Sanctuary for the Abused

Saturday, August 19, 2017

How Psychopaths Prosper

by Matthew Jewkes
It is literally the stuff of nightmares and horror movies. Charming and often powerful, they seduce you to get your guard down. And then, without a second thought or any trace of remorse, they are able to cold-bloodedly thieve, rape, or murder you. Robert Hare, UBC's world-renowned professor emeritus of psychology, goes so far as to say that while they look and sound exactly like us, they are functionally a different species from human beings. And seven years ago, Hare estimated that up to one in one hundred Canadians is one of these people: psychopaths.

To make matters worse, Professor Hare recently remarked in a keynote address to a conference of criminal justice professionals that today's society is becoming more and more conductive to psychopathic behavior. Moral standards,reflected in television and politics, are glamorizing and normalizing what is abnormal predatory behavior, allowing psychopathic behavior to flourish more than ever.

The story of psychopathy made the front page of The Vancouver Sun, a comment on the ongoing interest and the lack of wide-spread understanding of psychopathy in today's society.

An unexpected profile
Psychopaths aren't necessarily the people we expect, says UBC assistant professor Michael Woodworth.

"Psychopaths don't have a background with pronounced amounts of child maltreatment or an overuse of drugs or alcohol or any of these other things that often lead to general antisocial behavior. For true psychopaths you'll often find they had quite regular upbringings."


"A psychopath is an individual who has a propensity to prey on others for their own gain.


"And what makes them particularly intriguing is that they not only often display a number of antisocial or problematic behaviors, they also have a lot of intriguing interpersonal deficits as well as emotional deficits. They don't interpret emotions such as guilt or fear the same way that others do; they don't respond to emotional stimuli. They are conning and manipulative. They are narcissistic, have a grandiose sense of self worth, and are pathological liars."
In Hare's 1993 book called Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, he quotes one specimen's memories:

"[My] mother, the most beautiful person in the world. She was strong, she worked hard to take care of four kids. A beautiful person. I started stealing her jewelery when I was in the fifth grade. You know, I never really knew the bitch - we went our separate ways."

Woodworth continues,

"A psychopath wouldn't care less about social rules. Wouldn't in the slightest pause at social norms or expectations. The only reason they might act with any semblance of normality is to achieve their goals or personal gain. Psychopaths have defining impulsivity. But what we find is that for more serious crimes such as murder, they actually show a lot of planning and premeditation, and there appears to be a real instrumental aspect to their behavior."


"We're not sure if its because they realise the stakes are so high and they, or if its just that they take so much pleasure in it that the planning is part of the process. In terms of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, psychopaths are really stuck down on that lower level."
More interesting than simple murder
Horror movies and modern television shows like Dexter portray this classic view of psychopaths - the antithesis of what we expect from human beings. Often charming, normal-looking people, unable to form social connections and interested only in their own impulsive pleasures, be they murder, theft, rape, or manipulation.

But, while impulsive and prone to criminal behavior, many regard violent clinical psychopaths as being just the tip of the iceberg.

"If you think of a blood thirsty murderer, who kills and rapes dozens of people, you immediately think psychopath," Woodworth says. He believes that because most of the research to date has been on prison samples, the results are skewed. Those who end up in prison are, after all, the failed psychopaths.


"For me what is almost even more scary is the successful psychopaths who are out there still committing a lot of those crimes," Woodworth says.
Since psychopaths thrive in large, chaotic situations, and love situations where power and wealth are easily achievable, psychopathy might have a profound affect on the many large hierarchies that form the basis of our society.

"All psychopaths are potentially criminals. All are harmful," Woodworth says. "The ones who are most intriguing are the ones we can't get our hands on. They haven't committed an explicit crime, or at least not one they've been caught for. They're up there in society, high up in businesses, law firms. Even the higher you get up in academia, the higher your psychopathy levels start to go. The higher you get up in organizations where you have a lot of power, the more you tend to find psychopaths."


"These environments even reward psychopaths for some of their key core traits. If they can keep them in check and not get caught committing any sort of conventional antisocial behavior, than these traits can actually serve them quite well."
The ideal corporate leader, after all, might share quite a few traits with psychopaths. Self-focus, willingness to bend rules, and aggressive dominance would come quite easily to a psychopath.

And would likely be rewarded by corporate management.

Many people in some very successful places could very well be psychopathic. And their success might not end there.

"Psychopaths have a 'cheaters' strategy when it comes to reproduction, their behavior, in terms of lots of sexual partners, trying to knock up as many women as possible, and then invest as little to no time makes sense in terms of spreading their seed as efficiently as possible," Woodworth says.
While their behavior is quite disturbing, given that there is research to suggest that psychopathy has a genetic component, psychopaths fit quite well into the mold of extreme social cheaters.

Big picture
Group co-operation among organisms is not that unusual in the biological world. And it is an effective strategy. Our cooperation as a species allowed us to spread humankind around the planet. But co-operation is a hard process to achieve, and is vulnerable to predation from within. If one member of a group begins to exploit other members, then the benefits provided by co-operation evaporate, and more efficient co-operatives will out-compete them. Groups therefore effectively depend on trust, and internal regulation. For a co-operative group is ever vulnerable to being preyed upon by cheaters.

"Gossip, reputation, strongly-enforced social norms - these were the tools that allowed co-operation and prevented cheaters," says David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at the University of Binghamton in New York. "Of course, these things only work in small societies, the kinds of places where everyone can keep tabs on everyone else."
However as societies grew, word-of-mouth became less capable of regulating people, leading to more potential for social cheating.

"You can look at the majority of recorded history in a sort of grand vision sense, as a struggle to find mechanisms to regulate co-operation on the larger scale," said Wilson.

Society has always depended on social co-operation to succeed. Even in the "free market" of "unbridled competition," people depend on references as to their character to be freely given from one employer to another - a strong mechanism to ensure reputation.

Of course, the larger a society gets, the more regulations are required to maintain cohesion. Wilson has studied Calvinism extensively in terms of its origin in Geneva. Wilson posits that Calvinism provided strong mechanisms of social cohesiveness - regulating co-operation in a city struggling to maintain cohesion. On those terms it succeeded fantastically, providing mechanisms of governance that were transparent, checked and balanced, and largely effective at preventing social cheaters.

Social regulation, of course, is a double-edged sword. In Calvinist Geneva, numerous people were executed for heresy, while others were fined or jailed for inappropriate dancing or gambling.

In the modern day, with our enormous governments running society, and our often-times ever larger corporations running our economy, fewer decisions are made by individuals, while more and more are being made by organizations. But Joel Bakan, professor of law at UBC and author of The Corporation, would argue that psychopathy still serves as a useful tool in understanding how groups work.

"As legal entities, the modern corporation is, as far as the law is concerned, a person. That is one of the fundamental legal characteristics of it and is then imbued by the law by an operating principle that it must always serve its self interest. So the idea that corporations are made in the image of human psychopaths is quite literal...we've created [an] institution that is incapable of being genuinely concerned about anybody but its own and its shareholders interests."
You don't have to look very far to see examples of that. Corporations are driven to reduce their costs and increase their revenues by doing whatever they have to do. The other interests, be it environmental or working people or children or a population's health, are called externalities by economists meaning that they are outside of the corporation, they don't need to be considered by the corporation in making its decisions."

One example of this cited by Bakan takes place in the early days of the corporation. Henry Ford, having achieved great success through the production of the model-T, sought to raise wages, cut prices, and increase production of his product.

The Dodge brothers, both minority stockholders in the Ford Motor Company, sued Ford for not putting the interests of the shareholders first. They won, and the court decided that a business must be organized primarily for the profit of the stockholders, and cannot place the community or its employees first. The board of directors cannot decide to reduce profits in order to benefit the public.

Publicly-traded corporations legally can not be anything but psychopathic.

Governments, of course, have recognized this for a long time, especially in the wake of the workers' abuses of the industrial revolution.

"The tradition in both England and North America beginning in the 1930s was to say let's leave this corporation as it is, lets keep it psychopathic and driven by its own self interest, but what we're going to do is put external restraints on its behavior, what we're going to do is put the psychopath on a leash, so to speak, through government regulation," said Bakan.

One of the biggest trends over the past 10 years or so has been talk of corporate social responsibility. The Economist recently ran a story claiming that most businesses believe that corporate social responsibility is a vital part of doing business.

Bakan, who spoke with a number of corporate managers while making his film, believes that this idea is only skin deep.

"If a corporation says appearing to be socially responsible is good business, because customers like it, workers in our company like it, so there will be good morale in our company, and people will buy our products. In that strategic sense corporate social responsibility is perfectly lawful.


"The danger I see in corporate social responsibility is that when you talk to people in the corporate world, it is surprising how often they drew an equation between corporate social responsibility and deregulation. They said look, we're socially responsible now. You can trust us. And therefore you don't need to regulate us."
A self-regulating corporation is even more of an incredible prospect when one considers Hare's data: the bigger and more powerful a corporation gets, the more the people at the top are likely to be psychopaths.

But even for those who are not psychopathic in the high levels of corporations, the very structure of the organization has an affect on those working within them.

"There is a gap between the way people are as individuals and what they are required to do within the framework of the corporation.

"People seem to be able to compartmentalize their moral life.
"That they can be quite decent people in their normal family and community lives, but when they're within the corporation, they become operatives for its amoral goals," said Bakan, who makes comparison to hockey. When hockey players get on the ice, they leave their normal day to day morality in the locker room. People will play quite dirty, slashing, tripping, and checking, and will generally receive no more than a few minutes in the penalty box as punishment.

Everyone else
Woodworth and the rest of the scientific community, don't believe that there is much that can be done to treat psychopaths. Profiling, monitoring dangerous offenders, and learning more about them seem to be all that can be done at this point.

But for the rest of us, there are things we can do to prevent being exploited by social cheaters.

"We can change the nature of the corporation, and change the way we do business," says Bakan. "Co-operatives, and public purpose corporations generally act in a way that has some level of responsibility towards society as a whole. Or we could deepen and widen the regulatory structures that are designed to protect the greater communities from being marginalized as externalities," says Bakan.


"If we want to move toward an economy that actually respects social interests or embodies moral values and is democratic in how it functions then I think we have to be moving in these directions."
Dr. Robert Hare would probably agree. An economy with clear responsibilities, perhaps that is also composed of flatter, smaller organizations, would provide less room for psychopaths to thrive and are less likely to provide incentives for regular people to behave in a socially exploitative way. Perhaps then we could at least keep the psychopaths on a leash and keep the rest of us co-operating.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

How to Stop Being a "People-Pleaser"




by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.


People-pleasers “want everyone around them to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them to” keep it that way, according to Susan Newman, Ph.D, a New Jersey-based social psychologist and author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It—And Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.


“They put everyone else before themselves,” she said. For some, saying “yes” is a habit; for others, “it’s almost an addiction that makes them feel like they need to be needed.” This makes them feel important and like they’re “contributing to someone else’s life.”


People-pleasers yearn for outside validation. Their “personal feeling of security and self-confidence is based on getting the approval of others,” said Linda Tillman, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Atlanta, GA and assertiveness expert. Thus, at the core, people-pleasers lack confidence, she said.


They worry how others will view them when they say no. “People don’t want to be seen as lazy, uncaring, selfish or totally egocentric,” Newman said. They fear “they’ll be disliked and cut from the group,” whether it’s friends, family or co-workers.


What many people-pleasers don’t realize is that people-pleasing can have serious risks. Not only does it put a lot of pressure and stress on you, Newman said, but “essentially you can make yourself sick from doing too much.” If you’re overcommitted, you probably get less sleep and get more anxious and upset. You’re also “depleting your energy resources.” “In the worst case scenario, you’ll wake up and find yourself depressed, because you’re on such overload because you possibly can’t do it all,” she said.


Here’s a slew of strategies to help you stop being a people-pleaser and finally say no.


1. Realize you have a choice.


People-pleasers often feel like they have to say yes when someone asks for their help. Remember that you always have a choice to say no, Newman said.


2. Set your priorities.


Knowing your priorities and values helps you put the brakes on people-pleasing. You know when you feel comfortable saying no or saying yes. Ask yourself, “What are the most important things to me?” Newman suggested.


3. Stall.


Whenever someone asks you for a favor, it’s perfectly OK to say that you’ll need to think about it. This gives you the opportunity to consider if you can commit to helping them. (Also important is to ask the person for details about the commitment.)


Newman suggested asking yourself: “How stressful is this going to be? Do I have the time to do this? What am I going to give up? How pressured am I going to feel? Am I going to be upset with this person who’s asking?”


Asking yourself these questions is key because, as Newman said, very often after you’ve said yes or helped out, you’re left wondering, “What was I thinking?” I neither have the time nor the expertise to help out.


If the person needs an answer right away, “your automatic answer can be no,” Newman said. That’s because “Once you say yes, you’re stuck.” By saying no automatically, “you leave yourself an option” to say yes later if you’ve realized that you’re available. And “you’ve also gotten it off your must-do or don’t-want to do list.”


4. Set a time limit.


If you do agree to help out, “limit your time frame,” Newman said. Let the person know that “I’m only available from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.,” for example.


5. Consider if you’re being manipulated.


Sometimes, people are clearly taking advantage of you, so it’s important to watch out for manipulators and flatterers, Newman said. How do you spot them? She said, “Often the people who flatter you will say [statements like], ‘Oh you’re so good at baking cakes, would you make a cake for my child’s birthday?’ or ‘I don’t know how to put this bookcase together, but you’re so handy, can you help me out?’”


A classic line is “Nobody does this better than you do,” she said. Also, these people “will either coax you into doing something or try to tell you what your availability is or what your time frame is.” Basically, before you know it, they make the decision for you.


6. Create a mantra.


Figure out a mantra you can say to yourself to stop you from people-pleasing. It can even be a visual as simple as a big “No” flashing when a certain friend who “can always talk you into something” approaches you, Newman said.


7. Say no with conviction.


“The first no to anyone is always the hardest,” Newman said. But once you get over that first bump, “you will be well on your way to getting off the yes treadmill.” Also, remember that you’re saying no for good reasons. “You get time for yourself and for the people you really want to help,” she said.


8. Use an empathic assertion.


Some people initially think that being assertive means “stepping all over people,” Tillman said. Instead, she explained that “assertiveness is really about connection.”


Using an empathic assertion “means that you put yourself in the other person’s shoes as you assert yourself,” Tillman said. So you let the person know that you understand where they’re coming from, but unfortunately, you can’t help. “People need to feel heard and understood,” and this is a respectful way of asserting yourself and saying no.


9. Consider if it’s worth it.


When asserting yourself, Tillman suggested asking yourself, “Is it really worth it?” It’s probably not worth it to tell your boss about his annoying habit, but it is worth it to tell your friend that you can’t do lunch because you’re super busy.


10. Don’t give a litany of excuses.


It’s tempting to want to defend your decision to say no to someone so they understand your reasoning. But this actually backfires. According to Newman, “As soon as you start explaining, you give the other person lots of wiggle room to come back and say, ‘Oh, you can do that later,’ ‘You can adjust your schedule’ or ‘That’s not as important as what I’m asking.’”


11. Start small.


“Everything we learn how to do we learn through a process,” so take baby steps, Tillman said. Instead of barging into your boss’s office to ask for a raise, talk with your immediate supervisor first about how to prepare yourself for the talk, she said.


12. Practice successive approximation.


Successive approximation means taking “one step in the direction you want to go” and rewarding yourself for getting that far, Tillman said. If your neighbor’s dog’s barking is driving you crazy, make efforts to confront the person by first saying “Good morning,” as you’re both leaving the house, she said. Another time, you might mention how noisy the neighborhood has been. If he doesn’t get the hint, you can knock on his door and use an empathic assertion.


It can help to write down “how you get from A to Z,” Tillman said. This also helps you gain courage to confront the person, she added.


13. Don’t apologize — if it’s not your fault.


People-pleasers tend to be serial apologists, Tillman said. Pay attention to when you’re apologizing and consider if you’re really at fault. Ask yourself if you’re responsible for the situation, she said. Usually, the answer is no.


14. Remember that saying no has its benefits.


As Newman said, “you as a person are entitled to your time and you need to rest and rejuvenate to be there for the people you want to help out.” Look at saying no as an opportunity to spend your time doing what you value in your life.


15. Set clear boundaries — and follow through.


“We all have physical or emotional limits,” Newman said, and because of these limits, we have to set boundaries. Ask yourself what you’re willing to do, and don’t go beyond these limits. Also, be clear in communicating your boundaries. Say what you’re thinking and what you want.


Letting someone step over your boundaries without voicing your frustrations can lead you to “bottle up this negative feeling about a person…to the point when you have a blowup and really hurt someone’s feelings or end the relationship” completely,” she said.


For instance, you might “have a friend who’s just so emotionally needy and negative that she calls you all the time with her problems and wants you to listen,” Newman said. But “even just listening is asking a favor…[and] every time you hang out, you’re miserable and she feels better.” Respect your boundaries, and at some point, say to her, “I can’t help you,” Newman said.


There also are subtle ways to respect your boundaries. You might “start taking every other call and wean yourself off of her.” You can do the same thing with a person who calls you at your busiest time of day. You might say, “I can’t be available for you at 2:30 because I’m at the office; let’s set up a particular time to talk,” she said. When setting up the time, offer one that works best for you.


Setting physical boundaries might mean telling a person that they can’t just pop over when they want to or borrow your things without asking, she said.


16. Don’t be scared of the fallout.


People-pleasers often worry that after they say no, the fallout will be catastrophic. But as Newman said, “the fallout is never as bad as we think it is.” In fact, “it’s usually very insignificant.” Why? For starters, “people are not thinking about you as much as you think.” Usually after you say no, a person is more focused on who they’ll be asking next to help them than your so-called betrayal, she said.


Even a significant request such as being the maid of honor at your friend’s wedding isn’t disastrous. Being the maid of honor “takes a lot of time, energy and money,” which you may not have. You saying that “I’m really honored and this means so much to me, but I won’t be able to do it,” “isn’t going to ruin the wedding,” Newman said. “If you have a solid friendship, this isn’t going to end it.”


17. Consider who you want to have your time.


Newman suggested asking yourself, “Who do I really want to help?” As she put it, “Do you want to be there for your parents or some friend from college who lived down the hall who you partied with a lot who’s back in your life and really demanding?”


18. Self-soothe.


Using positive self-talk is “like being a good mother to yourself,” Tillman said. You can use this to remind yourself of your priorities and boundaries. For instance, you might say “I can do this,” “I have the right to park in this parking spot,” “I made the decision that’s right for me” or “My values are more important than saying yes in this situation.”


19. Recognize when you’ve been successful.


Many people-pleasers tend to focus on what went wrong, Tillman said. Counteract this tendency by keeping a journal with the times you handled a situation well, such as when you were assertive or didn’t apologize. In fact, you might be surprised at “how many more times you’re responding confidently,” she said.


20. Keep a confidence file.


Since a lack of confidence can cause your people-pleasing ways, keep a file with positive and praising emails, cards or anything else, Tillman said. (For instance, Psych Central associate editor Therese Borchard keeps a self-esteem file.) It can even come in handy when asking for that raise. Tillman suggested printing out any emails or letters of praise you’ve received from co-workers or higher-ups and taking them to your boss as another reason why you deserve a raise.


21. Realize that you can’t be everything to everyone.


Again, people-pleasers want to make everyone happy. While you might make someone happy temporarily, Newman said, it doesn’t work long term. And you can get hurt in the process. “People who preserve their time and energy and don’t say yes to everyone also realize that they can’t make other people happy,” she said. People-pleasers must realize that the only thoughts and feelings they can change are their own.


Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor at Psych Central


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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Passive-Aggressive Behavior


Passive-aggressive communication is a means of expressing anger indirectly. 

Examples of passive-aggressive behaviors are listed below.

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIORS AND ISSUES

Examples of Passive-Aggressive Obstructionism


Examples of Common Fears and Issues for Passive-Aggressive People

Dealing with passive-aggressive people can be especially difficult, particularly when you are relying on them to do something properly and on time, without difficulty and complications.

In the workplace, passive-aggressive people should be dealt with administratively, since trying to work around, adjust to, and change their behavior is impossible. They will sorely resent the supervision; however, they were likely already displeased and resentful of it anyhow.

________________________________________________________________

Passive-aggressive people will always find a way to slip out of what you need them to do or otherwise make you pay for trying to get them to cooperate.
________________________________________________________________


Dealing or working with a passive-aggressive person can feel like a gigantic game of Whack-a-Mole.

Once you think you’ve addressed the first excuse, lie, issue or ambiguity, they’re off and running presenting you with a third, second and fourth. It’s as if they’re playing a mental game designed to exhaust you into giving up asking anything reasonable of them. Insisting and pressuring them into fulfilling their obligations only makes things worse.

When in situations where you are forced to work with them, do not assume responsibility for their work or lack thereof. Do not let the maddening inefficiency and game-playing get to you. Concentrate on your own responsibilities, and minimize working on joint projects with them as much as possible. Above all, don’t take the bait that sends you begging them to cooperate. They will only resent you for it and get you back later.

And definitely, without delay, add passive-aggressive people to your list of toxic people to avoid wherever possible.

FROM THIS GREAT SITE!

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Narcissistic Mothers

By Cyndi Lopez


I do not love; I do not love anybody except myself. That is a rather shocking thing to admit. I have none of the selfless love of my mother. I have none of the plodding, practical love. . .   I am, to be blunt and concise, in love only with myself, my puny being with its small inadequate breasts and meager, thin talents. I am capable of affection for those who reflect my own world. – Sylvia Plath

There is a special place in hell for narcissistic mothers. Ms. Plath herself indulged in the ultimate narcissistic act when she committed suicide by sticking her head in the oven while her two young children were asleep in the same apartment. How thoughtful of her to have sealed off their rooms with towels so that the fumes wouldn’t consume them too. She needed someone to live on to remember her and care that she was gone.


Narcissistic mothers do not have children for the same reasons the rest of us do. They do not look forward to the birth of their child because they can’t wait to see what they look like or what type of personality they will have or who they will become. No, they have children for one reason only: More mirrors. They have children so that the children will love them unconditionally, not the other way around. They have children to do things for them. They have children to reflect their false images. They have children to use, abuse and control them.


They don’t see their role as a mother as life’s biggest gift. It’s a burden they didn’t expect. They thought they were creating little “mini-me’s.” They didn’t take into account the fact that somewhere around age 2, these spiteful, ungrateful (in their minds) little creatures start to develop their own individual personalities and wills of their own. For the rest of us, that’s the best part of being a mom — watching our children grow into increasingly independent, confident, free-thinking individuals. For the narcissistic mother, each step away from her is an absolute act of betrayal.


Children have emotions that they express quite freely. This annoying practice is squashed as early as possible since narcissists cannot handle emotions. “What is wrong with you?” and “You’re so oversensitive” and “You’re overreacting” are common phrases uttered to children of narcissists.


These mothers end up resenting all the work that goes into raising a child, having no use for them unless they are achieving, doing something or otherwise reflecting their false image onto them. Children are a nuisance to them, taking precious time away from their own agendas. They don’t like to have to shop for clothes for their children, prepare meals for them, do their laundry, pay for daycare, enroll them in activities, drive them to friends’ houses, throw birthday parties, pay for their college educations or protect them from abuse.

They will smother and overprotect their children under the guise that they are taking care of them. They will fail to provide age-appropriate information on such things as menstruation, personal grooming (make-up, hairstyles, shaving, etc.), budgeting money and dating. This all serves to keep her children under her control as long as possible. If they are ill-informed and overprotected, they will not feel confident to grow or move further away from her.


They will use their children as slaves. They will delegate all household chores to the children as early as possible. They will insist that they pay for their own personal items and clothing as early as possible. Older children will become responsible for younger children. No matter how many of her responsibilities her children take on, it will never be enough or be done well enough. They expect perfection and constantly remind their children that they fail to meet this expectation.

Of course, they train their children to believe that they are the ideal mother. Any evidence to the contrary is to be kept secret at all costs. They will behave much differently toward their children in public than they do at home. They will vehemently deny any wrongdoing on their part and most likely blame their children, completely rewriting history.


Narcissistic mothers don’t stop being narcissists when their children become adults. They will play siblings against each other. They will compare siblings. They will talk to siblings about each other. When they have a problem with one, they will talk to another about it.

They are jealous of their children’s successes, even though they brag to others about them (‘see how great MY kids turned out’). They will make snide comments if they think one of their adult children has a better marriage, house, job, etc. than they do. They are thrilled when they perceive that one of their adult children has failed in some way (although they never tell others about these “failures”; it reflects poorly on them). They are more than happy to assist when necessary because that makes them look good, plus, there is an added bonus of having favors to collect on. Asking a narcissistic mother for a favor feels like selling your soul to the devil. It’s emotional extortion.


These mothers steal their kids’ childhoods, identities and future healthy relationships. They will keep on taking and sucking the life out of their children for as long as they live, if their children allow it. It is incredibly difficult and painful to acknowledge that your mother never loved you without blaming yourself — she raised you to blame yourself for everything. But it is necessary to put the blame where it rightfully belongs in order to insure that this insidious disorder isn’t perpetuated generation after generation.


SOURCE

FACEBOOK GROUP FOR DAUGHTERS OF NARCISSISTIC MOTHERS (MUST BE TOTAL NO CONTACT)

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Will the Narcissist/Sociopath/Psychopath Treat the New Victim Better?

by K. Saaed


Yes, at first he will.

But keep in mind that when a Narcissist is securing new supply, he will love-bomb her; just as he did you in the beginning. For those of you who are just learning about Narcissism, “love-bombing” is the constant bombardment of flirting and flattery from the Narcissist. This includes actions that are over-the-top after you’ve just started dating, such as:

• Splashing your social media with flirty messages, though you’ve only just met
• Sending numerous texts throughout the day
• Calling more than what’s considered normal
• Pretending to miss you when you go out with friends
• If you work in the public eye, showing up at your place of employment
• Sending flowers and gifts, after only one date
• Leaving multiple voice mails
• Offering to take you on vacation
• Pushing for physical intimacy too soon
• Spending hours on the phone with you


Just as we have four seasons, the Narcissist will use these tactics to secure new supply. That’s why he seems so happy with his new partner; you see him doing the above things with her.

Frankly, it coincides rather conveniently with his discarding of you. Since love-bombing is time-consuming, grueling, and involves spending money, the Narcissist is depleted. On the inside, he is feeling grouchy due to all of this exertion. Therefore, his efforts may as well fulfill two purposes:

1) secure the new supply,
2) fulfill his discarding of you.

Hence, you’ll likely get “heartfelt confessions” that he loves this new girl and they’re a match made in Heaven. She understands him like you never could. She accepts him for who he is. She does everything for him…  sound familiar?

Although he and his new supply look as if they’re walking on sunshine, you can bet he is making little jabs here and there. And while you are left feeling that his new partner is much better than you, the truth of the matter is the Narcissist simply wants shelter, food, money, and freedom to do as he pleases. He may feel a temporary giddiness that the new girlfriend doesn’t know him for what he is because he’s extracting copious amounts of adoration from her.

Consider how one typically feels before and during a job interview. There’s a lot at stake so we go out and buy an expensive suit, use our best manners,and tell the interviewer what they want to hear. In essence, we sell ourselves. That’s what the Narc does when he is in pursuit of a new source of livelihood. However, he soon turns into a bad employee who shows up for the paycheck, but doesn’t really do any work.

Reasons Not to Die When the Narcissist Looks Happy with New Supply

1. It’s highly likely that while he is out on the town with a pretty new girl on his arm, he has others who are waiting for his phone call. Why? Just in case. The worst situation for the Narcissist is to be left alone with no supply…which means no one to house him, no one to feed him, no one to make all of his appointments, take care of paperwork, apply for employment of his behalf (assuming he decides to work), etc. Most Narcissists, especially the overt ones, are the equivalent of 7-yr olds running around in adult bodies. They literally cannot fulfill adult responsibilities on their own.

2. Without someone to reflect a positive image back to him, the Narcissist feels worthless. His new girlfriend doesn’t know him like you do, so naturally she is feeding his ego to the nth degree. But rest assured that it will only be a matter of time before she starts noticing the cracks, probably when it’s too late and she’s lost all sense of direction. Everything he did to you will also happen to her.

3. Narcissists are attracted to attractive people, but not for the same reasons we are. Beautiful people make them look good by association.

Besides, because she’s pretty doesn’t mean you’re not…

4. The new girl is not only a new source of supply, she’s a matter of revenge. Since you attempted to establish a boundary, ask for respect and/or fidelity, requested him to find employment, or otherwise pointed out any flaws in him, he has a burning need to show you he can find someone who will accept him as he is. And while he may already have a new partner swooning over his very existence, it won’t last. She doesn’t know he’s an abuser, irresponsible, cruel, or sociopathic. All she knows is what he’s told her, along with the false illusion that he’s a hopeless romantic.

No matter what it looks like, the Narcissist’s “happiness” is a facade. What he’s most happy about is that he’s locked down a new place to live with someone who will cook for him, wash his clothes, and pay for everything. Don’t eat the soup he tries to feed you about how great she is. She may very well be a nice person, but the Narcissist doesn’t appreciate her personality past how it benefits him. Once you understand these dynamics, all that’s left to do is feel sorry for his new girlfriend. She doesn’t deserve what’s coming any more than you did.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Recognizing the Problem





However, before someone might be classified as being narcissistic, it is important to keep in mind that, like every psychological disorder, narcissistic personality disorder too comes in various degrees. Going to the extreme, we might argue that each of us has somewhere a narcissist in her/himself. It even could be said that a narcissistic tendency is important for survival.

However, in the same context it must be emphasized that, while a narcissistic tendency is constructive, a fully elaborated or developed symptomatic of NPD is nothing but destructive.



Psychologically there are several criteria which have been applied to this personality disorder. These are:


So the question is whether the man or the woman you are living with are so strongly affected by this disorder that you will have to seriously confront the issue or whether the condition is mild and maybe after some adaptations it is possible to agree on a harmonious life together. However, this will focus on the first scenario where the disorder poses a serious threat to the relationship as well as to your existence.

There is much one can read about the symptoms of NPD and yet exactly this can be more than confusing, and you might find yourself going through a checklist of symptoms in order to arrive at some conclusion. However, the list above should give you some idea. Still, there is another element which is just as important and this quite possibly the most important item for you to look at:

Look at yourself and ask yourself how you feel and whether you are the person you once were and knew. If you live with a narcissist, you will develop a cluster of negative feelings centered around the emotion of fear and an image of inadequacy.

This self image of being inadequate then will be due to a change in self perception. This is, it is a cognitive concept that you are not familiar with and which is in contrast to how you used to see yourself. Clearly, such a negative self image will have serious effects on the way you feel and behave.

The dominant feeling is, as alluded to, fear. Fear of doing things wrong and fear of being punished. And thus, the way you behave too will become modified whereby you will watch your every move and where your actions become unnatural to yourself.
The issue is - in a sense - more complicated. Because, all of us have negative feelings and concepts about ourselves even if we never encountered a narcissist. So in this sense, what the narcissist does is to build on the already existing negative self images and enlarge them to a maximum.

The situation is even worse because we are aware of short comings in ourselves. This is where the narcissist is most successful. The narcissist will endeavour to increase these short comings. I may give a personal example: once, I gave up smoking, the narcissist exercised so much pressure on me until I started again (I still smoke sometimes).


The narcissist would really like to see you in the gutter.

However, if you see that you have substantially changed for the worse you can be sure that you are living with a narcissist, and a check list is not necessary any longer.

Still, there is a healing aspect to sharing what actions you suffered and what injustice and cruelty you have been exposed to, and hence sharing experiences and finding reassurance through others can be very important. This is the more the case as, while you are still living with the narcissist or are still in contact with the narcissist, the negative self image gets constantly reinforced.

If you feel that the self check and the characteristics of the narcissist as given above are not sufficient you might want to check your relationship for symptoms of the following kind as given by the check list below. Still, while you are comparing your own experiences with the check list provided here, it is important to remember that maybe only some of these symptoms apply to you or that symptoms which apply to you are not listed. The final criterion will always remain the way you feel about yourself and your self image.

Here now a list of possible symptoms a narcissist might display (not complete or final!):


Dr. Ludger Hofmann-Engl

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

When Bad People Do Good Things


Even bad people can sometimes behave well. That seems a strange twist on the idea of “good people behaving badly.” But it’s true. Even the skeeviest personality isn’t usually spending all day long exploiting everyone who enters his path.

Now this doesn’t mitigate his skeeviness one wit. But it’s also true that sociopaths aren’t always exploiting and mistreating others, all day long. They will be taking some time off, in different contexts, from their more unseemly behaviors.

And so sometimes, sociopaths can be nice, even very nice; sometimes they may extend themselves to others. Now we can question what motivates them when they are behaving well; probably, very often, their prosocial behaviors are driven by relatively shallow, if not manipulatively self-serving, motives.

Still, it’s fair to say that most sociopaths aren’t spending their lives 24/7 causing havoc to everyone around them; and it’s fair to suggest that, sometimes, if motivated to do so, they may even bring some cheer into others’ lives.

After all, we know these personalities can be charming and engaging; and that when they are, this isn’t necessarily, always an “act.” The sociopath can be genuinely charming and engaging, and he may enjoy, genuinely on some level, being charming and engaging.

In a sense I’m suggesting that not everything about even the sociopath is fraudulent; the sociopath, like anyone else, has genuine experiences, although we are right to question the depth of his experiences; and we are right to question his motives when he is behaving himself.

But to avoid confusion, my point is this: Beware! Do not rule-out sociopathy, or a similarly exploitative personality disturbance, simply because the individual is capable of behaving well sometimes, or even, alas, often.  

To do so risks our missing the significance of the dangerous, always lurking curve-balls that the even sometimes well-behaved sociopath may throw at any time (predictably or not).

One may be tempted to think, “If he can behave this well, can he really be that bad?” The answer is, yes. He can behave, sometimes, this well, and yet really be that bad!

So while I’m not necessarily saying “don’t be fooled” by his better behaviors, which may (or may not) have a genuine component to them, I am suggesting the exercising of great caution not to let the sociopath’s better behaviors distract you one bit from giving full weight to, and appreciation of, his destructive behaviors.

The latter should not be regarded as one bit less menacing and forbidding by virtue of his capacity to display the former.

(This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW. Use of male gender pronouns is strictly for convenience’s sake and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes displayed.) 

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Lies Abusers Tell Their Victims



The following is a long list of lies, threats, and insane statements that abusers make in order to keep their victims in line, and in order to keep the blame away from themselves and the abuse cycle going. Note that many of the following do in fact happen -- threats of violence are often carried out, sometimes the police do come, and so on. Sometimes, lies do come true, for victims of abuse.

You're just taking it wrong.

I wouldn't hit you if you weren't so bad.

We could make this relationship great if only you would work harder.

You made me lie by not making it easy to tell the truth.

I only lied to you because I knew you'd be hurt if you found out the truth.

Your mother/sister/My wife won't give me this, and I/men need it.

If you tell anyone about this, I will stop giving your mother her child support and you/she will be homeless and starving.

If you tell, the police will come and take me away.

This is normal in Europe -- I'm doing this so you can be more sophisticated than your peers.

If you don't, I'll do it to your sister/brother.

You know you like it; what are you trying to get from me by resisting?

You're really tense; I can help you relax.

Let me make you feel better.

This is how you show love to people.

Children have to do what their parents tell them.

All [insert your least favorite group here] are going to hell.

If you can be sexy enough men will like you and you can go far in life.

You can make a lot of money as a prostitute.

All you're interested in is sex. That's all that most (teen-agers/women/men) are interested in.

You're not good for anything else anyways so you might as well use what you are good at.

You own nothing, not even yourself. In my house, you are mine.

Your asking not to be touched isn't a good reason for me not to touch you.

In my house you will do what I want you to.

If you tell, I'll kill your cat/child/mother/friend/coworker.

I bought you X, but you owe me because you didn't earn it.

You will ruin our lives.

You're going to be the death of me.

You're going to grieve the loss after I leave you, but not the loss of love -- you're going to feel the loss a junkie feels when she can't get a hit.

I'm finally committed to you. That's why I have to leave you.

I can't live without you.

I know you better than you know yourself.

I was/am the parent/spouse/teacher/authority figure; therefore I know better than you.

This is going to kill your mother/father/teacher.

If you do this, nobody will ever talk to you again.

Your mother/father/sister/spouse wouldn't understand.

You're special, and this is our special secret.

Only true "friends" can be like this.

This is going to teach you about how to handle those horny teenage boys/girls who will be after you.

I have no one else to talk to.

You're the only one who really loves me.

You're too sensitive. I'm sick of you being so hypersensitive all the time!

Why are you so negative?

You're not sorry. If you were sorry, you wouldn't have said it.

You're bad. You're worthless. You're ugly.

You shouldn't feel that way. You shouldn't think that way.

I never did that. It never happened. You're just making it up.

Up to you. If you want to.

I can't believe how selfish you are.

You're self-centered, lazy, and irresponsible.

You shouldn't let it bother you.

That's just the way your [abuser] is. You shouldn't let them bother you.

I'm sick. I need help.

You know I love you/ have feelings for you/ care about you.

What are you mad at me for? I stopped drinking/beating you/abusing drugs, didn't I? What else do I need to do?

I wouldn't tease you if I didn't love you so much.

For a smart person, you sure do some dumb things.

You just remember what you want to remember.

Don't talk about your experience with my drinking/drug use/abuse/sex addiction because it will embarrass me.
Don't tell anyone about this. It's our little secret.
I'll kill you if you tell.

If you tell my spouse/significant other about us, he/she will kill themselves. And it will be your fault.

You'd be a lot prettier if you wore makeup.

You'd be a lot nicer if you weren't such a bitch.

He/She/They are lying/making it up/planted that stuff you found. They are jealous and want to ruin what we have.

I wouldn't do this to you if you weren't such a dirty, bad little girl/boy.

I wouldn't do this to you if you didn't like it.

You're a slut.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself!!
(NOTE: This is one of the most deadly things a person can ever say to a child.)

You only get what you deserve.

You have to forgive your abuser. You have to forgive me. It'll do you good if you forgive me. That's really the best thing for you.

I only have your best interests at heart.

This hurts me more than it hurts you.

Why are you so stupid? Why are you so snotty? Why are you so hard to get along with?

Why are you so [insert random meaningless accusation here]??

That's not what you meant. I know what you really meant.

You're overdramatic. You're obsessed.

You made me mad. You provoked me. You made me do it.

I'm not going to talk to you until you apologize.

Your feelings aren't important. Your opinions don't matter. I'm the only one who can be right. I'm the only one who can have feelings and opinions. I'm the only one who counts.

I never treated you that way. You imagined it. You had a wonderful childhood /adolescence/marriage/relationship.

You shouldn't feel like you were abused, because we gave you everything. You're so ungrateful. For all I have to put up with...

You're antagonistic. You're argumentative. You have a way of making people angry.

I can't be nice to you because it wouldn't work.

I can't ask you politely to do something because you wouldn't do it.

You never... You always...

You're just overreacting. You're just making a big deal out of nothing.

You're rude. You're uncooperative. You're unkind. You're just not a very nice person.

Boys don't cry.

Nice girls don't dress that way/have sex/yell/go anywhere alone.

Never hurt anyone's feelings. If you do, you're bad.

Go to therapy as long as you like, but when will you be done?

If you talk about your feelings, you're just whining. That's all they do in those support groups, anyway. They just sit around wallowing in self-pity.

Friends can't be trusted. Your friends are evil.

You're not sensible. You don't think things through.

You're ridiculous. Where did you get that crazy idea?!

Did [random suspect person] put you up to this?!

You're the Good Daughter/Wife/Girlfriend.

You're the Bad Daughter/Wife/Girlfriend.

You just need to try harder. You just need to stop letting your feelings get hurt.

Of course I love you. I wouldn't do this to you if I didn't love you.

Just because I have other partners doesn't mean I'm cheating on you.

Go ahead. Go out with your friends... and leave your family home alone!

You only like history because you're obsessed with the past. Why can't you look to the future, like me?

What's wrong with you?

You don't deserve to be forgiven. I only treat you like this because you deserve it.

I wouldn't treat you this way if you didn't need discipline.

I wouldn't keep dumping you if I didn't have to. I wouldn't keep dumping you if you didn't hurt me so much.

I wouldn't have left you if you weren't so awful.

I'd treat you better if you just tried harder.

It hurts me to love you.

I'm only doing this for your own good.


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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Who Is This Person?



"When Your Perfect Partner Goes Perfectly Wrong - Loving or Leaving the Narcissist in Your Life"by Mary Jo Fay

Chapter 13
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde phenomenon that occurs in relationships with narcissists is a regular theme among those who sent me their stories. Soaring with the extreme highs of new love with the most incredible, romantic, unbelievably perfect man or woman of your dreams is tantamount to a romance novel or soap opera.
So many of us pray and hope for such a relationship, but we never truly think it can really happen. Then, when it does, there is such fear of losing such bliss that many are blinded when Dr. Jekyll behaves like the deadly Mr. Hyde. They ignore the red flags and the gut feelings that keep trying to tell them something's wrong because they know "Mr. Perfect" was not a figment of their imagination. He was very real.
And so, if he's suddenly Mr. Hyde momentarily, they are convinced it is a temporary situation and that their perfect partner will return any minute, if they are just patient enough
. In addition, victims keep going over and over in their own minds what they did "wrong" to sabotage the relationship. They convince themselves if they just figure out what not to do, that they can make everything "go back to normal" when all was magical, wonderful, and utterly perfect. If only they knew just how wrong their belief is!
Another prevalent theme among victims is the feeling that when the perfect partner leaves (or she leaves him), that he will treat his next significant other differently. They envy the new person in the narcissist's life and are convinced the new love is being treated "perfectly," or at least better, than they were. Of course the new partner will know better than to ever do anything that might upset Mr. Perfect. She will live the life of the fantasy world that the discarded victim once held. She wouldn't dream of making the same mistakes that the first victim did. She's probably smarter, more beautiful, thinner, or more understanding than the first victim. Isn't everyone? Isn't that what he told his first victim over and over?

They remain paralyzed with guilt, confusion, and sorrow and continue to blame themselves for the loss. Despite the fact that most of us realize people don't change easily and that logic would dictate if someone behaves a certain way with one person, he will also behave that way with another, the fantasy of the lost "perfect" love now seemingly given unconditionally to another, permeates their minds like a malignant cancer. Many just don't seem to be able to irradiate their cancer and move on to a clean bill of health.

Perhaps Marti and Erica's accounts will help illuminate some light on this subject…


Marti and Erica…
Marti and Erica didn't know each other last year, yet this year they sit with me and we talk of how they were both involved with the same narcissist. The fact that they even fell upon each other is remarkable, as they live several hundred miles apart. Yet when they found each other and began sharing stories of the same painful dance, their laughter and tears merged in a unique sisterhood.

Marti: A bright, beautiful gal in her late 30s, with long, flowing locks and stylish professional fashion was well-educated and mature in the ways of the world. She had worked in business for years as a savvy sales rep and was very comfortable with both men and women.

Erica: Fresh out of an almost-19-year marriage and a bit cautious and still healing her wounds, she was none-the-less a strong woman with conviction and an independent streak. Her blonde hair and snappy, blue eyes sparked a spirit that was longing to get out, yet one that appeared a bit defiant and untamed.

Neither of them ever guessed they'd be swept off their feet by one very manipulative man.

Marti…
I first met Gus online. While I'd done the Matchmaker scene for quite a while, it usually took a lot to get me to actually take the next step to meet someone. I was in the early stages of running my own small business, so time was a commodity and the thought of wasting it on meaningless coffees and dinners with guys who were nothing like what they appeared to be online, just didn't excite me. I would periodically reply to an email, take a phone call and meet someone, but was more often frustrated than excited. Sometimes I'd just walk away from the whole dating process for months at a time. For some reason Gus was different. Once we connected, it was like we couldn't stop. After only 24 hours of emails and phone calls, I just had to meet him. Our first obstacle was that we lived six hours apart, but we knew we had to get together as soon as possible. We agreed to meet in a town halfway between us for a dinner date. As his email had led me to believe, he turned out to be absolutely charming. He just "got me" instantly. Dinner was fabulous! We had this intense connection – a chemistry that was indescribable – both intellectually and physically. Two days later we rendezvoused for the weekend and we both knew what we were anticipating. I knew something special would happen once we connected overnight and of course it did. It was indescribable! I stayed three days more than I had planned. I barely thought about my business and even cancelled a speaking engagement just to stay with him. I was so caught up in his charms … in the magic. It was like I was hypnotized. All I could think about was him … and us. By the end of seven days he asked me to marry him, and I had to say yes! How could I ever find someone like him again? I wasn't about to let him go! I sincerely believed there couldn't be another man like him in the world. We immediately went ring shopping because Gus insisted that he didn't want me to go home without "proof" of how serious he was about us. As we excitedly hurried into the jewelry store, Gus, grinning ear to ear, announced to the clerk, "Today's our anniversary!" She smiled and said, "That's wonderful! How many years?" To which Gus replied, "Seven days!" I was flying. I guess I must have completely missed the quizzical look she gave us. We got a ring with seven stones to always remind us of our life-changing seven days together that had sent us in a direction we knew would last a lifetime.

While my rational mind kept sending me caution signals that no one got engaged in only seven days, my optimistic nature couldn't get over the wonderful gift God had given me. In fact, when friends (and even strangers) learned of our whirlwind romance they often told us their stories of love at first sight, quick engagements, and dozens of happy years of marriage! I could not imagine anything going wrong in this relationship because it was so absolutely perfect! Nothing could be so terrible that we couldn't possibly work it out. One of Gus' strengths was his incredible ability to listen, understand both sides of any issue, and to remain calm and compassionate no matter what the situation (even when I spilled red wine on his carpet). His demeanor was gentle, kind, and so polite; opening the car door for me each and every time, even buckling me into my seatbelt, which he made a big deal about doing so that he could "keep me safe," at the same time he'd sneak a kiss.I felt so adored. It felt like he hung on each of my words and knew just what to say every second we were together. He made me feel like royalty. It was hard carrying on a relationship with a six-hour drive between us, but we were so in love we knew we could do anything necessary to keep it alive. He was so romantic. He would write poetry that swept me off my feet. He even bought a Webcam for my computer – a device rather like a video camera – so we could see each other while we emailed or chatted by phone. It was so great just to see him and hear his voice when I couldn't be with him. We were grateful to the latest technology for keeping us connected. He was attentive to every detail; every word I wrote, every thing I said. It was like he lived just to make me happy. He even insisted on buying new tires for my car, as he was concerned that if I was going to be driving to see him very often, that he wanted me to be on the safest tires available. Then came the flowers. I was hosting a big event and he was unable to make the trip. I understood completely and didn't give it a second thought, so imagine my surprise when I arrived at the conference center and there was the largest arrangement of flowers I had ever seen! The note said, "If only I could be there with you tonight … All my love, Gus." Romance, flowers, love letters, planning our future … He was my Prince Charming. He could do no wrong in my eyes. He had won my heart.

And then I started noticing subtle changes …

Quite honestly I really didn't get it at first. It started with little comments that seemed a bit quirky and out of place. For example, he told me one day that my actions spoke more to him than my words and he gave the example that he knew my favorite color was yellow, even though I'd told him it was purple. I laughed and said, "Actually, it really is purple." "Of course it's not, Marti. Just look around your house. You have yellow things everywhere," he replied, almost speaking down to me as a parent might scold a child. I agreed that, yes, the bedspread we were sitting on was yellow, but there was far more green everywhere, purple in some places, and even red. All decorating choices I liked, but truly if I had to pick a favorite color, it was purple … even in my company logo.

"No, it isn't," he countered. "I can see that plain as day. But if that's what you want to believe, you go right ahead and believe it. I know better." I thought that was really odd, but harmless. Not so harmless, in reality – as I would later realize. He would say, "I will watch your actions, not what you say, to determine what you really mean."

On his first visit to my home I was overwhelmed with work, and as my office is in my house, it showed the effects of my stress by looking as though a tornado had struck. Although the rest of the house was in perfect order, I figured I'd just close the door to my messy office and not worry about sorting through the stacks of papers to tidy it up before he got here. Well that idea didn't fly with Gus at all. He pressured me to let him see my office. I brushed off his request a couple of times, telling him that the room wasn't fit for man nor beast, but he became defensive and told me I was "shutting him out" of a part of my life. I "must" be keeping secrets from him. What was I hiding? I promised him that I wasn't hiding anything, but that I was very embarrassed to have him see my office in such shambles. I finally gave in and opened the door. Of course there were no secrets or anything of particular interest other than the mess, but he became very quiet and withdrawn for the rest of the day. I thought this behavior a bit odd, but again, was so overwhelmed with the deep and incredible love we shared, that I just figured it wasn't a big deal. If he didn't mind my messy office, I guess I didn't mind showing him. Only now have I begun to realize that what he was showing me by that behavior was that he had absolutely no respect for my boundaries. By giving in, I never told him "no" and meant it. Thus, he just kept pushing my boundaries further and further – always testing the waters to see just how far he could go. He often said things like "I'm going to be your husband, so I have a right to …"

One particularly busy day he was back at his house, so many miles away, so we'd check in with each other often via the Webcam; longingly looking into each other's eyes, wishing we were together. After talking for quite a while I told him that I really had to get some work done, so we said goodbye and I shut the Webcam off. He called back instantly and insisted that I keep it on so he could see my "beautiful face" any time he wanted. I smiled that he was so passionate and interested, but I told him I really found it hard to concentrate and I'd get nothing done knowing he was so close and distracting. He really insisted, but I stood my ground. So we said goodbye and agreed we'd talk later in the day. When we got on the phone that night he was cold and silent. I couldn't figure out why he was angry. After much coaxing on my part, he confessed that he felt "hurt" that I wouldn't leave the Webcam on all day so that he could watch me. I held to my earlier points about needing to focus and kept the discussion light, but I was really uncomfortable, even creeped out by what felt like voyeuristic and controlling behavior. He tried to make me feel that his interest was caring and romantic, but the little pangs of nausea I was getting didn't seem to be related to any foods I ate.

Most of the time things were great – amazingly great! Overwhelmingly great! Beyond description great! But over time, things became stranger and stranger. Our plan was to spend a few months dating, decide what changes one or both of us would make to bring us closer together geographically, then marry and move within a year. I began to learn that his grandiose plans were wishful thinking at best. It also became clear that if I gave up my business and life here to move to him, he'd never value or appreciate that I did so. He seemed to have great respect for my work unless it took me away from him for even a minute. While he wanted to know every minute detail of my life, it turned out that he didn't always like to share his. Sometimes he'd share with great depth, even on difficult issues and I'd feel really connected to him, yet other times a seemingly superficial question would make him furious. Several times he abruptly ended a conversation (not an argument) by saying he refused to talk about that subject any longer, period. Also, when I'd get a business call from a male colleague during business hours, he would instantly become jealous or cold and demand to know all about the person who called, yet a woman would occasionally call him at 3 a.m. and when I asked him about it he would get defensive and angry at my curiosity. Although his feelings were easily hurt, he was indifferent when mine were. He appeared to care less and less about my needs and my life. All those first nights of listening to every word I said seemed to disappear. One night he called after I'd just found out that my stepfather had died. He was very sympathetic for about three minutes, but then he asked a question that made it obvious he wasn't listening. He admitted he was distracted and I nicely asked him to call me back when he was finished and we could talk.

I really needed to feel that I had his full attention in my time of need. There was a sudden chill at the other end of the phone. He icily said "fine," hung up, and never called back. I was stunned. In my darkest hour I was looking for a comforting partner and he suddenly turned into a cold, uncaring stranger. Then for the next several days we exchanged emails and voice messages whereby he chastised me for suggesting he call back when he was distracted. He said I was rude in pointing out his lapse of attention. "It's like pointing out to someone when they've farted," he quipped. He even said I should have been grateful for his "generosity," as he had called knowing I'd be hurting and I should have just kept talking even though I knew he wasn't listening. Never, not once, did he ask how I was feeling about my stepfather's death.


I couldn't believe the words coming out of his mouth. This mouth that had kissed me like no one else in my wildest dreams. This mouth that had whispered romantic poetry to me for hours on end. This mouth that had tasted my body and all its crevices. Who was this person attached to this mouth?! Certainly not the person I was choosing to spend the rest of my life with. Where did that man go? These are a few of the "choice words" he emailed me after this incident:

Dear Marti,
I will be guarding my heart and emotions from this point on. I feel I have opened myself up prematurely to your personal attacks and therefore must protect my own feelings. The Bible says "it is better to have only a crust of bread to eat upon the rooftop than to feast with many in a house of contention" and I believe that to be true.


I have listened to your voice mails and am disappointed with your efforts at communication. I am growing weary of what I perceive to be a pattern of nitpicking over my phone etiquette. You must acquire a more effective method of conveying your thoughts…I am not stupid.


I believe about you what I have observed about you. I am not swayed by words to believe something I have not seen demonstrated, regardless of the frequency with which I hear the explanation. If I believe, after observing your behavior, that you are irresponsible, then I will not change my mind when you simply say with words that you are "a responsible person." In this regard you will only sway me with your actions. Furthermore, the continuous droning of statements not backed with observable behavior or perceptible intentions, only serves to shut me off.


Perhaps if you were to recognize these communication failures on your own I would not have to hang up on you and wait for your emotions to subside. Even better would be for you to restrict these intense emotional diatribes to written words in an effort to limit your verbosity and to focus on the important points and issues.


On another matter, you still play hide and seek with secrets only you can know. The fact you hesitate to allow me into certain areas of your house when we have promised to spend the rest of our lives together, is quite disturbing to me. This is not how a loving relationship should look.


Please be assured that I am standing by to help in any way that I am able, in spite of the impression I may have given by words or deeds, up until this moment.
Love always, Gus
I physically wanted to throw up. I had just returned from a visit with him and was still "under the ether" – madly, crazily in love and thinking of every way possible to be with him. There was no contention in my words or my heart. The intense coldness of his email and the unreasonable reaction to our conversation was so confusing. It just didn't make sense. In fact, one moment we'd have a loving phone call, then I'd check my email and there'd be a hurtful note that he had to have written before we talked! Then he'd send a note about a house we should buy together. Talk about Dr. J and Mr. Hyde! Although my worries increased, I was still convinced that my perfect partner would return if we just understood each other better. I blamed the distance and limited time together and decided not to address certain issues until we were together, for surely it would be easier in person. I found that if I just "dropped" a tough subject, so did he, yet I felt more and more distant from him.

Things sort of fell into a pattern of Gus getting upset and me being confused about why. Then came an interesting weekend where I was being honored at a banquet for my work with the non-profit community. Gus was coming and I looked forward to including him in a special moment in my life. However, one of my growing worries was related to his heavy drinking. It wasn't uncommon for him to pour himself a vodka at 9 a.m. and I worried that alcohol could become a problem between us. I gingerly shared my concerns with him and he promised that drinking wouldn't be a problem because of his love for me. Of course he was in the limelight at the dinner, being on the arm of the guest of honor. He basked in my glory and I even introduced him to the audience as the man I was going to marry. Unfortunately, my fears were realized when he embarrassed himself and me by getting drunk. I
was hurt and fearful that I was going to have to leave my perfect love because of alcohol, but in the morning he lovingly apologized, saying he never wanted to see that look of disappointment in my eyes ever again and he thanked me for not giving him a hard time. Once again, I melted.

Then one night, the red flag got bigger. It was past midnight and I was getting ready for bed. I had put on a cucumber mask, slipped into my flannel PJ's, and was about to fall asleep when the phone rang. It was Gus, and I was happy to hear his voice before falling asleep. After nearly an hour on the phone he surprised me by telling me that he was a mere four minutes away from my house! (He had been driving nearly six hours and hadn't given me a clue he was coming.) He wanted to talk all the way to my driveway, but I begged off in order to wipe the mask off my face and look presentable when he arrived. I would have to scramble to get it all done in four minutes!

He suggested I leave the door unlocked for him, but I said I'd just meet him at the door. (Living alone I wasn't comfortable leaving my door unlocked and I was racing for time as well.) He rang the doorbell and I opened the door within seconds, but when I saw his face I was startled. He was furious. He had transformed from my sweet, romantic man into someone I didn't recognize. His eyes shot bullets at me as I held the door opened for him and I softly questioned, "Gus, what's wrong?" "It was extremely inconvenient for me to have to wait outside your door!" he cursed. "But Gus, it was only a few seconds," I countered. "It's just not right that you treat me that way, Marti. I'm your fiancé, for God sake!" We argued and by that time I really didn't care if he stayed or went. In fact I remember saying that I was aghast that he would say he was "inconvenienced" when he was the one showing up in the middle of the night. "I'm outta here," he bellowed, and then turned to go, but I could tell he didn't really want to. We talked it through and as it turned out, his sister had passed away and he told me he was on the way to her funeral. Of course my heart softened immediately. As we were making up, he shared with me how he had hated his sister and was torn about even going to the funeral. In the end, he didn't go and said it would be a "lesson" to his other siblings that if they didn't "straighten up" he wouldn't show up at their funerals either. (Can you say huge red flag?) He could never give me a reason for the intensity of his hatred, and although we made up once again, that red flag stayed with me and was perhaps the one that eventually began to get my attention. As of weeks later, he still hadn't even called his mother to see how she was handling the death of her daughter! I couldn't help but wonder how he'd treat me if he ever really got mad at me. For the first time I allowed myself to wonder what the truth was about why his children hate him – a fact that he had shared with me early-on. Somehow, we spent a blissful weekend once again and then came the final straw. We were having such an incredible time together that I decided to cancel everything for the next week and drive back to his home with him. I was going to miss some huge meetings, but had decided it was worth it. I told him I'd go, but that I would need to get a little bit of work done before leaving. He agreed. While Gus waited for me to finish up that morning, he got bored and went to the store. When he came back he announced, "Clearly spending time with me is not important to you, so I'm going to take off." And he made motions to leave … right then. I was totally shocked and taken off-guard. We'd discussed and agreed to the plan only a couple of hours earlier. So where did this angry response come from? I just didn't get it. Couldn't he see that I was canceling meetings, rescheduling work, printing paperwork to take along? I was totally rearranging my life and business to spend time unscheduled time with him. Didn't he appreciate all that I was doing? I was expected to understand when he had work to do. On one hand I wanted to talk it through and work something out, rather than give up on our week together. Yet on the other hand, his irrational behavior made me actually fearful that his anger would lead to something I couldn't handle. What if he drove like a crazy person and we ended up in a wreck? What if he just decided to throw me out on the side of the road? Or worse, what if, once we got to his house he decided he just didn't "feel like" driving me all the way home again? We had planned to take my dog and the thought of having to buy a plane ticket and bring my dog back in a crate on a plane made me think twice. The caution signs started hitting me over the head. I finally recognized that I no longer felt safe and didn't know what to expect from this man. At the same time I struggled with my own sense of integrity – I was wearing his ring and my word had always meant a lot to me. Knowing that if things were this chaotic so early in the relationship it would only get worse, I decided to hold my ground. When I told him that it just wasn't working out between us, he was astonished. Then, in defiance he asked, "Are you really breaking up with me?" Interestingly, he never asked why. He just stated that he was in this "for the long term" and that clearly I wasn't as committed.

Fortunately, a knowledgeable friend had begun to educate me about narcissism during the few weeks before that awful moment. She knew I was head-over-heels in love with Gus, but had seen the terrible signs in our relationship, so had been careful to feed me little bits of information whenever I had called her in tears and confusion. Her support and information gave me the strength to know that the situation would never change. So, instead of torturing myself with doubt about the "what ifs," I was able to end the relationship with certainty and the reality that a better future was waiting for me elsewhere, once I let go.

The education she gave me about this serious personality disorder literally saved my emotional well-being. I started to understand the roller coaster ride I was on and see his behaviors for what they really were – controlling, manipulating, and outrageous. My "Perfect Gus" was just an act – nothing more than what Brad Pitt or any other movie star was capable of. One minute a knight in shining armor and the next minute a heartless, blood-sucking vampire. It was all just a wicked deception.

The sad difference, I realized, was that Brad Pitt knows he is acting. Gus doesn't. I felt terribly sad for him, for I knew he would never change nor understand who or what he really was. Yet, I understood my empathy for his "illness" didn't mean I had to marry him. That would have been the biggest mistake of all. No matter how incredible the good stuff was with us, the bad stuff wasn't tolerable.

If you do not feel sane or safe in your relationship, get out. Listen to your gut. Don't ignore the warning signs. I was lucky. It only cost me 12 weeks of my life. It could have been so much worse. Now I'm a bit hypersensitive to potentially narcissistic behavior, which makes dating even more challenging, but I'm so glad to have a healthier perspective and I'm sure that I learned this lesson with Gus for a reason. Perhaps it was just to enable me to develop the even stronger bond I know have with my girlfriend who educated me about this terrifying disorder.

Erica…
I met Gus on the Internet as well. I was new to the online dating scene, after having recently divorced my husband of nearly 19 years. I was cautious but hopeful. It actually took Gus a while to respond to my email and when he did reply he apologized and said that he had just experienced a tough break-up (with Marti, I realized later), and he was pretty melancholy about the whole thing. He explained that he was taking his time before he "stuck his neck out again." Of course, I felt sorry for him immediately. "The poor guy must be sensitive and emotional for him to react that way," so said my heart. I loved sensitive guys! I just always thought they were a myth. We emailed for a couple of weeks and then he suggested we meet for ice cream on Saturday. I apologized, but said that I had already made plans for the weekend. "No need to apologize, dear," he wrote. "I understand you have a life. We'll get together in time, if this is meant to be." I was so impressed. He respected my boundaries and needs, and that was rare in my past relationships with men. We kept the email doors open and kept chatting, learning more and more about each other in the process.

As with Marti, Gus and I lived hours from each other. While one of the joys of living in quiet, laid-back New Mexico is the slower lifestyle and the friendly people, the vast emptiness between towns makes going anywhere a lengthy ordeal. The logistics of a long-distance relationship had its ups and downs in my mind, but I wasn't ready to rule it out. He kept offering other times when we might be able to connect, but for the longest time I was busy with my teenager's sporting events or school schedules, in addition to my own work schedule at the credit union during the day and the local pub at night. "Is there ever going to be a time I will get to meet you?" he wrote. I felt guilty. He had shown himself to be so patient and understanding that I finally gave him my phone number so we could at least talk.

Our first phone conversation ended up lasting for hours. It was like we had known each other for years. Maybe even all our lives. There were no tentative opening lines or worries that either of us wouldn't meet the expectations of the other. It was fabulous. When next he asked me if we could meet, I was still hesitant. Talking with someone over email or on the phone was one thing – in the flesh was quite another. I was still new to this dating thing, after being married so many years, and I didn't want to get in over my head. I asked him what his expectations were. His answer was perfect – Absolutely no expectations. Lunch only. Friends for as long as necessary. Purely platonic was just fine with him. He would get a room at a hotel and whatever time I could give him around my hectic family and work schedule, he would accept. No questions asked. We agreed to meet for lunch on Thursday and on Wednesday afternoon he surprised me by waltzing in to the credit union where I worked. I didn't know he was there and when a co-worker told me there was a man asking for me, I was completely amazed. He told me that he just wanted to be "early" for our lunch date the next day and would it be OK if he stopped at the pub where I worked in the evening and had a few beers while I was stuck there? Of course I didn't object at all. I was so impressed he had gone out of his way to come early to spend as much time with me as possible! I had never expected it. What a wonderful surprise! He obviously was a man who cared a great deal.

My friends were overjoyed for me. "Oh, Erica – he's adorable," they said. I had to agree. When I walked into work that evening, he was already at the bar and had a big map lying open on the counter. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was looking to invest in some land and was studying the map of the area to get a better understanding of the big picture. Of course, I was immediately impressed that he must have enough money to invest in anything. (Little did I know the truth was he didn't have a dime in his pocket.) We chatted a great deal while I tended bar throughout the course of the evening and I found him to be delightful. By the time our lunch date came around the next day, I couldn't wait to see him again. He mesmerized me, without a doubt. He was like a drug. I would sit and look at him for hours on end. It was like I was a different person when I was with him. He kept encouraging me to tell him everything about myself. He listened so intently. He shook his head compassionately if I spoke of something painful from my past, then would pat my hand gently in understanding. He eyes grew teary in sympathy when I discussed an extremely difficult moment during my divorce. As he'd been divorced too, I felt he knew my pain first-hand. He was so polite. He held the doors open for me. Kissed my hand. Even wanted to buckle my seatbelt for me, which was the only thing that left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. Yet, at the end of that first date when he said, "Would you mind if I give you a kiss on the cheek?" I knew I was hooked.

The minute I left him to go back to work, all my mind could do was figure out how to spend every possible moment with him. Just as we were about to say good-bye, he had an idea. He was attending a birthday party that evening back in his small town and on impulse he suggested I join him, and if I wanted, I could spend the weekend. My mind whirled! I had just promised my ex-husband I would take care of our 16-year-old daughter while he was out of town, but I instantly considered possible alternative options concerning what I could do with her. He could see me hesitate and he said, "It's all about what's important to you, dear. Do this only if you're comfortable. There's no pressure." Within seconds I had made up my mind to go. The weekend turned out to be something out of a dream. Romance. Scented oils. Tender kisses. Incredible bliss.


I wanted to marry this man after only knowing him 48 hours!

I took him home to meet my mom right then and there. I guess I should have thought something was a little out of the norm when he walked in her house and said, "Should I call you Mom?" when he hadn't even officially met her yet. Hindsight is a marvelous thing and I realize now that my mother had been in a relationship for 19 years with a narcissist and the first thing she commented was how much Gus reminded her of her ex-husband! Fortunately the reality of an instant marriage was not possible for us, as I already had a life plan I was working around. I was due to move to Phoenix within a few weeks, where I was registered to begin a two-year court reporter course. Nothing was going to deter me. Not even Gus. However, I swore to him that if all remained the same, I would promise to marry him at the end of that time. He was thrilled!

I look back at that momentary lapse of sanity and wonder how the heck he pulled me into his web so easily. Was it the charisma? His great acting job of being such a knight in shining armor? What? To this day, I can't even figure it out. The fact I so quickly farmed out my daughter to friends without hesitation, just to spend the weekend with a man I had only met 12 hours before, still boggles my mind to this day.

He was very good at what he did. We were instantly boyfriend and girlfriend. I would drive several hours to his house to be with him every weekend I could possibly get away. Of course we had endless phone calls and emails that were filled with romantic language and love poetry he wrote for me.

The red flags started showing up by the third weekend I spent with him. By the time I had driven to his house I realized that I had forgotten some necessary toiletries and knew I needed to stop at Wal-Mart to pick them up. I decided to go to Gus' house first and figured we could stop and get the supplies when we went out. He agreed we should stop at the store on our way to dinner and kill two birds with one stone. We had a great conversation on the way and I figured I'd just rush in and out of the store so we could be on our way. With that in mind, I jumped out of his truck once we parked, and hurried into the store. He seemed to lag behind and I just figured he'd stroll around until I got my things and we'd be out of the store in no time. Yet, once inside the store I could feel his personality change like a light bulb flickering out. I shook off the weird feeling, but there was no denying it. He had suddenly become very angry over something and I hadn't a clue what it could be about. I tentatively asked him what was wrong and he jumped down my throat. "How dare you not let me open the truck door for you?! You know that's my job. You absolutely ignored me on your way into the store!" At first I thought he was kidding. Like he was playing the hurt little kid who had tried to do something right and no one had noticed, but I quickly realized he was dead serious. His eyes were cold and seemed to throw missiles at me. I had never seen him like this before. My gut told me this was terribly wrong and I decided right then to return home that evening. I made him take me back to my car and I left. It had become quite clear to me that we just weren't compatible and I told him that.

As I drove the many hours to get back home I gradually started doubting myself. I kept going over and over the situation, trying to decide if it was a figment of my imagination or if it had really happened that way. It seemed too ridiculous to be real. Then I remembered this lovely man that had swept me off my feet and I blew the entire episode off as a complete misunderstanding.

I decided to call him up and apologize. It wasn't worth throwing away all the good we had over some silliness. He accepted my apology and we went on as though nothing had ever happened. The next weekend it was his turn to drive to my town. I was all excited to have him meet my friends and was sure they'd like him as much as I did. We were all meeting at the pub I worked at and I could barely contain myself all day awaiting his arrival. When at last he showed up, I was shocked. He was wearing tattered clothes, a beat up old cowboy hat, and had a cigar hanging out of his mouth. I knew that he understood that it was a non-smoking bar, and yet he flaunted his cigar like he was above the rules. I didn't know which surprised me most – the fact that he looked like a homeless person for his first appearance with my friends, or the fact that he thought it was OK to push the rules of the bar with his cigar. When I reminded him that he wasn't allowed to smoke inside, he said, "That's OK, honey. I'll just hold it, okay dokie?"

Now I realize that growing up in New Mexico I should be used to the cowboy look, but it has never really done anything for me. I had shared that with Gus in one of our first days together, so I was mildly surprised that he would wear his cowboy hat, knowing how I felt about it. Much less not take the time to clean up a bit for my friends. At first I was a bit disappointed and angry and then I said to myself, "Come on, Erica. You're being a real bitch. He just drove four hours to see you and you're going to get upset over this?" I tried to let the whole incident go. It wasn't worth it. I was looking forward to our time alone together, and that was worth everything to me. Yet, the next day when he insisted I accompany him to the local ranch-wear store to buy a new cowboy hat and clothes, a little bell started going off in my head. That little bell rang even louder when he made me take a picture of him in his new outfit which he knew I disliked. I just didn't get it. We continued to take turns driving to each other every weekend. The next weekend we decided to meet at a small restaurant I had never been to before. I got there before he did and had a couple of beers before he arrived. When I asked him what was good on the menu, indicating I'd never been to the restaurant before, he insisted, "Oh, come on, you know you've eaten here before." I thought that was a strange statement and I reaffirmed that I had indeed not ever been there before. His eyes suddenly grew cold and the conversation ceased. As the silence hung between us like a brick wall, I couldn't believe what had just transpired. Apparently my disagreeing with him had sent him into "angry land" and now I was being punished for it. In addition, I realized that he was playing the cowboy outfit again. All I could think was where did my REI outdoorsman go? And what is he trying to prove with the cowboy stuff? I asked him if he knew where the bathroom was and he wouldn't answer me. So, out of spite I fought back in a rather defiant way. Still wearing my dress and heels from work, I walked over to a table of men sitting near us and asked them where the bathroom was. They were most happy to tell me and Gus' rage only multiplied. Needless to say the evening was a disaster and the end result was that he blamed it all on me drinking too much. The red flags had begun to wave furiously and I was refusing to see them.

The roller coaster pattern had begun. Wonderful days. Terrible days. Passionate lovemaking with candles and scented oils. Cherry wine with chocolate on the rim. (Come to find out, Marti had taught him that one!) Angry nights with hours of the "silent treatment," for infractions I wasn't even aware of. Moments of rage, with eyes so black and deep, I feared I might get sucked into them. I think part of the reason I stayed so long is that I'm a caretaker by nature. I love doing things for other people. Helping them. I have spent so many years putting other people's needs before my own that it just came naturally for me. And of course there was always that deeply imbedded memory of Mr. Perfect. I knew he had to be in there somewhere, if I only knew how to get him to come out and stay out. I guess that means I kept looking for his potential to change, which I've since learned is one major mistake. Never enter a relationship looking at someone for their potential. Look for what is.

Then he began with the ongoing sermon about my "actions." He would tell me how it was his "observations" that told him who I really was. "I will watch your actions, not your words, Erica," he used to
taunt me. Then there was the other sermon about his "needs." "I have independence and you will acknowledge that." I never was entirely sure what he meant by that one. I would go crazy with the mind games he played with me. Yet, every time I considered leaving, he reeled me back in with his charm. It was an amazing phenomenon, now that I look back on it. The beginning of the end occurred one night when he was going to meet me at the bar for a drink before we went home.

I knew an old friend was coming in that night and I told Gus that I'd love to have him meet George, a 60-something-year-old friend of my mother's. Gus said fine and showed up a bit before I was finished. He jumped into a conversation with another guy at the bar and by the time I clocked out, the only empty stool at the bar was one seat away from Gus and next to George. Since Gus was obviously deep in conversation, I sat next to George and waited for my opportunity to introduce the guys to each other. When he finally finished chatting and walked the three steps over to us, I could barely wait to introduce him as my "boyfriend" to my dear friend George. They shook hands and then Gus threw me another curve. He turned to me and said, "Hon, I'm really tired. I've got a long trip ahead of me. I'm going to head on home. It's OK. You go ahead and chat. Take the time you need. I'll let your dogs out when I get home."


All at once I realized what was up. He was jealous and was playing the hurt little boy. He was punishing me for talking to my old friend and not dropping everything for him. So he was going to leave without me and I would have hell to pay later. I was livid. This was too much. I didn't need a child having a temper tantrum in my life. I had already raised three children of my own. I simply didn't need another one. So he left and I stayed. By the time I got home an hour later, he was nowhere to be seen, nor had my dogs been cared for. I called him on his cell phone to be sure he was OK. After all, he had been drinking for a couple of hours and that, combined with his anger when he left, caused me concern. I certainly didn't want him to be off the road in a ditch somewhere. But he wouldn't answer his phone. I drove around looking for him and at last saw his truck at a local motel. I called his room from the lobby phone and asked him what was going on. In a cold, calculating voice he simply said, "I'm going to bed. Why does it matter to you? You were obviously more interested in your old friend than you were in me." I replied that I hadn't done anything wrong and he assured me that if I would just think about it longer, I'd realize just how wrong I was. After all, I was a smart person, he assured me. "If you just look at it from my side, you'll know you're wrong," he snarled. What was I supposed to do? I loved this guy. I blamed myself. I sucked up my pride and apologized if I had done anything to hurt his feelings. He acted wounded for quite a while and once again, we made up.

The next day he fell into reeling me in again. He fixed my car, which I was so grateful for, as I really didn't have the money to pay a mechanic. He took me to lunch. He bought me flowers. I hoped that whatever stress had caused him to lose himself, that it was moving out and the "old Gus" was returning. My ex-husband and I lived in the same small town and still shared custody of our children, so that mandated we still communicated on a regular basis. At times things were pretty emotional for me and Gus suggested that I might benefit from taking some time off. "Why don't you move in with me for a while? It will give you some time to rest and put a little space between you and your ex too. Might be just what the doctor ordered." He also highly suggested that I really had no reason to ever talk to my ex again. I sort of blew the comment off, not believing that he really meant it. How could he? We still had joint custody of our kids. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when I moved in with him. I had to borrow my ex-husband's truck to move my big items and was on the phone with him arranging the details when Gus called and I picked him up on call waiting. I told him I was on the phone with Brian and Gus agreed that I should call him back when Brian and I had finalized all the details. When I called him back he was cool and distant. I didn't figure out until much later that he was furious with me for not taking his call over my conversation with Brian. I later paid for that mistake with several hours of the "silent treatment."

On Thanksgiving Day I cooked a huge dinner for Gus and a bunch of his friends. The day seemed perfect and he bragged to his friends about what a good cook I was. Yet, after they all left he immediately returned to giving me the cold shoulder. Except for one thing…

Since I was a new member in his household he took me by the hand (literally) and walked me through all his expectations. How he wanted his laundry washed and the clothes folded. How I should clean the toilets. Exactly how the food was to be stored in the refrigerator. I couldn't believe that he was treating me like a child who knew nothing when at age 41 with nearly 19 years of marriage behind me and raising three kids, I thought I had learned a few things by now. My gut was screaming at me that something was drastically wrong, and I was finally starting to listen. I decided to go to bed and think about it with a fresh mind in the morning. Gus wasn't tired yet, so decided to stay up and watch some TV before he joined me. I felt emotionally and physically drained. I kept remembering his suggestion to move in with him so that I could rest. Somehow I didn't see that happening. My mind kept reliving all my "transgressions," trying to make sense of it all. I finally couldn't deal with it any further and fell asleep in sadness. About an hour later Gus came to bed and started screaming at me, wanting to know where his cell phone was. In a groggy daze, I realized he must be talking about his extra cell phone he had lent me after he had accidentally driven over mine and broken it. I told him I thought it was in my car, all the while wondering why it was such a big deal in the middle of the night. When he insisted I go get it, I refused and rolled over to go back to sleep. Well, that was entirely the wrong thing to do. "By God, you go get it right now!" he bellowed, as I lay there wondering, "Who is this man?" Again I refused to get out of bed and at that point he grabbed me and physically threw me out of the bed, insisting he would not sleep with me. "I refuse to sleep with a contentious woman!" Then he began screaming scripture to me, "It is better to have only a crust of bread to eat upon the rooftop than to feast with many in a house of contention." I looked at him in amazement one last time while he yelled, "Why do you insist on defying me and not showing me respect?"

I left his bed and slept in the guestroom, knowing full-well that I was leaving in the morning, never to return. I was scared, confused, depressed, and full of self-doubt. What was so wrong with me that he would treat me this way? I had moved in on Tuesday and I moved out by Friday. It still amazes me when I rethink the whole thing. How did the man I wanted to marry within 48 hours of meeting him become a Frankenstein monster who destroyed everything in his path? And furthermore, how did I fall for it?

The one thing that saved me from thinking I had gone completely crazy was finding Marti's business card and an old email of hers that Gus had left lying about. As soon as I got to a safe place I summoned up all my nerve and called her. It was like finding a life line. She told me about the turbulent relationship she had lived through. (She lasted 12 weeks – I had only made it 9.) But the pattern was exactly the same in both of our relationships. We laughed together and cried together. We compared stupid details and stories of his behaviors that left us amazed. We realized how he tried to parent both of us in his own way. "Now, darling, if you'd just realize I'm trying to help you," he loved to tell us. In my case he always told me how he just viewed himself a little further along in the divorce education than I was and so he could "teach me the ropes."

In Marti's case he attempted to be the all-knowing businessman. (He had no credentials or background in business – he was a plumber by trade.) Yet he insisted on showing Marti how to run her business and her finances. The behaviors relating to him having control were absolutely like déjà vu. We marveled at how the whole, pathetic process had evolved. After I left Gus he didn't try to contact me. About a week and a half later I emailed him and said I was sorry things had turned out the way they did. He blasted me back with a scathing email, blaming all our problems on my drinking. (This from a man who used drugs and alcohol freely.) All I can say is thank God I discovered the issue I was dealing with was NPD. Understanding the behaviors and motivating factors behind his actions has helped me quit carrying the guilt that seemed to follow me like a stalker. I kept believing that everything had been my fault. Now I know better.

The sad thing is that both Marti and I know he will find another victim and we just wish there was a way that innocent women could be warned. It's easy to spot loud, rough, pushy men. You know to stay away from them. But these actors are another matter. They're so insidious. They're like quicksand – you don't know you're in danger until it's too late and then it seems close to impossible to get out

Closure
As I finished the interview with Marti and Erica that night, I mentioned that since I had never met Gus, I could only use my imagination as to what he must look like. Erica instantly pulled pictures of him out of her wallet. Marti and I were surprised and asked her what on earth she was doing, still carrying his photos with her. She honestly couldn't say. I also found it interesting that I saw a rather plain looking man when they both commented on how "handsome" he was. The photos obviously stirred deep, emotional responses in both of them.I suggested they burn them ceremoniously right there..

They each took one and lit a match to it, watching it melt and shrivel up symbolically into the ashtray, as the bartender curiously watched the powerful event unfold. Hopefully, the imagery will translate into moving on for both of them. It can be done. It just takes time and a belief that they can.
"Narcissists have no feelings of any kind. You must remember that above all. They are simply actors on the stage, pretending with all their might. Yet, it is all a lie. There is no real emotion of any kind. Any actor can act and these folks win the Academy Award in that category."
Michael – survivor

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