I am finally ready to write about something that happened two weeks ago. The details don’t matter, which is good, because I can’t share them because I am afraid that my soon-to-be-ex will find this blog and
kill sue me.
In short it was a week of chaos, confusion, wildly flip-flopping opinions, setbacks, last-minute scrambling, extreme stress, come-to-Jesus talks leading to tears, and disappointment in experts who suddenly seemed very fallible and suspiciously unexpertish.
How did things get so off track? The answer is obvious: my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I’ve learned a lot of things since the afternoon in fall 2011 when I opened his email account and my life changed in an instant. The most important thing I’ve learned is that one determined person can start so much trouble and create so much chaos that everyone else eventually just wants to give up or run away. An NPD will exhaust, beat down, and disgust his opponents. And then he wins. Chaos ensues when one cunning person is willing to play dirty, make outrageous accusations, twist every truth, change his story regularly, break all rules, and refuse to feel an ounce of shame or embarrassment or remorse about anything. And then there’s the NPD smear campaign. It leaves its victims shell-shocked, bent over and gasping for air, trying to figure out what just happened to their reputations and sanity.
What kind of person acts like this?
Someone with narcissistic personality disorder. We all talk about narcissists. And of course we live in a narcissistic society that celebrates reality television stars and people with thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers – I suppose one might even argue that people with personal blogs are a bit narcissistic.
But narcissistic personality disorder is a different beast, and it’s serious. According to Medical News Today, narcissistic personality disorder is defined as: a personality disorder in which the individual has a distorted self image, unstable and intense emotions, is overly preoccupied with vanity, prestige, power and personal adequacy, lacks empathy, and has an exaggerated sense of superiority. NPD is closely associated with egocentrism – a personality characteristic in which people see themselves and their interests and opinions as the only ones that really matter.
People with narcissistic personality disorder are not interested in the feelings of others – they lack empathy; they are unable to feel or appreciate feelings which are not their own.
For most of us, it’s difficult and stressful to live in chaos. Most people crave order and calm and peace. This is why we have rules, laws, and traffic lights. However, most NPDs, including my soon-to-be-ex, thrive on chaos. The more the better, because he believes that opportunity lies in chaos. It’s a great time for a power grab – he pounces when every sane person runs away. I have come to believe that he has not enjoyed a moment of peace in several years. And he’s fine with that.
I have a friend who asked me recently about the divorce. I explained that I was following good legal advice, the judge seemed to agree with me, and I had achieved a small victory that week. I believed the truth would prevail and a judge would do the right thing for my children.
She looked at me and said, “But you have to understand that you are waging some pretty traditional warfare, battle by battle.”
I’m not a big war analogy person. I’m more of a Brene Brown and inspirational-yoga-quote kind of person. Also, at the time, I preferred not to think of myself in battle. After all I started off the Divorce of the Century by hiring a collaborative attorney, believe it or not.
But then my friend said, “Your soon-to-be-ex is engaged in a different kind of warfare. He’s going from bunker to bunker, throwing terrible shit at you. And if it doesn’t stick, he doesn’t care. It’s not a setback to him, like it would be to you or me. He just moves on to the next bunker. He lives to throw more shit another day.”
I recall freezing when she said this, as a terrible wave of recognition passed over me. Yes. That was it. That was the very definition of the way he was acting.
Since then, two other observers have made similar analogies. One called my soon-to-be-ex a guerrilla, throwing bombs everywhere, completely irresponsibly. Just today someone said he’s just lobbing thing after thing at me, wearing me down a little more each time.
I recall asking the first friend what to do. She is the wife of a West Point grad, and I figured she would know how to deal with a guerrilla.
She replied, “You either give him what he wants – or make him believe you’re giving him what he wants. Or you need to destroy him.”