A Narcissistic Woman
My father is what I would call a chronic abuse victim. My mother was certainly bipolar and she was very abusive during her manic periods and hopelessly suicidal during her depressed periods. It was during his first marriage that he learned how to be a chronic abuse victim. Their marriage fell apart and my mother made it her goal to punish my father by quickly finding a new man. After losing a friend of hers for flirting too overtly with the woman's husband, my mother finally stole sister's boyfriend and dated him for over a year right there in front of the family so my father could see that she had moved past him. It had a bad effect on my 13 year old brother who is still weary of women. Bipolar manic phases can cause some shockingly inappropriate and irrational (as well as abusive) behavior. But that's bipolar disorder. I'm here to talk about NPD.
After their divorce, he was in his forties, that age when it is getting harder to find people to date than it used to be. It is also the age beyond which people fear they might never be able to date again. My dad had also endured the humiliation of my mom's very open relationship with a guy half her age. He was coming off of a difficult rebound. During that same period, his career was really taking off, and he was accumulating some wealth. So he did what a lot of men do. He decided that an expensive car would distinguish him as someone who was worth dating, somehow. So he bought a Lexus LS400 and joined a church group and a volley ball league. And guess what. It worked! Within a short period of time, a woman was starting to show interest in him, with a smile on her face and a gleam in her eye. I remember her back then. She was always polite and really pleasant, smiled all the time and showed sincere interest in all of us.
Within a short time, she started asking him if she could drive his car. She loved to drive the Lexus. It was status. Money. Respect. Power. It was a statement about her position in the social hierarchy. When you drive an $80,000 car, people sometimes look just to see who is driving it. She loved that. She never looked back at them though, because it would have been obvious that she was enjoying the attention. She did her best to appear as though driving an expensive car was like second nature to her. Truth is, it wasn't even her car, but nobody else knew that.
As he allowed her more and more access to his life, and his belongings, she became more entwined in his life. She laughed at all of his jokes and admired his intelligence. She also asked him for slightly bigger favors and very subtly started using passive techniques to see how he might respond. At first it was suggestion. "I haven't had sushi in quite a long time. Do you like sushi?" Simple enough. Just a meal. How could he say no? They ordered sushi. The suggestion method worked reliably so she graduated to direct questions. "Would you like to go to a movie tonight?" That worked too, and reliably. He was turning out to be a narcissists dream. She went full steam ahead with the direct commands. "Let's go to Hawaii for a couple of weeks."
It was obvious that she wanted to become more involved. She would spend time with him any opportunity she got. She wanted to travel with him too. She gained his sympathy by stressing the fact that she had neither wealth nor a good job. She stuck it out for a few years, but I think she figured he was a good risk because the signs were all there. He was definitely a keeper. She could see that he was seriously looking for a new relationship, he had some money, he was psychologically vulnerable, easy to manipulate, he was willing to flaunt his modest wealth in order attract a woman and he appreciated it when she acknowledged his level of success. How could she walk away from such an opportunity?
During that period, she was familiarizing herself with his buttons, levers and sensitivities. She needed to understand how to use him like the kind of tool that every narcissist craves. She needed to know how to make him hurt, or he would not be manipulable. She needed to know how to compel his behavior or he would be useless to her and she would have to abandon him. She liked what she was discovering. She gave him all the time he wanted to come around, because she already had him on the hook and there was no competition. He behaved like a child with an ice cream cone, like a puppy on a leash. In the early years, she got what she wanted by dropping hints. That's how he figured out that she wanted to be surprised. Basically, she told him in some way that made him think he had figured it out on his own. She gave the signal, and he responded. Narcissists love obedience. He decided to surprise her one holiday season with a brand new bathrobe, which happened to have a diamond ring and marriage proposal in the pocket. They were married the following summer.
After the marriage, things changed. She quickly dropped the phony superficial charm and became obsessed with her agenda. He barely seemed to notice. I think he passed it off as one of those "honeymoon is over" phenomena, or convinced himself that it had something to do with her now being the wife, which is a stressful responsibility that made her irritable and demanding of his help and attention. Whatever it was, he denied noticing it.
She wasted no time in getting what she needed early on from him. She needed a college degree, a better job and a way to start accumulating her own wealth. Narcissists love to be, or at least appear, wealthy. My wife and I lived a short distance away from them during those years. That was the early period, when she overtly hung divorce and division of his wealth over their marriage like a persistent threat. It was just like grabbing a bull by the ring in its nose. When she screamed her terrifying shreek, he jumped like a kid about to get a whipping. It was hard to witness it. People started talking. The day my wife and I happened to be watching the news coverage of the death of Princess Diana, he showed up at our house just to hang out for a while. She had blown up at him so badly that he had to leave. That was when his facial expression started to change.
He acquired a preoccupied look, kind of worried all the time, almost nervous. He seemed like he was guilty of something. He became apprehensive about laughing or smiling. If you were to ask him about this, he would deny it, and he would probably truly believe his denial. But other people noticed it too. His personality was changing, gradually.
One of the most important points to make about narcissists is that this woman was very methodical. She had been recently divorced at the time and had joined that same volley ball league with the purpose in mind of meeting a new man. When a narcissist meets a potential tool, an object to be used, they waste no time in making the proper assessments. Would he make a good prey? Does he have the right qualities? These people have been making such assessments of people for decades. They are skilled at it by now. They know what to look for. They know how to be stealth about it. Most of them need power and control, and a puppet to make it all happen. Narcissists love puppets. Puppets do all the work. Puppets take all the blame. Narcissists take all the credit. That's how it works.
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are not rare. As many as one out of twenty people might have it. They often work very hard to enter into positions of power in society. Politics. Police departments. The military. Executive positions in corporations. Religious leaders. By the time you turn thirty, you will probably have met at least a handful of true narcissists.
My father, the chronic abuse victim, a man whose personality shines like a neon sign to those with the more abusive personality disorders, is still married to her. He still won't admit that there is a problem. He wouldn't dare. Not even when she isn't around. I don't go over there anymore. She doesn't like me. I'm an intellectual. Narcissists usually don't like intellectuals. Intellectuals are analytical and have high vocabularies, and lots of other traits that are not only useless to narcissists but are sometimes even threatening.
I have read the theories about Narcissistic Personality Disorder being caused by a betrayal early in life. That might be true for some individuals, but I think it is much more complex than that. I think it is similar to a form of PTSD. The individual endured a traumatic experience. But they don't react to it like someone does with PTSD. Instead, a different thing all together manifests itself into the person's psyche. Whatever the experience was, it probably does not have to have actually happened as long as it was at least perceived, or even imagined. The narcissist has no idea of the origin of it since they almost always deny they have any problem at all. I think it can be a reaction to feelings of shame, inadequacy, lack of ability to compete, guilt or any of a bunch of different things. Some of them develop what might be compared to the proverbial "chip on the shoulder". Many of them become well practiced in the fine art of passive aggressive methods and the like. And some have Authoritarian personalities (not in the DSM or ICD), which compel them toward the hierarchical institutions of society and seems to give them a set of rules by which they can compare themselves to others and objectively assess their position in the hierarchy. They all have slightly different obsessions, objectives and goals. No two of them are the same. They have their own personal charms and lures and tactics and tricks. It's a confidence game, you know.