For the narcissist, loving anyone but themselves is very difficult, if not impossible.
Today I’ve been happily married to a sweetheart for 16 years but the holidays were always painful for me when I was in a five-year relationship with an asshat, more commonly referred to in mental health circles as a narcissist. It's a serious personality disorder.
During that time I was drowning in self-doubt and confusion about how to get my needs met from this conundrum of a man. I didn’t understand then that he had the traits commonly found in narcissists:
- An inability to care for anyone else’s feelings, thoughts or ideas
- Complete unreliability and inconsistency
- Everything is always all about him
- If he’s angry, it’s someone else’s fault
- An inability to feel empathy
For those of you who may be trying to manage with a partner like this, I want to offer you a behind-the-scenes breakdown of one evening with my former asshat to help you better understand your current situation and, eventually, how to deal with a narcissist.
The date was December 13th, 1994. Around this time my guy was taking tons of overtimes at work. (Often, the “work” included other women, I later discovered.) The one night he had off during that week I had to work. He wanted me to take the night off, but I wasn’t able to even though I tried.
Me and one of my asshat boyfriends
This is what I wrote in my journal after another frustrating interaction: “Here I am at home ,having left your apartment angry again. And I ask myself: Do I get too angry too easily? Am I too impatient?”
After dealing with this narcissist for so long, I finally dwelled on past moments when he showed his true colors. I learned a few things about my relationship with this asshat and continued to write my inner-most thoughts.
1. I was always dogged by self-doubt during the relationship.
“Maybe. But here’s what’s been going on, my bouncing like a ping pong off your moodiness and lethargy."
“Tonight you came into the restaurant to see me at work. You didn’t smile, you weren’t warm, but I tried to assume the best.”
2. He wanted something from me — most likely sex or other favors — and arrived at my work place to mope and make me uncomfortable. I tried to be perfect, to coax him out of his bad mood.
“I decided you came because you missed me — I ignored the fact that you were scowling, moping and wouldn’t give me any sign of affection."
“I thought maybe you were just feeling sorry for yourself because you wished I was free. So I smiled, and reassured you, and tried to be as affectionate as I could to show you I loved you.”
“Finally, I got a little smile from you. My heart leaped. You were warming to me. You joked with me a little, and told me maybe you’d take me out if I hurried and got ready after work.”
3. I figured my patience, kindness, and Zen approach had paid off. I thought I’d finally found the key to getting my needs met.
“I raced home — it’s been a long time since the two of us went and played on the town." (Around the time he was still trying to catch me)
“Jumping in the shower, I hurried and washed, tried to find something sexy to wear in 15 minutes and practically got a ticket racing cross town to your apartment, hoping I’d be lucky and you’d still be in the mood to go out when I got there."
“I walked in and the energy was real low. It was obvious you didn’t want to go out anymore, but you wouldn’t actually say it.”
4. Wait, what? Why did everything suddenly change? I thought I had him figured out.
“You said you’d go out if I still wanted to. But you wouldn’t get off the couch and were mopey again. I think you didn’t want to come right out and be the bad guy and call it off."
“I think you wanted me to get mad at you so you’d have an excuse to cancel. So it would be my fault."
“I don’t understand this moment. I feel very manipulated by you when you won’t say what you want. I feel like if I push you then I pushed you, and if we do what I want under those circumstances you’ll be lethargic and moody."
“If feels so difficult just to do things with you.”
5. Then, I had an epiphany.
“Lately it seems like you resent loving me, like somehow this is a bad thing.”
6. I thought telling him my needs would clear things up. I didn’t understand he was absolutely uninterested in my needs.
“If you don’t want to do anything, I wish you’d just say so. Then I could make my decision based on real information. I know you want me — show me how much! Be bold! It will only make me love you more.”
I was still under the impression that if he wasn’t expressing his desires for me maybe it meant he was shy? I didn’t understand he didn’t want to be responsible for me. If he’d been truly bold he would’ve told me the truth, right up front.
Which was that the relationship had to be convenient for him. Fulfilling for him. Easy for him. All about him. And that feeling responsible for anyone else felt like a suffocating trap.
Me and my sweet husband
It’s my wish that you give yourself the gift you might be giving to a person incapable of appreciating it. Give yourself attention. Kindness. Empathy. And patience. Go where the love is.
Maybe that’s your family of origin. Or girlfriends who get you. Or co-workers who appreciate you. Or a church or recovery community that always has your back. But one thing you must give yourself for sure is the knowledge that it’s not your fault if a narcissist behaves erratically, unkindly and selfishly — it’s simply who he is.
Shannon Bradley-Colleary is a compassionate Recovery Road-Warrior for Women. She uses her extensive background in Twelve-Step Recovery to help women go from #ToxicLove to #RealLove stat. Get Shannon's free tools, webinars and updates.
This article was originally published at Shannon Colleary. Reprinted with permission from the author.