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The good, the bad, the narcissist

The good, the bad, the narcissist

When you are married to a narcissist you accept the good and the bad.  Yes, there is good.  My ex had tremendous leadership skills, he leveraged his arrogance and unshakeable confidence which came from his self-admiration.  He was incredible with sales and charmed the pants off any number of people including the wives of his investors.  However, it’s generally tempered with the sense of entitlement and the exploitativeness that comes with the package.

I’ve actually studied narcissism since our split.  It’s helped me predict his behavior and understand him without getting sucked into an argument.  It’s funny in a sick way, but when we were married I placated the beast.  I knew how to manipulate it so he thought things were his idea and so he never felt challenged.  I didn’t realize it at the time, I just knew I couldn’t let him get angry.  I was pretty good at it.  We were married without any significant belligerence for 17 years.  Now, however, I find it exhausting to play the game.  He’s frankly shocked by my lack of acquiescence and right on cue, reacts badly with that completely predictable aforementioned arrogance and sense of entitlement.

I highly recommend a study of narcissism.  According to an article in Medical News Today, narcissism is on the rise in America and mostly with men.  Think about your husband, boyfriend, boss, co-worker or son.  This is a good thing to know.

 

These are some fabulous example of narcissism from my past:

Him:     I want to take the kids to the mountains for New Year’s.

Me:       Did you want me to go too or are you suggesting a boy’s day out?

Him:     No, I want you to go so you can take pictures of me.

Classic.  Oh, I went and every picture I took was of the back of his head.

 

Or this wonderful piece of inadvertent comedy unloaded ten minutes after he casually tells me he wants a divorce:

Him:     So we’ll get divorced and I’ll just stay in the guest room.  I may stay here up to five years.  We’ve been good roommates, right?

Me:       You may have been a roommate, but I was your wife.

Him:     Right, well my point is we’re good friends, we’ll always be good friends.  You’d take care of me if I got hurt or needed help.  I know I can count on you.

 

Oh those silly narcissists.  The reason I’m thinking of this now is because he sent me an email and told me that our problems today were a result of letting my ego get in the way.

Another bit of inadvertent humor.

My happily ever after is right around the corner

My happily ever after is right around the corner

In 2009 my husband of 16 years, boyfriend for the six years before that, told me he was done.  He wanted a divorce.  He actually said he wanted a divorce for the last ten years but put up with it all because, well he didn’t like confrontation.  He thought we’d been such good “roommates” for the last few years that he would simply move into the guest room and we would continue that arrangement for, oh, say another five years.  By then he would be ready to leave. 

A lot more was said, but I was in such shock that I don’t remember a lot of it.  As you might imagine, while he was being a good roommate, I was being a good wife.  I put up with a lot, supported him and protected him while we were waist deep in his crap. I believed I was making an investment and the payoff was just around the corner.  At some point we would be happy again; we would look back and laugh at these hard times.

So my investment went bust.  Well, I couldn’t wait for him to be ready to move out, who wants a bad investment lingering around sapping resources?  So a few weeks after he dropped his bomb, I found myself tossing his things into his car and watching him drive away.   You see, that afternoon he left with the kids for lunch and the park.  He came back at 8pm.  It seems he had a glass of wine with lunch, never made it to the park, and drank straight through to dinner.  Then he drove home.  With the kids.  I was angry and rather than suppress as usual, I called him on being irresponsible. He became enraged at my lack of gratitude for taking the kids out for the afternoon. 

There was a time when I would stand there and take it, back before we were roommates.  I never would have confronted him.  I would have apologized for appearing ungrateful and told him he misunderstood.  But you know, that November, I’d had enough.  So when he told me I was ungrateful I took a deep breath and defended myself.  That’s when he threatened to leave.  And I started to laugh.  Like divorcing me wasn’t enough, wait, there’s more!  He might actually leave!  It was ludicrous.  He was ludicrous. 

I remember it was scary and exhilarating.  This man who I couldn’t imagine spending my life without… in a matter of days I suddenly couldn’t imagine spending another second anywhere around him.

Well, because he doesn’t like confrontation, and he doesn’t like to be wrong, and he doesn’t like paying his debts, we still aren’t divorced.  My attorney told me last week we have a mandatory settlement hearing first week in February. We must agree to the dissolution that day or the judge will end it under his own terms.  So I’ve been reflecting a lot these last few days.

I’ll finally be divorced first week in February.  For the right things, I am very grateful.

Incidental family

Incidental family

When my landlord decided to lease the guestroom in my house, Gaefan became an incidental member of our family.  When he moved into our lives, I was one year into the divorce process, one year into a job hunt, I was way behind on rent and I was shouldering $80k of credit card debt my ex created by secretly supporting his failing business with my credit cards. Since he used my cards, I was also dodging the phone calls from Citibank.

My parents were retired and lived inTexas.  Still do.  My father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I was working six part-time jobs and still not able to pay the bills.  I had also started dating a guy fairly regularly.  He was employed, good looking, crude and probably an alcoholic.  Some of my best stories have to do with the Boyfriend Candidate.  He was and is quite something.

So basically, I was busy and panicked.  I had relationships going and coming.  I was trying to keep the lives of my three boys normal, at a level of privilege they had gotten used to, but was impossible to maintain.  The days of immediate gratification and spontaneous generosity were over.  I came up with an empowering action list.  I love lists.

Option 1. Get a job.  I had been a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom to my slightly autistic son.  That would have to end.  He started brick and mortar and I started pounding the pavement.  I submitted my resume to over 500 companies in the 8 months I was out of work.  I had temp jobs that floated me.  I transcribed.  I participated in surveys, and I dated for dinner.  Best of all I started web and blog writing.

Option 2. Get remarried, quickly, to man who would make all our problems go away.  It could happen.  I figured I’d fall in love again one day.  If that day could be today, that would be really convenient.

Option 3. Prepare to move back to Texas.  If 1 and 2 didn’t work out, singularly or in combination, that would be all that was left.  Me and my three would be moving into a three bedroom with my elderly retired parents, one of whom was suffering from dementia.  These are not the warm fuzzy grandparents that I hear other children have.  My mother takes no prisoners and my dad is a mystery.  So finding a job or finding the love of my life was really critical.

So into my very ordered, yet unpredictable life comes Gaefan.  He was all hippie auras and holistic transcendence.  He was so far out there he looped all the way around, back to self-righteous and had no idea.

When I met Gaefan, it was late at night.  I opened the door to a much older man, shaved head, energetic.  I didn’t get any kind of a vibe off him so he seemed safe.  Not a child molester, not a gay pedophile, not hot for me.  No flags.

He was British and had the accent.  Clearly delightful.  I gave him the tour.  We have a yard; he had a dog.  I told him then my children were allergic to dogs so his would need to have limited range.  He seemed ok with that.

And he was in.

Right on the nose

Right on the nose

I’ve had a lot of fun this past week talking about my Boyfriend Candidate’s gift giving extravaganza.  And I realized I didn’t share the best part in my past posts.  I opened the first gift and it was . . . a nose hair clipper.

I knew in that moment I could love this man deeply.  I knew it was a practical joke in the literal sense.  Practical, sensible, hysterical and the kind of thing you never want to buy for yourself so receiving one as a gift is kind of thoughtful and generous.  Almost like a sexual lubricant or Preparation H.  Do you really want to check out at Wal-mart and know that they know that you know you have an intimate issue?  No.

Also, and he doesn’t know htis, several years go I gave everyone in my family nose hair clippers for Christmas.  I mean every man, woman and child.  I actually read in GQ that it was one of those must haves for men that most men didn’t have.  At the time I felt women were getting the shaft; and why not women?  Like we don’t have nose hair too?  So I thoughtfully covered everyone’s unacknowledged needs that year.  As I opened my package I reflected on that and I felt a kindred spirit in my guy.  I actually kind of teared up. Among the other gifts were jewelry, a massage certificate, some knick knack thing for around the house.  Those gifts will all be forgotten.  But the nose hair clipper?  He really loves me.

It’s a big adventure

It’s a big adventure

I was laying down with my youngest little boy tonight.

Me:        You use to be so little!

Sam:      One day I’ll be 100 years old!

Me:        Make it 150!

Sam:      And you’ll be dead!

Me:        Maybe I’ll die on a big adventure….

Sam:      Like in the desert.  I don’t want you to die.

Me:        I promise I won’t die until you don’t need me any more.

Sam:      I’ll always need you, so you’ll always be here?

Me:        For as long as you need me!

I started thinking.  And I’ll let you in on a secret:  I think in weird loops so here goes.  I started thinking it’s interesting that children see the end of your life story, not the beginning.  I see the beginning of theirs, but if everything goes the way it’s suppose to, I’ll never know how their story ends.  Thinking about my children dying then made me wonder why I had them in the first place.  Thinking of them dying, maybe in pain, maybe alone…. ugh.

So from there I went to thinking that’s a good reason for me to tell my childless friends why their occasional doubts about their decision (or unintended consequence) to stay childless is really ok:  you don’t ever have to ponder your children dying.

Then I had a mental argument with myself.

Me:        Dying, so what?  The joy that your children will feel will far overwhelm any pain or anguish that comes into their lives.

Me2:     That’s bullshit.  Where in your life experience can you say your joy has surpassed your anguish?

Me:        OK.  That’s a good point.  It does seem like the stress and anguish far  outweigh the joy.  But maybe that’s because anguish happens to you and you have to get off your ass and create joy.  Joy doesn’t just happen.  It takes effort.  Anguish happens.  If you want more joy, if you don’t want to be laying on your death bed thinking the scale tips toward disappointment, then you have to do something about it. You have to create it.

Me2:     You’re a self-righteous bitch.  What you’re suggesting is I laugh more, I make more friends, I seek out moments of happiness and enjoyment, I see the positive side.  Oh good God, that means making an effort.  And I’m tired.  You know that.

Me:        Get off your ass.  Do it now.  I don’t want to linger in the shadows with you.

OK so all of this happened in about two minutes.  Most of it while brushing my teeth watching Sam trying to lay flat under the sheets so I wouldn’t see him.  My God, I remember doing that with my mother.  In Oklahoma.  In the bedroom she grew up in.  The beginning of her life story which I would know nothing about.

Today my almost ex-husband decided to scrap the dissolution we’ve been working two years on.  For a marriage he desperately wanted to end, he can’t seem to let it go.  And that little bit of anguish will continue.

Tomorrow I’m going to a 5 year old birthday party.  I’m going to solidify friendships with these new people in my life.  I’m going to laugh really hard and leave my phone number with at least one other mom to set up a play date.  I really don’t want my life burdened by anguish.  I don’t want to leave that model for my children.

When I die on my big adventure in the desert, I want my kids to know I was laughing.