I've included the painting of a famous narcissist, Don Juan. He may have a reputation for being good with the ladies, however he was NOT someone capable of carrying on a deep interpersonal relationship. Ladies, I hope whatever age you are, you have come to realize that despite chick flicks and TV, "skilled-in-bed" does not equal romantic attachment when it comes to men. Some men are willing to say whatever they have to say in order to get what they want to get. In all fairness, some women are capable of narcissism as well. In American culture we tend to think of women as naturally maternal and wanting what is best for their child. One hundred years of public policy is based on this false notion. For this reason innocent children languish in foster care, while their drug addled, alcohol addicted narcissistic parents do other things.
Plenty of books have been written on saving relationships. There are new ones every season of every year. Inevitably the more personable of the authors is invited onto the Oprah show to wax philosophical about how to make relationships work or how to achieve intimacy and how to stay married in a divorce culture. Harville Hendricks suggested finding a mate who has the life problems that match yours, that way you can work together to get healed. That's fine advice for the mildly dysfunctional, and incoherent advice for those who come from good families. The founder of eHarmony suggests we find mates from similar background. He tests people for similarity in religious beliefs, socio-economic class, values and education levels. One of my friends went to his site and was matched with her brother! Dr. Laura Schlessinger of the Dr. Laura radio show suggests mutual respect. She emphasizes being kind to one another as a cornerstone to a solid marriage.
The problem I encountered in not one but both of my failed marriages is the lack of advice surrounding the initial choosing of a mate. Everyone assumes that would be obvious. Something like a lightening bolt hits you and you are enthralled in romantic splendor. Marry in haste and repent at leisure. No amount of advice will help you if you have married, as I did, a narcissist. My first husband was bona fide, the second became that way due to his drug addiction. Neither is capable of sustained interpersonal relationship.
Here are the seven basic earmarks of a narcissistic personality:
- Shamelessness - Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.
- Magical thinking - Narcissists see themselves as perfect using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.
- Arrogance - A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.
- Envy - A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person's ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.
- Entitlement - Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Any failure to comply will be considered an attack on their superiority and the perpetrator is considered to be an "awkward" or "difficult" person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.
- Exploitation - can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.
- Bad Boundaries - narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist will be treated as if they are part of the narcissist and be expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist, there is no boundary between self and other.
Number one, Shamelessness, explains how they fool people into dating them. A normal person strives to be honest within intimacy. A narcissist will say whatever he/she has to say to get a desired result. Thus, they can look you in the eye, pass a lie detector test etc saying "I love you" when in fact they are incapable of love.
My first husband would borrow money from people with no intention of paying them back. He would shamelessly justify it by talking about how "rich" the other person was. You would think with his history of bad debt no one would ever lend to him again. I am ashamed to admit that my Self along with his mother, father and best friend all loaned him money after he convinced us with his pleading all he needed was one more chance. He was a consummate actor. No, we did not get repaid. I observed he "forgets" he borrowed money, because his shamelessness knows no bounds. I used to think he was pretending to forget, until I learned better.
His ability to forget was part of his magical thinking. It enabled him to project onto others, especially when they were frustrated with his inability to repay, that they were acting oddly, wrongly, or strangely. No amount of evidence to the contrary will make narcissists believe something is wrong with themselves. This bad behavior dovetails into "bad boundaries." Narcissists tend to treat your stuff as their stuff and their stuff as sacred.
Spot a narcissist and avoid them by paying attention to certain clues. If the person you are interested in is wildly over the top with grand gestures soon after you meet them, it may be tempting to think you are really wonderful. However a better interpretation of the actions would be: such a gesture would be done for anyone. Such a gesture is more about the narcissist than you. A person who really cared for you as an individual would wait until they knew you to perform a grand gesture or buy a very expensive gift.