Dear Chump Lady,
I know that my ex probably has NPD, but why didn’t I see any of this in over 27 years (believe me I’m not blaming myself, just inquisitive)? Like many of the chumps here, my ex turned on a dime into an evil warlock the moment I questioned him on suspecting an affair. The spewing of lies and rewriting of history — (I’ve previously mentioned that he yelled that he didn’t like crab cakes for Thanksgiving when he was the one who brought the meat home and made them) — bewildered me into a state of shock that kept me disabled me for a long time. One time as I lay on the floor sobbing he stood over me and said that he couldn’t stand to see me like that. WTF! After Dday, he was gone in three weeks and filed two months later. I went no contact to save my sanity and pretty much never heard from him again. His family dropped me soon after I told them he had filed.
Why does it take these asshats 20-25 years to implode? Why didn’t he cheat 10-15 years ago (I know he didn’t)? How is it that they are able to keep their disorder under wraps for so long? Why do these men/women wait until we are at the point of seeing retirement on the horizon? Seeing the mortgage finally paid off?
Why is it that the comfort and history of a long, healthy life shared together gets tossed into the wind for the unknown? He didn’t have any childhood issues that I can think of, excelled at his career, and loved spending time with friends and family (although I wouldn’t say he had one really close male friend). I also had no idea that his family would also drop of the radar screen.
How long was his affair? If he was cheating, you caught him, and he walked out and filed? I would guess that he had an exit affair. Obviously a shattering experience, but he was at least definitive about it. Doesn’t sound like he pleaded for more cake, or mindfucked you into a false reconciliation. I don’t mean this in the “Thank God for small mercies, count your blessings” sense, but more as a diagnostic to figure out what kind of cheater he is. IMO, the toxic NPDs live their lives to maximize kibbles. That’s why cake is so very wonderful — the marriage AND the screwing around. And the manipulation to “win” you back, or bully you into staying, is all part of the fun for them. They dig the game playing, just not the consequences.
What you’re describing is someone who probably checked out at some point, didn’t tell you — or tell you vociferously enough — trumped up his charges against you in his head — and gutlessly ended the marriage by detonating it with an affair. A passive aggressive, shitty person, but not necessarily an NPD.
I’m only surmising here, but if you could be sincerely happy with him for 27 years and he displayed empathy and compassion and good humor for many years, I doubt he’s a narcissist in the true sense. Cheating IS a narcissistic act, IMO. It’s rooted in narcissism — giving yourself person to do selfish, destructive acts for your own gain. But just cheating doesn’t make someone an NPD.
NPDs don’t keep their “disorder under wraps.” Oh no, it’s out there waving its freak flag every day. It’s just that we chumps spackle and excuse, devalue ourselves, and have our minds colonized into believing yes, they really are more deserving. Yes, they’re smarter/prettier/more clever than me. We don’t question the lopsided nature of these relationships, and we take sparkles and starvation rations of kibbles from them instead of healthy mutuality and respect. We crave their approval. Gosh, if we just try harder, maybe we’ll get better than a C+ this time! Oh, the NPD is there, it’s just that we’re such experts in accommodating it, that we act blind.
So either one of two things is happening. Either, you were living with an actual NPD and you were just too chumpy to clue in, OR you were living with a guy who was a pretty good guy (albeit passive aggressive, I’m guessing), and he gutlessly ended your marriage with an affair. NPDs have zero empathy. So when he saw you crying and said HE couldn’t stand to see you like that? Selfish. Stupid. But implicit in that is the message that your grief upsets him.
An NPD? They stand over the carnage, shrug, and while you lay prostrate sobbing, they say: “Gosh, I feel like a Hot Pocket…Yumm.” Then they step over you, microwave a snack, and then go sleep the quiet, restful sleep of the sociopath.
So look back on your long marriage — how long was he indifferent to you? Friendless? Selfish? Blame shifting? Always? Or just since the affair?
And Hurt1, does it matter? Do you feel like if you gave him the NPD stamp you could say — Oh thank God he’s not fixable, because otherwise this thing stood a chance… and I blew it? Because we don’t control other people (well, especially NPDs..) He wasn’t a good partner for you because whatever his malady, he was capable of disconnecting from you and betraying. Whatever his “unhappiness,” he didn’t speak up! He just walked! And his family suck too — but that’s usually the way it is in divorce. Blood is thicker than water, and it’s all very awkward, and so they circle the wagons and don’t reach out. If he’s truly a personality disorder? He’s been maligning you for years as well, telling them it’s All Your Fault, and that’s also why they’re quiet. Ooh… don’t touch the Crazy Ex-wife!
It’s totally UNJUST, whatever name we give his narcissism. Asking why he did what he did, when he did is just another way of untangling the skein of fuckupedness. He’s fucked up. That’s all you need to know. The GOOD NEWS is now you’re free of him and his crab-cake hating ways. Paid off mortgages aren’t everything. A new life is worth a LOT. Make it a good one.