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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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All relationships go through rocky times. Honestly, there are times when one partner seems to be keeping it all together and times when the other takes a turn. This is normal; marriage takes a lot of work and a willingness to be the glue sometimes.

It can be tough, when you feel like you’ve been the glue far too long, to decide if you want to continue on keeping it together. Is it even possible?  Can one person save a floundering marriage? It may be possible, but there is a lot to consider before you bite the bullet, dig your heels in, and say “Yes! I WILL do this, even if it kills me!”

Under some circumstances, it might.

Take a Look at Your Reality

I will be honest. As things spiraled downward in my marriage, I was determined to make it work. I just knew that I wanted to save my marriage. After all, I had made a commitment, and I am not a quitter! Every time the idea of divorce crept stealthily into my thoughts I would send it packing. Good, strong Christians did not divorce, they prayed, had faith, and God changed their lives. I knew this was true--I’d read books, been to seminars, and sought godly counsel.

It would work because I would make it work.

I tried everything I knew. I prayed for hours; I spent an entire year fasting and praying, and I worked hard to be that virtuous wife. Things just kept getting worse. I was increasingly depressed, frustrated, and feeling trapped. When I discovered he was cheating, I totally lost it--something in me broke. All of the rage and frustration of years of narcissistic abuse came gushing out in a torrent. It was like uncontrollable, emotional vomiting, and it scared me. All of a sudden I realized that I didn’t want to save it. At some point my relationship had morphed into a voracious, flesh-eating zombie that was devouring everything in its path.

It was time to put it to death before it sucked out what remaining life I had.

First Things First

Before you even get to the question of can you save your marriage, you have to ask yourself if you really want to? It’s important to give this a lot of thought and not make assumptions. I had thought I wanted to save my marriage, but I was deceiving myself.

So, think about it. Do you really want to save your marriage? In the deepest part of your heart do you feel that your marriage, not just your commitment but the whole shebang, is worth saving? Are you prepared to do whatever it takes and endure whatever it takes to maybe make it work? Are you prepared to make your kids endure it?

If there is physical abuse involved, please put space between you and the abuser and work on it with a counselor trained in dealing with domestic abuse. It’s important that you get yourself and your children to a safe place first, before doing anything else.

Ditch the Blame

It’s easy to point fingers and blame the other person for your actions. When you do that, you enmesh yourself in a web of personal deception. You can know if you are playing that game by listening to your statements when you’re arguing.

  • You never listen to me.
  • You don’t pick up after yourself.
  • You always twist my words.

Change those statements to express your feelings.

  • I feel disrespected when I feel you are not listening to me. I need you to look at me while I am talking.
  • I feel taken for granted when you don’t pick up after yourself.
  • I don’t always know how to express myself in a way you can understand.

Removing the blame will diffuse a lot of problems with communication.

Work on Yourself

Make positive changes in your own life. Take a class, begin to do something that interests you, and make new friends. If you don’t go to opera because he doesn’t like it buy a ticket and go! Better yet, find a friend that likes opera and go with them!

By making positive changes in your life your outlook will be better, and your confidence will skyrocket. When you have your own interests, the things he does will have less of an effect on you. As you become more positive about yourself and your life, it will reflect in the things you say and do. No matter what happens, being a strong, confident person is a good thing.

Consider the things about you that your spouse complains about. Do they have a valid point? Is it something you can work on?

Be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time for the changes in you to cause a ripple effect in your marriage. Being thoughtful, being considerate, and being kind will go a long way when it comes to making things better for both of you.

Be Intentionally Loving

It can get easy over time to become roommates rather than paramours. Begin kissing hello and goodbye if you’ve stopped doing that. Touch each other. Hold hands. Look into your spouse’s eyes when you’re talking. Try to remember what you loved about them at first and hang on to that. Think about the things you don’t do anymore.

Have sex. Often.

Be Realistic

There are just some relationships that can’t be fixed. If he has narcissistic tendencies, if he lies, if he cheats, or if he is abusive, trying to fix the marriage might be more likely to pull you under rather than lift him up. Drugs (even prescription), alcohol, gambling, and porn addiction are things that are very difficult to overcome.

Do you want to save your marriage or are you just afraid of divorce?

Divorce is hard on everyone, but living in a negatively charged atmosphere causes anxiety and other emotional issues in both kids and adults.  Don’t be afraid to let your relationship go if it has, like my first marriage, turned into a zombie.

Do you need to talk out your feelings somewhere safe? Join First Wives World today and talk to others who know what you are going through because they’ve been there.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: ZenJazzyGeek

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3 comments

  • Comment Link Shirley Ann Petrillo Monday, 08 June 2015 02:02 posted by Shirley Ann Petrillo

    A narcissist is a narcissist.
    NO real remorse, humility, empathy, repentance means no change/improvement means NO real love.
    If you are a partner of a real N, then you are UNloved.
    So simple, this fact. So hard to accept this truth.

  • Comment Link Becky Friday, 21 November 2014 16:30 posted by Becky

    I've been married for 39 1/2 years to a narcissist. For most of those many years, I've blamed/shamed myself. My husband is always needing to be in the lime light wherever we go. He needs to be the hero, the star, the best, etc and if I, or our 2 children, didn't hold him up on that pedestal then we had a problem. Now the nest has been empty for many years and I'm 63 and somewhat sickly and find I enjoy being alone.

    I've told my husband that I don't want to be around him anymore because I'm tired of being told how I should have said or done something differently or not spoken at all. I don't like the parental scolding looks he gives me, especially in public. And I don't like to have my intellect destroyed or discredited, continually.

    He was an associate pastor for a few years. He tells people it was many years of his life! During that time, I was supposed to be his adoring wife and of course his children needed to be perfect. Our daughter became pregnant at 17 and married. We didn't talk about that embarrassment and our son was quite a bit younger and expected to be perfect. No one should dare to get out of line and taint his saintly image.

    He's always held the highest opinion of himself and will always defend his honorable self if confronted with wrongdoing. If someone dislikes him, he will try to win them over and if that doesn't work, he may try to get rid of their position or presence from himself by pointing out all their defects in character.

    I've learned over the years that there is no making him understand what he does to me or to others. The only safe place for me seems to be away from him. I hate disagreement and always have. This is a man who used to have arguments for both sides. I never had to say a word because he told me what I was going to say and what I was thinking.

    I recall a time about 20 years ago when my therapist told me that no matter what it takes, to stay in the argument with him. My normal way was to just back down and not argue but then I would become angry and hold it inside. Later, my anger would come out in sarcasm and I would begin making snide comments about my husband in his presence. Somehow, I felt a need to knock him off his pedestal. Of course, it just made me look really bad which only furthered my husband's case against me. "See how badly she treats me".
    I did as my therapist had suggested the next time an argument ensued which happened to be a date night. We decided to go to dinner and a movie. On the way to dinner he had to drop something off for a friend of his. I commented that this friend didn't seem to respond to me when I had tried to talk to her at church. That started it! Of course this person would never ignore me or respond in any unfavorable way. At that, I promptly stated that I'm sure I had misunderstood her behavior toward me. 30 minutes later at dinner he wouldn't drop it. After ordering, I asked what movie he might like to see. He hadn't thought about it so I suggested watching "Big" and gave him a brief description at which he lost it over! He went from it not being a Christian movie to my not being a good example to our son, and how our sons homeschooling was not regimented enough, and then began questioning if I allowed him time to watch TV after his schooling, etc. I can't begin to tell you the horror of the 4 hours of listening to him rant after dinner. I couldn't stay in the disagreement any longer and said I was going to bed and he would have to argue with himself! Of course, there was no movie on this date!

    When I told my therapist what had happened she was incredulous. She actually handed him a large plastic bat in her office one day and asked him to hold it. After a few minutes he asked if she still wanted him to hold it. Yes, was the response. Finally he couldn't stand it any longer so she asked if he felt ridiculous holding it and he said he did! She explained that is how ridiculous it is that he seems to always be carrying around this big bat threatening to keep me in line.
    At one point we separated for 2 1/2 years after our senior pastor told the leadership of our church several vicious and horrendous lies about me. We had been on a mission trip and then vacation and found out when we returned what had been said. I confronted the pastor with his wife and my husband present. The pastor denied saying these things and I said he should call his secretary into the office as I doubted that she would lie for him. Then his wife confessed that he did say those things. He didn't repent and my husband would not leave the church with me so I left on my own. I felt more betrayed than ever in my life. How could my husband choose this man, who told vicious lies about his wife, and continue in this church as though nothing happened?

    About a month later I told him to leave after he tried to tell me how I wasn't being forgiving, even though this pastor had not asked me to forgive him.

    After several months he came to me to ask me to divorce him. I told him I didn't need a divorce because I had no plans of dating or marrying. He became quite angry at that and I later realized it was so that he could tell everyone that his wife divorced him! So he divorced me and 2 1/2 years later we ended up together again. I wanted to be certain that this kind of thing wouldn't happen again. After about 16 hours of talking things through, we decided we could make it work.

    That was 14 years ago and nothing has really changed. We've moved away, changed our ministry work and lifestyle but the workings inside are unchanged. I've been at a breaking point for the past few months and feel completely exasperated and just want to give up altogether.

    I just don't understand how anyone could want to make someone else so miserable and find fulfillment from it. This is such a sick and cruel way to live. This man will never ever admit he's done anything wrong. There's always a 'but' in the apology and an 'if' in the explanation for why something has happened. I'm at the end of my rope.

    40 years of strife is just too long!

  • Comment Link Harriet the Horrible Wife Monday, 17 November 2014 15:26 posted by Harriet the Horrible Wife

    This is good beginning advice -- but I don't think one person can save the marriage. I did express my feelings, "Please stay in the room when I talk, it makes me feel unimportant when you walk out of the room." -- response: "Oh, I thought you were finished" (when I was in mid-sentence) or "well, I had to go to the bathroom and you didn't seem like you were going to be finished talking any time soon." Really?! "I feel like we don't communicate, can we set aside some time to have time to talk about our days, I want to know what's going on in your work life, your life-life and what we might plan together." response: "I leave my job at work and there isn't anything exciting to share, it's the same thing day in and day out. I wait on people to decide they are ready to check me in because I am not important enough for them to pay attention to." (he is a route salesman) and "I do listen to you, I concentrate better when I'm playing a game on my phone." Yes, he really said that.

    I have tried being overly loving. He says I don't sit with him (he is the most annoying person to watch tv with. Constantly changes the channel, I'll get interested in a show and he decides it isn't worth watching but has no regard that I was interested. Watches conspiracy theory shows, alien life shows, anything non-Christian and I am sure this is to irritate me because he knows I don't like those) But I go sit with him and that's what he does then says I'm cramping his space. It wasn't like this early on, then it was all love and cozy -- over time, he has become bitter, angry all the time and then tells me it's me. I believed that until my kids started saying things like "I think he would be happier if we weren't all here" or "If he would leave, it would be a happier place, he is so angry all the time and I don't even know what we/I did to make him mad."

    Have sex - often?! HA! That's a joke. "I'm sorry, I'm just not interested in that anymore." or the day I finally tried to let him know we needed to talk and I asked him if we could go out together alone for a while and just talk -- response in front of our 3 girls: "Why? So you can badger me about why we don't have sex anymore? I don't know! Maybe something is wrong with me! Maybe I'm just not interested anymore! You know, I work my ass off and I'm tired! NO! I do not want to go "talk" because you just make me feel like a horrible husband." -- obviously, I've never brought that up again.

    No, once all those things have been tried, over a 7 year timeline, you realize all hope is gone and all you're left with is the decision to stay married and follow the first part of your advice, just start doing things that make you happy. It is hard. It makes for guilty feelings because you leave him at home on the couch playing on his phone while flipping through channels. You allow your kids to go do things despite the fact that he makes you feel like a horrible person for allowing them to have fun with snide remarks like "should she really be doing that?" and "you know if you'd tell them no once in a while, it wouldn't hurt them" -- because we should all just sit here? The day I realized I was making excuses for his bad behavior and it was costing us time with family was the day I determined I was no longer the sole responsible person for the marriage. I am the sole responsible person for everything else -- literally. He refuses to do anything with finances despite that I have requested many times over the years -- the last time I asked was because he yelled at me that he doesn't even know how much money he makes. "I haven't seen a paycheck (it is direct deposited and electronic on the company website which he has no idea how to log in if he really wanted to see) well, it's not my fault he doesn't ask -- am I supposed to tell him? I offered to and he declined. He said he would help with money -- but there will be no more Sonic, no more "froo-froo" foods that I call healthy -- do you still want my help? Well, when you put it that way, no, thank you, I'll manage. BUT he turned in the next 2 minutes and said he should have $20 min. a week to spend how he wishes, he makes the money. Wow!

    As I said, the only thing I can follow now is to do things that I enjoy, spend time with our kids and grandkids and rediscover the things I use to do that I have over the years let go in my quest to make this marriage work. It takes two to tango and well, after you've been flopping around the dancefloor looking like a fool you end up lonely or determined to make a life. I choose the latter. On occasion, he will go places with us, only to sit alone and either play on his phone or put on a good front and make the appearance that he is a great dad and/or husband by participating. We all know it's fake because as soon as we leave, he sulks, is silent for hours or even days because he did something he didn't want to do.

    And after I go back and reread all this --I fall back into the gaslighting victimization -- this is all in my head and I am the one responsible. I make too much of things, I read more into it than I should, I imagine that he is sulking and not talking, it's just because he is quiet and doesn't have anything to say. I should be more appreciative that he doesn't go out and cheat on me, sit in a bar or spend all our money (because I do that enough on my own and therefore am a bad wife), if I was just more understanding of his behavior, it's probably from the crappy childhood he refuses to talk about, the list goes on and the cycle begins again. It's all my fault. -- No more!