Breaking up with a narcissist

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-06-2014
Breaking up with a narcissist
Mon, 01-06-2014 - 4:45pm

I met my husband 8 years ago in my late 20s. After our first meeting, I thought he was the most arrogant person I'd ever met, and didn't speak to him again for months.  After avoiding him for about 6 months, I gave him another chance after running into him, and he seemed totally different. He was smart, funny, charming, handsome, and even warm.  His good qualities were so numbered that whenever he slipped into arrogance/narcissism every so often, i'd just let it go because it seemed like such a minor thing.

Cut to 8 years later, and I still love him, but we've been arguing for 8 years about his obsessive need to be worshipped by women other than me, his constant ogling, his harem of female friends (all of whom he has had fleeting hookups with), his constant grouchiness, condescension, and dismissiveness of me and my needs. He has hit me several times and almost hit me many more times. Less so in the first 7 years, multiple times in 2013.  It's been mostly hell, but with intervals of domestic bliss and lavish romantic vacations that made me feel like maybe it could work.  During this time, my life as I knew it fell apart. Where I was always ambitious and accomplished, "the most likely to succeed," I suddenly started failing exams and couldn't hold down a job. To make up for these failures, I tried being the perfect wife, and learned to cook well, clean like a maid, etc. This seemed to only make him angrier because I "wasn't doing what he actually wanted me to."  So I stopped with the cooking, and now I clean for my own needs only. 

I have been filled with emotional turmoil for years-one minute things are great, the next they're not.  During this time I had several family members and old friends die. I was unemployed for long periods, I also developed health issues that affected my fertility and sex drive.  Years ago, I had an operation to help with fertility. It was extensive and painful.  His behavior while I recovered made me pretty miserable. The doctor recommended that we have children within the next few years. During that time, he was so immature, we fought constantly, he flirted with my friends, and even invited one to a 3-way while I sat there livid next to him. When I complained about that one, he slammed me against a wall. I should have left him then...but things would always get better at just the right time, and give me hope. he would apologize, he would go see a shrink for anger management--anything to keep me hanging on.

In 2013, I learned from another doctor that my last surgery was now useless since I waited and didn't have kids back then, and in my mid-30s now needed another surgery if I ever hoped to get pregnant.  When I learned this I told him I wanted a divorce and to move on with my life. I was so scarred by his treatment of me after my last operation that i couldn't fathom going through it again.  He pleaded, and swore that he would change and things would get better. I demanded that we go to counseling as a couple and individually.  We had tried that in the past and it hadn't worked well, but I couldn't think of any other option besides leaving, and at least this way I could maybe have kids. Well this was the worst year yet.  He encouraged me to quit my job to look after my health, and from day 1 of not having a job guilted me about the huge burden he was taking on, and how i was so lucky that i didn't have to work. In the months after that, he kept bringing it up and throwing it in my face, flipping out randomly and yelling "get a fucking job" and cursing my uterus and what a selfish ungrateful person I was.  He has punched in walls, pictures, doors, menaced me countless times (he's a foot taller than me).  In the month leading up to surgery, our therapist kept trying to get us to calm down so that i could at least have peace before surgery. It wasn't meant to be.  In the week before, he threatened to hit me no less than 3 times. Our therapist heard everything, and kept trying to make peace.

He was an angel while I recuperated, because my parents were there. Then after they left, his grouchy side came out again immediately. On new year's eve, he threw a drink at me in public because I dared to question why he was staring at the breasts of a girl who looked like she was 16 or 17. In response to all this, our marriage counselor recommended that I either go on cymbalta or divorce him. My husband immediately threw this in my face as proof that I'm the problem, because our counselor thinks I need meds. Anyone would need meds after 8 years of being with him, I think. The prior two counselors we went to specifically focused on him and ways he could change. But this one...

So I've decided to leave him. And it kills me, because like an idiot, I still love him. When he's on, things are so great. He's my best friend. Except he's hardly ever on these days. Since I told him I'm seeking a divorce, at first he was wildly angry, and since I didn't react he's been much nicer.  I can't help but feeling that Mr. Hyde will come out again once we start dividing assets.  I started writing this so I could solicit opinions on whether or not I should go through with leaving.  Now that I've written it out and reread it, and realized that I left out half of the details of bad situations with him, I know that I have to leave. If someone else wrote this, I would think they were a moron for not leaving years ago. Abuse really can happen to anyone, I've realized. Even if you're smart and tough, love can make you do stupid things.  Only one of my friends knows all of the details, because I'm too ashamed of how stupid I've been.  I'm sad about the whole thing. Sad that I was stupid enough to fall for his act in the beginning, sad that once I realized who he was, i couldn't walk away and kept hoping for change, sad that this is the most effort that I've ever put into a relationship and it failed, sad that I moved away from family and friends to be with him, and that I'm stuck on my own in a strange city, and sad that where the other 2 therapists could see through his act, this last one thinks that I should pop some pills like a 1950s housewife so I can deal with him.  Last night, I looked at emails from a fight we had 8 years ago, and it's exactly like our recent one. I guess people can't really change.

Does anyone else have experience with a narcissist? I feel like I have PTSD.

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Mon, 01-06-2014 - 5:04pm

He may be a narcissist, but you are a masochist.  Counselors have told you repeatedly what to do, and you ignore them.  You keep looking for new counselors, shopping for a different answer, but NOTHING else changes.  What's that old saying about the definition of insanity; "Doing the SAME thing over and over, looking for a different result."

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Mon, 01-06-2014 - 7:10pm

Dear confused, you DO have PTSD.  I have been in your shoes.  

You are doing the right thing.  Get out of there immediately.  Do what ever it takes.  Normally on a divorce type of board it is often suggested you stay in house, but in your case you need to get out of there.  

You also need to make sure you are safe during the divorce.  You may not need to hide out (or maybe you do), but be smart!!  Go your local womens shelter office and ask about joining one their support groups.  Because honey, I get it.  You have described perfectly the cycle of violence.  

You need to get some help from people who understand the cycle.  When I went to group there was often women there still living with their abuser.  People there understand how hard it is to leave.  It is like telling an alcoholic "just don't drink."  You are not done until you are done.

Hang in there and be safe!  If you have already moved, don't let him have a key, keep your doors locked, and do not, and I mean do not let him in your place if you are alone.  

I left my first DH when I was 22 with a 4 year old, a one year old, and a laundry basket of what ever clean clothes happen to be in.  I left saying "I went to go get milk."

You can do it.  Send me private message, if you wish.  


iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Mon, 01-06-2014 - 7:49pm

You probably do have PTSD.  I have 2 friends who were married to narcississts for a long time and both of them have PTSD and have to go to counselors.  In a way it's a blessing that you didn't have kids with him because after you are divorced, you will never have to have contact with him again.  Oh, one of the friends has 3 teenage kids with the STBX--NONE of the kids wants anything to do with their father and all of them are having psych treatment.  The other woman has 2 older kids with the ex--he isn't outwardly mean to them and they try to have a relationship with him but they soon realized that everything is about him--he moved out of the country with a new wife and doesn't care about seeing the kids.

You really should Google NPD because I know there are websites out there about being married to a narcissist.  The thing is that they are so good at what they do that they convince you that you are the problem and if only you would do X,Y and Z that things would be fine--but then if you did those things, they still wouldn't be satisfied and then they would find something else to complain about.  My boss is pretty much a narcissist and just one minor example--he doesn't listen to my opinion even though I have actually more experience than he does--because he is always right, of course--but then when I get sick of arguing, then he complains that I don't give feedback.  So you see, you can never win--and he will never change.  Since narcissists think they are always right, what is their incentive to change?  You just need to get out ASAP and cut your losses---and get a good lawyer because he will definitely fight you.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2008
Mon, 01-06-2014 - 8:04pm

I agree with the others.. I know what this is as i was also married and now divorced from a narcissist.. I left after 8 years because I was treated like you were..  I wont go into details because I would be repeating what you said... I did read a few books on the subject to educate myself how to play the game and play the game I did for my divorce...

Stay in counseling or find a counselor who specializes in domestic violence and narcissim.. Go directly to a womens dv shelter and ask what your options are? You def. must leave and move on because they dont change.. Mine didnt change but after many years of being divorced my life just go so much better....

So put a plan into place.. Be proactive in finding your way out of that marriage..but yes be careful and do not tell hubby where or what you are doing... The womens shelters are experts in these things and will inform you as what to do.. You might want to get a prepaid cell phone and go over a check list on what to do when you leave..

Good Luck

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-06-2014
Tue, 01-07-2014 - 1:38am

Thanks all. I am working on a plan, and seeing an attorney again tomorrow. Do you have any tips on how to get past the anger? I'm so angry with him for wasting my time and manipulating me so well all of these years. I'm also angry that he lead me on until the last minute of fertility. My doctor's words after my last surgery were to hurry and get pregnant by June or I can pretty much forget about it ever happening. I'm mostly furious with myself for hoping against hope and ignoring all of the red flags. I'm pretty damn smart and have  3 graduate degrees, yet never knew about clinical narcissism until 6 months ago. After 7.5 years with this guy. I'm just angry all of the time. As stupid as it is, I keep fantasizing about a time machine so i can just get those years back. At least maybe the last 3 or 4 so I could maybe get pregnant. I was never sure if I wanted kids, but it's horrible to be told that that door is closed in your mid-30s after having 2 operations and being strung along by someone.

The worst part is that I hate dating, and can't imagine how to date while recovering from this, and telling dates that I'm infertile. When does one even bring that up? I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life, but I feel so broken and useless now,

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 01-07-2014 - 11:34am

I think that your focus right now should be getting out of this situation.  After you are living separate, start doing things with friends and just learning how to have fun and be on your own for a while--forget about dating until you have had some therapy.  There are men who don't want kids--either they never wanted them or they already have some--but you have to decide whether you could be a stepmother and not have kids of your own.  Or you could adopt.  It might be easier to start out with online dating and just look for men who say they don't want kids so you don't even have to have that discussion.  Believe me, no one enjoys dating--the part about meeting the wrong people and the rejection on both sides, so I get that.  I don't have any advice on how to get over the anger so I suggest therapy for that.