(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.
Jennifer Gafford is a writer, speaker, coach on NPD abuse and recovery. She helps guide men and women exit a NPD relationship, gives emotional support, and gives guidance through the pain of trying to co-parent with their narcissistic ex.