor but then will go back on his word. I am counting the days until I see the divorce attorney.

  • Comment Link Jacqueline Wednesday, 14 January 2015 18:19 posted by Jacqueline

    Wow...my husband does this to me and I just happened on this article as it was linked from another one I was reading. He always makes me think I hear things wrong or misplace things. That is actually how the "abuse" started. I do believe half of the stuff was him trying to make me doubt myself.

    I have been with my narcissist for 6 years now (married 1.5 years and we have a 1.5 year old). He has gotten considerably worse. I have always felt like he was trying to break me down. I do know the last person he was with ended up depressed.

    I am trying to make it work though...we'll see.

  • Comment Link mo Wednesday, 24 December 2014 14:12 posted by mo

    Omg I have been married for three years and it's been pure hell since we returned home from the honeymoon. I knew something was weird but at first I ignored all the signs then the next year was horrible the verbal abuse was out of control ....then it just never stopped then the mind games the control the bad temper ...then I started to realize this behavior just doesn't add up ...it was like he would make me suffer ...he spoke very cruel mean always put me down would say the craziest things to hurt me . Then the times I would try to leave he was just so sorry but the behavior never stopped by the third year it was out of control

  • Comment Link colleen bradshaw Wednesday, 03 September 2014 14:49 posted by colleen bradshaw

    I still deal with it until my kids are older so they don't have to take his abuse after a divorce

  • Comment Link Issy Saturday, 22 February 2014 23:19 posted by Issy

    They have a way of twisting things, you're scared about questioning it because they know by throwing a wobbler you will eventually shut up. Went through this for 20 odd years until he left for a younger model. She is welcomed to him because he will no doubt play the same game, they are not happy people and they do it because of low self esteem. My life is now quiet for the first time and I can sleep better knowing I don't have to put up with it anymore.

  • Comment Link Celeste Wednesday, 15 January 2014 03:09 posted by Celeste

    Thanks for your story. My father was an abusive, gaslighting narcissist and now I have been married to one, apparently, for almost 29 years. His behavior gets more manipulative when I do something good for myself like getting a second master's degree. The fact is, I don't ever feel I'm good enough and he just takes advantage of that weakness. The more able and strong I am, the more abusive he becomes. You all have given me strength to face this issue head on. Frankly, I have felt so ashamed for so long because I know that I am allowing it, but I also have a lot of fear.
    I'll keep checking in. I never thought of myself as not being married to my husband. I don't like the idea of divorce but I don't know what else to do. I have lost all my self-respect. Thanks for being there.

  • Comment Link Kim Raya Sunday, 06 October 2013 22:52 posted by Kim Raya

    @12bpositive: I was in our situation, too, thinking it would be impossible to really leave the relationship behind. But, it's only impossible because we make it so. The day came when I realized my Ex doesn't love me and never did. You feel responsible for his well-being and feelings because that's what he's brainwashed into you. I know it's hard to believe it because you are probably still in love with him. That's the hardest part. But, the person we love doesn't love us back. It sometimes looks like love, but in reality, you're just property to him...an extension.

    The roses were just a way of trying to gain control back over you. By Ex did all those same things to me when the relationship was in danger of ending. They do it because they know that's what you associate with love. Even when it seems sincere, think about what will ultimately happen. Back to the cruel verbal abuse, back to being told you're worth nothing. Really, Narcissists are a lot like physical abusers in that they attack you with the most heartless cruelty, then expect some flowers to make everything right. Think of these little gifts as a military tactic, because it's just a strategy to get you back on their side. Accepting them feels nice, but you'll end up hating yourself later for falling for it yet again...

  • Comment Link Kim Raya Sunday, 06 October 2013 22:50 posted by Kim Raya

    @Starbright: I was in our situation, too, thinking it would be impossible to really leave the relationship behind. But, it's only impossible because we make it so. The day came when I realized my Ex doesn't love me and never did. You feel responsible for his well-being and feelings because that's what he's brainwashed into you. I know it's hard to believe it because you are probably still in love with him. That's the hardest part. But, the person we love doesn't love us back. It sometimes looks like love, but in reality, you're just property to him...an extension.

    The roses were just a way of trying to gain control back over you. By Ex did all those same things to me when the relationship was in danger of ending. They do it because they know that's what you associate with love. Even when it seems sincere, think about what will ultimately happen. Back to the cruel verbal abuse, back to being told you're worth nothing. Really, Narcissists are a lot like physical abusers in that they attack you with the most heartless cruelty, then expect some flowers to make everything right. Think of these little gifts as a military tactic, because it's just a strategy to get you back on their side. Accepting them feels nice, but you'll end up hating yourself later for falling for it yet again...

  • Comment Link Trixie Wednesday, 25 September 2013 05:26 posted by Trixie

    Oh my.. it's as if you looked into my marriage and wrote my story for me. What a wonderful thing you've done, sharing this with us. Helps to know that those of us who have been gaslighted are not alone, and damaged.

    The art and cookbook story is so familiar, though when I created art it was "cute" according to my ex. Or I was "a weirdo," for having created it. There were a handful of things he celebrated for me, but most of the time the message has been "you're weak," "you're weird" "no one else would love you," "no one else can handle you." All of those things are even more dangerous when you're suddenly on your own, after being told all of that. Thank you again... it means more than you know to read this tonight.

  • Comment Link 12bpositive Thursday, 19 September 2013 22:16 posted by 12bpositive

    @starbright, I also thank you for your comment. I am almost 6 months separated and continue to hear his voice in my head. My friends and family don't seem to understand this and I'm sorry this has happened to others but it's nice that somebody out there can understand. I've been going to therapy and my therapist told me to stop listening to him and start listening to the people that love me. For some reason, I am unable to do this. I believe these people are really thinking the nice things they say about me but for some reason I cannot believe them. I'm losing hope and have decided to quit going to therapy as it is not helping and I really can't afford it. Sometimes I feel it would be easier to just go back and take the abuse because I feel so responsible for his well being and feelings and don't know how to put myself first. I too was in this relationship since the age of 17 and I'm 41 now. It doesn't help that yesterday was our anniversary and he sent 4 dozen roses. I'm tired of questioning myself and want to move on but it truly seems impossible.

  • Comment Link allienickols Wednesday, 18 September 2013 04:23 posted by allienickols

    Thanks for your comments! It's alarming to realize that this happens to so many women! It took me 41 years to have the courage to leave him and by this time he had turned into a sociopath (narcissistic traits become intensified with age and the ability to continue to get away with it). When I think about the many situations and how his attitude completely undermined my confidence and joy, it seems too bizarre to be true. Sadly, it is true and did happen. Haven't seen him for two years and feel so wonderfully free. There are times of overwhelming sadness because of what could have been and never will be, but I am truly blessed and continue to move forward. Hope for the future is crucial to one's wellbeing and that's one of my goals - to think about the fact that I am loved by my family and friends and that life is good!!

  • Comment Link marye audet Thursday, 12 September 2013 17:29 posted by marye audet

    @starbright Thank you or your comment! I agree, I don't know whether he meant to do it or it was an unconscious behavior. I do know that to this day, even after 4 years of separation/divorce the bad stuff that happens to him is still my fault and he still has people that buy into it. There's no way to know and it really doesn't matter. The damage is still there. So glad you are healing!

  • Comment Link marye audet Wednesday, 11 September 2013 05:22 posted by marye audet

    @tbc3 it will get easier and better. Just keep focusing on what is true. :) thanks for reading.

  • Comment Link starbright Wednesday, 11 September 2013 05:20 posted by starbright

    Thank you so much for writing this. As I was reading this I kept thinking that yes, my ex said exactly that same thing to me, my ex made me feel exactly that same way. When you start to come out of this and recover it just seems so unbelievably bizarre and you can't believe all that has happened and you think was that real or was that not real and what is reality anyway anymore? I dealt with this for 32 years and I still hear his voice in my head even though I have been recovering for two years now. When someone tells me something nice or compliments me I want to say," Oh no! That can't be true." I have thought many times through this that I am returning to center, to myself, the person I was supposed to be and that I am before I met him at 17 and was deceived, controlled and manipulated by him. Was it conscious or unconscious on his part? He was so good at all the deceptiveness I will never know. I was so gullible, naive and trusting and that was just how he wanted it. I am getting stronger and if anyone reads this that is going through this please know that you will make it through and get better, you are a wonderful person and you are so worthy of a beautiful life. Thank you again and hugs!l

  • Comment Link tbc3 Tuesday, 10 September 2013 17:35 posted by tbc3

    Wow. Thank you for that. I have never heard it called gaslighting but it is exactly what happened to me for my 23 years of marriage! I only realized that my ex was narcissistic when everything blew up. Talk about blind love. I have been divorced since March and still having a tough time but still pushing forward as best I can. I know all of the things he told me are not true but it's still hard to get those things out of your head after so long. I will print this and keep it to read as often as needed! I really appreciate it Marye.

  • Comment Link Marye Audet Tuesday, 10 September 2013 15:32 posted by Marye Audet

    @Christina I really want women (and men because it DOES happen to men to, although not as much) to understand what they are dealing with so that they can protect themselves. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  • Comment Link Christina Monday, 09 September 2013 21:14 posted by Christina

    :) I've been referring to Gaslighting for years, especially in reference to my ex... THANK YOU for writing about this hellish form of mental abuse.