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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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Several weeks ago there was a video that went viral that a man took of his wife having a meltdown. In the video he tells her he needs to get his tires rotated and she has, what looks like, a two year old tantrum. She tells him she wants to go to the lake, she is only asking for one day, and says, “One day, I just want one day – why is it so hard?”

You can almost hear the laughter in his voice as he continues to videotape her while he remains cool, calm, and seemingly quite reasonable. You can view that crazy wife video on YouTube.

There were all kinds of comments on it, news commentary, and social media shares. People said things like, “OMG! She is a nutcase!” and other derogatory remarks. Not one person seemed to ask the most logical question, “Why was he making a video of his wife having a meltdown?”

The Narcissist Is a Master Manipulator

Having lived with a narcissist my viewpoint was a little different. I immediately wondered what had led up to her meltdown because that video is such classic behavior. They will find a chink in your armor and pick away at it, poke it, and play with it over a long period of time. They seem adept at judging where your over the edge point is and they will bring you right to it without pushing you over. They’ll do it time and time and time again until, when they are ready, they’ll do that one thing that will catapult you over the cliff into a swirling vat of crazy.

They will usually do it in a public manner so that, while you are responding to months of aggravation, the people around you will only see you over-react to something that seems to be very small and very silly. They will look at your with a combination of horror and amusement and they will look at your husband with sympathy and pity – exactly what he is going for.

Now the entire world is aware that you are crazy.

What Led Up to Her Meltdown?

When you are watching the video ask yourself what you think led up to her meltdown. It could be that she is the spoiled brat that he portrays with his camera. It could also be that she is responding to weeks of being pushed.

Maybe she was told they were going to spend time together and it kept getting put off. Maybe she has been in an intensely emotional time and she was promised a day at the lake to unwind. Maybe he randomly tells her they are going to do something and then changes it at the last minute so she never knows what to expect. Maybe she got a babysitter and cleared her schedule so that they could have some downtime. No one watching the video will ever know but most people will make an assumption based on her behavior without ever wondering what led up to that moment.

“You Don’t Let Him Do Things for You”

I think I have mentioned how great narcissists are at making themselves look like the victim in almost any situation. During one of our marriage counseling sessions I got very emotional. I can’t remember what we were talking about but I was ready to break. I could feel my chest tighten, that icky feeling in my stomach, and my throat felt like I had swallowed a croquet ball.  I grabbed a Kleenex in preparation for when it happened. I knew it wasn’t a matter of if it happened.

A few moments later the dam broke and I was doing everything possible to maintain control. I bit my lip, I pushed my nails into my palms, and I silently recited the multiplication tables. When a tear finally broke through and trickled down my cheek my ex leaned over to hand me a Kleenex. I shook my head no and showed him that I already had one in my hand. He shrugged and leaned back in his chair.

The counselor jumped on it, her voice dripping with sympathy. “How does it make you feel when she won’t let you help her?”

The Tormentor Is Now the Perceived Victim

I swear his eyes lit up. “Bad”, he mumbled. “It just makes me feel worthless.”

She turned to me,” Why won’t you let him do things for you?”

I swear to you the only thought that crossed my mind at that point was WTF? I immediately knew where this was going. I wanted to ask her what things she was talking about. All of the times that we needed groceries and he bought an Italian suit or custom shirt? Maybe she meant those times when the electricity got turned off because the bill wasn’t paid and yet he came home with a nice watch, a Mont Blanc pen, or a designer tie. The list of times I had needed him to come through for me and he didn’t moved through my head like a parade and he was the clown and the head of the thing.

I tried to defend myself, “I do let him do things for me.”

She looked at me with skepticism and then turned to him with pity in her eyes. Then she gave me a knowing, I have you all figured out, kind of look. “Your assignment this week is to learn to accept his help. Let him do things for you. You need to give to eachother.”

She turned to him, “Are you willing to work on this?”

He looked at me soulfully, then looked at her, sniffed and nodded resignedly. I wanted to throw up.

These are the men that spend time in bars on business trips telling women that their wives don’t understand them. They are the ones that will pick at you privately until you are ready to kill them and then push you over the edge in a public place with that one last coup de grace.

Sometimes they misjudge and that’s when you hear about women stabbing their husbands while they slept. While I in no way condone murder or even violence I do know how easy it is to get pushed to that point.

Pushed Past the Point of No Return

The night that I kicked my ex out of the house started off pretty normally. We had gone to my grandson’s birthday party. Things were friendly and we both agreed that our marriage was much stronger than it had been in years. We even had amazing, incredible, OMG sex before bed.

I was still wrapped in the warm fuzziness of lovemaking and he was sleeping next to me. I was on my laptop, catching up on some work when I got a weird feeling in my stomach. He had been talking with an old girlfriend on Facebook and I had asked him to remove her from his friends list. I knew he hadn’t but was overlooking it. I went downstairs and tried to start up his computer. For the first time ever there was a password on it.

Call it God, intuition, or witchcraft but I hacked the passwords on every email, social media, and chat room account he had. I found messages between the two of them that I could have published in a volume of erotica and made a mint on. I still have copies of those messages in case I ever need to further explain anything to anyone. Stuff that I had longed and begged to hear from him for years had all been given to her. One session even ended with, “Marye has wanted to hear this stuff from me for years but it all belonged to you.”

After four hours of reading that type of thing I lost it. I saw red. I took my laptop and I smacked him in the face with it – more than once. He scrambled out of bed and I continued to throw things at him. Anything within my reach was fair game. He cowered in the corner of the room trying to get pants on, half asleep, while I pelted him with objects, books, and words I hadn’t used since boot camp. Afterwards I told someone I was glad that there wasn’t a knife on my bedside table. I was truly unable to stop myself – I had been pushed that far.

Thank God he didn’t have me arrested. Thank God he has a hard head.

Get Off the Bus to Crazytown

Whether you are still married, or in the midst of a divorce, or trying to deal with him as a co-parent you need to realize that he will find every opportunity to manipulate circumstances to his own benefit. While most narcissists know how to stop before things get violent they do sometimes misjudge that point. Don’t assume you would be able to maintain control of yourself if that happens. I never thought I could want so much to kill another human being as I did that night.

If you find that you are continually pushed to that edge you need to get off that bus before something happens that will have lasting consequences. If you are in a marriage and feel yourself being pushed to that point get out. If you are in the midst or finished with a divorce then use an arbitrator to handle the necessary communication between the two of you.

Being pushed to the point of being out of control is not normal, it isn’t right, it isn’t your fault. It is, however, a sport that the narcissist enjoys immensely. Just refuse to play anymore. You’ll be amazed at the freedom it gives you.

Are you there? You aren’t the first one, and you aren’t crazy. Join First Wives World today to share your story and help yourself, as well as others, move into a place of healing.

*Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, Photographer Ben Fredericson

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15 comments

  • Comment Link Bridget Wednesday, 16 April 2014 14:54 posted by Bridget

    I didn't realize what I was going through with my own husband until I started reading these stories. I found out he was having an affair 2 weeks ago in the exact same manner. He led me to believe that our marriage was getting better, had an amazing night, then the next morning something just told me to snoop his phone. There were text messages going back months with another woman. I kicked him out that day and he tries to make me feel bad that I kicked him out.

  • Comment Link Elizabeth Wednesday, 09 April 2014 18:54 posted by Elizabeth

    My ex-husband is bona fide narcissist and it is getting so ugly. The closer I get to full resolution of our problems and total separation the crazier he gets. It's a nightmare.

  • Comment Link kimberly lathigee Monday, 24 March 2014 01:47 posted by kimberly lathigee

    we are divorced and he doesn't stop. every time the kids are with him they are sick or come home disgusted.

  • Comment Link Karen Tuesday, 25 February 2014 02:21 posted by Karen

    WOW, what a nightmare.
    I was married to man in many ways like this.

    Once every 4-6 months over the course of a week he would tell me very depressing things ie we were financially unrepairably broke, his business was going under, I could spend only 50 dollars for the week for our family of four due to this situation. None of it was true, but would leave me devistated by the end-- and despirately trying to do my best to make it all right.
    The LAST TIME, or the time I figured it out was when he came to me asking "why haven't you bounced back yet" and I said "what?" to which he said "I can usually bring you down so far and it takes 5 or 6 days for you to bounce back".

    He would tell me I didn't know how to have sex, that it wasn't very good, that perhaps I needed to have sex with someone else and maybe that would help.

    Also, at dinner parties and most often in front of some people I did not even know he would say loudly "well, my wife- she is off in her own little world without a clue of anything" and yes- those at the party would look at me like I was indeed "OFF" and would look at him with pity that he was "sticking it out with me".

    After years of him telling me I was not pretty, that I really must be so insecure for not wanting him to be at strip clubs every night of the week, that I am really just nothing as a stay at home mom I finally had a break through moment. I told him I was going back to college. He said I was really "just too stupid to go back to college much less to finish anything".

    Well, I went back to college. I finished with a 3.96 gpa and then went and got a master's degree from an ivy league school---- then I left him.

    My own little world did not have room for him!

    No but really I felt such guilt for years after leaving him I imagine because I made a commitment to him for forever and I had to break that commitment.
    I have wrangled with the guilt and now it is gone, but the big picture was that I never missed his company not one day.
    Very sad it took 14 years of marriage to finally admit I needed to leave.

  • Comment Link JustWow Thursday, 20 February 2014 21:15 posted by JustWow

    My ex husband would pull so many crazy- making things on me. His favorite trick is time manipulation. He would tell me a time that we were going to do something. Then as the time approached, I would be rushing around getting the kids ready, myself and he would not be budging from whatever he was doing. I would have the kids ready and getting impatient, and of course nagging at him because he would be doing nothing, and I wouldn't want to be late. Finally when I am frustrated and ready to make apologies to our hosts for being late, he would tell me the party/family gathering/event starts at 6:00 and why am I rushing him to be ready at 2. I'd say you told me 2 all week. Then out would come the big guns: accusations that I NEVER listen, I'm a f*cking miserable nag...etc. I'd be upset and crying or yelling, from frustration and he would start accusing me of having psych problems. Of course would do this in a very calm voice. The kids would of course be mad because they now are ready and have 4 hrs to wait. And he would start talking about me and act like I wasn't present anymore, and ignore anything I said as though I didn't exist. He would just talk to the kids, in a really calm and almost soothing tone like one would talk to a baby. Well kids if mommy would just listen to daddy sometimes, you wouldn't be waiting like this, I know this is a real let down for you because you could have gone to a friends house today...etc. By the time we went where we were going, I felt like a grey dishrag.

    We are divorced now and he turned a simple divorce into a 1 1/2 year expensive nightmare. He still plays the time game with me on handing off the kids. When he comes for a weekend, he makes sure to spoil any time I might get to myself, even though I work most of that time. He makes sure to fudge on pick up, coming too late often spoiling plans I made or dropping the kids off earlier than agreed, again spoiling plans. If I say anything he claims I misunderstood him, even if I have an email with the times. He has also given me an incorrect pick up address.

    I am finding myself again and learning to trust myself.

  • Comment Link Coral70 Wednesday, 11 December 2013 15:48 posted by Coral70

    I watched my husband dated my neighbor for 6 months. He would get up in the middle of dinner with the kids to get dress. When we fought, he would claimed that there were other people or here is my favorite " her husband loves her so much that he wants her to be happy by going dancing with him. Why can't I love him as much. OR he would say that he needs a break from the stress of the company that we have. I am the CEO and he was VP of Operation but I still took care of our 2 young kids why he went out."

  • Comment Link Recovering Sunday, 01 December 2013 23:16 posted by Recovering

    Hahaha - 'After four hours of reading that type of thing I lost it. I saw red. I took my laptop and I smacked him in the face with it – more than once.'

    Good for you. I'll drink to that.

  • Comment Link kfawcette Friday, 22 November 2013 22:24 posted by kfawcette

    I have had counseling through all this, Marye, it's at the point where my son needs the counseling. He doesn't understand that our relationship will always be strained because of this... and I don't want to cut it off completely, I want to be his family, I just don't want to get hurt anymore... but what's a mother to do? My counselor now sees me having a 'victim' mentality because I keep reliving it all and not letting it go. I have faith in God and that helps me -- but it's not like having Jesus with skin on... sometimes you just need someone there with you to help you through....

  • Comment Link Heather Zastrow Thursday, 14 November 2013 17:33 posted by Heather Zastrow

    Wow after reading, I have been dealing with this behavior from my ex and his new 3rd wife for a few years already. It has come to the point that my one son has not visited called or made contact with me for 6 years. My oldest boy is 25 and has recently started seeing his Dad. The oldest had decided he didn't want to be around his dad after his new wife had lied to manipulate the boys and try to turn them away from their mother - he saw it first hand I did not share this at all he saw it for himself. Throughout this whole process my stomach gets in knots my heart has broken and feel like I am on a limb all by myself. My ex took the kids to his lawyer after us being divorced for 10 years and the kids were 16 and 15 years of age. Interviewed them and the county we divorced didn't see anything wrong with this. The narcissist portion came into play when he decided that my new husband who loved my kids was a threat to him and now he decided that he wanted his kids and took me back for custody at the age of 16 and 15 years of age.
    An example that we have had to deal with at our home is when they would come back from their dads house he was encouraging my youngest boy to fight with his older brother. To the point that the youngest broke his knuckle on his brothers head and of course it was the next day at my house after returning from their fathers house for the weekend. I was shown letters from the school written by his wife signed by him concerned about the welfare of our children. The principal showed me this letter as they knew it was not true. We asked her to stop and she kept writing letters now to the high school vs the elementary school and signing the fathers name. How do you stop this from happening and knowing what this man and woman are telling our children. Of course the lawyer my husband had was Catholic (same lawyer that pulled our kids into his chamber) and catholic charities was the guardian ad lit um. She told me that even with me bringing proof that my ex was physically abusive as I had restraining orders on him that they would not be looking at all this information to determine what was best for the kids. My oldest was at one of his visits with his dad and the dad had our son drive the dad into town (son was 15 at the time with no driver permit), because he needed cigs and had been drinking all day and didn't want to get picked up for a dwi. I have tried to set good examples for our kids but what do you do when you have a father who teaches your kids to fight, that your mom takes to much child support from me that I can't buy a 35$ goat cart cluth. What do you do to stop this I am so at a loss what to say or what to be watching for to stop the lies and hurt that this is causing our young men. :(

  • Comment Link Marye Wednesday, 13 November 2013 18:27 posted by Marye

    KFawcette - I am so sorry. Do you have a counselor that can help you through it?

  • Comment Link kfawcette Monday, 11 November 2013 17:01 posted by kfawcette

    I found strange comfort reading this article -- so it wasn't just me after all?? My ex and I were married 13 years, half of which were spent with him living a secret life -- because of course, I wasn't there for him and this was his right.... I have lived the drama and trauma of being told I was crazy, that I was too needy, that I was an excuse for a human being and worse. The manipulation was so subtle, and looking back it was scary. Once divorced he disappeared for 15 years... now that he's met his 3 sons again, what does he do? Convinces them that (yes, even now) it was all my fault -- and he is the victim ... and now my youngest (19) showing narcissistic tendencies, has begun doing the same -- making me think I am crazy and he is the victim of my craziness... I did not realize narcissism was hereditary, and am struggling to live through it all over again...

  • Comment Link Marye Audet Tuesday, 05 November 2013 23:45 posted by Marye Audet

    Pixi - Just keep your eyes on who you are! Hang out with people that encourage you and try to blow him off.

    Edye - you're welcome. Thanks for reading! You're right, the more we know the better we can fight against it.

    Bob - All sociopaths are narcissists but not all narcissists are full blown sociopaths. And yes, it is classic narcissistic behavior. Once it hits sociopathic it gets much worse.

  • Comment Link bob Tuesday, 05 November 2013 01:42 posted by bob

    That's Not A Narcissist Its A Sociopath.

  • Comment Link Edye Tuesday, 05 November 2013 01:38 posted by Edye

    I was never married to a narcissist, but I have certainly encountered/am encountering them now . . . this is timely and useful for me. Knowledge IS power! Thanks for pushing through the pain to bring knowledge to others.

  • Comment Link Pixi Monday, 04 November 2013 20:47 posted by Pixi

    Thank you so much for this. I don't know if my ex is truly a narcissist, but I am dealing with him as a co-parent. He takes every opportunity to make me feel like a horrible person and mother, all while patting himself on the back for being "father of the year".