Saturday, December 01, 2007

Narcissism, Addictions, and Abuse in an Upscale Marriage

Calling all women out there living in golden cages: Can you relate to the title of this article? It might not be something you talk about openly--your husband's narcissism, addictions, and abuse, that is. Nonetheless, they probably cause you immense emotional pain and shame, too.

How did you ever find yourself in this predicament? you probably ask yourself almost daily now. Really, how could you marry a man who seemed so right but instead, has turned your life upside down?

I understand. After all, I made the same mistake.

There was an old Gladys Knight song they used to play on the radio on the oldies station. If it came on when my husband and I were listening to that station in the car, I would sing along, though not with such a terrific voice, of course. Yes, I would look at my husband with loving eyes and sing, "You're the best thing that ever happened to me."

I truly believed it at the time. I had fallen in love with a man whom I not only loved as a person, but I also considered myself fortunate because he provided me with the lifestyle of my dreams.

Yes, at least in the beginning, everything seemed so perfect. I admired his intellect and his success in an honorable profession. We shared some important common interests. And then he also supportive of me and my desire to go on and pursue a Ph.D. in clinical social work. In other words, what was there not to love?

Until the verbal abuse and emotional abuse began, that is.

I had never heard the Golden Rule to which many financially successful narcissists seem to adhere. No, really, I had always believed that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I also tried to let the Golden Rule guide the way I lived or approached my life.

It took me awhile to accept that he truly believed and lived his life by the premise that he who has the gold makes the rules.

Silly me since I had married with the expectation of a partnership whereas, like most men suffering from unhealthy levels or pathological narcissism, my husband believed that the rules did not apply to him anyway. But his rules certainly did apply to me!

You have undoubtedly encountered something similar. Really, isn't that way you are sitting here reading this article?

Dr. Susan Weitzman wrote a book, Not to People Like Us, where she deals with hidden abuse in upscale marriages. If you visit her website and run down the list she provides of the differences between the abusive men in these marriages and those in less affluent marriages, you will soon discover that basically, the men she is describing are narcissists. No, they might not be diagnosable as having full fledges Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. Nonetheless, they suffer from what you might see referred to on the internet as unhealthy, pathological, or malignant narcissism.

If you are silently suffering the almost daily onslaught of your husband's verbal abuse and emotional abuse while living in a home worthy of House Beautiful, if not even Architectural Digest, you are likely living with a narcissistic abuser.

When you read Dr. Weitzman's list, you will note that she talks about how these abusive men are not remorseful, but they seem to feel entitled to do what they do. Also, they lack any empathy for their abused wives.

Have you read enough articles now about narcissism to recognize that these are some of the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Indeed, this personality disorder is about a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. So, it makes sense that the abusive man with high levels of narcissism would behave this way, wouldn't you agree?

What Dr. Weitzman also points out is that most of us who have ended up married to these successful narcissistic men with their abusive ways did not come from abusive homes ourselves. We often did not know people who engaged in the type of ongoing verbal abuse and emotional abuse that our husbands suffering from narcissism do. Perhaps because we did not, but we held a world view that included adherence to the ideals of a marital partnership and living life according to the Golden Rule as stated in the Bible and not as it might spill forth from the mouths of narcissistic men, we were easy prey for these manipulative individuals.

Even after I left my husband with his narcissism, addictions, and abuse, I used to say he was still the best thing that ever happened to me, however. After participating in therapy, attending Al-Anon, participating in a step-study groups, and working the program, I could say this for a much different reason than I had before.
I could say it because the pain and destructiveness of this marriage caused me to awaken not only to my codependency, or the fact I was looking to a man and a lifestyle to provide me with a sense of self worth or a self identity, but to the underlying problem.

I was spiritually bankrupt. And indeed, I needed to turn within and come to know and embrace my higher and true self to become the powerful woman I was meant to become.

Yes, this was why my financially successful narcissistic spouse was the best thing that ever happened to me, despite his narcissism, addictions, and abuse. I was forced to find and embrace my true self.

I hope the same ultimately happens for you, too.


Diane England, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical social worker with other degrees in family studies and child development who specializes in women's issues. Visit her website now: Narcissism, Addictions, and Abuse.