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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Part One of How Narcissism Manifests in Relationships and Small Queens are Well Underway

In this post, I will describe the overall pattern to a narcissist partner's behavior and in the next post will giving specific, everyday examples of such behavior. But first, I want to share an update about the business.

This week I began listing the next series of stamps that was in use between 1870 and 1897, the longest running in Canadian history. Philatelists call them the Small Queens, as they are more or less exactly like their earlier Large Queen counterparts. I have completed listings for the first printings of the half cent, 1c, 2c, 3c and 5c. Below are some of the better stamps that I listed:

I also began reaching out to my customers: I am now sending them e-mails, welcoming them as customers, thanking them for their business and asking them to tell me what they collect, what their condition and budget requirements are etc. So far the response has been very good. I've heard from one collector who inherited her collection from her father and is trying to learn as much as she can about it. I'm glad to help where I can. I am recording the information given to me in Excel, which will come in very handy for future e-mail campaigns. I am also in discussions with an individual about his uncle's collection, which appears to be a nearly complete Canadian collection, well into seven figures. I am hoping to make an offer on that this month. If I can reach agreement with the seller, that acquisition will go a long way to putting my store on the map so to speak. 

So back to the topic at hand. Narcissists are after what psychologists call Narcissistic Supply, which is a fancy term for attention. It's a bit more than just that. Because they are essentially damaged from childhood, narcissists crave feeling "on top", "all powerful". So when they get the upper hand in a situation, they have obtained supply. Even if the attention is negative, they get supply because in their minds they have gotten the upper hand over the people who are upset with them. This is an important concept to understand, because the overall pattern of their behavior is essentially guided by the need to arrange sources of supply and to maintain them, usually through creating drama. A typical relationship with a narcissist follows a life cycle that looks something like this:

1. Initial overwhelming display of charm and reeling you in.
2. Attempts to seal the deal
3, The narcissist attempts to isolate you
4. The narcissist abuses you, then reels you back in, then abuses you again and again
5. The narcissist discards you

I will now describe each of these stages and how subtle, and consequently how difficult it can be to recognize what is happening. 

Initially, when first begin dating a narcissist, you feel like the most important person in the world to them. They will hang on your every word, finish your sentences for you and seem to just be completely in tune with you. You will think that you have met your soulmate. They will wow you with their stories of incredible accomplishments in the past and the promise of what they have yet to accomplish with you at their side. They promise you a life filled with wealth and privilege - all the finer things. They will be interested in your hobbies and will encourage you to pursue them more deeply. They will like everything about you and make up little nicknames for you and the personality traits that they seem to love so much. It is very natural to become smitten under these circumstances. This is very much how my mother describes her initial interactions with my father, and it was definitely my experience with my ex. Why 2 weeks into the relationship with her, she sent me a note, with a sticker picture of herself saying how she "reveled in me". I kept that note in my wallet for several years. There will be really little to no red flags at all during this time. 

The first red flag that something is amiss will come when out of the blue, very early on (i.e. within less than 2 months) your partner will take some kind of action to try and "seal the deal" so to speak. To move your relationship to a much more serious level. In my case, my ex began laying the groundwork for this move within days of meeting her. How? She described her current, quasi long-distance relationship with me and her past relationships and then she told me that she really didn't want to bring a succession of men into her son's life and with being a single mom and all, she didn't want to waste time dating men she couldn't be serious with. On the surface, this all sounds very reasonable, doesn't it? The reason why, in retrospect, it was a red flag is that I hadn't brought it up yet. What she was doing was laying the groundwork that would make it very difficult for me to say no to her when she suggested less a month in, that we look for a place to move in together. I remember very well when she suggested this to me. I was at her place on a weekend when she had my son and we were just finishing breakfast. She suggested that I could avoid going back and forth between my place and hers and at the same time we could both save some money, and with her being a single mom and finances being tight, with having to save for my son's college education, this made a lot of sense. See what she did here? She knows that I am a decent man and that I would already be starting to care about what happens to my son. She is using that to convince me, less than a month in, to moving in with her. In some cases, it will be more than just moving in that your partner will suggest. It could be engagement, marriage, buying a house together, lending them a large sum of money, starting a business together anything that ties you down. If they have been particularly adept and played their cards very well in the first stage above, you will miss this red flag, even when your family and friends try to point it out to you. You may even find yourself resenting them for "raining on your parade". I know I did with my family. The narcissist counts on this because it lays the foundation for the next stage. 

The narcissist knows that their ability to control you depends on you being completely dependent on them in every way: emotionally, financially and even for your own concept of what constitutes reality. To accomplish this, you cannot be allowed to have any outside influences whatsoever: no private interactions with friends, no close family, no hobbies, no really successful career, no control over your own money. In other words the narcissist attempts to isolate you. Most people when they hear this think of isolation from other people, but it runs far deeper than this and it can be extremely subtle. 

In my case, because my family objected to how quickly things were moving, that became her justification for trying to isolate me from them: "Your family treats you differently because you are adopted. Your brother is horrible to you. I can't believe how he treated you the night I met you. Your family doesn't see the potential in you that I do. You shouldn't let them so close into your life." Those were some of the early things she said before we moved in together. When I was ambivalent about moving in with her, she turned up the heat: "I need to be with a man who knows what his priorities should be. I'm not going to tell you what to do. You what you think is right.". Once we moved in together, then she suddenly lost her job a month after a conversation in which she asked me whether I would support her financially if she lost her job. She didn't get another one for six years. It wasn't long before the stress of having to support her and my son ,made me very disillusioned with accounting. So as I began exploring the idea of getting into stamps she suggested that I apply to the foreign auction houses for a job in stamps. Seems really supportive right? Well maybe. Or maybe she knows that the job will mean a move away from the influence of family and friends. So we move across the country to Bathurst, New Brunswick where I go to work for an auction house there. She never gets a job the entire time we are there, forcing me to financially support everyone on $60,000 per year. 

Of course my family sees what is happening and continues to object prompting me to become estranged from them. I don't see my friends in person for several years and because we have no extra money, I cannot afford to pursue my hobby. So I've been successfully isolated from family, friends and my hobby. When I attempted to get into my hobby by collecting and studying the very cheap modern stamps, I was quickly told that I spent too much time on them and she suggested that she couldn't be with someone who neglected her so much. She isolated me from my money by simply making arbitrary rules like because we are now a couple and are sharing finances, I can't buy anything over $50 without checking in with her first. I can still remember her yelling at me over the phone in Toronto while I was at the Rogers store replacing my phone because I had dropped it in the toilet the night before. I was spending $200 at time when I was the sole breadwinner making $95,000. 

The narcissist will achieve isolation in subtle ways by doing things like:

1. Suggesting that they want to be with someone who puts their family first and is unselfish with their money, and how if you were really like that, you would want to check in with them before you spent the family's money. 

2. Telling you that your friends really don't like you the way you like them. If your friend does not travel to visit you, or call you regularly, they will suggest that they really don't see you the same way you see them. Another favourite is that they will "remember" private conversations they had with your friends while you were temporarily gone and will reveal some of the remarks that your friend confided in them. You will believe them of course and be very hurt by what was "said". But then years later when you ask your friend why they said what they said, they will tell you that the conversation never took place. 

3. If you have a demanding job and promotion or excellence requires you to devote yourself beyond the normal 9-5, your partner will develop depression or will simply tell you that they cannot be with someone who "isn't around". Why is this unreasonable? Because if you were in that career when you met them, then they knew what they were getting into when they chose to date you. No one has a right to start dating you knowing what your career demands are and then trying to manipulate you into sabotaging your prospects. I'm not saying that if your partner suffers from depression that they are manipulating you. But in a legitimate case, the two of you would be having a conversation about how you, as a couple could manage the needs that the depression was creating and the career demands. If what you are getting instead are unilateral requests to effective chuck your career success out the window, chances are you are being isolated. 

The next stage, which lasts almost the entire relationship is called the Abuse Cycle. It is well known and written about extensively in the psychological community. In a nutshell your partner will build resentments towards you for some perceived slight. Usually it is simply because you are living well and having a good life. Then they will explode in anger, always out of the blue, unprovoked and they will start a fight. If you get sucked into responding to their accusations, the fight can escalate very quickly into physical violence,as it did with my ex. I remember a time when my friend Scott was having a birthday party on April 25, five days from the end of tax season. He had just had his first child also, who was six weeks old at that time. Despite being a very busy time for me, I was determined to attend his party, with my ex of course. It was a Saturday and I had to work in the morning and early afternoon as was the norm. I had telephoned my ex from the office to please be ready when I get home so that we could drive straight out to Kitchener, which was an hour and a half from the house. I got home and she was in the bathroom. When she finally came out half an hour later she was humming and hawing over what to wear! I became understandably annoyed that we were going to be late. She responded angrily to my apparent "snottiness". This escalated into a physical fight where she punched me in the face and broke my glasses. I had to go to the party alone and was over an hour and a half late. That's the first part of the cycle. 

The second part of the cycle is the romance stage. In this stage, your partner will either express remorse for what has happened and will heap affection and gifts on you. Or in the other extreme they will act all nice towards you as if nothing happened. When you bring it up, they will seem surprised that you are still thinking about it. It will be like "Oh that! Yeah I was just in a very bad mood yesterday. Sorry.". It is this stage that makes it very difficult for a person to accept that they are indeed embroiled in an abusive relationship. You will have memories that are genuinely good - vacations, family times, experiences, good sex and so on. It is only when you look back that you begin to recognize that most of the good memories come right after a bad incident, and that therefore they do not really have the significance that you thought they had. 

Then the cycle starts all over again and repeats for the entire relationship. At some point the narcissist will grow tired of you, either because you aren't giving them the supply they want anymore, or because they are genuinely bored, or because they have found something better. In this case, they will initiate an incident aimed at ending the relationship or creating a situation where they can have their cake and eat it too. If they end the relationship it will be in the coldest, most abrupt and complete manner you can imagine. It matters not how long you were together. They will want to divide property and assets right away. They will want the house and you out of it, but they will expect you to keep on paying for it, at least for a time. The person that you thought had some caring for your welfare is dead and is replaced by someone who insists that they still care about you, while sparing no consideration for you whatsoever. In my case, my ex opted for the second option. She became enthralled with a male co-worker and several female co-workers and wanted to spend her evenings hanging out with them. She wanted to be free to do as she pleased, while I continued to have all the responsibility of a husband. So she initiated a separation - one in which I was to move out, while continuing to finance the renovations on the house and pay my half of the mortgage and all the other bills. If I played my cards right, meaning give my position as Partner and my business, I might, just might be allowed back. She wanted to continue to maintain joint control over the finances. When I told her that this was not going to happen if I moved out, she insisted that I had to come to her with a proposed financial settlement.  So I did. It took her two years to finalize the settlement and pay me the $40,000 that she agreed I would get for giving up my half of our house in downtown Toronto.  

When I made it clear that she couldn't have her cake and eat it too, and they she wasn't going to get to call the shots at the reconciliation, it was my ex who told me that she would be seeking a divorce. I never brought up the D word. That is significant because if you are with a borderline or a narcissist and they end the relationship they will try to convince you that YOU were the one who ended it. It feels very convincing because much of your behavior, which is aimed at protecting yourself from further abuse, will appear, on the surface to be cold, discarding behavior. This is not lost on the narcissist. They know this and they will use it to convince you that everything is your fault. The way that you know this is not the case is that a normal person, if you behaved the way I did would be shaken to the core and would want to discuss what went wrong and would be willing to assume some responsibility. This is particularly the case if your behavior follows years of being the contrite and agreeable partner. It would be very difficult for a normal person to just accept the notion that you are "not who they thought you were". But the narcissist accepts this and expresses it almost instantly and effortlessly. 

So there you have it - the cycle of behavior explained. Tomorrow I will give some specific examples of behaviors that narcissists engage in. 

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