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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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It’s inevitable. At some point after your divorce, your anniversary is going to roll around. It happened pretty quickly for me—my divorce was final the end of February and my anniversary was the end of March. To make matters worse, it was a significant anniversary. It would have been 30 years. Three decades of my life had been tied up in that relationship, and I felt as if my time had been wasted—that part of my life had been wasted. What was the point?

When my anniversary came around, I wondered if he remembered. And then I got mad at myself for caring whether he remembered or not. I hoped he regretted the choices he’d made.

Let Yourself Grieve

One of the things I realized pretty quickly is that you can’t just ignore the anniversary—especially if you were married a long time. There are memories to deal with, and you need to grieve the loss of all of those hopes and dreams you had as a bride. 

It would have been… It could have been…

That’s just it. You are not grieving for what you had (if you were married to a narcissist). You are grieving for what you thought you had, or what you created. It wasn’t real. 

Don’t Pretend It Doesn’t Exist

I tried to ignore it, with the hope that the feelings would go away. We’d always gone out to dinner or done a little something on our anniversary. The day had been set aside as important and special. Now, all of a sudden it was just another day.

Only it wasn’t.

After my parents died, I didn’t stop thinking about them on their birthdays. Over a decade later, I still know that those two days are special—they always will be for me. In many ways, the anniversary of my first marriage will always be a special day, but I find that I also take notice of the anniversary of my divorce! It was a special day, too. Yes, it was painful, but I can honestly say that the pain was worth it.

Someday you’ll realize it’s your anniversary, and it won’t hurt anymore. Until then, do what you need to do to get through it.

Deal with the Shame

Did I say shame?

Yes, I did. The hardest thing for me about divorce was the shame that came right along with it. I was ashamed that I had failed—that I did not have one of those “strong, godly marriages” I kept hearing about. I was ashamed that I couldn’t fix it, no matter how hard I tried.

Every single anniversary reminds me of that failure and, even all these years later, brings back a little bit of shame.

Realistically, I have nothing to be ashamed of. I was not perfect—none of us are—but I was not the one who cheated. I was not the one who walked away. I stayed, I kept things going, and I supported the kids when he moved 2,000 miles away. 

I am proud of what I have accomplished in the past five and a half years. When an anniversary rolls around, I remind myself of what I achieved, given the circumstances.

Quite frankly, I rock.

Celebrate You

Plan something special for your anniversary. Take yourself out to dinner, invite a friend to go to the movies, spend the day in a spa getting massaged and pampered like royalty. There is no reason you can’t continue to set aside time to make the day special. Does that seem odd?

In reality, that day changed you forever. More than likely, not all the changes were bad. Find the good things and celebrate them.

It’s nice to have an excuse to eat good food and sip champagne.

Don’t Give In

Whatever you do, don’t give in to wallowing. Don't take the day off and lay on the couch in your sweats, watching The Notebook, going through boxes of tissues and eating chocolate ice cream out of the carton. That’s not celebrating or grieving—that is giving up.

Talk to Someone

Don’t keep it to yourself. Sometimes you just need to talk things out with someone else. Sometimes you just need to tell someone how you feel or share memories. Sometimes you need perspective. Sometimes you just need someone to understand. Join First Wives World, and you’ll always have someone to talk to who understands what you’re dealing with—someone who has been there, and who can encourage you and give you advice when you need it.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : Alex

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  • Comment Link Brandi Sunday, 15 October 2017 12:06 posted by Brandi

    Tomorrow, 10-16-17 would have been my 13yr wedding anniversary. My ex and I were collectively together for 16yrs. Anyway, we split this past February, legally divorced in June and he re-married in July to the woman he worked with and was having an affair with. I am in a much better state of mind now than I was just a few months ago, but as this day approaches my anxiety is through the roof! It literally makes me sick to my stomach. And it's not because I miss him....and want him back.....that's not it at all. He is a narcissistic asshole and at the stage I'm happy to be away from him. Good why am I like upset and anxious? Is this normal. I feel like my emotions could be very volital at this point. I mean truly they are. So why does this day make me feel crazy emotions.....even verging on tears. I don't not want him back and I am firm on that subject. So why all the

  • Comment Link D. D. L. Saturday, 26 August 2017 12:13 posted by D. D. L.

    Today is my 29th anniversary. I have been seperated for 8 months but we still live in the same home but on different floors. He has been having an affair for 2 years I found out and has decided to spend the day sleeping with her. It is very hurtful that he couldnt respect my feelings this one day. He has been emotional abusive my whole marrage I found out with therapy. I can not figure out why I still miss him, he is the father of my children was my only support person and the my best friend and I am still in love with him. I dont understand why i still have these feelings.

  • Comment Link Tonya Thursday, 06 July 2017 17:05 posted by Tonya

    My 2nd year anniversary will be 8/8. Next month. This divorce process seems as long as the marriage. Our whole marriage I spent it pregnant, nursing, or getting divorced. :(

  • Comment Link Cheri Friday, 09 June 2017 10:20 posted by Cheri

    Today is my 33rd wedding anniversary and our divorce should be final Monday. Like the author, he cheated, moved a 1000 miles away and has not seen our 17 year old in a year. Even though I filed for the divorce, it still hurts. I miss him as a friend, not as a husband. Today, I will go to work and my friends will make me laugh. I will be ok.

  • Comment Link John Orr Wednesday, 08 February 2017 14:20 posted by John Orr

    During a mid life crisis nearly 20 years ago I walked out on my wife of 30 years for another woman. My wife was (and is) an excellent woman who has been an excellent mother to my now grown children. Next Saturday would have been our 50th wedding anniversary. I feel so much shame and I would like to acknowledge her for the good person that she is and for being a wonderful mother to our children. What are your thoughts on this?

  • Comment Link Gabrielle Sunday, 14 August 2016 12:20 posted by Gabrielle

    Grief opens new doors in the heart and I am sometimes wiser, braver, more compassionate, more in charge of my emotions and more accepting of the process of life, for having experienced marriage and divorce. I thank my former husband for the many awarenesses I have because we embarked on this journey together. I see him as my personalised tutor who specialises in teaching me how to regain my peaceful focus, no matter what the circumstances, and to forgive and pardon what I perceive as offences. Sometimes I'm a D student, sometimes an A, but I am grateful for this person who gave me my greatest blessings in our children and now grandchildren too.

  • Comment Link sheflan Monday, 04 July 2016 17:39 posted by sheflan

    Tomorrow would have been my 40th wedding anniversary. He is now living with a woman 25 years younger than both of us. He is very happy. I am glad for him. He has issues. I still love him and miss him. We have been divorced 9 months. Not sure what to do tomorrow - got to go to work, but then, maybe cinema or a long walk. I won't just sit and cry - well maybe a little, but life has to go on......

  • Comment Link Harriot Monday, 20 June 2016 22:37 posted by Harriot

    Hi. Thanks so much for writing this article. I am coming up to what was to be my 25th anniversary but my husband left me 7 months ago for another woman who he had longterm affair with. I am trying to plan to have a normal day but am worried I will just cry all day, so feel its best to be alone that day. But now I wont sit at home with my tissues, but go out somewhere. As a Christian its hard to fathom how your best friend since high school can just be happy to never see or speak to you again. He says he is a Christian still, which seems crazy to hurt me and the kids so much. She has kids and he spends his time ,including holidays and all weekends with them. Grieving the loss of my future -growing old together and things like that, re-writing some of the past for what is really was, dealing with shame, supporting the kids through their pain and rejection, trying to find a job to start a new career now I have to support myself, is really all too hard. I get what someone said when they said you have to find yourself and untangle from thw co-dependency. Well thats my rant, but thanks for giving me a chance to express myself.

  • Comment Link Chrisw Thursday, 24 March 2016 21:45 posted by Chrisw

    Well, I'm the groom grieving, dealing with shame and the failure of "a strong and godly marriage"; and surviving my first anniversary after a divorce. I identified with every feeling you had Marye. After 25 years of marriage, an affair revealed led to four marriage counselors and more than five years of patient "trying everything" to encourage her to return. Four months ago she moved forward with a divorce. BPD/NPD were a strong contributing factor according to two of our counselors but an unwillingness to really look at her responsibility in the separation made it extremely difficult to make any forward progress. For me, the most difficult aspect to cut through was really grasping the truth that I was not responsible for her choices to have an affair, protect it, defend it, and her refusal (or inability) to really participate in a sincere way in reconciliation. In fact the good the great thing that has come out of the last six years of grief is that I have re-discovered my core person-hood. It got lost and swallowed up in the co-dependence that comes in trying to repair a marriage I didn't realize was seriously in trouble as my wife was struggling internally with the complexities of a personality disorder. I have come through all of this a better person...far more humble and centered thanks to the love and help of Jesus Christ and many "angels unaware" in family, friends, books and articles from individuals like yourself. Thank you for the encouragement and identification your article brought and for the responders who have journeyed through the pain and the darkness. Everyone's thoughts were a light to me today; the day after what would have been my 31st anniversary. In time I will be a light to others.

  • Comment Link Florence Monday, 29 February 2016 22:51 posted by Florence

    Bless you for answering this question of mine. I am not divorce yet but an anniversary is coming..21st...I do grieve the joy of wanting to grow old with someone, loving grand kids, taking trips to special much shame as well...I too am a Christian. I feel like a failure in regard in helping the closest person I could be to and he did not trust me enough to tell me about his sexual addiction.
    I still hope that one day he will change for his own personal worth and self-esteem...and of course for his child's sake.

  • Comment Link Kara Monday, 04 January 2016 18:41 posted by Kara

    ...what if your anniversary and your divorce date are on the same day...

  • Comment Link Reee Friday, 11 December 2015 21:21 posted by Reee

    It doesn't help that our anniversary and my birthday is a day after the other. Since we've been together, it's the only week that I've been waiting for in 365 days a year. Because we always make special plans.. but not this year. This year, he left with OW and making plans with her instead. It hurts., I maybe alone at home but still have to start treating the day as just ordinary day in the calendar.

  • Comment Link Princila Kali Saturday, 17 October 2015 17:24 posted by Princila Kali

    Hi..I married to my husband 10 years. Just recently, a month ago he left me because he wanted to find another life without me and it was devastating and I tried begging him many time to stay and told him I will do everything to make our relationship going which was a stupid thing I did for. And the saddest thing is..we work together in the same company. And it was hard to deal with my co workers if they will know we broke up. I feel the worst shame of my life and blaming myself of what happened. One month after he left was our anniversary and I already planned to be absent at work so that I cannot see him and escape the reality. Talking to my sister was the only thing which kept me going, giving me encouragement. She told me to show up to work during our anniversary and just ignore everything and I did. That day, I went to work and I ignored him, just said "hi" and pretended that nothing happened and at the end of the day..things just turned into fine. I made it, and it felt good. I pick myself up and everyday passes by keep me stronger and stronger and this time I feel ok, I'm working with him and dealing with other staff is just a natural thing. Time heals everything.

  • Comment Link rchel Friday, 21 August 2015 08:40 posted by rchel

    Hi not sure what to write but i havent been married a year its the one year anniversary in two weeks... my husband cheated and left me several times in the last 6 months including mothers day and my birthday... i can feel sadness taking over me thinking about this day... some days i just cant cope with every day life knowing that im a failure... does it get better??

  • Comment Link april Monday, 20 July 2015 15:07 posted by april

    Thank you. Today is my 30 year anniversary, and my divorce was final 2 months ago. I am working towards my acceptance stage and I am so much better.
    But my bed is still my favorite place and he is still an ass. He said I got old, only he had a young girlfriend and a failed business.
    I got wise and he got left behind. But I am the sad first wife, and left alone after 30 years, 4 children and now 4 grandchildren.

  • Comment Link tamzin Saturday, 23 May 2015 21:29 posted by tamzin

    Thank you for this article. My 30 year anniversary is today may 23 and I was officially divorced this week.
    It helps to know I am not the only one who goes through this alone!

  • Comment Link Sherree Saturday, 11 April 2015 21:13 posted by Sherree

    Mine is New Years eve so at least you are normally with people you love at that time but it's still hard. Birthdays were the hardest because we always celebrated in the first year apart I txt him happy birthday have a great day our birthdays are less than a month apart he did not reciprocate and yes it hurt but It also taught me, he did send a happy Mother's Day but I found out it was a group txt. Yes I agree make new special days one of mine is the 19 May it's the anniversary of him leaving, I have the divorce papers signed and ready to go for that date I like to think of it as Independence Day after 28 years of putting up with a Narc, notice the peace around you we only miss the good times but if we're honest we made those not them.

  • Comment Link mulberry Tuesday, 17 February 2015 10:03 posted by mulberry

    Thank you Marye, this is very similar to my story. I was divorced last October. It would have been my 30th wedding anniversary this March. I have asked my adult sons to go away with me on the weekend of this anniversary. I intend on always celebrating this date with them because without it I wouldn't have my beautiful sons and I hope in the future, their wonderful families.

  • Comment Link FreeSpirit52 Monday, 16 February 2015 21:13 posted by FreeSpirit52

    Thank you again Marye for your wise words. I like yourselves was with my Ex for 28 years and married for 24 of them. The thing not of this planet made sure that the divorce was in the same month that we married with only 5 days between the dates. Even though I in the end divorced him, he still tried to be in control and hurt me more. I will do as you suggest when the days in March (1st year divorce) arrive. :)

  • Comment Link abbie Sunday, 08 February 2015 22:12 posted by abbie

    Im new at navigating this and have info/emotional overload. I need a counselor educated in narcissist people, /esp re;potentially my parents, sibs, and the men ive been with , esp the one ive been with for over 20 years, it'll be our 19th wedding anniv on 2.21,sad state of affairs. My 1st husband died in 1993, my present husband was his friend....never thought my knight in shining armour would turn on me like this...