I flew down to Florida on Sunday for some needed sunshine. I get gloomy without enough sun and although it’s been warm for about a month in Pennsylvania it’s been foggy and cloudy. Unfortunately the sunshine left here for more clouds and wind but I am thankful that I’m not in the 5-degree weather back home. But I am learning to be content in all things and letting go of my expectations of how things “should” be, whether in big ways or little ways.
At the end of the month, Chris Moles (a pastor and batterer intervention specialist) and I will be presenting a free webinar on Effective Counseling Strategies for the Emotionally Destructive Person. If you know someone who is interested in learning how to better work with these people, please let them know of this important FREE webinar. It will be Wednesday, January 20th at 7:30. Registrations are now open. CLICK HERE.
Also, my Moving Beyond People Pleasing class is starting soon. There is a free three-part email training on learning to say no plus a special bonus. CLICK HERE to be part of this free email training and learn more about the class in the upcoming weeks.
Today’s Question: I believe my husband has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I have been married for 16 years and after the first month he devalued me, my thoughts and actions (to the point of disdaining me for taking vitamins). I had been divorced but not married as a Christian to a Christian and was so very happy to marry this relatively successful and handsome man.
He has gone 2 through periods of ‘punishing’ me by not speaking to me for months and is on the 3rd. He wants a divorce and has alienated me from any friends he can and all of his family (that wasn’t hard they’ve never really been nice to me).
My question is: what the heck is wrong with me that I still love him and am paralyzed with fear. Am I being self-destructive?
I am older and have returned to grad school. He is the breadwinner, but I can work so it is a sick emotional attachment of some sort.
This man treats me like I am less than worthless. He has completely ignored me for months now and comes and goes as he pleases – usually returning home around 11 pm.
Someone said I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I can’t concentrate and cry a lot – feel very anxious and worthless. What is wrong with me to want to stay with a man like this when it is obvious he despises me and wants out? Thanks for any help.
Answer: You are wise to recognize that your attachment to this man is not healthy and to do some exploration as to why. You have some initial thoughts or ideas about what’s wrong with him as well as you – but if you indeed are suffering from PTSD or even major depression which some of your symptoms suggest, you may need more help than I can give in this short blog.
Let me just go through the stages of being with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Stage 1: Desire – he wants you. You are everything to him. You are the best thing that ever happened to him. No one can meet his needs like you do. You are intoxicated by the adoration that comes your way and you are captured by its allure. “Gee, am I that wonderful?” “Wow, no one has ever treated me this way before.” “I love being with him, he makes me feel so alive, so loved, so important, so valuable.”
Stage 2: Demands – now that you are captured, your role is to always meet his needs, always put him first, always pay attention to him and subjugate your own needs/wants/desires/feelings to his. If you refuse or fail, you will have a price to pay. You keep hoping and trying and pleading to get back to stage one, but it will never happen. It’s downhill from here.
Stage 3: Devalue – If you try to have a real relationship with mutuality and reciprocity, you will be criticized and devalued or demeaned. You are not to ask for your own needs to be met – you are to have no needs or desires other than to be in his presence, build him up, serve him, love him, make him happy, adore him no matter what he does. When you want him to treat you like he did in stage 1 he will mock you and make you feel like you are worthless and a huge disappointment to him. You keep defending yourself, trying to get him to see you as he did in stage one but it’s fruitless. You have fallen off the pedestal he put you on as the “perfect one” who will meet all of his needs all of the time and you will never be able to get back on because it’s an impossible role to fulfill.
Stage 4: Dismiss – he’s done with you. He’s moved on. He has someone else in mind who is now “the perfect one” or as some call it “narcissistic supply” who he desires to capture for his needs. You have no purpose in his life anymore. You don’t exist.
For the woman who has fallen from stage 1 to 4 she is in shock. What happened? How did this happen? You keep remembering how wonderful stage 1 was and keep trying harder and harder to return to that magic where you were wonderful and he was so happy with you. But it’s not possible. Why not? Because you are a real human being with your own sins and weaknesses. You are not his fantasy spouse, who will or can meet his every need. You also have needs and feelings of your own that you would like to have valued and cared about.
So even for a woman with healthy self-esteem and a relatively mature spiritual life, this can seem like a huge confusing loss, always questioning what she did wrong to move from stage 1 to stage 4, clinging, begging, wanting to recapture the magic that was once there.
However, I would also encourage you to dig a bit deeper. You say you still love him, but I suspect it’s not a mature or healthy love. It’s more of a fearful love – I NEED him to love me, or I LOVE him so much I won’t make it without him. This is not mature love. It’s more like dependency.
There may be something called trauma bonding going on where we bond to someone emotionally even when we know they don’t care much about us. When we don’t have a secure attachment to our primary caregivers (as a child), we tend to become aloof in relationships or clingy. It sounds as if you’re afraid to let go, to move on. Afraid to acknowledge the truth that he doesn’t love you as much as you thought he did.
You want to recapture what you thought you had together, but what you thought you had – a person, who loved you, was probably more like a predator looking for dinner. When you were used up, he moved on. Do you really love him or your idea of him? Think about that.
It’s important now that you switch your focus from trying to recapture stage 1 or “get him to love or value you” and work on getting healthy so you can detach and build a new life. You have to be willing to surrender your idea of what you “thought” should happen, and learn to live in what is happening, like it or not.
When you come to accept where you are – at the end of a marriage – then you can begin to build strength and coping skills to deal with that truth as well as begin to look towards the future (tweet that).
When you keep looking backward, grieving, clinging, and hoping for someone to love you again, you are wasting precious energy on a fantasy that isn’t going to happen.
I’d encourage you right now to get into a domestic violence support group, a therapy group, or even a self-help group to work on you so that you can get healthy, grow, and re-discover the strengths and abilities that you once had before you were sucked dry. In the process of letting go and moving forward, trust me – it’s scary as can be, but you will discover that God will not let go of you as you keep your eyes on Him and not on your husband or your marriage.
Friends: how did you let go when you wanted to cling and hang on? What specific steps helped you to stand strong enough to stand-alone even when you were terrified of doing it?