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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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I know exactly the moment I had my last dream. I don’t mean my last nighttime dream. I mean the last time I allowed myself to dream that something wonderful and amazing would happen to me—that some sort of blessing would be bestowed on me, and goals…wow—yeah—goals. That moment was just before my ex lost his umpteenth job because ::: fill in the blank ::: and I decided that my life was never going to change. Dreams were useless.

We All Had Dreams Once

At one time, I dreamed of being a famous artist, a novelist, and (I’ll admit with a blush) an actress. At 19, I was one of three finalists for a part in the community theatre version of "Last of the Red Hot Lovers". I’ve never admitted that publicly before, but luckily my kids don’t read my articles. I believed that I had something—call it talent, call it luck, or call it whatever. I was sure that I was destined for some sort of greatness.

Yay me!

When my babies came along, I wanted nothing more than to be a mom. That is where my greatness would manifest, I was sure. I would put my dreams on hold, and I would dream dreams for my kids as I nursed them, rocked them to sleep, and watched them play soccer. At night, when I lay down with them to say prayers and hear their sleepy, whispered dreams, their dreams became mine. I channeled everything I had into them, and I was glad to do it. 

Survival Mode Squelches Dreams

Meanwhile, my dreams were becoming fuzzy. I have always needed security—the knowledge that the bills would be paid, that the kids and I would be taken care of—and that’s not something I had.

Instead of dreaming about things I wanted to do, I was focused on whether or not the electricity would stay on, how to make popcorn for breakfast seem cool, and how to keep the kids clothed. It’s a funny thing—there comes a point where survival mode kicks in, and you become almost robotic in your responses. I was just doing the next thing.

But even after paying the bills got easier, I couldn't shake myself out of survival mode. As much as I’d like to blame the ex for this, I am not sure it’s his fault. It just was.

At that point, I had stopped having dreams.

Turning It All Around

Ok, maybe I didn’t stop having them. Maybe I just stopped believing that any of them would come true. I got in a rut of thinking that things would never change until I died.

Now I am healing, and I’m learning to dream again. There are a lot of reasons for it—there wasn’t a quick fix—and it hasn’t been easy, but I am allowing myself to imagine the possibilities.

I have realized that part of the reason I stopped dreaming was because I couldn’t figure out how it would all work. I wanted to know how I could get from point A to point B. I guess, silly as it sounds, I wanted an itinerary from God.

I don’t know a lot of people who get itineraries. I can tell you that I did not.

Instead, I decided that I couldn't continue to be dead on the inside. I could not keep living my life in mediocrity. I could not continue living the way I had been. I began to believe that my life could be different.

Believe in the Possibilities

There is something about believing in possibilities that makes things happen. I can’t explain it logically—call it faith, call it The Secret, or whatever, but it is real. When I began to believe my life could change, it did. At first, the changes didn't seem so great—the circumstances that led up to my divorce were not fun. Then, other things began to happen. I got clients, I made my own money for the first time in decades, and I met someone who fanned the fading sparks of trust in me. All of the stuff I had been so afraid to dream about was suddenly coming to pass. It was like popcorn—one pop, then another, then faster and faster until I can only look around and wonder what amazing thing is going to happen next.

Change Your Perspective

After life with a narcissist, it can be tough to believe that we are worth the smallest things, let alone big, wonderful things. We are so used to looking at ourselves through the narcissist’s eyes that we can’t see possibilities anymore. 

We’re in survival mode. You can’t dream in survival mode.

Where are you on the dream spectrum? Are you still struggling to think that good things are coming your way? Or are you beginning to believe that there are wonderful things in your future?

You know that change is difficult. You don’t wake up one morning and say, “Self, it’s time for you to begin dreaming again,” and everything is fixed.

What you can do first is give yourself permission to dream again. If a daydream about owning your own business pops up, don’t shake your head and laugh because it seems too impossible. You don’t have to make it happen (right away), but try to acknowledge it positively by saying things like...

Well, that would be cool

It could happen

Maybe it will happen someday

That would be fun

Keep Moving Forward

Once you’ve learned to entertain your dreams again, you can set small goals. Again, this shouldn’t be a stressful thing. It’s a way to stretch yourself, see yourself in a more positive light, and get your life back. What do you really want?

Your battle is not with your ex. Your battle—the real battle—is breaking through the prison that has been created in your mind over the years. Let yourself dream, imagine, and believe, and watch your life change over time.

You aren’t the only one who has struggled to dream. Join First Wives World today, and become part of a group who knows exactly what it feels like to be where you are. Get help learning to dream again.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : Christopher Michel

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  • Comment Link dee_kerr Monday, 29 August 2016 17:07 posted by dee_kerr

    Thanks so much for this article. I am 2 years post divorce from a man who would have really liked to destroy me. He didn't know that I am indestructible.

    I've always been strong, but I've found even more ways to be strong. But, you're right: I do feel like I'm merely in survival mode still.

    I had dreams when I was young, as well. I dreamed for myself and then I dreamed for my children. Now it's time to dream for myself again.

    But, what to dream? Where to begin? I know sitting on the couch, watching TV and doing jigsaw puzzles is not my destiny. Or is it?

    I don't feel a driving desire, but I'm content. I have a great deal of joy, but I don't feel compelled toward a next step like I used to when I was younger.

    Sometimes I say to myself that this is just a "resting" period and that soon I will be ready to move on toward new dreams, but what if I'm just wasting time?

  • Comment Link Kaya50 Thursday, 11 February 2016 03:42 posted by Kaya50

    Thank you for this great article. 3 years after a divorce from a cheater after 2o years marriage I can finally look up and see my future again. My ex was an extreme narcissist and he tried to destroy me self esteem ,my self worth and more. He did not succeed. I have become strong and resilient. And yes I am happy and at peace. Through no contact with him I healed and I recovered. I think I am ready to face this world again and not just exist. All of his lies are in the past and I deserve to love myself again. Like I used to before he came into my life. I thank God every day for having my freedom back.

  • Comment Link basil0707 Sunday, 22 November 2015 07:40 posted by basil0707

    I am so grateful I read this article. I am six months out of an acrimonious divorce from the narc. My four kids are splintered between the two of us, I am broke, broke, broke. I am working on developing an opportunity, that even includes mentorship, and will give me two of the most priceless things I could possibly attain career wise, financial autonomy and flexibility with my time to be there for my kids and myself. All of my adult life, I depended on the unreliable and irresponsible ex narc.

    I am so scared at the same time because I have been in that prison box "of you will never make it and will fail AGAIN and be back on govt assistance" for many years. The ex loved govt benes. He always reminded me of my failures and shortcomings and pushed welfare, unemployment etc.

    I have been afraid to entertain, much less go after this dream, for so long. Just stay and starve in mediocrity and emptiness. I love staying within the realm of possibilities and just taking baby steps to make this a reality.

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. You rock!

  • Comment Link Carilee Saturday, 24 January 2015 07:00 posted by Carilee

    I'm starting to form a plan to achieve my dream of getting a Doctorate. Know it will be difficult and the divorce is far from final. It is nice to begin to dream and plan for all the possibilities. I want to show my children they can do anything. I want to live on my terms and work toward my potential and passion. It has nothing to do with STBX. I already have more education than him. I earned mine from a real University. He bought his "B.S." online. Yes, his is b.s. He knows this and shot down every discussion on continuing my education. His filing for the divorce is partially because I was planning to return to school, for my Masters and Doctorate, when we moved for his job. He would rather risk his career and tear apart the family. It's not going to stop me. I'm worth it.