A long but valuable story

by Elisabeth
(Washington State)

After 10 years of struggling with my plummeting self esteem an self respect, my (now) ex-husband Michael finally gave me the clue I needed to define what was wrong with me, and it turned out no to be me at all!

An argument had ensued because he wanted me to help him work on building our new house. Although I agreed to do so, I told him it would have to be later in the day when I had completed my household chores, which included the laundry for him and our three children.

He hounded me for a few minutes before saying, "Everything I do is more important than anything you ever do, and you are no help to me, anyway!"

For a second I couldn't believe what I had just heard. Usually he had much shrewder ways of getting me to do what he wanted, like the heavy sigh followed by, "Fine, I'll just do it myself."

To be clear about this, I have to say that I am no shrinking violet. For years I collected, split, and stacked all of our firewood, did all the yard work at our house and his mother's, did all the driving for the kids and his mother (Gertrude), and all of the cooking and cleaning at home.

He always had more important things to do, all of which kept him from home. In other words, I was not just sitting home eating bon-bons and watching TV.

This moment was a revelation to me. I went to my therapist the following week and related this story. I asked if this was an indication that Michael was a narcissist.

I had learned the term from my mother who, after 3 failed marriages, had begun to explore the term and its meaning in her life.

My therapist said that it was a pretty solid indicator of his pathology, especially when viewed through the lens of his other behaviors over time. My next question was, "How can I live with this man and still have a happy life for myself and my kids?"

The best advice she gave me was that I should do what I needed to make myself and my kids happy. After all, what was he going to do, divorce me?

I took that advice and, for about a year it worked. When he would arrive home with a bee in his bonnet about whatever I hadn't done correctly that day, or come home so obviously stressed that the rest of us would normally be quiet and walking on eggshells, I would simply greet him with a smile and a hug and go on with whatever I had been doing. I would ask about his day, pour him a drink if he wanted one, and leave him to his own devices.

I stopped making the kids wait for me while I attended to his needs. I stopped defending myself. I stopped arranging the life of the household around him.

I learned to say no.

The most accurate word I can find to describe his initial reaction is 'perplexed'. Perhaps this is why I got away with it for so long.

I went back to school, saved my own money for tuition and books (he would never allow us to have a joint bank account), kept seeing my therapist, and both our lives improved.

Because I was more relaxed, I could talk to him more easily and be more affectionate. Our sex life improved and our kids were visibly happier.

At that time, he was traveling for work quite a bit and was home 3 weeks, then gone 3 weeks.

Upon one of his returns, he took me outside to say that he wasn't happy. When I asked him why and pointed out that we had been happier in the last year than ever, he said that he 'just didn't feel close to me anymore'.

I remarked that we talked more frequently, shared hugs and sex more often, and fought a lot less.

He said he couldn't put his finger on it, but that he just didn't feel happy and was thinking about moving out.

I told him that I would not prefer that action, but that he should do what he felt was right for him.

I also told him what I had learned in the course of that year, that we are each responsible for our own happiness insofar as there is only so much another person can do to facilitate it, but that I would gladly listen and help him identify the root of his discontent.

He magnanimously offered to continue working on our relationship even if he moved out, but I said I wouldn't.

At first I tried little things to make him feel better. Extra attention, extra affection, special meals, saying yes to last minute errands despite their inconvenience to me and the kids.

By the time another year had passed, I had fallen back into the same patterns with Michael that I had been in before his egregious remark about the relative importance of our efforts.

Throughout this time, his mother (a martyr narcissist) supported his reality over mine and the kids and her own, making me the only person living in my own reality.

I'm sure I don't have to describe the feeling of madness and despair that swallows a person who is isolated, not only from friends and family, but also from one's own rational perception of the world, one's life, and the events that occur in it.

But if the reader is uninitiated to life with a narcissist and is searching this site for examples of his/her own experience, then please take note, because this is one of the biggest red flags.

If the only way to appease the person in your life is to deny what you know to be true or accept what you know to be untrue, then you are dealing with a narcissist.

I have been divorced for two years, having been unable to sacrifice my self or my children to this degree.

He lives with his mother now (the infamous new house has never been finished) and so has a constant supply, but I am not completely free.

My children are coming to the age at which they can be a supply source for both Michael and Gertrude, and I find myself shielding them more and more often when I'm able.

I thank God that my kids can and do come to me to talk about their lives, and that they have a healthy household in which to spend half of their time. I am watching them closely for signs of emotional damage.

I am unsure, though, now that they are beginning to recognize that something isn't right, how to answer their questions about their father and grandmother and their awkward behavior.

I would love any comments on my story, am happy to answer any questions for those of you still trapped, and appreciate any advice on how to help my kids navigate their father's world unscathed.

Comments for A long but valuable story

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Sep 01, 2013
child of narcissist
by: Anonymous

You were loving & wise to remove yourself and your children from this toxic situation. I grew up with narcissistic mother. It is soul destroying, self destroying,. A person with NPD never cares how YOU feel...they only care about what THEY want and how they look to others. They make you feel like you are going slowly made if you engage with them long enough. I had a weak father who adored my mother and enabled her. we paid the price for his selfishness and for hers. Your children are lucky to have you

Sep 01, 2013
child of narcissist
by: Anonymous

You were loving & wise to remove yourself and your children from this toxic situation. I grew up with narcissistic mother. It is soul destroying, self destroying,. A person with NPD never cares how YOU feel...they only care about what THEY want and how they look to others. They make you feel like you are going slowly made if you engage with them long enough. I had a weak father who adored my mother and enabled her. we paid the price for his selfishness and for hers. Your children are lucky to have you

Jan 28, 2013
navigating a narcissistic world by children of narcissists
by: Anonymous

I share a similar story of being married to a narcissist with two young kids. Deciding to divorce was difficult, I didn't have a name for what was wrong until my therapist suggested the ex might be a narcissist. I didn't understand the pathological definition of the word, like most people, understand a N to be someone who thinks alot of themselves. Not even close to the horror.
I struggle with knowing the kids time they spend with their dad is their opportunity to learn from him. He doesn't have much to offer. He has a a ton of anger and rage.
I can't do much about the time they spend with him but I can set my own example in my household. Talk about feelings, allow them to be themselves, set boundaries, etc. I also can put a name to certain behaviors. I can frame certain feelings and circumstances based on what I know about Ns. I do this in small ways, when the kids bring stuff up. I want them to understand there is a choice that adults have about how they react, what they say, they words they use. They can see that their father acts selfishly, they have an awareness. It doesn't make their father act any differently but I think that knowledge will help them.
I worry that because he is their father that they will trust him more than they should. If they do, that will be part of their maturing process. I'll just let them know that I will always be there.

Jan 14, 2013
Just starting
by: Anonymous

Just starting to realize and research this disorder. Your stiry is very familiar and painful to hear. Thanks for sharing. Thinking this is my story too.

Mar 23, 2012
to 'Feels Fake'
by: Anonymous

Upon further relection, I feel compelled to add to what I wrote before. First, if you feel that you are dealing with a narcissist and, plainly, you do, then it is for me to offer the compassion and understanding which I accused you of lacking.
The trouble with such circumstances is the way in which the line between you and your tormentor can become blurred. I am sure that my ex-spouse would now describe me as being a 'nightmare', to use your word. As to this remark, I can only say that every relationship is made of two people, and no individual bears all fault.
I have had to make peace with my own shortcomings and mistakes in the course of recovering from a bad marriage. Part of this process has required me to ask myself if I was the narcissistic element, as you have implied in your comments.
The answer is no. Although I am far from perfect, I can say, with confidence, that I did everything in my power to facilitate a healthy relationship. i did participate in the teamwork, did not remain aloof or do my own thing, though I would have enjoyed being allowed to do my own thing to some degree.
The year I described in my initial post was just that, a year. It was only one year of many in which I was made to feel that my needs, my desires, my aspirations, my talents, and my values were unworthy of attention or acknowledgement, except to be degraded.
Even now that I am free of the daily stresses of that relationship, I continue to examine my behaviors and emotions closely, partly because of that skill he had in making me believe that all the flaws were mine, and that I did not deserve better, and partly because it is my own nature to do so.
You seem to have a great deal of resentment built up in you. Perhaps this is the place for you to work through it. If so, perhaps we can help one another by expressing our differing perspectives. If not, I wish you luck and, most of all, the capacity to look inward. Peace.

Mar 23, 2012
to address several comments
by: Anonymous

First, to 'I'm Amazed', I am glad you found something in my story to which you could relate. The knowledge that you are not alone in your experience is a valuable gift in your navigation of your circumstances.
I hope you will continue to seek out resources for your own and your kids' well being. I do not post regularly on this site, but am always open to communication.
The other person I wish to address is the anonymous poster of 'Feels Fake'. The idea that anyone needs to excoriate an ex-spouse online out of a petulant disgruntlement over not getting a new hat, or whatever, is absurd.
The fact that you view the desire to connect with those of common experience as a manipulative and self-aggrandising act indicates a staggering lack of understanding and compassion and, perhaps, self reflection.
Your response can only originate from the kind of thinking that has driven most of us here in the first place. I have to wonder why you would even be on this site, if you feel the Jezebel to be a liar?
As for God's presence in any household, it is difficult for me to accept the idea that God's plans include the total subjection of one partner to the other, or the poor model for relationships that such an arrangement presents to children.
You may believe whatever you wish, but the reality is that the scenarios you read about here are far from 'fake', and your resistance feels like the justification of someone for whom the truth is uncomfortable.

Mar 21, 2012
I'm Amazed
by: Carolyn

I think my husband must have a double life in the US because the person you describe is him all over. Astonishing! I am very much trapped in the r'ship. I worry for my children, 12 and 10. They do not have the same experience I have of my husband. All their needs are taken care of by me and he makes the bucks. They are manipulated by his charm and have compassion for him. I believe my father was a nacissist also (of the nasty kind) and some time after his death I asked my mother if he was the not so nice fellow I thought he was. She told me he was a good man. A bit perplexing but I think mum was a runner and hit the bottle a fair bit. So, I say lets speak up, tell our story, tell the kids and then leave it to them to come to their own conclusions. Nacissists are sneaky but kids are clever in their own way and I think they have more of an idea of what's going on than we think. All very best to you and your family.

Dec 22, 2011
Feels Fake
by: Anonymous

I think this story is loaded. Where is God? Or does this come from an atheist household?

Dealing with Jezebel Spirit / Narcissism myself, it sounds like the Narcissist's perspective, where "Lucy" hatches a plan with "Ethel" to look perfect to "Ricky", because a handful of fears but mostly Lucy wants somethnig, and Ricky is the one to provide it. Then she backstabs her own husband on the Internet.

It is precisely the way the Narcissist I know will communicate about other people. In nutshell letters to people who don't need to know about very personal things: life is a struggle here because (other person) is having unknown problems, or has a psych problem, but all is good because (writer) has control of everything, is the superhero of the scene, and writer can't understand how she can be soooo good and everything is bad here, so it *must* be the other person to blame.

Jezebels are liars. They can grow passive to get what they want, and tell the world that life is perfect, but if the other person could speak, he would describe a nightmare where whenever he comes home she manipulates him with keeping authentic emotion out of the picture and giving a veneer of TV wifeyhood. Where instead of a participant in a family life, she is aloof from teamwork and does her own thing. "and they lived happily ever after, the end"? I don't believe it; I think the Jezebel/Narcissist spirit hasn't left, just changed masks.

Dec 11, 2011
RE: Feel For You
by: Anonymous

In answer to the 'Feel For You' comment, I wish you luck in your relationship, but will caution you in your efforts. It is very tempting to keep trying to sustain such a relationship for various reasons, not the least of which is the time you may already have invested. When I was 5 years into my relationship with Michael, I knew he would not change, but I didn't want to have wasted that many years only to let it go.
I didn't want to be a failure, and I really believed that if I just loved him enough, he would eventually see me and value me. At age 30, 5 years seemed a lot longer than it does now, at 44.
The cycle was as follows; maybe you'll recognize it. I would try to leave and then he would miraculously become the man I believed he could be, saying and doing all the things that made me feel loved and valued. He always kept it up just long enough for me to feel secure before slowly re-introducing the behaviors that generated his supply.
I believe that he genuinely loved me to the degree that he is capable of loving anyone, but his need for me to support his self image even in the face of blatant evidence to the contrary was far more powerful than that love.
His friends frequently told me how he spoke to them of what a wonderful wife and mother I was, how strong and smart I was, and how lucky he was to have me, while in private he was degrading and devaluing me every day.
Once we split, I was portrayed as a disloyal and irresponsible loser, with him posturing as the long suffering support of the family in the face of my worthlessness.
The juxtaposition of these two attitudes indicates to me that his boasting of me to his friends was another component of his narcissism. He could get his supply from invoking their envy at him having such an excellent partner. His post-split characterization of me serves the same purpose by garnering him sympathetic pats on the back and awe at his loyalty and patience for having put up with me for so long.
Please examine your reasons for wanting to work with a person whom you plainly recognized from my original story. I have wondered at times whether my desire to stay with Michael, even before we had children was, itself, a form of narcissism, a misguided belief that the power of my love could change him for the better. It is a slippery slope and a hard climb back up.
Keep in touch.

Dec 07, 2011
Feel for you!
by: Anonymous

If the only way to appease the person in your life is to deny what you know to be true or accept what you know to be untrue, then you are dealing with a narcissist.
Quoted by you and very well said!
This was my breaking point , when i realozed all the above.
but we are working on it... Cross my
Fingers and toes!
I always worry about emotional damage though
His rants can go for hours on weekends! Very difficult
Time controlling his temper.
Either way thank you for sharing and good luck!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Horror Stories of Narcissistic Supply.