The Abusive Ex Syndrome This is a very significant red flag, and one that you are probably familiar with, and you may well have heard in your own interaction with a narcissist. And if not, it is something that you need to be aware about to protect yourself from potential future ensnarement by narcissists. The Abusive Ex Syndrome is used by narcissists, as part of the pursuit of the prime aims of control, fuel, character traits and residual benefits. What is it?
Well, it is making reference to the ex-partner of the narcissist, usually the immediate ex, but it can include exes further back and labelling them as abusive, possibly even calling them narcissists and doing so at an early stage in the interaction between the narcissist and the new victim, for instance, as a friendship begins, or during dating. To understand more about this, we should begin by understanding how an abusive ex would be mentioned in a dynamic where there is no narcissist involved. I raise this as the comparison will be helpful and also, of course, some of you will be wondering, “Well, I know I’m not a narcissist, or at least I think I’m not. But I talked about the abuse that I suffered at the hands of the past narcissist, when somebody knew that I was dating, am I guilty of indulging in the abusive ex syndrome? Maybe I’m a narcissist.”
Let me explain and that will provide you with reassurance. When you’re an adult, and you’re dating, invariably, everybody, or nearly everybody has some kind of relationship history, you might have been married, you might have lived with somebody, you will have probably had a number of boyfriends or girlfriends, sexual partners and so forth. Even those who are empathic may have had several relationships dependent upon your age. Therefore, that means that when you meet somebody new in a romantic setting or perhaps you are being chatted up at a bar or going on a date, invariably, the issue as to relationship status and past romantic relationships will be brought up. It’s a fair question.
For instance, people are commonly asked, have you been single for long? Or have you been dating for long? Are you dating anybody else? Have you been married? Do you have children? These all lead back to the issue of a previous relationship. Where somebody who has suffered an abusive relationship, and is not a narcissist, is asked about a previous relationship, what they will not do at an early stage of their involvement with the new person is to give chapter and verse as to what has happened to them. Why? Quite simply, the victim of the abuse has emotional empathy for the person that they’re talking to. They inherently recognize the boundary; they don’t need to control this person that they’re talking to. They have an accountability for their life. They don’t operate with a sense of entitlement. Whilst it might be tempting for the victim, who has been abused, to say to the new person, my ex was a complete bastard, a schmuck, a cheat, he beat me up, etc, and go into chapter and verse about it, that individual will not do so for the reasons that I’ve just enunciated.
They will recognize that, in effect, it’s too much too soon, that they won’t want to share all of that information, that they don’t think that it’s right to dump all of that information on the new person. Indeed, they may not want to talk about it because it’s unpleasant to do so, and therefore, what they may well do is explain “Yes, I was married, divorced. It didn’t work out. There were differences between us, you know how it goes.” Or “It was a difficult relationship. He cheated on me.” or “It was a difficult relationship. He caused me particular problems. But it’s not something that I’d like to discuss at the current time.”
The other person being empathic won’t press, they’ll recognize it as a sensitive subject and therefore, in the circumstances, the individual who has been the genuine victim of abuse will make mention of it, but only in a slight way, without going into considerable detail about it, but only when asked about previous relationships. They won’t sit down and suddenly say, “I’m really pleased to be seeing you. The last guy was an absolute asshole. He beat me up, he cheated on me,” because describing all of that, when the individual that you’re dating hasn’t even asked about it, is a failure to recognize a boundary, it exhibits a sense of entitlement, it shows a lack of accountability.
A genuine victim, who has emotional empathy, will mention that the last relationship or one prior was difficult when asked about that relationship, but will not go into huge amounts of detail about it. Furthermore, that individual will share about the ins and outs of what has happened to them at an appropriate time, further into the relationship with this new person when it’s more settled, when perhaps there’s exclusivity, that they might sit down and then explain, offer more of the information or by invitation go into greater detail, but they will do so, when they feel more established with the relevant individual, again, recognizing boundaries, exhibiting emotional empathy.
Therefore, that is the way that somebody with genuine emotional empathy will operate with having suffered an abusive relationship. They will make reference to it when asked about it, they will not go into huge amounts of detail. It will not be expansive, detailed, a long monologue about how they were treated, it will not be spoken about with hyperbole in an overly emotional way and they will wait to provide further detail until they feel more comfortable with the person that they are dating when they’re in a more established relationship. So that’s how it manifests when dealing with a situation between somebody who has been abused, meeting somebody new and neither of them are narcissists. Now let us compare the situation with it’s used in a dynamic with the narcissist. How does it manifest? It should be noted that not all narcissists will necessarily use this form of manipulation through the AES but many do.
In essence, it is a form of triangulation and smearing that is utilized by the narcissist about the ex or a previous ex. You will be told about what a bitch she was, that he was a controlling megalomaniac who beat me up, she never let me see the children controlled my money. You will be taken through, in minute detail the circumstances of it. Certain narcissists, particularly mid-range, will almost give you a diarized recollection of what has occurred. “So it started off and everything was all right. And then all of a sudden, she started to do this to me, or he started to do this to me.” Month by month, you are provided every interaction and occurrence so that you will feel as if you are reliving the events in glorious CrikeyVision.
The narcissist will not spare you the detail. You will be told about how they were hurt, how they felt, how they tried to make things work, the full horror of the manipulations, the full detail of the abuse, the rape, the sexual assault, the beating, all such information will be provided and it will be provided far too early. Invariably, too much too soon. It will be provided to you maybe on the first date, or while you’re being you might have been stood at a bar and the narcissist come sover and started talking with you and offers this information.
Therefore, there will be a large amount of information which is provided at a very early juncture. So that is how it manifests. But why does the narcissist utilize the Abusive Ex Syndrome? In the sense of why does the narcissist view the ex as abusive? Two reasons. First of all, there may be the revision of history, namely, that the narcissism changes the recollection of the unaware narcissist, so that he truly or she truly believes that they have been abused when no abuse actually ever took place, that the ex was actually meek and mild mannered.
Indeed, the ex was the person who was being abused, but the narcissism rewrites history to cause the narcissist to believe that they were being abused and it is pure fantasy. Events will be made mention of and a description given of circumstances occurring and you may find that if there is more than one recollection to you of these events, that there are discrepancies in how this is provided events, perhaps being in a different order, events omitted, new ones created the nature of the behaviour altering. Thus, in some instances, the narcissism rewrites history. The narcissist that makes use of the Abusive Ex Syndrome truly believes it happened, but it actually didn’t. The second aspect is where there were behaviours by the ex, which might be viewed from the narcissistic perspective as abusive, but it’s where in essence, the victim fought back.
The victim fought back, because their emotional empathy was eroded by the abuse that they were suffering. This abuse being an external stressor, reduced the emotional empathy of the victim and they then lashed out at the narcissist. So they started giving silent treatments, or they upped and left, or they physically fought back when they were being attacked or they physically fought back when the narcissist was trying to make them do something sexual that they didn’t want to do, that they started to divert money to themselves in order to protect themselves. All of these behaviours are a reaction to the abuse that has been meted out at them by the narcissist but again, because of the narcissistic perspective, the narcissist does not see that he was the protagonist. he regards himself or herself as the victim of the abusive behaviour. It is as if a film has been made, and the narcissist has edited, because this is the way the narcissism works, the first bit, namely, removing their behaviour, which provoked the fight back from the victim. Thus, in the narcissist´s recall of what happened, or they perceive it is the response of the victim, but not what caused that in the first place. The narcissist´s role has been removed and all they see having edited this through their unconscious narcissism, is that they’ve not done it purposefully. all they see is that they were subjected to certain behaviours.
This includes instances where the narcissist may have involved the police or obtained a restraining order, because the victim has behaved in a particular way, but only because the narcissist acted in a way towards them first, they didn’t do it over nothing. However, from the narcissistic perspective, of course, in order to assert control to avoid accountability to extract fuel, the narcissistic perspective sees the behaviour of that victim as the victim being the aggressor, and the narcissist being the victim. So the narcissist will make reference to the abusive ex for the purpose of the syndrome, either through the vision revision of history, completely fabricating what has happened, or the narcissistic perspective, which has omitted the narcissist´s own role in provoking the victim to behave that way, and ring fencing the victim´s response and labelling it as a provocation of its own right.
Why then, does the narcissist feel the need to bring up with you the new victim the behaviour of the old victim? Why does the narcissist utilize the Abusive Ex Syndrome? Firstly, it’s done out of a sense of entitlement. The narcissist is able to talk about whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and with whom he so ever chooses. Furthermore, it’s done out of a lack of emotional empathy. There’s no emotional empathy towards you, as a person newly arrived in the fuel matrix of the narcissist. There’s no emotional empathy for thinking about how you may not want to hear all of this. There’s no emotional empathy towards the previous victim either in terms of telling lies about them or distorting what occurred.
There’s a lack of accountability also for the behaviour of the narcissist. There is the blame shifting the projection and of course, this is all done as a pursuit of the prime aims, namely, control, fuel, character traits and residual benefits. But why does it happen? Well, it happens like this. When you let us say start dating with the narcissist the narcissist needs to bring you under control and as I explained in The Golden Period material , we start off by seducing you, so, our behaviours towards you will be benign manipulations, flattery, compliments, bribery, taking you to pleasant places, being supportive, being interesting, mirroring your likes and dislikes. So far, so good. No need to mention anybody else. It’s all about you. However, at some point, the former intimate partner primary source, if that was the status of the ex for the sake of this article, let’s assume that that is their position ,comes up on the radar, you might ask the narcissist, “So have you been dating long? Have you been single long? What was your last relationship like?”
When you do that you bring the ex, the Former IPPS on to the radar of the narcissist. At that point, the narcissism says, is the ex under control? The answer to that will be in the unconscious. No. The first law of narcissism applies, which is that all appliances must be brought under control and therefore, the narcissism will use the three assertions of control. And I urge you to obtain this very important material from The Knowledge Vault, The Three Assertions Of Control to help you understand why and how this is used.
In the circumstances, a direct assertion of control over the Former IPPS isn’t appropriate. The narcissist isn’t having dinner with the Former IPPS and therefore, in those circumstances, isn’t suddenly going to Hoover the ex in order to assert control over them, that will cause problems with the control of the IPSS, which is in front of the narcissist and currently being seduced. Accordingly, a direct assertion of control isn’t applicable. The narcissism still needs to assert control over the Former IPPS, who has been placed on the radar, as a consequence of the mention of them by the new victim, the IPSS. Therefore, the narcissism shifts to indirect control, which manifests as triangulation and smearing and therefore, in order to continue to gain control over the new victim, who is sat in front of the narcissist, and to assert control over the previous victim, the Former IPPS, the narcissism selects the application of the Abusive Ex Syndrome and starts talking about how the ex was horrible, that she was a bitch that she was abusive, that he was a narcissist that he beat me up that she did this, that he did that. What that enables the narcissism to do is that when the new victim is sympathetic, “I’m sorry to hear that that, it must have been awful for you, goodness me What a lot you’ve had to endure.” Their sympathy, of course provides fuel. Their sympathy also shows that they’re coming under control and so there’s no issue with regard to the control of the new victim in that moment.
The narcissist uses a pity play by smearing the Former IPPS and it is allowing the narcissist to assert control over the new victim and gain fuel from them. No problem there. Moreover, the support that has been exhibited by the new victim by sympathizing with the narcissist about how they were apparently treated by the ex allows the narcissist in the unconscious to feel that he has got control over the Former IPPS and because the narcissist has to have control over anybody who is in the fuel matrix, anybody who comes on the radar, the Abusive Ex Syndrome is a marvellous way of achieving that.
It enables the narcissist to assert control over who is dating the narcissist and at the same time, assert control over the former IPPS, the ex and that is why it is used. It is a combination of triangulation, smearing and pity play. Sometimes you might not have mentioned the ex, but the ex pops into the head of the narcissist because it’s the realms of dating and relationships. They’re there on a date with you. They just happen to remember their ex and as part of asserting control over you, the narcissist will smear the ex to make you feel sorry for them. So in some instances it is driven by a need to assert control over the ex and have the collateral consequence of controlling you. In some instances, it is also done to just primarily control you by causing you to feel sorry for the narcissist.
Of course, that the collateral consequence in that instance, is the assertion of control over the ex. It depends how it’s mentioned. If you raise it, then it needs to be control over the former IPPS first and you secondly, if it just happens to be mentioned, by the narcissist, they’re doing it primarily to control you. But because they’ve mentioned it, which means that the ex has come up on the radar, the ex also has to be controlled and the smearing assists with that also, the ex just pops into the sixth sphere of influence of the narcissist and just appears in the narcissist´s head.
Of course, as soon as they do that, that is a potential Hoover trigger. No Hoover occurs because the narcissism determines that it’s not appropriate to suddenly start texting or ringing up or leaving the table and going to see the ex and instead, control is asserted over them not by hoovering, but indirectly by smearing them to you, the new victim.
The Abusive Ex Syndrome is if you like an amalgam of certain manipulations over two appliances in the fuel matrix; you as the new victim, somebody who might become the intimate partner primary source and also the former intimate partner primary source.
The Abusive Ex Syndrome could also be used in circumstances to obtain sympathy from a non-intimate secondary source. So, for example, friends, family, maybe a therapist, maybe a colleague, so the narcissist talks about how “my ex-wife gave me a hell of a time, I’m not able to concentrate still, I need an extra support at work,” This is a pity play and smearing of the ex again and two appliances controlled.
Whilst the abusive ex syndrome ordinarily appears in circumstances where the narcissist is involved with a new victim of an intimate nature, it can also be used with non-intimate secondary sources, family members, colleagues, friends, other individuals that the narcissist knows well, for instance, a therapist.
Finally, which type of narcissists use it? Well, all narcissists can do so.
Upper Mid-Range and Greaters don’t tend to use it so much as a pity play, but rather, just to get approval and agreement from the
new victim. They will state it more as a matter of fact that it happened and “I’m not so bothered, but I feel that you need to know about it.” When that new victim goes, “That must have been horrendous.” the UMR or Greater is dismissive, “Oh, I deal with it. “
But the fact that you’ve said, “Oh, it must be horrendous”, shows that you’re now on side and this allows that control to be asserted. The narcissists that use it most of all, are Lower Mid-Range, Middle Mid-Range Type A and Middle Mid-Range Type B, the reason being, they are more likely to use Pity Plays and they are also more likely to revise history with regard to the behaviour of the ex who actually didn’t do anything wrong, save from a narcissistic perspective.
The Abusive Ex Syndrome is a form of manipulation. It is a common one and it is an amalgam of triangulation, smearing and pity play utilized by the narcissist to assert control over the new prospect, the intimate partner secondary source that they’re dating somebody who might become the intimate partner primary source, and also over one or more exes, as former intimate partner primary sources. Sometimes it can also be used to smear friends, in terms of “my friend was horrible to me” when seeking sympathy from another friend. It will manifest in that way and it can be used to smear an intimate partner secondary source. “Oh, I went on some dates with this woman. She was crazy”
She wasn’t an intimate partner primary source but again, the narcissist is describing a perceived behaviour of somebody else to control the person in front of them. It can manifest with regard to different appliances. But the most common manifestation of it is the narcissist using it to control an intimate partner secondary source of a shelf variety, ie someone they’ve just started a relationship with or a dating, moving them into being the Candidate Intimate Partner Secondary Source and to assert control over the Former IPPS.
What it also does, and this is a collateral consequence, unless it is done by a Greater or the Ultra, where this is done by the Lesser or Mid-Range, they don’t do this with the intention of this happening, but it is a collateral consequence which assists them. It means that should the Former IPPS come along and approach the new victim and say, for instance, you want to stay away from him, he’s an abuser. That individual, having listened to the smear campaign about you, as the former victim will turn around and say, “No, you’re the abuser. I know all about you.”
They have in effect been brainwashed by the application of the Abusive Ex Syndrome. You, as the ex have been painted as the nutcase, the psycho, the nutjob the fruit loop. If you try to warn the new victim, “you shouldn’t be with him or her.” Your attempts will fail because you crash against the effect of the smear campaign that we have used to control the new victim and also control you without your knowledge as the former intimate partner primary source, but remember, the Lesser or Mid-Range Narcissist, does not set out specifically to do that. It is a collateral consequence of the assertion of control in the moment over the IPSS. The need for control over the Former IPPS and the current IPSS control is in the now when utilized by those narcissists and it has the collateral consequence of the repeated assertion of control in the now by smearing the ex to the new victim which means that should the ex approach the new victim, the new victim is likely to disbelieve them and support the narcissist, thus preserving the narcissist´s control over the new victim and keeping the ex away. That is the Abusive Ex Syndrome.