I’ve finally gotten to the point of being comfortable calling my husband a narcissist. It’s hard because calling people names is mean. But it’s not mean to call him a man, a father, an employee. He’s a narcissist just as much as he is any of those things. Because it’s perceived as negative I still hesitate to say the word in public but once I fully understood what it was, I was comfortable calling him one privately, because it fit. No more, no less. It’s who he is.
The internet is full of definitions but here is my super simple version:
A narcissist is someone who, in his or her heart, thinks he or she is God (and they are not.)
It’s that simple. There are variations and different levels of narcissism, sure. In fact, I believe we ALL have a certain level of narcissism even, and especially, those abused by a narcissist. (Don’t run away, it’s okay and I will explain later.)
So what does “god” look like?
They make the rules, they are right all of the time, if you disagree you are sinful. They are to be honored and respected by all those lower even if they don’t make sense. They can be a benevolent god bestowing kindness on those underneath them, or they can be a vengeful and angry god demanding performance. Often they are the former earlier in the relationship but will switch back and forth and slowly become more vengeful and angry more and more often further into the relationship. But it’s true, they were narcissists the entire time.
So what does this “god” do?
- Bestow/withhold It is in their power to either bestow or withold attention, affection, sex, finances, presence… anything really. Whatever they have to contribute, you are either honored to have access to or denied based on their judgment call.
- Assign He decides for you is right for you. You can be assigned a job in the relationship based on your skills, his lack of skill, or even just how good it makes him look. Early on he usually depends on flattery to get you to take your assigned jobs.
- Tax If you do well, he gets a cut. Maybe it’s a literal cut of the money but it can also be a cut of the recognition. This is what a trophy wife is. She is great, he gets the praise.
- Demand Not only are duties assigned there is a RIGHT way to do it. These gods bestow grace for only so long and then punishment would be given for not meeting the demand. Often the demand and/or punishment would shift and be inconsistent. This is gaslighting.
- Receive praise Narcissists love being told they are right, superior, or attractive. If you go too long between praises watch out for some type of punishment. Each narcissistic god has a different area they feel they need praise for. Not all narcissists are hyper-focused on looks like the original Narcissus. In fact, a covert narcissist can need recognition for being so humble or put upon. They will moan or sigh until you notice how difficult it must be for them. Some narcissists need to be recognized for their generosity. They will be so giving. This was my narcissist. He was exceedingly generous with time, talents, or money—when it suited him. When he doesn’t think he will get the recognition he deserves or if it serves his purposes more to be in control, he is not generous at all.
- Judge If something is right or wrong depends solely on his perception and this is true about everything. Everything. If he lets something act in a different way it is because he is benevolent and kind. It is also common for something that has been clearly defined as wrong to be switched to clearly right or vice versa, whenever it suits the narcissist. (Again, gaslighting.)
So why do those abused display a level of narcissism?
Narcissists know how to take what they feel is owed to them. (i.e. everything) When you regularly have things taken from you by a narcissist you learn their skills and you can start using those skills against them to take back. Sometimes we even take those skills into the outside world and start taking all we can get because we are left so broken by a narcissist. This is not okay, we should not manipulate or put down people for building our own self-esteem but everyone struggles with at least some of this from time to time.
For example, when I am the most late in the mornings, trying to get out the door, I am the most snappy and rude to my children. When I feel the most drained and powerless, I am most likely to grab power from those nearest and weakest.
And this is the entire existence of the narcissist.
Do you remember the parenthesis in my definition? They are NOT God. When you think you are God but you are not God you always feel horribly powerless. You feel you have the right to say you want something NOW and yet it doesn’t arrive unless you go and actually pour the water through the coffeemaker. This earthly existence with no powers for a god is a horrible feeling. When a narcissist feels powerless (i.e. all the time) he is most likely to grab power from those nearest and weakest.
In the end narcissism is a sad and lonely personality disorder. If you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist it’s most likely because you have a huge propensity for empathy—the one thing the narcissist doesn’t have. You meet her needs because her needs are so great. And even though she is not God (and never will be) her need to feel she is God keeps her so broken. Gods cannot be broken so a very tough outside shell of confidence overlays an interior of… emptiness.
If you are pouring your empathy into a narcissist you will be pouring forever.
The GREAT news
There is a God and He does NOT look like your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend. This God really does deserve all honor and praise. He has assigned who you are and has every right to punish you for everything he has judged as an offense… but He doesn’t. This God, as big as he is in the demanding territory, is just as big in the caring territory. He has more love and tender care than you could ever begin to imagine. He knew we couldn’t satisfy our duties. He knew we could never be good enough for Him so He provided the way Himself so we could be good enough.
Don’t let a narcissist in your life be your god. Like I did. It will only lead to emptiness. The true God will fill you up and He is the only one capable of filling up that narcissist in your life as well. Please, be safe and leave that job to the real God.
photo credit: One Way Stock <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/60141638@N06/8557792607″>Hello My Name Is Narcissit</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>