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When Your Ex is a Narcissist, with Wendy Behary | Ep 29

Is your current partner or a previous partner that you still have to work with a narcissist? What really is a narcissist? Is it possible for a narcissist to change? In this podcast episode, I speak with Wendy Behary about what to do when your ex is a narcissist.


Wendy T. Behary LCSW is the founder and clinical director of the Schema Therapy Institute of New Jersey and NYC. She is a founding fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and a former President of the International Society of Schema Therapy. Wendy is the bestselling author of Disarming the Narcissist and hosts an online support community for partners of narcissists.

Visit her website, connect on Facebook and LinkedIn.



  • What does narcissism really mean?
  • Do you currently have a narcissistic partner or had a previous partner who was a narcissist?
  • What to do if a stepparent is a narcissist


The word narcissist can be used to describe someone’s behavior, or it can be a clinical diagnosis. Often the word is thrown around carelessly, so it is important to understand the distinction, and when to use it.

A narcissistic personality disorder is the more extreme aversion of someone who is self-absorbed, self-focused. (Wendy Behary)

Someone who is a narcissist may be characterized by:

  • Having grandiose ways of looking at themselves and their position in the world,
  • Feeling highly entitled to do whatever they please,
  • Not caring for the impact that their behavior may have on other people,
  • They are not good at ‘give and take’ and may struggle with frustration because they want everything instantly,


At the far end of the spectrum, highly narcissistic people can be abusive. This does not mean all narcissistic people are malicious, because some clinicians view narcissism as a spectrum whereupon people can range from slight to severe.

For general usage, when you’re saying narcissistic, you’re usually referring to someone who is very self-absorbed … and someone who feels entitled to have their way, to be right … and someone who is always looking for attention to be placed on them. (Wendy Behary)

Narcissists are sometimes formed as adults when they did not receive unconditional love as children. Therefore, they remained stuck in a self-serving protective bubble to protect themselves from the likely harsh childhood they endured.


For partners who are listening who are looking for how to make sense of this, or [are] absolutely sure that this is narcissism, I would say you might be right! You might be absolutely right, but you want to be sure that if you are looking for labels that your motivation goes a little bit further to really deeply understand narcissism, because when you understand it, that’s liberating opportunity. (Wendy Behary)

Understanding the fact that your partner is narcissistic if they truly are, can be freeing to you because now you finally understand why they acted a certain way.

It can give you clues as to why they treated you the way they do, and tells you that their behavior was in no way linked to a fault on your part: you cannot blame yourself for the actions of a narcissist.

If your partner is a mild narcissist, there is a chance for them to develop out of it and it comes from them being mature enough to be open to change, and from you changing the “dance” and not falling for their bait to get you into conflict.

However, for other more severe narcissism on the spectrum, those people need professional help to change, because it is not possible for their partners to get them to change.


Whether you step in and address your ex’s new partner with them depends on the age of your children: how much can they understand? How much of the situation are they absorbing?

Our advice is often: know your children, know what they can manage. You don’t want to alienate them from their parent and if you are dealing with a co-parent who can’t hear you, whether they are narcissistic or not … you want to be able to talk to your kids about parts of self. (Wendy Behary)

You can teach your children that there are wonderful parts of people and there may be times when there are more difficult parts to those same people.

Help your children to see and understand that people are multi-faceted. Keep an eye on the impact of narcissistic tendencies on the children. As a non-narcissistic parent, there may be a lot of work you need to do. You may need to be undoing the bad things the children may be learning from the narcissistic co-parent or stepparent.


Wendy T. Behary – Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed


About your host:

Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Orenstein is a licensed psychologist and relationship expert  with over twenty years of experience. In 2005, she founded Orenstein Solutions, a private counseling practice in North Carolina that serves children, teens, adults and couples. 

She created the After the First Marriage Podcast to support individuals through the significant life transition of divorce. She whole-heartedly believes that “happily ever after” is an option for everyone, and is dedicated to helping divorcées regain the confidence to pursue a fulfilling future after the first marriage. 

Whether you listen to the podcast, join the Facebook community, or follow along on Twitter,  you’re in the right place!

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