Part of my recovery from being suddenly abandoned by my husband, was doing lots of reading to attempt to work out why he decided to end our marriage, so suddenly and without warning. How can someone, in a few years, go from being madly in love to complete indifference. He has never come up with an explanation, he says he just doesn't know why he decided to sign up to an Internet dating site, find a woman and then leave me for her.
One of the things that I came across over and over again, in my reading, was the concept of narcissism. My husband definitely has a lot of narcissistic traits and it has helped me to understand his behaviour by learning about what makes a narcissist tick. Sometimes by being able to give something a label, it can help to make sense of it.
Narcissists view themselves as more important than anyone else. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, your time, money and everything else revolves around what he wants. My husband racked up a lot of credit card debt because he was incapable of living within his means. I ended up having to give him an amount of pocket money each week, in order to have money to pay bills and buy food because if he wanted something he bought it, and it was up to me to work out how to pay for everything else. I remember when my daughter came home from school, proud of herself because she had got an ‘A’. Instead of congratulating her, he just started telling the story of when he got his first ‘A’. His infrequent phone conversations to his own children were always about himself, unless I reminded him to ask them what they were doing, and even then the conversation quickly shifted back to himself.
As well as being more important than anyone else, narcissists perceive themselves to be better than other people. My husband used to say on a regular basis that he was a god at his workplace. Narcissists expect that everybody around them recognises their superiority and they are often seen by others as being arrogant. They constantly exaggerate their achievements and skills.
Narcissists continually lie and have secrets. They have the ability to compartmentalise their lives. For example, my husband’s life with me was in one compartment and his life with the other woman was in another compartment. His pathological lying allowed him to live a double life. My whole marriage was one big lie, I realise now that he lied about his first marriage, his relationships with other women during our marriage, money, how much beer he had drunk, how many cigarettes he had smoked, his whereabouts. I never nagged him about how much he smoked and drank, but he always felt the need to be lying about how much he was cutting down. He had the ability to lie while looking straight in my eyes and he could make up lies in an instant and not even blink when he lied to me.
After I discovered the affair and I was a bit more suspicious, I would often question his lies – he would either accuse me of over-reacting, get aggressive or tell me I had got it wrong and come up with another lie.
Narcissists have no remorse for their actions because they do not have the ability to empathise with those that they have hurt. They have no conscience and they do not care about the consequences of their actions – it’s all about them and they don’t ever look back to see the devastation and anguish they have caused. They can get emotional, but this is more about keeping up an appearance and playing the game, rather than true feelings.
My husband sent me grandiose text messages, like, “there will be no redemption for what I have done to you, and I seek none.” The last time that I saw him he wanted to have dinner and be friends, he had no comprehension of what he had put me through, by suddenly leaving to be with another woman. I angrily tried to explain to him that I could never be friends with a man who two years into our marriage decided to enrol himself in an Internet dating site, find a woman and then run off with her. He started crying, but it was all crocodile tears, I rang him a couple of hours later to apologise and he was back to his normal arrogant self. It turned out that she had gone out to dinner with her ex-husband and so obviously he was trying to make her jealous by going out to dinner with me.
Relationships and the Narcissist
Given that a narcissist is egotistical and self-absorbed, when they enter relationships it is to make sure that they always have somebody readily available to praise and admire them. They are unable to form normal attachment bonds and they have an inability to connect in the way that non-narcissists do. When the narcissist first decides on a target, they pursue them with attention, flowers, text messages, love letters – the victim is swamped with affection and put on a pedestal. He may ask you to marry him within the first few weeks of knowing him, like my husband did with me.
When my husband first decided to move on to the other woman, his phone bill had several pages, all text messages to the same number. I also found a letter that he had written to her that started, “you are my love, my life…”. Of course, when I questioned it, he came up with a plausible lie. The narcissist will think and talk about their target constantly – I remember when he first started dating me, his workmates got sick of hearing about me. As a target of the infatuation, you feel like you have found Mr Right, you and he are such a perfect match, you can’t believe that this wonderful man, is single (he probably has omitted to tell you that he is married) or else his witch of a wife just doesn't understand him and make him feel like you do.
Ideally, a marriage will settle into a stable routine, after the initial honeymoon period, where both people are committed to a shared vision of their future together. However, narcissists get bored easily and after the initial romantic high wears off, they start wondering if their target really is worthy of their attention. The thrill of the chase is over, he doesn't want to build a comfortable relationship with a life partner. My husband works in a fly in, fly out job and initially he would Skype with me every night and tell me how much he missed me, gradually contact when he was away, became less and less, to the point where he rarely bothered to ring me at all. In his time home, he would disappear, staying out all night and whole weekends. His whole attitude had changed towards me, I had gone from being lavished with affection to being ignored. During this time my mother died, and instead of being supportive and comforting, he was distant. I remember ringing him when I found my mother, asking him to come to be with me, while the police and ambulance people were there. He came but he didn't even hug me, he just sat there staring into space, at the time I thought it was because he was upset about my mother’s sudden passing, but now I realise he was just irritated that I was being needy. At that point he had already emotionally checked out of our marriage and was chasing his next supply, I just didn't realise it. When we got home he sat on his laptop, while I cried and then fell asleep on the couch.
It is absolutely devastating to be discarded by a man, who was supposedly so in love with you. But what you have to realise is that beautiful man that you fell in love with never actually existed – he was just a character that the narcissist was playing to draw you in. He moves on to the next target, when he gets bored, with not a second thought about the emotional carnage he has left behind. You may find that you get the occasional flirty text message, or like I did, the ‘if I could turn back time’ text message. Narcissists don’t just enjoy sticking the knife in, the like to twist it as well. Think about it, if he actually meant any of those things he would have committed to you, not run in the opposite direction.
Narcissists like to keep back up victims around, in case the new target doesn't work out or they need to make the new target jealous. This is where Facebook comes in handy, they can have a supply of ‘old friends’, ex-wives of old friends and in my husband’s case, the sales assistant that sold us our lounge suite, all just sitting there waiting to be used if needed.
Once you realise that you are dealing with a narcissist, you need to block them on your phone, your email and out of your life. They reserve the right to come back into your life at any time and start trying to use you again. You have to realise that you did nothing wrong, you are not at fault – you were targeted and manipulated by a conman, who has used you financially, emotionally and sexually and then spat you out when he got bored. You trusted someone who didn't deserve your trust and who exploited your vulnerability by tricking you into falling in love with them.
Your self-esteem will have taken a battering – I wasn't even able to hold down a job for several months afterwards. But you will get better, take one day at a time, read about healing and mindfulness, take time out to walk along the beach, go out with friends, do a yoga or meditation class, spend time in your garden and spoil yourself.