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Don’t Reason with a Narcissist

Got an interesting letter from “Chump Son,” who raises an issue most of us can probably relate to, if you’ve ever tried to reason your way to consensus with a narcissist — asking for some consideration, and finding they get secondary gain from denying you. AND they file away that request under “Chump Vulnerability I Can Exploit Later.”

You don’t like it when I don’t do my laundry? Fuck you. Watch it pile up. You aren’t the boss of me! Note to self… chump really hates a messy house. Exploit that nugget into — Chump Is a Hard Ass. Chump Has Impossible Expectations of Me. Etc.

This ain’t normal. But if you live with the crazy long enough, you’ll find yourself asking reasonable things 57 different ways (maybe it’s the way I asked?) and hoping for a different result.

This is always the wrong approach, of course. Because the problem isn’t YOU, the problem is that the game is rigged. It’s THEM.

Chump Son writes:

I realized how my attempts to be reasonable — (“Gee, Dad, it really, really, really upsets me to hear you complain about Mom.  I think that you should talk to someone else about this.”) — to exercise self-control, to ask nicely, to try to nudge the conversation, were all like blood in the water to a Great White Shark.

Reasonableness is vulnerability.  There was recently another article (I think) on The Huffington Post by a lady who said that, if you are dealing with a narcissist, you don’t want to be reasonable or nice in the conventional sense — you want to be strategic.  And that means being cold-blooded.  So long as I was saying, “Dad, this really bothers me.  Don’t do it,” I was inviting yet another filleting.

Of course, with a normal person, this would not be the case. Normal people think, “Shit, this hurts Chump Son’s feelings. I won’t do it.”  N-people do NOT do that.  They smell that blood in the water.

Piggy-backing on yesterday’s post — that is why boundaries are so important, especially with disordered wing nuts. They aren’t playing with the same rule book you are. It’s pretty clear through their actions that they do not give a shit. About your feelings. About what you want. About what the greater good is. It is all about them.

Also — and I learned this too late, but it’s so important when you’re going through a divorce — never discuss your feelings with them. In fact, the 180 and no contact are such effective tools because they deny the narcissist the essential information that they need to mindfuck you. To manipulate someone, you need to know what their buttons are. When you tell a narcissist “Hey, this REALLY UPSETS ME” — you just handed them your button.

So be an enigma. Don’t show them your vulnerable underbelly. Don’t try to plead or reason with them, or tell them you care. More than just being kibbles and centrality to them (which they love), it’s POWER. That’s how the empathy-deficient see it.

Remember, you’re not a pawn, you’re a person. Tip over the chess board and leave the game.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Narcissists are so fucked up. They totally mess up everyone around them too. You are so right on, CL. But until you’ve lived it, you just don’t know. And until your brain defrosts, it’s easy to take on their blame. They seem so together and nice on the surface. But they are truly evil.

    Here’s a story that illustrates what you were explaining, just one of many confounding, fucked up examples of the evil games narcissists play. This one is so minor but shows the insidious nature of their behaviour:

    Shortly after DDay, our therapist recommended the book, “After the Affair.” He told my STBX that it was his responsibility to get the book. My STBX swore up and down how important it was to reconcile. He promised to read that book. He talked a good game. Even after everything, I even believed him.

    But this voracious reader managed to put off buying it. I would have settled for the book collecting dust on the nightstand. Every weekend off he’d drive RIGHT PAST several book stores, would dismiss my suggestions to go inside.

    The day after a huge fight about the book — during which he promised to buy it at the next opportunity — we went furniture shopping instead to an Ikea that shared a parking lot with a bookstore. It had to have been on purpose. Again, he drove right past it. It was a game. He knew how important it was to me. Him buying the book would have been a teensy gesture of love considering everything I’d been through — and I would have settled for that smallest of tokens. But he was seeing how long he could withhold and hurt me. He was a cat pawing an injured mouse. And it was always my fault somehow for being so demanding … he had too much going on at work, I was being unreasonable, he was planning to buy the book next Monday, etc. I was stomping on the delicate flower of his remorse. That’s why he had to call me a bitch, slam the door, and take off for a few hours. Of course!

    Finally, when I broke down and bought the book and started reading it, he flipped out, accusing me of “reveling” in all the stuff about him being an asshole cheater. He’d had it with my bullshit!

    He would have never bought the book, CL. He wanted me to believe he cared to string me along for kibble, to look good in the eyes of the therapist, and for whatever sick pleasure he derived from playing his narcissistic games. But he didn’t give a shit about my feelings. He never did read that book.

    Narcissists are broken people with disordered personalities. They can’t be fixed. I have a million of these type of stories and they all involve some type of withholding for their pleasure. To normal people it’s so obvious, we would never withhold to hurt someone. To these sick fucks that’s their raison d’etre.

    • Awww Sad, that’s another perfect example, he had me hurt, upset, confused, jittery anxious and sad all the time all because I did not realize it was a game. Well I’m not playing anymore, and I’m glad you aren’t either!

    • Perfect example. Plus I like the idea of needing your brain to defrost before you can appreciate your situation.

      Plus, what is it with cheaters and IKEA? I swear, cheap particle board pressed into trendy shapes attracts those folks like cow flop attracts flies!

        • Yep, I think my idiot ex and her AP-turned-new-hubby mostly decked out their new love nest mostly in disposable crap from the Home of the Horsemeat Meatball.

          And I have a theory about this. . . .

          I think many serial cheaters are all about: 1) appearances; and 2) gratification NOW. So, the fact things are ***cheap*** and ***not likely to last*** (furniture, affair partners–whatever) isn’t nearly so important as the fact that their stuff is perceived as hip and cheap enough that it requires no saving.

          Though maybe I’m over-generalizing just a bit. . . .

    • OMG, this story is horrid and almost unbelievable, Sad in Seattle, except it happened to me so many, MANY times!! You did not deserve any of this, and I hope you are now living a life of clarity with people who are trustworthy and reliable.

      • Sad in Seattle and Chimera,
        I bought so many books that I was sure would be the cure. It would be part of my new system to make everything work including a detailed list of what I would do to be better, etc..He’d listen and tell me what a good job I had done to face the problem and then not read the book. I’d remind and he’d read a chapter or two that was most relevant. When I minced around the bush about what he would do, he’d say he’d think about it and show me in a few days. Never happened. He’d end up saying he didn’t need to change anything. I’d nod eagerly and promise to be a good girl. It’s almost laughable now. I feel very far from being that person now and I never thought I’d be this far. You really do move on and shed those beliefs. Amazing I’m on the other side of grief. I didn’t think I would make it.

        • nwrain, Thank you for this:

          “…I never thought I’d be this far. You really do move on and shed those beliefs. Amazing I’m on the other side of grief. I didn’t think I would make it.”

          You did, and so did I! — It’s really started to hit home in the last little while, and your words strongly affirm — make me realize with surety — that I’m “on the other side of grief.” What a fantastic reality check. 🙂

          How long has it been for you, since the break? For me, nearly three years —

  • Interesting,
    Good luck to you Chump Son, I think you are great for having discovered this, although I know it hurts. As I’ve been working my way through this misery and reading, reading, reading CL, there is so much hindsight… X would always say things to upset me, about just about anything really and when I responded, usually surprised he would say such a thing he would always laugh it off and say “Ha HA – you take everything so serious – your’e so easy” He was just pushing my buttons like a (evil) kid with a toy. I swear he must have done it 1000’s of times…till I pretty much started zoning him out. Looking back I think that’s when he started to become more and more blatant in his cheating…he wasn’t able to pin me down as much so he had to hurt me more so he had my undivided attention. Awful…

  • What’s so sad is that normal people DO discuss their feelings. We are naturally inclined to be vulnerable with our spouse, but then we find out that he has been storing up those vulnerabilities to use against us decades later!
    My h is more the avoidant-personality/passive-aggressive variety, with shades of narcissism, not the full-blown syndrome. Still, I find that when I let down my guard he will find a way to do something hurtful.
    Great advice as always!

    • STBX definitely uses things I’ve told him about my family and whatever to push my buttons now. Or he tries. I just laugh at him. This is a middle aged man who still lets his parents tell him what to do. My family is as fucked up in it’s own way as the next but at least we respect one another…and we OWN our crazy. 🙂

      • Oh Nord,
        I am ashamed to admit he had me pretty much alieanated (sp?) from mine…everytime there was some sort of family “thing” to attend he would tell me how they were using me, etc. etc. but you are SO right, we OWN our crazy too..I just have to quietly make amends…in my own way…

        • My family dynamics are…interesting. But we are always there for one another (boy, did I find that out when this shitstorm hit) and while we have our differences we care about each other and we love each other. His family says love a lot but it’s a weird kind of love, in that they all have to go with the agreed upon opinion on whatever…or they’re shunned. It’s an enabling family, not a supportive family–and I think there’s a real difference in that.
          I’ll take my nutty family any day of the week over the fake bullshit of his.

          • In a weak moment (he was drunk) my STBX said that he didnt understand why Im so close to my family, but he barely talks to his. His parents have both passed on, but he has a brother and a sister within 30 miles of us, and we never see them. He is estranged from his 2 kids from his first marriage, and now he’s pushed me away until I had to file for divorce or just let him break me all together. So now he has no one. Im sure thats my fault too. Maybe the reason that no one is truely close to him is because his a selfish, egotistical, lying, hypocrital asshole.

    • Laurel:

      I think the majority of cheaters fit the avoidant, passive aggressive type heavy on naricssistic traits without actually having a full blown NPD disorder.

      If the psychologists we saw had thought that my husband had a personality disorder like NPD, BPD or HPD, I would not have even considered attempting a reconciliation.

      I actually asked each of the psychologists we saw to evaluate my ex for those disorder prior to agreeing a trying a reconciliation.

      • I agree with you. My therapist said that we usually try to fit people into categories, but most people have a mixture of problems. My husband is definitely passive aggressive, avoidant, and has narcissistic traits, but he doesn’t go out of his way to hurt people. He just does what he wants without caring about others. Unfortunately, the results are just as painful. He managed to destroy his own life as well as mine, and he’s in pain too. His pain, however, is based on how the consequences are affecting him. Sad.

        • Good point, Goldie:

          I forgot to mention that ALL cheaters are selfish and self absorbed. So it makes sense their pain after being divorced for cheating is about their losses and that fact that most cheaters do destroy their own lives in the end, too.

          My ex used to talk about people he knew who cheated and how they were foolish to do so because they destroyed their lives in the end. Kind of sad that he went down that road anyway.

          It’s like moth drawn to a flame. In the end, he did not want the divorce and resisted it. So sad.

          • Count my STBX in the ‘sorry for the consequences’ category. It’s quite amazing that he can feel so much self-pity about what has happened – I’ve heard about how he too has to rebuild his life and it’s hard, blah blah blah. I swear, the man gives me more laughs than I can count these days. Poor baby, got caught fucking around and now has to face up to the results, which is financial fuckery, losing pretty much everything we worked for and boy, oh, boy, is he down about it. He hates that he has to give me some of ‘his’ money. What a dick.

          • Over the years my ex had mentioned people he worked with who had had affairs – some even went to prostitutes. I remember telling him that I was disgusted & I would never invite the cheaters into our home nor would we accept any future invites from them.

            I remember the Thanksgiving Sunday when it was announced that Tiger Woods had crashed his car outside of his house & that his wife allegedly used a golf club to dent his car. I said to my then-husband that Tiger was such a dirty dog & he deserves what he gets. My husband was silent – no big deal at the time. Shortly after DDay I found a log of the days he spoke, dated & kissed his whore. My heart was stabbed again when I realized that he had secretly talked to her that same evening of the dirty dog. Asshat!

        • Ah… they are so charming with the shrinks, aren’t they? Diagnosis? That’s just it. As its so difficult to treat, (getting back what was never there in the first place), its difficult to diagnose UNLESS one is their target. The shrink is the last person they want to alienate and therefore, you’ll get… no, I do not detect any personality disorder. right. this is why I think that couple’s therapy with a narc is a massive trap and one that’s more than likely only going to further traumatize the abused spouse.

          What I find even scarier is that I don’t think that narcissists go out of their way to hurt people, either. It just comes naturally to them. And if someone is hurt its because of the other person’s problem(s), not anything that he did. After all, he’s a “good person.” A “nice guy.”
          Aren’t they all, “nice guys?” My h is the last person anyone would suspect. He’s the guy that helps out the elderly neighbor and we used to joke that he must’ve been wearing a sign, because when we lived in the city, people came up to him left and right to ask for directions.

          (probably, where can I find a hooker?) :[

          • STBX is a nice guy as well. Whatever.
            When we went to therapy the therapist (who is now mine) pegged him pretty quickly and would pin him down on the fact that he says a lot of words but they dont’ mean anything, that he had treated me appallingly and was making excuses, that he had destroyed my whole world, etc. STBX did not like this and could not face it at all.

            Therapist told me flat out, in a one on one session, that he was disordered and there was no way I could ever trust him. Cheating was his default setting when things weren’t right…and sometimes even if they were. She figures he’s a bundle of disorders and basically toxic.

          • Absolutely true, Laurel. So well said. Please beware of “marriage counseling” with a narcissist or other personality disorders. They are master manipulators, after all. And, when placed in a therapeutic tradition of “infidelity being a symptom of a bad marriage” then you are in for a new flavor of mindfuck.

            Infidelity is a symptom of a personality disorder. And a cheating spouse who not only blames the other spouse for their abhorrent behavior, but recruits others to their cause is just a horrible human being. I do not remotely see a therapeutic solution to this level of fucked-upness.

            Get the hell away from them as fast as you can – that’s the treatment, that’s the therapy.

      • Yeah, my xh scored way high on narcissism, passive-aggressiveness, and histrionic personality disorders. A trifecta of fun, that mix. Finally cutting the last few threads that bind us (bank accounts, house, whatnot), and looking forward to dealing with him less and less.

        What scares me though, is my son. He is eleven, and boy, does he take after his father. He’s never been the “normal” kid, diagnosed with ADHD, and maybe Aspergers when he was in kindergarten. But he really has no empathy is his body, none. He lives for pushing buttons, driving people mad, ruining every family outing with complaints and nitpicking. It’s hard to say this, but he really is a mean-spirited kid. Every once in a while, he will be nice, and its a weird rare ray of sunshine that you bask in before the black clouds settle over again.

        I wonder how much of the personality disorders are inherited? I’m planning on trying to find a psychiatrist for my son. He needs some social skills training, at the very least. But it hurts to do so – I feel like a bad mom who failed in bringing up her kid to be kind. It’s tempered, however, by the fact that my daughter is a sweet as can be, so there must be some genetic disposition to it.

        Has anyone else seen their cheating spouse’s traits show up in their kids? How have you dealt with it?

        • My older one can sometimes be like his dad but it’s really only come about since dday, so I see it more as a reaction to all that’s happened. I seem to remember reading recently that there might be an infidelity gene – as far as a narc gene, I would have to say it might be more nurture than nature. My FIL is extremely passive aggressive and my MIL is a complete narc, so STBX got the best of both of them. 🙂

        • “Has anyone else seen their cheating spouse’s traits show up in their kids? How have you dealt with it?”

          Maybe. With teenagers you have to tease apart f*cked up personality traits from plain old teenage self-absorption. Still waiting for it to play out, mostly. But I would note that many NPDs and the like come from good families and have siblings with the same genetic donors and raised in the same environment but NOT cheating a-holes. A genetic or familial component? Sure. Determinative? Not by a long shot.

          • STBX’s sister has narc qualities but is not nearly on the scale of STBX. then again, STBX was the focus of his narc mother (FIL has issues in this area as well) and they had the attitude that men are in charge and women are…not.

          • ugh. my older son no, but the younger one has autism and is a massive dysfunctional handful. The wild thing is that he presents EXACTLY like a narc, but its not coming from a place of ego, but from an impaired brain that he was born with. He’s been getting intervention services since he was three. He’s now 18 and goes to a therapeutic boarding school, but is aging out.
            Fortunately, my h and I have always agreed 99.999%, however, he’s the passive one and I’m the pit bull mom. someone has to have a pair of balls!!!

            I think that most cheaters most likely have “mommy issues.” Mine was domineering and controlling, not warm, and not at all affectionate.

            I have never heard anyone in his family say, “I love you,” ever. Interesting.

            • Funny how STBX got to be the ‘nice guy’ while I was the pitbull and always going in swinging to advocate for whatever. I think he liked it that way and it pisses him off that now he’s got this weak OW who crumbles at the drop of a hat and he’s forced to man up.

              And he most definitely has mommy issues, along with daddy issues. His mother is very controlling and manipulative and he will go along with anything she says because he literally cannot tell her to back off or even simply ‘no’.

              • My X’s Mom was like this too and he just ran away. Now that he reunited with her after 20 yrs. and he and I split up he’s calling her and now she’s calling me trying to manipulate me into taking him back. I know what to do which is NC her ass too but it’s SO hard because she’s 80, and alone. He called her hinting for $, he STILL hasn’t gotten a place… what did he do with his last check??? I feel so guilty but I didn’t do this he did. Big big steps backward emotionally last/night today…..back in bed with the cats….I HATE this! I wish we could just lock them up, or mark them somehow to warn other people!

        • Dawn:

          If you research personality disorders there is a growing contingent that believe that it is possible to inherit them.

          PDs can also be caused by early negative life circumstances prior to the age of seven….like a parent abandoning the child completely, or sexual abuse.

        • Google “callous unemotional” traits. All the research papers on the hereditary nature of cluster Bs comes up.

        • Yes my son is like that and his father wasnt around when he grew up so it must be genetic

        • Dawn,
          I know this is an old post but I just got around to reading it. Yes! My daughter is very much like her biological narcissist personality disordered father. I saw it in her as a teenager and thought it was something she would ‘outgrow.’ She is now 40 and has gotten worse and worse over the years. She’s positively awful. She has four little kids and cheated on her husband and ran off with some guy 17 years younger than she is. Every single thing is about her. She has a sense of entitlement that would stun a pharaoh. She’s mean and disrespectful to everyone. She’s burned every bridge and can’t get along with anyone for long. The only thing I know how to do is stay out of her way.

  • This was a very interesting post. I would describe my husband as ” Would rather self destruct than give up control” and “Thrills to attack” Arguing pointless and it has been a long time since I have exhibited any vunerablity. I can be very tough too and the sad part is I know when I leave it will only be a few weeks before he’ll be trying to wheedle his way back in. Sad in Seattle: He is not going to change! You may love him but he doesn’t care about you.

  • It is useless arguing with an NPD or disclosing your hurt to them.
    I once told my therapist that I had told my Xw that something she was doing was hurting me tremendously. My XW responded ” I don’t care if it does”.
    My therpaist remarked “Well, for once she was telling you the truth.”
    I came to understand that these folks have a completely different value system than a normal, empathetic human being.
    When I pointed out to my first wife that she had bben out 112 out of 180 nights until after midnoght and that our sons would no lay eyes on her for days at a time, rather than dispute the accuracy of my recordings of her absenseces, she looked at me with incredulity and remarked :Well, I have more friends than you.,”
    See , NPDs just do not get that they are not entitled to more than other folks. Thye see it as their due.

    • Good Lord; sounds so familiar.

      – After STBX admitted the affair was fully sexual, I ask her if her ambiguous email about all of a suddenly seeing a doctor was related to an STD test, and if so I want your results. Direct quote:

      “If you want to go to a doctor, get tested do what you like. That burden is on you and I don’t care.”

      Now the ultimate try to mindfuck me is in play; she now recants her admission, and tells me she only admitted to it being sexual, because that is what I wanted to hear???

      – Prior to filing for divorce, I ask her why people like me, and a lot of others didn’t cheat, even when we were unhappy?

      “how could you, your never out of the house.”

      – I’d ask about her affair, and EVERY TIME it instantly went right to a very condescending sigh, rolling of eyes:

      “so that’s all it’s ever about, what about what you did.”

      I’d say I need to talk about it, and she would tell me it was just to hurt and humiliate her, she would cover head with a pillow, and when I would escalate (yell at her), EVERY TIME, she would hysterically storm out, slam the door, and drive away for a few hours, or come back the next day.

      Since filing, I absolutely will not tell her anything about how I am feeling, that I give a damn about her, or take any more of her shit, none. This almost always ends in her hanging up to my three or four word monotone utterances, and it’s almost as if she likes to call to feed some need of hers, when emailing me would work just as well or better. It is absolutely amazing that even when I am calm/neutral, her true nasty self comes out, so all her BS that I used to believe about my temper “hurting her”, was and is pure bullshit. She truly seems crazy in a spiraling out of control way, and I take no pleasure/schadenfreude in saying this.

      • I got ‘what about what you did’ as well. I still haven’t figured out what I did.

        • Me either, cause it’s pure blame shift. Literally, she has told me many times post D-day:

          “(screaming) If I been a better fucking husband, *it* would not have happened”

          “I didn’t think you loved me, so I didn’t think you would care”

          “My marriage has been dead for years”

          “I was so unhappy, and I didn’t think I needed words for you to see that”

          etc, etc……………………………….

          The level of cowardice is staggering, and he lack of empathy is flat out disturbing and surreal. I can not even try to figure out what is going on inside her head, and could care less now.

          • Those statements are familiar to me to. My husband’s infidelity included sex with prostitutes, a hidden gambling addiction and excessive drinking when traveling for business. But I caused it, you see. How? By being a “torturing abusive withholding bitch.” Hmmm…actually I’m a really nice, thoughtful person, if I do say so myself. I was also told, “You are boring. You poor victim! Get a life.” This was said after I continued to ask how he could have done what he did to me–years of lying and betrayal.
            When he would listen to me explaining how his betrayal had hurt me, insisted that I talk at the same time about what I had done to “damage” the relationship. You’d have to be able to break the laws of time and space to be able to do that. It’s really preposterous behavior.

            The sanctimonious self-pitying abusive emails you torturing abusive withholding bitch. You are boring. You tortured two men. Poor victim! Get a life.

            • Yes, I’ve been accused of ‘playing the victim’ and it’s hilarious because I’m playing at it, I was a victim of his fuckery. And yes, I was accused of destroying everything by wanting to talk about all of it out in the open. He, to this day, blames me for most of his cheating and it’s my fault things got ugly–because I wouldn’t hide his actions. What an idiot I married.

          • Ah, the mindfuckery of ‘you should have read my mind and known I wasn’t happy and done something to make me happy because you are responsible for my happiness, not me’.

            God, that shit pisses me off. STBX pulled that crap, that things should just ‘happen’ and people should just ‘know’ what the other is thinking and nothing should ever have to be ‘worked at’…yadda yadda yadda.

            It’s like dealing with a small child. Sure, I can read my kids but that’s because they’re kids and I’ve also known them since the second they were born. STBX I can sometimes read (or could) but no, I am not mind reader and if someone is doing their utmost to hide thoughts and actions the chances of reading their minds is that much lower.

            Hey, how about just telling me what’s going on and what you’re thinking/feeling/whatever? Is it really that difficult?

            • Ah-yep. Here is another direct quote from STBX that dovetails right into your post:

              “I am not good at talking or writing. Foolishly I always thought our connection was so strong we just knew what each other needed.”

              Yeah, I honestly can not recall the last time she said “I love you”, “I miss you”, “How are you doing”… Yeah, she is all clammed up with the spoken and written word for me, but I know for a FACT, she sure as hell had no problem talking/texting, what-the-fuck ever with OPOS for over a year.

              Yeah, never miss an opportunity to tie me in with your affair.

        • Nord – I heard these exact words too. Blame-shifting assholes. I realized not long after d-day that I had much bigger problems than his cheating. What can I say about a man so devoid of empathy that he once played an imaginary violin and told me to “quit being a drama queen.” This was just days after I discovered his affair and I was sitting on the couch quietly crying. My heart was still in the process of breaking. Not one ounce of compassion in him. That’s the day I knew I was married to a soulless monster.

          • Well, mine in a rage would scream:

            “grow up and get over it.” and when I did try to explain the depth of pain I was experiencing: “You are just being over dramatic.”

            But she won’t stop with me, she told my 17 y/o daughter;

            “I don’t see how/why this affects you so much.”

            Which made my daughter drop like a sack of potatoes, convulsively crying… Yeah, even her own daughter who she loves more than anything in the world is fair game.

            Shit, she is so fucked up, she can not even say the word affair, and told me she has no regrets for doing *IT*/*THIS*. The more I read and educate myself about cheaters, the clearer it becomes something is profoundly wrong with them. A complete lack of empathy, maximum levels of entitlement, and for many a twisted sense of joy/pleasure in hurting in the worst possible way, the the one person you should want to protect the most… How else can you as in my situation, have her carry on an elaborate, well planned, completely below the radar affair for over a year?

            You have to have crazy mad compartmentalizing skills, sickly play on the rock solid trust you know the other spouse has in you, and have a soul as resistant to empathy, as Mr. Joshua’s bare arm is to the flame of a lit cigarette lighter, that’s how.

      • The cluster Bs seem remarkably adept at diverting, blameshifting and turning the tables on you. They , really , are good at this and before you know it, you are defending yourself for having tried to address an issue with them.
        I have seen this described time and again. You go to theim with a question or issue and politely and calmly ask for an expalnation. Next thing you know, you are being accused of being “stuck”, abusive, controlling whatever.
        These folks are good at this. Best to not even attempt to discuss things with them. It will drive you nuts.

        • I agree. Looking back I realise that I spent a lot time having what I thougth were discussion but which were really exercises in frustration as I tried to actually have a normal discussion about issues I might think should be addressed. He always took it as me somehow having a go at him. But in his family his mother has never directly confronted his father about anything. She pouts, like a child. STBX sees this as a good model for marriage and communication.

        • I must confess that toward the end of my 22 year sentence, I mean, ur, first marriage, I all but gave up raising my concerns about inappropriate behavior (obsessive online gaming, getting kicked out of her own company, ignoring her family, financial irresponsibility, etc.) because I knew that ***I*** would be the one who ended up apologizing. For the tone of voice I used, the wording I chose, or because raising the concern was itself “controlling.” I would literally plan out ahead of time the **manner*** in which I raised issues to minimize any chance of being offensive, to no avail. It wasn’t until after the post-divorce brain thaw that I saw how hopeless these efforts were. There was no way my concerns could find understanding, because her goal all along was to avoid any acknowledgement of fault on her part.

          It was like Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football, where I was CB, the ex was Lucy, and the football was anything we needed to discuss. So glad I no longer end up flat on my back sucking wind and wondering “What the hell just happened?”

        • I have been loving this posting on the CL blog. Arnold you could be describing a 1000 “discussions” I have had with my husband. A simple question, a comment and suddenly I am defending myself wondering what I said. After reading yours and others I can see how it really is all about his behavior. A quick funny story. For years I have made his medical/dental appts for him. Last year he attacked me for this saying “I was controlling his life” OK so I stopped making his appointments. Last night he asked when he had had his teeth cleaned last “Oh about a year ago” “Why didn’t you make me an appointment?” “You told me not to” “You are such a bitch” Oh and CL about hiding the remote. If he can’t find it all hell breaks lose but he hasn’t imploded yet!

          • I seriously love you guys. I thought it was just me who had those mind-bending conversations where I had to plan ahead what I would be asking him about, and go through several imaginary permutations on how to phrase things to keep him from blowing up at me. It was a veritable minefield in the first few years of marriage – anything I had an issue with, no matter how small, would be blown up into a huge fight, how dare I criticize him! He can take any small suggestion and act like I have thrown him under the bus, and then come back and attack with any perceived or imaginary issues to deflect criticism back to me, rather than him.

            After a few years of that, I just stopped communicating with him about things that bugged me. Trying to communicate like a healthy couple always just made things worse. There wasn’t any point in talking anymore. I thought that was the worst aspect of our marriage – the lack of proper communication. Then I had D-day.

      • I also got the eye roll. I was floored. He acted like I was complaining about how he leaves the toilet seat up. That was a shocking moment of insight into his complete lack of character.

        • EXACTLY! My STBX is treating her continuing year long + affair with all the gravity of “oop’s my bad”… I’m dead serious, and it seems you know exactly what I mean. Now the divorce I filed against her; Oh BOY, THAT she gets, cause it’s about nickles and dimes, exposure, inconvenience, loss of control, rage…

          Divorce has really shown her complete lack of character as you mention, and has really amped up her rage, callousness, parental alienation, disrespect, and sub-human treatment towards others. Seems she has to scuttle whatever shred of dignity, or humanity she may have had left, and that says volumes.

          • Jay:

            When they act nasty after filing for divorce, consider it a blessing.

            Because they are showing their true personality and now you need not have any regrets about not reconciling.

  • “maybe it’s the way I asked?”

    I just laughed uproariously reading that… and the mess I used to be.

    So glad I’m not a human pretzel any more 🙂

  • Alot of this is hitting home for me too. I have written to my STBX so many times, but its more for therapy for myself. Im not going to give them to him, because it just wouldnt make any difference. You can’t make someone see what they dont want to see, you can’t make them do any introspection when they are sooo sure thats its all your fault, and if you try it just makes you more crazy and frustrated. He is now convinced himself (and anyone that will listen) that our divorce was just inevitable due to the problems we had (not his screwing around though, that didnt have anything to do with it) and that we each share an equal blame. Umm humm. Whatever. Its what he’s sold himself so he’s not the bad guy. Its like he has his eyes closed and his hands clamped over his ears saying “Stop confusing me with the facts, my mind’s made up!”

    • I have permanent scars in the soles of my feet from walking on so many eggshells.

      • Yes! When any little thing sends them into a rage that leads the them storming out of the house and not coming back till later that night or even a couple days later.. *to the girlfriends house*.. exactly. OO! Or my personal favorite. When we actually sat down to talk and he asked what I wanted. “I want you to stop seeing her. I want to be able to hang out with my friends (whom I hadn’t seen since the wedding) without you freaking out and accusing me of shit. I want to be able to do whatever I want.” He says, “Then I get to do the same thing!” “Umm.. you have a girlfriend.” I goggled back at him.. “You already ARE doing what.. who you want!” So glad all of that bs is behind me.

    • “He is now convinced himself (and anyone that will listen) that our divorce was just inevitable due to the problems we had (not his screwing around though, that didnt have anything to do with it) and that we each share an equal blame.”

      Oh yes – my situation exactly. Don’t you know they were driven to flee us for someone else because of that equal share of blame.


    • Were we married to the same man? Because when STBX was running around saying ‘the marriage was crumbling’ and insisting that the divorce had nothing to do with his being exposed as a serial cheater, I would point out that screwing other women for years might just maybe have created issues that I didn’t even know existed in our marriage. is repsonse was ‘But what about you! What about what you did!’ which was something along the lines of not enough attention or something.

      You can’t reason with crazy.

      • No, you can’t. Nor should you try.

        His perception is his reality, you know? That doesn’t mean it IS the truth or real. It is just the narrative that he is telling himself to allow himself to perpetuate his karma.

        What others do or do not believe about what he says — well, in the end of the day, does that even matter? One thing I have learned over the years is that if others think ill of me, fuck ’em. Seriously. They don’t pay my bills, they don’t have to look at me in the mirror, I have to look at me in the mirror. And if I’m okay with what I see, then that’s what matters.

        And besides, there was this meme going around on facebook recently that I thought made good sense. It said somethign along the lines of: Don’t worry what others are thinking of you, because they really aren’t thinking of you, they are thinking of themselves.

        And that’s really very true. Actually, they are probably obsessing about what others are thinking of them. Hahaha. 🙂 People are so predictable.

        • They really are predictable and since I woke up from my marriage (or defrosted, as someone said) my ability to suss people out is back to pre-STBX levels…and probably even better, given wisdom, years and experience. My life is much smoother and calmer now.

      • Nope. You cannot reason with crazy. Agreed.

        And if you try, oh boy! Prepare for battle. I certainly won’t miss 1 a.m. screaming fights that left me shaking my head, wondering what the hell just happened.

        • Well, that was my mom and I.

          My xH didn’t fight at all. refused to engage at all. Ever. He preferred to just avoid. And avoid. And avoid.

          And then engage in passive aggressive nonsense like never putting a cup or plate fully on the coffee table, but rather balancing it precarioiusly on the edge of the table so that there was a high probability of a spill. He has since admitted that he did it just to piss me off. Hahaha. Passive aggressive nightmare. If you dislike me, then get the fuck out of the marriage don’t torture me half to death until I do it for you, you nitwit.

          The beauty of it all — my son is like: “Dad, that’s really just stupid, you’re going to make a spill happen if you have it on the edge like that. What’s the matter with you? I don’t even do that, and I’m a kid.”

          Oh, and speaking of avoiding. My son drew a picture the other day about people he can turn to for help when he needs to. He drew a fireman (“if there is a fire”) and his mom and dad. In the photo, I’m standing there in full stick-figure glory (with fantastic hair, by the way) smiling and ready to help; his dad is also a stick figure, wearing his work uniform and his word baloon says: “I’ve got to go to work”. hahaha. Pretty well sums it up. Children do notice. They really do.

        • As a co-worker once said,

          “Don’t stir that pot of crazy, ‘cuz if you get some of that on yourself it is really hard to get off.”

    • Is there some manual with how cheaters are supposed to act? This is exactly my situation. The parallels in what cheaters do and say is simply unbelievable!!!!!

      • That’s because they’re not as special as they want you to think. I’ve seen more creative and diverse excuses from five-year-olds.

  • Oh lord. Ignore them. Any effort spent trying to reason with anyone who is ego driven is a waste of time. That’s the easiest way to neutralize their ego-driven nonsense. That goes for all of those who labor under a complete lack of self awareness, not JUST narcissists.

    My mother, the queen of the codependents, was brutal about this nonsense. She of course knew my insecurities and totally manipulated me for years based on that in an effort to keep me locked into her sickening enmeshed net of controlling “kindness”. And for many years I allowed it to hurt me, and then for a number years I tried to reason with her. And then finally I got to a point where I said to myself: “Look, what is it about YOUR ego that keeps you engaging with her on this level? Just focus on yourself and let her work out her issues (or not) on her own.” And that was just freeing. Because I did. I cut her out, I contacted her on my terms when I had to (she was dying at the time, so there was a need for some contact) and I left her son (my half brother) deal with all the details (prior to that I had been little Ms. Fixit, no more!).

    I recognized that me asking her repeatedly to try to understand why what she was doing was hurting me was not so much about her, but it was really about me. I wanted her to validate my experience. And that’s just a nonstarter. Bottom line: I don’t need her, or anyone, to validate my experience. I validate myself.

    • Agreed. I came to realize that my EW and I spoke a different language for a different purpose. The illusion of communication–listening, processing, weighing, and responding–was really an exercise in manipulation. Her speech rules required answering every question with a question, randomly moving goalposts, and wearing out verbal erasers (“I never said that”) by the gross.

      NC restores clarity.

      • “I never said that” HOLY COW!! There is a special circle of hell for minimizer/deniers.

        I also have the particular favorite of: “You misunderstood me.”

        What the fuck? Really? Haha. I just don’t argue with people that say such stupid things. I mean, they are morons, obviously.

        Still, it can be a mind fuck. I know people who are so wrapped up in wanting to believe the best in others that they hear that crap and automatically think the worst o themselves. Why on god’s earth would anyone want to believe someone else above your own two eyes?


        • Yep. Seems that the only time I suffered auditory hallucinations was in dealing with my wife. No one else ever accused me of hearing things or making them up.
          Even faced with the writings in her journal, describing her desire to “stop having sex with strangers”, my Xw claims that her “inapproriate relationships” consisted only of situations where “the chmistry became sexualized”.

        • Hahahaha…STBX denies so many things he’s said and done since dday, even to the kids, who are all ‘is dad fucking nuts? He says such and such never happened. We were there!’

          Kids are great because they just call out the bullshit, no filter.

      • Gosh, same here exactly, especially the “I didn’t say that”… Pure fucking gaslighting. I used to tell her even if I recorded you saying what you did, you would still deny it… And with what I know now, that would have been what happened!… Delusional, and I really did think at times I was going crazy!

        Also, along the same lines she would say for example:

        This months gas bill is $150, and lay it down.

        I would remember seeing the bill prior, remember that it was really $75, I would pick it up and tell her, “No, the bill is $75, here, take a look.”

        That would lead to me saying again, “Have a look”, where she would say I’m not going to look, walk away with me saying “are you fucking crazy”, and her slam the bedroom door, lock it, and pout/enjoy me suffering, whatever.

        Even now, I am so careful to make sure I cover/word every potential outcome she might try, as she was a master at lies of omission, and like a 3 y/o kid, if you had a single word missing from the question, her lie of an answer was fully justified to her.

        Enough of that crap, and I have been NC since last Wed, and it is remarkable how well that suits me trying to uncrazy myself.

        • OMG — don’t cater to her stupidity, Jay!!

          You know you’re right. Stand by yourself, my friend. 🙂 I’m glad you’re no contact. Less crazy making. And don’t let her suck you back in, because when you’re not doing it, she’ll feel the pinch on her ego as it starts to deflate when no one is fighting with her or giving her a reason to engage in stupid games.

          This really is the best revenge for these dopes. Just ingore them. It makes them CRAZY. Haha. 🙂

          • It does make them crazy. I’ve been completely NC for a few weeks. Ran into STBX on the train the other day. Just looked at him and went back to my book. Like clockwork he found a reason to text me several times the next morning. I answered with one or two words answers and left it in a way that he would have no reason to send more texts without looking like an idiot. Then his mother tried to ring. I just let it ring and then deleted the message without listening. The kids were with me so no reason for any of them to contact me.

            I feel such peace and so in control of my world with them out of it.

        • Hahaha…I actually said to STBX, when he was denying all kinds of stuff, that I should record him and we wouldn’t have this problem. His reaction? ‘You’ve already saved all my emails so you can blackmail me’. He deletes all emails, of course, and is horrified that everything he has written is documented. What an asshole.

          • Oh yes! I love that Nord! I saved all my STBX’s emails, including the ones about the hookers and the ones with his APs. I keep them in my back pocket, ready to use as needed 😉

        • Ah yes, auditory hallucinations. I had been suffering from those too. Or I was “re-writing history.” My favourite is that my “tone” in a single word answer — as in “No” — suggested I was trying to pick a fight. It must have been something like Noooo-eoooo-ooo! or something I can’t fathom. But it was always my fault. He was always justified in freaking out and losing it on me.

          Until I started to record our phone conversations. Anyone ever try that? I played it back for my STBX. As usual, it was just a bunch of swearing, screaming, ranting and raving. He claimed I just caught him, “on a bad day.”

          • Short version of a story I beleive I already told here.
            Kids want dog. WIfe hates dogs but for some strange reason comes up with the idea that we should bring the golf course dog home for the weekend. Set it up. Kids all excited. We go to get the dog while wife is out running errands(meeting affair partner).
            Kids playong in backyard with dog when she gets home. She goes nuts, Denies ever saying we could bring dog home for the weekend. Makes us take dog back.
            Kids hysterical.
            BUT, for the first time, I had witnesses to her denying having said something.

            • Mine did the same thing as well. Denied having denied and said things to the point where I questioned my sanity. He also did this wonderful thing whenever we got into an argument and I had a valid point. He would accuse me of screaming (btw, i could have been whispering and he would still accuse me of screaming) then the argument would be redirected to me being the bad guy for “screaming”. Gaslighting in is finest form.

              • “He would accuse me of screaming (btw, i could have been whispering and he would still accuse me of screaming)”

                I can so relate, and said the exact same thing to her. Here is a verbatim exchange from me texting on my computer, her in her vehicle from one of many fleeings from home when I wanted to discuss her affair:

                STBX: Not going to keep shouting. I understand clearly what I have done, but did not think it would nasty and solely about that.

                Jay: Not being nasty, or shouting, but even if we both used sign language, you still have issues dealing with something that needs to be discussed.

                That wraps it up perfectly, and how it was for years. Deflect, deflect, deflect, gaslight, cry foul, run away, repeat… The KGB ain’t got nothing on her!

              • Sheesh, we really were all married to the same person. When we were in the midst of heavy fuckery I would get accused of screaming at him…and he would scream this at me. ‘YOU’RE SCREAMING AND I WON’T LISTEN TO THAT!!!!’ It was disconcerting at best.

              • He starts shouting at me, I raise my voice to be heard above his screaming and all of a sudden I am the hysterical one .

              • When he asks what you said for the 3rd time.. so you slow down and emphasize each word.. Bingo! You are now the crazy bitch who’s screaming at him. All of this stuff to start fights so he could “storm out”.. an excuse to see the girlfriend.

  • Chump Son here.

    First, CL, you honor me with inclusion in the blog.

    Second, your rule about no-contact got me to thinking.

    My father was difficult, and my younger brother handled him completely differently than I did. Starting at about the tenth grade, my brother simply stopped talking to my father, except for the absolute minimum. My father noticed it, complained about it to my mother and me, but never/ever dared confront my little brother. Finally, after about 8-10 years, when my brother was out of college, my father woke up, said to my mother, “I’m losing that boy,” and went to see my brother. They began talking again and, though not super-close, they got along. The moral of the story is that my brother used the “no contact”/minimal response rule to good effect. He won my father’s respect. In contrast, Chump Son (or CS, or me) tried dialogue, polite requests, etc. But once my father found out that attacking my mother caused me to squirm and wince…. Well, that fun was just to enjoyable to pass up! Or, in CL’s (brilliant terms), them ego-kibbles just tasted too good. In fact, I think the ego-kibbles got tastier as I did reasonably well in life, better professionally, maritally and parentally than my father had. This caused a little jealousy and then made pinching me all the more fun.

    This makes CL’s point that no contact/minimal interaction is the way to go. Moreover, regarding Elle’s push for reconciliation (which, if she wants to do that, is fine with me), it raises a red flag. Some people aren’t going to change. They won’t respond to entreaties, no matter how reasonable or nice. And they just are the way they are. So borders, boundaries and rules — and the willingness to quit the field when they get difficult (you are not retreating, you are simply leaving bad place where you do not want to be) — are the best responses. This is not cruelty or lack of faith in humanity. It is a recognition of the limits that some of us have. No one should be afraid to protect themselves.

    Thanks, CL. Chumps come in all flavors and sizes, and you are helping them all! Since you are much less expensive than therapy, we all should be cups!

  • Ugh. My STBX is a total button pusher. A few months ago, he purposely lied to me about leaving the house when the kids are asleep to run errands, I’m like “ha ha”. He’s said “what? that’s not allowed?”. Again, I say something like “you’re so funny”. Then he goes on a third time and finally I bite and am like “are you serious?! You can’t leave them alone in the house etc., etc.!” and then HE says “No, and I can’t believe you believed that, I can’t believe you think I”m such a horrible father… etc, etc.”. Ugh. I did literally at that point tell him he can’t deliberately lie to me repeatedly to the point where I believed it and then get mad at me for believing him.

    But I am getting better… last week he texted me to say me he didn’t know if he could have my checks on time (trying to push a button). And I just ignored it completely. And lo and behold on the 1st he actually went out of his way to drive them over to me. I actually can’t believe he went out of his way to do anything for me. It’s kinda like how he’s gotten me some cards this past year and little things like that. Things that he wouldn’t have done when we were married when it would have mattered. It seems like the less I care the more he actually does.

    • I think to avoid this little gem, Im just going to request that the child support be deducted from his checks and sent to me automatically buy Child Support Recovery. One less headache.

  • To quote Mara Gibson:

    ” I am an adult and did what I wanted and I responsible enough to know that what I was doing may cause others pain but guess what, I don’t care.”

    • Oh, you had to quote Mara, huh? 🙂

      Yeah, she’s just a hunk o’ narcissism isn’t she?

      Love that quote — especially the “I am responsible enough to know…”

      She’s using a VIRTUE like “taking responsibility” to explain her LACK of responsibility for hurting others! Mindfuckery.

  • Mara Gibbs-Old Hatchet Face. I am surprised any of her alcoholic, ass wipe affair partners could get it up for her. They must have really good imaginations.

      • Mainly I quote her because she is one of the few people who can outright say, “my actions hurt people and I don’t care.” Most people cling to the delusion that they are good people. She knows she’s not a good person and has no intention of changing.

        • Greengirl, I actually liked her quote too. I prefer full out honesty in that way than the stupidity you hear with all the false remorse and fake empathy. At least you know what you have got sitting there across from her.

          It is these fakers, who pretend to be virtuous, all the while stabbing you in the back, that are so annoying and dangerous.

          • Oh, she pretended virtue in her post. It was all about soul mates, feeling sorry for the wife, sexual chemistry, blah, blah, blah.

            In the comments it was, I’m a forward thinking, controversial writer, I travel, have money, and am more sophisticated than you.

            I had to push to get that from her. When I replied, she just said that I was angry and her work was done. I was confused because I wasn’t angry, until another poster pointed out that narcissists can’t read people, they project.

            But yeah, I had to push to get that honesty then she instantly ignored the fact it had ever happened.

      • Like the old sailors used to say:

        “Any port in a storm” LOL.

        That is how I think of affair partners, they are just convenient, loose, easy and cheaper than a prostitute. LOL

  • CL is to be congratulated for her chess metaphor, way above. Don’t play the game. Tip over the board and leave.

    It strikes me that narcissists are by nature very strategic, which gives them a first-mover advantage over chumps. Since the narcissists lack feelings, strategy and manipulation come naturally to them. I know of one N-ex husband who simply wants his children to obey him. It’s very interesting. I don’t think he cares if they hate him. He just wants what he defines as their proper respect (which, in my mind, is excessive adulation for his supporting them; a father is SUPPOSED to support his children; they did not choose to be born; support is not a gift; it is the kids’ right; as the law recognizes). I find this fascinating. It sort of reminds me of North Korea. All he wants is “respect” and a show of respect. But he doesn’t really want genuine affection.

    But to get back to my point, these n-people (or should I call them enners?) really don’t have much in the way of feelings, so they are pretty naturally practiced at being strategic. Chumps are sympathizers, empathizers, very feelings-oriented, etc. They are more soft than strategic, by nature. That’s why, once they are repeatedly chumped, they have to come up with a whole new Machiavellian skill set. It isn’t easy.

    This also means revising one’s view of people. If you’ve been a bit too optimistic about human nature, you may need to revise. Read Machiavelli or Hobbes. This is NOT/NOT the end of all hope. Not by any means! In the final analysis, learning and accepting the hard truth about some folks is liberating and empowering. Then you get better at drawing borders, recognizing limits, not taking on impossible tasks (like saving a marriage that can’t be saved, like changing a person who won’t change). You know far better whom to forgive and whom not to forgive. Ironically, a view of the world that recognizes LIMITED good makes you appreciate all the more the ample good that really is out there.

  • I agree with everyone who tells you that NC is the most effective way to deal with your cheating ex. Unfortunately it took me 2 years to believe it myself. Please, PLEASE…..anyone who doesn’t believe that the only way to free yourself from the downward spiral of trying to deal with a narcissist is NO CONTACT, please just give it a week trial period. You will be amazed!

    Arguing with a narcissist is like wrestling with a pig in the mud…..after a while, you finally figure out that the pig LIKES it….!

    Yes, I was one of those guys who thought my silence was a tacit agreement to all the garbage spewed at me by my ex. You can include their actual email in your reply and they will STILL not believe their OWN WRITING.

    I really wish I had this forum 3 years ago, it could’ve saved me a lot of wasted time and effort. CL, your insights are well earned (from what I’ve read) and spot on. Thank you and everyone here for letting me “see” that I am not crazy, OR alone.

  • I remember trying to explain to friends why I found it so harf to talk with the X. The best way I can describe it is that at the time “his truth about me besomes mine. His opinion of me (whining, complaining etc) becomes mine”. At any discussion I was left without anthing to say back and even wondering what the discussion was about. All my points invalidaded, thrown out and feeling bad about myself. Tiring, and very hard to deal with. I don’t know how he does it, it’s a gift really! People believe him, he is smooth, kind, nice, smart and he knows how to play people. I was always afraid that people wouldn’t believe my side of the story and buy into his….

    • I remember the frustration of him running around a changing the story of what happened, with me always starring as the bad guy. I ran around after him, trying to put out fires by telling my story. Then I reached a point where I just said fuck it. I know what happened, those who love me and care about me will know that I’m not a bad, crazy person–I was just a person faced with an unbelievable situation: my husband had been screwing around for years and he had done it in my own backyard, so to speak.

      So I stopped explaining. And you know what happened? People started seeing his crazy for what it was: pure malice and manipulative bullshit. Two friends who were trying to ride the fence with us, staying friends with everyone, finally came over one day and we had a long talk. They kicked it off and during the course of our chat they said they had realised just how manipulative he was and his family was and they were done with him and the whole mess. It felt great to hear that–not that he was losing them as friends but that they saw what had happened so clearly.

      NC and do your own thing. It all comes out in the wash.

  • That’s the best thing I’ve read all day, JamesR!

    So true! … “Arguing with a narcissist is like wrestling with a pig in the mud…..after a while, you finally figure out that the pig LIKES it….!”

  • How do you deal with them when you feel that they’re making poor choices that involve your kids, though? I have been totally NC with STBX except for kids and finances, and that’s been great for me. However, he is now bringing the OW into their lives and basically grooming them for their new mommy.

    What do I do about that? Just smile and let it go? It’s been really, really hard. I haven’t said anything to him… I’m assuming that there’s no point?

    • Leave it. You can’t control it. Just do your thing, be there for your kids, let him hang himself. He will, trust me. My kids see how their father behaves and although it’s sad to hear them say that they are not a priority for him it’s the reality and I’d rather they dealt with reality than go along with him and his family’s weird version of love and attention. I just make up for it by being a good mum (most of the time) and by being their support. They actually say they can’t talk to their dad about anything because he gets mad if it’s something he doesn’t want to hear. So they come to me. I’m fine with that. He’s losing the two best kids in the world (yeah, that’s right….mine are best!).

    • My STBX brought OW into our daughter’s life within a week of telling her we were getting divorced. When I first found out that OW was more than just a friend and had decided this was it for our marriage, I expressly asked him to not bring OW into our daughter’s life for a very long time. He said “of course not.” When I found out that he had brought her over to “hang out with J___ and her girls” I told him how upset I was about this. “I thought I’d asked you not to do this so soon.” His answer “Well I remember you asking me, but I don’t agree.”

      • So sorry for your pain, MO.

        That to me was the most painful part – feeling like he was “replacing” me as the mom to his child. Oh yes, I’m sure he thinks he can just put this new stupid little whore in for me and his life will be great, especially if the kid loves her too. Seems like that is what they all want to do – and, yup, just like the way they fucked sluts behind our backs, they do not give a single solitary fuck how much it hurts us. So, I advise not pleading your case about it from an emotional standpoint. Certainly use all legal options you can to keep your children as close to you as possible. For example, my custody agreement states that he CANNOT encourage the calling of anyone else “Mom”, etc.

        Well, guess what? Whatever the asshole cheater and his latest slut think, YOU CANNOT BE REPLACED. The universe itself, nature, god, made you your children’s mother. Nothing he or anyone else does can ever change that. It is all up to you. You have the most powerful bond that has ever been invented in all of nature on your side. You do not increase your power by denigrating others, even those that deserve it, but by loving. Love your children. Love yourself. Show them what a noble human being really does with these powerful bonds.

        Kids are the world’s greatest bullshit detectors ever.

  • Moving On,

    There was a recent Huffpost article on parallel parenting, I believe, that would address your situation. I don’t think you can stop your ex from doing this, so you just parent your way and, so long as their is no safety issue involved, he parents his way. If you are doing the right things, the kids will “get it.” I’d focus forward if I were you, provide the best support to the kids that you can, and work on your next stage of life, which is now dawning.

    My two cents, anyway.

  • I’m in exactly the same situation now as moving on. The ex has had chainsaw man at her house for the last three weekends and has said if you want to come over then he will be here. It’s in the boys face and they don’t visit.
    There’s no point in talking to them because they want to move on and everyone to accept the paradigm.
    It is incredibly hard to deal with. It’s like this is it and if you don’t like it too bloody bad.
    It’s like they win although its not a competition.
    I haven’t done anything like this to the boys because they wouldn’t like to be put in an uncomfortable position.
    The boys are fully aware chainsaw man broke up the family so I guess they are voting with Their feet. They still love mum – just chose not to go there wen he is there.
    This is one of my biggest challenges so it must be just as confronting for the boys.

    • I haven’t done anything either, such as bring a man into their lives. What I’ve done is talk to them openly about dating and that I will be doing it at some point. We have discussed what will happen if I meet someone I like and how that person will be introduced into their lives. It gives the kids a sense of having a handle on things and that no big surprises will come their way (such as OW suddenly ALWAYS being on the scene when the kids are with their dad–no discussion from STBX with the kids–it just happened one day and that was that).

  • Chump Lady,
    You struck a nerve!!!
    So true about not playing by the same rule book. Of course I made the fatal mistake of asking how (we) could make things better, since our less than one year of dating was SO fantastic (to good to be true) and then soon after marriage I saw a completely different person…very controlling and almost immediately after, extremely neglecting. My N-Ex kept on telling me the rules, for 25 years!, they always changed. I told him that he had a rule book this big “with my arms and hands extended out as far as I could reach”. Everytime I did what he said should help our marriage (because it was always my fault) and I said that I did what he asked, he would say, “oh, but you only tried that once!” and I never got any credit for anything that I did to please him. Then he would change the game plan and tell me something else that I could do to make our relationship better. What a waste of time! He would always use his words and say “All I want to do is make you happy”, but his actions were so VERY contrary!!!.. They really do like to punish you because you are just an object, an extention of their sick reality. They do not reciprocate, they only use and suck the life out of you!

    I also made the mistake of sharing how I valued our time together as a couple and family time…I set myself up and didn’t even realize it. He made sure that he was always too busy and made himself 99% unavailable and then blamed it on me.

    Finally, the last straw…do NOT introduce me to your new girlfriend in person while we are married, living in the same house and I have no clue. I then knew he was the enemy and became strategic! 🙂 No more of my thoughts or feelings as to how “I” was going to take charge of my OWN life was his business. (Not easy by the way after 25 years, but doable) The game is rigged and I don’t play those games ANYMORE like the dance of “Pick Me!” Yes, unfortunately this was not the first time 🙁

    Again CL, thank you for all that you do!!!

    • ‘You only tried that once’….hahahahaha….I got that line after I kicked him out. I said ‘I was asking you months ago what was wrong and you didn’t even have the respect to talk to me about any dissatisfaction you were having in our life’. His answer? ‘But you only asked once’. Well, I probably asked 20 or 30 times because I knew something was not right but who cares, right? Once? A hundred times? It didn’t matter how many times I asked because he wasn’t going to answer. He was going to do what he wanted with no thought of me or how his actions would impact me and the kids.

      I really do sit here and read sometimes, thinking ‘are they all really this similar?’ The conclusion is that yes, they really are all this similar.

      • Nord,

        Yes, they all really are very similar and you gave me a good laugh reading your response to “you tried that only once”. 🙂

        In response to your second comment below, yes Narcissists project well. I was blaming myself for months and feeling like “if only I had done (blank)” and feeling like I was the selfish one. They want you to feel bad…they feed on your guilt, it makes them feel all the more justified for their selfish actions. It took a lot of time and generous support from my family and community to FINALLY realize that I did NOT make this mess. (I really did get a lot of support, only a couple of people in my town who had to say “people change, things change, oh well”. Their small opinions don’t mean anything to me. It still sometimes hurts, but I now know in my heart and head that I am not to blame for other people’s scandalous behavior and everyday gets a little bit better. I do not look at myself anymore as someone who could have done just a little bit more to keep the Narcissist from deceiving, cheating, leaving and destroying our family.

        • Yes, I completely did the ‘if only I had done x, y or z’ dance. Well, I did a lot and I was committed to my marriage and family. No, I wasn’t perfect and I did and said things that were wrong and probably hurtful over the years. And so did he. The difference is that I understood that we’re all human and we fuck up along the way and part of marriage and family is being able to say sorry and being able to accept that the other person isn’t perfect and giving them room to be less than perfect….and having the balls to say ‘hey, I don’t like this or that and I’d like to talk about it’…which in a normal world would lead to a discussion, a better and stronger relationship and a closer connection.

          STBX on the other hand, when things weren’t exactly matching up to his idea of perfection (which changed all the time, it would seem) felt he had the right to go bone other people and/or have flirts and dates and find attention outside our marriage.

          Most people are supportive and a few have disappeared. I’m ok with the ones who disappeared because it’s made room for others in my life and they’ve been great.

          I know I’m not a narc and I also know I’m not perfect. STBX doesn’t know he’s a narc and he does think he’s perfect.

          And he absolutely thinks this is all somehow my fault that he cheated all over the place. Oh, and calling him out for banging a young girl at the office? I’m vulgar for sullying their great love. :=)

  • Has anyone gone through a phase where they thought that they themselves were a narc? Because I sure did. When I first started reading up on narcissism I was convinced that I was one and I was the root of all the problems. Why? Because I’m a pain in the ass sometimes, I sometimes don’t play fair (when dealing with a narc what is fair, though, right?), I can be selfish, I can be difficult…

    But then, with my therapist (who laughed at me thinking I was a narc) I realised that he had been projecting all this shit on me and on top of the crazy making passive aggressive blame shifting gaslighting bullshit I was being twisted into a pretzel and my behaviour was a bit nutty.

    So anyone else start to think that they really were the nutty one and their ex was actually normal?

    • OMG Nord!

      Yes! Absolutely yes!. Frankly afraid to admit it. Honestly wondered if I was the impossible one in the relationship. Making him do his share of childcare? Insisting that my job was as important as his? Did exactly what you did. Asked a therapist, who just about fell over with laughter. She said it was the best catch22 ever – basically if you’re afraid you’re a narcissist, um, you can’t be a narcissist! haha!

      This is why I love this forum so much. What a great place for all of us to go and find fellowship.

      Thanks to CL and everyone on here.

    • Yes, very common. The number they do on you includes infusing a lot of self doubt.
      And, there will have been instances where you finally reacted to the pprolonged provocation and fired back, out of character.
      Both you(as a person with a conscience) and the narc( using it to her/his addvantage) will focus on these rare occurrences.
      In the lingo of the community of nons recovering from a relationship with a BPD or NPD, you have “picked up fleas”.
      Go back and look at all your other relationships and you will see that no one provoked you like this or treated you so poorly. And, you will see that others still think highly of you.
      But, yes, self doubt re one’s own role is a big part of the deal.

    • Totally.
      Half my therapy sessions involve me asking my therapist whether he can possibly as bad as I think he is and whether maybe I am the bad one.

      • Let me guess: you’re therapist assured you that he really was that bad, right? ‘Cause mine sure did.

        • Yes, In fact every time I ask the question, she reassures me in a very professional manner but she keeps looking at me like she can’t quite believe I don’t see it. Its kind of funny. Almost two years since the affair began (that I know of) and I can’t believe I can actually see some humor in any of this. Thanks Nord, you truly are an inspiration.

    • >Has anyone gone through a phase where they thought that they themselves were a narc?

      First of all I do believe it’s the narcisistic tendencies in us (such as low self-esteem) why the narc was able to target us in the first place…

      Next to’s contagious. When dealing with them, we become like them, we become jealous (because they make us jealous) etc etc etc… They drive us nuts…

  • Yeah I did for sure. I’d never heard of the word before last year.
    I was trying to make her see the damage she was doing to everyone but she was just silent. She used to give me the silent treatment all the time but it is a flaw in her character I hav since discovered in that she avoids conflict. Any type. That’s apparently unhealthy. It’s important to deal with issues we all have and not rug sweep or completely ignore.
    I thought I was a narc last year because I was all the things I wasn’t in the marriage.
    Two therapist have said she has man traits of narcissism namely entitlement and self importance. She’s displaying this now to the boys by insisting chainsaw man is there during the weekend and so the boys ave little choice if they want to see mum. She owns that shit and the boys know it.
    Last year she just reminded mis little cool shoes while I just disintegrated. She didn’t give a flying fuck. Well I’m back. I’m stronger. I’ve detached but not completely. As one of my therapist said today she still has a hook in me. Well that’s the project now to get that hook and cut the line.
    It’s damn hard work but as I’ve said going insane is part of the work- you’ve jus got to ensure you come out the other side intact.

    • Ahh…the hook. My therapist talked about that a lot for a long time and I didn’t get it for most of that time…until one day I did. And that’s when I think I really moved on in my head. I really, finally and totally saw him for who he was and that was that. I no longer loved him and although I still wonder how Imanaged to get hooked up with such an asshat and then STAYED with him for so long, blind to his fuckery, I see now that he really is kind of nuts.

      You will get there, Baci, you really will. I miss my old life sometimes but I don’t miss him anymore. I said earlier that I ran into him on the train. He went all nervous, trying to smile and be charming and I felt nothing. I just looked at him and went back to my book and it shocked me, because I haven’t seen him in awhile and I thought I would freak if I did. Nope, nothing. He was freaking, though, and that made me laugh.

      I swear that sometimes they dangle the affair partner in front of us and/or the kids to keep the triangle going, to amp up the excitement, to keep the drama on high. Just ignore it. I actually stepped in finally and said to my older one that he needed to deal with the situation as it was, meaning OW was on the scene and not dealing was just helping them feel like star-crossed lovers who had huge mountains to climb so their love would finally be true. I explained that if he went and dealt with it as himself then they’d be dealing with day to day stuff and teh excitement would go away…and so would the drama.

      Here’s the funny part: my kid is a hormonal teenager, the other one is on the cusp. They fight and argue and shout and are little hormonal shits at times. OW is now not always there when they are. She leaves the room when STBX and the kids watch a film and watches on on her own on her computer. She doesn’t participate, just sits on the sidelines.

      Reality is a wonderful thing and I think removing the drama is a good thing. As long as my kids were fighting STBX about OW they were getting emotionally beat up by him, rejected by him and unable to focus on what was important–them. Now they laugh at him and OW and do it openly. DRives the happy couple nuts. 🙂

    • Ah, the silent treatments- the stealth NPD’s form of raging. Thye think because they do not rage or shout that this is not abuse. In reality , many of us would have preferred the more obvious rage, as the silent treatment is covert, ambient abuse that we doubt meets the rage/abuse standard. It does.

      • As you well know, it’s the most maddening form of abuse in its own right; gaslighting to me is the most insidious. S. Treatment is to me all about control, devaluation, childish avoidance… Terrible abuse!

  • This is really hitting me hard. I think it is finally sinking in that I will never win. I told him in january that I wasn’t going to talk to him about my feelings any more, as he only uses them against me. His response.. “oh I already know everything you feel.” He still draws me into fights though. You’re right, he’s a pig who enjoys the mud. Fights with him are crazy. I feel like I am playing whack a mole. And he is so happy after a big fight, while I feel like I’ve been sucked dry by a vampire.

    I am finally seeing a divorce lawyer this morning. It scares the beejeezes out of me. Thank you CL, and everyone, for all you have done to help me see that I don’t need to twist myself into a pretzel trying to unravel all this craziness. He sucks. Simple as that.

    • Quicksilver, good luck with the attorney! Hang in there. You’re doing the right thing.

      I have to tell you, what he said about already knowing what you feel — THAT is a true narcissistic trait. That’s why on the narcissist tests they pose that concept to which you are meant to respond yes or no, something like: “I can read others like a book”.

      Narcissists think they can (and actually really are able) to read others quite well, and that’s why they are so powerfully manipulative. Because, as CL says in the initial posting, they absolutely do use your weaknesses against you to get what they want. Whenever I read someone saying: “I have special insight into others” or “I’m really good at reading people…” I think: “oh, helloooo narcissistic tendency.” Those are the sorts of people who think they can control others because they have them all figured out. Those are also the sorts of people who are absolutely shattered, and go into a narcissistic rage, when someone surprises them with his/her actions and does the unexpected. Because as much as you think you have someone all figured out, humans are the variable. I can behave one way for years and years and years and then suddenly decide — not going to behave that way anymore, I’m changing and I’m no longer accepting your crap. And if there is a narcissist around who thinks that they have me all sorted out and are relying on me to behave the way I always behave, that change will come as a terrible surprise.

      And that’s why betrayed spouses who actually stand up to cheaters and leave them make their cheaters absolutely bonkers. Haha. It really is the best thing in the world to force a cheater to face the consequences in that manner.

      • Thanks Kristina. I know he’s outrageously narc. I have completely changed the way I think and feel about him, and he doesn’t seem to get what has happened. He was so good at pulling my strings for so many years. No matter what I have told him, he is going to be absolutely floored when I file.

        I just wanted to meet the atty today, didn’t actually start anything. I have to get some things in order first. It was such a scary step walking into that office I thought I was going to hyperventilate. But now I am excited thinking about the freedom I will have some day.

  • ACE post 🙂 Excellent medicine … and ‘Chump Son’ is wise beyond his years. I’ve been relentlessly ‘no contact’ with my ex, and this is starting to feel GOOD! 😀 (I’m nearly three years out from the break.)

    • Thanks, SoOverHim. Unfortunately, I’m probably not as young as you think I am. I’m 54, and only had my revelation that attempts at reasoning with my father would not work in my late 40s. Sounds ridiculous, but that’s the way it went. I’m kind of surprised (now) that this took me decades to learn. But thanks for the kind words! Glad what I said helped.

      I actually think the dysfunctional connections between pre-liberated chumps and narcissists are like an addiction, an addiction to a drug that CL called “hopium” in another post. The n-folks (should I be writing that “enn-folk?”) give us high ups (of hope) and then devastating downs. You can get addicted to riding this roller coaster. But, frankly, it’s more fun to get off the circus ride and see the world the way it is! The world has some good people and a few really bad people, and, with practice, they aren’t at all hard to tell apart!

      • ‘Hopium’ — that’s perfect, David! I was ‘mainlining’ that stuff for a long time … and what a relief to be free of it, standing on my own two feet on solid ground. Sweetest relief!

  • I told my N: “You are turning everything around”..
    N says: “No, you are turning everything around”…


  • I absolutely love what Chump Lady said. My life exactly. And I am so grateful that there are other people out there who have gone through the same shit with a parent. In my case it is my mother who is the nightmare monster bitch narcissist from hell – and the only way I can recover from all that damage is No Contact. I cannot be around her; speak to her; listen to her – in fact have anything to do with her. She is destructive – and at 55 years old – I am a big girl now – can make choices – and I choose to not have anything to do with her. Enough is enough – and I have set myself free. Thanks for allowing me to vent. Chump Lady – your writing is awesome! Thank you!

    • Snap

      I only noticed how monstrous my mother (now 70 was/is)
      At the age of 34-up till then I was so conditioned to her narcissism and pathology I thought it was normal behaviour.

      I wince when I have to interact with her nowadays .

      Have you seen the Danny Divito film ‘Throw Momma From the Train’ 🙁

      • Snap – me too – I have only just recently discovered that my mother has a disorder – called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I am 55, she is 82. It was when she didn’t come to my 50th birthday celebration that I started to realise that there was something up with her! That it wasn’t me. I have been going to a therapist since 2005 and she pointed out that my mother is jealous of me. I had a problem coming to terms with that – but – she is absolutely right. My mother is jealous of me. In March this year, she told my husband that she no longer wanted anything to do with me. Yay – she has set me free. I now have absolutely nothing to do with her. At first the rejection hurt – I wanted to vomit – I cried – and I shook a lot. Today – 4 months later – I feel liberated. I can remember seeing Throw Momma from the Train – and I think I need to see it again. Love and hugs to you Fiona. You are not in this alone!

          • Thanks Fiona – I am definitely on the road to getting the movie! I will see if it is like my mother!!!!!

          • Throw Momma from the Train – no – my mother was a lot more subtle than that! Which is why I was so confused! I think I would have preferred her to be like that – then I would have good reason to kill her!!! Ha ha ha!

  • Amen to everything said. This Chump Mama/Nurse/Selfless Servent took yrs healing from my 13 year maniacal ride. I came in as a 20yo beautiful ivy league student & throughout the malevolent, adulterous run, I have pity in my heart

  • Good stuff. Fits their profile. Would like to add they love to tell you how to talk to them which changes day to day. They definantly don’t truly follow any rules of logic and make their own up as they go along. Best advice is keep a distance and don’t let them have any part of your life.

  • Hi ChumpLady: I need advice. My friend’s husband is at it again. He is now ruining the kids lives. It is nothing but chaos in their home. I will call him Master Man from here on out short for Master Manipulator. He had an affair when they first got married. She forgave him, he promised to do counseling, get involved in church, take marriage courses, go on those marriage retreats, etc. Seemed good for awhile, then he started his crap again bothering all the younger gals at his corporate office job. Everyday there seemed to be an incident with him being told to keep his lewd comments or gestures to himself. He even got caught telling one of the interns “my wife is nothing but a caretaker and that’s about all she’s worth, besides baking brownies, nothing much.” A real peach of a guy huh? Yet, he will use my friend’s $ for every damn business venture he wants, any truck he wants to buy, any trip he wants to take. She funds it all. I swear their relationship is more like a mom taking care of an immature son then a husband/wife type of deal. Anyway, he smart mouthed me and told me to stay out of his business and leave well enough alone. I can’t stand what he pulls. He blames his ex wife for his first divorce, other women for affairs, my friend for not financially meeting all his needs and sexually. All kinds of BS. He lies to business partners, steals from clients, manipulates the kids to play both sides of the fence, tries to get out of work by traveling constantly and goofing off. I mean his damn near 50!!!! Does it ever stop? He got caught screwing around or as he says it only “emotional affairs” with two other gals in the last 5 years. It’s like life is but a joke and game to him. How can everything ALWAYS be someone else fault and they never see it’s them? I don’t get it!!! It is sooooooo frustrating and to say anything to him he denies, plays the poor innocent little lost lamb child, blames this and that, and then smirks like it’s all funny. When anyone gets really annoyed he laughs. Any advice? Then he just smarts off and says he’ll wait until the kids are grown and go find a twenty something to fund his lifestyle. It’s a lost cause….any advice?

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