Surviving The Narcissist

A narcissist doesn’t know they are sick.  A narcissist thinks that they are fantastic and everyone else is – well beneath them.

English: Picture of myself, I am a narcissist....

English: Picture of myself, I am a narcissist. For use on userpages. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was married to a narcissist and I don’t remember where my marriage vows said “in sickness and in health and that includes narcissism” because nothing in life prepares you for the pervasive illness a true narcissistic mind contains.

 

When I married this person my life was in the “fixer” stage.  I had not been through therapy (yet) to understand how to get out of the “fixer” stage.  When Mr. Charming entered my life he did not appear to need fixing.  This all came later and when it did he did not appear to be that broken.  He was so good at manipulating. He had his narcissism controlled but when it came out it came out like a tsunami.

 

By that time we were married and while most marriages should have give and take, and maybe a tiny bit of “oh please” inserted here and there, when you are married to a narcissist daily living becomes a psychological challenge.

 

I learned this in therapy during my marriage when I finally had to throw in the towel and ask for help.  He drove me to need one because I had reached the point that I could not do anything to make things right between us.

 

One piece of advice that I was given at the time was that I needed to change my patterns of speech.  For example, instead of suggesting we go out to an event that I knew would probably get a negative response, I learned to phrase the idea in a way that sent praise up and down his spine.  Praise – mountains of praise, there is something else I learned.  I used – no I lavished praise upon him as if he was a child who finally pooped in the toilet.

 

Basically it was several years of hell and guess what he did for a living.  He was an attorney – many narcissists are highly educated and what better career choice than to be a criminal defense attorney where he could perform in front of an audience on a regular basis?  Winning case after case is akin to winning an Oscar.

 

This all happened a long time ago and over time my narcissist radar had obviously been running out of juice.  It’s not like these people are everywhere.  Statistics say that only 1% of the population is narcissistic.

 

You need to know this is also an insidious mental illness for which there is no cure, and as I wrote, the narcissist doesn’t know they have an illness.  If 100 of us stood in front of one holding signs saying “You are a narcissist” they would not be phased and they would think we were the disturbed ones.  They believe they are 100% normal.

 

I was totally unaware a new one had entered my life until I was blindsided and this one wore a skirt.

 

I spent a lot of time sharing ideas, thoughts, dreams, emails, phone calls, face-to-face meetings with this skirt and now that I look back I see the clues were there but my batteries had run down.

 

My first clue came and went with my birthday.  I received no happy birthday greeting no best wishes.  My second clue came right after that when I was chosen as having one of 23 best breast cancer blogs in 2012.  I sent this announcement, I sent a picture of the award, I posted it everywhere, I put it in private emails (call me a little narcissistic over this) and I did not get one pat on the back.  I did not get one comment about doing a great job.  All I got was totally ignored.  This is a classic narcissistic reaction.

 

I understand this now, it was explained to me by Judith Orloff, MD in her writings, and by several friends of mine who hold educational degrees in behavioral science.  A narcissist cannot congratulate anyone – it makes you look better.  If she had received the same award the year before then there would have been a comment but it would have been negative like “I won before you did.”

 

The other signs that I see now are all spelled out in every article written about narcissism.  Joan Crawford probably comes to mind when one thinks about narcissistic people.  It may surprise you to know Steve Jobs was considered to be narcissistic.  The really brilliant ones that do great things though are few and far between.  Most of the time their dreams of greatness falter because they do not move off the dream into the reality of making it happen. Then again there’s always The Donald.  These people have minions who do things for them.  You cannot be a successful one-man-show narcissist.

 

Joan Crawford

Cover of Joan Crawford

My latest narcissistic encounter blind-sided me for the most part.  It began when I cursed in front of her minions. It wasn’t appropriate of me to do so for several reasons, but she viewed that it was a personal reflection on her.  I understand that now even though this way of thinking about it is way off base.  My next two “mistakes” were to make jokes about things that had happened when I went to meet her to do business.  Again this was perceived to be a personal insult and was not seen as the joke it was meant to be.   When I was told how bad I was I was told in a way a child would be reprimanded.  “I am going to have to tell (your father) that you said these things about our hospitality.”  I was scolded. I see childhood issues there.

 

Leaving a workshop to go do something I planned ahead of time to do was also considered an infraction of the rules.  Again I got reprimanded about this in a way a parent would talk to a child.  After actually explaining why I had left I was asked “Why do you think you need to explain this to me?”  I was hearing Joan Crawford all the way.

There was a list of complaints and they were all delivered in a tone of voice of an angry mother.  It was bizarre to say the least.  It was surreal too because I did not recognize this person.  It was like Sybil had entered the room.  The best part of the entire scolding was when she called me a name.  When I look back now at that I realize if she could call me a name after all our good times together, that I was standing in front of someone I never ever wanted to see again.

The first opportunity I had I took our relationship apart.  I took my name off anything the two of us were connected to, and I protected my investment at the same time.  I did immediately – the internet is a wonderful thing no matter where you are in the world you can make necessary changes with the push of a key on your keyboard.

I don’t care what she tells people, even those closest to her know she has issues – she even told me that much.  When I let people know we had dissolved our connection I got emails of support, you know that eventually none of us can hide, people do begin to move away and move on from what they begin to see but did not perceive for a while.  I wouldn’t call it Karma because remember, they won’t see it happening, not really, after all there is nothing wrong with them, we have the problem.

Here are some symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder:

  • An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
  • Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
  • A lack of psychological awareness (they will never accept they are a narcissist)
  • Difficulty with empathy
  • Problems distinguishing the self from others
  • Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults
  • Haughty body language – walking around with a specific posture of royalty
  • Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them – just adoring someone who does this
  • Detesting those who do not admire them
  • Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
  • Pretending to be more important than they really are
  • Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements
  • Claiming to be an “expert” at many things
  • Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
  • Denial of remorse and gratitude

 

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