*****Remember, No one can participate in the weekly case studies other than Dr. Vaknin and the case study: Ryan. Any comments or questions or answers will be deleted.
Dr. Vaknin and Management
To Dr. Sam Vaknin;
In the beginning of our relationship in 1991, at 41 years old, I thought Karen was my soul mate, the love of my life. After five years of close dating she became my beautiful wife. I was so happy…….. For six months.
I knew she came from a rough family, both parents were alcoholics. Fighting, meanness and much dysfunction marked her childhood. She and her twin brother were born 10 weeks premature and were not expected to live. They spent the first two months of their lives in an incubator, so they had little human contact for those months which may be a contributing factor to her issues. Her older siblings were mean to her. Her mother was emotionally not available, had been married two or three times, mistreated men and was basically a mean old lady.
It looked to me as though Karen had made sure she didn’t follow her family patterns and worked hard to become an accountant and CPA. She seemed to be so together and sweet and kind. I thought she was the nicest person I could ever hope to share life with. My family and friends all adored her. I was full of admiration for her that she had risen up over such adversity and was such a great person. She was my best friend. The inscription from her on my wedding band said “Best Friends Forever”, little did I know……
I grew up in a strong Christian family and I never saw fighting and anger so I was really unprepared for what was to happen. I am a good natured,easy going, slow to anger guy. My first marriage ended when my first wife got heavily into New Age thinking and when I couldn’t buy into it, she found another man who did and left me for him in 1989. She had many narcissistic tendencies, very self centered, no empathy, deserved special attention, demanded respect even when it wasn’t deserved. She was spoiled rotten growing up with anything she wanted, except for the attention she craved from her father who was always busy with his business. Still I was content with that life and my family. Her rejection and leaving me after 16 years of marriage and two kids crushed me hard.
I dated several ladies after the divorce. When I started seeing Karen it was heaven, she quickly became my best friend. She was everything I had hoped for and certainly seemed to be the opposite of my first wife. Karen was caring and kind and sweet and mirrored me in values and the important things in life. Everything including sex was awesome I could not have been happier. For the five years we dated, we were very close. I never saw a hint of what was to come. She had hooked me real good.
The bliss continued until six months after we were married when she surprised me with a rage attack that went on for several days. It was over a perceived slight from the day before that now I know produced shame in her (although nothing I ever did was intended to shame or humiliate her). There was yelling and screaming, cussing like a sailor, accusations that were off the wall, hatred and meanness that was completely unexpected. There was no way to calm her down, discuss it in a rational way or make her realize I wasn’t trying to make her look bad. I was in shock. After a few days of this she said she was sorry, I wanted to talk about it, but she wouldn’t let that happen. Since she said she was sorry I forgave her and went back to enjoy being together with her again.
About three months later the same thing happened over again something very small and un-important with the same kind of hatred, meanness, wild accusations and the same results. Again several days later she weakly apologized but would not discuss it. By now of course I was starting to get worried about what was happening, was it PMS, a chemical imbalance, child hood anger coming through? What was happening?
Every three to four months this was repeated. Her anger would erupt over simple things, anything I would say could be taken out of context and perverted into something that made her mad. Small things like if I started to eat at the table before she did, or if I rolled my eyes at something she did or said, or if I snored at night, could trigger her into a mean rage.
During those rages, I would be called the most ugly names and hear the most horrid things about myself. I was told what a terrible parent I was, how stupid I was, I had no original thoughts, I was ugly, how everybody laughed at me behind my back, even comments about my penis. I was told I had no redeeming qualities any woman would ever want. She would scream at me about how I deserved no respect and I had no character. Being giving, tolerant and slow to anger, I would take a lot of her abuse and try so hard to make her understand that she was wrong about me. She would provoke the crap out of me trying to get me to react badly so she could point her finger at me. And when I did react poorly, that was never forgotten and added to the long list of my transgressions. She of course, never remembered her mean and nasty provocations. During those rages she would do vindictive things like close my credit card down, shut off my cell phone, close out accounts, etc. I put up with far more than I ever should have with her. Now I see I enabled it and actually encouraged that behavior by not putting a stop to it a long time ago. Each time I allowed it, I became more of a doormat to her. I wish I had known what I was up against.
In between those rages though, she would treat me very nicely. “Hope springs eternal in the mind of a fool”, I had malignant optimism. She was nice enough to keep me locked in and hoping it wouldn’t happen again. Among many nice things she would say were, how handsome I was, how I was the best thing that ever happened to her and that I was the only one in her life that showed her what love really was. Then in the next rage at me, she would trash me and tell me how horrid I was and how she hated everything inside of me. It was a crazy making. After each episode I would pray that it would never happen again. Even in the good times though, I started to see a different Karen. She became very critical and judgmental of everyone, behind their backs of course. Everybody had flaws but her. I should have realized if she was trashing others behind their backs, that she would eventually do it to me too.
We went to at least six different counselors. The first one told her she needed to stop these attacks or she would chase me away. She didn’t want to hear it was her fault so we went to another shrink, but she went first by herself. I didn’t realize I had been set up. It was obvious that counselor didn’t like me from the beginning and he was so rude, accusatory and cold to me and I got up and left the session. Every counselor we went to she swayed before I ever got there. I walked out of at least three sessions with different shrinks because Karen flat out lied about what I did and completely denied what she did.
Her twin brother told me before we got married that she had an anger problem and described just one incident of how he repeatedly hit her in the face (twenty times he said) because she wouldn’t stop cussing him out even after he had her pinned to the ground. He told me to run and I thought Karen could never do that to me. Boy was I wrong.
He came to live with us in 2002 with us which was cool because I loved the guy and I thought his influence on her would keep her from raging anymore. He was very depressed though for a number of reasons and committed suicide (I found him hanging in my garage). It was devastating to both of us. I was very supportive of her as always doing my best to help her. I did everything I could to help her and support her. She got worse after her twin’s suicide.
She eventually became physically abusive on top of the verbal and emotional abuse. I have never hit anyone in my life out of anger, I have never been in a physical fight. She grew up physically fighting with her twin and older siblings. She had bragged to me early in the marriage that she had sucker punched her first husband twice dropping him to the ground with a kick in the balls and a hard punch to the gut. Later I learned her first ex was a passive man who never got physical with her and became an alcoholic while living with her (I wonder why?). She hit me many times in the face and tried to rip my nuts off once and I never hit her once. I was so unprepared for this kind of fighting, it was so foreign to me. The cops were called on several occasions and I went to jail in 2001, not for domestic violence but for threatening and intimidation when I actually raged back at her. I am 6'3", she is 5'2" tall, guess who got the sympathy. She got a bogus power of protection against me after a night of her provocations in Sept 2007 to further slander me and control me.
Her angry tirades were of course full of nothing but projection. I could tell that in some of her rages that she seemed to be somewhere else angry at someone from her past. She would get a satanic look in her eyes and face and smirk at me as if I was some worthless peon to trash. She loved to make fun of me, mock me, mimic me when ever I tried to fix the problems and it got worse over the years.
While I was doing everything I could to try and please her (walking on eggshells, cleaning the house, giving her body rubs, doing laundry, anything to try and make her happy) she was doing less and less for me. She was conducting a smear campaign behind my back. She was afraid I was telling everyone on her behind her back of her mistreatment to me, which I wasn’t doing. Her preemptive strikes to ruin me and my reputation have been devastating to learn about.
First I over heard a telephone call (dialed by accident?) where she was meanly trashing me to her teenaged daughter back in Nov 2004. That was painful, but of course a general apology was all I got and again I forgave her. Then I discovered she had been contacting my parents for several years and repeatedly told them I was verbally and physically abusing her and was smoking pot all the time. She called and wrote my daughter, my friends and co-workers telling them the same thing. They all told me later she was doing it and even though she sounded convincing they knew something was wrong with her but didn’t want to make it worse by telling me.
She was very smart and devious and I was so naïve. Since I occasionally (and I stress occasionally), would smoke pot, she used that against me knowing she would get attention she wanted from others. She was telling everyone behind my back was that I verbally, emotionally and physically abusing her and was a “drug crazed monster”, while at the same time she was continuing on our marital relationship as if nothing were wrong. I had no idea of the betrayal.
I now understand she sought me because I had qualities and good relationships she wanted to have. As I have learned she idealized me in the beginning for these qualities, but later came to have contempt for me because I had them and she didn’t. She was jealous of me and was in competition with me to the point of trying to destroy me. By making me look bad, she somehow felt better about herself.
She was so jealous of my relationships, (because she had ruined all of hers) that she wanted to destroy mine. We used to do things with my two adult children. But after a while she would rage at me after we did so. She was so jealous of my love for my kids and that I enjoyed them, she told me once to “go fuck my daughter Cara”. She made it so I had to limit time I spent with my kids to avoid her anger and mean putdowns. It got so I dreaded Christmas, my birthday and Father’s day because I knew wanting to spend time with my kids would produce her anger.
No wonder I was confused. Karen could be the nicest, sweetest person I have ever known and turn to the meanest cruelest person I have ever known. Her image was more important than anything else. Nobody would ever guess Karen could be anything but nice. She is a very good actress. Only those closest to her had any idea she could be so mean. I heard her say things to her daughter that I could not believe any mother could ever say to her own child. I would stand up for the kid and tell Karen she was damaging her daughter and that her message was lost in the mean delivery. As an example her daughter once told me, “I can’t believe anything mom says nice about me, because if I did, I would have to believe all the bad things she has said about me” which I thought was very insightful. The bottom line is the lady is a fake and a phony. Every body else got the nice sweet Karen but me and her daughter. The nice, sweet Karen was an illusion I chased for way to long.
In the end, as she had to distort reality more and more to feel better about her self, her rages, attacks, and accusations got more and more bizarre. I was accused of trying to kill her (her tire went flat because of a nail) I was the asshole of the century, she had to leave me or I would have killed her or she would have committed suicide, I supposedly committed the ultimate atrocities to her although she never would tell me what they were, she said I wanted to kill and mutilate her (her projection) and even though I never hit her even once, she now claims I beat her many times, that her daughter witnessed these beatings and that everyone knows I beat my first wife too. It is all so bizarre to even hear these things much less process them.
I naively thought that despite her occasional rages that she really deep down loved me as I did her. It has been a very harsh realization that this woman probably never really ever loved me for who I am, and that 12 years of marriage and five years of dating her was wasted love and effort on my part. It will take years to heal and recover from what I have been through with this woman. I was always there for her and helped her through everything she ever went through and there was a lot of drama. I took care of her very well in all areas. She did little for me. When my shrink asked me what she did for me, I was stumped to come up with anything, which opened my eyes even more.
It wasn’t until I went to an independent counselor that I became aware of what was really happening. When I described her behavior, the counselor said “honey I think your wife is mentally ill”. I said no, she just gets angry sometimes. She had me read the book “I hate You, Please Don’t Leave Me” Since then I have been reading everything I could about the subject including gobbling up “Malignant Self Love”.
Even though she has not been formally diagnosed as having NPD, she has all the classic symptoms. No real empathy, arrogant and haughty attitude, brags a lot, a pathological liar, thinks she is “God’s Precious One”, and expects to be treated like she is special. She is a control freak, loves to manipulate others, she has big distortions of reality, she thinks she is perfect, she cannot handle guilt and rages back at any hint of criticism or blame. Her perfect image was far more important than me or our marriage; I and my character were sacrificed so she could look good in leaving me. According to her she did nothing wrong in the marriage, everything was 100% my fault.
She devalued and discarded me with ease, no guilt or remorse. She moved out last December 2007 and the Divorce was final April 30, 2008. She has tried to be friends with me since then. She knows on some level that she has the problem, but can never admit it. She has asked me not to hate her, to forgive her and she actually came out to the house in the dark and said she was so sorry. (Now if she really had ever been beaten by me even once, would she have come out alone in the dark in a rural setting? I am thinking not). When I asked her what she was sorry for, she didn’t say, only that she wanted to be friends. I said how can I be friends with someone that thinks I ever beat them once much less many times, and she said “you did beat many times”. At that, I told her to leave and never come back. It is madness to even think about being friends with her.
There is still a part of me that loves the nice Karen and I must say in my own sickness for quite a while, I hoped and prayed she would come back. Now I have gotten to a point where I know that being dumped at 58 years old was really the best thing that could have happened at this point. I was “living my life in quite desperation”. They suck the life out of you and they don’t care about anyone but themselves. It has been a very harsh lesson to learn.
There is also a part of me that hates her, yet I know she is mentally unable to see the truth about herself. I believe that even though she knows there is something wrong with her, I understand she can’t begin to allow any introspection into herself or she would suffer severe consequences. So I feel pity and sadness for her too. I don’t think she can help it.
I at least wish she had been a somatic N so I would have gotten more frequent and good sex out the madness I put up with. I feel very sorry for the next poor guy she suckers into her life too. He too will be abused if he sticks around long enough to see the real Karen. She will find fault with him too.
For so many years I had no idea what I was up against. Reading and learning about NPD has made me see it all so differently. I just wish I had learned it all years ago… It would have saved me a lot of grief, pain, craziness and many wasted years. I hope my experience can help others in some way see the truth about their own situations, instead of living their lives in “quite desperation” as I have.
I truly wish I had never fallen in love with her.
I have read Malignant Self Love through several times and appreciate the Doctor's work very much.
My questions are centered around what their reality really is:
1. I thought my ex- N was the love of my life and I foolishly thought I was the love of her life. The inscription she had engraved on my wedding ring was " Best Friends Forever'. She would tell me how i was the only one in her life that showed her what real love was. Six months after we got married she started to rage at me for days then it occurred about every three months or so. I would be trashed without mercy telling me she hated everything inside of me and then I would be told how wonderful I was. Did her opinions of me really go up and down that much? Was she doing this on purpose to control me? Was she just feeling bad about herself and needed to vent on me? Was I really loved by her or just used by her?
2. My ex-N has distorted me I believe to justify to herself and others that she had to leave me. She says I beat her many times, that her daughter witnessed these beatings and everyone knows I beat my first wife too. The truth is I never hit her once. I am so non violent and never have even been in a physical fight with a man much less ever hit a woman. She hit me many times. My question is, does she really believe her distortions and projections and sees me as such a horrid man? Or is she aware of the truth and she just uses that excuse to get what she wants and get attention for being he poor little abused woman?
3. Her periodic rages at me were very brutal. She would do her best to provoke me so I would react poorly so she could point her finger at me. We could never discuss her meanness to me. She never seemed to remember what she did or said and everything I did or said was made to be even worse that it really was. Did she really not remember the hurtful things said to me. Is it just the lack of empathy? Is it the sense of being god like and she is entitled to treat me like trash? Did she just need to see me as the villian so she wouldn't have to look at herself? I was told many times during her rages that I was acting like a four year old, this coming from someone who actually was acting like a four year old. The projections of her faults on me were so glaring i can't help but think she had to know that there was something wrong with her. How much does she know about her issues?
4. I miss the nice Karen, in between her rages we got along very well. The pull me in push me away rollercoaster had me so confused and locked into her, I can hardly believe it looking back.. Was this a consious effort on her part.
5, She says she wants to be friends. I still miss her and wish we could be friends. How can I do that when she continues to believe I beat her and was so horrid to her when that is so far from my reality? I don't get it, why would she want to be friends with a horrid man and why would I want to be friends with someone who has chosen to see me in such a distorted way.
Thanks for your time,