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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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If you think that once the papers are signed and the ink is dry you are finished with the agonizing pain, frustration and anger that goes along with being in a relationship with a narcissist think again. In many ways you have only just begun.

He’s Teflon

Keep in mind that one of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a total lack of empathy. He has the unique ability of making himself look crushed and broken while everyone feels sorry for him. You have the pleasant role of crazy ex-wife who is trying to ruin him.

It doesn’t matter what he’s done – a friend of mine described it as Teflon. Somehow none of his pitifully bad choices, none of his abuse, nor anything else ever sticks to him. There rarely seems to be consequences for him and yet you continue to sweep up the fallout. My mother used to say that it was like being the guy with the shovel that followed the cavalry.

Once he has sucked everyone dry of every bit of emotion, created as much drama as possible until no one in the immediate vicinity responds anymore, and has feasted on the ensuing chaos until his character looks like Jabba the Hut he moves on.

Don’t look for relief when that happens – it comes with its own set of problems.

Moving On Up

Narcissists have the uncanny, and deeply disturbing, ability to walk away from friends, family, and even their own children without looking back once their NPD has been revealed. Divorce is messy and children have a way of making it even more difficult emotionally. They act out, they lash out, and even if they’ve had close relationships with you there will always be some rocky moments when they hate your guts.

For the normal parent it is a time to dig in your heels and love them through it. After all, you’re an adult and you can take it. For the narcissist it is personal. The child is stripping him of the admiration and adoration that he requires to live. Not only that but that unruly child is stealing his thunder – all attention is on the child.

Often this will be the point that he heads for greener pastures. He’ll start over somewhere with people who will admire him and feed his lust for attention. A narcissist is the only human being alive who can literally walk away from his own kids and not look back. They are a reminder of his failures.

That’s not to say that he won’t use his distance from his children to his own advantage. Remember, reality is what he says it is. He’ll make noises about how much he misses them, how grieved he is that he can’t be with them, and how his crazy ex-wife (that would be you) is poisoning their minds against him.

Because, you know, you don’t have anything better to do with your time, right?

Once again, think of it like Teflon. He has the ability to slough off the reality that it’s his own irresponsibility and abandonment that are creating the problem. As always, it’s you.

Get used to it because that isn’t going to change.

Maintaining Sanity When Divorcing a Narcissist

When everything comes to a head and he has no reason to maintain his image anymore things get a little crazy. You may even wonder if you are the one with the personality disorder – am I the narcissist without realizing it? Am I the problem?

Put your mind at ease. A narcissist is incapable of wondering if he is truly a narcissist – unless he is asking someone new in his life to set the stage for her concern. Then it looks something like this –

My ex-wife thinks I have NPD (deep sigh), she accuses me of being selfish and irresponsible (head in hands). Maybe she’s right (another sigh, and then looks into the other person’s eyes). Do you think I am a narcissist? You know I can be selfish at times…

That right there? Worthy of an Oscar, or an Emmy, or something. The new victim will hug him and assure him that the crazy ex-wife is just channeling her inner Beelzebub. Certainly this poor, broken man is not the monster she makes him out to be!

It’s fabulous. If you ever get a chance to watch him in action I strongly suggest that you grab some popcorn and just admire his chutzpah.


Don’t take responsibility for things that aren’t yours to take responsibility for – not now, not ever. When narcissists project blame for their issues on other people, and those people accept the blame, it’s called introjection. That’s a word you’ll want to memorize because you will find yourself doing it often. It’s the thing that makes you feel defeated before you even start, causes you to constantly second guess what other people want from you, and jump to the wrong conclusions about yourself.

Negotiation with a narcissist is difficult unless you can put the focus on why it’s best for him.

Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, by BTSHaifeez

What’s Good for Me Is the Important Thing

Keep in mind that no matter what is happening the focus will be on his own best interests. You can use that to your advantage by focusing all negotiations on how he will benefit. If it’s back child support make sure that he has a reason to want to pay it. Don’t use the kids’ needs as the argument, he could really care less. Remind him that hunting season is coming up and he won’t be able to get a hunting license if he is still in arrears, or that his passport can be frozen.  It’s nasty but effective.

He will never apologize, never admire you, and never admit that he is sorry he lost you. Accept it. You can’t base your self-worth on what he thinks anymore. You’ve been there, done that long enough. Not only that but you can be sure that his new woman, his family, and his new friends all know what a horrible person you are, too. He will twist your words, make up scenarios, and create new realities that make the ex-in-laws gasp with horror.

He isn’t lying, exactly. He is controlling reality. Hopefully they’ll get used to it.

Once you accept the reality of who he is and how he operates things will get a lot more peaceful in your life. Remind yourself every day that you’re not the crazy one. Remind yourself, too, that you are not the only one to go through the craziness of divorcing a narcissist. 


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Images Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons: Lead Image by Stewart Black

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  • Comment Link michael Monday, 12 May 2014 18:07 posted by michael

    do you have any advice if the narcissist is the ex-wife? are there ways to deal with her and the children (and a relocation by her --- fueled by her narcississm) that are different than what you mentioned here.

  • Comment Link lavette Sunday, 13 April 2014 01:38 posted by lavette

    This has been very helpful..I am struggling everyday..ny husband, soon to be ex is know living with a new woman..why do I think about how much better he will treat her, but I know I am better off without him..its been 20 yrs of a roller coaster ride...we hurt our 18 yr old daughter emotionally with all the drama. .

  • Comment Link Italianwoman Friday, 03 January 2014 03:17 posted by Italianwoman

    This is my life..... You do not know how much this article just helped me... thank you so much....

  • Comment Link DMD Monday, 30 December 2013 18:31 posted by DMD

    Great article. Very honest. It doesn't take a certified therapist to identify a narcissist any more than it takes a doctor to make a diagnosis of measles. It's all over them and very easy to spot. I've also seen good lawyers manipulated by narcissists.
    My X says that I am totally responsible for our divorce, get this, because I was the one WHO FILED. THis is just a small example of his convoluted reasoning. He doesn't see that I had many reasons to file. OR that it was just a matter of doing it. He sees it as the REASON for the divorce. It's his attempt at re-direction, a skill he has honed over the years to escape his responsibility for his actions.

  • Comment Link msmithm2000 Monday, 30 December 2013 00:03 posted by msmithm2000

    Think of a good lawyer as an important INVESTMENT IN YOUR FUTURE. Several times I've been reminded the reason I hired a lawyer was to think and act logically, legally and in my interest.
    Also, if you can get a CPA who can help you with tax issues and possible IRS help - for tax debt you didn't know about. Also as I learned, the sooner you change your income tax filing to single the better for you.

  • Comment Link NewHope7 Tuesday, 17 December 2013 18:11 posted by NewHope7

    "Been There" has a lot of anger, clearly. The veiled use of the word "idiots" for anyone who would dare to speak out or dare to write an article about an abusive ex who would happen to be male is at best a blanket statement and at worst manipulative.
    I too, stayed in a relationship with (gasp) dare I say it??? A NARCISSIST...for 20+ years for a variety of reasons that I alone take responsibility for. It was my own choice. But I don't call people names because they recognize traits in other people. Does "been there" have a mental health degree? You are full of "bio polar" and "schizophrenic" diagnosis about your ex. Oh? It came from a certified and degreed professional? But it is still "second hand" information, through you. As my certified and professionally degreed therapists and counselors have also had a chance to evaluate my soon-to-be ex husband, I feel that I an any other person on this site have a right to call a spade a spade, even if they do not have a mental health degree. That offends you "been there"???? So what? You are throwing around your personal opinion, names and second-hand diagnosis as well. Don't call the kettle black my friend....

  • Comment Link kgladney75 Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:35 posted by kgladney75

    I enjoyed reading this. It's helpful to know that I'm not alone, because I truly feel like no one really understands what it's like. I've been divorced from my narcissistic ex for six years, but because we have children, the agony doesn't end. NPD is truly a devastating condition and takes a toll on all parties involved.

  • Comment Link BeenThere Tuesday, 03 December 2013 13:58 posted by BeenThere


    Thank you for responding. To be 100% honest, I have NO IDEA whether or not she is "narcissist" or not......why? Because I am not a psychologist or other mental health professional with the credentials or expertise to diagnose such a serious mental health condition. I DO KNOW that she was professionally diagnosed as "bi-polar" and "schizophenic", yet it was always MY responsibility to UNDERSTAND that she had NO CONTROL over this. That SHE was the victim and that even though she refused to take her medication and used to "self-medicate" with illegal drugs, I was the one who was labeled as the "bad guy" when I FINALLY left. She contacted EVERY ONE of my family and friends to tell them that I was a "narcissist".....she attempted to destroy me both personally and professionally. She has drug out our divorce for almost 4 YEARS! She has alienated 2 out of 3 of my children, from me, coincidentally my daughters, who are able to relate to her as the "scorned woman" rather than to me as the "man trying to move on". Unfortunately, her tactics have backfired. She has lost numerous friends over the past 3 1/2 years because of her continuous, non-stop, mission to belittle me publicly, she has "worn-out" many friendships. People are realizing that it is HER that has the problem. Who in their right mind spends 4 years insulting an EX that she hasnt spoken to in over 2 years? All our kids are grown and on their own with the exception of our 20 year old son that lives with me as he is attending school, so WE HAVE HAD ABSOLUTELY NO CONTACT EXCEPT THROUGH COURT ONCE EVERY 4 MONTHS....I am sorry for comparing you to her but there are TWO side to every story and if my EX had her way, no one would EVER hear mine.......take care

  • Comment Link Marye Tuesday, 03 December 2013 12:23 posted by Marye

    Pixi - Glad you liked it.

    Listening - Thank you.

    Been There - See? You didn't get deleted. I am not bitter. I am not against all men..and it sounds like your ex is the narcissist in the relationship. I assure you I do not use that label lightly. I could go into enough detail to have your mouth gaping and hanging open but I won't. You are saying that you went through similar things to me. I am sorry. It sucks. There are narcissistic women as much as's just this site is geared toward women's issues. If you will read through the Narcissisic Ex articles I have written I think you will find help and comfort... or at least common ground. Praying for you this morning. :)

    Tlotufo - Thanks for reading!

  • Comment Link tlotufo Tuesday, 03 December 2013 02:17 posted by tlotufo

    I completely agree. Thank you so much for posting!

  • Comment Link BeenThere Tuesday, 03 December 2013 01:13 posted by BeenThere

    I know this will prob get deleted because no one wants to speak the truth, but this article seems like the bitter rantings of a woman scorned. Men are not the "bad guys" just because of our gender. It's much easier to label a big tough masculine guy as the bad one, than it is the crying, grieving, pathetic "damsel in distress" I know this from first hand experience. I lived with an abusive, drug-addicted, bi-polar "sweet girl" for 20+ years. In public she was everyones best friend. But behind closed doors, it was a nightmare. I put up with the abuse for 20 years, for the sake of our children. When I finally left, I WAS THE BAD GUY! Put my life on hold and my happiness for 20 years and I was the evil one. Because I was the one who left and split the family. And so after all her years in Nar-anon and therapy for all her problems, she learned this big, new,word.....NARCISSIST. She uses this word to describe the person that refused to put up with her abuse anymore......ME. So, I am sick and tired of seeing people who have ABSOLUTELY NO FORMAL MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING OR EDUCATION, trying to label people because of THEIR personal view or interaction. Narcsissism is a SERIOUS mental situation and these idiots are doing nothing but minimizing it by using it as an insult to those that they feel have done them wrong......just my opinion.

  • Comment Link ListeningHard Monday, 02 December 2013 23:13 posted by ListeningHard

    Oh my God, this is brilliant and true,every word!

  • Comment Link Pixi Monday, 02 December 2013 16:52 posted by Pixi