How Do I Deal with a Narcissistic Ex?

In some cases, a narcissist can be a very charming friend or partner, and the victim may have developed a codependent relationship that can take some time to recover from.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 December 2014
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A narcissistic ex often insists on remaining in the life of a former spouse or lover, and can therefore continue to present problems for some time after a relationship ends. If in the process of ending a marriage with a narcissistic person, it is considered of the utmost importance to take full advantage of the legal system to help end the relationship safely. People who have children with a narcissistic ex can learn coping skills to help them interact with the narcissist calmly, while maintaining personal boundaries. People with narcissism usually care only about themselves, and can be unreasonable, selfish, emotionally volatile, and manipulative, yet they're often incapable of recognizing their own behavior as flawed. Thus, it's generally important to avoid engaging emotionally with the ex, to constantly reinforce strong personal boundaries, and to flatter the narcissist where necessary.

It is considered common for narcissists to launch personal attacks against their victims. When dealing with a narcissist, ex or not, refusing to respond to personal attacks can help defuse the situation. Many narcissists do not seem to understand why their victims respond to personal attacks and abuse with feelings of anger, pain, or betrayal. Responding with equally strong emotions of one's own can have the undesirable effect of making the narcissist feel validated and encouraged in his behavior. Experts generally recommend responding to the narcissistic ex's volatile emotions with detachment and calm, perhaps using a statement such as "You're obviously very angry."

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Many narcissists will respond well to a statement that seems flattering, since they generally think of themselves as beyond reproach. Rather than engaging with the narcissist emotionally, try using flattery to gently suggest a change in behavior. Statements that contain flattery, such as, "You're so generous, I know you don't mind sharing the cost of Billy's school clothes," can help to make the narcissist feel validated and secure, thereby minimizing emotional volatility and improving the chances of cooperation.

Even if maintaining an air of calm in the face of narcissistic abuse doesn't stop the behavior, many experts believe that it can stop the behavior from escalating. Many people with narcissism fail to recognize or respect the basic needs of others. A narcissistic ex may be very willing to disregard personal boundaries, since he will generally believe his own needs, desires, and feelings are far more important than anyone else's. For this reason, dealing with a narcissist often means stating and re-stating boundaries repeatedly.

You should generally expect to have to reiterate your personal boundaries to a narcissistic ex at each new meeting. Most experts will advise identifying a set of consequences that will occur if the narcissist crosses a personal boundary, and sticking to these consequences. While it probably won't change the narcissist's behavior, it can at least offer psychological protection against it.

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anon941062
Post 5

It’s been almost two years since I left my Narcissistic/Borderline Personality Disorder relationship. One of the most painful parts was having to physically leave the place that I loved -- my home -- because I knew after many years that if I stayed physically in the same place as him I would always be manipulated back into the same crap. I’m reading and writing because, even though I am in a healthy relationship with a wonderful, kind person now, I still feel haunted and often have dreams that make me relive the pain over and over again.

I have been perplexed because it’s been so long. I should be over it, right? Well, I’m not and I feel guilty and weak that I’m not over it. Right after I left this man, he swooped up one of my good friends and she was moved in with him within a month of me leaving. I thought that she was one of my best friends. I just have to remind myself that I also fell victim to his manipulation so many times. I thought it was my fault that I wasn’t good enough and that perhaps she is but I know now, from lots of therapy, that there is no good match for a narcissist! She is now in the same pain I was and although my hurt and anger are still here, ultimately I feel pity on her.

I just wanted to thank all of you who have commented and to those who wrote the article. Especially all the parts about, sleep, reactive depression, nightmares, etc. I thought I was crazy and totally lame that I still carry the pain around and dream of him and her so often still. All of this has helped me feel okay about where I’m at and helped me to see how damaging these people and relationships can really be. I don’t have to feel so crazy and weak anymore about still reeling from this experience.

Research the characteristics of “real” Narcissistic/Borderline/Anti-social Personality Disorder! It’s not just someone who thinks they’re pretty awesome and likes to look at themselves in the mirror. It’s so much more.

Our society’s casual idea of what narcissism is, is not the reality! They will manipulate you every time you try to leave. You feel like you can’t go on without them because they have groomed you to feel that way. That’s not real, even though you feel physically ill and overly fearful at the thought of leaving. I promise that it will never end! It is impossible for them to change because the type of disorder they have does not allow them to look at themselves the way that we can and they never will be able to.

So ultimately, please hear my advice. I do realize that kids and marriage make this even more complex and difficult.

Buy yourself a plane ticket to somewhere safe and as far away as possible like your life depends on it, because it does! Even if it means leaving everything you love and where you want to be. Stop believing that you’re not beautiful enough, strong enough, smart enough, skinny enough, etc. It’s a lie! They need you to feel that way so they can keep you there to keep supplying them with what their disorder needs to survive.

Remember, they are not well -- they are mentally ill. You cannot expect “normal” behavior from them, so stop trying!

Love yourself and don’t look back. Lots of love and kind regards to all of you.

ysmina
Post 4

@ZipLine-- But a narcissist doesn't always seek positive response. Sometimes they are just as happy fighting with someone. So they might not give up easily, they might pursue an ex for a long time.

ZipLine
Post 3

I have a narcissistic ex, it has been four years since our divorce. During this time, I have done my best to avoid confrontations or any kind of communication but she is still trying to get in touch with me! It's unbelievable how persistent and stubborn a narcissist can be. It's so destructive for other people's psychology. All I can say is I'm glad I got out of that relationship quickly.

I think avoidance is the best way to deal with a narcissist. I think eventually, they will move on to something else because a narcissist is selfish. He or she needs constant care and attention to survive. Being ignored is the worst thing that can happen to them.

fBoyle
Post 2

Some people who are suffering from narcissistic personality disorder can become very aggressive when they don't get what they want. My sister was married to a narcissist and her husband became very aggressive during and after the divorce. We had to get a court order to protect her.

No one wants to ask authorities for help when dealing with an ex, especially when there are children. But unfortunately, this disorder can cause people to harm others. If anyone is in this situation, please don't hesitate to ask the police for help if you feel that you are in danger. If your ex is threatening you via email or text messages, don't erase them and keep them as evidence to present to the police and the court if necessary.

Telsyst
Post 1

Once you've had and ended a relationship with a narcissist, it is difficult to find the patience to use that narcissism as a tool for cooperation.

That being said, especially where the needs of children are involved, playing on someone's narcissistic tendencies to get what you want could help avoid confrontation and lack of action that leaves everyone involved angry and disappointed.

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