After one of my last blog posts about cheaters and divorce, I had a discussion with one of my readers about narcissists. You see, both her and I think that our ex husbands are narcissists and could possibly suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Neither of us are psychologists (we may or may not play doctors on TV, however), but we’ve seen enough of the signs to know that each of them qualify in many ways. In hindsight, we are both very happy to have divorced our ex’s, because it is extremely difficult living with a narcissist. Both of them were cheaters, and both her and I have found good men that understand our stories.
This discussion led me to ponder if there was some sort of study about what percentage of cheaters suffer from narcissism (who am I kidding: they don’t suffer like those who are involved with them do!). So I began a search. I never found a true percentage or number to back up some of the thoughts I have about these types of individuals, but I did find out some interesting things that ring VERY true to me and my situation:
Narcissists CAN’T sympathize with their spouse or children
Last week, wisegeek.org published an article titled “What is the Connection Between Narcissism and Cheating?” In the article, is states “Most psychologists agree that narcissism and cheating in relationships often occur together because the average narcissist is unable to sympathize with, or in some cases, even see, the emotions of others. People with narcissism don’t usually understand, or care about, the emotional turmoil that their cheating causes in their spouse. Nor are they usually concerned with the wider family and social ramifications of these acts in a relationship, such as the effects that such behavior may have on any children in the family.”
When I confronted my ex husband about attending local college sporting events with his “other woman” or him going on dates to local establishments, I asked him if he had every once thought of our children. He flatly explained, “No.” As I plead with him to stop seeing her and to try to work through things (because he, too, was from a divorced family and knew how hard it would be on the kids) he would always reply, “Kids are resilient. They’ll be fine.” How truly clueless he was.
Narcissists like to maintain a “normal” appearance
The article goes on to say, “Experts believe narcissism and cheating in a relationship are inextricably interlinked. The symptoms of narcissism are often such that these individuals cheat repeatedly on their spouses or significant others, usually without understanding that they have done something wrong. The typical narcissist believes he is beyond reprisal and entitled to do as he pleases at all times. The narcissist may also feel obligated to maintain a “normal” appearance of married life, while still viewing his spouse as a hindrance and resenting the fidelity she requires of him. People with narcissism tend to use marriage for the social status and the appearance of normalcy it can bring them, rather than for intimacy or family, since they are typically incapable of real emotional closeness.”
I’ve always told friends that once I told my ex I wanted a divorce he treated me like I was the one who cheated. Angry emails, rude texts, swearing at me (he didn’t do this when we were married). The lightbulb went on one day when I realized that my asking for the divorce ruined his “image” he was putting out into the world. How true I was. Now that he’s remarried and his “normal” appearance is back in check, he’s not quite as abusive to me–yes, there are still times he lashes out with venom, but I’ve begun to heal and the affects aren’t as dominant in my life.
The effects of living with a narcissists take time to overcome
After I asked my ex to move out, it was like I could breathe again. Yes, I was mourning the loss of my family and my heart hurt for “failing” myself and my kids, but for me, Lori, I finally felt free. After counseling and many hours of reading about NPD, I realized why: living with a person suffering from NPD can slowly but surely erode your sense of self-worth till you are left feeling small, worthless, incomplete.
Some of you may remember my last post where I wrote about my overwhelming anxiety-filled moment with my now husband, Brandon. I was filled with fear and frustration when I couldn’t reach him by text or phone. The devastating issues from my first marriage clouded that moment for me, and I began to realize that the nearly 20 years of living with a narcissist may have an everlasting effect on me.
I found an article written a few weeks ago posted on Sanctuary for the Abused. The article goes into detail about how some Narcissists can cause PTSD for their victims. There was one point in the article where as I read, I stopped and wondered if I’d ever escape my ex husband’s controlling, bullying actions
Fear, horror, chronic anxiety, and panic attacks are triggered by any reminder of the experience, e.g.receiving threatening letters or email from the narcissist or psychopath or their friends, their family or attorneys. Additionally postings on online boards or sites about the victim by the abuser (often to try to make the victim look like the abusive one!) can add to these triggers and health related issues tremendously.
As I read this I remembered that I am now in control. Not him. He may spread rumors about me being a “bad mother” or a “liar” and some people may believe them, but I know the truth. Now, I limit our communications to email or text, and when he writes demeaning or rude things, I quickly put him in check and tell him to stop harassing me. His poisonous words still make their way into my psyche occasionally, but I’ve learned that his words come from a sad, lonely, insecure place. Misery loves company, right? He’s trying to pull me down to the dirty swamp he lives in. And I won’t let him anymore.
For those of you who are dealing with a narcissist in your life, there is hope to moving away from the pain and control. My experiences are not as severe as some. For that, I am lucky, but they are real. Daily, my ex husband’s behavior still affects my children–this is something we are trying work through. It’s something that will be in my life forever, and it requires work. My suggestion: read, meditate, surround yourself with positive people who love you, build a support system. Realize that you are enough just by being you. As one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, says, “If we can’t stand up to ‘the never good enough’ and ‘who do you think you are’ we can’t move forward.”
*photo credit: Wikipedia