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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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This is a love letter and warning to all of you younger women, whose stories were my own (yes I was once in my early thirties, great job before I had kids, travel, etc. all was great except who I was married to) and your stories are my own. Line for line, word for word. Only I am more than a decade or two further out than most of you wishing I had pulled the plug back when my kids were younger, there were more options for work, for re-building a nest egg, for finding a better mate in a rapidly diminishing pool as everyone ages. 

I know your fear, your efforts to keep things on an even keel, the lovely home you don't want to leave, the dependence on drugs or alcohol your husband (or now, even maybe YOU use to alleviate your anxiety) exhibits, their short temper, the "perfect" veneer he shows to the world. What a fabulous man he is in between. Mine in short is the IDYLLIC husband until something sets him off. It could be weeks out, a month, and then BOOM; the red-faced, snarling angry man (and that's putting it lightly) unless I head him off at the outset with "I’m sorry" or "OH I see your point" or some other distraction. Unless I am successful at appeasing the volcano god, it blows. Broken things, a kick to the dog, my shoes thrown off the stairs, kids being screamed at and my telling them to go upstairs to avoid his wrath, I could go on and on. Then next week he is taking us to art museums, making nice dinners, helping with homework; Gaslighting 101. Sadly, I don't even think it's intentional. He blows, or critiques or whatever, then moves on. No matter what, you cannot win an argument with him -- your logic gets twisted into an unrecognizable, incoherent mess.

Most of the time he is fine. There are little irritants, but I am always the one to apologize first just to keep the peace. He is getting more and more closed in to the point I feel going out is not worth it. I feel he is getting jealous of my friendships, and yet when he married me he knew how sociable I was. So why take that away from me? I never know when I leave the kids with him what will happen. When they were tiny like many of yours, it was fine. But as they got older, more into things, pesky, questioning, I could come home to silent tense faces. I dreaded asking them privately what had happened. It wasn't EVERY time, or even half the time, but enough to break my heart when the kids said to me once, think they were about 13. "Mom this would never happen and only happens because you weren't here."

Counseling does not work with a narcissist. Trust me.

If it did, I would not be here writing this. Read the book "Why Does He Do That" today. It will open your eyes. These men never take responsibility for their actions. No matter what, it is something YOU did or are doing wrong. You could spend days trying to figure out what you did to set him off and you still won't understand it. Or worse yet, start seeing their side, or they gaslight you; that's a whole other topic. Not sure if that is happening to you but its scary when it does.  He used to apologize more for his behavior, even cry, but now, since I've tolerated it so long, less and less.  

I must tell you that I am ashamed of myself that I did not REMOVE MY CHILDREN WHILE THEY WERE STILL YOUNG from living and seeing such horrible behavior. Yes, the nice house, trips to Europe, seeing the finest art museums in the world (he is an art aficionado and Ivy league grad), he is a great conversationalist. I get all the bells and whistles of why you might marry such a person and stay. 

But I promise, promise, PROMISE you that if you stay with a Narc, someday you will look back, as I do now, and say why, why, why?

My kids will soon be fleeing the coup soon. Then guess what? I will be alone. Had I started this earlier, my life may have been richer, I'd have a different outlook maybe even a better relationship and marriage and someone normal to come home to; because I hesitated, and he pulled off some things that are not just beyond forgiveness. I am leaving in the midst of my children's most important year in high school when grades matter. How can I do such a thing and why did I put it off? And what home will they now come home to? Had I left LONG ago, they would known nothing but a calm home, yes a different home, but now the only home they have ever known will be going away.

Finances. We were extremely well off at one point. Well, between an array of his faults and his own "I am too good for this less than perfect new job" and temper have landed him older, unemployable and our credit down the tubes. We are living on fumes and the bills are piling up.  WHY oh WHY didn't I jump ship long ago, when there was still money in the bank, my youth, and my parents were still alive to HELP ME. 

PLEASE don't be like me. I, like so many of you, too was into every charity, running around, a lot of friends, etc. Now I am faced, 24 years later, with ruined credit, a husband who will probably make us go bankrupt, needing to figure out an exit plan as he will not take this well, two teenagers who FEAR their dad and are timid (do you really want timid kids who will also let others treat them the way they've seen you accept your husband's treatment? Believe me, you can shield them from it now but as they get older THEY SEE IT and start asking "Mom why do you put up with this?"), and complete upheaval that could have been mitigated (divorce no matter that is never easy) had I had the guts to move out earlier. 

If your personal finances are an issue, and there is any way you can get yourself back into the workforce (I know it’s hard to do with little ones at home. I was there too).  You might have more contacts than you think.  Volunteer spots can turn into jobs at non-profits. If going back to work is not an option, consider a temporary temp job or some for type of work from home, start a business, job opportunity (if that would work out) or just putting the word out that you might be looking. I bet the response you get will be heartening that yes, if you do need a job, it’s out there. Networking as we've all been told IS the number one way to get a new job. I hadn't worked full time in 20 years, I temped a few years ago at a good company just to "get out there" and then boom, a few years after the temp job ended, they called me back and offered me a full time job. As a woman in my fifties, I am making more than I ever did in my 20's. I got lucky, yes, but so can you. As I tell my kids, don't be a "job snob". Take whatever comes your way; it can lead to something better. If there is a course or two you can take to brush up on skills, even if it’s through your town's continuing, do it.   Just getting out of the house for a job and leaving the artificial universe of unhappiness at home for a while can do wonders for your psyche and give you a fresh perspective that yes, there IS life outside those four walls.

You are not STUCK, not at all. There is no glue on the bottom of your shoes.

You all have a good head on your shoulders, and if nothing else, a strong and robust and caring network here who will support you. Do not be afraid to reach out to the few most trusted allies either IRL or here, and seek a therapist for yourself, at the very least. Put on your oxygen mask first, as they say, before you can move forward for yourself and your kids.

Dear fellow “First Wives ladies”, if I am scaring you... that is good!! (I don't really mean that :>).  But please let me be your crystal ball, shake me (and yourself) and see what the future will hold. He will not get better, things WILL only get worse (even subtly so), finance could go either way, family may be alienated, there may or may be more assets to fight over, the drugging will get worse, and so will the abuse. The more you take, the more they will push that line in the sand. And worst of all, you will LOSE YOURSELF and one-day wake up feeling like a shadow of your former self, saying, "How did I lose myself..."

You owe it to your children to really think, "Would I want my daughter/son to be in a relationship like this?" because by modeling it for them, it is likely they will go down the same road that you have and find it acceptable, if not the norm. I will leave you with a line that keeps repeating in my head from Hamlet, "He (or she) who hesitates is lost..." and if you know the Shakespeare play, chaos and utter devastation ensued due to lack of action. I wish you well and peace and faith that if you decide to do the hardest thing you will ever have to do; that you know there are hundreds of us on this board to help you. Please consider my words and move with purpose and faith into this new year of 2017.  And feel free to PM me on these boards anytime. XO 

Originally posted by a member of our community. First Wives World is a community filled with women supporting women through the challenges of divorce. Register today and find inspiration, encouragement and strength.

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5 comments

  • Comment Link Summertime Tuesday, 07 February 2017 11:49 posted by Summertime

    I just read the comments below (had no idea that FWW had decided to highlight my blog like this) and here are my answers. To Finding that glitters.. yes that is ONE Huge reason that I failed to mention... I stayed because I knew that he would NEVER be deemed an unfit father and the kids would be forced to have every other weekend/weekdays unsupervised with him. I could not BEAR that thought.... so yes I know why you are staying for now. Now that my kids are later teens they can make the decision to come with me. THanks for reminding me (not that you meant to LOL) that one of the reasons I hung in was sadly for that reason.. though I am not sure it was the right reason since they've seen so much nonsense that otherwise they might not have. Sigh. But I get it.

    As for GK -- I am in the process of assembling all my papers, bills, car titles, insurance, etc. for my attorney. I have NOT filed yet as I am trying to get my will (hired an estate attorney), health care proxy, etc. lined up first. Have my PO box, and just sent a check for advise to my attorney (I am setting up a trust before I file) so yes I am in the throes of pre-planning oh and also looking at appts to rent so when I file I am out of here. So the answer is I have not yet paid my retainer (I am paying the attorney I will be working with an hourly fee for now) as I am putting other ducks in order -- but the important thing is I have picked my attorney (both for my divorce and my will) and also completing the finacial affaadavit part, budgets, etc. that he will need (my attorney) when I file. I plan on filing within the next 2 months. Also renting a storage unit under a friends name and stashing gift cards. PREPERATION as best you can is so important.. sounds like you are in a similar relationship. I wish you all well... write me anytime!!

  • Comment Link FindingallthatGlittersagain Wednesday, 01 February 2017 04:20 posted by FindingallthatGlittersagain

    Yes , thank you so much for writing this !! I feel like it was written from a wiser woman to myself personally. Just what I needed to hear . Now if only I will stop hesitating !!

    What really touched me and brought tears to my eyes was when you asked yourself the question , " why didn't I jump ship earlier when you had your youth and your parents were still alive to help you" !!!! Ugh ,that really hit home for me !! oh it makes my heart hurt !!!

    This is such an odd personal hell we all go through . The stories and accounts I really appreciate the most are the ones from older/wiser woman because I don't want to still be ruminating the very thoughts that torment me right now in my later 30's , still, when I'm 60+ and looking back and realizing all the time I wasted .
    My children are teenagers ( younger ones ) and they know exactly how their father works and we are all walking on eggshells and I wonder why I don't have the determination to make a home just for us where we can all breath and not worry about his unreasonableness .
    Something I feel isn't discussed very much ( and I may start a new thread on it ) is how every wise woman talk about the importance of leaving their abusive husbands for the sake of being a good example to the kids , but what I'm always worried about ( even with older children ) is who is there to buffer the children from their father if there is divorce ? They will have to have time alone with him . Which sounds ridiculous , but right now they aren't forced to be alone with him but if I divorce him they will have to have that time with him . Am I silly to be concerned over that ?

  • Comment Link Doobie Tuesday, 24 January 2017 22:56 posted by Doobie

    I left. Well after a 2 year plus divorce battle as he dragged it out forever....he didn't want a divorce. But after 17 years of an abusive marriage. And yes it is abuse if you are married to a narc. The threat of violence is always there even if its mainly verbal and psychological abuse. Abuse is abuse. I was ashamed for my daughters sake that I hadn't done it when she was younger. She and I are now happy in our own house. Peace and quiet. An oasis after years of walking on eggshells. It was very very hard to make the break but its worth it. However many years I have on this planet I don't have to spend them living life as I used to and neither does my daughter.

  • Comment Link IMarriedAJerk Friday, 20 January 2017 21:12 posted by IMarriedAJerk

    I second that.

  • Comment Link gk Friday, 20 January 2017 00:32 posted by gk

    SO I am trying to understand-have you left or not?
    Thank you for this article. I am in my 50's and married for 20 years. Just wondering how YOU KNEW what I am going through. I have stayed. Do you think that narcissism cycles ? From what you described it really sounds like my husband. May I ask what and to what extent is the drug use? How have you decided that the bad outweighs the good? It sounds like there was more good than bad in your relationship (and I am saying this as this is where I am stuck in my own marriage) so how in your mind did you justify your decision? Thanks for writing your story. It is like a gift to us.