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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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I think I saw my first Dracula movie when I was eight or nine years old. It was an old, black and white film that fascinated and horrified me at the same time. It began several decades of reading every vampire book I could get my hands on. Thankfully I grew out of it before the Twilight series came on the scene. I am not sure I could handle kinder, gentler, sparkly vampires.

In all of those years of reading I got to know vampires and how they exist very well. The moment that I first had the revelation that narcissists had much in common with vampires everything fell into place. It was like that idea was a code that allowed ideas to download into my brain. As I researched I found that I was not the only one who had seen the connection – many people, both professionals and laymen, warned of the similarities between the two.

Narcissists are Emotional and Mental Vampires

Dracula must draw his sustenance from his victims. He is normally quite careful to leave them enough of their own blood to stay alive, exhausted and listless, with little or no understanding of what was happening. In a similar way the narcissist must draw energy from his victims to maintain himself. He feeds on his victims, leaving them just enough to allow them to continue to live, weakened, depressed, emotionally drained, and wondering why they feel so blue when a short time before they had been happy and full of life. In fact, you will notice after you have had your encounter that while you are drained he is quite cheerful and lively.

The vampire taps an artery to get blood but a narcissist taps your emotions to get a response. At first he may be looking for admiration but after time in the relationship he is like a junkie. He ceases to care what the response is. He may use gaslighting to frustrate you to the point of screaming, he may argue, pick a fight, or even be so sweet that you wonder how you could have ever doubted him. The last is rare and usually used only when absolutely necessary.

Once you react he will stopping poking and prodding and it’s likely he will accuse you of creating “drama”.

The Narcissist Is a Shape Shifter

A narcissist doesn’t take time to examine his inner life. He may play the spiritual-so-in-touch-with-his-deepest-parts game very well but it, like almost everything else, is a game that he plays with unbelievable skill. He needs the emotions of others to survive but he can’t deal with his own. He spends his time doing various things to keep from having to look at himself. He is shallow but hides it behind a magician’s mirror. When you try to look in and test his depths he reflects your own so, for a while at least, you don’t realize that there isn’t anything there.

We were very involved with church for much of our married life. He was often in leadership, often sought out for his wise counsel, and on the praise and worship team. In every way he was looked up to as a man who had his family “in order”, the spiritual head of the household, and a man who sought God in the deepest places.

In reality I worked hard to make him look good. I developed the uncanny ability to create meals from nothing, keep the house in order, and the kids clean and well behaved while he bought designer ties, custom made shirts, and watches. Not just a watch but many of them. We aren’t talking Timex here, either. At one point he had an Ebel, a Rolex, a Longines, and two others that I can’t remember. Our son wore shoes that were too small and hurt his feet for months, the kids ate popcorn and milk for breakfast but he looked great with his fancy watches and his Mont Blanc pen.

The ultimate (symbolic) slaps in the face (yes, it happened more than once) were the times that he “humbly” gave an expensive watch to a pastor or missionary that was passing through. He would usually get enough admiration and atta-boys from that to keep things calm around the house for several days.

Honestly, that empty on the inside, super-spiritual on the outside thing has caused a cynical attitude toward the church in my kids. They think that everyone at church, no matter what church we attend, is fake and pious. He no longer attends church at all since he no longer lives in a situation where it is important. I had a friend that used to ask me who he was this month. She found it amusing that he would be very country-western when hanging around people with that interest, he became very rugged and outdoorsy when he met some men with an interest in historic re-enactment. He even bought a black powder musket and kept it hidden so that I wouldn’t know about it. 

The point is that he had other similarities to Dracula. He was able to change his shape at will, an ability that allowed him to disappear in a crowd.

He Needs Control

Do you remember what Dracula did to make sure his victims were compliant and remembered nothing? He looked into their eyes and hypnotized them so that he could control them. Most narcissists can’t hypnotize their victims but the do create situations in which we give them control of us. There are a variety of emotions that this emotional black hole can use:

  • Fear of repercussion, abandonment, rejection, violence
  • Anger
  • Sympathy
  • Admiration
  • Grief

Once you are in the midst of one of those emotions your focus is no longer on what is best for you or your children, it’s on him and his needs. At that point he begins to absorb your energy and you just end up feeling washed out and drained.

Don’t Feed His Need

The only way to be rid of an emotional vampire is to deny him what he needs to survive. He’ll be forced to move on but he won’t be moving on without a fight. His attempts to maintain his supply are predictable.

  1. He’ll react with anger when you won’t give him what he wants.
  2. He’ll be sweet and kind, loving and generous.
  3. He’ll make promises, he’ll say things you’ve wanted to hear for years, he’ll remind you of the good times in the past.
  4. He’ll get angry and threaten you, he’ll let you know that everything is your fault.
  5. He’ll tell you he is done and you won’t have to deal with him again.
  6. He’ll beg to come back and say that he has changed.
  7. He will call you to say he is deathly ill, been in a wreck, or whatever. He may “have a mental breakdown”.
  8. He will threaten suicide or other frightening event.
  9. He will get angry and threaten you.

Don’t react. Don’t say anything, don’t even let your eyes show any pain. The smallest hint of sympathy, anger, or other emotion will start the entire cycle again. The only way to deal with this is to completely cut him off from the drama he needs to survive.

If you have a deep need for approval or are one of those people that “needs” to rescue others then the entire situation can get very complex. You can find yourself going around in circles, a holding pattern that you just can’t break free from. That’s when it’s important to get counseling from a professional because living with a vampire is ultimately deadly.

You don’t have to do this alone. Join First Wives World today to share your story and help others move into a place of healing.

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2 comments

  • Comment Link Debbie Thursday, 13 March 2014 18:42 posted by Debbie

    This article hit home. Im a people pleaser and I try helping those who present with isues. A vicious cycle ensued for 17 years and now im free of it.

  • Comment Link belindakmn Thursday, 10 October 2013 16:48 posted by belindakmn

    The advice to get help in therapy will work only if the therapist is well equipped to deal with someone who is involved with a narcissist.