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.