NPD Grandiosity – A Definition Through Experience

For awhile I was a little confused about the DSM IV’s use of grandiosity as the number one criterion in the list of criteria for an NPD diagnosis.  I had difficulty seeing the man I was formerly involved with as grandiose, but then I happened upon a description of grandiosity as it applies to NPD, it was an incredible light bulb moment for me.

Much of it was present in his “look at me!” behavior; it was evident in his “see how great I am that I can do all these different things?” attitude.  He actively sought recognition for things that others I know, with the same abilities, view in a very humble fashion.

He wanted approbation for all the “hard work” he did on one occasion, when he had to replace a small piece of decking that had rotted.  The way he described it made me think he’d torn down and rebuilt an entire deck, all by himself and done it in 8 short hours.

His description of his aches and pains as he entered my home that evening, after apparently spending all day in the hot sun doing all this back-breaking work, caused me to swing into instant compassion mode.  I felt so fortunate that after such a day, he still got in the shower and drove to my place to take me to dinner.  What a guy! Why, he even allowed me to massage his magnificent back for him.

The next weekend, when I saw what he’d done the prior weekend I was rather confused.  His description didn’t fit.  He’d replaced the flooring in a play house.  It was done with two by fours, all cut to the same length, and in an area no bigger than 4′ x 4′.   Hard work?  yes.  Back-breaking work, worthy of praise and special consideration, and the melodramatic description of it?  Oh hell no.

I said nothing, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I remember thinking to myself:  “this is IT?  This is what all those heavy sighs and complaints about back pain and heat exhaustion was about???”

Grandiosity.  He wanted me to believe he’d done something very far beyond normal human effort, and hey, it worked – for  a week.

This is the same man, who, when he had to repair the carburetor on his son’s dirt bike, chose to spend 6 hours in the blazing sun, rather than just taking it to the guy down the street who could fix it for $147.

Now, if he didn’t have $147, I’d understand his choice.  But knowing what I know about him, he had $147.  Later I heard all about it, about how hot it was, how messy and dirty he got, how difficult it was, how exhausted he was after he was finished, how sore he was, and then, when I said if it were me, I’d have just paid the money and saved myself 6 hours and all that pain and agony,  he cancelled a date with me because he was “too tired.”  That was my punishment for not crooning sympathetic noises at him over the phone.

This man also is attracted to, and attempts to align himself with, those who appear to have great status.  His ex-wife is a close relative of an extremely prominent figure in our city.  Lots of money, lots of prestige simply by marrying her.

His ex-girlfriend holds an extremely prominent position in the city.  She is well known for her work with children, yet – by this man’s accounting of her – during the entire time they were “together” she refused to meet his kids.

That didn’t jive with what I knew about her.  I questioned it, based on her position and her obvious love for children, and he immediately changed the subject after saying:  “I don’t know – it’s just the way she was.”   From what I know of her “the way she was” was zany, full of life, laughter, loving toward children and others, compassionate, career-driven in her field, and everything he thought himself to be (and is not).

I also know this had to have been one of the whopper lies he told me about her, because upon my first visit to his home, I saw dog bowls in his kitchen.  His ex-girlfriend has a big dog.  I guess he forgot he’d told me she never met his kids and when I asked “where’s the dog?” he said:  “Oh, that’s _______’s dog’s stuff.  She brings him over sometimes when she goes out of town and sometimes, just so I can spend time with him.  He’s like my son.  I keep him for her.”

Excuse me?  This is the woman who never met his kids?  He’s got custody of one of them and the other three spend lots of time at his house, and somehow, during dog-delivery, she managed not to ever see any of his children?  How far can YOU suspend disbelief?

He said he broke off the relationship with her, even though he “deeply loved her” because she refused to have anything to do with his children.  Knowing who this woman is, I somehow doubt that’s the case.

If what he tells me about her is true (and maybe it is, maybe not) her ex was a functional alcoholic and she divorced him because of this, then it could be very possible that this woman had some serious co-dependence issues.  She may have been working on those issues while she and the N were still “together” and had got herself to the point where she realized that she had simply switched co-dependent behaviors – transferred it from her now ex-husband to the N.  I’m gonna bet my next paycheck that she dumped him.

It’s all conjecture, but I think there may be something to it, based on my observations of this man.  He says he walked out on his prestigious wife after 10 years of marriage, (great guy – walks out leaving her with four children, two of them two-year-old twins) claiming to me that he did so because she was “crazy” and had been diagnosed with a very rare mental disorder.

I checked on his claim, because what he told me about her behavior didn’t jive with the diagnosis he provided – it’s a diagnosis so rare as to make the news, particularly if it’s found in someone who is a public figure, and if she was diagnosed as such, she would not still have custody of the other three children. I was right, there was no precedent EVER, for the diagnosis he’d claimed for her, based on his description of her behavior.

There is always his side, her side and the truth.  I know about marriage and divorce – had a couple of them myself.  I also accept and acknowledge my contribution to the demise of my two marriages.  This man did no such thing.  He was always the victim.  Not once was there a hint he could have done anything to contribute to the dysfunction present in his marriage and his last long-term relationship.

One day, after hearing him run his ex-wife (the mother of his four children) into the ground, right along with her family, I said:  “There had to have been something good during those 10 years.  She can’t have been all bad.  Tell me something good about her.”

Rather than tell me something good about her, he embarked on a dissertation regarding a “carefully crafted” email he’d had to send to her parents with regard to their request to see his custodial son at varying points throughout the summer, the points which totaled 2.5 weeks of time.

At first, when he described it I thought they wanted the boy for 2.5 weeks, all of it at the same time.  He quickly “corrected” my erroneous thinking by saying:  “2.5 weeks doesn’t all have to happen at the same time.”  He was furious about the grandparents’ request, and set about attempting to block it, even though the grandparents do have some custodial visitation rights.

In all of this, he was always the victim.  He never did anything that might have caused his own discomfort.  The grandparents had no business asking to see their grandson, thus discommoding this man.

He said the request had come through a mediator, and that when he got the request, the grandparents stated the first date they wanted to see their grandson was the next day.  My guess is that he got the request and sat his narcissistic ass on it for a couple of weeks, and then “carefully crafted” an email that somehow conveyed he had just received their request and there was no way he could turn his life on a dime and let them see their grandson the next day.

In his telling of the incident, he was magnificently self-righteous, a martyr to his ex’s family, and he made it patently clear that he was the only person who could possibly interact with his son without causing “damage.”  Hey folks – I interacted with his son and didn’t cause damage (but I’ll bet he’s convinced himself that I have!).

In describing his “pattern” for relationships, he said:  “I’ll meet someone, think she’s great and then fall into a long term relationship with her and then she winds up being crazy.  This time I’m going to take my time and find someone who isn’t crazy.”  Hmmm.  Guess I’m crazy.  Y’all can laugh now.  🙂

From his sparse conversation regarding his life prior to his marriage, (he got married at 31, and is now almost 48) he had girlfriends, but no one who stuck around very long and all of them had “issues” but he was apparently the model boyfriend, who just woke up one morning to find his girlfriend had gone crazy.  Gee, imagine that.   Again, he’s the victim, martyred and loyal to the bitter end when he “finally” realizes that the woman he’s with is “crazy.”

My guess is that when he met his ex wife, he immediately saw the pot of gold at the rainbow and was on his very best behavior until he got her down the aisle.  There was money in them there pockets!   This also made him an in-law of one of the most prestigious families in the city.  Narcissist’s dream.

N has a history of being unable to make and sustain genuinely intimate relationships. He (naturally) doesn’t believe this of himself. He believes he’s a “gentle, kind, compassionate, knowing, loving, generous” (ad nauseum) individual.

He made certain I knew about all of those qualities when he told me of the anniversary gift he gave his ex wife on their first anniversary.  Paper is what is given on the first anniversary.

So he went and did what HE wanted to do, without thinking about what she might like.  He made paper.  Knowing what I do about his ex and her family, I’m certain his ex would have been much more appreciative of a lovely gilded set of monogrammed,  store-bought stationery.

It wasn’t about what she wanted, it was about what HE wanted; it was all about being center stage and setting up a situation where he could again claim martyrdom and victimhood.   So he made a grandiose gesture of actually making a piece (one) of paper and then had (I think) their wedding invitation hand-written on it in calligraphy.

Sure, it’s a lovely gift, but only if it’s something you’ve thought about doing FOR THE OTHER PERSON, AFTER GIVING THOUGHT TO WHAT THEY WOULD REALLY LIKE.  Nope.  This was all about him, about how original he could be, how much effort he put into it, etc.  And then he whined that she didn’t appreciate it.  Of course she didn’t.  It wasn’t her thing.  The unappreciative bitch.  How dare she?

He told me another story about driving “all the way” to another state to get a special kitten for her.  I didn’t understand why he would drive to another state to get it when there are catteries in our state who breed this type of cat.  I didn’t say that, instead, I simply gave him what he wanted:  praise and admiration for being such a super, wonderful and thoughtful guy.  It was simply another illustration on his part to let me know how grand he was and what a horrible person his ex was.   He also happened to mention his vitriolic loathing for cats during this story and then in the same breath mentioned that this kitten wound up having to be given away because his  wife couldn’t “control” it or something along those lines.  Again – he’s good, she’s bad.  Does it surprise you that the kitten was given away?

So I’m wondering, why did he want to be involved with me?  It took me awhile to figure it out.  I’m an artist, specializing in metal work. I have a periphery of friends that include world-renowned musicians and artists.  I think he hoped to aggrandize himself through association.  I was useful to him in his quest to find supply.  When he realized that those friends of mine are spread out all over the country and the odds of him associating with them regularly were rather slim,  his loud acclamation of my work subsided, considerably.  (y’all can laugh again; I am!)

He is totally preoccupied with outward appearances.  In late July, he hosted a rather renowned journalist who is traveling across country on a quest to find out what it means to be an American before he takes citizenship.  N didn’t tell me about this until the day he was doing it.  How many ways can YOU spell “pissed off?”   He also told me about it as an aside, just dropped in at the end of an email.  I’m fairly sure he was at the head of the line of people who were networking in our city to find this man places to stay along his route. It’s his pattern.  So I replied back to him with a simple:  “Great!  I hope you have a great time and that you’ll tell me all about it.”

Yeah, now you’re asking yourselves:  “She did WHAT?”  Oh yes, I asked him to tell me all about it. Hit me with the idiot bat.  G’wan.  It’s okay.  Below is what he wrote:


Time with _____ was incredible.

 I noted that:

 We were sitting in a kitchen in (name of city),

An American of Guatemalan descent

and an American of German descent,

Surrounded by Yixing (a city in Jiangsu province china) teapots,
Eating Greek style lamb cooked in a Moroccan tagine with Lithuanian cardamom bread on plates made in Mexico

Drinking beverages of German, Native Americans and Italian recipes in Swedish glasses

Desert of Russian chocolate while enjoying the fruits of Japanese technology as we sat on Australasia style furniture.

 The diversity was not intentional.

And that’s the way it should be.

I couldn’t believe it.  Now, someone who doesn’t know this man might say:  “what’s so wrong with that?  it IS diverse.”  Oh yes, it’s diverse all right.  And very, very planned.  Note that he said nothing about his experience, he simply described his kitchen, and did it with total high-brow snobbery.

“enjoying the fruits of japanese technology” translates to (because I saw him online):  “I was trolling the dating site on my laptop while ____ updated his blog.”

I also notice that this guest of my N’s made no mention of  his stay with the N in his blog or anywhere that he posts or writes about his journey, except to say, on Facebook,  when I mentioned that I was sorry to have missed him the night he was in  my city:  “I’m sorry too.  ____ was very nice.” And that was it.  That was the ONLY mention of the N.   He took no photos of him or the surrounding area, or at least  none that he posted.  This is not typical of this person.  I know because I was working on finding him hosts in other states and when he stayed with my friend in another state, he had photos of her, her son, and his entire experience with her, as well as an article written about it on his blog.  This is what he normally does with his hosts.  He includes them in his experience.  The N was totally excluded.  (gosh, wonder how N feels about that.  snort!)

So I’m wondering.  Did this wandering journalist recognize immediately in the N what it took me three months to recognize?  I’ve talked to the journalist on the phone and even though he knows that at the time the N and I were “friends” (I didn’t tell him that I’d broken it off with the N the day after I got the “guess who’s coming to dinner” email), he made no mention of him in our conversation.  No mention of him has been made in the 3 weeks that have passed since he stayed with the N.  Makes ya go “hmmmm.”

Seriously, read that description above and tell me that’s not total “look what I did!”  It was all about his carefully planned ethnically diverse kitchen, meal, “beverages” (which means his home-brewed beer), and notice he didn’t name the freaking dessert (even though he misspelled the word) – he says it was: “Russian chocolate.”

Who freaking cares? Who cares about his “Australasian” furniture?  Who cares about his “Xixing” teapots, which he felt he had to define for me, even though HE FUCKING GAVE ME ONE AS A GIFT ALONG WITH A DESCRIPTION OF WHAT IT WAS, WHERE IT CAME FROM AND HOW TO USE IT???   Does anyone care where the plates were made?  They bloody came from IKEA, where almost everything in his kitchen came from.  That greek style lamb cooked in the “moroccan tagine” served with Lithuanian cardomom bread?  That was leftovers from my dinner with him the weekend prior.  I saw him freeze it – there was enough to feed a battalion of wandering journalists.

And at the end he proclaims:  “And that’s how it should be.” 

Wait.  Your experience with an exiled Guatemalan journalist who is walking across america in search of the meaning of “American” consists of  your collection of chinese teapots, cheap rattan furniture purchased at a consignment shop, leftovers from the meal you cooked for the woman you’re currently devaluing, a nod to your home-brewed beer, and your penchant for buying at Ikea because it’s so cheap????

So who was he attempting to impress?  Himself.  Not me.  He was building himself up.  He wanted me to compliment him – to reflect back to him. I didn’t.  I didn’t grace that bit of tripe with even one keyboard stroke.   I’m guessing he probably even articulated this “effortless diversity” to the journalist who was just as unimpressed by it as I was.

Grandiosity.  This is what NPD grandiosity is all about.  It hides his inner reality.  It’s all smoke and mirrors.  Pompous and self-deluding to the end.

I pity any woman who winds up in his web of self-aggrandizement and deceit for very long, and I know that he’ll find someone.  He’s looking – hard.  He’ll find someone he can beat into emotional submission for a few years and then, when she finds herself again and dumps him, he’ll repeat the cycle.  Wash, rinse, repeat.




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