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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 to deal with when you are divorcing is the relationship between the soon-to-be-ex and your children. If he isn’t a total dirtbag, it’s possible that he will work to maintain his relationship with his kids even though he is done with you, if for no other reason than it would look bad if he didn’t.

If, however, you are dealing with a heavy duty, dyed in the wool narcissist you may find that he doesn’t handle single fatherhood very well at all. Most narcissists aren’t good parents.

The problem with that is you are going to have to decide how to handle your children’s interaction, or lack of interaction, with him. Are you going to smooth things over? Cover for him? Tell the kids what to expect? Or, are you just going to let things happen and deal with them as they do?

It’s a tough call. The one way to really get under a mom’s skin is to hurt one of her children. Our entire lives are dedicated to protecting our children from as much pain as possible.

1. When He Plays Favorites

If you have more than one child it is possible that your narcissistic ex will play favorites. OK, it’s not possible – it’s probable. The favorite will be the one (or ones) that supply him with the constant flow of admiration that he needs. The child that consistently makes honor roll so gives him bragging rights, the child that worships him, the child that is socially poised and makes him look like a great parent – these will be the ones that get preferential treatment.

Experts say that there is a scapegoat, a golden child, and everyone else falls through the cracks.

I have one particular child that speaks her mind. She is a very honest, very blunt, very “what you see is what you get” type of person. She was often the one who got a shoe or something thrown at her and was the subject of derogatory remarks. Oh, not cut downs! Oh, no! Jokes. No matter how mean-spirited the things he said were it was never meant seriously.

She has not made a secret of the fact that she was much happier after he was gone.

Shortly after he moved out of state she had a birthday. No card came in the mail, there was no phone call, and need I say it?

There was no gift.

Maybe a week later he called and she asked him about a card. He told her that there was a gift in the mail for her. Weeks went by and there was no card and no gift. It wasn’t the last time, either. He’s pretty sporadic about who gets birthday cards, who gets birthday gifts, and who doesn’t.

She isn’t one of those teenage drama queens. She pretty much keeps her emotions bottled up and they come out as sarcastic comments and angry outbursts. Now she is accused by his family and friends of being disrespectful, spoiled, and unruly. The truth is she is a sweet girl who is on the honor roll, does not get into trouble, and has no tolerance for lies. She does not speak to him.

And I don’t force her to. This is not my fault.

2. Communication Breakdown

Narcissists don’t communicate well unless they have a reason for needing to. My ex could talk to my kids on his level, about the things he was interested in but as far as talking to them about things they did that he wasn’t interested in – no way.

He moved 2000 miles away. He doesn’t call them and yet he accuses me of setting them against him. I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn’t call because it hurts too much to talk to them. I assume it but don’t really believe it. He doesn’t know about what’s going on in their lives. If he cares he doesn’t show it.

Sometimes I feel bad because they kids don’t get him Father’s Day Cards or remember his birthday. In some ways it’s my fault, I suppose. I don’t remind them. I stopped worrying about it when I realized he could care less if they remembered MY birthday or had money to get Mother’s Day cards with. It is totally a bad attitude on my part but I am not playing his one-sided games anymore. And most of the kids are old enough to choose cards for him without my input.

He is just reaping the lack of communication and caring that he has sown for years. He can say it’s my fault all he wants – the majority of our children don’t speak with him by choice.

And I have decided that his relationship with them is none of my business. This is not my fault.

3. Thou Shalt Not Question Thy King

Narcissists don’t like to be questioned by anyone – certainly not their children. It doesn’t matter what they are being questioned about.

A narcissist has his own set of facts. He may remember things that never happened, refuse to believe that some event did happen – even when faced with evidence – and if he doesn’t believe it then by golly it’s not true. He lives under a different law than everyone else and what is frustrating is that he somehow convinces people that it’s OK. If he’ ordered to court he may or may not show up – it kind of depends on if he wants to or not. If you question him he’ll have a completely plausible explanation and you are left wondering (a). why he isn’t in jail, and (b). if you are a totally nut-job.

Narcissism has an effect on your entire family – that need for everything to look good on the outside no matter what manner of craziness is going on behind the scenes.

I am a rebel. I homeschooled my kids and I encouraged them to question everything. I want them to think for themselves and that includes questioning authority respectfully. The fact that they question IS my fault and I am not sorry – the fact that they question his motives IS his fault. It’s the consequences of lies.

4. Mom Is Not the Mediator

In some cases it may be practical and desirable for the mom to mediate between the ex and the children. This is not so if your ex is a narcissist. In fact, if you are co-parenting with a narcissist you’ll need to keep yourself out of the way as much as possible!

It is important that you not try to smooth things over but that you let your children and your ex work out their relationship.  As a good friend once told me ‘Take the high road.” Don’t cut him down or tell your kids what a jerk he is. At the same time, if they call him a jerk you don’t necessarily need to correct them either. You’ve covered for him enough in your lifetime, don’t you think?

His relationship with the kids is his own. Mediating and trying to fix thing will only make things worse. He’ll either learn to play nice or he will alienate his kids – that’s on him either way. You need to work on affirming your children. If you feel that the abuse, verbal or otherwise, is endangering them you need to take your concerns to both a therapist and a lawyer specializing in family law.

If your child is hurt by something your narcissistic ex says or does don’t make excuses for him and don’t discount it. Acknowledge that it was hurtful (Oh honey, I bet that hurt when he said that) without letting your child know your inner feelings.

You can always bring your rants and angry outbursts here. Join First Wives World today and talk to other women who have been right where you are.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: jDevaun

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  • Comment Link SUELLEN Wednesday, 26 April 2017 16:58 posted by SUELLEN

    good article

  • Comment Link Lola Thursday, 09 February 2017 14:12 posted by Lola

    i have not seen or spoken to my ex for 4 years. My two girls are grown. My youngest daughter dreads having contact with him. The other daughter feels obligated to. Both girls are adults. The other day my ex called the youngest and wanted to meet with her for dinner. He said he had something to show her. He showed her some pictures of her when she was little. Then he gave her kit to to do a paternity test. He told her to think about it and it was to be between those two only. Of course she told me and her sister. In my heart I want to call him and yell at him. But I can't get sucked into his nonsense again. What should I do?

  • Comment Link Strong Mom Friday, 19 February 2016 19:01 posted by Strong Mom

    Great article. But what do you do when your ex is a narcissist and because he is a narcissist and lives 2,000 miles away, he refuses to provide child support while with you and also for necessities when with him visiting? Such as: not taking the child to the doctor when sick because he says he has no money (untrue), sending your kid in the snow for hours without warm snow clothes, because he didn't think to provide warm snow clothes for them while in his climate (and we don't have sno where we live). And when you kindly ask for him to provide such things, he goes bolistic. When your child is sick, he tells your child they are a liar and faking it and makes the child's needs the child's fault by saying if "If I take you to the doctor and you cost me all my money and you only have a cold, you'll be in big trouble."

    The narcissist goes beyond just being verbally abusive about the day to day stuff of needing everyone to adore him or else. He decides that he doesn't need to provide for his children's needs (not just with me, but when with him too), because his needs are more important, than theirs, who can't defend themselves. When you question it in nice respectful way (biting your tongue of course), he goes crazy and then punishes the kids. But they are court ordered to visit, and I'm just suppose to stand by and let their needs go unmet, because the court seems to think he is sooo very charming and a great parent. But the reality is, our children know better, and the ex' do as well.

    And when we speak up to the ex, courts and authorities, we are considered liars because how can someone so charming do such things to their children? And the verbal abuse we put up with for advocating for our childs needs because our children are scared to stand up to him when with them for what they need....the courts won't stop. They just continue to let the narcissist neglect and verbally abuse the kids, and verbally abuse the ex, for speaking up for our children's needs.

    How do we stop it, without the kids suffering? It feels as if the narcissist has been given all the rights without any of the responsibilities. And if we question it, and say our kids deserve better, a wrath of verbal abuse is waiting for us. And there is nothing we can do about it. We just have to endure it, as well as our children. Why, because the courts don't take these narcissists bad behavior seriously.

    Are there any tools out there to make these situations better for our kids and for ourselves. How do we protect ourselves and our children from such bad behavior?


  • Comment Link Mom of 3 Saturday, 16 January 2016 21:15 posted by Mom of 3

    No one said a woman can't be a narcissist. Apparently, you have anger issues. If you haven't noticed this is Therefore most articles will be addressed to wives issues. I'm sorry you were treated poorly and that you are hurt. However, attacking others only adds to your anger. I hope you get help soon! This was a great article.

  • Comment Link never marry an american women again Friday, 17 July 2015 11:56 posted by never marry an american women again

    Here we go again another article claiming the Man is a narcissist. Why can't women write article that are gender neutral instead of always blaming the man. What oh my god a woman can be a narcissist unbelievable. My wife cheated on me with my sisters husband, tried to work things out for the benefit of the children. She couldn't let her affair go. Now she is divorcing me claiming all kinds of bull crap. I haven't seen my children in 4 months because i took them to see their grandmother. I can't help she hates her mother. I am scheduled for my 4th custody hearing because the last three have been postponed. The last one the judge didn't show up.
    I worked two jobs the last three years to pamper an entitlement princess to get screwed again. All she wanted to do is look like a trophy wife driving around in her SUV taking the children to their extra caricular activity while she sips on her overpriced coffee while talking to her flaky friends on her cell phone.

  • Comment Link Marie Ketcham Wednesday, 29 April 2015 17:45 posted by Marie Ketcham

    I am desperate. My daughter lives out of state NC and is going through a horrible divorse from an extremely narcissistic husband. She has 2 children 5 and 11 monthes and he makes her life a living hell on a daily basis. She feels helpless as he uses the seperation agreement to his advantage. She is soo afraid of him getting the children. I am helpless here in NY I can't interact with him because it will only make things worse. Can you suggest any ideas or info.
    Thank You

  • Comment Link BarbaraR Wednesday, 29 October 2014 05:29 posted by BarbaraR

    I have been married to a Narc for 21 years. He was typical Jekyll and Hyde.... And both emotionally and physically abusive. Our 4 children have been witness to several serious assaults on myself by their father. When I finally left and filed for divorce, he attempted suicide and widely tried to convince all the family and friends that my story of domestic violence is a malicious lie and that I brainwashed the children to believe my story. Nearly three years after I broke free from his control and abuse, we are in and out of court almost monthly. He stops paying court-ordered child-maintenance for months on-end, fails to pay school fees, verbally abuse the children when they visit him, and, when they refuse to visit him because of these aggressive fits and the lies he tells, he accuses me of
    Parental Alienation and starts psycho-forensic investigations and Child-Court cases against me. All the reports clearly shows that it is his own behaviour that alienates the children, but then he discredits the psychologist and launches a new attack within months

    I will notify him of urgent needs of the children, he will insist on buying the items himself, weeks will pass without anything being provided, and then, when I finally have no other choice than buying it myself, he will refuse to refund me....because I "denied him the right to act as a parent and he will not allow me to keep my hand in his wallet."

    I have also come to the conclusion that anything I do or say can and will be used against me, and I mostly respond to any of his insulting e-mails with a one-liner such as: "Note taken". I am getting better at not allowing him to dictate how I should feel. After all, being happy is the best revenge.

  • Comment Link maria ambriano Monday, 07 July 2014 00:11 posted by maria ambriano

    I just got divorce and my ex is a narcisist, it is all about him, we have 3 beautiful girls and what I just read it is exactly what is going on with my family and my girls are very frustrated with their dad but he does not do anything to fix it. He right away feels that everybody is against him. I try my best to there for my girls but it really hurts to see them hurting so much because of him.

  • Comment Link vaniarodrigues Sunday, 06 July 2014 22:42 posted by vaniarodrigues

    I am not separated yet. I have a 5 year old daughter rejected by her narcissist father all her life. Now she refuses to talk to him. What shall I do?

  • Comment Link SharP Saturday, 28 June 2014 14:14 posted by SharP

    Cleveland, I read that article too. But the point of that article is that there is the Narc tendencies that everyone has that is normal and then there is the Narc disorder. All divorces involving a Narc are high conflict divorces. Don't misunderstand the high conflict part of the divorce for bitterness. Every move taken is for freedom from a Narc not for revenge or out of bitterness. I am sorry if you have experienced bitterness in your divorce or your parents divorce. These four things help avoid bitterness and more high conflict. You cannot happily co parent with a Narc. A Narc will twist and manipulate everything to blame the ex. It is called Narc supply. For the most part a Narc will disappear when a child becomes an adult anyways. The ex cannot make the Narc leave, stay or behave. So why add to the high conflict situation. Let them be responsible for themselves and their own actions. Just logic, no bitterness here. It sounds like a better choice than your hinting that your parents took. Although if a person wants revenge and health at the same time, go no contact. It is strange how the most healthiest thing for you, hurts the Narc the most. Even if you don't want revenge, and it bothers you to hurt the Narc, you still need to be healthy. Go no contact. This article will help you on how to go no contact when you still have minor children and are co parenting. These for steps prevent the drama and prevent the child from being "damaged forever." Once again I am sorry for your experience and I wish you the best of health in mind body and spirit.

  • Comment Link BonitaLee Friday, 27 June 2014 23:52 posted by BonitaLee

    I agree with #4, if you have young kids it may be different. However with teens, noway stay out of it! You will be the one blamed!
    You can't be the fixer anymore. It didn't work when you were married it won't work now.

  • Comment Link Cleveland Friday, 27 June 2014 19:56 posted by Cleveland

    As an child of divorce and a divorced parent I based my opinion on my personal experiences and those of my friends who have similar backgrounds. Unfortunately in bitter divorces, all types of allegations are made, some of which may be completely unfounded when the dust settles, but the damage is done. I stand by my belief that you should always be the adult when you have children.
    By the way, SharP, I read another article on this site about how we all have "narcissistic" tendencies...

  • Comment Link melaniep Friday, 27 June 2014 19:23 posted by melaniep

    GREAT post! I totally agree with everything you say. My 11 year old daughter shows more maturity than my ex. She's discovering, on her own, his lack of common sense and has no problem telling him like it is. I don't have to say a word.

  • Comment Link marye Friday, 27 June 2014 17:31 posted by marye

    Cleveland -
    Have a lovely day. Thanks so much for reading. :)

  • Comment Link SharP Friday, 27 June 2014 14:26 posted by SharP

    Number four is necessary because a Narc uses everything he can to make you look crazy. Cleveland, It is not my responsibility to put myself in the middle of their parent-child relationship. I am not asking the child to be "mature" enough, I am teaching them to be mature and to grow up and be independent adults. They wont stay children forever. And you cannot blame yourself for your ex "damaging" or hurting your child. Cleveland, you talk as if you are a Narc with that last twisted comment. The ex does bad things, possibly you try to control it and put yourself in the middle, then question if he is a Narc, then blame the ex wife (who didn't do anything but watch), and not everything requires a professional... my "professional" cut me loose and told me I had things under control and he didn't want me wasting my money on him anymore. And a "child" does grow up, this makes even more sense if you are talking about MS/HS/College age children. Some children catch on faster than others. No Narc wants to "parent" anyways. When it gets difficult, a Narc is nowhere to be found. When it is time to get praise or take the child's "praise," they are Johnny on the spot... and that is not parenting.

  • Comment Link SharP Friday, 27 June 2014 13:14 posted by SharP

    I live for number four.

  • Comment Link SharP Friday, 27 June 2014 06:38 posted by SharP

    True enough. The only thing my exNarc wants from my kids is for them to play with him (go bike riding, bowling, camping etc) , make him look like the perfect father, and praise the Disney dad for the wonderful gift/ event that the wonderful Narc has bestowed upon them.

  • Comment Link Cleveland Friday, 27 June 2014 05:46 posted by Cleveland

    I completely and totally disagree with number 4. I think it is completely immature for a parent to pretend that they have no responsibility to manage the parent-child relationship with the ex-spouse when they are the custodial parent. Seriously? Are you asking a minor to be mature enough to manage this on their own when you couldn't? A child should never be the middle man between their parents. Let them be children and love both their parents. Your self righteous current state may not be based in the reality you think it is and you will damage your children forever. Been there, done that.... If your ex was classified as a narcissist by you, you need to reconsider if you are qualified to make that judgement or just angry about his treatment of you. Something as important as your child's emotional future requires a professional (similar to their physical health).