My sincere apologies in advance for a very long post. Today's topics are things I had to process and since I've never been in favor of taboos, I decided to share it with all of you. Maybe one day they won't be a taboo anymore and maybe one day we can talk openly about this type of things, thus making it easier for the victims to get help and stop feeling guilty, ashamed and inadequate for something that was never their fault.
There is a lot of prejudice when it comes to infidelity and emotional abuse. There seems to be the common belief (at least until the Sandra Bullock "case") that women are cheated on if they are unattractive and/or not interested in sex. Likewise, there seems to be a general opinion that women in abusive relationships are to blame for the continuous abuse, because "…they could just get up and leave". I hope to help spread the understanding that it is far from being that simple.
To avoid lawsuits, let me at this point assure that all examples and scenarios below are fiction. Any and all resemblance to existing places and/or persons is purely co-incidental and completely unintentional. I have "borrowed" material from several websites, blogs, and support groups - I thank the suppliers of the material (especially Dr. Sam Vaknin).
Deal or No Deal?
'Here's the deal, sweetie. For several months or so, I'm going to pretend to be everything you ever wanted. I'll shower you with attention, affection and all manner of stuff to make you feel special. Then, once I know you're depending on me as your significant other, and have made a commitment, I'm going to quit pretending and be who I really am. I'm going to start treating you really badly, I'll say insensitive things, I'll lie, I'll cheat, I'll be really cruel, possibly humiliate you in public. Your job will be to figure out what happened and do everything in your power to restore the relationship to what it was, until you either die, try to kill yourself, or collapse and get sent to hospital, which will be pretty funny because there's no chance whatsoever I'll ever pretend to be that 'nice guy' again – and by the way, it WAS a pretence. So what do you say, sweetie? Do we have a deal? Several years of hell in exchange for a few months of fantasy?'
Obviously, nobody would accept that deal, but for approx 2% of the Western population - the majority of them women - the above scenario is reality within their relationship. These people have become involved with a person who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (N) or is a Narcissistic Sociopath (NS).
If you have been lied to AND cheated on AND humiliated/discredited in public AND verbally abused AND bullied AND disrespected in other ways within a relationship, you very likely suffered being the prey of an N or NS.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines narcissism personality disorder (NPD) as an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts.
To an average person, a narcissist may seem to be quite self-confident and accomplished-- but really the narcissist suffers from a great deficit in self-esteem and needs an outside supply of adulation, admiration, fame, greatness.
A typical Narcissistic Sociopath:
· is a convincing, practiced liar and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment. They will tell horror stories of their (previous) partners and create a web of lies to convince third parties that they are cute, patient & innocent, whereas their (previous) partners are horrible people.
· has a Jekyll and Hyde nature - is vile, vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature - only the current target of the serial bully's aggression sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as "charming" and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as "evil"; Hyde is the real person, Jekyll is an act
· excels at deception and should never be underestimated in their capacity to deceive
· uses excessive charm and is always plausible and convincing when peers, superiors or others are present (charm can be used to deceive as well as to cover for lack of empathy)
· is unusually skilled in being able to anticipate what people want to hear and then saying it plausibly
· cannot be trusted or relied upon
· fails to fulfill commitments
· is emotionally retarded with an arrested level of emotional development; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that of an adult, he/she displays the emotional age of a five-year-old
· exhibits unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters. Often, he prefers pornography and sexual auto-stimulation to the real thing. The narcissist uses other people's bodies to masturbate. Sex with him - pyrotechnics and acrobatics aside - is likely to be an impersonal and emotionally alienating and draining experience. The partner is often treated as an object, an extension of the somatic narcissist, a toy, a warm and pulsating vibrator
· in a relationship, is incapable of initiating or sustaining intimacy
· holds deep prejudices (eg against the opposite gender, people of a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious beliefs, foreigners, etc - prejudiced people are unvaryingly unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial aspect of their personality secret
· is self-opinionated and displays arrogance, audacity, a superior sense of entitlement
· displays a compulsive need to criticize, especially previous and current victims
· refuses to be specific and never gives a straight answer
· undermines and destroys anyone who the bully perceives to be an adversary, a potential threat, or who can see through the bully's mask
· is adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise collate incriminating information about them
· is quick to discredit anyone who can talk knowledgeably about antisocial or sociopathic behaviors
· is also quick to belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call him to account
· gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to
· is highly manipulative, especially of people's perceptions and emotions (eg guilt)
· when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, responds with impatience, irritability and aggression
· is spiritually dead although may loudly profess some religious belief or affiliation
· is mean-spirited, officious, and often unbelievably petty
· is constantly imposing on others a false reality made up of distortion and fabrication
The Narcissist often lacks insight into his or her behavior and seems to be oblivious to the crassness and inappropriateness thereof; however, it is more likely that he/she is aware, but elects to switch off the moral and ethical considerations by which normal people are bound.
Narcissists are PATHOLOGICAL liars. This means that they are either unaware of their lies – or feel completely justified and at ease in lying to others. Often, they believe their own lies and attain "retroactive veracity". Their very essence is a huge, contrived, lie: the FALSE Self, the grandiose FANTASIES, and the IDEALISED objects.
Most narcissists reject the notion or diagnosis that they are mentally disturbed. Absent powers of introspection and a total lack of self-awareness are part and parcel of the disorder. Pathological narcissism is founded on alloplastic defences - the firm conviction that the world or others are to blame for one's behavior. The narcissist firmly believes that people around him should be held responsible for his reactions or have triggered them. With such a state of mind so firmly entrenched, the narcissist is incapable of admitting that something is wrong with HIM.
While victims of Narcissists are generally codependents, most have no idea how they got in this situation, because in the early stages of the relationship the Narcissistic person can be the most charming, Academy Award winning actor or actress (according to the DSM-IV, 50-75% of narcissists are men), of the century.
The early days of the dating is fast, furious, and vastly romantic. Oftentimes marriage proposals come within a few weeks. The "victim" sees the narcissist as the "Perfect Partner". She's never met someone so wonderful in her lifetime and falls head-over-heels in love. The two go on to live happily ever after - or so she thinks - until the "real" partner surfaces. The once wonderful Dr. Jekyll turns into the dangerous Mr. Hyde who quickly instills fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and total confusion to the relationship. She often finds out that there were other women on the side all the time.
The change can be quick and powerful or slow and insidious.
We are all way too familiar with overt narcissists: those abusive husbands who send thousands of battered women to the emergency room each year. They feel it is their God-given right to beat, abuse, and otherwise mis-treat their partner in whatever method they deem necessary and no one can tell them otherwise.
Then there is the verbally abusive and controlling narcissist - the one who uses emotional abuse as his weapon of choice. He erodes her self-worth to nothing to keep her under his control.
Who else could possible want such a worthless woman as she? With that belief, she will never leave him for good, although she makes many brief attempts to do so. She always returns. The brainwashing that continues day after day is emotionally exhausting, draining, and vastly unhealthy.
Yet almost worse is the "Stealth Narcissist," so sinister and silent in his ability to drive his partner crazy that she doesn't suspect anything bad is happening until it's too late. He is the master of the little digs - "Honey, why on earth would you cook eggs in butter? NO ONE does it that way. What's wrong with you?" Or, "If you'd only do what I say then we'd both be happy."
He issues the "silent treatment" when he is slighted, punishing his spouse by ignoring her for hours, leaving her wondering what she did "wrong" to make him act this way. He may "forget" birthday or Christmas presents, year after year. He may show up hours late and his partner is just supposed to understand, with no explanation even offered. He may have another woman on the side and feel quite entitled to do so. Yet, to those outside his inner kingdom he looks like a saint. He may tell her she's too skinny while openly admiring over-weight women - or vice versa.
No matter which type of narcissist he is, the end result is the same - a slow, insidious, breaking down of the self-esteem of his victims until there's next to nothing left, at which point, the narcissist will frequently throw his partner out in order to look for someone new and full of life to make his next target. Leaving his victim an emotional wreck wondering what she did to destroy their once "perfect" relationship. He typically discards his partner after 11-13 years and generally has his new prey lined up already.
The Narcissist himself rarely changes. Why should you change your behavior for anyone else? Yet the biggest secret is that deep inside, he loathes himself, and is desperate that no one find out who the "real" person is inside his tough, outer shell.
When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed -- they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie.
Assuming he's rational (aren't all men?) and wants what you want (loving mutuality), you strain to make sense of what he says. But it's nonsense, designed to confuse you. The shocking truth is, he seeks control, not intimacy.
The N/NS has many alters, many secret lives, and they count on others to reinforce the idea that they 'would never do such a thing' and that they 'are not like that'. Ironically, the N/NS will tell lies and slander their "friends" and previous partners, offering privileged, private and intimate information they were told in confidence.
The problem was swept under the carpet for generations and even today, society largely ignores domestic violence and abuse. This induces feelings of shame and guilt in the victims and "legitimizes" the role of the abuser.
Abuse and violence cross geographical and cultural boundaries and social and economic strata. It is common among the rich and the poor, the well-educated and the less so, the young and the middle-aged, city dwellers and rural folk. It is a universal phenomenon.
Overt abuse is defined as the open and explicit abuse of another person. Threatening, coercing, beating, lying, betraying, berating, demeaning, chastising, insulting, humiliating, exploiting, ignoring ("silent treatment"), devaluing, unceremoniously discarding, verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse are all forms of overt abuse.
Verbal abuse escalates gradually; you adapt. (The abuse might also become physical.) He's Jekyll and Hyde, with just enough sweet times to keep you hoping the relationship will improve.
Covert abuse revolves around the abuser's need to assert and maintain control over his victim. It can wear many forms, not all of which are self-evident, unequivocal, and unambiguous.
Ambient abuse is the fostering, propagation and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no acts of traceable explicit abuse, nor any manipulative settings of control. Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition, a bad omen. This is sometimes called "gaslighting".
For those who don’t know what gaslighting is, it’s something our abusers do or say to make US think WE’RE the ones who are going insane. They say and do things to make us question our sanity, our memory of events, our boundaries, our values, and our beliefs. It’s when they says things like:
• “I never said that.” (when you KNOW they did and have a clear memory of it)
• “You’re imagining things.” (when you KNOW you’re not)
• “You’re always overreacting.” (when you’re reacting EXACTLY as any normal, well-adjusted person would react.
• “You’re such a drama queen.” (when HE is the one creating drama)
• “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” (when you know EXACTLY what you’re talking about)
• “You’re always accusing me of things.” (when, the reason you accuse him of things is because you KNOW he has lied or cheated)
• “You’re always so suspicious.” (when he has given you AMPLE reason to be)
• “What about all the sh*t you’ve done to ME?” (when you haven’t done a THING to him other than love him, appease him, cater to his every want and whim)
Gaslighting is when your husband crosses the line in his flirtations with another woman at a dinner party. When you confront him, he asks you to stop being insecure and controlling. After a long argument, you apologize for giving him a hard time - you believe that there is something fundamentally wrong and that his inappropriate behavior is perfectly all right. Typically, he will tell the other people at the dinner party that you are jealous, possessive etc.
In the long term, such an environment erodes the victim's sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victim adopts a paranoid or schizoid stance and thus renders herself exposed even more to criticism and judgment. The roles are thus reversed: third parties consider the victim mentally deranged and the abuser as the suffering soul.
Most abusers use more than one type of abuse.
A proposed law in
Whatever happened? - You ask yourself. After all, he came on like a hurricane. You were probably blown over from day one, isn’t that so? He was practically chasing you and the more you resisted, the more he tried to win you over. He wanted you to move in with him almost immediately and even asked you to marry him after only weeks or a few months together.
It is easy to slip on blinders when some handsome man with seemingly so much going for him suddenly wants to see you all the time. And then, there were undoubtedly romantic dinners, those flowers, and extravagant gifts that seemed a bit much because of the newness of your relationship. Nonetheless, you likely accepted them because he had some reason why you should. He kept pointing out how much you had in common. That he had never lived fully until he met you. That his previous relationship was boring and meaningless - and that he only stayed with his ex out of a sense of duty.
Because he was being so nice and so thoughtful, you didn’t want to hurt his feelings, either. Besides, everything seemed just oh so right.
Until it seemed all so wrong instead.
What is remarkable is that most people who experience this kind of manipulation are actually very successful in every other area of their lives and could never imagine themselves in an abusive relationship, but this is such a gradual process that it tends to creep up on them - and by the time they realize it, the damage is usually already done.
The abuse doesn't happen because the victims volunteer for it. The abuse happens because the abusers lie, manipulate and speak in mixed messages, and out of love and a sense of fairness we trust them.
The narcissist / narcissistic sociopath is bad even for your looks – reason enough in itself to leave him quickly. He will make you feel ugly, unwanted, inadequate, not up to his standard, no matter how intelligent, good-looking, or smart you are. He makes you feel like this so that you are in line with his dreadful feelings about himself.
Many women never realize they were victims, even when they are discarded by the N/NS after 11-13 years, which is the time it typically takes him to suck a soul dry. They are left wondering what happened, why he said "I love you" one day and left her the next day. And how he can get over her so quickly that he has a new "love" within only weeks or even days.
We have to deal with the fact that even knowing what they're doing, and how unfair and hurtful it is to us, the N/NS may not care … due to their lack of compassion for anyone else, and because they are emotional sadists.
Loving a N/NS is like fighting an addiction. Even if you realize what is happening and what he is doing to you, you may not be able to resist him. It's entirely understandable. At one time you felt great love and passion for this man, and there is some part of you that WISHES he wasn't what you know him to be, WISHES it wasn't all true, that it didn't happen the way it did, and that you could GET BACK that guy you thought he was. A woman is easily tempted to think maybe this is some sort of aberration, something going on in his life, stress, mental illness, and that the OTHER GUY, the one she fell in love with was the REAL HIM. It is horrible having to finally face the fact that she fell in love with a Jekyll and Hyde facade. It absolutely sucks.
What is it like when you are the victim?? - He knew how to seduce you. In fact, you enjoyed great sex in those early days. After a while, though, it might be practically nonexistent or else abusive. Often, he continues seducing other women despite being in a relationship with you (he'll flirt, have sex, use Facebook/MSN/emails /chats/dating sites - he'll make sure he has supply available, his self esteem needs it as a boost).
But despite the fact this man now shouts obscenities at you regularly, you probably make excuses for his bad behavior. You want to cling to the image he presented in the beginning. You are most likely a lovely woman, and it is because you are a lovely woman that he was attracted to you in the first place.
He probably suspected you were the codependent type who would bend over backwards to please him. Yes, you would forfeit your own needs and desires while he battered you with his emotional abuse and verbal abuse. It is probably because you are a caring and empathic person that you have trouble seeing the truth about your relationship, too.
You tell yourself that if you could only be better yet, things would be okay. You blame yourself for the fact he is not pleased – and secretly believe he has the right to belittle you. It can be difficult to take off the blinders you are invariably wearing and stare the truth hard in the face. You should remind yourself how long it has been since your narcissistic spouse has come bearing flowers and gifts – including just the gift of kind and empathic words.
How do you get out?
A narcissist is with his partner because he regards IT as a Source of Narcissistic Supply. He values the partner as such a source. Put differently: the minute that the partner ceases to supply him with what he needs - he loses all interest in IT. (I use IT judiciously - the narcissist objectifies his partners, treats them as he would inanimate objects.)
The transition from over-valuation (bestowed upon Sources of Narcissistic Supply) to devaluation (reserved for other mortals) is so swift that it is likely to inflict pain upon the narcissist's partner, even if he previously prayed for the narcissist to depart and leave him alone. The partner is the narcissist's pusher and the drug that he is proffering is stronger than any other drug because it sustains the narcissist's very essence (his False Self).
Without Narcissistic Supply the narcissist disintegrates, crumbles and shrivels - very much as vampires do in horror movies when exposed to sunlight.
Here lies the partner's salvation. An advice to you: if you wish to sever your relationship with the narcissist, stop providing him with what he needs. Do not adore, admire, approve, applaud, or confirm anything that he does or says. Disagree with his views, belittle him (or put him in perspective and proportion), compare him to others, tell him that he is not unique, criticize him, make suggestions, and offer help. In short, deprive him of that illusion which holds his personality together.
A narcissist / narcissistic sociopath will decide when he's finished preying on you, when you may be discarded. If you try to end the relationship, he will behave like a 5-year-old, whose favorite toy is taken away: he'll be angry, he'll try to make you feel sorry for him, he'll pretend he doesn't want you and then he'll throw another jealousy tantrum - he'll continue until you give in and take him back, or until you manage to make it absolutely clear that you will have nothing to do with him ever again. If you offer him any attention, he'll take advantage and once again manipulate you into staying in the relationship.
There is only one way: run, run fast - and don't look back!!
Many victims suffer 2-3 years before finally recovering reasonably from a relationship with a N/NS - and many receive treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When comparing experiences it is remarkable and quite scary to notice how similar their N/NS partners were/are - it feels as they are all a clone of the same man. They do and say almost exactly the same.
If you do manage to break free, congratulate yourself that you got out of there before he drained your soul completely and be proud that you saved yourself.
If you didn't break free, if you were hit by the steam roller and still have no idea what went wrong and why you were suddenly discarded, please remember that it is NOT YOUR FAULT. He is a sick man and though you may still love him, he is seriously bad for you!
Here's a big hug to all my old and new friends - especially those of you who have helped me through the past 18 months. Thanks to you, I am now free and strong; rather than broken and devastated.