I left my husband five years ago, when I finally realized he was a narcissist who’d never change.
Through the 13 years of our marriage, I thought the “problems” were mostly my fault, as in: I needed to try harder, go back to school, get a job.
I never felt I was complete in myself. I didn’t realize then that it was because everything in our life had to revolve around him.
He had an important job. His clients needed him first. His mother came next and then the children. With them, he was “Daddy fun.”
He played games and sports with them when he had some limited time.
But I had to do all the scheduling, the driving, the disciplining, (which he contradicted if it kept the kids from doing something he wanted, like playing a video game).
Over time, I saw in the media that when someone was described as a narcissist, it matched what I was experiencing with him.
Example: Never accepting responsibility or apologizing for any mistake e.g. missing my university graduation because the meeting he called for that day went on too long.
Or, going on a vacation with his buddies one week after I had our first child.
With me, his behaviour was uncaring and destructive to any connection I once thought we had.
I have no desire to have a relationship with him again, but we still have to communicate as parents.
We only talk when it involves the now older-teenage children, whom he fits into his schedule at limited times.
What’s your take on whether a narcissist can change? Can he decide to do better with his kids in terms of giving them real attention and unconditional love?
Ex-Wife Who Didn’t Count
People who can be diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder are basically self-involved.
They’re not given easily to change because they don’t recognize that their behaviour is a problem.
They’re at the center of their own universe.
As one psychologist put it, “Narcissistic functioning at core is a disorder of one-sided listening,” whereby the person doesn’t seem to truly see or hear the other person.
Yet some experts say that it’s possible for a narcissist to learn new skills. Of course, they have to want to.
So, if your ex wanted to believe that he’s a great father, he might pursue learning new skills to feel he’s achieving that goal.
It would be another way for him to feel good about himself, which true narcissists need.
And if those skills make his children feel that he does love them, e.g. if he arranges special outings with them (even if limited), it might be enough for them to maintain a decent relationship.
However, beware of labels. Unless he’s been diagnosed, you may have latched onto a trend of this disorder being over-used by people who see all selfishness in this psychological light.
Here are just some characteristics of true narcissists, according to some who’ve studied the disorder: Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals, exaggerates one’s own importance, hurts and disappoints others, needs constant attention from others.
By leaving your husband, you’re now able to reflect on what caused his behaviour and damaged your relationship.
However, your children still deserve a chance at finding ways to relate to their father.
Unless these grown kids need emotional protection from him, be supportive but let them come to their own conclusions.
Reader’s Commentary “I was somewhat concerned about a question where a reader (but not you) says they suffer adverse medical problems from Wi-Fi, and have decided to take it out of their house.
“The point of the writer asking her family to not bring cell phones when they visit, was that it's nicer to have social interactions without the distraction of a beeping text message.
“I get that. But as for medical problems due to Wi-Fi, there's no evidence of that in the world.”
Ellie – “For anyone else concerned about that reference, here’s what the World Health Organization said in a 2014 article entitled “Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones:
“A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
The agency nevertheless has continued with further studies.
Tip of the day:
Narcissists can be very difficult family members. Getting a diagnosis might induce the person to try some changed behaviour.