Lack of Empathy

Dec 13

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.” Continue reading →

Aug 13

Get Some Help

Get some help.

Oh, I know you think you don’t need help.  I know you think the problem lies with everyone else.  I know you think that you have life figured out and the rest of us have to catch up.


I know of your childhood.  I know it was awful.  Someone – your mom or dad – had you believing you weren’t good enough.  In order to survive, you pretended to be good enough.  You created an image of some kid you thought your parents wanted you to be.  Or you created a self that was tough, impenetrable and cavalier so as to protect yourself.   At the end of each school year, more and more layers were added to this image.

By the time you graduated, you couldn’t wait to get out of their house.  You had survived, but you forgot who you were. You packed your bags – the clothes belonging to the guy you created – and your ways of behaving, and you left to start your adult life. Continue reading →

Jun 13


This morning I saw a tweet that linked to an article about a guy who said he has felt like an ATM machine ever since his divorce.

I didn’t read the article.

I feel for the guy.

For a nanosecond I wondered if Mark felt the same way.  There’s no need for me to wonder since he has told us plenty of times – actually lectured in the way a nun might do just before she slaps the back of your hand with a ruler – that the only reason we get in touch with him is because we need something.

  Continue reading →

Jun 13

homekeeping 9

“But dad, I don’t want that kind of putter.  I know what I want and I’m paying for it with my own money.  I’ve researched this putter on the internet.  Dad, I know what I want.”

As they drove away without a new putter, Will’s stomach started to act up.

Once they arrived home from that day’s dad visit, both kids unleashed.

“He doesn’t know anything about golf.  Why is he telling me how to spend my own money?”

“Why do we have to go to his office for visits when he only sees us two times a week?” Continue reading →

Jun 13

Narcissists in Glass Houses

There is a wall of glass separating the narcissist from everyone else.  This isn’t the kind of glass found in the famous proverb about people in glass houses.   You can’t throw a stone and break this glass.  This is impenetrable, thick, cold glass.

You can see the narcissist because that’s how he wants it.  You can see him preen and strut and show his face to the sun.

You can hear the narcissist and his word salads.  You hear his mockeries and his bragging and his endless stories of his successes.

You will encourage your children to stand against the glass so that he may see them better.  When he doesn’t notice, you will exaggeratedly wave and point at your kids so as to try to get his attention.

He won’t be watching. Continue reading →

May 13

In Good Company

Over chocolate milk, Rice Krispies and coffee we had a venting session about yesterday’s dad visit.  It used to be that our rants were punctuated with tears and “How long do we have to do these visits?”  Now the rants are filled with laughs, OMGs, “Can you believe hims?” and “How long do we have to do these visits?”


“Why does everything have to be about him?”

“You know the answer, Bud.  It’s like the ground shifts under him when things stop being about him.  He needs everything to be about him to have some sense of control.  It doesn’t make sense.  It’s frustrating.  Imagine what it’s like to live like that.”

  Continue reading →

May 13

Still She Waits

A story…

She is standing at the stove when he walks in.  “Mom, when’s dinner gonna be ready?”

“Soon, honey.  The sauce is ready.  Salad’s in the fridge.  Garlic bread is in the oven.  There’s nothing more for me to do besides cook the pasta.  I’m just waiting for the water to come to a boil for the spaghetti.  We’ll eat when dad gets home.”

“K.  I’m just gonna get my soccer stuff for the game tonight.”

  Continue reading →

May 13

Spiders Versus Narcissists

I watched the desert dust go down the drain and reached for a towel.  As I stood up after wrapping my hair, I saw the spider.  It had been hiding in the folds of the towel, minding its own business.  I stepped from the shower and laughed at myself.

In the old days, I’d have let out a scream.  I learned to stifle screams at a young age.  The best deterrent for a little girl is to have her dad make fun of her when she screams at a big hairy spider.  (Those screams inside my head were louder than the ones I dared to let out.)

More recently, I would have grabbed a shoe and attacked the critter.   If Jenny had been standing there, I would have gone into action and saved the day.

I pulled the shower curtain closed, leaving the spider to crawl up the damp stall.

I got to thinking about what scares me now.


I’m not afraid to travel alone with two kids.

I’m not afraid of heights, but I do hang on to Will and Jenny when they venture too close to the edge.

I’m not afraid of the dark or spiders or monsters under the bed.

I’m not afraid of strangers or big cities or camping in the woods.

I’m not afraid of wrinkles or gray hairs or mirrors.  (I am making progress on getting over my fear of swim suits.)


I’ve lived with narcissists.

Not much scares me any more.



Mar 13

“How Can I Help You”

I was stirring the fettuccine as the door closed behind him.  I looked over and noticed she didn’t look up. She didn’t speak.  She kept her head down as she focused on her project.

Dinner was almost ready to hit the table.  I turned to Will and said, “Buddy, dinner is close, but I’ve gotta talk to Jenny first.”

So what if the pasta was going to be mushy.

I pulled my stool next to Jenny and quietly asked her to look at me.  When she did I said, “Honey, I want you to know that I remember how that feels.  I know what it’s like to be in a room with my dad, have him talk to my brother, and leave before saying a word to me.  I know how that hurts, but I don’t want to project my feelings on to you.”

“What does project mean?” Continue reading →

Nov 12

When Your Best Friend is a Narcissist

Best friends have tea together.Guest Post by Anonymous


At the age of 12, she didn’t know why she cared so much about her friend, the one who was a notorious mean girl.  The one who played the games that mean girls do…  She didn’t understand why that friend mattered so much to her, even more than those she had known forever, even more than the ones who had proven themselves to be kind, caring girls….

She didn’t understand until nearly a quarter of a century later why that person seemed “right” – seemed familiar….  In the two years before she ended the friendship with her narcissistic friend, she often questioned herself, “Why do I even care so much about someone I don’t respect, someone that has hurt me so many times?”

She didn’t put two and two together, that the friend who called her names and ignored her, was a lot like her dad, who shamed her and ignored her. Continue reading →

Nov 12

What is Said and What is Heard

She means business when she decides to snow.He said:  Your face looks full with that haircut.

She heard:  Your face looks fat; I hate your haircut.


She said:  That looks pretty good, but you should have done it this way.

He heard:  That looks pretty good, BUT …


They said:  Are you sure it’s a good idea to homeschool the kids?

She heard:  You’re going to ruin them for life.


He said:  I can’t live like this anymore.

She heard:  Do things my way or I’m out of here.


He said:  I don’t care what we do, you decide.

She heard:  I don’t enjoy spending time with you enough to make the effort to decide.


She said:  I don’t care what we do, you decide.

He heard:  It’s okay if you spend the evening with friends; I won’t be mad if you don’t come home.


He said:  That’s okay, bud, I’ll have the shop wax my skis.

He heard:  You aren’t capable of waxing my skis.


He said:  Maybe you shouldn’t be so sensitive.

She heard:  If you didn’t get your feelings hurt so easily, I wouldn’t have to be careful about what I say.


They said:  You should write blog posts that are this long, on this many days with these kinds of headings.

She heard:  You are doing it all wrong.


He said:  I like it better when you do it this way.

She heard:  I don’t like you the way you are.


She said:  I heard you, but we are doing it my way.

He heard:  Don’t bother telling me what you want because I’m not listening anyway.



She said:  Pack your bags, we’re going to stay at grandma’s.

They heard:  We are going to live with people who let us be who we are.


They said:  Love you.

She heard:  Love you.

Oct 12

When Narcissists Carve Pumpkins

It’s highly unlikely that you’d get your favorite narcissist to spend an afternoon carving pumpkins with you.  They have much more important things to do.

But… if you find yourself on a day when the stars have aligned, the weather isn’t nice enough to do anything else, and you’ve sourced/doted on/adored your narcissist enough, he may acquiesce.


If he agrees, be prepared to hear some of the following:


“Hey, let’s keep the mess on the table.  Try to keep all the goo on the paper so it doesn’t get all over the house.”

“We don’t need those pattern thingys. Can’t you borrow some pumpkin carving tools from your mom?  I don’t want to have to spend any more than I have to on this project.  Besides, I can draw better than the folks that make those patterns.”

“Did you really just get pumpkin slime on your t-shirt?”

“Don’t draw the eyes so close together, that’s not what pumpkins look like.”

“We’ll keep these pumpkins at my house.  You guys get your own.”

“Make the mouth bigger.  You won’t be able to see it from the street.”

“No, that’s not how to do the eyes.  Here, let me show you.”

“Hey, watch it!  You got some on the floor.”

“Push up your sleeves.  You’re getting it all over everything.”

“You guys aren’t listening to me.”


At this point, the narcissist sighs deeply, asks you to hand him your tools and says, “Hey, I have an idea.  Why don’t you two go watch a show and I’ll finish the pumpkins.  That way they’ll be done right.”


On second thought, don’t ask your favorite narcissist if he wants to carve pumpkins with you.


Sep 12

Narcissists Need to Criticize

“You should have used a brush instead of spray paint.”

“Honey, that’s not what a horse looks like. Let me show you how to draw a horse correctly.  And shouldn’t the trees have green leaves instead of purple?”

“The rice needs more soy, but other than that it’s decent.”

“I know you are the one with the degree in marketing, but is that the correct font for that mailer?”

“Let me proofread that.  You usually miss something.” Continue reading →

Sep 12

Explaining Narcissism to Kids

“How come he says I can use his camera, and then he tells me what pictures to take, and how to take ’em?”

“He can’t help it.  He thinks what you do is part of who he is, and whatever he does has to look good to the rest of the world.  That means that what you do has to look good, too. “


“Well why does he care so much about what the rest of the world thinks?”

“Because he doesn’t feel good about himself.  If he can convince the world that he is awesome, then he’ll like himself better.” Continue reading →

Aug 12

The Narcissism Survivor’s Tool Box

Braced against the sheer, shaley side of a ravine, holding the handle bar of his bike, he yelled, “Dad!  Dad, I need help here.  I’m about to lose my bike!  Dad!  Help!”  He was torn between letting his bike fall to the 15 foot pool at the base of the ravine, or worse, falling with his bike.

He was able to reach his water bottle.  After taking a sip, he tried to yell again, but he couldn’t get his dad’s attention.  He would have to hang on longer.

He waited, balanced on the brink, wondering why he’d agreed to go on another one of these all-day adventures.

The adventures had gotten better now that he was older, but he still ended up with an upset stomach from the exposure and risk that his dad took for granted.

Continue reading →