You have probably met at least one narcissist in your life. Someone that you just couldn’t please. Someone who blamed everyone else for their problems. If you have ever loved one, you know how lucky you are to have made it out alive (and mentally intact). If you haven’t made it out, you know the darkness of isolation and helplessness and frustration.
There are many theories as to the development of this personality disorder. Some give credit to faulty parenting in childhood, a severe emotional trauma in childhood, an overly critical mother or one who didn’t provide adequate nurturing. My husband remembered a mother who gave him little attention and rarely cared, and an abusive step-father.
His relationship with his mother was unpredictable. He really didn’t have a nice thing to say about her unless she was meeting his immediate desires. As his illness became more apparent, she became an obvious trigger for his “alternate” personality. At times, he would call and ask her for things and if she didn’t meet his demands, he would scream at her and call her names. I had to wonder how long this had been going on... maybe all of his life? She would eventually give in and give him what he wanted. It was as if she had spent years trying to gain his love and acknowledgement, and she knew this was the only way to get it (or at least feel it), and I definitely understood that.
I still had to wonder, had she spent those years questioning his actions and seeking help for him, rather than giving into his manipulations, would I be suffering through this life with him now? Parenting is challenging work, but the world will not teach our children responsibility, good judgement and compassion. If we send them out into the world without these things, they will fail. I felt myself questioning my judgement of his mother. I’m sure she wasn’t perfect, but who is? And everyone blames the mother, right? She eventually said no, cut off contact, and stopped financially enabling him (although family continued to enable him and she later picked right back up). This was her first step in regaining her sense of self, and the most valuable lesson she would teach me.
As I think back now, it would seem as though my husband married me, not to gain an equal partner in life, but rather an extension of his mother, and their dysfunctional relationship. He expected me to meet his every desire, and if I didn’t, he dismissed me, and his love for me. He spoke negatively about me to others, just as he badmouthed his mother to me. And his only real complaint, was that we weren’t giving him what he wanted, even if it was so far fetched and out of reach. She was a bad mother. I was a bad wife. And he would commit to punish us until he got what he wanted, or he found someone else to give it to him.
Once while cleaning our guest room closet, I found a pile of broken plastic coin holders. A large pile. My father had passed away about a year before and I had inherited his coin collection. My husband had stolen about $800 worth of antique coins and spent them at face value. The hurt I felt over his betrayal... meant nothing to him. The hurt I felt over the sentimentality of the collection... meant nothing to him. MY FEELINGS... meant nothing to him. He bought a $7 pack of cigarettes with my beloved father’s coin collection, and it meant nothing to him.
In fact, when I confronted him about it, he was quick to tell me that I should have come up with the money he wanted when he wanted it. He would later say if I knew him to be a thief, I should have locked everything in the house up. I was to blame. I was always to blame. And I did eventually have to lock everything up. Everything. What was left anyway. I was forced into the realization that this was the type of person I married, and this was the type of life I would have to live. Leaving didn't immediately occur to me as an option... this would take a little time... just as it took his mother time to realize her best action would be to distance herself from his abuse and stop enabling it. So with clear evidence that he would never actually have caring feelings for me (or anyone else), I stayed.
I realize now, that by staying, I was also enabling his abuse. I was ignoring these despicable behaviors that needed to become eye opening for him. I became desperate for his affection, and gave into his desires, and failed to make him feel the consequences of his actions. I WAS an extension of his mother. And we were both guilty of reinforcing his maladaptive behaviors. We both initially stood in the way of any chance for healing that he had. And we were both too weak to say no when we should have. And we both loved him and pitied him and tried to ease his suffering, instead of allowing him to feel it and learn from it. But she was not a bad mother. And I was not a bad wife. We were good, caring people, and we were both victims of his mental illness.
Recommended Read -
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
Get it here: