This is a club for women (or men) who find that they are always to blame for everything. At first you felt, okay, I could work on this issue and he has a point. Now, many months/years later, the blame game has become a little tiring and you are emotionally exhausted. Can you really be the problem in the marriage? Would this relationship really be magically fixed if only YOU would see a therapist?
Probably not. Nothing is ever one sided. Marriage/Relationship is a two way street. If your partner is not ever, and I mean never taking responsibility for his problem and they are always re-directing the issue toward you, you are probably with a Narcissist. So let us examine the facts according to the psychotherapists/psychologists/psychiatriasts manual, aka the DSM IV.
DSM IV definition: Someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality disorder (NPD) has at least 5 of the following characteristics:
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- requires excessive admiration
- has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
As you look at this list, think of your partner’s behaviors without giving an excuse to any of them. Either he does it or doesn’t. If you are not sure what something means, ask. Remember this is a manual for professionals to use. It is written in language that is not in layman’s terms. I have known and worked with, personally and professionally, many Nacissists. They don’t always act exactly the same and the symptoms manifest in different ways. Here are some examples:
A. Spending lots of money for hobbies that never really go anywhere – you have no money to pay for them but the money continues to be spent (pre-occupied with fantasies). I had a friend going out with a man who spent several years working on a movie project. It was a low grade film and had no chance of making him a success. He made very little money and she ended up footing the bill for household expenses.
B. Always to blame – this is their specialty. Once I bought a couple of cans of root beer for a friend and I who were out hiking one day. I brought them back to the car and he opened his up and it burst out all over the inside of MY car, making the trip very sticky. He immediately yelled at me stating that I had shaken the cans up before handing them to him. So this is an example, they initiate a behavior, but somehow it is turned on you. I have even known someone who fell down upstairs and he began yelling at his wife downstairs for the fall. As if she could possibly be responsible for something when she is not even there!
C. Excessive need for attention – Recently at a dinner party, one man was complimented by a woman in the room for his polite behavior. Another man yelled at her that she was stereotyping all men and had issues with men. The second man was nearby but was not involved in the conversation. It had absolutely nothing to do with him but somehow he turned it around to be a personal attack on him and “other men.”
D. Everything must meet the needs of their schedule – You take vacations that work for him. Your sick days are to take care of him. You take the family on an outing but dad gets bored so you have to end the trip for him. Meals are made for him on his time – sometimes women make separate meals for the kids, just to accommodate him.
E. Odd parenting behaviors – their way is right no matter what. I knew a man who prided himself on spoiling his child to take away the “pain” of the divorce. The divorce occurred because this Narcissist wasn’t meeting the needs of the wife, so she cheated on him. This man made a dinner of milk shakes and macaroni and cheese, every single night, to placate the child. It had been pointed out, by the partner, the lack of nutrition in this meal, along with the fact that entitlement parenting is not a healthy style to provide to a child. The child appeared very balanced and able to move forward from the divorce. The child was quite mature in many ways. This man also allowed his child to smoke pot in the house because he had done this as an adult and so would chastise his partner by saying “Its not pot, it is incense.” Lying is a gift with Narcissist. They turn the situation around with an answer readily prepared to show nothing is their fault or in this case they are not a bad parent.
F. Arrogant behaviors – I once returned from a leave of absence to a new supervisor. They called me into their office and spent a half hour telling me all about themself both personal and professional. They never asked me any questions about my performance in the past (at this company) or if I had any questions about working with them. Then they promptly said I could return to my desk and get going. One day I turned up and they had gone into my organized filing cabinet (I am extremely thorough) and had re-organized it the way they thought it should be. Since I worked as an independent, along with my colleagues, it was very unorthodox. To his credit he did acknowledge doing it but only because it was the best way “he felt” that things should be organized. I re-organized my cabinet and he never did it again (that is because I freaked out when I saw it and he was right there).
G. Sleeping with the Narcissist – A woman told me that her husband had to get up at 5:30 am to listen to Amy Goodman on the radio. She didn’t get up till 7am and it was difficult for her to sleep like this because she was not a morning person. She was going to work exhausted. He refused to put on headphones and then blamed her for turning it down because he could not hear it. He refused to compromise and she was forced to sleep on the couch during weekdays.
H. Exploitative – Your at your kid’s soccer game. Your husband is interrupting the game all the way through, telling the coach how to do the job. He takes credit for winning the game because if it weren’t for his suggestions, the coach has no clue. Kanye West who has twice now interrupted Taylor Swift’s award winning moments – to spout his opinions.
It can make you sick to your stomach when you think about it. However, many women (and as I said earlier, sometimes men) walk on eggshells on a daily basis because they have been programmed to believe this is all part of being married. I feel so sad when they come in to meet me and I have to explain to them that Narcissism is not something you can find a cure for. And I have to explain this after I help to boost their self-esteem and explain that it is not their fault and they are not going crazy.
Women who go through this generally organize the family and sometimes even the pets so they are all on the same page with dad. I’ve seen some handle it with humor, most stay in denial and just say “that’s just dad,” kids grow up and move thousands of miles away to get away from the mess, mom’s are torn from families because they won’t let go [of dad]. Women stay married so they don’t lose custody of their kids (See the book Splitting: Protecting Yourself while Divorcing a Narcissist). Women stay with him because they are afraid of being alone. They have been emotionally tortured for so long they have no strength to move. A Narcissist is a batterer. I have already mentioned financial and emotional abuse but sometimes, the longer a person stays, the more it is apt to turn into physcial and maybe even sexual abuse.
These husbands can be helped with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – as many will argue who specialize in this disorder. However, as the saying goes “Why should I [the Narcissist] go into therapy when there is nothing wrong with me?” Implying that something is wrong with you. Whether or not they do go to a therapist (and actually commit to more than one session), this is not a guarantee of success in the relationship. It is in your best interests, as the victim, to seek out a therapist so you can begin to rebuild your sense of self.
Finally, my favorite comment from a Nacissist as told to me by a friend. He called my friend, his ex-girlfriend up to comment on his marriage (he married someone on the internet six months after my friend left him) and this is what he said, “We have a wonderful relationship, it is very quiet and peaceful. She never questions anything I say.”
- The Narcissistic Father (psychologytoday.com)
- Being with a Narcissistic Sociopath – Part 1 (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- 20 Signs That You’re A Narcissist (businessinsider.com)
- Time to get Angry: Ending the Narcissistic Relationship (1solutionfocusedcoaching.com)
- The Child of the Narcissist (jkvegh.wordpress.com)