If You Can’t Say Something Nice, You Might be a Narcissist

mermaids live in my roomWe’d gone into the lodge to make sure she wasn’t getting frostbite.  She made faces at me while I rubbed her tender cheeks to get the circulation back.  “Honey, keep gently rubbing your cheeks.  The white spot will go away as you warm up.”  She patted her face and said, “Remember when dad was at the house the other day and he looked at my mermaids?”

“Yeah.  That was Thursday.”

“Well, I forgot to tell you what he said.”

“About the mermaids?”

“No, about the mermaids, he just nodded his head and said, ‘I like them.  You did a good job.’  But he said something else, too.”

“What was that?  How come you didn’t mention it before?”

“Well, I forgot until now.  He asked if I was still getting together with my BFF.  I told him that I still see her, but that we’ve both been busy with the holidays.  Then he said, ‘Is she finding better friends to hang out with?’  Why would he say that?”

I shook my head.  I didn’t know what to say.  I thought of all the stuff I’ve read about narcissists, and wondered how I could use any of it to explain to an eleven year old girl how her dad could be so insensitive and mean.  Even though we’ve learned so much, even though these hurts seem to not last as long or be as devastating, they still hurt.

“I don’t know, Jen.  Many times, what he says doesn’t make sense.  We know that he is capable of being thoughtless.  Maybe he’s jealous that you are talented.  Maybe it bugs him that you have a BFF and he doesn’t.  But that happened two days ago, and you just now mentioned it.  Maybe you are getting stronger.  I think you are learning to deal with his crap.  It doesn’t make it better, but maybe it means you aren’t getting as bruised as you used to.”

She shook her head and rubbed her cheeks.




Later, I learned that she hadn’t mentioned anything to Will.  Maybe she didn’t need to vent as much as she used to.  That’s progress, isn’t it?


Then, last night, we all heard the text.*  Jen’s BFF texted to see if Jen had time to get together this week.   Jen walked out to the living room to text back.  Then she asked if we had time this week.  I said, “Of course.”  I heard the soft padding of Jen’s feet coming down the hall.  She entered my room with tears streaming down her face.  “Why would he say that, mom?  Why would he be mean to me like that?”

“Jen, he’s mean.  I don’t know if he does that on purpose, but he doesn’t like it when everything isn’t about him.  Your artwork wasn’t about him.  Your best friend isn’t about him.  When it isn’t about him, he lashes out and says things that hurt.  It’s wrong, and I’m sorry.”

She grabbed some tissues and crawled in my bed.  I put my arm around her and told her she was so blessed to have a best friend.  I told her that her best friend was blessed to have Jen for a BFF.  I listed all the bright spots that were lined up for the next couple weeks.  I cracked a couple jokes about Nina (our cat) expecting so many Christmas presents.  She wiped her nose and snuggled closer.

I said, “Do you think you’re crying so hard because you were secretly wondering if your dad was right – that maybe your BFF found a new BFF – and when she texted you were so relieved, that the flood gates opened and that started the tsunami of tears?”

She laughed and said, “That’s it mom.  Even though I know dad was wrong, I was worried.  It’s a huge relief that she texted tonight.”


*Dear Universe,

Thanks for having Jen’s BFF send that text last night. 

Thanks for putting this in my Twitter stream this morning.

Thanks, too, for putting this book in front of me, when I wasn’t even looking for more to read on narcissism – it explains so very much.




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  1. Jen and I are a lot alike. I, too, stifle hurtful things and they manifest into worry, stress, self-doubt… Then when the relief comes all that negative build up pours out of my soul like a volcano erupting. Hugs, kiddo! You are doing great. xx

  2. Z,

    A huge smile and a big thank you – to you – from Jen.

  3. to Jen.. You are not alone. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are talented. You are loved. You are so very important. You are getting stronger every day. One day, his words will not matter. They are about him, not you. I promise!

    P.S. Thank God for BFFs!!

  4. Dee,

    Thank you, thank you.

    You have a hug waiting for you. ;)

  5. Once again, Jen is so lucky to have you for a mom – one who can help her see the insanity of what her dad said, one who helps her realize what value there is in her as a person, and who helps her understand the true source of her tears. (What a jerk he is!!)

  6. Pat,

    We’d recently “enjoyed” a more pleasant phase with him. We’ve been seeing less of his attempts to diminish the kids, more efforts at trying to see them. Well… to the extent that he is capable. And then this.

    It reminds me that their disorder (or whatever you want to call it) runs very deep. It so much reminds me of little kids when they start to learn that everything isn’t all about them. That is a rough phase. It’s hard for that kid in preschool or kindergarten to hear someone tell a kid, “Nice job,” without that kid saying, “Hey! What about me. Look at what I did. I did a nice job, too!” And then I remember that six year old thing – the literature that says that narcissists act as if their maturation stopped at the age of six.

    So picture this six year old in a man’s body saying, “Nice mermaid. So, does your BFF still like you, or did she find someone better to hang out with?”

  7. I found that they can only behave for so long and it has to be externally motivated. Once their guard is down, they can’t help but ease back into their disorder.

  8. Dear Jesse,

    I got teary as you described your care for Jen’s spirit as she processed the painful comment made by her father. You are wonderful and your children are very blessed to have you as I know you feel so blessed to have them. I read the link to the blog and appreciated the following advice “Shun the ones who feed on your failures.” It is easier said than done often but good advice still.

    It hurts especially when our kids hurt. Dealing with the emotional fallout and trying to move forward takes a lot of energy and strength. You are very inspirational!!

    Thank you for writing! Your kids and you are always in my thoughts!

    Warm hugs . . .

  9. Lynn,

    Thank you.

    You know… if it hadn’t been for seeing what my kids are dealt by their father, I’d still be there. I think Zaira would agree. What do you think? It’s one thing to be the one to receive the abuse, but when our kids are attacked, that’s when we can’t take any more.

    So… maybe there’s an even bigger blessing. We try to protect our kids from the abuse, and end up saving ourselves.

    Thank you for being here.

  10. Hi Jesse,

    I do agree that my kids’ pain catapulted me forward. When they started begging me to do something, I knew it would not have been right or healthy to stay. I had to act. It is so painful to see our kids hurt.

    While the fallout has been very painful and traumatic, it would have been far worse if I had stayed. I want my kids to know that they should expect to be treated well and to treat others well. The example I was living in the marriage did not convey that.

    Thank God for second chances, rescues, renewals, and fresh starts!!

    Take care!!

  11. Lynn,

    Your kids are blessed to have you in their camp.

    Merry Christmas and warm hugs to you and yours.

  12. Thanks Jesse. Merry Christmas to you and yours too. I am thinking about you ; ). I hope 2014 is absolutely fantastic for Jen, Will, and you!!

  13. I completely agree. Children, to a narcissist, are a distraction from their source. He resented me because I prioritized the kids. I always said that if I didn’t have the kids that I would have left sooner, but I think the dynamic of the relationship would have been a lot different and I can see how I would have suffered longer. They are definitely my salvation!

  14. Judging by the comments this blog is read by some very strong women. Very inspirational.

  15. Sarah,

    The strong women who comment on this blog mean the world to me.

    Thanks for reading.

    Merry Christmas!

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