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The Ten Commandments

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  • Sam Vaknin
    COPYRIGHT by Ex Doormat. Unauthorized replication of this work is strictly forbidden. Hi Sam, I can honestly say that if I had one wish in my life it s that I
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2003

      COPYRIGHT by Ex Doormat. Unauthorized replication of this work is strictly forbidden.


      Hi Sam, 


      I can honestly say that if I had one wish in my life it's that I had never heard of your name and especially the word 'narcissist'. 


      However, I would like to thank you for your most erudite words, although they cannot undo the 'collateral' damage that inevitably results from living with a narcissist, they do assist one to comprehend the reasons behind the everyday problems narcissists' create.  When we finally come to realise the magnitude of the problems we face with a narcissist it is no wonder that self-pity becomes the easy option: we can easily justify this by convincing ourselves that we are the victim and that martyrdom is a really not so bad a place because we get to blame everyone else and wallow in our own self-pity.  By necessity the best self-pity involves copious quantities of solitude, alcohol and nicotine. Unfortunately, with the law of diminishing returns, even this state palls after a while and eventually you have no option but to try and get your life back together. This involves facing up to some rather distasteful truths and some close introspective scrutiny of yourself.  By the time you get around to looking in the mirror you certainly do not present a pretty face.


      In a sense even this letter is a cathartic exercise. I am not only helping to cleanse my soul but also, at an altruistic level I hope to help others in a similar situation by putting down on paper the distilled essence of my painful experiences with a narcissist, in this case my ex-wife.


      At this point I would like to make the comment that there is so little helpful material available for those of us who have lived in a narcissistic relationship for a long period. For many of us we are left not only dealing with our own unresolved emotional issues but also continue to be involved with the narcissist by virtue of a shared parental responsibility. I visited one of my country’s foremost experts on this subject and his recommendation was "get on a plane and get as far away from her as physically possible, and don't look back".  However, he recognised that I loved my son dearly and this wasn't a serious option so he gave me some advice about how to best survive the relationship whilst protecting my son and myself.  I must confess that up to that time I had never really believed in psychological 'babble' but the previous five months had been so emotionally traumatic that I was ready to listen to anything that could possibly help me.  Looking back the scariest part of my discussion with the psychologist (fifteen months ago) was that his words of warning proved to be 100% correct.


      I intend to tell my story in reverse. I will start at present and then go back to the beginning.  I now consider myself reasonably well versed in the subject of NPD as I have read a large body of literature on the subject ranging from the medical mumbo-jumbo through to more helpful and practical explanations by you.  Even now, armed with an in-depth understanding of this disease I cannot relate to it in any shape or form. Like many diseases without an outward manifestation NPD is difficult to comprehend: the fact that it wreaks havoc on the lives of its victims while leaving the patient in tact seems contrary to all logic.


      I count myself fortunate that I have amassed; both from experience and plagiarism, a set of rules, which have helped me, get my own life back. The rules are not perfect and there are many days where you retreat 2 steps for every 3 you go forward. My rules are in the order that is important to me, that is not to say that you may have your own personalised sequence.




      If you can escape from your narcissistic relationship then I would strongly recommend that you do so as quickly as you can, that way you most certainly will minimise the impact on yourself in the long term.  If you can’t escape the relationship due to family commitments then I urge you to read on and I wish you good luck.


      Your adversary is extremely cunning and has a powerful weapon: they know all about you and how to exploit your weaknesses.  If you leave the narcissist then this intimate knowledge will be used by any means to destroy you personally and negatively affect your standing with family, friends and acquaintances.  If knowledge is power then I urge you to learn as much as possible about this disease and use this information to shore up your defences.  As with the Martial Arts it is possible to harness their momentum and turn it to your advantage. 


      The narcissist has an Achilles heel: they cannot effectively analyse ongoing situations and strategise outcomes. Because they are victims of the present they are incapable of managing difficult relationships especially those with adversaries. Invariably they will turn to someone who they believe can give them helpful advice, more often than not this is their lover.


      By default your greatest asset in managing the ongoing relationship has to be strategic. You must make a careful analysis of possible outcomes for every situation, estimate the probabilities and strategise how you will manage them. Remember, there are no winners in this war but when you gain control of a situation this effectively means they are out of control and to a narcissist this is an untenable situation.  Forget the boy scouts motto and do not expect fair play as the narcissist has no comprehension of its meaning.


      Remember, you are a puppet in the hands of the narcissist. These rules are for those of you have recently cut the ties or who are contemplating cutting the ties.



      The 10 Rules of Engagement


      1. You don't matter


      There is only one person that counts in a narcissist’s life, that is, the narcissist. This is a hard concept to grasp. Narcissists by nature are takers and the truth is that you probably only ever mattered at the point in time when you could supply 'that thing' the narcissist needed. You may have been taught by parents and friends the concept that giving is better than receiving. However with a narcissist you will give until you are emotionally and spiritually bankrupt and receive little or nothing in return.  If you don't believe this, take a hard look at yourself today and then compare that with your state when you first met your narcissistic partner. I believe you will be psychologically and emotionally worse off. Like all thieves once narcissists have taken all you have to give, you are history.


      2. Don’t try to fight a psychological war that you can’t win


      Because a narcissist is amoral you cannot engage them in any moral or conscience issues and expect to win. As a general rule narcissists have no sense of guilt or remorse for their actions. There is no way you can shame them into accepting responsibility for their mindless and thoughtless approach to other people especially yourself.  If you are looking for revenge then you will never achieve any satisfaction in this arena. The rules of engagement are simple: keep your distance. Rule 5 has more on this subject.


      3. Ignore the insults and deceit


      There is an old adage that sums up this commandment, “don’t explain to your friends it’s unnecessary, and don’t explain to your enemies they will not believe you”. It may come as a shock to many people to discover that the narcissist must appear superior and blameless in all situations and to this end will resort to calumny to make themselves appear a victim of your supposed vices. When you discover the full extent of the deceit this will tear at the core of your being. However, no matter how strong your outrage or anger there is only one way to counteract any harm that may occur and that is to act in a manner that disproves the defamation to the people in your life who count. Although this course of action appears to be an insipid response it is true that people cannot ignore the reality of your actions and words especially if these do not fit the picture painted by the narcissist. Believe me, actions still speak louder than words equally their own actions will start to work against them eventually. Be prepared to lose many friends and acquaintances during the early period of separation. Don’t be overly concerned, as by your actions they will eventually see who is telling the truth. Like all liars narcissists cannot remember their patterns of deceit and soon are caught out.                           


      Once a narcissist sees that you have finished with them they will have one focus and that is to destroy you. They will stop at nothing to prove to the world (their world) that you are a loser, the cause of any misfortune in their lives and the person who deserves all the blame.  Naturally your friends and acquaintances will be totally ignorant of the presence of NPD and therefore unaware that you face a major problem. As with most who live with a narcissistic partner you cannot tell people much about your true life as it seems to twisted or embarrassing. 


      4. Take off your rose tinted glasses


      The ‘person’ you cared about, looked after and more than likely loved never existed!  Their life is an act. They present themselves in a different guise depending on the situation. The most difficult part is to let go of the image you fell in love with all those years back.  Unfortunately the image you feel in love with had been carefully cultivated to trap you!  Taking off those "rose tinted glasses" is a long, slow and painful process; remember you've worn them for a very long time. Do not be tempted to put them back on at all cost. 


      4. Remember they are sick - not you


      Mental diseases are always hard for normal people to relate to. Because narcissists are not physically impaired it is hard to feel pity or sorrow for their condition.  Narcissists, as my learned psychologist friend told me, are "walking sponges" or the closest thing to the primeval parasite left on earth: they survive with you as their host.  Narcissists choose their victims with care and they prey on the susceptible and/or dysfunctional people who they can manipulate and control.  I believe this is in large part due to the deep insecurity and lack of self-esteem they suffer from.  Narcissists do not wish to know or visit their real self hence anything that heads them in this direction is of total fear.  They can’t look back at themselves and their actions, as this would open a “Pandora’s Box” of realities they can’t face.


      5. Stay out of their Pain Zone


      If you don’t wish to ride on an emotional roller coaster from hell then tattoo this rule on your forehead! Once you leave the relationship the narcissist doesn’t need you anymore and its more than likely (almost guaranteed) you were emotionally and physically replaced long before the event of actual separation.  You are now cannon fodder and as stated in rule 1 they are out to destroy you. For your own peace of mind stay as physically far as possible away from them, their abode, place of work and recreation. Don’t get into conversations or for one moment think they are softening in their approach to you, they are only gaining information for possible use against you.  Remember that you cannot fight and expect to win on their turf; you must carefully pick the place for engagement on your own terms.


      6. Trust Nothing - Believe Less


      Lies and deceit are a natural part of the narcissist’s world. The old adage “the best liars lie to themselves first” applies in this case and the lie oft repeated is far more convincing.  A narcissist has the amazing ability to believe their own lies even when they fly in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.   Take the position that everything they say to you is a lie and or based on a lie. Warning: DOUBLE CHECK ANY INFORMATION THAT MAY AFFECT YOUR CHILDREN AND SEEK VERIFICATION.


      7. Your realities are not theirs


      The perceptions of the narcissist are truly their reality. If you look back you have never been able to change or influence their perceptions. If you couldn’t effect change living in a close relationship then don’t waste your time and effort trying now. They live in their own world and no matter how false or unreal it appears to you, for them it reality. This is a constant source of irritation as you become more aware of the fact that much of their life is an act.


      8. Communicate in written form


      As far as communications go I received an important piece of advice early on. It was to communicate in a way that when read by a judge read the material in question he would agree that you acted in a responsible and prudent manner. Do NOT under any circumstance use verbal or psychological abuse in your communications. I can guarantee you that this will drive the narcissist up the wall as they are expecting an angry and petulant response from you to their goading. Keep good record of all correspondence and work on the theory that you will more than likely need them at a later date. Use the fax, email or snail mail. If you are confronted on the telephone NEVER give an immediate reply. Tell the narcissist that you are busy, engaged or not able to talk at the time. Request that they put what it is they want to say in writing to you. This puts the ball back in their court and they learn over time that they cannot use the telephone to abuse you.



      9. Always call their bluff


      Where you are in possession of evidence that is clearly untrue then use 3rd parties wherever possible to exploit the deceit. More often than not a narcissist will casually manufacture evidence to manipulate people and circumstances. In these situations ALWAYS confront the people who are quoted or cited with the evidence for corroboration. Trust me there is one thing that ethical people do not like and that is being misquoted or quoted out of context.  This applies especially to government employees, bankers, teachers, accountants and lawyers.


      When you use a 3rd party to rebut the narcissists version of reality just watch and wait for their reaction, it actually becomes quite hilarious.  You will start to see the real person emerge as they react like a spoilt child and will try anything to squirm out of the situation. A word of caution, once your narcissist partner realises you are continually throwing reality at them they will be forced to change their game plan.  The best outcome of this approach is that they soon learn not to play their silly games.


      10. Get back in touch with yourself


      If you were unlucky to have found yourself with a narcissistic partner it is more than likely you’ve paid the ultimate price for this bad luck.  At some stage you start asking yourself the question “was I the cause of the problem”?  But if you’ve read Sam’s articles on NPD carefully you would soon realise that this is very doubtful. If you were like me you probably didn’t help the situation by pandering to their whims and not standing up for yourself.  To suffer a long-term relationship with a narcissist you need to contribute by having reasonably low self-esteem or insecurities of your own. Strong personalities would not tolerate a narcissistic partner.  If you contributed then accept that you did and now set out to rectify the situation. Unfortunately you have to learn and accept that the psychological and emotional investment you made in a narcissist is valueless. Your relationship is beyond chapter 11 you have to write the investment off as a bad debt so to speak. Now you have to concentrate your energies on rebuilding your own life. Take stock of who and what you are and most importantly what you want to be. Without goals of what it is you want to be there can be no roadmap for recovery.


      A personal view


      In hindsight I can’t blame anyone else but myself, I knew for a long time that our relationship was a façade and unfortunately I took all the blame on myself. Would knowing about NPD have helped me, I’m not sure but it certainly would have hastened my ultimate departure?  Every time I tried to break our marriage the actor sucked me back in and I put the rose tinted spectacles back on. Life would be good, for a while, then just as predictably the narcissistic person would reappear and everything turned to clay. 


      By the time our son was born I was locked into a relationship that was progressively going nowhere but down hill and my partner’s antics were getting more puerile and contemptible by the day.  I found it quite amusing that after we broke up one of the many lies she told me is that her performance or lack of it as both wife and mother was due to she wasn’t happy in her marriage and only stayed with me because of our son.  It sounded good and possibly believable to many but unfortunately the truth was the opposite.  The only hold she had left over me was our child and without him she knew she was history. 



      Issues associated with Children


      Children and a narcissistic parent do not make a happy combination as the narcissistic parent has very few virtues to teach them.  You cannot turn your back on your responsibility to your children even if your partner is a major problem. If you are like me and you have made a commitment to be there for your children then don’t imagine for one second think it will be easy or pleasant.  If the parent does not emotionally abuse the child he or she will grow in maturity and ultimately seek other role models to emulate.  Children have the happy knack of being able to see through the narcissist’s lies, acting and deception far easier than you, the victim.   Never, and I repeat never, attempt to use your child for retaliation purposes. Parental alienation in any form cannot be condoned. Anyway it more often than not has an unhappy knack of rebounding on the perpetrator with nasty consequences. Apparently my own son once told his mother “ please don’t run Dad down as he doesn’t say bad things about you” She immediately stood up and stormed out, slamming the door muttering “we’ll see”.  In this case parent and child roles were reversed.


      The best form of attack and defence where children are involved is to become an excellent role model to your children. I have tried this approach and despite its hardships, it involves more than a little sacrifice, I can vouch that it works.  Trust me; the payback is well worth the effort! 


      It is fair to say that you shouldn’t expect any real assistance from your ex-partner and I guarantee that from time to time they will try to undermine your efforts. But remember that children respond to good role models, they respect and love parents who set rules and guidelines.  Rules and guidelines are evidence to the child that you care and love them enough to ensure their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.


       You need to be their “rock of Gibraltar” which is fairly tough when you’re trying to rebuild your own life at the same time.



      Life after a Living Death



      After a period of separation your “rose tinted glasses” will slowly clear and you will see your partner for what they really are: a pitiable and pathetic person. You will also discover over time the true extent of their deception from a variety of sources that leaves a nasty taste in your mouth and a sick feeling in your gut. Unfortunately the human brain has no “erase button” so you just have to learn to live with painful memories that you would much prefer didn’t exist. Despite the pain, and you get it in buckets loads, you have to look for the brighter side of life.


      Strangely enough as a result of all the pain and suffering I become a real winner because I finally had an opportunity to discover the real me. I have emerged a new person and I have discovered things about myself that were dead during our long sterile relationship. I realised that I had also made a momentous decision, that is, to regain control of my life. I had finally thrown off the shackles of a crippling relationship that was slowly killing me. I can honestly say that I have learned that I don’t need to resort to physical pleasures to alleviate my problems. I have rediscovered that there is a vast difference between pleasure and happiness. I have learned to use my intellect again with spectacular results in my business and personal life. And, most importantly of all I can say I am happy living with me.


      A wise friend gave me 2 snippets that have stayed in my memory.  The first was “what you accept you approve” and when I realised what this meant it made me take stock of my situation. The second was “if you prepared a balance sheet of your marriage, would you invest it?” He already knew the answer because of his own personal association with NPD. My relationship had been in liquidation for a long time and I just needed a push to call in the receivers, it was bankrupt! 


      I’m personally thankful that my ex-partner is now someone else’s problem. My life is now well back on track and I’m enjoying using my brain for the first time in many years.  I can’t turn back the clock, but I sure as hell intend to make up for lost time. One of life’s pleasures for me is to see my son is returning to the happy kid he was a few years back and I would like to leave with a quote from Dr Seuss



      Today is your day.

      You’re off to Great Places!

      You’re off and away!


      Good luck


      The ex-doormat.



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