Eight years ago on Super Bowl Sunday, I was two months pregnant with Jenny. I had round-the-clock morning sickness. To this day, I tell Jenny that she was worth every trip to the bathroom.
One of my favorite pictures is a shot of me, looking awful from the morning all-day sickness, holding a gallon-sized container of Atomic Fireballs. There’s something about the hot spicy jawbreakers that kept the sickness at bay. They were an absolute lifesaver. I had an Atomic Fireball in my mouth for 7 months.
Poor Will was going on four years old. He got used to me hanging out in the bathroom. In fact, after Jenny was born, I was doing something, let out a cough, and I heard Will say, “Mommy, are you throwing up again?”
Anyway, we had been invited to a Super Bowl Party. I was sitting in a chair, trying to summon up the strength to put on my shoes. I did not want to go to the party, but I didn’t want to disappoint Mark and Will. I looked at Mark and said, “I’m so sorry, but I just can’t go. I feel like all I’ve been doing is trying to simply exist.” He looked at me, let out a sigh of frustration and said, “Well, that is all you’ve been doing.”
That memory got me thinking about what I know of taking care of a narcissist. I’ve come up with a guideline. It’s a tool to help someone navigate the minefields inherent in a relationship with a narcissist. I should preface this by saying that my list is not comprehensive or particularly effective. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to properly care for my narcissist. Maybe you’ll do better with yours.
Food. Because you love your narcissist (at least in the beginning) you will want to remember his favorites. Narcissists aren’t terribly concerned with what the other members in the family like to eat. He will expect you to prepare what he likes, and he will expect everyone else to enjoy the same things. Just when you think you have figured out what he likes, he’ll change his preferences. And if you have mastered the preparation of a particular favorite, and even continue to make it the same way each time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will always like it prepared the same way. In fact, my narcissist was known to actually take a spatula out of my hand, so he could teach me the correct way to prepare his favorite dish. Oddly enough, the dish was one that I had introduced him to. He liked it the first time I made it for him, but found fault in it every time thereafter.
Care. It is imperative to remember that whatever health issues you may be dealing with, they pale in comparison to those of the narcissist. You could be in your 16th hour of labor, but your narcissist could be troubled by a hang nail. Do not forget that the hang nail will come before whatever you may be dealing with. Also be prepared to hear about the details of said hang nail. The narcissist spares no details when regaling you with the intricacies of his ailments or health conditions. After all, while there may be others who have suffered with hang nails, they certainly weren’t special hang nails.
Sex. While I have read articles that suggest that men actually like their partner to occasionally initiate sex, that doesn’t hold true with a narcissist. They may demand or plead for more, but if it isn’t within their time frame, they aren’t interested. In fact, they get some sort of sick pleasure out of refusing you, if you should ever be silly enough to spontaneously suggest any kind of physical activity. To add insult to injury, if you should ever be brazen enough to refuse his advances, he will, not so politely, remind you that he has only been going through the motions for your sake.
As my children get older, I’ve noticed an interesting development — the more they learn, the more independent they get. We laugh and tease each other about how I’m just not needed around here like I used to be. It’s gotten to the point where I have told Jen that the only time she needs me is when we’re starting a new jug of milk, and it’s too heavy for her to pour. They typically eat what I put in front of them. They know that one kid’s bloody, scraped shin is worse than the other kid’s slightly bumped elbow. They can fend for themselves if it looks like I’m busy doing something.
Independence doesn’t seem to come easily for the narcissist. On the contrary, the more you give, the more they will demand. And the more you try to get it right, the more they change their demands.