Staying Put

By EyeOfTheStorm

I’ve recently reached a milestone in my journey distancing myself from a narcissistic personality. Like each journey, mine has some unique characteristics.

– I am a man. My wife is the narcissist. That is my own non-professional diagnosis, but I’ve been studying narcissism for about eight months now, and am confident in that statement. Having a wife who is a narcissist puts me in the minority. Apparently, being a man who will write about it online makes me even more of a minority!
– We have three children. Not that this is so terribly unique, but it is the central point of my decisions. Otherwise, I would have left after her affair and never given it a second thought.
– I am choosing to stay. Looking at how a divorce would work, the kids would spend half their time in each location. Not only is that a difficult life for a kid, but I do believe I can diffuse some of the anger/guilt that gets directed toward the children. I would not want to leave them completely with her – open to any amount of anger/guilt/manipulation. Therefore, mine is an emotional distance.

I have found a lot of advice online for leaving a narcissist and recovering, but not as much for staying. And the advice for staying with a narcissist includes things like catering to their every whim and building up their ego to stay protected. That is of no interest to me.

I have started down my own path, and am interested in sharing it as I progress. I am interested in any advice you have, as well! I’ve started with three giant steps I need in order to move forward.

Step 1 – Be Honest about the Relationship

This is not going to be a loving, giving relationship. Gone are the days of constantly giving out of love. In that mode, my return is blame, guilt, infidelity, and anger. Oh, and lots of confusion! I realize that my wife picked me because it helped to bolster her own image in some way, not because she ever wanted to share a life with me.

Moving forward, I realize that she views the relationship as part of her image, and simply wants the relationship to exist in a way that protects that image. For example, we are more successful than our friends if we have dinner at home during the week. Great – I agree. And I make sure I am a part of that and that I have the kids in the right place at the right time.

There are examples of me not conforming to her image, though. Our neighbors mulch in April, and we are apparently inferior to them because we do not. I mulch in June every year. I do it on time and do a decent job. But I do it in June so the mulch is at its best during the dry season.

How do I manage the April-June season of complaints about not having mulched yet? I am coming to grips with that. I know to first observe any comments, questions, or snide remarks without responding immediately. I simply try to figure out what part of her narcissistic image is being disrupted, and see if I can understand how that triggered her response. It is more of an ongoing experiment than a relationship. And since I know my motives for being here are the children, I am able to view it as an acceptable situation.

Step 2 – Learn the Image and Reactions

We’ve been married for well over 10 years, so I have fumbled my way through many of the landmines that come with a narcissist. I know not to mention my writing hobby because it will trigger all kinds of issues. That is not an acceptable hobby in her eyes.

But only recently have I come to put together a framework of what a narcissist values and how they respond. They value the image they are trying to protect, and they respond with various ways of trying to manipulate the outcome. Anger, lies, using other people, or whatever it takes – the goal is to protect the image, and they subconsciously use those emotions to manipulate everything back into alignment with the image.

You also need to throw in a healthy dose of randomness, because you cannot accurately predict responses. You can spot trends. I know if someone enters the house, trouble is ahead. Having an immaculate house is something that she sees as part of the image she has of herself. If the house is messy at all (there are 5 of us here, so there’s always some mess), what follows is either blame for me or the kids, new resolutions for how we live our life, or inquisitions as to why a person was ever in our house in the first place.

Step 3 – Set Your Own Goals and Methods for Achieving Them

This is a bit like advice for anyone. But it is different when done in the context of living with a narcissist. I eliminated the goal of having a wife who publicly supports me in my career and charitable endeavors. That cannot matter if I am with her. And with the other goals, how I work around her narcissism impacts how those goals can be achieved.

I can go through those specific goals later if you are interested. But for now, I’ll just give a couple examples of how I work to achieve them by either ignoring the narcissistic responses or working around them.

In some cases, like taking care of my own health, I now work toward my goals regardless of what she thinks. Every day she complains that my exercises are silly, I’m wasting my time and hers, etc. Note that she exercises every day as well, which doesn’t seem to be a contradiction to her. I ignore the comments, and am back into a healthy BMI and athletic percent body fat. I’m happy with this, and my confidence/results help me to ignore her reaction.

In other cases, like keeping a clean house, I already learned that cleaning can be a problem. I will insult her by doing her work. I will make her angry by doing a lot of housework one week when she is busy, and then going back to letting her do those parts as she becomes available. Instead, to achieve this, I work with the kids to make sure we clean our rooms, leave no clutter, etc. We do certain jobs that are clearly ours, making sure that the house can be easily cleaned any other time. I do more than my fair share, but stay away from jobs that seem to disrupt her stride.

That is the framework for how I am progressing from now on. I am only a couple months into the process, and still have frustrations when she gets angry for no reason. But I feel much better now that I have a clear path and have started to see some progress in the kids and myself, despite staying in the relationship.

I would be interested in any similar situations or advice, and look forward to providing more details and updates as I proceed.

Best wishes,

When It’s So Hard to Let Go

by resdien

I am in my early 30’s and have a 2 year old with an ex N. We were together for 6 years and I recently broke it off several months ago. The first year of our relationship was GREAT! I felt like a queen. We were so in love. We were inseparable.

I started to get insecure with him working with really attractive females. Part of it was my own past insecurities, but the other part was intuition…maybe more. I found out he was hitting on his female coworkers. This was 4 years ago. I confronted him about it and of course, i became the bad person not him.

He eventually apologized. We were already living together at the time. I didn’t want to move back to my parents. From there my self esteem started to go down hill. I was always having thoughts of him doing something. A year goes by, and it comes to my attention he’s hitting on his coworkers again. I confronted him. Again, i was the bad person.

He told me to pack up all my s*it and i did, but i caved in to his pressure to come back, and we were boyfriend and girlfriend the very next day.

Through time, i became overly jealous. I would look through his phone and was always living on edge. Oh, and the emotional and verbal abuse escalated. But I was on medication and I felt like i was the one with the problem and was convinced it was just “my depression.” He said that too.

Anyway, years go by.. we would fight and he would be verbally and emotionally abusive. Once my son was born it got worse. I was called “bitch”, “slut”, “motherfucker”, “stupid”,” etc., in front of my son many times.

When i look back, i realize he was the problem to my depression. But he always made it seem like it was my fault and I kept hoping for us to work out especially now that we had a son together.

It’s been only been a few months since the break up. The first few weeks he cussed me out because we got into a fight about him lying. He countered and said i had a fake disease (relating to my depression). I was at rock bottom. My work and school was affected. I have a degree and a teaching credential. I was VERY successful and loved working with children until I met this man.

I am slowly rebuilding my confidence so that I can be motivated to work. Looking back, I realize how much i loved him through all these years, how it was always about him. He chose the places we’d go to. I was a stay at home mom and we did everything he wanted to do.

When we exchange to see my son, i never know what to expect and my heart is always racing. When i try to resolve something, he turns into this 10 year old kid and i hear “what about me, “it’s always what you want.”

I am still trying to move on but i find myself really sad most of the time. I see families so happy together and i think, this could have been us. If only he got help. He once said to me, even if someone was to put a gun next to his head, he will never get help.

He plays a lot of mind games till this day. He still says things like “it’s your fault that we’re not together” or “you’re not in a relationship because your parents are divorced.”

It breaks my heart that we have a young child together and i keep thinking he will see the light and want to change especially for the sake of his son.

I have also converted to Christianity and have learned that God can do all things. How can God change a mentally sick person? This is where my faith is shaken at times. But I know that i pray for happiness and that God took him out of my life for a reason.

I am slowly realizing that I can do better and deserve someone who will never make me suffer. But I still think about him too much. I think of all the good times when I know there were so many more negative times.

I also wonder, how the hell can this man move on with his life so easily while I’m trying to pick up all the broken pieces of my heart. I am confident to say that i will never take him back. But i still obsess about him. After all the abuse i’ll think of his great qualities — he was a great dad…he was a great bf when he wanted to be …

And I think how he will treat his next girlfriend better…maybe i was just really jealous…maybe i should have let him have his freedom…

How can he be so cruel?…how can he let our family down? And the thought of him with another woman and him charming her keeps running through my head…

But then i realize.. after 6 years of dating. it was all a lie… he never loved me…and he makes me sick.

And i am sick to my stomach EVERYDAY knowing i won’t be able to spend 100% with my son.

How sad it is that he can easily move on and i am still so emotionally attached. I talk about my situation EVERY DAY! I am sure people at work are sick of it, but I can’t seem to just let it go.

Everyone says to let go…and I know I have to, but sometimes I just want to cave in at times and run back…but I know I can’t…and I won’t.

Wasted Time

The vast majority of the time I wasted with my narcissistic ex was trying to understand him. Because I was trying to do that with the expectation that I was dealing with someone who held similar values, deep down inside, as me.

Now, I can appreciate diversity. I love it. I’m glad we’re not all the same. But underneath our differences lies a commonality, core values that extend to all human beings. Well, maybe in a perfect world.

But it’s still a standard to which I believe most people do adhere to.

What are those values?

Well, common courtesy, for one. Respect. Some level of integrity, honesty, and kindness. Seeing oneself in another – not as in making them invisible or merely a reflection of you – that’s what narcissists do – but seeing yourself in another through empathy, recognizing their humanity they share with you.

Trying to understand a person without that core is futility. There needs to be something that anchors or grounds the differences found in people to something good, something reliable, solid. So that even as mistakes are made, misunderstandings, personality quirks or whatever, there’s someone there worth understanding. Under whatever it is that upset you or offended you, there’s an underlying goodwill, good intentions, a place within that person that you can always trust, even when they are not acting from their best.

No such place exists within a Narcissist. A Narcissist can swear on a stack of bibles and mean every word they say with all the sincerity and commitment in the world, but the next day the wind might shift, even slightly, and it’s as if they had never sworn to anything.

It’s not that they didn’t mean it when they said it, it’s just that they don’t feel any desire or obligation to follow through. They’re above that. Situation changed, perhaps, something better came up, it’s more inconvenient than they thought…whatever. To a Narcissist, that’s valid reason to renege on anything – anything at all, including their children.

And I had tried and tried for years, spilling over into a decade and then some, to understand these changes. How someone could be so loving and then cruel to the point of almost sadistic…not almost. Actually venturing into emotional sadism at times, observing it with cold reptilian detachment as if I were a bug having it’s wings torn off under a magnifying glass.

Trying to understand…rather than just reading the signs. Trying to understand why, instead of just looking at what was happening. Who the hell cares where his head was or what he might have been going through at the time or whether he meant to do this or say that?

The fact is he was doing it. And it was a pattern. Not just a particularly bad day. Maybe the first time I could say this wasn’t like him…but how long did it have to continue to happen, over and over again, before I could see, well, yeah…this is him?

Obviously, a very long time.

Better late than never maybe. But oh, how much better earlier than later!

I could have put that time to much better use.

Set up…and other war stories

So what’s your “favorite” manipulation or crazy-making incident or outrageous behavior you’d like to enter for the records?

This isn’t my favorite, but it is a biggie for me, the anger of which has taken longer for me to heal. It’s not the lies or the cheating or even the “run of the mill” verbal and emotional abuse.

It’s being set up.

Do you know what I mean?

It goes like this…

You go to him…after making sure it’s the right time, the right place, he’s in a good mood (but not too good, because you don’t want to ruin it), he’s not in a bad mood (because how can you burden him with another negative thing?), it’s the right season, temperature, day of the week and all the stars are lined up just so, and of course, there’s nothing else more important happening like a night out with the guys, a card game or his night to clip his toe nails.

You get the picture.

And so you approach him and ask him about something that is bothering you, because of signs, or what you might have heard, in this case his infidelity, and you don’t accuse him (you make sure he understands it’s just for clarification) and you make sure you use all “I” sentences, and the tone of your voice is soft with no edge, and you might preface it with how wonderful he’s been and how happy you are…but at any rate, you finally get the words out and…

He’s actually nice about it!


He answers your inquiry, and tells you, in fact, that he’s glad…yes, glad that you came to him, because he got to straighten it out, and what’s more, he wants you to come to him again if you ever hear anything else, so he can have the opportunity to straighten out any misunderstanding.

And you are SO relieved, not only that your worst fears were laid to rest, but GOD, do you have the best boyfriend/lover/husband in the world or what?!?!

So life is perfect, until things start to not quite add up gain, or maybe another rumor comes to you, but you have Mr. Wonderful in your life, and he said he wanted you to come to him if you ever heard anything again or had any doubts.

And so like a stupid idiot…no, like a good and trusting soul, you do…just as he asked you to, and before you even know what hits you, your guts are splayed all across the wall, because he’s so tired of you bringing this shit up, and why do you keep putting him through the wringer??? And does he have to hear about this for the rest of his life???

And he’s saying this to you in an outrage, and his face is red and he’s screaming, and you’re crying, and confused and hurt and angry, but mostly confused and totally disoriented.

And you try to figure out what you did wrong or how he might misunderstand your intentions. You can’t imagine he’s totally manipulating and consciously choosing to abuse you for doing what he knows he asked you to do, because you can’t comprehend that kind of narcissism nor can you see the personality disorder behind what you and he need you to see.

If it was just cheating, it would barely be a memory these days. I haven’t given a rat’s ass about that in ages. But it’s not about the cheating. It’s about the set up, and the punishment that followed.

And that’s the barbed wire the flesh of my being is still hung on.

Those Sudden Changes

One day he calls. He’s as nice as can be and engages in friendly conversation.

I’m civil, but I learned long ago not to read anything positive or hopeful into such behavior. I have no desire to linger, but I’m not rude. Sometimes it helps to leave him in a good mood. My daughter might benefit from it, when she has to be with him tomorrow. For her, I’ll play along.

The very next day he appears at my door. Knocks once, and steps in, not even waiting for me to answer. I look at his face. His eyes are shiny, almost wet, his face is red. He’s not drunk. No, it’s not that. I can feel it. There’s that familiar rage, the one I know so well. It’s just underneath the surface waiting for the slightest excuse to explode onto the scene. He cannot hold it.

He asks if she’s ready. Well, almost…he’s early. He immediately starts yelling. He needs her to be ready when he says he’s going to be here. His hand is jabbing at the air as he speaks. He’s daring me to a fight.

I point out he’s early. He immediately argues, like he’s pained at my thoughtlessness, like he’s had enough. It doesn’t make sense. He’s irrational. I realize he just wants to punish, to dump on someone. Something happened, something offended him. He wants to strike out…and I’m there.

But I’m no longer willing. This isn’t the yesterday of long ago.

I cut him off short. “What’s up with you?” I ask. “Time has nothing to do with anything. You came in here with an attitude. Chill out!”

“I’m not mad”, he lies. Classic response when he’s called on an outburst. “I’m not yelling.”

“Um…yeah, you are. Cut it out!” He looks at me like I’m the one who suddenly changed. Maybe I have, but it wasn’t sudden. It was only after years of putting up with shit like this. And it’s been years since I’ve stopped. But he’ll never see me. He’ll always treat me according to his need.

I turn my back on him, and walk toward my daughter’s room. He heads out the door and waits for her in his car.

I never used to fight back like that. I used to argue, all right, but I tried to argue with reason. I’d point out how unreasonable it was for him to demand she be ready to walk out the door when he arrived early. I’d say she started to get ready beforehand, how nice it was she had already gathered this or that in anticipation, etc.

And I would have wasted each breath it took for me to push out those words in the midst of his rage.

No more. I don’t waste my time. I address only that he’s being abusive now – not the alleged reason for it.

Funny, to recall how back in the day I would have been blown out of the water with this sudden changed behavior, trying to figure out what made him go from being so nice to so vicious in less than 24 hours.

But I didn’t even blink an eye. Because, you see, when you’re involved with a narcissist, it’s just *sigh* another day, another episode.

It does get better though. Not because they do, but because you do.