Sunday, June 14, 2009

Clues to the Narcissist

SSS was a narcissist. No question. Big case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Of course, I was one of those naive women who can't see the forest for the trees. Flowers...steak-and-lobster dinners...compliments...we all know the drill. Now. Then, not so much.

The first hint that all was not well was when he said that physical faithfulness was really meaningless in the face of true love. Tiny bells jingled quietly, like a distant wind chime. The thing about his calling his mother a bitch wasn't even on the radar. Note to Ann Landers: his mother really was a bitch. That bell didn't begin to toll for years and years.

But then, he said something even I had trouble justifying.

His ex-girlfriend was my room mate, and he moved in with the both of us. His ex (I'll call her Jill), wanted her current boyfriend to share a place with her, and wanted us to move out to sort of clear the decks, as it were. He (I'll call him Tom) was living with his mother, who really needed his help. One evening, Jill was complaining about Tom preferring his mother to her, and SSS said, "He has more sense than to live with you. Maybe he knows something we don't."

I was shocked silent. Never had I ever heard anyone say anything so deliberately hurtful to someone's face! I had not yet recovered when the large glass ashtray came flying through the air. She missed. Deliberately, I think.

That distant chime had become an insistent alarm, which I put on "snooze" for years.

Hey. I was a long way from home, and very stubborn. I managed to convince myself that it was Jill's fault, and that he would never say anything like that to me. After all, I was special. He loved me. He told me so.

By the time he did start saying hurtful things to me, I was convinced he was right. The bell clanged so constantly that I learned to tune it out.

Is this what happens in relationships where the wives end up dead? It does seem likely.


  1. Oh, to have a gigantic bottle of White Out for those hurtful memories. Bad as they were, they taught us things we never would have learned from our parents (shame on them).

  2. It wasn't hard for me to reject a guy who spoke of other women in derogatory terms. That was never hard.

    Do women ever think that it enhances their own standing in the relationship for the other woman to be characterized as a bitch? She's a bitch, but you're a Real Lady.

    I've known women who gleefully chime in when their men talk like that. "We call her the [insert epithet], hee hee hee!"

  3. I actually think the b-word is a test phrase men throw out to see if you'll concur, or at least not object.

    Are women then expected to correspondingly characterize their exes as pricks, jerks, bahstids? Is it a code language exchange?

    One thing it does signal is a willingness to use that language. "She's a bitch!" he cries. "He's a prick!" she cries. Ah--we understand each other.

    Then one day the lovers turn and say those words to each other. Then they split up and say it to a new lover.

  4. Driver, you may be familiar with the Joan Baez album, "Farewell, Angelina." The cover was a full face picture of Joan, with her hair flying off to the side. My date came to pick me up, and was snooping through my records (as one does...) He picked up the cover and said, "Who's the ugly broad?"

    That was the end of that relationship.

  5. One of the silliest things I ever did was destroy all pictures of my first husband at the behest of SSS. I wish I had them, now. He was an important four years of my youth...

  6. I am almost certain that my ex had some sort of personality disorder though not narcissism - most likely borderline personality disorder. One commonality is that both lack empathy/conscience.

    I've read a fair bit on narcissism - one writer said that after an encounter with a narsissist, one either goes away mad or sad. I find that holds to be true.

    As to your last question. let me just say you're so very lucky to be out - alive and still sane.

    What is certain is that NPD is all pervasive and the most reisitant to change.

  7. As long as the focus is on Him! Him! Him! the Victimizer! and not on why we shut off our brains and just Do What He Says Cuz We Love 'im, we will continue to be victimized.

    It takes two to tango. I do not understand how the "charm offensive" is supposed to work in post-feminist America. I get nervous immediately when a guy's too ardent at the start, or leaves multiple "just callin' to see how you're doin'" phone messages.

    I agree that on the surface the Ardent Guy seems to match the Rosemary Rogers ideal ("Damn you bitch I love you you bitch"), or perhaps (for us theatre folks) Billy Bigelow. UltraPassionate Man also a staple of movies and television, from Clark Gable to practically any cop show you pick. So much anger! Must mean he has deep emotions--like love!

    Women will address this to a point, but then the glance floats up to the ceiling and the shoulders shrug and it's all about Well, I loved him. (And Love is Never Wrong, so get off my back.)

    It's the catch-all explanation, and one that also burnishes the Women Are Love medal we give ourselves.

    You can't be criticized for loving--not even loving too much and ending up a victim. Loving is the Woman thing to do, it defines us. The quote goes something like, "for a man, love is a pleasure taken; for a woman, love is her life."

  8. Is it hormonal or societal? Are we taught to perceive lust as love in order to satisfy it?

    Just how DID God become a male figure? IOW, how did the perception that males are more valuable begin?

    Obviously, we have to subvert that, one woman at a time, but I have no idea how to do it.

    You are correct, I think, in saying that when we see "love" as our raison d'etre, we place ourselves in a very vulnerable position, and one which plays into male dominance.

  9. We are not taught to perceive lust as love, perhaps, but any man who focuses predatory attention on us--even if that is negative attention--has a good shot at being called Lover if he is persistent enough and figures out which attractant will work (Expensive gifts? Flowers? Love poems? Available at the drop of a hat? Lets you talk about your feelings?*).

    I received Women Who Love Too Much (see? it's about love) from a friend. The first few pages, which were a compendium of victim stories, were well marked and obviously well read.

    But when the book started to focus on women and the attitudes we hold (and hold very, very dear), and a woman's OWN RESPONSIBILITY to take care of herself and make smart decisions, the markings stopped. You could tell the book was unread from that point on.

    Knowing the woman as I do, she's much more comfortable wearing the mantle of Victim Of Loving Too Much rather than Victim of Bad Decisions and Popular Delusions.

    Yes, it might be hormones--but then we get into Norman Mailer territory. We accuse men of being poisoned by testosterone, to the point of being impossible to reason with--but women must not--how dare you!--ever be similarly labeled. That's what the feminist movement was supposed to free us from, the notion that we are hormonal hysterics.

    But I think women are hormonal hysterics, and that leads to bad relationship decisions. We just refuse to admit it, and refuse to deal with it.

    Likewise, baby lust has a definite hormonal factor. No woman would ever consider taking counteractive hormones as a means of reducing their influence, however. Those hormones make you feel good, and those hormones are for a super-good reason: the creation of children and parenting bonds (i.e, our reason for existence).

    So no one should ever dare to suggest that women might be better off with pharmacologically moderated hormones.

    *I talked to a disgruntled male who was unhappy that he was rejected, because "I let her talk about her feelings, you know, all that stuff, and I didn't say anything or interrupt her, I was really nice and sensitive." So the sensitive-male thing can be faked, too. He had no idea what she was trying to communicate, nor did he care--he just figured it was part of the payment for sex, like dinner. And he was angry, too.

  10. I think the best advice I could give to somebody starting a relationship is to go slowly. If he wants you to commit right away, that should be a signal to back off. You need to wait, and see how he reacts in adverse circumstances.

    a) You are offered a promotion, but it requires you to go out of town for training. How does he react?

    b) You get a letter from your male cousin in California. How does he react?

    c) He gets laid off. How does he react?

    The big question is "How does he react?"

    The thing is, we all need to get our lives in order, and not act like we need a man above all else. Predators pick up on that.

    Our main priority in life is to find what our "work" is, and set out to do it.

    The man we can truly love is the one who treats us as an equal.

  11. But you know what else is true, and that shames all people, not only women?

    The mantra that the MOST important thing in anyone's life is to love someone.

    This is partly true. But where it gets toxic, and shaming, and harmful, is when we interpret "to love someone" as meaning, "find a romantic relationship and make it last, because making it last is the MOST IMPORTANT THING any human being can do."

    It's love "someone." Not just "love." "Love" always is defined as "love romantically."

    I love my friends, I loved my cat. I love the two little girls I tutor. I love the elders I work with. I love trees, sky, and the natural world. I think those forms of love are as valid as any. But I've felt shamed and invalid as a human being because I haven't had a romantic relationship that lasted very long, because THAT'S the ne plus ultra of love. It's the only form of love that shows itself to the world.

    Couples holding hands, elderly people smooching, the warm sleepy tangle of you and your man, the nuzzling Viagra lovers, the embrace at the train station. Those warm-n-fuzzy magazine and TV images are what we are told is Love, our Most Important Task, our reason for existence, our life's highest aim.

    Sucks, man.

  12. One of Jim's former students, recently (at the time) graduated from high school, gave the main...I don't know what to call it. Eulogy? Stand up comedy routine? I don't know but he made us laugh and cry, and pelted us with Jolly was perfect. In short, Jim would have loved it. He and I were having lunch a couple of months later and he said that he thought that being Mr Prior's wife was the think I was best at.

    Because he is so very young, I forgave him that remark. God knows he will kick himself around the block if he ever remembers saying that, after he grows up all the way.