I think, in reading about narcissism all over the web, that we have significantly blurred the lines between psychopathy and narcissism, and see them as the same. Certainly there are many psychopathic narcissists, but a lot of them are just people that were broken as kids and never grew up. Does this make them less damaging? Absolutely not. but i think it helps those who have been victimized to let it go and move on with their lives when they realize they are essentially dealing with an emotionally handicapped individual. its not that they choose not to see your pain, or have empathy for your situation, or care about your feelings in general. its just that they cant. They are stuck emotionally in toddler-hood. Would you fault your two year old for not understanding why mommy is so upset after they have been up all afternoon, tearing apart the house, had a screaming tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, spread toilet paper all over the house and then overflowed the toilet when they decided to “help” clean it up? Nope, probably not. You might wish they could see how frustrating they are, and how their behavior destroyed your day, but deep down you know they just are not cognitively able to do that and tell yourself that one day they will learn and things will be easier
But with a narc, they DON’T learn. Things will NEVER be easier. They are forever stuck emotionally in that two year old brain where the world revolves around them and their toys are theirs alone, and mommy takes care of them and does whatever they need. They are emotionally handicapped and you can not save them.
So, Now What?!
Knowing this does two things: number one, it releases you from guilt. Maybe, you keep thinking, that if you try harder, if your more attentive, if you were prettier or smarter or made more money then they would be better. But you don’t think that about a child. Rich children can be just as poorly behaved as poor children, often more so because they are NEVER denied. Beautiful men and women are cheated on all the time, just look at Hollywood. Housewives with housekeepers and cooks are still replaced because the Narcissist never got past the “MINE!” stage of childhood when they just take whatever they want.
Secondly, it helps you to forgive yourself, and them for what happened. Forgiveness is the only way to move on with your life. The more you hold on to what has happened, the more you die inside and cannot heal. Hate is a poison and it will destroy you as surely as if you were bitten by a snake. You cannot fault a snake for biting you as it is their nature, you cannot be angry at a blind man for being unable to see. Sadly, a narc is not different. They are not all evil monsters who are out to cause you horrible pain (though some are). Don’t get me wrong, they still WILL cause you horrible pain, but that is not their primary goal (usually, if you have made them mad, different story). In general, the narc doesn’t think “what can I do to hurt them?” They don’t think about you at all. They think about themselves. What THEY want, what THEY need, and if they don’t get it, they throw a temper tantrum until you give in. They make your life hell to control you, that’s it.
I Tried Too…
I cant tell you how many times over the years I tried to tell him I was an introvert, I was sensitive, I was TIRED, and it just never sank in. It was like it went in one ear and out the other. I would show him personality quizzes in hopes he would try and “get” me. I tried and tried and tried, thinking I wasn’t explaining myself well or wasn’t talking to him at the right times. Until I finally realized, he just didn’t care. I am not an autonomous person in his eyes. In his eyes I am wife, mother, housekeeper, person who brings in more money so he can play. If I don’t fall neatly into his image of what those roles are, he can not handle it and flips out. That is narcissism. The life view that they and only they matter and that they are the center of their own universe. Every other disordered part of themselves stems from that understanding. I would use the word “belief” but that implies that this is something that can change. It is not. The pathways for emotional growth and development in their brain are broken. And they can not grow back.
When we try and see these people as normal, our brains just cant do it. We end up ping-ponging back and forth between they love me, no they hate me, they’re horrible, no their wonderful, until we actually lose our minds and give up. We start thinking were the ones with mental problems and we become so emotionally exhausted we cant even get upset anymore. Then when we come across these articles and say, “OMG they are a Narcissist! And they HATE me! I’m living with a monster!!” And the horror of it crushes us all over again. We start to feel like there is nothing we can do, we start to live in fear of what they will do when/if we were to leave. How will the children react? Will I lose them too? Is it too late? I don’t have a job or money or… and we drown ourselves in fear and insecurity. That is not to say that leaving would be easy, but, when you distance yourself from them by seeing them for what they really are it gives you a chance to breathe, to manage them as much as you can by treating them like toddlers, and to regain your footing in life a little before you jump out on your own.
All this being said, please don’t take this to say that as long as you placate them you can have a good relationship and be happy. That’s just not true. As much fun as they can be when your being good to them, as fantastic as the “love” is, they will never be capable of really loving you, or of having a real relationship with you. For me, I think about what would happen if I were sick again. I’ve been in the hospital before, and he was less than sympathetic to say the least. He told everyone about my embarrassing medical problem, though I told him I wanted it private, he bugged me constantly about when I could leave and how I should be pushing the doctors to figure out what was wrong with me sooner so I could go home. There was no understanding of how much pain I was in, how tired and drained I was, or even concern about me being pregnant at the same time! I was the three most awful days of my life. What if it was worse? Then what? I would have no support or help. Basically, I had to ask myself, what is he giving to me? Is this a real relationship or is it all one sided? Is that something that I can accept, or should accept?
Don’t waste your life with someone who isn’t going to be there for you, who has no interest in really knowing you, who can never get past the superficial. Don’t waste your pity thinking they will be alone forever now either. Despite what they may tell you about you being the only marriage they will ever have, sadly there are no shortage of suckers lined up waiting to bask in the neon glow of a Narcissist, with no idea (or care) of what they’re really getting into. They will be just fine, and so will you.