5 Reasons Your Ex Is Probably Not A Narcissist…

5 Reasons Your Ex Is Probably Not A Narcissist

Many people confuse toxic relationships with narcissism, but is that really the case?

In recent years, pop psychology has flooded the internet and self-help communities with information about how to ‘spot narcissists’ or ‘traits of narcissism’ and how to go ‘no contact’ with a narcissist ex or family member.

It’s getting a little ridiculous.

For generations, men had the ostensible upper hand in this blame game; and, women were routinely divided into two finite groups: ‘the one that got away’, or, all of the ‘crazy’ or ‘psycho’ ones who supposedly drove the man away. (Guess which there were always more of?)

At this juncture in human evolution, we’re being inundated with articles and testimonies about ‘narcissist ex-boyfriends’. Sure, there are some tales of ‘narcissist ex-girlfriends’ too, but this toxic pathologizing of relationship issues has also rather flipped the script…and as empowering as it parades itself to be…blaming your ex for everything still isn’t cool.

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5 reasons your ex Is probably not a narcissist

1) Statistically, the numbers don’t add up. A relatively small percentage of the population struggles with serious personality disorders but the platforms currently filled with stories about narcissists vs. empaths have officially far surpassed any correlation with this reality.

2) Pathologizing someone who hurt you is tempting…really tempting…just like dehumanizing someone you hurt (i.e. calling your ex ‘crazy’ or ‘psycho’) can feel redemptive – helping to absolve you of any guilt, internally or externally. However, this is not the path to healing – for either party involved. (And yes, everyone deserves to heal). It is a shortcut and copout at best, and denial with an unhealthy dose of slander at worst.

3) Narcissism exists on a spectrum. In other words, labeling someone as such is not a concrete, ‘black and white’ process. Everyone exists somewhere on the spectrum and such binary and black and white (i.e. all good or all bad) thinking is actually criteria in and of itself for more than one personality disorder (including, notably, the ideation and devaluation phases of narcissism itself).

4) NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) has long been considered to be untreatable within psychological and psychiatric circles. It’s the ultimate devaluation of a human being. It’s the ultimate excuse not to deal with your own issues and to avoid facing any responsibility you had in the relationship going sour.

5) Defining one’s self as the empath which routinely attracts narcissists is ultimately a victim mentality; and, it enables you to cover up your own faults which need dealing with. Most women have learned to recognize the red flag when a man starts giving the rundown about all of his many ‘psycho exes’. When women start defining themselves as helpless empaths who are constantly targeted by persons with NPD, again, it’s basically just flipping the script – and, it is indeed also a red flag.

Moving beyond pathologizing relationship trauma and abuse

When it's time to leave a abusive relationship.

The above points may be triggering for some individuals who have found some sort of personal redemption in being able to ‘name’ the cause for relationship pain and trauma in their lives.

Abusive situations and relationships are obviously not good for either party involved – the abused or the abuser. And, there are indeed manipulative, self-centered, Machiavellian types of people who really do lack whatever it is in our personal chemistry which enables most of us to feel empathy. The list of criteria for NPD is still a good checklist of red flags when getting to know someone.

However, when your goal is truly to heal – and, even further, if you are on the path of facilitating collective healing – it will do you no good to demonize the person who has hurt you. As the cliché goes, ‘hurt people hurt people’. Writing someone off – even if you personally feel they have *destroyed you* – as beyond redemption… is not a path of light.

By all means, watch out for the red flags and take them seriously. Yet, commit to doing some inner work beyond labeling yourself as an empath and your failed relationship counterparts as narcissists. Even if they are, and they may actually be, this is not part of your journey to wholeness and it can truly be a barrier to theirs (which could conceivably cause them to hurt more people down the line).

We must ask ourselves why we need to be ‘the good guy’ – or, ‘the good girl’ – in order to ‘heal’. Healing is not a path towards perfection; it’s a path towards integrating our own trauma and imperfections to the point where we don’t fall into the insidious trap of being the hurt person hurting other people…especially in the name of healing ourselves.

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Dr. Courtney Parker


Courtney holds a PhD in Health Promotion and Behavior from the University of Georgia, where she previously earned a master’s…

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