Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to Communicate with a Narcissist...If You Must

Sometimes it isn't possible to avoid a narcissist. My advice has consistently been to cut off contact with narcissists because of the futility of trying to have a relationship with these debauched and predatory types with the wizened soul of a demon. Unfortunately, sometimes you can't avoid dealing with a narcissist. This is often the case when you work for one. If the narcissist is a family member, perhaps you aren't willing to cut them completely off because you have successfully minimized contact. Fact is, we sometimes have to find ways to get along with a narcissist while still trying to maintain some boundaries. To successfully accomplish this one needs some tools. These tools come from recognizing the primary motivations and world view of the narcissist.

Here is a link to a PDF article by Steve Becker, LCSW, CHT...a psychotherapist. The article is titled, "Communicating with Narcissistic Personalities".

Another interesting article at his site is here and is titled "Differentiating Narcissists and Psychopaths". Both articles seem right on to me.

A thought I have about differentiating between narcissists and psychopaths runs along this line. The fact that we need some help to tell the difference tells me that the differences are small. In practical reality, the effects of the behaviors of the two are essentially the same. It matters not whether you are dealing with one or the other...both will wreak the same types of destruction in the lives around them. So what if the narcissist has a need for validation and some remnant of a conscience left when the psychopath doesn't? When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of living life, the fact that you can't usually tell between the narcissist's and the psychopath's underlying motivations because their outward behaviors are essentially identical tells me all I need to know. I would never knowingly keep a psychopath in my life because they are dangerous. A narcissist is rarely any less dangerous to life, health and wealth. Said another and simpler way: both are personifications of evil. Both are dangerous.

The fact that we need a primer on how to tell the difference between two types of evil tells us we would be wise to distance ourselves from either form. One is not less evil than the other. They are simply variations on a theme. Two points on a continuum.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Can You be Manipulated with Gifts? It's Up to You.

Maria asked me to comment on the tactic of manipulation often employed by narcissists: gifts or the promise of gifts. I've held off on this topic in the past because I'm not sure people want to know my thoughts on this subject especially since I put the complete onus on the receiver, not the giver. Anyway, I'll forge ahead. If you don't like what I'll just have to cope.

This tactic relies on certain vulnerabilities in the target. Namely, either a lack of a sense of self-sufficiency or covetousness. Dependency or greed. An examination of the lure of gifts is really about the receiver more than the "giver". No one can manipulate you with gifts or the promise of gifts if you are self-reliant and have a lock-box on your greed button.

From where I sit, the question boils down to this: what do you value most? For me the answer has always been freedom. There is no gift...or promise of some future gift...that will entice me away from my autonomy and freedom. I would rather live under a bridge and have my freedom than have an illusion of security or wealth given to me by a narcissist along with the gigantic baggage of obligation that comes along with it. And trust me, at best the sense of security it is an illusion. What the narcissist gives, the narcissist can take away. The narcissist lies, cheats, steals. Why would you entrust any sense of security or financial freedom to a serial cheater, liar and thief? When I was a kid we used the term "Indian giver" to describe someone who would take away from you a gift they'd given you previously. The term has fallen into disuse due to political correctness, but the concept still exists. (The term is a denigration of the white man, not the Indian. If that was understood, the term would still be in full use.) The narcissist is an Indian giver. What they give you with one hand, they take away with the other hand.

Let's look carefully at the definition of a gift before I proceed further.

Gift: n. 1. Something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.

Both parts must be in play for it to be a gift. Voluntary. Without compensation. It is that last part that is usually missing when dealing with the manipulative gift giver. When a gift is truly given...all rights pertaining to the gift are now in the hands of the receiver. It is now fully owned by the receiver and is theirs to do with as they will without having to justify themselves. After gratitude is given to the giver, the giver is owed nothing more for the gift. A gift is not rightly called a gift if there are strings of any kind attached. If there are strings, then it is something else entirely. A deal. An arrangement. An obligation. A debt. But don't call it a gift.

If the gift giver demands frequent and perpetual demonstrations of gratitude that is a sign that you were not given a gift. In the mind of that giver you were put into their debt. Their demands for perpetual payment in the form of obsequious thank yous from you at their merest mention of their previous generosity is a type of payment. They did not give you a gift. You owe them something (in this example that would be frequent adulations at the altar of their sainted generosity) for what you received from them. Only they get to decide when you've paid your debt in full. Probably never. So, what I'm saying is that even if the "payment" for the gift is only in the form of your perpetually and frequently expressed gratitude then you didn't really receive a gift. You incurred a debt. One that you're expected to pay whenever the "giver" makes the smallest hint at their past "generosity". Reject such "gifts" because otherwise it will represent a theft of your freedom.

You don't have to surrender to someones attempt to extort long term payment for something you received from them believing at the time it was a gift. You don't have to go along with their game. If you thought that the person was truly giving you something and you had no reason to expect they were going to try to manipulate you with it then your attitude about the gift will define it as such. Don't now start acting like you were bought. Say that you thought you were given a gift which means you don't owe them anything.

This doesn't apply to inappropriately large gifts that you know in your gut is an attempt to buy you. Don't play that game in your mind. When a girl goes on one or two dates with a guy and he suddenly presents her with a new car...that is not a gift. That is purchasing stock options to buy her in the future. The woman accepts that inappropriately large gift knowing she is allowing that man to think he has bought some level of obligation from her. The woman with self-respect and a handle on her greed will adamantly refuse the "gift" and then abruptly end the relationship because she knows this man has chosen to misread her character. He thinks she is greedy. He thinks she is willing to pretend to be in love with him in light of his large check book and willingness to spend its contents on her. She will be insulted by his decision to see her as nothing more than a whore.

It is a rare time when you don't know in your gut that there is a price tag attached to a "gift". For that rare exception when you take what you thought was a gift only to find out later that it wasn't really a gift you don't have to surrender on the spot. Proceed on your original assumption. Behave as if you believe now as then that it was a gift. If the intention was to manipulate you with that gift, believe me, you'll be seeing the last of that person's "generosity" if you don't allow their "gift" to become a Trojan horse right into your life. They'll likely go trolling for much more lucrative pay-outs for their future "gifts" with some other poor soul.

Again, don't go telling yourself you didn't realize there was a price tag when you knew in your gut that there was. That is a mental game you play to keep yourself from admitting that you just whored yourself out for bauble or stack of cash. Let's consider the oldest profession for a moment. A prostitute offers her body in an act that simulates emotional as well as physical intimacy . For a short time and the right price she is willing to act like she feels affection for the dude with the cash. He hands her the money, he expects her to act a certain way with him. He expects her to simulate a relationship, an intimacy, that doesn't really exist. If she accepts his offer do you really think she can get away with now withholding her body and behaving like she is disgusted by him? No way. They both know he isn't giving her a gift. It is a deal. A transaction. An exchange of goods for services rendered. If she accepts his money, she also accepts that for a determined length of time she will behave like a woman in love.

There is very little difference in my mind between the whore and those who will accept the cash or gifts from a narcissist knowing they will have to simulate a relationship, a closeness, that they don't want or feel. Far too often have I heard ACONs justify staying in a relationship they feel is loathsome because they want the goodies. "After all I've been through, it is the least they can give me" is the reference to a future inheritance that they are already banking on. So sure are they that the lying, cheating and malevolent narcissist will actually give them them cash at the end, the ACON is willing to give up their freedom and autonomy in the present with this vague hope of future reward that is by no means guaranteed. You might be able to convince yourself that the cash is as good as yours, but if that was the case, then it wouldn't be dependent on you behaving in just the way the narcissist demands for its surety. You know that the "gift" of inheritance is by no means guaranteed...which is why you continue to dance the dance with the narcissist parent. The whore is smarter. At least she doesn't do what she does with the hope that eventually, someday when the bastard dies, she'll get her payment.

My position on gifts is that you can only be bought with them by your consent. It is a manipulation tactic that can only work with your knowing cooperation. The gift giving manipulation exploits your character weakness. At best, it is a form of prostitution. At worst, it is a form of slavery that you sell yourself into. I have little sympathy with people who decide to sell themselves and their families for the "security" of Mommy or Daddy's money. If you choose to stay in the crucible because the lure of money to your soul is irresistible then there is nothing I can do for you. You've made your bed. Only you can choose to get out of the bed and take possession of your own life.

Maria, I have been speaking generally of my thoughts on gift-giving manipulation tactics, and not to your specific situation. More specifically, I commend you and your sister for wising up and realizing how your mother has been using divide and conquer with you two, as well as seeing your mother's gift-giving as just a form of manipulation. Obviously, the spell is broken for you. Hold your ground. Your mother is unlikely to give up on trying to use gifts to buy you in some way. You're just going to have to draw a line and then hold it. There is nothing else to be done short of going completely no contact. Narcissists don't learn. They are extremely unlikely to reform their behavior. They will only appear to do so if they are forced to by someone with a backbone. But they will never stop believing that at some point they can wear you down. This is why I always go back to recommending no contact. The war is never over with narcissists. Life with them is a perpetual series of battles. Every interaction is some kind of chess game move in their minds. Power plays are constant. To my thinking, life is too short to be constantly distracted and my energies drained by this undeclared yet unremitting war. My only advice to you is make your policy on gifts clear and then hold the line without apology or equivocation.

In conclusion and in general, no one can buy you with gifts unless you're greedy or unless you are unwilling to be self reliant. Know yourself. Take responsibility. If you are bought and paid for then there is no one to blame but you. Admit that you're engaged in the "oldest profession" and stop complaining. I'm not the only one who sees the deal you've made. Others see your choice to stick with the old monster for the cash or trinkets and have lost a great deal of respect for you. If you don't respect yourself more than that...why should we?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pity Party

She just behaved very badly. She had fought to get her way on something, but because she wasn't able to get her way, she had an adult version of a huge temper tantrum. Unfortunately for her she had a witness to the scene...a witness not entirely under her power. She is in a jam because this person's opinion of her matters to her a great deal. Her usual tactic of having a rage just won't work in this situation. She must do something much more artful.

This situation calls for the full on wounded act. She gets her target alone with just her. Her voice quavers. She takes on the look of complete defeat. Copious tears. Sighing and crying she is angling for her target to agree with her that she has been treated unjustly. She is making a play for the heart. A calculated grab for pity. While explaining how unjust the treatment of her was she looks tiny, pathetic, broken. She pretends to feel badly for the small little thing she did wrong while exaggerating and lying about how the other person reacted and treated her. The target feels their heart being wrenched in their chest with the desire to comfort her even while they logically know that they just saw her being a complete spoiled brat and a bully. The target starts to feel confused by these conflicting realities. The desire to comfort the pitiable creature standing in from of them is overwhelmingly compelling.

You've been invited to the Pity Party. Your host tonight: the conscience-impaired. (In this story, my mother.)

I'm about half way through the book, "The Sociopath Next Door", by Martha Stout, Ph.D.

"How can I tell whom not to trust?" is a question Ms. Stout has often fielded from her patients. She asserts that one of the best clues that you may be dealing with someone who has an impaired or absence conscience is the pity play:

"...the best clue is, of all things, the pity play. The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy...More than admiration--more even than fear--pity from good people is carte blanche. When we pity, we are, at least for the moment, defenseless..."

You know this is true. How many times in the movies has this tactic been used by the evil villain? Innumerable. We are screaming at our TV screens, "Don't fall for that!!" as we see the camouflaged evil villain lure in the good guy by appealing to the good guy's intact heart and conscience with a convincing act of being wounded, pitiable, defenseless. If the good guy believes the act, he is the one rendered defenseless. This allows the bad guy to kill him or make an escape. This scene happens over and over again in movies because we all recognize it to be a common tactic of evil people, and we all recognize the good guy's vulnerability to such a tactic. His decency is what sets him up for the fall. We find ourselves wishing that the good guy could be just a little less decent for a moment so he can avoid what we can see is coming...his annihilation.

Do we have to lose our decency to insure we don't fall for such a ruse? No, I don't think so. We just need to pay attention. Don't assume that anyone who seems pathetic and pitiable is automatically going to deserve your compassion or pity. Remember that giving sympathy to evil doers is no virtue. If you want your compassion to be virtuous be sure to give it to the truly deserving.

Stout gives us some guidance on how to decide who is trustworthy and who is deserving of your compassion:

"When deciding whom to trust, bear in mind that the combination of consistently bad or egregiously inadequate behavior with frequent plays for your pity is as close to a warning mark on a conscienceless person's forehead as you will ever be given."

"I am sure that if the devil existed, he would want us to feel very sorry for him."
The Sociopath Next Door, pg. 109.

The devil does exist. Boot his or her sorry ass out of your life.

[icon by scarymime]

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Let's take a look at the manipulative narcissist's favorite tool, the Guilt Trip. We've looked before at some of the sneaky and covert manipulation tactics of aggressive personalities. Malignant narcissist's are usually of the covert-aggressive sort. Sneaky fighters. Lying and underhanded SOBs. Frakking...Oops...getting carried away here...

You must keep forever in the forefront of your mind that when you are dealing with a character-disordered individual (which includes narcissists as well as many other screwed up types) that they have a very different conscience from you. The reason you must remember this fact is because the manipulator never forgets it. They are deliberately using your conscience against you when they use the Guilt Trip. They are keenly aware that you possess a sound conscience. If you try to do the same to them; if you try to convince them of their guilt in something, you find that the Guilt Trip does not work on them. This is because their conscience is a very different thing than your conscience. The character-disordered conscience is blighted, twisted, perverted, malfunctioning on every level. They can not be manipulated by you with the Guilt Trip. An effective Guilt Trip is only achieved on a sensitive conscience. The covertly aggressive character-disordered person is unencumbered by such a thing.

The manipulator knows that a fully functioning conscience has the ability to register guilt and shame. The more conscientious you are, the more effective the Guilt Trip can be on you. I have said this before, I'll say it again: the malignant narcissist uses your own conscience against you. It is a handle on your heart that they can grab at will if you don't know enough to stop them.

You should not try to erase your own sound conscience in order to remove the handle. That would be destructive to your decency as a human being as well as well-nigh impossible to do. There has to be another way. And there is. You need to be informed, which is what I'm doing right now. Armed with the knowledge that the sneaky fighter is capable of using your own conscience against you, you are able to better recognize when it is happening and run a manual over-drive on yourself when you recognize someone is using you against yourself.

The manipulator tells you that you are selfish, that you are not caring enough, that you are hurting their feelings...and you find yourself high-centered on a big old boulder. Keeee-runch. Suddenly you feel horrible about yourself and are scrambling to apologize, make amends, soothe the manipulator's "hurt" feelings. You feel like a cad, and they walk away with whatever prize they were aiming for.

Pay attention to the interaction. When you suddenly find yourself being sent on the Guilt Trip train to surrender, pull the brakes. Don't let some lying and under-handed manipulator fight by using you against you. There is something quite unseemly about a conscienceless creep using your fully operational conscience to further their selfish ends. Don't be a patsy. Don't roll at the first intimation that you are too mean, too selfish, too uncaring. Know the truth about yourself even when someone is lying to you about you.

Hurting someones feelings in the process of defending truth and principle is not a crime. Some people deserve to have their feelings hurt. Don't fall victim to the "cult of nice". Narcissists have taken full advantage of the now endemic belief that hurting someones feelings is a sin. If the truth hurts someones feelings, so be it. Too often people are unwilling to stick to and defend truth because someone may be offended by it. This is only advantageous to the covert and overt criminal. Society, churches, families are not benefited in the long-run by the evasion of truth for the sake of someones feelings. It is this reflexive aversion on the part of decent people that so often lets evil run unchecked.

The truth is, the "hurt feelings" are a ruse when used by the character-disordered. Malignant narcissists are not experiencing hurt feelings...they are simply angry and annoyed at not getting their way. Know the difference between someone who has a legitimate claim to hurt feelings and someone who is just pissed off because they want what they want. The two are worlds apart. Getting hurt feelings for not getting your way is equivalent to a two-year old child throwing a tantrum simply because he wants what he wants. Let's not make it more than that.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Is it Wrong to Hate?

Preamble: if you don't consider yourself a Christian, please read on...there's stuff in this post for you too.

A question was brought up in the comments for my 12.24.07 post as it relates to Christians, "isn't it wrong to hate?"

If it is wrong to hate then God is a sinner.

The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. Psalm. 5:5

The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. Psalm 11:5

You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. Psalm 45:7 (This passage is quoted in Hebrews and is attributed to words God Himself speaks to His Son.)

There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him... Prov. 6:16

Obviously, the Christian must acknowledge that hatred in and of itself is not sin otherwise they make their God into a sinner. A sampling of some of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament reveal that righteous men must hate certain things if they are truly righteous:

I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the LORD. Ps. 31:6

Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Ps. 97:10

I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Ps. 119:104

I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. Ps. 119:113

...and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path. Ps. 119:128

I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law. Ps. 119:163

Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? Ps. 139:21

To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Prov. 8:13

The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked bring shame and disgrace. Prov. 13:5

What you hate is an indicator of what you love. If you love truth, you will hate lies. If you love righteousness, you will hate evil. If you love God, you will hate the works of the devil.

Conversely, if you love lies, you'll hate truth. If you love darkness, you'll hate light. If you love wicked deeds, you'll hate those who live uprightly. Because of the polarization of Good vs. Evil you can't get through life without hating something. To truly say you hate nothing is to admit you are completely unprincipled. To hate nothing also means you love nothing. Christians shouldn't be so quick to pretend there is nothing in this world worth hatred. To someone with their brain turned on these Holy Joes only expose themselves to be a liar, a hypocrite or absolutely unprincipled. Or all of the above.

It is a false righteousness to pretend that you don't hate anyone or anything. These pretenders won't even use the word hate itself in conversation and will chastise you for doing so. They prove themselves to not be disciples of the God they claim to follow by this pretense at perfect equanimity. God is Biblically defined as the personification of the principle of love. "God is love". This is why God hates evil. "All who hate me love death" Prov. 8:36. He hates evil because it brings in destruction and death. God's people, if they are truly participating in His mindset and spirit will also hate evil. They won't be afraid to openly state that fact either. They won't pretend there isn't something out there worthy of hatred.

What you do with your hatred is where sin may come in. Hatred is not justification to do wrong. Psalm 4:4, "In your anger do not sin" gives a guiding principle. Anger is also not a sin. If we define all anger as being sinful then, again, we condemn our own God to be a sinner. What you do with anger or hatred can be sin if you use your anger or hatred to justify doing a wrong.

This is where Christians seem to get tangled up far too often. They too easily and quickly condemn negative feelings. Feelings are not something we can necessarily control. In both the spiritual and the tangible realm, we are held accountable for what we do. How you feel should not be the sole dictator of what you do. You are supposed to apply reason and self-control to your deeds because this is where the accountability comes in. You get to choose how to act despite how you feel. Or according to how you feel. It is reason guided by principle which a self-controlled individual will use to determine their actions. Your feelings may or may not line up with principled reason. It would be wise to put feelings in their proper place. What would that place be?

We need to think of feelings as simply a barometer. Bad feelings are telling us that something is wrong. Something is wrong in our environment, in someone else, or in ourselves. Those bad feelings motivate us to examine the situation in order to rectify what we are doing, or to recognize what someone else is doing and determine whether or not it is time to remove ourselves from the situation or person. Bad feelings do not mean we are automatically bad for having them! Bad feelings are information. Use them for that. Use your anger or hatred to motivate you to make a bad situation better. Not to justify doing wrong.

The Bible consistently condemns behaviors. I do not see the Bible condemning feelings. As Christians, we would do well to not condemn feelings either. Be they found in ourselves or in others. What determines our characters are our choices. We can choose to do right even if we are having to battle through difficult feelings in the process. That ability is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

I'm not going to go into the "hate the sin, love the sinner" thing because it is too cliche' and is too often used to apply misplaced compassion onto perps, to keep people feeling obliged to stay in relationships with evil people, to excuse sins, or simply to sound righteous. In principle I agree with the statement. But we very often fail in the application. I do agree that the more we are able to separate out what we hate from the person themselves, the easier it is to not make our hatred about personalities and make it about principles. This helps us to stay on the right track in our actions. It helps us refrain from vengeance. Separating yourself from an evil narcissist is not vengeance. Be sure you know that. Holding evil people accountable for their actions is not vengeance. Know that too.

I know that I have written yet another post addressing Christians. I think that what I've said can be helpful for anyone though. Good people of whatever persuasion all seem to get pretzeled up into similar knots over these issues. Good people worry about having bad feelings toward others. Good people are concerned about doing right by others and so question themselves more than they question the evil doer. Good people can get befuddled over whether or not their anger is justified and/or evil in itself. So I hope if you aren't a Christian you still see there are useful truths that apply no matter your religion.

Feelings in themselves are morally neutral. What you do with them is where morality or immorality comes into play.

In the same comment this question was also posited:

What is it about Christians being so afraid to register legitimate anger and hatred in general...?

I suspect the answer to this may be complicated, so I won't try to address this at length. A problem I do see is that much of Christianity has substituted the real Gospel with a social "gospel of nice". This false gospel is mostly fueled and propagated by pop psychology. It is psychology which has placed far too much importance and emphasis on feelings to the exclusion of examination of character and the power of personal choice and responsibility. Suddenly, everyone else is now held responsible for an individual's feelings. The new "sin" of our age is when we "hurt" someone else's feelings. With this new commandment everyone is able to lay claim to victim hood while avoiding being held accountable for their own behaviors.

Pop psychology is being blamed by more astute observers for the rise of narcissism in our country. I think they are onto something. Pop psychology has also corrupted Christian thought. Other thoughtful and well-educated people in the field of psychology have called psychology a religion. In many ways it is a religion that is antithetical to Christianity. Attempts to meld the two only robs Christianity of its power to change lives.

...keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen. 1 Tim. 6:20-21 KJV

Friday, January 04, 2008

But Wait, There's More!

Before I close the chapter on the oaf from eHarmony (my daughter's descriptor), I will share the closing dialog between my daughter and M. (Part one is here.) This, I admit, is for entertainment value. I also think it will buttress my assessment of this guy's character. I've got some words "out of the horse's mouth" that you can use to decide whether or not I've been fair in my judgment. I don't want to give the impression that I see a narcissist behind every bush. I don't. I am not cynical in my treatment of people. I start out with the expectation that a person is likely to be basically decent. I have simply learned to acknowledge to myself the truth when basic decency is missing. I won't pretend something is there when it ain't. Thankfully, neither will my daughter! I don't know if this guy is a malignant narcissist, but there is no doubt he has a plethora of narcissistic behaviors and is narcissistically defended. There were enough red flag behaviors to know he is likely to be character-disordered.

I think I'll call this guy Shrek for the duration. He was very large (6'2") and significantly overweight. Bad haircut, unkempt beard. Badly dressed. Socially awkward in the extreme, at first. Bad table manners, messy toilet manners (ugh! pee splatter and leaves the seat and lid up). He would fart openly in front of all of us. He washed his hands by waving them under the water sans soap and wipe his hands on his less-than-clean jeans. (We lost our appetite for the homemade Christmas cookies he brought after seeing that act.) He would not-so-surreptitiously scratch his balls when just he and my daughter were in the room together. How am I not describing a large ogre? Please note that the above qualities and behaviors are not something my daughter would be able to pick up in phone calls or emails.

My daughter thought Shrek needed an explanation for why she cut off the visit so on Tuesday she sent him this email:


You might be wondering why I chose to end our relationship and cut the visit short. You deserve an explanation.

First, I want to thank you again for taking the time and expense to visit me. I learned more in a few hours than I had in weeks of phone conversations. I had high hopes for our visit but there are some fundamental differences between us that make a relationship impossible.

The primary reason is this: You never showed any gratitude to my mom or dad for their efforts to make you welcome and comfortable in their home. You might feel that I was somehow in your debt because of the investment you made to make the trip. I would disagree but I won't argue that point. My parents, however, were under no obligation to feed or entertain you. They invested many hours trying to get to know you and make you feel welcome in our home. They were not "grilling" you but asking general questions that would allow you to talk about yourself (something most people enjoy). Our offers of hospitality were always met with noncommittal answers and never a "thank you." Not one. There are certain qualities I am looking for in a mate. A grateful attitude is near the top of the list.

The second reason is that one can only assume you were on your best behavior on this visit as is the case when people first meet. If this was your best behavior then that leaves me no choice but to end things now. I would not be able to handle worse. I saw many other indications in other behaviors that you would not be a person I could make a life with. You were impatient with me within hours of the beginning of our visit. If you could show impatience so early in our visit then I am left to assume it would only become much worse as you felt more comfortable being yourself around me.

Finally, you only made one definite decision the entire visit, what movie and where for our date on Thursday night. The rest of the time you showed an unwillingness to commit to anything. The reason really doesn't matter. I need a man who is willing to show more leadership than I am because I'm not interested in being an overbearing wife.

By Friday I had come to the realization that we were not a match. Perhaps I should have come right out at that point and told you but I didn't want to leave you stranded and alone in a strange city so I chose to withdraw while remaining courteous and kind. By Saturday I realized that you didn't notice my change of attitude and I was giving you false hope. I thought it was kinder to just end the visit.

I wish you well and I hope you find the wife you deserve.

God Bless.


Much to my surprise, Shrek responded. Given his extreme passivity I wasn't sure he had the cajones to reply. Before I post his response I want to mention the "grilling" my daughter quoted above. She was quoting Shrek. My husband heard a vast silence down in the living room where my daughter was trapped with Shrek on day one of the visit. So he came downstairs and tried to make conversation. Hubby did the usual thing you do to try to draw people out. He asked questions about Shrek. Nothing private or considered "personal". When Shrek was out on the one date he took my daughter on that first night he said something about how her parents had finished "grilling me". Grilling??? We were simply trying to ease the conversation and give him a subject to talk about that he could feel comfortable with. Himself. Our questions were polite, not invasive. The "grilling" comment was an early indication to my daughter that she was dealing with an asshole. She was there for the "grilling" and therefore knew there was no way to fairly characterize our attempts to help him feel comfortable with such a word.

Shrek answered with:


I did not feel that anyone was indebted too me, that is a petty kind of
attitude. I was extremely emotionally drained from the effort of actually flying out to meet you and your parent's at the same time. I was only beginning to feel comfortable in your house on Saturday (the deer in the headlights effect if you will). My initial reaction to meeting you was very positive so that further put me into a strange emotional state. With all that going on my ability to be assertive and make decisions dropped to almost nil. I am not always good at expressing my emotions, gratitude included.

So in summary I would say I was not at my best, making decisions about
what to do in someone else home without any emotional energy is just not going to happen for me. As for your second point I cannot honestly say how much of it would be from my state versus character. For gratitude in general I would agree it is not one of my strongest points. It is not that I am ungrateful I just do not always remember to be grateful. I do appreciate the effort your parent's went to. Even more that you took the time to explain what was going on. I'm sorry if my behavior seemed sub-par, it probably was. I doubt this explanation of my state will change anything and I do not even know if it should.

So Shrek went into some kind of fugue state upon meeting my beautiful daughter. Notice how it is all about him. His extreme exhaustion (bull shit, by the way), his shyness. He tries to explain away his lack of gratitude. How bright can a guy be that says, "It is not that I am ungrateful I just do not always remember to be grateful." WTF? Notice the adornment of his lame-assed attempt at an apology with modifiers. "I'm sorry if my behavior seemed sub-par, it probably was." Notice the minimization of his bad behavior. Notice how he again makes a point of the great effort it took for him to fly out to see my daughter. He maximizes his effort in order to minimize all of ours. He accuses her of having petty kind of attitude in his first sentence as he rebukes her for accusing him of ingratitude, yet the rest of the email he tries to justify his lack of gratitude showing that he knows she was right but can't graciously grant her point. Graciousness. Something he hasn't an ounce of.

Then, the real interesting little twist, I thought, was how he showed he is still hopeful there is some possibility my daughter is stupid enough to accept his explanation and continue the relationship!! "I doubt this explanation of my state will change anything..." then he follows up with a statement that shows how he always tries to play the safe "middle", "...and I do not even know if it should." Once again, he won't make a decision. He won't commit to an idea. We saw this played out dozens of times in the course of the visit. He does show that he is open to the possibility that she may change her mind about him even though her email showed she has no intention of pursuing a relationship with him.

He has no idea that the day he admits to feeling more comfortable, Saturday, was the day he finished stomping on her gag reflex. Saturday was the day that removed all doubt he is a totally self-centered, arrogant and gross-out sonofabitch. He is trying to excuse his behavior based on his being shy; he is clueless that his shyness was the only thing that could possible hide the deficiencies of his character. The more relaxed he got, the more comfortable to "be himself", the more he showed us what his earlier behaviors had caused us to suspect. He removed all doubt after becoming more relaxed. He would pass off his flaws on his shyness. It is how he gives himself a pass for being a total jerk in social situations.

I told my daughter that he indicated in this email that he was still holding out that there was something to salvage and that she would consent to continue the relationship. She needed to get even more definitive that it was over. So she sent this Wednesday:

The sole purpose of my email to you was to give a final explanation of my decision to end the relationship. I was not looking for any explanations or apologies from you. Neither is necessary because I'm not interested in working things out in order to pursue the relationship further. Your explanation of your behavior only confirmed to me that what I saw is your character. The best glimpse of a person's character is under pressure rather than when most comfortable, so I see that who you are and how you acted when flustered is who you really are. This may seem harsh and judgmental to you but it would be truly cruel of me to leave you in any doubt, with any hope, that you have a chance. I'm looking for someone who I can love as he already is and who can love me for who I already am because I'm not looking to "raise a husband" or to be raised. I believe that God is in control and have no doubt that He will lead us both to the ones who are truly right for us.

She is a sweet girl. She didn't try to slice and dice this guy. She could have decimated him verbally with the truth of how exposed he is. I admire her restraint.

There ya have it. The final page on the chapter of Shrek. Dumb as a stump and completely out of his league. A parasitic life form who was unable to attach to a host. Thankfully.

[icons by lunglock]

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"Life is Like a Box of Chocolates"

I intended to take a nice little break from thinking about narcissism between Christmas and New Years Day. Instead, I ended up with one in my living room for three days.

How does this happen? eHarmony. I'm not blaming eHarmony; it isn't their fault. It serves as an explanation. My daughter met a young man who is her age, same religious background, same political views, similar hobbies and interests about six months ago. I could tell he wasn't lightin' her fire, but she was hanging in there because, on paper, it seemed like they should work. They exchanged emails for awhile, then they started talking on the phone once or twice a week. He leads his profile with the fact that he is an introvert. My daughter is a little introverted herself, so she didn't have a problem with that although, at first, the phone conversations were filled with many silences. It improved as he became more comfortable talking about what interested him. He never showed much interest in my daughter's state of mind or her inner life. An early sign of what was to come.

He told her right after Thanksgiving that he wanted to come visit her during his vacation between Christmas and New Years. She asked my husband and me if it was okay since it is our home. We agreed. This young man lives a few states away so he flew into town. He showed up at our door bright and early on Thursday morning, Dec. 27. His intention was to stay until his Sunday evening flight out. By the way, I stipulated that he get a motel room. It ended up being the only way to get him out of our house. He came and camped on our couch from morning 'til night and wouldn't leave until he was told we were going to bed.

I will not torture you as I was tortured with the interminable visit. My poor daughter confessed she knew he was not going to work out after the first hour of the visit. I have to say, I had my doubts within minutes of meeting him. Not knowing yet my daughter's reaction, I tried to stay optimistic. Optimism died and assumed room temperature before the second day was over.

What we ended up with was a covert narcissist. A cerebral covert narcissist. I haven't as much experience with that type of narcissist with the exception of my first husband, minus the cerebral part. A quote from my daughter, "They say that girls often marry someone like their father; well, if I married M, I would be marrying my biological father." My mouth fell open. I had seen that fact and had talked about it privately with my husband the night before. She obviously saw it too. The similarities were stunning. Guess I shouldn't have been surprised she saw the similarities, it is just that I hardly ever think about the man who occupied only a few years of my early adult life. He was in my daughter's life even less. Apparently, though, she spent enough time with her bio dad to get a real bead on his character.

Not all narcissistically driven people are charming or glib. It is possible for a narcissistic individual to be shy and lacking in social graces. They are shy when they are not in surroundings which cater to their grand sense of themselves. This young man flatters himself on being cerebral, but the evidence of three intensive days of contact revealed that he isn't nearly as smart as he thinks he is. He has very little sense of humor. No wit whatsoever. My daughter had noted his lack of humor very early on, but decided to overlook it. (She is quite a wit herself.) My husband is very well educated and holds degrees. This is what proves to this young man that someone may be smart. (Which leaves me and my daughter out!) Nevertheless, on the first day he treated both my husband and myself more like peers (we are only about five years younger than his parents) and was very competitive in the conversations. The old one-up kind of thing where no matter what you say, he can do you one better. We didn't play the game. It became apparent to this clod that my husband is very intelligent and so M stopped being competitive and was less condescending.

In the early part of the book, "The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists", the author talks about overt and covert narcissists. She states that no matter how they differ in presentation the basic dynamics of the disorder are identical. Time and a deepening of a relationship with a covert narcissist is what eventually reveals the pathology. Thankfully, this young man's narcissism was very apparent to us quite early on. The third day was when M started feeling much more comfortable in our home. The more he relaxed, the more we could see the pathology of his soul.

Eleanor Payson, the author of the above mentioned book, has a list in her chapter two summary. It is a list of the key characteristics of the narcissistic personality. Under the "Excessively" category she lists, "Demonstrates a grandiose sense of entitlement--a hallmark!" Emphasis hers. This, my friends, was the most early and obvious demonstration of the narcissism of this young man. I have never, and I mean never, had such a rude and ungrateful person in my home. Even my mother could simulate a veneer of gratitude from time to time. This young man could not thank anyone for anything...and didn't...not even once. He received our warm hospitality as if it was his due. As I brought him beverages or snacks he would avoid any eye contact and would act like I wasn't there.

He is vegetarian. He knows we are not. Yet I made a very nice vegetarian meal for him. (I used to be vegetarian so I am a good vegetarian cook.) Not one acknowledgment of my effort. Not one thank you. It was stunning. I was under no obligation to feed this guy or to entertain him. He was supposedly here to court my daughter. He sat like a lump and would not initiate anything. He made one decision during the whole visit. The rest of the time it was up to us to try to divine what to do to entertain him. It was apparent that he felt he did all the effort by getting on an airplane to come visit our daughter. Everything else was his due. Nothing we did was ever going to be more than what he did, in his thinking. To say his visit was exhausting for the three of us is an understatement. He drained us all dry.

Some of the biggest red flag behaviors were: Lack of gratitude. Inability to apologize (he did something to my daughter he should have apologized for when it became clear he had screwed up. Nothing. He acted like it didn't happen.) Impatient. (He became impatient with my daughter on the first day when she irritated him by asking him how he liked his sandwich made!! She was having a hard time divining his desires because he couldn't give her a direct, straight answer to her questions.) Passive, but only as a way to avoid any responsibility for the outcome. Juvenile behavior in his attempt to initiate physical contact with my daughter, i.e. poking her in the ribs or throwing decorative pillows at her face. Arrogance in his religiosity. He thinks himself to be spiritually superior to all of us (not eating meat is one area he feels makes him superior. Interesting, he is fat, we are not. Yet he is still superior to us in diet.) When it became apparent my husband and I know our Bible much better than he does, he became completely passive again during a conversation on religious topics. He started out feisty and challenging. Ended up sitting there like a lump when he realized he wasn't going to be able to force us to take his point of view since he couldn't Biblically prove his point of view.

My daughter put us all out of our misery on Sunday morning. That was going to be his last day of the visit. She couldn't endure another moment of him, so she called him at his motel room and told him that she appreciated that he made the effort to come see her because it has made many things clear...we are not a match. The visit is over. He was very passive, as he had been the whole visit, and simply said, "okay". He got to spend the day all by himself. And we reclaimed a day of our weekend. There was much jubilation. As far as internet dating goes, you can learn more in one hour face-to-face than in months of phone calls and emails. No gettin' around that fact.

I could sit here and outline the many other things he unknowingly revealed about his character while he was here, but I doubt it would be helpful for anyone. Every creep has his own unique mixture of qualities. So I won't bother to paint a full picture of his special blend of jerk, oaf and asshole characteristics. Besides that, he was overwhelmingly boring. There is no need to bore you the way we were forced to be bored for three full days. I will take mercy on my readers. This post is to serve as an explanation for my absence on my blog and an interesting little twist on how life can serve up a narcissist when you least expect one.

[Icon by scarymime]