Speaking Out: Narcissism

Discover Challenge: Speak Out

“Get inspired by those who speak out. Whether through blogging or marching, make your voice heard.”

I remember when it hit me hard. Smack dab in the middle of the forehead. I had wondered for years…

narcissismWhy is he like this?

What’s the matter with him?

Why can’t he behave like a decent human being?

On a day in 2009, I finally realized I had been living with a narcissist for almost 30 years. One with a personality disorder. Someone who was probably not going to change his ways any time soon. It was gut-wrenching and it was an epiphany. I had already learned of my own co-dependency  through counseling and made the decision to file for divorce. Now I had the knowledge that this decision was correct and there was no turning back.

Readers, you may have already asked yourself how narcissim is related to speaking out. Friends, I feel the need to write about a very personal journey and how it affected my vote for U.S. President last November.

No, I did not vote for him. I could never and I knew this early on in his campaign.

From the Mayo Clinic website:  “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

 A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. You may be generally unhappy and disappointed when you’re not given the special favors or admiration you believe you deserve. Others may not enjoy being around you, and you may find your relationships unfulfilling.”

My former husband had a severely fragile self-esteem. It was about as thin as one can see with the naked eye. He didn’t accept criticism well, opting instead to project himself as the victim or lashing out at the other person with anger. There were many days the floor of our apartment was covered in eggshells while attempts were made to not further break any of them. It’s difficult to live with the uncertainty of thin skin, not knowing what would set him off next.

If the ex-husband would have been tech saavy, I’m positive he would have been proclaiming his “poor me” victimization on Facebook and Twitter.

Instead, I had to listen to the rants or be the brunt of his angry sputtering.

“If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry.”

Lacking in empathy and belittling was huge. It drove me to distraction. The words that came out of his mouth about people of color, people of differing sexual orientation, people of all sizes and shapes, people who didn’t matter to him…were horrible. Remember the low self-esteem? Yeah, the words were said in order to make himself feel better. Bashing other people that he didn’t know somehow made him smarter, better looking, and more important in his own mind. To me and to others around him, it was pure meanness.

If he had been President, he would have also built a wall and sent people back to their country of origin.

There is no doubt in my mind.

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder includes (but is not limited to) these features:

  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

Unquestioning compliance, taking advantage, inability to recognize needs and feelings…this was him in a deeply personal way. He wanted and expected sex all of the time. When he didn’t get it, there was something wrong with ME. “Don’t you like men anymore? What’s the matter with you? Are you gay?” 

No, I’m not gay. I found out after I left you that I simply didn’t like having sex with you. Period.

In a normal, loving relationship, a man will put his arm around his wife and speak of his love for her. He will give her hugs. They may hold hands in public. I had always wanted that from the former husband, but there was no hand-holding, never a hug without wanting more. An outstretched hand meant “copping a feel” to suit his needs and desires.

If the former husband would have had money and power? He would have offered an outstretched hand to any woman he deemed worthy.

The former husband had neither wealth nor power, only me. I was the sole target, although I found out years later he had cheated on me with a neighbor. I should have left him then, but the co-dependency held me in, kept me trapped until I came to my senses a little too late.

There were additional shenanigans attached to this narcissism. Much of it surrounded his need to control me in the form of emotional abuse. I’m not proud I succumbed and gave into his will for so many years and I wonder how I stood it for so long.

There are no medications to treat Narcissistic Personality Disorder, only for the depression it can cause. Treatment of NPD is centered around psychotherapy. Because personality traits can be difficult to change, therapy can take several years.

I was not prepared to wait several years. I had talked him into seeing a counselor and I was going to one as well. While I was learning about co-dependency and how to appropriately reflect my desires and feelings to him, he was telling his counselor, “I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know why she wants to leave me.” When I would return home from a counseling session, he would ask, “Did they fix you yet?”

No shit.

The former husband felt he could say and do as he pleased without ramification. If any of the “say and do” blew up in his face, it was never his fault. It was my fault or the neighbor’s fault or the cat’s fault or the dust bunny’s fault. Never his.

If he were President, there would be no filters. He would most likely piss off every ally of the U.S. with the words that would come from his mouth. 

I am not writing this to anger supporters of our current President. I respect their freedom and right to vote for whoever they choose. However, I am writing this so that they know my experience with narcissism and what it is, what it looks like. I felt narcissism in our President long before he was the Republican nominee…from living with it for 30 long years. It was like jumping on a bicycle after six years of not riding – the knowledge of it stayed with me, not allowing me to forget, always spinning its wheels.

On election night and into the next morning, I didn’t sleep much. I kept looking at my phone.

No, no, no, no, this can’t be right. It can’t be true.

In a way, I felt the pain of those 30 years all over again. The memories with the former husband came flooding back in a way I was not prepared for. I kept hoping I was in a bad Star Trek dream and would wake up in a different reality.

This is why I must speak out. Narcissism in the form of a personality disorder is a serious matter. It negatively affects and hurts people and the narcissist doesn’t have a clue because, after all, the universe revolves around him. It does not belong in the hands or heart or psyche of any human being, especially a world leader.

That being said, if the former husband were President, I’m sure the tweet about this post would not be kind.


43 responses to Speaking Out: Narcissism

  1. M-R says:

    I’m with you, all the way. Every morning I read through every post I get from the NY Times, The Washington Post, et al, with sinking heart. It can only get worse.
    As for your personal experience, I have no way of being able to imagine that,M-J; but it must have been absolute hell.
    Still, it partially made you the person you are – and we are all grateful for her ! 😀

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It will get worse, M-R. How can it not? I’m still in disbelief that he became our President…not because he’s Republican, but because of the kind of person he is.

      As for my personal situation, I am grateful too that I made it here to meet you, M-R, and so many wonderful bloggers than I can call friends. If good had to come from the messiness of my marriage, this is part of it.

  2. First of all, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your very personal and private story. I left a similar relationship. One a bit heavier in the bipolar department, but a heavy dollop of Narcissism added some spice, shall we say.

    This is what confounds me about the situation south of the border. How is it that there is no mechanism to deal with what is CLEARLY a mental health issue? This is not me (or you) being overly sensitive or being a sore loser. This is me shitting my pants about the fact that a nutbar is at the wheel!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Maggie, please. No more shitting! LOL!

      I understand. It’s the way I feel. How can people not see the way he acts and treats people and not be offended? How can they possibly say he’s okay. He’s NOT okay and that can only mean trouble ahead.

      • [blush] sorry, not very ladylike, was I? Just caught up in the passion of the moment. No ore poopy pants, I promise!

    • Supposedly there way Maggie… That whole wasteful electoral college thang. For all the good it did. Yes. the shitting in the pants is nto over the republican stuff, it is over, well, the insanity.

      • Exactly – it’s not a party thing, it’s not me being a sore loser that my candidate didn’t get in (because, after all, I’m Canadian!) but it’s about a loose cannon on the deck.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal, well-written and timely post, Mary. I’ve know people like this, and there is no reasoning or working with them. There’s only getting away.

  4. Joanne Sisco says:

    I too saw He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named as a narcissist and clearly with a mental health issue. I can only hope that the damage he causes is minimal and that checks-and-balances are eventually put in place to ensure more stable candidates end up on future ballots.

    As for your former husband, my condolences. I imagine there was a lot of emotional baggage you needed to unload … and perhaps are still working on. This post was deeply personal and I appreciate that you spoke out. I’m sure it wasn’t easy ❤

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It might be too late for minimal damage, Joanne. He’s not only narcissistic, but also very calculating. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to getting what he wants. It’s very scary to me.

      Thanks for your condolences. Yeah, there was a lot of baggage and I’m still dealing with some leftovers. But I’m in such a happier place now, surrounded by very lovely friends, family and two furry critters. You can’t buy that with money and power, you have to be blessed with it.

  5. dweezer19 says:

    It’s perfect. I understand all too well. I’m very happy for you that, difficult as it must have been, you were able to extricate yourself from the situation.

  6. joey says:

    While I have never been in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, there are some hovering around the perimeter of my circle, and so I’ve experienced some first-hand narcissistic WOW moments. I can spot it right away. Having had your experience, you can probably spot it a mile away.
    It has been clear to me for a long time than ‘that man’ is mentally ill. I don’t understand why other people can’t see it. While it’s already disturbing for most of us, I’m sorry it’s like salt in your wound.
    Congratulations on finding yourself after so long. I’m so glad you’re you in all your glory.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I can spot a narcissist a thousand miles away and on TV 😉 They do tend to create the “Wow, I can’t believe you said/did that” moments. I experienced many of them firsthand. So, watching it on TV is like having a bad flashback. Which means I have to turn the TV off when he’s on. It’s the way I’ll survive the next four years.

      Yup, I’m here as my glorious self. You are stuck with me, Joey!

  7. Mary, my heart breaks for what you had to go through, and for such a long time.

    I admire your strength in finally being able to break free: it must have taken humongous faith and will.

    And thankyou for sharing such a personal story to help the world understand what it is dealing with at the moment. I hope the world awakens into a new consciousness soon, and stops supporting and enabling what could only lead to disaster for the planet.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Damyanti, your heart can be happy for me. It did take a lot of faith, prayer and courage to finally call it quits. I had to send my fear packing and start a new life. It’s been pretty wonderful so far and I realized I am surrounded by many great people in my circle (that includes you) who make life interesting and fun. The world will awaken and so will our country. It’s bound to happen.

  8. Mary thank you for sharing your very personal story with us. I know that couldn’t have been an easy thing to do but I do hope that your load has been lightened while the rest of us are enlightened. I do see the similarities and pray as the rest of you do.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Writing this has been somewhat cathartic. It’s been on my heart to share this for the past year, but I never found the right words until this week. You’re welcome, Marianne, and thanks for praying for my country.

  9. loisajay says:

    So glad for you, Mary, that you were able to move on and get your own (happy) life. Co-dependency is an awful thing and it take a strong person to break the bonds.

  10. This is the first post I read this morning and I’m like Ummm…what do I comment? I’m not divorced so I can’t say I understand how you feel. In my family, I don’t have a narcist individual in my family, so I can’t say I understand. Yes, I did meet many people in the corporate world who are self-obsessed and have all those traits you mentioned, but I never worked with them long. The only thing I can really comment on is a husband-wife relationship because I strongly love Sarah. Here in India (now I am not blaming all the men), but the majority (not all) of the guys I have come across change the way they behave with their partners post-marriage. While dating everything is so liberal and modern and then suddenly everything becomes traditional, conventional, orthodox and strict. And I begin to wonder have these men changed now, or have they revealed their true colors after putting up an I-am-a-nice-guy show during the dating period. The funny thing is that when I tell them my observation they say – It’s the kid, Sharukh. You don’t have a kid. So, I am like how is having a kid connected with your degree of affection towards your wife. The kid doesn’t stop you from hugging your wife, taking out for parties, saying sweet things to her or any other form of expressing love. Gradually, the debate shifts from having a kid to handling responsibilities, managing an irate boss, and all the other excuses that you can think of to convince me that the percentage of love drops drastically post-marriage.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Sharukh, you and Sarah are very fortunate and blessed to have not only found one another, but also know how to truly love and respect each other. I think what happens with some people in courtship is that one person is so intent on either being with the other person or somehow controlling them, that they don’t show their true self. Then, when the marriage is legal, they let their guard down and it’s unfortunate for the other person. I have a friend who went through that, her husband was great during the dating period, but became abusive and controlling after marriage. It lasted a year and she said “enough!” You are right, children should not make a difference in how you treat one another…that might be an excuse for not trying.

      • Well, apart from the fact that we love each other. I believe some amount of credit also goes to the way my mother brought me up. She would always say to me – Sharukh, don’t you dare ruin any girl’s life in anyway, ever. Plus, I am brought up by my sister, aunts and mom’s of my friends so I have a mutual affection towards women. Yes, sometimes I am really annoyed at some ladies because of their rude and selfish behavior, but I always believe in giving women the sky to fly high.

  11. I can’t write it all out now but please know that still another woman is with you and behind you and pulling for you to stay free…in your personal life as well as in our country.

    Flat words that barely touch what I felt reading your post.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I imagine there are many women (and men too) who have walked in my shoes in regard to a narcissistic mate. I’m sorry if you had to go through a rough time as well. Not fun, right? I totally intend to stay free, whether I remain single or remarry at some point. No abuse. No control. No bad behavior from anyone else.

  12. Naomi Byrnes says:

    I hear the pain this has bought up and the longing to warn us all to be aware that it won’t be our interests that are being served. I do find myself wondering very much about not so much Donald Trump, but the people who are serving him in office carry out the greater good that they see. I find myself thinking of Alice Miller’s writings about the contempt and violence of childhood and how that shaped not just the leaders who bought about so much bloodshed, but also the culture in which people supported those leaders in being able to act not just without compassion but with malice. I think her book is “The Truth Will Set you Free”. I think it’s a good time for us all to look at how vulnerable we are to believing we must “please” people in power … and get familiar with the underlying fear that can be hard to face.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You are correct in that there are issues with those closest with the President. What worries me most, though, is our culture and the fear and lack of compassion that says it’s okay to have these people in office. I can’t wrap my head around that.

  13. My mother. In fact, I had to go to therapy to get through the pattern of talking even though I hadn’t the pattern of narcissism… there is a pattern of verbal exchange. “Mom, I broke my arm.” Mom: “I broke my toe once.” or the old joke, “Enough about me, what do you think of me?” The anger, the lack of taking responsibility, et all.

    Seriously, I am sorry you had to walk through it and glad you made it through. Your writing took courage and skill and it is a really good piece which touched me deeply. BTW, I identify with the sex thang from my former husband — all about sex, not about affection. All about what it could do for him, not about our relating. Huggs.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I welcome the hugs, Katie. Thank you for your love and support.

      For having lived with narcissists, it’s fortunate that we didn’t go down the same path…that we’re both people with a caring heart. He took a lot away from me during our marriage, but he never took that.

      Thank you so much for the kind words about the writing of this piece. It felt good to finally get it out.

  14. Laura says:

    I am happy that you were able to break free and to live now in a better place. I was shocked that man won the election. No matter what party he represents, I could see from the beginning he was bad news. Hope you have many happy days in your future 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks Laura. Many people were shocked by the election and I have to believe that some who voted for him have been disheartened by his behavior and actions. I don’t know how they could not.

  15. Just hugs and support and lots of feelings. And it doesn’t help that the society of today is so narcissistic as such. I wonder why so many women felt this early on and why so many men oversee it still. Not making it about gender, but personal experiences say so, and no matter what anybody says, it’s still more terrible when a big man lashes out.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thank you for your hugs and support. I believe that narcissism affects men more than women, according to statistics. There may be factors why, but I just want to say that it’s not a becoming personality on anyone.

  16. Reena Saxena says:

    I have quit a job after suffering bosses with this personality disorder. And cut off ties with a close relative, after an epiphany that she will never change. This sure rings a bell.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It can be disheartening to know that there are others with this disorder, especially when they are in positions of power or leadership.

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