Narcissistic In-Laws & Exes

Since I’m working on a book about narcissistic in-laws, it’s certainly gotten me to thinking about them.  Not exactly a fun topic since I’ve been through a LOT at the hands of narcissistic in-laws, but it’s also a topic that needs to be addressed.  I’ll share a blog post when it’s published as well as add the link to my website at:


One thing that recently has come to mind about these dreadful people is how they are with exes.  I’ve heard of & read so many stories of narcissistic in-laws who keep in touch with their son’s or brother’s ex, even after he has moved on to another woman & there were no children created in the relationship.  They may even have the ex’s picture hanging up in their home or a picture of him with her when they were together.  They may invite her to family functions, whether or not the new lady is present.


I’ve been down this road.  A woman my husband broke up with in 1991 is still a bigger part of my in-law’s family than I ever have been.  In 1997 at an in-law family party, my two sisters in-law spoke a LOT about her (when it was just the three of us together, no witnesses, of course), talking about what a great person she was & how they should hang out with her soon.  They never wanted to hang out with me, mind you.  Not long after we were married in 1998, my mother in-law told me how disappointed she & my father in-law were that my husband married me instead of this person.  Over the years, I learned that at least one of the sisters in-law not only kept in close contact with this ex, but kept my husband abreast of what was going on in her life.  Then, when we ran into her in a store two months to the day after my husband’s father died, I saw how comfortable & friendly she was with my husband.  It was painfully obvious she’d seen him recently, so I later asked what was going on with her.  Turns out not only had she been to my father in-law’s funeral, but also my mother in-law’s & took one of her sons to visit my mother in-law in the hospital.  She also lives only a few miles from my late in-laws’ home & attends the church they attended.


As if all of this isn’t awful enough, I also realized when we saw this woman that she obviously is still very attracted to my husband.


This whole situation got me to thinking about these types of situations.  If you’re in it, you’re going to need a lot of wisdom on how to cope with it.


I’m not saying all friendships between people & their exes or even their family & their exes are bad.  Sometimes they work out just fine or are necessary because of children or other ties to each other such as owning a business together.  When narcissistic in-laws are involved though, it’s a whole different situation.  This relationship isn’t because these people were genuinely fond of each other.  Like everything else, there is a self-serving purpose in it.  Never ever doubt that!  Your spouse may think his family’s behavior is normal but it isn’t!


If you wonder, watch how this relationship is handled.  Your feelings should be considered.  Your in-laws should not flaunt this person to you.  This person shouldn’t be frequently discussed fondly in front of you or her picture shouldn’t be in a predominant space in the in-law home (especially if it also includes your spouse).


How do they handle this relationship regarding your spouse?  Do they keep your spouse up to date on his ex’s life?  If your spouse wants no parts of the details of that ex, do they force him to listen anyway?  Do they forward her emails to him so he not only knows but has her email address as well?


These behaviors are all red flags, & you are going to need a lot of wisdom on how to handle this situation.


As always, I recommend prayer as the best place to start.  Luke 12:12 says, “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (KJV) & James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (KJV)  Seems to me prayer is the best place you can start!


Also never give your spouse an ultimatum.  People who do this almost always end up losing because no one wants to feel controlled or manipulated.


Stay calm when you must discuss the situation.  If you act angry or hurt, chances are your spouse will discuss the conversation with someone in his family.  From there, it would be very easy for your in-laws to convince your spouse that you’re unreasonable, paranoid, even crazy.  And, no doubt if he sees his ex, she is on good behavior.  She will look even better to him & you even worse.  So stay calm during the discussion for the sake of your marriage!


Do NOT tell him what you think his family is up to.  Coming from a narcissistic family does quite the number on a person’s psyche as most people know.  One thing I’ve noticed is men in these situations have a lot more trouble facing the truth about their family than women.  (No guys, I don’t hate you or think you’re stupid.  It’s just an observation.)  If you’re in this position with your spouse, I know it can be frustrating.  You see the truth so clearly but your spouse doesn’t.  Don’t work hard trying to convince him of the truth.  You telling the truth will come across to him as you criticizing his family, which in turn will make him very protective of them & angry at you.  It will drive a huge wedge between you two.


You can, however, gently, let your spouse know that you are very uncomfortable with this situation.  Tell him how you feel, & don’t be afraid of being vulnerable.  Better for your spouse to see that side of you than the angry side, because it won’t make him defensive.  He will be more willing to listen to you & relate to your perspective if you aren’t angry.


Also, what about the ex?  Is she obviously still attracted to your husband?  This is tough, I know.  I really feel your pain.  The best I know to do with this is to focus on your spouse.  Make sure you don’t stop doing things that he loves or finds attractive about you.  Do nice little gestures for him to show him you love him, like slipping love notes into his lunch box, sock drawer, coat pocket or even taping them to his steering wheel while he’s in the shower.   If you tell him what a terrible person his ex is instead, you’re only making him defensive of her & angry at you.  Yes, I know this one is HARD.  After seeing my husband’s ex, every fiber in me wanted to say exactly what I think of her & his family.  But, I knew that he wouldn’t believe what I said & would end up passionately defending them while simultaneously being very angry with me.


Lastly remember, all of this isn’t about you.  It’s about some pretty dysfunctional people doing what dysfunctional people do.  If the ex is still interested, well, she should have tried harder to keep him & is being foolish for not giving up.  He moved on & she should too.  As for your in-laws, they are getting something out of this relationship.  They probably want to split you & your spouse up or at the very least cause trouble between you two.  Maybe they think because she’s wealthy or in some sort of position in society, she makes them look good.  Who knows?  But you can be sure of one thing… whatever sick mess is happening in this relationship, it has nothing to do with you.


I wish you the absolute best in this situation!  xoxo



Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism

15 responses to “Narcissistic In-Laws & Exes

  1. I’m not sure this relates to the topic of your post, but while reading it I was reminded of something my CNM did recently to my daughter. After years of verbal and emotional abuse, and heroic attempts to save the relationship with couples and individual counseling, my daughter ended her marriage. We had no idea of her suffering until the very end when she told us she was getting a divorce. The abuse was so bad that the stress it caused was making her physically ill and she became dangerously underweight. So did her grandmother, who professed to love her, support and encourage her through the painful process of separation and divorce? Did she have any sympathy for her granddaughters suffering? Did she feel a righteous indignation and anger at the man who had hurt her? No. She told my daughter that she was ruining the lives of her children and that she should stay with the man who was making her life a living hell. That was just the start. Since then she called her former grandson-in-law and left a voicemail telling him that she “knew” the divorce was entirely the fault of my daughter. My ex son-in-law then gleefully played the voicemail for my daughter. This wasn’t just a betrayal by one who professed to love her and a source of great pain. It could also be used in any legal proceedings he may choose to bring to change their custody agreement (he’s also begun to practice parental alienation with the girls by lying to them about their mother). My husband and I have several theories about why my mother did this, but ultimately her reasons don’t matter and won’t be used to excuse her reprehensible conduct (although my GCB did try). She chose to be maliciously cruel to someone she claims to love at a time when she desperately needed support and affirmation. This has angered me more than anything my mother has ever done to me. A normal, loving grandmother would not do this and I’m more convinced than ever that she is unfit to have any contact with me or the people I love.


    • That is utterly disgusting. Your poor daughter! She did NOT need this at all! I’m sure your mother sees absolutely nothing wrong with her behavior either.

      My mother & ex became friends after we split too, & after she found out he hit me. The behavior of narcissists is utterly sickening.

      Liked by 1 person

      • How evil do you have to be to befriend someone who hurt your child or grandchild, or to excuse their disloyal behavior? Yes, it is sickening.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very evil, in my opinion. It’s sickening for sure. That’s really my biggest issue with my in-laws & Eric’s ex. I’m so used to their hatred for me, so in a way, being her buddy is no surprise. But, that is their brother! WTH? Where is the loyalty & respect?! Obviously they’re missing both.. @@ I have a cousin who’s more like a brother & I’ll tell you, if any of his nasty exes (he has a few) wanted to be my friend, I’d not only tell them to go to hell, I’d draw a map. You hurt someone I love, we are NOT going to be friends, period. He’s the same way with me. Eric & I nearly got divorced about 10 years ago & my cousin came close to beating the crap out of him.. They’re on ok terms now but God help Eric if he ever hurts me that badly again.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

      That is appalling, that a grandmother would be so cruel to her hurting granddaughter. My husband’s 23-year-old granddaughter visited us recently. She had just broken up from a very abusive man that she had been in a relationship with for six years. You could see the hurt all over her and feel it radiating off of her. It broke my heart to see her like that. I held her in my arms and prayed for her and I cried, as I prayed aloud for God to heal her broken heart. As her stepgrandmother, I wanted to soothe and bless her, I wanted to ease her burden, somehow — NOT add to it!!! I cried so hard, when I was praying for her, that she asked me if I was ok. She was worried about me. I told her, No, Honey, I am fine, but it just breaks my heart to see you so heartbroken.

      I tried to encourage her. I told her how much I admire her strength, and I told her what a great mom she is to her 19-month-old son. I said these things because she really is awesome, and because she needed to hear good things about herself. I also told her that, even though the pain of ending her abusive relationship will be very bad for awhile — I know, I said, because I have been through it, too — I told her that she is strong enough to make it through and the pain won’t last forever, and there will be good times and joy on the other side.

      This is what a grandmother who loves her grandchild does. And I am only her stepgrandmother, both of her grandmothers are deceased. But I have love in my heart for her just the same, and all I wanted to do was to bless her and help heal her broken heart.

      But your CNM… she sounds very much like my momster. That is how my mother treated me, when I went through a painful divorce from an abuser. And she treated my daughter, her granddaughter, the same way, when my daughter’s marriage ended.

      I don’t understand these people. They aren’t even human, it seems to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s so frustrating to me that others don’t see her conduct as utterly wrong and indefensible. A normal, loving mother and grandmother doesn’t ever say or do the things my mother has done to her own flesh and blood.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

          Oh yes, I know just what you mean, Suzanne. I have wondered the same thing about my mother… WHY can’t people SEE how phony she is, and what a liar she is? It’s a lonely feeling, isn’t it?

          I wanted to reply to your comment earlier, but my daughter was in a car wreck early this afternoon. She wasn’t sure if she was hurt or not, couldn’t even remember if she had hit her head. But she did not go to the ER, worried about money. Now I am worried about her. She lives in Washington state, I live in New Mexico. Feeling kind of in a fog right now.


          • Any word on your daughter today Linda?? Praying for her!

            Liked by 1 person

          • I just saw your post about your daughter. Is she ok? I have prayed for her, that God will heal and provide for her.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

              Thank you for your prayer for my sweet daughter! She tells me that she is sore all over now, but she “thinks” she is ok. She does not remember if she hit her head, though, so I am concerned. Her car was t-boned by a speeder and spun completely around. Yet, she did not want to go to the emergency room to be checked out. Probably, although she did not say, because of the bills.

              My daughter is a therapist intern and a student at Wellesley University, where she is studying for her master’s in family and marriage counseling. She is at work right now, with her counseling clients. It makes me feel better knowing that she is in an environment where she’s being closely watched and evaluated. If anything is really wrong, surely one of her professors or therapy supervisors will notice.

              Liked by 2 people

  2. Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

    Cynthia, reading this, about your in-laws…. I almost got a headache, from shaking my head and rolling my eyes so hard. Apalling, outrageous, EVIL. And your husband does not see it?!?!?!? But… yes, I do understand, so many of those who grow up in a narcissistic family do not see it. To them it is normal, because it is all they have ever known.

    But oh, man. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just so you know.. this isn’t the first time you’ve validated me like this & I truly appreciate that! Validation is so extremely important! Thank you so much!

      No, my husband doesn’t see it! At all! In fact, I tried talking to him a little about it last night. I mentioned an article I saw that said many people who want to remain friends with their ex are actually psychopaths. I know not all are, but some? Absolutely. My ex may be one. He said he could see that happening. Somehow it came around to families who are friends with exes & how disrespectful it is not only to the new person but the guy/gal with the ex. He agreed, & I thought we were getting somewhere. Then he was telling me about his sister who invited her ex to some family gatherings after their divorces & remarriages. I said his family obviously hates they guy so why invite him!? “What?! No one hates him!” Could’ve fooled me.. I have yet to hear ONE nice comment about him from anyone but lots of negative. Suddenly he defended his sister inviting him & thinks it’s ok. I even used my ex as an example & said how would he feel if it was us & my ex was at some gathering? He laughed because he knows how I feel about him so I tried to get him to pretend my ex is “The one that got away” (like his family sees his ex). He said he might feel “kinda awkward.” He truly is wearing those narc family blinders.

      Lord have mercy. My head is literally swimming from talking about it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

        Validation is so important, isn’t it? I spent most of my life, the first 50 years, in fact, with almost no validation. The opposite of validation, is almost all that I got, for half a century. And that is a soul killer! No wonder I was such an emotional mess. “Too sensitive” — yeah, right!

        This past Sunday, our pastor said something during his sermon that I thought was so good, I wrote it down. He said: “If people aren’t validating you, remember that God is validating you! If people are ignoring you, know that God is paying close attention to you!” When he said that, I thought, Wow, that’s right, the Almighty God who created the entire universe and everything in it, pays attention to little old me — He knows what I am doing, He knows what I am thinking, He hears and answers my prayers. How awesome is that! And how very validating!

        But, the pastor went on to say, God created us to need love and validation from other people, too. Yes indeed, I know that is true. And this is the reason why I make it a point to validate others when I can, because I know how horrible it feels to be starved for validation.

        But you are so relatable, Cynthia, and very easy for me to validate. I appreciate you and your blog so much.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Validation is VERY important for sure! I’m sorry you went without it for so long. It’s awful I know. Invalidation is such a cruel form of abuse! Narcissists do love it though. “Too sensitive” huh? Riiiiight… @@

          Your pastor is right! It’s never certain whether or not we’ll get validation from people but we always will with God! 🙂

          Thank you so much.. you’re very kind & I appreciate you! ❤

          Liked by 2 people

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