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What Do We See in Narcissists Anyway?

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

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

The problem with this is two-fold. If we point to some constellation of fuckupedness and think, “Oh THAT explains them”… now I just need to avoid everyone who is a Scorpio and phobic about marsupials and everything will be fine, we’re missing the point.

Naming the skein doesn’t make it any less of a tangled mess. Second, thinking we understand the skein is a form of spackle. It gives some credence to Why They Act The Way They Do and allows us to give them a pass and us a false sense of security. It’s better to focus on yourself — is it okay for this person to treat me this way? And then fight or flee. Which is a superior strategy to staying mired in the relationship asking yourself, “Why do they treat me this way?”

When you are detaching from a fuckwit, ask yourself what you saw in that person. Untangle your own skein (you know it better than anyone else). Yeah, it’s not as fun. If you’ve ever had a good therapist, you know they’ll make you squirm, call you out on your shit.

I’m not saying you’re NOT a victim of wing nut. The pain those motherfuckers inflict is hugely disproportionate to the crime of being a chump, but I encourage you to look at your own dynamics with narcissists. When you figure that out, then you’ll have the winning strategy for spotting them and avoiding them.

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

Cheating is a narcissistic act. However, I do not think all cheaters are personality disordered wing nuts. Some people are just entitled assholes. But I do believe that anyone who can conduct a double life for any significant amount of time is probably disordered. Healthy people don’t juggle double lives. They don’t get duper’s delight. They don’t thrill to hurt the people they profess to love.

What we initially find attractive about these freaks, is that they are free from the bonds that tie ordinary people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • I think it is human nature to gravitate towards winners as we see it as a strength. Narcs present themselves (falsely of course) as confident winners. So even when we find out what disasters they are….I think we cling to the belief that with our help they really could be winners.
    I think we should teach or make our sons and daughters (at a fairly young age) aware that the minute they start making excuses for bad behavior from either a friend or love interest to walk away and not look back as it will be a losing battle. Years ago bad behavior in any form was frowned upon and not tolerated by society. The narcs/sociopaths have used our tolerance against us.

    • Agree, KB22! And I just shared this piece of wisdom with my sons. Tracy’s analysis applies to so many aspects of life, from politics to love.

      • So spot on. Mine wasn’t overconfident or arrogant, comes across as quiet strength, logical, readonable. Came to learn that he lacks initiative, usually picks the path of least resistance, wants things to be easy. His “quiet strength” is actually his lack of communication skills to actually express what he wants or feels. When the going gets tough, he falls. Has a group of long-standing friends but will never actually discuss issues with them. Almost never plans things himself, just rides coattails.

    • “Narcs present themselves (falsely of course) as confident winners. So even when we find out what disasters they are….I think we cling to the belief that with our help they really could be winners.” That is exactly what attracted him to me in the first place…his absolute overconfidence! I actually wanted to find out what was behind that. Our very first date, drove to his hometown and he introduced me to his mother as the “girl he was going to marry”! It only took me 42 years to realize that he is/was a Sociopath. But, hey, it’s Tuesday.

      • I met the X’s family on the first date. He told me later that his father said to not screw this up. This should have a clue! Alas, we got married and it lasted for almost 18 years.

      • “Narcs present themselves (falsely of course) as confident winners. So even when we find out what disasters they are….I think we cling to the belief that with our help they really could be winners.”

        This was EXACTLY the case with me. Eight years later, still no winner…except for me now that I’m narc free for three days now. I’ve noticed how quickly the old Sisu is coming back. I remember her and am excited to see her again.

      • I am at year 40. NJ us had the realization in the last few months that it is a narc I am unhappily married too. Serial adultery. I am done. Glad I found this place

  • I had lived with a very nice (but very dull) Algerian medical student for 5 years. I broke it off because we just never seemed to do anything fun. Then along came the Twat and it was WONDERFUL to speak English for a change, to laugh at the same things and I thought he was FUN. Well I guess he was to begin with but it didn’t take me long to find out he was just nuts and had no idea of “consequences” of his outrageous actions. Oh, if only I had found out about that (and about his temper) before we married it would have been a whole different ball game. The Algerian medical student (now surgeon)? Still lovely, still a friend! The Twat – back in the States but still a Twat!

    • I’m sorry this happened to you, but your story made me laugh! Thanks for that–and YAY you’re still friends with the sane one!

    • Mine is a covert narcissist. He was nice looking, funny, kind to his family, good with kids, worked hard, a little shy,valued doing the right thing, honest, he ticked off the boxes. I was very deliberate in getting involved with someone as I had not always had the good picker. He liked that I was creative, spontaneous, good with people.

      Over the years (30+) his good qualities faded away. He was never happy, inpatient, angry, and a fucking cheater. He lied, had unprotected sex. He blamed me. He is fat and bald.

      He was not flamboyant or an outward risk taker (he was in secret).. so I’m trying to figure out what I missed at the beginning. There were signs over the years that I see now..but I was married to him and had children and history. I never imagined he was so disordered. Hundreds of encounters with individuals and groups. What the hell!!

      So I don’t know what to think. I stayed longer than I wish I had. I never could have imagined the black souled meanness that he showed the past couple of years I was stunned, it took my breath away. I never could have imagined such behavior from anyone especially him.

      What kind of blackness do they live with for years? I’ve been doing so well until the seasons changed..I can see the fucked up holidays rolling in. Where can I go where there is no Thanksgiving or Xmas because I don’t want to face it? It’s just a reminder of the things I thought I had and lost.

      I’ve had a great joyful few months. I will again. But sometimes the uncertainty and upheaval in my present and future and the loss of my past is too much.

      I don’t know, don’t know, don’t know anything anymore.

      • You just described my ex except that he isn’t fat or bald yet. He is still relatively good looking. I really wish he wasn’t . He seems like such a helpful, kind, empathetic soul to everyone but me and the kids and he is being nicer to the kids too now that he doesn’t live with them anymore. I wonder if Schmoopie has seen his dark side yet or if she is still getting the outwardly kind/caring and useful version.

        • I also wonder if latest Schmoopie has seen his dark side yet. I know the first one left him because of it. I can’t believe – even living closer to family and therefore maybe having to keep it somewhat in check – that this leopard will ever change its spots.

      • My wish for you, Spoonriver, is to know that you can recover those holidays, that you can build on your own genuine love and kindness.

        My own DDay came Thanksgiving week. 34 days before Christmas. The thing I loved the most about those holidays was that I set out right away to make those days personally meaningful without a jackass. My XH the substance abuser was super selfish at the holidays–started out buying sweet, thoughtful, expensive gifts and at the end resented giving me anything. I had hoped for a new start with Jackass, who turned out to be a terrible gift-giver, surprise, surprise. So the holidays for me were the beginning of recovering MYSELF–my own traditions, my own preferences, my own values. I hadn’t baked my holiday bread in years. I hadn’t had a tree in years. I never decorated outside. A student made me a grapevine wreath made from vines found in her hometown. I made an ornament to hang on the porch. I created a porch display. I put up a live tree outside and put lights on it. Later I planted it in the yard, where it is still growing. I bought myself gifts and put them under the tree. I still do that! I’m still learning how to give to myself and birthdays and Christmases are great reminders.

        This year for my birthday, I bought a nice toilet brush and container (Bed, Bath &Beyond, not Walmart) for the upstairs so I don’t have to carry a brush between bathrooms. Because for 15 years I haven’t care enough about my own convenience to spend that $15. I also turned off all the electronics and spent 3 days unplugged from the world.

        It will feel like sawdust and ashes at first. I did so much with tears in my eyes and a throat that couldn’t swallow food. But you can use these holidays to figure out who you are and what you want to recover. You can please yourself. Chances are you were the one who brought the love and the heart and the tender emotions to every holiday, to your life together. But that whole past is yours–your effort, your happiness at giving, your love for you family is still real and valid. The only thing that changed is that now you see that your husband is on the dark side.

      • Same story Spoonriver, except it was 40+ years.

        I have tried to figure this situation out myself. Not to untangle the cheater’s skeins, but to understand how humans work in order to protect my sons from making my mistakes.

        I too thought I had a good man, in my case, who was unhappy in his job. Just before D-Day I was discussing retirement plans and he yelled in my ear “I’m a failure and it is your fault”. My ear still buzzes when I remember this.

        Anyway, I think when we are young we do not have to face what we did with our lives. It is easier to at least look good. When the bill finally comes, if you realize you were mediocre and a comodist, you make mediocre, selfish decisions as well.

        Cheater’s vanity had gotten worse and worse, I had started calling him peacock.

      • Same with mine. All except the fat and bald part and afaik he only had one affair. It comes seemingly out of nowhere with covert narcs, so inexplicably that it leaves you breathless and traumatized. Your ex might have had some sort of narc injury that sent controlled trait narcissism into NPD territory. Apparently that can happen and it certainly did with mine. Remember there was nothing you could have done. His dysfunction started long before you met him. He likely managed to keep it under wraps for that long in order to preserve his (false) self image, until he decided not to bother anymore because he decided that whoring around and being an asshole is more rewarding. They just choose to do that for whatever inane excuse they like. It’s not about anything you did.

      • Spoonriver, I wish I could help you. Your story is so familiar to me. I understand you! I know you don’t believe it, but you really are going to be okay. You’ll never be the same, but you’re going to be okay…even better than you were before, The holidays are some of the hardest parts of this whole mess, but they can also be pretty nice if you take control. Xmas and Thanksgiving can be celebrated any time with the ones who actually love you and support you. It doesn’t have to be Dec 25th or a Thursday in November to gather together for feasting and loving on each other. Keep your head held high and know that you are not the one with the problem.

      • You are NOT alone feeling like this. I spend some time every day in the Twilight Zone wondering what happened to fhe person I thought I married and the life I thought I had.

        I am as well dreading the holiday season….last year October the descent into Hell began….this year who knows? For sure have to focus on new and different that brings me and my daughter some joy somehow….you make the rules, do what you want, don’t do anything you don’t want, and remember there are legions of people in similar circumstances.

      • Spoonriver…this may seem out of left field, but there’s a song I’d like to recommend. The artist is James Blake and the song is The Wilhelm Scream. After Honey abandoned me, I had all this…rage fuel to burn. I’d leave the baby monitor with my mom and I’d go run in the pitch black night. One night as I was on like mile 3 headed up a steep street in a residential neighborhood, it started to rain. It was a warm summer night’s rain, and it felt and smelled amazing. This song came into my earbuds and changed my life. I’m not the ‘positivity/I will overcome’ song type. I like songs that gut punch me emotionally and make me feel my humanity, for better or worse. The rain, the warm night, and this song co-mingled to produce a sort of revival in me. I’m a big believer in the truth, even when it’s ugly or unpopular. I like music to be the same. This song helped me, if for no other reason than to be the manifestation of exactly where I was at that moment, as you find yourself now: I don’t know about my love, I don’t know about my dreams, all that I know is I’m falling, falling. Give it a listen. Best to you.

      • I am 40 years married to what you have described. Serial adulterer over most of it. Currently involved with an OLDER woman! At 63, I never thought I would be in this dark place, but the warning signs were there all along and I didn’t want to believe them. At least I have a great daughter. After her wedding in Jabuary, the shit will hit the fan. I am tired of all this and loving a man who never truly existed.

    • My current boyfriend is boring and I like him that way. I am not sure I would have appreciated him before.

      • Agree; I now find “methodical” and “responsible” the sexiest traits imaginable. After 24 years of Hannibal Lecher’s poor impulse control, which kept me in a hyper-vigilant state too often, staid feels pretty good.

        • When my current husband and I went to our pre-marital counseling we were asked to name each other’s best quality. At first my husband was kind of hurt that I listed his best quality as “dependable.” He thought it meant I didn’t really feel romantic love for him. I explained to him that I thought it was the absolutely sexiest, most attractive, love inspiring quality on the planet. I don’t know if he believes this even now–but it is absolutely true. When he does something like sit down at the computer and pay the monthly bills, I am flooded with love for him. When he uninstalls the window air conditioning units on the day he says he will, I want to tackle him and take him straight to bed!

  • Yep!
    … “you found their spontaneity, the permission they gave themselves to enjoy life, to be a taker revelatory. Exciting to be around. Very yin to your yang. I think chumps look at narcissists and think at some level, hmmm. I’d like a bit of that.”.

    This SURE EXPLAINS ME! I confused the taker (and his entire family of takers) to be appreciation of my responsibility.

    A 6’ 4’’, silverhaired, softspoken breed of taker who never even opened a door for me in 40 years unless he had an audience.

    Finally, I learned that it is NOT okay for this person to treat me this way.

    Tracy, you are all the shrink I need and I love you. #makeCNsquirm!

    PS: sparkledick never had one single friend except this chump here.

      • Acquaintances, work “friends” , fuck buddies, his parents and of course me.
        This is what I struggled with for a long time, he had NOBODY really, you are going to throw me in the trash for a mistress with two small kids that blew up her marriage as well? Turns out her being willing to leave it all behind for him was probably the kibble to end all kibbles. “She blew up her family for me” for the win!!!
        They don’t bond, thinking a narcissist can feel anything genuine for you is like thinking a crippled person can climbs flight of stairs, they just don’t have the necessary functions to accomplish this.
        He did me a favor without even realizing it, I see this now.
        I think my ex will be with his affair partner for a long time, maybe even forever…..why? Because neither cares about anyone.
        It’s mind boggling…

        • This is me, now, except nasty whore has more kids. Unbelievable. I can’t wrap my brain around it. He has maybe one ‘friend’ which is slightly more than a acquaintance, no real relationship with his parents (which he blames me for) and now the only family he’s known (mine) he’s discarding–including me and the kids after over 25 years. BUUUUT he has found looooove with a married slutstack who lives far away and according to him he doesn’t see all that much, is full of drama and demands and who he’s not quite sure of and THAT’s what he wants?? I was a good wife; I was blindsided. And I thought well this whore must have SOMEthing better or good or at least intriguing about her but the more he reveals the more I find she’s just your run of the mill piece of shit. I’m still trying to grasp it all.

          I also think they’ll be together for a very long time because they believe their own bullshit and he does not like to be wrong so he’ll make damn sure it’s “right” to the outside world even if it takes forever and he is miserable most of the time. Fingers crossed!

          • @ThursdaysChild – exactly my situation. Communicating with the other spurred party (the now ex-husband – she was quick to divorce) and he is convinced they have a limited shelf life. I was like “oh no they don’t – they have to make everyone believe that they are in “twu luv” to validate blowing up two families”. And yep, he traded down. They always do.

        • Yep. My story as well. No real friends. Some old highschool buddies that he has nothing in common with anymore, because they all matured and build lasting relationships. And then some douchebags who have no integrity themselves from work. Nothing more.

          I should have seen it coming just considering who he was really bonding with.

          And then the major kibbles he got from the OW. She tore her own family apart for him. Considering his pattern of fucking his subordinates and coworkers before we even got married, this is just the same pattern. He ALWAYS had affairs with married or women in relationships before us. His friends warned me about this many girlfriends from work. Now I know to take these warnings to heard. I assumed I was special … even though he convinced me to break up with my fiancee for him. I was just following the script he laid out for me. I did not even realize.

      • I found this to be true, too–no one that he can really call close. And when we separated, some of his superficial friends started edging away, as well, although I’d never even spoken to them about it. Telling.

      • Jackass. Not a real friend in sight. He had one guy he used all the time as help. But he never “helped” unless he could be the star of the show.

        XH the substance abuser has/had many friends. Under the drunken meanness, there has always been someone who could be kind and thoughtful, although the progression of his condition means that his best self is very rarely seen any more. Like most alcoholics, he drinks to kill pain and emotion of all sorts. He only had one child because it was actually very scary and painful to him to love someone that much. So that one’s a tragedy, self-inflicted.

          • Wow. This can’t be a coincidence when all these people have ZERO friends. Neither the Cheater XH or the fake fiancee had one friend in the world. Cheater XH grew up in this small city and didn’t have one friend from his past. Billowing red flags.

      • Practically zero “real” friends. When he suddenly got excited for new work friends, turns out to be the howorker. I asked his childhood best friend about all this, he replied he never really knew why X and him were friends and he often questioned it but is too nice to say anything. That statement right there showed me so much. He has no one…and forever lost someone who did love him. Shame.

    • I think that’s it. They have that one person who is supposed to supply the sun moon and stars for them. One little disappointment and they feel betrayed like you’re defective and they need to trade you in. Talk about immature and unrealistic. Normal people have their needs met in a variety of ways. It’s a total lack of life balance and no wonder the chimp feels like a husk after the discard. Sucked dry.

      • You’re so right, Stig! I once got into a conversation with my cheating ex-boyfriend, where I said it was totally unfair to expect one single person to meet all your needs. Personally I don’t want that kind of pressure; plus, I like having different connections with different people.

        He was insulted. Then again, he had no friends. And of course, I eventually failed at meeting all his needs – because I dared to not make him the sole reason for my existence.

        Recently I went on a date and one of the first things I asked was, so, tell me about your best friends…?

  • My ex said, I wasn’t going to leave you, like I was supposed to be grateful. I think they see themselves in a different light, and ow live in a different reality. They are only hurt when something affects them personally. Ow actually asked me to help her, yes I can help you by saying f… Off!, you would be surprised how shit some people can be!, I didn’t swear at her, I just blanked her!, I think ow are conveniently always victims

    • Mine said exactly the same thing. Looked me in the eyes and said it like I should think that made it ok. I was floored.

      But I had seen the texts where her fuckbuddy said he loved her and she replied by asking if he’d take care of her in the style to which she had become accustomed. He said “we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it,” which even she knew meant “no.” So I knew the only reason she wasn’t going to leave me was that I was the ATM.

    • “I wasn’t going to leave you” is a reflection of their own insecurities (about being devalued & discarded); that’s what they fear most and cannot fathmo anyone would do, due to their awesomeness

      The fact that they are in turn entitled to devalue & discard — boredom, the million things you did wrong, etc. — speaks volumes about their disorder (or, their purposeful shittiness)

      • And the fact that they assume that losing them would be the worst thing to happen to you–not the betrayal, the lies, the infidelity, the manipulation.

        • I threw my XH out three years ago, after 22 years during which time I now wonder if he ever said anything that was not a lie.

          No friends, either, btw.

          Altho I have not seen or spoken to that Grand Old Narcissist since that day, he continued to drive by, sit in front of my house ( too far to see anything), had private detectives follow me, for ages and still occasionally.

          My wonderful lawyer told me he simply cannot believe that I could live without him and wants a reaction, any reaction, to soothe his narcissistic wounds. She advised I ignore him as long as he was acting passively, and I have. I truly believe he is still hoping in his screwed up mind that I will “pick me “ dance and beg him to come back.

          Altho he married a woman old enough to be my mother shortly after the divorce was final.

          I rejected him!! And meant it!! How could that possibly BE??

  • When I had my initial meeting with our kid’s therapist, she said the ex sounded like he was a narcissist. I had to Google it, because I didn’t know what a narcissist was. She nailed it!! Then I realized his mom is the exact same way…I’ve wondered if narcissism is a hereditary or learned trait…but I don’t care enough to research that.
    I’m just glad to be NC with both of them!

    • Not sure if it is hereditary or learned but in any case narcissistic mothers tend to produce narcissistic sons.

      • Yes, I believe this is true! Narc moms produce narc sons. My ex-MIL was all sparkly, giving and nice to me in the beginning. Just like her son was. And then slowly the tables got turned, just like with her son. I was doing close to all of the giving and they kept just taking and taking and it was never enough!

        I spent over 20 years hearing my ex-MIL say right in the presence of her son and also to others who would listen, “Assbrain is so perfect and special.” The last time I heard her say this in front of him was Thanksgiving 2014, about one month after I caught him out on a date with a newly divorced whore.

        And then a few months later, Assbrain said to me, “I think I have the perfect personality to be in a relationship with.” Yes, that’s a direct quote with no added words. He really thinks he’s all that, because his narc mommy told him so his entire life.

        Mommy’s who idolize and flirt with their sons is now a relationship deal breaker for me. My exes mommy used to flirt with him and rub shoulders with him if they were sitting at the table together. It’s hard to explain, but it always gave me a weird feeling when she’d act a certain way. And he didn’t seem to mind one bit. If I ever did anything even close to that with my son, he would not like that one bit. I wouldn’t even want too! I love my son and I’m very proud and supportive of him, but I don’t worship the ground he walks on.

        • >My exes mommy used to flirt with him and rub shoulders with him if they were sitting at the table together


        • These types of mothers tend to be emotionally enmeshing. My therapist explained it to me that it was “emotional incest”. My XH took the place of his dad in ex-mother-in-law’s eyes when his dad divorced his mom when XH was young. His parents remarried each other several years later. I think his mom saw me as an interloper…I was the whore. Very messed up stuff, that.

          My mom saw this right away and begged me to see the fucked-upness. She’d alway ask me why their treatment of me was ok (my XMIL was a fucking bitch). My therapist asked the same.

          • Mine had a brother “ the Dr.”. In which I am sure if his mother could of “ eefed” him she would have. Think x was always trying to win that love his brother recieved. His own pick me dance so too speak. Kiddo mentioned the good Dr. just moved into same block as his parents with his new wife…. his third wife. Im so glad to be done with the whole incestious bunch of narc o paths…. tooooo much skin… The most disturbing thing I encounted the good dr had to remove a skin tag of sorts from the mil foot. I witnessed her licking her lips giving the “ #uck eyes and then made the good dr. Hold her foot bandage for complete ten minutes while the blood clotted. I was dammn near phisically ill.
            I suspect the good dr to be latent homosexual….. another story for another day.

            • Yeah….I know one family with a narc mother that produced two narc sons. One is gay (and a dr) the other has been married a couple of times, cheated on both wives. I heard he used to hang out with underage teenage boys and buy booze for them. He was in his 40’s at least when this was going on. Could be latent or maybe just reliving his youth. There was also a daughter (lesbian) and pretty sure she is a narc as well. The father was in the picture but a very quiet man as opposed to the big mouth mother that the kids all adored.

      • My MIL was a very vain woman but she was kind. However, the X’s family was mostly void of affection and support. I’ve never seen his sinister sister be affectionate or loving. His middle sister is a very loving mother. The X family is/was very odd. It was a like a group of people bonded by blood but not fused together with love and support, more like each person was on his own.

        The X’s daughter, now 22, was diagnosed with narcissistic tendencies as the age of 11. She definitely hits all the notes. The X used say that she got it from her mother but I firmly believe she’s her father’s daughter.

        • “Sinister Sister”

          Oh, I have one. And now I am stealing this perfect description of her!

          Thanks, MissBailey!

        • Also the pattern with me. One of the great joys of this last summer was being able to say: no, I’m not going to take a week of vacation so that I can invite your mom up and wait on her hand and foot.

      • I think there is certainly heredity involved. Every time we would call his mom, she would spend the whole time talking about herself, and usually about how she has joined groups where she can claim some sort of elevated title. She is in a “Sages and Seekers” group, where teens are paired with senior citizens, and not once talked about the teen she was paired with….only about herself.

  • Sometimes it gets even more complicated.

    I wasn’t looking for charismatic, fun, amazing, man to marry. I was searching for someone with integrity, values being practiced in daily life etc.

    What I didn’t know, is that with certain people, the “form” is so big, that it takes a lot of time to realize, that there is almost no substance underneath.

    It took me 12 years of gaslighting, abuse, mindfuckery to finally say ???? stop.

    What I had to learn the hard way, is that sometimes, people are really good in lying hiding and emotional abuse… that it fucks with our minds to the point of having breakdown.

    I was diagnosed with a PTSD and depression…. yet, it took another 2 years of “ you should get over it, I’m continuing mind fuckery in more subtle way, “ before I was able to see the clear picture.

    Finally I had enough.

    Now, on the contrary to so many people here, my husband was VERY good on many levels- great with money, finances, helpful, overworked, educated – typical poster boy, who kills himself for the family.

    At the same time- the part I had no idea exists in people- He was risking life of his children and wife during the whole marriage, by fucking whores right and left, had a switch that could go from lovely emotional human being to completely dead stare stranger in the times of me uncovering some of his actions,
    It was bone chilling experience to see that shark eyes.., I couldn’t get it for a long time.. WTF?!?

    It’s like seeing dr Jeckyl / Mr. Hide transformation…. scary

    Ugh.. we should teach young people to recognize sociopaths and how to deal with them…. to be aware of certain behaviors…,

      • Yes! Shark eyes and the smirk! The absolute worse thing that got to me. “Pick up that baby cotton mouth snake, they’re not dangerous…..come look over the edge of this waterfall, it’s so pretty, you won’t fall…..” Our guardian angels need a paid vacation!

          • I didn’t recognize the shark eyes until I was divorcing the Evil One. My XW would flip a switch, my friends couldn’t believe it (I wouldn’t be alone with her without a witness).

      • Ugh. The smirk. Smug and arrogant at home. But in public, he’s one of the smarmiest people I’ve ever met and even the smarmy side has another thin layer of overly sweet concern and interest for whoever he’s talking to and therefore convincing of his niceness.

      • No shark eyes or smirk in my case. He was more like a brick wall. Completely uncaring and unmovable. I might as well have been talking to a brick wall for all of the good it did. He didn’t get any pleasure out of my pain because he didn’t care enough.

    • Anna i had the same experience. He his it well for years. But it was always there. Ill never forget that evil blank look. It is truly chilling.

    • This is my situation too. Husband looks great on paper. Appears as a successful entrepreneur, appears like a “great guy” to his employees and the young presidents organization he is a long standing member and leader in. Presents himself as a ‘family man’ but was actually sleeping with a Russian support woman from his WeWork office in between dropping off and picking up our daughter at theatre camp and also invited a 23 yr old hot waitress on 2 business trips with him. And lied to me for a decade about his friendship with his ex girlfriend, telling me he was working late or going to the office while actually going to hang out with her. Sick just SICK. But no one would believe it. Now I know. I’m so sad. He keeps asking me why don’t I love him anymore I just have to say I don’t know who you are.

    • That sounded like you described my XH. He looks fantastic on paper: Executive, Eagle Scout, always nice to neighbors, always puts his parents and his family first…
      But did not allow me a life as individual. I just yesterday reread all our text message over the last years. A bunch of him ignoring my needs. And me asking him when he will be home.
      The most common question I asked him: When will you be home? Because he was always traveling, working late, or doing business dinners. I just had to function. There was not a lot of room for me.
      He threw in the occasional “Love you”, but it felt empty. Like mechanical. When I asked for something, he would not back down. It was not about me, it was all for image.

      I was a true appliance.

      One of the first time, he put me down and scared me with abandoning me was the following scenario. I had been majorly sick, puking, kidney infection, and he drove me to the emergency room. It was an all afternoon ordeal with long waiting hours. I was sent home with some pain medication. And I was finally sitting with him on the balcony and he sighed and said: You know I cannot breathe with you. You are not giving me enough space.
      I was so hurt when he said this. So worried that I did something wrong. I could not understand why he said this.

      • inescapable ..what a bastard to say those things when you were sick. It was manipulative and cruel. Makes me angry for you.

      • Inescapable,

        I was in the same boat. There was not much room for me in our relationship because it was all about him in the most image management type way if that makes any sense.

        He also tried to leave me when I needed him most. During his deployment, when I had really bad post partum depression, after a second c-section and I couldn’t eat or sleep. He not only left me but tried to take our baby away to his mother’s in California. He came to his senses a few days later and was so kind as to come home to his barely functioning wife but that sure scared the bejeezus out of me.

  • Yes. This.

    Sometimes we are guilty of choosing style over substance. Or ‘he looked good on paper’ over ‘he makes me feel insecure.’ Or ‘she has nice hair and tits’ over ‘she sure has a lot of guys hanging around her a lot.’

    Some things look really good, but it’s a lot safer if there’s a thick pane of glass between you and them (like a snake). Or a couple thousand miles (like an atomic bomb).

    Since becoming deChumped and going through Chump Detox, I find I am not nearly as attracted to sparkly people as I was. I feel the feelz, of course, but I also see the little warning flag pop up. And I am really getting fond of the plain old people who are good and kind and reliable.

    Chump Detox is great. I would totally buy it if it were advertised on the shopping channel, because it’s probably the only product there that really does do what it says on the packet.

  • People who are chronically depressed can have a lot of narcissistic traits too. It’s exhausting. NAMI spent decades overlooking the effect of a depressed parent on their children and gave families short shrift (despite saying otherwise). It has been very recently that they had any interest whatsoever in (undiagnosed) kids of mentally ill parents.

    Now, if the child had a diagnosed mental illness, they were all about helping THAT child – but not the others. Nor was their support for an exhausted spouse anything more than, “You can’t do that to him/her! They NEED you! Don’t be a quitter!”

    Which underscores why I loathe “My Sister’s Keeper”. Plus Julie Fast’s book, “Loving Someone with Bipolar” which can be summed up with, “they’re ill, you must monitor them and take all the shit they dish out and if you don’t – you’re to blame for their ongoing problems.”

    Maybe it’s changed for the better in the past 20 years, but when I needed guidance and help, they were worse than useless.

    My FuckedUp Unicorn was able to sell himself nicely to me for a time, but after we got married he fell apart and I thought his ongoing therapy was him doing something about his problems. No, he was just using therapy as an excuse to whine and cry and do nothing differently but telling me otherwise.

    As a trusting Chump, I bought it for years. Until I didn’t and called him out on his shit. Over and over and over again.

    I dunno. I may jettison him someday but not today. Thank god for separate checking and retirement accounts. I am so glad I never once stopped working or contributing to my retirement account.

    • Oh my goodness, that was my case too. The Twat was eventually invalided out of his job with bipolar. He ticks every single bloody box for borderline too! He treated me like crap (physically and psychologically) and seemed to be permanently depressed because “it was my job to make him happy”. In the end I couldn’t take it any more and had to get out before he killed me. There is only so much you can take and it is not your job to “save” them. That responsibility lies squarely with them. In the end it was him or me and I was overjoyed when he ran off with the skank because that way I managed to get my divorce – it was either that or the graveyard in my case!

      • Yeah, he has BPD too. He ‘mirrored’ me fantastically until one day, when I really needed an adult, he didn’t and couldn’t.


    • “People who are chronically depressed can have a lot of narcissistic traits too.” Yup. That’s mine. Not exactly a narcissist but had narcissistic tendencies in his efforts to feel better about himself. He would never admit to any kind of depression, however, because that would imply there was something wrong with him and he if he ever admitted to being imperfect, he would fall apart.

  • “Narcissists are edgier and risk taking. They don’t ask permission. They don’t apologize.”

    “Narcissists are edgier and risk taking. They don’t ask permission. They don’t apologize.”

    My soon to be ex lived by 2 rules…

    1. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

    This strategy was a set up for using
    Feigned innocence to relinquishing any responsibility….and gaslighting.
    There’s something wrong with “you” if you think the intent was anything but innocent; or your over reaction is an indication of “your” mental instability.

    2. Nod, agree, and then do whatever you were going to do anyway!
    Then he’d resort to the strategy used in rule 1.

    There’s nothing to work with here! My issue was recognizing and acknowledging that.

    • I don’t know what my ex has, but there are definitely some underlying psychological issues. This morning I picked up my daughters phone, which happened to be my old phone, and randomly looked at the text messages. The last text message pick me dancing exchange on that phone went like this:

      Me (paraphrasing): I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve all the lies. Did I make you uncomfortable?I would love to know what I have done to deserve all the lies. You have no idea the emotional scars you have and continue to leave on me. Did you hate me the entire 7 years?

      Ex: You did make me uncomfortable yesterday. Much of the time, yes I was.

      Me: What did I do wrong?

      Ex: The major things I would typically get yelled at for were not doing things to your standards, moving things, suggesting you organize your stuff better so not lose things.

      Me: Did you know that witholding sex, manipulation, stonewalling, avoidance, lying & blaming others for your actions is emotional abuse?

      Ex: Sorry…was not intentional, just a side affect of my issues.

      So there it is. What he did was not intentional. I’m not suppose to fault him for it because issues, but he leaves because I asked him to load the dishwasher a certain way or rinse out his milk glasses or text me if he was going to be late for dinner or cut back on his drinking?

      I received these messages over a year ago, but today I saw them clearly for the first time. He was uncomfortable because he was lying, at minimum emotional cheating, not because anything I was doing. Basically his own actions made he feel guilty and shame, but he doesn’t know how to or doesn’t want to sort through his own feelings so he blames the pain on someone else. He cannot admit to his actual faults and only wants people in his life who let everything slide. “Oh Ex” That’s what his mom used to say when he messed up.

      Was I perfect? Heck no. We all have issues. There are a million things I could have handled better. But at least I own those and I’m working on improving them. He was uncomfortable because I was the first person who called him on his crap and demanded better. And he was not interested in finding out why he acted the way he did. We are supposed to accept them at face value because of their “issues” while at the same time they attack us for our faults. It’s a sick double standard.

      • “We are supposed to accept them at face value because of their ‘issues’ while at the same time they attack us for our faults. It’s a sick double standard.” Wow, very true in my house! Mine says anything he wants, callously verbally abusing me whenever….but when I get quiet, or refuse to answer him – then he demands to know why I am being so MEAN to him! I’ve told him over and over “I’m only responding to how you treat me!” He doesn’t get it, because he refuses to get it. He CAN’T be wrong! No apologies ever!

        I’m moving out soon, and am working on a short letter to him, and in that letter I tell him “I tried talking to you, but it never seemed to work in our relationship. You wanted to talk about your pain, but were never interested in my pain.”


        • “I tried talking to you, but it never seemed to work in our relationship. You wanted to talk about your pain, but were never interested in my pain.”

          My ex always wanted to focus on his pain, never mine. Mine was dismissed. “Oh you’re ALWAYS angry” I think he thought if we dealt with his pain it would fix everything. It actually might of, if he understood that his pain actually came from within. Because he felt his pain was due to me, he felt justified in his actions–“You made me feel bad for being drunk, therefore I have every right to tell you that you are an awful human being and even your own family likes me better than you” or “You snapped at me therefore I will never have sex with you again”
          It amazes me me that they cannot comprehend that if you do not want someone to be angry at you, all you have to do is stop being shitty to them.

        • Mine never apologized either, not really, not in a way that took responsibility for how his actions affected others. Whenever I would call him out on something he had done that bothered me (which wasn’t often) he would act all hurt and/or offended, making me feel that I was being too harsh, hurting his feelings, or being otherwise unreasonable. When he would do that I would immediately back down and apologize to him for being so unreasonably critical. I had that reaction because I loved him and didn’t want to make him feel the way he made me feel on a daily basis. I let him use my own empathy against me.

          • Egad!

            That is exactly our relationship. Cheater was allowed to call me out on the slightest things and, because I’m a chump, I looked at his minor complaint, realized that most of the time it was valid, albeit minor and unimportant, and tried to change. Or not. Depending on how stupid it was.

            I only called him out on very few things because, alas, I loved him and didn’t want to cause unnecessary upsets over petty little things. But when I did call him out, he would pout and silent treatment me and I, ultimately, felt bad in the long run. So it just wasn’t worth it to me. Which is how to turned into being all about him. It was destined to be all about him.

            Funny enough, when my high maintenance cheater abandoned me, he called me “exhausting”. Projection much?

    • Yes. Exactly. This!!
      You put into words what I have been seeing and could not quantify.

      He would so often to agree changing his ways, but in reality I learned he was just hiding things better or purposefully lying about things. And then feign innocence, because I had not specifically defined something as off limits or that he did not know.

  • It’s funny, I was just thinking about this on the way to work this morning. Someone on here a few days ago had made a remark about how it was hard to find decent men. I’m always puzzled at this statement (it’s made rather often), as I know many, many good men. I think the problem is exactly what is described here. Narcissists and other guys that don’t have good character tend to be flashy and loud. They love to trumpet their accomplishments, hit on every woman that comes through the door with a well-rehearsed routine, spend money on the flashiest, attention-getting things. They’re very good at projecting to their world that they’re exciting, powerful, and wealthy, and very good at getting people’s attention, regardless of what reality is. In other words, they’re good at impression management and self-promotion.
    When I think of the guys I know that I would call “good men” (I’ll put myself in there), they’re usually nothing like that. They are soft-spoken and modest, which doesn’t garner them a lot of attention. They are concerned about other people’s feelings. They spend money on things that are worthwhile and going to last, and save some for a rainy day. You’d be amazed how many people with awesome cars & houses are one step from bankruptcy. They’re more concerned with being good people, and assuming their reputations will follow, than whether someone thinks they’re cool (like the guy who owns 7 kayaks but doesn’t ever use them).
    I’m sure this goes the other way, too (for women). I’m a man, so this is how I see things.

    • Traveling the World, my ex cheating husband is nothing at all like the sparkly guy who described. He actually comes across like the “nice guy”. Quiet, humble, works hard, responsible at work, was very attentive to me in the beginning of our relationship and had other nice characteristics. I’d say for sure he’s a covert narc and quite possibly a sociopath. I have never been attracted to flashy guys and I’ve never been materialistic in my life. I could care less about expensive cars, big houses, etc. I was duped and conned by a “nice guy”. I guarantee most people who know him or meet him think he’s a really great guy! He’s not! I’ve seen his scary, dark side so many times and like CL said, if they are able to lead a double life for a long time, they are probably personality disordered. Mine lead a double life for the entire time I knew him. I now treat nice guys and flashy guys all the same. They have to prove to me over time that they can be trusted. My ex showed me way back in 1988 small signs of who he was, but I either ignored, spackled or didn’t realize the signs were gigantic red flags that were waving in my face for the next 26 years.

      • Yes. Exactly. This!!
        You put into words what I have been seeing and could not quantify.

        He would so often to agree changing his ways, but in reality I learned he was just hiding things better or purposefully lying about things. And then feign innocence, because I had not specifically defined something as off limits or that he did not know.

      • Martha-

        Same exact description I would use for my XH. He was the “quiet”, “nice guy”, “humble”, “hard-working” type that was very attentive in the beginning and definitely love-bombed me (I didn’t know what all this meant back then!)… And, now I know, since being chumped, that he definitely checks ALL of the boxes for covert narc and possibly even sociopath as you have stated.

        I thought that his lack of friends was a result of being newly “in-love”, plus he had been in the military, so moving around (before social media) plays a part.

        And, as you said- what I either ignored or spackled away should have been BIG red flags! Thankfully, I am on my way to freedom! Best wishes to you!

      • You’ ve described mine. Super nice, dependable, seemingly loyal. Yet, carried out a double life for at least two years. Although he left 10 months ago to he with the OW, he still lives a double life. Never mentions her to his family, has lied that he’s with her or that there was ever an affair. Not sure how many friends have actually met her. I know of one. Keeps his place to just house the kids on the days he has them. I don’t get it. Why would a woman date a married man for a year and a half, and then when he finally leaves his wife to be with her, still keeps her in the dark from his family, kids, and most friends still 10 months later? Is his love -bombing that blinding? Is he reallt so nice that she doesn’t see the wrong? Wait, I know the answer. She is really that desperate and stupid.

    • TTW…I believe there are good men out there but the majority are married and at home with their wives and family.
      Finding a good single man my age where I live. Starting to look impossible. ????

  • Narcissism works in the other direction too. “Praise denied is praise desires twice” or more and more and more!

  • I was taken in by the lovebombing. I was 31, and he was divorced for 3 years and had dated. He was attentive, sexy, funny, charismatic, and knew his way around a bedroom. In fact, just this past weekend, I figured out that he’s the woman in the songs that talk about the psycho bitch being good in bed and sucking at life. Other than a thirst for money and therefore a good work ethic, he has nothing else to offer, nothing enduring, nothing that stands the test of time.

    Narcissist or sociopath, he’s somewhere in there. No compassion, no empathy, no long-term goals, jump from job to job about every 5 years, was a bully in high school, lacks qualities to be a good friend, lies to benefit himself, exaggerates his work qualities, and cannot do emotional support.

    When his son was first diagnosed with bipolar I last Thanksgiving, he was at the hospital for every visitation. Once the son came home, the X was distant and aloof. He didn’t want his son there because he didn’t want to deal with his son’s issues and still manic state. J had lived with us for 8 years and he went to stay with his mom because his dad made him feel unwelcome. That was image management and no empathy all rolled into one. The X started visiting hookers shortly afterwards and the rest became history.

    I have no desire to be in a relationship. Maybe after I’ve healed, created my boundaries and found my voice. Never again will I let someone railroad me.

  • My problem was he acted just like me. He was most likely lying to me from day 1 but he pretended to like everything I liked and want everything I wanted. He said and did all the right stuff so much so that 15 years later I was completely blindsided by his running off with the neighborhood party girl meth head.

    I believed I did everything right. I waited 2.5 years before we got married. He went to classes to become catholic because “we” wanted to get married in the church. I dated him down many times and explained everything I was looking for and expected from a husband, dad and man. I KNOW I expect a lot and had high standards. And even thou he did not agree with everything I told him, we TALKED…. which was also so very important to me. I really thought I found the one for me.

    To this day I still don’t know all the shit he did behind my back. I made it easy for him because I completely trusted him. Yes, I knew we were not perfect and that was ok. I understand that every marriage has problems and I believed we were normal. I never saw the pattern. I never knew when exactly he started treating me like crap. And to this day, i never noticed how much he changed me. Until he finally got bored and left. Well, probably more like until i was so drained and emotionally exhausted that i stopped chasing him. And poof, he was gone

    He is a good manipulator. He is a user. He is an expert liar and con artist. He is shy and quiet and oh so helpful and generous until the day he is not.

    • ” And to this day, i never noticed how much he changed me. Until he finally got bored and left. Well, probably more like until i was so drained and emotionally exhausted that i stopped chasing him. And poof, he was gone”

      All of this. That’s exactly what happened to me.

      • yes, i was so independant and strong i never noticed. somehow at the end of 15 years i was a wreck. codependant, clingy, insecure, unsure, anxious, damaged and emotionally crippled. i was mentally, physcially, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. my soul was tired and yet i still loved him, i still wanted him in my life, i still couldnt live without him.

        THANK GOD, i have 2 things i just will never put up with and are set in stone way before i ever met him. 1 is physical abuse and the other is cheating. i actually took him back after the first time i busted him cheating. after the first time i KNEW without a doubt that he was having sex with some other thing. but the second time, i filed for divorce. even thou i loved him and thought we could fix it. even thou it broke me. and shattered my life.. .. now i am so glad i had those boundaries set in stone. i just could not compromise those 2 things. my upbringing would NOT allow me to make excuses for them. so after the 2nd time i busted him cheating, i was done. .. ..

        looking back i can see all the toxic behavior but i never saw it when i was in it. it took divorcing him to finally open my eyes, and for me to notice just how poorly he treated me.

    • “…lying to me from day 1 but he pretended to like everything I liked and want everything I wanted. He said and did all the right stuff so much so that 15 years later I was completely blindsided…”

      Same here. It took a little less than 15 years, but I too was completely blindsided. He was SO believable! There were some clear changes in the year or so before D-Day (the devalue phase) but I spackled over the meanness because he did have diagnosed PTSD, which I knew could cause a person to be short-tempered. What was different though was that it wasn’t occasional crabbiness, but uncaring and negative much of the time – I thought he was maybe depressed on top of the PTSD (which is common). So much spackle!

      And he agreed to get counseling, but it didn’t change him for the better (he was almost certainly lying to the counselor the whole time: counseling won’t help if you’re just toying with the counselor).

      I learned this about myself: I allowed mental illness to EXCUSE bad behavior. It may EXPLAIN, but it should not be an excuse. Prior to the year of being devalued, there were only flashes of temper, and he always recovered quickly and apologized and went back to his con game of Mr. Sweetness and Goodness and War Hero (which now turns out to have been TOTAL FABRICATION). I’m not sure I can learn to see through the lies of someone who is so practiced at it – some con artists are really good at playing a part! Academy Award level acting!

      Without doing a background check, I don’t think I would ever be able to see through an expert level con.

      But I did learn this about myself: I let mental illness EXCUSE his bad behavior when it should only be allowed to EXPLAIN.

      I didn’t know about the NPD at the time, but it doesn’t matter what mental illness someone has: if they treat you like crap (and even counseling doesn’t make it better), THEY HAVE SHOWN YOU WHO THEY ARE. A person of integrity, of good character, will own their nastiness and work hard to correct it but a narc will not.

      Sunk costs and being “too understanding” of mental problems made me linger. But it just dragged out the pain.

      • Oh my God. I recently stumbled across the psychiatric evaluation which bought the Twat his invalidity. He genuinely is bipolar but the report talks about his PTSD from seeing men beaten and killed in front of his very eyes in war zones. HE WAS NEVER IN A WAR ZONE. He was a fireman in the US in the Marine Corps and served a very cushy number in Geneva Switzerland at the US Mission. I repeat HE WAS NEVER IN A WAR ZONE. What a frickin con artist!

        • Sorry to hear that Attie! My situation is similar: kernel of truth but a TON of lies too.

          Yes, the Python was in the military, and in his case, he was actually in a war zone (it’s on his discharge form). BUT, all those other exotic places and special operations missions? ALL MADE UP.

          Maybe some were true stories he heard from someone else and inserted himself as the hero when he told them. Or, maybe someone else made them up: he was actually watching a movie one day that had a (fictitious) storyline strikingly similar to one of his special operations yarns!

          People in the military hate guys like this: it’s called “stolen valor.” And he used to COMPLAIN about people who did this! What great cover for his lying ass!

          Yep, what frickin con artists!!

        • Got this same sobbing story from my ex who spent four months working in a sick clinic on base in afghanistan. Never saw any action. WTF. I think that is just more of the same grandiosity, lying stories, Have no doubt that he had an affair there too. So glad he’s onto the next girl, after demolishing two marriages with cheating. Ugh.

    • Oh yeah.

      And then they stop because life got too hard and pretending to be responsible and good doesn’t pay off anymore.

      Underground they go because they don’t have the guts to bring up an isuue themselves to resolve, the don’t have the guts to leave you cleanly, and they don’t have the guts to be alone.

      Hey, but it’s all your fault because you made them feel like they never measured up. And it’s their family’ s fault because they never measured up. Boohoo.

  • Such a timely post for me too. I untangling this exact skein in the pre-dawn hours.

    Is my X disordered? Is she lost and lonely soul? Is she just an asshole?

    She remains great at running a household; bills paid on time, she gets the daughter to events, etc… She’s a good mom. I sometimes wish she was more screwed up so that it would be easier to understand.

    Now, year out from the the beginning of the D proceedings, I’m beginning to honestly recover- I’m sleeping a ton, I’m sorting out my life. A new house, etc.. but I’ll admit I’m quietly struggling to be the better parent. A quiet competition against my X in my head. And as a dad — I’m a little behind the 8-ball.

    Again, I wish she was more messed up so I could be the better parent.

    I’m dating. It feels nice just to be liked. To be myself and be appreciated, even celebrated.

    However, another scar from her affair is my hyper-sensitive awareness to anything “narcissistic”. I’m a little paranoid. I often ask myself, “was that a flag?” “Is she going to cheat on me too?”

    I tell myself I don’t have to decide just yet. But I will someday. And I wonder if I’ll be able to let it all go.

    • “She remains great at running a household; bills paid on time, she gets the daughter to events, etc… She’s a good mom. I sometimes wish she was more screwed up so that it would be easier to understand.”

      Replace she with he and mom with dad and that was my ex, at least until he started to cheat, then those things started to slide. I picked up the slack, but I still wasn’t good enough for him because he had found new and shiny by then.

  • He was the more responsible one. Got settled in a high paying job that his papa got him and proud to play man of the house from a young age. I still needed to learn my way around the world and while he grew in it, I was left to my own devices and slowly failed at the career I was building. Then I was a miserable nobody with health problems and he was entitled to run around behind my back.
    It’s always painful to me that on paper he still will always look like the prize, while I have a failed life and nothing to show for it.

    • You haven’t failed at life. How much was he undermining you, how much was he belittling you? How was he such a high achiever when daddy got him his job? Hell if my dad was Bill Gates I’d probably be a high achiever too! Please don’t put yourself down. See what you can do for yourself now that (hopefully) you haven’t got an insidious narc around your neck like an anchor!

    • You did not fail at life! Even if you’re not where you want to be, you have decades ahead of you (and will be surprised at how much you can accomplish without a fuckwit on your back!).

      Furthermore, what counts as “succeeding” at life? My father had a decent resume when he died, but was a narc and alienated a lot of people. My mother had not accomplished things you could put on a resume, but her funeral was packed.

  • How did you know I needed this today, Tracy?! I literally have been watching YouTube videos all weekend trying to decipher if my STBXH is a narc. I know, further skein untangling but it his helping me to accept he won’t change and let go.

    He never seemed happy in our 15 years of marriage, particularly on the weekends when it came to doing things around the house. He was totally miserable unless he was off riding his mountain bike.

    I could never, ever do anything right. Whether it came to loading the dishwasher or making dinner, he would always correct me in some way.

    He rarely appreciated me or anything I did. He would rarely acknowledge anything I did for him or the kids. It was a rarity to receive any type of compliment, which he told me before we were married that, “I am not the complimenting type, so get used to it.”

    In an argument, he would never see my side of things or make any attempt to compromise. It was always about him and what he thought/wanted. I would twist myself into a pretzel to make him happy.

    Once I won an award at work which when I came home and told him he told me I was bragging.

    He is a good father, and seems to always be there for the kids. He constantly throws in my face, “I’m not leaving the kids, just you. I deserve to be happy and she makes me happy.” His married coworker is also leaving her husband for mine (she has 2 young children). The kids absolutely adore Uncle Dad who is always fun to be around, as he rarely adults.

    His phone constantly pings and he seems so happy. I’m thinking he has lead this duplicitous life a lot longer than I thought. It makes me sick to think about what I do not know about.

    So, is he a narc if he still seems interested in the kids?

    Thank u so much, CN! I need help letting go????

    • Forgot to add that since the discard he has shown zero shame or remorse and treats me either like I don’t exist or that I was the one who cheated.

      • That’s the part that was so painful for me. I though he loved me and yet he could treat me like I was nothing. He couldn’t even give me the respect to really sit down and talk. I wasn’t worthy of his time or his self.

        Time will tell about the kids. He might continue being a good father or if there is no one around to check him, his image management might start slipping. Just watch and keep track. Count the days that he sees him, the number of overnights or if he is checking with them throughout the week when he’s not with him. My X is not a bad father per se but he’s only a good father if the kids are doing good things and it makes him look better. However, he will never be a role model for them, either as a parent or a person.

        • Thank u, MB!
          He has already asked me to watch the kids Friday night even though it is his weekend. I’m hoping his impression management is slipping.
          Thank u again!

          • And he’s already started. This is a fine line. If it’s his weekend, the kids should be spending time with their father. However, I know it’s hard to say know – they are your children and you want them to be safe and happy. If he wants to be a father, set that boundary!!

            I forced my X to be a father and step up to the plate. If I hadn’t, I am pretty certain that the he would have a very, very poor relationship with his children (my stepkids).

          • never force a man to parent his children. it is NOT YOUR job to make him responsible as a dad. .. .. personally, i never begged a man to spend time with my children. if he wants to visit them or pick them up or call them that is fine with me. i encourage it. but if he doesnt call, or misses a visitation or does not pick up the kids during his time, well better for me and the kids. .. .

            i understand wanting your children to have an active dad in their life but think about it. if you have to force him to be a father what kind of example is that setting for your kids? i never make excuses for my ex anymore. (believe me i used to) but my children see their biodad for what and who he is. it is NOT my fault if dad does not step up to the plate. in all actuality, he was never the man i thought he was anyways. i damn sure do not want my boys thinking it is ok to lie, steal, use drugs and alcohol and to make excuses for their bad behavior like their dad does. i do not want my boys thinking it is ok to use people like the way their dad does.

            it took me a while to realize that if i had to beg my ex to be a father then he is really not the type of father i want my children around. i finally stopped calling him to remind him that his boys need him. i finally stopped texting to see if he could visit on his weekends. i stopped chasing him down, calling his sisters for his new phone number, having to talk to his controlling toxic girlfriend and deal with all sorts of disrespect from him and her just so my son could talk to his dad on the phone for 5 minutes. i refuse to talk to his chick no matter what the reason is now. i am ok if he calls the boys. but he doesnt. i am ok if he wants to visit or take the boys to visit. but he doesnt. of course he tries to blame me, telling anyone who will listen that i dont LET him see his boys. or that i am KEEPING his kids away from him.. .. it is not true. and the people who know me know that.

            my boys are doing really well also. they are calmer, happy and laugh more. i do not bad mouth their dad to them, in fact it is them who bad mouth dad to me. i know it hurts them that dad is not interested in their lives and doesnt take time to be involved. but believe me it is much better this way then having dad try to control the boys and/or force the children to do things they dont want to. Or having the boys hurt over and over by empty promises, lies and dad bragging about how perfect his life is with this other family. or having dad showing off all his cool new stuff. And it is way better then having to talk to him or his thing to schedule drop off or pick up or visitations or anything. .. or having my children hero worship a piece of shit man.

            DO NOT FORCE him to be a dad. it is not your job. set a schedule, have it court ordered if necessary and then stick to the schedule. do not make changes. if dad cant have the kids during his time, he does not get to make it up another time. if he doesnt want the children during his weekend, then he forfeits the time and you get extra time with them. personally, i love having my kids with me every day. i love talking to them, and taking them to school. i love doing things with them and hearing their laughter and stories. my kids are my life. i dont need a break from them and when i do, i take them to my moms. i dont need their dad for anything

            good luck

        • “My X is not a bad father per se but he’s only a good father if the kids are doing good things and it makes him look better. However, he will never be a role model for them, either as a parent or a person.”

          Same. The OW, who immediately got pregnant with his child, thinks he is an excellent dad. “He practically follows her around with bubble wrap, he is so concerned for her safety” she told me. He will boast about any minor accomplishment of hers and buy her whatever cheap toy she wants. Disney Dad.
          What the OW doesn’t know (yet) is that he uses his kid(s) for image management. Scratch beneath the surface and you will find he is never there for the tough stuff. He doesn’t inquire about school. If there is an issue (like struggling with math), he takes personal offense instead of addressing the issue. All actual parental guidance falls onto me. Something that he or her will never give me credit for.

    • Meh One Day, yes he can be a narc and still seems interested in the kids. My ex was like yours. You said he was miserable on the weekends unless he was riding his bike. Well, mine pretty much ignored not only me but our kids our entire marriage. Sure, he talked with them over dinner or helped with math when I couldn’t help them. But he was pretty checked out of their lives, most of the time. Until…….we told the kids that their dad wanted a divorce (he tried to gaslight them too and say that both of us wanted a divorce and both of us weren’t happy — ALL LIES!). Then starting the very next day he turned into Disney Dad. Hovering over the kids while they played a video game or read quietly on their bed. Turned into a totally different dad. It’s all impression management and of course he doesn’t want his kids to truly believe that he sucks like he really does.

      And there is nothing wrong with watching Youtube videos on narc’s. Yeah, I guess it’s untangling the skein, but for me, it was the only way I could move forward. I needed to understand what happened to me and what I was married to! “Education” is one of the steps of getting over and healing from a narc relationship. You are in the education stage and maybe another stage as the stages overlap. Chump Lady was a big part of my education stage and I’m probably getting close to the “maintenance” stage and CL is a part of that for me too as I read each blog post every day. Big ((((HUGS))) to you.

      • Adding to Martha – knowledge is power. Knowing who they are for your past relationships and possible future relationships is the key to creating and reinforcing your boundaries. You will become a better observer and a better lookout for your own protection.

        • I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to understand stand the psychology around what happened, or even doing some investigative work to uncover the extent of his deception. If I hadn’t done it, I would still be believing that the OW was just an emotional affair that began a couple of months before, and I would still be believing that this was all my fault and he’s now found true love.

          Now I know that it was a full blown affair for over a year and a half. She wasn’t the first. He slept with someone else in the last days he was with me before leaving to join her. She’s messed up. He’s messed up. The evidence I collected has given me collateral. This wasn’t my fault. What they share isn’t real love.

          All if this has helped me. I think the problem is when you still can’t let go after learning enough. If your mind still spirals with the unknowns that remain, then skeining what you have hasn’t been therapeutic. Then, the issue lies within ourselves andbwe need help because we are stuck in an unhealthy loop in the grieving process.

          Actually, I think a great discussion for another day would be understanding the grieving process, where we are, what ou journeys have looked like, what has helped.

    • Minus the married co-worker (my husband left for someone 9 years younger than me who has never been married and no children), I think we could’ve been married to the same person. I suppose time will tell if this new relationship will make him happy. I have a hard time believing that, but then again, I don’t even know this person anymore. I’m struggling now because although I truly don’t want to be with him anymore, it was exhausting trying to figure out his moods and always walk in eggshells, I don’t understand why he stopped loving me or at what point did he decide I wasn’t worth it anymore. This is the part that hurts the most and sadly, I know I will never have an answer.

      • Moody pains in the asses do not change. He may be on good behavior for a bit but won’t last long. Doesn’t matter who he is with, he’ll always resort to being miserable. They suck the soul right out of you. As for trying to figure out when he stopped loving you…..don’t bother they don’t legitimately love anyone.

    • I am sometimes convinced we are all married to the same guy.

      Always miserable, always my fault.
      I could never do anything right (loading the dish washer, put recycling away, make dinner, decorate the house)
      He told me I was fishing for compliments. He never gave me any.
      When I was proud of something I had accomplished, I was bragging.
      He would never see my side of an argument. My priorities were always wrong.
      I should not get angry over minor things and I was overreacting.
      it was always my reaction, but never his actions that were the problem.


  • I have a good friend in recovery, a man who has been sober for 36 years, and acts like it, who cheated on the wife he was married to before he got sober. He has been a wonderful cheerleader for me, telling me that he considers infidelity a CRIME. Leaving a marriage is NOT the same as having other women while married. He is my walking talking living breathing REALITY CHECK.

    My STBXH told me before he left “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”, referring to HIMSELF, as if a lying cheating spouse were the ultimate catch. But he was right…it has been sinking in all year what I had….an ILLUSION, a FAKE MARRIAGE. I was being held hostage, prevented from being with someone who actually loved me.

    My daughter, the ultimate consolation prize in all this, was in the bathtub last night. She is eleven.
    Out of the blue she started talking about how her dad was holding me back, now we can get the house we wanted, we don’t have to live like that anymore, etc. (He was in the habit of dangling houses under our noses and then failing to act to buy them…one for the entire year I was pregnant).

    • Ah, VH, you have a good daughter. The two of you will weather this storm and come out better on the other side. I’m so happy that you have people who have your back and are willing to lend a hand when your knees get weak or when life hits you hard. Don’t let anything hold you back from living the life that brings you joy and fulfillment.

  • “Pay their taxes” what a true statement there. If only I had actually looked at all the red flags. Why I didn’t pay attention, why I didn’t value myself more. Flag 1. He didn’t have a valid driver’s license
    Flag 2. He didn’t have car insurance
    Flag 3. He didn’t pay his taxes the 2 year prev to me meeting him
    Flag 4. He had bad credit
    Flag 5. I had to pick him up from jail before we really even started dating.
    Flag 6. His Best friends were D-bags and cheaters
    Flag 7. He owned nothing to his name besides a beat up ole POS and a bed and a dresser
    Flag 8. The only time he had lived on his own he got evicted from his apt.
    Flag 9. Bad credit
    I know Huge chump here right
    Well, he was funny, he was charming, he had the same job for over 9 years he was responsible right???!!! He made me feel like I was that arm candy. He made me think he was important that everyone loved him. His friends and family told me they had never seen him “this way” with anyone else. That made me feel special. He gave me ths sob story of childhood abuse. I then felt like I was the only one who truly cared about him and backed him in his corner. I could fix him. And that I did… well at least for a while. I took care of his taxes, and bills which in turn he now has good credit. I got him insurance and helped him get his license back, I drove while he drank which in turn kept him out of jail and out of trouble, because of me he was able to buy whatever he pretty much wanted. He moved in with me at my home and made some updates to the place and in turn lived their rent free. Because of me we were able to live in a beautiful home, have nice vehicles, a nice camper, a boat, 4wheeler and snowmobiles. I stupidly married the F-wit and had his baby. HUGE Mistake. Less than 2 years after our marriage and 4 months after baby was born I discovered his true self.
    True self 1. Multiple Affair specific websites he was signed up
    True self 2. Emailing and texting another womane WHILE iw was in labor in the hospital. Him telling her how good she looked and wanting to hear more about her dirty dreams
    True self 3. Looking on Craigslist personals
    True self 4. waking up to him m-bating and recording it next to me in bed.

    I work up the courage to file for divorce and look out. The gloves are off. 68k later 7 times in court, giving him the “toys” boat,camper, snowmobiles, the nice truck etc and very very minimal money for our child” and I am finally free, well sort of. I’m sure CN knows that when you have a child you are never free. In the end I know I’m very lucky that I was able to afford and have the strength and sanity to divorce him.

    Its crazy how they can charm us, the courts, the lawyers, the Child evaluators.. its not until something doesn’t go quite their way and then finally their true self comes out. Thank you lord for showing them the light!

    • oh you just reminded me how one time, after i spent years paying on our truck and house (the only 2 things his name was on because all the credit cards were in my name only) he actually THREW it in my face how HIS CREDIT SCORE was 850. he laughed at me, because mine was in the 600 at the time. he even questioned me how come my credit score was so low and his was so high like HE was the one that built his credit up. .. .. stupid idiot had NO CLUE why his score was so high was because i was making the payments regularly.. .. in fact he had NO CLUE how much either payment actually was. or any payments actually. .. because i was the one who paid the bills. i literally stood there with my mouth hanging open that he had the gall to throw his credit score in my face. ..

      4 years after divorce, he lost his car to repossession (he actually never made a payment after the first 3 payments). his credit score is in the 400 and he cant even get a cell phone in his name. much less a loan. he still has NO CLUE on just how much i did for him thou. and he still is a stupid idiot.

      • These people will grasp at anything to make themselves look better than others so they can feel better about themselves.

        I don’t know what my credit score is but I opened a credit card in my name a couple of months before the divorce and could only get $5,000 credit. A year later (about 8 months post divorce) I opened another card and they gave me $17,500 credit. Then the original card got upped to $7,000. Apparently I am worth $19,500 more without him than I was with him.

      • Same story. I took care of all the finances from saving money to paying all the bills on time and my ex in court told the judge that I was controlling of our money and wouldn’t let him into any of the accounts. Never once did he ask to be the one in charge of paying all the bills and never once did he ask me if he could buy anything.. Lol controlling. How about responsible. I was the responsible one. Heck I even made his dentist and Dr appointments for him. Its surprising I didn’t go as far as wiping his Ass to make him happy. And even all of that didn’t keep him happy. Well, in the divorce I gave him the truck, camper, boat and 2 snowmobiles all free and clear and everything paid off and all he has to pay for his daughter is $200. Thats it. I pay for her daycare and healthcare and all her activities. He told me during our divorce that he would work the bare minimum so that he wouldn’t have to pay for her. Talk about a DBag. And even now he still threatens me to take me back to court so he can have more custody of her. (of course I know that is only because he doesn’t want to have to pay any child support) Its not because he wants her more.

        Before I filed for divorce he told me how he appreciated everything I had done for him. Once I filed then it was “your going to have to pay me spousal maintenance, your going to have to pay me child support, your going to have to give me your 401k” .. the list goes on. So much for appreciation.

    • So familiar—again. The cars, boats, motorcycles, even a cottage and house in Florida. None of it enough to keep him happy. In the end he took all of the toys and I got nothing for them because they were in his broke business’ name. This after he stole our retirement savings to try to float his losing business.

  • CL:

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

    Yes, yes and yes.

  • Mine had very long bouts of being a normal person in between heinously narcissistic acts. I kept thinking, “these are just mistakes, she isn’t really this terrible.” It’s amazing what you overlook when you love someone that much and are a fighter for your relationship.

    It took me being in a vulnerable position and her feeling very happy with her career progress to inflate her entitlement to a degree where some asshole at work seemed like what she “deserved”. As she so hurtfully told me the day after I caught her affair, as well as the secret job interviews she had been having the previous months, “I’m coming up in the world.”

    She was one of the ones who just disappears. This was Labor Day and I’m just now getting out of the hole that put me in.

    • I also discovered my ex’s affair Labor Day weekend. He moved out last Saturday. Empty house, but it’s all mine and it feels wonderful to be free from his narc crazy-making.

      Good luck to you!

      • I didn’t move out for almost 2 months after D-day. Being away from the poison will help your mind heals. I dreaded my moving out day but it was one of the best steps I took for myself.

  • A man “who can’t be out late because they need to come home and feed their dog.” This is the VeryKindMan in a nutshell.

    My astrologer friend suggested I conduct a relationship autopsy and study all the the significant “romantic” relationship I had, going back to high school. At 61, that was a chore. But what emerged were the patterns. Not just substance abuse but the nagging feeling I always had that I wasn’t valued. Looking at that in black and white, seeing that this feeling and experience persisted through relationships, long and short, seeing the EVIDENCE that I wasn’t valued, led me to conclude that my next step was to VALUE MYSELF. So CL’s advice is right on target. Untangle your own skein.

    It also helped me to read Dr. George Simon’s website, to learn about disordered people in general, not to diagnose Jackass or untangle his skein. Once I understood that there are people who are not wired emotionally like me or the “normal” people I know, and that Jackass’s BEHAVIOR fit the “disordered” category, I stopped wishing for contact with him. I saw him as a danger to me. I understood that it was imperative not to give him centrality in my thinking, that I needed to make myself central in my thoughts and decisions. I saw that for a lifetime, I gravitated toward people whose behavior in general and to me in particular fit that “disordered” description. And the way out was to change my criteria.

  • It’s funny because I’m the edgy, risk taking, trendy, overstimulated, social norm ignoring, alternative lifestyle embracing liver of “the weird life”.

    The cheater was a clean cut, socially conservative, responsible, corporate management track career, khaki slacks, with a sensible commuter car kind of guy. Who was all about church, community, family, and “being of service and giving back” through regular volunteer work. He was as wholesome as apple pie and as threatening as a golden retriever. And that’s a completely different shade of sparkly than I’m familiar with.

    I found out that aside from being a cluster B and a cheater, he’s a career con artist who uses his good boy persona to gain trust and access to vulnerable targets. And he’s good. He’s managed to avoid legal action and serious retaliation over the years by mastering the art of the double life.

    So I got taken in and chumped by a con artist. Along with probably a few hundred other women over the span of his “career”.

    Where do you go from there? Well it’s like getting bitten by one of those poisonous snakes that live under rocks in the desert and blend in with the sand. You recover from your injuries and learn to tread more carefully and watch more closely for any danger signs.


    • Yes!

      People say “now you can find a good guy”
      Um… I thought I had one.

      When people talk about some guy “being such a good dude” I roll my eyes. I almost don’t believe they exist because I got so taken by such a “god dude”.

      It makes me scared to trust or believe almost anyone these days.

  • I wanted to be in a relationship and finally settle down. I worked hard all my life and I was independent. It felt good to finally be in a relationship with a man who was incredibly successful and seemed to be in love with me and wanted to take care of me. A fairy tale I thought and I couldn’t believe this was my life now that I was in my late 40s.

    And then the story begins to unravel slowly and painfully. I was duped by a sociopath. I was literally lied to from day one. I was love bombed and sharing a bed with a man who was fucking multiple women. .

    When I untangle my skein, I realize I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to believe I was special. I wanted a beautiful life because I worked so hard and I believed I was a good person. Instead, I got tortured and manipulated. Now I struggle everyday to get out of bed. It’s been months since I left / got discarded.

    Thank God for Tracy, CN and Mr. CL.

    • Its tough when you have worked so hard to get ahead in life to be independant to have it all taken away by these F-Wits. Don’t let him get you down. Get out of bed and show yourself and the world that you are stronger than these F-wits think. Be happy that you are rid of him! Go back to being the strong independant self! You’ve got this!

  • The last few years of my marriage I could always spot the people who were fakes and I didn’t like them and would steer clear. I also commented to others that those people could not be trusted. I have to wonder if somehow my subconscious could spot them because of my experience living with ex. I thought I was so clever for being able to spot that type and yet I refused to acknowledge to myself that I was also loving and living with a fake of my own.

  • I hate it when I start untangling AGAIN, but feel that in the last 2 1/2 years since Dday and separation, and two months since the divorce, I still do it. So maybe today I’ll throw this out there, and then stop: One problem is that I haven’t been able to convince myself that the lying, cheating bastard was always this way. He had a messed up family, so it would figure, but for years his words and actions showed that he loved me completely and was 100% dedicated to our family. Yet he gradually turned into a monster. I spackled big time towards the end of our 22 years, but is it possible that he was once a good person? Was he an honest man when we married? Can the fuckedupness remain dormant until a certain age? Or do these people just fool us right from the beginning? I want to pass on the best advice possible to my children so that they can take away something constructive from all this pain.

    • I think people can and do change. The seeds of his bad side were always there but they didn’t manifest until later. I really do think that was true for my ex. I think he is a perfectionist who wasn’t where he wanted to be in life and he wanted to feel better so he focused solely on his needs and wants without a thought to how it affected others lives. Your ex may be the same. That doesn’t make them any less evil now or at all likely to change back the other way, but it does make them harder to spot in the beginning. On the other hand, maybe we can be content with having had them during the good years even if we had to put up with some bad ones before passing them on to Schmoopie to deal with the messed up version. That’s how I try to look at it although it isn’t always easy. If you have ever seen “the Godfather” it is a lot like the youngest son who starts out as a good person who wants to be better than his family history, but then eventually, gradually, one step at a time, he devolves into something evil. He was good in the beginning but he absolutely wasn’t in the end.

      • Yes, Chumpinrecovery. You’re always so wise. The good years don’t have to be erased because he became what he is now. The Michael Corleone parallel is spot on, and in the end, the crazy life of lies definitely felt like being “Married to the Mob!”

    • I have grappled with the same thoughts. I would have swore that my husband loved me. I could feel it and I could see it.

      This is my take – I think my X is messed up but he doesn’t fully understand how messed up he is. I think they are parts of him that tried to have a good marriage. But parts of his emotions are completely missing. I feel for him. I think he knows that happiness is out there. He keeps grabbing for it and finds short term happiness but nothing that is enduring. It alludes him because he’s not capable of deep emotional love or even feeling wonderment. He will never find true happiness.

      I think my divorce was set off by him visiting hookers. Our marriage had gotten a bit stale and I wasn’t feeding his ego as before. He basically ignored me for a couple of years as I was busy with work and seeing to my mother’s health. I think he knew I would find his indiscretions eventually and jumped ship to avoid the fall-out. I firmly believe that he wanted to divorce without the cheating ever being divulged. I looked for it and found it 3 weeks after he filed. He wanted to keep the door open in case he ever decided to come back to me. That door has been locked and sealed forever.

    • I think that some of these types can be loyal but this is still always closely linked to entitlement ie only as long as they are getting out of the relationship what they think they deserve. For example as long as you are paying them the attention they want or enhance their image the way they want or giving them the advantages that they want, they will keep doing what is necessary to maintain it in good order. But if that dynamic changes in anyway such as you get busy with other ‘minor’ things that take the spotlight off them or expect them to step up to pull some of the weight eg get busy with kids, go through financial hardship, busy times at jobs, adulting that doesn’ t have some kind of public image payoff for them then they have no compunction with switching their loyalties super quickly. They see it as a personal betrayal for you to stop doing for them and asking them to step up in day to day ways.

      • Omgosh! THIS!!! This is exactly what my XH stated as one of the things that made him cheat. I was a busy mom of two, then three… while working part time, AND going back to school! He had to “do more dishes and laundry” at times (stepping up in day-to-day ways) and he felt that I was leaving the dishes and laundry “ON PURPOSE” for him! Never mind that I am OCD and a neat freak, and would NEVER do that on purpose… I was just trying to find my new normal as a MOM/EMPLOYEE/WIFE/STUDENT! And, to think that I actually felt guilty when he told me that on D-Day! Ugh!

        I now know that he is an entitled brat that felt he deserved to be the center of my universe, even though we had kids that needed that attention and I was going back to school to better OUR financial future! It disgusts me that someone can change their loyalty and commitment so quickly, but that is EXACTLY what they do…onto the next victim!

        • Oh hope, sorry you had to deal with such a man-baby asshole. So many of them are emotionally immature and just expect their partners to orbit them for the rest of their lives with no letup, even with major changes in circumstances. How dare you look after your kids so well, and get busy to help the family, leaving him to pull his weight!? And what a way to deal with it. I guess rather than complaining about it, which instantly pins him as an asshole, he thought he’d just get back at you and cheat. And isn’t it funny how he suspected you of deliberately doing that. I think he was accusing you of something he might do.

    • I want to add, did it feel real to you? I was on my cousin’s shoulder (yet again) about how I didn’t know what was real and was a lie. She asked me, did it feel real to you? Yes, it did. That’s all that matters. This is part of the the skein that’s not worth untangling. Don’t second-guess his actions or words, or you will drive yourself crazy wondering what was the truth or a lie. Don’t let him spoil your happy memories!! You will never have all the answers to your questions. It’s better to accept this and try to move past the confusion.

    • Ditto! Met in 1991–cheater was at top of our law school class. He was very ambitious. Only 23 but he was good with his limited money. I was also at top of our class. We moved in and got engaged quickly because he said his dad would help us with a home- I had had a child as a teen and worked my way through Uni— a Home with a yard and a dad (FIL) to care about us was something my broken heart longed for – my own beloved (but cheater narc father) had died traumatically and suddenly in front of me 7 years previously when I was 15 and abusive, alcoholic narc mom kicked me out shortly after my 16th bday. Homelessness as a teen and a teen mom and being abandoned by my only loving parent haunted me – still does. X took advantage of my Achilles heel. His dad had no intention of helping us. We bought our first through seventh homes all because I saved and planned and remodeled and worked myself to the bone. X worked but didn’t lift a finger to make a home or grow our rental home business. When he left 23 years later for young child-like golddigging whore, who was still living at home with daddy making minimum wage, I focused on building a life and getting best divorce award. Guess what? After divorce trial judge gave me EVERYTHING! and we live in a community property no fault state. You just never know…. meh is wonderful. Absolutely beyond my wildest post-DDay dreams. I’m completely NC and have been for a very long time. It works!

  • CL,

    As you said, ” Healthy people don’t juggle double lives.” My cheater did, and one of the first moments I had in realizing she was irredeemable was that to do that she had to lie to me multiple times a day for 5 years. Let’s say 10 lies a day… 365 X 5 X 10 = 18,250 lies.

    Who can do that? I think the stress and shame would kill a normal human.

    • Ooooh, I was never tempted to do the math, but ChumpionoftheWorld, thanks for that!

      I know I was lied to several times a day for years so yes, that puts the lie count easily in the thousands.


      I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it helps you see just HOW disordered these people are!

      • Get the book “People of the Lie”. It captures this essential nature of disordereds very well. Deceit is like oxygen to their disorders. One CANNOT become or maintain a cluster B disorder without lying. If cluster Bs were somehow disabled in their capacity to deceive others, they’d be forced into an existential crisis. Even if you allowed them the lies they actually believe, they could not endure the inability to tell the lies of commission and omission that they don’t believe.

  • This is excellent. Especially the part about why we feel an attraction to them…

    “…what I’m saying is that you found their spontaneity, the permission they gave themselves to enjoy life, to be a taker revelatory. Exciting to be around.”

    I think that hits a large part of it for me. But I specifically looked for “sticktoitiveness” to make sure there was character there too. She had it. But I still got burned. She’s been formally diagnosed BPD. I’ll add that she’s covert-BPD if there is such a thing, because her volitility and rage is constant but kept hidden. She gets her payback for perceived slights when you’re not looking. But she was able to achieve in a couple areas where sticktoitiveness was required. I look at Bill Cosby as an example. Totally disordered imo, but able to achieve the greatest heights in his chosen field. I think lack of sticktoitiveness is a good indicator of a problem, but I also think the presence of sticktoitiveness can be a false positive for the presence of character.

    • Absolutely! Once he revealed himself as a manipulative, lying bastard with no ability to care for other humans, I was left with zero respect, admiration or affection… the one time I have seen in him in person I was so surprised, thinking how strange it was that I actually lived and had children with this person, this guy I don’t even know. It’s kind of horrible to make that realisation. And now I realise there is no point appealing to his humanity, empathy etc because he hasn’t got any. It is so weird.


  • Just a note to say that Chumps also have to be careful not to project their goodness and decency onto other people–especially those who have abused us. If someone is cruel, unkind, indifferent–that’s the reality, not that they are “stressed” or “going through a crisis.”

    Look at what people do. Take that at face value as an indicator. Don’t listen to flattery or charm. Listen to those moments when people give away who they are–as in when they attack you or others, when they belittle other people, when they spill rage onto others. Had I paid attention to how he missed visitation with his kiddos, instead of believing his excuses, had I looked at the job hopping, had I listened when Jackass belittled bosses and coworkers, had I listened when he raged at his mother over the phone, had I listened when his stories about XW2 didn’t add up–I would never have been betrayed. I would have walked. And actually, there were other opportunities to assess him years before, but I saw him through the lens of intelligence. He is very capable intellectually. Just hollow elsewhere. See people through a full spectrum of human qualities. And pay attention.

    • LovedaJackass, thanks for taking the time to write this. I also saw X through the lens of intelligence and ignored how he insulted people or belittled them behind their back. I learned how little things like that can be very telling and listening to our gut feelings if something doesn’t feel quite right. What’s weird though is he is kind to regular folks like waiters and janitors and to his friends. This selectivity confused me and I wasn’t able to see his dark traits early on.

  • “what I’m saying is that you found their spontaneity, the permission they gave themselves to enjoy life, to be a taker revelatory. Exciting to be around. Very yin to your yang. I think chumps look at narcissists and think at some level, hmmm. I’d like a bit of that.”

    I agree with this. It describes not my husband’s ex just a friend ex. It also describes the wife of one my first husband’s friend.

    But I do think they are savvy enough to treat a hand full of people well to keep as friends.

    I always wonder how they decide who’s a chump and who is just plain disposable ….. just in case when they try it on and they don’t succeed, it’s not a loss.

  • I had a ton of red flags. Looking back I can’t honestly say what attracted me to him other than he was fun and paid some attention to me. I knew I wasn’t a top priority in his life, but my low self-esteem led me to believe that any attention was better than none. I was concerned that I would spend the rest of my life alone and that time was running out to have a family.

    I thought I could handle not being his #1 priority. What I didn’t know is that I wasn’t #2, #3 or even #4. I didn’t have all the information to make an informed decision and was not educated enough to access the information I did have properly. When I started to process that info properly, I was then told that things were wrong with me. And because of my low self esteem I was all too willing to believe it.

    Now I’m going through the process to untangling my own skein. I know I am going to be better for it. And yes I have tried to untangle his and I can explain his actions with narc traits and cluster b, but that still doesn’t make what he did ok. That’s where I have to leave it. No matter what I did, that did not give him the right to treat me the way that he did. Being in a relationship is not worth any of that.

    Now I am working on myself. I have friends that want me to date, etc but I keep telling them no. I’m self-aware enough to realize that I am not healed and I would not attract the right kind of person. My job now it to build a life I want. If someone fits into that, great. If not, it should be pretty satisfying on its own.

  • This is spot with the exception of one point I have to disagree on. Knowing a few narcs in my time I’d have to say that I’m not sure they know anything about enjoying life. Not in the way that I know it, the joy that comes from simple pleasures such as fun times with your kids etc and seeing the joy that others get out of experiences. I’d substitute in ‘indulging themselves’. They love that. Especially if they are getting something for nothing, or minimum output from them.

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

    This! I never really thought of my ex-cheater as a Narcissist but this describes him to a T. If I ever allow myself to trust again – that man will be required to bring is full ass to the job. 🙂

  • Untangling Hannibal Lecher’s skein: His mother admitted to leaving him in a pram at the end of the garden to cry himself to sleep when he was infant. I suspect that contributed to his fucked-up ability to attach to people.

    Untangling my skein: I had a narc father, so bad treatment & criticism felt familiar, + a compassionate ‘helper’ mother who put other people before herself. This clearly led to me being the “helper” (= sucker for lost causes) in my dating life.

  • Yeah, the faulty neurotransmitters do make me socially awkward. And I don’t cheat, because there’s stupid and crazy, like me, and then there’s stupid and crazy, like a cheater.

    I hate how lately I’ve been seeing a lot of things that are also true of me being used as “oh. ho ho ho! They did something I don’t particularly like! OF COURSE they’re a cheater and worthy of the fury of CN!” I like Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, just like a stupid “trendy in 1983” cheater. I wouldn’t give her estate money, because of her personal life, obviously, but I am afraid I can’t not think her work is interesting, particularly her crosses.) I read fantasy and science fiction, and occasionally make a bit of pocket money writing it and selling it, just like a stupid tacky cheater!

    I feel like cheaters are stealing my culture and smearing my good name. And I don’t quite feel like a member of CN anymore, even though you guys are just the loveliest bunch of people. It’s yet another way that cheating awful people are shrinking the world for the decent. Sigh.

    • Sorry to hear you are feeling this way Aunt. I took umbrage yesterday at the scathing comment about self-publishing yesterday, as I plan to try this sometime in the near future but then reasoned that this is just someone else’s lens, which was IMO wrongly applied as another way to illustrate the self regard not to mention self-delusion of cheaters. There are always going to be people everywhere that you want to reply “ah, I think your slip is showing” when personal prejudices come out and I guess it awakens me to the fact again that just because we are chumps it doesn’t mean we are some perfect angel that adopts all the stray animals and walks an inch above bodies of water. Occasionally I encounter comments here where I think, oh you’ve lead a sheltered life, or shouts Cyclops at me. I guess we are all here because of something that we all unfortunately share, but as with most gardens there is still a variety in the flowers to be found. Hugs from another socially awkward chump.

      • Agreed, sometimes comments hurt my feelings too. I realize we’re all coming here with different life experiences and different triggers set in motion by unfortunate circumstances.

        All of my STBXs APs are single moms so i could feel entitled to make commentary about that, i don’t (I’m one too now). i realize that the fact that they had kids is simply a neutral fact about them. What that doesn’t allow me to be is make blanket statements about single moms. Cause i’ve been there and i’ve said mean things without without realizing who i could be hurting cause i was expressing hurt. i obviously actually don’t have any issues with single mothers but the fact they all had that in common trigger my insecurities as a mother. i figured not only was he more interested in them as women but as mothers too.

        but, really the only issue there is to complain about is the fact that my husband was the type of man who liked to text women inappropriately for months on end locked up in his computer room ignoring his wife and kids while he drank himself stupid. It’s harder to be angry at that, it’s admitting a lot of hurt and neglect and abuse. easier to complain about the AP as i had/have no emotional investment in them

        it’s easy to throw anger at our triggers, which is why you see so many off-hand comments about certain life choices or interests. I wouldn’t take it to heart. So when someone complains about something or makes a value statement don’t let it effect your value placed on the thing.and remember no one person here speaks for the interests of all the users. Our expressed opinions on things are not validation of yours.

        Some people like certain painters, some don’t. Some people don’t like self-publishers, some people make careers out of it. It is what it is. That’s why the real message is, you do you for your own happiness.

        Seeking validation is part of our problem as chumps, there is no one in this forum whose validation is your priority. kind, well-meaning people gather here, angry people in need of a good vent on an off day are here, broken people in need of connection are here, people who are actually total assholes are here. We can’t expect every comment we read to match what we came in here needing.

        some days i come in here angry as all hell and others trying to be helpful. i think we’re all just trying our best.

        • Thanks, Stig, 2timechump1timecaller , Chumpinrecovery . I guess the very-justified “bitch eating crackers” says more about the “bitches”—- cheaters and AP’s— than the act of eating Saltines, and it’s kind of oversensitive of me to take offense where none is offered. (Zombie Bloke is now “too mature” to read fiction of any kind and is all too happy to point to my omnivorous and voracious taste in books as proof of my “intellectual retardation” and introduce the thesis that just because someone [like me] is literally a genius, that doesn’t mean they are smart… alas, I proved him right with wayyyyy too many D-Days.)

          You guys are so kind. It makes me feel so angry that this kindness was answered with deceit!

    • I love to read fantasy and science fiction. See we have something positive in common that has nothing to do with our cheaters.

      I kind of understand what you mean. Some on here have cheaters who apparently have some of the failings my ex complained of in me and that is hard to take sometimes. We just have to remember that the things we are all truly complaining about are the ways in which we were betrayed and made to feel less than by our cheaters.

      Also, for all of those who complain that their cheaters were lazy and incompetent fools who never did anything right, there are plenty of those who had cheaters complain that they were the ones who couldn’t do anything right. Some had cheaters who did both. What it really comes down to is that, whatever else they may or may not have been, all cheaters are focused on themselves and feel entitled to what they want without any thought to how much pain they are causing people they are supposed to love.

    • I hear you, Aunt Podger. The Lola Doctrine – Cheaters Never Trade Up – has been used as an excuse to tear strips off affair partners who were dumpy, old, plain, poor teeth, tattoos, lived in trailers, etc.

      This isn’t what the Lola Doctrine is saying at all. It’s saying that cheating takes a person with poor character, and matches them up with another person of poor character. Meanwhile, the Chump is the person with good character, who has been left behind in pursuit of poor character.

      The Lola Doctrine is to remind Chumps that they are worthwhile people, and that they have NOT been replaced with a ‘better model’, because character is what counts. Trading down has nothing to do with looks or income, and everything to do with character.

      Lots of us are plain and dumpy and have less than perfect teeth, self included. And my last cheater went off with a lady who started out looking great, but soon became exhausted and dumpy, because that’s what he does to women. So be it, lady.

      But hey, Chump Nation is nothing if not diverse – Chumpdom is an equal opportunity employer, and I like the differences.

      • Thank you Lola for reminding us that we have not lost our character. Throughout my saga, I am reminded that the X had no character, no integrity, no standards. He’s nothing, and he will never replace me.

      • Thank you for this, Lola Granola. I read your article about the Lola Doctrine and love it. Great advice.

        My ex is still seeing his AP… his employee who is married with three kids. I’ve met and chatted with her in the past. She’s definitely a down grade as she went into the affair knowing there was a possibility of blowing up two families. He did the same. Those turds deserve each other.

  • I definitely saw Cheater as fun-loving and carefree. I had a very difficult life as a teen–always working, family moved a lot, and always taking care of younger brothers and sisters because my mother was insane. My life had all been work and diaper changes and dealing with a narcissistic, mentally ill mother. Being around Cheater at first just seemed so relaxing. He didn’t worry about things. He said things would be okay. He didn’t mind spending money to do something fun.

    It was only later that I realized this translated into “He was so compulsive about fun that he would lie, cheat, and steal to get it” or “He didn’t worry about things, because he was totally irresponsible and a failure as an adult.”

    The attraction of the relaxed life drew me in… and then turned out not to be relaxing AT ALL. It was 20 dismal years of trying to get Cheater to care about ANYTHING but himself and his fun.

  • Thanks, Tracy, for the food for thought. I’ll be meditating on this one. A big part of the reason I love(d) and married my wife is because she was an extraordinarily strong, independent person. She stood up for herself, liked what she liked. did things her way, and did not make herself small to make others comfortable. We met when we were both resolving family-of-origin issues; she gave herself permission to set boundaries and interact with her family on her own terms. I loved that and took inspiration from it. She wasn’t a person without empathy. She wasn’t purely selfish. She wasn’t a “Lookit me, I’m not like mere mortals” kind of narc. But her self-confidence bordered on selfishness, and often crossed the line. Much of the time, she reflexively put herself first and often failed to reciprocate, in ways large and small, in some of her relationships. She scoffed at what she considered my need to please, which I considered simply being a good friend, good family member, and a decent human. Over the course of our marriage, I wrestled hard with her selfishness (and often hilarious lack of self-awareness in this regard). I chalked it up as the price I paid for loving a powerful, radiant, self-actualized woman. That price became quite dear when she quietly and unilaterally decided our marriage was over and gave herself permission to enter into an affair with a married co-worker — an affair she continued even after I learned about it, even though it was devastating to me and to our family, even though she was still sleeping in our bed. because it was essential to “her process” and “living her truth.” Now, as I move forward after our split, I’m looking closely at my motivation for accepting so much entitlement and selfishness — for making myself small to make her comfortable. I took a lot of comfort in what I perceived as her strength — it helped ground me and soothe some of my own insecurities. It also ensured she’d never be too needy, something I feared; though, of course, her needs and anxieties escaped around the edges in a hundred different dysfunctional ways, and I spent more time managing them than if she had just come to me with them directly, in an honest, vulnerable way. I was stunned by the way our marriage blew up, but, upon reflection, not surprised. The big question for me isn’t so much why she did it, but why I gave heart and soul to someone who showed me again and again that she was incapable of reciprocity.

  • I can relate to the seven kayaks. The Asshole has numerous bikes, kept trading up for better ones but keeping the old ones which he never used again. I was actually in love with the part of him that wasn’t narcy. He was able to keep his covert narcissistic tendencies in check and undetected for decades and be a responsible family man. Then he went full NPD about 7 years ago after losing his supply because I got sick. Hence the usual narc bullshit; long term affair. (which gave me hpv and the resulting pre-cancerous cervical lesions), multiple addictive behaviours, emotional abuse, pathological lying, etc.
    Spending almost three months untangling it all is what led me to realize he has NPD, so I’m glad I did it. It all makes sense now and I can let go because I finally have the truth. So don’t be too hard on untangling. It’s not for everybody, but for some if us it’s essential for recovery.

  • Bev? I am a bit concerned!

    Sorry CN, have not heard from this person in months and thought maybe she might see this post!

  • In the beginning- my XH was very funny, very witty, read a lot, handsome in an off beat way t, very good in bed- to start off with. He was 20,I was 24, and I didn’t know it, but he was in a long distance relationship and I was the OW. I didn’t find that out for months, and by then he’d ended it, and she was after all a “whole ocean away” his words, and it didn’t ring the ENORMOUS red flags that it should have, so that’s the bit I have to work out about myself. Why didn’t that make me pause?When we were living together a few years later and a female friend of his rang up to find out whether we were ” just friends” as he had been claiming to her WHY wasn’t that enough to end it?Thank you Ursula BTW for your due diligence.You must have been one of the few aquaintances who he didn’t sleep with.
    I didn’t value myself to tell him to fuck off. And so I signed up for 20 years of gaslighting and emotional abuse during which he got less funny and more ranty, and the sex, when I got it, was insulting robotic, People often say to me that I got two amazing children out of it, and I did.but they’re amazing because they take after me, seriously. He puts enormous pressure on them to like what he likes, and he prioritises his new fiancee, OW3, over them every time, My DD16’s psychologist told her that just because her dad always put her needs second, it didn’t mean he didn’t love her. ” That’s not a very useful kind of love, then, is it.” I said, as the more polite version of “WTF!”.That’s gaslighting right there- ignore what you feel, of course your dad loves you, he just never asks about your psychology or psychiatry appointments, and his answer to anxiety is ” You have nothing to be anxious about. Stop being silly.”
    She is no longer seeing that psychologist

  • I was 16 when I started dating my STBX. Married at 18. He was so handsome and I was so proud to be with him. I could not understand why he chose me. Through the years he started to insult me. Call me names. I pushed it aside. Because I thought he was under a lot of pressure working 2 jobs. As name the years went on the name calling got worse. He would push me away and did not want hugs. Never seemed to care about my interests or opinions. I became depressed and withdrawn. Did not want to go away with him. He then used my depression against me. One of his excuses for cheating on me with my cousin was I never wanted to go anywhere with him. That I was withdrawn and he did not think I would care anyway. He verbally and emotionally abused me for most of our marriage. Then when I withdrew he used that as an excuse to cheat with Skankella. Cheaters are a special breed.

  • What do we see in narcissists?

    Nothing. That is once we’ve figured out the cheaters narrative, the illusion, the lack of appreciation, inability to bond, pathological lying, and disordered toxic abuse.

  • What does the AP see in the narcissist? Me. Little does she know those mirrored qualities are mine, not his. Those clothes, his style? All mine. I bought every stitch of clothing he owns.

    That business? Me.

    The future faking? All his.

    Never kid yourself chumps; not a one has cheated only once.

  • I’ve been thinking this wasn’t my narc’s first rodeo (lots of signs of possible infidelity over the years as I look back). It was just the first one I caught him in. I equate it to speeding on the freeway…the first time I was pulled over by the police was definitely NOT the first time I had gone over the speed limit.

  • One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was getting involved with a narcissist, and while it started off with so much romance and excitement, my life turned into a horrific nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. He was so charming but the serial cheating, the gaslighting and constant blaming of everything wrong in his life made me feel like a crazy person. I should have paid attention to those warning flags, and have definitely learned a lesson. Great post, as always, and lots of fantastic advice to keep me grounded! Hugs…

  • Narcissists/BPDs figure you out before you figure them out. They are scammers. They figure out what someone like you wants to hear/likes/fears/desires and they exploit it. You get a glimpse behind their mask later….after they’ve done their damage.

  • I wanted someone who was less serious than I tend to be. I wanted to “let down my hair” and be frivolous once in a while. I wanted a reminder that I can and should do more than just work and sleep. What I hadn’t anticipated was what that meant in the long run (ten years of marriage). I was working long hours to pay all the bills, while he complained about how things were never quite how he wanted them to be. I started to dread going home at night, because after working 12 hours I then had to listen to him rant and be demanding. Ugh.

  • OH YES! With the making the sparkles into whatever you want them to be!!
    Tinman and I had dated in highschool, gotten engaged and I broke it off because I was young and wanted adventure and bad boys. When he came back into my life he was talking up how much of a rebel he was, took drugs on the regular, got high every weekend, drank, smoked, was a goth and went clubbing at this super secret cool goth club!! yadda yadda. Only problem? I had moved on. I had a house and a mortgage, an 18 month old, car repayments. I wanted stability, a good job, somone who was grown up enough to join me in my grown up life. So all of a sudden I was wrong, I had misinterpreted him, he hated clubbing, he wanted to settle down, he had been trying for kids with his wife (who was irresponsible and had cheated on him and left him – later proven to be a lie) but hadn’t had any. He was heavily invested into his career and being responsible blah blah.

    He literally morphed into a different person. Convinced me that he never said those things, that he wasn’t that irresponsible person that he did want the things that I wanted.

    It wasn’t until months down the track that I found my journal that I had written in the day of the first meeting and realised I hadn’t misinterpreted anything, he was either lying then or lying to me now. Turns out he was lying both times. He morphs into these different people depending on what he wants. For his last girlfriend he took up running and gave up that career to run their business… who knows what he will be for the next one?

  • Yep yep yep! After over a year of wreckconciliation with exH, trying to untangle his skein, then far too long & too many chances with (finally, permanently) exBf, I’m done.
    And I explained it this way to the bf as he tried to plead his case yet again …..
    The why no longer matters. Only the what. Buh-bye.

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