Narcissists and Rules

  • cowboy-hatDon’t touch a cowboy’s hat or a lady’s hair-do.
  • Don’t ask anyone how many acres they have, how many head of cattle they own, or how much money they have in the bank.
  • Do not ask a lady how much she weighs or how old she is.
  • Never ask a big lady when her baby is due.
  • Don’t tell anyone your social security number, your pin number or your locker combination.
  • If you eat the whole bag of Fritos, keep it a secret.

These are social norms or rules.  They aren’t laws, but they are so ingrained that they might as well be laws.  Some are as old as dirt, and some are relatively new.  The Frito rule might be specific to my little family.  There are a lot of rules that kids need to learn, and a lot of them can sound kind of silly.  Now that Will is older, he understands the one about a cowboy’s hat.  He still doesn’t get the one about a lady’s hair-do.  Maybe that’s because I don’t really have any sort of hair-do, and I don’t personally adhere to that rule about my own hair.  Will is a literal fellow, and I can remember that it took a lot of explainin’ to get across the point about not asking how many cows someone has, or how much money they have.  If he was quick to tell someone how many pennies he had in his piggy bank, why wouldn’t they say how many dollars they had?

Last night Mark was over.  The visit included the usual high-pitched, sing-song voice, the faked appreciation of the kids’ artwork, and tediously exaggerated tales of his grandeur.  When Mark left, Will told me, “Dad gave Bob our locker combination so Bob could wax my skis.”   I have met Bob only one time.

The kids and I have been invited to share a locker with some other family members.  (These family members are extended family, and they are not part of Mark’s extended family.)  The locker is not ours.  The locker combination is not ours.  Perhaps you may even be able to hear my fingers slamming the keys of my keyboard at this point?  At the beginning of the season, Will had gone skiing with Mark.  When Will couldn’t get the locker open, he shared the combination with his dad, hoping his dad would be able to get the lock to cooperate.  That was an innocent move that any child would make — even a child who is beginning to grasp the rule about not sharing your locker combination, pin number, or social security number.

Over the course of my ‘relationship’ with Mark, I have seen many instances where Mark has not followed rules.  It wasn’t so much that he fudged a little, or that he was in a hurry, or that he figured he could bend a rule just this one time, he firmly believes that rules don’t apply to him.  Just because a sign says “No Parking”, that doesn’t mean he can’t park there.  You would think there would even be some fine print on the bottom of the sign that read, “But it’s okay for you, Mark.”

Several months ago, Mark had to write a check for something pertaining to the kids.  When he handed me the check, I noticed that his social security number was on the check, under his name and address.  I’m not making this up.  I asked him if he understood the consequences of having his social security number on his checks.  Why would I care?  Sometimes I think that I am still so dumbfounded by the things he does, that I have to dig deeper, just to understand why he does those things.  I still don’t know if his check includes that private number because he figures nothing could ever happen to him; he’s too stupid to understand the security issues; or maybe he thinks he’s so fabulous that he ought to be sharing that number along with his name and address.  I have no idea what he’s thinking.  I never do.

There’s plenty of things that you say to kids that seem crazy.  “No, Honey, kitties don’t need pajamas.”  “Don’t sit on your pizza.”  “Please don’t kick your sister in the head with the pointy part of your cowboy boot.”  “Yes, we do change underwear everyday.”  You just don’t think you have to explain the basic stuff to a grown up.  And yet, I called Mark to explain the locker combination rule.   I told him that it was completely inappropriate for him to give our locker combination away.   He responded with, “Well, Will gave it to me.”  WHAT?  Once again, I have to ask, just who is the responsible adult here?

After the dust settled on this whole fiasco, Will came up to me and apologized for giving his dad the combination.  I explained that he did what any kid would do.  He needed help getting his locker opened, and he turned to his dad for assistance.  It was his dad’s responsibility to act like an adult, and not share that number with anyone else.  Will then said, “Well, if dad doesn’t act like an adult, I have to.”

Related Post

It’s All Perception "Clean up this mess!  How can we expect to have people over if this is what this place looks like?  Are we Pigs, here?  Can't we put some order to this place?" That is not what I said.  It is what I have thought.  I'm careful to not call it a 'mes...
Beauty Through the Act of Loving Yesterday's post was about beauty and insecurity and denying who I am.  It was a difficult post to write.  I'm not even sure where it came from.  Getting that necklace in the mail was akin to jamming a stick of dynamite in a dam that I didn't even kn...
The INFJ and the Narcissist – Part 2 Those INFJ traits make for a tenacious individual when it comes to working on relationships.  She would never run out of the desire to try.  She'd contort herself into whatever shape he needed in order to make this work. If he wanted an outdoorsy wo...
For Our Daughters I remember the first time she was placed in my arms. Even though I was weakened and exhausted from the process, I remember thinking that I'd never felt stronger.  I felt empowered to completely love and protect her with everything I had.  Nothing cou...

Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. Sweet, sweet boy…

  2. Jesse your son is wonderful and so kind and mature. I am sure you are so proud of him (and your darling daughter, too.) But it must be very difficult at times – for the 3 of you. Surviving narcissism is a challenge!

  3. Thanks for your kind words. An unfortunate side effect of dealing with narcissism is that it forces kids to grow up too quickly. The three of us are pretty tight. I’m so blessed to be their mom.

  4. I see I’m late to the party here, but I have to thank you for this amazing blog. I realized my father in law was a narcissist years ago, but I’m just now cottoning on to how deeply this affected/damaged my husband, who is definitely not a narcissist, but definitely has some issues with confidence and his family. I’ve been aware on the negative impact his dad has on me, but failed to translate that to my poor dh’s child self.
    It’s so helpful to see your concrete real-world examples. This one really hit home with the “rules don’t apply to me” theme. I didn’t realized it was part of their narcissism, I mistakenly attributed it to their culture (not mainstream American–which has made it harder over the years to identify whether they are just acting normal for their culture, or if they are, indeed, warped). The ‘they’ are my father in law and my husband’s brother in law. They have very different personalities, but I think they both exhibit characteristics of narcissism.
    Thank you so much for this. I’m glad you left it up and accessible, or I never would have found it! I’ll be reading on….

  5. Sarah,

    Hello. I’m glad you found the blog.

    Some party, huh? ;)

    It sounds to me like you’ve discovered that one of the best ways to survive this craziness is by educating yourself.

    All the best to you, and here’s hoping that one day you will be able to help that damaged little boy who grew up to become your husband.


Leave a comment