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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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When you are a stay at home mom, especially if you have small children or special needs children, it is easy to feel that you don’t have any options when it comes to your narcissistic spouse. You may feel that you’re only path in life is to endure this until the kids are older or something changes. You may even believe that you have nothing to fall back on, no way to support yourself, and you may lack confidence in your own abilities.

Honestly, it’s likely you’ve been slapped in the face with your inadequacies for years. Any confidence that you may have had is hiding behind a thick wall of I’m no very good at anything. 

The narcissist knows best - you couldn’t possibly make your own decisions.

Why Did You Stay So Long?

In conversations with others there is generally one question that always comes up, why did you stay so long?

Lack of Confidence

That’s a tough question. When you are married to a narcissist you are constantly being told in various ways how unintelligent you are, how unimportant you are, and how little value you actually have. You could start the relationship with a doctorate in nuclear technology and in a few years you’d be lucky to have the confidence to balance your checkbook.

There is a constant eroding of your sense of self that you aren’t even aware of until it is too late.

You stay because you have come to believe that you are unable to care for yourself or your children if you go. This is especially true of stay at home moms. Since we have been out of the workforce for decade it’s often difficult to even contemplate going back in. So much has changed!

Maintain a Normal Life for the Kids

Then there is the desire to continue to stay home with our children. This was my biggest hurdle. You see, I had been homeschooling for twenty years when I was divorced. I fought putting the kids in school for two years afterwards, trying to limp along and do it all. There came a time when I just couldn’t spin all of the plates anymore and everything came crashing down around me. No matter how much I wanted to homeschool it was not an option for me. I had to give it up. It was something that tore my heart in half. I had decided that I could endure anything if my kids were secure.

Hope for Change

Another reason that we stay is because we think that things can change. There is something in us that refuses to give up the hope that somehow no matter how bad things are that they will get better if we only hang on a little longer. We become the little train that could – I think I can… I think I can…I think I can…

Finally, we stay because we have been told so many times that we are the problem, we are over-reacting, and we are imagining things that there is the fear of making a mistake. What if we really are the problem? What if we leave, lose everything, and then find out that we’re seventeen layers of crazy?

So we stay and we endure one more day, one more week, and one more year. We stay until something happens that puts us over the edge – that proverbial last straw.

My Last Straw

For me it was one more infidelity. It was reading pages of erotic emails and Facebook messages between my husband (now an ex) and his girlfriend from high school. It wasn’t just the things that they said but it was the jabs that he took at me in their conversations. It was the humiliation of finding out that when he was sitting next to me in church he was texting her.

I was done.

I was lucky. I’d realized at some point that my confidence level was way below what was “normal” for me and I’d been working on myself. I spent time reminding myself of all that I had accomplished before marriage, I’d begun to develop my own interests, and I had started a blog which turned into an income producing activity for me as well as opening the door to a published book and a career in freelance writing. When everything went down I was making a little money and had some in the bank - I was reasonably sure I could keep things going.

Use free time to brush up on employment skills or take a class. 

Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User Thomas Leuthard

Stay at Home Moms Need an Exit Strategy

If you are a stay at home mom currently married to a narcissist then you need an exit strategy even if you don’t plan on leaving. You really don’t know what things are going to look like in the future. Living with a narcissist is nothing if not unpredictable.

Do one thing at a time. Take a class at the local community college, get a part time job, or develop your own small business model. Maybe you can open a little store on Etsy, start your own blog, or bake cakes from your kitchen. Put a little money away as you can and build credit in your own name.

If you never need to fall back on it you’ll have a nice little stash of mad money for something you want. If you do decide to leave you’ll have some security. It’s a win-win.

Finally, find a counselor that is well educated about narcissists. You’ll need someone outside the situation who can help you shake of deception and focus on what is true.

Waking Up to Reality

I spent years trying to create the perfect family so that my children would grow up with security. I believed that divorce would scar my children and open them up to problems in their adult lives. What I didn’t realize is that I was training them to be victimized by narcissists later on.

After the ex moved out my kids opened up to me about several things that I was unaware of. They visibly relaxed and our home life was much calmer and more drama free – even with three teenagers in the house!

I realized that while I had been protecting them they had been protecting me. When the narcissist was out of the picture we were all free to be ourselves, to interact in a healthier manner. Here we are, four years later and things are so much better for us financially, emotionally, and even spiritually. Nothing is perfect, of course, but the kids are doing well.

You Can Do This

If you’re a stay at home mom you’re more than likely reading thing and being hit with a barrage of reasons why you really are trapped. Everyone has challenges but yours can be overcome. You may not be able to walk out tomorrow or the next day but you can do one thing every day to make yourself a little more independent.

You may also want to read Ten Ways to Freedom from Narcissists on Narcissism Support.

You aren’t alone. Join First Wives’ World today to share your story and be encouraged by other women who have been where you are and emerged stronger and better than before. 

Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons- User: Connor Tarter

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  • Comment Link Jamie Thursday, 21 September 2017 06:21 posted by Jamie

    Do you have any information on how to determine/insight on what a narcissist Is?? Am I the narcissist or is he.. Is what I'm wondering. And regardless, I know I'm a good mom and I believe I would be even better mom if I can get out of this toxic relationship that keeps tricking me onto believing its a good one... I can't and don't want to waste anymore time on this person because I want to give my all to my deserving children... one boy and 2 little girls that I don't want to spoil their future relationships by thibking it has to be like mine... fyi. The daddy is pretty decent.. we just l don't click. He's not abusive. We just clearly aren't meant for each other. Someone please help. My confidence has gone to zero and I know I deserve confidence like everyone else. Sorry to blab on. I just reaching out to sone site that I know nothing about and don't wven know how old this blog is. I just hope I was meant to finally write this, right here. Thank you.

  • Comment Link Kaye Monday, 18 July 2016 00:06 posted by Kaye

    I can't thank you enough for this article. I feel so trapped. I have been looking for a job but can't find anything local :( I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes I can hardly breathe.

  • Comment Link annonymous Tuesday, 31 May 2016 16:42 posted by annonymous

    my daughter married someone who changed after and gives absurd excuses why they never visit and if they make plans use excuses the day they are supposed to come and never do come. Christmas cancelled last moment, sickness excuses, heavy traffic, you name it. Now with a new baby more excuses and not visited in 8 months. Her grandmother in a nursing home will never see her great grand daughter. Excuses of flu season, could be sickness in nursing home are all used to stay at home. Now my daughter will not go back to her job, her husband claims his job #1 and she must look for a 9-5 job which is impossible to find as a personal support worker. I fear she is being trapped. I did see her once only because I was close to their home and her husband claimed job uncertainties with management so the trip they were planning could be cancelled. Quicker to the excuse then the plan to visit. My daughter supports him and I fear he has made her go against her own family by what is being said. All very disturbing. Who before marriage goes to church with my daughter then once married claims she cannot attend because it's his only time off on weekends and he won't go to church now. Seems he lied to everyone to get what he wanted . JUST what is this type of personality, illness?
    Her grandmother gave her considerable $$ for a downpayment on a house and more but now won't even take her baby daughter to see her. How can my daughter be so cold? She keeps quoting "what's best for us" then says whatever her husband decides is best.

  • Comment Link Christine Schulze Tuesday, 21 July 2015 20:43 posted by Christine Schulze

    This article assumes stay at home mom's are young and have decades to get some social security or start a career. I'm 47 yrs old, have stayed at home and been through Hell and high water to support him (moving, lying, quitting jobs, quitting school)and his career. I'm ready to go...but I'm broke with no career and he has alienated my family through his ridiculous behavior. What can I do?

  • Comment Link citizen3 Tuesday, 30 June 2015 07:34 posted by citizen3

    Just left my husband who I believe was a Narcissist. A difficult decision given we have two small children I am still working on my PhD. I had to move in with my mother for financial and childcare help. I could never hold a job for longer than a couple of years because my husband was a diplomat so I my career suffered.

    It was hard to explain to myself why I felt so trapped. He looked so impressive and reasonable to the outside world. And he argued his cases at home so devilishly well, even though I knew his arguments were based on false premises.

    Looking back, I can start explaining to myself what has happened in day-to-day life. For example:

    If I am lonely in a new place and would like to invite people for a dinner, he tells me he does not want a hassle in the evening, he just wants to relax. If I try to do it anyway, he is spoiling it for me on the daily basis, citing his tiredness, costs, those people are losers, and so on.

    I am tired nursing a baby and need sleep, but he can relax after work only if the house is tidy and gets in a strop if the house does not approximate the tidiness of a hotel room. His strops come in as a string of cold, persistent verbal attacks. So while the baby is asleep I tidy up to save myself from trouble.

    When I say I need a holiday, I find out he booked the time off for himself six months ago. When I protest saying that he was supposed to negotiate that with me, he calls me controlling. And I can't do anything about this tendency not to consult me because his diplomatic postings abroad means that he books all his trips from work using specially assigned monetary packages, even personal trips.

    If I need to work on my PhD or marking students' exams (as I am doing now in wee hours at my mum's place), he tells me that what I do is useless and I was stupid for signing up for it anyway.

    He us always booked up. If I need an hour to myself, I will find out that he has a hair cut, for example, and he reminds me that his looks are important in his job and I depend on that job too.

    I need milk for a new born baby, it is minus 40 outside and he has our car, he tells me will needs to go to the gym after his work because everyone has a right to exercise.

    The older child is not spared either: if she wants a play date, he tells me kids are messy and around when he comes from work. Well, that one I did any way and it did a world of good for my girl!

    When I tell him I need my mother's help with the baby, he says there is not enough space in our house for everyone and when his parents come that is different, they come from far away. My mum withdraws the offer to come to save me and her from the trouble. BUT when he wants to attend his expensive hobbies miles away, he says that my mum can come and help, can't she now?

    And when I start shouting in desperation, he tells me I am horrible, couples are supposed to discuss things in a calm manner. No one would want to be with a person like that! I clearly don't value him...

    I am trying to heal now but having to be in contact with him and him constantly blaming me for failed marriage still has the power to make me desperately unhappy. I only hope that will get better with time...

  • Comment Link Pastors wife Monday, 06 April 2015 17:41 posted by Pastors wife

    I do feel trapped. I have Master's degree in counseling of all things. I did most of my training and counseling with children in a school setting. I had not had much experience with this disorder. We have been married twice. The first time 1 1/2 after a 6 year courtship with 4 years long distance. And now 13 years. The first time I knew something was wrong but could not put my finger on it. When we married the second time, he claimed to have found the Lord so I chalked it up to that. Boy was I wrong!!! Since late last year I have realized his problem but I has taken me until now to come to grips with this. Now what do I do? I can not see anyway out. The one thing I focus on is providing a loving, nurturing, affirming environment for my children which he unable to do unless it is for his benefit (to look like the model Godly father). I am looking for part time employment but it is hard because I am always home with the children and he keeps it that way. I had started to keep track of my credit report when he found out. He refused to pay my more than 4,000.00 medical bill from our last child birth now credit report in the dump. I recently learned that he stopped paying my student loan. Those are my only two bills. I do not know what to do? Please help!!!

  • Comment Link anonymous Thursday, 19 February 2015 00:48 posted by anonymous

    My husband is a male chauvinist with narcissistic tendencies. He is manipulative, condescending, dogmatic, and egocentric. I am seven years younger then my husband. His military career, his narcissistic mother, his five brothers, and his philandering father, helped shape him into the person he is today. He has admitted trapping me with five children, whom I've reared one hundred percent. His airline job has him jet setting all over the World. The lack of communication, drinking into the wee hours, partying with the crew, and finding hidden notes from a flight attendant , has made me angry, to say the least. By getting me pregnant assured him no man would want me or the "burden" of caring for my children. In the meantime, he did what he wanted to do because in the end he would never divorce me. It would look bad for his image. I am now 50 and still feel he lacks the ability for love. I am lonely. The time has come to make some decisions about a happier, healthy future.

  • Comment Link Nita Wednesday, 10 December 2014 11:55 posted by Nita

    Growing up in the African American community I knew that there was another side of love ~ and it wasn't pretty. I was taught as a young girl, to always have a job 'just in case' things don't work out. However, having a form of independence outside the home gave me so much more than money. I am married and in a happy one at that, but I do believe that keeping the playing field equal has a lot to do with it. I homeschool and work in a viable field, yet my kids never complain about me working. They respect me because I can pull this off. By me working, my husband is in the position to have to help. That makes him appreciate the caregiver role even more. So to first enact change - you have to love yourself.

  • Comment Link Anonymous Monday, 24 November 2014 04:05 posted by Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this article! I left my husband and moved back to our home state (he's military). I am a SAHM to 3 under 7 and I held on for as long as I could. He is saying he wants to work things out; however, he told me today I caused our financial issues and that could not be further from the truth. I feel so worthless when I am around him, but I don't know what I have done wrong! We are just getting started on homeschooling this year. I am torn between going back to him so I can continue with that but I know I can't do it anymore. Between the sexual abuse and gas lighting and stonewalling (and verbal abuse we were both guilty of), I need to be done with him. I don't know why he has such a hold on me still, even after everything.

  • Comment Link Mother of 5 Wednesday, 16 July 2014 17:38 posted by Mother of 5

    I've been married 22 years, and the narcissism has gotten worse and worse. We have 5 children. I've managed to have a moral and faithful christian environment for them so far. He goes along with this, but wouldn't maintain it on his own. I'm most afraid that if we split and he got partial custody, his lifestyle and girlfriends would be a terrible influence on the kids. How do I decide which influence is worse, the narcissist father with a secret life, or the narcissist father with a mean slut girlfriend over to his apartment while my kids are there?

  • Comment Link anonymous Tuesday, 25 February 2014 15:24 posted by anonymous

    I struggle with a narcissist. We've been married for 24 years. Like you, I kept thinking things will get better. Just now I am realizing that they never will. I am pretty sure him walking out is in my future.

    It is all about him. I have given up so much of me to try to please this man when there is no pleasing him. I even quit a job that brought in extra money and gave us more security at his urging because "you don't make enough money to be out of the house that much." and that since I started working full time all it did was make his life harder.

    I like to believe that there is something better out there.

  • Comment Link lc72 Wednesday, 05 February 2014 23:37 posted by lc72

    No matter what I did, it was never enough. When I stayed home, it was "you've let yourself go since having kids" (I am 5'8" and under 145, I run marathons, and I'm always dressed nice). When I went back to school to earn my masters I got "If you weren't getting straight a's you could be doing more for the family" (I did all the cooking, cleaning, bills/taxes, even house maintenance). When I went back to work I got "when I married you, you were a graphic designer, now you are only a teacher." I spent my whole marriage thinking, "it will get better when...." I worked my a-- off to save my marriage. It never got better and when he left he blamed it all on me. There's got to be something/someone out there better for me!