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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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Most people who have been in relationship with a narcissist for any length of time wear numerous masks. They have developed a need to be “people pleasers”. Living with someone who is constantly manipulating your emotions leaves you without the ability to see your own worth. You find yourself gauging the minutest responses of the people around you all of the time, looking for clues about what they want from you. Your life consists of adjusting your behavior and personality to better reflect what other people want. The idea of making a mistake and incurring disapproval is terrifying.

Mirror, Mirror…

During your marriage you were seen as a reflection of your husband, a sparkly object that complimented him and helped create the image he was looking for. More than likely things started to fall apart because you refused to play the game anymore, or maybe even started making your own rules.

Once you did that there was no turning back. You effectively stopped reflecting his light and started giving off your own. You moved from being an asset to being a competitor.

Do you remember the story of Snow White? The evil queen was quite happy with her life until that fateful day when the mirror gave her an answer she didn’t want to hear.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the most beautiful of them all?”

“Snow White is, you loser.”

The queen becomes enraged and determines to do away with Snow White at all costs. At that point she planned her attack – and in order to carry it out she needed the huntsman and arrows.


Begin to see who you really are in the mirror - stop reflecting the narcissist.

A-B-C’s of Attack

One thing the narcissist is very, very good at is verbal attack. He has the ability to analyze everything he knows about you and say the exact thing that will hurt the most at your most vulnerable moment.

A Is for Accusation

Accusation is one of those things that the narcissist is really, really good at. He has the ability to make you feel like everything that has ever gone wrong in his life is your fault. It may be that he says it or he may just imply it but the feeling is clear.

You are responsible for his not getting a promotion.

You are responsible for his depression.

You are responsible for _________.

Over time it is more and more difficult to fend off those lies. Divorce doesn’t stop it. My ex blamed me for an altercation that happened between my son-in-law and him. Do you know where I was when it happened? In bed with a severe kidney infection and a 105F fever, on pain killers, and totally out of it.

B Is for Bullying

Remember the mean girls in high school?

Bullying can be done in a lot of ways. With the narcissist it may not be physical, in fact that really isn’t his style unless there are other issues like alcohol or drug use. He is more likely to make snide but cloaked comments to other people that make you look bad.

He may push you to the edge privately and then add that last straw in public in a way that makes you look like a crazy person to everyone. Whatever he does you can bet that it will make him look like the good guy and it will make you look like the problem to anyone who doesn’t take the time to look beneath the surface.

C Is for Criticism

For years everything you’ve done has been subject to criticism. Now that you’re divorced you are beyond all of that, right?

Wrong.

You still can’t do anything right. There is something in me that still responds to his criticism, to his accusations and lies, and to his bullying. I wrestle all the time with the frustration that he will ever acknowledge his part of what happened. It hurts that he will never acknowledge the hurt that he caused or even believe that he did anything wrong.

And it makes me angry that his criticism can still hurt me.

C Is for Children, Too

It’s my kids that I worry about and try to protect. It doesn’t matter whether they are 31 or 13 I don’t want them to be hurt by him.  You see, the narcissist sees his children in the same way he always saw you – as a possession that complimented him and made him look a certain way. And, like you, if and when they change the rules he will drop them like hot rocks.

As long as they look at him with hero worship and act in a way that reflects well on his abilities as a father he’ll be happy. When they act out, cause problems, cuss him out, or decide to let him know what he does hurts them not only will he turn away from them but he will blame you for creating animosity between him and his beloved progeny.

It has been a difficult lesson for me but I’ve learned to stay out of it. He has a tendency to say and do things that are hurtful and I used to try to shield them from it. All of a sudden one day I just stopped. He can sink or swim on his own. The disrespect that he has experienced has nothing to do with me and everything to do with him, whether he believes it or not. It’s not my responsibility to change it and I don’t have to be controlled by his displeasure.

And either do you.

I’m Rubber and You’re Glue

Remember that phrase you used to scream at the kids that taunted you in elementary school? I’m rubber and you’re glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you!

There’s a brilliant philosophy in that school yard battle cry. You don’t have to keep believing those lies. You don’t have to analyze your every motive each time he criticizes you to see if there is truth in what he says. You don’t have to wonder if you really are the one that is the problem.

You’re not.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, no doubt you aren’t perfect and you’ve contributed to the problems. The narcissist will inform you that your perception is off, that you are less intelligent, less logical, uncooperative, or just ignorant. You just don’t disagree with the narcissist because, after all, they are always right.

If you look closely you’ll see that a lot of the accusations that get thrown in your direction are actually the very things that the narcissist is doing himself.

Rubber and glue – just sayin’.

But He’s Changed!

One of the weirdest things about my ex-husband’s current life is that he doesn’t seem to be exhibiting his narcissistic tendencies in his current relationship. It appears he is doing things that he would never have done for me and the kids.

It hurt for a time, and to be honest, it still hurts the older kids when they read his social media statuses. I wondered if it really had been me all along, after all, this new woman didn’t seem to be bringing that out in him.

It certainly could be that to some extent but it doesn’t explain how he handles the children. Then I realized that the narcissism wasn’t an immediate thing. It crept up slowly, one event at a time that stacked up as the months and years went by. Has he changed? Perhaps, but it’s also possible that he is still in the controlled stages.

It’s no longer my problem. I wish them all the best.

Survival Strategy

It takes time and practice to stop absorbing the poison that the narcissist sends your way. You can do it, though. Just keep reminding yourself that you don’t have to let his words hang on you anymore. Flick them off and send them scuttling back to him.

Surround yourself with people who are encouraging, uplifting, and loving. You’ve got him out of your life, exorcise the remaining demons and move on.

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Both Images are courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons

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12 comments

  • Comment Link Invicta Monday, 10 October 2016 21:42 posted by Invicta

    Every time I read stuff like this list... I feel less crazy. I see him in there time and time again. Especially the stuff about him 'living happily after ever' with his new woman & her family, posting of FB where it hurts his kids (and me)... it prolongs the agony of self-doubt.

  • Comment Link Cv Wednesday, 03 August 2016 22:34 posted by Cv

    This article summed up my experiences with the Narss!
    Thank you for being such a source of support!

  • Comment Link basil0707 Monday, 30 November 2015 05:56 posted by basil0707

    Wow this article totally resonated with me.

    Throughout the 22 years of marriage, he accused me of ruining his career and us falling off the cliff financially because I had insisted we move out of state 9 years ago. Nevermind that we had money problems since day 1 of marriage.

    He bullied me for years and I always appeased him. He called my parents after an argument and told them to take their daughter back because such a terrible wife didn't deserve this fine man.

    He criticized me for years as I tried to start a sales career. He was depressed and didn't want to do the corporate world anymore. It was BS. He told me sales was too hard, I wasn't smart enough, I didn't know how to close the sale. Just start the job and go on unemployment after 20 weeks. Needless to say I believed his talk and have been on welfare twice and unemployment 4 times and that was during the marriage.

    Six months out of the marriage, the ex-narc has two out of my four kids, the boys ages 12 and 14. He convinced them I ruined their lives because I left (the judge ordered me to move out while the house which is in my name went to sale) with two of the kids.

    Judge let the ex stay in the house with the two traumatized boys pending sale. So of course the ex is currently intentionally wrecking the sale. He can't deal with them when they rebel or mouth off to him which scares me to death because I know how I felt when openly defied him. But these boys who are getting therapy aren't allowed any parenting time with me because I am determined to have rules which must be followed, no racist talk, no swearing, etc .

    Now he is intent upon punishing me by taking my boys. It appears he is gearing up to file for full custody because he no longer acts like a narc. He is dad of the year preparing meals, buying them expensive toys and sports equipment. He will probably get the courts to bring in a CFI and take his chances with the courts that they will not let me have the 50% which judge initially ordered because I upset them too much. The boys are so much better now that the crazy, selfish bad mother is gone.

    It kills me because I gave my heart and soul to all of my children. I have always given them unconditional love and support. I have always told them to dream big and aim high. He doesn't care that he is trying to deprive them of a critical relationship. He is just a spiteful ex-narc.

    What I like about this article is that it gives the control back to me. I can choose how to handle the ex-narc. I can choose to respond in whichever way works best, stand up to him, make sure the courts know he isn't following their rules about the house sale. Or I can freak out and deal with panic attacks and extreme anxiety and appeasement. We have the choice. I will remember these words tomorrow and in coming days.

  • Comment Link erica Friday, 02 October 2015 20:29 posted by erica

    As many have said below - thank you - thank you - thank you - it's a process to heal: "Invisible wounds are the hardest to hear, for their closure depends upon the lover of others, on patience, understanding and the tender gift of time" ~ Call the Midwife

  • Comment Link Meme Friday, 14 November 2014 05:44 posted by Meme

    l absoulutey loved and enyoyed your insightful article! Iam in a battle for my very soul. Im newly out of my latest, and hopefully last narc relationship. I am from a family of narcs that tried to destroy or get me to destroy myself for as long as I can remember. They are the most evil, dangerous, highly skilled demons on Earth. We are in a spiritual battle. I am praying and fighting to be delivered from repeating the same cycle of abuse that I received from my birth family with my adult intimate an close platonic relationships. Please. Im so alone. Have no one I can trust but the Lord. I just need one real, supportive peson in my life. Cant seem to find that

  • Comment Link Notcrazy Sunday, 16 March 2014 13:20 posted by Notcrazy

    This could have been written about me. He ran off with someone last year. My fault. My friends took his side - they can see how reasonable he is and how crazy I am. Plus, I didn't really have my own friends, just those on the approved list whose allegiance ultimately was with him. He dictated the split, financially and where the children live (half the time at his, which seems fair to some I suppose but it is playing havoc with schooling) does fun things with her and my kids including holidays and weekend trips. They are the Funtime loving couple and I am the bitter lonely ex. So effective is this strategy that even I am starting to believe it. Every time I try to stand up for myself, the image of the crazy ex wife is reinforced. He holds all the cards - financially, emotionally, every which way. I truly believe he wants to send me under, as he has made it clear he wants the kids and has started to question my parenting capabilities. I do not earn enough to cover my bills either. He gave me a small sum from the sale of the house that will subsidise my wage for a while, but then what? He has spread stories about me in town. If he finds out I've been with someone he knows, he escalates. I don't know anybody else. He is different with the new woman which is an extra stab and the kids seem to like her which kills me, but she has said some hideous things about me to my ex friends. It's hard keeping my mouth shut, but opening it leads to worse trouble. There seems to be no way to move past his manipulation even now that we are not together.

  • Comment Link ryansmom Sunday, 09 February 2014 13:49 posted by ryansmom

    wow ,
    Thanks , I feel better knowing that I'm not crazy. I remember once preparing and painting an entire playroom and my EX looked at it and found a spot I missed and only pointed that out. Never said it looked nice. He said "look at that spot you messed up, THIS is why we hire painters!" I was stunned. Yes, he tells people I'm crazy. I caused the divorce because I filed. He tells people I left so I could @#$ other men and I found a boyfriend. He forgot to mention that he is an alcoholic that somtimes blacked out and would urinate in bed, never remembered in the morning , when I told him about it he'd look at me with a stare and just say "oh sorry" not remorse . Not sorry at all . He forgets to mention the 3 times I caught him so blacked out from drinking he was wandering with just his underwear on into his 12 year old daughters room. Agian , just "oh sorry" when I told him the next day. I actually thought I was going crazy and having a breakdown!
    Thanks for this , it's nice to know I'm not alone.

  • Comment Link Auntnattysmiles Tuesday, 26 November 2013 22:42 posted by Auntnattysmiles

    Thank you so much for your articles! It is so nice knowing that someone else has gone through the same experiences as myself... and STILL going through!! It's difficult to explain to people the "why's" of the divorce. It's not from one particular incident, an affair, physical abuse or anything else that can be pinpointed that people can understand, it's from a daily prison that you don't realize that you're in until it's too late! After reading this article a few days ago, I keep saying to myself "Be rubber. Just be rubber. He can't hurt you, You know better. Be rubber" You've been an inspiration to me! Thank you.

  • Comment Link Marye Audet Wednesday, 20 November 2013 23:44 posted by Marye Audet

    Lisa... it's great that you are helping your kids to deal with it. I always felt like the extra person, too. Then after the divorce I had so many people tell me things that I had no clue about... shake it off and move on, right?

  • Comment Link lisa thomson Wednesday, 20 November 2013 17:11 posted by lisa thomson

    I can so relate to this. Excellent overview of the impact of a narcissistic ex. I've been educating my adult children on the behaviors as he hurts them non-stop.

    During the marriage, it seemed that everyone worshiped him in our circle and I was just this extra person they put up with. I realize now it was because he was probably making me look bad behind my back.

  • Comment Link MaryeAudet Tuesday, 19 November 2013 14:10 posted by MaryeAudet

    Pixi - It a challenge. Words tend to stick with us and rattle around in our brains for a long time. Keep talking yourself up and focus on how awesome you are! Thanks so much for reading. :)

  • Comment Link Pixi Tuesday, 19 November 2013 13:22 posted by Pixi

    This one really hit home. I realize that my EX really is a narcissist, as well as his new wife. She is even more so. It is a challenge every day not to let the things they say effect me in a negative way. Thank you for this post!