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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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There is a difference between bashing the ex and speaking the truth.

There is a difference between overlooking wrongs and allowing abuse.

There is a difference between being understanding and being co-dependent.

There is a difference between trusting and being manipulated.

Let that all of that sink in a moment. Don’t move on. Don’t let your eyes move down the page. Not yet. Read those sentences and think about how your heart responds to them. You’ve heard of “fat shaming” and “slut shaming”, right? Well there is another common type of shaming and it is directed, often unintentionally, at victims of abuse – especially divorced women. If you are involved with a church then it may be especially true for you.

Taking the High Road

When I was first separated I was encouraged to “wait it out” to see if my husband would get his stuff together. I half-heartedly tried that for a few weeks but it was clearly pointless. He had moved on physically before the separation and I had moved on emotionally. I was just so over all of the lies, deception, name calling, violent outbursts, and financial neglect. Having a metal crutch thrown at your head is scary enough but it is totally humiliating when it is done in front of friends. I was done with making excuses for his behavior. I waited it out for about three weeks and then I began thinking of myself as single.

A wonderful guy friend encouraged me during that time. I never met him, we only knew each other from hanging out in the same online groups, and certainly nothing suggestive was said. The day I let everyone know I was separated and why this guy sent me flowers and an encouraging note. He always seemed to have time to ask me how I was doing. He passed away a year or so ago and I still miss his jokes. Anyway, he encouraged me to “take the high road” which translated meant that I should not trash talk the ex.

And he was right.

Although some may disagree I do not, and have not, trashed him. That does not mean that I won’t tell the truth when circumstances require it. There is the gray area, right there. See it?

In a normal divorce it is important to “take the high road” for a variety of reasons. For one thing it is likely that a few months down the road things will look very different. In a normal divorce emotions settle down and you can act in a civil manner toward each other – maybe even friendly. There are no victims. In a divorce where there has been some sort of abuse there is at least one victim, it’s unlikely that interactions will ever be civil.

Taking the high road in the second circumstance means that, while you are honest about what he does, you don’t make ugly comments about him personally. It is important to talk about his Jekyll and Hyde personality, but you don’t have to show everyone the video of him wearing women’s underwear and playing air guitar after the last New Year’s Eve party. Do you see the difference?

I told you it was a gray area. Talking is an important part of your healing. Trying to humiliate the narcissist will keep you from healing. Keep to the high road to the best of your ability.

Overlooking Bad Behavior Enables Abuse to Flourish

Have you seen those memes that go around Facebook?

Divorce is 50/50 – marriage requires 100 percent.

Love is patient…

You know. There are hundreds of them. Your narcissistic ex probably has them posted all over his Facebook wall. Am I right?

Well, here again – all of that is true in a normal marriage but in an abusive marriage you have one person giving 150 percent and one person taking 150 percent. Narcissists call that “marriage equality”. The rest of us call it experience.

Every time I see one of those meme’s I feel that it is screaming “failure” at me. Then I ask myself if I gave it everything I’ve got. My answer is always the same. No, I did not give it everything I’ve got. I came out of it alive.

I did my best, but you cannot maintain a healthy marriage with a compulsive liar. More and more I am able to see those memes without feeling accused. I always say a prayer that the person posting them never experiences some of the things I have. It’s sort of the way I felt when I was pregnant with my 8th child and a first time mom let me know, in detail, the changes I needed to make in my mothering style.

Yeah. Whatever.

Overlooking abuse, emotional or otherwise, allows it to continue. Covering it up and lying about it just allows him to continue on doing his thing and ultimately, when things blow up, you will be discredited because, after all, if things were that bad why didn’t you tell someone?

Covering things up, getting him out of a sticky situation, taking on responsibility that’s not yours is unhealthy. It is co-dependence and you are enabling him to keep going. It has nothing to do with forgiveness or believing the best about someone, or even understanding their weaknesses.

Real understanding is seeing the truth and acting on it. I understand that if I pet a crocodile I will probably lose at least a hand. It is the crocodile’s nature to be a predator. That’s not being unkind, it’s being honest so that I can take precautions to stay safe. Well, a narcissist has a certain nature, too! Once you accept that you are well on your way to healing.

Whether you are still married, in the midst of a divorce, or on the other side off divorce you are important and your feelings are valid. Tell him you won’t be treated that way anymore. Do not expect cuddles from a crocodile.

Be Picky about Trust

Finally, we come to the subject of trust. One of the narcissist’s favorite things to say is, “You don’t trust me!”

The correct answer to that is “damn right”!

Trust is important but when someone breaks that trust over and over you can’t trust them. Guess what? You aren’t the one that’s got the problem! When someone in your life has caused you to stop trusting them it is their responsibility to earn that trust back. Anything else is just them shifting the blame.


So, here’s a recap. If you have been in a narcissistic relationship none of the advice that applies to other, “normal” relationships applies to you. None of it. You’ve been shamed, guilted, and blamed enough. You get a free pass. Work on your healing. Don’t second guess your emotions or your experiences.

Do you feel like you are the only one? You’re not. Join First Wives World and talk to others who have experienced it, too.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: Pedro Simoes

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  • Comment Link Kandace Tuesday, 26 January 2016 23:31 posted by Kandace

    I sit here reading this with tears rolling down my cheeks. My husband is a cheater, manipulator, liar, and oh so much more! I am wanting a divorce. I am not in the best of health and am trying to get SSI. I have several medical issues. We have two beautiful daughters. Oldest 19 Youngest 11. They are the love of my life. My husband has manipulated me our entire marriage, literally from day 1. It was like as soon as we went to the hotel, after the reception, he "owned" me. I was raised by a step-father who told me what a failure I was. I was not wanted by my biological father. I guess I was determined not to go back home to my mom and stepdad only to hear him (stepfather) tell me how stupid I was, so I was hell-bent on making this work! My husband had a porn addiction that until we wed he kept hidden. Once we were married, it was not hidden any longer and it would only get worse. I would BEG him to stop buying the magazines and stuff. I would tell him how much it bothered me. I was told that it was something I was just going to have to deal with. It was a guy thing. Then when our daughter was born, I was working and his sister agreed to babysit. She was well compensated for her time, mind you. I picked her up one day and it was a day like any other. When we got home, I grabbed the mail and there was a letter from said sister. Inside the letter she told me what a terrible mother I was for not staying home with my daughter and leaving HER to raise her. Nonetheless, I immediately found another sitter, but he didn't even talk to his sister about this; and told ME to let it go. He didn't want "family drama". I had told him when we were dating that I wanted lots of children. He said he would give me anything I wanted. Note the age difference of my children. About 7 years into our marriage, we got internet at our house, and the magazines had been tossed aside for internet porn. Never child porn, but amateur stuff. I BEGGED again. Pleaded with him to PLEASE not do that. It was very degrading to me, let alone we have a daughter now. I didn't want her to see it. I also had been asking him about more children. Along came my youngest. I still was hell-bent on making my family work! And I would do it at any price....and boy did I! He would not do for me the things I asked without a compromise on my half. So I had to make him a deal. He would stop the pornography and be a better husband (ie, take me to dinners, buy me flowers, etc) IF I got my tubes tied. *Crushed!* But I wanted this to work SOOO BADLY, I did it. And guess what!? Porn addiction continued, no dates, no flowers, no nothing. Instead, now we have increased arguing, more depresssion on my part, weight gain, and my self-worth tanks! Welcome 2010, I get terribly sick and no one can figure it out. Body is weak, joints ache, literally felt like death! Ran every test there was. Rheumy said it was Fibromyalgia. Put me on presecription. Eventually lose my job. He has an affair. Blames me and my health. Depression reaches bottom. Had it not been for my children, I would have just committed suicide. I now have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, degenerative disk,spinal stenosis, major depresssion, anxiety, migraines, and YES, I began having seizures as what we can only figure was a combination of stress and medication. He ruins my credit. His is excellent. Mine horrible. Together we still rank good, so he can keep having me sign my name for loans together.
    I have recently come to the conclusion that if I dont find a way to get him out of my life, he will eventually kill me off! The abuse has gotten so bad. He has ruined me financially. I cannot afford an attorney. I have an appointment with my counselor tomorrow and I am PRAYING she can give me some pointers.

    See I am also one of those wives who covered for him. I protected him. When it would come time to divorce,no one would believe that HE could be the bad guy! His family all lives around me, and he owns hundreds of acres, which my name is on, but I cannot financially support myself or my daughter. And I have been waiting on SSI lawyer to get this done since March of 2014.

    Some days I just want to give up!

  • Comment Link Piccadilly Monday, 23 February 2015 18:15 posted by Piccadilly

    Good article- one of sister-in-laws said just that ("if things were that bad why didn’t you tell someone?") to my daughter as she was trying to explain to her how her father had been behaving, not just to me but to her as well. It is hard to tell anyone anything while going through emotional/verbal abuse. I thought my husband was just going through something, he was turning 50, and I was going to be there to help him get through it. I didn't even realize the extent of what was even considered abuse until after we separated.

    "There is a difference between overlooking wrongs and allowing abuse."

    "There is a difference between being understanding and being co-dependent."

    "There is a difference between trusting and being manipulated."
    If I had only realized these things, I would have gotten out much sooner!Hope your message reaches others early on...

  • Comment Link Ren Sunday, 08 February 2015 09:09 posted by Ren

    Are telling me that this guy was abusive and did all this to you but you never said one bad word about him in anger? I am in this situation and I'm sorry, I can't help but say the truth but the truth is relative and his truth is not my truth somehow.

    I have no doubt that if your ex read this he might not agree with it. I believe if your ex wrote an article about your marriage and divorce, it would be a lot different and somehow the two would be quite conflicting.

    Any contact with my ex makes me shake and physically ill so I avoid contact. When he does contact me through texts, it is patronizing and it makes me angry so I text back with my truth.

    He sends happy birthday texts to my family and to me and tells everyone that he only wishes the best for me but he cheated on me multiple times and lied so many times I have no idea what was real or if anything was. He tells me that I was only good for sex and other put downs aimed at my core.

    He tells me he feels sorry for me and just wishes I could have been a better partner for him.

    I am suppose to be a friend to him?

    I love my son so much and I try but I can't stop physically shaking when my son tells me that his dad has decided to take him for his birthday and the entire spring break vacation to California without even talking to me about it. My ex hides behind my son when it is to his advantage or my disadvantage.

    I wish I could just stand up and take the high road and just be saintly and I keep it in mind and I know that I should but I fall down, I get mad, I'm tired of being ignored, dehumanized, disregarded, and stepped on.

    I tried to commit suicide. There must be something wrong with me because I can't always just take the high road and be quiet and not matter. If I don't matter, if my feelings don't matter and I have to pretend to everyone including my kids that what he did to me is ok....If I don't matter, why exist. It's too painful.

    I was on life support for a week and my family had to have a meeting and decide if they should pull the plug after my over-dose. They decided I should fight and get better. A few days later, I woke up and yanked the tube out of my throat for the second time. I made it, or didn't make it depending on how you look at it.

    Now I sit here, trying to read and learn and heal but I don't feel any better. It's my son's birthday and he is a mile away in our family home, with our family dog, with his dad having his sleepover birthday party and I am sitting here in this apartment. I lose. I pay. He does wrong and I lose.

    The world doesn't make any sense anymore.

  • Comment Link Omitosin Thursday, 11 December 2014 20:09 posted by Omitosin

    Thank you! This is exactly what I am going through right now! It feels good to be understood!

  • Comment Link SharP Saturday, 27 September 2014 13:36 posted by SharP

    truth is light and lies are darkness. I don't argue with the narc any more. It is pointless. but I am always trying to work through the thinking of my children and friends with logic when the Narc has twisted things. I want my kids thinking to be healthy. All I can do is present in love the truth and let them choose. So far I have been lucky that they are very smart kids and choose the truth. And yes there is a difference between bashing the ex and speaking the truth. sometime you just have to have a heart to heart with your kids. Ex. Your father and I married too young is a lie. Truth I married a man who was unable to love me the way I needed. Correct thinking: go ahead and date and enjoy your life and have fun. If your special someone comes along while you are young, don't fear marriage. I don't want you to regret not being with that certain someone. So far no certain someone has come along.

  • Comment Link alisa De Cantuaria Tuesday, 23 September 2014 12:48 posted by alisa De Cantuaria

    Thanks for this article, brings such supportive clarity.