Surviving A Relationship With A Narcissist…..and after

narcissistic ex

A question yesterday made me think about this topic, so I decided to address it here.

“He’s always in my thoughts. I can’t stop thinking about him. I can’t go on like this.”  “He is still abusive. I need help. I’m losing my mind.” These are the types of things people tell me even after they have left or decided to leave a toxic relationship. Narcissists leave chaos wherever they go:  panic, anxiety attacks, fear, a sense of dread or helplessness are the gifts they give.  Not many understand what you have been through and it can be lonely journey.

Maybe he or she really is physically gone.  But you are left with the remains of a shattered life or someone who won’t stop stalking you emotionally. He – or she – continues to call, email and remind you how useless and no good you are.  And you think about this constantly – over and over your mind is filled with thoughts of what  has been done to you. This is rumination. Think of the thoughts as planes circling an airport then remember this: “It’s time to land those planes.”


Your narcissist will not change but you can.  It may take a while but he does not have to take up space in your head.

Imagine you have teflon clothes. Put them on and let the abuse bounce off you. Grab  the pain before it strikes: “Oh, here comes lies and accusations from him. I can handle it if I can see it and boy, do I see it.”  This is not something you say to the one bothering you; this is something you say to yourself. This is self talk for self preservation. Choose your words carefully.Self talk is your way out of the chaos and hurt. You’ve been through trauma and you need to do what you need to do to heal. Label the abuse – it defuses its strength. But remember: don’t engage in a fight even as you get stronger. This will set things back.

This is a quote from Linda Martinez-Lewis Ph.D. -“Narcissists become particularly shameless during a divorce. They accuse the other spouse of neglecting the children when the reverse is true. They hide their assets long before the formal divorce proceedings begin. They lie about their net worth so they don’t have to part with alimony or child support. Some narcissists, both male and female, abandon their families all together and start new lives with more attractive, adoring and compliant partners. Leaving the previous spouse and children in a state of financial and psychological chaos is of no consequence to them. Many narcissists repeat these egregious patterns of behavior throughout their lives without shame or regret.”

Many, many of you have been through this and are hurting. Some of you are hurt in other ways.


That’s the title of an ebook that just dives right in to the narcissist’s world and then shows you how to get out and explaining such things as:

  1. Why any argument with him always leads to him being the ‘damaged party ‘ and you feeling beaten without ever having even opened your mouth
  2. Why, even after you have left him, you still hurt instead of feeling good
  3. Why he hates everything you like – from your music preference to your friends and pets
  4. Why he disagrees with any of your choices, opinions, or beliefs
  5. How he truly feels about you, and why it matters to you so muchI can’t recommend this enough if the number of recent emails from people asking for specific strategies is any indication of the amount of need out there.

If you need to get out of misery, to thrive and survive, I strongly recommend you take a look at Surviving A Relationship With A Narcissist

Ann Bradley


  1. I was in a relationship with a man for 9 years. We were never married. I have been going to therapy since August of 2009, the same therapist his ex-wife of 15 years went to.

    He never physically touched me, I was verbally abused for 8 1/2 of those years. He treats his mother the same way he treats me verbally. My abuse was from passion and emotion, his mothers abuse is from a financial stand point.

    I dont have to tell you the words he screamed in my face because you already know them. My health is now recovering from this abuse. For a year now, he wont speak to me, but reappears about every 2 months or so and drives me to point of a breakdown. He does spiteful things for several weeks and then is gone again. In the past 2 years, his friends have come to realize all the bad things he said about me were not true, they are seeing the real person, day by day.

    There is a part of me that still loves him, but that is the part I am working on, I think that is just because he made me believe he was the only man who could tolerate me. It will hurt the first time I see him with someone, but I know she will go through the same exact thing I have went through. He has went out with 2 different women I know of, from his hometown, but it was only one time each. I have suffered from the rejection of these 2 women. I know one day, I wont think about it anymore, and I know I will love again, I just dont know how far I can trust them. I feel like a part of me will be scarred for life.

    • You will be fine. You are come so far and now you need to realize how far that is. . As to being scarred – remember this: scars show us where we’ve been, they are not roadmaps of the future. Thanks so much for sharing with us. Best, Ann

  2. What is left of my heart goes out to you! I am a male who was married to a narcissistic wife for 10 years. The things I read here could be about a couple of women I have been with, including my ex wife. I recovered from that marriage only to end up with a borderline female with Strong narcissistic tendencies. Fortunately, I recognized what was going on and got out after a few months, but not before unwittingly incurring some damage.

    I feel drained; as if my heart has been wrung out like a sponge, and like a chump/fool for having been duped. I read a lot about narcissistic abuse and female survivors, but little about male victims of female narcissists. I, personally, found the experiences to be very embarrassing, shaming, and emasculating: my ex wife was an angry bullying narcissist who raged a lot; the next was a waif, and played on my sympathies big time. I am man enough to look at what I contributed to the situations, and my own history, but it would be nice to see more from a male “victim” perspective. Especially recovery, as I believe that the sense of shame and ridicule may be greater in men. I know it can be mitigated by empathy, sharing, and support but I cannot find much in the way of male oriented stuff. Any recommendations for internet based supports as I write from Canada? Thanks! Best of luck. It is a tough journey..my hat is off to anyone who survived and is trying to disengage and recover.

    • Hi, Thanks for writing. I have turned my newsletter over to men over the years and let them write their stories. If you sign up for the newsletter on the site I will send out one from the past sometime this month. Let me offer the same to you – if you would like to tell your story, do so! I can keep it anon if you want and it will get to thousands on the list.

      You are right – many of us write more about female victims because that’s who speaks up and probably also there are more controlling and abusive men than women and call them narcissistic or sociopath or jerk, they exist. The women who are controlling and narcissistic are just as bad but they are less in number for the most part. Females tend to be called neurotic or other words, and men, narcissistic. Trust me, I know you are not alone and suffer much.

      Happy to run your story in the newsletter. You write well and it would be welcomed. Best, Ann

      • Thank You! I found your comments to be affirming and encouraging. Affirmation is a necessary antidote to narcissistic abuse. It was as rare as water in the desert in the relationships to which I referred in my prior post, and I thirsted for it equally. I will sign up and share. My journey is not over… I have endured a brutalizing separation from a narcissist and am in the divorce phase now. It feels like the equivalent of the stores i have heard about fighting on Iwo Jima or Fallujah… Bitter and incredibly tough with no ground yielded without a heavy cost. I made mistakes by not knowing enough about narcissism until too late to take the initiative but what I read on this site, especially the emphasis on careful planning, is most helpful and squares with my experience. Being in a reactive mode with a narcissistic opponent is not fun and i am very grateful for the knowledge I can gain here. I look forward to reading more and updating you on my fight. It is for the health and welfare of my five year old son more than anything else… And my own. Thanks again.

    • William it will take time to heal. Allow yourself all the time to heal. I d like to ask has this bad experiences with your narc exs made u feel even more lonelier than ever ? I too had same experiences. From a narc father to my narc in laws to my second narc ex too. It just doesn’t end. I went out on few dates (2 so far ) and I immediately saw red flags that showed narc traits. I was so disappointed . I have kept darting on hold for now. I just want to feel happiness within me and make the most of my life as single woman. And when the time is right I will meet that man and we shall click

  3. I have just left my borderline husband (with narcissistic and paranoid tendencies) after he repeatedly refused treatment. I stayed long enough to give him a chance to follow through with promises of getting help. I know the journey ahead will be rough but find hope in knowing my life is returning to a healthier and saner way. Thank you for these articles of hope and not being alone.

    • Congratulations on the first step to a healthier and happier life. The journey may not be as bad as you think and may even be easier. You will be happier and that counts for a lot. Take good care, Ann

  4. I’ve just realized in the past week that my husband is a narcissist. There is such relief knowing it wasn’t me. Fortunately, I am very strong minded (stubborn lol) and never acceded to his “reality” of me or of life. And thankfully, because of my own issues, I was never truly in love with him therefore leaving is not causing me any great sadness.
    I am however, devastated at the thought of how this has, and will, affect my 5 year old son. I’m looking for any resources that will help me plan my getaway and how to handle the child issue. I cant fathom leaving him in the narcissists custody without my protection. I’ve felt uncomfortable with some physicality between them and the narcissist told me he was sexually abused (if its true) which increases the odds that he may abuse. I’m not paranoid or looking to falsely accuse for custody gain. I would never put my child through that, but I need to know what to look for. If this is a concern with the narcissistic personality.
    These are my concerns…Please point me in the direction to educate and prepare myself on how to best extract myself and my child from this situation. PLEASE HELP! 🙁

  5. What is so ironic to me is that I did not even know what a narcissist was until my late 20’s and I had at this point been with one since I was 18 years old. He was a troubled soul who I thought needed my help. He was in and out of jail and dabbled in alcohol and drugs for years. I saw a little boy needing love and affection because he felt abandoned by an abusive father and a mother whom always felt sorry for herself. During our relationship I was beaten, put in the trunk of a car, bleach poured on my face and countless abusive situations. The mental abuse was the worst. I was told I was fat and unattractive. This man attacked me every way possible. After he went to prison for many years for beating someone almost to death I felt a relief as though the torture was over but I found out that I needed therapy of my own. Instead of seeking help I abused alcohol and ended up in trouble myself. This is when I stupidly reached out to my abuser because at this point I felt that he was the only one who understood me. We kept in contact for 6 1/2 years while he did his time. I was there for him when his own family did nothing to support him in prison. When he got out I was expecting this fantasy of a man he painted in my head. He was the exact opposite. He was able to get a job as a personal trainer at a gym where he was well loved. He didn’t need me anymore and told everyone I was some crazy girl who stalked him. He cheated, lied and then drove me so crazy I thought about suicide. I also ended up pregnant. We now have a son who I am constantly in court fighting this man for. He is using the legal system to financially and mentally drain me. I thankfully kept my faith but ask God everyday why was this man sent to torture me? I just started studying this personality disorder and think that young women and men should be educated early on because these type of people look for young, naive people for prey on.

  6. Your quote was a precise description of my divorce. Thank you for the liberation .

  7. I have been with my partner 20 years.

    6 years ago I found out he was having an affair and it traumatized me.

    He wore the relationship down to make it appear like it was my fault and when I produced proof of his affair he confessed undying love for me and begged me to marry him. Subsequently I did 3 years ago forgiving him and thinking we can put it behind us and start a fresh marriage. We have a 14 year old daughter who has witnessed his violence towards me many a time over the years. He’s always been clever in the respect of punching me say in the head where bruises cannot be seen.

    As soon as the unromantic wedding was over he made advances towards my friends who rejected his advances but I found out he had been doing this before our wedding and I was devastated to think they hadn’t told me as so refused to have anything to do with them to effectively build a defensive wall to stop feeling the hurt. We made new friends and now I believe he has managed to see one of them behind my back. I await some proof and live in the misery of noticing obvious things that go on. I confront him and he gets angry and says I need counselling because I’m mental. It gets worse as he manages to manipulate friends into thinking I have issues and gives off this innocent persona only to make them feel sorry for him. He is a master in manipulation. I am starting to feel hate for him but still remain dependent for his love which I think is fake.? He’s so vain, always checking himself around other women and staring or slyly flirting . When I confront him for say looking up a girls skirt his anger beats me down verbally. I can never get to the bottom of things with him he never seems to recognise he’s ever culprable for anything. He’s charismatic and draws people in. They have no idea what they are dealing with but he always seems to win on all scores.

    • Please begin a form of silent treatment. Be non-reactive and stop trying to change what you cannot. It will drive him a little bit crazy to see you ignoring him. But you have to change the patterns currently going on so you can think about your future and especially about your daughter. Think of the message you are giving her by putting up with abuse, both physical and emotional. Take time and make plans – quietly. Don’t discuss them with anyone. Keep them to yourself and do what you have to in order to feel stronger. Get help if you need it, read books, find what others have done. Don’t worry about his impact on others, worry about yourself and take care of you. Best, Ann

  8. Thankyou ann. I shall try this approach but not be able to vent your frustration is hard sometimes and he then thinks that I have come to my senses! I understand he has an illness really but the real hurt comes from knowing he always manages to draw in friends to believe him.

    • Pretend you have a teflon wardrobe. Put it on any time he is verbally abusive. Let it bounce off. Sounds silly but visualizing things like that can work to get you through tough spots. As for what he thinks – let him think whatever – you are then in a position of more power because you know you’ve manipulated him and he hasn’t a clue. Reframe everything to your advantage. Doing so helps to rewire your brain, send out neurohormones that calm you and then you can make plans and think without letting your emotions be the driver. Pretend you are riding an elephant. If you let the elephant (emotions) take charge, you are in for a wild ride. You get in control, then use the strength of the elephant when you need it. You can do this! Best, Ann

  9. I am currently two weeks no contact from my narcissistic ex. I always thought I was a strong woman but have been brought to pieces. His constant deflection, projection, and gaslighting have taken its toll. He not only left me with tremendous emotional scars but a drug addiction to boot.. was just another way to control me..

    • Good luck going forward and congrats on the decision for no contact. The strong woman is still there – she’s the one who needs some rest and took the no contact path. Honor her! Admire her. She is your best ally and will be there for you again and again. Best, Ann

  10. My narcisst took advantage of me at 18 years old. I had a sister with a horrific medical problem and I allowed it because I thought he would love me and save me. He is now a famous producer in sports television and everytime I see his name in lights I want to throw up. He took away my virginity and trust in people and I can never get those things back. He wound up in Connecticut married to a woman half his age and has all the material success. I hope in therapy I will recover from this. My dad was narcisstic regarding affection and was a rageaholic so there was name calling. I want desperately to break my pattern of low self worth.

  11. I believe my husband is a narcissistic abuser. I have been with him for over 20 years. He is crude and verbally abusive every single day. The children and I are either cleaning to avoid his wrath or pretending to sleep so we don’t have to interact with him. When he needs help with a bill, a favour, etc. he is normal and non-confrontational. Any other time he is literally looking for reasons to tell me I am a bad mother, an awful excuse for a wife, and a lazy fat ass. I clean 3-5 hours a day…I am raising our four children alone and I had put my entire education and career on hold while he was following his career dreams. He sees no value in what I have done or do and doesn’t stop berating me til he sees me breakdown. He puts me down in front of the kids and then goes full force when we are in the car without them. How can I shake off all the verbal abuse. It feels so heavy and it is paralysing. I want to move forward…to get away….what can I do mentally in the meantime???

    • So sorry for what you are going through. Check out Patricia Evans site dedicated to verbal abuse:


      I suggest you are in the mode of learned helplessness feeling that anything you do will be useless. This is not true. I found a book by Marty Seligman PhD to be invaluable for this. It is Learned Optimism.Marty was the same professor at Penn that did learned helplessness research years ago, the found out that if you take charge of just one thing in your life and make it happen the way you want, you can learn to overcome the learned helplessness.

      You are none of the things he accuses you of but that doesn’t matter and can be quite debilitating. Please take a look at the 2 resources I mentioned – they are a window into your world and how to escape. Best, Ann

  12. I finally got he guts to leave my husband after his second affair (that i know of). We were married for 11 years and have a son together. I never realized he was a narcissist, only after a close friend of mine pointed it out to me. This already was risky as my ex forbid me to ever discuss our marriage with anyone. I started doing research on it and i could literally tick every box. He fooled me and even everyone we knew. He was very charming in the beginning and throughout the years isolated me more and more from my friends and family. I use to be outgoing and loved socializing and i was the one with the “career”. After I had my son he didn’t want me working a corporate job anymore and i was never allowed to go out anymore. If he, for example worked on a Saturday i had to be home when he got there, house cleaned and food ready, or God forbid, he wouldn’t stop insulting me for weeks. Luckily there was never any physical abuse, only emotional, which i sometimes think leaves scars for longer. i use to be a strong independent woman and ended up doubting myself, who i was and blaming myself for all our problems. Even if he had a bad month at work it would be my fault. If someone at work upset him i got the worst end of it.Even when i filed for divorce after his second affair he had the cheek to tell me that i made him cheat. He even said to me if anyone asks why we broke up i’d better tell them it was a mutual decision. Afterwards i had to find out that he was telling people that i wasn’t a good wife to him and didn’t love him so we broke up. And in fact everyone looked at us as the “perfect couple”. And sorry to say for some of you that might be wondering, we even had intercourse 3-4 times a week as he demanded, so no, he didn’t cheat because of some unfulfilled sexual desires. He cheated because he wanted to and because people like him are incapable of love. They pretended very well yes, but it’s all an act. They want it all and the more people’s life energy they can suck out and the more they can manipulate you, the happier they are. Even when our marriage counselors told me that he was manipulating me i could’t believe it at first. How can someone that supposedly loves you lie to you and betray you.
    It was only after finding websites like these that i realized that he has a mental disease, that it was never me, that no matter what i did or how hard i worked, he would always find fault. Almost like trying to please a perfectionist with OCD.
    It took a very traumatic experience for me to finally leave him, so for those of you still stuck in the same situation, i really hope you get out in time!!

  13. I too suffered at the hands of a narcassist for 5 very long years. This is a very recent breakup and one I am determined to stick with. It was 5 long years of cheating by him always to make himself feel better. He has destroyed several women’s lives including mine. I watched it all. We would fight and he would leave me for a younger girl but always messaging me telling me he loved and missed me always convincing me. Breaking their hearts – even getting one pregnant after a month and left her back to me. He gets so drunk and is so mean to me. Then says it’s all me and even said his family will agree they were sober. It’s a horrible feeling almost makes you think you’re crazy. I’m breaking free of this somehow someway. Thanks for sharing all your stories I’d tell you all mine but it would take forever. I was with a monster but I will be free.

  14. Thank you all for sharing your stories. I’m going through a divorce with a narcissist, I’ve been fortunate enough to have found someone who accepts me for the broken but awesome person I know I can be. What hurts me most is somehow my children have ended up with him “full time” and I’m now the “weekend parent” . It kills me every day but, I know I’m working towards the BETTER of the rest of our lives. My kids may not realize how well I was able to disguise the horrible and traumatic things I’ve endured with their father and not understand why I’m not at home every day but, I’m working towards a better me, for them and he may get satisfaction for how our situation is now but, I know in the end my kids will see him for what he really is and how much I shaped THEIR LIVES without them knowing he was a liar, manipulator, serial cheater, narassist, and abuser. However, I remember and want the quality of life I know I’ve deserve before I met this toxic person. I can’t wait for all of us to be together again and unfortunately, I know – he’ll surely find another “victim” and I can finally be rid of this.

  15. I didn’t know these types existed until I met the now ex. It was a roller coaster with now years of recovery behind me.
    I happen to be around one again. At least I get what it is now and know it’s not me or how crazy making things can get. She runs the group I have been going to. 2 hrs of incessant talking. There are enough there who will pat her on back to fuel /flatter.. her all about me discussion group. It is nauseating. She also talks oftentimes about ones who are mentally ill as if she is totally immune from it. She has to be one of the most mentally ill ones along with the other narcissists I have met (not that many but enough).. Me Me Me.
    What blows my mind as well is the manipulation that is blatant and cold. I just read the tone of voice, yes.. it is a constant draw to themselves.
    ugh. The worst of it is that love and are good at keeping this arrogant self me me me under wraps. When they have a captive audience they work the group and will make someone look the fool. Unfortunately in that group it’s me.
    I learned the inside ways of how they operate. They can be deadly to a person’s psyche and ruin them from what I can tell, up close and personal seems to be one of their goals.
    She has no clue she is mentally ill.. Neither did my ex.
    best keep a lot of distance, friendly but not too close.. that’s my take on it.

    • Thanks for sharing this with us and it’s great you can recognize her for what she is. At least then this one narcissist has less power. Best, Ann

  16. Wanted to offer something helpful, which has helped me greatly. Maybe it can be of help to anyone here. EMDR is a technique that trained therapists use. It’s good to do some research (there are books out there on EMDR, and what questions to ask therapists when “interviewing” them) to find an expert therapist with loads of positive experience and sound training with EMDR. It was very helpful for me. I really researched and interviewed therapists to find the right person. I only had 10 EMDR sessions, and saw my life improve drastically. Also, this can be found at Whole Foods and other natural-type stores: Bach Flower Remedies. There are books on Bach Flower Remedies and practitioners who are expert in it. One in particular, helps with trauma and PTSD: Star of Bethlehem. A very powerful flower remedy (these are somewhat similar to homeopathic medicine, but not exactly), and work to help dissipate emotional issues on a more metaphysical-type “energy” level…hard to explain, but it helps to read and research it to understand it better. People trained in Bach Flower Remedies or other well-known flower essence/remedies can also mix blends which address your particular needs. Hope these are helpful for anyone on this page. 🙂 Wishing all of you speed on your journey, and a long life experiencing only happiness, joy and peace.

    • Thank you very much for adding these suggestions. It is so true that various modalities exist which can calm and relax people and allow their coping mechanisms to arise and peace to enter. Post traumatic growth is real and can be obtained and what you suggest are pathways that help open the window to allow it. EFT (emotional freedom technique) is another – designed by an engineer at Stanford and his original guide of instructions is free online. It has been used successfully in VA hospitals for traumatized veterans – there are youtube videos showing it in use. So easy to do – and you can train yourself. Thank you again for bringing up these suggestions. They are excellent and so appreciated. Best, Ann

  17. EMDR is an incredible treatment for the aftermath of a trauma as all of you speak about. My friend has found it to be very effective for his PTSD and a recent breakup from a female narcissist. It was ugly.

    • Thanks for sharing that. Many have indeed reported being helped by EMDR. Tapping is also helpful for PTSD and is being used in VA hospitals for traumatized vets. There ar youtube videos on both modalities. Thx again, Ann

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