I suspect many a woman who's dealing with a partner suffering from narcissism and addictions (and who's likely abusive in more subtle ways, too) keeps thinking that some day, things are going to change for the better. Except why do women think this way? Really, how can we live with these men for years, observing them behaving so differently from what we likely experienced in the early days of the relationship, and still hold out so much hope? (Oh yes, ladies, I have been there, too.)
But My Addicted Narcissist is Still Successful!
I suspect that some cling to hope because their narcissistic partners are nonetheless successful business executives, professionals, or business owners. These narcissistic men, perhaps because they are willing to do essentially whatever it takes to be successful, and because they likely want to be admired and envied for their success, often provide their families with very nice lifestyles. In fact, people who've never seen behind the closed doors of the houses such narcissist own might well envy the occupants these beautiful structures sitting atop equally beautifully landscaped land, their luxury cars, the designer clothes, the fine jewelry, and the many exotic trips these families can afford to take. But then, if these people interact with the narcissist professionally, for example, they might find him quite charming. And they may also sing his praises because of the quality of the services they've received from him. So why wouldn't they believe in the well-crafted image of the narcissist?
If you're the spouse of such a successful and admired narcissist, it can be hard to keep believing that how you're perceiving your reality is an accurate read when everyone else is proclaiming you to be so fortunate to have such a wonderful spouse and getting to enjoy such a lovely lifestyle. Of course, at the same time your narcissistic husband or partner is likely telling you the same thing while adding some choice phrases to condemn you for being so ungrateful for all he has given you. Well, and he might be happy to tell you that others would be thrilled to take your place.
Yes, it can sometimes be difficult to not question you're own sanity. You can also convince yourself that perhaps you really should be grateful after all. Yes indeed, you tell yourself, all of these material things should be quite enough because you're living the American Dream. How many are fortunate enough to do that?
You find yourself thinking about things some more. As others have suggested, there is so much good about this man you certainly once loved and, for that matter, really still do loved. No, you really don't want to believe thing are hopeless. So, if you focus just a little harder on doing what he wants or asks, perhaps he'll experience a newfound appreciation for you and things will get better?
Indeed, it's often easy to convince yourself that he'll somehow change because you remember the earlier days when he was likely charming and attentive to you. In fact, he might have even bent over backwards to please you. Well, for that matter, he occasionally still does--or at least he stops being so unreasonable that life can almost feel normal again.
The Emotional Roller Coaster Ride of Life with the Addicted Narcissist
My spouse continued to be able to function professionally. Furthermore, I suspect most had no idea as to what my life had become. But in truth, I wondered how much longer I'd be capable of functioning. In my husband's presence, for example, I could barely speak a complete sentence. I would start to say something and then just let my thought evaporate into thin air. Perhaps my brain had decided it was pointless to complete an idea since my verbally abusive husband either wasn't listening, or he was going to attack what I'd just said and make me wrong, so really, what was the point?
Perhaps the sense of my own slow demise shouldn't have surprised me, though. A few years earlier, a statement a psychiatrist associated with a respected private psychiatric hospital in the city had truly caught my attention and reminded me of something I'd known, but tended to forget. And what was that remark? Well, hat that their beds were full of people who'd been victimized by others who were oblivious to how their behaviors had impacted those in their orbit. Needless to say, most of the perpetrators of these destructive acts went merrily on with their lives while their victims suffered life-shattering repercussions from which they might not ever fully recover.
With regard to my own marriage, I would come to the point where I truly believed I just couldn't take it anymore. Yes, I simply had to leave. Then , just when I was finally mentally ready to start down that pathway, my husband would calm down again. He'd stop being verbally or emotionally abusive. He'd not fly into ages about things insignificant.
Now, sitting in the midst of peaceful times, I'd tell myself that things really weren't that bad after all. And really, did I want to give up all I had and start over by myself when he was being reasonable? Besides, I did love him. Furthermore, I wanted to believe in this nicer side of him. I wanted to believe it would ultimately be the victor, or it would push that less desirable side of him into the background where it would remain in a deep slumber.
Thinking thusly, I would decide to stay.
I failed to realize that my spouse, because of his unhealthy level of narcissism, was quite happy with himself just the way he was. No, he wasn't bothered by his Mr. Hyde side. In fact, could he be vacillating back and forth between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde intentionally to keep me hooked into the marriage and striving to please him no matter what the repercussions might be to my own mental health? Truthfully, I didn't suspect this at the time, but later, when I could look back at what had transpired without the pain and fear of those times, I came to suspect this might have been the case.
Needless to say, things would swing back into that negative territory again where my emotional pain became so extreme I'd contemplate leaving again. And invariably, just when I was ready to take this action once again, things would seem to become normal. Hope was renewed. I could stay. I didn't have to test myself and see if I yet had the resilience to start my life over.
And why wouldn't I question if, should the day arrive when I finally knew I absolutely had to take this action, I'd be able to do so? I See, I'd come to realize that with each of these cycles I endured, I felt more and more beaten down. As a result, I finally came to fear that if I remained with him, the day might arrive when, despite knowing I absolutely needed to leave him for me own well-being, I might not be able to muster the energy to do so.
Fortunately, I finally faced up to the fact that most men suffering from narcissism, men who are often abusive in non-physical ways but nonetheless abusive, and where those abusive ways are exacerbated by the narcissist's abuse of substances, the likelihood of lasting change is slim. Sadly, even if he goes into treatment and gets sober, relapse is so common. In fact, you might say relapse is the norm, not the exception.
Actually, my spouse did get sober before I left. See, finally orchestrated things so that he elected to go into treatment. However, when he returned, despite the fact I'd probably saved his life by taking the actions I did (I'm not just saying this, but repeating what his therapist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester told me), he continued to be critical and verbally abusive. Not surprisingly, I found this difficult to take after all I'd been through on his behalf. (Things got so bad before he went into treatment that I had friends who believed each time they saw me that this might well be our last visit together. Yes, several of them believed I'd be killed in a murder-suicide. Luckily, it did not come to that.)
I decided I didn't want to live this way--always watching him and waiting for that shoe to drop. For that matter, I figured he didn't need a spouse who didn't believe in his ability to remain sober, either. It would be better if he could find someone who could believe in him and support his recovery--someone who hadn't been dragged through all that I had (which he didn't remember).
What Choices Will You Make about your Narcissist and his Addictions?
I chose to file for divorce about five months after my husband returned from approximately three-and-a-half months of in-patient treatment. You must make your own decision regarding what you want to do about your relationship impacted by narcissism, addictions, and abuse. Of course, I'd recommend that you don't do this alone. I'd suggest you seek out a psychotherapist to both support and guide you. If you're inclined to believe that you don't need this, let me say that despite being a therapist, I nonetheless chose to work with one before I left my husband. Then, after making my departure from this marriage, I chose to see another therapist who helped me to remain committed to my decision. (My spouse did encourage me to drop the divorce proceedings and give the marriage another chance.) So indeed, I truly believe in the vale of having a therapist at a time like this (as well as a great attorney).
Having said what I have, let me further explain something about men exhibiting narcissism. It's true that at one time, the psychiatric community thought that people suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder were incapable of change. Now, some of the top psychiatrists who deal with personality disorders will tell you differently, or they profess these men can be helped by therapy. But what you must understand is that most of them won't elect to go into therapy.
Why is this the case? Well, I suspect that they don't have the same impetus to change as so many of us women do. We so many times decide to pursue therapy and make changes in our lives because the level of emotional pain we're experiencing is just too severe, too debilitating. Narcissistic men typically don't come to experience this same level of emotional pain.
Let me reiterate again that without help--and I mean often years of ongoing therapeutic help, not a few therapy sessions--the man exhibiting narcissism, addictions, and abuse is unlikely to change and become that warm, loving, and supportive man you desire and likely thought you'd married. Sure, I know this isn't what you want to hear. However, I'm going to say it flat out because I believe it is in your best interest to start facing up to the probable truth of your situation. This way, you can make better choices in your own best interest. And frankly, you are deserving of being number one on your priority list no matter what your husband or partner might tell you. Can you believe that? I certainly hope so.