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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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Why does he treat his new wife so much differently than he did me?

If he had been like that with me we’d never have gotten a divorce!

I don’t think this is something that just happens with narcissists. I have heard this from nearly every woman who has been divorced and watched her ex-husband move on into a new relationship. You sit back and watch in amazement as he seems to provide her with all of those things that you begged for over the years – and he does it so effortlessly, too.

Of course,his new wife thinks you are crazy. How could you leave someone that was this sensitive, this romantic, and this thoughtful?

And, on the other side of the coin, if you’re in a new relationship with a divorced man you may be thinking those same things about his ex-wife.

We All Grow and Change

All of us grow and change over the years. Certain experiences, both positive and negative, change us forever.

In marriage there are unintended hurts, offenses, and betrayals. Over time some things are resolved, some things are healed, and some things create wounds that begin to erode the relationship despite the attempts to move past it.

Since this happens with both spouses there are three possible changes for each event. The circumstance may change the husband, the wife, and/or the marriage itself.

You may not even be aware of the changes over time because they can seem so small and insignificant. You have children, you have careers, you develop new interests, and you grow in different directions. Hurts and differences that you could overlook in the beginning get bigger and more difficult to get around.

All of that weaves itself into a self-protective armor that you automatically put on whenever you are around your spouse, even when he becomes your ex. He does the same. You’ve heard of the term, toxic relationship?

It doesn’t start that way but once it becomes toxic it is very difficult to de-contaminate.

Someone New Creates a New Dynamic

When someone new comes into the picture it creates a new dynamic. It’s a clean slate, for one thing. There is none of the history, hurt, and toxicity in the new relationship. Since the new spouse is different the whole relationship is different. Everyone is older, more mature, and hopefully has learned valuable lessons from the last relationship.

Your ex may remember some of the things that were important to you and do them for his new wife. Since she didn’t have to beg, or even ask, she reacts with delight that he is so thoughtful. He feels good because it she seems so simple to please.

Basically, she is getting the benefit of your struggles.

Don’t take it personally. It can be really painful to watch your ex treat his new wife so well. I know that I have questioned what makes her “better” than me. The answer is simply that they don’t have 30 years of history yet, he is no longer on crazy amounts of painkillers, and they are more mature in their 50s than we were in our 20s.

Now, the Narcissist

While some of that may be true for the narcissist, a lot of it is way too simplistic. A narcissist doesn’t really change. He will romance his new narcissistic extension just like he did you at first. He will be charming, romantic, sensitive, and he will be everything she always wanted in a man. That’s what they do, remember?

He will tell her how different she is from you, how she is his dream woman, and how you never appreciated him. He will deny any angry outbursts or violence but if he can’t deny it he will explain it away as it being a “very difficult time” in his life – subtly casting the blame on you, of course.

He will make her feel like a princess as long as she is providing something he needs – supporting him financially, admiration, a place to stay, or the “look” of a normal, responsible man.

Over time he will begin the same stuff he did with you. He will lie, cheat, and make excuses. At first he may blame you for it – its leftover behavior from the trauma that you caused him. At some point that will change and he will become Jekyll and Hyde with her. You know how that goes, right?

You see, for a narcissist, things don’t really change. He can pull off his persona for a while but eventually she is not going to be enough for him either. Eventually she will not meet his narcissistic needs and things will go south – just like they did with you. She’ll suffer a financial setback, gain some weight, get an illness, or become aware of his crap. The pattern will continue.

Whether your ex is just a jackass or a full blown, out of the closet narcissist the fact is you need to accept that he is going to treat women in other relationships differently than he treated you. If you take it as a statement about who you are you’ll never be able to regain your self-confidence or move on.

Disassociate Yourself from the Past

In other words, lose the baggage.

You have to move past your previous relationship if you are going to be able to grow in a new one. It is so easy to find narcissistic tendencies in your new spouse that you can easily spiral down into the old patterns and ways of responding.

Keep in mind that everyone has some narcissistic tendencies. When you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist you are sensitive to those things, and even looking for them because you are going to naturally want to protect yourself. Try to focus on the fact that this is new and it is different.

When my husband and I were first married everyone in the house tensed up if he lost his temper. I am not talking about screaming or yelling. I am talking about irritability. We were just really sensitive to it. We moved into our old battle stations. My teenage sons became protective of me and their younger siblings, the little kids disappeared, and I tried to diffuse the situation by any means possible.

The differences were many. My husband does not hit or throw things at me and the kids. He does not scream at us or call us horrible names. He is not volatile, and he is not hooked on prescription drugs. Still, if we continued to use the protective mode we had adopted during my previous marriage it is likely that new issues would have been created.

A good counselor can help you work through the old patterns that you need to deal with before you can move on in your life. Sometimes just talking to other women who have been through the same things can help, too. Join First Wives World today and get connected to a group of women who understand what you are dealing with.

Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User Yoga- Photowork

 

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10 comments

  • Comment Link TimeForMeNow Wednesday, 14 February 2018 10:38 posted by TimeForMeNow

    Ah yes. The new piece is always treated better than the faithful wife they divorce. It frustrates me to see her getting flowers every week (he told me that flowers are a waste of money because they die) & showered with jewellery & dinner at a fancy restaurant on Valentines Day (he told me it’s a made up holiday designed to make money). Christmas & birthday gifts for me were small appliances & home made vouchers for massages (which he always expected to end in sex & if it didn’t he would get pouty & accuse me of being a tease). She got jewellery & an overseas holiday. The list is pretty endless at the moment but what frustrates me the most is seeing all the money he is spending on her while at the same time complaining to me about how much child support he has to pay & accusing me of spending the $50 a week (for two kids) on myself.

    Today I decided to block them both in Facebook so I can no longer torture myself over how much better he treats her & I’ve forbidden my friends from telling me anything about them. I’ve decided that what he does is now none of my business as long as he pays the child support the court ordered him to pay.

  • Comment Link Valerie sadler Thursday, 19 October 2017 10:37 posted by Valerie sadler

    Bibically I believe second marriage is adultery. Check out Matt 19, Mark 10 and Luke's scriptures on adultery and marriage coming from Jesus own words. O and if someone tries to shove the exception clause down your throat or some other marriage scriptures in Corinthians, their refutable given the proper argument, The exception clause in Matthew is when Jesus says "except for fornication" can one remarry, but you can't fornicate on your spouse, you can only commit adultery. Jesus was Jewish talking g to a Jew (Matthew, and was talking of Jewish BETROTHAL customs!

  • Comment Link Missy Thursday, 03 August 2017 02:06 posted by Missy

    My ex would call me stupid or your disgusting intimidate me with rage attacks. These were terrifying. The rages were at least Twice a week minimum if I got up to leave he would follow me and continue. He frequently brag about him self lie have affairs. Twist the truth so it would make no sense

    Is this traits of a narc. It's been a year and I still feel bad really struggle at times. He just met someone new and is worried she will hear what he did . I can't help but feel bad and wonder why the new person is so good and why is she not treated the same way Why did I get that treatment

  • Comment Link Mary Crawford Tuesday, 20 June 2017 23:40 posted by Mary Crawford

    My husband (soon to be x) is already with another woman. I left in January and by February he was on dating sites. We were only married a little over 2 years. I had been married for 27 years and 10 months to my late husband. He was a wonderful man, father of our 2 children. My husband (that im divorcing) is the kind of man that blows up for no reason, feels everyone in America is talking about him.When i would try to leave he would go out and hit the car with his fist yelling. He threw my phone at the car and shattered it. I came last behind the dogs with him. He had to be right about everything. Had to have control of all situations. Had to know who i was on the phone with. It was a awful life and i thank God im away from him. I pity this new lady in his life, he start's out great, seems loving and caring but he changes. I really feel for her.

  • Comment Link Nelisha Sunday, 09 April 2017 01:40 posted by Nelisha

    Thank you for such an insightful and informative article about narcissist men and their Women . I met my Narc boyfriend on an online dating site, he was just widowed 7 months and i have been divorced for 10 years , we are both 60 years old . His deceased wife was Malaysian . He constantly bragged about how loyal he was to her for 26 years of their marriage and that they only had one fight during the entre time of their marriage . I went through the 3 stages , idealización, devaluing and the final discard. The first discard was 5 months into the relatiinship because I told him It was difficult for me to trust men. Then after 28 days of no contact we got back together , i was the one that iniciated the contact because I felt It was my fault . The cycle began again and he wanted me to move in with him . However he did criticize me for every little thing, became a hermit and never wanted to go out with me, did not spend Christmas nor new years with me and my adult children, says he doesn't believe in any of that nonsense. He was antisocial , only has a few Friends , he is a retired software programar ..He moved to Costa Rica in 2000 with his Malaysian wife and 2 daughters. I am Costa Rican .Yet grew up in California, just like him. So the day we were to move in together , this January , when he picks me up at my house he discards me for the most stupidest reason. I sent him a link by email on suggestions about decluttering his home . He and his wife were pack rats and his House was a total mess as well as his garden áreas , very messy, no decor whatsoever through out the House . He did tell me several times that he wanted me to feel like at home , so I did clean and tried to make things look nicer. The second discard was also after 5 months . The day he picked me up to move in with him and discarded me he had all my personal things I left at his House in the trunk of his car in plastic bags !! I was in shock , humiliated, confused, heartbroken . That minute I blocked him from everything , phone ,email and have been no contact now for over 60 days . I went online and found out about NPD. Then I realized what I had gotten into ..A false relationship with a patholigical Narcissist . I have read and researched everything I could on Narcissist , he has all the personality traits. What I don't understand is how he could have been happily married, as he proclaimed, for such a long time . He did cry more than once when remembering his wife or talking about her illness , even cried at my birthday party in front of my kids . I am confused about this ,as supposeinly Narcs don't have empathy , but he did show it towards his wife . Could he have been lying about his perfect marriage all along? He did Talk about an ex girlfriend , or as he called It , a friend with benefits that he had with an older woman before marrying . Well the last week we were together he tells me he is in Contact with her by email, she is 75 according to him . She even came to visit him and his wife while she was still living , kind of strange I thought but I didn't tell him how I felt . I feel that now it's not about him , but about me and my happiness. Now I know the red flags to look for in a future relationship, have a deeper understanding of Who I am and what I deserve in a true , loving relationship. Now I understand I was the perfect target for this deceitful , evil and false person . This relationship has actually made me stronger. I am starting my own travel agency , have gotten already 6 great clients , my future looks bright again and I feel happy, fulfilled and empowered .

  • Comment Link AJ Saturday, 31 December 2016 16:40 posted by AJ

    Thankyou for such an interesting piece. Everything you say is so true and after much research, I know my ex husband fits the bill of a true narcissist. I was married to him for 20 years and we were together for 30 years in total. I lived in his shadow and over the years, endured his lies, cheating, anger problems, over blown ego, childish outbursts, nastiness and so the list goes on. Each time he apologised and I forgave him and thought he would change, but he never did. My children and I walked on eggshells in his presence. In public, he was a charmer. I could write a book about it all. As I reached 50 and seeing how other couples and families lived, it suddenly dawned on me that our life behind closed doors wasn't normal and I started to stand up to him. At that point, he realised he had lost his supply from me, looked for someone else and reeled in his work colleague. I let him go and divorced him. I now live happily with my 2 children. He's still a charmer and now as an outsider, when I look at him and hear him, I see right through him. Even though people don't say, they must too. Interestingly, since we've been apart, so many people have said they never liked him and he was so full of his own self importance. It was the best thing that ever happened to me and I am a new person, happy and people have noticed. They say I look fab, have a stunning figure and I am so different. Not timid anymore. (which is sad to hear) Having said that, I have not lost any of my original loving and caring qualities. I was always in there somewhere, trying to get out. So I say to anyone who thinks they maybe in this type of relationship, walk away if you can. I wish I had sooner, but you don't and I kept it all bottled up. Yes, he does everything now for his partner too and it hurts me to think he wouldnt do it for me and our family. I believe his new partner may have similar narcissist tendencies too and they are welcome to each other. I dont know how long their relationship will last. I know my EXH has told people various lies etc. to justify leaving his family and to cover his guilt. I saw a counsellor and found that really helped. I've learnt how to rise above it and people say I've been brilliant and so strong. As I said before, people know you for who you are, especially your closest friends. I thought it was me with the problems and it took me a long time to understand that it was him and he's now taken his problems into his new relationship. It wasn't me, I wasn't mad and not to blame. I know he will never change and he hasn't got it in him to change. At the moment, they're still in the honeymoon stage and behaves well in front of her. It's only a matter of time and I know at some point, he will revert to his old ways. Now I look forward to spending the rest of my life living in a better place and perhaps, one day, meeting a man who understands, cares and will love me for who I am. I hope this helps anyone who reads my words.

  • Comment Link yvette Tuesday, 31 May 2016 03:10 posted by yvette

    i was with a man for over 15 years we seperated due to him cheating the other female called my phone looking for him one late night thats how i was alarmed of his cheating, i left him for a year and a half cut off communication recently i forgave him and we been seeing each other sexually after a few times he then told me of someone he was seeing i am devestated that i reopen my heart, now this person is basically living with him i'm trying to get over the hurt she too called my phone after seeing text and calls from each other he told me he did not want to hurt me so we should not see each other right now until he figure things out with her. im so hurt please help its all i think about all day everyday!!

  • Comment Link Debbie Friday, 06 June 2014 16:53 posted by Debbie

    I needed to read this today...thank you for posting it! I told my narc husband that I wanted a divorce this last November after 20 years of marriage. For financial reasons, I decided to postpone filing and work with him, while still living together, to get our financial affairs in order. He immediately started going out drinking most nights and found a girlfriend...why am I so surprised? I just found this out last week. Because I know he is a narc and not capable of keeping his word or being an honorable man I knew this was a strong possibility, but for some reason, I'm still having a hard time dealing with it. I know that when they are together he's telling her what a wonderful person he is and that I'm an evil witch and everything is my fault. I know that he is being so, so charming and sensitive and loving in order to hook her. Even though I am confident in myself and know that I was already seeking a divorce from him, I now find myself thinking sometimes "What does she have that I don't?" It's making me crazy!!! I know who and what he is and that I am done with this marriage, so why is this affecting me this much? I guess if I think of it, part of the reason is that he is getting away with destroying our marriage and hurting me and our children, but he gets to walk away looking like the innocent victim, gaining all the sympathy and gets to do it all again while I am left to pick up the pieces and know that a lot of people out there are believing that I'm a really rotten person because that's what he's telling them. He is the one who deserves bad things, but it's me who has always experienced the fallout/consequences of his failings and this is just one more of those times...the last time! I know for my own sake that I need to forgive him so that I don't become bitter and I'm sure it will come...it's just hard in this moment when I'm having to deal with this big mess all alone and knowing that instead of helping me(since he created it), he is giving any emotional energy he has to someone else. But when I look back over the last 20 years, that's the way it's always been...nothing is new or different...I guess I'm just finally able to see it for what it is instead of living in denial and believing that he would change in the end when he realized how important we are to him. It was always going to end, it just took so long because I was living and believing in a fantasy and not reality.

  • Comment Link SharP Thursday, 05 June 2014 14:52 posted by SharP

    I found my ex tu be more bold and unhealthy over time. He and his new gf have been living together for a few years now. They set up "happy family." But she seemed to be into image as much as he is. I was never into image, I want reality. So I never fell for the image then or now. So they can pretend to be happy all they want and it doesn't bother me. He is looking for someone to make him happy. No one can make you happy. You either are happy or you are not. If you are not, fine, but don't blame others and don't try to find it in others. Just decide to be happy (or not). It is okay to be unhappy. Contentment is the goal. Happiness comes and goes. You cannot always live on the ups of life. There will be downs. It is all temporary. The trick is to build a life, not destroy everything around you because it is not good enough (perfection). No woman or man or person can ever fill the "need" of a narc. It cannot be done. So play "happy family". It cannot be maintained. I know better. Wait for it! They now have srguements, the kind he use to have with me. So glad to be free from it. I feel sorry for her. But because he has attached to her I am free. Grateful for that. I tried to warn her. Big mistake. It is all out of my control. But the image is ... "Perfect couple". What a lie.

  • Comment Link SharP Thursday, 05 June 2014 14:50 posted by SharP

    I found my ex tu be more bold and unhealthy over time. He and his new gf have been living together for a few years now. They set up "happy family." But she seemed to be into image as much as he is. I was never into image, I want reality. So I never fell for the image then or now. So they can pretend to be happy all they want and it doesn't bother me. He is looking for someone to make him happy. No one can make you happy. You either are happy or you are not. If you are not, fine, but don't blame others and don't try to find it in others. Just decide to be happy (or not). It is okay to be unhappy. Contentment is the goal. Happiness comes and goes. You cannot always live on the ups of life. There will be downs. It is all temporary. The trick is to build a life, not destroy everything around you because it is not good enough (perfection). No woman or man or person can ever fill the "need" of a narc. It cannot be done. So play "happy family". It cannot be maintained. I know better. Wait for it! They now have srguements, the kind he use to have with me. So glad to be free from it. I feel sorry for her. But because he has attached to her I am free. Grateful for that. I tried to warn her. Big mistake. It is all out of my control. But the image is ... "Perfect couple". What a lie.