When I announced my impending divorce I generally got one of three basic replies:
It’s about time!
God hates divorce!
Your life will be ruined!
Marriage is a commitment!
But he’s so NICE!
Of the three it was the last one that was the most difficult to deal with. The people who mourned my ending marriage saw it as the death of something valuable rather than the more accurate analogy of neutralizing a zombie.
Dr. Jekyll in all His Glory
I have talked to a lot of women in the years since my divorce and many of them were married to clones of my ex. One of the most frequent statements is “But why? He’s so NICE!”
Narcissists are amazing when it comes to wearing masks. They are often abusive in some way at home but complete gentlemen when in public. If your neighbor needs her tire changed he is right there to do it, all the while complaining that her husband should be more considerate of her. He’ll play catch with the lonely boy down the street while his own kids watch from the porch. My ex used to work with kids at church, go on camping trips, and do activities with them and my kids would come home completely amazed that he even knew how to do those things. His idea of spending time with them was having them do something he liked – and if they didn’t like it then they became invisible. When he took up mountain biking he expected the kids all to go but when they stopped, one by one, he went alone. It did not occur to him that they might like to go to an art museum or build a fort with him.
But, as usual, I digress.
The narc has a way of making sure that everyone knows what a good guy he is no matter what might be happening behind the scenes. It’s another way of making you look crazy. He’ll be an elder in the church or even a pastor, he’ll do volunteer work when your house is falling down, he’ll give to charity when the kids need new shoes, and you can bet he’ll make sure everyone sees.
It’s truly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde come to life.
When We Get Behind Closed Doors…
Once the front door slams shut all bets are off. Anything can happen. It might be a Dr. Jekyll day where the family sits down to a nice dinner followed by a game of monopoly or it might be a Hyde day with him ranting and raving while you and the kids hyde…I mean hide. I know the drill.
You are on your way home from church or some other function and you have your antennae up trying to second guess his mood before you get home and are subject to it. The skin on your arms feels kind of crawly, you can see the hard set of his jaw, and that little vein in his neck is bouncing around. Yep, it’s a Hyde day. I would lose myself in a book, if possible, while the kids hunkered down in front of the TV. We tried to avoid eye contact with him at all costs.
When he was called out in public for his altruism and dedication we tried very hard no to roll our eyes.
That’s When You Stop Caring What People Think
I always have been one of those that wants people to like me and to think highly of me – at least until the people I knew began to question my pleas for help and my reports of his abuses. I realized that it didn’t matter what they thought of me because they weren’t seeing anything clearly, anyway. I realized that these people were making judgments based on their own experiences without regard to the reality of my experiences. It was like someone telling Neil Armstrong that the moon didn’t really exist because they had never walked on it.
Not very logical is it?
No one can make a judgment call on what you are dealing with. More importantly you don’t need anyone’s approval to make choices that are best for you and your children. Let me tell you, they are not going to take responsibility for your emotional scars so they don’t get input on whether you leave or not. You might feel indecisive and frightened but ultimately you know what is best – even if you don’t realize it.
Stop covering for him. Stop making excuses for his behavior. Stop trying to be the go-between in his relationships with family or friends. Stop letting him emotionally manipulate you! Accept the fact that he is behaving like an ass and it doesn’t reflect on you, nor do you have control over it.
In the church we are told to respect our husbands and I certainly agree that respect is an important part of marriage. When we lie and cover for his immature, narcissistic behavior that’s not love, that’s not respect – it’s just us assuming the co-dependent role. Really, can you ever respect someone you have to cover for?
Of course not.
But the Future Is so Uncertain!
You may be afraid to make changes because the future is cloudy. What will you do? Where will you go? How will you survive? Will you be alone forever?
You know, life is uncertain. No one expects to lose a job, get a serious illness, or find themselves alone. We don’t think about these things as possibilities yet they are ever present. Making important changes in your life can be frightening but at least you are prepared and moving toward a positive outcome.
Everyone needs encouragement. Join First Wives World and talk to others who understand just where you are and know how to help.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: See-ming Lee