I always thought it was odd that my husband badmouthed family members and acquaintances, and made it a point to deter me from wanting to talk to them or hang around them. He always had a story about how worthless they were, how untrustworthy they were, how despicable they were. He would have no communication with them for months. I assumed it was because he wanted to be sure the lies didn’t cross, so he made efforts to keep me isolated, and that was probably true a lot of the time. After all, reactive abuse is the most popular tool in the toolbox for a narcissist. Reactive abuse is where a toxic person pokes and prods and abuses, until the victim responds with anger or other normal reaction, and the toxic person then accuses the victim of being the abuser, or the “crazy person”. It is one more manipulative skill that allows them to play the persona of “victim” to get the attention they seek from others. My husband was a great victim. He would start arguments that made no sense, sometimes yelling at me for something HE had done. He would call me names, attack my vulnerabilities, degrade me, and confuse me, until I broke. Once I got angry, and yelled back, or questioned his actions, pointed out his wrongdoings or any other normal response, he would get someone on the phone, and ever-so-calmly explain how out-of-control I was, or how inappropriate I was acting or how I was behaving like a crazy person. He was a master of provoking me by creating chaos, so he could show everyone how “unhinged” I was.
Other times, he would start the arguments in the car on the way to a gathering. He would verbally and emotionally beat me up all the way there, until I was so battered and distraught in spirit, that I couldn’t possibly imagine socializing with anyone. Then, we would pull up to the event, and he would step out, as happy and calm as could be. Meanwhile, I would so uncomfortably sulk in a shadow, feeling so worthless and confused and falling apart, listening to him laughing and pleasing and doing what he does, and easily pointing out how miserable I was to be around. I could see their questions in their faces, “what is he doing with her?” His talent of superficial charm made him irresistible…it also made him a dangerous, anti-social predator.
My husband had a plethora of dangerous and unpredictable mental health issues. I spent years trying, but was still not able to completely untangle the mess of disorders wound around him. It was very difficult to tell which behaviors were the result of his narcissistic personality disorder, which were the result of his bipolar mania, which were the result of dissociative episodes, which times he was acting out of addiction, etc. The actions were the same, but the motives might be different. There were times he was being manipulative to fill his own narcissistic voids, times he was lying to gain access to his addictive substance of choice, and times when he was truly convinced of what he was saying. I believe of all of the disorders he suffered from, his narcissism made him the biggest threat to the world around him.
Narcissists are actually very predictable and not that difficult to spot, if you are paying attention. It always made me question the people in my immediate world, that everyone else seemed to fall for his acts, no matter how little they seemed to add up. Narcissists will be outgoing, energetic and charming. They will also likely be the first suspected when something goes missing. They have a great story for everything, but their stories don’t seem to always add up. They will describe all of their exes as “crazy”. They will always find a way to bring the conversation back to themselves. And when the going gets tough, they get going… They are professional victims. But behind closed doors, they are tearing somebody’s world apart. They are abusive and volatile, selfish and manipulative. They prey on the most compassionate, most empathic people. The good people. And the only way to prevent this, is to bring the narcissist out of hiding. To voice concerns about odd behavior patterns and stories that obviously don’t add up. To question the forever victim attitude and claims that they are constantly victimized by people they loved (even though they badmouthed those people the whole time they were together). Call them out on lies, hold them accountable, and do not enable them to hide among the real prince charmings of the world.
stay tuned for more on this series...