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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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Whether your relationship with a narcissist lasted for ten months or ten years you can be sure that you did not come out of it unscathed. It can be difficult to remember what you even looked like before the emotional scars covered you. It can be even more difficult to believe that you will ever be free of them again.

If you don’t ever face the emotions and get past them you are likely to continue to be involved with narcissists in your life. While facing the issues is painful not facing them is deadly.

Healing Takes Time

I have been out of the narcissistic matrix for four years and I still have trouble trusting my own opinions, beliefs, and decisions. It sounds crazy but I also struggle with believing in the ethics of others in my life. It is sometimes a nightmare where I am unable to make a decision because I don’t know who is trustworthy, who has my best interest at heart, and who is telling the truth.

When I look at the time frame it seems that there should have been more than enough time to get over it, to heal, and to get a grasp on reality again. I sometimes get frustrated with myself because it is taking more time than I think it should. Surely if I was trying harder I would be further along!

The time it takes to heal from a narcissistic relationship is different for every person and it cannot be hurried. There is a process that may take a year for one person and a decade for another. There is nothing wrong with either timeline as long as it accomplished the goal of healing.

Sometimes You Don’t Realize How Beaten Up You Are

Shortly before my separation I was in the grocery store picking up a few things. I can remember standing in front of the lunchmeat trying to decide which variety to get. Not a big deal, right?

As I stood there time seemed to stand still. I my brain was swirling with the choice I had to make. Should I choose bologna or ham? Why not turkey? Olive loaf or pickle loaf might be nice…

The thoughts were like voices in my mind all telling me something different and I honestly could not make the decision. It was a simple thing, a choice that didn’t matter one bit in the long run and yet I stood there for thirty minutes paralyzed with fear that I wouldn’t do the right thing. Tears ran down my cheeks – I felt stupid.

In the years since I have thought about that a lot. I have come to the realization that I was as close to a nervous breakdown at that moment as I will ever be. My trust in my own ability to make good choices was completely gone. At the same time I didn’t trust other people to make good choices for me either.

It was a frightening and solitary place but it was a defining moment for me. In those minutes I decided that if things were going to get better I was going to have to take responsibility for my own protection. I decided that I was equally as important as the narcissist.

Unwritten Rules

Many of us gave up our identities in order to maintain peace in our relationships. Rather than having time to do what we wanted we felt obligated to do the things that we thought the narcissist wanted from us. Even though most narcissists will say that they don’t have an agenda and don’t have a list of rules we often feel pressured to follow a prescribed playbook that we aren’t allowed to read.

Do you remember the scene from the Indiana Jones movie where the main character has to cross what looks like a deep crevice with no visual bridge? He takes one step, even though he can’t see the safest place to put his foot, then he takes another and another. At no time is he able to see his footing clearly but a misstep will send him to his death on the jagged rocks far below.

Living with a narcissist is not so different. You are never sure where to step so you focus intently trying to second guess what the rules are. One misstep will cause you to tumble into a pit of drama – worth avoiding at any cost.

After you are free of the relationship you still look everywhere for rules to define your life. After all, that is what you’ve been trained to do. At this point you have to begin to look forward instead of down. You aren’t on that invisible bridge anymore. You are in a spacious place where a mistake is fleeting and no big deal at all.

No Longer a Slave or a Possession

Once you are out of the relationship you’ll have trouble identifying what you want. I get frustrated with myself because sometimes I get hung on the choice between which television show to watch first on the DVR. I am afraid of making the wrong decision and incurring sarcasm, disdain or even wrath.

It doesn’t really matter which show I watch first, does it? Of course not.

Make intentional choices. If someone asks you which restaurant you’d like to go to answer them with a place not with an I don’t care. Make purposeful decisions, own them, and accept the consequences whether they are joy or disappointment.

Own Your Pain

That didn’t hurt!

Don’t be silly!

You are overreacting.

Accept that your emotions are valid. Accept that you were treated unfairly, deserved to be treated better, and that you were hurt. Pain is pain, it is yours. You weren’t overreacting, it did hurt, and you are not being silly.

Owning it is not the same as dwelling on it. You accept what happened, you accept that it hurt, and then you remind yourself that the circumstances of that pain are behind you. You are free to move on and respond with honest emotions. You are free to ask yourself, how do I feel?

Rehearse each incident as you remember it and accept that it hurt. I am terrible about making excuses about why something happened or how I was probably overreacting to it. If you want to get to a place of healing you have to admit what has happened and remind yourself of the truth.

Embrace New Things

Jump out of an airplane (with a parachute please), learn to ballroom dance, or take a pottery class. Find out what you really like to do and then spend time doing it. For years you’ve essentially been working to make the narcissist look good. Your successes haven’t been motivated by your dreams but by the need of your narcissistic partner to wear your abilities like an olive leaf crown that made him look good.

Now it’s time to try new things, sample life, and make mistakes. The really cool thing is that when you do make a mistake the entire world does not implode.

That’s always nice to know.

In a nutshell? Give yourself as much time as you need, acknowledge that you have been treated badly, and take every opportunity to get to know the real you more.

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Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons- Thanks to Martinak15

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  • Comment Link Chellk Thursday, 22 October 2015 20:46 posted by Chellk

    Hi! I am ending a 7yr. marriage with a narcissist, it is so painful. I never really knew what was wrong, I always thought it was me, because I was always being blamed. I was always the crazy one, the one who all his friends hated and as he said the miserable person. I believed him and I became that person. I left an amazing good paying job because he said it caused too much stress. I lost myself and my life to a man of lies. I don't know why but I feel so stupid but the pain is killing me. I did divorce him and he's moved on to his new "love" 16 yrs younger than me 18 yrs younger than him. I always felt value and thought he would never cheat I was so naive. Sick to my stomach

  • Comment Link Drcdoll Friday, 04 September 2015 04:11 posted by Drcdoll

    Hello, I am trying to come out of a 22 year marriage with a narsisist, and am so frightened. I have left with nothing and after having raised my children and constantly supporting my husbands goals, I have no career to fall back on. I am so scared and am having trouble dealing with my feelings. I need to work Ugh. There are so many things I didn't do ... Almost no college... I was a wife and mother. I was proud of the commitment I made to my husband and children. I have to find a way to pay for this divorce and start over. Frightened in Fort Worth.

  • Comment Link S Wednesday, 10 December 2014 02:19 posted by S

    Going to divorce court tomorrow, after leaving him two years ago when our current house went into foreclosure. No sex for the final 3 years, walking on eggshells from the get go. - He acted like he was doing me a favor staying married to me. Plenty of female "friends". He would be short when it came time to pay the bills, but always had the best cell phone, cable tv, computers and internet service. His reason for reconciliation was "I need a wife" - not I love you, miss you or any of that. I had given him 18,000 dollars from the sale of MY house after he asked me to help him get his business in order,but nothing changed. He finally told me he spent it to pay "his" bills (?)-mostly. He was more recently demanding 10,000 dollars more because his ideas (I paid for the work) to make the house more attractive was the only reason why it sold.

  • Comment Link christine baigrie Saturday, 08 November 2014 21:48 posted by christine baigrie

    We are both 70, married for nearly 40 yrs, trying to get my head out of the sand, cant take his abuse & control anymore, he is getting worse as he is aging. I am so sick at heart and mind, don't know how to get out of it been trying for 4 months now. So depressed, counseling does not seem to help

  • Comment Link S williams Monday, 13 October 2014 12:15 posted by S williams

    Amazing! I was married for 22 years... I felt like crap and still do. I ended the relationship with an exit affair. I am grateful I'm alive.

  • Comment Link Cindy Anderson Sunday, 28 September 2014 05:33 posted by Cindy Anderson

    She is nothing more than a female narcissist, likely with total self love and admiration of only 1 person, her. She is no 1, anybody in her path is no 2. She is not capable of loving anybody but herself, due to her extreme insecurity of just who she is. Do not be her "narcissistic feed"as she is a bottom feeder and will such you dry and then spit you out until the next available host comes along. These "people"are not capable of having a relationship that is balanced. It is all about them and will always be. They do not respect others, are highly manipulative, and have minimal remorse if at all. It is never their flat. They will flip things if you say something, watch for this. They are secretive and always have a hidden agenda. You will never be no 1 or the whole pie, a near morsel and she will likely want it back after she offers. This is all abuse and control as they are unable to control themselves. Please speak to someone for support and realize that this is NOT A NORMAL relationship it is toxic. I wish you well.

  • Comment Link Kaya Sunday, 24 August 2014 19:36 posted by Kaya

    Thank you for this article. I just divorced my ex of 20 plus years after he left the family for a young co worker. Of course he blamed me for the entire affair. He accused me of being mentally ill, fat, boring with too short hair. I finally had enough and hired the best attorney. Shut off all emotions and made it all about money. It was tough, the ex is a cop and used everything in his power to derail me. He tried to have me committed to a mental institution. He tried to get a restraining order against me. Well, all failed. In the end he was court ordered to pay alimony and give up half if his army retirement. Divorcing this evil monster wAs the best decision I ever made. It's been 19 months since he left. I enforced the no contact and only talked through lawyers. It cost me a fortune but it kept my peace and sanity.
    I am now 48 years old but by far ready for a new relationship. Trust, I will have a problem with that. But I am happy and free now. On the other hand he lost it all. His family, his money, his home, his integrity. For what ? Some hot sex with the first female who crossed his pAth. Please, she can have him because she set me free. Without her I would sti be the receiver of his rages and anger. So I truly owe her my life. Thank you deputy co worker. I am so glad you exchanged nude pictures with him for me to find. I am so glad you started the affair knowing he was mArried with a family. Thank you for saving my life. For ever I owe you. :).

  • Comment Link Diane Tuesday, 01 July 2014 14:36 posted by Diane

    My husband of 20 years returned from a trip and ask me for a divorce out of the blue. This is after he called during the week telling me he loved me and missed me. I am still trying to understand. Every time I read a blog I am closer to realizing that even though it hurts it is the best thing for me. The grief you go through is just devastating and I am trying to deal with it every minute of the day.

  • Comment Link T Friday, 13 June 2014 14:18 posted by T

    I hope and pray this message finds you well.

    Thank you in so many ways for this insightful article. It reads as if you wrote it just for me.

    It's difficult but I'm still standing ... and after while the pain will subside. Thank u 4 helpin me stand!

  • Comment Link tom Wednesday, 07 May 2014 14:08 posted by tom

    honestly I don't know anything anymore, I started talking to my ex wife after almost 3 years of separation and marriage, in those 3 years everything out of her mouth was you looser, low life, dead beat, pathetic excuse for a man, pathetic excuse for a father, and I felt guilty and I actually believed too. 5 months ago out of no where she started acting civil and nice again. we started to hang out with the kids as a family again, she would be nice, but I have to add, she lost her job in the last year, she gained weight, broke up with her boy friend, lost her car, and was broke. so I thought maybe is a sign from god! I know it is stupid. maybe we have a chance. about a month ago she tell me that she want to go to therapy and try to see our problems, BUT once again not to work it out but to see if we belong together, but I cant sleep with her, but im helping her with everything. so I took it, 2 weeks later I got through her phone and find she is messing with one of her clients, than like always never sorry or it was a mistake, but you broke my privacy you violated my trust. is funny when I read I see it but when I think about I think she is right. flipping out on me. so I let it go, she said that it was wrong. yesterday I found out she broke up with her boy friend cause she cheated on him with her co worker now she flipped out on me, than I was in bed so broken because I thought I was wrong! I thought she was cheating and if you have nothing to hide it should not been an issue. im screwed up in the head. I just want a break. she is always trying to show of her body, always wants attention, always putting other down and talking about how superior she is and what she has accomplished. why am I attractive to this garbage? man also suffer.

  • Comment Link LD Tuesday, 15 April 2014 20:24 posted by LD

    I have been working to get my life back together after a 15 years (at the time we separated) marriage. He filed for divorce then wanted to work on the marriage saying he only filed to get my to understand that if I didn't get my shit together the marriage would be horrible - my reply was that he listened to his mommy one to many times and I was DONE. It took 2-1/2 years to finally get the divorce over and the judge saw him for what he was and I got double the requested settlement. It does get better - you just have to find the strength to step forward and let the world know you won't be defeated. A dear friend put it in get perspective when he said that the only reason my ex was the way he was was because he was threatened by the strong independent person I was when we met, that and the fact he was hiding something - (me and our kids think he is gay - lol).
    I am now dating a wonderful guy that knows what I went through and works to help me heal - not push it under the rug!!!

  • Comment Link Danielle Boisvert Wednesday, 05 March 2014 00:43 posted by Danielle Boisvert

    I'M really touched to read this . I've been seperated for the sixth year now from a narcissitic and will be going through a divorce soon. We were married for 27 hard years. I was co-dépendant . I am 6 years away from my pension... and guess what Mister wants it all because he has nothing. I am anticipating a big challenge , I have a last strectch to do and after I will be free. But hard work is still ahead.
    Everthing you wrote I feel, Trusting people is still difficult and I honestly hope to meet one good person that I derserve to have, that we all deserve to have, but not until this divorce is over.

  • Comment Link Tatiana Wednesday, 22 January 2014 17:50 posted by Tatiana

    Very good article. I am in the process of divorcing my narcissistic, abusive, cheating and lying husband. It's like going to war and it is clearly the battle of my life. But after 20 years I feel I have my sanity and peace back. No material asset is worth staying with this evil creature. I enforced the no contact rule and it literally saved my life. I am thankful for his new narcissistic supply. This younger "new victim" took my place and I am so grateful for that.

  • Comment Link Gods Angel.................. Tuesday, 14 January 2014 01:31 posted by Gods Angel..................

    My narcissistic husband committed perjury/fraud to hide all of the assets from the creditors/Judges freeing himself to pay low alimony then didn't obey the court orders attacking my disabled benefits to make us suffer causing us to be homeless making our disabled daughter with a life threatening condition to be very ill for the last year as those assets I require to keep her alive. If his boss knew what he did to destroy our 27 year marriage he would be in jail. The courts/Judges were careless as I never was able to speak openly/freely in court. Women need to know the courts don't enforce/monitor alimony and narcissistic husbands use this as their sole access of power to continue to make you suffer and punish you for getting out of their 'control.' I read a lot before I filed and I went to a therapist plus spoke to the Abuse Hotline. I wish I knew more before I filed for a divorce from a narcissistic husband..

  • Comment Link TweebSha Thursday, 02 January 2014 13:07 posted by TweebSha

    Great articlee. Having finally divorced my narcissistic ex I can totally relate to the emotions you went through. Am in a far better happier place now.