Think Your Ex Is A Narcissist? Chances Are They’re Not…

Reviewed & fact-checked
If you think your ex is a narcissist, chances are they’re probably not. Narcissism is a serious pathology – applying to around only 6% of the population.

It’s a personality trait. One we ALL have. It’s part of a healthy ego.

While some of us are a little more narcissistic than others, very few people are actual ‘narcissists’.

Yet our Social Media feeds are full of women decrying their ex is a narcissist. No doubt fuelled by the kajillion “5,000 Signs Your Ex Is A Narcissist” blogs currently doing the rounds.

woman on phone at night
It’s become a seductive #hashtag culture.

All these #narcissist checklists – I mean, depending on my mood and how ‘small’ I feel, I can personally tick almost every single one of them:

  • Can’t admit mistakes
  • Superior attitude
  • Irresponsible with money

Because, you know, human.

This craze is taking our less savoury human behaviours out of context, packaging it up, and calling it ‘narcissism’.

And if that’s the case, we should all be very, very worried. Because it’s hard for a true narcissist to change. It’s a legit pathology. And I’d like to think that we have more potential for growth than that.

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But it doesn’t actually help you.

Here’s why I care enough to have a rant:

Mis-labelling your ex (or even your current partner) a narcissist won’t help you in the long term.

I mean, yeah, I get it. Applying the label can feel like a huge relief at first.

It’s a power move.

It’s a statement to yourself – that you finally see that the way they treated you was not up to scratch.

All that shitty behavior was… shitty.

That it mind-fucked you.

And now that the dust has settled, you can finally see the truth again. YOUR truth.

High fives.

But it doesn’t help you.

At best, it keeps you locked in the blame game, making it hard to move on.

At worst, it keeps you blind to your own role in the relationship. The 50% that belongs to you.

Relationships can be hard. Derrr. They bring up our shit. There’s subtle dynamics that play out and it gets messy AF.

We don’t always show up as our best selves.

And no, that’s not me excusing bad behavior. But throwing all our dark stuff under the ‘narcissism’ banner is not the way to make change happen.

Ask the hard questions

So get real with yourself:

Is your ex REALLY a narcissist?

If the answer is a legit yes, then you’ll need therapy to recover from that. ‘Cause yep, it’s damaging. There’s no undermining that. It’s really freakin’ serious.

Or perhaps they weren’t a narcissist, but you were actually in an abusive relationship. (Yes, there’s overlap, but not as much as you’d think. True narcissists are rare, and we all know that domestic abuse is more widespread).

Again, you’ll need some intense therapy to help heal from that. And again, it’s really freakin’ serious.

But for the rest of us…  

Could it be that your ex is imperfectly human?

That they didn’t know how to do intimacy? Or commitment? That they struggled with confidence issues? Self-image? Anxiety? Stress? Depression?

That they relied on defensive coping mechanisms? Maladaptive coping behaviours?

Could it be that just maybe, you have a bit of that going on too?

I don’t say this to diminish your experience. Love hurts, especially if the person you’re loving is hurt themselves.

And that’s not me saying you should go running back to them. Especially if they refused to look at their baggage.

Be discerning – not everyone is good partner material.

But don’t let the ‘my ex is a narcissist’ escape clause stop you from asking the right questions:

Why did you choose them in the first place? Why did you stay? What did you ignore, and WHY did you ignore it? What were you completely blind to, but now can see?

And more uncomfortably, but much more empowering to ask:

What was YOUR role in the relationship dynamic?

What patterns were YOU playing out? What are YOUR maladaptive coping mechanisms? What are YOUR triggers?

That way freedom lays.

So that in your next relationship, you won’t play out the same patterns. You’ll have the insight to create something different.

You’ll be discerning. You’ll ask questions, reflect, and you’ll uphold your own standards.

You might even be able to collaborate and help heal each other’s hurt – ’cause that’s part of the magic too.  

Not every ex is a narcissist

Above all – you’ll see the subtlety of human behavior. You’ll see the person in front of you, in all their complexity, with all their traits, good and bad.

Instead of just a label.  

Hi, I’m Jodie - a life, love, and sexual empowerment coach. I work with women and couples to help them create the lives, love, and sex they’ve always wanted. More love, more passion, more pleasure, and more fulfilment.
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