How my ex became a malignant narcissist.


I’ve talked about several of my own family members and how narcissism has infected other family members with NPD and/or made them victims, but I haven’t focused too much on how my ex husband Michael, as malignant as they come, got that way.

So I am doing that now.

Michael, like most narcissists, wasn’t born that way. He was the only child of a machinist who was rarely home and when he was, stayed in the background, believing raising a child was “woman’s work.” The household was blue collar but back in the early ’60s, blue collar didn’t mean poor. A working class man could adequately support his family, buy a home, have two cars, and his wife didn’t have to work to help make ends meet.

From all accounts, Michael’s father loved him in his rough-around-the-edges macho way, but he spent hours every day in bars or at the pool hall after work to avoid his nagging, manipulating, self-centered, never-satisfied wife, Helen, who was a dangerous malignant narcissist and probably psychopathic.

Michael was a sweet, obedient child and a good student. He always tried to please his mother, making her things at school, picking flowers to bring home to her, and always, always trying to hug her. He was very physically affectionate, desperately trying to elicit love from a woman who didn’t have any to give. He told me his childish hugs were met with an unyielding stiffness and sometimes she would even push him away.


I remember during our engagement, during a dinner following a wedding rehearsal, Helen was almost bragging at the dinner table about how she never would have gotten pregnant at all if “Neil hadn’t got me drunk.” The woman swears she never had sex during their marriage and the only time she did was because her husband got her drunk. (She did have sex once in 1965, got pregnant and miscarried, or so she says). She liked to show off Michael’s baby pictures as if he was some kind of doll, but I don’t think she ever had any real love for him. He was her toy and her possession. She dressed him up like Little Lord Fontleroy and made him wear a Safari Suit to his 8th grade graduation.

Michael’s early photos show a child with a sad expression, although he was always smiling. But there was sadness and fear there. I was reminded of a picture of my mother taken when she was two–and she was wearing a similar sad and dejected expression, looking close to tears. She had been sitting on an oversized chair, her little feet in brown high top shoes, and clutching a teddy bear. Narcissists are sad little children before they turn to narcissism as a defense mechanism. They are never born this way. It is something that is done to them (although they have some part in having made the choice to become narcissists).

When Michael was five years old, his father brought him home a small white puppy, who was named Buster. Michael loved that dog, and spent all his time playing with him when he wasn’t at school. Buster would sit on the floor next to Michael while he played with his toys or drew in his coloring books with crayons.

One summer day, Michael and Buster were sitting in the middle of the hardwood floor in the living room, in a patch of sun that came in through the picture window. Michael got up to go do something else, maybe go to the bathroom, and left his crayons on the floor in the patch of sunlight. Some purple and red crayons melted in the sun and the dog Buster somehow got some red wax on his white fur. There was also a pair of child’s plastic scissors nearby.


While Michael was gone, Helen came into the room and saw the waxy mess and the red crayon on the dog. She marched off to find Michael and dragged him into the room.
“See what you did, you stupid child. That dog is bleeding.” She pointed to the plastic scissors.
“See, you cut him. Well, that does it. Buster must be put to sleep.”
Michael started to cry. “But he’s not tired.”
Helen flew into a rage. “I don’t mean it that way. We are taking him to the pound where he will be destroyed. You are not capable of caring for a dog. Look what you did to him.”
Michael tried to appeal to his father, but his father, tired from work, and an enabler to Helen, just said, “I’m sorry, son, but we have to do what your mother says.”
Michael never forgot this and was never able to forgive his mother for this. He thinks this was the point at which he started to hate her and stopped trying to appeal to her love. He stopped making her things and bringing her gifts.

Helen never allowed Michael to stay home from school, not matter how sick he was. Once he had scarlet fever and was sent to school anyway. The school nurses, concerned, called Helen and asked her why she would send a child sick enough to be in the hospital to class.
Instead of apologizing and getting Michael the medical care he needed, she attacked him, blaming him for “getting her into trouble with the school.”
Any time anything went wrong, it was always Michael’s fault.

When Michael was about 11 or 12, there was a huge custody dispute over an older daughter from his father’s first marriage. The father went to court to try to win custody and lost. During this time, Michael was sent to live with neighbors, to “keep him out of the way.” He felt rejected by his own parents in favor of his father’s daughter from an earlier marriage.

Helen was a pious churchgoer, involved in every activity, but was not well liked by the other women. She was known as a troublemaker and had no real friends. But she loved to tell everyone how “everyone loves me” and “they all listen to me.” In actuality she was doing nothing but spreading gossip and lies about the other women in her church groups. The old Saturday Night Live character “The Church Lady” could have been Michael’s mother. She even looked like that character.

Dana Carvey as “The Church Lady.”

She also got involved in Michael’s school, and got the same reputation there as a troublemaker. This reflected badly on Michael, who was embarrassed by his mother’s antics and his friends’ dislike of her. She was always interfering in things that were none of her business and stirring up drama, playing divide and conquer games between other women and breaking up their friendships through her malicious lies and triangulation.

Michael hated his mother by now and tried to avoid her, but did not become a narcissist until he was almost 13.

It happened in January 1973. His father had not been in good health for some time, and suffered from atheriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries. He was only 57 when he suffered a massive stroke and died suddenly at home.

Michael went into the bathroom to get ready for school and found his father’s dead body lying on the cold ceramic tiles of the bathroom floor. He screamed and tried to revive him, but the man was already cold and wouldn’t wake up. He had been dead for several hours already.

Crying hysterically, he found his mother in her bedroom, fast asleep. He started shaking her and yelling at her to wake up.
She finally did, and was annoyed to find Michael crying at her bedside and pointing to the hallway toward the bathroom.
“Mom, I think Dad’s dead.” he sobbed.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She marched off to follow him into the bathroom.
She stood at the doorway and looked at her dead husband on the floor, grimaced, and then turned on her heel and said to her son, “Well, I have no idea what to do about this. You take care of it.” Not one shred of empathy, grief or compassion was shown. This was her own husband, and she acted as if he was a bag of trash that needed to be taken outside.


Michael changed after that. He went through the motions of doing what is done when a family member dies, calling all the relatives himself, arranging the funeral, and all that goes with that, but inside he wasn’t the same.

After his father was buried (and his mother put on a huge show at the funeral of crying louder and more hysterically than anyone else present), Michael began to drink and get into trouble. His grades remained acceptable, but he began to show a lot of narcissistic behaviors and started to use people for his own advantage. He went into the city on the weekends and sold his body to older men for money. He thinks he killed a guy once by pushing him into a glass table, but if he did kill him he was never caught.

The malignant behavior soon became ingrained and for Michael, there was no turning back. He’d given up on life and turned to narcissism to protect himself against further injury from those who were supposed to love him. As the years progressed he became a skilled manipulator and con artist, expert at gaslighting, lying, projection of his own defects onto others, and triangulating. This was exacerbated by intermittent drug abuse and alcoholism. The rest of his progression into full-blown malignant narcissism is described in my posts about our marriage under “My Story,” which appear in the header.

Michael had turned into his enemy: his mother. At the same time, he projected his hatred of his mother onto all women he became close to. In the process, this once-brilliant man eventually burned all his bridges, both romantically and professionally. Today he is a burned out shell of a human being, now living at the Salvation Army subsisting on handouts and disability payments. He’s a “needy” narcissist, mooching and freeloading off others, and taking, taking, taking in a pathetic effort to procure the maternal love he never received as a child. He still blames “society” and other people for “making him homeless and unemployable.”

Even his children want little to do with him. He has lost everything. But he made his own choices so I can’t feel too badly for him.

19 thoughts on “How my ex became a malignant narcissist.

  1. Narcs seem to be trying to make more narcs. It’s like an alien invasion. Just an observation. Your ex might be in a pod somewhere. Ok, lol, that was an attempt at a joke. I’m clumsy at this please forgive me.

    But I’m so glad I made it through and didn’t become one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh gods 😮 You may be onto something. They are the POD PEOPLE. And they are MULTIPLYING! ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!
      They tried to turn us into pod people too! AAAAaghhhh!


      • Yes pod people with no emotions and they want us to be dead inside like them. I think Narcs make a choice for evil too at a certain point but you wonder what kind of person your ex may have been with a different mother and father.

        Liked by 1 person

        • He probably would have been okay, because he seemed like a sweet and sensitive child until he found his father dead. But things really began to change when his mother had his dog destroyed when he was 5, so by then it might have been too late.
          Narcissists are not born, they are made (and make that choice too). I don’t believe there are any bad seeds. My research and reading has also convinced me that narcissists started life as HSPs; they chose narcissism to protect the too sensitive true self.


    • Yes narcs often make narcs. I think those of us who escape and do not become them are the exception. The lack of love in childhood, turns many to the dark side. I looked at my cold grandmother with no emotions and know what formed my mother.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting. The children of narcissists seem to either become narcissists themselves, or become empaths. Polar opposites. I think scapegoated children are least likely to become N’s, but they still can. I almost did.


  2. It is very sad, but important to acknowledge how narcissists become that way. I can relate to this. My husband had a terrible childhood at the hands of his father and became a master of blaming and projecting. I feel sad for him but I can’t be with him anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We can’t feel at all guilty over disconnecting. We can have compassion for them, but must remain firm in protecting ourselves. We aren’t disconnecting to hurt them but to protect ourselves and our children.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is such a heartbreaking story. How horrific. How can one not feel sorry for that (once) innocent little boy? And yet be so (rightly) terrified of him? I’m so sorry for your ex and even sorrier for how his childhood pain caused so much pain for you and your kids. Thanks for sharing his story with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even thought i can’t stand the guy, in writing this I did feel some compassion for him. He really did have a rough time, worse than mine in a way, but like the other poster said, he didn’t HAVE to choose narcissism. It’ always comes down to a choice. But at age 13 or younger, what do you really know? You’re doing what you think you have to do to survive. It’s all about survival.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Came across your blog via a Google search…I’ve spent the last 3-4 weeks reading and studying in an effort to understand myself. I’ve realized that at a minimum I do exhibit many narcissistic traits and behaviors…whether or not I have NPD I’m not sure…it seems a fuzzy line. I’m not intentionally malicious or look to harm people, but I am very self-absorbed, self-centered, and manipulative.

        I don’t recall ever making any sort of “choice” in my childhood or teen years where on a plate somebody laid out empath or narcissist. I’m still trying to piece it all together. Based on what I’ve read so far I am fairly certain my mother is a malignant narcissist or at the least full blown NPD, and I was her “golden child”. My achievements and accomplishments were “proof” she was an “excellent” mother, and I most likely learned and internalized at a young age that any “love” I received was from external accomplishments. I think my father is some type of codependent with narcissistic tendencies who he himself had a mother with NPD (my grandmother). Ironically, I was her “golden grandchild”…often told I was her favorite. In contrast, I never got any sort of approval or recognition from my father…now in my 40s I don’t think I have ever heard from him “I love you son” or “I am proud of you”. When I was a child and teen, the parents of my friends would tell their kids in front of me, “why can’t you be more like X” but it was always due to some external achievement. The message from all directions was all that was important was the outside image, the external factors, that was “ME”…the sum total of my accomplishments. Now add to that cocktail mix relentless bullying, teasing, and harassing from peers from about 6th grade through 10th grade, with the most vicious abusers being girls. In that cauldron of contradiction, and bizarre mixture of pure adulation and admiration along with rejection the narcissist was born.

        Now in my 40s and my life the last 10 ten years not measuring up accomplishment wise to the previous 20, I’ve had to ask “Who am I” without achievements? I’ve had to face that I am least somewhat responsible for my failures both professionally and relationship wise which led to this point in time realizing that I am a narcissist. I watch some of Vaknin’s videos and the degree to which I relate or they describe me is scary in their precise accuracy, although some are way off.

        Most of what I read tells me I cannot be “fixed”…that I am incorrigible and a monster that should be avoided like a leper. I have a sibling who went “No contact” a few years ago…until recently I had no idea why…but I suspect she came to this conclusion. Now I ask myself do I want to change? Is it possible? Or do I simply accept that I am what I am, and double down on more effective masks and manipulation to get back to “success”? Are my recent failures a message that I need to try an reform, if it is even still possible? Or is the lesson that I just need to be an even more effective manipulator?


        • Hi, X–
          I cannot tell you if you’re a narcissist, but if you recognize yourself in your readings, it’s possible, especially if they seem to clarify things to you that nothing else could explain.
          Your background sounds very much like my own, except that as an only child, I was both golden child and scapegoat. This was very crazymaking! I’ve recently (VERY recently–just a month ago!) identified with covert narcissism myself (this discovery was quite upsetting and VERY surreal and disorienting) and now everything makes sense that never did before. I believe I’m low on the spectrum but I am on the spectrum. I don’t have a dx but I do have one for BPD.
          Let me ask you a few questions–
          1. Do you WANT to change?
          2. Are you willing to experience emotional pain?
          3. If the answer to #2 is no, would you be willing to learn CBT skills or more prosocial ways of relating to people?
          I don’t think NPD is incurable, in spite of what many people believe–at least up to a point. But you have to be willing. I don’t think malignant narcissists are curable, because they are psychopathic and perfectly happy being what they are. If you have NPD it doesn’t sound like you’re malignant or psychopathic. So it’s not hopeless. Of course, you may not have NPD at all, but another disorder such as borderline PD. A mental health professional could give you a dx. There’s also online tests you can take that are pretty accurate.
          I’ve self identified as a covert narcissist. I’m working on healing myself. I do not want to have this disorder. It’s made my life a hell. But it took me getting away from my abusers (going NC) to be able to see myself the way other always have.
          I have another blog I just started when I became aware of my narcissism–you may want to visit:
          Down The Rabbit Hole:


  4. We had the same crises in childhood the same choices put before us, us empaths and we didn’t make their choice to be evil. In fact where empaths grew up with such horrendous abuse, they chose to be good, not evil.
    don’t pity them, it’s what they want. Leave them to their choices.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In my ex’s case, there is no healing to be had (if any narcissist can ever be cured) because he has zero insight, unfortunately. He doesn’t think he’s a narcissist, he thinks I am. So he can’t even modify his behavior because he doesn’t know or care that he’s doing it.

    My mother has even less insight than he does. Most of these narcs just keep projecting and think they are perfect. Call them a narcissist and they either think it’s a good thing or they project/deny it.


  6. Pingback: How my ex became a narcissist. | Down the Rabbit Hole

  7. Reblogged this on Lucky Otter's Haven and commented:

    I thought I’d repost this article again, because it shows exactly how narcissism can be passed from one generation to the next, due to emotional abuse of a child that stunts or halts their healthy development of a sense of self.

    Since this article was written back in February, my ex was diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) and due to his “unemployability due to possible homicidal tendencies,” he got $31K in disability back pay AND an increase in disability payments. Commenting on this outrage is beyond the scope of this article and I’ve already ranted enough about it anyway. He has already gone through all the money, as I suspected he would, but his monthly income due to being a narcissistic, antisocial jackass exceeds mine.


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