“Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people.” ~ Jonathan Franzen, “Freedom”
Ten years ago, when I found out my husband was a sex addict, the word “narcissist” was just beginning to surge. Now, divorce attorneys joke that every woman who files for divorce is fleeing a narcissist (and every man, a crazy woman – but that’s another post). The word is tossed about with reckless abandon, but for those who’ve fallen victim to a bonafide personality disordered individual, it’s not a laughing matter.
In a relentless pursuit to regain some equilibrium after the complete upheaval in my life, I poured over magazine articles, consulted research on PubMed, scoured Google, hauled evidence before my counselor, and completed online questionnaires in search of the answer to my most pressing question: Is he a narcissist?
I just knew if I answered the narcissist question, I could wrap the devastation in a neat little box and get back to my life. I didn’t yet comprehend that my life as I knew it was gone forever – slashed violently into two fragments: before and after.
More than all that, I deeply hoped that an answer would provide me with some rules and predictability so I could steer my children away from any more pain or, worse yet, similar fates. I naively thought I would finally understand why he did what he did, and why he did it to me.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. What matters is what he did and what he didn’t do. What matters is the lack of respect he showed me. It matters that my needs, desires, hopes, dreams, and fears were ridiculed and treated as inconveniences. It matters that he misrepresented himself before and after entering the marriage, and in doing so, repeatedly risked my very life.
That’s not love. It’s not even friendship. It’s the systematic devaluation of a human being you’ve promised to love and protect for life.
The answer, it turns out, was not “Yes”. It was, officially, “Yes, somewhere on the spectrum of Sociopath and Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. I have my answer …… and I still don’t understand.