Karli writes as a therapeutic outlet and with the hope that her articles will be useful to others who have suffered psychological abuse.
The Trouble With Narcissistic Exes
In the aftermath of a relationship with a narcissist, it is common to get stuck on a few points that may impede the healing process. The issues outlined here are written to relate to those who have been romantically linked to toxic creatures, but they can apply to other types of abusive relationships as well. For instance, adult children or siblings of narcissists typically ponder the same questions. Whether you are in the process of exiting a toxic relationship, or you have gone no-contact and are trying to pick up the pieces of your life, here are four things pertaining to narcissistic exes that aren't worth wasting much of your precious time thinking about.
According to the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders),
"Cluster B is called the dramatic, emotional, and erratic cluster. It includes:
Borderline Personality Disorder.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Histrionic Personality Disorder.
Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Disorders in this cluster share problems with impulse control and emotional regulation."
1. What Is the Correct Label for My Abuser?
Psychopaths, sociopaths, and those with cluster B personality disorders, such as narcissistic and borderline, share similar traits. They are all highly manipulative liars who use others for their own personal gain. They lack empathy and compassion, although many of them are quite skilled at faking such emotions when a situation calls for it.
Some narcissistic exes have an official diagnosis. Maybe you just suspect that they are a narcissist or sociopath; either way the label isn't important other than as a way for you to find information about their condition and about how to keep such individuals from ruining your life. What is important is if someone is abusing you emotionally, physically, spiritually, verbally, or any combination of these, you need to get help and get out of that situation. It doesn't matter what category of crazy they fit into; it matters that they are abusive.
2. Why Are They the Way They Are?
Whether they had a difficult childhood or they were gratuitously doted on early in life doesn't matter now. On the off chance that they are in therapy, this information may be useful in some way to the clinician they are seeing, but it's of no use to the average person. It may be interesting to hear, but chances are you have no way of knowing if the story is even true; narcissists and psychopaths are notorious for lying about anything and everything. They also enjoy playing the role of the victim, so if they try to sell you a story of excessive childhood abuse, you should take it with a grain of salt.
Even if you know the truth, it won't help you. Whatever happened, happened; they are what they are, and you cannot change them now. Only they can change themselves. They have to want to change, and they have to be willing to do the work. That's not likely to happen, because it would mean admitting that there is something wrong with them.
3. Did S/He Ever Love Me?
If you really want to know, the answer is a resounding NO, but it has nothing at all to do with you. They are not capable of establishing meaningful connections with people; they are incapable of having healthy, nurturing relationships. For the abusers who think they are experiencing love, it's purely conditional, and there are all kinds of strings attached. You are either all good or all bad, and in order to be seen as good you must be adoring and complacent. You cannot have thoughts, beliefs, or feelings that are different from those of the manipulator.
It doesn't matter that your narcissistic ex never loved you. What does matter is that you are capable of loving another completely and unconditionally. You are able to feel joy when those you care about accomplish goals, get promotions, win marathons, and have other great things happen to them. Be thankful for this, and leave the psychopath to his or her own dysfunctional, delusional existence.
4. Why Does S/He Seem So Happy With a New Love Interest?
This is very similar to number 3 above. Your ex is no happier with the new victim than s/he was with you. For the same reasons outlined in #3. Each time the sociopath chooses a new victim, they start off idealizing him or her. If the individual is narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic, chances are they really are (temporarily, and very conditionally) enamored of the current object of their affection. But if the individual is a straight-up psychopath, they are more likely just finding amusement in manipulating the emotions of their new toy.
Either way, it is exactly how the disordered individual was with you in the beginning. And, just like with you, the other shoe will eventually drop; the devaluation will replace the idealization, leaving the current target wondering what he or she did to lose the adoration of the manipulator. So, whether or not the abusive personality is happy with their latest target is irrelevant, because even if they are it will be fleeting. Just like it was with you. If you find yourself obsessing over such things, try to shift your thoughts to the fact that you are worthy of someone who is capable of respecting you and loving you consistently and unconditionally, and promise yourself you will refuse to accept anything less in the future.
Narcissistic Exes Leave You Pondering These Questions
Try not to dwell on the negative, but don't kick yourself for wondering about it. Instead, try to shift your focus to something more helpful. For instance, how can you avoid getting into another toxic relationship? How can you learn to spot narcissists and other abusers?
You can't change anyone else, especially psychopaths. However, you can change you. Essentially, you can change how you think and how you react. Learn to watch out for red flags, and you can establish strong personal boundaries. It won't be easy, but it will empower you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Karli McClane
Willow Adia from Austin, Texas on January 12, 2018:
Love this article! Great job!
dashingscorpio from Chicago on January 10, 2018:
Are all narcissists men?
It seems there is a pattern of mostly (women) writing about narcissists and more often than not it concerns a relationship or marriage they were in.
I can't recall reading any articles written by men concerning women they consider to be a narcissist.
Sure there are some guys that will label certain women as "attention whores" or the entertainment industry will call certain female performers "divas". Generally that means they're "self-centered", "demanding", or only interested in things that benefit them. However no one says these women "ruined their life".
When it comes to relationships it's probably a waste of our time to ask: "Why are they the way they are?"
We should ask ourselves: "Why are (we attracted) to them?" Nothing happens until (we) say "yes" to spending time together.
I suspect for some people it's the narcissist's perceived confidence, self assurance, their ability to light up a room or stand out in some way. One may believe if (he/she) is "special" and they're choosing to be with (me) it means I am "special" too!
However once they realize the narcissist places no real value on their relationship the person stops feeling special. Essentially it's not that the narcissists "changed" but rather one starts to see them from a different point of view.
Instead of wasting precious time trying to "figure out" or "analyze" someone it's best to just move on.
Life is too short to be trying to change water into wine.
"Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."
- Oscar Wilde