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What Do We See in Narcissists Anyway?

ownskeinAs much as I advise against untangling the skein of fuckupedness, we chumps (myself included) spend a lot of time decoding cheaters, narcissists, and the other assorted wing nuts in our lives. But really, the best policy once you’ve determined someone is toxic is to steer clear. File them under “Creep” and adjust your life accordingly.

But the skein is so compelling. If we could just find that one unified thread that explains them, it would all make sense. One hazard of untangling the skein for chumps is that it leads to compassion. You might happen upon something that makes you feel sorry for that person. The humiliation she suffered in 8th grade. The way he’s always had to overcompensate because of his club foot. Her phobias around bridges, public speaking, and marsupials. His faulty neurotransmitters that make him socially awkward. Her fucked up parents. His first wife.

The problem with this is two-fold. If we point to some constellation of fuckupedness and think, “Oh THAT explains them”… now I just need to avoid everyone who is a Scorpio and phobic about marsupials and everything will be fine, we’re missing the point. Naming the skein doesn’t make it any less of a tangled mess. Second, thinking we understand the skein is a form of spackle. It gives some credence to Why They Act The Way They Do and allows us to give them a pass and us a false sense of security. It’s better to focus on yourself — is it okay for this person to treat me this way? And fight or flee. Which is a superior strategy to staying mired in the relationship asking yourself, “why do they treat me this way?”

When you are detaching from a narcissist ask yourself what you saw in that person. Untangle your own skein (you know it better than anyone else). Yeah, it’s not as fun. If you’ve ever had a good therapist, you know they’ll make you squirm, call you out on your shit. I’m not saying you’re not a victim of wing nut. The pain those motherfuckers inflict is hugely disproportionate to the crime of being a chump, but I encourage you to look at your own dynamics with narcissists. When you figure that out, then you’ll have the winning strategy for spotting them and avoiding them.

I think one reason chumps are initially attracted to sparkly people is that they are nothing like us. I’m not saying chumps aren’t charming or accomplished, but we tend to be self deprecating about it. One thing that all chumps have in common is that they are exceptionally responsible people. They feel the obligations of duty to their families, to their jobs. Chumps are conscientious. Narcissists, on the other hand, are quite liberated from conscientiousness.

A bit of tangent here — cheating is a narcissistic act. I do not think all cheaters are narcissists, as in personality disordered wing nuts. However, I do think that anyone who can conduct an affair for any significant amount of time is probably disordered. Healthy people don’t juggle double lives. To me, this degree of consciousness divides the cheaters. Someone with more of a conscience will confess, won’t cross certain lines (EA to PA, although I think these people are rare). More likely, they just exit the relationship. They’re not in it for the cake.

The cake eaters, however, those who lead double lives with proficiency — these people are free from the bonds that tie ordinary people.

And chumps — I believe many of us can sniff that out on a person and find it attractive. I know I did. I’m NOT saying that you knew they were cheating. On the contrary, what I’m saying is that you found their spontaneity, the permission they gave themselves to enjoy life, to be a taker revelatory. Exciting to be around. Very yin to your yang. I think chumps look at narcissists and think at some level, hmmm. I’d like a bit of that.

Narcissists are edgier and risk taking. They don’t ask permission. They don’t apologize. They hold themselves in high regard. They let you know that you’re very, very fortunate to associate with them. In their early love bombing courtship days they focus their laser beam of sparkles on you and make you think you’re very special. And gosh, they’re very special too (more special really), and together you’d be dynamite.

For the chumpy soul, this strikes a chord. Narcissists are good salesmen. They aren’t selling the lopsided, lack of reciprocity that will come — they’re selling adventure. And like a good salesman, they’ll morph their product into whatever you want it to be — It dices! It slices! And makes julienne fries! The product is really a Ronco piece of crap, but we’re taken in.

Narcissists don’t come across as all bad. At least not at first. They’re often actually somewhat accomplished, at least superficially. They play act at the hallmarks of a responsible life, but if you scratch the surface you’ll find half-assedness. A lack of good friends. A dearth of sticktoitiveness. There is sparkle without much substance. Narcissists don’t do substance. That takes commitment and they’re easily bored.

So chumps, if you want to be happy, surround yourself with responsible folks. If you partner up again, find a person who doesn’t help themselves to the last slice of pie, who feels guilt, who pays their taxes, who can’t be out late because they need to come home and feed their dog.

Reject people who are edgy and trendy and over stimulated. Don’t be like me and date a man with seven kayaks, okay? Chumps — you’re good folks. You deserve someone just like you.

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  • Thank you CL another great post. Just emailed my lawyer for a list of mediators and saw you post. Slowly step by step I am moving forward, not really wanting to; wishing it didn’t have to be this way.

    • Janet,

      Be cautious with mediation. In my experience mediation is to divorce what marital therapy is to infidelity. When dealing with a disordered person it’s only an opportunity for them to f with you some more. I wasted 2 years trying to go the mediation route. They just don’t have any experience dealing with disordered aholes.

      • I tried mediation too, ex would not actually do it, just a way to keep me married to him. I filed, that puts a deadline on it, you can still mediate but there is a limited window.

      • He was the one to bring it up 1st. Cited cost of lawyers.. I told him to see a lawyer but here we are 7 mos later he has done nothing ( which one of you told me was a form of control how true.) Not sure how this is all going to play out yet but I am willing to do this as a way of saying well I tried.

        • I did go through mediation… it worked for me because I think my cheater is more of a garden-variety narcissist (maybe just selfish asshole?). And he’s also passive aggressive and lazy…. rather than one of those attack dog types. They say the way you divorce is a reflection of the marriage. So, I guess he’s the one that sits there and complains while doing nothing to change the situation (guess that’s also his method of control like yours) and I’m the one that actually gets things done. The one thing we had in common was that we both wanted to save $. I was also the one that managed all the household finances and I had no problem with standing up to him and taking what was mine. I also did meet with a lawyer first and also after we reached our agreement to get an opinion. I would say my agreement was decently close to what the first guy claimed he could get me. The second lawyer tried to convince me I could get slightly more, but I was satisfied enough with the agreement that it would not have been worth the time, money, pain, and energy to me to fight to try to get slightly more.

          • Mine too. We divorced using a mediator, and it followed much of what AnotherErica posted. I knew there was only so much in the pot, and I knew what the motivations were. I am a better business person than he is…and I knew what I wanted. I too consulted an atty on the side and she guided me on the law and what I could get and what would be a stretch. He raged at me a couple of times when I pressed some issues, and had to be moved to another room….and of course, it showed the mediator who he “really is”…and that too helped me. I would find out later that he was already engaged at the time of our mediation (unbelievable)…hence why he was maybe more eager to move it along.

            • We used a mediator for one day…the mediators, lawyers and XH spent 2 hrs arguing about how much money I ‘should’ be making. After that, we split into two different rooms and then XH just left and said he would not return. On the other hand, B&SIL just went to mediation and resolved all issues in less than 4 hrs.
              It is a crap shoot. Just make sure that you and your atty keep control of the situation.

      • Yes, I think it’s human nature to try to untangle that skein. I find myself doing it regularly, but I then tell myself that it’s okay to pick it apart as long as I trust that they suck.

        Because they do. No matter what the reason, they had a choice and chose poorly.

        I have to remind myself of this each and every day. I think that this affair is the first, but I can’t be sure, and does it really matter? The point is that he’s cheated. It would be bad enough if he’d cheated via a 1-night stand (can I really trust him to go out of town on business again?), but he’s been carrying on for about a year now. This shows for certain that he’s in it for the cake.

        I think that the exercise of looking at the skein in terms of its sparkly bits is useful. What did I see in him? I thought I was falling in love with an attractive man who liked to do things that I liked; go to concerts, theater productions, out to dinner, etc. We both liked fantasy and science fiction. We like going to museums. He’s smart and quirky. I have grown up around the academy, so smart and quirky are my normal.

        I would probably find similar qualities in the next person, should I dip my toes in the dating pool–after a year or so of getting my head back on straight.

        But I spackled over other bits. I spackled over his anger, believing that it was a manifestation of his brain chemistry. I still think it is his brain chemistry, but the point is that he doesn’t see that it’s wrong or that he needs to address his anger. I object to having to walk on eggshells to keep him from getting angry. I spackled over his insecurity. This goes along with his anger. He is convinced that no one recognizes his intelligence, and that people are actively trying to thwart him. I excused this as a product of his background, of being the first to attend college. I spackled over his myriad of small, demeaning comments: “Did you clean this room?” (no, I usually stand around with windex, furniture polish, and the vacuum because I think they’re great props); “This house is so dirty” (after I’ve cleaned it); “It’s too late to eat!” (because i worked late and therefore dinner wasnt’ ready when he got home); “moving here was the worst mistake of my life” (because I’m now here with you?); “this house is a money sink” (because renting was $50 per month cheaper 5 years ago and our rent NEVER went up each year, Hah!). He’d say this stuff in an unthinking way. Sometimes he’d apologize. Most of the time he’d get on my case if I called him on it (“why do you make a federal case out of this?”). I spackled over this because I allowed him to have poor relationship skills due to his dysfunctional family.

        I need to get this all out of my head so that next time–if there is one–I pay attention to the warning signs.

    • I just wanted to say I know this was written a long time ago but the end bit about the 7 kayaks made my eyes pop! Mine had 5 and talking about getting more! I just wanted to know more about that comment as it interested me. He was a shopaholic and had about 20 saucepans but lived alone! I asked him why, he said they were cheap! Why is this significant? Please excuse my naivety, I’ve just left my Narcissist partner after a year. I really fell for him, the sex was so amazing and I felt drawn to him. He said I was the love of his life and still am. I’m his soul mate (we only get one he said and I’m his) it’s been 2.5 months and he says he’s not interested in sex with others and feels that masterbating is cheating on me! The reason I left him was i couldnt handle his female friends. One flirts with him and he’s as bad. One he said is like a sister to him and they’ve never had sex but she’s been good to him in the past. One he takes out for lunch occasionally but I felt uncomfortable with that. One he owned a dog with and she was always round to take it out for walks. Even if he never cheated I just felt uncomfortable with it. We had an amazing time but he made me feel insecure sometimes and used the cold at times then pull me in technique. I felt like his dog being scolded then rewarded, I was like a little puppy running around after him looking for praise and feeling deeply cut if he subtly undermined me. He had great pleasure in telling me his past, the many girlfriends, ex wife and all his affairs. I heard all the gory details but then was told he’d never ever do that to me. I just feel gutted as I loved him so much and I still do 🙁

  • CL – this post hit me like a ton of bricks, still sitting here crying in want-to-disbelieve-but-the-reality-is-too-big recognition. I am now 2 weeks post-move-out, and oh so confused and lost feeling. Your post is a sad, much needed grounding – thanks.

    • Hang in there, at least you have a chance now! I moved out on Valentines day, it’s really sad and lonely at first, I know some of what you’re going through ( i was married 32 yrs). I feel like the spirits or angels led where I needed to go- found a lovely compassionate therapist and the state pays for a year of counseling because he emotionally abused me. Also got a good lawyer, she got sick in the middle of filing and court, but then got an equally good lawyer to replace her. Things will work out eventually, i think the key is to be comitted to getting away from nutty evil so-called life partner. I love this blog, this really helps me alot, but the hard work you just have to do crying in your pillow, or on a kind shoulder.
      Each day is a new beginning, though! It gets easier and easier.
      My WS is signing an agreement this morning, I almost can’t believe it, he’s cooperating!

  • “Yin to your yang”, that was exactly it. I am so responsible, and he got me to have fun. But as things went along I realized that the responsibilities were still there and he would have none of it.

    Seven kayaks? LOL! We’ve got nine bicycles in the living room.

    • Yep– becoming a single parent really wasn’t a shift for me. I had always been a single parent. He felt like he was “helping out” on the rare occasion that he watched the kids so I could meet a friend for coffee or the infrequent pedicure. He also wanted me to quit my job while I was on child care leave, but I refused and went back part-time because the recession resulted in many job losses at his company. I was afraid that he’d lose his job, and then I wouldn’t have one to go back to. Once I returned to work and had the kids to care for, all bets were off. I thought I was being responsible. He felt he was being neglected.

      Mine doesn’t have outdoor equipment, but he LOVES to move into a house and make a zillion expensive changes. Thousands of our dollars have gone toward room remodels, an addition, landscaping, and repainting (done by expensive professionals– he never did anything himself). Since I’ve left him, more money went toward a new bathroom, more repainting (since he just couldn’t have walls in the colors that I helped to choose), and the purchase of a lot across the street so that his pastoral view isn’t ruined by someone putting a house on it (I kid you not). I now live in a tiny little house, painted some of the rooms with my dad, and have no plans to add on, renovate, or change much of anything. It’s so nice!

      • MovingOn, we are living the same life. I use to make an awkward joke while I was married “gee, I feel like a single parent” I was so use to going it alone.

        As for the house changes. . ..he is/was a serial remodeler. We remodeled and then remodeled what was remodeled and then remodeled that too. I shudder when I think of the amount of money that was spent on moving walls around and putting up new ones. Since I moved out of his house (since it was truly his ‘vision’) he has since remodeled for the OW, this time getting rid of every trace of me and turning the kid’s bedrooms in a luxury suite for the OW. I too, love my new to me smaller house and garden. He’s welcome to his luxury suite.

        • Ew, the STBX is doing the same thing as well– getting rid of every trace of me for the OWife, and he kicked the boys out of their room so that he could turn it into their master bedroom/bath. I’m glad that my kids spend most of their time with me. At his house, the boys have been relegated to the smaller bedroom, and their soon to be stepbrother will be sharing it with them. His kids are clearly a priority to him. He’s *such* a caring, thoughtful dad. *vomit*

          • They’re never happy with what they have. Always looking for something better. Mine liked to rearrange furniture constantly. Way more than a normal person. I used to see it as quirky. Now I realize he could just never settle in his own skin. What a sad existence.

      • I realize this is an old post/article…. going through a break up with the man I’ve been with for seven years and your comment about going back to work after having a kid resonated with me. He got mad at me for going back to work 5 years ago, claiming he could take care of us both…. yet I NEEDED to work. I could only do so much baby talk. But just as you say, he felt neglected and unappreciated immediately following that.

    • Being with him gave me permission to relax, let down my guard a little, and have fun. I got to be just a little bit irresponsible for a while, but I knew enough to reign it in and get back to real life. He never figured that out.

      • Deanna, That’s my situation to a T. Once we were up to our eyeballs in mortgage and a small human being in the household, lots of things need to be reigned in. But according to my STBX, I was being too controlling, stressing too much about money, and not enjoying life enough….. Raining on the parade, needed to lighten up, not fun to be around, I could go on and on and on and on…

    • Back when I was married, we had a life-size cut-out sign of the narc in our living room. Leaping into the air giving thumbs-up signs. I’m not even kidding, believe me it got a lot of comments.

      • Mine kept a brunette store manequin in our living room. Her name was Lynn and he’d dress her up. Maybe he just needed a bigger cheering section!

          • Hahahaha- sometimes in the middle of the night going for a drink of water!
            That was his thing, he would enjoy it if it creeped you out. I love that song ‘building a mystery’. These guys are flamboyant, and thats why he needed to keep me around for decades- i’m so responsible so he doesn’t need to be. My dream is to someday be in a relationship where my partner and I are equal and going in the same direction ( and not chasing vapid, insane, loose AP’s around on the side, what a change!). Not that I did that, but he sure did.

          • I was going to post this same thing! He apparently once frightened his ex wife with it so badly, she fell and hit her head on the pavement. She was trying to come in the door with her arms loaded with groceries, and he jumped out at her with the mannequin.

          • Oh yes, that did jump out at me. His OW had lifesized skeletons hanging on HER wall. OMG- soulmates!! She can have him now, and put up with all the ‘fun’

            • Oh, thats strange, we both said jumped out. H isn’t a psycho/kidnapper mess, but that is maybe an indication of men that see women as objects, and think it’s OK to use them. She’s just a ‘thing’, right?

    • 2 motorcycles ( one that has never ben in one piece but has cost several thousand in parts) 2 boats, thousands in hunting/fishing equipment

      • 38 Jackets/Coats hanging in the back room. We live in South Florida. Way South.
        Left 35 of them behind when he left. What fun.

      • OMG Janet! Mine has 2 motorcycles, two boats, four cars and (ten?)thousands in tools! There are tools to fix tools. Meanwhile I am clipping coupons and worrying about the mortgage.

        • Tools, tools, tools! Table saws, tile cutter, you name it. and he wouldn’t take anything when I threw him out, even though I found a mutual friend that said he could store it at his place. And then when he found out I was giving it all away (think my neighbor called him) he shows up and accuses me of having “someone here at night that was stealing his shit”. Making that back room into an ART studio for ME now!

            • Mine was into guitars and watersports (windsurfer, jetski) and had just started into watches. Always irritated that he could not acquire fast enough and that pesky old wife, kids, house kept him from getting all his stuff.

              My ex could stick to CERTAIN things to a degree… like the guitar playing, which he admitted he initially took up to impress girls (though probably non-narcissists could say the same thing?). But he liked to pull that out to impress people whenever he got the chance. Same with cooking now. He’s Mr. Chef at least for special occasions or a party where people can appreciate and admire the cooking. Not everyday cooking at home for the family at all of course. That was mine. But what I used to love is how if I had cooked like 95% of the dish and he had helped with one tiny thing he would bring it into work or his parents and refer to how “he” cooked it! He took all the credit! And made me look like the slacker wife who does nothing.

              • Well of course, those shoes were important. ( My father was a leather buyer for a shoe company. When I went to college I took fifty pairs. All of my clothes were home made, but I had shoes to go with every outfit.) LOL

            • Why would you possible need 50 bikinis? Was she a supermodel or something? 50 BIKINIS ??? Really???

              • The only thing I never could understand LeAnn buying, was a thousand dollar sweater. Even her mother Belinda, fussed at her for that one.

              • Yes, 50. Many still had the tags on them. So, I returned a bunch as she was getting ready to move out with her affair partner into the love shack they had been setting up.
                Got store credit and bouhght some new clothes,first time in years, for myslef.
                She was furious. I also returned a bunch of sexy nighties she had outfitted herself with for use in the affair.
                Shoes? Please. We have kids that need to go to college. 10-20 pairs, okay(that is about 15 more than I have).
                If someone has a shoe fetish, do not feed it at your kids’ education expense.

              • Boy do times change. I am looking into my closet right now and I have seven pairs of shoes not counting cowboy boots. I love the way you took her purchases back, got credit and spent it on yourself. I haven’t done anything for me yet. Waiting until he is gone. Will buy new clothes, change my hair style and get out of these jeans for most of every week. New me coming out. And I like her so much. Have avoided mirrors for years, now I catch a glance just to see me smile. It has been a while.

      • Mine traded in 3 cars in one year, bought a truck that same year and then a boat he never ever used. When he left, he LEFT. His house is going in foreclosure, turned his car into the bank, left his dog, all his appliances, everything, everything but two duffle-bags. He told me he was going to go and “re-invent” himself. And going into semi-retirement. At 34 years old. (We are married, these are things that he purchased prior to our marriage)

        Oh, he was re-inventing himself with an ex-girlfriend from 12 years ago. When that didn’t apparently work out, he is now re-inventing himself with the first woman he cheated on me with, and she is cray cray.

    • Seven kayaks… had to laugh. At one point, XH had a “flotilla” of sailboats: J24, Laser, Sunfish, and a Flying Scot.

      But he couldn’t afford to insure them all, properly maintain them, pay for boat slips or boat trailers though, because THAT requires a regular paycheck, consistent employment, showing up on time … yup. No sticktoittiveness. Never finished a project. Couldn’t hold down a job. Never paid bills on time, if they were paid at all. Only managed to show up early for a regatta (HIS hobby), but nothing else.

      • One of the other reasons I returned to work is that I knew that if STBX lost his job, he was not the kind of person who would be willing to flip hamburgers or dig ditches (like I would) to put food on the table. Those types of jobs would be BENEATH him. He has since been working on a graduate degree that will actually help him to get a job if he gets laid off, but before that, he had two relatively useless undergrad degrees that certainly would not have made him a candidate for the type of job he felt entitled to (white collar, good pay, “respectable”). On top of that, he feels that he is such a cut above others that he would probably get fired for lashing out at any higher-ups who were critical of his work (which did happen at a summer job he had while we were in college… good thing he was born to rich parents and didn’t really need the work like the rest of us common peasants). He currently works almost entirely alone and remotely from his computer; this works for someone like him who is, at best, a disgruntled co-worker that can only stand taking orders from the big boss because the headquarters are many, many states away.

        So, yeah. I spackled that as well by going back to work as the safety net because Mr. Snob wouldn’t have deigned to work at Target stocking shelves. He very kindly went and had an A in response. :S

      • In answer to Arnold about shoes: I will defend a woman’s right to have as many shoes as she needs. Sorry, but shoes are awesome and I have a major collection. Many I only wear once a year, with a particular outfit. I have no other vices other than books. But shoes…beautiful shoes, particularly many styles of black boots…I defend it to the death. I will say, though, that I am an excellent sale shopper, and know lots of hidden outlets so I’m pretty good about the money I spend on them. But I do have a few pairs that are virginal…just waiting for the right outfit.


        • Cannot give her a pass on shoes. We could all come up with some material good or something that we really like. But, if one simply indulges the craving at the expense of others, like taking the $$ that could have gone for college and other neccessities, that is selfish. I know is sounds cute”women love shoes”. But, indulging in this can cause financial harm to the family, in some cases.
          I love golf clubs. Would it have been alright to spend thousands on spare sets?

          • Arnold, we have given you a rough time about the shoes. It just dawned on me that some of the females are serious. I never dreamed they could not see the truth. I have a friend who is bi-polar and schitzophrenic. I am cleaning out his house, shipped his furniture, etc. He is in a mental hospital in another city now. I am trying to figure out what to do with 7 golf bags full of clubs. Three of the sets are brand new and very expensive, about $2000 each. Yes, it is sick. He has lots of money, but that is not the point. He does even play golf any more. He goes on these spending binges and doesn’t realize it until the house is full of stuff. I’ll bet she never wore many of those shoes, just buy them for the sake of buying, spending. They try to make themselves feel better about their lives by buying new things, but it never helps.

            • This hoarding thing/need for material things is common with the disordered, Yoder. Look at Imelda Marcos and her shoe thing and then look at her level of empathy/entitlement.
              You are right. My disordered wife was trying to fill that huge hole in her soul, the bottomless pit of need.

              • H piles things. He buys new, piles things all around him and can’t find something, buys new, piles things all around…it is a hideous cycle.

            • Yes, and remember that sometimes shoes are nice indulgences that all us women love. That is when they are *reasonable* prices . We can buy quite an armload of shoes at reasonable prices. But when shoes are upwards of $500 – $1000 a pair, then it is different. Having a few hundred pairs of shoes takes on a whole new meaning.

              • I cannot carve out an exception for shoes. It is obsessive, as Yoder says. Same with the crap men buy at the expense of their families.
                I have a friend who has at least 5 sets of the best golf clubs. He is nuts, IMO, on this.

      • Wow BarristerBelle….sounds like my ex- house, 2 opti’s, a laser, a J24, and a Sunfish and an Olsen 30…….none of which are cared for…

        • Mine, too! Loved to buy things. Didn’t want to take care of them. House, cars, dog, you name it. Kind of like he wanted a wife and kids but didn’t really want to take care of us, either. Too much damn work.

    • Yep…that summed it up for me too. He gave me the “permission” to have fun. I hardly ever allowed myself to do that.

      And the toys…he was all about the toys. OY!

  • CL, are you psychic? STBX has announced his engagement to the OW (even though we’re not yet D) and his intention to marry her in a little more than a month. I’ve felt nothing but disgust the past few days, and I’ve been trying to process how someone can behave in such a morally bankrupt way (and the same goes for the OW who accepted, likely knowing that her fiance isn’t even D yet). Thank you for this entry– this part especially rang true for me:

    “Narcissists don’t come across as all bad. At least not at first. They’re often actually somewhat accomplished, at least superficially. They play act at the hallmarks of a responsible life, but if you scratch the surface you’ll find half-assedness. A lack of good friends. A dearth of sticktoitiveness. ”

    I’ve been struggling with trying to reconcile the person I thought STBX was (responsible, honest, committed, decent) with who he really is (selfish, immoral, a poor role model, dishonest, disgusting, lacking in friends/close family relationships). The above quote really defines who my STBX is– I chose to see the accomplishments, the shows of responsibility, the intelligence, the talent– and I think that having kids was the catalyst that allowed his true personality to show through. Now, life was no longer about me making him the centerpiece of my existence. There were no longer weekends where we could do whatever he wanted (because doing what I wanted was often accompanied by impatience or annoyance), there were no longer long trips to wherever he wanted to go (fortunately, I was usually excited to go as well, but I had also never been farther than four or five hours from home, so any place was an adventure), and well, the sex just wasn’t as frequent because I was caring for little kids mostly by myself. Once the attention was no longer focused solely on him, the gild wore off the lily, and he went elsewhere to seek the attention he felt entitled to.

    It was always there. I just didn’t see it and/or didn’t want to (spackle, spackle, spackle). Thanks for the reminder. I have to focus on myself and my children. He is who he always was. I’m just waking to up that reality is all, and I have to adjust to it.

    • MovingOn said, “STBX has announced his engagement to the OW (even though we’re not yet D) and his intention to marry her in a little more than a month.”

      LOL. This isn’t even legally possible in my state: mandatory 60 day waiting period, and the lawyers very sincerely remind their clients of this because… well….

      I remember laughing, and saying “I don’t think we need to worry about that with me anyway”, to which my attorney replied, “Well, you’d be suprised how many of my clients are upset because they already had a wedding planned”.

      Don’t understand at all.

      • STBX has been calling the OW his “fiancee” since a month after I filed for divorce. However, because of the backup/budget cuts in the court system out here, it took three months from the time of filing for it to be accepted by the courts and for the six month waiting period to begin.

        What does that mean? STBX was calling the OW his “fiancee” about TWO MONTHS BEFORE MY FILING WAS ACCEPTED. He was still married to me and he had a fiancee. How nice.

        And i found this out because she came up as a contact on my online address book.

        • Umm, I was referring to the part about marrying her in less than a month.

          Not legal here. People sometimes are upset that they have to wait 2 months from the date of the divorce to marry apparently.

    • Not only does CL’s post completely and utterly describe my life, once again, but Moving on, your comments mirror my own experience nearly word for word. I am forever (or so it seems) having to explain to the smug(and perhaps secretly nervous??) married ‘what I thought happened’ and over and over I describe your scenario–I chose to be wowed by his profession and intelligence. I overlooked the lack of friends. I spackled the impatience. I raised the kids alone and gave him his entitled and, as he pointed out, well deserved time to do as he pleased, because he was so damn special and entitled to it, he worked harder than anyone else in the world. I completely understand the impatience and annoyance.. . .spent more time walking on egg shells worrying about ‘what would HE think?” than I spent breathing.

      It’s uncanny how similar, how eerily similar the chump experience is. Hope you are doing well and moving on MovingOn.

      • Oh god, skatergirl, it actually made me feel ill to read your post, what you’re describing is so exactly my ex. Blergh …..

        Can we find out where they keep that damned Narcissist Handbook? THEY all seem to have read it ….

      • “he worked harder than anyone else in the world” … now where have I heard that before?!?

        Oh, he also has the hardest job in the world.

        By the way, he also pretty much only works 4 days a week.

      • I agree! That describes my ex to a tee, skater girl. It’s good to know there are others out there who have gone through this. Other people I know who got divorced weren’t dealing with narcissists. Their exes still maintained relationships with their kids (mine hasn’t–we split up 3 months ago and he hasn’t spoken to them since!) and actually HAD friends. I overlooked a lot in my 33 years with him! Glad I’m out but it’s tough. Glad I found this site. It’s helpful!

  • Good heavens. It’s like you just spent an afternoon with my Richard the Brave and took a peek into our 23 year relationship. It was all sparkle and half-assedness, but I felt so lucky that he loved me. He thinks his feelings and behaviors are so unique, but he is unbelievably textbook. He’s a walking, talking cliche.

    • It’s been my experience (I have had a few friends who fit the profile) that they usually are…textbook cliche’s and they think they are outliers.

      • Yep, my ex thinks he is the most unique and special man in the world. I’ finally figured out that he’s not. This makes him angry.

      • That’s because they’re really alone in their own heads. No empathy = no connection, = no one to tell you that you as emperor aren’t wearing any clothes. If I ever get like that, please shoot me…

  • ‘Laser beam of sparkles’!!!!
    Yes, that feels so fine when it’s shone on you. But then, 30 yrs later I had to watch from the outside as he pointed that at his emotional AP ( who lived right across the street, got to be lazy!). Now I see that device for what it is, they just have lots of weapons to get chumps to sign up for their life circus. One thing thats been the saddest for me and so hard to accept, is how SHALLOW he is. I really thought he was so caring and deep, but that was just me pretending to make it so.

    • Patty,
      Your comment “s how SHALLOW he is. I really thought he was so caring and deep” rings true for my experience with my ex NPD. Highly educated, well traveled, always the best restaurants, well read, etc…but where did I found out he spent his time? On porn sites connecting with some poor, uneducated woman who spread her legs for tips, with 20 something prostitutes and commenting on his 20 something “online friends’ ” photo sharing sites about their “sexy” or “stunning” or “magical” (highly photoshoppped )self-portraits and how “deep and soulful” their eyes were. Gag. Anyone can mess up their hair and stare at a camera, paste some moody lyrics and think themselves a temptress to horny old men. That fancy ivy league education went to waste.

    • Yes, I had a very hard time with that as well. My therapist said part of what attracted us to each other was we both had the same goals… of family, etc. Only I wanted them for real and he was mostly just interested in the perfect image of these things.

      If I thought too much about it, I used to feel sorry for him for being so shallow. That’s when I used to hope he would grow and change because of this. Now I’ve given up and just have resigned myself to the fact that he’s just an acquaintance that I don’t like very much and with whom I need to raise my children. It’s kinda weird how little I feel about him now… weird to think I spent so many years with this now almost stranger.

      • “Now I’ve given up and just have resigned myself to the fact that he’s just an acquaintance that I don’t like very much and with whom I need to raise my children. It’s kinda weird how little I feel about him now… weird to think I spent so many years with this now almost stranger.”

        This is very weird for me too. I was married for 20 years, but now he’s barely even an acquaintance, just a horrible person I can’t totally discard because of our son. I realized recently I can’t even picture his face in my mind anymore, and that’s kind of sad….. but it also means that it’s been nearly two years since I actually spent time in his presence, and that is good.

        I never had any idea what went on in his mind. I see in looking back that he was a complete stranger, a total lie. He lived a double life the entire marriage. It’s hard to imagine a person being able to cheat and lie the way my ex did. Not a shred of remorse or guilt. He is a complete sociopath. I’m actually afraid of him.

        • GladIt’sOver……I feel exactly the same way the only difference for me was it was 4 days shy of 18 years as opposed to 20 years…..I don’t even recognize him anymore when I do see him in public and I refuse to be anywhere alone with him, because it would just open the door for him to abuse me even more…and I am trying to stop that cycle….but I also agree…’s pretty bad when a priest calls your ex-husband a socio-path and tells you that the biggest gift was getting out of the marriage…..what a slap in the face there…..going to clean up more spackle now.

  • OMG, yes, as usual this is spot-on. My ex is the sparkly life of the party at all times. He’s so fun, so charismatic, so willing to do absolutely anything, anytime with anyone, so NICE. He radiates sparkly positivity like the sun. Well, at least until you get close enough to smell the shit that lurks underneath. Because that’s what narcs and other personality disorders are. Glitter on a turd.

    I actually took a piece of brown clay, molded it into a turd-like shape, then covered it with gold glitter paint. I have this sparkly turd on a shelf in my bedroom. When I sometimes forget what my ex is, start to think, “maybe he really IS the great guy he claims to be, and it was all MY fault” then I look at that glittering turd and remember that I smell the stink of his sociopathy, even though so many others are fooled and think that smell is roses.

    • I thought Richard the Brave was the sparkly life of the party, but recently he became louder and more obnoxious and a little embarrassing. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago during a coed kickball game (yep…still on the same team) that I was able to observe him as an outsider. Suddenly his sparkles looked like desperate attention grabs and I was embarrassed for him. What a feeling!…embarrassed for, but not by. The spackle has all cracked away and he really is just a gold plated turd.

      • My ex knows a huge amount of people in our city. He’s been very active in the local chamber of commerce, and used to be fairly prominent in his business circles (until he quit his job to become an actor three years ago.)

        Anyway, when we were married, we were always running into people who knew him through work, but were meeting me for the first time. I would say with no exaggeration whatsoever that at least 100 times over our 20 year marriage, the very first words out of someone’s mouth upon being introduced to me was, “Oh, you poor thing” or “I don’t know how you do it.”

        I was so dumb, I thought everyone saying that was joking, was making a sort of loving comment about what a fun, great guy I was married to, the total life of the party. Now I realize it’s not normal for 100 people to make that same comment when meeting a man’s wife. Maybe some were joking, but I think the majority were actually acknowledging what I spackled desperately to avoid admitting: my ex was an attention whore, a pathetic child screaming out “Look at me! Look at me!” and a loser who did absolutely ANYTHING to get himself in the spotlight every possible moment. He was incredibly embarrassing.

    • I am so going to do that! I have the same fault of thinking, wow, maybe he’s not that bad….blah blah blah, and then I remember when I caught him cheating and his response to me was “You mad?”…

      Ugh, so glad to have him out of my life and torturing his AP’s life. She’s just as bad.

  • Oh, just re-reading your piece, and noticed this ‘narcs don’t do substance. That takes commitment and they’re easily bored’. I was begging my H to please get a job ( stopped working 3 yrs ago), and help us and he said ‘hard work and devotion is for losers’
    That one will stay with me forever!

    • Patty, sounds like my ex. He’s also been out of work for three years while he pursues his “dream and calling” of becoming an actor. He’s mostly lived off unemployment all this time, along with filing bankruptcy and living in his sister’s spare bedroom. He frequently tells our teen son that he “sees no reason to get a job as long as he can collect unemployment.” Such a work ethic!

      • Yep, almost lost our house last fall to foreclosure, I had to pay for bankruptcy and save it just in the nick of time! That’s what happens when the narc gets bored with employment (clearly that’s for the chumps).
        My H did just sign divorce stipulation, notarized and everything!
        On my way now.

  • Yup. I was chumped alright. I really believed the ex to be a Knight in Shining Armor. He really dug that vision I had of him. Insert vomiting emoticon here. Man was he really sparkly…he seemed to have close relationship with mother (but that is another story—kind of like an Oedipus complex) his brother and sister.

    My narcissist needed to be the center of EVERYTHING and everyone needed to LOVE him. He needed, needed, needed. Ugh.

    He came across as not bad at all at the beginning like you said. I was thrilled by his aggressiveness, intellect and passion. In fact when I married him I told everyone it was going to be a ‘great adventure’. WTF was I thinking. Classic Yin to Yang.

    Now, I am about to be married to a non-sparkly yet fluorescent man. He shines from the inside OUT…not just on the outside (as the sparkly ones do). He is not edgy or trendy…he is solid and thinks all of that is really unimportant in the scheme of things. But you know what? I am marvelously happy…and I never thought I would be….I really never thought I would meet someone so different and be like, completely in love. I’m not going to sell you a line of sunshine and roses because, this is a RELATIONSHIP after all and they have to be lovingly taken care of. I feel really grown up now and the rose-colored glasses I used to wear? I donated them to the Goodwill.

    • I love that. Non-sparkly but fluorescent and shines from the inside out. May we all find that the next time around.

  • Excellent advice, CL. We do need to take a hard look at ourselves and figure out why we let this happen.
    Despite some mastery of disguise, I think that these folks do show us who they are during courtship and we choose to ignore it. That is the key, why did we do that?

      • Yes yes yes, that’s EXACTLY what I thought! I saw the insecurity and unhappiness underneath, and figured my love and commitment would allow him to be happier and more self-confident, and all that amazing potential would come true!

        Makes me want to hurl, right now.

        Because he was actually unhappy bc he wasn’t getting enough kibbles, and because he’s always been unhappy and insecure and always will be, and ALWAYS dealt w/that through unrelenting, unremitting selfishness.


        • I did it because the time was never right to leave. I was afraid of the pain, afraid of being alone, afraid of getting old, and working in an industry that fell apart during the recession. I don’t think we’ve had one completely great day together since 2005. But I stuck around and even married him, despite the red flags. (As a side note, I only discovered he was actually cheating last November. I never thought it was possible to the extend he was fucking around all that time).

        • See, that is the problem. There is a certain amount of hubris in thinking you can fix someone. I did it too. I had no business doing that.

          • Interesting. I never thought about “fixing” my STBX, but in a way, I think I did.

            I loved him because he had a lot of qualities I admired, and he was interested in activities that I liked doing. It became apparent, though, once we were married, that there were things he didn’t do. Like kiss me hello or goodbye when coming home or going to work. Or that casual “love you” on phone conversations. My parents did all these things and more. Why wouldn’t STBX?

            Here is another place I spackled. I knew that his parents’ marriage wasn’t a great one (I had no idea of the long-term mistress at that time, though I knew there had been one). I figured that he lacked proper married role models (and I still think this), and that he’d pick things up if married behavior were modeled for him. See? I wanted to fix things, though at the time I didn’t think that I was actively trying to fix things.

            So, Arnold, good insight.

    • Arnold, it is because we chumps are good people. We met our narcs and they were so sparkly to us BUT they early on showed us that something is ‘wrong’ with them. What do we do? Well, we are used to ‘working hard’ and we will ‘love them’ and ‘fix’ them and make ourselves happy in the process. We will show them so much love and commitment that they will just ‘blossom’ and we will all live happily every after. Seriously, that is what it is!

      • I agree, we are good. But, we also had blinders on, blinders that a healthier person would have shed.
        My therapsit told me I do have a problem: a low sense of entitlement. He went on to say that, at least, unlike a personality disorder(which is intractible), this type of problem is fixable(and , seldom hurts anyone other than the person with the problem).
        It is all well and good(and true) to console ourselves that we are good people. But, that will not protect you in the future. We need to recognize these types and avoid them.

  • Beautifully written, Chump Lady. And thanks for the encouragement to us chumps, at the end. We really do deserve someone special.

  • My ex was always the life of the party. Center of attention. Very outgoing and funny in a crowd. Very accomplished, intelligent, a real go-getter. College professor at age 25. Yes, very smart. But here’s the kicker. When he was a few years into his job he came home one day and told me he’d figured out a way to get anyone to do anything for him. “How?” I asked. “You just have to ACT like you care,” he said. Little did I know he was using the same strategy on me. Once I was finished raising the kids he stopped acting. I sat at home week after week after week while he was traveling “for business,” thinking we would have more time to spend together after the kids were grown, that we could reconnect. What a chump I was.

  • Spot on CL… I am recently separated from a NPD snake and this describes him, and us, to a tee. This is so hard for my children and I, but this blog helps so much. Thank you!

  • ‘One thing that all chumps have in common is that they are exceptionally responsible people.’ You’re so right. I do what I’m supposed to. Attend every school event, every family party, etc. My husband would always make up some excuse and not go. I always thought maybe I just have more guilt because I was raised Catholic. Nope, I’m a chump and he’s a narc. Explains so many things.

    The double life leading is so astounding to me. How do you kiss your wife goodbye and exchange ‘I love yous’ and ‘have fun’ and go off and see your girlfriend? I can’t fathom it.

    • We probably do experience more guilt. Or at least I think I do. (I was raised Catholic too!)

      In fact, I considered it a weirdly big step a few months ago when I was signed up for a two session adult education class on decorating. The first class was almost completely useless and I was not the only attendee to think so. Old me would have still felt obligated to attend the second one. But new me was like, I don’t want to go to this, my time away from home is scarce and precious and I don’t want to waste it there, so I’m not going to go! As far as rebellions go it was very slight, but a big deal to me! 🙂

      • That’s a huge step! I would have sat through the second one out of obligation and fear of hurting the feelings of a teacher I would never see again.

    • Astounding is a good word, Kay. As are “astonishing”, “bizarre”, “terrifying” and “surreal”. How can someone bring their lover home at lunch, use the marital bed, go back to work, then bring same lover (with his wife) home after work for cocktails and dinner? Beats the shit out of me. And I’m glad it does.

        • Yes, sick. My ex “introduced” his two long-term affair partners to me and his children, and they were (we thought) co-workers and family friends. We spent weekends at the home of one of the married affair partners, her husband also blind to their sick games, our children playing together, and vice versa. Why? What did they do together after the children and I went to bed? What kind of sick thrill did it give them that we trusted them? Trying to untangle the skein I suppose, but you can’t help it, it’s too mind blowing. Well the fucktard made his own bed and is lying in it, so to speak. Our children are young adults now and have chosen not to have a relationship with him. Not that he seems to care, he has gone on worrying about the only one that matters, himself. We call him the ghost…

          • Oh and Geoff, I perpetually search for the right words– horrifying, disgusting, perverted, disturbed, deranged– still haven’t quite found the right one.

            • Kelly and Geoff, only one word applies; psychopaths.

              I’m so sorry you had to live with these people, it must have been so mind-bendingly horrible.

          • Sick indeed! Part of our therapy was for him to plan “date night.” One evening it was a picnic in the park. Turns out the OW was there the whole time, watching us. All prearranged. He even paraded me before her when we went for a walk. As if to say to her, “Now you can see why my life is so miserable.” I cannot even fathom the thought process behind this. Of course when I would ask him in therapy, “What were you thinking?” his answer was always “I wasn’t thinking.” Bullshit.

              • “Date night” was some kind of therapeutic crap exercise to make sure we spent time together to “reconnect.” Yeah, right.

              • Nan, I know what date night is, I just don’t know WHY it is. I cannot imagine having to schedule a fun time with the person you love. Up until the affair, h and I did everything together, we even worked together. We had more fun than any couple imaginable. We wrote music together, cooked in the kitchen together. published a newspaper together, raised kids together (we shared every chore.) And, we did this for over thirty years. Just can’t get over scheduling fun with your spouse. If it is necessary to do so, why are they married? Just makes no damn sense. But then, neither did the affair.

              • In our case, we needed to book a date night because we were just both so busy, and while we spent a lot of family time, we didn’t have much couple time just having fun. For a couple of years after the first affair, we made a point of meeting for lunch once a week on a workday, and it made a surprisingly big difference to how the ex felt and treated me – it was really helpful. So after a couple of years he started cancelling and refusing to book (I have a rigid schedule that changes each semester, so we had to figure out what day of the week we could meet for lunch every six months.) He also, in the last couple of years we were together, refused to book weekends away just the two of us (the kids now being old enough to stay w/his mom when she was in town visiting). Then he while blame-shifting after I found out about the affair, he complained that we weren’t as connected any more, and expressed astonishment that he had turned down those opportunities to stay closer. Fucktard.

              • We hardly ever (maybe ten times in 35 years) spent a night apart, until the affair. We worked together. I knew and was aware of everyone he worked with. Stopped having lunch together. He took his to work. Should have picked up on that at the time. Just thought he was trying to save money. I had to drive about 15 miles each day to have lunch with him. Nights and weekends we were always together. It all started (I think) the summer of 2011 when I was a diabetic and so very sick. I was also trying to finish my book. I was no fun, so he found it elsewhere. I am no longer diabetic and taking care of him until he is well enough to take care of himself. I did not get married to spend my life alone. When the fun stopped, so did the marriage.

              • Yoder, I agree. This was while we were in R, so we could “focus on the relationship.” So rather than the usual dinner & movie, he was supposed to plan something that *I* would like to do. And of course there was nothing I wanted to do more than stroll by the OW. While he was supposed to be NC with her.

              • Good Lord! Defies imagination. These cheaters get so stupid when they have affairs. Honestly, they are so busy covering their butts, they don’t think of anything else. Then once the chumps figure out what is going on, the cheaters again, start worrying about what we are going to do. All the while, they stay stupid and unfocused on what is really going on. I am putting back (cash in a bag) money from walmart purchase returns, and grocery returns (I purchase things I don’t want or need, return them and keep the cash) to adding my name to his stock brokerage account (that was not easy, but it’s done). And I have some other things I am working on. I should be able to leave financially sound. I am using this care-taking time wisely.

              • Thanks for the support. I cringe every time I successfully pull something off. Never know if it will work or not. The slightest suspicion and he would scour everything I do. He is a chump for trusting me. Funny how that can work in reverse.

              • Yoder, the best to you. It has to be stressful to think and act like a non-chump when it is against our trusting nature! I hope you chump him well.

                We also did everything together – in the same line of work, volunteering, taking classes. Until I started to feel suffocated and realized that it was just another way for him to control me – he always knew where I was at and what I was doing. An NPD will volunteer for something only because it makes him look good.

                I also had a serious illness about 20 years ago and had a lot of support from family and friends. I think it killed him to see me getting attention – even from my doctors!

                And when he told me he wanted a D (yeah, because I’m SUCH a chump that that’s how it played out), he said he would stick around until after he had some elective surgery so I could take care of him. And of course I did. That’s the sound of me banging my head against the wall.

                So many common experiences here…

              • I thought I could hear the echo of your head banging against the wall, but I was wrong, it was mine. As I bend over the kitchen counter juicing carrots for him.

                You won’t believe what I am working on now. He is one of six fraternity brothers that have remained close since college, some from high school and one since childhood. They are all married and have families except for one. They all helped each other out through the years. A few years ago, the unmarried one, now 70, has become quite ill. h is the only brother in the town where he lives, all the others live far away. When H became ill himself, I became the fraternity brother he was supposed to be. Low and behold, this guy just thinks I am the berries and all the others think I am a saint for taking care of both men. The single brother has no family, his frat brothers and I are all he has. Guess what, he is now in a hospital in another city and asked me (and h) if we would house sit for him. No cost to me. Yesterday in the mail, I received a copy of his will and he is leaving the house to us. Not too often somebody just gives you a house. Now to figure out how to get it in my name only. Big crunch on that one.

              • Go for it, Yoder! The other thing to do is to buy gift cards at stores you go to often. You can keep them and use them anytime later!

              • Sorry, I would never do that. Will not waste my money getting something I pay extra for and many never use, plus it ties up your assets. I do not “spend” money, I save it. I get a little here and there and build up a pot of cash. No bank account to trace, it just grows little bits at a time. Cash, well hidden yet accessible if needed. I do not want to “own” anything of value. I want to be asset poor in his eyes and in the eyes of the court, and over an extended period of time. But thanks, for thinking about this. I am always up for new ideas.

              • Despite his cheating actions, he probably still feels entitled to a hard-working, loving, caregiving wife such as yourself. So he may not suspect at all that the piper is coming and he will have to pay the consequences for his choices.

              • I am so busy doing many different things, get his friends house taken care of, taking care of h, getting us ready to move, getting the book promoted, just really way too many irons in the fire, but it all keeps his mind occupied…lots of things to think about. Has never even asked me a leading question of any kind. We WANTS to believe, he WANTS to trust, so he does. Sounds like me, a few months back. His stock broker called and needed to disburse some shares and wanted to know whose name to put them in. I told him that under the present circumstances it might be best to put them in mine, as it is difficult to get anything notarized, etc. because of h’s health. He agreed. I will no longer worry about being penniless. Yeah!

              • Yoder, my parents absolutely adored each other. But they also ensured they have some time together without the kids. This was especially important when my mom decided to go back to grad school. She and my father had very different schedules, so it was important for them to have some time together outside the house and family, even if it was a coffee at McDonald’s.

                But they didn’t need to be told to carve out time for themselves. They just did it because they liked being with each other and didn’t want to feel as if they never saw each other outside of good morning and good night!

              • H and I did that for 35 years. When the kids were little they were so much fun we spent every minute with them that we could. As grownups, “our” time was when they slept or were at school. The kids went to bed at 8 and we were night owls, so we had lots of time together. We did not get married to spend our time apart. We were happy for 35 years. As Chad and Jeremy sang, “All good things must end, some day.” I am so glad we had 35 wonderful years together and had so much fun raising our family. Now I’m through. Poof! And I get a brand new life and am so excited about that. I am putting back a little financial security. Wonder what I would look like as a blonde? LOL

            • My ex, when I asked what he was thinking and what he thought would happen (he had multiple affair partners and group sex literally under the families’ noses for decades) just kept repeating in a dead monotone: “I just always thought we’d be together”, meaning my ex and me. My response— “HOW MANY OF US???”

          • “This is EXACTLY who/what they are.” They are cheaters. They know the difference between right and wrong and go ahead and do what they damn well please. They want their cake and eat it too. They have no respect for anyone other than themselves and only do what is necessary (adoration, play like loving someone, etc.) in order to get what they want because they think it will make them feel good. This hedonism in its gravest form. They will never feel good, because “getting” from someone is only instant gratification, there is nothing long lasting about it because they will never be gratified or satisfied. They are incapable of real love, devotion to others, selfless.

      • Geoff, I am so sorry, but I agree 100% with “I’m glad it does.” After trying in vain to wrap my head around that question, I am now relieved to realize that I don’t need to understand but am infinitely grateful that it doesn’t apply to me. Thank you for pointing it out, and thank you also for saying that as a member of the opposite sex. I think all us chumps who have been dealing with a particular individual and their crap tend to forget that not all “insert gender here” are like that. Thanks for the reminder. On to new life and love.

        • Right you are Ellen. Understanding these people is not where I want to go. You’re right too, when you say it isn’t a gender question. It’s an asshole question. Good luck in your new life and new love!

  • Thanks Chump Lady. Love this blog and so glad to have found it.

    Selling adventure… wasband had a plan that bugged me the way he stated it. He was planning on buying a second house and said he was looking for a lake home with a great backyard that would hook the kids into coming to visit once they got older and moved out. I couldn’t identify with that. It really struck me he felt he needed to use possessions to have a relationship with the kids. He still uses his money to try to buy them with extravagant gifts. Good thing is that my kids recognize it but also sad that is who he is. No substance, all sparkles.

    “Laser beam of sparkles” got to me at the end too. Wasband would walk into a room and be on with a huge smile and a “look at me, everyone loves me” attitude. How dare you not recognize it. Oh I’m so glad my eyes are open now. Ick.

    • The STBX uses possessions to have a relationship with my kids as well. The AP (soon to be OWife) does the same thing. They have a new toy and go somewhere “really fun” every weekend they’re with him. Mine are too young to understand that the best their daddy can do is buy their love, though, so I just smile when they tell me how much fun their weekend was and how the OW bought them candy, etc. It saddens me to know that they will make a very sad discovery about how shallow and selfish their father is once they’re old enough to see it.

      • mine does the opposite… any little thing I get the kids he makes some comment on how he can’t afford that. Like he came to pick them up and they were playing with a stamp set I had just gotten them and they wanted to stamp his hand and he’s like, “yeah, mom gets you all these new toys! I can’t keep up!”. Yeah, he doesn’t even have $10 to spare on his children! Mean ex-wife takes all his money. I know he also likes to tell them about how small his house is and that mommy’s is bigger as well. Meanwhile, he’s got two iPads over there and one is for the kids (however, it was a kickback from one of his suppliers at work, he’d never shell out the cash). Still – I wonder how it would go down if I got a $500 gift for them?

    • A friend’s narc cheating husband wouldn’t let their daughter take her cat to her mom’s place (where she lived 1/2 time), after the separation, even when he was OUT OF TOWN and the cat was alone and being fed by the neighbour.

      We finally figured out that he was basically holding the cat hostage, as a guarantee that his daughter would want to come to his house for his custodial 1/2 time.

      A) that is really really sick, to imagine that you need something like that for your 8 year old daughter to want to see you
      B) that is unbelievably sick to be willing to use her caring for her cat and missing him as blackmail to get her to look forward to being at your house.

      • Karen,

        I have one of those…he promised a new puppy and finally bought one this past Christmas….along with about $2000 worth of other Christmas presents… is all emotional blackmail……its the only way that the kids want to go over there…that and desperately wanting a relationship with their father that they never had and probably never will…..they are just pets and accesseories……only being kept around for the ego kibbles that they provide to him….I wonder what happens to kids when they realize that that was their sole purpose in life….That is the part that I worry about the damage i will be left to watch….

        • I really loathe people who use the animals as hostages. Dogs need a LOT of work. Cats need work, too, but their group mentality is very different from that of dogs. When the puppy pees on one too many carpets, or starts jumping and nipping, it’s shelter-bound, or worse.

          STBX doesn’t know that OW has euthanized at least one of the 3 dogs she’s had over the past 3 years. OW keeps getting dogs, and then keeps giving them up. She never walks or trains the dogs, and then when she gets fed up, she gets rid of it. STBX is spackling like crazy over this, but it’s the reality that he’ll have to face once he has her full-time.

          Me? I get custody of the dogs. Every trainer can say that I’m the one who sunk $$$ into learning to train the dogs. STBX can have the cats. I’ll miss them terribly, but he is actually a good cat daddy.

        • I’m new to this site but have found it so comforting. It’s really bizarre how similar my story is to everyone else’s here. BubblestheJellyfish, I completely understand what you are saying. My STBX is already on (not even divorced yet), and goes into elaborate detail on his profile about what a wonderful, devoted dad he is to his “beautiful, amazing” daughter, whom he looks forward to introducing to the new girlfriend (“if she is lucky”). He is literally using my daughter to project an image of a “good guy” (he’s definitely not) so that he can pick up women. That he’s already been cheating during our marriage of 18 years (both in person and online) had been an eye-opener to this devoted chump. Boy did I have my eyes shut. I was a spackling fool! It makes me sick for my daughter, who is kind and decent and adores her dad. I, too, wonder about the damage she will face later on as she realizes she has just been Narcissistic Supply and I worry about her self esteem when he inevitably dumps her for the new shiny object — new girlfriends, their children, etc. Every day, I feel as though I’m living in a nightmare.

  • Yes these people make you feel “VERY” special in the beginning. I am laughing because mine was a Scorpio and he lived true to his sign!!! I am a very responsible person and not a so-called “free spirit” who does what they want and doesn’t worry about consequences or rules. Talk about salesmen, mine actually told me at least a couple of times that he was a “very good actor” and learned from the best. How creepy is that! Of course that was after we were married and I would do almost anything to save my crappy marriage. My ex would go from being bored, to cheating and neglecting me and his children, to finding God and being saved and doing it all over again. I finally realized that when anytime he was nice to me, was when he wanted something for himself! He really did put on a very good show for the outside world. Even my lawyer said that after we had a conference together, that my ex seemed like a nice guy…I set my lawyer straight by letting him know ALL the gory details of our almost 25 year marriage. These narcissists are slick!!! When good people are ignorant, they do not know what they are dealing with. There should be a class in school to teach children how to pick their friends and young adults how to choose their dating partners, but I fear that would not be acceptable 🙁

  • Some narc-recognition signs:

    1) Hobbyholics, especially the guys.
    2) Might be workaholics, might avoid work, but either way, they are superior to everyone where they work (or that’s the reason they don’t work).
    3) Probably love and dote on the kids when they are little, but then can’t understand adolescence at all. To the narc, the kid is a clone. They often have a favorite kid whom they see as their clone, until, of course, the kid has a thought of his/her own. Then it’s a problem
    4) Utterly black and white relationships. Friends or old girlfriends are dumped and then absolutely left behind. Beware the boyfriend candidate who can’t talk to any of his ex girlfriends, who tells you they were terrible. In reality, relationships often end mutually, and mature people can recognize that.
    5) Angry a lot, many times a bad temper. Air raid siren yellers.
    6) Not many friends.
    7) A tendency to describe things in super-superlatives. This car is outstanding, excellent, etc. This happens with people, until they are dumped.
    8) Never admit to a mistake or take responsibility. No guilt about things.
    9) Charming in social situations. Not very charming at home.
    10) Verbally abusive.

    If chumps get that queasy feeling about someone (in between sparkles), they should look long and hard at the other person.

    CL deserves great credit for putting some very practical light on this subject. These characters are actually only as powerful as we make them/as we let them be. They fold fast (and usually run away) when they can’t get their way.

    Some signs.

    Chump Son

    • I dunno. This “not talking to ex-gf/bf” stuff might be a red flag in high-school or something, but in the adult world, you move on. That’s not to say you can’t be civil if you accidentally run into an ex, but who in their right mind keeps their exes around?

      Seriously, that’s just askin’ for trouble in your present or future relationships.

      • This is exactly how my h got into trouble. Regarding every “old high school friend” that pops up, he says, “She had a huge crush on me in ( fill in the blank, kindergarted, 4th grade, jr. high, high school.” Blechk!

        • Below, I qualified what I said (thanks Karen), since I did word it wrong.

          But, come to think of it, there may be another angle here.

          I know of one narc-guy who is really, really hard up for friends to ask to his remarriage. He didn’t have a lot of friends, but he did have a few for his first marriage. When the marriage blew up, we all supported his wife, since she really, really deserved it. Now, to re-marry (and the remarriage is taking place as a sports facility, his favorite sport!), he’s reached back to high school to find an audience!

          What I wanted to say, above, was it’s bad when folks hate all their exes. Says something weird about them. But there maybe a side syndrome to this for narc adults who, having alienated most of the folks they know, then reach back to find some idealized lost love in the past. That is just another search for ego-kibbles, to use CL’s fine phrase.

          This narc-case I’m talking about was about a guy who got worse, much worse as he got older. I think the narc thing was there all along, latent in his personality, but well hidden. I think he was good observer and that he did want friends. But as he got successful (a physician), and as his kids grew up and made demands (and competed with him for attention), and as he hit his mid-life crisis (50s), he completely “narked-out,” i.e. ran off with another woman, divorced, remarried, bought sports cars, serial remodeled his house (removing his kids former bedrooms), etc. I think his nark-ness was always there, but was mostly inflicted on his spouse as a kind of private torture for her. But when he hit mid-life, since he put himself at the center of the universe, I believe he hit an existential wall. If you really think only of yourself, then you are a fool, since we, as individuals, aren’t going to be around all that long. Anyway, at that point, this particular guy mid-life narked out, creating a mild social explosion in his community and earning general contempt. On the plus side, the solidarity of his former friends and strength and wisdom of his ex (who has now found someone new and is doing quite well) have all been good.

          I bet this is not an uncommon story.

          Chump Son

          • “But there maybe a side syndrome to this for narc adults who, having alienated most of the folks they know, then reach back to find some idealized lost love in the past. That is just another search for ego-kibbles, to use CL’s fine phrase.”

            This is exactly what my STBX did. The former GF he stayed friends and that I was also friends with was also an FB friend of the both of us. In the painful mess right after DDay, I was doing some internet sleuthing, and I logged into STBX’s FB account. He had sent the former GF a message all about how he missed her, wished things had turned out differently between them (you know, after their mad, passionate, four-month-long relationship when they were college freshmen, and she eventually dumped him), that she was the only person who truly understood him, etc.

            The A was bad enough. Reading that was a definite nail in the coffin that was our marriage. The GF never responded– her subsequent messaging to him completely skirted the issue, so he wasn’t going to rekindle anything there, which is why he had to turn to a cheater’s website to find someone who would.

      • I have exes that I’m actually pretty friendly with. Don’t keep them around, but we wish each other well, and are happy to run into each other occasionally!

        But I don’t think David is saying that if there are a few people you’ve left behind or don’t talk to any more, that’s a bad sign. It’s when they have no or very few long-term relationships, and talk about people from their past in that constantly critical way ….

        • Karen is right. Poorly worded on my part.

          When someone absolutely detests their exes, runs them down, etc.

          Thanks Karen!

    • David, this one hit me square in the eyes: He even calls one of his sons, the clone. Now that he is grown, with ideas foreign to his father, he almost never brags on him any more.


      • Dean Koontz’s “Frankenstein” discusses this clone thing in a sci-fi/horror kind of format. If you like sci-fi/horror, it’s a good book on narcissism. (But you gotta like Koontz’s particular writing style.) I read later that Koontz said his book was inspired by his father.

        Very sad that these narcs make their own kids do the “pick me” dance. It won’t last. When the kids start thinking and get independent, they feel dumped. There’s a lot of websites/material out there for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents, so, if you divorcing one of these crumbs and have kids, it might be good to read up on that stuff.

        I think as a parent dealing with this, you can’t just trash the narc parent. You kind of have to let things work out (depending on the age of the kids). They will see for themselves what they are dealing with. Some kids, of course, might follow the narc route, a bad choice, but it’s their choice. In what I’ve seen, the kids tend to see through the narc parent.

          • violet,
            Let me know how you like it. I think the first three volumes in the series are the best. It has a character who is a classic narcissist.

    • Oooh David, that is so scary! The ex fits #2 super-workaholic and everyone his equal or superior at work is a moron or an idiot (through 10 jobs over 14 years – I see a pattern!), #3 our daughter is his clone and he lavishes attention on her, while our son is neglected and criticized, #5 constantly angry and crabby and critical of EVERYTHING and everybody, #6, no friends to speak of most of the time, and the 2 he did have at different points were people who sought him out (kibbles!) and who he could see as losers and treat fairly badly, #8, nothing is every his fault, ever, and #10 see #5 and #8.

      WHO WROTE THAT HANDBOOK, and where are they keeping it!

      I can’t emphasize enough how much this site, CL’s wisdom, and people sharing their experiences does for me. Just to see these same patterns repeated again and again … there’s nothing special about these people, they’re a ‘type’, and to see their selfish behaviour again and again in other people and through other people’s eyes makes it really clear exactly what it is.

      • When I read this list I could pick out at least 8 of the 10 described my H to a T. I should post it on my wall somewhere when we separate so I don’t get sucked in again.
        Especially the part about co-workers; he always has a beef about one or more of them. Putting them down ect… an AH HA moment for me was one night when he was going on and on about one of them and it suddenly hit me that the names he was calling him was the same ones he called me when he was mad. After that I just started feeling sorry for them because I knew how it was impossible to live up to his idea of perfection.

    • Let’s see now…

      1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9 (sort of– he didn’t charm my family)

      STBX can’t really do 3 because the kids are sort of annoying to him, I think. He likes to trot them out for the OW and show his parents what a faboo daddy he is, but otherwise, he’s perfectly happy when they’re seen and not heard.

      STBX isn’t 4 because, well, he barely dated before he met me. There were two short-term GFs (one of whom he has remained friends with, at least last I knew, and I’m friends with her as well), but other than that, he couldn’t get anyone interested in him until he met MovingOn, the Chumpstress.

      He’s a sort of with 7– like something is super awesome until he’s bored with it. You know, like me. 😀

      He attempted 10 maybe once– he called me a bitch. I’m pretty laid-back, so perhaps he thought I’d cower and let him get away with it. Yeah, I think not. That never happened again.

      Whatever he is, I’m glad he’s no longer mine!

    • I can so relate. Mine was not only narcissistic but also had passive-aggressive traits. It really messed with my mind. I so know better now and I am VERY CAUTIOUS.

    • I googled and came across a list of 20 traits of the NPD woman. For the guys, this is worth looking at.
      Contrary to some of the popular beleif, it seems NPD is every bit as prevalent in women.

      • I know many women of this type. Don’t know how their husbands put up with them. One spent too much so he hid her credit cards. Isn’t that childish? She found them and charged away as if nothing was wrong. She treats it as if it is a game. He of course, is the chump. Doesn’t understand she knows she is doing something wrong and does it any way, “because he lets her get away with it.” I can drag him to the river of truth, but I can’t make him drink from it. He loooves her. Blech! Then let him drown in a pool of debt and resentment until he can’t stand it any ore or until she finds a richer chump. Wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

    • David, right on with the comments. My ex was great with our kids until they were able to talk back, then no interest, or anger that they weren’t perfect clones. Angry and annoyed with all of us for our imperfections. Left him 3 months ago, and he never looked back and now emails that he’s been “liberated!” His mother commented that “the handcuffs are now off” (this from his sister, whom I am close to). As if I had him chained up (well certainly his dick was free to roam, for at least the last 5 years that I know of and probably for many more). Amazing. My adult kids will have nothing to do with him and say he’s a robot. It’s weird how I wish for karma for him, for him to feel miserable, but I don’t think he’s capable of having any deep feelings at all. I need to stop wasting time thinking about him at all. It’s hard at this early stage. Glad I got out.

      • Same here Stuck, my ex left and my children were disgusted and wanted nothing to do with him. But he just went on with his life, sent them a text or two, and when they did not answer just forgot about them. Two are adults but our youngest is now still only 13. My ex hasn’t seen or spoken to him in a year and a half since D-Day. My kids say their father is dead. I too have prayed for karma to get him, and have waited for him to be sorry at least for the loss of his children. But he simply is not. I am finally slowly getting to meh. I think I hit that Tuesday just about a month ago. I do still sometimes ponder how it can be that bad things happen to decent people every day, yet this monster walks around full of himself and unscathed. Oh well, never mind, meh…..

        • Unbelievable. I’m sorry for your 13 year old. What a shithead he has for a dad. It’s easier to detach from dad when you’re an adult (but no easy feat by the way my kids feel now). I am hoping to reach meh sooner rather than later.

  • It’s funny, because since getting rid of my ex, who I was married to (I thought happily for the most part before D-Day) for 25 years, and who my shrink thought may have ASPD, I feel like I can spot these weirdos a mile away….sparkly (of course), too intense eye contact, lots of over the top superlative language, insincere way of speaking, mirroring back emotions at you but they never go really deep (that’s a tough one, these guys are good), appears to be successful but when you look a little closer he really is not all that, and oh yes it’s all about them all the time (and no that’s not cute, and no it’s not that they deep down really care). I feel like my super-powers have been switched on. And once you connect with someone on a REAL level, you cannot believe you ever fell for this act.

    • Oh my, perfect description. I spent 35 years looking up to him. Thought, “If only I could be more like him.” He was so charming, to everyone, not just me. So kind to everyone, always knew just what to say to make their day. One time he drove five miles back to Walmart because he was given a nickel too much in change. Had high morals and lived to those standards. He is so smart he did not have to work hard, he worked smart. Everyone we know envied his intellectual abilities. I have learned so much from him. I did not know until a few days after Dday, that I am smart too and I can either make a person’s day or destroy it. I have power I never knew I had. I no longer consider him my hero or friend. I am learning to look within, for strength and guidance. He was a phony. I am the real deal. He lives in a fantasy world he created and truly believes everyone buys into that world. I have discovered that reality is awesome. Now, if I could just find some scar cream from biting my tongue for three decades.

      • Yoder, you have SO got the difference between someone who will do good things because it looks good (and you ex does sound particularly skilled at that), and someone like yourself who does good things because they FEEL good. And living in reality is such a relief after all those years, no?

        • It feels better every day. I am the one running around solving all the problems. I feel lifted. I swear I am another inch taller.

      • Yes Yoder, I always admired my ex, who claimed to respect and adore and love me madly to the day I caught him. I thought he was the shining star, the one who could speak well and charm people, and he was to a large degree. But I now realize that I (and our children and family unit) gave him a facade of respectability and goodness, and that my speaking and people skills exceed even his now that I am willing to use them and not keeping my light under the bushel so as not to outshine him. People like me and they generally dislike him, and they are willing to let me know that now. We are the real deals!

        • Kelly, “out shine” is a good description. He would brag occasionally about something I had achieved, but not very often. What I did was never quite up to par in his eyes. Looking back, I realize there may have been some jealousy on his part. Now I am accomplishing things I never thought possible.

  • I began to figure out how much of a pattern this was when an instance came to my attention. Skater Girl is a close friend of mine. And when her x started to say things to her that were exactly the kinds of things my father had said (feeling sorry for himself, saying that he worked so hard, so resentful of having to parent), I was shocked. The words weren’t original. And then there was hobbyholism (obsessive golf for SG’s x, hunting and fishing for my father), hating co-workers (“those idiots” as my father used to say), etc. etc.

    Maybe “narc-spotting” can become a sport, almost like bird-watching (but with far more serious implications).

    I really think that CL is onto something. I liked an earlier suggestion about “Chump Nation.”

    • My STBX is a workaholic. He always had those tendencies, but started going into hobbies. When his mother died, he made work into his hobby. Of course, he both covers for his staff and hates them. The only ones he’s truly liked have been the temp employees and a couple of women he’d hired (and the latest of those is the OW, which makes me wonder about the first). In a way, this mirrors the friends of mine he liked. He liked my friends when I was in grad school, since he had a full-time job and could do stuff for them. Same thing for the temps. They’re all inferior to him. He can do stuff for them (buy them lunch). I think in his world, this means they owe him and he likes that.

      He always says hateful things about his other co-workers, though. He works hard, don’t you know, and they don’t appreciate his efforts or his brilliance.

      I’m not sure he’s a narc, but he sure has a big chip on his shoulder.

      • My ex could be quite complimentary and nice to subordinates, because that made HIM feel good. He never actually respected them, of course, but just loved that feeling of superiority he got around them.

        But his peers and bosses at work, whew! Constant criticism, constant making it clear he thought they were idiots and losers, and a level of dislike of his bosses that was weird, once I realized that it would show up after a few months or a year at every job he had (and he had lots!).

        He had the same kind of reactions to friends. He only had two personal friends the entire time I knew him (initially that seemed reasonable, because he was new to the city). But each was someone who really sought out his company and admired his smarts and technical skills, and someone who he could think of as a loser, both professionally and personally (worse jobs, no ambition, worse house ….). He also treated these two friends quite badly, ‘teasing’ them in disrespectful and insulting ways, talking constantly about them behind their backs …. The second one distanced himself after about a year, he had enough self-respect to do that.

        With couple or family friendships, there was constant criticism of them, their lives and their choices, even the few that he quite liked. He was really nasty about my friendships, too, couldn’t stand any of my friends, super critical, judgmental.

        Another warning flag to look for in future relationships!

        • Sounds like your ex and mine were separated at birth–two friends only, really loved to hand with subordinates, was insecure as hell around equals or those above him in the company, made fun of everyone….he’s an idiot and I am so glad I’m out of it.

        • I always thought his constant critisim of his co-workers was because he was frustrated by the job. But about 10 yrs into the realtionship and 3 jobs later I realized it was the same song with different names.

          • Mine criticizes his co-workers and bosses constantly. Now, his workplace is dysfunctional. I mean, I’ve met people who’ve worked there, so I know that a lot of what he says is on target, but the thing is that he’s TOO negative. Also, in the case of his subordinates, they’re wonderful when he first brings them aboard and starts to train them, but as soon as they start getting skilled and asserting themselves, he criticizes them constantly at home. I don’t think he does that at work, and he also covers for some of their really large mistakes.

            I spackled over his criticisms, but David’s list of narc signs really hit home. STBX has 8 of the 10, and possibly 9. He’s never had the sparkly charm. At any rate, more and more I see him as mad at the world, convinced the world is against him, and dang it! He’s entitled to more. LIke an affair.

        • Yes! RTB has a few close friends, but he teases them mercilessly and is downright cruel to one. I always felt like it went beyond male razzing. He has absolutely no relationship with his family.
          We had very few couple friends because I feared he would judge the wife or the husband and I didn’t want to expose anyone new to his distanced politeness. I felt that anxiety for years and never put a label on it.

          • Me, too! We didn’t hang out with other couples much, and I didn’t push the issue because i didn’t want him to rip on my friends after they left.

  • “I liked an earlier suggestion about ‘Chump Nation.'”

    Here’s a slogan:

    “Chump Nation: You’re not alone. We are legion.”

    • I love the suggestion, and I LOVE that TOGETHER we can learn to spot these people, deal with them when we have to, avoid them when we can, and build better lives.

      Yay Chump Nation!

      • Oh, forgot to say, the together part is so important, because it’s the silence around their behaviour that allows the cheating narcs to get away with it! We all assume most people are reasonable, and we don’t call out the self-centeredness half enough, in our friendships, our relationships, our culture.

      • Oh, forgot to say, the together part is so important, because it’s the silence around their behaviour that allows the cheating narcs to get away with it! We all assume most people are reasonable, and we don’t call out the self-centeredness half enough, in our friendships, our relationships, our families, our culture.

      • Yes. It’s been extremely helpful to ready other chumps’ experiences. I see that mine are definitely NOT unique, and there’s a pattern. It’s helping me to Trust That They Suck and to maintain a Spackle Free Zone.

  • CL, This is a great post, however, my wasband was none of the things that you described. He was absolutely THE most responsible, sort, showing up early, paying everything not just on time, but early. Not the life of the party, but just really lovely genuine friends. (although, he’s only in touch now, with maybe one or two of them), very kind, self-effacing– very bright, but not overly accomplished (actually, a classic under-achiever) and verrrrry sensitive.

    Or so I thought. He is all those things, except when it comes to women. Although, he is always very kind and charming. Even now. He speaks the queen’s fucking English and is a walking talking encyclopedia, but not in a grandiose way at all. I do know people like that, and they are like cartoon characters, but he is none of those things.

    We’ve had a tough life. very tough kids to raise and financial problems. We’ve both suffered from depression. I drowned mine in TV and he drowned his in other women. It never occurred to him that this was a problem, but would leave for appointments ridiculously early. God forbid the other person was held up waiting for him!

    Certainly, the other women was a narc act, but the far better fit would be passive-aggressive personality disorder. I looked up the symptoms. Perhaps this is an entirely different post, however, I thought that maybe some of this would ring true for other readers.

    Here is the link from the NY Times.

    and here is an excerpt listing the symptoms:


    People with this disorder resent responsibility and show it through their behaviors, rather than by openly expressing their feelings. They often use procrastination, inefficiency, and forgetfulness to avoid doing what they need to do or have been told by others to do.

    Some common symptoms of passive-aggressive personality disorder include:

    Acting sullen
    Avoiding responsibility by claiming forgetfulness
    Being inefficient on purpose
    Blaming others
    Feeling resentment
    Having a fear of authority
    Having unexpressed anger or hostility
    Resisting other people’s suggestions

    A person with this disorder may appear to comply with another’s wishes and may even demonstrate enthusiasm for those wishes. However, they:

    Perform the requested action too late to be helpful
    Perform it in a way that is useless
    Sabotage the action to show anger that they cannot express in words

    That’s my wasband. And I could even live with all of this and add to it a crushing, pervasive negativity, but when I discovered time and again what he was really up to… I had to draw the line. He was NOT like this when I met him. However, yes, I can see with some of it, that the seeds were certainly there, but it got worse and worse over time.

    • Sounds like Richard. More passive-aggressive than narcissistic, but had some of those traits, too. He got worse over time, too, but I was all tangled up by then.

  • I got totally distracted from the original topic here, because of the great comments and moments of recognition.

    What attracted me to the narc;
    – very physically attractive, tall, dark and handsome, w/a great baritone (I’m such a sucker for a nice voice), AND 9 years younger than me (I really thought it was just a fling in the beginning!)
    – very very very smart, I love smart! EQ Of 32, but I didn’t realize that for a long time ….
    – a poor sausage, new in the city, so alone and sad after the end of a 10 year relationship in which he wasn’t really in love or well-loved. POOOOOOR sausage, just needed a really loving woman to make him so happy!
    – same life goals as me; just finished grad school, starting our careers, and totally ready to settle down and have kids and have our ‘real lives’ begin.
    – looked and sounded sophisticated – a French guy! lived the last 8 years in Paris! knew about food and wine and films!!! The accent alone was making the women around us drool …

    So big time sparkle (not really a charmer, though, or I would have recognized it), plus poor sausageness …

    NO MORE POOR SAUSAGES!!!!!! I know that is my biggest weak point! 1st ex was also a poor sausage (plus an alcoholic, that took me a few years to figure out). I’m DONE w/my addiction to potential!

    • Karen! You could be writing my posts for me! Ex tall and handsome with a great voice and yes, I love a good voice (one of the reasons I can’t get onboard about David Beckham…that voice is awful). Ex is younger and yep, I considered it a fling to start. Smart, foreign, hard owrking, and super sparkly. SEriously, this is WEIRD.

      • Seriously weird! SBXH 10 years younger, alone ending grad school without a “real job”, very smart, really wanted kids & marriage to fulfill dreams, sophisticated about art/ travel.. It was just a fling! Now 25 years later who is alone & trying to figure all this out!?!? Some days I need to be reminded who he is & this is where we are because of who he is… not what I didn’t do… Thank you chumps 🙂

        • Mine is ll years younger, tall, dark, baritone voice. Wouldn’t really call him handsome anymore, I cannot see him that way after everything. Wow. A bit of a pattern here isn’t there.

          • Yep, 8 years younger, tall, dark, handsome, baritone….thought it was a fling at first. Wish it stopped at just that.

    • Karen, you’ve hit it! A lot of my attraction to my STBX was his potential. That had me spackling over all sorts of crap.

      • Echo that- it was his ‘ otential’ and the fact that he was so handsome! A guy who grew up in Southern California in a beach community and knew how to surf. He had a Master’s degree and so even though he was divorced, bumming around the world I saw ‘POTENTIAL’ What was I ignoring? 1) He was always living pay check to pay check, 2) He was divorced and talked about his crazy ex- wife, the ‘nut’. 3) He was definitely into me and and I will admit that the sex was great- Hell, he had me at ‘hello’ and I just spackled through all the problems that I saw on the surface. What a Super chump I was-for certain!

  • A thought.

    In earlier comments, I’ve recommended better “narc radar.” But CL here says that the skein we should untangle is ourselves, i.e. the Chump skein. I’m wondering if the counter-narc checklist shouldn’t be based — not just on recognizing the narcs — but also on the behaviors we Chumps fall into. This sort of reminds me of those old Mad Magazine articles, which would begin with a line like, “You know you are in trouble when….” And then there would be a fill in like: “When your surfboard breaks and you see three triangle fins around you….” (Well, they’d be funnier than that, but you know what I mean.) I think that Chumps do perceive narcissists, may even pick up on them early, but then we Chumps talk ourselves out of seeing what’s right in front of us.

    I know of one case where a female friend of mine, call her Clara, told me that she’d visited another female friend far away with her new husband, call him Joe. During the visit, Clara’s friend confided that she was going to leave her husband fairly soon. When Clara told Joe this, he became furious. He insisted that they leave immediately, and they went out of the house via the window at 5 AM in the morning. Since that time, Joe always “hated” Clara’s friend and objected whenever she visited. Of course, the irony of all this is that years later Joe abandoned Clara and their three kids, essentially committing a far worse sin than Clara’s friend ever had (which, I believe, was ending a very new childless marriage that just wasn’t working out, and doing so honestly).

    Now, my point is that there is something narc-wrong with this kind of butt-headed behavior. Clara also told me that Joe, when he got mad about something, could freeze her out for days. So I’d suggest a Counter-Narc Chump Checklist that runs along the lines of, “When you tell yourself this, then maybe you are in trouble,” or “When you feel this way….” I think we have this radar, but we talk ourselves out of what we see (we spackle, as CL would say). Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book “Blink.” He says that we sometimes perceive something and then use our supposedly “rational” minds to override it.

    If you find yourself making all kinds of excuses for your partner (“It’s just that he works so hard,” “Your father really does care,” etc.), then maybe you’re hooked up with a narc.

    If you find yourself walking on eggshells, trying to please him or if you find yourself worried to tell him bad news (the kind of thing that does happen; “Honey, Joey got a C+ in Spanish”), then maybe he’s a narc.

    One thing I’ve noticed about narc men is that they are often very noise-sensitive. Kids and dogs are spontaneous and noisy. Happy homes should be a little noisy. But these guys can’t take a squeal of joy or an occasional bark. And they fight like hell with neighbors over noise. Of course, that doesn’t keep them from making noise themselves.

    So, “If you find yourself cringing because your partner is about to embarrass you with some kind of loud confrontation…..”

    Anyway, I offer this as a gut-checklist. Check your gut.

    “If you find yourself telling the kids, ‘Dad really loves you. When he yells, he means well….'”

    Well, maybe he doesn’t mean so well.

    Just a thought. Hope it’s useful. I think the idea needs refining, but I think that it goes along with CL’s wise advice to have Chumps think hard and positively about themselves.

    Chump Son

    • Ok great idea David, here goes some more- my ex was a freak about the house being neat, and screamed and yelled (raged) about the kids and dogs making messes; –raged about the house being cluttered, coat closet crowded, etc; —never cared if I cried even when we were first married; —never cared if we went to bed angry; –even if the kids got a great report card, would find the lowest grade and say “but why did you only get a B-plus in math?” –Looked at himself in the mirror constantly (I’m not kidding); –never held a job long, and even if he had decent success at a job he couldn’t sustain it and would eventually bail out; —constantly wanted to have his own business so he didn’t have to answer to anyone (he now has a consulting company with a number of his affair partners….it’s sick, don’t ask) ; –he thinks he’s brilliant but is never as successful as he claims or as he leads people to believe; he claims he is always busy and works feverishly at a task but still in the end gets very very little done. There’s just a few.

    • I love the comment about hating noise! My ex couldn’t stand to have the dishwasher running while he was in the next room (one of many noise transgressions with him). Yet he could talk loudly on the phone whenever he felt like it in front of the rest of us. And I HAVE told my kids, “He really does care.” LOL. I did way too much talking myself out of seeing the narc.

  • I know this is a relationship ste, so maybe this is a threadjack–in which case, advance apologies. But I have not only got this problem with my sig-others, including Character (both my super-strong narc-magnet, and also a weakness for passive-agressive others. In other words, I feed their needs just like a good girl).

    I have this problem at work! And have had several jobs crash and burn because of it, including my current one which is coing to a close, in a suck all economy, and no new job on the horizon. My BOSS is a hard core NPD, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Exactly the way I would have if it had been a romantic relationship (except, thankfully, not…)

    Learning everyone’s ‘what to watch out for’ lists is incredibly helpful. I suppose I need to think of job interviews as speed dating. I’ve asked my therapist,”how do you identify a narcissist in a 20 minute job interview?”. She said “they’re everywhere..”

    But I’d love to know if any of you also experience this same dynamic in other relationships (friends? are your friends narcs too?) ; work…do you fall for the passive agressive ones at work and get caught in their snares?

    I feel like a naked baby in a forest full of hungry lions sometimes.

    • Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Run. Away.

      The plus side is that I learned more from that single relationship, both at work and outside of it, than I have with anyone else I’ve ever met. Thinking of himself as a mentor apparently fed lots of ego-kibbles, and I the codependent kibble-whore was all too happy to submit to his “leadership”, while priding myself on my ability to call him out on his bullshit, unlike all the other poor schmoes who just didn’t understand him… according to him. But I digress.

      The downside of it is that they don’t really mean any of it, and eventually you have to come to terms with the fact that they were just using you all along. I eventually had to find another job. Is it worth it? In this particular instance I wouldn’t change any of it. Aside from the legitimate stuff I learned about the professional world from him, he also (unwittingly) taught me about narcissists and my own involvement in the dynamic so I can be aware and responsible about any similar future relationships. I’m currently struggling with whether I can remain friends with this person or not, and if so, what boundaries I need. Intense workplace loyalty fueled by the narc/cod relationship is heady stuff. Help!!

    • I am currently managing a small non-profit. Used to do applied and basic social science research at universities. That help?

      • There are a couple of posts here describing narristis and the workplace. Wondered about your job in relation to how you would interact with your superior, how your work performance would be viewed ect.. You are in a tough place I would think. Non-Profits well the person you report to would have to be all sparkly and large as life to attract compitent people. I don’t think you can avoid them. Your therapist is right. They are hard to recognize.

  • I thought of a few more, “If you find yourself….”

    These are derived from my own (Chump Son) experience, so the situations involve a narc husband and a Chump (or constantly narc-compensating) wife. Basically, in these relationships, the wife is the constant cleaner-upper, the one who rationalizes daddy to the kids, who tries to keep the explosions short and contained, etc.

    If you find yourself just looking for any reason to get him to stop screaming (mostly for the sake of the kids, often little kids), and your just too fearful of going back to that the next day — so you never bring it up — then you probably are dealing with the disordered.

    If you find yourself watching CNN of some factory collapse in Bangladesh or some earthquake in Haiti and you are saying to yourself, “Well, Bubba is bad, but this is so, so much worse. I should count my blessings” then you are probably with someone disordered. It’s wrong to use Third World type tragedies as a stretchable yardstick just to make your mate seem normal or acceptable.

    If you look at your adult children, who may be complaining about this kind of behavior, and say, “Well, YOU turned out all right, DIDN’T YOU???” Then you may have been dealing with a narc. This last one is a bad one. Basically, you are turning the kid’s accomplishments against him/her. Good behavior can be judged by consistent yardsticks, and things may have truly been bad and a strong or capable kid overcame those obstacles, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. After all, what was the kid supposed to do, become a crack addict just to prove her/his point that things were not all right at home?

    I think Chumps who commit to chumpdom become co-narcissists, and I think that’s not good. Maybe not everyone can leave, but I’d say that you can be, at the very least, honest with your children. “I’m sorry about what happened last night. Your father is NOT all right.” That will help. But many expert, committed chumps (committed to chumpdom) develop strong rationalizations. If you find yourself going way beyond tolerant and rationalizing stuff that chronically wrong — and afraid to bring up those issues with your spouse because you want to “keep the peace — then you are probably in a bad situation. And you need to think seriously about getting out.

    Chump Son

    • As bad as I feel about saddling my kids w/a narcissist for a father, at least I didn’t rationalize his behaviour to them. They knew I considered his crabbiness and temper unacceptable, and we had been on the brink of divorce twice in the 4 years previous to the 2nd affair/separation because of it. He had actually made a significant attempt over the year previous to the separation to get the crabbiness under control – I stupidly thought because he had finally realized how much damage it was doing, but noooooo, it was because I had said I would leave if it didn’t improve, and he knew I meant it. Couldn’t lose all me at a moment when he didn’t have a back up yet!

      But there was a good chunk of time, probably 2 years, in the middle of the 14 we spent together, when I know I was psychological abused, and living all the ‘walking on eggshells’ hell of that. Horrible feeling; you’re upset about something he’s done, but don’t want to say anything when things are already bad, because how could you possibly talk productively about it, and don’t want to say anything when things are better, because that would wreck that better moment, so precious. Yeck.

      • My sons knew more that I gave them credit for. My older one once asked my why I acted so differently when the narc came home from work. The whole walking on eggshells thing. What an eye-opener it was to hear that. I thought I had been spackling pretty well.

        • My kids saw through him, I didn’t. After D-Day, my then 18 year old daughter told me that since she was about 10 years old she realized something was “missing” from her father, and my 23 year old son told me that when he was young he used to think “what if mom married the devil and didn’t know it?”

          Absolutely chilling….

      • Oddly, I was probably the grumpy one and the angry one quite often, mainly because my gut was screaming but on the surface everything was ‘ok’ but I knew it wasn’t, somehow, but wasn’t able to face it .So I was in a hell of a mood for a few years.

        Since I kicked him out? I have normal moods and I rarely have moments of real anger, unless it involves him

        • Me too! I found myself yelling at the kids preemptively so he wouldn’t. I was crabby and annoyed a lot, but only after he walked in from work, carrying his black cloud over his head.
          Since he has been gone our house is filled with laughter and I am in a happier place than I’ve been in a long time.
          The funny thing is he recently told me how much he hated coming home and hates our house now because it is filled with negative energy. I told him the negative energy was probably the result of all his lies, but he said his house felt fine.
          I saged my house. His bad juju is gone.

          • Oohh my goodness I just can’t wait. Visited my little dream house to be (how I hope all the pieces fall into place)…now I just need another job, heh, but I FEEL the tranquility! of not living with the Narc.

            My favorite part….as I pass in to the new town’s boundary there are two old houses turned into commercial/office space. One sign reads “Integrity”; quarter mile down the road, the next one says, “Boundaries” (!) then I pass a reservoir and I’m (I hope) home. Feels like the cosmos is speaking to me.

            Integrity…Boundaries. Yeah, bring ’em on!

            • Got goose bumps readiny that. I can just visualize that drive and the positive points of interest. I am getting so excited about making a move too. It is a lovely home and I can’t wait to call it mine.

              • you will. we both will. I’m crossing all my digits. It’s our turn.

    • David, I had to laugh at the part about comparing your life to a disaster in a third world country to try to convince yourself it isn’t that bad. OMG, I actually remember doing that! I would be like “My husband never talks to me, never has time for me, makes sure I know he has a hundred other things to do that are more important than me, but at least we aren’t living where a tsunami just wiped out 40,000 people.” LOL

  • In paragraph 3 above, I said “and your just too fearful of going back to that the next day.” What I meant was that you cannot address the issue — say the issue of an explosive temper — because you just don’t want to default back into another explosion the next day. Consequently, the issue never gets addressed. This kind of open secret/family problem is an indicator of real trouble.

    Sometimes I hit that “post” button too quickly. But these are strong, emotional issues. As always, big thanks to CL for this forum and to all its creative and eloquent contributors. I think we are making progress! I know that I am thanks to all of you.

    • Yes, David, you have it exactly. I eventually closed down rather than try to deal with the explosive temper thing. I was constantly walking on eggshells. I realize now he used that explosive temper on purpose to torture us and shut down any serious attempts at communication,

      • David and Kelly, you’ve really hit a good topic here.
        I recently found a journal from the year I got married and in it was an entry from about a month before the wedding where I said I was “crazy to marry a rage-aholic.” It never occurred to me that the rages could be a sign of even worse things to come. To her credit she did calm down after a few years but maybe I just needed less controlling. She was always ready to pull out the old mantle of rage if needed. The eggshells are familiar turf for me. You wouldn’t think a 5’3″ woman could bully a confident, rationale 6’0″ man but it can happen. I really thought I could show enough love to heal the pain that caused her temper.

        I also think the noise aversion is so interesting. I’m a fairly quiet guy, maybe slightly on the introverted side; but, I can easily switch to extrovert mode when needed. I just have to use emotional energy to do it. But when we have family over, or any houseful of kids, I just love the chaos, the energy, the complete unpredictable nature of the kids’ interactions. My wife can’t stand to hear any giggle, kathunk, or scream. It puts her in a scary mood.

        • Heartbuilder,

          Sounds like you have traveled a tough road, but you are doing well!

          Rage has nothing to do with size. My father was a rage-aholic, and he was a big guy, but size isn’t really the issue. Rage-aholics are willing to get loud, to “go nuclear” over nearly nothing, in a way that holds other people hostage. They paralyze us with their anger, and then we regular people — and especially over-nice Chumps — just try to get through the situation so the kids won’t cry, so others won’t be disturbed, etc. etc. We just want to re-establish a fragile peace. But then it’s hard to ever engage the rage-aholic on this problem because they’ll blow the situation up again.

          This is related to narcissism, but I think it falls under Histrionic Personality Disorder. But, of course, disorders can cross/mix, etc. What I noticed about my own father and his rage-aholism is that, while he SEEMED to be out of control, he could quiet down very quickly if he had to. One time a Constable (cop) came to our house after someone complained about my father going off on them. Dad purred like a kitten…. “Yes, officer, there was a confrontation…..” So, I think this is a tool these folks use. They have anger issues, but they’ve also learned how to use their dysfunction to their advantage against those of us who respect the rights of normal, civil discourse.

          So, no surprise that you, being a nice person, were intimidated. What’s scary is less the person’s physical size and more their contempt for normal rules of behavior and their willingness to go as far as they possibly can to get their way.

        • Hearthbuilder. I never thought about the noise before. It is eerie, now, when I contemplate what that might mean. h uses headphones from the tv…always. He says I have the tv I watch turned way too loud. Trust me it isn’t. He does not enjoy children having fun, the giggles, shouts, etc. I love to watch and listen to children playing. He plays the guitar and mandolin and sings. Extremely talented. I never was good enough to suit him. He made me practice my fiddle, on the deck. It is hard to keep string in tune when it is snowing. He made the kids practice in the basement at a previous house. One played the drums, the other, the flute. We all played piano, but seldom got to play because it was in the living room. Weird.

        • Yes, HB and David, my ex would actually withdraw from most family outings or events, even large family holiday dinners for instance. He was always sick, tired, needed to finish a project, check email, do laundry, etc., there was always an excuse but he couldn’t take the noise, togetherness, messiness of a family let alone extended family, and the beautiful chaos that sometimes comes with it. By the end I remember thinking, my god he is always tired or sick, it is worse than having an infant. And his rages about the house being tidy and uncluttered–I remember arguing with him about it when I still had the strength to do so and saying to him “it seems like you are simply offended that you have a wife and children, and the trappings that come with having a robust and healthy family,” i.e. lacrosse sticks in the corner, school books on the table, flip flops near the door. Little did I know, our existence did offend him….

          • My ex too, extremely noise sensitive, weird, eh? But just generally intolerant of anything that might bother him – I remember him explaining to me one day what a ‘torture’ it was for him to walk at the pace of a pre-schooler. He really believed that I should understand and accept the irritability that came along with that and made every outing hell for all of us.

            And the rages about certain things not being the way he liked around the house; how I stored the recycling, whether I squeezed out the dish sponge sufficiently. He would land on something and harass me about it for months, every damned day, until I learned to shut that down. I was in LABOUR w/our second child, had been all day, we were about to leave for the hospital so I could give birth, and he was yelling at me for putting too much milk in our first child’s sippy, again!

            I told my ex on several occasions that he should never have had kids, and it’s absolutely true, he would have been much happier without, and could have gotten a steadier supply of kibbles from whomever he was with. Even now, despite the standard custody arrangement in our jurisdiction being sharing 50-50 the kids’ time, he immediately accepted our suggestion (from the kids and I) that he have them every second weekend (Saturday morning to Sunday evening only) and 2 evenings a week 3 hours. Suits him quite well to be a very part-time father. He’s good at making the money that supports them, though, and generous about giving it.

            • Yes Karen, I often thought the same thing, he shouldn’t have had kids ( I thought this for years even well before D-Day). We all suspected he loved me more than he loved the kids, quite frankly, they were just more of an annoyance. He claimed to just adore me. That’s sort of funny when one considers the massive betrayal of us all. In reality he loves no one but himself. He would have relished being just a part time father after the divorce– he could show off his children and appear somewhat acceptable to those who heard the creepy rumors about him. Only one problem, our children are teens and young adults, and they have chosen not to have a relationship with him anymore. And in all honestly, he never did try very hard to see them either. I think he knows that they were the first to see past his charming sparkly mask, and the reality was never pretty. And they would not have to put up with his bullshit explanations like I had to do.

              • H has not seen his sons in years. They are grown and have families of their own. They want to have nothing to do with him. He buys gifts for them and they sit on a shelf …never sent, just gathering dust.

              • My ex is being pretty careful of the kids, as he has seen his own father (serially adulterous violent fucktard that he is) lose any contact w/two of his three children. The ex is the only one who still sees him or is in touch w/him (bc he’s the clone!).

                But it is hard on the kids; ex can’t stand any signs of independence from your daughter (who is more like him, so they generally get along better), and tends to get angry at the fact that our son (who ironically looks a lot like him) is very different in personality. And because the ex is so totally self-centered, he has a hard time managing his time w/the kids in a way that is pleasant for them. That would require his actually thinking about what THEY might want. Beyond food and movies, he’s not good at that …..

              • The child issue is interesting.

                The narc fathers I’ve seen have a very idealized version of parenting. They “love bomb” their favorite child, the one they treat as their clone. They also can be attentive parents when the child is little, often teaching the child their favorite sport, taking the child to their favorite sports events, etc. This is all what I call “clone-training.” And, as we all know, little kids are cute as hell and, in many ways, quite pliable. They look up at Mommy and Daddy as almost gods.

                Then adolescence hits.

                Narc dads (again, this is my experience) really have trouble with adolescence. Maybe Johnny no longer wants to be a lawyer just like Dad? Maybe the child has her/his own ideas? A good movie on a narc dad destroying his son is “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams. When kids get to a certain age, we have to support the kids in their activities. We have to let them succeed or fail. Narcs can’t do this. They then get heavy handed or cut the kids off or do something weird like have an affair.

                I should also add that narc dads resent the attention that kids demand. It’s competition for them.

                So, they should never have had kids, but they often fall for the “clone delusion.”

  • Guilty here too.

    I remember when I first got together with my ex, thinking that he was so exciting and spontaneous and I needed to learn to be more like him and get out more!

    Fast forward to him sitting on his ass ALL DAY playing video games or sitting in front of the computer. Saying how he “hates working full time!” He had plenty of cash to blow on video games or computer games on online game subscriptions. Or new cars he couldn’t afford or expensive upgrades to said cars.

    But he couldn’t come up with rent money. He never wanted to go out anymore. When we went out, if we actually did, he complained the whole time. He only ever wanted to go out with his friends…without me. I found out later that he would go spend time with his friends, leave their house and go see one of the other women. So when he called me, his friends WERE there, just not later. So when he came home late, he could tell me that he and his buddies decided to “go do something else” and I would believe it. Because I’d heard his friends say hello to me on the phone earlier.

    And I did all the spackeling I could because I didn’t want to admit that he was not as exciting as he seemed. I wondered about his perpetual habit of coming home late, especially with how many times I asked him to just call me if they were going to do something else. But I would bury it under spackle once he broke out the accusations of “You don’t want me to have friends.”

    • Yes, yes, yes! The video games allllllll day! Mine kept a steady job finally in the last 7 years of our marriage, because I insisted on it, but resented me terribly for it. Horribly irresponsible with money and believed strongly that because he “worked hard” he deserved to have whatever toys he wanted, regardless of cost or other bills we had to pay. Those were truly his words: “I work hard. I deserve to have it.”, while I’m looking at our bank account with $2.16 in it. His moods when he didn’t get what he wanted because we couldn’t afford it were so unbearable that I just started cutting corners in the household to make his wishes a priority. And then, wouldn’t you know it, I was under fire for the fact that we didn’t live an extravagant lifestyle and I didn’t have Barbie’s wardrobe, manicure, and hair. And the way he cheated was just like that. He always had this plan, he thought he was so brilliant with this, to involve other people so he had an alibi. He just was never smart enough to pull it off. Mine is a real idiot, thankfully.

      • At one point, we got down to 75 cents 3 times and 50 cents 4 times. Each time he would have me go to the store and get him a newspaper. Dumb ass!

        • He loved going to car dealerships just to “test drive” the cars. I remember on one occasion my head almost exploding and I was two seconds away from screaming at one of the salesmen because he and my ex were pressuring me and guilting me because I refused to co-sign with him and help him make payments on a new one. I threatened to walk out when they brought a third person over to talk to me as well.

          And a few weeks later he ended up buying a car at another dealership. Which he had to return to said dealership because the bank withdrew it’s loan.

          I had told him many many times that we could not afford for him to buy a new car. He insisted that he could afford it if he made little payments on it. He was already making minimum payments on his credit card. Every time I tried to tell him that INTEREST exists it went in one ear and out the other. So by the time he was signing papers for his car (that he had to give back) I was just sitting there, pretending to be happy for him. Not like he was going to listen to me anyway.

          • This friend of ours is bi-polar and schitzophrenic, but he is a financial wizard. While in a psychiatric hospital at the moment, he buys and sells stock, trades, everything from a telephone using his credit cards. To gain large lines of credit (why in God’s name would a 70 year old in a mental hospital need massive lines of credit?), but pays thousands of dollars a year in interest, because he only pays the minimum and many, many accounts with balances no more than 4 or 5 thousand dollars. He has amassed a small fortune (to me, anyway), but as the expensive long term health care builds, his money dwindles. I keep telling him to pay off all those small accounts and stop the big interesting eating payments each year. I took all my h’s credit cards and cut them up and threw them away. All he has now is a debit card. Then (when he was begging me to stay) I struck while the iron was hot and insisted he pay $600 a month for life, whether or not we were married. There is no way I could live on my little $600 a month social sec check. His is almost $2000 a month. I wrote up the agreement, he signed it in front of a notary, it was notorized and I had it recorded at the country courthouse. It is not worth anything in court, but it shows intent. He intended to take care of me the rest of my life. So we use part of that $600 to keep current on bills in the little house we are renting while he recooperates. When we move into the “house sitting” house, I will take his debit card and get the $600 each month as we will be living rent free. Let that little nest egg increase and quite soon I will have enough to say Happy Trails and out he goes. I think a judge would look favorable on the way I handled this and will probably order the payments to continue after the divorce. Keeping everything on my body crossed.

          • Omg, forgot all about the car dealerships! He used to want to stop by the dealership “for fun”, then would always fall in love with some car that we couldn’t afford. Then I’m the cheapskate bad guy for not going along with an impulsive new car decision. I wised up and started telling him “no I don’t want to go to a dealership because I’m always in trouble when we leave!”. He never stopped suggesting it and would get mad at me for declining as well. Couldn’t win, lol.

      • Yup video games all evening long. Ignoring the kids so he can play some stupid simulation military game. They make me so sick. They’re all the same.

        • Yes, video games for hours on end. Violent, graphic, bloody ones, right in front of the kids because he played on a big-screen in the living room. We couldn’t get away from it.

          • With my ex it was any and every game he got his hands on. He told me I could use the PS3 whenever I wanted, yet I never got the chance because he was constantly on it. He would buy a new game, play through the entire thing in one day, and then get another one. Or he’d buy subscriptions to online multiplayers and just sit there in front of the computer all day. Since those games don’t have an “ending” per se, he would just keep playing it for hours. I’d ask him to come watch tv with me or something, and he’d be like “Yeah, sure.” Then two hours later he’d come into the living room and the show I wanted him to watch with me had been over for a long time, so he’d just go back and play more of his online game. I think he knew he’d be able to just keep playing his game if he did that.

  • This is an interesting article about psychopaths, who are, of course, much worse than narcissists. It’s interesting because it tracks classic language patterns they have. I think this CL-led research project is doing something similar, though I doubt we can get quite as specific as researchers can be about psychopaths, who are much worse. Still, the idea that folks of a certain type behave in certain classic ways certainly applies. In poker, they call these behaviors “tells.” I think we are cataloging tells we see in others and in ourselves: narc-tells, and chump-tells.

    Just putting this stuff into words helps get your head around it.

    One more narc-tell. They like isolation. The narc-men I’ve observed do NOT like to have overnight guests, do not like to have other kids over, do not like to have others around. That way they can maintain the warped norms they have established in their homes. There’s no comparison/challenge to them.

    • David, I think you are trying too hard at this.

      “They like isolation.” – so do hermits and avoidant persnalities. So do people with anxiety disorders.

      Others may live in isolation not out of choice but due to circumstances (i.e. relocations, etc).

      To me, the major red flags would be these:

      1. Blameshifts as a rule.
      2. Gets angry if you express your needs calmly and/or rages if corrected on a mistake.
      3. Gets angry if casual friends aren’t providing narcissistic supply.

    • I think you may be right on this. My husband was always objecting to having the kids’ friends overnight. I’ll admit that our house is small but heck, sleepovers and slumber parties are normal and pretty all American in my opinion for kids. I wouldn’t want sleepovers all the time but for a birthday party, it’s pretty normal but my husband acted like it was SUCH a big deal.

      • I remember h saying, “I suppose we are going to have to feed them, too?”
        I clearly remember saying, “A hot dog and a coke going to break you?”

        • I can’t say statistically, but I do think that keeping the house isolated is important for a narc. I know in my own case, my father liked to behave badly and he didn’t want other people around to see that. He used to tell us to never tell other people “the family business,” i.e. anything about his poor behavior (which included long rages periodically and just daily bad manners).

          The strange thing about my father’s behavior is that, for the most part, my brother and I did not pick up on those behaviors. Narc dads turn off their kids, which is probably a good thing. Anyway, narcs like closed systems where they can set up their own weird rules. The weird rules then become norms within the little segregated systems they set up. Other folks might want more alone-time for other reasons — I’m not denying that — but in the narc world a moat around the house works well.

    • We very RARELY had anyone over, just my daughters, and an occasional friend of his. it’s really odd but I always felt very ill at ease when people came by, even my kids. Now in prior relationships my place was always where people gathered…big dinners every Sunday, birthdays, sleep overs, you name it. I never quite understood it. On one hand it wasn’t physically comfortable (too much furniture so he could “watch TV”, etc.) Not enough seats. But still I couldn’t figure out WHY I felt so uncomfortable, I thought it was ME! Thank you all so much for bringing this up – (David) I am struggling to get over it, I don’t like being isolated (I think?)

      • My ex NPD diagnosed husband was just the opposite. If I would have agreed, he would have thrown a big party at our home every week. He loved having people over and throwing parties. The problem was, we couldn’t AFFORD such endless entertaining, and so I always had to be the bad guy saying no to entertaining.

        Mine also was never critical or insulting to me, or about anyone else. In fact, he appeared to like everything and everyone, even those things he SHOULD have disliked.

        My ex has the perfect mask of Mr Good Guy, normal wonderful fun life of the party. I suspect very few have seen the monster he hides inside. I myself never saw it until after he dumped me. Then I was stunned by the absolute dead evil in his eyes.

        He mostly operated covertly and passive-aggressively over the years. Constant gaslighting, ignoring me, subtly showing me how unimportant I was to him. Unfortunately, I eventually believed I was worthless, and am still struggling to overcome the brainwashing.

        • Yes Glad, that was my ex too. He acted like he adored me, told everyone he saw what a lucky guy he was, told me he loved me all the time. It was only on D-Day when he knew the jig was up that the mask fell, and all the warmth and charm and love he exuded in the past was instantly gone. He just sat there looking at me with cold dead eyes and I was actually afraid of him. I knew that this person behind the mask had always been there watching, waiting and plotting. I knew too that this had always been the real him, and it wasn’t pretty.

          • I am a pretty good actress and have played all kinds of roles, but I cannot imagine having to stay in character 24/7, for years. That moment of realization on Dday is exactly how it happened for me. The charm was gone, no emotion, just stared at me with those cold dead eyes. I too, had a sense of fear and he had been the one person I could count on, never in fear of him.

        • Glad-
          That’s what I got too. I had the signs of PTSD and depression before we married but he kept going to counseling whenever I suggested it. Everyone loved my husband and were floored when the D was announced. I had endured 5 years of stonewalling and little lies here and there that I would catch and turn out to be my fault. ” Oh I didn’t tell you I was deploying because I knew you would be upset and it would ruin our weekend together. ” or my personal favorite when I caught him in a 2nd lie about that same deployment and out of anger told him he was damn lucky to be going to war because otherwise I would leave. To which he responded ” your words are all that can ever hurt me” and suddenly I was apologizing to him! I remember 2 months after that fight, he brought it up again and there I was apologizing for my comment via phone and email…it wasnt until after Dday did I realize that I never once received an apology for the lie that started the fight in the first place.
          When he left, he did such a mindfuck job I actually still believe some of his lies even though I. Know they are lies! Sick bastard!

          • If I can’t verify what he is telling me, to this day, I don’t believe him and I call him on it. “Don’t tell me that…I don’t believe you. You can’t be trusted.”

            H became a pathological liar. The weather, how much he paid for something, things that just do not matter.

      • Toni,

        Glad you found that useful.

        Of course, folks can want isolation for other reasons. And narcs may combine a need to show off with isolation. I can see a narc wanting to throw a party, for example, to show off a big new house, but I could also see that same person becoming very uncomfortable with the idea of his kids having their friends stay over.

        In my own case, the rules were largely unwritten. My own children constantly had friends stay over. One night, we actually had 8-9 kids stay over in a big tent out in back of the house we were living in. Growing up, however, I never asked to have a friend stay over night. I wasn’t conscious of this, I just never did it. After all, if I had a friend stay, how would I explain it if my father had had one of his (often hours-long) “whack-outs,” i.e. times when he would start yelling about something and then just not stop. (Usually, he would move the topic away from what had set him off — some small thing that had gone wrong, like a lost key — and morph from the original topic to “Why does a man that works as HARD as I do have to put up with….” Once he was on the work-victim soliloquy, he could go on for a long time about the terrible injustice of his having to work.) In any case, I think that, as I kid, I just knew in my gut that another person’s presence would complicate the situation, so I never asked.

        Chump Son

        • David,
          Same here. My Mom actually hit me once in front of the only friend I ever had over. So glad I’m in therapy now, like my therapist says, N gave me a “Huge gift”

    • yes! never realized that until my cousin told me that she hated being in my house when my STBX was back from work late in the evening. She reminded me how I used to run frantically around the house, clearing all the toys, washing dishes and putting kids to bed. She always found it really odd!
      He never liked having people around.

      • Mag,

        I recall this one, too. In the half hour or so before dad came home, you wanted to straighten things out, clean things up, start to get very quiet so as not to set him off. If anything had turned up broken around the house, my mother would admonish us, “Don’t tell your father!” The idea was we would try to fix the broken item (say a door knob or something), so as not to set him off and make us all miserable.

        So, yep, I recall the same little clean-up time, all fueled by father-anxiety. Even on the nights where there was no blow-up, the place had that negative threat-energy. Great observation on your part!

      • Similar here. My narc-STBX liked having people over but only on HIS terms. He would invite people over to show off his new BBQ or pool. What sucked is that he wouldn’t tell me ahead of time. 15 minutes before they would come over, he would announce it, and then I would be the one to run to the store for steaks & fixins’. Invariably, it was on a weeknight for me, and I was tired and had to get up for work the next day, but it was HIS day off so that’s all that mattered to him. Once he even invited people over when I was sick-as-a-dog. I begged him not to, but he did anyhow. Then guess who gets to clean up afterwards? Once the guests left, he would exclaim that he was tired and that he would clean things up later, then retreated to the bedroom to watch tv, play games on his phone, or whatnot. I would be the one to clean the dishes, retrieve the BBQ utensils from outside, and strain the frying oil. Occasionally, I boycotted these duties to see if he would clean up later, but he never did. The BBQ utensils sat outside for weeks, eventually getting ruined in the rain and elements. The oil sat in the fryer until it went rancid, and the dishes sat in the sink.

        He was extremely annoyed when I wanted to have friends over, because it wasn’t convenient for him. Franky, I didn’t even want to. I didn’t want to subject them his temper.

  • Here are some of my own behaviors that allowed me to get into a relationship with a NPD and to stay:
    1. Initially attracted to his power-outspoken, made things happen was very different than my quiet, deliberate ways

    2. Fell for the love-bomb

    3. I was willing to ignore some of his outrageous behavior because I wanted #1 and #2 above

  • Yoder- lawyer up, and say you want to get it in a revocable trust to it can pass on with no probate (estate tax). You will be responsible for taxes and upkeep, but you are sole trustee. Get an estate and trust lawyer to handle it. But it looks golden…and you can change the beneficiary at will. heh.

    • A Dead upon Death has already been taken care of. What we are working on now is getting said friend to sign over deed now, for a sale of $1 to avoid all the hassle and legal entanglements. I am getting close to having him put my name only on the deed. As all things attained “during the marriage” are not considered joint property during a divorce, it would remain mine, in total.

      Thanks for being concerned about my finances. I have a master degree in Administration of Justice. So, I do have an edge most do not.

  • A great post CL!
    “Untangle your own skein (you know it better than anyone else). Yeah, it’s not as fun. If you’ve ever had a good therapist, you know they’ll make you squirm, call you out on your shit.”…Sums up all! Yes, when I went to my therapist, she unraveled a “pendulum tendency for putting in more efforts and then more efforts….to be there”…”where she asked”…Yes, where…Is that what you are?…Is that what makes you happy?…Some questions which lay so deep inside…some insecurities that whatever you do or have done already is not good enough…Why try to please all…what goal?
    She told me very clearly that I was “Used” but I allowed “that”. The insecurity of “good…but not good enough” was played over and over again by the Users. My ex is a borderline. Borderline are essentially narcissists. He filled the gap somehow. He put me “there”…yes on a “pedestal”…he got me a lot of admiration from people that I did great for myself in my career (which I do even today); he repeated his gratitude for reaching him at a position, he had not imagined, by my conscientious planning n execution of his education and career moves; he also highlighted before his family and friends how I had been helping and giving in all my relationships (yes the pedestal!!!). So, he did fill the “where gap” that the therapist identified.
    So, when he took it all away in one go….I was a void. I felt worthless…in fact I felt I was a void myself. It was like my castle, in which I was the prime-minister (off course, my ex was the king…I wasn’t the queen but his prime-minister, his right hand), was blown to dust….To this day, I sometimes miss those glorious days 🙂
    However, as every castle is built on blood and tears, mine was built on my own blood and tears. I used to write some of my feelings in papers and keep them safe (My ex had used this weakness to his advantage, many times. So, I tried that my true feelings don’t reach him. So, I saved them in safe place or burn them after writing). There is a lot of pain in those…will move anyone to tears…I don’t think I feel anything like that any more…
    No more castles in the air…all are on the ground!

  • My mistake was making excuses for XH’s behavior. He has an abusive mother and you could pretty much run all his character flaws back to that. However, it was not ok how he treated me and the kids because of that. I was going along with a lot of things just to keep things calm and avoid confrontation.
    After the affair, I just couldn’t get over it. He wanted to sweep it all under the rug and I could not heal. That of course, just made him angry and that lead to the end of the marriage.
    It was very hard to pull myself away. It really is hard not to feel sorry for them. But, at some point you have to ‘save’ yourself. Trust me, eventually you will just disappear if you stay with a person like this long enough.

    • I may be wrong, but I believe that behind every serial cheater, there is an abusive mother and/or a dysfunctional mother/son relationship.

      note to self: in the future, if I should happen to start to get serious about another man, make sure he has a healthy mother and that their relationship is healthy and loving.

      My MIL passed away in Feb. 2012, but I had been with my husband for 25 years at that time and in all that time, I had never heard him say to her… “I love you.” (and vice versa) He told me that as she was dying and he was in his car trying to get up to Canada before she passed that he said, “I love you.”

      It took him 60 years to get that one out.

      • My MIL has been a characteristic whore. My father in law is a weak man. Had he shown a bit of courage that I showed, his sons would have not been serial cheaters. My ex might have seen things happening at his home, which he couldn’t understand/ distinguish as right/ wrong. Then he saw that his mother was powerful. He might have justified to his kid self that it was okay to be…what showed up as a typical borderline behavior (not officially diagnosed, in fact a very high functioning type with characteristic borderline features).
        I second you Laurel…again MIL responsible for my mess!

        • My mil is loving and honest. BUT she is very insecure. She was so scared that her son wouldn’t love her, so she never disciplined him. *Never.* Plus, she felt guilty that he never had a father, so she never did the hard work of making him be responsible and actually learn to behave.

          I was mad at her for a long time. I still am, actually, a little. But I know she did the best she could. That was her best.

      • It probably crosses gender lines. For what it’s worth, my wife has an abusive mother as well (physically and emotionally). She also was openly an OW for most of my wife’s childhood. Her father was a notorious philanderer who left home when my wife was 2. I’m not making excuses for her by any means; but, I was always so proud of how she overcame her childhood (with the help of her knight in shining armor of course). Well now we know I guess.

      • in my character’s family there are;

        — a wildly adulterous and philandering narc father;
        — a co dependent (and I hate that term/concept, but it applies) , also narc mother (now dead–starved herself to death when she had to live with her cheating narc husband and they both retired. nice.);
        — who were both abandoned as children by real circumstances during the depression (death &poverty)…
        — in turn,they emotionally abandoned their children.

        — My character’s older brother cheater throughout his marriage and married a whore he met on Adult Cheat Finder–affair while still married, de rigeur.

        — My Character, lived in fantasy land…until he didn’t, started out chasing friends, ended up fucking HS reunion whore (how banal). But the years of lies and deliberate double life. ugh. I could have used those years to start over earlier, younger, in a better career mode….

        In the end however, so what??

        They’re all cheaters, liars, adulterers. Sad story, but really– did they have to destroy all the lives they touched besides their own?

        I mainly hold my Character responsible for destroying our daughter’s family. Me, I can tough it out, grieve, rebuild, whatever. I chose him; I’m an adult (apparently the only one, but I digress.) What he did to her is unforgivable.

        She didn’t chose her parents, and to chose one’s own selfish pleasure over one’s child’s welfare to me, is, to quote Inigo Montoya, inconceivable. Just staggering.

        But we’ve all been over this ground before. It’s the Gordian solution to the Skein of Fucked upedness. In the end, it doesn’t matter why– it’s the what.

        • Yes NMVera, inconceivable and staggering, good words. I am enraged by the many years of my life my ex- adulterer squandered. But I did pick the fucktard, our kids did not. My 3 children are left completely abandoned, his sins were just too horrible and they were old enough to know. But he didn’t try very hard to see them either, and he is just going on with his life as if they don’t exist (and obviously he does not care). How do you protect them from this horror? I think my ex is a true sociopath so once he knew he was exposed and beat he just moved on. But others’ children are tortured by continued contact with their narc-ex-parent. Either way, it sucks.

      • Good note to self! Very important, and easy to overlook when caught up in a romance.

        A lot of the books on male narcissism speculate that the boy’s relationship with his mother is critical: Nina Brown and others. Sometimes it’s real high-theory stuff, but it comes down to that.

  • I have no idea what I saw in my narc now. All of his horrible deeds have blinded me to remembering anything good in him. Today he took his new girlfriend to the local parade, even though we are still married and he could lose his job for committing adultery. He’s in the military. He had no thought to our kids possibly being there. They are still in the dark about why Mom and Dad are divorcing other than we can’t live together any more. They are only 6 amd 9. I can’t imagine having so little care for your children that you don’t consider their welfare any more. Makes me so sick and sad.

    • You need to tell your kids in an age-appropriate way. It’s not fair for them to believe that relationships can arbitrarily dissolve for no apparent reason.

  • I spent some time this weekend on a site called Talk About Marriage (TAM) and it seems so different from this one. I like the vibe here much better. Everyone there seemed to be doing the same thing: trying desperately to reconcile with their wayward spouses and spying on them like crazy. Reading emails. Putting voice recorders in the car. Tapping text messages. I keep hearing “trust, but verify” over and over again.

    I don’t WANT to be a CIA agent with my husband. If I have to check his computer every day, it’s not really a marriage based on trust, right? Do people live like this for extended periods of time? I can’t imagine how exhausting that would be. They advise betrayed spouses to get every password and check them regularly. Facebook, too. Phone records. The whole nine yards. Oh, and get the spouse to write a “no contact” letter that you oversee and watch as it is dropped into the mailbox. They also advise you to contact the other woman AND her husband and “blow the whole thing up.”

    Is this a normal phase of the reconciliation process? Do people just do this until they get tired of it? I think I’d rather kick his sorry ass to the curb than become Inspector Gadget. I don’t think I want to call the other woman or her husband. I don’t want to oversee a letter like my husband is in second grade. Either he’s going to end it with her and cease contact and stick to his word or he isn’t — and no amount of harping or hovering is going to change it.

    Did you all do that stuff? How did you garner the courage to call the other woman or her husband? Do you spend half your day reading emails? Is this even legal if my husband uses his computer for work? Good grief.

    • Anyone who lives like that is in a prison of fear, not a marriage. It’s a friggin’ nightmare to live like that, I can tell you from experience.

      I spent more than a decade of my 20 year marriage looking through the ex’s closet, looking at his emails, looking for signs he was having sex with men. The very fact that I felt the need to do that obviously should have been enough to get me out of there, but I spackled over everything, because I was too terrified of being alone. And in my defense, I have to say my ex was incredibly good at hiding his cheating.

      One time I did discover he had Googled, “guys fucking” on his computer. When I asked him about it, he replied, “So what?” Good Lord, why didn’t I file for divorce that very minute? Instead I stayed until he finally dumped me, ironically enough because he was involved with multiple married women at that point.

      Anyway, Newly, the point is, no, if you have to act like a detective, your marriage is nonexistent. People do it, but they shouldn’t.

      • I can understand that truly remorseful cheaters (and there must be a few of them out there, no? Otherwise where would the myth come from?) want their e-mails and phones and lives to be an open book to their betrayed partners, as a way to re-build trust. But if you feel like you have to keep checking, that you’re likely to find something at some point, the marriage is already in the toilet. And do you actually want it back after it’s been in there? Can you possibly believe it will ever be worthwhile again?

        After the ex’s first affair, I thought about the trust thing, and decided there was no way I was going to be the ‘fidelity police’. I had realized he was involved with his first AP even before he did, watched it all happen (but couldn’t believe he would carry it through. CHUMP!). So I figured I’d figure it out again if it happened again. And I knew that whether it did happen again or not was on him, and about him, not me, not our relationship. Especially because he had avoided all the real work of repairing and learning to do differently, in our relationship and in his life, that he needed to do after the 1st affair.

        So I continued to do MY best to keep our relationship strong, although I never persisted in attempts that he turned down. And sure enough, it took me about 2 weeks to figure out that the second affair had started (7 years after the first one, and happening in another city, where he was spending 4 days a week for work), and another week after that to turf his ass out.

    • Monitor and verify until you get enough evidence to nail him on what he is doing and then kick his butt out the door. Why would any one care if they do or do not stop seeing the OW, he can’t unfuck her. Damage has been done. Get out of Dodge and carry a big stick (evidence) to make advantages for yourself.

  • Thank you so much for this. I am currently trying to extricate myself from someone who is much younger than myself and and I got sexually involved. although I have never considered this a relationship, he has drained me emotionally and is now trying to gain financially. He actually bullied me into buying plane tickets for a trip I never intend to take. I am mortified, humiliated and completely freaked out that I could have let this happen. I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent woman and while I know that he does not like me it is still difficult to stay away. I am sick with remorse. Thank you for letting me vent!

  • Drill it down to who is underneath the narcissistic personality disorder. Do you/did you love that person? That is all that matters. Don’t go too deep trying to be “there” with them in their disorder. It’s a location that doesn’t exist.

    I think a lot of people get hung up on having been burned from/by narcissists because they have not yet understood that the name of the game is TO LOVE rather than to RECEIVE LOVE. Once you have that figured out, you realize YOU WIN!

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