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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 in a narcissistic relationship reality is twisted. You become a bit like Alice in Wonderland – a stranger in a strange land, unfamiliar with the rules or the terrain – and even the laws of physics seem to be different. I know there were times when I expected Rod Serling’s voice. Imagine if you will, a woman waking up in a universe so different from her own world that we call it. . . The Twilight Zone.

It’s crazy but when it’s all you know, year after year, it becomes reality. It becomes comfortable in a weird sort of way, and it becomes normal. What you don’t realize is the constant state of stress that you are in takes a toll on your body.

What Stress?

Once when my ex and I were just beginning with marital counseling the counselor asked to meet with me alone. He asked me if there was abuse in the household. I, of course, said no.

After all, my ex wasn’t hitting me, threatening my life, or (at that point) calling me names. I wasn’t abused as far as I was concerned. When he asked me what my stress level was like I didn’t know how to answer. I told him it was normal and that wasn’t a lie – it was normal to me and I had nothing to compare it with.

It wasn’t until after my divorce that I realized how much stress I had been under for a very long time. One day I realized that I felt odd and I couldn’t figure out why. I was unable to get anything done, I was confused and I was exhausted. When I started thinking about it to try to figure out what was going on I realized that I didn’t have anything pushing me, no monkey on my back, nothing. My lack of energy was due to the unfamiliar experience of relaxing.

It made me wonder how many of us have gone on depression medication because we were finally relaxed and saw it as a medical abnormality.

Adrenal Fatigue Creates Random Symptoms

I have always been a relatively peaceful person. I have had a lot of difficult experiences but generally could find a place of calm pretty quickly. At some point in my toxic relationship I noticed that I was unable to stop – a problem that still affects me today. I noticed that although I was constantly exhausted I was unable to sleep, my brain never shut down, and I felt like a hummingbird on amphetamines. No matter how tired I was I had to be doing something until I passed out from exhaustion.

When I was diagnosed with a nasty thyroid that was full of tumors, cysts, and precancerous cells I assumed that the thyroid was the villain.

It wasn’t.

Even after the thyroid was gone and my medication was being adjusted I still had the same exhaustion and I started doing some research. Adrenal fatigue is the result of constant stress. The symptoms are hard to pin down because they are all so different but if you have been in a relationship with a narcissist and have several of the following issues then adrenal fatigue should be considered as a possibility.

  • Blood pressure issues
  • Weight gain, especially in abdomen and hips
  • Uncontrollable carb cravings
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Inability to stop, to relax, or to control the speed of your thoughts
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Slow recovery
  • Inability to focus
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hypothyroidism/thyroid issues

This is only a drop in the bucket. There are many more symptoms and medical issues that are intensified by adrenal fatigue.

So How Do You Fix It?

There are hundreds of articles about herb and vitamin supplements to help you deal with adrenal fatigue.  I find that following a high protein, lower carb diet along with a daily workout in the gym helps me to wind down and allows me to quiet my mind. I try to stick with natural sweeteners like stevia, xylitol, and erythritol plus keep coffee, alcohol, and refined foods at a minimum.

I have to stop when I get tired – that’s my lack of thyroid. I have learned not to push too hard. After years of ignoring my body’s cries for relief I can’t afford to turn a deaf ear to it anymore. I am 54 years old and my health has suffered. I don’t have the luxury of waiting.

Honestly, you don’t either.

The Time Is Now

You see, we spent years spilling cortisol into our bodies, jumping at sharp noises, and ignoring aches and pains. We were led to believe that we were exaggerating, that our pains were less traumatic than the narcissists, and that we really didn’t matter. In fact, for many of us, caving to illness just meant that the narcissist “one upped” us and came down with something worse.  There was no point in complaining.

If you keep on that way, even though it feels “normal” your body is going to continue to break down. Your health will deteriorate until you are really sick – and it may be too late to reverse the problems.

Living in a narcissistic relationship breaks you down in so many ways. Since emotions seems to be the primary area that we’re wounded we may focus on healing in those areas and ignore the physical problems. In order to truly heal we must seek wholeness and health in all areas – mind, body, and spirit. The adrenals can affect every aspect of self and we know they are negatively affected by continual stress. It stands to reason that it’s a good place to start.

Do some research on adrenal fatigue and talk to your health care provider. Shoot for a balanced healing plan that treats you spiritually, physically, and mentally.

You deserve more than minimal healing.  You deserve to be your best. Do what you need to do to achieve wholeness and don’t stop until you get there. You have something important to do and you’ll need everything in working order to achieve your destiny.

Join First Wives World today and get the support you need from others who have been where you are.

Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Kelsey Christina Karstrand 

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  • Comment Link J-E Elion Tuesday, 05 December 2017 19:35 posted by J-E Elion


    You are dead on; but are you or can you give me the name of a medical expert who can testify on these matters ASAP?

    Thank you very much!


  • Comment Link Murphy83 Wednesday, 08 November 2017 01:40 posted by Murphy83

    My daughter had adrenaline fatigue and almost depleted her cortisol levels. It took a holistic doctor a couple of years to get her leveled out. She has a big supply of supplements she takes each day. This was from her biological dad’s emotional abuse.

  • Comment Link Lynne Wednesday, 11 October 2017 21:12 posted by Lynne

    I suffered from adrenal fatigue and was diagnosed with Addison's disease. I was married for 35 years to an angry man. I was filled with anxiety and fear...never knowing when he would go off. All this lead to fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, IBS, cancer, and then the Addison's diagnosis. I am now remarried to a peaceful person. I no longer have the adrenal failure and my health is good. This took 7 years for my body to heal. I know I am learning each day to take good care of myself.

  • Comment Link Maya Tuesday, 10 January 2017 19:07 posted by Maya

    Kara, so true. Your story is similar to mine. And there are so many warning signs in hindsight, and actually obvious ones while you're going through it. It's subtle at first, so you don't notice right away, but by the time you really notice, you're well on your way to ill health.

    Cheating is such a huge factor because at least while in the relationship I could "handle" the narcissism (although none of us should put up with it at all). But when narcissists, who think they're perfect and completely moral go and do whatever it is they believe they're entitled to do (aka cheating) wow, it's just so demoralizing to you and the family. I let his actions go on long enough (Ns are so irreproachable anyways, even if you try to say something) until his cheating with many women came to light. That's when I finally left.

    We shouldn't ruin our health and life for these people! I know I had AF symptoms of varying degrees throughout the 10 years I was with this man (should have already been a warning sign) and while I will also give that I had other reasons to be stressed, but when I found out about Mr. Perfect and his infidelity, enough was enough. Naive in hindsight - my regret is that I didn't leave sooner. I was erroneously trying be loyal. Loyal to what! Now I've just come through the sickest 8 months of my life since leaving and still trying to recover from the magnified affects of AF, all because of this man. And Ns make it very hard to leave them because even when you cut them off completely they always find a way to try and get back to you. But I refuse to let this get me down.

    Melissa, I agree - you younger women out there, really be careful whom you start your life out with - it can mean your health, finances, family relationships and so much more several years down the road. And the older you get, the harder it is to reinvent your life and most of all, get your health back. It's not impossible, I just started my healing journey but, if you can avoid it from the very beginning, avoid it. No man is worth AF or any other disease. It's playing with fire. Keep your eyes and ears open for every red flag.

  • Comment Link Kara Saturday, 09 July 2016 12:25 posted by Kara

    I am also in the same boat. Going through a divorce and ex denies cheating including my best friend and my daughter's best friend's mother (same person). He mentally abused me, blamed me for everything that happens to him and put me down - flirts with my girlfriend in front of me for years.

    I feel so exhausted every time he calls me crazy and I'm the one who broke the family! Refuses to pay for school fees and threatens me to take the lawyers off "to preserve our future relationship for the kids". I'm so tired of this manipulation and blame. It affects my work as well.

  • Comment Link Kara Saturday, 09 July 2016 12:24 posted by Kara

    I am also in the same boat. Going through a divorce and ex denies cheating including my best friend and my daughter's best friend's mother (same person). He mentally abused me, blamed me for everything that happens to him and put me down - flirts with my girlfriend in front of me for years.

    I feel so exhausted every time he calls me crazy and I'm the one who broke the family! Refuses to pay for school fees and threatens me to take the lawyers off "to preserve our future relationship for the kids". I'm so tired of this manipulation and blame. It affects my work as well.

  • Comment Link Tiffanie Monday, 06 June 2016 23:44 posted by Tiffanie

    Can you stop contact with him? I have a child with my ex-husband and every time he contacts me I get anxiety. He tells me He never cheated lies cheated on my physical mentally and emotional. I have sole custody of my son, and the recent convo was how I asked him to pay half of our son's medical bill. He refused and said he will just put my son on his insurance I said no he has full coverage you just need to pay half of the er bill. Long story short his saying I'm a horrible mother all I see is dollar signs his going to hate me and all this stuff and it give me anxiety bad I want to just block him and never deal with him again.

  • Comment Link Giving Up Friday, 06 May 2016 15:38 posted by Giving Up

    My exhusband looked up my father that abused me physically and sexually from the time I was 12 -17. He took photographs of this man with my children and hung them up outside my daughter's classroom, as part of "family" I am kept at such a state of anxiety it is hard to move on with my life.

  • Comment Link Philippa Friday, 21 November 2014 05:40 posted by Philippa

    Interesting article. After a decade of doing everything for my soon to be ex-husband, and a lifetime of good health, I experienced many of the symptoms you list including the sleeplessness and being unable to relax. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and later ME. I don't completely blame my ex as some of this came from flu followed by several infections, what I do blame him for is abandoning me as soon as I became ill. My son had to take over as some days I was literally bedridden. Now we are divorcing, I have a part-time job and as much energy as the next person, although there is some residual pain. And I do need to remember how to relax as I still have a tendency to always be working.

  • Comment Link Lindsey2.0 Sunday, 24 August 2014 19:36 posted by Lindsey2.0

    Reading this blew my mind and had me shaking my head thinking "That was me!!". In the 15 months that I was in a narcissistic marriage, I gained 45 pounds, developed Metabolic Syndrome (combination of high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and hormone imbalance), suffered from extreme panic attacks, developed stomach ulcers, and started to experience extreme abdominal pain and tumor-like tissue growths (sometimes up to the size of my palm) along the walls of my uterus and cervix that would pass and cause excruciating pain. I felt like my health was crumbling and my sanity was wearing thin...and I never had these issues before my marriage. It literally began the week after my honeymoon. I had surgery to search for the cause of the growths, but my doctor would not find any medical explanation...and shockingly, it all stopped just a few weeks after I moved out of our house and we began our separation back in Jan 2014. I am currently still struggling with losing the weight and fighting the symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome with Metphormin and diet. My stress from the emotional and verbal abuse I was living in was stealing my health away from me in the best years of my life (I'm only 24, for crying out loud)! This path to healing is not easy....and I realized rather quickly that my health issues will take some time to be reversed....just as it will take some time to let these emotional wounds fade.

    However, WE CAN DO THIS!!! We don't have to be defined by the wounds they left on our souls! We are resilient and brilliantly evolving with each day out from under their shadows. I'm not professing to have this all under control, but I can say that I'm trying. It's a process...but one worth enduring! One day, sooner than I think, I'll be "whole" and healthy again....and I'll be so much wiser for the struggle I've been through!

    I am really interested to see if anyone has any natural remedies for panic attacks are lessening but I'd like to have something on hand for times when they rear their ugly heads...which they do, as we all know. I've tried Valerian Root (AWFUL smell and did terrible things to my but really would prefer something less smelly. Any suggestions?

  • Comment Link notawife Saturday, 23 August 2014 22:21 posted by notawife

    Stressed my entire marriage and I got cancer too. I don't think I can blame it all on the narcissist I was living with, but I'm sure it didn't help...

  • Comment Link fiddlefancier Saturday, 23 August 2014 14:43 posted by fiddlefancier

    I have had adrenal fatigue since I married. Now I have cancer. How can it be that I must seek validation among strangers instead of in my own home, especially at a time like this? It is too twisted.

  • Comment Link Melissa Tuesday, 19 August 2014 03:59 posted by Melissa

    Excellent article. Your article is right on the money; and every day I feel myself waking up more and more from the nightmare of being married to a narcissist for 20 years, ending in divorce 2012.

    I can't believe I married that guy.

    About your observation on the meds.....'It made me wonder how many of us have gone on depression medication because we were finally relaxed and saw it as a medical abnormality."

    I couldn't agree more. But my (male) doc gave me anti-anxiety/depression meds 6 mo after our first child was born. He said I was "too anxious" as a new mom, and maybe I should have a glass of wine at night, too? (No, doc, I'm nursing, but thanks.)

    So it makes me wonder how many of us have gone on anti-anxiety meds because we've been given the idea "we" were the problem; and "it was all in our heads?" We are not and it isn't. It's called living with an N> adrenal fatigue.

    My friends, I hope we can help the younger women. I lived for 22+ years in N "Hell." I took anti-anxiety meds for 18 years; I quit jobs to care for kids when my N "didn't think they needed THAT much care."

    Over time, I saw 3 counselors even though I had no problems with school or employment before I met my NH. We have no family in town we live in and are here b/c of his employer, so there were no "old" friends to give me perspective and/or see our situation in real time.

    I'd never seen the inside of so many medical / therapy offices in my life. I was like a professional patient --- and I completely lost myself. At one point, in 2006, I saw a naturopath -craniosacral doc about my sinuses. He asked out of the blue, "have you ever been abused?" Of course, I said, "no," -b/c that's what I actually believed! He sent me home with adrenal supplements, and clear sinuses.

    Finally, in 2008, my NH became more physically abusive; I didn't know what a protection order was; (neither, apparently did Counselor #2 or #3) In 2010, counselor #4 pointed out that my stbx was an N; and it all made sense.

    Fast forward, I saw the divorce through in 2012. But even today, I'm still feeling exhausted all the time...I keep thinking, "If I did the right thing, and divorced my N, and lived through the fallout, when will I feel like I've *bounced back*? ah, perhaps its the adrenal fatigue.

    Thank you for your great insight and sharing. I believe divorces such as these should fall into different categories than the "we've fallen out of love" divorces, as there is no such thing as an "amicable" divorce in the N's world.

    It's very VERY much like stepping through the Looking Glass --

  • Comment Link Linda Tuesday, 12 August 2014 23:30 posted by Linda

    I am also 54 years old so this "hits home" so hard. I have been married to a N for 30 years. I am in the gym, meditating, getting occasional massages just to deal with all of the issues my body is going through. I am probably the youngest in my "deep stretch" class at my gym but I appear to be having more issues than the rest. My body hurts somewhere everyday. My mind is foggy at times, concentration is difficult, sleep (when it comes) is always disturbed with early awakening and I can't turn off my thoughts. The N in my life keeps me on edge all of the time. I never know what to expect. I don't think I ever totally relax in my own home. Leaving is in the fore front of my mind. I am preparing to make a change. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Comment Link Tash Tuesday, 12 August 2014 12:50 posted by Tash

    Nice. Here are some more symptoms to consider:

    Hypervigilance (jumping at slight changes, noises, etc.)
    Noticing that your breathing is restricted (shallow breathing)
    Everything seems overwhelming/impossible (the dishes, calling a creditor, tackling a work project, etc.)
    Small physical obstacles seem enormously difficult to overcome
    Eyesight can deteriorate more quickly (could also be due to blood sugar issues, etc.)
    Very light sleep (waking up constantly)
    Tightness in the shoulders, neck, back that can be chronic
    Unusual menstrual cycles (very long, heavy, painful, etc. - this can also be due to other factors)
    Desire to eat/drink for energy (carbs, sugar, caffeine)
    Late-night eating
    Snapping at others (short fuse)
    Feeling a lot of anger, easily provoked
    Crying easily (crying is a way women express anger and frustration)
    Stagnation (lack of energy = less exercise, which blocks the chi/flow of your body, resulting in a clogged lymphatic system, constipation, severe fatigue, swelling, etc.
    Poor circulation
    Numb hands and feet (also due to lack of motivation to exercise, as well as compressed spine/muscle strain, etc.)

    The worse things are, the worse it gets.
    So just start anywhere to break the cycle:

    Try to take herbs to help you relax/sleep: homeopathic, teas like chamomile, valerian, lavender essential oil, etc.

    Drink a lot more water and herbal teas (less caffeine). Warm water with lemon is excellent and alkalizing.

    ADD good foods instead of feeling like you must eliminate the comfort foods that are probably keeping you from losing it. Add a big salad, a non-cream soup, a few pieces of fruit, a superfood, some clean proteins, etc.

    Rituals help. A calming bath. Reading outside. Lighting a candle and meditating/praying.

    Massage is great, but if you can't afford it, try using some of the gadgets available, like those tennis balls on a handle or to roll your spine against a wall, a handheld "thumper", hand and foot massages, (you can also roll a tennis ball under your bare feet), that copper head "tingler", etc.

    Accupressure is great, as well as lymphatic massage.

    Definitely take good vitamins and supplements.

    And sleep, sleep, nap, sleep and then nap some more.

  • Comment Link gracierr12 Monday, 11 August 2014 08:13 posted by gracierr12

    Could hardly believe your Rod Serling reference....I have heard that voice in my head for weeks now!
    Thank you for the info on adrenal fatigue, so many symptoms, so little attention paid to them....looking forward to doing so as soon as I become employed but I really appreciate your putting a voice to the issue and for your tips, quite timely!

  • Comment Link Michelle Sunday, 10 August 2014 14:33 posted by Michelle

    On Friday I went to a naturopath doctor because I had all the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, but didn't know that's what they were. Foggy brain, exhausted but still always having to move and do things, emotional, drained, sad, not sleeping, zero drive, just a complete mental and physical mess.

    Now I'm on an adrenal and candida program for the next month. Watching my diet, exercising again, and hoping that the aches and pains I've been living with as 'normal' will now finally be able to be released. My knees were the worst...and from my Louise L Hay reading and my naturopath, the knee joints ache because I ignored the need to leave a relationship with a narcissist. My legs were wanting to carry me forward, I was just stuck. Hence, the joint pain I experience now that I'm no longer in the marriage. My body is telling me to listen to it from now on and it will be in comfort and harmony with my life.

    Marye, you are absolutely amazing. I've appreciated your writing, and now I'm looking forward to being on the path to happy and healthy, just as you are.

  • Comment Link sabrina Sunday, 10 August 2014 02:12 posted by sabrina

    Dear Marye,

    May I get in touch with you via email?

    Thank you!