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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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One of the most difficult things about dealing with the breakup from a narcissist is accepting that a large part of your life has been based on a lie. There you were, skipping along, thinking that you were both on the Yellow Brick Road to Wonderland when all of a sudden your rose colored glasses fell off and you realized you were in a wasteland surrounded by flying monkeys.

That will rock your world, for sure.

Whatever You Believed, You Were Wrong

Generally when you go into a marriage you believe a few basic things.

  • You are equally committed.
  • Love means the same thing to both of you.
  • You are both equally concerned for the other’s well-being.
  • Your spouse has your back.

In most cases all of that is true. In most cases the new wife isn’t married to a narcissist. If you are, or were, married to a narcissist then the probability exists that you’ve been believing a lie about nearly everything. At some point the lies start to unravel and you begin to see things much more clearly.

And it hurts.

It’s tough to realize that the man you are in love with doesn’t exist. It’s even harder to accept that the life you have built together is totally one sided and that you are the only one that realizes it. You’ve built such a perfect life outwardly that when it falls apart few, if any, of your family and friends will understand why you’re getting a divorce.

After all, the two of you are the perfect couple!

The Commitment Fallacy

For better or worse. We’ve pretty much all said those vows – and most of us meant them. A narcissist looks at commitment differently. Commitment, as far as a narcissist is concerned, is a matter of convenience.

A few years before our breakup my ex suddenly woke up in excruciating pain. The doctors didn’t have a clue and put him on heavy doses of pain killers and gave him a wheelchair. He wasn’t supposed to drive because of the medication and he required twice weekly visits to the hospital with long waiting times. I drove him, pushed his wheelchair, and argued with the doctors when they blew him off. I pushed for more tests, did research in my spare time, and held his hand through painful tests.

I hate hospitals and I hate doctors (no offense to anyone in the medical field).

There was no question that I would do all of those things. He was my husband and I was committed to him.

About two years after his issues I found out I had several tumors, some with precancerous cells, on my thyroid gland. It was removed.

If you don’t know about hypothyroidism, it’s a tough condition. It affects your body in hundreds of ways from emotional mood swings to blurry vision. Some days you are just too exhausted to get out of bed. It takes up to a year to get the medication adjusted properly.

Two months after I had my surgery I found out he was having his little online affair. He never once concerned himself with my health. I had ceased to be valuable because I had my own health issues and could not focus on his.

The Love Fallacy

Normal love seeks out things that it can do to please its loved one. When you love someone you look for ways to affirm them, to make them happy, to make their lives easier. You give up things so that they can have things that they want. In a normal relationship this goes both ways – a matter of two sided give and take.

Narcissistic love is different. It takes. A narcissist will love you while you are doing things the way he likes, when you are doing things “right” but as soon as you aren’t following his set of rules things go south pretty fast. They have a whole set of unspoken rules that you have to follow – even though you don’t know what they are.

My ex told me he didn’t care how the house looked – it wasn’t a big deal to him. I, being a major perfectionist, had been working night and day to keep up with everything. One day I just was so exhausted all I could do is cry. That’s when he told me how unimportant it was. I believed him.

I still cleaned, but I worried less about clutter. One day I was upstairs and heard him come home. Next thing I knew I heard slamming cupboards and drawers. He was angrily cleaning up the clutter. I immediately jumped in and frantically “fixed it” and never made that mistake again. There were other instances of him withholding affection and sex when I didn’t do something right or he was angry with me about something.

I learned that what I called love and what he called love were two separate things.

Equally Concerned for Each Other’s Well Being

Shortly after my surgery I woke up feeling strange and light headed. My lips felt numb and like they were buzzing. I mentioned to my ex that I felt weird and told him I was staying home from church – he should take the kids.

I continued to feel odd and I knew I wasn’t thinking straight. When the family got home I asked him if he thought I should go to the Emergency Room. I was walking oddly and having irregular, rapid heartbeats. He shrugged and continued staring at the computer screen. One of my teen sons told my ex to either take me to the ER or he would. Turned out that I had dangerously low potassium levels for some reason. Thank God my son insisted because I was too out of it to insist myself.

Then there was the time he walked out the door and left me home with a four year old and a seven year old when I had a 105°F fever.

You get the idea. It was very odd to me when I got sick and my current husband rubbed my back, got me cold water, and kept track of my fever.

Your Spouse Has Your Back

Most couples have a certain loyalty. While they may fight and even verbally attack each other once in a while there is no way that anyone else is going to be allowed to do that! A narcissist doesn’t care. They will listen to someone tear you down as long as they feel like doing so. Depending on who is doing the tearing down they may even agree and partake in the conversation. At the least they will listen.

When my ex-husband (before he was the ex) told me that someone had spent 30 minutes tearing me apart to him I asked what he had said to her. His reply?

I didn’t say anything – but I didn’t agree with her.

Gee thanks, honey.

The narcissist most definitely does not have your back. If you are expecting him to be your knight in shining armor you’d better prepare to be disappointed. This one is a shape shifter and he’s out for your blood.

Once you can accept that your definition of love is way different than his you can more easily accept that your relationship was never what you thought it was. You’ll grieve, but you’ll be grieving something that should have been and wasn’t.

You deserved better.

You aren’t in this alone. Many women have been where you are. Sign up with First Wives World today and enjoy fellowship, great advice, and the knowledge that you aren’t alone.


Lead Image Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: Robbert van der Steeg*

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  • Comment Link Commenter Sunday, 24 April 2016 21:46 posted by Commenter

    I should probably add that I just cut ties with controlling, possibly narc, parents and the family that they brainwashed against me, making me the villain and the cause of every problem. My crime was that I was a good kid who wasn't perfect.

    It's very odd that I had been living with the family for so long, yet now that we don't talk, I don't even really think about them. I was even homeschooled. I stayed with them during my adult years as well. I thought I was no good at anything, disabled, etc, and would never hold-down a job. Soon after I leave them, I get a career.

    Another thing that's weird, is it hasn't affected my identity much, even for being codependent on them for that long. I suppose I've felt isolated from them all this time, and the only thing left was to physically remove myself.

    I strangely forget about them, now that they aren't controlling me. Yet, I'm addicted to thinking about my ex. I strangely feel like I should be nurturing him. I only dated him a little over a month, and it was during a time when, I had little money, a part time job, and I had to cut ties with my family. It's an identity thing for me. However, I notice a pattern of developing crushes to kind of distract me from other things. But more to it than that, the fake persona that my ex created was the deepest best friendship I ever had.

  • Comment Link Commenter Sunday, 24 April 2016 21:34 posted by Commenter

    That sounds horrible. I dated a guy like this for a month and a half, and I'm still feeling weird.

    Let me put it this way: it would make more sense if I fell in love with someone, and then he ceased to exist. Sometimes, that happens. A person is kind of at a crossroads, and they don't want to be the you that they have the potential to be. So after the relationship, that person doesn't exist anymore.

    But this is even more difficult to resolve. This is a person who didn't exist in the first place. The whole time he was cheating on me. He was two different people at once, or one person who wasn't who I thought he was that lied to me. It's someone creating a fictional character, and then killing him off. But a fictional character with a real body.

    I'm a virgin, and I didn't sleep with this guy, and he knew he wasn't going to get anything sexually out of it going in. I was very upfront and told him that I'm waiting for marriage.

    However, he was keeping another option behind my back the entire time. It was an unrequited love of his. Then, he staged a fight, just so that he could sleep with her and we'd be technically "broken-up". Even if I slept with him, would he have given me a chance? I'm glad I didn't.

    That doesn't mean that he was emotionally detached. I just got to deal with the baggage. And I got a lot of false promises about getting married, him falling in love with me, etc. What did I ever do to him? I met him and he was just a guy who I was trying to help through his problems with women.

    I had a relationship with this normal, somewhat-well-adjusted, nice guy. Not someone I would call perfect, but someone I felt and still feel very protective of. Someone who encouraged me. Someone with a cute speech impediment. Someone who is a little nurturing, but needs some nurturing himself. Someone who wasn't quite sure of himself or what he believed, but swears that he was born to be a dad. Someone who is a little geeky and likes to surf the deep web for conspiracy theories. Someone who supports family members even when he didn't get that support back.

    After the break-up, I finally poured over social media. I never did before: felt like I trusted him. Claims I didn't shut the fridge at the house he was renting. Claims I demanded jewelry. Talks to another girl. Uses me as a way to make her jealous. Brags hundreds I'm a virgin, comparing girls like me to girls like her. She says something about him going down on her, right after a fight him and I had. A few weeks before we start dating, he was in the hospital for attempted suicide. No response on social media. Before the suicide attempt, he was still talking to the girl. After our breakup, he gets together with the girl. Everyone says "finally". In front of a lot of people, makes false claims about me, even while we're dating. When I scroll really far back in the history, he has a different personality.

    I work at the same company as him, and sometimes we'll talk business on the phone. Different person. When he described his father, this is the father I picture. Self-absorbed, impatient, different-sounding voice. Different personality. Pretending like we've never met. Personifying someone else.

    It's very strange. This person's identity is a series of different fictional characters, or maybe even parroting different people whom I've never met. I noticed him parroting me after our breakup, assuming bits of my identity and drowning me out.

    It seems probably strange that I'm dwelling on something that was so quick, but we spent a lot of time with each other and grew really emotionally "close". It was an identity-defining experience and a rocky point in my life. This person was all I had for that amount of time, and I had next to nothing, in terms of assets.

  • Comment Link sweetyetsassy Thursday, 10 July 2014 22:51 posted by sweetyetsassy

    I have just joined. This REALLY hurt to read..BUT this is/has been my life too. I am so glad this chat area shares some of what I am working on. My marriage is gone and honestly started going down hill when I fell ill years ago- I was at the wrong place/wrong time- It has forever changed my life. He basically dumped me b/c I was broken. I don't feel broken, I feel like I lost almost 2 decades and married a stranger... I don't know him- I am certain this is how he always was- when you leave a support system and think your own household will become it and it doesn't, it makes you wonder, how could you miss such flags????

    At current, I'm most scared he will take my daughter away. He has no grounds for it I am a good mom- but I fear it and I wish this thought would go away...Right now, he has brainwashed her and she's been nasty- He loves it when she calls him saying she misses him even though he was just with her saying come back I want to stay with you- No reason, and he lies to her.

    Yet- she treats me like I did the cheating lies etc....
    I used to have this amazing relationship with her-

    He was never around and traveled for so many years...Yet she forgot I was the one whom juggled more than I should have was always with her. I didn't have to work, I wanted to..I enjoy what I do- Outside of this, I am truly at a loss and I am against divorce. I don't have a choice and I have lost any/all respect for him ( so today I do believe in divorce)- I can honestly say I have no feelings at all but disgust for this man. I was hoping we would not end up this way. Amicable at min. I can't wait until this is over- It kills my health/heart and that is needed right now...I don't have family here- or many friends- I do have many where I used to live and will be moving back soon- not soon enough.

    Has anyone here had an issue with their almost ex- making kids turn against you for being ill? She (daughter only 1 child) hates me and all I do is continue to love her...She said a month ago she didn't want us to get back together. It hurt like a dagger in my gut.
    My heart is broken but not from him anymore, from her. I am afraid I am losing her to this man I thought I knew- You learn fast when you are faced with one spouse that becomes ill. You professed your love and being there in sickness/health...but that is not usually the case. Knowing this chat area is here and seeing the same or most common types of experiences/thoughts. I am certain many are just like this...Thank you for sharing the illness and how he treated you- I had this too...

    How do you begin to move on? I am open with my heart now, have met a nice man- but I am in fear to take it any further than friendship as I do have a health condition- it doesn't stop life for me- but there's a story behind these scars and I am scared it will happen again- aka damaged goods.

    Disappointed in myself for tolerating such crap- Never have I had a relationship like this- why I stayed I have no idea. Will we ever understand why we stayed? Anyone?

  • Comment Link Patricia0822 Wednesday, 25 June 2014 14:16 posted by Patricia0822

    Sounds just like my husband! Thank goodness I found this site...I felt so alone.

  • Comment Link zinahel Wednesday, 25 June 2014 01:21 posted by zinahel

    Wow this is part of what I'm going through but not every thing there are some differences. Now I can see from you what type of man I married.

  • Comment Link BonitaLee Tuesday, 24 June 2014 16:42 posted by BonitaLee

    I always knew my stbx was selfish, he was an only child. As our marriage moved along, I thought he changed.
    In hindsight I don't think he did, he was just revealing himself more and more.
    22 years, I loved him, and fixed his relationships with our kids. Made excuses for him.
    In the end ironically he gave up on ME, when I was depressed and could no longer give him the attention he "deserved".

  • Comment Link bravecharly Sunday, 22 June 2014 14:57 posted by bravecharly

    Thank you Marye for sharing this. I left a very difficult marriage of 5 years, just 8 months ago. My husband was very controlling and would only seem to love me if I did things the way he wanted them. If not, he would withdraw, do the cold shoulder treatment for extended periods of time, over the smallest of things. As I read all your experiences I realise actually this is the type of person i was married to: a narcissist. I gave everything and fell for the charm, fell for the dream, sacrificed so much for what I believed being married was. I also remember a similar experience to you in which I was hospitalised with a nasty viral fever. I remember going through some instructions for our daughter's food and to ensure he could take care of her while I was in hospital. He ended up snapping at me and upsetting me greatly when all I was trying to do was ensure our daughter had what she needed while I was not there. To comfort me and ensure I was going to be ok simply wasn't a priority to him - I think he was just annoyed he couldn't go down the pub! It makes the truth of what that relationship really was seem so much clearer when I see so much in common between your experiences and mine. Blessings to you

  • Comment Link Struggling Friday, 20 June 2014 12:40 posted by Struggling

    In my head im nodding frantically, agreeing with everything you say but in my heart i think no, im sure this isnt him, he wouldnt ...

    Time to toughen up heart and welcome to the real world

  • Comment Link Debbie Friday, 20 June 2014 03:12 posted by Debbie

    I am living for your articles, as they are helping me through a very difficult time. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I just talked with my therapist today about this very life and marriage were a total lie!!!! And now I'm grieving the 20 years I spent trying to placate a monster. Recently, I've heard myself saying to other people that "I don't know who he is anymore." I finally realized that he didn't change into this horrible person, he's being who he always was, the only difference is that I can see him now. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, it really is making a difference for me!!

  • Comment Link SharP Thursday, 19 June 2014 02:42 posted by SharP

    My 20 years with the exNarc was a lie. Now he lies to someone new. She loves being lied too. I will leave that alone. I am loved by someone new. I love someone new. I am clumsy at loving because I am still following old, unnecessary, unwritten rules. My boyfriend one day looked at me and explained how I am not to walk behind him anymore, walk with him or find someone else... Ahhhh! I walk with him now. I have been identifying those "stupid, crazy exNarc" rules of behavior and getting rid of them one by one. I have found them in my relationships, housekeeping, work patterns.... Ugh!!! What was I? His personal pet. Acting out some much needed rebellion to the old Narc way of life. Here's to breaking Narc rules!!!! And to all the new men who patiently love us and let us love them!!!!!