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Why is my Narcissistic Ex Still Trying to Control Me?

It is pretty devastating to realize you have been married to a narcissist.  Some people don’t realize they are dealing with a narcissistic spouse for decades!  (It took me 30+ years and a team of counselors to figure it out.)  Once you realize what is going on and plan your way to emotional and physical health, you look forward to the day you never have to be under your narcissist’s thumb again.  So what happens when your narcissistic ex is still trying to control you?

Upon divorcing a toxic covert religious narcissist, it didn’t take long for me to realize he wasn’t going away.  Why was my narcissistic ex still trying to control me?  Because if he could still control me, he could still get precious narcissistic supply from his historically biggest source.

There is a whole lot more to this answer.  Let’s take a look at all of the extenuating circumstances and what that likely looks like for you.

Note:  I have been using male pronouns for narcissists because that is the majority of my experience.  There are plenty of female narcissists out there!  Adjust the pronouns to match your own experience.

Why are You Still so Irresistible Even After he Discarded You?

You are irresistible to your narcissist ex because you were his single-most, biggest source of supply.  When you were married, you probably gave everything you had to the marriage, to the point of neglecting other things.  Your narcissist demanded it, not just by his words and expectations, but also by hints and need of affirmation.  And the more you affirmed him, the more he needed it.

Over time, you had no idea about the codependent tendencies you had that ended up fully immersing you in the narcissist’s life over your own.  And with each incident that he placed pressure on you to take better care of him, that codependency kicked in as you determined that you were going to be a better wife than ever before.  You didn’t realize that the more you do, the more will be expected of you, until eventually there is nothing left of you.

And that is exactly why you are so irresistible to your narcissist ex.  Even though he no longer has the access to you that he used to and doesn’t get nearly the amount of narcissistic supply that he used to from you, if you share custody or other ties after the divorce, he still has access to you.  And he can still mess with you as much as he wants.  He will get that supply whether it is through you trying to be kind and giving or you reacting negatively in response to his craziness.  Any attention is good attention, including you being angry at his constant crap.

You are Irresistible to Your Narcissistic Ex Because he can get at You Through Your Children

My ex to this day reschedules time with the one son he has visitation with to when he’s got nothing better to do.  He keeps his son isolated from his current life so our son doesn’t feel like he belongs, and then still uses only about half of the time he is allotted by the court order.  He has no contact with the rest of the kids.  But he uses that time to manipulate what we can do, and he informs me of schedule changes in terms of, “I’ll be picking ____ up at 10:30 this Wednesday,” rather than asking what times work for us or what is on our son’s schedule that he needs to work around.

It’s all about his availability over my son’s prior commitments and when he can isolate away from his other life to spend a few minutes with his son.  And he never uses all of his time, often telling our son it’s time to go home in the middle of activities.  Or telling my son he has a party, church picnic, or other scheduled activity to do that prevents him from spending time with him.  All while posting pics online showing what a wonderful time he has with his son and being Father of the Year.

When I react out of frustration, it feeds into my ex’s success at getting a reaction out of me.  When I react that I am grateful for the time he is spending with his son, it gives him the impression that the crumbs he gives us are acceptable to fulfill my son’s need for an involved father.   Which leaves only one other way to react:  low-key reaction.

Low-key reaction will allow you to keep control of your schedule and keep your kids’ schedules disrupted as much as possible while also fulfilling your court ordered obligations without feeding into your ex’s need to control you.  Don’t use flowery words or start an argument.  Just state facts simply and as short as possible.  Don’t give him any extra words to have an issue with you.

You are Irresistible to Your Narcissistic Ex Because He Can Get at You Through Support

Often, your narcissistic ex will get supply from you by manipulating the spousal and child support that he should be paying.

My ex kept determining how much money to pay me instead of what the state of Virginia guidelines set for appropriate amounts.  He put me in an impossible position during the divorce so he would come out paying less money regardless of which terms I accepted or fought for.  That is a victory he will have to this day.  But the bigger victory is that I will end up landing on my feet in spite of him not paying his family what he should have after I gave him everything I could for over 35 years of our lives together.

From the time it became obvious we were not going to be able to save the marriage, one of my desires was to be able to set myself up as soon as possible so I could be totally out from under his thumb.  I’m still working toward that goal and should reach it in the next three to five years from the day I am writing this article!

In the meantime, people who knew both of us come up to me to tell me that what he thinks he has done behind closed doors has been so obvious to all when he is living the good life with his newest wife while me and the children are still setting up our life in our apartment of three years.  He used to be horrified by other men that did that to their families.  And now he is the poster child of financial and relationship abandonment.

Your Narcissistic Ex Still Tries to Control You Because You Let Him

Although all of the above shows how my ex continues to manipulate and play us with almost every interaction, the truth is that he can only do as much as I let him do.

Arguing about the time he spends with his son or about money is useless and just feeds into his need to continue to destroy us.  If we show him we are upset with his bad behavior, it proves him successful at getting under our skin and always on our mind.  And he will never stop doing those things as long as we allow him to get to us.

It took me a long time to learn how much better things would turn out if I just didn’t engage.  No matter how perfect my words were, I would never convince him of my truth.  And I think it came down to me realizing that to be content to just let him “believe” what he wanted to.  I put that in quotes because I don’t think he actually believed what he was accusing me of as much as he needed me to be the bad guy, stupid, or just plain not as good as him.

And finally, when I realized he would still hold to that even if I was perfect (I’m not, lol), I no longer felt any need to convince him of everything.  And a whole lot of the chaos ended.

Your Narcissistic Ex Still Tries to Control You Because He Still Sees Value in You

Your ex may have stayed with you for decades because he knew your value.  But when I say he valued you, I do not mean that he valued you as an important person in your life.  When our marriage was crumbling and we realized that there was likely no moving forward, it was crystal clear to me that my husband knew he was losing something very valuable to him.

But it wasn’t specifically me.  It was a wife who had doted on him for decades, who did everything with him in mind, and who spent her whole life trying to make their marriage the best I could.  Those were the things he was mourning.  But, he had said from very early in our marriage that he could be married to anyone.  And he proved that point when he was dating his current wife while married to me and married her a mere six days after we got our divorce papers.

Remember, you are “just an object.”  (Not really!!!  Just in the eyes of your narcissist.)  Your narcissist only sees you as something to fulfill his desires, wishes and needs.  When he fails to get those things from you, he gets angry and often feels the need to “punish” you for daring to stand in the way of his narcissistic supply.  And then tries to figure out how he can force those things out of you.  And this is where you must hold your ground.  Stick to your boundaries, but safely—and boringly!  Be disaffected by the chaos he is creating around you.  And sooner than later, he will realize two things:  it is taking too much effort to get supply from you now, and he can get supply with less effort elsewhere.
And just like that, you are no longer controlled by your narcissistic ex.  And while I say, “just like that,” don’t interpret those words to mean it’s easy.  it starts out very difficult, but as you see the strength within yourself grow, you will be amazed at how easy it becomes over time.  And how calm you feel by the whole process!  You don’t have to be affected by all that craziness.
And the best benefit of all?  The more you heal and develop healthy relationships, the more you will recognize the unhealthy behavior and no longer be a slave to it!

In what Ways is my Narcissistic Ex Still Trying to Control Me?

If you have any level of understanding of narcissistic abuse and the healing process, then you can likely already identify specific experiences in your marriage that qualified as inappropriate control over you.  And if you are now in the divorce process, I would imagine that the incidents of control over you are painfully obvious at this point.  But maybe there are some under-the-table things happening that you don’t realize.  Let’s take a look at some of the underhanded methods of control your ex may be exercising against you, your children, and your loved ones.

  • Constantly changing schedules and reservations, making it impossible for you to do any planning.
  • Telling others lies about you, often without even saying your name!  They will talk about how they are such a victim, even when they are in fact the abuser.  And some people will actually fall for it and treat you accordingly.
  • They will say and do things that they know have historically triggered you.  If they can control your emotions and triggers, they know they have you.
  • Your ex may try to control you by reminding you of the good times you had.  That is so hard to reconcile in your head.  For years, I thought maybe I was making more of the abuse than it really was because we had lots of good times too.  But then, I would recall the counseling that proved the divorce and the fact that our church had him removed from our home for the abuse.
  • Finding reasons to contact you constantly.  They will ask if you have a certain item from your former household that they know you don’t have.  Or they will ask for a phone number or address that they could easily get elsewhere.  They also may want to contact you to try to plan something that doesn’t need your input.  It can literally be anything.  And you will quickly realize that the more you respond kindly to these requests, the more often they will occur.
  • They will test your boundaries just to make sure you are on your toes.  Often, when a narcissist ex controls you by trampling over your boundaries, it is easy to just let it go because you are exhausted.  But don’t.  You will exert way more energy trying to regain a lost boundary than to defend it at the onset of the attack.
  • Trying to convince you that you can have a rational conversation with him that restores the relationship to a friendly place.  This will NEVER end well for you.  He will hoover you in just to discard you all over again.

How do I Handle my Narcissistic Ex Still Trying to Control Me?

I  have already talked about several things you should do to handle your narcissist ex still trying to control you.  Of course, the first line of defense against your narcissistic ex’s attacks is always going to be to underreact.  But let’s talk about even more things you can do to handle your narcissistic ex still trying to control you.

  • If you are feeling confused by the hot-and-cold mixed signals your narcissistic ex is giving you, see your counselor.  He/she will help you to sort things out, likely just by you hearing yourself talk and grow more confident in your own ability to sort these things out once you have clarity of mind and confidence to do it!
  • Keep a journal so you can keep the texts, emails, and in-person conversations straight over time.  Then when details get changed, you have a good source of truth.  Oh, and keep the in-person convos to a minimum if at all.  And have a witness there who can verify what is said or done.
  • Read books, articles, and anything you can about narcissism, gaining your own emotional health, and how to thrive after your divorce from a narcissist.  Here are all the resources that helped me the most in my journey and I have used them to help hundreds more in my local divorce support groups as they go out to live their new lives.
  • Don’t try to have a friendly relationship with him.  Be cordial and polite, but don’t let yourself get sucked into his traps.
  • Join a support group that can help you grow emotionally strong.  In Christian circles, Celebrate Recovery is a really good option if you can find people you can relate to and trust.  One of their strongest support topics is codependency.  Try out different groups until you feel that camaraderie!
  • Have a close friend or two to walk this journey with you.
  • Reevaluate your boundaries and make sure you are setting and keeping them well.  If you feel like you could use some help in this area, I have the perfect book for you!  It will help you understand the need for boundaries, how they will protect you, how to be courageous enough to communicate them, and how to keep them and grow stronger daily.  The name of the book is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say Not to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  Just the title alone was enough to sell me and it was one of the best books I have ever read.  Not only did it help me grow the strength I needed to heal from my narcissistic upbringing and marriage, but to set healthy boundaries for all relationships.  Other healthy people will respect and appreciate your boundaries as they set their own.  You can learn more about it by clicking on the book here:


    There is probably not a marriage on earth involving a narcissist that stopped trying to control the other spouse after the divorce.  They controlled them before and throughout the marriage; they aren’t about to stop trying to get what supply they can afterwards.  How much they control you is totally up to you though!  Once you recognize what is going on, you can take steps to make it stop.

    There is only one case I know of personally that the victim was not able to get out from under the control of her husband.  She was in one of my support groups.  She fled her home with two small children in tow with the help of the police.  A restraining order was filed and she had full sole custody of her kids.  The divorce decree stated that her ex could not contact her or further sue her in co9urt after the divorce.  And now years later, he has filed multiple lawsuits in various jurisdictions across the state because those judges don’t know what is going on and allow it.

    Lucky for most of us, our exes don’t have enough money to keep us in court for that long.  And eventually our narcissists get tired of us and move on to better narcissistic supply.

    Do you think you may be in a relationship with a narcissist?  If you think so, take this test  with instant results to get a better idea of whether you are indeed involved with a narcissist and what healing you will need to pursue.

    What has your experience after the divorce been like?  Or are you still in the process and trying to plan ahead?  Maybe you are at the very beginning of the process and trying to get a sense of what things are going to look like in this new journey you are on.  I would love to hear from you as would the rest of the readers! Feel free to comment below.

    Regardless of where you are in the process, know that those of us who have gone before you can help you go down that path with support, prayer, and knowledge that you can use to make your burden lighter and quicker.

    If you think you are in any danger in your relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Or you can visit online at

    Are you just now in the beginning stages of recognizing narcissistic abuse in your life and not sure where to go or what to do next?  Or maybe you are in the middle of the trenches, trying to make sense of the craziness swirling around you as you work your way through.  Or, maybe you are in the end stages and just need some confirmation that you are where you need to be as you are nearing the finish line of healing.  I can help you start to put the pieces together to get quickly on the path to healing, make sure you are where you need to be as you progress on your journey, and finish well as you make your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.

    I have many resources you can check out here, but if you would like quicker, more direct guidance specific to your situation, a direct consultation may be more helpful to you.  I am currently booking about 9 or 10 days out; you can check out the various consultation options here.  (I am hoping to add more consultation slots in the next few weeks so we can get the time frame down to 3-5 days from the time you schedule until you get your consultation.)

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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