If I had to name a single characteristic that defines every wing nut, it would be: “you’re not the boss of me.” That ability to defy, withhold, and resist — even to their own detriment — is the wing nut ethos. Dr. George Simon, calls it the phenomenon of “I will not submit.”
Please stop texting your affair partner? You’re not the boss of me.
File your taxes? You’re not the boss of me.
Pay your child support? You’re not the boss of me.
Of course, they rarely explicitly say “You’re not the boss of me” — their actions say it. They might agree sweetly, even repentantly, to do whatever it was they agreed to do — and then not do it. (Many lame excuses follow.) They may have a court order to do it. They don’t do it. They might get openly agitated with you for reminding them to do the thing they agreed to do. (Oh, like for instance, honor their wedding vows.) Their eyes may roll into the back of their eye sockets. Oh. God. THIS. Again. And some just explode in full-blown, flamboyant defiance. I remember mine screaming at me in a parking lot, about a week after DDay 1, spittle flying from his mouth: “I will NOT kiss your ass!”
Really? You think I asked you to kiss my ass? (In retrospect, that’s probably something I should’ve done, on the way to file papers with my divorce attorney.) I can’t even remember what I asked for. Probably some show of remorse, some indication of that the promises to “make it up” to me were true. I probably asked for some kind of consensus or reassurance.
Point was — I wasn’t the boss of him. Who was I to make any request whatsoever of him? Didn’t I recognize his exceptionalism? And that should’ve been my first clue — this you’re not the boss of me — extended to EVERY aspect of his life. Housework. Getting to work on time. Honoring his marriage commitments. He didn’t think the rules applied to him. There was no team. There were only HIS interests… and static. I was an annoying buzz, that sometimes rose in volume to a drone, which occasionally pierced his attention space and was really, fucking irritating.
It should’ve occurred to me sooner that all those things he promised to do — be faithful, pleading with me to reconcile with him, because he was going to be So Good — were just short-term lies to get the things he wanted. All truth was situational truth. And who was I to inflict my version of truth on him? He said that? Yeah, so WHAT?
His actions were totally clear, but his words baffled me. A wall of apology sounds. “I’m sorry.” “I will do anything to make this up to you.” “You know how much I love you, and I would never do anything to jeopardize this relationship.”
But then: “I cannot LISTEN to THIS NOW. I have a DEADLINE AT WORK. I will LOSE MY JOB if you SPEAK to me about this!” So, then I’d schedule a time, or a therapy appointment — and that remorse he said he felt, well, he couldn’t just summon it when someone ASKED for it. He had to feel it. And, hey, he didn’t feel that sorry right then. I didn’t ask him the right way. The therapist had it in for him. She didn’t ask the right way either. I told his family, and he was really angry, and well, see what you DID? You went and ruined everything.
You are not the boss of me is how toddlers and teenagers express themselves. Developmental stages known for their narcissism, they are all about rejecting the caregiver. Supposedly, children work through this unpleasantness and define their identities. Eventually, they leave the nest and are all self sufficient and self actualized.
Unlike narcissists, who just remain infantile. Hideously needy, but don’t you dare act like you do anything for them ever. Just keep the kibbles coming and shut up. That’s your JOB. Do it.
There is a place for pig-headedness and rebellion. Throughout history, every revolutionary, every maverick has stood up to authority and said I Will Not Submit. I will not sit at the back of the bus. I will not be denied the right to vote. I will not leave this burning fortress. I’m sure that’s how narcissists see themselves. As noble guerrilla fighters against the tyrannic forces of Reason and Moderation.
Only real revolutionaries, the Nelson Mandelas of the world, they fight for a common purpose. They fight against a shared injustice. They make heroic sacrifices for the good of the whole. Narcissists fight alone. We are all the enemies of their happiness. You’re for the narcissist’s happiness, or you’re against it. And they’re not beyond acts of espionage to get the kibbles they need. Pretend to be your partner? Okay. Make some lame promises? Sure. Just keep the kibbles coming. The narcissist will pretend to be on your team, working for your common cause — just don’t expect them to like it. Or do anything that doesn’t first serve their interests.