Q: How do you deal with narcissistic exes?

2 min


Dear Ellie,

My ex and I recently broke up (long story), but everything is still just as bad as when we were together. My ex just won’t leave me alone and get over it, only thinking of themself.

How do you deal with narcissistic exes?

~Overwhelmed Olivia in Ohio

Lauren, today’s Dear Ellie columnist, has all the advice for you:

Dear Fresh Starts,

According to Web Md, a narcissist demonstrates “extreme self-involvement to the degree that it makes a person ignore the needs of those around them. While everyone may show occasional narcissistic behavior, true narcissists frequently disregard others or their feelings. They also do not understand the effect that their behavior has on other people.”

So what do you do when you find out you’ve been dating a narcissist, and how do you deal with a narcissistic ex?

At first, narcissists can disguise themselves early in a relationship. They might even seem charming. Trust me; I’ve dated a few. You might be swept off your feet in a whirlwind romance because, let’s face it, dating a narcissist can be an adventure at first. Typically you will find yourself defending them as the relationship progresses. If you hear yourself saying things like ‘oh, no one understands him/her/they like I do,’ you might want to pause and take some time to reflect.

As hard as you may want to help a narcissist change their behavior, it’s nearly impossible and can morph into manipulation. Instead, as Mel Robbins suggests, ‘change how you show up around them.’ Do they know how to push your buttons to create a reaction? If so, pause and observe. How can you show up differently for yourself? Knowing that they will never truly change them generates space to show up for yourself. It’s one less thing to do. You can check off ‘try to change my narcissist ex’ off your to-do list and move on. Now press the ‘easy’ button, and start focusing on yourself.

Since this article is aimed at you and not them, we won’t focus on what to expect from a narcissist, etc.; instead, we will focus on how you can show up. Healthline has a great article sharing ten tips for dealing with a narcissist. If you break down the ten tips, you will see that most of them focus on YOU vs. THEM. Ask yourself, do you have boundaries in relationships (both romantic and non-romantic)? After a deep dive, you might find that learning how to deal with your narcissistic ex will also help other relationships in your life grow and flourish. Taking your power back, creating and setting boundaries, and honoring yourself is never a bad thing.

One book I have found very helpful is called Set Boundaries, Find Peace. If we revisit the approach of making your journey about you vs. them, there is a lot to learn. I challenge my perspective and think of any issue in my life as an opportunity to learn. Glennon Doyle has a great quote: ‘What if in skipping the pain, I was missing my lessons?’ If your narcissist ex is causing you pain or headache, what do you need to learn to move forward and create the best life for yourself?

People come into your life for a reason, whether it’s a lesson or a celebration. Practice some social distancing with your ex (a concept we are all too familiar with), create healthy boundaries, and invest in yourself. You will never regret it!

You got this, lovely.

xoxo,

Lauren + Ellie


Lauren Baxter

Lauren splits her time as an artist, writer, self-professed health and wellness junkie, and community builder. She is is most passionate about helping divorcees thrive and believe that great partnerships are still possible.

One Comment

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  1. This is really good advice. I’m pretty sure my ex-husband is a narcissist. I still have to communicate with him when it comes to our children. One thing that has really helped me is setting boundaries (namely in communication). Our communication is usually limited to text or email. I keep everything short and to the point, not allowing for emotion or tangents. If he knows he can push my buttons, he will.

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