The Vindictive Narcissist

In recent weeks, both within my practice and through emails from site visitors (all women), I’ve heard about several men who have tried to destroy the reputation of their ex-wives with a ruthless and quite thorough assault on their public characters. These men have told lies to friends and family members, attempted to blackmail their former spouses by threatening to spread vicious lies about them, stolen money from them, tried to turn children against their mothers, become explosively angry, even physically violent when challenged, and have uniformly laid blame for the failure of the marriage at the feet of the ex-wife. I’ve also heard from a couple of men confronting vengeful and narcissistic women in their lives, but with nowhere near the level of vindictiveness displayed by these narcissistic ex-husbands.

The viciousness can be quite subtle and sometimes invisible to those who don’t know the man well. For instance, the ex-husband of one of my clients sent a very reasonable sounding email to selected members of their church, including the pastoral counselors who’d tried to help them salvage their marriage, portraying himself as a man of God abandoned by his wife, and then directly impugning her mental sanity while planting doubts about her fitness as a mother. She is, in fact, a quite devoted and capable mother while he consistently manipulates their children with gifts to enlist sympathy on his side (but will also dump them on their mother during his custodial days whenever he happens to have a date).

Such men are loathsome and I find it almost impossible to feel any empathy for them, though of course they never come for individual treatment so I don’t actually have to try. The word I use to describe them is reptilian: they seem so cold-blooded, without any genuine feeling for other people, and their desire to inflict pain or even destroy their former spouses seems inhuman, snake-like. At the same time, I feel that I do understand their psychology and what drives them. As a follow-up to my last post, I thought I’d provide a psychological portrait of the vindictive narcissist, making use of the concepts of projection, shame according to my particular views and narcissistic defenses against it.

In that prior post, I discussed what I’ve called the “law of false attribution,” or an in-built human tendency to believe that whenever we experience pain, an outside agent (some other person) has caused us to feel it. For the vindictive narcissist, the subject pain is a profound and quite literally unbearable sense of shame. He has so thoroughly defended against this shame (the felt knowledge of internal defect) that he has no conscious awareness of it. He has constructed an idealized and false self-image as a protection against it, a kind of fortress behind which he conceals his shame, and will defend that self-image with every weapon in his arsenal. When a wife decides to leave a marriage, the narcissistic husband experiences it as a kind of attack (according to the law of false attribution): her rejection threatens to put him into contact with all the shame he can’t bear to feel, and so he must instantly turn against her. If he can’t literally destroy her, as some wounded narcissists have done, he will attempt to annihilate her character. Like the husband of my client, he will try to turn everyone they know against his ex-wife, painting himself as a martyr.

The degree of viciousness and the unrelenting pursuit of revenge point to a truly toxic level of shame. It’s so unbearable that these men must instantly respond with a counter-assault to any person threatening to stir it up. All insults or wounds to his pride will be felt as an attack and provoke the usual blaming and contemptuous defenses; but the public humiliation they experience when their wives ask for a divorce is a narcissistic injury so profound it provokes a retaliatory strike of nuclear proportions. Most people who go through divorce feel some degree of shame, some sense of failure, but the vindictive narcissist feels it a thousand-fold. That pain is felt as an attack, calling forth an all-out counter-assault meant to annihilate the threat to his fragile self-esteem.

If you’ve ever felt hurt or humiliated by someone you know and then entertained fantasies of revenge, imagining that you would show that person up or triumph over him, then you’ll understand (to a degree) what the vindictive narcissist experiences. Unlike you and me, however, he can’t tolerate such painful humiliation, not even for a second, and revenge fantasies are not enough. He experiences the continuing reality of a woman who rejected him as a continual threat, a constant assault upon his ideal self-image; as a result, his defenses remain on continual alert against it. At the least provocation — that is, whenever shame threatens to emerge — he will viciously strike out, like a snake assaulting its prey.

In comments to my post about narcissistic mothers, many site visitors have described similar assaults by their own mothers. Vindictive narcissists are not limited to vengeful ex-husbands. Since such people have almost no interest in or capacity for change, the best you can do is stay clear of them, just the way you’d avoid a snake if it happened to cross your path. Unfortunately, some narcissists can also be quite charming, having learned how to manipulate people to evoke their desire and sympathy; as children, we can’t escape our narcissistic mothers until we’re grown. When escape is impossible in life, perhaps the most you can do is set very firm limits and try not to inflict unnecessary narcissistic injuries upon them. It will only come back to haunt you.

UPDATE: May 23, 2013

Inspired by reader comments to my posts about narcissistic mothers and vindictive narcissists, I’ve released a new eBook on the Kindle platform. It’s a novella-length retelling of the classic Cinderella story, focusing on my usual themes of shame and narcissism, with a look at the tumultuous emotions behind self-injury.

The following two tabs change content below.
Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.

Latest posts by Joseph Burgo (see all)

This entry was posted in Relationship Issues, Shame/Narcissism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

288 Responses to The Vindictive Narcissist

  1. sonjia says:

    IS there no hope for someone that you describe. maybe they will not seek help, but what if they did would they not be able to change. Always so insightful things I learn from your posts.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      If someone seeks treatment and acknowledges a need for help, I think there is almost always grounds for hope. The problem with the vindictive narcissist is that he is SO heavily defended, he almost never recognizes the nature of his illness.

      • UkeGirl says:

        That’s for sure.

      • Nina says:

        How many vindictive narcissist are there? And what is the reason for reffering to them as narcissist and not psychopaths/sociopaths?

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          It’s an interesting question. I personally think there’s a lot of overlap between sociopathy and narcissism; maybe it’s a question of degree. In general, I think the personality disorders occur along a spectrum rather than in distinct diagnostic categories.

      • Xander says:

        my one question is what about men who are the legitimate victims of females who fit personality arch types similar to NPD such as DID or BPD . These women can be high delusional and constantly cycle in and out of attack mode. what recommendations can you make for us men who are dealing with women who are False accusers , they are becoming more and more prevalent most of them subscribing to the entitled ideology and what is worse the courts placate to them . My therapist and I have scambled to find support groups in my area there are 0 all are Female only DV support groups.

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          I wish I had some decent advice to give. It’s hard without knowing more details. My general advice is always the same: disengage whenever possible. It’s a battle (as I think you know) that you can never win.

          • Nicholas says:

            last night when i was visiting my mother, the usual rip roaring insults and personal attacks came about. This time it ended with her saying my deceased father was a drunk and may he rot in his grave. When she goes on her rants and tirades most times i would walk away from the room, making matters worse, as she views this walking away as cowardly and childish behavior that she doesn’t have time for. I know my father drank, there was never abuse from his side toward me, but i recall many arguments at night when i was a child, that at the time i suppose made me scared to approach my mother with problems when at school. I am not an adult, but age does not make it easy when these insults get hurled toward an only son. Never easy with family.

        • lisa says:

          My close friend is also dealing with false accusations folowing a split from a lady with this character type. Its so difficult to support him just now as all the advice I can give is stay away from her to limit the harm she can do. I feel so angry with her at what she is doing to him but also that she is wasting police resources and making a mockery of people who are victims. She is also trying her best to destroy his reputation his business and his relationship with his children. Its terrifying. Also this lady is a schoolteacher. Horrid to think of someone so unscruplulous influencing young minds.
          Thank you for an insightful article

    • kristina says:

      Like I’ve been sent messages that say, “you think your untouchable. Keep talking ill come get your bitch right now. Oh funny how you already got trevor saying he dont know me you smelly who’re I hate you. ” and ” the real monster u, get my friends to lie to me and go behind my back, your gonna get it this time, you’ll feel it hard soon just watch stupid slut…”
      And it’s all complete made up buckshot that he will every now and again go on these rage tantrums where he believes these false ideas in his head and says the worst things possible to me. He’s got issues but how to help him or US?

  2. jonathan reddish says:

    thanks for this, i am fascinated by narcissism. my question is , how can you spot them early on, say as one meets people, dating or making new friends, there ought to be warning signs, but what are they? for me i often attract odd people, and sometimes need to be distancing myself later on, because, it turns out they are vindictive, or even mildly so. again, thanks, Jon

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Hi Jon,

      Sometimes it’s obvious, as with the charismatic narcissist. After so long, I have pretty good radar for this type of person, and I confess that I am often initially attracted to them, especially as they tend to be quite effective and making you feel good about yourself and paying the sort of attention that can seem like genuine interest (it’s really about hooking you in and trying to elicit desire or admiration). I’ve learned to distrust my own reactions and be especially on guard when I feel this way. With other types, it’s much harder to identify at first. At the risk of sounding cynical, I think the only approach is to remain mildly skeptical of everyone you meet and to pay special attention to the match between what people say and what they do. Also, learn as much as you can about their other relationships. Take your time before investing too much in a new relationship.

      • jonathan reddish says:

        thats great advice. and , unfortunately, keeping a skeptical eye on people is also what i do.. in fact, i see this (skeptical) trait in others, and now i understand why.

        this would be a great gift to teach to a younger person, as it might spare them a deal of grief.

        thanks again! Jon

      • Cindi says:

        I wish I knew how to spot a narcissist before I got myself entangled in her web. My life has become a bit of a nightmare since My first attempt at walking away from her. First there was the plea asking me not to give up. Then there was the silent treatment which I didn’t understand, was confusing, and had me chasing her without realizing it. Then I realized what she was doing and told her I was done that I was walking away. I did. She broke the silent treatment to send me a xmas card, but when I responded she became vindictive, cut all contact and had a cop tell me not to talk to her. Four months passed, I emerged from the shock and grief, and wrote about my ordeal in my journal. I made the mistake of letting her know that I forgave her and was moving on with my life. I wished her well. Three weeks later I got a letter from her lawyer. I guess I’m still just confused by the whole ordeal. This is the short version.

        • Renee says:

          I just have a question.

          This sounds like a very confusing situation, and a bit like sabotage from an ex boyfriend or husband. I know this first hand, because I am dealing with it myself.
          Did you ask her why there was no contact?
          Do you know for certain your messages went through?
          Would you know if she had messaged, texted or called you and those messages went unanswered?
          Did you ask her why a police officer contacted you?
          Was she aware that took place?
          Why would she be angry with you, and what kind of letter did you receive from her supposed attorney? Does she know about the letter?
          I’m just asking, because friendships are important. And good ones are few and far between.
          Make sure you aren’t being manipulated by others wanting to control you.
          My question to you would be, how did you feel when you were around her, in person. If you have not discussed with her in person or on the phone about these steps taken my the officer and lawyer, I would encourage you to do so. Chances are she had nothing to do with it.

    • ck says:

      you would know jon

  3. Frans Mark says:

    The type you are describing here sounds very much like the dyssocial type – some therapists consider the two types related. I don´t know if you share that sentiment, but maybe you could elaborate a bit. I recently got way too close to a psychopath or at least that is what I percieve him to be. Your response will be greatly appreciated. Best wishes from Denmark – Frans.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Hi Frans, I tend not to think in diagnostic categories or to try to distinguish different categories of pathology. I’m mostly interested in the emotional dynamics, and describing them in a way other people can relate to. In my view, the labels “narcissistic personality disorder” and “antisocial personality disorder” imply distinct entities that don’t really exist. It’s all along a spectrum, and what interests me is a psychodynamic understanding of common emotional struggles.

  4. RC says:

    My girlfriend belongs to a womens’ group, so I hear a lot of stories like this. And you’re right, women are capable of some pretty bad, selfish behavior, too, but at least in my girlfriend’s group, the men who either cheat on their wives or are left by them are FAR worse. I think you see this stuff in the extreme in the “honor killings” of women seen in some cultures in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It’s beyond vile.

    This makes me wonder if this is the result of the culture of men, or if it’s genetic…or both. And then there are – in my opinion – the barbaric views about women held by a certain political party in this country, but I won’t go there.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Yes, I won’t go there either (although I am sorely tempted).

      Thanks for making the link to honor killings in certain cultures. It’s very much a related phenomenon, where the intolerable shame and public humiliation felt by these men leads them to kill the “cause” of those painful emotions.

    • Greg says:

      I think disturbed minds, whether male or female, use what is available to them.

      It’s quite possible for mentally ill (or simply angry or otherwise dissatisfied) women to plug into the whole abuse paradigm, even if they have never been abused. Their partner can “be” 100% at fault, they can get free help and resources, both for their own help and support and to vindictively attack their partner. No proof required.

      It’s different methodology (just as women who murder often choose poison vs. more direct tools) but it is basically making use of tools that the culture has available.

      (And no, there is no major political party in the US with “barbaric” views about women. But that’s another topic.)

      • Cindy says:

        Greg,
        Females using the abuse victim thing as a weapon against men is far, far less common than hidden aggression against women. Your reverence reminds me of OJ playing the race card in his trial. Sexism is so “normal”, you just can’t see the truth

        • seglet says:

          The ‘race card’ is highly common in trials with black defendants, and statistics back this up. Knee-jerk reactions like yours rather raise a red flag of racism itself, not wanting to hear of it period, whether real or not.

    • Someone says:

      I think you should remove or at least rebut the drivel posted by Greg in reply to your response. He’s clearly delusional.

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually, he happens to be right. It does happen that an angry enough woman will claim nonexistent abuse to malign the character of an innocent man. It’s exactly the same behavior as the vindictive narcissist ex-husband who maligns the woman who left him. It’s just being done through a different medium.

        My ex went so far as placing anonymous calls to local child protective agencies, claiming I was abusing and neglecting my kids, after I left him because he was having an affair. Wasn’t happening, but he succeeded in making my life difficult for a while. I only knew it was him because of phone records (we still shared an account then and he was dumb enough to use his own cell phone).

        • terra says:

          Oh thats right “Anonymous”,oops, Im sorry, I mean GREG!! Just like the typical “american” soreloser guy to go back on to the same website and rebut in a different name! GO FOR IT DUDE!! YAY FOR U!

        • Steve says:

          I understand that the topic for this forum is specifically about narcissistic, abusive men. Let’s all be careful here and put away our own projections and assert an objective viewpoint that encompasses the problem in its entirety, which just might include the antithesis of this specific topic. Are women somehow immune to this kind of behavior? Are we not trying to get a clearer picture of these behavior patterns for the sake of understanding and healing? Just a thought.

          • Joseph Burgo says:

            The emphasis has indeed been on men but there have been several comments about narcissistic women, especially ex-wives who abuse the legal system to retaliate.

            • BCG says:

              Are there any websites that deal primarily with the abusive ex wife? Mine is bent on completely destroying me, and we are about to get deep in to the legal system, mostly about money (stupid imho). What is the best strategy to avoid court? It seemsany time I defend myself, she sees it as an attack. Is there a way to kiss up to them so they think they are getting the last word?

            • Bess says:

              I was just reading this after a nightmare about my sister. Yes indeed women are capable of violent vindictive behaviour and I wouldn’t put it past her to try to kill me if the culture supported it, and I’ve been baffled as to why. When mother died, she didnt call me until too late to talk to her or come, she stole the new will, ( which I d seen sealed the week before), she had her children steal her jewelry(happened to be seen by a passing relative), but what floored me was having her children turn their backs on me and refuse to even say goodbye. That wiped out my only close family. She’s poisoned other relatives against me, I don’t know where my mother is buried never mind got to attend. This is a much younger sister with blond star looks, adored and indulged all her life by me as much as my mother and stepfather; drawn to high drama and abusive relationships until she found a well off mug willing to cater to her. She s convinced she s superior and deserves whatever expensive whim passes her mind, no matter who else pays. A person of black poisonous rages yet outward charm; she s eventually alienated many against her and also against me. I’m old now and struggling alone but will never allow her anywhere near me now, especially when vulnerable. And as I sacrificed a great deal to help and protect her, and gave too much of my own life to ailing demanding parents to save her being drawn down, I ‘m still hurting deeply 5 years later. And I know she s laughing about it, have seen it with others. I hope others will learn to save their own lives from such people; i never got the message because you had to stay with family in my day.

      • God Said says:

        Domestic Violence & Abuse figures (government & University Studies.. not “Women’s Studies” BS) indicate that the Duluth Model is incorreect (logical) & wrong (moral). Violence is perpetraited EQUILLY in relationships.

        1/3 Male Perpetrated
        1/3 Mutually Perpetrated
        1/3 Female Perpetraited

        Interestingly there is a higher rate of domestic violence in Lesbian Couples than in heterosexual couples (& even gays).

      • Knows Better says:

        You are not doing anyone a favor by pretending that men are the only ones who are vindictive after a marriage ends. My husband and I have been on the receiving end of incredibly vicious and dishonest behavior by his ex-wife. (And no, I had nothing to do with ending his marriage—I didn’t even meet him until he had been divorced for a couple of years.)

        She continuously lied to his children about things, blaming him for everything. Like when she pulled them out of their neighborhood school and away from all their friends, so she could chase some man to another neighborhood: she told them they had to move because “Daddy doesn’t like your friends at school.” When they came to stay with us on visitation weekends, she sent them over wearing dirty clothes, with everything dirty in their overnight bags, so the first hour or so of each visit was spent doing laundry. When I bought them clothes for Christmas, birthday, or “just because,” if they took the clothes back home with them she would throw them away.

        She tried to get my husband in trouble with the authorities. She lied to the County and claimed he hadn’t paid child support—when we had the cancelled checks, all endorsed by her, in our file. (She told the same lie to a woman friend of ours—in front of his kids.) Once she threw a violent tantrum in the home she was sharing with the kids and her live-in boyfriend. She got so violent—throwing dishes, smashing things—that the boyfriend literally had to hold her down while the kids called 911. She was taken away for observation. The next thing we know, there’s a phone call from the police department in her city (they lived about 50 miles away at the time), wanting to know what my husband and I had “done to her.” She had told them that her out of control rage was a reaction to what he and/or I had done. At the time, we had been traveling together out of state!

        The happiest day in our lives was when his kids were all 18 and there were no more excuses for her to interact with us.

        So please, get real and give a two-sided version of what really goes on out there. If even one woman can learn from my experience, I will be happy. There are some sick, vindictive women out there who will stop at nothing—especially if they are still their miserable selves, and their ex is in a happy, loving relationship. Let’s not pretend there aren’t.

  5. marykinney says:

    i have found that “firm limits” are offensive to the VN because they feel entitled to what they want when they want it e.g attention all the time every time. they do not abide personal boundaries. what do you suggest in that scenario? best…

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      In those cases, I think the only thing to do is to break off contact entirely. If they can’t respect limits, you have no recourse but to cut them off in order to protect yourself.

      • Anonymous says:

        There were No limits when it came to my ex husband and his vengeful ways!! I had suffered through the entire marriage, just being with someone who could have thoughts like that, let alone do the most ugly things imaginable to someone they had a child with is horrible!! Your story of the ex-husband and his vengeful nature, only reminded me of mine and all the things he done when i left him, it was terrible!! i even got calls from a priest, though we were not catholic, not even went to church together. i got calls from social services, all kinds of places and people who were told things that were pure right out lies!!! To this day, when or if he gets the chance to curse and scream at the top of his lungs to me, the most ugly,horrific things, he will do it!! he hasn’t got any better, just worse and older. still holds on to the blame of the first girl who ever broke up with him.I was his second wife! he has a real hatred for women!

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          And a lot of shame underneath it all.

        • allyson says:

          Hatred for their ex-spouses run deep and very, very hard!! That’s when i should have realized that he had a mental issue, was just not right to have so much hatred and blame for others who just didn’t want to be with you anymore.He could never offer up an actual reason why those women left him, except to say that they were all whores and bitch’s who found other men and just moved on, it had NOTHING to do with him beating the devil out of them , blacking their eyes and bodies with bruises, crushing their spirits with ugly vile words every chance he got and trying to keep them from their friends and family. he also told me before that he never needed to have a friend, that friends were no good to have. Somethings bad wrong with someone who thinks like that..and he did!! i can’ go back and change things…but i can not repeat the same things over again. i can listen and see and know if they are narcissistic now, after being with him for all of those abusive years!! One things for sure, they certainly have hatred for their ex-spouses and have no blame in the relationship, it’s always the other persons fault!! If you listen carefully, they will tell on themselves. They might not ever blame them selves for anything…but they for sure will blame their ex-spouses for it all!!in my case, the only women he had respect for, women i was always being compared to, told he wished i could do this and that like them, i never could though…was his momma, “The queen” and his sisters, “The princess’s”

          • Anonymous says:

            Ohh how familiar that sounds!

          • Teresa says:

            I am going through this same thing at the moment.Years of physical and mentally abusive, emotional abandonment. He has even been to jail for assault by strangulation and assault in front of our minor children. Now that we are separated (he also did not have friends and said he didn’t need them) he has contacted everyone we know and some who we barely knew, to try to annihilate my character and lies to make everyone believe he is the victim. Please contact me if you wish. I would like to see how your situation has turned out and what struggles you have, and what you’ve overcome. Thank you for sharing this. Makes me feel like I am not alone…

            • Kath says:

              I am still going through this with my ex – and we divorced in 2005. He made false reports to the Department of Child protection, the police, he called up all sorts of people including my employer trying to get me to lose my job. I was a teacher right? (According to his reports I was a drug addict, prostitute, child abuser, been charged with fraud – you name it. None of this foul stuff was true.)
              When I got sick through a surgeon’s error, my ex took my son, wouldn’t let me see him and engaged in intense parental alienation. My ten year old went from “I love you Mummy” to “You’re a bitch who uses her cunt for money.” (Not true by the way). He also turned my son against his sister and all of my loving family.
              I self represented against a lawyer, and won (if there is ever any winning?) My ex is ‘stuck’ he never gets better and goes out of his way to be as malevolent and vindictive even now. He is a constant threat. His affect on my children has been catastrophic. He is a (proven) liar , lies not only to officials but to his own mother, whom he has recruited to his view, so I get ‘hate’ from her as well. He also still tries to use his eleven year old son for revenge, I do everything in my power to help my son get a ‘normal’ view. My ex is a pathetic, harmful individual, and whereas I hope he’d get help or realise what he’s done, I don’t think he ever will. He’s done courses ordered by the court and has learnt nothing, As the Doc says, it’s always everyone else’s fault and he’s the innocent victim. I used to try to give him the benefit of the doubt, because he was my son’s dad…not any more, he’s harmed too many people and shows absolutely no remorse…

      • Anonymous says:

        Several years ago I left my husband of two years in order to
        have economic freedom. I still loved him, but he would always
        answer my questions of love with the fact the I must pay my
        expenses (which were, really, mostly his expenses). In addition,
        he believed the only way I could find happiness was in listening
        to him. I left very sadly , but I did achieve that freedom , as I was
        bound by document to pay him for the rest of my life. I wished
        to return to the marriage on a normal basis, but have found the
        last years of divorce filled with constant blame and unkindness. I have been told that I am completely at fault and have been verbally
        attacked and insulted. So my only recourse is to stop all
        communications. It is hard to understand why someone would
        want to destroy me, when I know in my heart that I offered this
        man love, kindness, a good home and respect. In return I received some companionship, but never an appreciation of my
        worth as a person – in fact I have been repeatedly demeaned
        intellectually and emotionally. I am still recovering from the
        most recent attacks and have distanced myself for survival.
        I would like to meet with other ex-wives of such a situation.
        Even though I know intellectually that these attacks are false
        and understand that this man is projecting, there is definite
        emotional pain connected to this. I survive by continuing to
        be myself, because,regardless of those attacks, I know I gave
        my heart to someone who married me for the wrong reasons.
        Do you know of any “survival groups” in the NY
        metropolitan area?
        Thank you – Anonymous

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I don’t, but maybe some other readers might be able to help you out.

          • Beth says:

            The YWCA (note the W) is a nonprofit agency that provides advocacy, safe housing, and recuperative services for individuals, families, children impacted by physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Court testimony is provided for court-mandated cases. There are specialized 24 hour rape and battery victim services that include supportive counseling, gathering/preserving evidence, information, safe shelter, and advocacy; a specially trained nurse collects and presents evidence in court. There is a 24 hour hotline for people in crisis. Individual and peer group counseling are part of recuperative services and there are some peer social groups. Child care and transportation may be available. Some YWCA agencies can provide in-home services.

        • Sfh says:

          Until you can find in-person support group, go to other online forums like: Lisa Scott , dr Irene, out of the fog and welcome to oz. you can google these aforementioned names and find the websites and forums/chats. It helps and you can do it any time of the day or night. Some have found Codependentd Anonymous support groups and Alanon support groups helpful too.

          Good luck

  6. Anna says:

    I found your reply to Jon above very interesting as well as this post, because I feel also that I am very attracted to narcissists due to their initial flattery (and my low self-esteem), though, thank goodness, I am finally learning to be more discerning. I wonder if you’d have anything to say about narcissistic bosses? I have a narcissistic boss and it is disasterous for the workplace, like a totally dysfunctional family – I overheard him on the phone once (before he closed the door) saying aggressively to somebody (presumably one of his grown-up children): ‘I can’t believe you’re accusing me of bullying my own grand-child! I won’t have it!’ He takes the credit for everything good that staff do, but is very ready to apportion vicious blame to others which are actually a fault of his own errors. He is a bully, but an extremely charming one. He absolutely cannot stand criticism of himself, such as a time when he interpreted something I was saying to him (which was constructive criticism of an organisational procedure) as personal criticism and yelled at me to ‘get out’. He is a regular public speaker known publicly for his balanced views etc. I wonder how on earth people can deal with narcissism in a boss – I certainly try to avoid him and never express any views to him following the above confrontation – but it makes for a poor workplace because it breeds a culture of blame and mistrust and fear.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Anna, I think you’ve described the problem very well. As you found out, there is no such thing as “constructive” criticism as far as the narcissist is concerned. Unfortunately, because of the power dynamics involved in the workplace, there’s very little an employee can do with a narcissistic boss, other than keep your head down as you are doing, or move on. In many ways, it resembles the experience of a child with narcissist parents, who has to conform to the needs of those parents rather than have their own needs addressed. At least you have the option of looking for another job!

      • Anna says:

        Thanks. I am job-hunting, in fact. I’ve commented quite a bit on your blog and I have finally (after 12+ years of looking) found a therapist who is specialized in treating severe dissociation from which I suffer after extreme abuse. I am very hopeful, daunted etc as I begin this treatment, please wish me luck! I will keep commenting but just wanted to say your blog gave me some hope that there are decent, intelligent therapists out there and I shouldn’t give up after having many who just couldn’t deal with my problems or shamed me once again.

  7. F.A. says:

    If you did have the opportunity to treat such a person, how would you begin? Do you think you could ever succeed?

    I’ve dealt with such a person (or rather, the fallout of his vicious behaviour) in a professional capacity and I admit I’ve had very vivid, detailed fantasies about murdering him. It seems to me he won’t stop doing evil things until he’s physically incapacitated. I’ve sought therapy to work through the vicarious trauma but I still find it hard to believe there is a human being inside the reptile.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      If I were to treat such a person, virtually all of the work would need to focus on the transference. I would expect that contempt for and devaluation of me would feature powerfully, along with arrogance and some murderous feelings such as the ones you describe. Behind all of that, however, I would expect to find someone unbearably vulnerable, who loathes himself for his own needs and fears. It would be a long, hard slog.

      • F.A. says:

        Interesting. Murderous feelings on his part or yours?

        How do you distinguish the vindictive narcissist from the borderline, if indeed you do?

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I think of personality disorders along a spectrum; BPD and NPD are just artificial label. “Borderlines” have plenty of narcissistic issues, and can be quite vindictive when their shame becomes unbearable.

          • Unbelievable says:

            My narcissist had an emotional affair while I was ill. He refuses to acknowledge his lies, betrayal, secrecy and abandonement. He claims his poems about the ow were just friendship and I am overreacting. In expecting recovery and repair with his help, he has told me I am on my own and in fact caused his loss of job (he and she were found out at work). His vindictiveness has surfaced in a way I have never seen. He filed divorce because I am unforgiving and angry. He can not hold my emotions or say sorry. He then filed an injunction to keep our kids from going out of state with me as I would surely steal them. He is now trying to get me to reduce our home price so he can buy me out and actually afford it (do es not consider how I am going to live)all while trying to take half of my personal injury settlement. He filed while o was a stay at home mom without medical insurance to pay for my type 1 diabetes. He said I better look quick for a job. After arguing about why I should reduce the price of our home for the buyout, he then says maybe we should just work it out. He plays with my mind. There is no empathy or concern — only taking and a privileged feeling. I don’t know how to be free of him and his mental abuse especially when I worry he will use our kids while accuse me of doing that.

    • Mar Peterson says:

      If indeed you are a professional, I hope never to cross paths with you. I thought I had heard every negative expression about Narcissists, but “murderous,” and “desires to kill him,” are too much. I thought science had spent enough $$$ and time already to establish that NPD is a illness, a condition that starts at a young age due to neglect or too much attention, etc. Now we know that narcs have lack of gray matter as recently shown in MRIs, published elsewhere. What I’d like somebody to write a book about is WHY DO WE HATE NARCS so much? We know that their condition is genetic/environmental/psychological. It’s not their fault, as it’s not my bipolar. Somebody did something bad to them, and now we blame them???? This is transgenerational trauma (sp). I hear so many women who underscore chose to marry a man and in a couple of years they are divorced because he is narcissistic, abuser. Didn’t they notice anything strange previous to the marriage? How about underscore choosing to reproduce with this man? If indeed narcissism is in large part genetic, then those children are at risk of being narcs themselves. Are these ladies going to call their own flesh and blood, these creatures that they chose to bring to the world, things like murderous snakes? Or perhaps they will realize that their father, the man they chose, is transmitting genes to their children that will select them as favorites for the development of narcissism? I am 60 yrs old, and my 90 yr old mother just finished discarding me permanently. As a child, she shot herself in the head holding my hand and made me hold my brother’s hand. Believe me, it hurts still. But I saw the place where she grew up, and knew of the cruelly-disadvantaged position that was her home. My mother adores animals, and thanks to her practice of rescueing them, today I have a career working advocating animal rights. Narcissists are not all bad, and they are victims themselves. Not that we should expose ourselves to their insanity, but if any of you call yourselves a Christian, you better not judge.

      • Yael says:

        Mar, first of all, your message is not quite clear. I’m not sure what you mean by “…professional, I wouldn’t like to cross paths with you.” Secondly, with respect, you seem to be in worse denial than I am. This is not about “blaming” the narcissists; it’s about protecting ourselves, their victims. And it may well be true that they are sick, and a product of their upbringing, their environment, their education, whatever, but that does not excuse their behavior. What you describe your mother doing, holding your hand while shooting herself, is truly tragic from so many angles; but to dismiss her behavior as merely a manifestation of her illness is irresponsible. Even mentally ill people have “windows” of clarity when they realize that all is not well, that they have overstepped proper bounds, and that something is wrong. It is up to them to take advantage of those clear moments and seek help. Yes, they are sick; but they are not unconscious. They are not robots going through life. They have brains and resources, some of them much, much more than others (they are highly intelligent). The problem is that their illness is precisely what tells them there is nothing wrong with them. It is an illness of denial, an illness of entitlement (“The world owes me: respect, love, money, etc.”). This is what makes is so very difficult to treat, because the narcissist does not really believe he or she is sick. Be that as it may, to “excuse” their behavior based on their sad upbringing is just as delusional.
        And Christianity has nothing to do with this. No one is “judging.”

  8. Cynthia says:

    While you’ve seen it with more men than women, I’ve it with more women than men, particularly in marriages where they believe they are wronged or have been wronged by their exes. And particularly where the women has been rejected in favor of another. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” not like a man scorned.

    Like certain nations, peoples, and/or groups they are reveling in their victimhood.

    Until the motivation to find a new path for themselves is higher than the motivation to remain a victim, their vindictive narcissists will revel in their victimhood and seek revenge. It is as simple as that. It matters not that they’re stuck in their lives. It is simpler and cleaner to remain a victim and be vindictive than it is to do the sometimes brutal work of finding a new path.

    The therapeutic key with these people — women or men — is to understand the psychology of motivation.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I think the difference may simply be a result of accident, that I just happen to have encountered more men than women who behave this way. I don’t think men by nature are more inclined to this behavior than women, although I’m not sure about the utterly vindictive aspect of it. In the women you’ve encountered, have you seen a relentless desire to destroy the former spouses, in addition to reveling in victim status?

      • Cynthia says:

        Yes. There is a desire to ruin their ex-husbands’ lives. One of the most effective ways is to “leak” information to their children.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          Absolutely. I’ve seen this so often, and it’s very distressing, the way that mothers are willing to “use” their children in this way.

    • F.A. says:

      I’ve seen very vengeful women, who make everything within their sphere of control difficult for the ex — denying him contact with the kids, badmouthing him to mutual friends, making spurious accusations of abuse etc.

      But the singleminded campaign of destruction against the ex, stalking her, vandalizing or destroying her property, threatening to hurt or kill anyone who helps her, trying to wreck her reputation everywhere whether it has anything to do with him or not, I’ve only seen from men, and I believe it is probably somewhat more prevalent in men.

      • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

        I agree.

        • F.A. says:

          As a side note, I find it interesting that when vindictive men are discussed, there is always someone who brings up vindictive women, or disputes which sex is “worse”, even if the initial discussion clearly concerned not all men but a specific subset of men who engage in specific, highly deliberate behaviours. Personally, I don’t think this is a useful way to talk about behaviour that is relatively rare in both sexes, but I wonder what motivates the automatic application of the “gender lens.”

          • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

            I know what you mean. Some people (often with understandable, if misguided, reasons) have antagonistic feelings toward the opposite sex and tend to explain everything in terms of the perceived faults of that sex: for example, blaming men for everything that goes wrong in sexual relationships (some of this showed up in my earlier post offering advice on certain relationship issues. It simplifies issues and stops people from looking inward and taking responsibility for themselves. Hating and blaming can be such a refuge from inner truth!

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s not rare!

    • Deborah says:

      Are you the adultery partner, perchance? If so, then maybe it would have been wiser to not target a married man. This world gets distracted by the end domino, instead of tracing it back to the initial domino. That’s too bad, for the weed grows back, unless the root is dug out.

    • Ashland13 says:

      My mum is narcissistic and divorced my dad. At the time and growing up, I didn’t know the term, of course, but now that I do, I can function with her better. It explains so darn much about her behavior and I find it interesting because I can “steer” conversations and our relationships better now…I make it about her and don’t have to speak of me because when I don’t do exactly what she wants, she whines, cajoles and hanges up! I feel like I am on the “higher road” and see now why my parents maybe would not have kept the marriage going…my dad is the codependant all over again and my mum in charge.

  9. Cynthia says:

    I am still thinking about this great blog post.

    Is it still vindictive narcissism at work if the ex-spouse is spreading not lies about partner, but intimate marital truths about him/her? That he or she is actually a serial cheater or secret gambler, that he or she had an affair with So-and-so, and so forth. All the other things you’re talking about would still be there, but it wouldn’t be lies, it would be truths as the ex saw them.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I guess it would depend on the motivation. If the person simply wants to defend his or her own character and set the record straight, that’s one thing; but an unremitting desire to tell the truth can also reflect a deep desire for revenge.

  10. Reynders says:

    I am hooked to your posts :D
    Here you have described my father. Charming, handsome, passionate but oh so narcisstic. He cheated on my mother, which resulted in a divorce. He often had relationships with 2 or 3 women at the same time. He cheated on his ladyfriends in our presence and told me (and my brother) to keep our mouths shut. He even had a relationship with the wife of one of my teachers! I am so ashamed and mortified of this.
    He left my mother with immense debts, which took her years to pay off. He dispases her for this. The mother of my half-brother was ruined by him. Twice he took off and disappeared abroad for a couple of years, without any contact, no explanation. Reappearing as if nothing had happened. For years I underwent his fury, his anger, his blaming, his rage. I settled with the negative attention, desperate to know him. According to him the women in his life had treated him badly. His parents were hard, they beat their children daily in case they had misbehaved. He hates and loathes his parents, who have been dead for years.
    He will always be his own number one. Then will come his ladyfriend. I will never come even third or fourth, if his ladyfriends have children, they will come before me or my brothers. For 21 years he didn’t see my half-brother.
    Once, I broke up all contact with him. I had no more tears left for him. I refused to be talked to or treated the way he did. After 6 months he wrote me a letter, where he sort of apologized for his behavior. I reconciled with him, but on my terms. We don’t meet too often nor talk too often. This works out just fine.
    I believe he hates women, he treats them really bad, despises them. Women are only good for sex and to show off what he can get. He is very proud of his ‘success’ with women.
    Do you think narcisstic characters are able to love?
    I have learnt to accept my dad will never change, not really.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I don’t know about all narcissistic characters, but your day sounds incapable of love. When someone blames everyone for everything bad in his life, assumes no responsibility for his heinous behavior and shows no ability to understand the feelings of anyone else, it seems pretty clear he lacks the capacity for empathy and for genuine love.

  11. Valentina says:

    In Italy we are dealing with an impressive number of women murdered by their ex husbands/boyfriends in a sort of narcissistic revenge. Here “crimes of honour” were socially accepted and very lightly punished by the law, until 30/40 years ago, so many people think this is the cause of these murders. But I think that “crimes of honor” were deeply different from “Narcissistic revenge crimes”. The men who committed “crimes of honor” were motivated by social shame: having a cheating wife or a promiscuous daughter or sister meant nobody would respect you anymore. This had serious, actual, consequences: nobody would do business with you, or marry any member of your family, until you restored your “honor” by killing the “dishonorable” woman. Only members of the mafia and immigrants from some uncivilized places still have this mentality. Call a mobster “cornuto” (cuckold) and you’re dead, call him a murderer and he will probably laugh and say anybody is entitled to an opinion.
    But among normal Italians, just like in the Usa or any other civilized country, being divorced or dumped by one’s girlfriend, are considered normal events of life, with little or no consequence on social prestige, job or other members of your family.
    The men who murder their exes and often their children are apparently normal, often educated guys, with no previous criminal record, and are motivated by “narcissistic” shame: it’s them, not society who can’t bear to be dumped or cheated on. They know society will blame and despise them for the murder and that they will get at least 20 years of jail, maybe even a life sentence, depending on circumstances. But they don’t care, they just want their narcissistic revenge. Narcissistic murderers have only one thing in common with the men who committed crimes of honor: they believe that women exist for men, not for themselves, and that women must live to protect men’s happiness and self-esteem, as in the past they had to live to protect men’s social respect. Apparently, men feel more entitled than women to think that others must live for them. Something wrong with the way parents bring male children up?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      This is very interesting, and I agree with you until you say that these different types of murderers have “only one thing in common.” Isn’t that a rather large thing? Whether the shame is strictly internal or reinforced by society, viewing another person as a mere extension of the self, meant to prop up our self-image, is entirely narcissistic.

      • Jul says:

        Hi Dr. Burgo,

        thank you very much for your great post on vindictive narcissism. Had been looking forward to it from the day you announced this would be your next topic (did not reply sooner because of vacation).
        When you say that viewing another person as a mere extension of the self – no matter if this happens due to internal or due to societal reasons – is entirely narcissistic, what does that say about societies that still condone honour killings? Are these societies “structurally narcissistic”? Are men in these societies by default allowed to be vindictive narcissists and get away with it?

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I think different societies tolerate varying degrees of individuation. On the whole, Western Civilization celebrates the individual whereas other cultures may revere the tribe, or conformity to a societal norm. Individual self-fulfillment is not a goal of all societies; many others instead prize self-sacrifice in the service of the group. The issue of honor killing is complicated. In many cultures, women are viewed as the possession of the man, so in that sense, I think these cultures do promote a kind of narcissism. Such cultures are usually infused with notions of public honor and public shame, as well, so I guess in a way they are structurally narcissistic.

      • Valentina says:

        This means that the societies where “crime of honour” is normal are based on male narcissism, fully supported by social pressure.
        I wonder why male narcissism keeps existing and killing in evolved societies, that publicly condemn it. Why do these guys feel entitled to think a woman must live for their happyness?

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          A couple of years ago, I was in Rocky Mountain National Park about this time of year, when the elks were mating. The dominant males would protect their females from the younger males, bugling as a warning and sometimes actually fighting. Eventually, I suppose, the elder males age and weaken to the point where the younger males drive them off or kill them.

          I wonder if the crimes of honor and the kind of male narcissism we’re discussing are linked to something very primitive, like what the male elks do. It feels like some vestige of the herd mentality and social hierarchies within the herd. What do you think?

          • Valentina says:

            yes, i think that “crimes of honour” are exactly like male animals fighting to keep their position in the jerarchy of the herd. Social shame, the loss of honour is a matter of life or death: disonhoured families risk extintion: no one will marry them no one will do business with them etc.
            And I think that patriarchal oppression of women is a mean, for males, to protect their genes: they don’t want to raise the children of another father and they want to ensure their biological children’s survival. I wonder if this can be called narcissism. in any case it’s very animalic and very not human: being human means first of alla recognizing anybody’s humanity and right to be free. Seeing women as the “females of the herd” to be protected and controlled, to avoid their mating with other males is a basic denial of humanity, not just the humanity of women but also the humanity of the men. I would like to consult an ethologist about the role of shame in animals: do they feel it? do they create defences against it?

            • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

              I don’t know if they create defenses against it, but I have seem my own dog feel shame. It’s usually around control of bodily functions.

        • Jul says:

          Maybe these feelings of entitlement are still there because the time when they were justified has not been over long, not even in western societies. See this quote from Nora Ephron`s 1996 Wellesley commencement speech (on why her own education at Wellesley 30 years earlier had been kind of superficial):
          “We weren’t meant to have futures, we were meant to marry them. We weren’t’ meant to have politics, or careers that mattered, or opinions, or lives; we were meant to marry them. If you wanted to be an architect, you married an architect. Non Ministrare sed Ministrari—you know the old joke, not to be ministers but to be ministers’ wives.”
          A very good explanation of how a feeling of entitlement can develop in a boy is given by Lundy Bancroft in his book “Why does he do that?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men.”

  12. Maria says:

    I very much appreciate this article, as it helps me better understand the process that vindictive narcissists go through. The extreme measures that a VN will endure to protect themselves from narcissistic injuries is incredibly scary – especially the sheer lack of ownership and twisted perceptions.

    When working towards ending a 5 year friendship with someone with BPD w/narcissistic tendencies (because the relationship was becoming incredibly unhealthy for me), the retaliation was quite fierce. I successfully maintained my boundary to not engage in any further communication, but it led to some scary consequences – including having my house pelted with mud balls AND having her deliberately attempt to run me over with her truck when seeing me at a store parking lot (8 months after I discontinued our friendship!).

    The experience has left me fearful of entering into new friendships, because I obviously play a role in inviting these types of people into my life. Through years of therapy, I am now more in tune to the potential red flags of BPD and narcissistic behaviors, and I am working towards being more assertive in relationships (my downfall).

    It’s important when escaping a relationship with a VN, that one takes measures to protect themselves from possible retaliation. I never knew how dangerous it was until it happened to me.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You’re absolutely right, that you have to protect yourself from retaliation. Sometimes it’s hard to know you’re in danger, though, until it’s too late — as you found out.

      • allyson says:

        I had to “protect” myself from my now ex-husband. he was stalking me, to the point it was almost like a horror movie…but it was my life!! This was actually happening before i left him, he was watching me and listening to me, had devices hidden in our home to record me, he is crazy! Vengeful should be his name, he is full of it! i left him in 2001. to this day, i still get the most ugly, hate filled, screamed at the top of his lungs, phone calls from him that continue to blame me for his misfortunes in life, it’s all my fault!! I shoulda known better. he was blaming the other women in his past, for everything that was going wrong for him when we first got together. he was so venegful to those women also. he would report the mother of his lil girl to social services, just make up lies on the woman for no reason, other than he felt like it!! His family, they all rallied behind him and supported him and his vengeful ways towards women, even his momma! She once told me if i were to be more submissive, i might not have the issues with him!LOL!! I just can’t see how someone like this can ever get better, or seek treatment. he can’t even accept the fact he makes mistakes. he always blames others for what he has created. I just had to learn how to deal and handle things, be watchful for him. I always knew he could be watching me or listening to me, that’s just how he is. He used to sneak up to our house windows at night, put his ear up to it, and listen to me and my son talking. When he wouldn’t like what he heard, he’s bust in and start hitting me and cursing me. i finally got a way from him, with the help of a doctor at one of those clinics that doctors donate their time to. i went there, no insurance. i was so sick with the sore throat, covered in bruises. he didn’t know i was going to the clinic, or i wouldn’t have got to go, he wouldn’t have let me! Anyways, i never returned home to that abuse or to any more abuse ever again. I now have a wonderful life, without him in it.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          People like that almost never get treatment. As you point out, if he can’t even entertain the idea that he might be at fault and blames everyone else, there’s no motivation.

  13. Warren says:

    You may remember that scene in the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where dangling from a rope into a cavern he drops a torch which illuminates a floor of congealed twisting snakes before he plummets in head first. Against the threatening hisses and striking fangs all he has is a little light in a dark place to move around the terrain cautiously. And so it is that most of us in some measure work to counteract our narcissism in the same way I would say.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s a very interesting image. I’m not sure what you mean, though. Do the snakes represent the feelings of narcissistic injury, where one wants to lash out and attack others due to unbearable shame?

  14. susana says:

    Oh yes, the most vindictive narcissists in my life have been my mother and a half-aunt whose pathological envy of me when I individuated, got into counseling and started asserting more boundaries (ie realized i was being abused with the help of a third party, my boyfriend who asked me why I put up with this stuff, my initial reaction: “what stuff?”) manifested itself in a smear campaigns to my foo and mutual “friends” which was readily accepted because I presented as very judgmental and critical because I had been abused and denied and neglected all my childhood. Just figuring this all out, btw.

    Bye bye pathological family of origin (filled with successful ivy league doctors and graduates), bye bye pathological flying monkey friends. Hello simpler, less complicated existence.

    And yes, the best thing to do with the vindictive narcissist is disengage. They really are not worth the trouble, of course we are trained to think otherwise. I have heard horror stories from fellow survivors of N parents who were more physically ruthless.

    I am starting to wrap my head against these same defense mechanisms taking place on a larger cultural and institutional basis. Honor killings manifest this pathology perfectly. The offloading of shame is really an evil defense mechanism in my opinion, speaking as someone who was the manifestation of all the badness inside my mother she could not hold herself. I am done carrying their water.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I like that expression — “the offloading of shame.” It’s a perfect description. I also like how you describe carrying the badness that cannot be tolerated by the other person. I’ve talked about this dynamic in other posts, especially a very early one on winners and losers.

  15. bobdick says:

    Hey J, Such folks are best avoided — makes me think of Scientologists. I’ve read that the brain area which lights up on fMRI is the center of greatest pleasure–the sexual/cocaine/addiction area. The writer speculated that in primitive man, killing someone who hurt you before they cld kill you was very important for survival, & therefore revenge was a Very persistent and pleasurable motivation. Hopefully some of have evolved beyond that point. b

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s very interesting, Bob. Revenge as a pleasurable motivation linked to survival. That must mean that the narcissist experiences humiliation or shame as a kind of existential threat that calls forth the vindictive revenge response as a survival mechanism.

      • bobdick says:

        By inference, a strong probability. I’m never certain about these
        neuro-mythological meanings, yet the connection seems straightforward and likely. You sure have a knack for writing clear and thought provoking stuff! b

  16. Reese says:

    You say that you believe a narcissist has an unbearable sense of shame but what about those that have a very large amount of confidence. I work opposite a coworker that constantly talks about herself, believes that it is everyone’s duty to fulfill her emotional needs by going out to lunch with her and making her feel good about herself; if you dont all hell will break loose. She helps others with their work as long as it proves how smart she is and is constantly talking about others on the job behind their backs. She uses that as a conversation starter. I’ve recently become very annoyed with her because I’m now her target and I’m not sure how to deal with her. In my boss’ eyes she’s great but I hate how she reports my mistakes to them to make herself look good. I feel as if I’m being punished for not being open with her or going out to lunch with her.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Sounds like a struggle with shame to me. It’s not authentic self-confidence, since she so obviously needs constant bolstering from the outside and if you don’t make her feel good about herself, “all hell will break loose.” Sounds like an enraged response to a narcissistic injury, which puts her back in touch with her shame.

      • Reese says:

        It’s not that “all hell will break loose” in the sense that she will start throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the room but she slyly talks about me to ‘get in the mix’ with other coworkers or reports me to the boss. I honestly find it hard to empathize with her and her sense of shame when I feel under attack. Her behavior in general just confuses me. She seems to be trustworthy,very calm and rational and never shows signs of frustration. I’m not sure whether to continue resisting to becoming more friendly with her or staying away with a 10 foot pole.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          That’s the difficulty with narcissists: they so effectively defend against any awareness of their own shame that it’s almost impossible to empathize with those feelings. I suppose what you decide to do ought to take into account the potential threat she poses. As you know, the vindictive narcissist can be relentless in her search for revenge if her self-esteem feels threatens.

          • effie says:

            my ex felt shame. because one of his issues was internet porn and bdsm, he even dabbled in under age stuff. it was his heroin. he is still an addict. but he feels he is entitled. until he had two daughters with me. although as he put it when we divorced, ‘any dumb bitch can have a baby.’ i responded with, ‘any dumb bitch can’t have exceptionally bright, well adjusted children considering the home they live in’. he could not disagree. he does have moments of humility, very very rarely. but related to them, he now feels something like what we know as shame. i still think he is not like other people in that he doesn’t feel empathy. he really doesn’t. if he feels shame it’s because if he’s found out, not because of what he does. i am a strong person but for a few long years he had me in a hole. he tried to have me committed. he told me i was crazy and imagining all of his affairs. i bought my bff a computer in return for spending days tracing him, chatting with him, entrapping him and saving everything. it only made him madder and more determined to make my life hell. in the end i settled for my freedom and full physical custody of my girls. he lives in fairfield county ct in a big house and drives a porche, and i was allowed to move to maine when i lost my home. and now i am trapped in maine by my narcissistic mother. but i’m happily and healthily married to a great man, and working on the mother thing. i lost my only sibling five years ago so i have had that to deal with as well. but i have so much to be strong for and grateful for. it’s a balancing act. but it’s good to know im not the one with the problem. liberating.

            • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

              I just finished reading Brene Brown’s new book and her research establishes the link between shame and empathy: those people who don’t experience shame, or only rarely do so, are incapable of empathy.

  17. dave says:

    I am not as educated as you and your guests that have replied, but women have the power, right or wrong, to do as they please with the lives of their ex-spouse. And ov-course everyone will believe or side with the female. Women always play the,” they were abused” card, and switch the blame on their husband. Then all of a sudden men are ashamed???

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’d be curious to hear whether other readers agree that women always play the victim card. Of course, “always” would overstate it, but do people believe that women are more prone to rely on that defense than men?

      • allyson says:

        Wow, what a statement! I know that, yes it is cases of some, not all women that do play the victim card in order to get what they want otr need at that moment in time. Most women though are NOT like that, at all! The real victims, which usually are women..are trying to get information out here for others not to repeat the same mistakes that they have made. I refuse to allow myself to be a victim. i will not allow someone to call me a victim. What i am is, a former wife of a maniac! I will not allow myself to stand or live in the shadows of former abuse. The decisions that i have made, are to better the life of me and my child, who is a grown young man now. i don’t play ‘pity party games” nor do i want someone to feel sorry for me. I got myself into this mess and i got myself out of this mess, of course with the help of some very wonderful people. I think your comment doesn’t apply to all that you have pointed your finger at, maybe some but not all. My ex-husband actually claimed to be the ‘victim’ in our situation, because everything was my fault and he never done any wrong to us, LOL!! I really think that these people who are being abusive to their spouses, whatever their sex may be, are the ones who want to play victim in this game.they are the attention seekers and the ones who want the world to feel pity for them, not the actual victims themselves. the victims just want peace and a way out of a situation with a lunatic!

  18. Maritza says:

    Hi. Thank you for your article.
    I recently ended a relationship with a man I believe is narcissistic. In ending, I think I made it pretty clear that I had figured out what he was really like, figured out his desire for control, and his tendency to use and manipulate people. After the break up, which coincided with other crises in his life, he fell apart and fell into a severe depression.

    We are co-workers, and he is in a position of higher power at our company. For now, every time he sees me he flees in the opposite direction. However, I am afraid that, since I “unmasked him,” he may turn revengeful. How should I act if we have to see each other face to face? I don’t want him to see me as a threat, but I also don’t want him to think I’m available.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      The fact that he fell into a depression is a hopeful sign. It means he hasn’t shifted into a completely defended state of mind, where all the bad is outside. I’d remain friendly and supportive in a general way, without challenging him further. If he turns to you emotionally, you might want to steer him toward psychotherapy.

      • Maritza says:

        Hi, Joseph, and thank you for your reply. That gives me some hope. He is in psychotherapy, or at least he was the last time I spoke to him. Hopefully his therapist will help him channel his feelings. He has been going through a major life crisis as a result of his selfish, unempathic behavior, which, among other things, ended in his losing me although he claimed he loved me. Although I still have feelings for him, I have understood that his behavior toward me (and toward other women, judging by what he told me about past relationships) is that of an emotional abuser, and I’m doing my best to hang on to that thought. Can someone like that change when faced with a life crisis?

  19. anonymous says:

    I was married to a narcissist for fourteen years, had three children, and divorced him three years ago. I grew up steeped in fundamental religion where the subjugation of women was the norm. When I was 11, my mother left my father who was/is a narcissist/licensed minister. Narcissism was all I knew. For years, I couldn’t put my finger on the dysfunction in my marriage while pastors and Christian counselors just told me to pray more, clean more, and give my marriage to God. It wasn’t until I checked out every self-help book in the library that I even stumbled upon the word narcissism. Things finally started making sense. I sought help from a secular counselor and filed for divorce soon after.

    While my ex had a girlfriend (a college student who worked for him whom he later married) towards the end of our marriage (who knows about the earlier years), it was the maddening confusion and manipulation that was the most difficult. In response to some of the above comments, yes, the scorn from being discarded for another is obviously humiliating and wounding, but the belittling, control, manipulation, lying, etc – all behind closed doors while he was a youth pastor – was/is far worse. He has since told family, friends, and our three daughters that I left him for another man. I feel framed. I feel like I’ve had to join the witness protection program because to speak of such things sounds crazy, hence my anonymity in commenting. Real victims are silenced while narcissists play the martyr and get off scot-free – all the while accusing us of playing the victim card. It is constant projection. One could easily feel like they were going crazy. You mentioned not confronting the narcissist in order to avoid adding additional narcissistic injury so that they don’t attack. I understand this – in fact, this has been my MO with him as well as members of my family – but the injustice is maddening. I realize my peace and worth lie in knowing the truth in my heart and yet there are times when I wish so badly it would all be exposed – regardless of the aftermath.

    While I was, in fact victimized, I am determined to be the hero of my life and not the victim. Growing up in dysfunction, I didn’t really know any better and yet I know that blaming my father, the church, my ex, etc. only leaves me powerless and would perpetuate this crazy cycle of dysfunction.

    I’m incredibly happier (despite the tone this comment might imply!) and hell bent to break the cycle, though there are times when the weight of injustice leaves me…tired.

    Thanks for the great post.

    P.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I completely understand that sense of injustice, and I admire your resolve not to take refuge from it in the victim role. The fact that your ex-husband is a minister complicates matters, since he holds a certain stature in the public eye and no doubt makes sure to keep his vindictiveness out of view. I wonder if anyone has written about the narcissistic minister type; given the way ministers are often idealized by their followers, it makes this “career” path a natural for the person attempting to escape from shame into an idealized false self.

  20. Joan says:

    I’m glad I ran across your site. I’ve been dealing with a very mean and vindictive man post divorce. He was verbally and sexually abusive with me during our marriage. I felt trapped as I’d married him and didn’t believe in divorce, yet hated life with him. We had two children in our marriage. He was physically and emotionally abusive to our son. Spanking in anger, putting his head in the toilet for leaving a little urine on the rim, and there are dents in the fridge doors from my sons head, yet my ex was still permitted visitation, and eventually gained the custody of the son by turning him against me-basically my son turned into a reporter for his dad against me. During our married years, the evenings were always unpredictable with him and how he would respond to our son. Our son struggled in school, got in trouble, was labeled ADD, ODD, conduct disorder, dyslexic, had pent up anger and didn’t know how to work through it. Dad would play the good father role and baby our son when he’d crossed the line with his abusive ways, same with me, usually flowers, make a nice spot on the couch for me to watch a movie while he cleaned the house, made dinner, or did a project I’d been asking for.
    Now that our son is an adult, my ex has his sites on the daughter. He’s been fueling her anger toward us, pumping her for into, and degrading me and my husband. I think our daughter is feeling like she got her hand caught in the cookie jar because she is seeing her father do this court drama stuff due to her venting and complaining, as most teens will do anyway.
    The evaluator has ordered an MMPI for all four parents, she mentioned mainly for my ex and his wife, as I’ve been in counseling for 7+ years, have a solid record with my counselor, have documented everything with my ex and my kids. I have PTSD with anxiety and my ex and his wife tell them ‘mom has drama and needs to get over herself’. I’m concerned my ex will chamelon his way out of the test as he is a master manipulator and it will not show the real him. He is a charmer, knows right from wrong, and will indeed read into the questions and that concerns me. If he is a narassist, psychopathic, borderline, or anything else, will it bring it out?
    A funny closing story, my ex wrote a 4 page letter and passed it out to all of the neighbors in my former neighborhood, our attorney, the editor of our local paper, and who knows all else. In it he admitted to his abuse and stated he didn’t know how I put up with him. That he was getting help (counseling) as he has a chemical imbalance, and to not tell me about the letter, to pray for me and be there for me. He admitted he was the problem, yet he has been nothing but vindictive ever since. I’m sick of it, sick of him, and sick of spening money fighting him in court.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      How awful. Having children with such a vindictive, manipulative person is awful — painful to see them damaged by his behavior. One encouraging bit of information: the MMPI has a scale meant to detect people who are spinning their answers in order to appear a certain way, or not appear a certain way. It’s quite effective in ferreting out that kind of behavior.

  21. Amanda says:

    I am married to a man who left a narcissistic woman. She has completely turned his two daughters against him and they are now old enough to keep themselves estranged from him. There seems to be little to do about this alienation process now, but he struggles daily with the loss of his children and the extraordinary injustice of it all. They will not hear anything from him and she has spun the events of the past three years to become the consummate victim that requires their unwavering support and protection. It’s devastating to see them subjected to becoming “the parents” (at 16 and 19) to their mother. She too has been relentless in her quest to destroy the relationship between them, even to the point of accusing the girls of “stabbing her in the back” by trying to have any relationship with him. Outwardly, she claims to be the self-sacrificing mother of the year, which the girls now parrot. Can you speak to the differences in women in this scenario and are there ANY suggestions you can make?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Hi Amanda. What a mess. I think this effort to exploit children for revenge is particularly female. (I hadn’t thought of it at this moment, but I’m reminded of Medea in the Greek tragedy who murders her own children as an act of revenge when her husband leaves her.) The ex-wife’s level of shame must be quite unbearable, and she’s in full defensive mode. It’s so ruthless, completely lacking in any genuine material concern. I wish I had some useful suggestions. I think the only course of action is for your husband to be patient, make himself available and try to stay in contact with his daughters in whatever way is possible. The girls will hopefully wake up at some point and recognize that he has always been there.

  22. M says:

    When I was a teenager my father hit me for speaking to my grandmother on the phone. Why, because my step-mother told him to do it and as he hit me several times he said, “I never liked that woman (my grandmother)”. I never knew when he’d strike. Once he walked up to me and gave me an indian burn on my arm just because he felt like it. He thought it was funny and grinned at my stunned reaction. He was plain mean. Yet his sister (a supposedly proper woman because she married a man with money who bragged about how great she was to anyone who’d listen) lectured me for questioning my father’s cruelty. She said, “When people drink…they act, well, they aren’t themselves”. He didn’t attack me when he was drinking. He was sober. When he drank he was safer. His sister was making excuses for him and condemned me for questioning. She sighed, “You should try to focus on the positives”. That’s kind of hard when you’re being attacked all the time. Families can support Narcissists and explain away their bad behaviour and instead blame the victim, “Stop making trouble,just take his abuse because he’s not attacking me, so just shut up and take it”.

  23. Fawn says:

    Dr. Burgo,

    What you describe here seems to have an element of control-control over the idealized image. Can you tell us what could happen if someone like this were to lose his control over his false image? In other words, what if, in exposing the truth, you inadvertently caused him to lose control of his false image, leading him exposed to toxic shame that was previously contained in the split off part of himself?

    If this were to happen, at what point is one’s safety at risk?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s a good point. I have no direct experience with confronting someone to that degree, but I imagine the person who feels flooded with this kind of shame could become extremely violent.

  24. AnonymousFP says:

    We have a foster child who epitomizes your descriptions of vindictive narcissist, rage+entitlement, and precocity+impatience. She has real trouble with perspective taking and expresses very little empathy toward others. After everything she’s been through, we very much understand why she is the way she is. At what age is it too late to change this? We love this child but are also afraid both *of* her and *for* her. She is in very, very intensive treatment now.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I couldn’t say for sure how old is “too late”; I like to think there’s always a chance, but if serious damage has been done in the first 4-5 years of life, the odds of a real transformation later on are very low.

  25. Shannon Ketchersid says:

    Dr.
    My X is the VN type, recently he gained a small victory of temporary unsupervised visitation with an order for the family as a whole to see a psychologist (within 10 days). Visits begin prior to the psychological evaluation/interview etc…my VN sent me some strange emails today regarding Saturday’s first visit ie…will I be there etc. my question is, when cornered, when the bottom is about to drop out of their facade, what percentage of these NV’s do away with themselves along with the children as in the case of the man who slaughtered his boys and blew up the house? What are the signs of impending doom?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Oh boy, that’s a scary question. I don’t know what the signs of impending doom are, but I have to think this extreme kind of behavior is rare.

      • Rachael says:

        Shannon, the book The Gift Of Fear might be helpful to you, I strongly recommend you track a copy down asap, it’s written by a guy who analyses exactly this kind of threat and he talks about the warning signs and realistic outcomes. Don’t take any risks if you truly fear for your children’sa safety; better to be embarrassed or a “bitch” than live a lifetime of regret and grief.

  26. June says:

    Thank you for helping me understand yet another dimension of my failed marriage and my husband’s complete undoing. After 22 years of marriage, and my own 4 years of psychodynamic therapy, I slowly came to realize that my husband was a “crazy maker” and that my daughters, as teens, were now included as his objects of mental abuse. He controlled our money, our emotions, slowly built a little kingdom within his home. He may or may not have been a sociopath, and elements of his various pathologies not only affected me at home, but at our church, where he stood out as an exemplary leader of children’s ministry, so incredibly charming to others. My weaknesses were used against me, and many at our church came to see me as he painted me…hysterical (I cried in public), depressive, unreliable, and a poor mother. He laughed when I spoke of revealing his behavior at home, including excessive drinking, to the pastor. He said no one would ever take me seriously. He laughed when I threatened to talk to his superiors at work (He was in the military). As a high-ranking officer, he said that he “had no boss”. Many times, he convinced me that I could never make it on my own, but once I began to take steps toward that end, and he realized that he was losing control, his threats escalated. Although I had to ultimately sign those divorce papers in order to secure child support, I envisioned reconciliation at some point in the future. I held onto hope that he would get help. He did not. He once said to me, “I am stubborn to a fault”, and he held to this. One year after my daughters and I separated from him, he died in his home from a drunken fall. After a stellar 20-year-military career, my ex-husband died alone. After we left, he never asked to see, or even talk on the phone, to our daughters. He never called. I called him regularly, and little by little, he lost his memory and his ability to carry a conversation. It is difficult not to carry some guilt, as my daughters now have no father, and I am the one who chose to leave. There are many people in our church who I believe blame me, as they ceased communicating with me after our divorce, and his death. In the end, I go back to what my doctor (and therapist) helped me to see and understand, that had I stayed with him, we (our daughters and myself) may have been the ones whose lives were lost. As any psychodynamic therapist (good one) would do, my doctor never told me what to do, not once, but he allowed me to figure it out myself, and I am now healthy. I finished my BA in psychology in 2010, and am working on my MS in School Psychology. We do not walk on eggshells in my home anymore. We are allowed to experience emotions and express feelings. It is still difficult for me sometimes, yes, but I am now aware of my “own” feelings and am learning to own them and allow my children to do the same. We are safe.
    Thank you for this website.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It took a lot of strength to do what you did. Good for you! Your husband’s end was a very sad one, but he DID have the opportunity to choose differently, over and over. He chose to stick with his defenses and continue lying.

  27. Lynne Allen says:

    After ten years of marriage my daughter is in the process of divorcing a man who fits this description. As I read some of the posts here, I am so thankful my daughter and he never had children. The first five or so years he seemed like a wonderful, responsible husband, then it was like he flipped a switch, something I am still struggling to understand. I don’t see how a person can “fake it” for such a long time. The last few years the situation with my soon to be ex-son-in-law has caused more pain in my daughter’s life, our lives as her family of origin and even in our extended family and friends, than I ever thought possible. It’s a lonely place to be. People don’t understand the difference it makes if the person you are divorcing is a narcissist. If you have not experienced a person like this first hand, as it is nearly impossible to relate to, understand or even believe. It is hard to fathom one person’s actions can cause so much havoc in the lives of those around them. I am thankful for your article and the follow-up posts, it helps to know there are others who understand.

  28. Brenda Reading says:

    Your words about shame resonate with my experiences with my NPD ex. We were together for 21 years before he left. I am in awe of the profundity of this disorder and the destruction it has brought to our lives. He will fight to the death to hurt me, I think, not because I am wrong, but because I *know* the worst of him, the side that is so incongruous with the image of self that he must hold onto, despite its loose connection with the reality of his behaviours. We sought marital counselling towards the end, and even the therapist recognized his lack of real empathy. It is a frightening world when you get sucked into the mind of a narcissist. It is crazy-making. Sometimes the closer you get to the truth, the better your logic, the more you will elicit a strong attack form him, ranging from “I don’t know what you are saying, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make sense” to “I can’t argue with a retard” to “F*ck you and your righteousness.” NPs don’t like being backed into a corner, and hence he has walked away from mediation, 5-way mediation, etc. Anything that gives him real world accountability where the world in his head is in question. Now we are on the nightmarish path to trial, and I find that gathering the evidence to defend myself is excruciating. While it exists, it sucks me into the world in his head, that crazy-making world that he kept me in and used to keep power over me for 2 decades. The world of projecting his insecurities, in the form of statements about *my* unlovability (because he feared for his own), *my* over-reactions and abnormal emotions (because he fears for his abnormal emotions, such as the inability to feel real empathy and not just express an intellectualized version of it), and so on.

    Someone once told me that the best “revenge” for a hurtful spouse was to be happy. Well, I don’t know about revenge, but I just wanted OUT. And I had a mostly happy life for the first couple of years after he left, until his relentless pursuit for the world he wanted to create in his head, how I was supposed to facilitate it (because I usually deferred while we were married), and, I believe, his need to unleash any and all frustrations and fears in his life on *someone*, and I was the familiar target. A counsellor told me at the beginning that he would use our daughter to rebuild his confidence, gaining her adoration and being intimidated by her close bond with me. He has done just this, and now we are in a custody battle over the child he was loosely involved with before the split. I believe he won’t stop until he has taken everything from me, and it is excruciating.

    The depth of the disorder shocks me. He is not healthy, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about a year after our separation. I see how his health is rapidly deteriorating, how the battle he has waged has hurt his own health… but he can’t seem to stop himself. He immediately grasped onto a girlfriend and he has treated her like a prince (thus far) and in a way he hadn’t ever treated me. He will walk all over me and our children for her; he needs her adoration to heal from his shame, and he needs to bury me so he can bury his accountability for the things he has done… and continues to do. The chronic stress of his attacks (and those of the unscrupulous, bullying and harassing lawyer he hired) has resulted in finally screwing up my life, and the financial battle has cost me 2 homes as the situation just gets worse. He has waged a battle against his own demons, using me as the target, and holding our kids hostage in the fight against his own shame. How someone who can appear so charming to people can cause such utterly pointless and extreme destruction is such a tragedy to me… and to all of us.

    I should have ran away when I had the kids full time, when I could’ve done so legally. I almost envy those whose ex’s left them and their kids. That would be easier to me than having him play tug of war with our children, not for their sakes but for the sake of his ego and his pocket book. Of course, he is too selfish to want them full time, with the girlfriend and all…

    Sigh. Thanks again for the validation. It is a scary, scary world.

    Brenda

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      What’s so awful is the feeling of relentless persecution you can never escape. I’m glad you agree about the shame — it seems to clear to me. The narcissist finds even the slightest hint of shame so intolerable he will viciously attack you for it. This response feels reptilian and cold-blooded, as if they fear the approach of shame as an existential threat that must be annihilated.

      • Brenda Reading says:

        Good post, Joseph. You’ve captured it well. Relentless, yes. The inability to handle the least bit of shame translates in their world to something I believe is tantamount to protecting their life. I spoke with an expert in high conflict divorces, and he agreed. The viciousness and.. truly… desperation… is the kind of response you’d get from someone whose life is at stake. Indeed, to the narcissist, it is because his/her self image must be maintained. The level of cognitive distortion and lies (to him/herself even) to support this image is prescription strength. I think that most or all of us are guilty of some level of selective perception, but with a narcissist, it is a highly honed and necessary skill.

        Not easy…

        Brenda

    • dayle says:

      Although there are common threads running through most of these posts it is Brenda/s post that seems as if my situation has already been written about. I left my abusive partner after 14 years During this time I was on the receiving end of abuses I could never understand or ever dream of inflicting on another human being. Because the physical abuse did not begin until much later it was so very confusing to understand what was going on and to see the manipulation that was being played out. I turned myself inside out trying to be the loving supportive partner I knew I could be, but everything I did only escalated the anger, nastiness, lies and deceit. The first time I reacted in anger I broke my glass coffee table and was stunned to see that I was capable of such actions, his response was to let me know he was very impressed with what I had done. This along with a number of other strange actions and reactions on his part should have served as warning signs an d although I was concerned I felt if only I worked harder to show him that I loved him we could make this work. Now 14 years later I sit here still trying to understand the hell that my daughter and I have lived through, and battling to deal with my own feelings of regret and shame that I brought our beautiful daughter into this situation. At the point where I was no longer able to work due to the constant abuse he saw fit to stop paying our mortage, resulting in us losing our home. Now, 12 months since I left my daughter and I live in a small rented unit, my self confidence shattered, still unable to work and living on benefits for the first time in my life, I am 54 years old and until I met his man felt I could read and relate well to people, now I can no longer initiate or hold a conversation, avoid eye contact and avoid going out. What really guts me is that he has gone to my adult children from my previous marriage and has spread lies and slander to the extent that my daughter and I have been isolated and had very limited support since I left. Only now has my adult daughter begun to see what he is like and feels used by him while my sons continue to support him and he continues to visit my ex husband,s house with his stories. He had made no attempt to visit them in the previous 14 years and I had little contact with them or my beautiful grandchildren which hurts so much. I looked forward so much to rebuilding these connections and now feel devastated at what he is doing, I feel suffocated and frightened, I feel I have nowhere to turn and know that the things that happened to me seem so unbelievable and outrageous. I am scared as he has threatened to get a gun and worry about my daughters safety when she does see him, he is inconsistent in his visits with her and she has not spent more than 4 hours with him at any time, which is her choice.She recently received a head injury resulting in amnesia when she fell from her scooter whilst in his care and although he says he was watching her he says he does not know what happened. He comes across as very friendly, kind, helpful, calm and easygoing, even my daughters grade 5 teacher asked if this is what he really like.We live in a small town and after 12 years I have not made even one friend, whereas prior to meeting him I had the support of family and friends, now long gone. This is where he grew up and has lived most of his 49 years, I remain here as I do not want my daughter to lose her friends and support but it makes it easier to continue to inflict his warped sense of self righteousness and anger. He had started his manipulation of of our daughter while we were still together which spurred me into finally leaving, and now does his emotional push and pull routine on her whenever he feels like it. After her recent accident which required medical attention, he played the doting father in front of others but then avoided visiting her for ten days until I intervened and let him know how much she was hurting by his absence, this made no difference until I sought support from his sister in law, which I have never done before. I have tried to play fair and keep the peace prior to this but this only allows him to continue to lie and manipulate, and this is the beginning of a new way of dealing with this situation where I now feel I need to let people know the reality of our life and his continued control and isolation, my silence has only allowed him to get away with his horrible, cruel, and indifferent behaviour toward us both.

    • Viv Barker says:

      Brenda there are elements so similar here between your ex and my late dad’s situation that I just had to reply, if you’re still reading. My dad was not nearly as vindictive nor as deeply [psychologically] ill as your ex, but he had a big streak of what I have thought of as border-personality-disorder, which was greatly aggravated in his 23-yr marriage to my mom, who had well-hidden manipulative ways and a bit of bpd herself, having been the victim of a bpd & sexually predatory stepfather. Once that marriage was well behind my dad, & he & my mom were each fairly comfortable within themselves & ceased further hostilities, he remarried to a lovely woman– someone he’d known in youth, the widow of a cousin; it was as though he’d made peace with the family of his youth (whom he’d left as far behind as possible as a young adult– apparently where the ghosts of his inner shame came from). The new wife had no psychological kinks as far as I could tell. At first I felt much as you say about your ex’s gf: he treated her so well, the way he should have treated our mom. Their marriage was a pretty good one, & it helped family relations all around; eventually we were all able to be at the same big family gatherings & that was a blessing. But then my dad began his own descent into Parkinson’s disease. His wife was a strong and devoted person and took care of him right to the end, spelled now & then by my sis who lived locally. However during those ill years all his bad features came right back into play. He turned on her like a snake & became, behind closed doors, that verbally abusive person we all remembered so well. She was not a complainer, & I only realized what must be going on by a brief passing comment she made– I saw she was surprised, hurt, didn’t recognize any longer the person she’d known so long. I got another clue in a peculiar phone call from my dad, of the sort he used to make behind my mother’s back when their marriage was on the rocks: he was warning me not to let his wife have any of his money because she was a complete airhead in that regard and would just fritter it away (when my dad felt threatened, he would always suddenly feel poor, and grabby about money). Only after he died did we see the full extent of his nuttiness: he had made a hand-written [but properly witnessed] codicil to his will, cutting her completely out! Not that he was wealthy by any means, but she had nothing! My sister made things right after consulting a lawyer & getting all sibs’ approval. But it was very sad to see how my brothers fought this and had to be pressured into giving her what the law entitled her to. Although my brothers remained cool to my dad after our parents’ divorce, they were quick to channel my dad’s pecuniary version of bpd, suddenly viewing his wife– who had by the way saved his estate the cost of nursing home with her efforts– as a grasping gold-digger without family standing.

  29. Hit Home says:

    Did you study my ex husband to come up with this?
    It seems that way.
    I use to think drugs made him this way, but when I really think long and hard he was always like this throughout our entire relationship just on a smaller scale.
    The Ice has just amplified himself and his antics.

    So what is one to do when dealing with an ex like this? And how are we suppose to protect children involved.
    Many people do not believe someone is as capable of all these things, especially when the narcissist is fantastic at playing the victim.

  30. Anne says:

    Hi, I was in an intimate narcissistic relationship for 18 months and as with most other victims, I wasn’t aware I was being ‘narcissised’ until after I split from him and I began searching the internet looking for answers, as I felt unable to get on with my life since this person messed with my head so much. The internet and self-help books have been of enormous help and I am happy to say I now feel free, I’ve taken back control of my life and I no longer take it personally what he did to me or how he made me feel so worthless towards the end. Like other victims, I went through the idealisation, devaluation and discarding stage, although ultimately I finished with him. Unfortunately, due to the fact I did not have closure (typical N trait whereby they give you no reasons for their behaviour, they simply walk off and refuse to be made accountable) I began typing up notes to myself to try and work out what had been lies and what had been truth (real) and afterwards, when I read the notes to myself, I became so angry and depressed that I’d clearly had the wool pulled over my eyes, my notes became a letter to his ‘old supply’ (the woman he is living with, but whom he maintained was only like a sister/housemate to him although she saw it as more than that) and I sent the letter to her. In hind-sight, I realise I told her too much (for example I told her all the nasty things he’d said about her, like her ‘manly features’ and volatile nature) and I felt guilty about doing that, but such was my depression at that time, that I just didn’t think. Anyway, she replied via email and told me she would have preferred not to have known about it all (the infidelity) and she quite clearly blamed me for it all. As for HIM, he got a slight slap on the wrist from her and that was all. Unfortunately, again before I knew I’d in fact been narcissised, I told him in an email how I felt about him (I told him he must have a personality disorder, as he is an expert liar, made up stories about his friends and brother in law, contradicted himself all the time, criticised me (during the devaluation stage) and eventually blamed me for apparently ‘making him miserable for months ha!). This comment hurt, as he was the one who maintained throughout he was going to leave ‘his sister’ to be with me, if only I could just stop arguing with him and believe in him (his words) yet I made his life miserable for months!!! Now I can laugh at that comment, as I realise I wasn’t dealing with a normal human being. What I don’t understand and will never understand, is why his sister/housemate or whatever she really means to him, did not want to even know about us? I’m inclined to think that his lack of happiness in their relationship, which made him seek out another relationship, wasn’t and isn’t of any concern to her. I don’t think she knows he has a Disorder, of that I’m certain, but I’m starting to think that perhaps she too thinks that status and social standing is more important than true love, trust, and honesty in a relationship. The only other thing she’s said to me is : Yes there was a discussion in February with him, but no we didn’t split and I hope this now brings you closure. As if that comment in itself would bring me closure??!! All it did was confirm to me what I probably always knew deep down, that he was lying to me, only he always maintained, until the end, that he was going to move out, it was just taking time and that I just needed to continue believing in him and to stop getting aggro and questioning him, as he was starting to have second thoughts about us. Ha! What a joke! I asked him at least 4 times during our final couple of months together, if he was lying to me as I was getting fed up and depressed with it all, yet he continued to say things like “please just hold on hun, I do love you, it won’t be long now”. I laugh now whenever I think about him and what he said, as he is to be pitied. He is an empty shell and will never experience normal feelings. He told me, when I confronted him (after I wrote the letter to her) that he was back with her because they ‘get on well’. That said it all really. Any normal person would say they were back together as he made a mistake and he loved her. Not him. Just they ‘get on well’. I think if I did tell her the absolute truth, i.e. he was really into internet porn and ladyboys) she wouldn’t believe me anyway. Neither would she believe that she is simply his ‘old supply’ since N’s cannot live alone. He is exceptionally manipulative and charming and I would end up looking like the psycho again, as I know that’s how he’s portrayed me in any case. Now I just don’t care anymore. I am a real person, with all my faults and insecurities, but at least I am that…. REAL. Now I just thank God that I am free from him. ABANDON SELF ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE should be his motto…..

  31. Demi says:

    I am also going through some of the experiences that you have talked about. My ex-husband has very subtly & charmingly tried to turn everyone I know against me by ‘painting himself as a martyr’. At the moment I am experiencing a lot of pain & grief coming to terms with the break up of the family and wonder how people deal with this? My young adult children have been supportive and so have my side of the family who could not be influenced by his manipulations, they know the truth from seeing it first hand.
    I still love & miss my in-laws but dont know how to talk to them. Knowing them, they would have been shocked and upset by the breakup.
    I know he would have portrayed himself as the ‘victim’ & I the wrong doer, as he tried it with my family and it didn’t work.
    We were together for 19 years and during that time I felt controlled, alone & powerless. I finally made the move 8 months ago to “Get a life” which he once told me he was “not stopping me from doing”. Once I made the move he told me I would never survive on my own, etc etc.
    Now I want to talk to his family about how it really was, without causing trouble, but I’m certain they see him as the ‘golden haired’ boy and always will.
    I feel so ostracised by them at the moment & we used to have a good relationship, they all live some distance away and only ever saw the charming & wonderful side of him as a husband and father, we lived in the same town as my side of the family, who saw the real him.
    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to repair relationships with Ex in laws after the narcissist has done their work on them?

    • Viv Barker says:

      It is good that your children are young adults: presumably they have their own relationships with these grandparents which can continue to develop separately? My first (10yr) marriage to a narcissistic person was childless, so I did not have that aspect to worry about. I was extremely close to my then-inlaws; I hung onto the marriage longer than I should have, which was very painful, partly because I could not imagine excising myself from that network. My instinctive reaction was to distance myself completely; just talking to them increased my grief at all I felt I had lost. My then-mother-in-law tried to hang onto me. I had to work through my own feelings (lots of journaling) to understand her own extreme narcissism & borderline behavior, which I eventually realized had everything to do with why my ex was the way he was. At the time I thought she reached out to me because she understood all the pain her son had caused me– inexplicably misunderstanding how painful it would be for me to remain some sort of 3rd-wheel ‘friend of the family’. I couldn’t really get into the details about my ex with them– ‘expose’ him etc: think about it. If you could manage to get them to admit to themselves what a mess their golden boy was, what does that say about them? Tho I didn’t stop loving her, I did begin to understand that I was part of her illusory self-image, another admirer in her golden ring of supporters. I needed to have the whole crowd out of my life in order to start figuring out who “I” was, away from them.

  32. Amber Martin says:

    For years now I could not pin point my ex husbands behavior into words ! Since divorcing him my family has turned there backs on me and he maintains a very strong relationship with them opposed to his own family ! Unfortunately I cannot avoid him, I have a child with him and have accepted that I will be misrable and anyone he comes in contact with will think low of me ! I have since remarried a wonderful man but still live in fear of what my ex husband may be doin or saying to hurt me and my child ! I often regret my child because it means I have to deal with him forever ! Any advice ??? Or have a sealed my fate with Satan because I have a child with him !

    • Viv Barker says:

      holy cow does your post ring a bell with me, amber! How INFURIATED I was when my parents’ marriage broke up, and my narcissistic, borderline-personality grandfather took my dad’s side against his own daughter! he tried to hustle the rest of us too (4 kids, ages 12 – 27 back then). Because he was the grandfather, not the dad, he couldn’t really accomplish this. But he sure made things hell for my grandmother for a couple of years. She was afraid to cross him, but not about to abandon her daughter either so she had to straddle the fence until grandpa finally got off his high horse. Meanwhile the rest of us semi-normal people were trying to remain on good terms with mom AND dad thank you very much.

      The only advice I have when trying to deal with an irrational, manipulative person: remain above-board, pleasant, dignified in all your dealings and accept no less from others– don’t confront, just disconnect from attempts to engage you in irrationality. Your ex’s power grab at your family is irrational, & their going along with it is, too. If any of these people have it in them to behave better, this gives them some space & time to save face & eventually come around. Right now they’re all caught up in a rigid unwillingness to accept a change that threatens their fragile sense of who they are.

  33. Alison says:

    Being vindictive is hard to let go of. It has taking me YEARS to rid this behavior I had. It is a defense mechinism thats satisfying. I was soo good at it at one time that I was being vindictive without the person even knowing it was me. I was never caught being so mean. It use to feel so good letting someone feel the emotional pain they caused me. I would never skip a beat and was as sweet as pie to everyone around me. On the outside no one ever thought I was capable of causeing pain or that I ever felt pain on the inside. But one day I had a child, and I call him my miracle :) Since he was born I knew I had to change and be the best mother I could be and be an example. Then I met my husband, and he is the sweetest kindest man in the world. He would never hurt anyone. He always thinks of others before himself. Him and my son are the reasons why I have changed. Looking back I feel bad for all the pain I caused. Yes they did do me wrong, but it was not my place to do wrong back. I know now I should have let God deal with it.

  34. Kim says:

    Dr. Burgo:
    I’ve had a miserable couple of years. I’ve only just started to realize what I’ve gotten caught up in. I took a job in a field in which I’ve worked for more than 20 years. I’m capable and a tireless worker. I thought right away that my male supervisor and a male colleague in a higher position in the company were a bit flirty (or taken with me). That’s OK, I’m 50 and I’ve experienced that crushy thing in the past. No harm, I’m flattered. Then – the 2 of them started discussing an unnamed woman in amorous and competitive terms. I assumed they were talking about the young women with whom they lunch at work. As time progressed, I started to worry that I had been naive and it was me maybe. Then my supervisor’s female manager started dropping comments about how my supervisor “adores” me to which I always responded, “Of course, I work very hard, who wouldn’t?”. I was later promoted by this female manager and no longer answered to the male supervisor. My female manager then intimated that she hired me in the first place because the supervisor wanted me hired. I’m married since I was 21. I started to think I’m in a very weird environment. This guy quit ever talking to me. Meanwhile, the male colleague in a higher position continued to ramp up the flirtations which I didn’t reciprocate. He would do this and then stare holes in me in meetings with angry eyes. He did not want me attending a meeting that my new manager had told me I must attend (repeatedly dismissed the need for my participation). My new manager then told me that this man didn’t want me talking to another married woman in these meetings. Once he covertly flipped me off in this meeting! He also would then try to get next to me when certain people weren’t around. Then alternately be sullenly silent. I found myself being closed out of industry events and professional life opportunities that typically come with my role. Other colleagues would vocalize to include me, but it would never come to fruition. I gave this guy opportunities to talk like grown-ups, but I wasn’t going to lead the conversation. Out of frustration, I did then lead the conversation only to be assured he is completely comfortable with me and all is fine. But….everything is not fine. The pattern continues. I started questioning if I had somehow inadvertantly seduced this good-looking athlete guy, but I have not! Anyway – he’s clearly involved with someone at work. I don’t know what to think. I’ve felt so isolated in this environment and it has really done a number on my self-esteem. I feel punished. What’s worse is that some of the women in the office are behaving as though I’m competition for their friend’s man. Oh my God! If I am a competitor, it is an unwilling one. Anyway – I’ve decided to leave the company. I have two days notice to finish up and it’s off to a new horizon. I have been offered more than$10K per year more than I asked for at my new job (and I asked for $5k per year than I’m making). So – this feels good. But I’m worried that the self-confidant woman I was before this experience will be difficult to find. I’m considering getting counseling mostly because I’m worried about why I didn’t just walk out at some point. I guess I kept thinking that I could cope with whatever came my way. I don’t know. I wonder who I’ve become that I’ve tolerated such an environment.

  35. amy says:

    Thanks for this, Anthony. The comment thread set me off on the right ruminations — I can see what happened in my marriage, how essentially my ex sold me this bill of goods about himself, hoped he’d get away with it, and then when it became clear that things weren’t working I was trying to find out what was wrong, really turning the searchlight on both of us. His flaws must’ve stood out in a kind of relief he’d never seen before, and it must’ve been excruciating. No wonder he still hates me, years after the divorce. And yeah, I think it’s a very male thing. Frankly, I think men do it to themselves. Men compete with each other constantly, and it’s a matter of survival. If you don’t have your boys, your gang, you’re out there on your own, and every exposed weakness is a catastrophe. It’s a form of misogyny, too — if you feel weak because a woman’s pointed it out, it’s totally kosher to turn around and blast the woman, because women are supposed to be inferior and they won’t get heat for it. These are guys who are scrambling desperately for a place on the ladder, and they have no idea where their rung is, exactly, but they’re horribly fearful it’s way down low.

  36. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, I really needed to come across this site. Perfect to “start the new year” on improving
    my life and self esteem. (Which I know contributed to the NP’s fuel). He is also on strong medications for severe ADD. For over 2 years I have been going through a custody battle with my ex-boyfriend regarding our toddler who has autism and slight cerebral palsy. I believe I was possibly the first person to defy him. (Even though that might not be true since I have come to find out that he has lied about details of his past). Have I been victimized? Sure I have. I want to learn how to not react so much or feel hurt by his insane accusations and psychological abuse. I do know his bipolar father was a narcissist. One day out of the blue???? for no reason??? his father walked in his bedroom and started hitting him when he was a teenager while sleeping. He actually retaliated and hit his father several times. We separated when I was 5 months pregnant. I have always been the proactive and reliable advocate (and custodial parent)for our child. He cannot stand that I revealed he was not very responsible or as dedicated to our child.
    Unfortunately, I am stuck with him for many years. My friend said that I need to get to the
    point where I regard him more as a gnat. I try. It still hurts when I feel his goal is to
    try to destroy me. I want to protect my son so that he doesn’t become a casualty with my
    ex’s attempts to maintain this war. I can come across as more of a victim than I really feel
    when I have to defend myself against crazy and unfair accusations. I am an emotional person
    and I know that it is one of his and his attorney’s tactics to make me look unstable. As a
    therapist once said, I am in a no-win situation with this man. If I stand up for myself, I will
    suffer his wrath. If I don’t stand up for myself, I will lose all self esteem. I keep reminding
    myself that this is MY life and my self respect and self esteem is not up for grabs!

  37. Anonymous says:

    Hello Dr. Burgo,
    Do you have advice for someone who has been married and suffering under a narcissist for almost 30 years? My mother wants to divorce her husband (my father), but she is afraid that he will shoot her with the gun he keeps locked up in his house. He has committed adultery, but my mother, being the forgiving type, gave him another chance which led him to become even worse to her (in all the ways a typical narcissist is terrible). How will she get through this battle? She is financially stable, as she has been working all her life. She doesn’t think that he will let her life, even if she decides to give him all of her assets.
    Thank you.

  38. AF says:

    Few people on earth can know how much of a reptilian asshole I am. I am a vindictive narcissist.
    I can be so intensely and absurdly deceptive, and I am good at it. The idea of shame is something that I really had never wrapped my mind around until now but it makes obvious sense, hence the con-game I’ve learned to pull as a defense and manipulation mechanism for my entire life.

    I’ve never admitted any of this before.

    If I had health insurance I would seek help, in the meantime I hope I’ll remember to find a book. Finding a book would be easier than moving to the other side of the country, again, shame and the desire for a blank slate , but no person in my life knows who I really am. There is not now living a single human being who I’ve met that I’ve not lied to. I just realized this a few weeks ago.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s a pretty powerful admission. As a start, you might want to keep reading the other posts on this site where I’ve written about the link between shame and narcissism.

      • AF says:

        Yes, I will read as much as I can. New Year’s resolutions seem so vapid, and trite, I just don’t want to lie to anyone anymore. Maybe that and reading will make some form of difference. Can’t say I am too hopeful. Thanks for the site.

  39. Dana says:

    I believe narcs are freaks of nature. Once you realize who you’re dealing with you have a lot more power. Nothing hurts anymore because you realize your just talking to a mutant in human’s clothing. The behaviors are so cookie-cutter, so predictable. Never regret the children. Once you realize who your dealing with: take some time and carefully document all negative behaviors with dates (restraining orders are possibtoss or an event for quite some time, but document everything). Get your story straight with yourself and decide to get what you need: separation from your spouse, your children and resources. Leave as early as possible in your child’s life. You will have more power and your child will have a better life. See an attorney privately, separate, take the kids. Keep everyone updated on the in evitable crap he will dish out. You can believe he will start threatening and harassing you and if you don’t keep the record straight he will have everyone believing him. They are talking behind your back and have been for years, most likely. You have the chance to start over and you are lucky. No matter how bad leaving is, I guarantee that staying is 100 times worse. Use your righteous indignation to put a fire under your butt and work on you and your life. Close the gaps t
    in yourself that could let another narc in. Live to tell the story. Find out who in your family is with you and build a fortress. Make new friends, work out, eat well, bond strongly with your kids. This is going to sound ugly but if you have kids, you are going to need to find out what they fear and get good at pressing those buttons in a legal way. Stop feeling guilty. He doesn’t. Your goal is to be a good parent and survive and thrive. He should be seen as something along the lines of a virus that you keep from harming your family by scrubbing your environment and washing your hands. I would also highly recommend EMDT therapy from a skilled professional to counteract the brainwashing you’ve endured.

  40. Dana says:

    Sorry- I am writing on a phone so it’s difficult to edit. I meant that you should understand what your ex fears, not your children, so you can defend yourself. For example, of he fears his mother’s bad opinion you might say ” your mother would be appalled to know you are threatening me. ” If indeed you are being threatened. It is imperative that you maintain your honesty and integrity. The truth is enough.

  41. Exhausted Mom says:

    I have been living a nightmare since leaving my narcissistic husband in 2010. I am still trying to divorce him while enduring custody battles yearly. He lies to everyone including lawyers, judges, friends, & family. I am mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted and the cost of all of this has reached over $12000 and nothing is getting resolved or better. His pockets are MUCH deeper than mine and he knows that limits me. He did nothing for our son and wouldn’t even bathe him before I left. Now he takes over doctor’s appointments and doesn’t tell me until afterwards & doesn’t even know his history! I’m not only the one who attended to all illnesses and appointments but I’m a nurse. He now has decided our 5 yr old needs to see an Ear, Nose & Throat doctor for “bad breath” even after I’ve argued that he only had bad breath because he was sick. My ex sees this as an opportunity to prove he is seeking care for our son that I haven’t recognized but I’m concerned that some new doc will introduce unnecessary medications (the ex is now asking for adjustments to his allergy meds). How do I stop this?!?! We have joint legal custody and I have primary physical custody. This is only a small example of the things I’m dealing with weekly. One other example is that my ex tells my son that he’s not allowed to call my step mother Grandma. I have pointed out that she IS his grandma and that this upsets our 5 year old but he doesn’t care! He states repeatedly that she isn’t blood and that’s that! I feel like I’m rambling randomly but I’m struggling to find ways to continue dealing with his irrational antics. I have set limits but he is out for revenge and my son is his pawn. I’m trying to determine how to protect our son from continued manipulation & emotional damage. I am a strong woman and I will find the strength to continue moving forward but I need help/guidance. I don’t feel that lawyers & courts are properly educated to recognize/deal with narcissistic personalities. My lawyer sees it but says that many judges won’t & it’s a risk every time we go to court.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I wish I had some sage advice to offer you. If it’s any consolation, your ex will probably tire of trying to “out-parent” you because he lacks any real concern for your son and will gradually back away. It’s very sad, and your son will of course be affected, but I expect this kind of behavior will diminish over time.

      • Exhausted Mom says:

        Thank you for your posts & response. Educating myself and reading others stories has been the one saving grace throughout this ordeal!

    • Annette says:

      I’ve been through the wringer with my ex for the last 6 years, we have two kids, 11 and 14 now — yes, it’s still going on. We are finally officially divorced but that doesn’t stop him from constant harassment. He’s uses the court system to manipulate me. I had a lawyer at the beginning and it’s so helpful to have someone to be a advocate for you. I thought I was done and couldn’t afford the legal bills and have been getting creamed in court without representation. Six years later we are still going to court 3 – 4 times a year. My ex is emboldened by winning in court and goes back for more when he wins. I agree it’s exhausting. Financially it’s a black hole.
      I don’t know if he will actually give up at some point. That’s what a rational person would do. But VN’s aren’t rational. I have that same impulse, that if a lawyer or judge would just understand N’s, they would see how damaging they are. But the legal system isn’t set up that way. You can try to find someone who understands, but I would recommend finding a lawyer who can act strategically. Find out how you can avoid being out lawyered, especially if you aren’t divorced yet.

      I don’t want to be stuck in the mindset of fighting him. I relegate it to a back burner (or I try to), so that I can put more of the stuff in my life that I want. A year ago I was wallowing in stress and insecurity. I read everything I could and realized that I am control of my emotions and thoughts. The way for me to move forward was to discover the person I am, the one I put on hold while I was married.

  42. Angela Medina says:

    I almost married a man who was like this….charming in many ways told me he “craved me” was over the top affectionate, had a need to go everywhere I went and bottom line what I took at as being needy turned out to be very controling. Our relationship started out with lies about why his marriage to his ex-wife ended. I found out the hard way by discovering an email his exwife sent to his family pouring her heart out that he had an affair with her best friend. And mentioned the things he was saying about her was simply not true. When reading that email my heart sunk because I too have felt that pain in my previous marriage.
    Along with finding his Ex-wifes email I found add’s emails from two other women he was chatting with in a flirty way one of which was the lover he had an affair with his wife. The other women was a co-worker he traveled with frequently in Ohio.
    By the time I found out I had already sold my home of 10-years (the only home my children knew) for this jerk and agreed to buy a bigger home to accomadate his kids and mine. My first thought was how am I gonna get out of this and not destroy myself financially. I sold stock, life insurance policy and every bit of savings I had into this home with him. Even though he made more than double what I did he expect me to pay 50% of all household expenses.
    When I met him August of 2008 on Match.com I was an open book so he knew my past, why I was divorced and what I didn’t want to end up with again. He played on my emotions, took advantage of my finances, and even had my father who was living with us pay $1000 a month towards the household to cover a $5,000 deck he built that turned into a $20,000 deck UGH!
    I found video recording of him with other women as well. He for some reason liked video recording that as well as recording what people said about him when he was gone. One time when trying to sell the house he put a recorder under the kitchen table to see what the potential buyers were saying. I had no idea he did it until he was playing it on his laptop and asked him what it was…he went on to say how upset he was that the buyers were saying “he’s clearly passionate about his deck but he’ll have to come down on the price”. Why would someone record other people like that….In the end 98% of the items in that house were mine. He seemed to think he was entitle to my belongings and it took a 3-hour police stand by to get my stuff. When moving into my knew home we discovered he stole things that belonged to me and my children took them right out of the box as we were packing the items. He even deplinished out joint checking account taking all the funds which 1/2 belonged to me.
    Now I look back and realize why his Ex-wife didn’t want him in their home when picking up the kids. Instead she would meet him at a church parking lot. I remember him saying she was controling, wouldn’t let him drink starbucks coffee, would never allow him and the boys to go visit his family during holidays b/c it had to be her way, he even said she wouldn’t let him go see his sick dying mother and would call him “SC” which stood for self-centered. None of which was true. However, he did enjoy talking about himself all the time. I didn’t catch on to it right away but it was so true. So not only did he lie and cheat on his wife but he did to me as well. When the relationship finally ended it was because he threw my son over a couch like a rag doll right after getting a cast removed from a broken arm that took 8 weeks to heal. In the end he placed blame on everyone but him. Everyday I’m blessed my kids and I are far far away from that termoil and drama, lies and control! I feel sorry for his new wife b/c she has no idea what she has gotten herself into.

  43. Frustrated and concerned says:

    How do you handle the narcissistic in court. Trying to limit amount of time 5 year old spends with him. He abuses oxycodone but passes drug test at work. Also has several gums in he that he refused to put child looks on when married. He now claims he sold the guns and tells 5 year old I am keeping him from him. My lawyer says court will not deviate from standard visitation schedule. I am really concerned about my son.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I understand but these are unfortunately legal issues. Courts tend to be psychologically uninformed and stick to the rules.

      • Frustrated and concerned says:

        So assuming the courts won’t address these concerns, how do I minimize the impact of his self-centered and manipative ways has on his child. Is there any way to get him to put his sons safety and well being before his own needs ?

  44. making my way through a divorce says:

    My husband of 16 years is just as described here but at another level. He is extemely charming to others, needs constant attention or the need to entertain, drinks to much and changes personalities depending on the atmosphere, is beyond selfish, has no remorse, no empathy. He has been mentally and financially manipulative. the last two years I found he has had another secret life and I have proof. Not only has he violated me in so many ways, he has done this to others, others that have confronted him (embezelment, fraud, forgery at small levels). Good news, I do think he loves his children. I am finishing up with a custody evaluation and waiting to see what the Doctor has to say, I do not want my kids to 50% time with their father, as I am worried they will grow up watching this and become like this and will not be true to themselves. I know that he has several identifying issues, I just can’t label them right now, how do you describe this behavior and what is your thought with giving him this much time, but enough time to still have a relationship his children. (I gave proof of years of drinking issues, proof of almost everything)

  45. Ex farmer says:

    It is so painful when the narcissist is your wife. Like mine. Society doesn’t believe women are abusive and she’ll complain about how abused she is and people buy it without question. It’s like her mission in life is to prove to me and the world that I’m mean and abusive. I’m not. I’m soft hearted and try to be fair, kind, and respectful to people. The worst part is she is constantly trying to drive a wedge between my kids and I. The kids are mostly grown and they know Mom is difficult but have no idea of the distorted “truth” she spews. She constantly sees herself as the victim and me the bad guy. She is so hyper-sensitive to things whether real or imagined and is the master at setting up scenarios where she’s the victim. She never let’s anything go and what she says I did up to 27 years ago is still used as ammunition. If I leave it will only get worse as far as the defamation goes. She’s cute and pretty and talk’s to others in her “Barbie” voice and they believe her BS. My life is hell and there’s no good way out.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I have no doubt that women, too, can be abusive narcissists. It’s just that the male narcissist gets more press.

  46. Viv Barker says:

    There is something that bothers me in this thread. Many speak as though the narcissicist came out of the blue (why did you choose each other?) Perhaps because I am a 3rd generation who has been entangled in such relationships– I find it necessary to figure out my part in it, in order to move on to something better. Many female victims here wonder whether this narcissism is a male ‘thing’– they are not looking for what their part in the script is. In my experience, a relationship is never one-sided, it’s a tango.

    What I see is: usually you have a piece of you that is like this yourself, & you find a partner who has a complementary piece. He manipulates you, using your fear of being yelled at. You manipulate him, using that fear he has of being belittled or even abandoned.

    I had a few key figures in the family of origin like this, & learned to do that tango with them. OK, so this is going to be 3 stories, & don’t read further if you’re not up for it.

    My grandfather was the worst; we learned to “walk on eggshells” as Randy Kruger says. What were we getting out of it? Keeping my mom happy. She feared grandpa’s reprisals against grandma, & needed us to be one [happy ?] family. It was like an unwritten contract between my mom & grandpa: you take care of her, & we’ll put up with you.

    Decades later, my mom got back her memories: grandpa (actually her stepfather, who married her widowed mom when she was a child) had abused her sexually for most of her youth. So even tho she hadn’t the memories, she had leverage, & saw to it that grandpa kept grandma in all her favorite social doings, paid for grandkids’ college, took care of grandma hand& foot in her final illness.

    Not that he was contrite, mind you! & never would have admitted it happened– grandma was as amnesiac about it as my mom– & gp continued to treat everyone horribly, threatening to ‘cut you out of my will’ etc (as tho he were amillionaire!) whenever he was crossed.

    It was a contract with the devil; the price: my grandmother’s self-esteem & a large portion of my mother’s, the stability of my parents’ marriage, & guaranteeing the grandkids difficult future relationships. Mom’s relationship w/dad was similar to her parents’, tho dad was a step up from granddad. He had a similar streak: had some feelings of inferiority & would lash out & lay blame when he felt threatened. It took me years (& failed relationships) to see how mom magnified this tendency in him. My granddad was a predator of a different magnitude; not only the above, but he kept guns in the house. His verbal abuse was backed up with a promise of violence. Whenever my dad verbally abused her, mom would become frightened and angry, and treat him like the villain that her dad had been. This completely discomfited my dad, making him feel unjustly accused, victimized, & further threatened– causing him to act even worse!!

    In my first marriage I found refuge from my insane family in another victim– the son of a bipolar father and a narcisstic mother. We supported each other fairly well for 7 or 8 yrs, but it fell apart when I was ready for kids. His own narcissism came out as we fell on the rocks: he ignored the family stocks I sold & the job I held to put him thro law school– he tried to get 2/3 our assets because he made 1/3 more $ as a lawyer! It shocked and saddened me as I grasped that this intelligent man could not acknowledge my part in his success without losing his own sense of self.

    My 2nd & present husband was a choice much closer to home. Yes, he had that sort of inferiority-thing like my dad’s, that could unpredictably cause him to take umbrage & lash out into verbal abuse when he– huh? felt insulted? how had I insulted him? It took quite a long while, & some therapy, before I recognized the belittling, arrogant put-downs I’d imbibed from my mother.

    I found myself trying desperately to protect my kids from a dad who never ever would have hurt them, just because he became angry and raised his voice– earning his [temporary, thank goodness] hatred for interfering in & warping his relatioship w/his sons. I, like my mother before me, was going into victim-mode, impugning my husband as tho he were a villain like my granddad.

    The saving grace for me & my marriage was that my mother, late in life, recovered her memories of violence at the hands of her steptfather. At the very moment she told me, I mentally “undid” the connection– the ‘sameness’– I’d felt between my grandfather and my dad– and between my grandfather and my husband.

    The moral of my story: I do not believe one can exactly ESCAPE from the complex messes we inherit. We have to work through them. When you look at a failed relationship, it is best to say to yourself: in this relationship, I was working on an issue. It was probably something unresolved in my family of origin. What was the issue? Have I resolved it yet? Corollary: it’s a very good idea to consult a therapist after or during the very dificult parts of the relationship. It is definitely possible to move beyond them.

  47. Charles says:

    Thanks for this post and the article about Lance Armstrong in The Atlantic.

    While studying for an MA Couns, I worked for a Narcissist and it was dramatic… to say the least.
    Doug, one of the employees in the company had died of a heroin overdose almost a year prior. He was quite beloved by the rest of the employees and did a darn good job on a daily basis until he got some too-pure stuff and OD’d.
    I found some pictures of Doug in my files and posted them with the dates of his birth and death on the employee bulletin board and all were appreciative of that – they liked Doug and missed him.
    My new boss, call him ‘Bob’, took me aside and told me to take it all down because we ‘didn’t want to idolize some drug addict and put him forth as a role model.’
    I was shocked and spent all night writing Bob a letter about how wrong he was to interfere in people’s grief. Well, that generated an hour and half meeting one-on-one where I finally (finally!) got him to mumble [sotto voce] “yeah, i was wrong… AND NOW, ABOUT TOMORROW’S PRODUCTION SCHEDULE…” It was sad and comic, relieving and fearful.
    But it got really weird when the next day Bob came in to my office, closed the door, swung a chair around backwards, crossed his arms over the back of it and laid his head down on his arms and asked me in a concerned voice, “So, how’re ya’ doin’ today?” with a sweet, sweet, smile.
    Yup! he was between me and the door or I woulda been OUTTA THERE!
    I had gone from disgusting wormhood to treasured friend in one fell swoop. (for a week at least).
    I asked my psychopathology prof what I might do with this guy. His advice was succinct: “Work on your resume.”
    A few weeks later Bob staged an all-but-coup attempt at a staff meeting and all of us lieutenants told the president that either he leaves or we leave. He was fired. And then he sent a bill for $104,000 to the company for ‘services rendered in lieu of pay’.

    Wow.

    A piece that is amazing to me is that the energy scorned narcissists have is absolutely unending! It seems superhuman… and yet it is subhuman because the emotional energy is not spent for others it is spent on others.

    Again, thanks.

  48. shanta says:

    My fiancee’s ex-wife has, tired to run us off the road with her car, driven to my house with her 3 month old baby in the car to physically assault me, stole a dirt bike, put 10 gallons of gasoline in my hot tub, got my fiancee put in jail on some bogus protection order and continually sends harassing or crazy messages. I don’t provoke her as much as possible, the law is playing the part of PON well. Men are not always the problem, most of the articles are driven to the male person in the equation being the offender but NOT in this case. She is also dragging the children through the mud, using them as tools against their father.

  49. K says:

    Thank you for this site! Your initial article, “The Vindictive Narcissist”, describes my (soon to be) ex-husband (almost) to the T. We had been together for nearly 24 years. I never noticed (or cared) about how he subtly ridiculed and belittled me until I started seeing our 2 sons adopt the same behavior towards me. It never mattered that HE was always RIGHT. HE was always PERFECT, and it was ALWAYS ME, anytime there was a problem. As simple as if he couldn’t find his car keys, it was me who lost them, all the way to the time we were riding bikes together as a family and he accidentally nicked our 11 y o son’s bike with his, and wiped him out, and could not even comfort my son or say he was sorry that he had caused the accident. I have NEVER heard an apology from him for anything in 24 years. Nor had he EVER said he appreciated me for anything.
    Over the years, it was mostly subtle stuff, but it was daily. “I always had a little too much weight” or he wanted anal sex “because that was so tight”, or “not all stretched out”. He totally laughed at me in front of our young boys when he went out and bought ATVs (without my knowledge) and I verbalized concern for their safety. He said to me, “What? Do you think our kids are babies?” “You don’t trust them?” He said things like this frequently in front of our sons who were 10 and 12 at the time. I didn’t even realize the message this sent to them. Which was that I somehow did not trust them or thought they were incapable, incompetent babies. That, of course, had nothing to do with me wanting them to be safe, or being upset that, while I was paying 80% or more of the bills, he went out and bought expensive ATVs without my knowledge.
    I have worked as a night shift RN to try and have a comfortable home. I used my inheritance from my father when we fell short. I never questioned money, just trusting, “why would it matter?”, MY money was “our” money because we would ALWAYS be together. He started his own business while we were married, because he could NOT stand to take direction from anyone else. His bosses were all “idiots”. Every driver on the road was an “idiot”, especially when they stopped for a “yellow” traffic light or were going “only” the speed limit. My son’s teachers were all “idiots” and they went to a “crappy” school, lived in a “crappy” neighborhood, in a “crappy” home. (It makes me cry to even think about.)
    The damage they do is phenomenal to a young, impressionable mind. How can a child have a positive outlook in life when a very impressionable person is always telling them how negative life is? And how can my kids ever view who I really am when they are bombarded with his messages that I am stupid, my opinions are not worth listening to, etc. I never really even noticed it while we married. I made excuses for him. “That’s just the way he is” . “He comes home every night”. “He fixes things”. etc. etc.
    Well, I cheated on him. I never looked at another man in 22 years. This was an internet thing. And yes, it’s terrible what I did. I wasn’t seeking it. I wished it never happened. I was stupid for it, but I guess I never realized a man could really show caring and emotion. etc. But, this man on the internet seemed to care about my thoughts and emotions. I felt like we could talk about anything and it was safe. But, this changed so much of my thinking toward my husband. It did make me see things in my marriage that I had simply overlooked or didn’t really care about. I didn’t mind taking the back seat at the time. I was a robot. No or little emotion. You do what you have to do basically. Work to make money, and come home and work some more, and feel guilty if you slept too long or played on the internet, etc.
    I can tell you now though, I am paying quite a price. My husband became a holy man after what I did. I had performed, “the ultimate sin” there could ever be. I now was the most “evil, vile, putrid, old woman, who walked the earth. He bought guns and learned everything about them. He would tell me, ” If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it already”. “I could litter you with bullets from my 22 guage shot gun”. “I could have blown a massive hole in you with my 357 magnum”. etc. He called my friends to tell them, and my family (who he had also ridiculed for years), and certainly and worst of all, he told the kids, both directly and indirectly. He would say the cruelest things in front of them. “You cheated on your entire family!” “You lied to your kids”, and other very ugly things which I cannot even state here. All while I just sobbed and apologized over and over. I tried to say to him, “Don’t you see how I could have been vulnerable?” But of course, he was perfect. He had NO responsibility in any of it. He belittled me on a daily basis for hours and hours saying over an over again, “Why would anyone want to be with you?” “Your kids can’t stand you!”, “You are nothing”, “You do nothing”. Well he has since then moved out and is with another woman. He was seeking total custody and alimony, To which the judge saw through, as my lawyer and I had so much concrete evidence of the verbal and emotional abuse. We’ve been one entire day in court and $15,000 later, I have won on the custody front. We will have another full day in court. He still tries to turn the kids against me and will do anything and everything to try to hurt me. The kids (teenagers now) see through a lot of it, but it hurts them so much for him to try and make them leery and untrusting of their mother. I am genuinely here for them. I have not left. I did not abandoned them in any way. But, I think they are so confused. They don’t know who they can trust.
    And sometimes I really don’t know why (or wish I didn’t) exist. It would be so much easier not to. I work a lot for very little in return. He waltzed out of all financial commitments (for now), and I am a stickler in my responsibilities. I am trying to keep up with the mess financially, physically, and emotionally for my kids. At least I am awake now I guess, and yes, I do go to counseling.

  50. Missy says:

    Hello,
    Thank you for your insightful series of blogs and videos. My ex apparently is a vindictive narcissist. He makes up a lot of false accusations about me, such as the violent threat he pretends to believe I am to him, etc. and drags me to court about every two weeks.
    My attorney is very expensive and I can only borrow so much from my mom. I am out of work, I have been searching for a job. How can I get the Naricissistic Ex to stop dragging me to court over nothing? We have children. We are in a very expensive custody battle. He already has majority custody because he lied about me. He is lying about me to therapists, teachers, etc. trying to get me to never see our children again. It’s not going to work, but the pressure on me is incredible and the financial pressure already is to a point where our children may not be able to go to college and they are very bright, because of his constant lawsuits.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I feel for you and I wish I had some advice to offer. Unfortunately, this is pretty much a legal matter now and there’s little you can do expect fight back through the courts. I’m so sorry.

  51. Just want peace says:

    I’m tired of living in absolute hell. I left my physical, mentally and financially abusive husband of 7 years only to put up with nothing short of torture. We have been separated for nearly a year and divorced for 4 months. As time passes he increasingly is becoming worse. He has threatened on more than one occasion to “ruin” my life. He spreads lies to anyone and everyone who will listen. The more I attempt to be strong, the worse he becomes. Ignoring him doesnt work. Being civil fails. I have been denied an ex parte, a restraining order, I’ve spoken with a sheriff. I’m at wits end. He says he will stop if I “come home .” Im desperately seeking advice on how to handle this before I go insane.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I wish I had advice to give you. This is now a legal matter.

      • Hoping for peace says:

        To Just want peace,
        I know your pain and frustration all too well.
        I have been divorced from my narcissistic ex for 6 years and we have 2 daughters together. We were also married for 7 years and let me tell you, the games and manipulation still continues. I had a restraining order against him at the 2 year mark of leaving him. I had a little peace during that time, but now that I am engaged to an amazing man who loves and respects me and supports me and what I have to go through, my ex has turned into nasty on a different level..through our daughters.
        The only thing that I can tell you is to completely ignore him. Disengage! Do not respond to him. Do not feel like you need to defend yourself to him, do not try to correct him, do not justify yourself to people he talks to about how horrible you are. It doesn’t matter because the only people that matter are the ones that love you. The more you react to him the more power you give him and he will look at you as weak and under his control. I recently found a wonderful website with lots of different advice in how to handle this nightmare you, myself and lots of women are going through. It is one of the most torturous things I have had to go through, but there is one thing that is so glorious about it all. We had the strength to leave and have a new life of peace. Rid if the poison.
        Let me know if you are interested in that website, I will post.
        Stay strong!

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes pls whats theweb site
          Been going through 8yrs of divorced hell :(

        • 20 years with a narc but I paroled myself says:

          what you wrote HOPING FOR PEACE, sounds like the words came right out of my mouth. For a moment I thought it was a comment I had left lol. I am forever grateful to the internet , all the research I did allowed me to put a name to the hell I was living. Divorced 2 years and loving life . My ex narc just got engaged to the one he was cheating on me with. I figure and I don’t why but I feel their marriage will end with someone physically hurt. The woman has 4 divorces and well I was my ex’s 3 divorce…recipe for disaster

        • Always Hopeful says:

          Dear Hoping for Peace,
          This posting was from a year ago, so I have to ask how your advice worked for you in your situation? I am dealing with my ex-husband for years who just can’t move on. He is in a constant power struggle with me, is unrealistic, malicious, has told lies about me to which I lost all my friends, keeps my children from me, says aweful things about me and is now involving my children. He simply would prefer that I died. I have tried changing my invitation in order to reach him and nothing seems to work. I feel compelled to engage with him as I am trying to prevent the relationship bewteen him and my chrildren from going south.
          I am struggling to find any balance when dealing with him. I know that this is my reality and I need an effective way when dealing with him so that it doesn’t affect me and my relationship with my children.

          Looking for advice.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am also trying to leave my physical, mentally and financially abusive husband and he is making my life hell trying to do it. He claims that everything is my fault trying to get people on his side. He shows up at our home (he has moved out) whenever he wants demanding things. It is so horrible I am not sure what to do anymore either.

      • allyson says:

        They are the most dangerous liars and corrupt people i have ever dealt with!! the rage and vengeful nature of these people never stops going on and on!! They are also trouble makers and drama lovers. they love to start up a lie and tell people bad things on you that isn’t true. just, learn from your experience and know what to expect from these people, more trouble. People who know you, they will figure out what he’s about and they will find out the real truth. Try to stay clear from him and ignore him as much as you can. Don’t allow yourself to be hurt by him anymore, they would love that! good luck and hope the best for you dear.

    • Linda Vanvaerenbergh says:

      @justwantpeace~I spent 8 years in the courts 20 years ago to try to diffuse a NP ex-husband. Orders of protection or any authority will have no effect on your Ex, pretending like he no longer exists is the only way I found to diffuse mine. You can’t change him or control what he says, he is challenging you to defend yourself as it delights him to watch you in such pain. Your friends and family should shut him down as well, they should never be baited by him to answer questions in regard to you. You should have someone with you at all times as a witness and protection. He wants you to call the police and seem hysterical as it backs up the stories and lies he’s been spreading.
      I know it’s not fair to have all the burden of maintaining composure on you but deep as a dinner plate Ex is not capable of reason and you my dear are so tag your it. I pray for your safety and sanity it is not an easy journey and the scars run deep. ~peace and love~

  52. Jennifer Flynn says:

    I wish you all the best, i was married to an abusive , demeaning, cheating narcisistic man, whom I was in a relationship with for 5 years. Any time I wanted to leave he threatened me also.. I finally just went and did it, and filed for legal separation , which was granted.After getting over the initial shock and some of the vindictive things he did(texts, public annialation of my character) I have never felt better. If someone believes the crap hes saying they were really not my friend to begin with and I don’t need them in my life either. I was were you were at just over a month ago, you just have to be prepared it will suck, but the weight that will be off your shoulders is unreal.I should have left years ago.Hugs and best of luck.

  53. Anonymous says:

    My fiance was married to a narcissistic woman for over 20 years with two children. She has every trait of this and is diagnosed. The youngest child is 18. This woman is remarried but yet insists on trying to get my fiance back. Relentlessly texting, trying to meet up, and has actually involved the children in this as well, while hiding this from her current husband. She has completely brainwashed everyone involved. My fiance says the only way he won’t lose the children is if he “plays along” with her otherwise the children will turn on him as well. If he ignores her she rages on everyone, including the kids. This is the short version of what has happened in the last few years. I would really like to get some suggestions on what to do and how I should handle this.

  54. I’m having a very hard time dealing with my ex narcissist husband because even after 20 years, he is still hell bent on antagonizing and destroying me. His most recent attempt just ended in a court case with my present partner, where he had him up on charges of “uttering threats” The case was dismissed, and the judge defined the case as a case of “Malicious Prosecution” I hope he gets his just rewards, but I must say that in all my years of fighting with my ex, it took a Criminal Court Judge to see right through him. Family Court Judges believed every word out of his lying mouth.
    I have been estranged from my 2 oldest daughters and 6 grandchildren for 4 years now, thanks to him. He has turned them against me, and I have not had any contact with them for 4 years. I still maintain a relationship with my youngest (almost 18) and I have been trying to reach out to one of my daughters, but she has not responded. I will admit that I have not the “perfect parent” I have made many mistakes. I regret those mistakes and do feel remorse. But I know in my heart of hearts that I never made a mistake so bad that would warrant my children turning their backs on me and disowning me. I know it is mostly him brainwashing them. I know this because even though I personally haven’t seen or spoken to him 4 years, my youngest daughter tells me that all they do( he and my 2 oldest daughters) is bad mouth me and they get very angry at her when she tries to defend me.
    I am so hurt and heartbroken by the loss of my children, but I wont stop trying to reach out. I can’t. I’m they’re mother. I will love them always no matter what. My doors will always be open for them when ever they are ready to walk back in. In the meantime, I must carry on, because I am strong and destined to do so. My life is better and I am happier in many aspects, even though I had to move 2000 miles to get away from his constant need to destroy me. But as I said earlier, I still don’t think he’s done and I don’t know what to do about it. I suppose there is nothing I can do really. He’s the one with the problem, and I guess I may be living with this narcissist until the day he dies. So sad really. I feel for anyone going through this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Denise I know exactly how you feel! My heart goes out to you. I am in the middle of a vicious divorce with a narcissist and it’s hell. I have been a stay at home mom for 17 years recently going back to work part time and have always had a wonderful relationship with my daughters who are now 15 & 17. My soon to be ex (who is still living in the house!) is trying to say I am a no good drunken mother who shouldn’t be around her daughters because it’s not safe. He has my girl convinced I am an alcoholic which is so not true!! He went so far as to take the girls up to the police station trying to get a restraining order out of me!! Thankfully it was denied as there was no crime committed. He has gone on my facebook pretending to be me and spread lies about me, I have since shut it down. He tried calling and sending letters to friends and family telling them how horrible I am and all the pain that I’ve caused the family and how he didn’t want the divorce (though he filed) and this is all my fault! He has called me terrible names in front of our daughters, stripping me of any authority I had as their mother thus causing them to lose respect for me. He stopped putting money in our joint checking account and told me he isn’t going to give me any money thus forcing me to open up my own account so I can pay bills that are in my name. The list goes on and on!!! We tried mediation but you cannot mediate with a narcissist!! So now the judge will decide! The most hurtful thing in all of this is my daughters are taking his side. He is buying them with material things and he hovers over them constantly! I think the are afraid of him that is why they side with him, the don’t want to anger him because they know there will be hell to pay. I have wonderful support system in my life, I am very blessed! Otherwise I don’t know how I would survive all this! I totally ignore him which seems to anger him even more! I feel your pain but stay strong. You deserve love and happiness and one day all of your children will realize that you are NOT this demon your ex portrays you to be!! Love wins in the end!

  55. Anonymous says:

    So glad to have this… been dealing for a long time
    OK, I divorced my co-dependent, alcoholic husband 3 years ago. He was the “make the same mistake over and over and never learn” person. He never grew up, and I he was not brought up to be selfless. He was dating a woman for some time before we divorced and well before my prompting him for a divorce. He of course was self absorbed, but the woman he is now married to, has to be NPD.
    She leaped into my life through our children, very young children within the first month we were separated. She has done everything under the sun to get my attention and hurt me. The dad never did anything to involve himself in his marriage or in the lives of his children. Every conversation I attempted to have about boundaries, common sense behavior in front of the children, came back with a “this is what you wanted” or “you are crazy”response from her. He of course does or says nothing.

    She started by being present at every visitation, drop off, and within weeks of divorce-posting pics with the children on Facebook, then connecting to all my friends/family members on Facebook. I tried to ignore this! I deleted my Facebook account. She took the kids for hair cuts-threw birthday celebrations for my small children and sent back cake for me. (She was his girlfriend!) Oh-did I mention that she was sitting at the gas station at the end of my street most mornings? I met her on the road almost daily. I thought is was odd-until I was having coffee one morning at a place down the street from my home, and I saw her drive by. Then she drove by again, and again, and again. I was in disbelief thinking it had been a strange coincidence. Nope, this woman was circling a 6 block radius of my home. She did this for at least 30 minutes. I was in shock-I went back for coffee the next morning and there she was again driving back and forth. No wonder I was seeing this person so often. I said nothing to her-ignored and documented with pics and video. This went on for a year and a half until I sold my home and moved closer to work. She tried texting and emailing me-I blocked her. She had officially cut me off from all communication with my ex not allowing him to speak to me on the phone because I “am not an honest person”. She showed up at two sports leagues I joined, she did not play, just showed up to watch. She did this until I finally stopped playing. Next, she began contacting the school and teachers. I worked in the school! I ignored her and said nothing about it. She sent in her picture for the family walls in the classroom.
    They got married, she began showing up at classroom parties for the children, and going so far as to tell my young daughter to call her mommy since she is married to her daddy. She sent in snacks to the school for the teachers. Volunteered on parent committees knowing I would be there and she had no children in the school, or children period. She showed up on field trips-without their father, all knowing I would be there. I always attended the kid’s school activities. I have since moved away and her need be in my world has worsened. It has been difficult to enact no-contact when she has purposely implanted herself between the ex and myself for everything and has made it a point to introduce herself to all my close friends. She has attempted to make me the evil ex-wife to almost everyone I know. She makes horrible comments about me to the kids. Anything she can do that is the exact opposite of what I request, she does. The latest thing she has done is to confront a close friend of mine about me and why I do not like her. She plays victim at every chance. Also, she has been viewing my profiles on other social network sites-yes it tells me who viewed.

    My question-how do I create boundaries? I have ignored but honestly her behavior is getting more severe. Her efforts to create a stir have been relentless, and I do laugh at her desperation, but I also cringe a bit because it is a bit scary how consumed she is.

    Any thoughts?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:
    • Susan says:

      Dear Anonymous,
      I cannot imagine the pain you are felling. It is absolutely amazing you have held it together so well for so long. I guess I have a few thoughts regarding the NPD following you around – I believe that is considered stalking in most states and I am sure you could get some type of temporary restraining order against her. Problem is with a vindictive narcissist – such boundaries tend to escalate their shame and therefore their retaliatory offenses. That said I think it is very important that you get a ‘legal file’ started that clearly documents (your video/pictures/specific times etc) her stalking behavior.

      Next I would keep a very detailed journal regarding her participation at your children’s events compared to your ex-husbands. Your ex-husband has a legal right to be involved in their lives, albeit ridiculous when it comes to a dead beat selfish parent, but she DOES NOT. I think if you could present the court with numerous – well documented – examples of how she is essentially trying to take your role as your kids mother by taking advantage of an absentee biological father – the court would have an issue with this.

      Most important is to have specific examples of the time the kids spend with her when he is not around. No court is knowingly going to take your kids from you to give to another person who is not their parent.

      More importantly, it is without question, not in the best interest of the children to be put in such a stressful situation with an adult who is NOT their biological parent. It is hard enough on children to navigate through divorced, confrontational parents. To add a third party to the stress they endure is so damaging that I would argue strongly, to the court, that the unsolicited proactive involvement by this woman is severely inhibiting your children’s emotional development and stability.

      Once you have a concrete list of 20 or so incidences that illustrate this point, I would petition the court for full decision making ability in the areas of healthcare, activities and education. I would also argue strongly for reduced time spent with their father and the NPD. I think your chances are good if you can prove that when your kids are with there ‘father’ they are really with her – and she is causing great harm to their emotional stability and development.

      Your ex-husband will always have a legal right to access your kids healthcare and education records, however the crazy NPD wife (girlfriend) has no legal access to your children’s personal information. If your ex chooses to share education/grades results or healthcare information – it will all be after the fact – paralyzing the NPD of day to day involvement.

      It would be extremely helpful if the kids could talk to a counselor about their feelings that a CFI could access to present to the court. My guess is that your X and the NPD would never sign of on this if there is joint decision making foe healthcare. I think there are ways around this in terms of having your kids voices heard by an independent third party but I am not so sure of the legality so I don’t know if it would be wise to post such info on an open form.

      By the way I am not an attorney or a doctor. I have lived through the hell you are going through (without the girlfriend NPD but my X is the NPD and I know they stop at nothing – ever – to establish dominance in the most humiliating of ways with NO regard for the children involved. It is sad and terrible and the laws around this topic – albeit difficult to draft/implement, need dramatic improvement – for the sake of the KIDS who are the victims of ‘no-fault’ divorce and cart-blanche toxic parenting based on biological parental ‘rights’.

      It is very difficult to defend yourself to mutual family and friends against the on-slot of manipulative character disparagement without sounding defensive and ugly yourself. I know I have been there. To ‘take the higher ground’ and say nothing is difficult too – as silence is often times viewed as guilt. It sucks for sure. I find myself further and further isolated, self-imposed, from social circles. The stress of the negativity and confrontation takes such a toll on my physical, mental and emotional health that I proactively step away in the interest of self preservation. I am no help to my kids and the road ahead if I am dead from the stress of it all.

      I guess it is most important to reiterate to your kids that you are their mother and will always be there mother, and will love them for eternity. Give them the unconditional powerful love that a NPD is simply incapable of sustaining (the act) over time. Kids are so smart and they will figure it out in the end, where they are loved and accepted unconditionally – and where their best interests are truly a priority.

      Hope that helps a little. Hang in there, and never ever stop fighting (not in front of them) for your children’s well being. No matter how bad it gets, take peace and comfort knowing that you are doing the best you can for what is right for your kids. Even when you lose a ‘battle’ stay focused on the war…..long term what is best for your kids. NOTHING else matters:)

      -SS

  56. Just want peace says:

    Thank you everyone for your advice, strength and words of wisdom! Each day it gets a little easier to avoid and ignore him. He hasn’t changed but I certainly have . I can’t even express in words how grateful I am to converse with people who actually understand what I’ve been through. I wish everyone peace and happiness. Stay in touch

  57. lisa says:

    I am so happy to read the words of encouargement, and that there is life after a broken relationship with an narcussistic ex. I was divorced 10 years ago and have a 13 year old son. He is very fond of his father and sees him as a hero. His father does influence my son and has in my mind brainwashed him and turned him against me. I am however hanging in and trying to maintaining clear boundaries. Reading some of the posts it would seem that I have lost sight of what I need to do to stop my ex from negatively influencing my life. I did call the police the other day in final desperation at the constant drip drip effect of his need for retribution and control. Whether it will help or just accacerbate the situation remains to be seen. The person I feel more sorry for is my youngest son. Unfortunately he is being used as a pawn in his father’s need to keep control of me and him. I will take away all the information and suggestions I read on previous threads. I must say that ignoring seems to be the best way to proceed. sometimes that is easier than at other times. I will in future ignore his texts and will try to be patient with my son who tells his father when we have the inevitiable row that you have with teenagers.
    My ex constantly phones my son all week and on the alternate weekends when he is with me. He makes him do exactly what he wants and I have little say about his homework or leisure activities. I want my son to grow up to repect women so will endeavour to be stronger and ignore negative comments and texts. My experience is that I will not talk on the phone or accept emails from him. It helps.

    • Just want peace says:

      Its frustrating to hear that after 10 years of divorce you STILL have to put up with this behavior. I’m only going on year one of our divorce and we have joint custody of a five year old. He manipulates her as well. Its difficult at times to be the “bigger” person. But I’m hoping to teach my daughter morals and self control. She is in counseling as well, as I fear he will be toxic to her. I just keep praying for peace. Not only for myself but for any other woman in this situation.

    • Annette says:

      I have a suggestion about boundaries and I mean no offense. You say the ex excessively calls your son while he is in your custody. is one place to start. Figure out what a reasonable phone chat would be. Perhaps 10 minutes sometime during the evening before you start getting ready to wind down. The wind down time should be your time with your son. There should be limits on what the ex can demand with the phone call. When it’s your custody time you do the schoolwork checking, not the ex. The phone calls are intrusive to your custody time. If you have to, get a court to order the amount of phone calling. Your son has his figure out his father and his mother and you can’t control that. You can control what goes on at your house.

      There’s a book I read that was helpful, called…. Boundaries. Boundaries are really about your self esteem. Your ex-N sounds like he is still trying to control you from outside the house.

      My ex-N tried to control the homework going on in my house by telling the oldest to wake up the youngest at 6:30 am to and drill her on her spelling. When I found out about the plan, I told the kids they were not to do this. I also emailed the ex and said he was not to interfere. They were terrified that their dad would be angry with them, not following his orders. My lawyer put a stop to his meddling.

      Early on in my divorce, when I complained to a close friend of mine that maybe I shouldn’t say this or that because the ex-N would get mad, she said, He’s going to get mad no matter what you do! She was so right. But it’s not easy even when you’re an adult to go up against the rage. Imagine what it’s like for kids to go up against an raging N.

    • Rollercoaster says:

      I do the exact same thing! Very little contact. My ex calls and texts my children constantly when they are with me. When they are with him, they are not allowed to answer the phone (family time). My kids know I love them and am there for them, but I am focusing on me and my current marriage. Sometimes I do really well and am super strong and other times (like now), I feel extremely fragile and weak

  58. Rachael says:

    If it wasnt for a comment from one of my dearest friends the other night I would still be an emotionally drained wreck at another warfare situation with my ex, over giving the girls more than one days notice beforewanting to see them. He expects them and me to drop everything that we are doing or have planned so he can spend one night with them… My friend said simply said he is mentally unstable and a Narcissist so here I am surrounded by words from others similar to mine…. I have been divorced for 9 years, i have three children, and he will not leave me alone still to this day. He is a selfish parent, he will only see the kids when he wants, if I suggest he sees them he will turn evil on me, abuse and sms the most awful things and sometimes ring constantly. It is like he wants revenge on me he hates me that much, and doesnt care about his girls. My teenager is fighting with him, he writes her pages and pages of self pity and tries to turn her against me, on facebook message… never listening to what she has to say, he called her ‘lame’ and stupid the other day.. she is trying to ignore him, which is hard for her, she has been angry at him for years though and she is only 16. What I would like to know is how do you stop them? I have had an AVO on him for verbal abuse, it was that bad years ago, but i dont wantto do that again, i just want him to be normal.
    I have met the most amazing man, the most amazing father to his kids, my young ones adore him, but the ex just keeps popping up causing my emotional side to be completely drained, i dont want to burden my amazing man with the crap. but the ex is soo vicious, i just want him to see his kids build a relationship with them and leave me alone……can this happen so I can have my happily ever after?

  59. Rollercoaster says:

    I have been divorced from my ex narcissist for 8 years. He was a minister who continually had affairs. After 3 affairs, I divorced. We had two young children grades K and 2nd. They are now 16 and 14 and it has been a living hell. I have gone through all the years of courts and discovered that narcissists fall in the gray area, so it’s really a waste of money and energy. Our legal system does not support the victims of these types of people. My son (16) was brainwashed into having to live with my ex (30 minutes away and a different state/school system). I’ve had to file bankruptcy because my ex did and it threw me into it. I’m now starting the process of wondering if I’m going to lose my daughter (14) because he has convinced her that she has to go to school in his state/school system as well. It is extremely frustrating and I’m exhausted. Sometimes I cannot hold it together and just cry. My daughter knows when I’m upset, but has no idea why and wouldn’t understand it anyway. He’s her dad! I have no more fight in me (energy-wise) and no more money to fight. I just pray that my children see him for who he is and come back someday. Right now, I have 4 more years until both of my children are adults and I am trying to hold on to any last thread of sanity and relationship that I can. It’s unbelievable!!!!

  60. lisa says:

    hi there
    i wrote on here about a week ago and have to say what a difference a week makes. i was lucky that my older son got involved and told me and my ex N and me that we had to stop talking about each other to my youngest son. He my eldest son not the child of my ex N .also said I shouldn’t have called the police. I think it made a difference though because it showed my ex that I have limits and that he has crossed them. Like all bullies I notice looking back that when I fight back he backs down. Obviously I don’t want to be consumed with worries about fighting back and getting exaughsted by his constant demands for attention. I do notice that if I don’t respond to his unreasonable requests and ignore them that sometimes that helps. I think ladies that we need to take a day at a time and not to expect too much of ourselves. Our children do love them and they are mentally ill so I suppose even though it’s hard it may help to think of them that way i.e. that they are sad empty people. I think that it hasn’t helped that both my parents and my sister were and in the case of my sister narcissists so I am sort of attracted by this sort of person or inculcated into their games and performances. Keep you chin up as we say over here in the UK.

  61. carmel says:

    Im tired of hearing about the negative attributes of men. I have been A Psychologist for many years and would attribute the narcissist/vindictive traits to many more women than men. in my experience its the women that are much more likely to abuse then scream victim.. lets stop the man bashing.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I see your point, and I agree that many women have equally narcissistic traits. I’m not sure it’s man-bashing, though. For me, it has more to do with the overtly violent and aggressive nature of the acts committed by narcissistic men. Women tend to do it more covertly.

      • Itsnotmyfault says:

        I’m male and have a NPD mother and have been for Counselling for several years. I’ve studied the mechanics of NPD too, including how it plays out with the Karpman Drama Triangle.

        My mother brainwashed me to think that men are abusers. The effect of that was that I would repeat this point with groups of women. They loved it and I felt that I was their big supporter. I was always trying to “rescue” female friends/ girlfriends etc.

        Well I was completely wrong to have done that. There was an underlying subtext that men are cruel and women are kind.

        Also, men being more overt and women covert doesn’t make men’s actions worse. For one thing it means many women get away with psychological abuse far more readily than men. There are no bruises, sometimes no raised voices etc etc. but boy can subtle psychological abuse be cruel.

        I’m not saying anything is worse than anything else so please don’t take this as anything other than an attempt at a balanced view and a warning about how our own “messages” from childhood can play out as positive when there is potentially a negative subtext.

        It’s just not true.

    • sebhai says:

      But still the fact is that there are more women than men seeking for help in this website,I’m not saying women are less likely to be less abusive or anything..but still it pretty much interesting that most men who liked to claim that women are just as abusive as men never seems to experience abuse themselves…

  62. Just want peace says:

    At no point have I read that this only pertains to men. But just as an update to my life, my ex husband was just issued a temporary restraining order for attempting to run me over with his truck. I’ve told my family and friends that I’m sure this will NOT be the end of it. I’m also very afraid I will die by his hands at some point. I don’t necessarily feel like a “victim” and I refuse to allow his terror to run my life any longer

  63. Anon says:

    I thank you doc for the forum after laughing my heart out I eventually see my husband of about 19 years now.
    Like one sad his picture has just to be putput against all the posts.
    I just want to check if do you believe God is deliberately not helping us spouses or what?
    I’m asking because these guys are really sick m not sure due to the nature of their illness they would seek God’s help.knowing that God does not impose on no one even healing.
    I’m a christian who believes nothing happe
    ns to me without God seeing it.
    I must say though its hard.
    Is the divorce the o only way out?
    Baba

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It’s hard to understand why God would inflict anyone with such a vindictive spouse and expect you to remain with him. I’m of the opinion that yes, divorce is the best option.

      • Ntombizonke Gcule says:

        Thank you Joseph
        I’m glad by now I’m so secured in God’s love for me.
        I do believe this is not His will for me at all.
        It must pain Him to see me frustrated by a selfish non emphatic 5 year old boy in a 43 year old man.
        I’m worth way more than this.

        after all the man was never there emotionally I’ve always felt single married just couldn’t put my finger on it.

  64. Linette B says:

    My daughter is going through a nasty custody battle with her mentally ill X. She has full legal and physical custody and has since 12 of 2010. He walked out on them 12 of 2009, and didn’t pay any attention to the boys (2 6 1/2 year old twins) until a new woman came into the picture who desperately wants kids. Thus the lawsuit. He didn’t want them, doesn’t want them and didn’t want anything to do with them when he left. He has no proof, and we have volume’s of his journals suicide, for 20 plus years. I read an article somewhere and didn’t save it something to do with using that info that we have to make him back off? My daughter has an attorney and we will ask him, but I was just trying to find out a little more about this. It seems like in the article it said that the only way you could stop them was to like attorney to attorney say, this is what I have, stop the nonsense, you do not have the boys best interest at heart, or your new wife will find out who you really are. We are in a short hold waiting for MMPI tests on him and my daughter, just found in his journals that when he was about 26 he had an MMPI done. His mother is bipolar, was molested and abused as a child, and then she abused him. He’s been diagnosed with Chronic depression “dysthymia”, but I think it is more than that. Just hoping maybe you have some information on this.

  65. JCat says:

    Our marriage only lasted two years, but it then took me four more years to get the divorce and to get him to leave me completely alone. He ruined me financially, on purpose, but I feel less bad about that when I imagine still living under his program of abuse. I would not re-live those six years for anything; I would literally kill myself to avoid ever living through that again. What’s sad is, I turned everywhere for help, and the system failed me. He convinced a lot of people that I was crazy. Luckily for me, I just don’t care what those people think. If they associate with him, they will definitely get theirs. He is capable of loyalty to one person and one person only–his false self. I think most of us learn the hard way. A few people tried to warn me, and I just didn’t get it. The way in is smooth, the way out a death-defying feat.
    I do think they can be helped as teenagers. In the right program, they can learn to stop lying to themselves and others before they have too many crimes to cover up.

  66. IDGAFILMBD says:

    I didn’t read all the article.
    But I want to know if a Vindictive narcissist is the same as narcissistic perversion?
    I know someone who’s exactly this way. It horrible, it destroys a couple, a family…
    I don’t know why they are like that. What has cause them to behave that way? It seems like it’s the psychiatrical term for Total Jerks!

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I’m not sure what a narcissistic perversion is. Narcissists are often vindictive as a way of escaping their own shame, which can feel as if it comes from the outside, a kind of attack that merits retaliation.

      • Just want peace says:

        Thank you Joseph Burgo. Your articles and the other posts have given me a new perspective. I now have a full order of protection from my ex husband. You gave given me strength and a greater sense of self. I’m 33 and can honestly say I’ve finally found my peace. Thank you

      • IDGAFILMBD says:

        Okay.
        Well, narcissistic perversion is a type of narcissism with a pervert tendency… They usually use people to their own depends, manipulate their relatives, expect everyone to admire them, destroy psychologically their siblings, friends or co-workers. Most of the times they’re paranoiacs and are empty inside. They feel like they are somebody when they destroy their ”victims”. Everything you do for them, is never enough. They’re unsatisfied in life. They totally lack empathy and are the most self-centred persons.

  67. Anon says:

    Sir, I believe I have met the criteria for the diagnosis of NPD. I have done some research, and supposedly there is no cure. Is this true? Is there actually no hope for us, even though we have identified the nature of our problem?

  68. Tim says:

    Hi Dr. Burgo,

    I get a great deal of helpful information from reading your posts. In a previous reply to RC about this post you seemed to agree that there was a political party that held barbaric views about women in this country but refrained from expanding upon that theme. I was left with the notion that one party over another might be enjoying greater mental health (and possibly moral superiority) at least when it comes to “views of women.” And yet, I suspect, there is really no moral high ground for ANY political party. Please tell me that all people, even political party members are psychologically complex, each with frailties and strengths, or will you tell me that the members of one political party are truly better than members of the other? Can that be what you meant?

    Thank you!

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      No, that’s not what I meant. Even if the other party shows more respect for women, they engage in all sorts of other defensive, psychological deceptive practices. I need to write more on that subject, about the uses of sentimentality and the appearance of concern to mask envy and a sense of entitlement.

  69. Yael says:

    The last two lines of your post are disturbing and intriguing: “When escape is impossible in life, perhaps the most you can do is set very firm limits and try not to inflict unnecessary narcissistic injuries upon them.”

    One of the problems in dealing with narcissistic personalities is that attempting to set “firm limits” is often perceived by that person as further injury or insult (“You call THAT love? You leave me alone like a dog…”). Because of the filial sense of guilt and responsibility, such boundary-setting is very difficult, if not impossible, especially because of what you describe at the end of that sentence, to wit: “…and try not to inflict unnecessary narcissistic injury …” Oh, boy. My narcissistic mother perceives even a bouquet of flowers as injury. No kidding. The more I bend over backward to try to help her in her time of need (she has been hospitalized several times for falls), I have been greeted with sarcastic, bitter comments when doctors and nurses address me (“Well, nice to know I count for something.”). Now she is beginning to give her money away, her tiny estate, as long as it doesn’t come to me. Where was the “injury”? In her own mind. How do you “try not to inflict further narcissitic injury” when such injury is merely paranoia?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      That’s a very good point; sometimes with the vindictive narcissist, there is no escape. It’s really frightening.

      • Yael says:

        Don’t stop now – you’re doing great! In your practice over the past 30 years, have you discovered practical ways to disengage and not assume such burdens on oneself?

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          I’m not sure about “practical” ways; I just try to keep my distance and do as little as possible to trigger them. This often means saying whatever is necessary, even if I don’t believe it, just to keep the peace.

  70. Liz says:

    I have an ex who still lives with me. Basically nobody else ants him – not even his so-called friends will take him. I want this prick out of my life but I have to do it in a way that will protect me from his backlash! He is E-X-T-R-E-M-E-L-Y vindictive and if I just kick him out he could numerous things like sabotage my car while I’m at work, damage my house while I’m away (break windows, kick in doors, etc), etc. He has been known to fill-out subscriptions for magazines and have them billed to his fourth (yes, FOURTH) ex and she gets a deluge of mail she can’t ever hope to stop, so she’s had to get a P.O. Box. He has tampered with other people’s brakes, smashed in their windows, set fire to their lawn, etc. This man is a nightmare on 2 legs. I am a professional woman. I am honest and a good person (hence me taking-in this walking viral disease). I have an awful lot to lose by just cutting him loose. He owes me thousands I know I’ll never see but that’s not even important at this point. I want him OUT of my life and OUT of my hair – safely – and for good. How do I do this???

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Liz, I wish I knew what to tell you. Sometimes when I read comments like yours, I think the only solution is to move away and assume a new identity. This is impossible, of course, but men like your ex just seem so relentless and ruthless, there’s no escape. I’m so sorry.

  71. PSM says:

    “Narcissists can be very clever. But they have limitations- their ego. I was involved with a man who was likely to be NPD- a vain, cowardly, arrogant, self righteous person with zero empathy and a miniscule conscious. The ‘false self’ was ‘perfect’ charming never a word out of place- I saw the ‘true self’ a tiny little creature with a high pitched voice- running away. Once you have them pegged they disappear- These people are deadly in so many ways.

    Sociopaths do not need validation- where is the narcissist need a steady source ‘narcissistic supply’ to inflate their dead insides.

    Beware of both- sometimes they carry elements of both disorders.”

  72. findingmywaybacktome says:

    Thanks for your beautiful post Dr Joseph. After reading I caught myself thinking deeply about all the horror that I’ve be gone trough. It’s 4 years since I broke the cage that I use to live in capture and seems that I will never find peace of mind. No matter how hard I try, my ex keeps talking trash about me to friends and my 2 sons. Since my younger son turned 18 years old I decided not to contact my ex ever again and seems to me that he keeps trying harder and harder with his cruel ways to get my attention. I won’t give in that’s for sure. He has done most of the cruel things you’ve mentioned in your post and much more. He keeps trying and I keep run… Will this desire of revenge ever end? Will he ever let me have a peaceful life? He marriage the other woman so why he keeps trying to bother me. I want peace and peace is all I need.
    Finding my way back to me….

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I feel for you. Such men truly are relentless and I guess the only solution is to develop a very thick skin. Your sons and the people who actually know you will see the truth of who you are, despite his trash talk.

  73. Cris says:

    I am currently with a 48 year old man who, for much of the time is a good person. He is with no doubt OCD, he is obsessed with cleanliness within the home. There for I no longer cook when he is present. He will too often take it to, and beyond the extreme. There is and I respect “taking care of possessions”, however not using them to avoid them getting dirty is extreme. I have bought such items (toaster, washer/dryer and others) and he will still yell, scream and shout “How F-ing stupid can you be” “How damn hard can it be to”, etc. Everyday use of an item is intolerable for him. He bought a truck more than a year ago, that I have ridden in once and will never step into it again because of this obsession, I was screamed at for 15 minutes because I leaned against the window with my bare arm.
    He is also a very immature, jealous, vindictive, spiteful, and prejudice bigot. He believes that his way of life (however narrow minded and ignorant) is the only way. And to add fuel to the fire we met at and work in the same fairly small company. It is a trucking company; therefore I am one of six women employed, among fifty men, not to mention the over 100 drivers that trickle in and out on a daily basis. I have been there for a little over teo years and am quite friendly with many of the drivers as well as employees. Again adding fuel to (we’ll call him Kirk) the fire, Kirk can brew up, he can imagine a whole pleather-a of situations in his mind, once we leave work I suddenly become a skank, whore or slut. He can start in accusing me of sleeping with over half of them (driver or employees, whom ever has spoken to me for more than a few minutes) and other absurd accusations that he knows are untrue. Then the silent treatment will also begin, and I retreat to another room and or bedroom for a few days. I am not even going to try to talk to him until this blows over when he will say oh you know I didn’t mean it, and etc. (but I have yet to hear an apology). Because as we all know, after a few days he once again wants sex. And me being the fool and also having the same sexual desires will give in and have sex because the sex has always been good and more comfortable with him than any other man I have been with. I had a mastectomy of the left breast (without reconstruction) six years ago that not only changed me physically but mentally, making sex for me a bit difficult.
    I am 52 and am too old to be dealing with someone who lets so many trivial things bother him and become a huge wedge between us. I no longer participate in the screaming and name calling matches he wants to have, it gets neither of us anywhere or any kind of positive result. I retreat to another room (with head phones) because it infuriates him and he will continue with the screaming and name calling simply to hurt me. I can only ascertain to make me feel as low as he does? I really am at my wits end, I do not understand how he can do and say the things he does to the woman he loves. I think I need to wake up and face the real truth that he actually doesn’t love me? I tried to leave and moved out, after refusing he calls and spoke with him at work only when work related and unavoidable, he made my life there miserable. Things got better, I moved back in and duh here we are again. I don’t want to give up on the relationship (if he were willing to seek help or ever admit he has a problem), I am too old to start over. But I think if I ever leave again I will have to give up the job I love, and move away?
    Really needing some discrete and good advice or suggestions, HELP Please.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I think you know what you need to do. This man is abusive and he will never get help. You are NOT too old to start over. Yes, it may be difficult to find another job that you love, but the more important task is to remove yourself from his brutality. He’s a very ill man.

  74. Cris Lambdin says:

    Can you please make your books available on Nook by Barnes & Noble?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      As far as I know, B&N doesn’t have a print-on-demand arm like Amazon, but as soon as my current exclusive runs out, I will make them both available as eBooks on B&N.

  75. Shannon B. says:

    I am beyond grateful to have found this website…I have been toxically married to undiagnosed narcissist for 14 years. I was very naive when we got together, but my first hint should have been when he coined the phrase “my way or the highway”(emotional blackmailer, I’ve done my homework)…I innocently thought he just loved me bunches and bunches, huh did I have a rude wake up call. Do not ever bruise the ego of an narcissist, because the torture that will be unleashed on you will permanently scar you mentally(and your children if you have any)…

    this, what you said right here is word for word what this creature has done to me…

    who have tried to destroy the reputation of their ex-wives with a ruthless and quite thorough assault on their public characters. These men have told lies to friends and family members, attempted to blackmail their former spouses by threatening to spread vicious lies about them, stolen money from them, tried to turn children against their mothers, become explosively angry, even physically violent when challenged, and have uniformly laid blame for the failure of the marriage at the feet of the ex-wife…

    and I save the best for last…I now suffer from PTSD(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)and also dealing with parental alienation(yes I have done my homework once again…word for word this is what he has done to me, yet I will admit I allowed him to do it, but honestly I didn’t know at the time that it was taking place…

    “… and then directly impugning her mental sanity while planting doubts about her fitness as a mother. She is, in fact, a quite devoted and capable mother while he consistently manipulates their children with gifts to enlist sympathy on his side…”

    I can’t recall what website I read this quote from, but it nails dealing with a narcissist…

    “Trying to reform narcissists by reasoning with them or by appealing to their better nature is about as effective as spitting in the ocean.”

    I have been changed as a person, I have been in some very dark places in the past 17 months, I have felt that ending my life was the only way to escape the pain and hurt being inflicted by him, I contemplated signing over my rights to our kids just so I could get as far away from him as I could, I have been called crazy by my father(who obviously listened to him and didn’t bother to talk with me)and there’s more, but I look back at all of these painful incidents and I look where I am today…I am still standing, albeit not as a whole, but I made it thru by the Grace of God and the sole purpose of me weathering this evil storm is so I can expose him for the monster he is and help protect our kids mental well being…and to salvage my mental health also…

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It sounds as if you have been throw hell but you seem to have come out stronger on the other side. I would advise you to spend less energy on exposing him — because that will only provoke him to retaliate — and more on looking after yourself and your children.

      • Shannon B. says:

        yes I have learned the hard way not to battle with a narcissist and try to expose him to others, cause he will only twist things to make you appear crazy. I have the proof to expose him in court to protect my kids is what I was trying to say and I’m fixing to start the process…my therapist said this would be the hardest thing I would ever do in my life and I totally believe her, but I still struggle keeping my emotions in check…I really most work on doing so. Thank you so much :)

  76. Scott says:

    So here is a different twist….
    Most of the posts here are about what the narcissist does in relationships with their spouses or children. I am dealing with a brother and a large estate issue. The money due me is critical for my work and my children.
    My brother insists it is all his- and he’s a lawyer, the Executor of the estate and the co-trustee of the trust with the money. (this is well into millions)i
    There have been long abusive emails where he threatened to ruin my reputation, make further advancement in my job (by writing my superiors) and drain me financially in court if I fight him. I have saved all of them. I have not spoken to him in 6 months nor engaged in any sort of word battle, I know that is fruitless.
    He is now suing me for specious claims, but of course, it costs him nothing.
    He has also bald faced lied to the attorney handling my parents estate.
    So here is my question, what if I reply to him that I will take “X” dollars, demand he stop all litigation, never have contact again etc, OR I reveal his emails to the world? He has spent a long time building up his “humanitarian persona” of his practice and this would kill that dead. It seems from all I’ve read, the deep shame narcissists feel would make this situation very dangerous to them and may stop their abuse for fear of revealing their secret.
    I assume rage will be his first response, but the fear of pushing a button to launch a website they cannot control, along with the use of their own words against them may make them go look for another victim to “Hoover” for their supply of misery. Defamation is not at stake here since they are the ones who stated what they did in the correspondence.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I wouldn’t want to advise anyone in your case because the stakes are so high. My concern would be that it is a kind of blackmail. I think it might make more sense for a lawyer to communicate a settlement offer to your brother; he or she might have some ideas about how better to convey the “consequences” of not settling.

  77. Beth says:

    When rejected by a husband who is compromised by narcissistic injury, it was more like I never existed. He ominously said, “I am not your friend.” Into the eternal black hole I go. I feel somewhat lucky that my ex is essentially respectful of laws, thus I was able to use the law to manage much of the vengeful damage (largely financial, undermining parenting behaviors, and sabotaging my efforts to pursue a college degree and reenter professional life). My approach was therapy for me, and close, cooperative work with my local law providers to deal with him. I did not argue (felt dumbfounded anyway), never tried to repair or reengage any intimacies, maintained respectful parenting on my part. I had tried reparations endlessly during the marriage, and had poor results with escalation of problems – we do learn, for better and for worse. This all feels horrible and makes the loss more depressing but collaborating cooperatively with the law is necessary and helpful. Your children will suffer and react, and you sense this impact is going to be generational, as you have to force social norms so that basic ability to function continues. Therapy helps by accompanying you with a holding environment and embracing your identity.
    The narcissistic ex has a narcissistic friend (they ideologically merge as physicists) who began hanging out at my teen aged daughter’s college to “use the library – the ‘best in the world'”, and by calling me regularly to “offer support”.
    My gut reactions alarmed me. I advised my daughter, and then said to the friend, “Something here feels deceptive…” and woosh, he was gone forever.
    My kids and I were lucky as we were again dumped, by the friend, into the black hole, never to be contacted again.
    That black hole I feel, in the wake of a complete rejection by a person who has endless narcissistic needs, is in my opinion, partly reactive to loss of identity in relationship to another. Is this also the effect of projective identification?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Sometimes it seems to me that those of us who are “duped” by narcissists have unconsciously bought into their idealized self-image because we want to believe in and be associated with it. We invest a part of ourselves in their grandiosity and then feel diminished when rejected. I think you could view this as a kind of projective identification.

      • Beth says:

        Yes. And, a large part of the attraction to ex’s grandiose self image would have been the desire/need to be loved by someone my mother must accept (because he was more brilliant/grandiose than she), and thereby finally gain some sort of approval/acceptance from her. There was significant splitting in my family of origin. And yet, way back when ex and I met, it felt independent and “right” to fully embrace this relationship and marriage. So, that what felt “solid” then was actually the familiar. No wonder this painful process feels like a generational legacy.

  78. Maripaz Lara says:

    I was in a relationship close to 4 years and in those 4 years we were married for 2 years. I thought I found my knight in shining armor. I was mesmerized even though there were red flags. Everytime I’m in the way of his pornography, prostitution, online dating and womanizing he will be verbally and physically abusive. He will call me names like fat ugly old and give me something to look at. The last time he laid his hands on me was 12/12 and I left. He started calling me telling me he loves me and misses me. On 3/13 I filed for divorce. I was lured to see him to find out he hasn’t changed. He is charming and uses the bible quite often but never practiced what he preached. Since I was unemployed living with a friend and he depleted my account I thought of going back. Within a week of telling me he loves me and me asking to go back he told me its too late he found someone. He found his soon to be wife number 3 who looks like his younger daughter. Its been a month that we have not talked which is great. I’m glad he met his match. During those time we were arguing and fighting I wrote emails no foul language but more of hurt and I told him what I thought of him. No contact is the best contact. I fell inlove with the false self or a fantasy who doesn’t really exist. He was different as to how he described himself to be. By No Contact and learning to accept that knight didnt exists. Helps in the healing process and seeing reality.

  79. Caren says:

    Hello,
    I found this site a few hours ago through Joseph Burgo’s Amazon Author Page, and I am amazed by what I’ve read here so far. After reading the Guidelines for Submitting Comments, I understand that Dr. Burgo is not likely to answer my question. He is only one person, after all. However, I hope that someone knowledgeable may eventually read this and be able to give me an answer.

    Until approx. 3 years ago I had never heard of NPD. Now that I know what Narcissism is — and I understand that it is a continuum — it seems to me that this may be what my mother has. She fits nearly all the definitions of NPD that I have found. However, there is one aspect of my mother’s disordered personality that I have yet to find in definitions of the Narcissistic individual, which is that she tried to gas our entire family to death soon after she discovered that my father was involved with another woman. The only reason my family and I are still alive is because the gas furnace was equipped with a safety shut-off valve. When trying to gas us all in our sleep failed, her Plan B was to drive us off a cliff and kill us all that way. My mother’s explanation at the time was this: “I brought you 5 kids into the world, so I have the right to take you out of it, and I would be doing you all a favor by taking you out of the world, because life is so hard.”

    My mother has made me her number one scapegoat ever since she tried and failed to kill us, and then confessed her reasoning and intent to me, her eldest child. I was 12 then, I am 60 now, and as recently as 2 years ago she was still spreading evil, projecting, gaslighting, character-annihilating lies about me to everyone in our family who will listen. She has made it abundantly clear to me over the years that she hates my very existence, and yet she frequently tells people how much she loves me and prays for me, and asks them to pass her message on to me.

    Would killing yourself AND taking all of your children to the grave with you after catching your spouse in an adulterous affair be considered Vindictive Narcissism? Or is that something else, something worse than NPD? I cannot bear to watch the news or read a newspaper, because all too often there is a horrible story about a parent, usually a mother, killing or attempting to kill all of her children. I wonder, have there been any studies on this phenomena, specifically on the type of person who can commit such an unthinkable act?

    I guess it doesn’t matter what the label is, it is still an unbearably horrific thing for a child to go through. But it kind of helps to know that what my mother did may have been caused by an actual disorder that has a description and a name. It seems to me that my mother is missing part of her brain. She is not cognitively impaired, but something that most of us have in our conscience seems to not be there. If that is the case, is she really to blame for being the way she is?

    Thanks,
    Caren

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      “Would killing yourself AND taking all of your children to the grave with you after catching your spouse in an adulterous affair be considered Vindictive Narcissism?”

      Absolutely! Have you read Medea, the Greek tragedy? When her husband spurns her for another woman, she kills her own children as an act of revenge.

      I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. Maybe you’re right, that she’s so damaged she lacks a conscience; she may not be “to blame” but she is still responsible.

  80. Kelly says:

    Hi there. I hope you are able to answer my question. I am engaged to a man like this and he is getting more and more involved in my church. It’s a long story but I am very ill and just capable of ‘exiting’ the relationship right now but I’m certain I want out – and I will get out. How do I prevent him from slandering me amongst our church community? He is building rapport w/ our Pastor and the church community and presents himself as so fun & kind. Matter of fact of the two of us, people think he is the more kind/fun one.

    I feel degraded and manipulated constantly and I do not trust him. This was my church to begin with and now it’s as if he is ‘taking over’ and I am going to have to leave when I leave him – and I have been with this church for years.

    Thanks so much!
    Kelly

  81. Sherry says:

    I left a VN over a year ago, with an amicable separation agreement in place, relocated myself and my children back to my homestate. For over 9 months it went well. Suddently he withdrew from communication, the school notified me he was attempting to talk to the teachers and asked if I was ok with it (to which I said of course), and when I sent my kids off on spring break with him, expecting to pick them up 6 days later, I was instead served with an emergency jurisdiction custody petition by email. I had less than 12 hours notice that a judge was going to “hear” his case. I made it in time to hear his allegations that I was a frequent and heavy drug user, neglected my children, the school had concerns, didn’t use car seats, etc. (every single word either embleshments of the truth or pure fabrications). The judge did not ask to hear from me, and ordered him temporary custody. Several months later, she still hasn’t heard a word from me, we have had forensics do evaluations who concluded none of his allegations are founded, and he has supposedly submitted a document from Child Protective services that he filed a case but it was unfounded. (In pulling a report on my own name they have never had a claim, so he has forged an official government agency document as well.) We go to trial in 7 weeks at which time I will be heard for the first time in 3 months (all while my kids are living in another state).

    My questions is… what should I go prepared with, pay attention to, focus on? I have drug tests, medical records, CPS report on my name, and other documents proving his statements are not true. But what will be the key to getting the judge to hear me? I am most worried since she took the kids in the first place with no proof offered to her, therefore I doubt her ability to not believe his lies.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It sounds as if you’re doing everything can be done. In a court of law, what your lawyers needs to do is offer proof that your ex is lying and has forged documents, etc. Once you can prove these facts, then the judge should be very willing to hear from you.

  82. Yael says:

    I am riveted by some of the stories I read here. My mother has been flipping back and forth between being syrupy “in love” with me, promising me the world, and turning upside down into feelings of hatred for no apparent reason. When she begins hating me, she accuses me of all sorts of crimes and misbehaviors that not only I have not committed, but that in fact, SHE herself has done. Projection. The problem is, those accusations hurt! Her tone of voice when she talks to me hurts! The way she talks to me hurts. You might say, well, don’t talk to her. I’ve tried to stay away, and she responds with increased venom, cutting me out of her will and badmouthing me to the family. It’s easy to say, Oh, snap out of it, you know who you are, you don’t have to take it personally, but when those barbs are directed at you, it is extremely hard to remain neutral and just go about my business. Even when I manage to get away by telling her I am at work, I sit there with bad feelings gnawing at me, wondering if she is right, self-doubting myself, even when I know I did nothing to instigate the latest round of hate-mongering.

    I’m no spring chicken anymore. Pushing retirement. She is old, but she has been that way all her life! I have my own life now, but feel guilty at putting distance between us, the type of distance that would cool the flames a bit, and return me to sanity. Why do we take it on?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      When you’ve grown up with a NM who treats you as an aspect of herself, controlling and projecting into you, it impacts your own sense of self for life. It’s understandable that you’re having a hard time separating from her. It sounds to me as if you need a good psychotherapist to help you maintain some healthy distance and build your sense of an independent self.

  83. Anonymous says:

    my family has a lot of these traits. My sister for sure, not only a narcisist but manipulative, vindictive and spiteful with a heart full of hate. Things got really bad. And I moved out very early. As I’ve gotten older I realize I’ve surrounded myself with nothing but these kinds of people from friends to boyfriends. I think because at that time that was what I was acting like too back in those days. I’m not sure the narcisist ever changes aso maybe I was just trying to fit in. I haven’t wanted a boyfriend in years now and its not normal. It just seems guys think your only there for them or are obsessed with them which is odd because you’ve just been doing what you’ve always done, going places you’ve gone to all your life. My last attempt with a past narcisist left even more damage, this type of person calls you crazy for having feelings or excpecting common coutesy that to me are just core fundimentals they teach you in grade school. A friend I’ve known eleven years has managed to slither his way around the whole time showing me. Just enough care to get by when he saw all the time that I would have always helped him and be there for him. My dad died, and not only him but many others in that group just blew me off, how stupid I felt to have not one of these so called friends there. I’m at a crossroads now, gotten past the past and am trully over it in my heart

  84. lindsay says:

    I’ve been talking about a lot of the abuse that’s went on in my life lately. My sister is a nacisist very manipulative, vindictive and just over all mean spirited and proud of it. Its sick really. Good things are happening for me and it seems like my immediate family is not even happy for me. I have done nothing but recreate toxic relationships in my life, people who just can’t get over themselves I’m sure there were a couple people that may have thought when I broke down it was in some part to them but I could have cared less at that point about anyone else, I had my own problems to face. I haven’t wanted to even have a relationship in years, a few months ago was the last attempt I made with someone I. Met years ago in my old neighborhood. This made everything worse, I realize as I grow in my healing process just how crazy the behavior really is. You can’t have feelings or your nuts, if you expect even common core standards or courtesy your controlling. After growing up with people like this and dating guys who were the same way, I bought into it, making me almost numb to any emotion. I just stopped even talking to anyone who made feel this way and I talk about it now because I need to know how to let good people in. I can’t stand arrogance or people who are so full of themselves they think I do anything because of someone else, when I’m just living my life. Thishas just all been part of letting go of what people think. Its been years as I said but this is 30 years of damage done. My identity is not based on what others have done or said. I just need to let good people in, I’m struggling with that. I’m stuck in a major rut!

  85. Nicole Celestine says:

    OMG, this is my story to the T. I left my soon to be ex husband for being abusive and he has slandered, scandalized and almost blacklisted my name. He has turned friends, family and other business associates against me with no remorse.

    He does not support the children yet he tried to seek child support from me. He has lied on me so much and all of these things happened 2 months after my Mother who played an instrumental role in our children’s life died.

    He has even robbed at gun point he is vicious, evil and vindictive.

  86. jeanette Becker says:

    how do you protect your children from a narcissist in the family court system? the judges and the lawyers seem to be clueless. How do you help yourself heal from the emotional abuse and help your children at the same time? The agencies that are suppose to help don’t and are powerless. When they don;t know they give you to another agency that knows nothing and refers you to the first one you go to. If you are limited monetarily, you have no hope. I don;t even know how to respond to him/NARC. He gets his way every time. I think I am protecting myself but feeling no relief. I just want some peace or feel I have a leg up on one thing, just one! Feels as if I have never left the marriage. What can I do to feel some what normal? I went through a year and half with a therapist talking about it, my kids are in therapy, but I just don’t see or feel it helps. We just talk about it. no solutions. I have the hardest time sleeping for long periods because it plagues my ming constantly.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I understand, and I wish I had some decent advice. I get asked this question a lot. The problem with the narcissist (or sociopath) is that they will do ANYTHING to prevail. The only decent advice I can offer is to document EVERYTHING, record conversations if you can, amass evidence.

  87. Beth says:

    Joe, As I read through the posts, it occurs to me that narcissism is a developmental stage that gets stuck. I was thinking about learning to do new things, how self absorbing it is at the beginning, and then how we adapt and open up for more experiences as we gain skill and knowledge. I was also thinking about losses like divorce, job loss, or children leaving home. Again, we seem to become self absorbed for a period of time, and then let go and open up to broader experiences – at least this is what I have observed and experienced. I am also thinking of the intense relationships we have in our late teens and twenties – how self absorbing and boundary-less they can be; then sometimes these relationships and expand, and sometimes they do not. I can see how a person would need to be relatively narcissistic to leave the nest and face the world, but what is it about some people that seems to get so rigidly stuck in that self-absorbed position? What do people need to move into a more inclusive paradigm, to be more resilient? Do we know?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I agree that it’s a developmental stage that some people get stuck in. I think it’s because their early emotional environment doesn’t provide what they need in order to progress to the next stage, so they keep looking for it.

  88. Beaten down says:

    My four year old twin daughters made statements to me and also demonstrated their father’s sexual abuse. I had seen their terror at being left alone with him (clinging to my legs, screaming–unlike their being left with a sitter.)

    After months of agonizing while consulting with a social worker, I called CPS (her recommendation after she consulted with 8 of her colleagues.)

    IT WAS THE WORST MISTAKE I made. The “system” assumes that children and women are lying. (Though less than 2% are, according to Leadership Council.) But 90% of fathers who contest custody in these cases WIN it. Judges, most lawyers, and psychologists are often invested in their OWN power fantasies and are narcisisstic themselves. They are drawn to your abusive, narcissitic spouse’s power.

    After $1.5 million dollar divorce from my ex, I am “lucky” to have managed joint custody with him. In a no-fault financial divorce (during which all his lies were accepted by the judge), I received 10% of joint marital assets and 50% of support and maintenance we lived on during marriage and 6-year divorce.

    Worse, he abused our children (even endangering their lives) DURING THE DIVORCE AND HIS LEGAL CUSTODY ASSAULT on ME.

    The legal system on which women and children must depend for protection is utterly broken. Greed, corruption, and rampant gender bias work toward the abuser’s benefit. Mine was near the top of a Fortune 500 company.

    Women be warned.

  89. Toxic People, Crooked town says:

    My soon to be ex is pulling out all the stops, along with his mother. He is the adult, she is the child, & they are a very close knit evil duo. After they soaked & stole almost every penny I had, cheated on me, raped me, neglect me, abused me..etc I had it & filed for divorce. When he figured out that I was serious he posted nude, unflattering pictures of me all over the internet. Facebook, Instagram, all of them. The police, judge, all let him get away with it. Saying since I knew about the pictures, that he did nothing wrong. He never had my permission to take 90% of those pictures, or he took them without my knowledge at the time they were taken, & he hid them to where I couldnt have access to them. He told the judge that someone stole his phone & computer and posted them, not him. My husband added a comment of theres a lot more where that came from (directed at me). The judge fell for it & let him off. He gets out of prison soon, & Im scared hes going to do it again, but worse. How do I deal with this?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      The shocking truth is that the courts aren’t very psychologically aware when it comes to the vindictive narcissist. Obviously, you need good legal representation. And document EVERYTHING. Keep a written record of all interactions and hold onto those vicious emails.

  90. linda says:

    Everytime my narcissist finds a new victim who is so much more then I could ever be he keeps telling me I am worthless,useless ,ugly and a zero and I need nto kill myself jump off the bridge or slit my fucking throat

  91. Dianna says:

    Hi Dr,
    I met my husband 20 years ago , he was charming and nice to me and i listened to all his problems and lent him an ear.I mostly had to hear about how horrible his ex wife was and he was a very negative man.I was positive ,assertive and happy and he told me that he loved that about me.I love to build a relationship and love someone and he told me he wanted this too.I thought i had found man who finally wanted a healthy relationship.I continued being the person i am but he changed.
    The guy i fell in love with was gone.Instead if things didn’t go exactly his way he would be vindictive and manipulative.I was always made to feel that i was doing something wrong if i didn’t initiate things first so he could respond.If i didn’t initiate love or affection or sex it was non existent.If i didn’t make all the decisions one wouldn’t be made despite trying to ask him what he wants.He absolutely needs attention from others all the time and if you don’t give it to him you do not exist.He is emotionally cold and told me years later that he has never loved anything.He is very charming with the ladies and outside of our four walls everyone thinks he is friendly and a decent guy which he comes across as.He has no inclination or even care about any loving, kind behavior towards me.His mother has treated me the same since the first day i met her .When i tried to speak to her she told me i should do everything for him and that is how it is.He will try to show affection to me in public(want to hold my hand) but once we are at home i am no longer there i am discarded like nothing.I have stopped initiating things for him after having therapy and the coldness i feel is worse than ice.He has no real compassion or empathy but will put it on to impress people.The feeling of being so unloved by someone sent me into severe depression which he then showed up to the hospital and held my hand in front of doctors only for er to be told when i got back home and he had no audience that when was i going to hurry up and get back to work as i had lost my earning potential and that was affecting him.He told me depression isn’t real because he and his mother had never had it.To this day i am not completely healed and living with him reinforces my despair.Sometimes he tries but it is like he is in pain when he tries to express a loving feeling towards me and he genuinely tells me he doesn’t know how.We went to couple therapy but he wouldn’t do any of the things they advised him to do.He would say yes to the therapist but once we were behind closed doors-nothing.I have no family to rely on and he knows this.I hold my head up and try and be the best person i can be , stay positive and tell myself he is not my fault.I am emotionally and psychologically scared of him but am trying to detach from him emotionally and find it hard as i am a loving caring person.
    Best wishes to all the posters out there who have been through this i really feel your pain.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It’s hard to imagine that life alone could be worse than what you describe, living with your husband. It seems so entirely bereft, verging on abusive. Be brave and try to make a better life for yourself.

  92. Dianna says:

    Thank You Joseph for your words of encouragement. I do need to look out for my emotional health more and not let my husband try to guilt me if everything isn’t “for him”.It really is hard as he seems to have no concept of what i am talking about when it comes to loving someone and it is healthier if it is exchanged between two people.I don’t think he genuinely understands or grasps the concept. He does actually look confused and lost over it.He would rather hope the issue goes away and sort of bury the head in the sand approach.If he doesn’t acknowledge it the it doesn’t exist sort of attitude.
    Best wishes to you and it really is a wonderful thing you are doing for people here.
    May you have a great Xmas and get time to rest and put the feet up and enjoy your loved ones.
    Dianna

  93. Betsy says:

    It is 10+ years since my divorce, but I still feel hunted and persecuted. He hurts our children to get to me. I only have my son now to get through college and then I hope to be free. When the kids were young, I protected them by not speaking against their father. When the abuse got bad I went to court (3x) and “won” every time. I always had to weigh the negative impact on the kids of challenging him — against the “benefit.” Financially it has been devastating. I find myself being afraid to get close to my young grandson for fear my ex will hurt him to get to me. Better for the child to be aligned with him than me. It has been tragic. The only good is that protecting my children has made me stronger and I have a more solid sense of self. Imagine a magnifying glass held in the sun on a hot day – with me as the bug underneath being fried by the concentrated heat of his hatred. This is an image that describes how it feels. I feel like a victim, but I have done the best I can in a bad situation and I give myself some credit for that.

  94. Oonagh says:

    Hi Joe
    One of my sisters is a malignant narcissist. I could write all night with examples of her hienious behaviours but suffice to say – I have been a direct target of hers for the past three decades since my teens. I instigated No Contact last Christmas after an accumulation of nastier and nastier behaviours in recent years. There was no argument – I have challenged this woman only twice in my 51 yrs. And not in the past decade or so. I simply didn’t initiate contact and discovered that she and the flying monkeys in our family of origin made no contact with me. My mother was very ill for a month in September and died at the end of the month. All her children were with her during her short illness and when she passed away.

    My N sister’s pathology was active during my mother’s illness and in the days that followed her death – ie during funeral etc. It was surreal but with 18 months exceptionally therapeutic psychoanalytic process behind me – I rode the storm and the daily shocks ( of unbelievable behaviours) calmly and with dignity. I more than survived – I was carried by some grace and growth within,

    I resumed No Contact after the funeral and have had the most peaceful, contented Christmas that I can remember. Pity I didn’t know the way to manage the N long before now.

    However, this week, I have been rudely snubbed by a neighbour. For 14+ years I have had a perfectly cordial, courteous, polite and pleasant dymamic with this neighbour. There is no friendship per se – just common courtesy and ordinary neighbourlyness. Her children went to junior school with my N sister’s children, my two nieces. In those early years, when my nieces came regularly to stay with me of sleep overs/weekends – my nieces and the neighbours children would sometimes run up and down between the two homes playing together etc.

    When I got married, this neighbour and her husband and chidren came to the local church (uninvited but locals often do that to see a nice wedding – the bride etc) to see us getting married. No problems so. This neighbour was at my mother’s funeral and warmly conveyed her condolences to me and my husband.
    The Christmas vacation was the first time I saw the neighbour since the funeral. I gave a pleasant greeting, wished her Merry Christmas and admired her beautiful garden flowers (she is a superb gardener) – all this in a few brief passing sentences as I passed her in her garden. She looked up but blanked me. I registered this but considered she might have been pre-0ccupied, avoiding any chat that might delay her – in other words I didn’t read it as personal though it was most unusual.

    Since then, I have encountered her again – this time my husband and I passing their gate as they were coming through it. I said hello and was about to say something light about hoping they had a nice Christmas day etc – normal stuff – buy her lack of response was clearly a very blatent snub. Her husband was giving a watery smile, looking very sheepish behind her. My husband and I continued on.

    I have really only ever regarded this woman as a pleasant neighbour without thinking about my sister in relation to her. That her kids were pals with my nieces was an added familiarity dimension, nothing more. I was never really in her company when my sister was present – my sister lives in a different neighbourhood – possibly spoke to her in my sister’s company 3 or 4 times over the years when my sister was dropping the kids over – whatever.

    It was another two days before the penny dropped… I am slow off the mark… this woman was snubbing me with an unfriendly expression as if I had done some nasty deed to upset her. We are not sufficiently involved to even begin to imagine what mean act I could do to her. Yet here it was- a very unpleasant, blatent hostile behaviour – to what possible end?

    My narcissistic sister of course. I have seen this before but didn’t identify it because it seemed so unlikely. This neighbour and her husband are teachers in a junior school. one is principal and they seem to have a lovely way with their own kids (now young adults). They are regular church goers (we are not) and seem to be a very decent, upstanding couple in all respects. They have no cause to be dissing us either.

    I used my head – my sister holidays in the same caravan park as they do. My sister is friends with them via the children initially and they are in regular enough contact I think. Whatever the detail – my narcissistic sister’s vindictiveness is written all over this incident. It’s hurtful and unpleasant that my sister’s poisonous influence has now extended into my pleasant neighbourhood environment – something I worked hard to achieve for myself. I also feel disgusted by the neighbour and she would seem to be a very nasty flying monkey if she is snubbing me, carrying some fantasy based torch for my NS based on heresay instead of basing her interactions on her problem free neighbourly interactions with me over 14+ years .

    What on EARTH did my NS say to this woman to warrant such an ‘out of character’ hostility from this neighbour? It’s frightening to think what slanderous claims are being made against me, to whom and how widespread. I can assure you there is nothing justified in whatever lies have been spouted other than my NS being pissed off that I am not taking her crap anymore. Even then, why does my NS care??? She has never contacted me except to look for something and she is so (pathologically) envious of me ( I could buy a new pair of knickers – that’s all it takes to evoke her envy) – she really doesnt want me in her life. So WTF is it all about?

    She did the same with a nurse at the hospital who was totally dissing me when my mother was dying. I discovered that this nurse was also a member of the holiday caravan site – then I realised why this nurse was so appallingly unprofessional with me. I took a risk – I had a gentle quiet word with the nurse regarding gross and slanderous comments my NS tends to spread around about me – for reasons unknown to me and I smiled at the nurse as I concluded ‘ you must make your own judgement on how you view me, but you dont know me at all – so just alerting to to this’ – that was the end of the bitching from the Nurse – she looked mortified, grimaced and nodded. After that she was very pleasant and most professional with me and I detected a certain distancing of her by my sister. It was mind blowing stuff – what did my sister SAY to this otherwise warm, kind nurse (as I observed her interact with others and my mother) to warrant a normally professional person to behave so unprofessionally towards me? It must be some really nasty shit for sure.

    I know the nurse and neighbour are responsible for their own poor behaviours – the nurse in a professional setting in particular – but that’s a reflection on them. The appalling abyss is WHAT DOES MY Nsister SAY to people that has made normally decent people behave like this?

    It’s ironic that since No Contact – (its a two way street, my NS has made no attempt to contact me either) – I am witnessing more and more direct evidence in others that she is spreading malicious rumours about me – something I intuited but couldn’t be sure of til now.

    I don’t know what to do? Is any part of my life safe with this following me around?

    It’s unbelievable – despite being subject to her N attacks and abuse many times over, it still never ceases to amaze me. It gets worse.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Oonagh, It strikes me that the way you approached the nurse was just about right. Couldn’t you try something of a similar nature with your neighbor? I understand how infuriating/painful it is to be on the receiving end of your sister’s lies, but most people are trusting and simply assume that what someone else tells them is true. Your sister might not (yet) have given your neighbor any reason to believe her a liar.

  95. Terry Gallant says:

    I just happened to stumble across this site, which could not have happened at a better time. I just ended a “whirlwind” relationship with a man that sucked me in completely. As time with him progressed, his charming and agreeable demeanor slowly disintegrated into his more “natural” state. He became mean, vindictive, hateful, and extremely negative of everyone. He would tirade for hours at a time about all the people who did him wrong, and mention all the various ways he “paid them back” including hacking into their computers and destroying their property (he is a computer technician & hacker).

    After I told him good-bye, he targeted me. Tried to hack into my computer, unsuccessfully. When he came to pick up his property, I did have him sign a letter agreeing that all of his property had been returned, undamaged.

    He tried to call, but I didn’t answer. He sent me various texts over several day, which I read but did not respond to.

    At this point, I’m on pins-and-needles, waiting for him to strike out at me in one way or another. In the meantime, I’m licking my wounds because I really got sucked in by the attention, his charm, manners, etc. I do wish the other posters good luck in recovering from a relationship with a NV.

  96. Autumn says:

    I am an ex to a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. We have a son together and he made my life a living hell for several years. I am very afraid that my son will end up the same. Your thoughts on this?
    Also, for anyone and everyone needing support, venting, humor and validation please feel free to find me on facebook. ( autumn.makowski@gmail.com) Send me your email address and I will send you an invite. We only have a handful of members right now, but very active. Ever try to explain to someone what you’re going though and they don’t believe you because your ex is so charming, convincing, and your story seems so outrageous? Yes, I know exactly how you feel.

  97. Betsy says:

    My ex was the #1 sales person for a major pharmaceutical. I am very familiar with people not believing me after meeting my ex.

    What has been the most hurtful, are the therapists – which I have set up to help my kids. After my ex meets with them — everything changes. The therapists say weird things unrelated to what I am talking about and challenge me. One said, “I think you need to do more for _(My ex)__” (When I am doing everything!) I am emotional, very worried about my kids and sometimes overwhelmed by the job ahead of me. In contrast – my ex comes in cool, wearing a suit, persuasive, talking about my “mental illness” and lately has perfected the “vulnerable” act. At one point he threatened to take my child out a special program I set up for this child’s special needs – which frightened me. Then the therapist says, “He says he never said that, or intended to do that.” Argggg . .

    Fortunately, my kids are almost out of the nest. I ended up getting myself a psych evaluation (that was expensive), just to verify my sanity and capability of parenting (which it did.) This was useful in court also. There are people who used to be my friends who know longer will acknowledge me on the street. I have no idea what they have been told.

    What I have discovered it that the way these narcissists describe their ex-wives is almost a cliche. We are always “mentally ill, hysterical, liars, money-grubbing, physically unattractive, depressed, terrible parents, and frigid.” I usually hear some version of this description out of the mouths of the new wives and girl friends. Then I say, “Funny, that is what my ex says about me too.” They say, “No, no you are different than this terrible person.” I hope it is a wake-up call to them, but I doubt it.

  98. Tisha B says:

    This is a great post and is currently what I am going through right now! My daughter’s father has been very vengeful and is still mad since I left while pregnant. He does not follow the court order, emails disrespectful comments, and will do things like not send back her items from visits. I am fed up and I am requesting a parallel parenting plan so I can disengage and do not have to deal with him.

  99. Scared mother says:

    I believe I am dealing with a vindictive narcissist/sociopath. And I do not know what to do to best deal with the current situation I’m in. We were not married but a long relationship ended over a year ago and we have a child together. Our relationship continued to worsen over time following the split as we tried to workout out visit arrangements for him and our daughter. I finally filed for custody in October.
    We both have a history of chemical abuse and legal issues so a lot of skeletons in the closet you could say. Upon filing for custody the events that followed have been traumatizing. I am a pharmacist so have a career with the public. He has used this among other things as a weapon. He has sent tons of letters to various people, counselors I’ve worked with, CPS, my employer, etc… All containing vicious lies that have caused a great deal of turmoil in my life. The custody battle is ugly and each time I present a declaration or speak my mind he seeks revenge with more vicious lies trying to desalinate my character and alienate me from my daughter. Since I can’t simply get away from him due to our child, how can I protect myself? Please help I’m lost scared and feel I have no way out!

  100. Nancy says:

    Wow, such an important post! I wish I’d found your site here long ago!

    I’m in the midst of divorcing my husband of 21 years. The divorce was filed in early November of last year and he and his attorney have stalled so much, it’s now becoming criminal! We STILL have no temporary orders for spousal maintenance with no end in sight. Thankfully, the kids (his, mine, ours) are grown and out of the home, so there’s no child support or visitation to mire through.

    I won’t bore you all with my story, it’s all pretty much the same, isn’t it? As much as these people believe themselves to be precious snowflakes, they’re so identical, as though they all read from the same “How to be an abusive Ass” manual.

    Fortunately, I’d read up on divorcing a narcissist before I had him removed from the home and was prepared for this. I hid money, I saw an attorney to find out my rights BEFORE I filed, I told friends what I was doing and let them know should something happen to me to tell the police to look at him first, etc. The most important thing I did was to stop hiding/lying about the abuse.

    Since I filed, he’s gone on a smear campaign that boggles the mind. He’s turned our children against me entirely (abuse by proxy) and now has a Facebook account (which he’s never paid much attention to) and I’m told he smears me on there (I don’t go look at it. Why would I care?)

    I’ve gone “No contact” as it’s safer for me emotionally. There were a few days there where we were in contact, but it all ended up being to benefit him and I cut him off again. I nearly fell for it AGAIN! But I don’t beat myself up for it. These guys are master manipulators and, for them, it’s like breathing. They’ve been doing this for so long, they don’t even have to think about it any more. They just manipulate.

    I’ve also taken the stance, during this divorce, I put up with his assorted abuses of me for 21 years. What’s another few months if it means I see freedom at the end of it?

    I told my therapist recently, one who specializes in PTSD and trauma, my analogy for this:

    I’m terrified of longer tunnels, particularly the one that runs between Baltimore and Washington DC. It goes under the Chesapeake Bay and it’s a long one. As I drive through it, all I can think about is, “Oh my gosh. What if it springs a leak? What if it collapses? I’ll die instantly.” Irrational, I know, but we all have at least one irrational fear. As I go through this tunnel, I’m white-knuckling the steering wheel. I’m holding my breath. I’m wishing I could just close my eyes.

    However, as soon as I round that final bend and see the exit – the light at the end of the tunnel, if you will – I start to relax. My hands relax on the steering wheel. I can breath again. My heart is no longer pounding in my chest. I’m getting to the end and that’s ALL I can think about now. I’m getting to the end. It’s almost over.

    That’s where I am now and it brings me peace to know I’ll soon be done with my narcissist. And then the drive from there on out, while not perfect, there will be potholes and detours along the way, will be manageable, mine and peaceful.

    There is life after being involved with a Narcissist. Even if they do fight you tooth-and-nail until you get to the end with them. And none of it’s personal to me, though it feels that way, sometimes- they would do this to anyone standing in front of them telling them, “The Emperor has no clothes”. I know I gave everything I had to give to this marriage, and then some, including my health (and I’ve tentatively found a correlation between the spouses of Narcissists and autoimmune disorders. Mine is Rheumatoid Arthritis. Others have fibromyalgia, Psoriasis, etc.)

    I do have my bad days and I finally saw my doctor about some anti-anxiety medication. It helps me a great deal as does talking to my therapist about it. He’s really helped me put things into perspective, simply by helping me understand this disorder. And I got the trifecta of abusive mental illnesses in my spouse (all diagnosed) – Asperger’s, Bipolar Disorder (not medicated, hid this from me for the duration of our marriage) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    I can’t get out fast enough. But I’ll get there. I’m sure of it.

  101. Stacy W says:

    It’s been almost 2 years since I left my Narc/BPD 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 bullshit. I’m reading and writing because 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 Brett Gyllenskog swooped up one of my good friends, 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 that 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 characteristics of “REAL” Narcissistic/Borderline/Anti-social… Personality Disorder!!! It’s not just someone who think’s 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 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 of the type 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.

    ….and 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 can 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 xoxo

    • Betsy says:

      Great post! I had to tough it out until the kids were adults. They are now 20 and 25. Yesterday I blocked emails from the narcissistic ex in my life and, in the last few months, moved to a place that feels safe and protected. I figure if there is an emergency, the kids can contact me directly. There is no need for me to be in contact with him any more! I feel a celebration is in order! But frankly, after the abuse of 10 years, I still have a little fear. I ask myself, what will he do next? How will he try to hurt me? Time will tell. I am getting used to being called “a bitch” and am actually kind of enjoying being seen as one. I have learned that “bitches” are more likely to get what they want. I have a life that I want now and if I have to be a bitch to get it , so be it. It is my turn!

  102. Catherine says:

    Hello there,

    I am (recently) post divorce and living in another country and have a vindictive narssisistic ex husband who not only has been seeking to discredit me to all of “our” friends, our kids (with amazingly untrue stories and disgusting epithets), the people in the tiny town where I still live, my married into family and generally anyone who will listen. My family is 10,000 kilometers away…He also, some 1,5 years after our legal separation began to contact me anonymously via an online dating website and believes to have discovered the true me. Icky, nasty and so painful. Basically he stalked me and contacted me online anonymously …

    It is heartbreaking for my kids who do not know how to behave (one grown, and one teen) with their dad or with me and sobering to see how townspeople/his family were more than willing to believe in my so-called whorish ways and B-movie bad parenting and dropped me cold, the foreigner (even after some 30 years of living here)…

    According to him everything in our marriage was awful and hell on earth (he maintains) and additionally, was all my fault, including his affairs (I am more than willing to accept my part in the failure of our marriage but…)

    Now three months ago I met a lovely divorced man and fell in love. I am in the process of moving out of the family house with my minor daughter and this seems to have propelled my ex into a spiral of venom. His anger and jealousy (and I suspect his not dealing with his loss when we separated) has jettisoned him into another anger zone. He has even gone so far as alienating himself against his grown daughter since she is disapproving of his current girlfriend (who was a good friend of mine and whose relationship with my then husband was kept secret even while he tried to reconcile with me).

    Since we still have a minor child, contact is necessary but his contact (telephone, sms, especially personal) is toxic, oh so incredibly personal and untrue! I am at a loss at times how to deal with him.

    Catherine

  103. Roger says:

    After reading many postings, it makes me realize, above all, that there is this common and shared desire to ultimately target genders to explain behavioral attitudes. I personnaly think, it should be addressed on case by case basis. The weight imposed on minorities outlined by either studies or surveys is irrelevant to specific relationship and parenting issues. Claiming a justifiable knowledge and publishing self experiences that is judgemental toward a specific gender, is too easy and more importantly,is unfortunate.
    I peronnally am still in a custody legal process, i cannot tell how much it has been. But however, my focus has always been the angels that God allowed us to have to cherish.
    No matter how bad my ex behave, it is my responsability to keep the right perspective and manage the situation by honoring my daughter and son best interests.
    Challenging it is, so is life in general for all, at different degrees…

  104. Stacy says:

    I stumbled upon this and want to cry since knowing i’m not alone, nobody can understand this unless they’ve truly lived it. Like others my ex has so many drinking his kool-aide i’m at my whits end. Now my My 12 year old son is his number one victim… he is so loyal to him and see’s him as a truthsayer while i’m not doing what his father wants so “i’m the bad one”. What can i do… i’ve tried rationalizing and defending myself to the Narcissist but it only leaves me angry, hurt and stressed. What can I do!!!!

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Stay sane, do what you think is right and best for your child, don’t engage in mutual warfare, and wait. Your son is young and one day will become more observant.

      • Yael Eylat-Tanaka says:

        Dr. Burgos, much as I respect your opinion, I tend to disagree. At 12 years old, her child is no longer “young,” and many of his impressions and habits are sadly becoming well ingrained. I know that from painful experience, as I have gone through the similar scenario. My son is now 44 years old, and things have NEVER been “sweet” between us. I have my ex to thank for that. I’m sure I have been angry over the years, but nothing to merit this kind of disdain and disrespect from my son. No, I would tend to agree that the child may see the light if he were still a baby, but at 12 … I have my doubts.

        I have come to a conclusion, and I’m not sure it’s the best one, or the healthiest one: Take care of myself. Live my own life as well as I know how, pursue my own interests, love my husband, and if things should change, wonderful; but I’m not holding my breath. Sad, but true. The alternative is unthinkable.

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          Yael, I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I just don’t think there’s much else you can do. Damage will definitely be done, but you could make it even worse by engaging in mutual warfare with an ex. I still think the best thing you can do is live up to your own value system and stick with the truth.

  105. Jo Salomon says:

    Would you happen to have any suggestions for dealing with narcissists when they cannot be avoided?

  106. Jo Salomon says:

    That’s too bad. The encounter will be in August. I have done a bit of reading and it seems I have done the right things so far, so I guess the rest is just either grin and bear it or opt out with severe consequences.

    Thank you for your reply

  107. pat says:

    My friend is just begininning the divorce process including domestic violence. She has a permanant restraining order in place. He just lost one of his parental time days in cout for his behavior and now he is texting me and other friends say how horrid she is and she is causing this divorce and hurting the children and its really him that is doing this. My husband has a very public image job and cannot have anything to do with this. I feel horrible there is no stoping this person I dont know what to do please help.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Sadly, there is little you can do with such people because they respect no limits. Even the courts are of little use unless you can get a restraining order.

  108. Nancy says:

    And the ex-narcissist has reared his ugly head again, after so many weeks of no contact following the finalization of the divorce.

    This past Friday, I’m sitting on my porch, sipping a beer, after work, and thinking about just how good life is post-NPD marriage, when a car pulls into my drive and two men immediately jump out and go to my car.

    Seems the ex had taken a loan out on my paid-in-full car (that still had his name on it at the time he did it during the divorce process) and didn’t make a single payment, thus it was repossessed. I knew nothing about this loan and when my attorney contacted him about this, he laughed and said, “How do you think I paid for my divorce attorney?”

    The state we divorced in is a community property state and what he did was perfectly legal, though not ethical or moral at all, and he’ll once again get away with screwing me over in such a profound way.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I’m angry on your behalf. It is so unfair and wrong, as you say. But at least now that the divorce has been finalized, there’s nothing left he can steal from you. I’m so sorry.

  109. Janet says:

    I was seeing an Employee assistant counselor at work after I lost my daughter to Leukemia. I was very vulnerable and this women counselor made our relationship into a dual relationship. She made it into a friendship and counseled me. The relationship became very enmeshed and turmultuous. I ended the relationship after a fight with her. I ended up seeing another therapist and he told me that I was exploited by this EA therapist. The new therapist helped me to see that it was a form of abuse by the EA counselor. I believe the EA counselor is a narcissist. I found out that I was not the only person that she did this too. There has been several others. This is a pattern of her’s to become friends with her clients that she counseled . I had confronted her about what she did to me was wrong. She is very vindictive and has sent e-mails that are threatening. I am afraid to report her because she is very vindictive. The others she exploited are also afraid to come forward. I really want to report her but I don’t know if it is worth the heartache and pain that it will cause me. It will be like putting my hand in a hornets nest. I don’t want to see her hurt anyone else like she hurt me. But I am so afraid of her. It makes me mad that she gets away with doing this. I don’t know what to do. How to keep myself safe from her vindictive ways. Even counselors that you trust with your heart and soul can be narcissist.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      The vindictive narcissist is an especially difficult problem because he or she will do anything to triumph. Often the best course of action is to find another job. If you feel compelled to put a stop to her, you’ll need to get legal about it. Document everything. Enlist others to do the same. Sometimes, you have to threaten the employer with a lawsuit before they’ll do anything about the VN at work.

  110. Diane says:

    Hello, all. I have enjoyed reading the posts here. I am coming out of two and a half year relationship with an N man. I ended it six months ago and initiated “no contact” three months ago due to his repeated emails wanting to “restore” our friendship. I was finally able to understand that his presence in my life was toxic and not worth the emotional energy it was costing me. I blocked his numbers and emails from my phone as well as from social media. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine informed me that he was posting vulgar pictures on facebook and making obvious references to me without actually naming me. I told her I appreciated the info, but really didn’t want to be informed of any more of his behavior. I also didn’t want to take the chance of allowing him to get a reaction from me and feeding his “supply”. Now, he has gotten several of his female “friends” to send me emails saying things like “wow you are fat now!” and “have you ever considered getting a nose job?”. Each time, I do not respond and block the person. Am I doing the correct thing by not fueling his supply? It seems to be escalating and I am having a hard time knowing every time I check my email or facebook that there will be another humiliating message. It seems so juvenile. We are both in our 40’s.

  111. Daniel says:

    Wow, this is the article that really identified my experience. I am remarried to a very good woman, but her X is over the top. My wife has Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. We have a 5 yr old together. She has (3) from her first and I have (1) from mine. The X has always kept the children emotionally needy. Many of the fathering activities fell on me, whether I wanted them or not. It has been a nightmare. He spent more time looking for his 2nd, then 3rd wife, than devoted to his kids. Add to that an enormous structured step-son,who has used violence and is consistently verbally abusive to the rest of our girls. I’ve had to physical reprimand him to keep the dignity and safety of my home intact. That has not gone over well with the X, but it was within the realm of reasonable. 6 years ago I asked for something to be done with the boy but to no avail. The father refused to send the boy to counselling and the boy refuses to go. The boy is told he “should” follow my rules. This January, I made the mistake of slapping the boy for breaking rules, talking back, and threatening me. The dad was outside. When I went out to my porch to explain, the dad attacked me in front of his kids, and got his butt whooped. The police told him too bad and wouldn’t allow him to press charges, as I was defending myself. He had become increasingly aggressive around my home. I was charged with a misdemeanor for the boy. Although I had a good case for reasonable discipline, I chose to plead guilty and my case was put under advisement. I recognized the stress of my wife’s terminal diagnosis, and the bad behavior of the children had depleted my coping skills. Furthermore, the boy may have some athletic scholarships and outlining his bad behavior could have harmed his future. CPS investigated and asked me to take some counselling and learn some different discipline techniques, then closed the case immediately. Our families had been getting along so well. His parents liked me. We had barbecues and pool parties. Weddings and other events had open door invites. Now, it is all trashed. He has parlayed the slap incident into much more. The families are destroyed and what he could not get done with CPS or criminal courts he has taken to the family court. My wife has relinquished visitation, and one of the girls threatens to run away if she must continue to stay with her father, yet she is afraid to confront her father. She is afraid of being disavowed, and rightfully so. At this point, the exaggerations and subtle lies of this man have been heaped on so heavily, the truth lies buried.

  112. Karen says:

    I met my ex in 2012 on the job…he was a catch for me as I had just gotten out of a abusive relationship with a guy 8 months before. He showered me with gifts, took me home to meet his family, had a good relationship with my kids. All that change when my mom and sister who are controlling challenged him authority. I thought it was a dream come through to have someone who understands the level of suffocation I was feeling. He told me that he was going to move out as my sister had called his mom an lied to her about him and things my mom said also to let his mom know that I was not good enough to be with her son. To add to the pain he had refused to come home an told me he was ready to move on. I cried uncontrollably and beg him to don’t give up on what we had. I later move with my daughter as the other kids were grown an could have lived on their own. Things went down hill from there. He started ignoring me, would pick fights for no reason, he would appear to be sweet, charming an endearing at times and then without a sign turn into a mean person. I didn’t know what to make of it so I started blaming myself. I started talking to people he worked with an friends and they all said the same thing he’s an ass hole. I would go on vacations abroad and he would shower me with sweet texts and emails. Made me feel special an as soon as I got back a few weeks later he would go back to being who he was. I remember thinking if I change things would get better and so I made efforts to change and he got nastier and meanier. I once saw a text he wrote his ex telling her I was just a friend who came to his house to visit him and one thing lead to another…i was hurt, shocked cause the truth was he pursed me with gifts for months on end before we in ally agreed to a relationship. This got pretty serious really quick after that…he would push for certain commitments from me and when I held out he would complain about how I don’t want this. It got even worse to the point where he would ignore me and when I try to talk to him he would lash out, pack a bag an go to his parents out telling me he would return for the rest of his things. I would break down an cry for days I became depressed. I finally decided that it was time to end things cause I was unhappy, miserable…then one of his close friends began talking to be about how he said we are not in a relationship that I was unstable. after talking to her for hours on end she realised that he wasn’t it telling his group of friends the truth and I was being labeled as a drama queen with issues who he does not want to be with…this sis the same man who was still living with me. Supporting the home…telling me how much he cared. My daughter got to the point where she was literally afraid of him..he use to call her sacratically. My little princess and we both could not do anything right. After two years of this I ended the relationship with him and it has been a nightmare. I am being slandered by him he would post pictures of other women on his social media and flirt openly with them so I unfriended him from fb that sent him into a rage. We tried to rekindle a relationship after that but this got even worse..i thought he had cage but he was only pretending. I broke it off again and he was enraged started posting stuff on his WhatsApp account that he knew would hurt me so I deleted him but not before I sent him a letter telling him how disappointed I felt and how much he has hurt me…..i heard he still post stuff on his account an parts of our old private conversations. I have cut comminucation with him. I was wondering why he was being mean an vindictive towards me when I never did nothing but live him an treat him good. You post has help me to understand what and who I am dealing with an why. Thank you so much.

  113. Karen says:

    How one start to heal and overcome the damages done to their lives after dealing with someone like that?

  114. Anonymous says:

    I was with an emotional vampire for years, thinking I was able to help her and that she was just misunderstood. Never realised she was so twisted.

    It was so amazing – since leaving her I have had a drama free life – other than the bits she has tried to stir up.

    Always distance yourself from a narc it is the only way to enjoy things again but it takes a couple years and re-education of yourself to rise abive them

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This post is password protected. Enter the password to view any comments.