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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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It’s time to stand up straight, leave your fantasy world, and figure out how to take care of yourself. Expecting a narcissist to nurture you is like expecting a crocodile to sing a lullaby to a baby gazelle.

Many people, both men and women, which have been in a narcissistic relationship for any length of time tell me that one of the most frustrating aspects of the relationship was when he gave them a gift. It’s didn’t matter whether it was Christmas, an anniversary, or a birthday it was going to be a crapshoot on how things went down.


There are several ways a narcissist gives and your spouse may have exhibited one or all of them depending on the situation, his personality, and other factors. You see, the narcissist has a toolbox.

You Didn’t Want That – This Is Better

I know someone, actually more than one someone, whose husband has a habit of asking her what she wants for her birthday or other celebration and then getting her something totally different. It’s almost like he has to find out what she wants so he can be sure not to get it!

If this has ever happened to you then you are probably gritting your teeth right now. It is definitely one of those triggers that can make your head spin faster than Linda Blair on a windy day. You have to ask yourself why?

That’s easy. They are superior beings and as such have a much better grasp on what your inner desires are than you do yourself.

  • Tell them you want a red coat and you can bet that you’ll be getting a green umbrella because it’s much more practical and you don’t look good in red anyway.
  • Mention that you’d love a new phone and you’ll be opening a box with tickets to the basketball game – and you don’t even like basketball. By the way, while he was there he picked up a cool new phone at the store next to the ticket counter. You know, he needed one badly.

The fix for this is pretty simple. Don’t tell him what you want, let him do whatever he wants as far as a gift and buy something for yourself that you love.

Remember Who’s in Control

Another reason that narcissists give gifts the way they do is to remind you exactly who is in control. It’s a form of abuse although many people would argue that.

When he asks what you’d like you mistakenly assume that he is interested in you for a change – maybe he is changing!


In actuality he wants you to believe that because you will know who is in control when he disappoints you get again. He’d laugh at you if he could but to do that would admit that he had planned to pull the rug out from under you all along. Instead he will get the hurt look on his face and whimper about not ever being able to please you.

Sometimes the gift looks good to every one else but you know the truth. For example - have you ever gotten Valentine’s Day candy two days after you announced you were going on a diet? Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons- User: Chauncey Davis 

Hey! Look at Me!

Another reason that a narcissist will give is to make a public display of what they are doing so that they can catch all of the atta-boys that they long for. You might live in a house where the toilet has been plugged up for months, the roof leaks, and the paint is peeling from the walls but by golly you are going to get an expensive, fancy gift for Christmas so everyone you know can see what a really cool husband you have.

He’ll do this in another way, too. A narcissist will give generously to charity even when his family does not have their needs met as long as no one knows. Whichever will get him the most attention will be the way that the door swings on that one.

For the most part my ex was pretty decent about gifts, especially in the beginning. He liked for people to get the idea that he was doing well for himself financially even though I don’t think he broke 35k the entire 30 years we were married – and that might have happened once.

In the words of Yoda, Provider he was not.

Still, that never seemed to stop him from buying shirts at custom shirt shops, buying expensive suits, shoes, pens, and watches. He was the only person I know of that wore designer ties, custom made shirts, expensive watches, and wrote with a $200 Mont Blanc pen while his family was getting groceries from neighbors.

Still, he had numerous watches. Ebel, Tag Hoyer, Longines, Seiko, and more. He had at least ten of them at one point. He had a habit of giving those watches to pastors and missionaries who came through our church.

I was always being told how generous he was by these people and never once did I point out that his family’s need were not provided for.

I Am the Victim

If the jig is up and the narcissist has come to the conclusion that you are not going to play his game by his rules anymore he’s do one of two things. He’ll look at you like a six year old boy who didn’t get chosen to bat and literally whine, “I’m out of here.”

The other possibility is that he will figure out a way to make you look like the abuser and he will be able to maintain his fix of emotional blood indirectly. He’ll buy you something that he knows you’ll hate so that others will pat his back and tell him how ungrateful you are.

You’ll start getting the stink-eye at church. After all, he is generous, sweet, kind, and he is so downcast about your problems. Can’t you give it one more try?

Poor thing.

Always Ask, What’s the Catch?

Whenever a narcissist gives you a gift or does something nice for you it’s important that you train yourself to look for the angle. You may not see it but it’s there somewhere. He has a plan that will cause the gift to benefit him more than it does you.

  • He’s playing Godfather and you are going to owe him something.
  • He is setting you up to look like an abusive idiot while he comes off looking like the poor victimized one.
  • He has decided that he is losing your trust and this is a good way to get it back.

There are as many more possibilities as there are narcissists. You’ll just have to figure out which scenario he’s using on you. There’s something going on.

Learn to Be Proactive

Stop expecting that this time it’s going to be different. Is it possible that he could change and become the person you always believed he could be?

Sure. Possible but likely.

One thing a narcissist will do is they will complain that you always bring up the past. That’s because they know that once you look at the pattern you are going to see that it really doesn’t change. Once you accept that you can decide what you want to do about it.

Truth really does set you free. Once you accept the truth of what a narcissist is, make a plan based on that truth, and make the first step you’ll feel that heaviness fall away.


Part of being able to see the truth is knowing that you aren’t alone. Many others have endured similar things and come through battle-weary but victorious. You will too. Are you ready to share your experiences and learn for the experiences of others? Join First Wives World today to be part of this vibrant community.


Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons- User: H.Koppdelaney

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  • Comment Link sandra Tuesday, 26 December 2017 18:28 posted by sandra

    I have just recently divorced from my what I would call narcissist husband. He always would go in the other direction if I asked him to do something for me.. For instance I told him I wanted a small gold fish pond in our back yard . you know the kind you can buy at Home depot inexpensive not very hard to take care for and he said sure. Well , now I got this big hole in my back yard that could be used as a hot tub which the water seeps out into the ground that takes gallons and gallons of water to fill up that you can't afford but hey in the end he did it how he wanted it to look for himself. All the man had to do was say no babe I don't want to do that can we do something else. But just so he could say he built me a fish pond and look good to everyone else and to top it off just so I couldn't enjoy it he screwed it up on purpose and then claimed his innocence. Same thing he did when I asked him to paint the house or get us washable siding for the mobile home we live in. He did it alright and choose some crappy looking color just because I had him paint the house so he did it in the colors he wanted and excluded me from having a say. These are just two examples! there have been many times he did this like helping me around the house with the laundry or cleaning the kitchen or cooking while I worked. He put things in the wrong places on purpose just to irritate me . Even bleached my favorite shirt just because he had to do laundry for us. The man is vindictive. But all the while everyone else thinks he is just the sweetest thing while I am boiling. So this x-mas after our divorce he gets me a bedding ensemble to put on our used to be bed together to remind me of him. Please! All the while he gives my daughter this supposed to be innocent explanation that "you don't just stop wanting to do for someone "is his excuse for getting me this intimate gift. And they just think I am the meanest person and he is so sweet. So just tell me what you think!

  • Comment Link kyla Sunday, 22 May 2016 14:04 posted by kyla

    That's my husband. I am not materialistic at all but he always gets me stuff that he thinks i need and often very impractical or not of my likes... he gets very angry if i dobt use what he buys me... you dont love me!! I bought it for u!! if it is my birthday i can tell him what i want but then i never get it. The worse is i bought him a nice watch last year but he never wears it. Indtead he bought himself another one. Much more fancy and expensive because he couldnt show off to his mates with the one i got it. That killed the last spark i had in me. He put a price on love. Money means more I

  • Comment Link Elly Monday, 29 February 2016 16:06 posted by Elly

    My husband completely didn't recognize my birthday, blaming it on me really and despite me almost pleading with him that he could do something to make the day better for me he didn't (the fact that I even feel I have to bring this up when it should be obvious is not a good sign). I keep playing into his games... until I step back from our home environment for a while and have the support of family and friends to help me think through things clearly because then I am not in his "lair". I realize I keep getting sucked into this manipulation as I am a caring, pleasing person... people take advantage of this sometimes like my husband. Over a week after my birthday he surprised me with a birthday for me, and once again I got sucked in. He went all out to the day, more than he ever has. And the cycle continues. How can I bee so foolish to think he has changed, that he finally gets it! He doesn't! He grew up in a destructive home with a narcissistic father and a mother who enables and protects my husband at all costs. So unhealthy to say the least. I have to strong for my daughter and I.

  • Comment Link See the light Monday, 28 December 2015 18:18 posted by See the light

    I have come to the realization that I was in love with the fake him. I now see him as the real him and the bad outweighed the good and there is no love left in my heart for him now that my rose colored glasses have broke. My ex boyfriend of 1 & 1/2 years, never lived with him thank God, sent me very nice Christmas gifts but they meant nothing to me, it's too late to feel as I once did. I gave him more than his share of fair chances and I see a lifetime of heartache and worry and I don't need a crystal ball. It's sad but the me who loved him died as well. Letting go of the hope is bittersweet. But there is no other way.

  • Comment Link Sally Tuesday, 22 December 2015 17:03 posted by Sally

    Wow.. this is so my husband. He knows I've filed for divorce because he is an alcoholic as well. He is off buying me gifts and even bragging to people about the expensive gifts he is buying me... all the while not mentioning that we are getting divorced.

    He also does the donation thing.. and takes food to neighbors.. anything to pain himself as this great guy. Yet fails to mention he has been arrested 3 times for public intoxication.

    He has always been a great gift giver, and I didn't quite get it till the past few years.. what is really going on. My therapist told me to read about narcissism. I'm married to the real deal and it's so hard to get out. He will make me look like the bad guy.

  • Comment Link Thea van Deventer Friday, 21 November 2014 10:49 posted by Thea van Deventer

    I don't know what my husband is. All I know is that I married a man that can't stand to buy me anything. Selfish or selfish. In the beginning I just brushed it off and kept thinking he is probably not very romantic or that he really did forget. Until I bought him Hugo Boss for Christmas last year and I did not have ANYTHING under the tree, that I totally went into a depression, trying to figure out why I didn't deserve a present. (Two days before Christmas, I found out he was having a very close friendship with a college). Months after that I only found the what sup message between them. Oh, and did she not thank him for her beautiful Christmas present. Well I am still with him, he swear they were just friends and yes they are still working together and its time for the Office Christmas party again. He already lied and said the Company will not have a party this year. Call his bitch. Oh, yes the party is the 5th of Dec. I am writing this to get my hatred out of my soul...and yes I know I am so stupid in believing him when he tells me he loves me. Financially I can't look after my daughter alone and that is why I am staying. Sad sad sad and stupid!!!!

  • Comment Link SharP Wednesday, 19 March 2014 14:07 posted by SharP

    I say often (explaining to others my divorce) He didn't give me flowers for my birthday because I am so wonderful. He so wonderful for giving me flowers on my birthday even though I don't deserve it. I still have a hard time receiving flowers. People get this. I use humor to diffuse him still.

  • Comment Link jdaed Friday, 14 February 2014 04:25 posted by jdaed

    This narcissist thinking is so bizarre! We were always tight on money and I would always tell him all I wanted was love and affection--things that are free! We would agree not to buy each other gifts so that our kids could have stuff. But no, I always got an expensive, laptop, tv, jewelry....stuff I didn't need or want. Things I cringed at because I would have to find a way to pay for it in our tight budget. They boys would look at me like they couldn't understand why I wasn't jumping up and down hugging their father because he was SO thoughtful. Little did they know I hated these things and to this day have a hard time using even though he is gone. I resented it so much I wouldn't tell anyone what I got because it meant NOTHING to me. He would act wounded and act like it was me who was the jerk. Maybe, maybe not. All I wanted was him/his love. Nothing else mattered, but that was something that he wasn't willing to give. Now I know why.

  • Comment Link marianela Tuesday, 11 February 2014 00:31 posted by marianela

    before I realised my husband was a Cerebral Narcissist, I always wondered why he would buy me such expensive gifts, only to through it back in my face, that I was undeserving and ungrateful of what he had given me. I also now understand that he was only buying me expensive gifts to be praised by other people or to show that he has more than others. I recently found out that one Christmas he had asked my brother what he was going to buy my sister in law for Christmas, my brother had told him he was going to buy my sister in law a pandora bracelet with a couple of charms. That same Christmas I recieved a pandora bracelet full of charms. I was so suprised and overwhelmed at the beautiful gift, I said to him at the time that he didn't need to get me such an expensive gift, he replied loudly in front of the whole family, "I didn't want you waiting to get charms to fill the bracelet, I can afford to buy you one that is already full". I thought his reply was a bit inappropriate and I felt a bit embaressed, seeing as though my brother had given my sister in law her bracelet with only two charms, I also heard my brother softly tell her that he would buy her some more charms when he could afford it.

  • Comment Link marye Tuesday, 28 January 2014 20:32 posted by marye

    Best of luck to you Golda, it's a common story but it sounds like you are moving on and that's a good thing.

  • Comment Link Golda Sunday, 26 January 2014 13:32 posted by Golda

    It's like u made this article based on my x... He always had the expensive cars and phones electronics, well I had old clothes and a better van to run the family around in. He could not afford to help me with bills or take time to help me with the kids but always had money to help a female in need in the neighborhood. He did bring me flowers and gifts ... Always at work then instead of alimony to me would suck up the praise of all the women at work who thought he was the greatest husband ever cause their men did not bring them gifts.... We now divorced do to him cheating and because he was such a great guy to everyone else they have all decided it was me that was the problem... If they could only see the truth and loneliness behind the lies, it's often hard to feel worth anything when all the hard work I did for everyone the extra hours I put in to pay the bills was a reason he used claiming I spent no time on him and he felt alone.... When if he had helped at all I would not have needed to do so much