Emotional Constipation. NPD? Maybe.

How long can a narcissist keep the  mask from slipping?  The longest I’ve seen is about 4 months, but there are moments during that time when I’ve thought I saw part of his face twitch and slide a bit.  Yup, turns out I’ve got myself someone who seems to fit  many of the diagnostic criteria for NPD.  

I’m not certain about it and I don’t want to “label” just yet, and besides, I’m no psychiatrist, but there are signs and have been signs for months.  I’ve been seeing this person for 15 months.  When we met, he told me he’d been separated for a year and was planning to file for divorce at the end of 2012. 

As a hard and fast rule, I have never dated any man who was simply “separated.”  He had to be divorced.  For more than 2 years.  I broke my rule.  I’d heard from mutual acquaintances how great this guy is, how horrible his marriage (24 years) had been and what a douche his wife is.  I was told I “couldn’t do better.”  

For the first 4 months, I believed these statements.  He was kind, loving, giving but he was also smothering me.  We had our first date on a Sunday and were supposed to go hiking.  When we got to the mountains, I find out he doesn’t hike.  So we walked around the lake, talking, etc.  I did notice he wasn’t much of a nature boy.  I’m a nature girl.  Still, I figured I could work with that – and I could and can. 

On Monday, I left work, came home and started cleaning the bathroom fan filter.  I get a call that says:  “I’m 20 min away.  Whatcha want for supper?”  I freaked.  On the phone.  His response was to simply say:  “My car just pointed itself in this direction.  No worries.  I’ll bring supper.”  We’d made no plans for Monday, he’d said nothing to me, and I’d counted on an evening alone.  Yup – I let him come over.  New relationship and all that.  RED FLAG! He just assumed I’d be okay with it.  I wasn’t okay with it but I didn’t say anything.  My bad.  So, every day thereafter, with the exception of Wednesdays, he did the same thing.  Came over, brought food, gave me grocery gift cards (I was trying to make ends meet on a low-paying temp job), gas cards, killed all the weeds outside, painted my bathroom, painted my kitchen, cleaned, did laundry, and was all-around wonderful.  Only he never asked me if it was okay and I thought I’d won the lottery and felt as though I’d have the money taken away if I challenged him on his ever-presence.  So I stayed mum.  I’m not so healed from NPD after all, am I?  I don’t seem to recognize the red flags when they’re ON my face, smothering me!

Fast forward to the end of 2012.  No divorce papers filed.  Can’t get an answer from him as to why not.  That’s when I find out he’s moved back into the family home, but she’s supposedly moved in with her elderly mother who needs care.  He’d moved back in 2 months prior and hadn’t told me.  I have no clue when she moved out.  Even now, I don’t know. 

When I asked him about the divorce he would get angry and withdraw.  He’d stare straight ahead, drum his fingers on the arm of whatever piece of furniture, and say something like:  “I’ve answered that question a thousand times already and I’m not answering it again!”  Well, no, he hadn’t answered it even once.  He’d tap danced around it, ducked and weaved, side-stepped, and changed subjects with lightning alacrity.  

The “discussions” begin – but they weren’t really discussions.  I’d talk and he’d get pissed off.  He’d tell me to get off his back.  He’d throw out some reason or another why he hadn’t filed for divorce yet.  His final reply about it was:  “I’m afraid to, okay?  You happy now? You just emasculated me!” 

Um, no, I didn’t.  I deserved an answer and that answer isn’t and wasn’t good enough.  By this time, I’d become dependent upon him for financial help.  I’d been laid off again and unemployment wasn’t paying enough to  pay bills.  He would make my car payment, pay my electric bill, pay my phone bill and buy food.  I’d do the rest with my UE check.  

Life begins to hammer me.  Lots of crap happened – temp job started; temp job ended.  Was told I’d be hired at one job after leaving on a friday and by monday I was unemployed. Unemployment screwed up my benefits and I didn’t get paid anything for almost 2 months.  Nothing.  Dept of welfare screwed up food stamps and those were a month late. They cut me off for July stating they never received “appropriate” documentation of my income.  Yeah they did.  My state is staffed with incompetent idiots.  They received it more than once. I gave up on them. 

Then my timing belt broke and took out a lot of engine parts.  New engine to the tune of $1,824.  There I was, totally dependent up on this man – no money, no food, no transportation.  Do you think he offered to help pay for my vehicle repair?  Nope.  I was totally dependent upon him for transportation.  Why would he help me become independent again?  He would bring food, but nothing healthy.  Even after telling him I can’t eat certain foods, he ignored me.  Just brought what HE wanted. 

Then we got in a huge fight and he decides not to tell me he’s volunteered for the local fireman’s carnival for three weekends in a row.  We didn’t spend much time together as it was – he was over almost every evening after work, but would always leave by 9 because he had to go home and get his “shit in a pile.”  Yeah, it’s a pile of shit, all right. 

So silly me, I go out and buy a couple of books on male/female communication – give one to him and I read the other one – this was prior to the carnival.  He’s had that book for 3 months and hasn’t cracked the binding.  He SAYS it’s because he doesn’t want to take it in the house since “she” might find it.  WTF???  Excuse me???  

I was still unemployed so I gritted my teeth, knowing I needed this man’s support. I still do – just started working again, but I’m no where near being back on my feet.  I hope to be there within 3 months.  Meanwhile I’m making nice with someone I don’t even want around me anymore,  Luckily for me, I don’t have to make excuses for not wanting to sleep with him.  It’s been too hot to sleep in my bedroom upstairs and so I’m sleeping on the sofa or an air mattress in the a/c in the living room.   He’s noticing something though because he’s trying harder these days to be super nice-man again.  I’m not buying it.  He sees his supply diminishing and knows there is no one else to get it from, so he’s trying to reel me back in.  Keep in mind, and I didn’t say this up front,  this man is extremely inexperienced with women.  He’s spent his adult life married to the same woman and if I wrote his life story here you’d understand why I totally believe him when he says he never cheated on her.  Ever.  Anyone who knows him will back that up – while it hasn’t been impossible for him, he has spent his married life caretaking for a woman who has had illness after illness after illness and once she got better, she refused to work.  He’s spent his adult life working extra jobs to support her and the two kids.  He pays almost all the bills, even though on Jan 1, (she’s working now!) they agreed to split the bills exactly in half. Almost immediately his wife’s mother needed round the clock care and so his wife couldn’t work full time.  So he’s paying everything again.  I tried to explain to him what was going on, but he doesn’t care, won’t listen.  Why?  BECAUSE HE’S NOT GETTING DIVORCED.  EVER.  He hates his wife, and he did finally file, but she’s contesting and he’s just ignoring it.  He won’t ever go through with it. 

So, how stupid am I?  Pretty stupid.  I’m in too deep and I’m attempting to extricate myself. At this point, 15 months later, he tells me he can’t provide me emotional support (yeah, like he ever used to????) because his “tank is empty” from all the time he spent caring for his unappreciative wife.  

I don’t feel sorry for him.  I’m not going to kick myself anymore.  I’m just working toward extrication.  It ain’t easy.  After this, though?  I’m probably done with relationships.  I can’t seem to pick a man who is good for me.  I thought this man was, since after 3 years of not dating and just taking care of ME, we met totally by coincidence.  I wasn’t looking and he wasn’t either.  (so he says.)  

Used to be I could do no wrong.  Now, I’m just another harpy like his wife.  No – he’s never called me that name, but he’s articulated on many occasions that his bad behavior and negative reactions to my needs are due solely to spending “the last 20 years dealing with that shit.”  Uh huh.  And he was a pastor, too.  Oh yeah.  You read that right.  

He says he does what he does because he loves me.  I’m supposed to be totally happy with financial support, food I can’t really eat, and his presence a couple hours a day.  I’m not ever supposed to ask about the progress of his divorce, or anything that might upset him. I’m supposed to just be a good little mistress, sit down, shut up and smile.  Tell him how wonderful he is.  Oh, and I’m also supposed to make him “feel like a man.”  I got told recently that I don’t do that enough.  He told me this in the middle of my most recent layoff, when I was freaking out about money, and was having other issues that I needed help with. He didn’t help with any of them – he simply intimated he wasn’t getting enough sex or home cooked meals.  He hasn’t had any since.  He’s not happy about it. Gosh.  

I’ll get out of it.  I just need to get all my ducks in a row and very coldly and calculatingly use him for what I need until I can move on.  If he won’t talk, won’t be honest, expects me to read his mind, won’t divorce, yet expects me to always be there for him – he can sleep in the bed he’s made for himself.  

Wish I had time to tell the entire story.  It’s a tale.  I don’t have the time,  though.  

And while I do have empathy for anyone who is primary caregiver to an ailing family member, the fact is that it’s not my fault he never sought help; it’s not my problem that he allowed her to drain his “tank” and it’s not my fault that I’m a normal woman who would like a man who interacts on a normal level, emotionally.  This guy is about 14, emotionally.  I already raised one teenaged boy.  Not raising another.  What’s galling about it, and I know better than to write this because it’s normal N behavior:  he would say he’s been nothing but fantastically wonderful to me.  He can’t look in his own mirror.  What he’d see would be too much for him to process.  

Oh – and when he and his wife were splitting up he agreed to counselling. He says he went to 9 sessions and walked out on the last one because each session was all about what he was doing wrong and how he’d treated her like shit.  Well, if you’re close enough to smell that it’s shit…(and I am!)

 

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Narcissists Fold, Spindle and Mutilate: Where and how to get help

I just read a post entitled  No Longer Dead and I knew immediately what this woman was dealing with based on the first half of her post.  My assumption is that the second half is her, telling herself that she will not accept this individual any longer until or unless he acquiesces to her completely legitimate and emotionally healthy demands.

If this woman has been dealing with an NPD, she was dead to him from the beginning.  She never truly existed as a human being worthy of love, respect, dignity and empathy.  She was simply this person’s mirror.  It appears she spent years being devalued and discarded and then finally got sick of it, found her strength and decided to move on.

This is a good post to read.  Many times, when we are the focus of devaluation by a narcissist, we don’t know what the heck is going on.  All we know is that nothing we do seems to be good enough; everything is our fault; we are crazy.  Nothing is wrong with the narcissist and he or she makes it very clear to us that we are the problem.  Still, when we’re in the middle of it, it’s difficult to step outside the fishbowl and peer in.  Objectivity seems to be the lowest on our list of priorities, with survival of a relationship that never was being our top priority.

Even if you’ve been married to an individual for most of your adult life, if you are being treated the way the woman in No Longer Dead was being treated, you haven’t had a relationship.  A relationship takes two people.  A Narcissist absolves themselves from relationship responsibilities before they engage with another individual.  A narcissist doesn’t have relationships; he or she merely has mirrors.  Even if you’ve been married for 30 years to a narcissist, it sadly means that you’ve been a mirror (and nothing more) for 30 years.

Narcissists can’t love another human being.  They don’t love themselves, even though their surface would indicate that they do love themselves – too much.  Scratch that surface and you find nothing.  Narcissists are fragile shells and to keep their shells intact they abuse before they can be abused.  This is why they are hyper-vigilant for the slightest criticism.  They twist and spin words that they believe might be critical (even if they aren’t) and deliberately make them critical so they can set about stomping the purveyor of those words into submission.

Narcissists are emotional vampires and they have memories like elephants.  Those who share emotions, who show they have emotions, who are compassionate and empathetic, are considered weak to a narcissist, ergo; they are FOOD.  A narcissist will suck you dry, and when you finally realize what’s been going on and stand up to the narcissist in your life, they will pull out every emotion you ever shared with them, twist and spin it and fling it back at you with deadly accuracy.  When they see their mirror has gained strength, thus providing the mirror the means of seeing the narcissist for what it truly is, they will move in for the emotional kill.

There is a point at which you, as a mirror can avoid this emotional kill, if you truly see what’s going on.  It’s a nanosecond in the scope of a 30-year marriage, or a many-years-long “relationship” with a narcissist, but if you see it, and flee when you see it, you will have a slightly diminished time frame during which you have to heal and rebuild your emotional health and strength.  If you don’t see it (and many of us don’t, and no one but you can say when that point is) you will be so emotionally crushed that it may be years before you have the strength to bootstrap yourself out of your situation.

If you are experiencing any of the issues described in the first half of No Longer Dead you MUST take a step back, grab your journal if necessary, and start assessing things.  Just start writing, and don’t worry about how things come out.  This will allow you to re-read and identify what’s truly going on.  If you don’t write, see a counselor.  Talk to a trusted friend.  Get an objective view of your situation.  While you’re doing this ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THAT A NARCISSIST NEVER CHANGES.  THIS IS NOT A RELATIONSHIP; YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO SAVE YOURSELF, NOT A RELATIONSHIP THAT NEVER WAS. 

I don’t recommend seeing your family pastor or priest.  Why?  A pastor (and especially priests) are trained to keep the marital unit together regardless the circumstances.  If you see a priest you may be told it’s your responsibility (if you’re female) to act in submission with your husband’s will, regardless his will.  Depending upon your denomination, a pastor may tell you the same thing.  Fundamental Christian pastors may tell you (if you’re female) that you’re the one with issues since you’re not acting in accordance with “God’s” will or your husband’s will.  Trust me on this one, I’ve been there.

Most religions don’t recognize personality disorders as an acceptable reason for divorce.  My experience has taught me that when religion enters the picture, it is the woman who pays a huge price when her mate is a narcissist.  If there are children involved, you must get them away from the daily influence of the narcissist or you will have children who grow into damaged adults.

I believe that faith in a higher power is essential.  Many don’t believe that, and I respect their choice. For me, though, if I didn’t have faith in a higher power, I’d never have made it this far in life.   If you don’t have faith in a power greater than yourself, all that’s left to see you through your turmoil is whatever reserve of inner strength you may have.

My best advice for getting free of a narcissist (and you are with a narcissist if  all or most of the first half of No Longer Dead applies to you) is to seek secular help.  Prayer works, regardless your form of worship or faith.  Positive thinking works, but getting there is difficult.   Narcissists have many crossover traits to alcoholism, as well as to Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Even if the narcissist in your life doesn’t drink, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have alcoholic traits.  It’s very easy for someone to believe they are not an alcoholic simply because they don’t drink.  Alcoholism is defined not only by the consumption and need for alcohol, but by a very clear set of behavior patterns and those behavior patterns align with the way I’ve seen narcissists act.

If you are with a narcissist who does not drink, the odds are good you have a dry drunk on your hands.  Al-Anon is a great place to get the help and support you need in dealing with a dry drunk and/or a narcissist.  Please open the link for dry drunk to read the characteristics.  You will see that they align clearly with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

If the narcissist in your life drinks, it’s very important to get help through Al-Anon.  There are meetings everywhere and while some view it as a betrayal to the person with whom they are involved, that is simply misplaced loyalty.  Most of us who wind up with a narcissist in our lives have had prior experience with some form of emotional dysfunction in our lives, probably during childhood, when we are most malleable and taught to accept behaviors that are truly self-damaging.  Regardless your faith, if you believe in a higher power you must ask yourself if your higher power would find your situation acceptable, and would that higher power believe it to be something that is good, healthy and uplifting for you?

Remember this:  Martyrdom is not the glorification of God or any other higher power.  It is the glorification of EGO.  Many times, we have our egos too invested in who we are; that which we allow to provide us our criteria for life is our ego, not our SELF, which involves listening to the still, small voice and acting from within a higher level of knowledge with regard to self.  If we act from within the self, and not the ego, martyrdom to the cause of a narcissist becomes anathema to us.  In martyring ourselves to another’s abuse of us, we deny that which has been universally given to us:  love, in all its forms. Martyrdom is not love.  It is the glorification of our own egos, and that is not a good thing.

If you are with a narcissist, and you have sublimated yourself to that individual’s monstrously sick manipulation, you are martyring yourself.  STOP NOW!  

If you don’t stop the madness now, you may find yourself dealing with a massive case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Trust me on that one, too.   PTSD can result from recurring, consistent emotional abuse.  Couple that with the physical abuse that some experience when with a narcissist and you’ll wind up with a full-blown case of PTSD.