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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 find it interesting that narcissists plot along in life with a very similar pattern. Many of us have joked that they have a private club handbook or a how to manual that they all seem to follow.  What one narc does the other one seems to do or something very similar.  That is probably because their ideology, outlook on life, belief system or worldview drives them to behave a certain way, or so I have read.

How Narcissists View Money, Sex And Relationships:

How narcs behave with money:  My money, your money, the boss's money, the neighbor's money, all money is their money.  They think they deserve this money.  In fact, while we are looking to be loved as a normal human being, they are looking for money.  Money is a substitute for love. Their checkbooks are rarely ever what they project it to be.  They have more then they say while playing the victim.  They spend on themselves and not the family. They steel and hide it.  They sometimes have less money then they claim in order to play the big shot.  A narc is a mess in general in this area and it spills out onto us.

How narcs view sex:  If a narcissist is into his brain, body, image or both, it has an effect on how it unfolds.  He can over-sex.  He'll have sex with anyone or anything just to prove how desirable he is (control) and usually how much you're not.  He can under-sex.  He won't have sex with you or anyone.  He will “porn it up” and self-sex.  Again proving he is so desirable that you are wanting affection and he will or will not give it to you depending on how he feels (control) magnifying how undesirable you are.  He acts publicly like everything is normal, or better than normal (false image of normal). You are being worn like a favorite article of clothing that can be switched out for another at any time. Sex can make you feel like a blow up doll and nothing more.  Some are even hiding that they don't like women, have mommy issues, or are homosexual.  A narc is a mess in general in this area and it spills out onto us. 

How they view relationships:  A narcissist has a clear pattern or cycle when it comes to love. 

1) Love bombing.  He over-values you. In the beginning a narc grooms you for information in order to make a big and quick impression.  You have found your soul mate. This is a false self.  He took on the image of the man that he thought you/society/normal people wanted him to be. He became something that he thought would make him happy or a good person. 

2) After the commitment, a narcissist isn't quit able to maintain "the splashy part" of the relationship.  Puppy, feel-good love is supposed to evolve into a committed love that stands the test of time.  When issues and challenges of life and marriage comes along, you are supposed to be able to stand together and face that challenge.  But most narcissists cannot maintain the false image.  They disappear at the first sign of a crisis.  Just ask any narcissistic survivor that has had a hospitalizing illness.  Where was he?  Probably somewhere sulking and giving you the silent treatment for getting more attention than he is or talking to the doctor to show off how much he knows (he's so smart) or better yet, hitting on the nurse or someone else on his phone for a "quickie." 

3) In the end a narcissist under-values you.  He spends usually years blaming you for what he is guilty of.  He spends years absorbing you into who he is.  He controls you to the point that you don't know anything, you can't make simple decisions, and you have become dependent like a child.  Simply, you have lost your boundaries.  There is a natural boundary between people.  The boundary of where he begins and ends versus where you begin and end is blurred. You give and he takes until you are "lost."  Most relationships are give and take.   It is not suppose to be that you give and he takes, but rather we both give and we both take.  Somehow, he is “him”, we are “him” and you are “him”.  He has declared himself the good part and you the bad part.  He no longer finds value in you.  He begins to look else where for "his" happiness not "our" or "your" happiness.  Why? Because in his mind you are repulsive and no longer exist and you are not doing your job of making him happy. But you can't make him happy.  He is a bottomless pit that can't be satisfied or filled.  You can't make him happy. In truth no one can.

4) The narcissist will discard you.  You will be left in a splash of drama and punishment or he will sneak away without a word or explanation.  Some women catch onto him before the nasty, hurtful discard and get out.  She files first but either way this is where it was all headed.  By design the perfect, soul mate, lying relationship was doomed from the very beginning. You can't make him happy.  In truth, no one can.  And neither can the woman in his next relationship.  It is doomed to cycle over and over again.  A narcissist does not age well and most likely ends up alone.  A narc is a mess in general in this area and it spills out onto us. 

These are just several examples.  I can go through several areas of life and ask: " how does a narc view your parents, his parents, authority, love, children, counseling, co-workers/people, religion, pets, the other woman?" And there would be a commonality among the answers.  It all read like a bad script from a play that should have never been written, but somehow narcissistic survivors have all lived through it. 

II. What is at the core of a Narc's problem? 

EMPATHY - the lack of empathy.  In order to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), one has to have the lack of empathy.  A narc cannot view anything from another person's point of view. A narc cannot feel what other people feel or imagine how other people feel.   He cannot put someone else's best interest in front of his out of a feeling of empathy or care.  Basically, I have often thought it was the complete inability to give love.  It isn't really something done on purpose but rather out of instinct.  It wasn't that my ex-husband didn't love me but rather he didn't know what love was. A narc can't learn or grasp the concept.  The whole idea of empathy is just lost.  A person diagnosed with NPD is broken and can't be fixed.  A narc is unable to show empathy or care.  He can imitate empathy.  He can try to love.  But a narc will fall short. Many have said that the ex-husband "loved them the best he could," or  "he loved them in his own way," or "some part of him tried really hard." 

III. Where does a Narc's "instinct" come from? 

It comes early in life, long before you, during you, and will more than likely continue after you.  Early on most of these men had messed up families.  They take on NPD as a defense mechanism often times out of a tragedy.  Some of the tragedies listed out there by those that make their living diagnosing things say molestation as a child, or death of a parent at too young of an age.  Usually it is something trauma driven.  A child let say third grade and under has not matured yet. There are different things that we learn at different ages.  A middle schooler is solving the answer to the questions "who am I?"  A college student (early 20s) is usually a "know it all." A 30-year-old child thinks their parents might know a thing or two after all.  etc. Early childhood is where a child learns to feel safe.  It's a dangerous world but there is suppose to be safety within the family. 

Children are supposed to learn an internal safety even though bad things do happen.  If a parent dies expectantly, how is a 5-year old suppose to grasp death when they haven't gotten old enough to ask "who am I?" or "what is the meaning of life?" Don't get me wrong, not everyone who looses a parent at the age of 5 becomes a narcissist.  But there is a connection for those that do.  It depends on how they internally respond.  It always amazes me how people respond.  One person can be freaking out because they have a paper cut and another go through a heart transplant without complaining once.  We are all different with different responses and tolerances. 

This child sometimes learns that the world is so horrible.  They think that mommy or daddy died because they were bad.  Or the trauma happened because it was their fault.  The world is a dangerous place and I cannot be loved.  But they want to be loved very badly.  So, they begin to self-love.  In a nutshell, the only way they can guarantee that they will be loved is to love themselves.  They can't trust you or anyone else to love them.  It is just too dangerous, even if you truly loved your narc ex husband.  He didn't trust you enough to receive that love. He is desperately trying to be worth of being loved.  But love is an outward expression.  Love is not an inward only expression alone.  If you feel unloved, unwanted and like a horrible person. 

If you feel like everything was your fault.  If your self-esteem is horrible at the end of your divorce, don't be surprised.  Remember he has claimed every thing good about you and your relationship for himself.  He has blamed you for every thing bad about himself and your relationship on you.  It's not true.  Lift your head up and be proud of who you are.  He has lied.  You're not to blame. It's him not you.  Let me validate you (one of the steps of healing).  NPD by definition is a person who is unable to have empathy and a person who self loves. There isn't anything so wrong with you that you cannot be loved.  He believes from an early age that there is something so wrong with himself that he can't be loved and is protecting himself from a cruel world on instinct from a childhood developmental stage that he just can't grow past.  He is broken and his development is stunted.  It is him not you. 

Then there is the learned pattern of behavior.  I researched who becomes a narcissist and also got this answer.  The favored child.  All narcissists have a favorite child, also know as, the golden child.  This surprised me.  I would have though it would be the unwanted child.  You know the one that had to fight for every ounce of positive or negative attention.  Also known as the ignored child.  Or the scapegoat child, the one that was bad and blamed for every thing.  The ignored child usually turns out the closest to normal.  I wonder if this is because their whole life was sort of a "no contact?" The scapegoat child turns out usually to be a high empathy person and sometimes co-dependent.  Which is still far better than being a narcissist and by all means is not a "deal-breaker" in life; a challenge, yes, but not hopeless. The narcissist learns to be a narcissist from their narcissistic parent - the chosen one - the perfect child - the golden child.   

A side note, I researched on how to stop a golden child from becoming a narcissist and came up with two answers: 1) tell them "no" every now and then.  You have to be diligent about your boundaries.  I rarely told my daughter "no" because she rarely did anything that needed a "no."  I took a good look and realized that she was learning to be quite the little manipulator.  She "played" mom and dad to get exactly what she wanted all the time.  I started saying no when I felt manipulated and told her so.  The manipulation ended.  2) Teach your child to give.  Give what?  Give anything.  The idea is that by doing the act of giving, children learn empathy.  The earlier you start, the less likely your ex narc can turn your child into a narc.  Some narcs are great givers because they like people's platitudes when they give.  The trick is "the golden rule" for "the golden child."  Teaching the concept: treat others the way you would like to be treated. 

Conclusion: Why do we survivors ask am I becoming a narcissist? 

Because a narcissist has no empathy and is unable to put other first: love, and because he has placed upon you everything that he is guilty of steeling all the good, and because he has left you with no self- identity you are, simply put, a mess. 

Unbeknown to you, you have spent years being unloved and uncared for. You have given and given until you don't exist.  You suffer from PTSD, health problems related to high levels of stress etc.  I haven't even mentions narc games and narc supply. All this time you have invested yourself into making him happy at the sacrifice of your own happiness.  When the divorce is over, one finds themselves isolated and lonely and unable to make a decision.  He controlled every area of your life, maybe even your thoughts and feelings.  He took.  You gave and somehow didn't realize that you were supposed to receive too.  He was given no boundaries or you tried and over time he broke them down.  My ex screamed at me, "I never could control you." I blinked and yelled back, "I didn't know that was a part of the wedding vows."  And it is not. You can't make someone happy.  They either are or they aren't.  A narcissist is not internally happy.  He doesn't believe that he can be loved and won't trust you to do it.  He can't learn empathy.  He is destructively selfish. 

So, why do survivors ask is they are narcissist? 

Because you have swung so far left that you have to move right to find the middle again. For a time of healing: you need to be selfish and set boundaries.  Feel free to say NO!  Especially to the narc.  You need to put yourself first for a time. You might even need to put yourself in front of your kids every now and then.  This is hard because they are healing too.  That is a delicate balance that counseling can help with.  There can be little attitudes that a narc inspired within our children.  Many times our children have been taught to run over the top of mom by the narcissist.  

For a time, your self-love comes first because of the great neglect that you have received for years.  It is a way of finding your self again, and your self-respect.  No, you are not a narcissist.  You are healing.  It was just Valentines Day.  So do me a favor and love up on yourself.  Maybe a movie marathon and popcorn at home, maybe a chocolate heart cake, maybe a restaurant. If you can't stomach being out among the "couples" then dine in with your meal.  Get cozy with the dog.  Spoil your kid.  You need to be selfish for a time in order to heal.  Practice the golden rule when you can but it's okay right now to be a little selfish.  Wishing you a selfish Valentine's Day and week.

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  • Comment Link Meg Jacobs Sunday, 24 April 2016 16:16 posted by Meg Jacobs

    Thank you for posting this article, for posting all the comments, and please keep up the good work. I co-facilitate a group for those who are separated and divorced and, as a result of hearing all the stories (and having experienced my ex's narcissistic rage and/or silent treatment during my own 22 year marriage), I'm convinced that the only way for people to heal is to understand the trauma associated with this type of relationship and the damage it does to spouses and off-spring, especially during their adult years. People can't really resolve a crisis until they have accurate information about what happened to them. This website provides this.

  • Comment Link BalticDiva Tuesday, 15 March 2016 15:43 posted by BalticDiva

    The money issue ! So true on how you wrote this , especially the projecting that my pilot narc husband has done to be the magnanimous big shot . Just today, I find out he signed papers at the bank tying OUR home to a loan for OUR business ( and the bank went ahead saying they could do it without my signature ) is this even legal ????

    Now the shoe is totally off , have been abused for over 30 years and his affairs and lack of intimacy and contemplating divorce for the past 6 years , Now I have the steely determination to end it . Moving sale in one month !

  • Comment Link Three Stars Wednesday, 24 February 2016 22:05 posted by Three Stars

    I am humbled by the quality of writing in this article. Your experiences reflect my own so precisely yet I could never have put it into words in the way you have have so intelligently managed to. I was married to a narciccist for 24 years. We have 3 sons who he now doesn't see and he tried to take everything from me. I self-represented in court as I couldn't find a solicitor here in the area of England where I live who seemed to know what he was like. They all just believed his lies as he was a respected professional. Fortunately I was able to convince the judge (by putting in months of work) that he (1) earned about twice what he claimed and (2) I deserved some of it. I was awarded 75% of the equity in the house which means I can get a mortgage and buy him out preventing our children from losing their home which is what he wanted, 66.6% of his company pension and spousal maintenance until I am 60 (when the pension starts). He would have given me nothing "I owe you nothing" he said. So to all of you - you don't know what you can do until you have to. The process has exhausted me but it is onwards and upwards now. I could not have found the understanding or strength to achieve this without the support offered by reading articles and blogs like these and can now hopefully help others who come behind me. Love to you all.

  • Comment Link ButterfliesAreFreeToFly Monday, 22 February 2016 16:23 posted by ButterfliesAreFreeToFly

    Nice article, thanks for posting! So much of my life in those words and finding comfort that I'm not alone.

    Hang in there, BecomingStronger. I was with mine for 24 years (18 years married). Whenever he felt restless (often!) or that I wasn't fulfilling that narcissistic "void" for him (impossible!), he would tell me "I've been unhappy for years." Towards the very end, he said this: "I feel like you are keeping me from my ultimate happiness." Yes, yes he did. When I pressed just what this "ultimate happiness" was, he had no answer, of course. They do this to keep us unsettled. Amazing I stayed (we have a son which factored into my decision making) but I am now doing the emotional work to figure out why I tolerated it. He ended up leaving, had a new replacement within weeks, that is if I believe his story. I would bet he had her before he left but I have no proof. That's irrelevant really. The way he manipulated me, used me (financially, even though he was a good provider), then discarded me when there was nothing left to give him and he found a new supply, that's the most painful part. I'm familiar with your sentiments, about feeling naive. Don't be so hard on yourself. Narcissists are masters at their own game, a game they play with us where we don't know the rules (and the rules change!). And if we knew the game, we wouldn't want to play anyway. Take some time to heal. I've been divorced a bit over a year, but separated almost 3. It gets better!! Although I still struggle with the void he left and mourn the dream of an intact family, I celebrate being off of his emotionally controlling and abusive roller coaster and am reveling in finding myself again. Time does in fact help with the healing process. Be good to yourself ladies. We've been through quite a ride. {hugs}

  • Comment Link BecomingStronger Sunday, 21 February 2016 12:01 posted by BecomingStronger

    My husband of 27 years (29 years together) sent me an email to say we were incompatible, that he wanted to find a new partner, and that he still loved me. He then set about telling anyone who would listen how i had wronged him yet he was the adulterer. Three months on he is still controlling me, sending me and our son photos of his new life. He is bi-polar but evidently narcissistic too. This whole article, beginning to end rings true to how he treated me and how i've reacted. I can't believe i was so naive. I'm now a single mum of one and he has moved interstate, spent tens of thousands of dollars on himself and has started a new relationship with an unsuspecting woman, never giving a second thought to his "wife" and child (who is in his final year of school), How could i have thought that this was 'normal'? Every other friendship and work relationship he has had has failed, i kept us together because i felt i should, he made me feel guilty at the thought of leaving, that he'd be broken or dead, and now he just ups and leaves and forgets he had another life. Message to all women (and men) avoid narcissists!

  • Comment Link Delena Wednesday, 17 February 2016 17:53 posted by Delena

    Wow what an amazing article!! So true every word

  • Comment Link Lunar2015 Wednesday, 17 February 2016 05:10 posted by Lunar2015

    This is such a good article. So, so good. Thank you for this. Much needed.

  • Comment Link Sherree Tuesday, 16 February 2016 08:56 posted by Sherree

    "He took on the image of the man that he thought you/society/normal people wanted him to be. He became something that he thought would make him happy or a good person" This part is exactly what he said to me, that for 28 years he lived a lie, was someone he wasn't, and it made him so unhappy. I must admit I was shocked and actual felt sorry for him, and then he destroyed himself being the real him, it was the most amazing train wreck, of reckless, selfish and ill considered decisions I have ever seen.

  • Comment Link Maraia Monday, 15 February 2016 15:20 posted by Maraia

    EXCELLENT ! It reads as if its from my book of life with him