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Narcissists Be Crazy!

Sorry, that headline was more fun than “Neuroscience Points to Empathy Deficit among Narcissists.”

You know how I’ve been saying here at Chump Lady that these people are wired wrong? They don’t have empathy synapses? Well, turns out more science is emerging every day that narcissists are quite literally wrong in the head. You weren’t imagining it.

According to the Journal for Psychiatric Research, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have less gray matter in their brains in a region that regulates compassionate emotions. (So when Anthony Weiner was singing “If I Only Had a Brain” he was closer to the truth than he ever knew.)

The left anterior insula region of the brain, generally thought to be involved with cognitive functioning and the regulation of emotion, has also been tied to compassion and empathy.

“This was already a region of interest for empathy, but for the first time, we were able to show that it is structurally correlated in the brain,” sid Röpke.

The researchers discovered that the degree to which a person was able to exhibit empathy was tied to the amount of gray matter in the brain, both in the healthy individuals as well as in those with narcissistic personality disorder.

The findings suggest that regardless of personality disorders, the left anterior insula plays an important role in feeling and expressing compassion, Röpke said.

This raises some interesting questions for the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. Like if you’re married to a narcissist — how can you reconcile with someone congenitally incapable of empathy? All that dialoguing you’re supposed to do, all that Joseph’s Letter crap where you implore them to feel your pain — it’s like asking a goldfish to knit a sweater. They can’t know how you feel. They don’t care. And your feelings clearly do not inform their actions.

Perhaps it’s not fair to say they don’t care. They cannot care. They’re limited. The gray fluff in their brain required to make them care is missing. Doesn’t mean they don’t know right from wrong, it means that if they do wrong, there’s no ding, ding, ding going off in their heads making them feel bad about it. Sort of like those rare cases of people who don’t have nerve endings — they burn their hands on stoves, break bones, all without realizing they shouldn’t, because they don’t get the pain signal to their brain.

I’m fascinated by the neuroscience behind personality disorders. On the one hand, it’s frightening, because we want to believe we have control of our character, that life is a matter of choices, and we come to the table as fully rational beings. On the other hand, have a stroke or a brain injury and poof! you can be quite a different person. Read the works of neuroscientist and essayist Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) — he catalogs numerous examples of brain injury and how it informs behavior.

It’s an interesting age. I think we’re beginning to understand that not everyone is neurologically “normal.” We don’t all run the same operating system. Some people have empathy deficits and you can do an MRI and apparently see an actual lack of gray matter where empathy should be. Just wow! But it makes sense to me that there is a biological component to this phenomenon. I don’t think every cheater is a personality disorder, but I do think a lot of them (especially serial cheaters) have these empathy deficits. If you didn’t, you couldn’t conduct a double life of any duration. There is a danger for chumps to assume that everyone has the same mental make up and cares about the same set of rules. To know that these deficits are real is useful information. If nothing else, you can stop blaming yourself.

It used to be schizophrenia was blamed on frigid mothers, until quite recently it was recognized as an illness of the brain. No more attributable to frigid mothers than cancer or diabetes.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was once married to man who descended into mental illness — hoarding, OCD, anxiety. (Yeah, I know how to pick ’em.) Did a lot of counseling around it, this was over 20 years ago now — back when there was far more stigma about mental illness and next to no knowledge about hoarding. I used to get told things in counseling like “Oh you know how men are messy. You need to communicate, work out the division of chores.” Like this was possible and if we just had a rational discussion it would sort itself out. I look back and liken all that nonsense to the sort of therapy I experienced trying to reconcile with a serial cheater. “You need to dialogue.” Or to my then cheater husband: “You need to learn to be vulnerable and open yourself to love.”

Might as well ask a shark to tap dance. He wasn’t capable. I remember the good shrink, Janet asking him “How do you think that makes Tracy feel?” and he got this utterly blank look — like she asked the question in Swahili. You could see the gears didn’t shift. He couldn’t imagine. He was incapable of imagining.

Oh, he could pretend at remorse, but if you scratched very deeply, asked him to explain the emotion to you, what triggered it, what he thought of when he felt sorry — he couldn’t do it. He’d get angry or change the subject.

Similarly, my first husband couldn’t throw things away. He could not organize papers. He could write perfect strands of computer code, but he could not clean his desk. He could’ve spent years in therapy or with personal organizers all telling him how to throw junk mail away, or what about his mother made him want to hang on to moldy tennis balls — fact is — we now know that hoarders have neurological damage. You can do an MRI and see exactly what part of their brain is misfiring when they hoard. It wasn’t a matter of choice for him really, he was wired to hoard.

After years of that merry-go-round, I felt in my gut that asking that man to organize his mess was like asking a quadriplegic to get out of his wheelchair and walk across the room. It was almost cruel to expect these things he could not do. And yet I expected them. I felt angry and disappointed and robbed that he would not Make An Effort. Sometimes I accepted his blameshifting that it was me, and my terrible expectations of him. I wish someone would have told me — this is just who he IS. It’s not your fault. He cannot be the person you need him to be — walk away.

I hope this science gives similar comfort to chumps. The cheater in your life may be exceptionally limited — and that limitation is who they ARE. It’s not your fault. You didn’t make them this way, and as yet, there is no cure for a lack of empathy. So stop trying to fix it. They cannot be the person you need them to be — walk away.

This column ran previously, but the cartoon is new! 

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  • Right before I went grey rock, in my last email to my ex, I could only say at the end, “there is something wrong with you. Something is missing.” and that was the end of it for me. I have recollected that moment of clarity as I was typing the email many, many times since then when deciding the best course of action as we coparent over email and I maintain total emotional unavailability to him. It’s good to read articles like that that put the pieces together. Thank you.

    • Flipped situation here Joy.
      One of the last interactions I had with Narkles the Clown ended with him saying “There’s something wrong with me.”
      By then we were two months out from D-Day and I had read enough CL that my response was “Yes, you’re flaming Narcissist. You should get some help and work on that.” Then I stood up and walked away.
      Two and a half years later in true narc form he hasn’t worked on it because in his eyes there is nothing wrong with him. It was just the self pity channel.

      • Here’s the thing: if you know you have a problem, you can work to compensate for it. If. You. Want. To.

        I have a friend who has a spectrum disorder. He’s worked hard to understand how “people feel generally” about things. He’s aware of his deficiencies and has alerted people to let him know when he’s not “getting it”. Sometimes his more compassionate behavior is motivated not so much by feelings but by the fact that he’s learned thow a thoughtful person behaves in a particular situation, but the point is, he’s used his diagnosis as a way to be aware and grow.

        I’ve been trying to reconcile, and my husband has really mastered “the new nice.” But I’m coming to the conclusion that some day soon, I’m going to have to let him know it’s over – because he’s a pathological liar. Sometimes the lies are big – like cheating instead of working to fix our marital problems – and sometimes they’re small, like erasing phone calls that I can see on the bill anyway, despite his making a show of promising that he would never, never erase phone records.

        But the point is he lies like you or I breathe, without even thinking about it.

        And he doesn’t see that each of those little lies erases a trust he says he wants. I actually think he does want it, but just doesn’t have the grey matter to understand why his behavior is undercutting his goals.

        Sad, really.

        • Azkadelia, that rings so true! They say they want to be honest, and they might really want to make it work with you (to keep their kibble life together) but they just can’t. The day before I ended things with serial cheater STBX I was angry that he was still trying to hide things, even though he was apparently desperate to fix our relationship after all his cheating, so I said “this relationship is on the edge, all you need to do to end it is to lie”. So that same afternoon he gets a message from a woman he had been flirting with previously, he DELETES it to hide it from me! I found out, that was it, we were done. He was so distraught and confused that this ‘little thing’ could be the final straw. They just don’t get it, this honesty thing, they lie and cover up without noticing they are even doing it, their untrustworthiness runs very deep.

          • @Azkadelia & @soveryshocked, I agree as well. Sometimes it can be a very subtle lie that didn’t even have to be. Prior to DD#2 my wife had plans with friends. One of my biggest complaints about my wife is how much she goes out either to the gym or with friends. So one evening she says, “I canceled with x, y & z tonight because I wanted to be home with you guys” (i.e. me and the kids)” Later that night I reached out to her friend (being the nice guy or maybe suspecting something) and told her I hope my wife didn’t ruin the night by canceling. She wrote back and said, “What are you talking about? I canceled with her because y is sick and z has other plans.” She even sent me a screen shot of her postponing the night out.

            So now what do I think??? That my wife lied about who canceled the plans so she can look like the hero sacrificing her night out to spend time with her boring family. All she had to do was tell the truth, but instead she lied over something as trivial as who canceled the plans. Sadly, another mark against her.

            Azkadelia, it’s nice to hear someone else say “But I’m coming to the conclusion that some day soon, I’m going to have to let him know it’s over.” I’m getting there as well. We are in couples therapy, and the therapist told me she thinks my wife is very hopeful we will work through her affairs and our issues, but I’m not so hopeful. DD#2 and all of the associated lies and betrayal was a crushing blow.

            • To The Fooled Twice Dad – You should know that everyone I have seen a narcissist prey on has been an incredibly nice and decent person. They look for that. I felt like my brain was being scrambled when I realized the pattern in my life of being used (by friends, husband, etc.) but you know what, I’m glad I’m a nice person. I’m glad I believed my husband until I found out about his lies, because people SHOULD be able to trust their partners. However, once the veil was lifted, I filed for divorce in under a week. Everything made sense and it was awful. My sister gave me one piece of advice that sealed the deal, “A person’s character doesn’t really change.” I am wiser now and now and recognize more of the tricks they use to get their talons in us. (Bonus: Now that I am more aware, they tend to leave me alone in the first place. They can sense it on people.) It’s possible to be free of this pattern. Hang in there!

              • Interestingly, one of the first comments my X made about me and one of the last he made while on his way out the door were, ” You’re a good person”. It struck me as an odd thing to say until reading CL made me realize why that would be significant to him.

              • My ex used to tell me ‘You’d be out in the ocean saving the whales if you could’. I thought it was a compliment. Now I know because he sees me as a chump!

              • Absolutely. Contrary to the allegation that someone that takes this from a NPD is co-dependent, the reality is that the victims of these folks are just nice people who , because they could not contemplate doing the stuff these folks so, did not suspect what they were dealing with.
                These NPD s can sniff out good hearted people, and , during courtship, it is not like they let their masks slip.
                I have seen this pattern in both marriages where my XWs were serial cheaters: Once there is entanglement, enmeshment ( kids, marriage vows, mortgages etc) and they know that you cannot escape easily anymore, the mask comes off.
                I think , most of the time, it is gradual, as they test how far they can go. The abused partner is like the frog place in a tepid water that is, slowly, brought to a boil.
                One begins questioning his or her perceptions: Did she really say that? Did she really do that? Am I overreacting? Am I paranoid? Am I overly sensitive ( to things like being doused, repeatedly, with cold water while showering or fully clothed, or having my XW describe, in detail, the body of the guy she was out with at a bar).
                I think for many of us , the discovery of the cheating was an epiphany which, finally, caused us to look back at other behaviors and to see them more clearly, as abusive.

              • The lie… I have found that in whatever breath the utter there is always a lie. Sometimes it is a kernel of truth wrapped in a lie, sometimes it is a lie wrapped in truth… sometimes it is the sin of omission. but THERE.IS.ALWAYS.A.LIE in anything they utter. It might even be if they ask you if you would like a PB&J sandwich. How could they lie with that, well because they didn’t want to tell you they had almond butter. They were hoarding that for themselves. THERE.IS.ALWAYS.A.LIE and it is crazy making.

              • Indifference is more evil than hatred. Being indifferent to the pain you inflict on others surpasses hatred. (You have to have feelings to feel hatred).

                Indifference is what compelled men like Stalin and Hitler to slaughter millions of innocent people. Indifference on a smaller scale- compels cheaters to cheat, lie and deceive.

        • Azkadelia, I spent two wasted years after DDay #2 trying to wreckoncile with my ex. Over the course of those two years, I kept my eyes and ears open and really noticed all the lies. What baffled me was when he lied not just about things that I could verify elsewhere, but about completely inconsequential things like where he ate lunch. I don’t remember any more exactly what those inconsequential lies were (DDay #2 was in 2012 and I’m now happily divorced) but I remember thinking at the time “WHY?? Why lie about something so meaningless?” Maybe he had some reason I’m not aware of for those lies but I do remember that it struck me at the time as bizarre and unnecessary behavior. My conclusion was that lying had become such a habit that he did it without thinking and that led me to believe that where there’s smoke, there must be fire. If he was lying about little things there were undoubtedly BIG lies too. After two years of waiting to see some growth or change I realized there wasn’t going to be any and decided to end the marriage. He wasn’t trying to change so we could reconcile. He was waiting for me to “reconcile” myself to going back to the status quo.

          Your friend on the spectrum is a very apt analogy. Even if the cheater’s behavior is caused by a personality disorder or a lack of brain matter in the empathy area, that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to modify their behavior to fit with norms such as fidelity and trust. They might not understand how we feel when we’re in pain but they sure as hell can figure out not to actively cause us pain (keep your pecker in your pants and tell the truth). They choose not to do those things. Once we understand that, there is no hope left for the relationship or the cheater – but plenty of hope for a better life for us.

          • “He was waiting for me to “reconcile” myself to going back to the status quo.”

            I got chills when I read this. XH was like that too. He will do nothing to rectify the situation and would just keep doing what he wants. Good thing we don’t have children and was able to cut him loose. These people prey on others’ emotions and abuse trust.

            • CeliA,

              D-Day was two days ago. My fuckwit, I mean ex-fuckwit, never apologized and then told me I was being unreasonable when I kicked him out of my house.

              With clarity, I now see his attentive and “caring” behavior toward me was a ruse and well-planned, practiced behavior to conceal his fucking around.

              He is most definitely a psychopath. Three years together and I just didn’t see it. Looking back, I know see the relationship was just an illusion. Hard to be sad about something that wasn’t real.

          • Beth, was your husband acting the same after DD1 as you said with DD2. Or were there differences. Like he behaved until he was out of the woods?

            • Regrets,

              After DDay#1, I believed him when he told me it was all my fault and I went into a pick me dance/spackle frenzy. Eventually things settled down and, I thought, “returned to normal”. Which they did. Only the “normal” unbeknownst to me was that he stopped the affair that led to DDay#1 and went back to fucking strippers for four years until DDay#2 when I found out about an affair with a stripper. The difference was after DDay#2, rather than pick me dancing, I refused to accept any fault, kicked him out, gave him the terms that would win me back and waited to see what he would do. He initially showed remorse but that quickly turned into, as I said, thinking he could wait me out and go back to “normal” again. That didn’t happen, fortunately for me. I got myself a therapist and a support group and through hard work on ME (which though hard, was easier than pick me dancing until my feet bled) figured out I was happier without him. Considering he moved yet another stripper (to whom he is now engaged apparently) in with him even before I filed for divorce, I highly doubt that he ever “behaved” for real, just took his behavior deeper under cover which wasn’t hard since we were separated.

              • Beth,
                I am truly sorry for the pain you had to deal with regarding your fucktard XH. They really do show you who they are after the first DD#1. I admire your strength and will power to leave. You are MIGHTY!!!

        • Is it really his goal or will you find out, some time in the future, that he has been calling an AP and deleting those calls so you wouldn’t find out and he could have his cake….
          Whatever, it doesnt matter. the result is the same. The important question is: Is this imbalance of honesty and love an acceptable situation for you to live your life? This is what finally made me decide to leave and I have never regretted it!

        • oh my giddy aunt!!! you NAILED it in this one sentence ” just doesn’t have the grey matter to understand why his behavior is ____” .. .. . it used to drive me crazy when wasband would do stupid little lies and dumb things that actually jeopardized our marriage. i just could NOT understand or logicialize his thinking (or lack of) so i always took it as an insult and personal.. ..

          like yours he would constantly delete texts and/or calls. it would make me so suspious. why did he delete it if it was innocent. then i turned into the marriage police and would do stupid shit myself.. .. only making his lies worse. it has been 4 years since our divorce, i have pretty much reached meh.. .. just dont care to figure out the why or how he did what he did.. .. . but your sentence really reached out to me and another piece of the missing puzzle snapped into place. the reason he did those stupid things and lies was because he just has no grey matter to understand that it was wrong.. .. his excuse for deleting messages was he “knew it would make me mad”.. .. ugh!! of course it made me MAD!! you are hiding and lying about shit.. .. dumb ass.. .. i wasted so much energy trying to figure this out and it was just so simple.. .. a no brainer!!!! LITERALLY and FIGURATIVELY!!!! hahaha

          i am so glad i do not have to deal with this kind of crazy anymore. i still think it is super sad that wasband just gave up and walked away from a good thing, but i can now look back and see that it wasnt as good of thing as i thought it was.. .

        • There’s a huge difference in being on the spectrum and being a narcissist. One lacks the ability to have empathy and the other does. And those on the spectrum struggle daily to learn how to mirror others through scripting, not to be devient or to manipulate but to navigate a world full of social nuances that are ever changing depending on the context. They have insight and struggle. They DO have empathy.

          That said, narcissists mirror others for personal gain, have no empathy, and manipulate to gain advantage over others.

        • Azkadelia, I swear I just broke up with this same guy. The thing about this sort and what makes them so convincing is, they *believe* what they are saying when they are saying it; it’s just that the second they have finished saying it, the moment has passed and the conviction along with it. They live, literally, from one moment to the next, with no emotional connection to the past or the future. The emptiness of their existence terrifies them; they do not like their own company and must constantly be distracted from it. And that is where the compulsive cheating comes in.

      • Ex also seemed to recognize that there was something wrong with him but he has no interest in doing anything about it. At first after D-day he was putting a lot of blame on me. At some point, however, he decided that I was not the problem after all and there was something wrong with him. That is also when he decided that it wasn’t worth the MC. It was fine when he thought it was all about fixing me, but when he realized that there might be something wrong with him that needed fixing, he begged out and ran away. Coward.

        • Same. There were brief moments of clarity when I confronted him about the emotional abuse I suffered because of him, where he said: “Sorry, it was a side effect of my issues”. I believe at some root level he understands that he is disordered but he has no desire to properly address and work on it. To openly admit that something is wrong with him would make him bad or defective in his eyes. He once told his mom that he could never face my family again. And I believe that is why he left. He could not handle the shame he felt. Finding a new set of friends, a new girlfriend is much easier than addressing your bad behavior, making amends and correcting it. He would much rather find someone who accepts his behavior for what it is, no judgments, like his family has been doing for years. A low maintenance relationship where he puts little to no effort in. He too is a coward.

          And after that brief moment of clarity, he changed his attitude and it became everyone else who was the problem and not him. He was angry at my dad because my dad was angry at him for cheating on and leaving his daughter with cancer. He came up with a mile long list of reasons why the marriage was over. Some of those were things he was angry about from years earlier that he never told me his feelings on, some were not reasons to end a marriage at all (like me losing my job shortly after getting married–something we overcame easily).

          He went to two MC appointments with me and as soon as the counselor made it clear that we would have to address his affair, he was out. He wanted to focus solely on what he perceived to be my issues. Because in his mind, my issues caused his issues. My expectations drove him crazy and forced him to lie, cheat and spend time at the bar.

          Now all the blame is on me. The new girlfriend tells me there is more than one side to a story without knowing anything at all about my side. I drove him crazy with my expectations. My family judged him unfairly and never accepted him. There is never mention at all about his emotional abuse or cheating. Like it never happened. And if I bring it up? Crickets.

          I know I have my faults and am working on them. He however will carry his issues into his new relationship. I’m gonna sit back with some opcorn and watch how that unfolds.

          • Cancer chump-

            I read your thread and my ex was the same way. I’m about 6 months past d day, and have been struggling to make sense of it all. But your message struck such a chord. I would also confront my ex about his behavior when I noticed he wouldn’t be treating me well, and he was always sincere. He would try to work on it until he became distant again. Around the time we broke up, he had been seeing a therapist for his behavior “for us.” But he had a new girlfriend, (publicly) less than 2 months after we separated. He also had a new group of friends.

            There is still a chumpy part of me that thinks about reconciling, and talking It out, but I also think he has far too much shame to come forward.

            (We were long distance/engaged, a sociopathic “friend” of ours went out there alone and they had a “one night” thing.)

            It’s been really hard but i’ve been reading this site daily and am fighting hard to find my mightiness.

            • My X fuckwit always treated me well, or so I thought. His treatment of me was just cover to conceal his serial sex addiction. He actually told me he looks at all women as sex objects, like that was supposed to adequately explain his bad behavior. Good riddance!!!

              • MiKo chimp

                My stbx too. He was like a fucking saint. Everyone loved him. Great dad. Worshipped me. Married 17 years.
                Dday was 11/18 when he gave me an std and was being extorted by and transgender hooker.

                I had no fucking clue.

                Good times.

                I’d love to chat.

        • Same with my XH, ChumpinRecovery! He knew he was not good and would often tell me, “I’m not a good person”(about himself). So, he knew the he was not doing the right things and that his behavior was bad, but would do nothing to correct it. He didn’t have the motivation to fix it because these narcs get a payoff for being the way they are (kibbles and to be selfish without care) and they see no reason to change. I’ve read that even when these people know they are not doing things right, they actually like the way there are and don’t want to change.

        • Haha! Dancing Dick. I love it. Thanks for making me laugh. Glad I found this site and read the book. No more Chumpville for me!!!

    • Depending on what kind of a narc your cheater is, the chances are you’ll be criticised for saying something like that to them, and they’ll play the victim.

      Saying there’s something wrong with them, or that they are a narcissist, or even that their actions & behaviour is narcissistic, as true as it is, they likely will behave as if you are the abusive one.

      They will use it against you, behind your back, to their coterie- their friends, their family, their affair partner.

      A common feature of narcissism is their fragile ego.

      My (hard-earned) advice would not to go there. Don’t tell them what they are or what you think they are.

      Just out of interest, my ex, when we were together did an online psychopathy test. It came back that he was probably a psychopath. I laughed, as I thought he was being silly. So I asked him to do it again, honestly this time. It came back that he was probably a psychopath. I spackled. It was a silly online test, after all. Hardly medical diagnosis.

      But something struck a cord.

      • Sorry, I didn’t get to finish that story. But in any case, my main point is, even though your cheater may have very strong narcissistic traits, don’t tell them. They will twist it. They will blameshift to protect their fragile ego.

        Don’t give them any ammunition to use against you, or play the victim and strengthen their narrative about why they **had** to cheat on you. Narcissists are pretty toxic people, once you are no longer of use to them, or are no longer under their spell and charm. Protect yourself and stay no contact or the dullest of all grey rock ever.

        • Mine spent years putting me down at every opportunity and then had the nerve to say “you need to have more confidence”. I flat out told him that he had a role to play in that, but I might as well have been talking to a brick wall. If I had more “conficence” I would have understood that his criticisms were meant to be “constructive” (not). Meanwhile if I ever had the nerve to criticize him in any way for any reason, I was “disrespecting” him and didn’t “have his back”. Double standards abounded in our marriage.

      • Mine did a similar test and it came back he was on the autistic spectrum ……now I know better and Im sure it was narc rather than autism

    • Agreed Joy excellent writing as always from chumplady! I knew mine wasn’t wired to what I needed after 5 long years of no affection it was depressing! Then I would learn tidbits about their childhood through his sisters, complete lack of affection! They never felt loved or appreciated that explained everything!????

      • Ok, I wish I had a better place to post this but I am fired up. For one, it’s so helpful to see others write about the lies and honesty issue during wreckonciliation. After 3 1/2 years of wreckonciliation from at 10 month adultery with a younger co worker after my 6th baby, I found out that there was one more physical cheating (that he admitted to), he had been working with her again for
        9 months, and would try to Google her sometimes. All deal breakers for me, but he didn’t tell me ‘for
        The best of the family’ because
        He knew I would ‘overreact’ and didn’t want to break up the family.
        I still struggled with ending it, majorly struggled. It wasn’t all
        The way…it was a contract, he never
        Talked to her, hated her…
        But he lied!!! I was in incredible pain ending the marriage…I wanted to believe all his promises…realized he had a major mental health problem…promised me he would Work on all the problems he contributed in the marriage, but Ruined that letter when it started with ‘sorry for everything, all of
        It’
        Then my story goes deeper and darker and it’s been a hellish mess.
        Now I am almost 2 years since 2cd d day and separation and 1 1/2 weeks from court and he wants out of spousal and wants money and I am trying to be here for my kids as I have been a homeschooling sahm for 18 years. I have kids saying ‘you need to help dad and get a part time job, it’s dad’s money…’ I want to scream!!!! It was valued when he was here and now it
        Is not!?!?? And!!!! I still miss him!! And want him!!! What is WRONG with me??!!!!!!
        He is dating and has done every character assassination he can think of conjuring up on me, none are true but oh! How it hurts! I need to get to meh!!!!!

        • Fighting Chump

          I’m so sorry. Of course you want all those things. Of course you miss him. It’s normal and so unfair. It’s not “his” money. It is family money. He made this mess not you. He doesn’t want consequences. Its so hard to have your life upended and with six children.

          Do you have someone to talk to? Find someone. Go on the forums they help. Know that this Chump is heartbroken for you.

        • Fighting Chump – your fight makes you mightier not weaker! You can do this. Look at what you’ve achieved already— you’re a damn superhero.
          Look, a grown-ass man (cheater though he may be) needs to manage his life, conduct himself like an adult and provide for his kids— not the other way around. And sorry but children are children — they all have children’s opinions and they don’t get to make the calls on what you should be doing regarding your ex, their father. You are the adult and parent, you have the judgement that matters.
          Take a deep breath and find peace. Think over all your options — write them out in a list if it helps. And then talk them through with a reliable and empathetic friend. They will help you think things through and find solutions.

          • Thank you for your replies..that means a lot to me:)
            I have to figure out the forums. I have been reading for nearly two years but rarely post but have been helped greatly.
            I do have support…but it still feels super hard. I think I have been so stuck on him making some weak attempt at winning me back with words (not actions) and now even that is loooong past, and with all the challenges, I am still reeling that this is really over. So so hard with my kids, I know they don’t get it and yet, the relationship is still damaged because of all their understanding of it all.
            I will keep on going and doing my best with my kids and pray that I get through court and can heal from all this.
            Thanks again, it brought tears to my eyes to see your responses. ????

  • On a quiet related note – it’s so good to understand just how a person *is*. I have a nightshade intolerance that causes me anxiety. It’s likely causing inflammation in my brain or somewhere in my nervous system which then I experience as just being upset. It is a small thing but it affects every area of my life. All I have to do is avoid all forms of nightshades and I stay me. Having this condition has opened my eyes to the fact that other people very likely have their hardware issues too and may be struggling, or not struggling, through it. I’m thankful that the majority of my personality recognized that something wasn’t right and tried very hard to figure it out.

    • Just look at some f the current research done on the ‘western diet’ and you can clearly see how easy it is to mess up a person’s brain and thinking.
      Way too much sugar and HFCS.
      Way too many preservatives.
      Way too many insecticides.
      Way too many antibiotics used in food production.

      It’s no wonder that some people go off the rails resulting in somewhat bizarre behaviour.

        • Hi Tracy

          I agree with your sentiments, however, not every marriage involves cheating and chumping, and not every person is seriously affected by a ‘western diet’.

          As Joy so courageously stated that she is affected by nightshades, then it can stand to reason that a percentage of the population is affected by a western diet (Hi sugar and HFCS in the diet, aspartime, etc) (and I forgot to add, western medication (Statins are a big issue with me)) which can lead to odd and bizarre behaviour from the person so affected.

          I’m not defending cheating on a loyal partner per say, however, dietary and medication changes could potentially have a detrimental effect on personal relationships

          • Umm hand up here. In my early twenties I was put on Luvox anti depressant, it changed my personality was an understatement. For three months I was high as a kite, I could talk anyone into anything, was premiscious and risk taking. I wanted to steal and break the law, which I did. I did not give a flying f, it was like my ego was on cocaine and the closest I have experienced to having a criminal mind. I have not taken antidepressants since and never will.

            • Thanks Lady B

              Your honesty and self appraisal is a credit to you.
              Going cold turkey (non medicated) with depression is a personal challenge that takes a lot of hard work and soul searching. I’m so glad you came out the other side sane and happy.

            • I am totally in agreement that what we ingest can alter our behavior. Drugs and alcohol are obvious while the things we eat sometimes less so. I have no doubt that food dyes give me and my kids feelings that cause us to be in a bad mood triggering bad behavior. Eg- Swedish fish almost inevitably result in anger and tears. I avoid them and ask my kids to as well but sometimes they defy me and they are warned they will still be accountable for their behavior because they still know right from wrong. They have to learn that feelings don’t excuse bad behavior.

              • I’m not entirely sure that I agree that alcohol ‘alters’ our behaviour. Perhaps this is simply semantics? But to me, alcohol loosens your inhibitions, and either brings out a side of you that was already there, or exaggerates an aspect of your character.

                I don’t think alcohol turns you into a different person.

                Not so sure about drugs, as they all do different things, and affect different parts of our brains and internal systems.

                Even so, there must be an aspect of character exaggeration/ or bringing out a hidden character aspect?

                As for E numbers, diet etc, again I’m not sure. But as above, it seems unlikely that they can turn you into a different person? Make you more irritable, hyper, aggressive, etc sure. But it’s still you, and those traits are still present?

              • I disagree. Long term alcohol abuse harms more than the liver. It also damages brain cells.

                The liver can regenerate if the scarring isn’t too extensive. But dead brain cells won’t heal.

                The man I married wasn’t the same person 20+ years later after pickling his brain in non-stop rum and Everclear. He descended from rational discernment to believing every conspiracy theory he hears, and acting on them.

              • Love this @Feelingit ! “They have to learn that feelings don’t excuse bad behavior”. My ex constantly said he did xyz because I, the kids, etc. made him feel abc. Not “ I’m sorry”, just “ it’s your fault I did it.” I’m dealing with this right now over visitation. The most recent nastygram demanding over double the time of the decree essentially said he had to get ugly because I wouldn’t agree to go against the court order. He had no choice, you see, but to be mean. I brought it on myself.

                Barf.

          • Even so, a person would still have to have the wiring to .*want*. to find out what is making him feel bad before he will ever discover what gets to him. Not everyone is interested in that journey. So, there’s still a basic character component.

            • Substance abuse is a mere symptom of a deeper underlying problem. It makes sense that narcs frequently have substance abuse problems. It’s not easy to live with yourself when you are a cold, dead monster inside.

          • So can being a fuckwit.
            So could spending too much time wandering down the aisles called “pop psychology,” “self-help,” “new age” and “The Devil Made Me Do it.”

            “I’m not defending cheating on a loyal partner per se…” uh, oh, so the allegedly “disloyal” one’s are OK to cheat on? Actually, you are defending them through the anal/back door route by *offering a hypothesis* on *why* infidelity might happen-to a particular cohort, no less. Have you tested this hypothesis? Published in Peer Reviewed Journals? Inquiring minds are skeptical by nature-that’s my excuse.

            “Why” doesn’t materially matter. It does not ease the pain, sadness, fear etc. of the victim. It is never on the task of Transgressed to “understand” the Transgressor. Just ask a fuckwit-or the average 3 yr. old why they did what they did: The list of inventive “reasons” is an epic shit show of muteness or word salad from the former, a hilarious adventure in denial from the later. Both are as probable and provable as the stated absence of malice-and conscience.

            How ‘bout we’re affected by fuckwits and their screwing everything including the crack of dawn-given an opportunity? (Dawn? Who’s Dawn? Another Stripper? That makes how many?) That takes a shit ton of courage and while cause and effect are apparent to the previous poster, avoiding fuckwits is considerably more challenging as we are not yet evolved enough to have it inked in perpetuity on their foreheads. This is not a quadratic equation you solve for Fuckwittery.

            I have a sense if some of the people here could get their hands on a particular kind of nightshade it’d make their night. And it would make their ex’s last one as well.

            I’m whichya, Tracy. The Skein Abides!

            • >>”That takes a shit ton of courage and while cause and effect are apparent to the previous poster, avoiding fuckwits is considerably more challenging as we are not yet evolved enough to have it inked in perpetuity on their foreheads. This is not a quadratic equation you solve for Fuckwittery.”

              This is genius-level writing! Pure awesomeness, Tundra. 🙂

    • I had a similar experience. I went on Wellbutrin (anti-depressant) for a couple weeks. The first week was great. It felt like all of the missing pieces were fitting together and I was happy and motivated. The second week or so was scary. So scary I had to discontinue it. The sude-effect was rage. Pure, unadulterated rage. And I didn’t even care. I felt rage all day long. Everything that was sadness turned to rage instead of sad. I started getting really snarky with people at the drop of a hat. Or if I saw a hat. Or if there was a hat anywhere on the planet. I remember having to sit in my car, trying to calm down from feeling rage at nothing in particular at all bit knowing if I walked I to college I would probably lose it on someone if I didn’t sit and try to chill out. A lady got my side-order wrong in the cafeteria and it was everything I could do not to completely freak on her. I freaked on someone that wouldn’t open their till to make change for me. I almost freaked at someone trying to help me. Just someone totally nice! I felt completely out of control. But the rage also felt powerful and I didn’t care either (effect of the medication). What stopped me from taking it anymore was that I realized I was going to start losing out big-time. And I didn’t want to end up freaking on my kid. I grew up that way and did not want to end up doing that. Oddly enough there was a perk to the rage. My husband who would only freak out and accuse me of trying to manipulate him every time I came across as hurt from his repeated infidelity could all of a sudden see how hurt I was when I was raging. He was raised by a totally disordered mother who dumped all of her feelings like a toxic waste dump on everyone. Years ago I visited her for about 36 hours and walked away feeling emotional 3rd degree burns. So my husband sees hurt like manipulation and rage like hurt. He was lucky I didn’t hurt him! All of a sudden he starts pick-me-dancing like he’s competing on Dancing with the Stars! Partly out of fear I’m sure but also seemingly starting to “get it.” It was sadly funny. The last night of meds I made a lasagna and pulled it out of the oven. Instead of a normal “oh hey lasagna, thanks for dinner” that probably 80% of husbands do he started griping about it. Like i made the wrong favorite thing he usually liked. So being in the rational mindset i was in, I yelled “well don’t eat It!” And I threw it! Lasagna everywhere! All of a sudden hes apologizing and seeing if we can recover it! Yikes! That was the final straw. I knew it was completely abnormal to throw dinner across the room in a fit of rage. I discontinued the meds immediately. Another time I threw a relationship book at him. (The was a pretty good metaphor for the relationship!) Of course the good behaviour from husband didnt last when I discontinued the meds and went back to being completely non-raging BUT I also wasnt depressed after either. The experience gave me the sense and strength to not take his verbal and mental abuse anymore. My boundaries became like a shell. Whatever happened it seemed to balance things off. The only other perk to the meds is I realized there was a good chance my father was a mess biochemically (he is/was). He was very ragey often and I think if I would gave been born male I may have had quite the rage with testosterone instead of the sadness. Although I discovered the a lot of my sadness was simply grief over being mistreated and discarded. It gave me a lot of empathy for how edgy my Dad must have been day after day. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wellbutrin was linked to homicides one day. It said in the drug interaction website that there isn’t a known aggression factor with it but I went on the forums asking a general question about it and the results were mixed. 5 other people said they had rage. One other person said they had a brother who rages and doesn’t care anymore. I also had a lasagna that insurance had to write-off.

      • I have never posted here, but I just read your comment and I had the exact same response with Wellbutrin after my husbands affair. The affair happened in June 2013 i hardly ever talked about it, tried dealing with it quietly and I knew I was depressed. In November 2013 I got on Wellbutrin. About 2 weeks in, my house was getting rolled by teens. I jumped in my car and chased them down, knocking into our carport columns and tearing my driver side mirror. I continued the chase with it dangling from my car. (Didn’t catch them, thank goodness) Fast foward, I would go on for another month with unexplainable raging, uncontrollable and unconsolable sobbing in front him, even during christmas I had an episode and left in my car with no plans of returning, (that lasted a couple of hours). my husband suddenly saw all that I had been trying to hide, All my hurt and my anger. I was always relieved when my rage moment would be over bc I was finally showing my pain for once. It was a turning point for us and how we would deal with the affair moving forward. I stopped taking it Jan 2014 And I was able to cope better than I had prior to the medicine and definitely while taking it. He is not a narc and he totally could finally see and feel my hurt. We have still had bumps in the road but we are in a much better place. And I will never take Wellbutrin again.

      • I had the EXACT SAME issues with Wellbutrin. Rage… at everything, ever annoyance, even people just looking at me. On the other hand, my father takes Wellbutrin and it’s wonderful for him. Wellbutrin seems to work much better for men than women. Men feel great and keep their sex drive…women get aggressive. Maybe men are just naturally walking around with more aggression so they’re fine with it? I don’t know, but yeah I was raging as well.

        • I guess my question is this, “How many narcissists were depressed or were on medications for it?”

          The Limited never complained about our relationship; he complained about everyone and everything. His back problems were from fuckimg whatever he could. That’s where his efforts went. And while we wonder about why and the manner of the discard it’s rarely a one time, one day event. It’s calculated, planned and involves controllimig the narrative through lies. Disordered follow patterns that cannot be attributed to medication.

          They have insight into what they do and don’t give a Fuck about who gets hurt including children.

        • Please don’t make generalizations about medications and how the different sexes feel on them.

          All of this stuff is anecdotal evidence. While I believe the individuals about their experiences on Wellbutrin, anecdotes have no clinical significance.

          Misinformation and generalization about antidepressants just makes the stigma harder to bear/ overcome.

          I struggle with this stigma every day. Comments about specific meds and their side effects are appropriate in forums other than this one. Let’s not stray too far from the original point here.

          • I wish I could upvote this statement 100x’s. I’ve seen so many lives changed for the better by these medications—both in my work and personal friends—and hate to see generalizations that could discourage anyone in the forum from being open to working with a psychiatrist. With the right medication/s, I’ve heard a great many individuals describe relief at the stability they find in their lives. The drugs are not meant to get anyone “high” and if such a thing happens, it would be considered an adverse event and might even indicate a misdiagnosis or underlying condition.

            • I appreciate anecdotal info. It helps me research and make clear headed decisions about medicines. I recently had a health scare and was giving the standard prescription rate. Whoa! Not good. My doctor was about four layers away from my phone call so I made the decision to cut down the dose. I am currently on 1/8 the amount I was prescribed and doing fine. Another was so dangerous that I stopped it completely. The only info I could find was anecdotal but I am so glad I did. If someone asks me I will tell. No two bodies are the same and you need to be aware that what works for one does not for another.

      • Wow, you maintained a measure of self-awareness under very trying circumstances. Not everyone would be able to connect everything the way that you did, very insightful, organized thinking. I was kind of testy to nice people for a few months on some anti-depressants, I’d love to think I was chemically stressed but I think I was just hurt and a we bit too selfish at the time.
        Thank you so much fro sharing your experience.

      • I look at it this way………..nothing on earth can make me steal, murder, cheat on my spouse- unless I wanted to do so. Not my genetics, not my body physiology, not some random “chemical imbalance” that fell out of a tree one day- and hit me on the head.

        It all comes down to choice. Choosing good over evil (“Timshel” in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden).

        As lonely as I was being married to a gas lighting, emotionally dead, deceiver- I knew it was wrong to cheat. So I didn’t.

  • This makes perfect sense for my serial cheater. Even yesterday I saw it yet again how his brain just could not reach for remorse or empathy. I’ve always felt that if you could separate your own emotions and exhaustion at dealing with it then it would be quite fascinating to observe it in action.

    I’ll always remember an incident which proved my already heightened suspicions that my ex fell into this category. It was his day to see his children from a previous relationship (a girl then aged 7 years and a boy then 13). Despite it being winter they jumped into his car without thick coats as they were going to an indoor shopping centre. I stayed home but became worried as snow fell heavily as the afternoon went on. Around 7pm he walked in all smiles in having waded through deep snow on the drive. His children lived with their mother the other side of town so I asked how his journey had gone. I was shocked and horrified to find he had dropped them off at the side of a busy by-pass road/highway in the dark around three miles from home. Seeing my reaction his face turned to thunder and he said, “Don’t you understand, Natalia I had to give myself a fighting chance to get home.”

    I thought then even if I could resurrect Freud and Jung there’s nothing could help this empty vessel. Thankfully a police car had passed the children and returned them home safely. To this day he doesn’t see what he did wrong ????.

    • Oh wow Natalia. That may just be the clearest disordered example I’ve heard yet.
      My ex swore his secret life behavior had affected no one but me, I was the only one to whom he owed an he apology.
      Not only had he left my (college age) daughter stranded & worried sick while he took a 90 min detour to a sex parlor (yeah I had already put a GPS on that f*cker), but he tried to proceed on a big business venture with his BEST FRIEND without disclosing the very large & looming possibility I’d be divorcing his ass & taking half the assets he planned to invest in that deal.
      These secrets & more all fell on my shoulders as Wreckonciliation counselors urged confidentiality.
      Eventually I did tell his friend, but have never had the heart to tell my daughter just how disgusting her dad is (although I did out his general behavior when he finally pushed my nuclear button).

      He did finally issue the obligatory generic apology for his ‘mistakes’ to our kids. But to this day refused to acknowledge he owed anyone else that decency.

      • I used to think mine had a little problem with “common sense” then “cause and effect”. Fuckwit was brought up in a house where they were allowed few decisions hence poor decision making skills. Had a conversation (text) last night with him regarding divorce stuff. Confirmed he be cray cray. I can’t even go into the epic weirdness and blame shifting. It felt like a conversation I would have with a 9 year old.

        • Right? The circles they’ll speak in! And when you tell them how nonsensical it is they counter with indignance & superiority. We’re just too stupid to “get it”. Pffft.

          • You too?

            Mine was overly proud of himself for arguing both sides of any issue in the same breath. He believed he was blessed with special insight and ability to prognosticate. He could spot gay men at a glance. And he correctly predicted that [insert band name here] would make a comeback, so that validated his other predictions.

            Of course, he said I was just too dense to keep up.

            When he got on a roll all I heard was non-stop self-contradiction that made absolutely no sense.

            • Yes! To all these things. How many times have I chalked up his behavior to social awkwardness or bad parental example? Truth is, he knows his decisions are bad. He just doesn’t care.

              Like George Simon says, “They see, they just disagree.”

              Don’t want to admit how much breath I have wasted trying to convince him why his behavior is hurtful. Honestly, it’s like talking to an alien from another planet. My 2 and a half year old had more insight than him. That’s not an exaggeration.

  • There’s no rhyme or reason to what they do. Cheater ex has ignored his 10 year old for the last four days…hasn’t called her…it’s as though she doesn’t exist. Two of those four days were his days off. This weekend he’s coming to visit her. The first time he will see her since August of last year. He will probably spend 1500-2000 on this trip yet he ignores her. What gives? Impression Management is all I can think…I say why bother? He’s already ignoring her why spend all that money?

    • Pret – My X is as regular as rain on his court appointed day and weekend visitations. But calls or texts in between… you know, the every day stuff to ask him about his day… how homework is going… how music lessons went… if he was ready for his test… nope, nada.

      When asked, Mr. Sparkles will respond… “what’s the point, he only gives one or two word responses”… and that right there is the WHY. Mr. Sparkles doesn’t get what he needs, so ergo, it isn’t important.

      I’m fortunate in that my son is a very emotionally intelligent kid and doesn’t seem to personalize his Dad’s lack of daily contact. If anything, it helps him compartmentalize his Dad to his visitation level role in his life.

      Rest assured, your daughter knows it too. She has one sane parent (you) and that is enough. She’ll come to see her absent father as “Uncle Dad”… just make sure he still has money leftover from these binges to pay for her college.

      • I struggle w/ your response. And it’s a topic for another day.

        But I don’t txt/call my teenagers everyday. I don’t check in on those details. I’ve asked them if I should, they say no. Of course I feel crappy for not, but it’s a part of my boundaries that I’m figuring out. Plus it may be a bit of a dad/male thing.

        Stbx texts regularly. I feel like it invades my time w/ them when it is…

        I feel guilty for not, but they say no….

        • I would be hard on yourself…you asked the kids how they want to be in contact, they were open in telling you, and you are respecting their wishes. All that courtesy seems very far from ignoring them between visits.
          You’re doing a good job!

    • Interesting! My XH tried to blame me for not seeing his kids that he has with ex-wife, but when we separated briefly during some fighting, he went to his hometown and DID NOT EVEN VISIT HIS KIDS!!! Smh….

  • It does make sense in a strange sort of way. If indeed this is something that the sufferer is not able to control ie: a brain blip is the reason they are empathy deficient, in the end, the results are the same, and for us the solution is the same.

    We didn’t cause it, we can’t fix it. We still get to decide if we have to live with it. Abuse, bad behavior, cheating, all deal breakers, whatever the reason. They are still responsible for their actions, just as we are. They may not “get” empathy, but earned consequences come around regardless. That’s life.

    • This has always been a bit tough for me. I am a hard ass about personal accountability, but because of that it’s really, really important to me to make sure I’m being just in my estimates of others (not so much for myself …. gotta work on that).

      Is it Nature or Nurture? And, what’s the role of accountability? If it’s mostly nature (like a schizophrenic), is the serial cheating asshat really accountable? If it is mostly nurture, again — tough to hold him accountable when I know his parents (in addition to the beatings) took him to church to have them “pray the devil out of him” when he was a young child. 🙁

      In the end, I’ve concluded that it’s both Nature and Nurture … and that it doesn’t matter too much. *As long as* they have the capacity to understand right from wrong, they ARE accountable. A few things that really pushed me to this conclusion:

      1. Asshat could impressively MIMIC moral behavior. The image he created (lied to create) was of a really decent, hard-working, dedicated guy. THIS image tells me he fully understands what is “good” and “moral” and what isn’t.

      2. The lies themselves. (Pathological … so many, for so long … big and little). Lying about so much shows a conscious understanding that the thing he’s lying about is NOT good.

      3. (Using Tracy’s example of the hot stove) …. let’s say the person has only a few nerve endings and burns his hand on a stove. Afterwards, he sees the blisters and scarring. He would not want to repeat the process simply because the outcome is bad. Most Cluster Bs have some (though limited) capacity for empathy. Regardless, when they hurt someone, they can SEE that the person is damaged (tears, etc.). They understand it creates confusion, chaos, and prolonged problems. So, there is ample reason for them to stop the hurtful behavior, even with minimal empathy.

      4. What we also know about the brain is that it can be ACTIVELY re-wired (that’s what most of us are doing in the process to un-chump ourselves …. change some of the neural connections that support keeping us stuck in abusive situations). The wiring of the brain is associated more with nurture than nature. Our brains our taught “this is good for me” (I was taught it is good to accept that I don’t matter … serial-cheating asshat was taught that power and control are the primary goals of life). Rewiring these deeply held beliefs requires other parts of the brain (the rational, “manager” part) to recognize that the results of the wiring are somehow wrong … so we can start to identify it and then work very hard to change it. But, the main point is that we CAN change it.

      5. All of the above bring me to this: the types we deal with here are the types that don’t just lack empathy — they ALSO get off on hurting people. While this requires a lack of empathy, it requires much more than that. It requires a perspective of life, the world, and people that not only places them as central, but it feeds on pain. That worldview is very much in their power. They can change it … but they don’t. For them, the benefits from power and control far outweigh the benefits of simply acting within moral bounds. This, I think, is best summed up by Dr. Simon’s statement that it’s not that they don’t see, they just disagree.

      **Regardless of the lack of empathy, regardless of the horrible childhood, the serial-cheating asshat really DOES understand that he’s causing pain; he understands it’s not good to cause pain; but he doesn’t feel that there is enough incentive to put the work in to change that. So, yes — he’s accountable. Completely.

      • See I could buy all of this ~ that its not their fault ~ their brains are wired wrong … if it wasn’t for #1.

        My asshole cheater could fake moral behavior and still does. If they can fake it ~ they do know right from wrong.

        So, no ~ I’m not buying the its not their fault thing.

        • Exactly. And the slippery slope (especially for us chumps) is to go down the “it’s not his/her fault” path and, therefore, NOT hold the person accountable. For most of us, it would tug at our overly large heart-strings.

          I think this is why it is so essential to see the complexities of it. Yes, they have some limited capacities (not their fault — not our fault), but they also understand what is right and wrong, and they intentionally do what is wrong. And, importantly, they choose to do what is wrong at our–and our children’s–expense (their fault – but not our fault).

          • JesssMom – THIS right here: “I think this is why it is so essential to see the complexities of it. Yes, they have some limited capacities (not their fault — not our fault), but they also understand what is right and wrong, and they intentionally do what is wrong. And, importantly, they choose to do what is wrong at our–and our children’s–expense (their fault – but not our fault).” I loved your first, longer post but this sums it all up so nicely for me. As Tracy said, they might lack some gray matter but they still have agency. They CHOSE the behaviors. It was intentional.

            What is more, the ability to mimic moral behavior is, in my opinion, the absolute worst feature of these cheaters. My ex fooled me and my entire family for more than three decades. And my poor son, who looked at his father as his hero and his moral compass on how to be a man. How is he supposed to assimilate the reality that all of that was just a facade? He spent 20 of his 25 years believing that his dad was a good person and worthy of hero worship and now he’s supposed accept that he was duped along with the rest of us? Not an easy lesson. One that I can not imagine learning myself. My late father has always been my hero. I can not imagine the horror of learning things about him that my kids have learned about their dad (I’m not talking the details of the cheating, I’m referring to his behavior towards them). And that trumps everything for me. I don’t give a fuck if he’s missing brain matter or ate a “western diet” or whatever. His voluntary, conscious behavior of mimicking a moral character to protect his secret life Hurt. My. Children. That is all I need to know.

            • >>”His voluntary, conscious behavior of mimicking a moral character to protect his secret life Hurt. My. Children. That is all I need to know.”

              Wanted to give you a really big virtual (((hug))) for this statement. Yes, yes, and yes.

              Initially, I was so deluded by the lies, gaslighting, and abuse that I likely would have gone back, even with the new knowledge that he would always hurt me … (yeah, childhood abuse has long-term impact).

              But what had happened and was happening to my kids stopped me cold. I had to protect them. I had to model strength for them. Of course, this meant exactly one thing … I had to leave.

              (Now, I’m thrilled to be out even for my own sake … it just took some time to heal to be able to really embrace that.)

              Again, thank you, Beth. Your love for your kids … seeing that level of love in such a messed up world … it does wonders for me. 🙂

              • That’s why I think church is so important to the fuckwit after betrayal. He needs a rigid set of rules so he can know how to behave. He has little if any empathy or decision making skills. Maybe that is why we have so many Jesus cheaters. The fuckwits want to fit in and don’t have the capacity unless there is a clear social construct such as religion with it’s rules and clear consequences. Hey you also get forgiven and you get to start over.

              • Yes the mimicking! I know the mimicking! The last time I went to church with Dancing Dick (ex narc)- his cell phone was loaded with porn and web cam hoes. Found this out in hindsight.

                Recalling him singing in church that day- I still shudder. Who can sing “How Great Thou Art”……with a cell phone full of disgusting porn?

          • I think the tendency to try to justify abhorrent behaviour is simply looking for an excuse for people with who lack character. I don’t know if Doughboy was a true narc, I just know he was selfish and childlike. He wanted everything and was envious. I could look at his family and say his father was the same, his mother was a social climber and was bitterly unhappy in her marriage. Should that excuse him from being a Cheatet? There a lots of issues in every family and in every marriage. Mature people who are committed work things out. The fact that Doughboy stayed in a marriage for 39 years, telling me he loved me and would always be there and at the same time was trolling for OW says to me …. He is lacking in character. It isn’t about sex, it isn’t about not being happy it’s about a total lack of character! It means that over those 39 years he was image managing, he didn’t develop a love for his wife, children, grandkids or extended family that was deeper than his carnal desires. You have to ask how is that even possible? A total lack of character is my answer.

            • >>”I think the tendency to try to justify abhorrent behaviour is simply looking for an excuse for people with who lack character.”

              I get that … and there is probably some truth in it. I know I’ve examined and re-examined why I spackled so long and so hard for the serial-cheating asshole. This is what I came up with:

              1. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt … and I truly believe in second chances (my optimism was really naive, but well-intended).

              2. I genuinely believed he was good — that there was a good person inside. (Obviously, the information that led me to that conclusion was faulty.)

              3. I genuinely believed that people do better when they know better. (Hopium Express!)

              4. I saw the hurt kid he was … I understood, logically, why he had some mal-adaptive behaviors. But, I also believed that LOVE would conquer this since it was the thing he was missing as a kid. (*Pollyanna worldview!)

              5. My own mindset caused me to view his bad actions as individual, distinct mistakes. (I have CPTSD — again, bad childhood.) So, it never occurred to me to see the comprehensive nature of his actions — which would have led me to see that it was a deep character problem.

              6. I knew there were bad people in the world, but I always pictured them as the ones in jail … (yes, super naive). It did NOT (even for a second occur) to me that someone would use my kindness and integrity as weapons against me. Honestly, this still stumps me … it is so horrible to even think about.

              I guess what I’m saying is that, like all of this other stuff, there are probably a complexity of reasons why we look for excuses for their horrible behaviors. What you mentioned makes sense to me, though. Especially near the end when I was realizing some things — I can see that I was deceiving myself more than anything. I desperately did NOT want to believe that he was a bad person.

              • Annnnd, add in the cultural message that “men are kinda stupid”, “they don’t get it.’ Annnnd, that marriage is hard work. And, most importantly, not knowing the full truth . . . And you have (I had) a recipe for staying and staying and staying.

              • Thank you Jesssmom for this summary. It really helps me to understand how I spackled so long. I’m still trying to untangle from these thought patterns. Post-divorce I hear my youngest repeating “Dad’s a good guy” as she tries to convince herself. He’s conditioned us all to accept his intentions- defined by him of course – over his actions. Now I keep repeating to myself, hourly, look at his actions. What do *they* say? It’s tough to change the pattern, but critical for our healing and wellbeing.

              • Jesssmom,
                Your last paragraph beautifully sums up how I feel about my ex-boyfriend–I desperately wanted to believe that my ex-boyfriend was an all-around good guy (so many people said so). In some ways he was, but he treared me very badly in some ways over the last few years. When many things in my and my relatives’ lives went to H–l in a hand basket, people used to tell me, ‘At least you’ve got Me. Nice Guy.’ I think that I hung on to this image of him (instead of fully acknowledging that he was Jekyll-and-Hyde who never really loved me) because then I would have felt that every facet of my life was falling apart. I wanted to believe in the Just World Hypothesis (that, after experiencing many years of abuse, I would get a good guy).

              • Referring to Chumpiness’ post, ‘So-and-So is a good guy.’ A therapist I know implied regarding my ex-boyfriend that his cruel, distancing behavior and discarding of me after treating me as a rebound may have been caused by his ex-wife abusing and cheating on him. I think that that is excusing too much. I was tremendously abused for 14 straight years by my husband and I never comsidered treating my boyfriend less than the hero (not perfect but great) I thought he was. Too bad I was wrong in reading his character. Sometimes I think that if he had had significantly better character (honest across the board, truly empathetic) and loved me, then we would have a beautiful, very long romantic relationship. Guess I’ve learned the hard way over and over again that spackling, while perhaps in the short run less painful than acknowledging the truth about one’s partner will result in more total pain over the course of one’s life.

            • I’m not sure if mine is a total narc. I agree that he is a childish selfish seeker…. never present, never happy. He always played the victim card and had lots of women who wanted to take care of him. Until his ho worker looked at him with interest. He fell hook line and sinker . Thinks she will bring him youth and joy. Barf!

          • Exactly. I tried untangling the skein for a long time until I looked at myself and realized I was repeating a pattern. My mother always blamed my father’s issues on his childhood. Everything was his mother’s fault. Which to a degree is true IF you simply see it as a reason that a behaviour got there in the first place BUT it is not a reason or excuse for ongoing poor behaviour when you have a family. You owe your family better than your worst possible self. My mother saw my Dad as a hurting kid and myself as someone this stuff could just be explained to. Someone who could “take the hit.” But the reality was my Dad was an adult. (“Adult.”) And my mother was not doing ANY of us any favors spackling for him. It kept him from having to deal with things himself or make his own amends if he wanted to. Or develop the skills not to freak out, drink and/Or cheat. (I wasn’t aware of cheating as a kid). It also taught me that love was the big, complex, difficult challenge that you kept hammering away at. My father is NPD. One of the rare ones with a diagnosis. My mother sent him to the brain clinic in the states telling him how he can show everyone how impressive his brain is and how he would prove every nay-sayer wrong etc. They told him to quit drinking. Full stop. He would have a stroke otherwise. Then he told them how the testing was BS. (And still quit drinking ha!) But the pattern I was at risk of repeating was thinking my husband cheated because of his very broken childhood. True, his childhood was a complete brain-messing disaster that would probably screw-up the best of us. But when he left my 3 year-old and I alone on Valentines weekend with an “I’ll call you” and he never did, he got kicked out when he got back. Because at that point he was in his mid-30s so he no longer qualified as a “hurt kid.” He was an irresponsible adult. Who, ironically would disappear and then criticize my parenting. But what I did have with me that weekend was a very crushed 3 year-old who made a Valentine for her father including his favorite little cupcakes. She kept asking if he was back yet and crying. So I realized HE wasn’t a hurting kid. He was hurting HIS kid. And having grown up “taking the hit” for my Dad’s evety mood swing i was not tolerating that for my little daughter to keep the “status quo.” Cheater be damned. Anything short of him being held in a hostage situation or hospitalized with no way for next of kin to be notified would have stopped me from kicking him out on that Monday. Certainly not his childhood which ended 20 years prior. If bad childhoods made people hurt kids I would have hurt them myself. My childhood sucked. I wasn’t ever tempted to re-enact it with my own little people.

            • Good for you for recognizing that he is an adult and it’s on him to act like one.. I always marvel at as a society we try to justify all bad behaviour with poor childhood, blah blah blah. What about all the people who didn’t even get a childhood. Think about being born in a war torn country, living in a refugee camp, being a hollochaust survivor, the list goes on and on. I wonder if these people, if lucky enough to survive would consider some of the childhood traumas we cite in North America justification for destroying their families. I know there are unspeakable horrors that some children suffer at the hands of so called parents but surely these are the exception and cannot be compared with some of the excuses offered by cheaters to justify their betrayal of family!

              • Well, to be honest I had a pretty deprivational/ traumatic childhood. When no was in my early 20s I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I know that’s the latest “flavor of the month” to pin bad behaviour on. I was one of the luckier ones though. I knew that there was SOMETHING wrong with me. I worked at the university at the time so I started digging around the resources there. I knew that there was no way I came out unscathed from my childhood. I left home at 16 and worked while I finished high school. But one night I was sitting at the bus stop thinking about my courses / exams that I had coming up and I heard in my head my Dad’s critical abusive voice shouting at me. I was so sad aboit it because I realized that even though I had left home and was making my own way in the world that they were STILL with me. I couldn’t just drop their crazy off and never have it effect me again. So I started trying to fix it because I knew there was stuff wrong with me. I went through a broken engagement (in hindsight I was very demanding and manipulative but I could not see it at the time because it was “normal” for me.) And I ended up in the hospital over it. When I met with the diagnosing psychiatrist I told him that I knew there was something wrong with me despite my friends saying “oh no you’re great etc.” Because that’s just something people say to boost each other up when they think you’re being hard on yourself. I knew it wasn’t normal to want to kill yourself and end up in the hospital when someone breaks up with you. None of my friends went through anything like that and they couldn’t understand it either. He showed me the BPD criteria and I was very grateful. I wasn’t crazy (Well, I was, but I wasn’t crazy in thinking I was crazy!) So I didn’t years trying to realize when I was being hyper-sensitive to criticism (it still catches me sometimes). I also started to realize when no felt what I called “emotional flooding.” Sometimes I would have to take a sleeping pill so it would pass before I started having thoughts of self-harm. Finally after a couple of years I had EMDR therapy that took away the trauma pain almost completely. I was re-evaluated in 2012. I now present with symptoms of ADHD (which I take meds for) and not BPD. Huge relief. I make efforts EVERDAY to emotionally regulate. What comes naturally to others I put work into. Some days I fail. But I had enough skills to deal with my husband’s cheating and addictions and stay stable and centered. Lots of people love to blame Cluster B people for the evil in the world but I never once cheated on my husband. Not even the side eye or flirty crap or online whatever that people do now. Cluster B is not a direct cause or reason for cheating. I get the emotional drivers that many Cluster B people have to do it, but it’s strikes me as an unfortunate blanket statement. And kind of ironic that the people most emotionally sensitive to criticism are now often subjected to very harsh criticism. (And online, often uneducated. In one of the relationship forums I used to visit I swear everyone’s ex was either NPD or BPD. Well, the truth is you cant usually tell by Date 3 and maybe she just didn’t like you! There were people claiming “oh she’s BPD” about this one woman I would guess was more of a total sociopath.)
                And BPD makes up such a spectrum of behaviour that’s it’s hard to affix all traits to one person. I wasn’t a rager (except for the short period with meds). I was more of a sad sausage “everybody hates me type of BPD that was so overwhelmed by my own crippling sadness and desperation to be liked that I could not see the effect my emotional tides and behaviours had on anyone else. Until EMDR therapy took away the flooding. But to anyone wanting to excuse their cheaters – DON’T. Nothing short of proper therapy that I put the effort into could have saved me from all of those issues, and I still have residual issues that might never be resolved! You cannot “nice” a cheater into behaving or loving you well.

        • If a murderer wanted to kill me because he had a mental illness, I would not stop to worry whether his desire was his fault before getting the f out of there. 🙂

        • Dancing Dick\ was calculated and methodical in his perverted/cheating activities. Every step was planned and orchestrated with a set of accompanying lies/ gas lighting tactics.

          To me that says everything. No pass for the lying deceiver! He did it……he wanted to do it……..he planned it…..he covered it up with lies/deception. That means “guilty”- not genetically flawed!

          • Agreed! Mr. Penis Head told me he’s always looked at women “as sexual objects”. I really tried not to laugh in his face. Didn’t work. This is his excuse??? I am so glad I’m finding humor here. After all, D-Day was yesterday. Broken heart be damned. I hate being a chump more than anything.

        • Exactly! If your X has enough of a connection to reality to be concerned with impression management, then they know what things should look like, but are choosing not to do it. Even if they don’t “get” why certain behaviours are socially acceptable, they are smart enough to know they should at least fake it.

        • #5 is also very significant because it’s not that they are just indifferent and and unable to express empathy, they are actually enjoying your pain in a sadistic way. That is not excusable in my book.

      • Serial cheaters/perverts go through great lengths to hide their behaviors. That says it all: They know right from wrong. They just don’t care about it.

      • Well said, Jessmom. I had a world class Mimiker of moral behavior. That’s the absolute most galling thing in my book — physical abuse would have at least been honest.

  • “I wish someone would have told me — this is just who he IS. It’s not your fault. He cannot be the person you need him to be — walk away.”

    A hard lesson to learn Tracy. I had myself a 41 year case study. The Limited as you know never changed. Sometimes I laugh at the thought he mirrored all that he was lacking from me and in fact the OW fell for my qualities, not his.

    The man I’ve been dating is kind,l and intelligent, yet does lacks the ability to initiate. My therapist said I need to communicate better and talk to him about this. My daughter in the other hand said, “It’s who he IS.”

    Fuck, do I really need to talk to a 60 year old man about initiating? To me that’s a fixer upper and I know enough to stop fixing that which IS. Walking away is an important tool Chumps need to recognize.

    • I wound up with a disordered boyfriend after divorcing. I knew well at that point that “this is who he is”. The long history was there as proof. Still, despite everything I’d been thru I kept allowing myself to be lured back by the good stuff. Hopium is a tough mutha to kick. The notion that we’d (I’d) be the one to turn that ship around is so hard to push aside, even when it slams you right back into the same rock again & again. Do chumps have too much off the grey empathy brain fluff?
      “It takes time”, “be patient”, etc, say the counselors. We get programmed to tolerate this shit or else we’re the selfish assholes who abandoned the ’til death’ vows.
      Reading studies like this does help validate our decision to jump ship. I only hope more chumps pursue individual therapy along with/rather than marriage counseling, to help them (us) turn the empathy switch off until we achieve a new, healthy normal.

  • I am so haunted by the blank stare i got at the end. Especially when i read how others got that same blank stare. It is beyond eerie. Now it is as if someone scooped out their personality. They can still act the same but sometimes its as if they really get tripped up. They are searching for a response?

    • The blank stare gave me the chills. He can’t feel empathy, so he just shuts down for a moment while his brain tries to process information it’s not equipped to process.

      That’s when I knew for sure that the relationship wouldn’t last.

      • I used to to tell my STBX that talking to him was like talking to a blackhole. The blank stare I got from him was unreal. He’s not able to feel my pain, but he can sure feel sorry for himself. He has no problem there…

    • I suppose if that component is missing we can’t really hold them accountable. By that I don’t mean forgive them and stay just see it as a blip of nature. Imagine those of us with the empathy/remorse wiring being told not to feel it. We wouldn’t know how. It must be the same for these people in reverse. Very frightening.

      • Well, you’ve summed up the Esther Perel argument right there. It’s telling chumps Not To Feel It. Which I think is a pretty good look inside her head.

        To someone without an empathy chip, the chump POV doesn’t make a lot of sense.

        • Subtly pointing out that Esther Perel has the narc characteristic of stuffing feelings!

          Today’s blog has given me yet another aha moment! After fuckwit left, he made the comment that when feelingit felt bad, she wanted everyone else to be miserable. Now it is dawning on me that my expectation was empathy-which he didn’t understand. So he was lead to conclude was she wants me to feel bad too. Stupid fuckwit!

          • Omg feelingit: I had s flashback reading your comment- he confronted me ‘did I need him to feel as I did’ maybe it was as you said: he couldn’t empathize beyond a minimal level.

      • I guess it depends on what you mean by “hold accountable”. It all boils down to this for me — if a person is harming me and/or those I care about, the person doesn’t get to be near me. If the person commits a crime against me, I will report it. Therefore, the person does have some accountability in the macrocosm (consequences) whether or not he takes responsibility willingly in the microcosm.

      • Natalia, I think you are offering a totally invalid comparison. Normal healthy-brained people don’t lie, manipulate, and betray – not just because of their empathy but because of their honesty, their sense of self, their acceptance of the rights of others. There is nothing in the absence of empathy that necessitates behavior like this. That is, NPDs still know cheating is wrong and have the autonomy to avoid it even if they don’t or can’t imagine how it feels to their victims. That is precisely why they lie, evade, blame shift, etc. – because they know they’re exploiting and harming others. You could ask a non-disordered person to do the impossible task of not feeling empathy, as you propose, and their response wouldn’t be to begin lying to their partner that they are achieving this goal. They’d be honest and say “sorry, I simply can’t ‘not feel’ empathy”. And if not feeling empathy were a condition of a relationship, they’d forthrightly bow out. Why don’t disordereds likewise state what they are and limit their relationships to other disordereds so they can avoid harming and exploiting? (I’ll answer my own question – because in addition to not feeling empathy, what they DO feel is extreme power in being cunning and illicit; in being able to trick others and play puppet master; in receiving every petty ego-wish immediately and without reciprocity.)

      • But they DID agree to something. Marriage vows, committed relationships, business partnerships, whatever, all come with rules. They knew the rules, they broke the rules. You might be able to say that you have a tough time following the rules, but you can’t say you didn’t know what they were. What about the other person? That’s why they are called cheaters!! They weren’t unclear on the rules, they just decided that they didn’t like them any more. Not convenient. MFers!!!

        Sorry, a bit testy today.

      • I don’t know about not holding them accountable. Even if they can’t feel empathy, they were (presumably) raised in in a way that teaches about right and wrong. They may not be able to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes but they know what the rules of society are and that treating people certain ways is wrong.

    • I noticed that whenever I cried, which wasn’t often, the X would tilt his head and stare at me like I was a science experiment. It was odd. No words of comfort, no touch. Just observation. He didn’t feel a thing. He was just interested to see what pain looked like and to figure out how to cause it.

      That is not normal or acceptable. I just didn’t know then what I know now.

  • This research will ring true to anyone married to a serial cheater.

    I was married to my serial cheater ex-wife for 22 years. Never once saw her tear up at a song, movie, story, or memory. Complained bitterly if I suggested making any charitable donation. Dead-eye stare when I was devastated by D-day 1. So, yeah, zero empathy. She openly mocked my sentimentality as weakness and lack of sophistication. It was a life of watching “On Golden Pond” alone.

    Only two memories of her crying. One upon the death of her father, who fawned over her to a degree that was vaguely romantic and creepy. The second when I found out about her decade-plus of cheating with multiple partners and said I wanted a divorce. Both incvolved the loss of kibble supply. She can do some emotions, but only as they relate to her.

    Won’t be surprised if he part of brain these folks are missing also does risk assessment and shame, because they’re terrible at both.

    • This brings up something I’ve always wondered about. My seriel cheater (and I mean this in the fullest definition of the term) displayed “tenderness” and teared up quite a bit. I’m thinking of, for example, watching inspirational/sad stories or movies on TV . . . Yet, he couldn’t show me empathy after tearing our marriage to shreds to save his life.

      Risk assessment and shame . . . Nah, he didn’t do much of either of those . . .

    • I don’t recall ever seeing my ex-husband nor my latest ex-boyfriend cry. I think that the closest my ex-boyfriend came to that was the time I went to his hide to take my clothes out of his closet (after he discarded me), I told him basically that I was devastated, and he told me that he felt guilty for two weeks for thinking about breaking up with me but ‘was getting better.’ He also lied that he might never have a relationship again–although he was by then dating my replacement. He wanted me to feel sorry for him for what he repeatedly initiated–him dumping me whenever he found someone more exciting. Still makes me mad!

  • My ex gave his daughter a romance card for her 18th birthday recently. On the cover is a drawing of a man groping a woman with the quote “To love and to be loved is the greatest happiness of existence”.

    Inside the card is another drawing of a woman reaching out to a man who is laying on the ground, both have looks of desire on their faces. Ex wrote over this drawing quotes from Andy Andrews “The Traveler’s Gift” numbering the 7 decisions of personal success. The self help book was given to her as a gift.

    Ex narc made her 18th birthday all about him. No mention of how awesome she is. How proud he is to be her dad. He spends this moment and the other few times they spent in person telling her how he’s a good person and how he forgives himself. He has told her that part of her brain has yet to develop and that someday she will understand why he did, what he did.
    So weird…The message on the front of the card was meant to convey that he’s experiencing love and finally feeling love (from the OW), and that is the most important thing in life?
    Silly teenager, that’s why I deceived you and your mom day after day in the family home!
    After years of daily lying about not drinking, along with the cheating= Ex will have to spend the rest of his life forgiving himself.
    No empty apologies needed.

    • That card is really bizarre. I have heard other narcs go on about how others brains have not developed the capacity to understand certain things. Does any brain ever reach a point to understand their upside down logic? Or is it more that their brain has developed in a different way just from sheer will. Sort of like contorting your body by wearing shoes that are too small. They seem to be very in control of flipping the switch.

      • Ex narc is in AA and OW is a narc too. OW love bombed him with expensive gifts and clothes (picked where they left off 25 years ago in college) Ex grew up privileged, entitled, and getting away with activities average kids would have had consequences/ punishments for. Red flags, I now see.
        He’s selectively forgetful and acts aloof- Ex doesn’t want to think about what he’s done because that will make him feel bad.
        He’s a wise sage who can teach his daughter how enlightened he’s become after all this. He’s got his resentment list and now he’s a better person who can teach her many things! Trainwreck.

    • My youngest son received a birthday card on his 18th birthday from his father just months after our divorce when me and the kids were still hurting bad and reeling. My kids had been no contact for about a year and EX had only paid months of child support and my sons 18th birthday meant that finances for us were going to be tight. (EX has never paid another dime towards his two boys after that day)

      So the card was a sappy card about how happy parents make happy kids and he is one of the happiest parents alive. He than wrote a note that stated he knows that kids are happy because he is finally happy in life.

      So your kids will not talk to you because you were so cruel to them for years, you screwed over their mother and physically attached her one day and you told them to get a job because you helped yourself to their college funds because you had to take care of yourself thru the divorce (no one else will right…)
      but you are sure they are happy because you are finally happy after years of emotional abuse from their mother.

      Yep, that brain is not wired right, I did not need a study to tell me that. What does it really matter if he cannot stop lying and cheating or if he just does not want to stop lying and cheating, walking away is the only option to save yourself and the kids.

      Just be grateful that it is not you that badly wired. Maybe it will help to kids when you can honestly tell them that “Daddy/Mommy loves you as much as they are capable of.”

  • My ex would get angry whenever I asked him to put himself in my shoes or said how would you feel if you were me? To him the question was completely irrelevant. But after doing some research I started noticing that he could never put himself in anyone else’s shoes. He had falling outs with friends and I would be his confidant, and after a while I started asking him deliberate questions to see if he could ever see things from the other person’s perspective. I came up short every single time. I’m with champ lady, I find it fascinating, and I think my last year with him was more of a science experiment because I was already convinced I would have to walk away eventually (although there was still some hopium at play) but I was fascinated with the pathology.

    • Did the same experimentation, it made him squirm, one of the only things that did. They know they are two dimensional and their life is a theatre of pretend to make up for this defeceit.

      • >>” I think my last year with him was more of a science experiment.”

        Hahahaha! Yes! I was in scientific “observation” mode …. kind of like observing this new species that I had never heard of. Trying to tie what I was learning about it (via CL/CN, Dr. Simon, etc.) and his behaviors. It was so strange …. very happy to no longer be in that situation!

    • My STBX was angry that my dad was mad at him. I asked, “Wouldn’t you be upset with someone who cheated on your daughter and left her during cancer?”. His response was “I don’t know”

      I asked him one other time how he would feel if someone treated his daughter the way he has treated me. Again he said he didn’t know.

      They absolutely cannot see past themselves.

    • When my oldest daughter was in a car accident (age 17 at the time) — she had six skull fractures, a hematoma, and air trapped in her skull. What I know NOW is that they thought she was going to die. But, thankfully (x1000), she didn’t …

      After she woke up from the coma (about 4 days), she was so much like a little girl again — maybe around the age of 5. When asked to write and “S,” she drew a circle. It was terrifying and heartbreaking.

      But one of the “clues” I had that she would be okay was that she would get very irritated and cuss at the nurses and doctors. The doctors were immediately concerned there was front-lobe damage. I kind of laughed (because I was relieved) … the irritation and cussing was VERY normal for her — please, keep in mind she was a rambunctious 17 year old. I could tell my girl was still “in there.”

      And she was. It took some time and months of speech, occupational, and physical therapy — but she is almost completely healed. She still gets more headaches than she used to and one of the nerves was cut so that she is now deaf in one ear. But, otherwise, she’s doing fantastic! That first year, even though studying gave her migraines and caused her to vomit, she worked with a tutor and still graduated high school on time! Now she is living on her own, going to school, and running 10-hour marathons! (My children are really awesome!)

      One of the interesting aspects of dealing with the brain injury — was the Harvard-trained neurologist who said he could not give her a prognosis (in the days after she woke up). He said that they (the medical and science communities) know very little about the human brain, how it works, and how it heals. I was STUNNED. I had no idea.

      So, I think it’s important to remember that ALL of this new data on the brain is terrific, but we need to be cautious to keep it within the context of … we still know very little.

      • For the record, the empathy-lacking asshole was cheating before and during our child’s recovery. After she was up and moving around okay, he took her to the store the AP worked at … and flirted with her in front of our daughter.

        Now he cries and says how devastated he was by our child’s accident. Such a horrible asshole.

    • Wait….so there is a slim possibility that hitting a cheater in the head with a shovel might improve them? Which scientists are set to explore this? I’ll contribute.

    • CL – maybe the solution is to hit them over the head with a 2X4. Do you think that might change them? I would gladly participate in a study, I would not even accept payment!

  • I believe that a lack of empathy is part of the problem of cheaters. I know that I can see this in my STBX. But it is only part of it. Most of them also have problems with impulse control, addiction, anger, obeying the law, etc. My STBX gets a sick thrill off of conning people. After spending months going through his business books, there does not seem to be any boundaries on where he cheats. And the fact that they are big into impression management, tells me that they know right from wrong.

    • Ah yes! The deception is half the fun for them! Damaging another person’s sense of reality is nothing but immoral. Of course the cheater/narc could care less.

  • I believe we unconsciously assume others have the same way of rational thinking as we do and if we spell it out clear enough and make it rational they will get it. My narc does not. I have asked him direct questions about feelings and emotions and he literally breaks a sweat, stammers and gets mad and changes the subject, claims he is all about communication and intimacy, what bs. One of the reason for cheating was my inability to communicate, ummm no that’s you projecting your arrested delevopment onto me. For him eotional pain must be avoided as he doesn’t trust that the pain passes and we learn from it. I have asked him questions about my feelings and again, the same response or a blank look, most people with empathy would at least choke up or get tears and look upset, nothing.
    I used to think still waters run deep as he always seemed so emotionally contained, I now see that there really is not much going on and when there is it is fleeting at best, deep as a puddle.
    Having this issue in mediation as they assume everyone is rational and co operative. I had to explain that any parenting plan you create he will disregard as he doesn’t follow rules, they are for other people not him. Everything is a chess game of power and reciprocity is a foreign languages to the disordered and why every tiny issue in our relationship turned into drama, brick walls.

    • Oh want to add he works with disabled people and it’s hard work he bangs on about how caring he is and empathetic but maybe I’m jaded and cynical but it dawned on me that maybe he can do this job that many people could not do because he doesn’t have deep emotional, compassion or empathy?? Maybe I’m a bitch in thinking that but most people burn out of his job in 6 months, he has been there nearly 6 years.

      • Damn Lady B, that was brilliantly described!

        Everything is a chess game of power and reciprocity is a foreign languages to the disordered and why every tiny issue in our relationship turned into drama, brick walls.

        If ever I had to describe a relationship with someone with a lack of empathy, it would be this.

      • Lady B, I agree about the job. People that care deeply will burn out quickly. But if you don’t feel it, you’ll be able to keep going for years. Such cruel irony.

      • Being in the caring/disability field myself ….I can tell you what is true in our organization. ….you get alot of pretenders ….Most of them can fake it very easily and tell you how empathetic /kind they are ….but when no one is around ….nope ….they revert back to their selfish selves. One thing though ….Each person has detailed files ….and our organization at least has policy /procedures for most situations. …and even bad staff know the protocols to follow like a rote ….it’s programmed into staff with each action. We have very little staff turn over and I m considered medium length service at nearly 20 years….a very forfilling role….one that actually helped me get through my ex and his cheating ….The people I worked for had more empathy for their staff than my ex…..who has lived a pretty good life….His parents are good people …but allowed him to get away with things that I d correct our children for. His life has spiraled down now….and he has now realized (somewhat) how badly he treated the kids and I….but not enough to change his ways….still out chasing the next new thing….she is married I believe…..so really he hasn’t applied the lesson….and that is his choice ….no longer have to deal with him in our lives

        • I am sorry I said that was true in all helping professions. It is not true that the authentic, caring people burn out every time, especially if they take care of themselves and each other.

          Also, it doesn’t mean that long-lasting caretakers are all phony.

          Sorry about that, Jasmine. I didn’t think beyond myself when I made that comment.

  • Dancing Dick was a thief, a liar and drug user/dealer before I met him. He presented himself as an “awe shucks” kind of a sweet, sensitive, nature loving guy. Clean cut, well spoken, intelligent- no Charlie Manson look about him.

    By the time I found out what he “really” was- the trap door was slammed shut. Two babies, chronic depression, unrelenting anxiety, self esteem on the pavement kept me under his perverted thumb for years to come. These soul-less monsters are excellent at hiding who they “really are.”

  • This explains so much. It explains why he said what he did when I asked him why he even married me in the first place.

    He accused me of asking him a trick question.

    • Mine said, “I wanted to want to be married.” He said a few true things after I caught him and I am grateful for that. I went full blown nuclear on him after I found out about his very long term affair with an ethics professor/Sunday school teacher, and part of the reason why he chose me was because I was so even-headed and non dramatic. Going nuclear threw him so off-base he actually said a couple of true things. Another was, “I never thought of you as a partner.” This, after 13 years of trying to make our relationship better and feeling nuts in the process. In a sarcastic tone I responded, “Well, thank you.” (for being honest) and he sincerely said, “You’re welcome.” What a prince! Clueless idiot.

      On another note, why is it that narcs often have a ridiculous physical appearance? I’m talking used sales person greasy long hair, or absurd combover, etc. They all think they look gorgeous but some just look ridiculous. My X grew his (once really nice) hair long and puts tons of product in it. It’s a greasy mess. Even the students (he’s a professor) laugh at him but he thinks he looks great. It sounds like I’m being vain and that’s not it. Looks don’t really matter much to me but I think it’s just odd how pompous some people are about how they look when most of the world is staring at them thinking “wtf?” Theories?

      • XH said he doesn’t feel the need to iron his shirts to work since (in his opinion) everybody is raving at his job performance anyway! So what do a few wrinkled shirts matter?

        • My ex wore a Walking Dead t-shirt to his son’s graduation. I kid you not.

          I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl through the floor.

      • KYGal, I don’t have a theory but you made me laugh with this pompousness thing about narcs. I’ll never forget the time we had to sit together at our youngest son’s school, and Two-Legged Rat spotted an old classmate of his a few yards away and told me, “Look at Johnny over there, he’s my age but I look so much younger than him, don’t I”. This coming from an ageing midget who’s all of 5’4″, LOL

      • My ex was in the Air Force when we married and was really a good looking man. Fast forward to retirement and he grew his hair and beard and attended my daughter’s wedding g looking unkempt and slovenly… and of courseI spackled. I was hoping it was a phase and I was determined to wait it out.

        He still looks like hell. He’s 18 mos younger and he looks 10 years older.

        Bleah…

      • Inability to see in mirrors, like a vampire?
        Kind of a joke, but true in a metaphorical sense. My narc dresses horribly sloppily for work. Bad hygiene and unkempt hair/ beard. I have no idea how he got this far in his career. But that’s a different discussion.

        They can’t see anything through the eyes of others, so they certainly can’t see themselves through the eyes of others. No need to check for spinach in their teeth or stains on their armpits. Doesn’t bother them, so why would it bother anyone else? They don’t even ask that question because it doesn’t occur to them.

        It is truly bizarre. And I now realize that I’ve never seen him blush or act embarrassed, even when called out on mortifying things. He just gets mad.

      • LOL! Dancing Dick thought he was Brad Pitt! The poorly aging narc wore a hair style from the 70’s!

  • When they aren’t getting the things they want the most- they start the devalue———-> discard cycle.
    They only care about being adored/admired, sex, and financial gain. Nothing else matters to them.

  • This one is tough for me.

    On one hand, I fully embrace the message that we can’t change other people.

    On the other hand, I am uncomfortable with the increasingly-science-backed argument that assholes (and in fact, all personality types) are simply “born this way.” It presents challenges in assessing oneself, assessing others, and assigning responsibility (or blame). (And I know that this is not a political blog, but this topic has arisen lately to explain/justify our current president’s behavior, for better or for worse.)

    My XW argued for a few weeks that a hormonal imbalance made her cheat. After I left her and filed for divorce, she even went so far as to send me the results of a hormone test from her doctor. Of course, this was her flavor-of-the-month, and I didn’t engage with it. So, she had a new explanation the following month.

    Regardless, it’s not something easy for me to frame out and understand. There’s a slippery slope argument against prescribing behaviors as unchosen. But at the same time, I recognize that aspects of my own personality (such as my introversion) are unchosen.

    • I argue that it doesn’t matter what flavor of fucked up it is, get away from it. Today’s post is some skein untangling, admittedly. But I find the emerging science interesting. It still comes down to YOU — what is acceptable to YOU?

      Someone with a hormone imbalance that “makes” them cheat doesn’t sound like someone available for a healthy relationship, JMO.

      • I am no scientist but it seems to me that to clearly understand the brains of the lovely little monsters we have unfortunately known they would need to be studied from childhood forward. I wonder if they do not change the own pathways in their brain by their choices over time. It isnt really about if they can be held accountable for the brain they have but if their behaviors dont modify their brain over time. They can definitely be held accountable for their behaviors. It seems getting ahold of certain behaviors at a young age would benefit kids and society.

    • Genetics, brain organization, hormone imbalances can *predispose* a person to behaviors, but the prefrontal cortex is always at the ready to inhibit maladaptive impulses. A hormone imbalance might have made your wife feel like humping every male who walked by her, but it did not cause her to actually have sex with another man.

      No matter what one’s brain configuration (which is equally based on genetics & nurture), there is ALWAYS a decision tree when it comes to cheating. Always.

    • I agree, they cheat because they want to and they have no character. Doughboy lived in a fantasy world but kept image managing to me and everyone else. After Dday he wrote a self serving letter to adult kids detailing all the wonderful memories and singing my praises to the hilt. Told kids to look after me. That was to ease his conscience and pass the buck to them. He closed his note with ‘ I hope you understand why I had to leave’ but didn’t cite one reason only that “we ” had no common ground anymore. The best was “I’ll always love you in my own way”. Keeping in mind he’s throwing away 3 wonderful kids and 4 beautiful grandchildren. It took Doughboy 39 years to figure out he wasn’t happy. Two days before he told me he loved me and would always be there for me? I figure he was worried that Schmoopie hadn’t given him the green light so he was shoring up plan B just in case. These people are so wrapped up in their own drama and nonsense they convince themselves they have no choice. They are just plan and simply assholes totally lacking in character. Period.

    • There are women with really messed up hormones who don’t cheat. *raising hand*.

      Either way, if your medical condition forces you to hurt others in a way you can’t control, well, that’s why they have locked psych wards.

      I roll my eyes at the hormone excuse. Puh-leeze.

  • I listened to a really good podcast yesterday about narcissism and coparenting. The way she described it was very helpful, because of course, the narcissist is so confusing. She describes the confusion kids go through with a narcissistic parent, because there are things about that parent kids love. It really brought clarity when she said “it’s like they have different personalities.” That’s one subject I continually brought up during reconciliation; how it seemed he was so good at serving up a persona that fit whatever situation he was in. There was no consistency in his personality, and you never knew who you were going to get. But instead of seeing that as a negative, he convinced the therapist and myself, it was actually a positive trait – he was flexible and adaptable, while I was rigid and inflexible. No, I just have consistency in my character. I can’t go to church and proclaim adultery a sin, then walk out the door and text my affair partner. It’s like they believe whatever will benefit them at the moment,and when pointed out, they have an uncanny ability to completely reverse your complaint and turn it back against you. “Oh, you have a problem with me going to strip clubs? Well that’s just because you are controlling and judging. I’m open minded and don’t judge people. I’m flexible and accepting of others.”

    I thought the podcaster did a really good job of explaining

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-savvy-shrink/id1270361855?mt=2&i=1000395456837

    • I was often called rigid and judgy and not game with cheater and his family. I see now that they were furious I wouldn’t play the games that came so naturally to them. They took on the traits of whomever they were with or whomever they thought they should be. I wasn’t rigid, I was confused and incapable. So I was always treated as an outsider. The problem of course is the inability to be oneself.

      As far as empathy, feelings make you feel, and feelings stir up difficult emotions and trigger things we may not be able to control. It’s so much easier and time-efficient to look at the Feeling Person and day “oh for gods sake. This drama again? Aren’t you a bit sensitive about this? I didn’t even say that! You need to check yourself because you’re going off the rails and not making sense. This is a ridiculous waste of time.” And there’s it is – dealt with by invalidation. It’s how I was raised. I was the loopy drama queen. Except I wasn’t. I have teens, they’re emotional and sensitive and need a stable adult to hug them and act like a fucking adult. My mother is aging and can’t understand why she has no closeness with her kids. I’m working on my guilt,but I can’t be close to her.

      Feelings are hard. Not dealing with them is super easy, especially if you word it well enough to ensure they’re never brought up to you again.

  • When I was in college I did an extensive study of personality disorders. I am still fascinated and horrified about how these disorders play out in life. When I asked an attorney if she was obligated to study any psychology, particularly personality disorders, she said no. I am appalled that something as serious as a PD could have so little understanding by the very people who make laws, and pass laws, and determine laws(the court). These disorders are why divorces are drug out for years. They are the reason children are abandoned. Look at someone like John Edwards. I have no idea if he has ever been examined or diagnosed with anything. All I know is what I have seen and read about him. He had a wife who was dying yet he started an affair with a woman after he met her in the lobby of a hotel. He had the audacity to continue to run for president and lie about the fact that he had a baby. How he thought he was going to get away with it is the very reason why I question what his true personality is. There is absolutely no rationale for his behavior. How did he think this was going to play out if he became president? He had no concept of what the future was going to be because he was of the moment. I felt so badly for his wife who died knowing what he did.

    • Early on after retaining my attorney and upon finding CL (and reading up on PDs at outofthefog.net) I sent a short blurb about NPD characteristics to my attorney in an e-mail and said “I need you to understand that this is what we are dealing with. And it’s ON.” I didn’t know what training/experience she had in dealing with NPD (though she came highly recommended as an attorney, in general). She said “oh, I deal with these types all the time.”

    • Well, it’s guess now it’s simple knowing this, he probably also had these issues. Incapable of empathy not only means a lack of compassion, but also a lack of the ability to think what others might think of his actions. No introspection (scared of the inner void), no self-reflection (nothing wrong with me).

  • A hormonal imbalance made her cheat!!!!!!!!!!! LOL! Too funny! Her lack of morals made her cheat- period!

  • It’s like ‘Build a Narc’. You have a row of nurture qualities lined up: unloving mother, abusive father, criminality, chronic lying. These qualities are on a continuum, some over power others. On the nature side you get: addiction, psychopathy, lack of empathy. What we don’t realize when we meet them, because many of us carry the ‘fix up, spackle over, imprint on’ gene is that the narc, was on the ‘build a narc conveyor belt’ and at the end, we purchased them in all their lying glory. Some of us got good mimickers , some of us got cold hearted toads. They come fat, thin, sexy, rich, poor, charming, extroverts, introverts. A whole variety exists. Leaving a cheater is the ultimate ‘return to sender’, this is a defective product.

  • OH MY.

    Cold Slab O’Meat told me who he was over and over throughout our relationship and I refused to listen.

    Early On, when I asked him who the Love of His Life had been. ‘I don’t know. I fall in and out of love easily. But you’re different. I’ve never met anyone like you.’ Ding, Ding! LOVEBOMBING

    Mid Swing, asking him how to still be polite to an administrative assistant who had gone to the brink of firing for goofing off and stalking a coworker. ‘Being polite is just about watching other people and seeing what they do. Why would you care that she’s stalking someone?’ Maybe because they both work there, and everyone deserves to be safe at work? NO EMPATHY OR SENSE OF RIGHT AND WRONG.

    Prior to meeting CSoM, one of my closest childhood friends died. 39 years old, she said to her 11 year old daughter going down her basement stairs, ‘I feel dizzy,’ and sat down and died of an aneurysm in front of her. She loved a band called the Smiths, and their singer Morrissey sometimes tours and sings some Smiths songs. Cold Slab also loves the Smiths. . Joke- he likes things but loves no one! Andi could sing, really sing, and she would sometimes just sing their songs a capella at random if the situation called.

    We were able to attend a Morrissey concert, and I wore a 20 year old antique barrette she’d bought me as a teenager. Unexpectedly they began to play her favorite song, which contains the line, ‘Mother, I can feel the soul falling over my head.’

    Well, I just lost it and began to sob doubled over that balcony railing thinking of her, my dear friend of 25 years, robbed of her daughter’s growing up. Clod Slab was kind, but he was sort of taken aback and asked me after what it was like to feel that way and have a friend that close. Zzzzzzzttt! INABILITY TO FORM A GENUINE CONNECTION OR EMOTION THAT IS NOT RAGE OR ORGASM.

    Lastly, when Cold Slab O’Meat suddenly started collecting Workplace Wives on Facebook after never having a friend over in three years, I encouraged him, until I asked him why they were all female and ONE of them appearred to HAVE BLOCKED ME. Only the children could see her numerous likes and flirty comments. When I told him I didn’t think that was appropriate, he wailed into the only genuine tears I’ve ever seen from him. About how he needed more friends, and he felt empty inside “like a big silo echoing’, and he felt like he was just going along with a life I had planned, and I had thrown away his moldy bachelor microwave and bought a red one he doesn’t like! And The Sluterus was CHEERFUL ALL THE TIME. Winner, Winner!!! She was already Lunchtime Pregnant! TRIANGULATION! DANCE FOR MY LOVE AND PEANUTS, MONKEY!YOUR HUSBAND IS DEAD INSIDE!

    BTW, the next three years were spent triangulating with the Sluterus and yet a third work related hookup who sheltered the Cold Slab from years of Financial Baby Wrangling and provided that sweet, rent free elixir of Narcissistic Supply in convenient 50 year old juice box form. She wised up and moved on too. The Sluterus has finally settled at the ripe age of 38 on a sexual identity that doesn’t involve cheating on him with other ladies.

    Or does it? BUT SHE’S CHEERFUL, Y’ALL! So Cheerful! Taking you to court for CS till you live in the ghetto when you used to go on vacations every year. Causing a rift in your relationship with your older daughter! Living on less than a grand a month.

    It makes me feel utterly cheerful!

      • Wow, that’s quite the story. I like that you call him cold slab. It does really seem to fit him. Especially the big silo echoing. That’s one disturbed narc right there. Glad you’re no longer with him.

    • Luziana- please find the bbc podcast called soul music. They did a smiths episode that is beautiful and emotional. It’s fantastic. It’s only 39 min and I’ve re-listened several times. Moved me to my core.

  • I see the pattern in Dancing Dick’s family: indifference, emotionally vacant- superficial people. Especially his creepy mother. I lean toward it’s a “learned behavior”- not a genetic flaw.

    We are all flawed genetically in some way or another. That does not give us a license to destroy other people’s lives.

  • I love Star Trek. I can’t figure out what the best analogy is. Data- trying to be and not being human. Vulcans- totally detached by nature and seeing nothing wrong with it and yet still having piles of rational emotion. Or borg- intent on destruction, no relevant emotion, completely robotic in their actions and barely understanding your problem with the actions. I feel like different cheaters people describe fall into all these camps. Who knows.

    • Borg. They all believe your “resistance is futile” and that their demands and way of life will dominate. No matter what.

  • Today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

    I am thankful for the young, rookie policeman who broke into my house, found me unconscious on the floor, and saved my life. He had only been a policeman for 6 months.

    I am thankful for the policeman who arrived at my youngest sister’s door and knew she was hiding a bruised arm when she claimed everything was fine…..a lie she had been hiding from everyone for years.

    Our police officers are getting toasted in the media. Like every occupation, there are bad apples, but most police officers chose their career because they want to help people.

    If you are being abused, please call the police. They will help and protect you.

    And….please teach your children that police are a safe haven.

    • Yes, indeed!

      I was very fortunate to have a police officer who understood immediately that serial-cheating asshat’s suicide attempt was a sign that my kids and I were in danger. He told me to get a restraining order … as I stood there, stunned, trying to absorb what was happening. He took my shock as a hesitation and he became very insistent that I understand the severity of the situation — that jackass flagged for homicidality. Then, with great compassion, he walked me through the steps I needed to take in order to get the restraining order.

      I will always be grateful.

  • Thank you for writing this Tracy! Per Dr. Gabor Mate, he states that narcissists have often times been misparented as children, and the circuitry that is supposed to properly develop does not, and the wiring in the brain goes wrong. This is in term of emotional regulation and emotional thinking. Hence the reason Narcissists never react normally to any situation. Their brain wiring formed wrongly in childhood and they become messed up adults. I can attest to that as my mother is a full blown raging narcissist and so was my dad.

    • Often children of narcs become co dependant and attract narcs as partners as it is familiar or energetically matched to them from their childhood. It’s very interesting and worth going into.
      My Dads a narc, my Mums codependent and I am an empath, again which comes from having to read my home environment constantly as a child as my father was volatile and moody. My two serious relationships have been with alcoholic narcs. My dad was an alcoholic but milder than the ones I attracted. Needless to say I need to work on my childhood issues and fix my picker.

      • Ah yes, it seems I’m part empath. At least my psychologist told me I could use a bit more macho, because, he was sorry, I seemed almost womenly in my emotional communication. I could laugh about it, because the moment he said this, I felt like he is right.

        My mom has a narc sister, grandiose one, and my mom had a difficult childhood. Often blamed about anything that went wrong, but yeah her family lost their dad when she was like 3 or 4 years old. She has one younger brother, 1 older (had 2), and 2 older sisters (had 3). Her mother had to raise that family on her own, right after the WWII. So nowadays I feel like my mom has covert narc tendencies. My dad, lost both parents at a young age, no siblings, is totally codependent with my mom.

        Although my mom means well, and never seen her rage against me, although a bit rageful with my dad, she does seem to fit the covert narc on the spectrum leaning towards really mild. But their dynamic is wrong.

        Of course I modeled to that. My STBXW is a control freak sort of, had her own traumatic youth (only found out after 3 years or so), and her trauma seems to have caused the control freakiness. Because of being in control, she is able (in her mind) to not get hurt or disappointed by anyone.

        But she also complains about me, after several years, not taking charge more. Well, yeah, whenever I took charge, I was doing it wrong, or not in the correct way whatever.

        That wore me down. Why bother if she’s going to want to have it her way anyways?

        So yeah, I’m being my dad, my STBXW is not a narc, but has her issues and likes to take charge, same as my mom.

        No wonder they didn’t like each other haha.

        Next time, I’ll be very aware of this dynamic and walk away if I see it happening again.

      • I’m so worried about this with my daughter. Her therapist recommended she keep a diary. She is 7 so it’s a little hard to understand, but last week she made the following entries:

        Jan 5 – I am sad about the divorce. My dad is mean to me and my mom is nice to me.
        Jan 6 – My dad is the best dad ever. He took me to the Big Thrill Factory.

        It’s like she is in a constant love bomb, devalue loop. On my end I feel like I have to overparent to overcome this.

        • My own read on this is that the therapist is using the diary to help her learn to articulate her feelings. The actual content of those feelings on any particular day may not be that important, but the ability to name them and their existence is.

          You cannot control how her Dad treats her. Just follow CL’s advice about being the sane parent. If you parent in response to her Dad, you’ll always be dancing. It is impossible not to react a bit (especially when your daughter is so young), but one of the things she needs to learn from you is consistency–to know she can rely on you, that you’ll love her on good days and bad, that you’ll neither overreact with praise and treats nor overreact with blame or anger.

  • Shortly after dday, my cheater actually had a horrifying moment of clarity, during which he described his swirling inner void to me, saying that no matter how much money, sex, power, or sparkly stuff he tried to throw in there, the void remained. That he could describe it so well–with such chilling accuracy–told me a few things. One was that he is not a helpless victim of this condition. He knows it, knows it is wrong, and knows that he can never fix it doing the same old things. Another was that he would never, ever choose to do the incredibly hard work of addressing it in any real way. He has the shred of awareness and conscience required to make progress, but he chooses not to. I think “evil” is not at all an inaccurate or unrealistic bit of shorthand for this. Given the choice between looking good or being good, he will always choose the former.

    The other day, I was feeling a bit sad and lonely, and so thinking through the things I love and need to spend more time on once this divorce is finally done, and it occurred to me that there’s nothing the cheater really just feels passionate about or interested in for its own sake. Everything is either for show or to manipulate. That’s it. The swirling void is deep, but the rest is definitely shallow all the way across.

    Yup. The diving board next to their sparkling pool is just for show. Leap from it at your own risk.

    • Trying to fill the hole with things outside the self is fruitless. Validation, money, power. This void can only be filled from the self, by coming to terms and making peace with pain and trauma from the past. The grand cliche about happiness comes from within is true and all the spiritual teachings offer this. All else is distraction.

      • Exactly–but they will not choose the real. Not ever. And I do think it is ultimately a conscious choice. It takes a great deal of calculation to lie as frequently and skillfully as they do. There’s a kind of humility required to achieve real happiness. It takes character and depth to see the beauty and joy in humble things. They will never choose that.

        • Yes I think the ego is too strong and they know that being real rather than living in denial and their web of lies is a painful process. I saw my ex look fearful and lost when I suggested he had issues in the past and resentments he had not made peace with. For me being at peace with trauma from the past and people who harmed us frees us from the bondage of negative emotions and self delusion.

        • “There’s a kind of humility required to achieve real happiness. It takes character and depth to see the beauty and joy in humble things. They will never choose that.”
          My ex told me I was willing to “settle for mediocrity” because I wanted a normal life, not to be married to the famous actor he really believed he was going to become. He told me he needed far more excitement and fame to be happy than anything I could provide.

    • What a reveal cashmere!

      I do, however, feel my cheater has a passion. His passion is control. He has always had extravagant hobbies which were treated as grand entitlements. He presented them in such a way that I must put them on the level of his work which was valued above family.

      Most of his hobbies have involved driving or weapons and both of those things symbolize control. He always wanted to go for long drives; the driver is in control. Even now his hobby is sport fishing and his role on the boat is at the helm. He hates going on someone else’s boat and he would never hire a captain, only a mate because again CONTROL!

    • The other day, my ex told me he hardly feels any emotion anymore. He said the same thing right before our marriage ended. He feels empty.

      Nothing will feel that void. Lord knows I tried for 18 years. And the whore he’s with now won’t fill it, either.

  • I wonder if the grey matter is less from not being used…like it dies off…need a study where they test kids and then again later as adults.
    This lack of brain matter may contribute to lack in empathy….but what makes them intentionally hurtful especially after seeing the outcome of their behaviors?

    • Awesome point lostlady. I believe the narcs in my life were conditioned to stuff emotions- but we will never solve the nature vs. nurture argument in totality, just can’t be done.

  • I remember distinctly on our first trip to a marriage counselor after dday #3 the therapist told my ex that we needed to discuss his actions and his feelings. His immediate response was ……. “I don’t have feelings!”. I thought at the time he was just trying to side step so he didn’t have to talk about them. But really, he doesn’t have any feelings. Going back to early in our marriage, I can recall many times that I think he should have had an emotion (death of his grandmom, death of a pet, a much wanted xmas gift, fight with his brother, Etc) and NOTHING! So this totally makes sense to me now!

  • “After years of that merry-go-round, I felt in my gut that asking that man to organize his mess was like asking a quadriplegic to get out of his wheelchair and walk across the room. It was almost cruel to expect these things he could not do. And yet I expected them. I felt angry and disappointed and robbed that he would not Make An Effort. Sometimes I accepted his blameshifting that it was me, and my terrible expectations of him. I wish someone would have told me — this is just who he IS. It’s not your fault. He cannot be the person you need him to be — walk away.”

    This has been the absolute hardest thing for me to work through. It’s indicative of her inability to be who I ‘needed’ her to be. At first it was all love and attention to the small details I didn’t get in my first marriage…Then her focus shifted to her work…(Severe ADHD…even with meds). I needed her to be who she was at first but she was all over the place. It was like trying to carry water in your hands. I couldn’t hold her focus. Then with bad esteem problems (I still get blamed for) her focus became the attention of other men. I accepted to a fault much of the blame shifting. Now I sit a divorced dad with 2 beautiful girls I cant lay to bed at night or wake to their kisses in the morning, angry at my decision to not leave early on in the relationship. Im a relatively smart and emotionally intelligent man now dealing with the pain of not letting that one go. I cant change or make her who I need her to be, I get it. She has no real empathy. All she cared about after I caught her (the last time) was keeping her important job. Im such a fucking chump sometimes I can’t stand my self.

    • I’m 20 months out from Dday#2 (separated by years with different schmoopies, but 2 very suspicious secretaries too in retrospect). The idealize (love bombing), devalue, then discard played out over and over in my almost 20 years together with a self-centered, entitled, Dr. Cheaterpants. For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t leave early on. He lied about going to strip clubs with a ‘friend’, controlling any money I spent but spent hundreds there.

      He showed me who he was over and over again. It was one thing for him to do this to me, but why did I let this happen in all of our other relationships? My family was discarded, our own son was discarded when he would no longer tolerate his father’s need for total control of his sport. I watched the ex go through boss after boss, first loving them to the cracks starting to absolute hatred for them. I learned not to get close to wives of his friends/coworkers because it was going to end and it would be akward if I were too close. Hobbies always started with big investments into the equipment and training, only to tank.

      I think it took me years to really see this pattern in his life, he brought into our lives. He’s with his young schmoopie now (DD14’s asst sports coach from both kids’ Christian school). I’m sure she’s just awesome right now. I can’t wait for her to see the wrath of him.

      He always has a smile on his face and is known as ‘a nice guy’. And sometimes he could really be nice. But thinking back, I think it was always if there was something in it for him, something to be gained, impression management. It was just enough to keep me hooked and always thinking if I were a better spouse….

      I’ve been his Plan B in life, always in the background keeping things going so he could do all the fun stuff he wanted to do. But it’s never been enough to fill that void. Now I’m kicking myself for hitching my wagon to an ass and not a real horse.

      • How does one come to terms with our choices in partners? The fact that this is my second divorce leads me to the question…whats wrong with me? My first marriage didn’t involve an affair, but was ended so so coldly on her part. She’s divorced again go figure. How do I fix my partner picker?

  • I would argue that narcissists may have tons of empathy, how else would they know how to play people’s emotions like a concert pianist? Perhaps if you define empathy as the inhibition to cause pain in others then yes they lack that. But the definition of empathy I googled is this: “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. They do understand and they may even share our feelings, but they don’t agree that they shouldn’t cause them. In fact causing them makes them feel powerful since they KNOW how traumatic those emotions are having already experienced them. They go to great lengths in order to evoke feelings in others. They lack boundaries, they don’t know, or care, what appropriate expectations from others are. They are people who live outside of themselves, having very few inner resources for self-soothing and contentment. Invariably they are also addicts whose narcissistic tendencies grow over time as they need more and more potent supply. If they find a really potent source they will turn into full-blown junkies, throwing their lives away for it.

    • This is such an excellent point. My serial-cheating asshat played me like a fiddle. Especially my tendency to accept blame and guilt (I could rationalize myself into fault like a pro … ugh). At the end, there was a rage-filled moment of truth when he told me he used my “goodness” against me. It was easy.

      Yes, willful evil exists.

      • I told my therapist about the latest encounter with my ex and how I am doing pretty well EXCEPT for when I have to see him face to face – which is rare.

        I said, ‘He knows what buttons to push!”

        My therapist said, ‘He MADE those buttons.”

        Yep. So, so true.

  • I recently came across an article that addressed a type of Alzheimer’s disease called FTD with behavior. It stated that at around ages 55-60 the brain cells that are in an otherwise perfectly previously normal person start to shrink. These brain cells are the same ones that control our socially acceptable behavior and keep us from behavior that is considered socially unacceptable. It’s an interesting read. I was fascinated by the whole thing because it fit my ex husband to a T! I have read other articles on this since discovering this and I truly believe that this may have been what happened to my husband. The families and wives/husbands of these patients describe them as becoming people they don’t even recognize anymore because their personalities change so radically. Anybody else out there who knows about this?

    • I wanted to add that this condition affects their ability to feel empathy or sympathy. The patient knows that they are doing something unacceptable, but cannot help themselves. They become “empty shells” eventually as the disease progresses. It is incurable and the patient usually ends up totally bedridden. I believe it is commonly referred to as “Picks disease”.

      • Roberta, I had a light bulb moment shortly before Christmas and I’m 99% sure the Python has FTD (frontotemporal dementia). I also suspect he had NPD before the onset of FTD, because some research I’ve done has pretty much proven he told me some big lies years ago, before we married (not with respect to cheating, but about his past).

        Due to a deal I made with the devil (to get my house back with my name only on the deed – I had added his name after we married), he’s still living here for now (ugh), and we have a post-nup but are not divorced. I wanted to understand what to expect in the near future, so I joined an FTD support group.

        They helped me to see I needed to get moving on changing my powers of attorney. I can’t take a chance on going to the hospital and having HIM in charge of my money!! Not the way he spends every cent he gets his hands on – and then some.

        Interestingly, the area of the brain Tracy wrote about (anterior insula) also atrophies in the brains of people with FTD. The non-narc symptoms that made me realize he probably has FTD include deteriorating hygiene, huge weight gain, consuming excessive amounts of liquids, development of a sweet tooth, and reduced initiative.

        Some symptoms are common to both NPD and FTD, like low empathy and turning irritable quickly (rage channel!).

        It’s possible I might feel a little hesitant about eventually divorcing IF we had married young and not in mid-life, and if he had not lied to me about his past (that is, if I found no evidence of personality disorder before becoming a liar and a cheater). If there had been many decades of love and kindness and honesty and integrity, and then he suddenly turned into a douchebag, I might consider sticking around longer.

        But I might not! Because apparently MANY people divorce their spouses with FTD when the behavior gets to be too much. They sometimes get so crazy, you have to get them out of your life. Every FTD patient is different, but it usually gets BAD.

        I hope he moves out before the memory loss starts (that usually comes years after the behavior changes). I don’t feel obligated to take care of him because he wasn’t dealing in good faith from the outset.

        But mainly, I don’t think it matters if it’s a personality disorder or dementia or addiction: if they’re disrespectful, dishonest, mean, and/or cruel – even if they can’t help it (agency may truly not be there), we can’t be expected to subject ourselves to that, to LIVE with that treatment for the rest of our lives.

        • Hopium4years, I hear you. Divorce becomes a tool we must use to protect ourselves. People with FTD develope, almost seemingly overnight, extremely bad decision abilities when it comes to money and finances. One man I read about sent large sums of money to a scammer posing as a dethroned African queen! He was also convicted of money laundering. My Ex, like yours, soon showed many of the same symptoms of FTD as your husband. I certainly believe that this is what happened to my Ex. Mine had always been somewhat self centered, but he hit 58 years old and it was as if a switch was flipped and he was someone entirely different! Unfortunately, there is no cure for FTD and the patient becomes a full time job. Best to bail while you can. I had no problem divorcing my husband in light of his cruel treatment of me. He totally ignored me knowing I had lung cancer and was blatantly cheating! I was done. But then he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I got sucked back in. Needless to say that killed him before the FTD did. He was NEVER the same man I married. He was like a stranger to me.

          • Whew, Roberta, ignoring you when you had lung cancer AND being blatant about his cheating? That’s awful! Are you fully recovered? It sounds like you went through hell! I’m SO sorry.

            It was exactly the “I don’t recognize this person” feeling that turned on the light bulb for me. I had been documenting some of his odd behaviors for a few weeks, when I recalled a woman saying to me several years ago that she no longer recognized her husband. That man had what was then called Pick’s Disease – now called FTD. I looked up the symptoms, and they basically lined up with all the bizarre stuff I’d been writing down.

            After D-Day #2, I was done. But I was also afraid of losing my house and health insurance (this was before it occurred to me he had a progressive dementia), so when I told him I was divorcing him, and he whined that he didn’t want to go that route, I decided to bargain with him.

            His 3 reasons for delay were: “I think of this as my home,” “I don’t want to be a 3 time loser” (I’m his 3rd wife), and “lawyers cost so much” (he’s broke and in debt, so any amount would be too much). He said he wanted to stay until he retires (3 years – ugh) because it would be financially advantageous for both of us, and then he’d move to another state, where he has family (not that he’s particularly close to any of them).

            I’m hoping he’ll want to shack up with one of the many women he’s seeing from online dating sites. One took him home with her to spend the night on the first date, another took it slow: waited til date #2 (the day after date #1) to take him to HER house for an almost all night fuckfest. Of course, he’s still seeing/fucking them both AND texting a third woman that he had one date with (she didn’t put out so maybe he’s enjoying the challenge). I saw in one text that he told one of them he gets “tested” every 6 months so not to worry about STDs. A, he doesn’t go to doctors anymore and B, what good would it be even if he did get tested since he keeps screwing someone new each week?

  • I’m pretty sure my ex knows there is something wrong/different with him – he knows that he behaves badly and does really shitty things that hurt others, hence the constant lies, excuses, and sneaking around. BUT his fixations on self-gratification coupled with the belief that he is special are firmly in the driver seat and the lack of empathy is on the gas pedal.

    I believe his coddling mommy played a role. She displays quite a few narcissistic traits as well. During our marriage she always defended him… His habit of “going out with the guys” after work? That was because he worked so hard at his job and he needed time to himself unwind. His neglecting his family almost every weekend to play band gigs in dive bars? That was a hobby and a way for him to release his pent up energy. When he cheated on me? That was because I must not have been meeting his needs at home…

    It can’t be reiterated enough – Pay close attention to their actions, not their words!!!

    • “I’m pretty sure my ex knows there is something wrong/different with him – he knows that he behaves badly and does really shitty things that hurt others, hence the constant lies, excuses, and sneaking around. BUT his fixations on self-gratification coupled with the belief that he is special are firmly in the driver seat and the lack of empathy is on the gas pedal.”

      SPOT ON. My ex has rare moments of clarity. He Facetimed me about a week after I found out about the affair and was crying, telling me he was “the devil” and that he was headed down a bad road; said I’d done nothing wrong in the marriage, that I was the perfect wife, that he was a piece of shit, blah, blah, blah.

      But those moments of clarity always, ALWAYS vanish. Fast forward about six months later and suddenly I got the, “where you failed in our marriage is…” treatment. I shut that shit down. I said, “THIS WAS NOT MY FAULT.”

      As an amateur psychologist, my ex always fascinated me because he was like an onion with layers and layers of complication. Now that I know about cluster Bs and NPD, SO MUCH makes sense. Thank God.

    • I spent 30+ years trying to get him to understand how his actions made others feel. I had that same moment in therapy, “ how do you think Chumpiness feels?” And the completely blank face. I was still too numb to grasp the significance. I get it now.

  • My ex was actually diagnosed with NPD years ago. I laughed at the time, and told him I could have diagnosed that for free. I didn’t understand NPD back then; I thought it just meant he was self absorbed and had to always be the center of attention. I didn’t yet know that it meant he was a demon in human form.

    Ex laughed about the diagnosis and actually agreed with it, in a way. He understands that he feels superior and more deserving of fame than other people (he used to actually talk about God opening all the doors to his destiny of being famous) but he also truly believes that he REALLY IS more special than everyone else, so why shouldn’t he see himself that way? He would deny that he uses others as props for his own benefit, however, as his image is Mr Wonderful good guy.

    I’ve said this before: The disordered KNOW they are lying when it’s being done to directly manipulate someone or to get the disordered out of some sort of trouble. When the lie is for some type of image control, however, or to prop up their delusional view of themselves and the world, I think they truly believe those lies. They twist reality to suit their needs and often, they really think that’s the truth.

    • “often, they really think that’s the truth.”

      Yes, I think that’s very true. And it often crosses over from believing their own lies to being delusional. They are delusional because they think they’re better than others, more deserving than others, that their own pain is much more painful than anything anyone else has experience, and their happiness is worth any cost.

    • “I didn’t yet know that it meant he was a demon in human form.”

      I laughed out loud when I read this but I know it isn’t a joke because I have lived with a narcissist too. He just didn’t come with a diagnosis.

  • I got a call soon after D-day from STBXW’S friend. She just found out about the affair and was in shock. My STBXW told her that I knew about her affair partner and I was OK with it.

    Really!?

    That’s what I call lacking empathy. I was in pain and it was the worst thing I have ever experienced, watching my wife at the time continue her affair. But she convinced herself that I was just fine with all of it.

    • Mr. Magneto, my now xh, had this LOOOOOOooonng story he told to his AP’s husband. Apparently, I was good with it, fucking CHEATERS were all good with it, what was his problem being adult and accepting the affair?

      In theory, I knew it was a lie because OW scrubbed the internet clean of her image and closed her social media prior to moving out of her house. So she was “innocent” and “a woman of caliber” were complete horse shit. She was so afraid of exposure, she tried to get a restraining order on me (and my family.) She was sent packing. Plus she got the work exposure she so greatly deserved.

      I did have one phone conversation with OWH. What a chump. BUT he faired better than I, facilitating his divorce. OW had enough shame to settle quickly, I had the jack ass part of the affair formula.
      XH never got over being exposed. Never accepted any wrong doing. Always the victim, always abused.

      May they both get everything they deserve in spades. May I be so far “meh” that I don’t even care when the meteor hits them. Trash.

  • Here’s a thought. Maybe this is why so many cheaters seem to choose what looks (to us) like a downgrade, often another cheater. Maybe that’s why the relationship goes better for some of them–neither of them can do empathy. That’s a match. They don’t have to keep the mask up all the time, which must be exhausting.

    • As well, often cheaters choose OW/OM who seem crazy and / or unstable. That can be pretty stimulating for someone that doesn’t do empathy. Think about it. TONS of kibbles! They’re up/they’re down/they’re happy or sad with whatever cheater does AND he/she can blameshift OW & OM and say “you knew this when we got together! So this is your fault! If you weren’t so flawed / crazy / unstable then this wouldn’t be a problem. You sound just like my ex!”

      Then OW or OM can pick-me dance “I’m not like your evil ex! I swear I swear I’m nothing like them. Look at my moves!”

    • YES. My ex explained to my daughters why he was going to keep going around and around with the same trio of witches( the 3 main OW from our marriage) . He said there was no point in starting with someone new( and sane) because after six months they would find out who he was anyway,and it was too much effort. He’s engaged now to Miss 1999, and she can’t say she doesn’t know what he is. She is going to sell up and move from another state and they are going to build a 5 bedroom dream house, presumably with her money.This man is a habitual liar , overtly and by omission about things great and things irrelevant. He lies like breathing, and she is going to hand her whole life over, like she’s been waiting to do for the last 20 years, The fall out is going to be Nasty, with a capital N, when it happens, and all I can do is hope to protect the kids from it.

  • Ahhh: this is my favorite cartooon ever! **THANK YOU** for taking the time to draw this Tracy!
    About 3 years ago, I saved a ton of comments on a CL column re: helpful quotes or mantras or sayings that summarize the chump experience… and I loved this sentence (I think “Roaring” posted or reposted it) “That goldfish was never going to knit you a sweater.”

    Must laminate this cartoon into a wallet foto & a refrigerator magnet. This would also be an excellent coffee cup to sell on the CL store. Many thanks again Tracy – you give me a shot in the arm every day.

  • The problem with encountering these disordered people is that by the time we meet them and feel their initial charms, they have had many years to refine the social cues and responses to fool us into thinking they are normal.

    I had a disordered boyfriend (not going to try and diagnose him) who was so emotionally out of touch that he would do random “nice” things because his mother had trained him to do what women “liked”. He would readily admit that he had no idea why someone would appreciate a kind or loving gesture, only that his mom had told him it was a necessary part of having a relationship.

    By the same token, he had no guilt about keeping active physical relationships going with a number of women while seeing me. He was clever enough to keep it all secret, but once discovered, he sincerely claimed to feel no remorse for having duped anyone.

  • Also adds to the forgiveness conversation. You dont have to feel like you have forgive them for being who they are….but you dont have to keep living in the danger.

  • I don’t think my ex is a fully diagnosable narcissist. I think he is an empathetically challenged perfectionist who is mildly bi-polar. When all of that hit mid-life, things just went haywire and he developed “narcissistic tendencies”.

    Meanwhile I think I, and probably many other chumps, suffer from an overabundance of empathy. This is what makes us spackle so hard. It also makes us want to untangle the skein. I have always been one to try and see things from others point of view. I put up with a lot from ex because, well, we all have bad days and get grumpy sometimes. We all make mistakes. He can’t help it that he is bothered by things that others would consider insignificant. It may not matter to me but it matters to him so I need to fix it. I need to avoid criticizing him because I don’t want to hurt his feelings the way he hurts mine. He feels unappreciated in his job I so I should let him quit so he isn’t stuck in a job he hates on my account. He misses his home state, I should get a job there so he can live where he wants and be happy. He is still being mean to me and impatient with the kids. Well, it must be stressful being home all of the time instead of at a job making money to support the family. It probably makes him feel unmanned so no wonder he’s grumpy. Ok, so he now has the new job doing what he wanted to be doing and we live in the state he wants and he is still being a jerk. Well, he must just be exhausted from the new job. Even after DDay I felt some empathy. He didn’t have much experience before me, it must have been driving him nuts not knowing what it would be like to be with other women and he just couldn’t take it any more and had to find out. Maybe I really wasn’t doing enough to meet his “needs” and he just can’t help his feelings. He is a good person who made a mistake, doesn’t know what to do about it and needs time to find his way. Etc. etc. It took a long time for me to get over my over empathy and find my anger and recognize that love really is a choice. He chose not to love the person to whom he had committed. He chose to open his heart to somebody new in spite of his commitment to me and his responsibility to me and the kids. He chose to be an asshole. He could help it and he chose not to. I am doing much better at not letting empathy get the better of me, but sometimes I still struggle a bit with that. When I see him looking bedraggled, I still feel sorry for him sometimes and the stupid part is that he would be offended by my feeling sorry for him if he knew. Sigh.

    • Wow that hits home hard Chumpinrecovery. It feels like you just described a big part of my life with my stbxwife the past 8 years. Other than moving because of wanting/needing a job somewhere out of state (and if I were to believe her, she had plenty of experience in the sack before we met), this was my life to a tee. It feels like I lived the male version of your story. It feels like you know how I felt and think.

      Sometimes I wonder if it not also must be a bit of a condition I have. I mean I now think it’s not healthy for me, having so much empathy, compassion and understanding… but I also don’t want to lose it and become less compassionate. I might not even be able to do that though.

      Maybe my response doesn’t line up with your feelings about your life, but know that mine did when I read your comment.

      • The part about thinking that all of that empathy and compassion can be bad for me and yet I don’t want to lose it because I actually see those things as good qualities to have certainly resonates.

    • So well said CIR. The underlying dynamics you described is my former life with the ex. Always unhappy for whatever reasons and it must be mine and the kids’ fault, or the hateful bosses fault, or someone elses fault but never his. My ex is a bottomless pit of need and there’s just nothing available to fill that void. He has TeenageBarbieSchmoopie 2.0 trying as hard as she can. Meanwhile, I’ve left a cheater and working on gaining a life….

    • Wow, Wow, I couldn’t of said it better myself. That is exactly how I thought. Thank you for sharing and putting those feelings into words.

    • You have made me think CIR
      I used not to think that my fuckwit had a diagnosable narcissistic personality disorder but now I do. He was just so covert but it seems to be much more overt as he ages and hindsight is also 20/20 for me.

      I think that I have known for a very long time but spackled. One of my son’s first hockey coaches(2006) who maintained a presence in our life because sons are friends and have been on the same team off and on, is in my opinion and overt narcissist. This became clear from the beginning. I don’t think narcissism was even on my radar but this guy was just so completely overt, you couldn’t miss it. I remember early on, comparing fuckwit to him and thinking fuckwit isn’t a narcissist, he would never behave that way. I would talk about the coaches narcissism with fuckwit and I did notice it would get him worked up and he would argue with me about it. It was weird. This coach was a master at image management. He only had a high school education and yet his manners and ability to talk to people were and are amazing. My fuckwit was probably jealous of this gift and his hockey ability. Fuckwit made sure to hold it over his head that he was more financially successful that this guy and fuckwit had a bigger boat.

      I still wonder if fuckwit realizes that he is a narcissist and that is why it upset him so much when I pointed it out in another person. It was as if I was getting to close to seeing behind his mask.

    • Described my relationship with my ex perfectly. I spackled, and I spackled hard. “He had a rough childhood”, “He grew up different than me”, “his blood sugar was low so that’s why he was acting that way”, and on and on AND ON.

      • I spackled myself! The narc had me convinced that I was the cause of everything wrong in our marriage! He was a master at blame shifting, minimizing, gas lighting and “unequal comparisons.”

        Narc: You bought towels at JC Penney’s without consenting with me! That’s no different from me spending time and money on web cam hoes!

        Really? How do they do that???????

        • I did the same, too. He would gaslight me all the time. “You think too much” or “you’re too sensitive” and I started thinking I was the one with the problem.

          Towels vs. web cam hoes? That is some SERIOUS disorder he’s got.

  • The difference for me is in the ability to “mimic” acceptable behavior. With an illness or a reaction to medication (or something else that alters mood/speech/actions) the person does not have the control or inhibitions needed to control their speech or actions.

    The Narc has the ability to “become an illusion” — to say and do the “right” things necessary to con the Chump — to get what he/she wants. The Narc may continue to make decisions and live a lifestyle that will ultimately be bad for the Narc — but in the meantime the Narc is content to purposefully ruin and decimate the Chump in any way necessary for the Narc to get what he/she wants.

    If my mother develops dementia, she may well say hurtful things to me, or act in an unreasonable manner, or get lost in a place she has been a thousand times — but it is contrary to her basic character. The memory loss she has now distresses and angers her — she is aware that she is losing something she once had.
    My dad, and my exH’s who are narcs do and say things to manipulate and purposely divert and subvert the truth. This intentional infliction of evil is something they choose to do. They do not care if they hurt someone else to get what they want. They consider empathy for others to be a weakness that would keep them from achieving their goals. They may well be missing something in their gray matter — but I don’t care. I am happier when I am away from their influence. I cannot be responsible for their biological imperfections, and although that knowledge might be clinically interesting, it is not enough for me to hang around and hurt myself.

    They see what the social mores and rules are, they just disagree that those things are valuable. Knowing that they make that choice is enough for me. I have learned that I cannot change another person — only myself. I have to make decisions to protect myself from danger and pain, if possible. These dysfunctional people may have a recognizable illness or deficiency, but I cannot cure them, nor can science at this time. Once I learned not to believe in the illusion any more –and accepted that — I was on the road to recovery, myself. I am grateful for that!

  • Until being chumped, I thought narcissism was vanity, like the greek Narcissus who saw his reflection and fell in love.
    After my world blew up, and I started therapy and started reading, and found CL’s site and book, among other online resources, I finally had an explanation for:
    – Raging, finger-pointing, never listening to my side of things
    – Projection – frequently screaming at me for literally hours then if I cried, he’d instantly burst into tears and become the victim
    – Badmouthing everyone in his own family, his own friends, and always complaining daily about how hard his life was
    – Always mansplaining and acting like he was the smartest person in the room
    – At parties and social gatherings, had to be the loudest laughing person, slapping the men on the back (hey buddy!) pecking their wives on both cheeks euro-style, and telling the same stories of his “fascinating childhood” over and over again
    – Never apologized to me for anything including his verbal abuse because he was never wrong about anything
    -Frequent “silent treatments” that lasted days on end
    – Always and ever, he was the Victim. Everything was so very hard for him. Other people got all the breaks. Anyone successful was clearly getting special treatment or random good luck.
    – Explosive anger (rage). Oh yeah, said that already.
    – OCD and rules for every little detail and if me or kids put something in the wrong spot, it would provoke a rage.
    – Living on eggshells. Constantly and daily.

    I’d spackled over this abuse for years and worshipped this man. I was his biggest fan and protector, always telling everyone what a great, honest guy he was. How hard he worked, which made up for me supporting his non-earning ass.
    When he chumped me it hardly seemed possible, since in my mind he was such a great man.

    Understanding narcissism and Cluster B disorders helped me understand that his having secretly been a serial cheater was totally consistent with the above behavior of almost 20 years. Since we never did counseling together I have no official diagnosis but two different therapists told me this is NPD.

    It has helped me so much to understand at last.

  • I knew something was “missing” from my cheater-husband when, on the morning of our wedding day, I had an upset stomach. Instead of helping me off the floor where I was clutching my gut, he nonchalantly stepped *over* my crumpled body, as if he was avoiding an inconvenient speed bump, without skipping a beat. Chumpily, I figured he must not know how much I needed help, so I asked him outright “Can you help me up, please?” His response: “No, I have to get ready.”

    It wasn’t just his flippant refusal to spend 10 seconds to give me a hand up, it was his completely uncaring attitude. He didn’t give a flying F. No empathy. Nothing.

    That incident still blows my mind. Learning how incapable some of these people are has really helped me to realize that unless they are 1) Purposefully choosing to do the right thing, or 2) Actively running image management, then they just don’t do the right thing because there is no empathy acting as incentive.

    • My husband was often like this when I got sick. In fact, he would rage if he wanted to go out somewhere and I was too sick to go. He’d get really mad, like the wife-appliance was broken.

  • Psychology Today says that personality disorders are rigid, inflexible and maladaptive……is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time ……
    It doesn’t matter to you, the victim. What matters to you is getting out because this person is never going to change.

  • A little bit late to the party today. An interesting topic.

    I’ve always been reluctant to put labels on things as complex as a human being and I think that we here especially and a lot of society generally in recent times has slapped the label narcissist on people as an “answer” to explain bad behaviour. The actual issues are far more complex than a general label can be and I’ve found myself and others trying to twist the definition around to fit the observed behaviours and in my case at least, I struggle with it a bit.

    What is normal after all? Well – it’s a setting on my dryer – as is wrinkle release 😀 – sorry – obligatory Dad joke. But more seriously, our definition of normal from our Chumpy point of view is not the same as many others. Perhaps Mme and her compatriots think of themselves as “normal”. I certainly know that her cheater brother was on the “everyone does it” bandwagon. Switzerland people and pre-chumps also have different versions of “normal”.

    There was an interesting older blog entry (which might be worthy of re-running Tracy)
    https://www.chumplady.com/2013/03/dear-chump-lady-how-come-he-waited-20-years-to-blow-up-my-life/
    that I think describes what a bunch of us have gone through where the classical serial cheater narcissist definition doesn’t fit. Looking at things with hind-sight, I can see that a lot of the world for Mme YogaPants was indeed all about kibbles. But not because she was so wonderful, in fact I think she had a lot of self-esteem issues. I was because kibbles taste good. I was able to give her quite a few – adoring husband who never had anything bad to say about her, good provider, trips, gifts, toys. But she didn’t have to put much effort into it. Other things like her volunteer work she would get bored with and upset when she didn’t get the recognition she felt she deserved.

    So – when she got a fresh kibble supplier, having gotten bored with bowtie kibbles (now with flavour!) she gobbled them up. Again in hindsight, she’d been looking for a new supply for some time and it was pretty much inevitable that she would cheat some day.

    Oh well – not my problem anymore.

    Oh – and love the new cartoon!

    BT

    • ^^this

      My ExWhore for most of the M was a great wife. We supported each other, encouraged each other and built our lives around each other.

      But, she was controlling and passive aggressive. And always centre of attention. Even when the focus wasn’t on her she would barge her way into it.

      Anyway not classic narc behaviour for the most part with her. But as she got older things started to change.

      An example. She could never take a compliment from me when it came to looks. If I told her she looked beautiful she would always reply “you’re just saying that because you have ExWhore tinted glasses on”.

      She just couldn’t accept the compliment.

      I also remember a convo before her affair when we were discussing when someone checkes you out and I’d said to her that this must happen to her a lot. Her answer was “not so much these days”.

      I could give more examples but it just shows to me her self esteem was at an all time low. Then in walks The Virus (AP) and boom. Kibbles Buffett.

      By by 20 year relationship and everything we built.

      That sucks.

      • “And always centre of attention. Even when the focus wasn’t on her she would barge her way into it.”

        Amen to that. That’s what my wife does all the time. Someone asks me how something is and sometimes even before I can answer, she turns the focus on her. Some of her good friends have even picked up on it and don’t talk to her much. Yes, it sucks.

        • One of he most annoying things she does is answer for someone else. Really bad habit. If you ask someone a question she answers for them and it grinds my gears. Doesn’t matter to her if it’s negative or positive attention. As long as it’s attention.

          • Again, same feeling here. My wife sometimes answers for my kids, who are 8 and 5, and it bugs the crap out of me.

            Me: “Son, how was school?”
            Wife: “He passed his spelling test.”
            Me: “SON, how was school?” Sometime I’ll even say, I didn’t ask you.

            Ugh, she never seems to get the hint.

              • Well…I’m not there yet. I’m still at home trying to “work on things.” I think the writing is on the wall though. And each day it bugs me more. Good for you, NotMehYet2.

  • The renown scientist Jennifer Aniston identified this physiological deficit years ago. She called it a “sensitivity chip,” and she detected it missing in Brad Pitt.

  • Now, if we could just ask potential mates to get an MRI before we walk down the aisle…

    But perhaps this information can help the next generation to be wary and Chump aware.

  • Gives a whole new meaning to Gray Rock, doesn’t it? It’s the only thing that works for a reason. It’s emotional/psychological camoflauge.

  • Even if you pity them and their biological problem, there is just no relationship to be had with a disordered person (unless you are willing to push your boundaries way out there).

  • Sadly I don’t have time to read everyone’s comments today, but finally realizing and accepting that my ex very likely has NPD has made years and years of strange behavior on his part make sense.

    Case in point: When I’d be upset about something (not related to him, just having a sad day or whatever), I’d tell him what happened and what was bothering me. Totally normal behavior for a married couple to share things like this, right? Well my ex-narc ALWAYS had to get me laugh. He’d say a really unempathetic joke/comment AND………..he’d lick the tears off my face! Do you know how humiliating it is to have someone lick the tears off your face? After years of this behavior, I stopped sharing a lot of stuff with him. I sensed that he just didn’t care or have empathy. Little did I know that’s trademark #1 of NPD.

    I regret telling the narc after D-Day that him licking my tears off my face was so disgusting. He honestly seemed shocked when I said this to him; he had no clue this is really weird behavior. I regret telling him, because I’m sure Schmoopie’s would just have loved that the first time he did it to her. Darn, my big honest mouth!

  • For a while I had a male therapist who kept asking me “does he have the CAPACITY to give you what you want?” I honestly didn’t understand the question because my framework was that we all have the capacity to have relationships and empathy, etc. So.Wrong. Was. I. And yes, we really need to get hit over the head with the 2 x 4 because the hints of asking me if he had the capacity…I didn’t understand. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. If he’d even tacked on “some people do not have the capacity you know” would have helped. But ya know, my narc(s) pretended so well! Education on narcissism helps so much because it gives you a new frame of reference. Can’t do much about the hopium tho, that has to die a fiery death of its own.

    • The first time Dr. Cheaterpants left for a howorker, our kids were 2 & 4 years old, and he agreed to go to 2 therapy sessions. He said he never loved me and he never saw him coming back to the marriage, but denied an affair even though he initially confessed to one. The therapist told me he was immature and there was always another waiting in the wings in these types of situations. When cheater came crawling back and begging for forgiveness, he uttered ‘I thought you’d let me come back if I wanted’. That really urked me. I let him come back thinking it was the best thing for my kids. Really I just wasted another 12 years on a self centered, entitled cheater.

      And no I don’t think he has the tools to see things from another’s point of view with empathy. When he had an issue with a coworker or friend, he’d ask me ‘do that thing you do, where you put yourselves in their positions and what they might be thinking’. It’s like being color blind and asking someone to describe the color to you. They just don’t have the ability.

    • YES!!!

      My therapist also uses that word – capacity – and has told me repeatedly that my ex does NOT have the capacity to be in a healthy relationship, to be a father and make amends, to face his demons, and so, so, so much more.

      It helps to realize this. And in a way, I feel sad for my ex. He doesn’t know how to be happy. He doesn’t have the capacity to explore and figure out why he’s not happy and do something about it. So he will continue this way until the end.

  • Does this work the same for addictions? My ex had a issue with gambling which I discovered whilst we were planning our wedding. He lied about it at the time but I found out the truth. He said he would stop or at least tell me if he was going to put a bet on. He seemed to do this right up until the year before d-day. He had been hiding it for a year and got into lots of debt. What I can’t understand is if it’s an addiction, how could he go 4 years without compulsively gambling?. He did place bets at the bookies during that time but his debts were all from online gambling.

    • Yes, the gambling. It’s their first priority, and we will come in last. Someone wrote here that we will always be the third wheel. In that, the primary relationship will be between the addict and the gambling, and we will be the third wheel, trying to make it work at all cost, and always lose.

  • I’m going to chip in here on this discussion in narcissism. I love Tracy and CN, but my main support during the worst times (long gone) was the Infidelity Help Group (IHG). IHG’s view (which I support) is that narcissism is relatively rare (I can’t recall the % of the population that are diagnosed as having NPD), but that the term Narcissism can be used as a short hand for “selfish, abusive, entitled asshole”.

    When I looked at my now ex-wife, this made more sense to me than that she had NPD. When I looked at the list of symptoms of NPD she certainly didn’t tick all of them by a long chalk. To be fair, she was a very good mother to our children when they were young but when I look back I see that for much of our marriage she was a

    “selfish, abusive, entitled asshole”.

    In my opinion, my ex wife is not mentally ill, she doesn’t get that free pass, it’s just that she’s a total twat and actually she always was. I was just really good at spackling.

    Anyway, my point is that I believe that most cheaters aren’t ill in the sense of the word, they are just

    “selfish, abusive, entitled assholes”,

    with shit life skills who make crappy partners and are generally lazy and therefore unlikely to change.

    I know this because my ex wife’s awful behavior continued all the way through the divorce, not because she’s broken but fundamentally because she’s just a twat. There are plenty of them out there, CN and IHG were full of the stories of them. They aren’t broken, they’re just twats, which is worse as they can help it, they just choose to be that way, it’s in their character.

    My advice to anyone trying to reconcile? don’t bother, you deserve better.

    • I don’t think the DSM Manuel is complete. I know two people who have Passive/Aggresive PD. One was a boss, the other a woman in her 20s. They were so unreliable and undependable that I would fill a page with their behaviors. The boss was plain scary. As in legal scary. I kept records for years because of what I knew. I also think most PDs are under reported. A narc.simply feels nothing is wrong with them so why should they seek help. In fact the only PD that appears to occasionally recognize needing help is the Borderline. These are not mental illnesses. There is no medication, no therapy. The only way you can know what you are dealing with is to look at the human debris they leave in their wakes. Getting out is the only thing that makes sense.

    • I don’t make the argument that all cheaters are PDs or mentally ill. I tend to agree with the Dr. Simon approach (which may be the IHG approach) and call it “character disordered.” As I said up thread, I don’t care what flavor of fucked up it is, get away from it. (It all comes back to what you will tolerate.)

      That said, some people ARE wired wrong. Sociopaths lurk among us. God knows I did enough Amazon chumping on this and sat in therapy when a shrink said to the cheater “You have a deep hostility towards women.” I’d say the four decades of double life (that I know of) is evidence of PD and bad wiring. My personal feeling is that if sociopaths or Cluster Bs are 2 percent of the population, that’s still a shit ton of bad people — and a shit ton more of victims.

      Today’s post is skein untangling. It really doesn’t matter how they’re wired. They still have agency. And so do chumps.

      • I would add — I see the danger in arm-chair diagnosing. I also see the danger in thinking everyone can be understood, fixed, reasoned with, appeal to their better nature, etc.

        “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree” (Dr. Simon) — revolutionary for me.

        Best to know others don’t have the same moral framework, or guilt mechanisms we do. I wouldn’t wait around to find out if that’s a temporary or permanent condition.

        • I have no idea what my ex SIL is, if anything diagnosable(is that a word?), but she damaged little children and that says it all. I also say my boss was P/A. My fellow employees saw it too and one by one we bailed because it scared the hell out of us. At the time we did not put a name to his behavior but we sure knew what we knew. I think putting people in pigeonholes is just trying to explain the indescribable. I agree, Dr. Simon is right on the money. No amount of diagnoses changes one thing. Getting the hell out does. My brother’s entire outlook changed after she left. It took a few months but his frog in the pot demeanor was gone. His second marriage was 180% better.

        • I read Dr Simon and he perfectly nailed my ex. That quote is bang on, they simply don’t agree that their behaviour is a problem. I got “just get over it” from her a few times. 2 years on and I’m still angry about the years of abuse. It will fade in time.

          Thanks for the blog by the way, it’s been a great support, even years later

          • Dancing Dick (ex narc/pervert/cheater)- demanded “forgiveness” right after D-day. As if nothing really happened. Then….he promptly told me how “unchristian” I was for being angry about his disgusting, lewd, secret life. That’s when I knew I needed a divorce lawyer- not a sermon from a pervert/cheater!

        • I am a chump that’s posted on here off and on over the last couple of years. I was diagnosed with a PD in my early 20s (Borderline Personality Disorder).

          The main ways my BPD would express itself was a massive abandonment trigger, binge eating and overspending.

          I never cheated and I never got involved with a cheater.

          Sometimes when I read what people say about PDs (especially BPD) I wonder if it is like a Scarlet Letter that I will always wear no matter how much work I do to regulate. I also wonder if it is a contributing factor where my husband’s infidelity was concerned.

          It’s difficult some days to wonder if there is something so inherently wrong with the core of me that it is exposed to everyone that meets me. Like they know I’m that “fucked-up” right from the get-go even though I’ve created what I think is a pretty typical/normal home environment for my kids. They are free to express themselves like I wasn’t. They see Mom taking care of herself. They see and feel Mom taking care of them and not just flying off the handle or being unstable. My house is clean. It’s safe. I lead a girl’s group once a week. Stay involved in my church. Haven’t had any PTSD – like symptoms since before they were born.

          And yet, because of how devastating the diagnosis is portrayed I wonder if I am creating kids that are going to be (and feel) messed up because they had BPD Mom (even though Mom did lots of therapy) and Dad was a cheater.

          Am I still missing something really obvious that the other chumps seem to get?

          • Honestly, I would question your diagnosis because from everything I have read, people with personality disorders are not truly able to to be as introspective as you sound. You may have had a spectrum of issues and worked on them, but I am coming to believe the truly personality disordered have actual brain chemistry or gray matter issues which would leave them unable to get to the point your at. They might be able to change behaviors but the introspection wouldn’t be there. It would be more similar to teaching someone on the autism spectrum how to read faces to gage emotions. They could do it, but it wouldn’t be creating empathy within. It will always be more of a rational than emotional response.

            Obviously I have very little to go on with your story but what you describe could be a problem with managing major stresses in life. I don’t know your past stresses but I do know infidelity and talk about a high stress situation to manage. Whatever you did, from your letter, sounds like you were extremely successful in learning to cope. We all worry about our kids and I think yours will be just fine. You are the sane parent and I think your sanity will be come clearer once you are rid of fuckwit. Let me go out on a limb and say he was gas lighting you for years.

            Hugs to you! You are doing great!

            • Just read your story above and have a P.S.

              You had so many additional factors at play yet you are a person who looks within.
              The biggest red flag is an abussive father and that does not make you personality disordered. You were on your own at 16! I don’t for a minute believe you could have managed like you did if you had a personality disorder. Yes, you had a boatload of problems yet you were looking inward to solve them. You had family of origin issues, where were your parents to help you?

              You also say that it is not normal to want to kill yourself after a break up. I think many would disagree. It may not be normal to act on it but the feelings come and that is normal. I believe you did things that were inappropriate and needed to learn how to manage but you also had a lot of people in your life contributing to that and probably telling you that you were the crazy one. Other people were telling you that you were great but you did not believe them. If you had a genuine personality disorder, you wouldn’t have fooled them under all that stress and borderlines do not look inward to solve their problems.

      • Tracy……..you need to check out “Love Fraud.” Donna does an excellent job of exposing narcissistic abuse. I think Lovefraud.com would make an excellent partner site! I just stumbled on it. It’s amazing!

    • When you hear someone say or act in a way that echoes “there’s nothing wrong with me”- run! That’s when you know you’re dealing with a disordered person.

    • “selfish, abusive, entitled assholes”

      “They aren’t broken, they’re just twats, which is worse as they can help it, they just choose to be that way, it’s in their character.”

      Yep – absolutely. Nailed it.

  • The final time I allowed my ex- to cheat on me, I was flabbergasted how he could have violated me yet again. For YEARS I had made clear how horribly his cheating affected me, not to mention we had formal therapy sessions in which I discussed how my lack of trust made me withdraw my affection. It didn’t make any sense. At that point, I had to accept that he wasn’t willing or able to stop. Unfortunately, much damage had been done already — I had been infected with STDs twice and was quite anxious/depressed. But with this new research and champions like CL shouting “Gain a Life!” from the mountaintops, hopefully people will allow themselves to leave their toxic relationships sooner, without suffering the scars of battle.

    • Marriage counseling never helps when you are dealing with a cheater. That’s because cheating is not a “marital” problem. It’s a moral deficiency on the cheater’s part. No marriage counselor can fix that.

  • My narc sought counselling on “how to deal with me” and “how to break up with me” but then never did and lied to me for years when I asked him what was wrong, did he still love me, was he happy (I could feel things weren’t right, he was avoiding me, but I stupidly believed what I wanted to believe).

    Note that he didn’t get counselling to work on his issues.

    No, it was all about me and how horrible I was.

    Funny that the counsellor advised him to break up with me, but he didn’t for another 3 years as he was extracting value from me until I discovered his cheating and then he ghosted me, left our house, abandoned me, ever to be seen again.

    Good fucking riddance.

    Fuckwit.

    You are all mighty!!! Good luck to new chumps. Login to CL daily and we will be your support network. Run everything by us if you want to, and we will tell you what we think and then you make up your own mind. I know that there is so much mindfuckery with cheating, trust us there’s probably nothing we haven’t heard already lol.

    Look after yourselves, chumps.

    And look into Codependents Anonymous. It is helping me so much. xx

    • Ha! My narc (Dancing Dick)- actually called me the “narcissist.” As if I slithered around, lied, and cheated! He felt that I asked too much from him (be loyal, be kind, be honest, be supportive). That made me the narcissist in his dim witted mind!

  • There is something wrong with the Ex-Anus. Whether or not he has full blown NPD (he doesn’t) or is just somewhere on the narcissistic spectrum, whether he also suffers from adult ADHD or whether he is a just a run of the mill selfish, self-absorbed, self-serving asshole, the consequences for people who choose to deal with him are the same. I know his life story, I completely understand why he is the way he is. I have nothing but compassion for that child who had no choice of his parents and developed maladaptive coping mechanisms in order to navigate that experience. I also have enough self-compassion to understand none of that is my problem.

    It took a lot of therapy, a lot of CL and CN but I am comfortable in the knowledge that people are who they show themselves to be – whether by choice or default or some combination of both. It is not my job to allow myself or my children to be harmed by someone who is disinterested in or incapable of change, no matter the reason – and I spent too many years doing just that. After the Ex, I don’t ask people not to do things to me or to change. If they do it, I get away from them. That’s where my power lies.

    If someone is mistreating you in any way it is an indication that they really don’t care about you – or that they care about themselves to the exclusion of your well-being. I read something the other day that said the most potent sign of real love is being able to put someone else’s happiness above your own. That if you know some choice or action of yours is going to harm someone, if you love them, you make the choice not to do it. That is love in action. Why settle for less?

  • Ok, I’m over the idea that he should empathize with me. Maybe I can even believe that he just has no idea how to not hurt me and the kids, since he has no capacity for empathy. He’s just…well…Frankenstein. Just a bumbly monster loping through life.

    But why, then, did he go to such great lengths to hide his affair from me and the kids and his mom and our friends and acquaintances and work mates? He knew it was wrong and that people would look at him as a very shitty person. (Ok, maybe not his mom. She blamed me.) In fact, he said that he went to therapist at work, under the guise of experiencing work stress, in order to seek permission for his affair. He wanted someone to tell him that he was justified and that it was ok. He got what he was looking for. This counselor, employed by a Catholic organization, told him that it was ok, that his happiness was paramount (I agree, actually) and that he wasn’t hurting his kids–he was leaving ME, not them. He was aghast to find out later that she had no children, and he wondered how she could really understand or sympathize (empathize?) with the effect his infidelity/abandonment would have on them.

    Meh.

    Not for me to untangle. These are the times where I actually feel badly for him.

    You know, I’ve caught him crying at sad movies. I believe he CAN feel empathy when he wants to. Or, maybe the crying was for show. Conversely, he’s caught me being unempathetic from time to time. Looking back at those time where I was lacking in empathy, it wasn’t that I wasn’t capable, it was that my perspective wasn’t right, and my empathy toward a distant story and people that I had nothing to do with didn’t matter one iota. I either didn’t care to, or didn’t think to, put myself in the victim’s role AT THAT TIME. I would NEVER perpetrate what had happened to the victims because I don’t like to hurt people (because of empathy and for loads of other social reasons.)

    Meh. Really–not my skein. Your best bet is stay away from disordered people. You’re not under any obligation to anyone who hurts you, whether they can’t help it or whether they choose not to.

  • Quite frankly I do not care one bit whether they are certifiably batshit crazy or not. They are what they are, as long as they stay away from me, I am fine . I think it is time to focus on the chumps, how we can move on and live a fulfilled life. I think that it would benefit humanity more to focus research on chumps and their recovery. Narcs are just scum.

  • I tend to take this lack of empathy theory with a pinch of salt. The Traitor could empathise quite well, when he wanted to. He has an uncanny ability to SWITCH this empathy towards manipulation; he is very aware of how other people feel, and this helps him manipulate them when it suits him. The rest of the time, it suits him to empathise with people’s feelings to get closer to them, to get kibbles, just because he likes them at that time, so he does it very well. It’s the ability to switch it off cold that separates him from most people.
    I remember many years ago when he bragged about how good he was at goading the other guy into throwing the first punch so he could beat him up, when he was a teenager. And he boasted that he could still do that, and had done it to a neighbour. He knows exactly how to push people’s buttons, what they are feeling and how to use their feelings.
    So I can’t quite agree with describing this at lack of empathy, more as a lack of guilt. He never felt guilty about anything. And he used to get annoyed with me if I felt guilty about anything, or if I pointed out when I had done something stupid. He called it beating yourself up. It’s not, it’s just trying to see where I’ve gone wrong so I don’t do it again. He couldn’t stand it, to him it was a waste of time.
    His way is pushing through his agenda no matter what, never look back, he’s always right. But I am quite sure he knows how other people are feeling and how he is affecting them. In fact, I saw that he was taking pleasure in my distress during wreckonciliation, until he got bored with it.

    • Mine was a “sad boi” who used his sad panda feels to attract kibbles.

      For YEARS I put him on a pedestal, thinking he was so soft, kind and a gentle soul.

      Could not be further from the truth – I related to what you wrote below with my ex abuser. I have since started codependents anonymous and it is helping me change my behaviours so I don’t get codenpendent on these fuckwits again:

      “I tend to take this lack of empathy theory with a pinch of salt. The Traitor could empathise quite well, when he wanted to. He has an uncanny ability to SWITCH this empathy towards manipulation; he is very aware of how other people feel, and this helps him manipulate them when it suits him. The rest of the time, it suits him to empathise with people’s feelings to get closer to them, to get kibbles, just because he likes them at that time, so he does it very well. It’s the ability to switch it off cold that separates him from most people.”

  • I agree. Mine could cry at sad films, he knew exactly what he was doing. He knows right from wrong. He does not care.
    He has no guilt. He does have shame, he KNOWS he is a shit. However he wants people to think he is a great guy, he just tries to ignore all the shitty stuff. Just recently after a truly hideous divorce, he sends me this ” nice, chatty” email. I don’t think so matey! I am cold and business like.
    I now really emphasise with my kids when they do something bad and go ” oh sorry”. That is NOT enough.
    An apology is changing your future behaviour, seeing its wrong, and not doing it again. Sorry is just 5 letters.

  • What really troubles me is the current “treatment model” for sex addiction. It completely disregards the underlying personality disorder and practically blames the disgusting sexual behaviors – on the spouse. In other words, it actually revictimizes the already victimized spouse. And…..it enables the serial cheater/pervert.

    Not to mention it “demonizes” the spouse for feeling angry, upset and confused about the betrayal. Patrick Carnes and his 12- step treatment for serial cheaters and perverts- needs to be thrown in the dumpster of bad ideas …..like lobotomy.

    • It is incredibly disturbing.
      I took part in an S-anon group for awhile. Talk about victim blaming and shaming! It’s part of why I’ve stayed active in a Spouses of Sex Addicts group on FB. There’s nothing worse than other women who have swallowed the S-Anon-type-kool-aid trying to passive-aggressively and outwardly shame women who want to leave! “Oh but he didn’t ask for this disease. Wait at least a year before making this decision! For the children blah blah.” I went through all of it when I wanted to leave right away and I SHOULD HAVE. I am actually still with my husband (he hit a huge rock-bottom and still managed to drill deeper until hitting I don’t even know what and then he sought every form of help/therapy/self-work he could even opting for yearly polygraphs.) But I remain conflicted and that isn’t fair to anyone!

      I refer a lot of the women to CL. The mindfuck post tends to resonate a lot.

      What really concerns me about the “treatment” (gag) model is that it pushes women to stay with these fuckers and a lot of them are really fucking dangerous. A lot of them would steamroll over their grandmother to get laid. Some of them are so messed they try to get laid with grandma. Yet they they for a year post D-day! That’s when a lot of these fuckers are the most dangerous!

      The whole thing is sick. As of they had a self-proclaimed “recovered sex addict” design a program for spouses! That’s like a serial killer designing self-help kits for victims he’s trying to groom!

  • The work of Dr. Omar Minwalla deals explicitly with:

    Compulsive-Abusive Sexual-Relational Disorders (Sex Addiction)
    Intimate Partner Abuse (Sex Addiction-Induced Perpetrations: SAIP)
    Sex Addiction-Induced Trauma (SAIT)
    Deceptive, Compartmentalized Sexuality
    Deceptive, Compartmentalized Abusive Management
    Internet Pornography Problems
    Compulsive Cyber-Sexuality
    Ego-Regulation and Sexual Dependency Problems
    Emotional, Romantic and Sexual Infidelities
    Compulsive masturbation and use of fantasy
    Compulsive engagement of fetish or paraphilic sexuality
    Compulsive use of strip clubs, massage parlors, prostitution, cyber-prostitution
    Problematic and abusive patterns of romantic or sexual relationships
    Sexual offending behaviors including non-consensual voyeurism and exhibitionism
    Gender and Masculinity Pathology

    Minwalla calls them CASRD men (women too).=Compulsive-Abusive Sexual-Relational Disordered people . I love this guy’s work! Not to mention he understands fully what the betrayed partner/spouse goes through. The man is brilliant!

    • Leaving, I love Dr. Minwalla’s work too. I put together an acronym for my ex based on the categories you listed: CISDDICCEEPSG It’s a bit unwieldy since it includes all of them except the fetish one and maybe that one too, for all I know. 😀 No wonder Minwalla just calls them CASRD. Or maybe SEXDECEPTIONPIG (my apologies to pigs). In any case, I’m thankful he’s no longer my pig, or my problem.

  • These disordered freaks frequently sit in churches, synagogues and other places of worship. That says volumes about how they think.

  • Late to the party, but I believe if you can trust the internet anyway, and who wouldn’t???, there is a difference between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy.

    A person can understand when a situation calls for empathy and act accordingly. Depending on haw far removed we are from a situation, everyone can understand when situations or causes that we really are not affected by happen, you have to act a different way out of respect or social norms.

    We all chip in for flowers when something unfortunate happens to a co worker, if we personally knew them or not.

    Entitlement and lack of empathy is where many cheaters operate from. They may or may not know what they are doing is wrong, they just don’t care. They are so emotionally illiterate that they don’t have the synapses, vocabulary or emotional scope to actually feel anything.

  • CL

    This information is so helpful to know its not our fault. My husband is often cold and indifferent, especially when I am sick and I have often wondered why. One time I woke up in the middle of the night and had to go to the emergency room (had a kink in my colon) and I woke him up to drive me as I was in so much pain. He got up, huffed and puffed and proceeded to get dressed and walk out the door – I was struggling to get some shoes on (i stayed in my pajamas because it was painful to move) and hobbled to his truck. His truck is high off the ground so I had a difficult time getting in… he just stayed in the drivers seat staring straight ahead. i finally got in then had to ask him to pull over because i was nauseous. He continued to stare straight ahead. We drove all the way there in silence. Then when we got to the ER he was filling out paperwork and I kind of collapsed on the floor. He looked at me and said get up and kinda helped me up and went and got a wheel chair for me to sit in but never said a kind word. Days later I asked him why he was so cold and he said I just deal with things like that in a different way. And that made me remember when he had kidney stones he drove himself to the hospital and got an iv, etc etc and drove himself home and never said a word to anyone (I work so I was gone). Just bizarre but good to know there is a true disconnect and its not about me or anything I did.

  • Mine

    1. Went for supper when I checked into the delivery ward. His logic: In case he gets hungry during the long over night labour.

    2. Played with the dials and promptly fell asleep when I was in labour. I had to page for the nurses to re-set the machine.

    3. Left me to fend for myself when my schizophrenic brother in law cursed me in a family reunion (his side of the family). When I asked him about the lack of support he said I was redirecting my hurt on him just because he is emotionally weaker.

    4. Cried and went ‘I am a wretched man, I deserve to die’ when the affair was found out and I was sobbing my heart out.

    5. Texted and asked ‘how is your day’ and ‘what did you have for dinner’ etc after he moved out, as if nothing had happened.

    Enough evidence of a hardcore narc I guess.

    However, is it really a lack of empathy or a lack of character? These people will make the correct response when the situation suits them. On the other hand, they take us, their spouses for granted and won’t care if they hurt us with their conscious and wilful behaviour.

  • I’ve often wondered just HOW narcissistic my husband was. On a scale of 1-10 he’s somewhere in the middle I think. But when I finally realized he literally was not capable of seeing things from another’s point of view, I quit taking things so personally. And quit trying to make him understand how things like being lied to or cheated on made me feel. It was a waste of breath, he literally could not understand. Partly because he felt if I had done the same to him, he wouldn’t much care. It’s not a big deal. Sex is just a physical act, everybody lies.

    We actually had an honest conversation the other day. We are preparing to divorce, so he suddenly feels compelled to talk about things. He told me several enlightening things about himself, and I believe he was being honest, to the best of his capabilities.

    1) there are different kinds of trust; you can trust me in every way, except when it comes to sex; I have a tendency to cross lines in that area
    2) When my parents divorced it hurt me terribly; I was furious with my Dad for leaving, he had been my best friend, and he just left. This is when I learned how to just stop feeling altogether, and started using sex and drugs to cope with life. I could not deal with the intense rage and hurt I felt.
    3) I use sex to deal with stress (can’t use drugs because of drug testing at work, otherwise would do that too).
    4) I believe I am incapable of intimacy. I’m not even sure I know what it means to have a truly intimate relationship
    5) Sex is just a physical act, nothing more.
    6) I believe I am incapable of empathy. I didn’t even know what the word meant until marriage counseling a few years ago.

    Prior to this candid revelation, he said he didn’t want to get divorced. I asked him why was he telling me all of this? Surely he didn’t think revealing all this was going to change my mind, make me want to stay & “work things out”? He said he didn’t know, he just wanted to tell me how he was feeling. It was kind of disorienting. Usually, he’s telling me that he’s really a good guy, just misunderstood. Now, he’s telling me I can’t trust him, sex is just a physical act that means nothing, he’s incapable of intimacy, incapable of empathy. Basically all of the things I’ve been accusing him of for years, that he has been denying. Am I supposed to want to stay married to that? Perhaps he just wants me to feel sorry for him. I do actually. I can’t imagine going through life like that. But, neither can I imagine staying married to that.

    • I will never again trust someone who claims to be “misunderstood.” Misunderstood = everything most people believe is right on target. I had no clue how hated my ex-husband was until after I divorced him. Those few of us who wanted to see the good in him would defend him to others saying he was “misunderstood.” No, I misunderstood that he really was horrible.

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