It can be nearly impossible to spot a narcissist in the beginning stages of a romantic relationship because they have so many techniques that are designed to manipulate you into ignoring all of the red flags for forthcoming narcissistic abuse. However, one red flag that a narcissist can’t hide from you is the way that they treat their exes.

Narcissists treat their exes horribly. They will publicly devalue, degrade, and invalidate their exes, they will subject them to a lot of post separation abuse, and narcissists will treat their exes as their own property because they feel entitled to having power and control over them as long as they see fit. 

This article is going to guide you through the way that narcissists treat their exes so that you can spot a narcissist in the beginning stages of your future relationship or simply know some of the things that you can expect after ending a relationship with a narcissist. We’ve also created short video below with some helpful tips for handling an ex narcissistic partner who is treating you badly.

A Short Video About How to Deal With a Narcissist Who Is Treating You Badly

A Narcissist Will Publicly Devalue, Degrade, and Invalidate Their Exes

Narcissists spend their entire lives hiding behind a falsified identity that is designed to get as much validation, admiration, and reassurance from others as humanly possible. It is for this reason that narcissists often come off as very charming, charismatic, successful, attractive, and captivating. 

Narcissists do a really good job at maintaining this falsified identity but there’s one huge problem that they frequently run into: their victims are able to expose them because they know that the narcissist isn’t really a charming, charismatic, successful, attractive, and captivating person, they are just an insecure, vulnerable, emotionally inadequate, and self-loathing abuser.

For a narcissist, public image is everything so they are well aware that their victim has the ability to expose them to others if they choose to do so. You can read our article What Happens When You Expose a Narcissist to Others to learn more about the potential consequences of exposing a narcissist but here we are going to unpack how narcissists publicly devalue, degrade, and invalidate their exes to prevent their exposure from ever happening. 

What brings a narcissist the greatest sense of protection and security from being exposed is to publicly devalue, degrade, and invalidate their exes through flying monkeys. We created a thorough guide to this in our article How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys but a flying monkey is a person that a narcissist will manipulate into participating in their smear campaign by telling them lies and gossip about the victim. 

a narcissist recruiting flying monkeys

It is a devastating form of abuse because narcissists will often devalue, degrade, and invalidate the victim by spreading lies and gossip to the friends and family of the victim to isolate them from people who might believe them. It’s a predatory behavior that can destroy even the strongest bonds if done correctly. 

We spoke about this more recently in our articles How Do Narcissists Use Flying Monkeys and Why Do Narcissists Need Flying Monkeys but the overarching purpose of a flying monkey is to give the narcissist validation, admiration, and reassurance, to help protect the narcissist’s falsified identity, and to help prevent the narcissist from being exposed to others.

A narcissist will not hesitate to publicly devalue, degrade, and invalidate their exes. For those in the beginning stages of a questionable relationship, this is a huge sign that you are dealing with a narcissist. They have to control the narrative as quickly as possible because their exes know exactly how abusive they really are. 

For those who are ending a relationship with a narcissist, you are going to go through a lot of hard times when they start to devalue, degrade, and invalidate you to others. We strongly recommend that you read our guide How to Explain Narcissism to Others to help you through the complexity of healing and rebuilding from narcissistic abuse. 

A Narcissist Will Subject Their Exes to a Lot of Post Separation Abuse

One of the biggest dangers that the exes of narcissists face is the narcissist’s sense of entitlement to remaining in power and control of their life. The narcissist doesn’t want their exes to find a new partner, heal and rebuild, move on in their lives, or have even the slightest amount of happiness in their lives. When the narcissist is co-parenting with their ex, the post separation abuse is going to circulate around the children. 

We have unpacked this aspect of narcissistic abuse in our articles What Is It Like to Co-parent With a Narcissist, How to Tell If You’re Co-parenting With a Narcissist, and Why Is Co-parenting With a Narcissist So Hard, but what this means is that there is going to be a lot of counter parenting, alienation allegations, neglectful/abusive parenting, financial abuse, and legal abuse.

Narcissists have been known to use children as flying monkeys in an attempt to turn their own children against their exes and they have been known to hurt their children just to hurt their exes. A narcissist’s preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love also cause them to have high novelty seeking tendencies and this can manifest in the form of a desire to have the “perfect” family. 

a narcissistic mother introducing her new boyfriend to her children way too quickly

When the narcissist doesn’t have any children with their ex, post separation abuse often manifests in the form of coercive control. According to Women’s Aid, coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

This means that narcissists using coercive control constantly belittle, shame, undermine, ridicule, and attempt to humiliate their exes. They could even go as far as to stalk and harass their exes at their home, work, or any other places that their exes may be.

Ending a relationship with a narcissist is never a simple task. You can learn more about this in our article Why Do Narcissists Deliberately Hurt You but they have an incessant need to treat their exes horribly because it helps them manage their own negative emotions and their fragile sense of self. 

If you are in the beginning stages of a relationship with a suspected narcissist, it could be a little difficult to spot post-separation abuse because they are very careful who they allow see their true identity and when, but a good sign that something strange is going on is if they are keeping their exes around even though they say horrible things about them. 

If you are ending a relationship with a narcissist and want to know how they treat their exes, we strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with our library of information about going no contact with a narcissist and alternatives to going no contact with a narcissist if you want to protect yourself from the post separation abuse that they often subject their exes to.

Narcissists Will Treat Their Exes Like They Own Them

It is widely believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent. These types of primary caregivers are unable to mirror the child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs which means that the child doesn’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self. 

There is a ton of information about this in our article How Are Narcissists Made but the point of bringing this up in this article is that this upbringing that narcissists had gave them a deeply rooted hatred for themselves and left them so emotionally inadequate that they’re incapable of managing all of their negative emotions.

Instead of dealing with all of their negative emotions in a healthy way, they pretend they don’t exist by projecting them onto other people and hiding behind a falsified identity that is designed to accumulate as much validation, admiration, and reassurance as possible from their external environment.

What this means is that victims of narcissistic abuse play a huge role in the emotional stability of narcissists. The victim is someone that a narcissist can project all of their negative emotions onto because they’re incapable of managing them on their own and they are someone who gives the narcissist a constant flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance. 

narcissistic supply

When the relationship between the narcissist and their victim ends, the narcissist will still feel entitled to projecting their emotions onto their victim and getting a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance.

We spoke about this much more thoroughly in our article What Causes a Narcissist to Hoover but hoovering is one of the most common manifestations of this sense of entitlement that narcissists have to remain in power and control of their exes. 

When a narcissist hoovers, they do or say exactly what the victim needs to see or hear to give the relationship another chance. This can be very “romantic” like the narcissist love bombing the victim, it could be very “thoughtful” like the narcissists attending a few therapy sessions to “change” for the victim, or it could be very manipulative like the narcissist trying to guilt or shame the victim into giving the relationship a second chance. 

The end of a narcissistic relationship does not mean the end of the invalidation, manipulation, devaluation, dehumanization, power, and control. Narcissists treat their exes like they own them because they feel entitled to remaining in power and control of their lives. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

The preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love that narcissists have often cause them to be constantly looking for more validation, admiration, reassurance, and excitement in their romantic relationships. It is very common for narcissists to have a long list of ex romantic relationships that, according to them, ended because their exes were toxic, abusive, jealous, and so on.

If you are in the beginning stages of a relationship with a suspected narcissist, pay attention to how they speak about their exes and read our article How to Spot a Narcissist In the Beginning of the Relationship for more helpful information. If you are ending a relationship with a narcissist, be prepared for them to badmouth you to mutual friends and family.

Get a Free Healing Bundle Every Week!


  • 1 Educational Video From a Mental Health Professional
  • 1 Informative PDF About Narcissistic Abuse
  • 1 Journaling Exercise With Multiple Prompts
  • 7 Affirmations for the Upcoming Week
  • Lifetime Access to Our Private Online Community

Get a Free Healing Bundle Every Week!

  • 1 Educational Video From a Mental Health Professional
  • 1 Informative PDF About Narcissistic Abuse
  • 1 Journaling Exercise With Multiple Prompts
  • 7 Affirmations for the Upcoming Week
  • Lifetime Access to Our Private Online Community

All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.