The Narcissism of Waiting for Your Prince
Steve loves the story of Blue Beard and I will share with you why …
Blue Beard was the richest guy in town and lived in a castle on the hill. This may have been why that even though the young girl (who he sought to marry) and her sisters had instincts that something was wrong with him, (after all that strange blue beard was right there on his face) they chose to ignore their instincts and avoid seeing the truth.
Steve will often ask, “If you are with a narcissist why did you ignore your instincts?”
If you are familiar with the story you will know it was a VERY bad situation this young girl walked into – but in the the original version of the fairy tale, which you can read in ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, there was a happy ending for his wife and her sisters.
I believe Blue Beard is a symbol of the unhealthy ego and in this story Blue Beard was destroyed.
I remember Blue Beard when he lived in our house and he wasn’t just in Steve but also in me.
If you are the partner of someone with narcissistic tendencies you need to see that there is not just an unhealthy ego in your partner, but that it is in you as well. Because if there wasn’t you wouldn’t have fallen so hard for this person in the first place or held on so long after discovering their ‘other side’
I will give myself as an example … I was attracted to Steve; he was charming, the captain of the football team and had a rich dad who was also a narcissist. I wanted to believe the lies he was telling me, even when my instincts could clearly see his lack of compassion for me along with many other danger signs. I wanted to hold onto ‘the dream’ even after we were married and he was regularly rude and abusive towards myself and the kids. I didn’t tell too many people what was going on because I was ashamed and I didn’t want to let go of my dream of us being the perfect couple and better than other people.
Can you see the unhealthy ego in this? Are you perhaps guilty of this too?
Do you need to lose your partner – Or maybe your own false pride?
Things did not improve until I let go of this narcissistic dream – and that took a lot of grieving. I didn’t throw out the baby with the bath water however. Letting go of the dream didn’t mean leaving Steve behind. Getting help from community services and the police and police social workers is a very humbling experience. It takes admitting you are not better than anyone else. Instead of wanting to be a princess carried off by my prince, I decided that I was going to need to face the fact that Steve and I were both broken people in need of help and that it was going to have to be me (and not some knight in shining armour) who would lead us both out of the mess we had created together.
In terms of social acceptability our problem was a big one and very humbling to admit. The problem however, was not going to go away without me admitting we needed help and accepting that help. So this was the beginning of how I killed Blue Beard. No more prince and princess in the castle in the sky. Just me and Steve and the kids doing our best putting one foot in front of the other one step at a time. I did not throw my relationship away for another ‘roll of the dice’ as I see women do everyday, while kidding themselves that their prince will come ‘next time’. They throw away their husband but not ‘the dream of the prince who will save them’ and guess what? Because the unhealthy dream is still there they end up in the same situation all over again.
Are you stilling clinging to a fantasised reality of who your partner is and what they are really capable of?
Now of course you may decide the person you are with is not worth the effort I put in, but in the end I believe that whether you stay together or not will not be as important as whether or not you give up the unhealthy dream. If you want the pain and the conflict to end you will need to tackle the parts of yourself that seek privilege and entitlement through a partner. Because if you don’t it will lead you straight back to Blue beard’s castle every-time.
I was blaming all our problems on Steve while also expecting him to be the hero and save us. I was seeing him as a monster while demanding he be our saviour. This of course was ridiculous. He may have been immature and irresponsible, and he was indeed hurting us, but he was no monster, just a damaged human being (and I had my gaps too) and there was no way he knew how to be the hero I wanted him to be.
So after years of grief I finally accepted this and decided I would need to stop waiting for a hero and be my own hero instead. I was going to have to drop my unrealistic expectations and get us help. I saw I was going to have to stop complaining and get in and roll my sleeves up and do loads of dirty work that I had been avoiding. Like sorting out our finances, finding some work and putting more love and time into the care of our kids, while finding the strength to walk away from Steve if he was rude or wanted to fight.
Once Steve saw me getting in and doing the tough stuff and not taking any more childishness from him (while also showing him that I was not going to abandon him) he slowly began to see that he was safe with me and that I was not going to keep asking him to be the big darling he was pretending to be with others, because deep down I knew that was really all an act! When I stopped wanting him to be the illusion, it became easier for him to be himself.
Imagine how scary it would be living your life pretending to be more than you are while having someone close to you demand that you keep up that act – even at home when you are trying to get some rest. I finally understood why Steve would freeze up and end up going into a rage when I demanded that of him, it was the only way he could deal with the helplessness of his situation.
The truth is your partner can’t be the great person they pretend to be for other people; you know them too well and you are there every time they walk off stage. It is an act which they can’t keep up behind the scenes and you of all people should be able to see this. They will treat you like a fool (and despise and disrespect you) for not seeing the act is a scam and for you hanging on to your tattered dream. They will also feel angry that you only want to see the act and refuse to see the truth of how damaged and angry they really are and that they don’t have a clue how to save you!
I had to accept that if anyone was going to be a hero it was going to need to be me.
This is why I talk about reparenting. I realised there were people and situations Steve needed protection from and this sometimes included himself. Once new tougher boundaries were set I then also began to realistically gauge Steve’s ability to be useful and trusted and to very slowly give him responsibilities he could manage, with guidance and support, until slowly he became able to take on things I could rely on him for. Handling accounts, getting the taxes done, parenting the kids, cooking and shopping, working in jobs that taught him solid skills. Jobs where there was no chance of him getting carried away with himself, but where he was valued for his help.
I have found that many partners of people with narcissistic tendencies will complain that their partner is good for a long time and then suddenly goes bad again and they can’t figure out why. If this has happened to you – you need to ask why? What has changed that means they don’t feel acceptable being who they really are? Who is pumping their ego and encouraging the lie? In my experience the person doing this will usually be in this game for their own benefit, no matter how innocent it may seem. Like say perhaps a career advisor who would see Steve as a potential star client (to make themselves look good) when they saw his charming smile, rather than reading the facts and seeing a man making very solid progress but who desperately needed to keep his goals realistic and centred around a stable home life.
At times when I have seen that Steve has slipped back into defense and become negative, prickly and arrogant, I immediately look for the cause … and it is always there! Then like a parent I step in and I sort it out. The need for this has grown less over time as Steve has learned to pick these situations himself and say “Thanks for believing in me, but really I am fine right where I am now and I hope that you can live with that.” You see, he hated being sucked into ‘the game’ probably as badly (if not worse) than we did. His episodes of getting too full of himself (as with anyone) caused an enormous amount of shame. Of course people with NPD have feelings. Their accomplices just rarely let them feel safe enough to say what sometimes needs to be said like … “Thanks for believing in me but I don’t know if I can really be trusted to do what you are asking of me. I think that will be a bit too much for me right now and besides I really just need to be getting home.”
Are you asking your NPD partner to support you in ways that they simply are not equipped to? Are you still hanging on to the dream of a life where you are superior to others in some way? Ask yourself these questions honestly. An honest relationship takes discipline and hard work. Raising children responsibly is both challenging and rewarding but it takes dedication and skill and selflessness and patience and humility. These are virtues that do not come from a desire to be better than others. They are disciplines and practices meaning that they require physical acts that are performed over and over, like exercise or prayer.
Steve and I might not be royalty on the hill (with a dirty secret) any more, but we are a great success story from a social group that statistically could have ended up, divorced, destitute, dead, in jail or just plain bitter. I am proud of that and I think that is a healthy kind of ego because it has been earned. I also have compassion for those who have not fared as well as we have. Please let go of the unhealthy dream and don’t walk into Blue Beard’s castle again.
If you have the steps in Back from the Looking Glass please get to work on them. Your partner has got away with being a narcissistic and irresponsible child for their whole life and you are only now learning to stand up for yourself – so get in and roll up your sleeves and make sure you are prepared to give this your all, because I can assure you they will not lay down their pride without you proving you are stronger than they are!
Humility gives us strength!
Kim Cooper ^_^