It had been about six weeks since the kids and I had moved out. Mark and I were still going to counseling. At one point, he told me that he was convinced that my leaving was a temporary thing. He figured I’d get a little space, have a chance to miss him, and come running back with the realization that he was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
He believed I would come to my senses and see what was best for all of us, especially Will and Jenny.
I hadn’t completely given up, but I knew things would have to change dramatically before I would give any thought to the possibility of moving back.
Somewhere during this time I had picked up a copy of Real Simple Magazine and read an article about narcissism. I vividly remember handing my mom the magazine and telling her to read the article. “Mom! She’s talking about your parents.”
Moments later, mom hands back the magazine and says, “Honey, this is your husband.”
(Read the same article at Enough About You.)
I was so deeply enmeshed in my role as source for my narcissistic husband, I couldn’t even see that this article described my husband.
I read the article again.
It’s not enough to say that a light bulb went off – every light bulb in our little town went off.
I heard a voice – my own desperate voice – saying, “Hello! What took you so long?”
I had heard the word, narcissist, before.
I had not heard of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
That afternoon I Googled until the N was worn off my keyboard.
Slowly, it began to sink in that I wasn’t horribly inept.
I wasn’t incompetent.
I wasn’t a failure or a constant source of disappointment.
Because of his narcissism, I could not ever meet his impossible standards.
No one could ever meet his standards.
The discovery of NPD put me on a path to understanding all the bizarreness of my marriage.
I realized how futile it was for me to continue counseling. I could either stay in this marriage, forever giving, sourcing and nurturing, while getting nothing in return; or I could get out with the knowledge that there was nothing I could do to please him.
If I hadn’t had children, I might have stayed.
My failing to meet his standards was one thing. I could spend my life tripping over myself trying to please him. For a long time, I didn’t know any better.
But I saw how Will and Jenny failed to meet his standards, too. I could not stand by and watch these two precious people get out of bed every morning, knowing that by the end of each day, they would – once again – disappoint their father.