In my blog post, Help! The Man I Love is a Narcissist, a reader left a comment asking why her narcissist boyfriend can’t stop loving his ex-wife and love her. I thought about the countless other women asking about the truth behind why narcissistic men can’t let go of their exes and the importance of answering the question.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that this is a lifestyle blog. The majority of what I’ve shared and plan to share with you is based on my personal experiences.
But if you’ve read Welcome to BlogUtopia, you also know that I said that this would be OUR journey. That’s why I was thrilled when one of you left a comment asking a question.
It was an opportunity to personally give meaning to that statement by putting it into action and helping someone.
So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Why Narcissistic Men Can’t Let Go of Their Exes
In my first blog post on the topic of narcissistic men, I shared that I had one hell of a time with a narcissistic partner, his ex-wife, and their daughter.
One of the major problems was his inability to let go of his ex.
I struggled day and night with that issue.
The frequency with which he talked and expressed himself about her made me question his true motives for being with me.
Communicating with him about it was very difficult. He reacted as if a request I felt was more than reasonable (to put boundaries in place, stop talking to me about HIS memories of his ex, and give me my rightful place in his life) was a personal attack or some kind of conspiracy on my part to “Separate me from my family.”
His words exactly.
He’d invalidate and minimize my feelings whenever I brought it up, and he’d react with explosively violent verbal attacks and accusations.
At the time, I truly didn’t understand what his issue was.
She was his past (Like, one whole decade past).
I was his present.
He said he loved me.
If that was true, then why keep bringing her up, talking about her to our friends, and refusing to establish healthy boundaries?
It’s clear to me now, but it wasn’t clear to me then.
He had an addiction and she was his standby fix.
She was and may still be a reliable source of Narcissistic Supply, or what some refer to as a co-narcissist.
Narcissistic Supply: What is it, and How Does it Work?
Narcissists are continuously in search of things and people that will enable them to maintain their exaggerated sense of self-importance, and warped sense of entitlement.
They may come across as confident and secure, but in reality, they have low self-esteem and are very insecure people. They desperately need constant attention, adulation, praise, admiration, compliments, etc., to keep their delusions of grandeur going.
Whatever or whoever helps to preserve their bigger than life itself ego is considered a source of narcissistic supply, or co-narcissist.
You may be asking why he would turn to his ex if I was in his life? Was I not emotionally supportive enough? Did I not love him enough? Was I not enough?
I’m sure my reader has asked herself these questions time and time again, so I’m directly assuring her and anyone else in a similar situation, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU!
No matter what you do, you’ll never be enough because the problem lies within him, not you.
Narcissists get bored easily with only one source of narcissistic supply. They need multiple sources to keep the ego engine running.
Like I stated earlier, it’s like an addiction. They can’t function without a constant stream of narcissistic supply.
Hence, my ex’s inability to let go of his ex-wife.
What exactly was it about her that satisfied his need for narcissistic supply, you ask?
The idea that even after a decade of separation and of her moving on, that she was still stuck on him enough to create drama over his moving on.
It “flattered” him, he said.
The drama his ex-wife was creating and my reaction to it were providing him with a major high.
Setting boundaries and giving me my rightful place would’ve been like dropping a bomb on the Alaska pipeline, and its impact on Alaska.
Total narcissistic supply shut down and he wasn’t about to have that.
I said all of that to set the stage for a direct response to my reader, but I’m pretty sure you all know where I’m headed.
Why Your Narcissistic Boyfriend Can’t Let Go of His Ex-wife and Love You
Just like in my situation, your boyfriend’s ex-wife is a source of narcissistic supply, a co-narcissist.
As long as she is feeding his ego, it’s going to be very difficult to keep him away from her.
And it isn’t a she issue.
Unless she knows he’s a narcissist there’s no way she’s going to know that she was and still is a co-narcissist.
The upside of this is that if your boyfriend is truly a narcissist (and only a licensed mental health professional can confirm that), he doesn’t love her.
True narcissists are incapable of loving anyone but themselves. Whatever “emotional” connection he has to her is all about him and his need for a narcissistic supply source to keep his larger than life ego and hyper sense of self-importance engine going.
Women who love narcissistic men should grasp two things and grasp them well, so that they can stay afloat mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically:
- 1. No matter how hard you try to love them, it’s never going to be enough.
- 2. No matter how much they say they love you, it’s never going to about you.
So, there you have it. The truth behind why narcissistic men can’t let go of their exes.
It’s a vicious cycle they maintain to hold on to their warped sense of entitlement and overinflated sense of self-importance.
It’s all about the narcissist and what he feels he needs. His present and past partners were and will always be psychologically invisible and serve one purpose only, to provide the narcissist with his drug of choice:
Dr. Alan Rappoport, psychologist, and psychotherapist, coined the term “co-narcissist” to explain the plight of enablers/sources of narcissistic supply.
“In a narcissistic encounter, there is, psychologically, only one person present. The co-narcissist disappears for both people, and only the narcissistic person’s experience is important.”Rappoport, A. (2005). Co-narcissism: How we accommodate to narcissist parents. The Therapist. 16(2).36-38.
What You Have To Be Willing to Give Up if You Decide to Stay
The truth behind why narcissistic men can’t let go of their exes is hard to process and even harder to accept because it means we have to accept the fact that we love someone who can’t love us back, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Notice that I said “can’t” as opposed to “won’t.”
The word “won’t” implies that they’re capable of loving us, but choose not to. For narcissists it isn’t a matter of choice. It’s a matter of wiring.
In order for narcissists to change, they have to be willing to accept that they have a problem (which in the majority of cases isn’t going to happen) and participate in long-term psychotherapy.
So, what do you do if after becoming aware of all of this, you decide you want to stay?
Be willing to give up on your emotional and overall needs, and live your life to cater to them.
For me, that was way too big of a price to pay.
But that was my decision…my choice…mine alone to make.
Just like whatever decision you make will be your decision…your choice…yours alone to make.
To my reader who asked the question, I hope I was able to answer it and bring you some level of clarity.
I thank you for asking it and giving me this opportunity to respond.
I wish you well.
Sound Off! Let Your Voices Be Heard
If you are or have been in a relationship with a narcissist, and want to share how you’ve dealt with some of the issues discussed in this blog post, please leave a comment. Your experience may be another reader’s saving grace.
Thank you ahead of time.
Much love and peace,