If you’re finally separating from a controlling, egotistical, bullying husband, you might be a little obsessed by the enormous number of articles and websites dedicated to the topic of “Is he a narcissist?”
You may feel a sense of confirmation from reading all about narcissistic personality disorder, and potentially diagnosing your ex — and I give my favorite books on the subject at the bottom of this post.
I have a slightly different take on it.
Does it really matter if he is clinically a narcissist?
If it helps to put a label on him, I say, feel free. But, if it means that you’re poring over hours and hours of internet articles about how to tell whether he truly is a narcissist, and what to do about it, my advice is: Save yourself.
There are so, so many ways to get side-tracked during and after divorce. And most of those ways revolve around focusing on him instead of doing your best to put the focus on your own self-care during this difficult time.
It’s understandable to obsessively replay your relationship, and even to hope that new information that explains your ex might be helpful. It’s not easy to let go, and It’s so much easier to think, “Maybe I can change this about him and this process will be smoother.” Or, “Maybe I can get him to see this my way by . . . .” Or, “I’ll feel better if I can put a label on my ex that helps me to see he’s not good for me.”
Ever notice how none of the above actually ends up making you feel better, stronger, or more of that fill-in-the-blank way you want to feel?
He doesn’t want to understand you; he just wants to win
You think you’ve gotten through to him, but the next day, he’s back to the same old bag of tricks.
He wants you to feel sorry for him. Then, he wants to make you realize how small and insignificant you are without him. He’s a man of a hundred faces and personalities, and you never know which one you’ll get. Or, you do know, and you dread it.
He lives for this stuff. That’s why he’s so good at it. Deep down, it’s just him against the world. And because he’s so ruthless, he always wins.
The more you consent to do battle with him, the more of your life you waste. It weakens you. But it strengthens him, because he feeds on you.
So, what’s the #1 thing you can do?
Stop playing his game and set boundaries.
It doesn’t matter why he does what he does. And, if you’ve been married to him for years and are now in the process of divorcing, you already know that he is not going to change.
You’re not going to get emotional closure. Or, if you do — for a fleeting second — he’ll only be saying what he knows you want him to say, just so he won’t lose connection to you (“narcissistic supply” in the jargon).
My clients have been helped in the boundary-setting process (and getting it to stick) by using the grey rock method. Find out more about it in this grey rock strategy post. This really works.
“But I need to know: Is he REALLY a narcissist?”
Check out these handpicked books about identifying and dealing with narcs: