What is a Narcissistic Ex?

What is a Narcissistic Ex?

When relationships break down, it is common for partners to view their exes through a lens of pain, anger, and disappointment. Someone that once was a trusted partner might suddenly appear selfish, uncaring, and even malicious. Separation and divorce often trigger fears and insecurities, eliciting bad behaviour from both partners. As a result, partners undergoing a breakup or divorce often find themselves locked in contentious struggles with one another, especially in the early stages of separation.

But sometimes, an ex’s bad behaviour is far more extreme than what would typically be considered reasonable. Their selfish personality and lack of concern for others may have even been a factor that led to the breakup. Dealing with narcissists can be frightening, especially in the context of a divorce or separation. Their exaggerated sense of self-importance and inability to consider the perspective of others can alienate and even traumatize a narcissist’s former spouse. Psychologists measure narcissism on a spectrum. While many individual people have self-centred personality traits, their tendencies may not constitute a narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic personality disorders are rare, affecting only an estimated 1% of the population. Pathological narcissism is commonly characterized by the following traits:

  • An excessive need for attention and admiration
  • An inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement
  • An exaggeration of achievements and talents 
  • An expectation to be recognized as superior
  • A lack of empathy for others (e.g., looking down on those they deem inferior)
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, and perfection
  • An openness to manipulating others to get what they want

A person with a narcissistic personality disorder is typically very sensitive to perceived slights or criticism. They often:

  • Have difficulty regulating negative emotions
  • React with rage or contempt if they feel they are treated without the proper respect
  • Tend to belittle others to make themselves seem superior
  • Secretly struggle with shame and insecurity

Narcissists tend to see things as binary (for example, as either good or bad) without room for nuance.  They often see themselves as victims to justify their own bad behaviour. Narcissists can be manipulative and might use threats to get their way. They may employ gaslighting, causing the people closest to them to question their own beliefs or perceptions.

What Can You Do if Your Ex is a Narcissist

Navigating a breakup with a narcissist can be very challenging, especially if financial complexities or children are involved. Arguing can feel futile, as a narcissist will often twist things to prove they are right, even if their claims are not grounded in fact. 

If you suspect your ex is a narcissist, the best course of action is to establish healthy boundaries and distance yourself emotionally. Seeking the support of a counselor with expertise in narcissistic relationships may help you move on emotionally. In addition, understanding your legal rights may help you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family from a narcissistic ex.

Contact Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you are considering separation or divorce, our Edmonton family lawyers may be able to help you understand your options. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

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