I Feel Sad When People Use This Phrase About My Ex-Husband

Too many say it not to believe it.

Woman feeling sad, sitting on a bench outside Runshi Zheng | Canva

Most of the time, I have no emotion left for my ex-husband. Don’t get me wrong, I can still get mad if he upsets our children, or if the financial devastation he inflicted has me stressed. But an unexpected emotion has crept in. I feel sad for him.

I ran into a friend the other night. “I see your ex-husband at the local pub,” she said. “He’s nothing like when you were married to him. There’s something off about him. He’s odd.”


“I hear that a lot,” I said. “It’s sad.” I walked away from her.

I would dismiss this comment if I heard it strictly from my friends. I wouldn’t feel bad for him. I would file it under loyalty, not unlike the ‘Santa’ references about his appearance. He’s gained weight and looks far older than his years. But my friends aren’t the only ones who have made this comment. It’s his friends and others who have known him for years. It’s a few people he’s recently befriended. It’s people we knew socially and weren’t close to.

It makes me sad for him. It makes me sad for our children. It’s difficult for them to wrap their heads around. They want to remember the father they thought they had.


Narcissistic personality disorder is difficult for spouses to understand, it’s even more painful for children. They can logically understand it but emotionally reject it, as we once did.



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I was relaying the above story to someone close to me. “I ran into a friend last night who said my ex-husband is different from when we were married,” I said. “She said that there’s something off about him. She thinks he’s odd.”


“Colleen,” she responded “He was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. He may try to make it appear that he’s rebuilt his world. He can get remarried and keep up his career. But he’s broken and he has been since you left him. He never recovered from you leaving him, despite his attempts to make it appear otherwise.”

“It’s still sad to see it play out,” I said. “He needed you,” she said. I know she was right.

I’ve spent more than a decade in the counseling and research of love, relationships, and narcissistic personality disorder. Once my husband was diagnosed, it was hard not to. But back to the logically understanding it, and emotionally rejecting it — It doesn’t make it easier to withstand or witness.

RELATED: Why It Took Me 5 Overly Long And Abusive Years To Divorce A Narcissist


Narcissism is an albatross. I wish he would move. I wish he would stop hanging out in the small town that I grew up in. I wish he would stop going to the Irish pub where our children worked. But that’s not unlike a narcissist. The bully, the controller, and the dominator are sending me a message — he can claim what’s mine. He can haunt me.

At first, it bothered me that I felt pushed out of a place I grew up loving. It upset me that my kids no longer wanted to go there. They were embarrassed their dad was hanging out at a bar every night. It’s now turned otherwise. I’m sad for him.

A narcissist could care less about what a narcissist does. He’s embarrassing himself. He’s unaware of this fact. Narcissism prevents him from recognizing his reality. He walks into that pub like he owns the place.

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He ran into a friend of mine recently. He fawned over her and acted as if they were BFFs. He was shameless. He hugged her and said, "Love ya." This was one of my BFFs. One of the people who brought us food when he withheld grocery money during our divorce. One of the people who sat with me when I was crying my eyes out. One of the people who witnessed me in the fight of my life to protect my children from their father. One of the people who had noted the change in him.

It’s difficult not to feel sad for him. It’s hard not to want to say, “Where’s your self-respect?” But that’s the world of narcissism.



Narcissists project strength but they are fragile. They are one person away from losing their entire illusion. Narcissists either get what they want, or they pretend they’ve gotten what they want. If you leave a narcissist, it’s not what they wanted. It’s completely different than a narcissist leaving you. It can unhinge their world. It can take them down. But they’ll never let you know it. They’ll attempt to rebuild their world to the perfection they once sought. They’ll appear happy.


I was the person who camouflaged a narcissist’s true behavior from the world. It’s one of the reasons my ex-husband appears ‘off’ now. As long as I absorbed it, and made a narcissist’s world go round, others couldn’t see him. I exposed the narcissist when I left him. I hate everything a narcissist did to me. But I can’t help but feel sad for him. He may have gotten all of our money but he lost everything else.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. Her bylines have appeared on The Good Men Project, Scary Mommy, NewsBreak, Medium, MSN, Yahoo, and MamaMia, where she writes about relationships, parenting, and divorce.