Monday, February 7, 2011

How I got sucked in by a narcissist

It happened just like this: he swept me off my feet. I was older and wiser (I thought) than the average first-time bride, but he fooled me completely. We were married within two months of our first date, not enough time to properly "vet" him, as was his unintentional intention.

I say unintentional, because it is my belief that a truly narcissistic person does not know that he is. In my writings, I will use "he" because approximately 75% of narcissists are male and my experience is primarily with a male narcissist.

In my readings, I have found it is typical behavior for a narcissist to quickly propose love and marriage, before the "victim" can determine she is dealing with a predator.

By Mayo Clinic staff
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and in other areas of their life, such as work or school.

We were married much too quickly. As I said, I was swept off my feet. He was everything I wanted, and I waited 47 years for the perfect match. Perfect he was--too good to be true, which should have been my first clue. I was so ecstatically happy, I felt like the luckiest girl on earth.

We didn't have a honeymoon, another clue. We stayed at a hotel for one night, then drove on home (to my home, which was now our home). And the "honeymoon" was over, that fast.

The first weekend he spent drinking and glowering at the TV. I was horrified and so was my teenage daughter. She asked me what was wrong with him. I told her I thought we were looking at an alcoholic. If only it were that "simple".

The next weekend he had his first tantrum. Once again I was horrified and filled with disbelief. Where did my prince go? We'd only been married one week!

I had made it 30 years on my own, raised my own family (three children by myself--and yes, that is weird), bought my own house (in an expensive resort area), and did it all by working odd jobs from home: seamstress, babysitter, dog sitter, stock market investor, etc. I never made much money but I didn't have to pay for expensive child care and I was always home. My children learned what "working" meant and they learned not to clamor for my attention when I was working. They turned out very well, in part because they learned at a young age what it took to earn a living.

I was having a tough time when "my hero" came along. I actually had a friend staying with me, helping me financially, and he was helping me a lot. I shall call this friend "Bob". Then along came the man of my dreams! (whom I shall call "Hero")

I told him about my situation with Bob, that his help was very valuable to me and that I couldn't do anything to jeopardize it. I didn't think Bob would appreciate another man swooping in to take advantage of his largesse. I told Hero this, many times, and I impressed on him again and again that I wasn't in a position to lose this financial help at this time.

Hero assured me that he made lots of money, he still had money left from the sale of his previous business and that he had many, many assets. He was more than capable of taking care of me, even better than Bob was. He wanted me to tell Bob that we were becoming involved. I warned him that Bob might be uncomfortable with that and want to leave. Hero assured me once again that he was the man I needed, that he was the one who should be helping me financially because we were in love.

So I told Bob about Hero and as I feared, he wanted to move out. I pleaded with him to stay, assured him that he was welcome to stay and that we both wanted him to stay but he felt he would be in the way and he left.

Ok, Hero, pony up, I just lost my life line. I was to find out it wasn't going to be that easy--Hero was not going to be forthcoming with financial aid.

The weeks went by and I was getting into serious trouble. I started to gently pressure Hero to remind him that I had lost my financial help and that he needed to step up to the plate as promised.

He told me he had an idea and I was excited. But then he proposed that we marry! I was a bit flabbergasted but I thought that maybe he just needed the formality of marriage, that he was uncomfortable giving money to "just a girlfriend". So we wed, within a week.

And guess what? Still no money. I was getting really frantic by this time, wondering if I was going to have to sell my house. It had been three months since Bob left and he had been giving me $2500/month for room and board, a very generous amount. I was really getting into trouble without it.

I couldn't understand why this guy, my Hero, wasn't giving me any money. He made a killer salary and he had sold his business for $3 million a few years prior. He should have plenty of money and I was drowning here! Where was my husband?

Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of the lies. I was to find out that he had no money, he made nowhere near what he said he did, he was not the high-powered executive at his company like he claimed he was, he was not entitled to the company car (he just stole one every night, after hours--went to the bar for a couple hours and drove home drunk; got to work early the next day {by 4 am or so}, and no one was the wiser).

He had no vehicle, no driver's license, no assets of any kind and I was in big trouble. Then he lost his job. I had to buy him a car so that he could find work. I put it on my credit card.

Two long months went by. He finally found work as a diesel mechanic and was pulling in the big bucks. Now, I thought, everything will be OK. He's giving me piles of money.

Because he's having to commute 70 miles each way to work, he needs a better vehicle. He needs a top-of-the-line Dodge Ram diesel but now's a good time to buy because there is 0% financing. That makes sense to me and he is making plenty of money. He promises me he will go right away and get his driver's license, something I have been nagging him to do. How can someone not have a driver's license?

We get to the car dealership and they tell us we need to co-borrow the money (I had set everything up by phone, all we had to do was go in there, sign papers and pick it up). I really didn't want my name anywhere on his loan. Then they tell me we'll get a better interest rate if we leave his name off the loan. What about 0% financing? We don't qualify for that but if we leave Hero's name off this loan, we'll get you a good rate.

We got 7% for 8 years. I must have been out of my mind. Here's a guy driving a truck in my name, with my insurance, with a commitment for 8 years, and he has no driver's license. Get to the DMV and get your driver's license!! I'm beginning to get a little pissed about this because I am now realizing that I am taking a big risk by having a non-licensed driver (read, non-insurable) driving MY truck.

A month at least goes by and still no driver's license. I'm also realizing that even though he's making piles of money and giving me anywhere from $8000 to $10,000 a month, I'm still working just as hard and barely keeping up. I should be swimming in the riches! I should be living in the lap of luxury with that kind of money.

So I do some financial analysis and then I understand. I try to tell Hero that while he gave me $10,000 this month, I paid out $16,000, which means he gave me nothing. You gave me $10K, but you spent $10K, and I still paid $6K for the household expenses, which I have already told you is too much for me.

Now I get called names--foul, filthy names; and I'm told I'm effing crazy, I didn't spend that much money, you took it all, you effing crazy effing b.........., etc. I'm horrified! I had never in my life been treated that way. And I was still assuming most, if not all, of the household expense. I kept thinking longingly of Bob, who had been truly helping me and was happy to do so, and I threw him away. Perhaps I was getting what I deserved.

So I moved on to the driver's license. Let's at least get that done. He still won't do it and I don't know why. I have asked him many times if there is some reason why he CAN'T get his license, like DUIs or tickets or crimes. He drinks more than is healthy and he drives all over the place, drunk, even though I have begged and begged him not to. I remind him that my home is at risk, and I have put 20 years of very hard work into having what I have.

I did tame down his drunk driving but I couldn't get him to go get his license. I decided to do some investigative work. I discovered that he did indeed have a hold on his license, in several states: unpaid moving violations, multiple and unsatisfied DUIs, reinstatement fees that had never been paid. I was sick to my stomach.

I'm in so deep now I really don't know what to do. I have this $50K loan in my name, that I can't possibly pay. He tells me I'm crazy when I try to show him that he's spending all the money indulging himself (I've never known a more self-indulgent, selfish, self-centered person). I'm really screwed now--it's too late to back out.

And I know, many people will think, "How could you let these horrors go on for so long, and how could you keep digging yourself in deeper? Everything you did was just getting you more entangled in his web!"

And I agree. Seeing it on paper, and I've told the story over and over, it sounds so stupid, but that is the power of the narcissist. Not just any narcissist, because there are varying degrees. I'm talking about someone with deeply seated Narcissistic Personality Disorder, someone who does not and will not ever know that he's very, very ill. His presence is a terrible poison to those who love him. And he does not love, he can't. He just sucks. He doesn't even know he's doing it, that's why it's so hard to talk to him. He really thinks I'm crazy, and believe me, there are times when I wonder if I am.

One of the disturbing "side effects" of this disorder is that the victim, who has been terribly abused, can look like the crazy one in the relationship. And yes, I know, I look like I must be crazy.

A malignant narcissist, definition follows, has more power than a sane person could believe is humanly possible. He has charm to initially fool and entice his victims into his web. He has no moral knowledge or awareness of manipulating and using his victims, yet that is exactly what he is doing. He has grandiose dreams, that he himself believes so completely he is able to convince others of their truthfulness. He exaggerates his accomplishments to the point of lying. In fact, generally he is a compulsive liar, without even being aware that he is lying. He has lied to himself for so long and so well, that he has come to believe his own lies. He truly believes that he has accomplished much more than he has.

There are many more terrible traits of a narcissist, which we will look at later.

Malignant Narcissist
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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For the Rush instrumental, see Malignant Narcissism (instrumental).
Malignant narcissism is a syndrome consisting of a combination of aspects of narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder as well as paranoid traits.[citation needed] Malignant narcissism is a theoretical or 'experimental' diagnostic category; although narcissistic personality disorder is found in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), malignant narcissism is not. Individuals with malignant narcissism would be diagnosed under narcissistic personality disorder. Malignant narcissism can be partially treated with medications and therapy, helping to reduce aggravating symptoms.
The malignant narcissist differs from narcissistic personality disorder in that the malignant narcissist derives higher levels of psychological gratification from accomplishments over time (thus worsening the disorder).[citation needed] Because the malignant narcissist becomes more involved in this psychological gratification, they are apt to develop the antisocial, the paranoid, and the schizoid personality disorders.[citation needed] The term malignant is added to the term narcissist to indicate that individuals with this disorder tend to worsen in their impulse controls and desires over time.[citation needed]
Malignant narcissism can be comorbid with other psychological disorders not mentioned above.

Once captured by a narcissist, it becomes very difficult to get away. I used to have a somewhat haughty attitude about people caught in an abusive situation. While I had compassion for the abused woman, I couldn't understand why she didn't just get away. Well, now I know.

For one thing, your self-esteem plummets. You are married to a person you love more than anything, you believe in him, you jump into his fantasy. Then he lies to you, lies to the point where you're not even sure if you're sane; he calls you awful, filthy names and tells you you're crazy (reinforcing the fact that you're already questioning your sanity). He keeps you in the role of beggar (begging for money) and telling you some more that you're crazy, "I give you so much effing money, you effing b...." or "I've given you enough money this year, now keep your effing hands off my bank account!" This delivered as a bellow.

There are periods of happiness, that is part of the problem. There are times when he's a true Hero again. He's gentle and funny and horny. In these times, he'll pull another fast one. Those of us who are abused are quick to forgive and believe that the worst is past.

Also, I had not yet "diagnosed" him as NPD. I didn't even know what it was. I thought all our problems stemmed from the fact that he was an alcoholic and that all I had to do was get him to see that. So I began a campaign to try to force some awareness on him. It didn't work.

I finally reached the end of what I could tolerate. He was still drinking. I could see his health deteriorating. He was becoming even more of a bull (if that's possible). I knew I was totally screwed and I didn't know how I was going to pull myself out of the hole I was in but I was going to make one last attempt to reach him and then I was going to leave him. He had already "left me", AGAIN, having one of his many tantrums. It seemed the perfect time.

I wrote him a letter, about 10 pages long, and entitled it "The Final Stand". I sent it (via e-mail) to him, his family members and his friends. He never did see it this way, but it was basically a love letter in which I begged him to see what he was doing to us, I needed him to acknowledge that he had a problem and promise that he would seek help for it.

Nothing happened. I started getting calls of support from his friends and family; they were all behind me for the most part. Unfortunately, he was having a heart attack. When I finally reached out to him, he was nearly dead. He had not sought medical care. I could tell there was something really wrong with him, so I dropped everything, drove the 70 miles to retrieve him, and took him to the hospital. He came close to dying that night.

He spent a month in the hospital. It wasn't clear whether he was going to make it or not. Of course, I was devastated and really didn't want to lose him. I still love him, probably always will, and I certainly felt it then.

He pulled through. "The Final Stand" was on hold. I gave it to him to read but failed to reach his soul. He did quit drinking (hello, it was killing him) and I thought, again, FINALLY, we can now begin living.

We began seeing a counselor. I wasn't going to let him off easily, even though he had nearly died. A couple months had gone by and I wasn't seeing what I wanted to see. During one of the sessions, he stormed off, leaving me to talk privately with the counselor. I wanted to know why I wasn't seeing some improvement in his attitude and outlook. He responded that it can take several months for the alcoholic fog to lift and for clarity to begin. I thought I should be seeing some improvement so he said this, "Perhaps there is also an underlying personality disorder". And something in my brain said "Bingo".

I had already suspected that he had some sort of mental disorder. Not just him, but all addicts. I have had too much experience with addicts and mental illness (addiction and mental illness run in my family; in addition to that, I seem to be a magnet for people with "issues"--I say jokingly that I "collect them"). Given my experience with these sad people, I had already reached the conclusion that addicts have something wrong in the brain, which leads them on the path to addiction in the first place.

How many of us have played with alcohol and/or drugs and not continued on to completely mess up our lives? I can tell you that I have, and I don't think that I'm not an alcoholic or drug addict because I'm better, stronger or smarter than Joe Blow Addict. It's because my brain isn't wired that way!

So that was the first bell that went off in my head: there is a personality disorder--I had been calling it a brain malfunction.

Shortly after that, I was reading Dear Abby and there was a letter from a mother whose daughter had just been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some of the "symptoms" were listed, if I recall: extreme selfishness, inability to empathize and pathological lying. And Bingo, Bingo, Home Run!

I was so excited I ran immediately to the computer and began devouring information regarding this disorder and knew that I had my answer. It helps immeasurably to be armed with information.

Knowing what I am up against has not solved my problem, but I know now at least that my Hero can't be cured, he can't and won't ever see what his mental disorder is doing to me and has done to his wives and children before me.

To save my mental self, I have to get away from him. Too bad I had to destroy my financial self before I figured this out. I now have $100K in loans in my name and no way out of that except maybe bankruptcy. A narcissist did this to me. If it's not too late, don't let him do it to you. GET OUT! Run for your life. He will destroy you, then he will move on to his next victim, like you are no more important than a piece of trash.

I know from experience.

I've learned many more things. In my next post I will tell you about a malignant narcissist who admits he is one! But he also admits that he can't and won't change. He's a fascinating man.

Thank you for your interest and remember, I need people to interview about their personal experiences.