Kylie thought Brent cheating was the worst thing he could do. Until she left him.

When Kylie* first met Brent*, he seemed to tick all the boxes. He had a confidence and bravado that Kylie found attractive. He was sociable and people oriented, just like she was.

"He appeared to be everything I’d ever wanted. My intuition was ringing about certain things, but I wanted to believe that this was the man I was meant to be with," says Kylie. 

"The relationship at the start was just like any other, and within a year, I had a massive diamond on my finger."

A few years into the relationship, things started to change. The couple was trying to get pregnant, but were struggling to conceive. 

Watch: Signs You’re Dating A Narcissist. Article continues below.

Video via Psych2go.

"He started to say some horrible things about me not being able to conceive, and that if we didn’t fall pregnant soon, he would have to 'sow his seed' elsewhere. I was completely disgusted and overwhelmed by what I was hearing."

Eventually though, she did fall pregnant. And when their first child was born, things changed again, leaving Kylie both blindsided and confused. 

"It was a very confusing time, because he’s very into his children, very committed to their care. And that was very attractive as his partner, but I was being completely neglected and covertly abused at the same time. 


"How can this man be so into our children but so neglectful of me? I was grateful for his help during those parenting days, but I felt dead on the inside because he demonstrated those horrible behaviours."

During her pregnancy, he’d often ignore her, or walk quickly, leaving her struggling behind him. 

"Things that said, 'you don’t mean anything to me'. And I don't’ care about you. It was a very confusing time."

A new reality. 

After they had their baby, Kylie discovered Brent was having an affair. She’d suspected it before, but now she had proof. 

When she approached him, he denied it. After presenting him with the evidence, he convinced her to give him another chance. She told him if it ever happened again, she would leave him. So when he did it again after the birth of their second child, and again tried to deny it, she did it. She left him. 

"Once the words left my mouth, I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I needed to. I was reeling from the depth of the deceit and I couldn’t be with someone that was prepared to lie like that. 

"It was through researching those lies that I learnt about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

After telling her husband she wanted a divorce, he convinced her to try counselling one more time. They did, but it only confirmed it was the right thing to do. 

"I would say that his abuse in the marriage was quite covert. Financial control, jealously issues, control issues.

"But he said some disgusting things in front of the counsellor. And I found out there was surveillance on my computer, and he’d been tracking me on the find my phone app."


Following the revelations, Kylie pursued the separation, but things became even worse, and abuse was no longer subtle.

"It went through the roof. Snatching kids out of my hands, stealing money, shutting down my bank accounts. Absolute chaos-making. 

"Lots of verbal and eventually, even physical abuse."

Once her ex-husband was physically abusive, Kylie decided to go to the police, who took out an intervention order against him. The order gave Kylie the breathing room to research and understand NPD and develop the strategies required to protect herself and her children. 

"Once I didn't want to be with him, I was considered 'bad', and would always remain bad. He wasn’t the same person I was married to. Coming to terms with that needed a lot of support. 

"I kept trying to collaborate or make things better, but that kept opening me up to abuse. In the end, I had to tighten my boundaries, but it took some time."

With the help of her lawyer and a counsellor, Kylie was able to put a label on what she was experiencing, and make a plan. 

"All communication is now in writing, and only about the children and their arrangements. 

"I've become a very intentional parent, learning about what my children need in the face of this sort of behaviour. The boundaries that I’ve needed to protect myself, ensure my own self care, enabling me to be a more present parent."

How to deal with a narcissistic ex. 

While being in a relationship with a narcissist is difficult, leaving one is even harder, says founder and managing partner of Coote Family Lawyers, Gillian Coote. 


"True narcissists are individuals who possess an unreasonably high sense of self-importance and entitlement. They may lack empathy and the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others and can be very manipulative and controlling."

Divorce papers can trigger anyone to lash out in pain and anger but narcissists may unleash their most toxic behaviours at this time. 

"It’s not uncommon for people with narcissist tendencies to be extremely uncooperative, disruptive, disagreeable, and unwilling to move forward during separation.

“Some common tactics and behaviours the most difficult people use include gaslighting and provoking the other party, creating unnecessary drama, telling lies, being abusive, purposefully delaying settlements, and using the children to manipulate situations.” 

Because true narcissists lack empathy, they’ll often go to unreasonable lengths to derail a separation.

How to 'ringfence' a narcissist 

Setting boundaries and sticking to them is a critical part of effectively dealing with a narcissist. 

"This might involve restricting communication solely to topics concerning children and family, establishing guidelines for child handovers, determining the manner and frequency of communication, and specifying the times and locations for in-person interactions with your ex."

Communicating through a parenting app can also help, not only because it’s an external communication tool, but all exchanges are permanently recorded. 


"If your ex is trying to delay a settlement, the best course of action is to try to keep conflict to a minimum," says Coote. 

"Narcissists love to argue and win at sometimes any cost, which is why getting them to agree on a financial settlement or custody arrangement can be so challenging. Be strategic in picking your battles and let them feel like they’ve won from time-to-time. Take stock of what’s most important to you and be prepared to compromise on less important things."

For Kylie remembering that goodwill doesn’t get you anywhere with a narcissist while also maintaining integrity has been critical. 

"If I can come through with integrity, that gives me a great sense of rising above. A sense of accomplishment and peace. But don’t let your emotions see you agree to something that you’re not ok with. 

"Your compromise or goodwill won’t be recognised or rewarded by them, so there’s just no point compromising."

*Names have been changed. 

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) — the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

Feature Image: Getty.

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