(real names have been omitted or changed)
I sat curled on the couch under the cream blanket beside him, toasty warm, my long dark hair around my neck and shoulders like a winter scarf.... my body heat through many long layered tops meeting his own.... the large flat screen flashed ahead of us across the room and take out remnants from dinner were scattered across the brown Pottery Barn coffee table before us.... a late Saturday night dinner had consisted of piping hot soup, over-sized loaded baked potatoes and muffins from Jason's Deli.... an indulgent carbohydrate dream for two. As the credits from the movie began rolling across the television screen and music swelled he stretched and rose from the cream leather couch. It wasn't long after putting away any leftovers and squaring things away for the night, checking on two children snoozing like contented kittens.... we made the climb together upstairs to the master bedroom. Intimacy was initiated and I was hesitant. The words "I bought you dinner" came at me with an irritated tone.
Like this was business. Transactional. Soon came his verbal release of "I did this... x,y,z for you..." etc. It was attitude. It was flesh. It was "let's make a deal". It was selfish. It was wrong. I said words in return I never ever thought I'd say and was shocked by them as they snapped from my lips, "I might as well have stayed with my rapist!" He stood there. Shocked. Angry. Rage in his eyes.
How dare I.
"That's right!" I yelled from across the bed at him, "You do things for me based on the expectation of what you will get! You want to make a deal! You think if you buy me dinner you get sex! I don't want a marriage like that! That expectation! That backward mentality! Marriage is supposed to be about doing nice things for each other because you love them! Selfless! You make me feel like a prostitute! You make me feel dirty! You're my husband! At least with (rapist; name withheld) I knew what to expect! I knew what was expected of me!! I knew the rules! But I married you for love!! To love you! And then you do things for me purely based on getting sex!!" I yelled, then out of complete frustration added.... "How do you think that makes me feel?!?!!!!" I exclaimed, yelling at him, getting it all out… revealing long buried feelings now stark naked in all their honest ugliness.
He stood there watching me, his face changing from contorted scarlet anger to now cool detachment and amusement, even disdain. I had no idea then he was cheating on me. This sorry sack of shit that claimed to love me but proved otherwise every day in how he did just so - or didn't... was cheating on me. I just had no idea yet.
"You are fooling yourself!" He nearly spat at me, "No man does anything just to be nice. Women always cost men money whether we date them or we marry them. Nothing is ever free!" He told me with meanness dripping from his tone.
"No..." I shook my head "I can't believe that. I refuse to believe that!" I nearly shrieked at him with absolute certainty and tears pooling in my eyes. His words were so cruel... so awful. I had been raped by a man at age seventeen when I left home to escape my narcissistic father. My now husband's behavior so many years later was just another knife in my back atop the rape committed against me... he saw women in general and even me, his own wife as nothing more than transactions for sex. Love, romance, intimacy and meaningfulness meant nothing to him. I meant nothing to him, I could be anyone, just a warm body for him to get his release. It was the most terrible thing to do to me, to any wife. It never mattered how well I treated him I was always in debt to him sexually. He made sure of that.
Intimacy and sex within a marriage rests on the husbands shoulders alongside Christ.
When he's a Godly man and puts Christ first and foremost in the marriage, when he loves selflessly without strings attached and unconditionally as Christ he will be a shining beacon, a safe place for his wife to be with, to walk with, to lay beside and ultimately to revealing her body to without hesitancy but instead with uninhibited trust and joy. If he's representing the world with all it's lust and sin and self serving philosophies of "what can I get" or "what can I give" veiled in the malicious agenda of "what can I get".... he is not selflessly loving his wife which later reflects in the marital bed and leads to her feeling used, cheap and tarnished. A wife shouldn't be placed in a position where she feels the need to equip herself with a gun and wear an armor vest for protection while telling her husband:
"I don't do deals"
If a man treats his wife as a sex object, as a trophy wife, as a dangling shiny charm of triumph on his arm out of his need for narcissistic supply.... he will pay the price and it won't just be in a monetary fashion. (She pays the price too.) He will be paying the price with a wife who gives sex out of dutiful guilt to submit to him not out of free joyous love. It will be a wife who doesn't trust him, doesn't respect him nor feels loved by him because if she can't be loved while on his arm on the street, in the car or in the kitchen why would she believe she could be loved by him undressed before his eyes in the marital bedroom? Of course she can't. So she pulls away, giving less and less in all areas, He will be met with a divided wall between them, a headache, a shooing him away and if ultimately pressed a reluctant going through the motions by her with arms crossed out of self protection of her wounded heart.
While he grinds away at his much needed release of rage, frustration and hatred for all women and even her she meanwhile with arms crossed and a cowering from him begins creating a grocery list for the next day in her head, thinks of ways to re-organize their pantry cabinet, or reminds herself that she needs to re-stock the kids craft supplies in the den sometime over the next week. It's these things she thinks on while he releases a slew of unhappy energy into her that keeps her in it another day, another night, another week, another year... yes, another tortuous year of her life.
Is this love? Can he change for the better? Do narcissists ever change? Well, do pigs fly?
There. You have your answer.
(real names have been omitted or changed)
He sat across from me at the table for two… we were having a late lunch at Mi Cocina a mexican restaurant... birds scattered at our feet on the outdoor patio hoping for a bit of food, a tiny morsel to eat. The breeze ruffled my dark hair around my shoulders and on the gray slate table sat a basket of tortilla chips between us and two ice waters. The conversation was non-existent and he munched on his plate of fajita's while I sat in silence watching him. He had chosen the place to eat and I was in no mood to eat at the moment... instead thinking about how his behavior had been increasingly abusive toward me the past few weeks. The restaurant was ensconced among downtown buildings and pretty white lights were lit for a festive feel behind him. It was a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon and we should have been like the other couples nearby… laughing over a late lunch, indulging in our food and connected. But instead I watched him with a stiff back, with a piercing silent gaze… him avoiding my eyes… instead concentrating on the chip he would select from the basket and then chomp on it absentmindedly looking off in the distance at nothingness.
What had happened? Why was it so bad? He had changed. Drastically. Gone was the guy I'd met when we'd dated. Gone was the guy wearing the fleece jacket, boots and driving a truck with glass-packs. Gone was the guy who used to adore me and bragged about me to everyone. Gone was the guy who communicated and listened to me. Gone was the guy who liked to go country western dancing and gaze at the stars overhead. Gone was the guy who was down to earth and shared my love of chicken fried steak. This guy sitting before me, he was a person I didn't know. This guy liked loafers I hated, designer suits and wine. Which weren't really the issue at hand, admittedly puzzling as that was considering the drastic change... but instead the ego, the image that he wore with it was a huge issue for me, causing me to continually wince and cringe. The truck had been replaced with a Jaguar that I hated, along with an arrogant attitude and a sense of entitlement I hated even more. The once patient, listening and kind facade was increasingly falling away and being replaced with this person who stonewalled, who didn't feel a need to communicate or explain himself, who believed by simply yelling "Jennifer!" he could shut down an entire conversation and walk away. He made me actually begin to dislike my own name because whenever he said it I would cringe. The mean, nasty side had been revealed and his words spoken to me "You look like shit" rang in my head. How had this happened? How can someone change that much? And yet at the time what I didn't realize is that he hadn't really changed. He was always arrogant and behaved entitled… he was just better at hiding it from me once upon a time. That's what changed... his ability to keep it under wraps as he previously had. The more I saw of the ugly side, the more I saw of the true side, the side that occasionally slipped out… the less I liked him, the less I respected him and the less I wanted to face the reality that yes, I was indeed married to him. I was just beginning to learn that it is pretty much impossible to love someone you cannot respect. When their character and the way they treat others including you becomes questionable or even downright despicable and then it becomes a pattern it reaches a point of no return where you simply cannot get back to the love you once had for them. The thing is they won't admit they have a problem and have become downright unlikable.
After he paid for the ticket given to him by the waiter we rose and walked out. Once to the car I slid in the gray leather passenger seat and he began driving. There was silence between us and the brick wall was becoming higher by the day. I finally spoke, "If you had to guess one thing… one thing about you… what would people say is your biggest flaw?" I asked him.
He drove with his hand clasped on the leather steering wheel with a rigid expression on his face… sunlight streaming in from the sunroof overhead glinting off his Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses that had recently replaced his old Oakley's. I hated this new look; it was what I assumed would be considered metrosexual. I had always been attracted to very masculine rugged men that wouldn't dare set foot in a nail salon and wouldn't touch anything the least bit frou frou. I was extremely unattracted to this new look and winced daily. How had this happened? His profile was set and he didn't flinch. He showed zero hesitation and replied… "I expect perfection of people." His reply was even-toned and matter of fact without a hint of apology.
Ah, yes. That was it… funny how he knew it and yet made no apology for it... he saw no need for working on it and the truth was his exceedingly high expectation of perfection of others didn't really even begin to touch the surface of the whole picture but merely the tip of the iceberg of all of the dark blemished stinking toxicity underneath. I realized he viewed his expectation of perfection from others as merely a fact about himself, something he believed everyone else needed to work around and accept at their own suffering. I would soon realize that he expected perfection of me and that since I wasn't filling that order I was on the list to be disposed of.
Things were unraveling quicker than you could re-spool thread but I also didn't yet know he was cheating. In that time frame I thought it was all still fixable. I naively believed if we could find someone worth a darn who could help us, who could counsel us we might have a chance at salvaging what was left although I also at the same time questioned just what that was exactly? When you're in these situations as anyone knows who has been there, your objectivity has been virtually stripped and the world you live in is clouded like dirty fogged over contact lenses… you can't see very clearly, navigation is tricky and you just aren't sure what to do.
Questions, Questions and more Questions:
Does he love me? Does he act like someone who does? The answer was a glaring big fat NO. Did he love who I was? What I stood for? Did he appreciate what I believed in and brought to the table? Did he acknowledge and actually care about what I thought? Another big fat NO. Did he like my traits, my personality, my wit and humor or did he merely look at my outer shell… the superficial package and like how it enhanced his ego, his extension of himself? A big YES to the latter.
Did I like and respect this person who was beside me day in and day out? NO. I liked the person I had been presented years ago but this new person was a stranger, someone I didn't recognize. He wanted someone to idolize him, to accept anything he threw at them and to keep their mouth shut, to never question or reproach him and I wasn't that person. I'm the person who blares my horn at a cop in traffic that cuts me off without lights or a siren on… yes, and I'll do it again… because I have issue with people who abuse their power. I'm the person who will intervene on behalf of seeing a kid being bullied… because it's not right for anyone to be subjected to that behavior and standing by silent is unacceptable as well. I'm the person who will engage the mom who looks like she's about to lose it on her kid in a store with friendly conversation because reprimanding her and shaming her just creates more strife. But he would believe all of that to have zero value… because to place value on those actions means to stand for something good, for something honorable and just… for truth… something someone who is sociopathic cannot even begin to see worth in because their very nature, their very basic thinking is… What is this person's price? Everyone has a price. How much can they be bought for? What can I get off them? What can I get her to do? What are her limits? How far can I go? What can I get away with? This lack of character made me sick to my stomach and yet here I was joined as one to this seemingly sub-human. Life would be much easier if the people who are sociopaths stuck together and the ones who want to live a life of good moral character had an easier way of seeking each other out. Maybe this is one time we could use labels… when it comes to narcissistic sociopaths and people with loving hearts.
I do know this... people with narcissistic personality disorder will never ever love us. They will use us and love the way we make THEM feel... but never love us. They actually resent us. They resent our good character, our wonderful qualities because they then feel they cannot be who they truly are; awful terrible to their core. They continue their facade for awhile... their mask slipping here and there. Until one day the mask slips entirely and falls away and they reveal who they truly are... all the horribleness that they've been concealing for so long. And then we painfully know they truly never loved us. They merely pretended. They acted. They preyed on us.
5 Questions To Ask Yourself If He (or she) Really Loves You:
1. Does he love you as a person? Or merely as how you make him look to the world? Does he like you better when you aren't questioning him or trying to have a discussion? Do you get the sense he merely wants a robot who just nods and agrees with everything he says?
2. Do you like who he is now? Sure, at one time you probably liked who he was… we all do when were first with someone. But what about now? If you find yourself recoiling from his CHARACTER… that's a bad sign. If you don't want him near you physically that's another bad sign.
3. Is he open to counseling? Is he humble? Is he willing to admit his mistakes? How does he take criticism? Does he bristle and yell or argue or does he discuss it? And in a calm manner?
4. Are you in a partnership? Or a dictatorship? Pretty self explanatory.
5. Do you see any change? This is about spiritual formation. Is he becoming more as Jesus would want him to be or is he becoming more and more like the world?
(real names have been omitted or changed)
I waited for my Internist to come in the exam room… why did you always seemingly have to wait so long once you were back in those tiny examining rooms? As usual I had forgotten to bring a magazine with me and was forced to wait without anything to look at. Sitting perched on the end of the exam table my eyes glazed over from boredom. Yawn… I could seriously fall asleep right now… and I felt bad enough to. I was about ready for a hospital bed.
Soon he entered the room and after discussing what was going on with my health he spoke, "I will be straightforward with you." he said, his facial expression serious on his older, wiser face. He ran his hand through his white hair and spoke with a frustrated sigh… "I really don't know what is going on. I have no idea what you have. I fail to understand how a thirty something female who is otherwise healthy could suddenly be diagnosed with not just severe acid reflux but now asthma. It doesn't add up."
My shoulders slumped and I watched him as he seemed to be thinking about what to do next. "The first course of business is to get you a chest x-ray. Immediately. That will hopefully rule out anything going on with your lungs." He told me, now pacing the small room in thought. "I want to get you an appointment with a specialist for testing… and get you in to see someone I know at Southwestern Medical in Dallas. If after all that we still don't know what is going on… the next place will be Mayo Clinic." He paused and turned to me… "I don't know what's wrong." he admitted, "But I will find out." He promised me with conviction. I believed him. I thought he was precious to admit he didn't know what was going on - what a humble man.... yet promised he'd find out - I would never ever forget his kindness and care. Years from now I would always remember his care for me - good doctors really stand out and make us have hope in humanity again - especially when we aren't in a place to help ourselves.
Hope began to well within me and my eyes sparkled with half tears, half hope "Thank you." I told him softly with infinite gratitude. He was literally my last hope. I was so worried… I was losing weight faster than you could boil water on the stove… I was having more and more difficulty breathing as each day passed. Meanwhile I could barely eat anything because it was comparable to having a really stuffed up nose during a cold… that symptom makes it nearly impossible to eat and breathe at the same time. You can usually do either or…. but not both. I couldn't eat much not just due to the acid reflux but because for whatever reason I couldn't breath when I ate… and really not much easier the rest of the time. It was beyond puzzling and had come out of nowhere…. progressively getting worse as the weeks then few months passed.
Initially I had gone to see my allergy doctor since I was having difficulty breathing and he also treated asthma. His natural course of action had been to prescribe me an inhaler and load me up on prednisone… which left me with potentially ugly side effects and I was worried as the meds seemed to be merely masking the issue temporarily due to the moment the medication wore off... I was gasping for air again. This clearly wasn't the solution, I was realizing… as my breathing issue appeared to be coming from my throat… not my chest as with asthma.
I was at the end of my rope. I had dropped more than twenty pounds in just a few short months, was too weak to cross a parking lot or work any longer… I was basically bedridden and my friends had no idea how truly ill I was. The computer screen behind my doctor flashed the words "underweight" in red and I barely recognized myself any longer. At Christmas in photos I had looked so emaciated it was frightening. I knew I was getting worse... everyone was commenting on how bad I looked. My doctor told me if I didn't begin gaining weight immediately he was admitting me to the hospital. This appointment with him had occurred after a hard realization I was on my own. Just the day before I had sat in my kitchen begging my husband to take me to the doctor. He merely yelled for me to take more medication… more prednisone and do what my doctor had told me to do.
"But I'm not getting better!" I cried to him "It's not helping! I don't even think this is asthma! My gut instinct tells me it's not! If it's not treating the right thing I'm just getting pumped up with lots of steroids and albuterol I don't even need!" I exclaimed. "I need you to take me to the doctor!" I told him, practically begging, each word costing me precious amounts of energy.
"No! I'm not taking you! Just do what he says!" He yelled at me grouchily.
I literally felt like I was dying… I had lost so much weight and was so weak I truly was. And he was useless. I had no idea how much worse I would get before I ever got better. I would reach a point where I'd tell my mother: "I just want to die. I can't do this anymore."
"Take me to the hospital..." I told him pleadingly. "Right now. Please... take me to the hospital." I repeated looking up at him.
He stared down at me "Do you know how much that will cost??!!!" He yelled at me with fury and disgust.
I stared at him with empty hollowed eyes too exhausted to reply. I had never felt this weak in my life… I'd felt slightly stronger with the flu or a severe stomach bug.
"That will cost me two thousand dollars!!! That's how much it will cost!!!!" He screamed at me.
I closed my eyes. And I wept. He stormed off slamming the door behind him.
It would be later the chest x-ray showed my lungs were thankfully clear. After a battery of tests called the Methacholine Challenge showed definite breathing issues but ruled out asthma… I was referred to a Specialist who listened carefully to my symptoms and upon hearing the restrictive breathing was coming from my throat… not chest he nodded… "You have something called Vocal Chord Dysfunction. It's when we see severe acid reflux washing up over the vocal chords and damaging them. They become inflamed and won't open properly like they should upon inhalation and speaking. So you feel out of breath. " He affirmed with a nod and looked at me understandingly "This is why you're having so many problems… but this is nothing that can't be helped. We need to do several things… first, treat your acid reflux with a proton pump inhibitor. The over-the-counter stuff doesn't do enough in these severe cases. The other thing we need to do is get you on some Singulair… that will help. I want you to do voice therapy… I'll give you a referral. This will help you in getting your breathing and voice back on track… the acid is causing your voice to become strained and raspy as well." He added. He told me it would take time and for now I needed to focus on rest and eating to gain my weight and strength back… but that with time… likely two to three months I should begin to get back to a normal functioning life. He also gave me one other suggestion… to lose any stress in my life. I nodded… he had no idea that would require removing a near six foot person.
It would take about three months to get back to almost normal… more small improvements were made each day… I began a regime of eating very bland foods that didn't trigger my reflux, taking my medications dutifully and it would take going to voice therapy each week for a whole year… but it was worth it… I truly felt my voice therapist was my angel in disguise… and both my doctors as well… I believe God places certain people in our lives for a reason.
"I was furious with him… " My mother told me… "I was worried sick."
"He was seemingly more worried about what it would cost." I observed. "I just know I can't do that again. I won't do that again. When you love somebody you jump through hoops, you run through fire, you do anything you have to… to help them. The thing is… I would have done it for him. If he'd been that weak and begging to go to the hospital I would have bundled him up and gotten him there. Heck, he'd have been there way before it got that bad. I would have demanded answers. That's the vow you take… in sickness and in health… when you make it you stand by it. You can't sway on it when someone gets sick… if things fall apart… in health and sickness you have to be there for the other person. They are truly counting on their spouse to step up for them when they can't. Then doing just that. That to me is true love."
(real names have been omitted or changed)
Parked in my driveway I sat behind the wheel in the driver's seat of my car… and waited… watching in the rear view mirror I saw the black four door sedan continue sitting, parked on the street in front of my house. With it's windows completely blackened out and not able to see whom was in it… my heart sank… I was pretty certain I knew what this was about… and thought back to the incident a few weeks before. We had just had Christmas… it was only a few days past the twenty-fifth of December…not yet the new year... when upon checking the mail I discovered a thick white envelope and seeing the return address was from the IRS my stomach turned like it was suddenly sour… instinctively I knew something wasn't right and with quick hands tore open the top of the envelope. Inside I was filled with dread as I began reading, my eye quickly scanning for information… huge numbers jumped at me… how much we owed… how unbeknownst to me he hadn't paid the taxes… in three years… I saw double digit numbers adorned with zeros jump at me… in shock, all the fines and penalties that were adding up day by day, hour by hour, minute by passing minute.
Questions and fears loomed ahead…
How would we ever pay this much money back?
Why did he let this happen?
How could he?!
What was he thinking?!
Why didn't he say something?
Would we lose our house?
I waited and the black sedan with the darkened windows wouldn't budge… finally, I sighed with resignation, putting the clutch in reverse, slowly backing down the driveway and passing the black sedan… only to spot it, sure enough, with sharp eyes focused on it in my mirror, the sedan pulling away from the curb as soon as I passed... it tailing me down the street. Making the turn out of our community and onto the main thoroughfare, I headed toward the grocery store weaving my way through foggy morning traffic. Upon pulling into the grocery store parking lot and into a parking space, I watched as the sedan pulled in two spaces down facing me on the opposite row. The man in the sedan sat, waiting me out, with dark sunglasses on. It happened in a flash, me exiting the vehicle in my coat wearing the collar popped up and him springing out to photograph me as I quickly tried to turn my head and the wind whipped, partially hiding my face as I strode away from the car toward the store.
We had to sell our house and even worse we lost money on it… we hadn't had it but two years, it was our very first house where I had thought we'd raise our son. The anger, the hurt, the betrayal felt toward him in my marriage was there as well as complete embarrassment. I crossed the yard for the last time and watched the moving truck pull away… we were all headed toward the dismal rental across town we would call home for a few years. I had naively believed: "he screwed up… we just have to make it past this hurdle… this ONE hurdle… and then it will be okay again… we will be paying this off for a few years and get back on our feet… but he will learn his lesson". In a few short years with plenty of sacrifice we would get back on our feet financially… far better than before as he advanced in his career … but "lessons learned" and "no more hurdles" were just lies whispered in the wind. I was merely fooling myself that he would truly behave better or that he wanted to.
THE LIES WE TELL OURSELVES...
I had no idea how many more "screw ups" there would be to come over the years. Marriage for sure, a normal marriage brings two imperfect people into a union… two imperfect people who undoubtedly also contribute challenges to the mix... of sharing a bathroom, paying off a mortgage, raising kids and meddling in-laws. There are the dirty clothes left on the floor, the whiskers in the sink that make you want to gag, the cookie crumbs on the counter alongside empty wrappers. If those were the worst challenges to cope with, to give grace and attempt to find solutions to… maybe it wouldn't be so "challenging". Instead we are often dealing with big problems; blatant bad behaviors... like maybe he didn't pay the taxes, or he cheated on you with your best friend or maybe his co-worker... or oh hey... you know that bonus he got at work? Well, he decided of his own accord without so much as a word to you to use it to go buy himself a motorcycle! What self entitled person pulls these types of stunts and does it over and over and over again and never seemingly learning their lesson nor appearing the least bit sorry for their behavior? This is what it's like being married to a narcissist. Not a regular person by any means. Not merely imperfect or a little flawed with major doses of regret and taking personal responsibility. Not the least bit. Narcissists never feel bad for all the bad stuff they do to you and your family. Did you know there is a part in the bible that says your life will be harder if you marry? True story. I had never read it nor been aware of it until during my divorce. Ha! A little late, right?? I wish someone had printed that out for me and stuck it on my fridge when I was ten.
But when a spouse continually shows you signs of what resembles teenage irresponsibility, downright criminal behavior joined with lies… when the "screw up's" just continue and never seem to stop… to just crop up again and again each time after the dust has just settled from the last incident… You may begin to feel like you're riding a roller coaster of emotional havoc and unpredictability. It's bad enough to have your spouse feeding you lies and excuses on a silver spoon with a smile… but what's worse? The lies (excuses) you begin telling yourself. You may tell yourself…
He's really sorry, he has apologized. I have to believe that he's truly sorry... after all, he's my husband.
(Only problem is... this keeps happening. If he's a sociopath he's likely not done using you/gaining narcissistic supply, which would be the only reason he would ever apologize, due to needing more time to fulfill his goals, because sociopath's don't ever say "I'm sorry").
He really screwed up, but he's also going to learn his lesson… this won't happen again...
Were just going through a tough time right now… but it will pass and get better.
(I mean, everyone has problems now and then, right?)
No, no, no…. this isn't about how he's typically late or how he can't stand a certain food you love, or gee, why on earth can he not seem to remember where you keep the spatulas in the kitchen. This is about behavior that involves hiding information, withholding, lying, editing, or whatever you will call it… this is big stuff, this is behavior that puts your finances at risk, your family at risk, your future at risk, this is behavior that also leads to the same destructive path as cheating, to affairs, to a secret life behind closed doors you know nothing about… this is about an individual who lives with an indifferent chip on his shoulder toward others in society, who idolizes ego, status and image, who does what he wants, who does not care for his fellow man, who owes no one the truth and eventually has a chip on his shoulder toward you.. and who lives in a world that in his mind you will never be a party to because he doesn't share any more inner thoughts with you than his favorite cheese, his most admired mentor or his DVD collection. Communicating with him is superficial and shallow and never in depth; he never lets you that close and honestly any deep conversations or topics on your part only seem to irritate him and push him away. Or he distracts with initiation of sex or stonewalls and walks off from you as you talk. You can't get anything from him in a positive light emotionally. No warm and fuzzies, no late night chats, nothing below the surface. You feel like he's vanilla and there's zero personality. He doesn't share what is on his mind. Getting in his mind and knowing what he's thinking is comparable to pulling nails from a stud only to find it's not possible. Figuring out why he continues to pull these inconceivable stunts and "screw ups" escapes you and leaves you scratching your head as they stack up one after another like wrecked cars on a dusty road.
As each incident piles up in your rear view mirror you think each time:
"This is ridiculous!… again? He screwed up AGAIN?!"
he's. that. good.
He manages to wiggle his way back into your heart and you see the occasional good things he is doing (to suck you back in) and it's so much easier to just paint a pretty picture, tell yourself a lie, swallow the ones he feeds you… a picture of lovely fantasy that he is more than willing to help construct… where everything is fuzzy, rosy wonderfulness and combined with his way of explaining it all away… as if it's perfectly normal for everyone to have these life altering incidents continually pop up in life like an ugly jack in the box… he snows you and you buy the ticket to another subscription… another chapter, another year, another five years and however many "incidents" and "screw ups" along the broken way... like a busted street hitting the potholes that he promised would be fixed… or maybe they are fixed, just enough…. just a few feet ahead… like a mirage it glimmers ahead all shiny and new… only much to your dismay for you to get a little further up the street to see the gaping potholes once again. It's time to put on the brakes, remove our sunglasses and take a good look at the street were on.
5 Signs A Marriage Is In Need Of Help Despite The Lies We Tell Ourselves:
1. You both no longer share the same concerns. If you have an issue with something, let's say your finances, taxes, budget, etc and how their spent or handled... or perhaps your health has taken a recent nose dive and you're seeing doctor after doctor trying to get a diagnosis. If he's not concerned about the finances or for you and your well being... those are both big issues that need to be addressed. If he's acting like your valid concerns over the finances or your health are anything but valid but more like just your problem... then yeah, you have a huge problem. With him. As a couple, you should both be invested in issues that crop up as partners; together, ready to take on anything as a team and see the other spouses concerns as a concern for you both. If you feel alone in your marriage, it's time for a good hard look at the big picture. It's often so easy for us to get caught up in the day to day activities of life, especially as women multitasking.... caring for our children, homemaking, cooking, errands, work, that often conquering merely another week at most is preferable over seeing what lies ahead further down the road.
2. He's pulling away and his behavior is distant... unlike how he used to be. Maybe during your courtship or earlier in the marriage or relationship he was a good listener, he was good at conveying a sense of empathy, he appeared to care. But now? Nothing could be further from the truth; he seems disinterested in you, bored, and distant. He could be emotionally and physically distancing himself because he's cheating... if he's mentally caught up in another relationship much of his energy will be dedicated to that and he may seem not as involved, as immersed in family life and connected to you. If he's suddenly seeing friends for lunch or going to the movies alone or traveling more for work... even working overtime these are red flags that something may not be right.
3. If you aren't both working toward a common goal; a healthy marriage and open communication should be one of many goals. If not then your marriage is on rocky terrain. It could be said that it's time to get back to basics in communicating and problem solving yet if you're truly with a narcissist this won't happen or be possible. It might be a good idea to make a list of things you can talk to your spouse about… positive topics. Then make a list of topics you have difficulty sharing with him or that seem to be a continual source of friction. Mentally rate your marriage on a scale of one to ten… one being the lowest score and ten being the (best) highest score. Review your lists for yourself and see what you think. Don't share your lists with your partner if they show signs of narcissistic personality disorder as it won't do you any good. A narcissist is never ever interested in building a better relationship or working on it or even going to marital counseling. They typically refuse to go to any therapy and if they do agree to go or even worse suggest it be extremely wary; this means they have ulterior motives and plan to throw you under the bus in therapy for all the problems to be your fault. They will inform the therapist if you could just fix this, or do this... all will be better and restored within the marriage. If your therapist is informed about npd and recognizes your partner as having it then you may be able to leave feeling aware of what you've been dealing with. However, if your therapist isn't informed you may find yourself in therapy and the narcissist exiting it so you can "be fixed" by the counselor and they leave completely off the hook and holding zero responsibility. I would never ever recommend counseling with a narcissist as it will never work or be productive or even healthy for you, as it may leave you feeling more victimized if the therapist doesn't understand what is going on and trauma responses for those who have dealt with narcissistic abuse.
4. A lack of intimacy in the relationship. This is always a red flag and if one spouse is pulling away it could indicate a lack of trust in the other person on their part. If he's consistently not home when he says he will be, if he is continually pulling irresponsible stunts that jeopardize the family, if he's condescending toward his wife, abusive, even neglectful… it will show up in the bedroom. If he's checking out the single women in the waiting room of his pregnant wife's ob/gyn doctor's office or anywhere else… there's a problem and disrespect is just one of them. If a man is treating his wife right outside the bedroom it will be reflected behind the bedroom door. It stands to reason a wife won't want to be intimate if he is not treating her with love, care and respect. Anytime there is an issue in the bedroom typically that is a sign there is something else bigger going on outside of it that is affecting it. A healthy sex life is reflective of a healthy caring respectful relationship. A narcissist doesn't care about showing his partner respect, care or love. They treat their partner as an object and sex toy; someone to use and abuse. For them sex is about control and not mutual exchange of loving positive energy... instead you feel like a dumping ground for them to expunge all of their hatred, resentment, anger, stress, frustration etc into you in their release. This leads many women to feeling sex with their narc husband closely resembles violation and even rape; some personality disordered husbands actually do rape their wives. Yanking clothes off, ignoring verbal or non verbal no's, asking or demanding for grotesque sex acts of their wife, harming her in any way... all of these behaviors are violations and create great trauma within the wife.
5. If your spouse has become the enemy. If your spouse has become someone you now view as on the "other side"… as an individual to do battle with, to "deal with", endure, tolerate, etc… this is not what the picture of a marital relationship should be. It's certainly not a Godly union representative of love. If you believe you are no longer working as a team, a united partnership… then that deters communication and intimacy. It's time to reflect on what what behaviors the narcissist has brought to the table in the marriage. If incidents of irresponsibility continue to crop up by one spouse it's not the job of the other spouse to play parent and continue to "fix" it, come to the rescue or slap a band-aid on the situation. If you are certain your spouse shows signs on npd it's time to seek help from a trusted Pastor or therapist for you see individually that understands narcissistic personality disorder to give you the support you need. Another possibility for you is to seek support from a divorce or relationship coach that is highly experienced in npd and recovery from these types of highly toxic relationships. With time on your own, going no contact and setting healthy boundaries along with the support of someone experienced in these types of high conflict people you will be well on your way to living a healthier life with peace.
(real names have been omitted or changed)
I took a seat on one of the black chairs opposite the psychologist's desk. Dr. Malvey cleared his throat loudly behind his graying beard and began asking me questions about home, how I felt about it and how I felt about my parents. I didn’t really want to get into it. Feeling I was just being humored I didn’t believe another adult would see what I saw. Gradually I gave him a few examples of home life and how restricting it was... specifics of how emotionally unhealthy it had been and the toll it took on us, especially my mother and siblings. He nodded and took notes, asking some additional questions for confirmation. Eventually he snapped his black leather notebook shut and stood. He shook my hand, smiled pleasantly at me with gray piercing eyes and cordially thanked me for my time and led me out.
Once back in the hallway he retrieved my parents who went back in with him. It wasn’t long before I heard my father’s voice becoming louder behind the closed office door. That made me nervous and I wondered what they were talking about. My sister’s and I exchanged knowing looks and we shrugged. My sister’s just like myself knew something was different about our family even at their younger ages. Who knew what it was that had set him off this time. He could go from calm to furious in a split second. Finally the door flew open and my Dad walked out with angry footsteps followed by my mother who had red-rimmed eyes from crying. My Dad walked over to the front desk while our mother quietly told us to put away our books, we were leaving. Waiting for my Dad to write a check for the session I saw his face twisted in fury and he wrote the check with a quick messy flourish, curtly handing it to the petite pleasant woman sitting behind the desk. Once outside and in the car my Dad slammed his door, then buckling his seat-belt, spoke, “I have NEVER been so humiliated! So embarrassed! For him to tell us, ME, I'm the problem and you aren’t!!!!” He spewed nearly choking on his words.
My mouth fell open in shock.
Someone had told him he was wrong? Omg... the psychologist had told him he was wrong.
I couldn't believe it. Yet it was true. I had merely been honest but apparently the truth hurt.
Someone had finally told him his behavior was the problem?
His dark gaze met mine in the rear-view mirror... meeting my brown-green eyes as I sat in the backseat. “Yeah, that’s RIGHT! REAL funny, HUH?!” he shot at me, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He felt played and betrayed by me. My far once upon a time golden child place in the family was long gone. I had been made the black sheep. I had no idea just yet how that status would really translate to freedom one day. “I pay all this money for some help with you, and he sits there and tells me I’M the PROBLEM!!!” he screamed in complete fury. Oh shit. I shrank down in the backseat watching the world go by in a dizzying array of color and sound. I was in so much poo now. My mother sat silent, hoping he’d just shut up. I knew she was gripping her car door in the Jaguar's hand-rest in terror as the car lurched forward and he sped out of the tiny parking lot like a maniac. At the end of the day it didn't matter that he was told his behavior was not healthy. Because if it didn't spur awareness and then follow with change what good did it actually do?
I just wanted someone to get me out of there.
I just wanted someone to free me from this childhood prison.
I just wanted to run away and never ever return to this hell I was trapped in.
We may think…
Where was God? Why was I born into this? Why is this my life? Why am I in this mess?
Did God even see all this pain? Did God know I was enduring this seemingly never-ending suffering?
Why? Why? Why?
These questions are universal and at times we may each feel as though God is simply standing by watching our life go down the drain, watching our life get swept up in a whirlwind of havoc or get high-jacked by flying monkeys. But we can remember that those thoughts are what the enemy wants us to believe… that he wants us to get swept up in a cyclic negative thought process that never ends… truly believing that things will never get better - leaving us in stuck mode and unable to press forward believing zero victory is coming our way.
But we can tell the enemy to stand down and to instead cling to what God has promised us.
God can bring purpose to our pain and suffering no matter what we may begin to believe otherwise. He can use our circumstances for good and His glory and for others. What we may not realize is that with deliverance may certainly also include suffering… and maybe, just maybe we were kept from suffering a worse outcome than what we even realize… we may never stop to think that God was there all along and even though we suffered through tragedy, endured horrific circumstances or were terribly mistreated that in reality God spared us from an even worse outcome. No matter what we need to escape from... no matter what the awful circumstances… if we need rescue from circumstances we didn't have a hand in or didn't have the knowledge beforehand that our situation would be horrific and we need an escape route we can rest assured that God will be with us. None of this is to diminish what we've endured or gloss over it. But it is to steer us back to what matters and what will help get us through it; thankfulness. This brings us back; back to thankfulness, to gratitude for God's protection. He is always looking out for us and His love for us is far more reaching than we could ever imagine. Even in the midst of our worst seasons, our darkest hours, our most perilous moments and greatest falls God is still there beside us.
“I know now that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world” 1 John 4:4
So when we begin to wail about our past… that maybe our childhood involved less than stellar circumstances, when we cry out wondering why on earth God seemed absent during yesterdays struggles, when we question God's good during darkness and suffering… when we fall to our knees in despair because we simply don't believe we can take another second of our situation because it's so dismal… we can remember looking back on those moments… someone WAS there… someone was beside us, someone heard us cry out even in weary silence and silent tears running down our face. Someone was there as now and despite us feeling subjected to the external power of evils in the world, we know who that someone is…. Someone who is greater than the world…
There will be a time when what you've been through will be used by God…
to tell others, to share, to help others heal.
Thanks to Him, God will put your story in those people's paths.
Be brave enough to share it and watch other's become better too.
(names have been omitted or changed in this post)
Growing up it was like my family lived on another planet far away that had no resemblance to what "normal" families lived. It was like we lived in a cult, a different dimension that left you feeling like you were locked up, shut up inside some pit or hole resembling prison; childhood often felt like a life-long sentence. It was the stuff of books or movies yet it wasn't glamorous but more crushing of the spirit and soul; it was removed from the rest of the world, it was eccentric and odd and "different". It was led by narcissistic. It was seemingly forever we were stuck and all each of us; myself, my two siblings and mother wanted was to escape it and never look back. When you grow up in an alter-odd environment where you request to do something… anything…normal stuff like a very simple thing... like going to a school function or to a fellow peers home after school to work on a school project… it never happens. It's usually always met with "No, that isn't necessary" or second choice is it's met with "I'll think about it." The control is all hidden behind closed doors. No one has a clue. The community thinks they know this person and yet are full of ignorant shit. A few days pass, a week goes by… you go to him and ask again, reminding him that you're still waiting for an answer to your request. Instead you are met with the pages of a newspaper rustling and a grouchy verbal grunt of "I told you I'd think about it!"
You stand there not even being given the courtesy of eye contact… the newspaper (today in our more modern world it would be a cell phone or laptop) is a shield between you and he… a buffer in the hopes that maybe, just maybe if he ignores you long enough you will go away and leave him alone in peace to read his paper. You sigh again. You dare to push the issue because you're the eldest and the strong willed one. You break the silence... "But you've had a week to decide." You remind him… your patience is beginning to wear thin. You see it's wearing thin because it's always this way. Every. single. time. He ignores. He distances, he pushes away. He avoids. He neglects. He's detached. You wonder why he had kids. He's so bothered by them. He doesn't hide it whatsoever. He merely had you to fill a role, a spot, a facade in his life. You're nothing more than a semi useful prop he pulls out once in awhile when needed. For others to coo at and compliment and feed his ego. That's you, your purpose. Your life gives new meaning to over-protected. It gives new meaning to sheltered. Those words don't even touch the surface of how you really live. Like in a hidden away secret miserable society that no one has access to and no one knows of but you.
You finally irritate him to no end with your nagging and haranguing (which merely cements the idea that that's what girls and one day women have to do to get a "yes" from a male) that he finally, finally gives in one time. And when he does… you learn how very different your home life is. As you sit on the carpeted bedroom floor of a fifth grade school peer and take markers to poster board… working on a school project after getting frozen yogurt earlier (your family has never had frozen yogurt) her dad appears in the doorway and says "Hey, Court… remember tonight is family meeting night after dinner." Your classmate smiles at her dad and nods and says okay. After he departs down the hall you turn to her assuming family meeting night must be something awful… that must be punishment, right? Because it must mean you get yelled at for doing something wrong or not doing whatever it is you were supposed to do. You ask her with curiosity what this family meeting night thing is. She smiles and tells you "Oh, that's where we all gather in the den after dinner and talk about whatever is bothering us. We can talk about anything."
I stare at her incredulously, my mouth hangs open in disbelief, "anything?" I echo. She nods and explains further "Yes… we can talk about anything we want to. We can say if somebody has made us mad, or did something we didn't like. We can talk about anything and nobody gets in trouble. It really helps." Maybe your own family would have benefited from such a meeting; open dialogue where each person felt heard and was encouraged to express how they were feeling. For myself growing up a family meeting would never happen. That would mean everyone had feelings, everyone had a voice in how they felt, that everyone had the right to assert what they believed. "Assertive" was a bad word. Assertive got you a yard stick slapped on your butt so hard it snapped in half. Assertive got your arm grabbed so tightly it left red marks. Assertive got you put in time out in the storage room alone on a hard backed chair. Assertive got you screamed at and then listening to a rant-a-thon in the background for what felt like an hour. Having a voice?
That was so foreign to me. I wondered wistfully what that must be like.
11 Things I Learned From My Childhood:
1. You're more valued as a person by working (work always comes first) than spending time with your family.
2. God is someone whom we are to fear not to be loved by.
3. Constant fear (fear in general) of failure is normal.
4. Self-awareness and therapy are not important and are not ever done.
5. Spending money on yourself is perfectly acceptable at the detriment of your family's needs and the upkeep of your home.
6. Even if you feel something, deep inside, please keep it to yourself. We don't talk about things such as feelings, dreams, goals or hurts.
7. It's perfectly fine for everyone around you to feel powerless, to feel controlled and diminished… because you're "the man" and way more important than the "little people."
8. Stay a safe physical distance away from others; no hugs, no pats, no high fives, no anything… because that would be weird… the human touch is not needed.
9. Follow the footsteps of your earthly father, his obligations, his dreams, his goals… don't think authentically, or spiritually… don't go outside the box or on any adventures… cling to self-preservation because it's way better to be able to say "I may not have been anywhere or done much but I'm still here."
10. If you ever feel threatened that someone might take your stuff… be way more concerned with protecting your material/marital assets than your relationship… because people are disposable but things on the other hand… those are worth much more.
11. Trusting people leads you to being screwed over, to being bamboozled. Always have something on someone in case you need it later, always have evidence… and listen more than you ever give away.
In life we don't get the childhood we want.
We get what we are given (like playing cards) and then often we just have to make the best of it. All familial issues stem from the previous generations that were not resolved but instead allowed to continue to grow like toxic weeds; where growth and change have not yet taken place. We meet someone, we marry and if we haven't done the necessary work to address what needs haven't been met when we were children, what attachment type we are (mine is avoidant) we then on some level (we may not even be aware of this at the time) look for those unmet childhood needs/issues to be resolved with the one we marry. We are each looking to the other for healing; for wounds to be soothed. I guess a wound-mate wouldn't be a bad thing necessarily if BOTH people were fully committed to changing, growing and healing TOGETHER and not causing more hurts and scars. That would be one thing. But for those of us that are targeted by narcissistic people that is not the case- in fact we will end up likely worse off when it's over than when we met them. Why, you ask? Because we are tossing trauma upon more trauma and eventually the suitcase will rip at the seams and scream to be let out... cascading onto the floor and demanding to be dealt with once and for all.
We may or may not find what we are seeking… but one thing is for sure… we can always look up to a higher power… the one who knew us before we walked earth… before we cried our first cry of infancy and breathed our first breath… we can look to our Father in Heaven for affirmation… that we are more valued than any material thing on earth… that we don't have to fear He doesn't love us… that we don't have to fear at all… that our identity comes from Him… and He is always there to wrap us up in His arms with comfort and eternal love.
Today I'm here to tell you that no matter what kind of childhood you had, no matter what kind of parent you have, that God loves you... you are His child and no matter what you have been through in the past... In this journey, along each curve, each mountain, through every stumble and triumph He is with you... you are not alone.
Jennifer Gafford is a writer, speaker and divorce coach who helps guide parents through the pain of trying to co-parent with their narcissistic ex, and shares tips for custody and healing. She began her website gracepowerstrength in 2012 and over time her blog and audience grew to over a million views. Jennifer was married for twelve years, has two children and is very well versed in the facts regarding narcissistic abuse and the challenges involved in healing. Today, she shares daily posts and stories on Instagram for thousands of followers regarding npd abuse and believes everyone deserves a life of peace, love and freedom.