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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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I really fought divorce. It’s a horrible thing that tears families apart, twists children’s minds, and creates a horrible situation for everyone, right?

Well, at least that was my take on it. I was determined to have the perfect family no matter what I had to do to create it. If I was just a better wife, a more diligent homemaker, or prettier my husband would surely value me. I could make it happen – I was sure of it. I’d read books and talked to people who knew what they were talking about. I just had to find the right formula. I had to find the key to his heart.

 I had plenty of encouragement, too. My experience has been as a Christian woman living in the Bible Belt but as I have talked to more women I have realized that while my experiences revolved around my life as a Christian woman they were common to all women in all religions, all cultures, and all walks of life. When I shared about how I was pressured to stay at all costs because of my faith I was shocked to find that other women, women who were agnostic, Jewish, and even non-religious, all had similar experiences.

Learning to Be a Real Woman

Like many young women, I went into marriage without much of an idea of what my role was supposed to be. My examples were the television shows of mid-century America – Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and My Three Sons.

I knew that my parents did not have the marriage that I wanted. I learned from television that married women kept clean homes, baked cakes, and wore pearls every day while inspiring devotion from their husbands. I learned that men made the money, handled all of the financial responsibilities, and indulged their wives.

I knew that was how I was supposed to live.

The Care and Feeding of a Narcissist

In a normal relationship there is give and take on both sides of the wedding ring. The things I did for my husband would have been reciprocated and life would have been tinted with pink bliss and sparkles. You can’t have a normal relationship with a narcissist, though.

Once I had said my “I do” I was ready to settle down with this man forever. I would spoil him – he would spoil me. Together we would build a life and spoil our children.

I totally focused on his wants and needs, which was great because he was focused on his wants and needs, too. The books said we should have a common goal as a married couple and we did.

His comfort.

It didn’t take long before I realized that Paradise was pretty one sided. I consulted books and women’s magazines and found out that I wasn’t catering to his needs enough I can remember one line from one publication in particular, A man who feels loved and cared for will do whatever it takes to protect and take care of his woman.

Obviously I wasn’t doing enough to make him feel loved and protected. 

  • Offering unlimited sex? Check
  • Meals on the table when he came home? Check
  • Keeping myself attractive? Check
  • Clean house? Check

At least once a week I went through my How to Keep Your Man Happy checklist and decided that I had to do better next week, always expecting a breakthrough.

It never came. I knew it must be my fault.

And Then Came Christianity

Please, don’t get me wrong. I love church. I love my faith. It is an important part of my life. It’s just that now I realize the church is a great place for narcissists to hide. That’s sad, too, because the Bible is pretty clear about narcissism.

I hadn’t grown up in church so I was ready to do whatever it took to be the woman that God wanted me to be. The experienced, Christian women around me assured me that once I had begun to live “God’s way” my husband would adore me and God would be proud of me. Proud of me?

I really longed to hear those words from someone. In fact, don’t tell, but having someone say that they are proud of me still can pretty much make me putty. I am hungry to NOT be a disappointment to someone.

So, I went to women’s conferences, took the advice and criticism of the other women, and recreated myself. When there was a problem at home I sought godly advice and followed it to the letter.

  • My husband doesn’t want to have sex with me/ Get a sexy nightie
  • My husband is not taking leadership/Stop being so independent
  • My husband is lying to me/ Stop requiring so much from him
  • My husband is cheating on me/ Become his dream woman
  • My husband is becoming verbally and physically abusive/ Win him over with your quiet and gentle spirit

Please note that not one of those suggestions included me setting up a boundary. In fact, I was taught that Christians don’t need boundaries because Jesus is in control.

All of that fed the narcissistic monster until it was huge an uncontrollable. Not once did any of those who were giving me counsel and advice offer to step in and talk to him in the same way. When things continued to degrade I was told to be patient and pray. I was told that God would change his heart if I would just believe and do my part.

Kicking You When You’re Down

Narcissists are good at creating a defense by putting the attention on someone else.

I did not see it coming. The ex has informed everyone it had been brewing for a long time, that he was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and that I was the one that kicked him out and filed for divorce. The last bit is true but it’s not the whole story.

I didn’t know it was coming. In fact, the night I ended up kicking him out we had gone to bed, had amazing sex, kissed good night, and said our “I love you”s.

Later I found a ton of sext messages between him and his high school girlfriend. I found out he had been lying about numerous things and I couldn’t handle being cheated on yet again. I might have been able to get past it if the two of them hadn’t made fun of me. So, at three in the morning I woke him up in a fit of rage and kicked him out.

I was informed by my friends and church that divorce was not a good option and I should push for reconciliation. I did that for several weeks and then he said that very narcissistic thing that put me over the edge.

“I’ll come back and try it but I am not going to stop being with her.”

The last bit of patience, the last molecule of submission, and the last tiny bit of commitment disappeared in a puff of smoke. When I declined his very generous offer he informed me that he couldn’t afford to file for divorce and he’d do it when he could.

Uh, no.

I had a brief moment of clarity and realized that if I filed I would have more control over what happened in the actual divorce.

When the Ship Sinks. . .

When the relationSHIP sinks, that is. People disappear from your life like rats deserting a sinking ship. Oh, they do.

I lost nearly every friend I had, which isn’t many because I am a serious introvert. I had to leave the church I had been involved with most of my adult life. I was the subject of gossip, lies, and rumors. I was really mad at God because I had done everything everyone had told me to in order to have a perfect life. I have never felt so adrift, so alone, and so isolated in my life.

And scared. Let’s not forget scared. I had six kids at home and no marketable skills – I hadn’t really worked in decades.

Society Protects the Narcissist and Kicks the Narcissistic Extension

The ex had been involved in church leadership, in praise and worship, and in other activities. He was seen as an upstanding, godly man. I, on the other hand, have always been pretty transparent so I was rebellious, had authority issues, and needed to repent. I got nasty emails about my behavior when he was the one sneaking off to another city to sleep with her.

To be fair, I am pretty sure he was told to repent, too. Just not with the same venom.

It doesn’t just happen in church. I have read your comments on my articles, I have gotten emails, and I have chatted with other women who are out of Crazyland.

It happens in every group. Friends, families, and peers all have an opinion on what you did wrong, how you could have handled it better, and why you are ruining your life by divorcing your tormenter. Some of it is because the narcissist comes across as being just so darn nice and normal. When you publicly respond to his private gaslighting you come off looking like you are insane.

You see, I am the crazy ex-wife. I make things up – he never put a bruise on any of our children. He never threw things at any of us. He wouldn’t have fallen into the affair if I hadn’t been so critical and difficult to live with. God understands what he is doing and why.

Which is good because I am pretty sure no one else has a clue.

He doesn’t pay child support, he doesn’t comply with court orders and yet, when the state files suit against him it is my fault. He talks terribly about “Deadbeat Dads” and men who are violent against women. How he keeps a straight face I don’t know.

When people console him and tell him they are praying that God gives him justice I wonder how they can be OK with the things he did and continues to do while tearing me apart.

And then I realize the truth. It is easier to kick someone when they are down than it is to speak harsh truth to someone who has you convinced he’s amazing.

Not everyone is going to believe you but here at First Wives World you can talk to women who have been through it.  Join First Wives World today and get connected to a group of women who totally get it.

Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: StephaniePetraPhoto

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  • Comment Link Jenoral Sunday, 30 October 2016 00:21 posted by Jenoral

    Just FYI, narcissists don't have safe harbour in every church. Some churches are vulnerable to their charms, and others are aware of it, challenge them directly, and aren't scared of them. The same applies to individuals within churches. Some are keenly aware and have the courage and love to confront them. Pls don't throw away your faith because of one church who failed you.

  • Comment Link Anne Thursday, 17 December 2015 03:18 posted by Anne

    I am so sorry that happened to you. I have a very similar story. I have been divorced for almost two years now, but I am still trying to get him out of my head. I hope that you are in a better place now. God bless you, it is a relief to know that I'm not the only one who has gone through such things.

  • Comment Link VeryGoodRealAnswer Thursday, 08 October 2015 19:57 posted by VeryGoodRealAnswer

    God is very Evil for doing the wrong things that Doesn't make any sense since he made many women that are very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, and very greedy, which is the reason why many of us good single men Can't meet a good woman anymore since many women now think their all that but their NOT. And to think years ago most women weren't that way at all since both men and women had to struggle to make ends meat since they Didn't have hardly any money at all.

  • Comment Link KP Thursday, 25 June 2015 16:21 posted by KP

    Also, we view ourselves as "less-than" that we need rescuing. There is something inherently wrong with us and when someone doesn't rescue us we view that as a disappointment and then attack ourselves some more. Like "well, of course they didn't save me, I am not worth saving".

    This is how these malignant narcissists were able to get into our lives, they saw this flaw and they acted the part to "rescue" us. Knight in shining armor. Okay, they lied and we lied to ourselves. We have to understand that we deserve to be treated well, we do not have to earn it. It is something that should be expected.

    I was raging against our new PC/DM because he initially told me about the ex's (I never refer to him as my ex because I do not want to own him any longer). Then when the meetings started the PC/DM switched to being equally available to both the ex and me. I felt slighted, like he knows what and who this guy is and yet he is not saving me from him! Sound familiar??

    I stopped in my tracks and realized he gave me the tools to SAVE MYSELF! Then I am going to strive to become the person that just lives, and doesn't feel the need to be saved from anything or anybody!

  • Comment Link KP Thursday, 25 June 2015 14:10 posted by KP


    The ex is a Director of Communications at a city suburb and the President of a committee that meets in Washington DC. They put themselves in positions and manipulate everyone. I have had the same struggles understanding why such loathsome, pieces of crap people exist. I have done a lot of reading once I understood this disorder and they to come from a messed up childhood which leads to two paths, either the emotionally dead or the emotionally over compensating (us). God didn't create these people to be malicious. Blame the people who turned out this way. They should not be on the planet, they should not be allowed to perpetrate their agendas. They are non-feeling, non-loving less then human. But never forget that they know who they are, they are conscious of what they are doing to people. They have no empathy and will WIN at any cost to you or your children.

    This is how it is, this is what they are. They used us and methodically mind screwed us until we don't know what the difference between their thoughts and ours because we have been conditioned to take on their faults. Keep reading about malignant narcissists and covert aggression. Do NOT react to anything they same, keep conversations to a minimum. Learn and get your power back, take the time to heal. You will see that since you operated from good, pure love, the universe God will see you through. Not saying there will not be new and intentional harm, because that is all they know how to do but you can learn to protect yourself and not provide them with any more information on what you value.

    This is the world we live in, these people go unnoticed by everyone but the people that live with them. Document and they slip up because they cannot keep track of all there lies. That's what we can do. Always use a 3rd party to negotiate as they know all your buttons and have been using them for years.

    You can do it, these people are disordered children never grew up, never know what real love is, don't feel sorry for them, just understand what they are capable of and protect yourself!

  • Comment Link raging Tuesday, 23 June 2015 03:12 posted by raging

    Please help me.

    After 4 years and 4 breakups I left my narcissist 3 weeks ago. This time, it was my decision and I initiated it. I thought it would be easier but it is NOT.

    I think about all the time I spent believing if I did just the right things, said things the right way, stayed patient and kept praying and loving him I'd have what I so desperately wanted - the chance to be his wife and spend the rest of my life with him. I'm so angry I can't see straight. There are days I don't know if I'm going to cry or scream or rage or both. I'm acting out and I know it - I'm angry with myself for wasting so much time with him. I wonder if I'll ever be remarried now, if I'll ever have the 2nd child I've wanted for so long. I'm angry that I'm not myself anymore and I'm afraid I never will be again. I'm angry that the man I loved harder and stronger and longer than anyone before him is the same man to do this to me and that he'll most likely move on with his life without a single ounce of retribution. I'm angry at God because I don't understand why He would allow me to meet such a man. I now wonder if God is even real and I hate that. I'm doubting my mind, my ability to trust, my one really seems to understand and most people in their self-righteousness feel that my hurt isn't as important because I wasn't his wife, which feels like an additional slap in the face.

    I really want to move beyond this phase but I honestly don't know how. I know I could pray but I honestly don't even feel like it. Talking to God seems futile and trying to read the Bible seems like a huge task right now. What is happening to me? Is there any chance I'll come out of this without being a bitter, angry, woman who USED to love God but is now just living her own life? I'm really afraid of what I'm becoming...

  • Comment Link Daisy Saturday, 05 July 2014 23:14 posted by Daisy

    I really appreciate you sharing how your faith Interacted with your experience. My husband's "disciplinary counsel" is tomorrow because adultry is taken very seriously in my church. I'm shocked to hear of a congregation that could shrug it off so much as in your story!

    Anyway, I get a turn to speak during the counsel, and I've decided I will take it as an opportunity to educate the leadership about psychological abuse. I want them to know how to identify other victims in their flocks, and to know that the adultry feels like nothing compared to all the ways my head has been messed with.

    I can only hope that can help some other local vicitm who still doesn't understand why she's not as outgoing as she used to be.

  • Comment Link Writerbrit Tuesday, 24 June 2014 09:54 posted by Writerbrit

    Well, the truth is if there were any God- what a narcissist that would be!

    Look for GOOD not GOD...

  • Comment Link Rburie1106 Monday, 23 June 2014 17:15 posted by Rburie1106

    This is exactly my life that I'm living right now. He is the "perfect dad" and I'm the evil and horrible mother. It's been almost 4 years and there is still so much arguing and animosity. It seems like it will never end. He is definitely "out to get me" . I'm at a loss and don't even know what to do anymore. Thanks for posting, it's nice to see that I'm not alone.

  • Comment Link Ridingfree63 Friday, 20 June 2014 17:33 posted by Ridingfree63

    OMG! It is my situation to T!!!! I can't believe it! Lost for words - my EXACT situation.

  • Comment Link michelle Tuesday, 17 June 2014 14:18 posted by michelle

    Ohhh you have my vote! I grew up with a passive aggressive narc sociopath for a dad and a ex boyfriend, and now the man I am with now is passive aggressive only..he forgot I have passive aggressive traits too. I play the poor me role and people see him for the crap factor he is but they still hold me accountable for when I am wrong and now him too.

    I was mad at God too I mean new curse words formed I was so mad! I'm not going to say people can and won't change because they can. I still struggle with traits that make me cry at night. What makes me cry more is that I share a bed with a man who has is a living reflection of a past I want to flee from. Imagine growing up believing your mom was cold hearted when it was actually your dad I'm tormented by the men in my life (oh and his narc mother). I may have grew in a complicated life but I won't let no one dictate to me who I am. I care and love people a lot more may not be unconditional and I may get hurt but I can't stop caring about people. Its my personal belief that people such as my husband is intimidated by my sweet, funny, goofy, caring half spoiled personality! I laugh because he tries to hide it. I'm only sad because he allows his mom or his past to dictate his future.I am sad for him because he struggles so. I personally don't know what it is like for a man to emotionally distance himself because of his mom. Now I am being punished because of her. There is so much more I would like to say this is long and sad enough as it is. My advice for those of us in this type of a relationship. Never ever lose sight of who you or who God is it can happen in a blink of eye. I think more and more women and men can benefit from sites such as these and this is a blessing for me.(I apologize for any confusion in what I wrote but its so much to say)