There are many types of losses, most of which are natural and normal, even if they hurt like hell. Most of us will experience the loss of parents and grandparents, the loss of a relationship or two, the loss of a friendship. Some losses are much worse than others; the loss of a child, for instance.
Even under the best of circumstances, loss carries a huge emotional load, but when you’re dealing with the loss of a narcissist, there are whole other dimensions to consider.
It’s not just the actual physical loss: the loss of the person, the loss of that relationship, the loss of that duo-dom.
It’s the loss of much of yourself.
You’re stuck in mud, your feet becoming larger and larger as the mud adheres to your shoes and tries to hold you tightly.
You’re not just hurting from the loss of the relationship, you’re hurting from the loss of yourself: your self-confidence, your judgement, your logic.
Breakups are painful, but when the breakup involves a narcissist, there is so much more to navigate. Narcissists are litigious and aggressive, so a good lawyer (read expensive) might be required. In my case, the ex-N became threatening and I had to go to the police. I had to change my door locks, install an alarm system and hire a security company.
In the meantime, he was hammering away with every type of hoover he could think of.
At the time I didn’t know that that behaviour had a name and I didn’t know about no contact. I just wanted to get his stuff out of my house.
The simple fact is that you might not even realise until much later what you have been involved with, and until that becomes clear, the mud will stick to your shoes in a big way.
When I got my ex-N out of my life, I wasn’t very knowledgeable about narcissism, but I knew that he had to go and I had to get help.
I was fortunate on several levels: there were no children, I had financial stability (my ex-N put a huge dent in that but I was essentially okay), and I had a good supplementary heath plan and could afford counselling.
The counselling portion of my quest to reclaim my life was very important because I wasn’t just mourning the loss of a relationship; I had to come to terms with the underlying reasons for my involvement with the narcissist.
That was hard – very hard. It required me to look at myself in ways that were uncomfortable and difficult.
I had to get to know myself better. And getting to know myself was paramount because it is my best defense against further involvement with another N.
In the meantime, my sense of self, my judgement and confidence were all on life support and I had no trust in them at all.
I had to rebuild, and the structure that came out is nothing that I expected. I like it though. It’s a good structure, even if it’s not pretty.
Most of all, I had to let myself grieve: I had to recognise the guilt and stupidity I felt about myself, forgive myself for that part of my humanity, and allow myself some relief from the self-criticism.
With help, I let myself off the hook and began to learn what I need to learn from this experience.
When I take a look though my search terms, I am sometimes surprised at what I find there. “Narcissist piano” showed up there, three times. I did a post about it. Another time, I did a post on a very serious search term: how to get a narcissist to love you. You can read that post here.
Now I’ve found this lovely search term: what to say to a narcissist to get him back. I suppose that on the surface, it’s not so different from “trying to get a narcissist to love you,” but maybe the searcher is thinking of other things, like trying to get the narcissist back to force him into his share of the child-raising, or something else like that. But I wouldn’t bet money on it.
Maybe the searcher wants the narcissist back so that she can treat him as badly as he treated her: revenge! Hummm. That is a possibility. We human beings can get pretty angry at the injustices done us and sometimes it helps to fantasise about getting our own back. So yes, I can envision someone typing this into her google search, visions of vengeful scenarios dancing in her head.
But given the whole narcissist trainwreck that gets dumped all over the victim’s lawn, there’s probably always some fantasising about revenge, but on balance anyone who has escaped a narcissist probably doesn’t want him back. I mean, there might be those who fantasise that the narcissist has been cured, has mended his ways, has learned his lesson, yadayadayada. But no one dreams about getting the actual narcissist back, with his narcissy ways intact.
This person is in denial.
She’s heard others say that he’s a narcissist. She’s looked it up and seen some descriptors of narcissistic behaviour that apply greatly to this person. Maybe he’s told her that he’s a narcissist.
So, the word “narcissist” is out there, but she’s not taking it as seriously as she should. She’s dissociating from it?
Denial is an amazing thing.
Sometimes, denial can be a good thing. It can help us to make the adjustment after a traumatic or distressing event; it can give us time to take in what has happened. In the short term, it can protect us.
The problems start when the denial goes on for too long, especially in the face of mounting opposite evidence.
We can get that way about our relationships, and can find ourselves hanging on by the threadiest of marginal hopes that what we are seeing isn’t what we are seeing.
Or choosing to not see at all …
… and even inventing another “reality.”
What to say to a narcissist to get him back? How to get a narcissist to love you? How to get a narcissist to chase me? I wonder about the people who type in these questions. Sometimes, I worry about them a bit too.
Do they just not know what a narcissist is? A real, live, NPD narcissist?
Have they convinced themselves that they can “cure” the narcissist with their love? That all the narcissist needs is a chance to see that trust is possible? That love is possible?
Is the narcissist simply a challenge? (And if so, this brings with it a whole other dynamic – is the person who’s trying to win the narcissist back also a narcissist?)
Or, is this simply human nature? A very human need to show that problems, no matter what they are, can be solved? That there really is love in a world that so often demonstrates the opposite? That there are second chances and that they do work?
In other words, that there’s hope. And perhaps, that’s the most human of human characteristics. And also perhaps, it’s incredibly misplaced sometimes.
What do you think? Is hope sometimes misplaced? How do we know when to have hope and when to not have hope? Is denial hope or hope denial?
NPD narcissists consume a huge amount of emotional labour. And before you know it, you can be down on your knees, completely exhausted, while the narcissist continues to, at the very least, be extremely dissatisfied.
There is no filling them up. They are never full. They are never sated. They are never content.
They simply have periods of digestion. Slowing down, savouring, enjoying … that’s not something with which they’re comfortable.
And yet, they desire the relief that slowing down and savouring can bring. They want it desperately and will chase it far and wide, but don’t know when they have it and are even scared of attaining it.
If they slow down … they might have to really consider themselves. And why bother with doing that? Because there you are, ready and willing to help them avoid their inadequacies and polish their fantasies.
Your love, your work, your labour will save them. At least for now. Until you do something human that screws up their picture of you and they start convincing you that there’s serious stuff wrong with you.
Up until that point, you’ve been pouring your emotional energy into them to shore them up, to give them a sense of self-confidence, to make them happy, to take away their pain, to provide them with everything they think they have been missing. And you’re beginning to feel depleted and exhausted.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Because when you start to think that they’re right, that there’s stuff wrong with you and that that’s why they’re detaching, you will bear down even more.
You will expend labour on improving yourself, fixing yourself, correcting yourself. You will forget about your efforts to help them. There’s a terrifying, growing list of stuff you have to attend to, right now, before they walk out the door forever and it will be all your fault. Your emotions are twangling like a poorly strung violin.
All that work. All that labour. And this is what you get?
How did this happen?
Well, it happened because that’s how a true NPD narcissist is. The second they acquire whatever they have been chasing, they lose interest. And make no mistake, you are a “whatever.” After the chase has been won, you simply become a source of supply. Supplying what? A supply of whatever the narcissist saw as being desirable to take from you.
It could be money. Or status. Or connections. Or a place to live. Or warm fuzzies. Maybe it was all of those. It could be that you provided yourself as a person to control. Or as a person to feel superior to. Or maybe you’re a challenge to be dismantled, in which case you supply him with proof that no one is better than he is. Whatever the combination of holes you were filling for the narcissist … that’s what you were doing. Filling holes.
And filling holes is time consuming, hard labour with little reward; few of us will want to shout, oh, look what I did! A hole to be proud of!
So. The seasonal narcissist. A narcissist behaves according to three operational seasons: idealising, devaluing and discarding.
Oh yes. Narcissists can take apart a seasonal holiday, too. I’ve written about that before, and you can read my scribblings here and here. But to the narcissist, you are also seasonal, and you have a beginning, middle and end.
Is there anything seasonal about the narcissist from a conventional point of view? Yes, there is.
Think Hallowe’en. Think hobgoblin.
Personally, I tend to think dentist, as in that stuff you find in the spit cup they give you. I certainly don’t think Valentine’s Day. If there’s a season out there for the narcissist to manipulate your emotional labour and “prove” to you that you’re anything but special, it’s Valentine’s. In fact, it’s one of their favourite discard days.
Have you had a seasonal experience with a narcissist?
Right now I’m working on Part III of “Where Does Narcissism Come From” but it’s not ready yet as I’m just now recovering from a nasty bout of flu. So, in the meantime, I’m recycling. Here’s an old post that continues to generate a lot of interest. Have a good weekend. 🙂
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.
Spring has just started and we of course will have Easter in a couple of days. For many people this is an important religious occasion but the idea of a spring celebration of some sort has been with us since ancient times.
Many places in Europe have a bonfire night at some point during the spring, the idea being that lots of light will chase away the darkness and usher in the longer days more quickly.
Down through the ages and across many cultures there has been an emphasis on rebirth and growth and rejuvenation and young, fluffy animals and, of course, on eggs – those classic symbols of birth and new life.
It’s fun to get together with family or friends to have a few egg fights (with the hard boiled ones, not the raw ones!) to find out which egg will be the “champion.”
As a child I really enjoyed Easter. The whole Easter egg hunt bit was a lot of fun.
I grew up with roasted lamb and roasted salmon at Easter and we often finished off the last of the frozen or canned produce from my mother’s garden from the previous year.
Now, of course, we can get almost anything that we want at any time of year, day or night, as long as we are willing to pay the price. Strawberries from New Zealand during December. Quinoa from South America, a product my parents had never heard of. Wine from South Africa. “On demand” movies at three a.m.
There is, of course, the argument that we should be more cognizant of “eating locally” or should attempt to follow the “Hundred Mile Diet.” The global food industry is seriously contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and our desire for exotic products like quinoa is harming accessibility to the indigenous peoples for whom it is a basic foodstuff.
Despite these arguments, though, I have to say that I’m simply nostalgic for the times when we actually had “food seasons.” Of course, I ranted about a related topic in one of my Christmas posts which you can read here.
Nevertheless, I got rather annoyed when I saw the chocolate eggs gracing the store shelves back in January. They were literally competing with the chocolate valentines. I commented on this to one of the store employees who said that they had no choice but to put them out because they were shipped to them and couldn’t sit in storage. She told me that she had heard the same complaint from other customers, a response that may or may not have been true.
The fact is, there’s nothing special about it any more. Many of us have access to so much plenty that we have no appreciation for where it comes from or for what it takes to land in our stores. We have everything we could possibly want and our expectations keep escalating. A few days ago I watched a teenager of about 14 deliberately damaging her iPhone. She then bragged to the people she was sitting with that it was okay because her parents would get her a new one.
Our desire for whatever we want, when we want it, is inflicting hardship on those with less means. It is causing environmental damage.
We’re fat. We’re complacent.
When I was a kid, I could tell what month it was from what was available in stores and even in my own back yard.
I think it’s Easter. But frankly, given what’s on the store shelves, it could be August. And that’s a little sad.
So, in this season of rebirth and growth, we might want to consider doing a little “growing” ourselves by keeping an eye on where items are coming from. To perhaps buy “locally” more often. To be a little less demanding and a little less entitled. To be a little more in control of our basic narcissism.
I’ve been nominated for the “Liebster Award.” Twice. I’ve also been nominated for the “Versatile Blogger” award. I would be lying if I didn’t say that this made me feel all warm and smiley. It certainly did. All three times. However, I would also be lying if I said that I would be comfortable in accepting them. So, I just wind up in a real conundrum. I want to acknowledge and thank the people who have nominated me, but I also don’t want to jump through the hoops of acceptance and put up the badges, either.
If I have it correctly, the “Liebster” works like this (the “Versatile Blogger” award is similar): if you’ve been nominated, you can nominate others who have less than 300 followers. They answer some questions about themselves and then they nominate others who have to answer new questions developed by the latest nominees. And on it goes. It reminds me a bit of a chain letter or chain e-mail.
I can see the advantages of participating. If you’re relatively new it spreads word of your blog around and may encourage people to take a look. This is tempting to me because my purpose is to get the word out, as widely as possible, about all those narcissists out there.
However, I wouldn’t be comfortable answering the questions and I definitely wouldn’t be comfortable displaying the badges. I don’t want to get too much into my personal life for obvious reasons. My ex-narcissist, like most narcissists, is volatile and vengeful. If he were able to verify the author of this blog, I’d be in trouble, even though I’ve also protected him. Not that he would get anywhere much, but he would probably try to sue me, something I could really do without. He’s about as litigious a person as you could ever come across – in fact I would say that if he’s anything to go by, it’s a characteristic of narcissism. For that reason, I’ve been careful to keep the identifying features to a minimum. I don’t want to say what I do for a living or where I graduated from high school or how many children I have.
There’s also the fact that I’m just not comfortable, generally, with sharing that sort of information or with displaying badges. I would like to acknowledge, however, the people who have nominated me.
First of all, Project Southsea. He’s a good young writer with a wonderfully dry sense of humour who does manage to get himself into some interesting situations. I very much admire the fact that he’s willing to share these awkward experiences with the rest of us.
Secondly, there’s trophydaughter. She was very kind to nominate me and also offered to let me dump the rules! She’s dealing with a narcissistic mother and writes fluidly and candidly about the frustrations and difficulties of handling with that situation.
Thank you both. You honour me.
I also want to suggest an alternative to the blogging awards, however. Teeny Bikini, author of The Jiggly Bits, passed this idea on to me, which is to nominate people for the WP Reader’s Choice Awards. You can nominate a favourite post – an excellent idea. And by the way, if you haven’t visited Teeny’s blog yet, you are really missing out. She’s funny and edgy and completely wonderful. Take a peek.
There are so many good writers, artists and poets on WP, and I really enjoy all the people on my reader, but here are some particular favourites, in no special order:
1. Narc Raiders – Betty does excellent commentary on narcissism.
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.
I’ve to some extent discussed before how narcissists fly red flags signalling who and what they are. The problem is that most of us can see that the wind is blowing something around but we don’t know what it is. If you’re like me, and raised on a sound diet of Hollywood movies, you’re going to set caution firmly aside, walk right up to this thing that’s blowing around and, sighing in relief, say, “It’s okay, it’s a pair of underwear!” Now, if you’re a lot like me, after a moment you’re also going to say, “Actually, it doesn’t really look like a pair of underwear, it might be a flag.” And then you’ll promptly talk yourself out of it because you can’t believe that there would be a flag blowing around, unattended, in the middle of the bald-ass desert. Which is where you’re going to be if you don’t start recognizing that it’s a flag, and that really, there’s lots more than just one of them. And anyway, why would it be more logical for a pair of underwear to be blowing around?
I knew you’d want to know. It’s because we want it to be a pair of underwear. Underwear blowing around? That’s funny. You can speculate endlessly on who owned them and how they got out there, all with humourous intent and lots of giggles and baa ha ha -ing.
But a flag? Everyone knows about flags. Alert: this is mine, all mine. You don’t belong here. Danger: if you don’t leave, I’ll throw a rock at you. Or something worse. Aggression: I’m bigger and better than you. I’m going to mess you up and take your stuff.
Flags carry an incredibly heavy emotional load and all of it is personal. I recently watched an Anthony Bourdain show about Madrid where the status of the Spanish flag was discussed. Until Spain won the World Cup of Soccer in 2010 and started to view their flag as a positive symbol, they were careful with it. They had viewed it as the flag of Francisco Franco, the dictator they were stuck with for 40 years until 1975 and therefore did not see it as a symbol of national pride.
Essentially, what the Spanish did for 35 years was either ignore or minimize the importance of their flag. It set off alarm bells, caused bad memories to re-surface and drove them into an uncomfortable place. That’s what red flags do, too.
So, even though our biology is telling us to be cautious, to be aware, we are just as capable of ignoring or minimizing those warnings. When it comes to narcissistic red flags, how far will we go to subvert our own better judgement?
Pretty far, if my own experience is anything to go by. For example, very early on I saw Harry’s ability to flip-flop, and that’s how I saw it, too. What I was ignoring were the first signs of his instability. These signs got lost in how brilliant he was at courting me – showering me with compliments and small presents. This was me: “Was that a red flag? No, it can’t be! Let me look at all these compliments instead …” I saw the flag but chose to turn it into a pair of underwear instead.
I also saw his sense of superiority and arrogance, too, but I chose to see them as indicative of a sort of bohemian intelligence a la Jack Kerouac. I came to realize how narrow his interests were – despite his protestations that he is a great reader, he reads only one author who writes mystery/suspense novels. I later saw that Harry likes to envision himself as this author’s central character – he is much more Walter Mitty than Jack Kerouac.
The fact that he owned very little while at the same time carrying an enormous debt load should have been another red flag and in fact was a red flag. I just got busy and rationalized it. He had explanations for everything, explanations that seemed logical at the time: I live in a travel trailer because my work takes me all over the place. I have a lot of debt because of the lawsuit (some of you may recall that there were actually several lawsuits including one against him) – this followed by a diversionary discussion of how the two women he sued had ruined his life and how I was making it better. I certainly was! I had started paying out money for him, including paying one of his huge debts.
He claimed to be a great cook and in fact often was in the kitchen, but his abilities in that area were very narrow and adolescent. He kept making and eating the same things, most of it junk food. He was obsessed with fruit pies and kept making pastry over and over again and throwing out the results. He threw out lots of other things, too. My grocery bill kept rising and he made no attempt to contribute. I put it down to his culinary perfectionism and chose to listen instead to the siren song of his compliments.
Almost everything that he owned was in poor condition, although saying that he “owned” these items is fanciful, at best. The bank and various credit card companies owned them, and that’s part of the reason why they weren’t well maintained. He didn’t really have any investment in them. He soon started treating my possessions with the same degree of disrespect and also for the same reason. To off-set any concerns I might have he kept saying that he would “soon” start contributing financially, but that never did happen.
There didn’t seem to be anyone in his life except me. There were no phone calls back and forth between him and his “friends” and his daughter didn’t generate any contact either. He kept telling me that I was the only person who understood him and I chose to start believing that.
During the first year of our relationship we were rather isolated. He had no interest in meeting my friends or family and in fact tried to avoid them. I thought it very affirming that he seemed so focussed on me.
He had no interest whatsoever in my family or family background except as it suited him – he chose to take my surname when we married. I thought that was a lovely tribute! He was just trying to re-invent himself while at the same time escaping some of his creditors.
He wanted to get married as quickly as possible.
With respect to our relationship he at one point told me that I “should be careful what [I] wish for.” He later soothed me by saying that he had just been in a “down mood.”
Before we started living together I seriously considered breaking it off with him, but I had never been much of a “no” person – I lacked personal boundaries – and I was also afraid of being the “bad guy.” Like many women, I wanted to maintain a friendly relationship with him, not cause a bitter split and treat him like the women of his past had treated him. Great, huh? He had so convinced me that I was different and special that even as I was thinking of getting out, I was still buying into his idealization of me. If that’s not master manipulation, I don’t know what is.
Do you see yourself here? Is there a pattern for you? Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t delude yourself. Don’t be afraid to look. Because if you see yourself here, then you’re flagging, and you really will be flagging unless you chose to see the flags and not the underwear.
Get out. It won’t be easy and it won’t be pretty, and he (or she) will try everything, and I mean everything, to stay in your life. There will be crying, howling, cajoling, bribery, lying, threatening, shouting, sobbing and screaming. There might even be “suicide attempts” or “suicidal ideation.” None of this is real. It’s just a stage show designed to get you back so that he (or she) can continue to use you. So you have to get out, either now or later. Don’t wind up regretting that you ignored the flags.