I haven’t written about narcissism for quite a while now. Yesterday, however, it was brought to my attention again in a most direct way.
M was organizing the garage and came across two packages that I’d left on a shelf out there after the divorce. I had forgotten about them. M brought them in so that I could decide what to do with them. Both of them were from the ex-narcissist and I had put them in the garage because I didn’t want them in the house. I felt that I needed to hang on to them for a while in case there was more legal stuff from him, but I also felt that if I had them in the house, they might somehow contaminate the air.
Sound odd? I have to say that I don’t completely understand it myself. At the time, I still had furniture belonging to him in the house. But somehow, these parcels needed to be outside.
Perhaps it was because they were attempts to engage me, to ensnare me, to get me back.
One contained a book, a biography, and I’m fond of reading those, as Harry, the ex-narcissist, is aware. Inside the front cover was a letter. Yesterday I read it again and had it really brought home once more why he is such a dangerous person.
It was highly manipulative. It began by saying that he had read the book and thought I would like to, as well. He went on to claim that he was in therapy. Then it segued into a highly angry and very factually inaccurate lecture about what I had done to him: how I had abandoned him, betrayed him, and mislead him. That on our last evening together I had berated him and thrown a tantrum. That I had driven him to despair and suicide. That I had colluded with my counsellor to bring him to his knees.
Want to know what really happened?
Here is how it went: while we were in a restaurant in another city, he started berating me for eating too much – this happened a lot – and also started loudly commenting on the eating habits and sizes (they were completely normal) of the family seated across from us – also something that was happening more frequently.
When we left the restaurant and returned to the vehicle, he continued to harangue me about my weight until we stopped for gas. I went inside to pay – of course it was me paying – and when I came back out, he started shouting and swearing at me about how I had slammed the vehicle door and that no one had ever done that to him before. I went around to the other side of the vehicle, picked up my suitcase and started walking away. At that point, a police officer who had witnessed Harry’s tirade stopped and asked me about what I was going to do and if I needed assistance. He left his number with me.
I found a hotel for the night and flew home the next day. The day after that, I informed Harry that I was divorcing him. This incident was the catalyst, the final straw, so to speak. That minuscule amount that just does you in. He had shouted at me for the last time.
But, back to the letter. After the lecture he went on about how we had had some good times together before Christmas. Reality: he came by in November to pick up some of his furniture; a good friend of mine did most of the interacting with him and another accompanied me when I went with him to his storage locker a couple of days later to pick up some things that he had “accidentally” taken from the house. I was never alone with him and never gave him one iota of encouragement, but according to him, we had had “good times” and I was sending positive signals for a reconciliation.
He then ended the letter by saying that he still loved me and wanted to get back together.
Its construction was interesting: get me to buy in by beginning with a subject of interest – biographies. The book was intended as a present. How can a present be bad? He followed this up by stating that he was in therapy. Great, right? Wrong. This was the thin edge of the wedge; he tried to take me off my guard and soften me up before going in for the kill.
He then attempted to elicit a response from me by writing a series of exaggerations and falsehoods couched in the emotional language of the pseudo- victim. He was betting that I would respond on several levels – that I would feel called to defend myself about his inaccuracies and falsehoods, that I would feel sorry for him, that I would feel guilty, that I would consider taking him back. His intent was to engage me in some sort of discourse and then make use of further manipulation – twist my thinking so that I could no longer tell the difference between reality and his fictional accounts.
The other parcel contained ceramics that do not belong to me; again, they were designed as an entry to further contact.
I have destroyed the letter. I am giving away the book and the ceramics.
If nothing else, this shows how careful one has to be when eliminating a narcissist from one’s life. It’s extremely important not to respond to their manipulative attempts at communication, even if it appears to be completely harmless. Tough to do, but completely necessary.
If you have been in a “relationship” with a narcissist, it is paramount that you cut the contact as soon as possible.
Appearances can be deceiving, and Harry is very, very good at keeping his up. After all, that’s how I got involved with him in the first place.
It’s official – I have a new blog name! My particular thanks to Project Southsea for his suggestion which I then altered slightly. In his football obsessed (soccer) nation, the term “back of the net” is a reference to scoring a goal, but in Canada, a hockey obsessed nation, that term would mean that the puck is “behind” the net.
My puck is definitely in the net.
Two little words, big difference, so I made a couple of changes. I am, therefore, now officially called “In the Net! – Stories of Life and Narcissistic Survival.”
My original title, “Narcissism – One Woman’s True Story of Marriage to a Narcissist” is now a category title, and I still want to post about that topic and stick to my original intention of warning others about getting into relationships with these people. But as I indicated in my last post, there are many other things that I want to write about, too.
I will still have to closely guard my privacy by altering anything that could personally identify me or the people in my life, but there’s much that I can share.
Thanks to all of you who have supported me with your follows, your comments or just by clicking “like.” You are all very much appreciated.
So, if you’re interested, ask what you would like – and with your permission, I may turn your question into a post!
When I first started this project, all I wanted to do was throw my voice into the growing chorus of warning about narcissists and the damage they can do to the rest of us. And I intend to keep posting about that topic.
But I also find that more and more, I want to post about other things – as you’ve probably noticed.
It’s interesting how this blog has changed since I started it – it has almost taken on a life of its own, something that I think is a good sign of growth and moving on – a very suitable notion for spring.
And I have moved on. I no longer feel the intense urgency to write about narcissism that I did in the beginning. I have crossed a Rubicon of sorts – I’m no longer inside the box but outside, having a peek, grateful that I’m no longer trapped in there. In the light – a much better place to be.
In tandem with this is the fact that I have a wonderful relationship with M, that we’re making plans together, that despite the crap, one can have a perfectly ordinary, perfectly good life again.
Yes, I was married to a narcissist. And I lived through it, even though there were days when I seriously thought I was losing my mind. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I felt like I was in hell.
I’m still cleaning up the financial mess that he left me with and I will be doing that for a while, but M is also helping me.
There are times when I still wish that I had never laid eyes on him, but then I remember how much I have learned, and I would never want to give that up, in spite of how much it cost me.
This post has been prompted by ruleofstupid, who produces one of the best blogs at WordPress, in my humble opinion. If you haven’t dropped by for a visit, you really should. His social commentary, poetry and music are by turns thought-provoking, funny, witty and sad, but never ever boring. I’m really surprised that he hasn’t been Freshly Pressed yet. If you think that’s a message to the powers that be for them to do so, then you’re right. Get going, WordPress!
In any event, RoS commented on my last post that he wanted to read about the other side of this narcissist issue. What makes a perfectly sensible someone chase a narcissist instead of telling them to f**k off? Well, the first simple answer is that the people who are involved in narcissist-chasing don’t realize that that’s what they are doing. The second simple answer is that usually, narcissists are the ones who chase. Then there’s the more complex answer. You just knew that was coming, didn’t you?
There are unfortunately all sorts of negative reasons for why people get involved in inappropriate relationships and I clearly can’t even begin to address all of those levels of dysfunction. However, I do think that I have a reasonable take on what goes on for many of those who get involved with the narcissistic crowd. They are not to be confused with the douche nozzle crowd which if you stop and think about it would make those who chase them the nozzle chasers which is a really unsettling image and I don’t think that I’m going to follow it any further.
I think that there are four broad categories or “types” of people who get involved with narcissists. There is nothing official about these categories – they are just the result of my reading, experience and consideration; they are also not meant to be exhaustive.
1. The Saviour Complex – Narcissists like to present themselves as having been heartlessly screwed by pretty much everyone around them. Enter the Messianic saviour types. These are the ones who think that through their unconditional love, they can save anyone from anything. They have some very Pollyanna – ish ideas going on about how love can save the world, all you need is love, and so on and so on. They are in love with the idea of love and to some extent also have some rather arrogant beliefs about the effects they can have on others. When it comes to the narcissist, these saviour types are completely in over their heads. They have no idea what they are dealing with but their commitment to their ideal is so strong that they will keep on trying even after the abuse starts. They have faith, with a capital “F”, that they can save the poor unloved narcissist. Essentially, they are naive and inexperienced, but that doesn’t mean that they deserve the narcissistic onslaught that will inevitably come their way. In the aftermath, they will need help re-establishing their values.
2. The Agenda-Driven – These people get involved with narcissists because they are so agenda-driven that they don’t notice the issues their potential “partners” have. These types are worried that they will never find another partner, that their biological clocks are running out, are extremely concerned about being alone or feel that they must have a partner in order to function in society. They can be very single-minded in pursuit of their “goal” and will be completely shocked and surprised when the narcissist discards them. It will likely take a long time for them to stop blaming themselves for their lack of insight and they may also have to forgive themselves for being fallible.
3. The Minimizer/Rationalizers – These people are to some extent related to the Saviour types, but where the Saviour is over confident, the Minimizer lacks confidence. They don’t trust their own judgement and believe everyone around them is more intelligent. You can easily enough see where this can lead. When they are confronted by the narcissist’s lousy behaviour, they will doubt their own perception of it and will choose to accept the narcissist’s opinions about everything as being superior to their own. They will bend their interpretation of events in order to protect or defend the narcissist and they can also be extremely blind to the narcissist’s ability to offend others. Eventually, the narcissist will abandon the Minimizer/Rationalizer – as is usually the case – but the Minimizer may take many years to recognize what was occurring in the “relationship” and may also try repeatedly to get the narcissist back.
4. Boundaries? What Are Those? – This was me. I did a post on this which you can link to here. I also have to say that had some of the other characteristics going on, as well. There was some minimizing and rationalizing, and some saviour stuff too, but for the most part, I lacked personal, emotional and mental boundaries. I had been raised to be a yes-person and for various reasons over the years, this mode of behaviour had solidified. It has been a real uphill climb for me to establish some boundaries and I also have to work every day at maintaining them. I know that I could easily slip back.
I know that there’s lots of crossover among these categories but I think that for the most part, they capture the prominent characteristics of those who find themselves involved with narcissists.
What do you think? Do you see other types or other characteristics that could lead to narcissistic entanglement? I’m very interested in what you have to say.
Between dealing with my water troubles and my virus particles it’s been an interesting month or so. M and I are also organizing some big changes with our decision that he should go back to university for a Master’s degree, so lots of stuff happening on the home front. I’ve also had the opportunity to keep up with my reader and as I indicated in my last post, there’s so much great commentary, fiction and poetry being produced. It’s about time that I produced something, too, although it might not be as good as what I’ve been reading from the rest of you.
This post has been prompted to some extent by an excellent piece written by bettylaluna who discussed the difference between a narcissist and a garden-variety jerk. Her piece is quite academic and gives the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV definition of a narcissist while noting the significant differences between those types of individuals and people who are just “jerks.” I’ve been thinking about this for some time and given that my main intent here is to throw out a general warning about narcissists, I’m going to weigh in as well, but purely only from the perspective of experience. I am not a therapist.
So, what is the difference between an annoying douche nozzle who can drive you batshit in 2.2 seconds and a narcissist? Well, just that, for one thing. Jerks tend to be upfront about their jerkness, while the narcissist is as smooth as a glass bottle. Whether they admit it to themselves or not, or even recognize it, narcissists have a definite plan for the development of their “relationship” with you. The basics of this plan do not vary much from person to person but it can become more sophisticated with time and practise. Jerks, on the other hand, may not understand that they are jerks, but they also are not developing a plan to take advantage of you, either.
As I’ve noted in other posts, narcissists, if they’re interested in you at all, will start with a charm offensive. At some point in your first interactions with him you will likely hear alarm bells going off in your head, but if the narcissist is well practised, he will swamp you with so many effusive compliments that you will soon forget about those pesky warnings and will reach over and pull the plug. Of course, the best thing to do at that point is to walk away, no matter how attractive you find him, but many of us have had our evolutionary instincts socialized down to a sort of background static that we’re usually taught to ignore.
If you fall for the charm, the compliments, the flattery, the small “thoughtful” presents and attention to detail, you will start to feel wonderful, as if you are floating on air. You will see him as perfect. He dresses well, is well spoken and polite and money does not seem to be an issue. It seems as if he will do anything for you. In fact, what he has done is idealize you.
Once he realizes that he “has” you and that you are also a fallible human being, he will slowly begin to lose interest in you. You are no longer a challenge and in his eyes you will only have importance insofar as you are useful to him. Technically, this is known as the “devaluation” stage of the narcissistic relationship.
Yes, this is where he is, but where are you? You’re back on cloud nine wondering why the sky has suddenly turned black. You keep trying to figure out where your “perfect” relationship has disappeared to and inevitably, you start to think that its deterioration is your fault. Your narcissist will also actively encourage this thinking and you might start to believe that you’re going a little crazy.
You will do everything in your power to mend the situation, to return to that state of bliss that you had been enjoying. In fact, you’re not unlike an addict who is chasing a high. Unless you do some thinking and self-assessment, you could wind up in this position for a long time.
Meanwhile, as you’re trying to sort out and save your relationship, he’s entered the “discard” phase. The name speaks for itself. He will now endeavour to get rid of you, as long as he can keep whatever he deems to be of value from your “relationship.” During this last phase he may also “play” with you by frequently changing his mind, by moving out and then back in, by giving you glimpses of what you thought you had during the idealization phase.
The only exception to this pattern is if you decide to leave him first. Then he will likely re-enter the idealization phase and if you allow it, you will start this roller-coaster all over again. People are not supposed to leave them – only they can do that.
I did not allow it, although he pulled out all the stops and tried everything to get me back under his control, from suicide threats to death threats. No kidding. Once I had decided that there was something seriously wrong with him – I didn’t know at the time what exactly it was – I knew that I had to get my perfectly ordinary, but perfectly good, life back again. In the world of psychopathy, it’s either the narcissist or us.
On the other hand, jerks are just jerks. They can be annoying, they can be hurtful, they can demonstrate a serious lack of social graces. But they don’t necessarily indulge in an active plan to “conquer” you.
What do you think? Are jerks just jerks or are they closer to being like narcissists than I think they are? I’d really like to hear from all of you.