If I Had Known About Narcissism 25 Years Ago


So, the car we bought last summer comes with the Sirius/XM option.

I never paid attention because it would involve signing up for something, so I just keep the dial on the local college station.

Apparently, there is a trial or something, because my son, Joey, activated it. I’m not complaining. I found a station I liked. Randy and I listened to early 80s music while running errands.

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel played and the song triggered a memory.

It would be nice if my only memory of In Your Eyes was of Lloyd Dobbler holding a boom box over his head. But it’s not.

My second husband had narcissistic personality disorder. He was more charming and more subtle than my father, but they were cut from the same cloth.

When we first started seeing each other and were in the discovery period, we had stars in our eyes. In Your Eyes was peaking in popularity at the time and I adored the song. I was 26 years old and falling in love with my boss. This was the beginning of a 4 year span that would tear me down as much as my narcissist father did in my childhood.

If I had known then what I know now, I could have seen what was in store for me. I didn’t though. narcissism 25 years ago
All I could see was a man who was older and gentle. A pure and caring soul.

I wrote out Peter Gabriel’s lyrics and gave them to him. I fully expected that he would recognize the song. Seriously, what is more romantic than having your eyes compared to the doorway of a thousand churches?

He thought I wrote them.

My second husband wrote lyrics and music. He played acoustic guitar. Imagine, if you will, a computer programmer who aspires to one day be as cool as John Denver, but doesn’t quite hit the mark. That was my second husband.

He freaked out when he read those lyrics. I didn’t know it then, but looking back, I would have seen that he was freaking out. If I had known then what I know now. These can’t possibly be the exact right words, but they are close.

Second Husband (before he was my second husband): These aren’t too bad.

Me: Yeah, I know.

Second Husband: A little amateurish, but with some work, they’d be okay. Serviceable.

Me: Really? Because I think they’re pretty good.

Second Husband: You really won’t grow as a writer until you can take criticism.

Me: Ummmm, I didn’t write those lyrics. That’s a Peter Gabriel song.

Second Husband, visibly relieved: Oh, okay. That makes more sense. I didn’t think you could write like this.

I should have seen then, how threatened he was by the thought that I might have some talent, and how he immediately tried to tear it down. I didn’t, though. He continued to tear me down for the next 4 years. He was more subtle than my father. My father’s approach to life was barrel through and hit it with a hammer. My ex wrapped his criticisms and put downs in concern and “helpfulness”.

By the time I escaped, he had nearly convinced me that I was mentally ill enough to be a threat to myself. He and his doctor buddy were pushing to get me on lithium.

I did escape, though.

I escaped and I found Randy.

I’m glad I didn’t know then what I know now. If I had, then perhaps I would have taken a different path and then my reality wouldn’t have included Randy or Joey or my stepdaughters and grandchildren.

4 years of being miserable is an acceptable price to pay for my life today.

It’s not perfect. I am still a walking bundle of anxiety. But I spend my days with a person who always builds me up and never tears me down.

I found my resolution to all the fruitless searches.



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  • I’m tearing up reading this. Your last line got me. But I’m also chuckling at pseudo John Denver’s response to the lyrics. I mean, he was sick and warped but the whole exchange over the lyrics is comical.

  • Ha. This is funny and awful at the same time.

    “Honey, I wrote this speech. It’s called I HAVE A DREAM”.
    “Eh, it’s a’ight. Not particularly memorable”.

    ~I reach out from the inside

  • Boom. That exchange sums it up, doesn’t it? Narcissism wasn’t the problem in my marriage, but I have definitely known that person and am so sorry you had to live through that. If it will cheer you up, I spent part of yesterday walking my almost-ex through his taxes, because he insisted that we file separately, except he’s never filed a tax return in his life, and I’m still addicted to enabling his helplessness. On the other hand, I’m also addicted to Sirius/XM. Join us, it’s awesome!

    • Oh man..I get the hand holding. I always want to help. except for exes. They can kiss my ass. You know, I’d probably help out my first husband if he asked, though. We get along fine now. Not the second one, though. Mostly because he’s dead.

  • Wow. I love a happy ending – and you deserve it. I hardly have the words to express my thoughts about your ex, which is odd because I totally get it. I’m just nodding and feeling icky. I can just see that exchange like I’m a fly on the wall. Or maybe because I’ve witnessed this shit first-hand, as my “failure as a professional” ex often had to cut down individuals who achieved what he could not (through no fault of his own, of course! poor man – the world has always been out to get him). I was also 26 when I fell for this much older guy who I worked with, although he wasn’t my boss. Unfortunately we were together much longer than 4 years. Perhaps that’s because he didn’t turn his sour criticisms at me very often, although he accused me of not understanding his many hardships. Uh-huh. It’s his 65th birthday today. None of our 3 kids will contact him because they know he’ll just talk about himself and not show any true interest in their lives. I’m proud of them for making that difficult decision. I hadn’t realized that he is a narcissist until I began reading your blog and, with hindsight, it all fell so clearly into place. What a wake-up. Man, the shit you live with under the guise of keeping it together.

    • Katnap, that’s why I try to call my sister as little as I have to. Somehow, some way, anything I’m talking about gets turned around and becomes all about her, her life, how fabulous she is, etc. You don’t have conversations with her, they’re more like her giving a monologue and me sitting with the phone to my ear, waiting for her to shut up so I can say good bye and get the hell off the phone.

      • Terri Lee 🙂 My sister is rich, so I suck it up, just in case.
        Damn right I can be bought.
        Silly Daddy. Silly first husband. Money would definitely have purchased my obedience.
        Then, after I had my lover kill them, I could be happily sitting in my new Mercedes listening to my subscription to Sirius 80’s on 8, looking for my next lover.
        Yeah, it’s good to think of ‘what could have been.’

        • Lisa K., I don’t know if my sister is “rich”, but last time we spoke and I told her I was worrying all the time about finances, she had to tell me how, between her salary and her husband’s pension and their income properties, they make too MUCH money, because they had to pay instead of receiving a refund. (Yes, these are the “sensitive, caring” responses I get to the problems I face.) They can have their money. I can’t bring myself to suck up to anyone! Haha!

          By the way, if you had your lover kill them, wouldn’t you want to drive that Mercedes to either the Mexican or Canadian border in the event you were implicated in the crime? Just as a precaution! 😀

          • When the fuck you coming to Oregon? We could be ‘poor’ sisters together and just steal the fucking Mercedes on our way to Canada. (Better drug plan and less violence from the Cartel… just sayin’ 🙂 )
            With my sister, we don’t talk about ‘her stuff.’ It’s implied… She tries, but she has that God thing going on, so it’s more a matter of the ‘choices I made’ rather than she’s ‘better’ than me.
            I’ve never asked.
            There’s an answer I don’t want to be emotionally responsible for.
            I confess.
            I’ll kiss any ass that seems probable for a reward. But, if I don’t get my treat, then I kick that same ass to the curb.
            What can I say?
            At least I’m transparent 🙂

      • That sounds just like what my older daughter described after her last phone call with her father, except he didn’t brag, just played the pity card. Always looking for sympathy, cuz, ya know, it’s all ’bout him.

    • I’m glad your children see him for what he is. And yes, we put up with a LOT of shit to keep things together. I know when I learned about parental narcissism, SO MANY things fell into place all at once. It was overwhelming to me.

  • My ex was (and I imagine still is) a malignant narcissist, and had me brainwashed for 7 years. When I was finally rescued by my current husband, my ex tried everything to get me back, even going so far as to try to quote Bon Jovi to me. During the marriage I was forbidden to listen to “my” music, and had to listen to his. Jon Bon Jovi and his band got me through many rough spots as I listened in secret. Everyone has music that speaks to them, and I am a child of the 80’s through and through.
    I had snuck the CD Cross Road into the house, and I guess he listened to it after I had left. He called me and quoted the lyrics to me;

    It’s been raining since you left me
    Now I’m drowning in the flood
    You see I’ve always been a fighter
    But without you I give up

    When he holds you close, when he pulls you near
    When he says the words you’ve been needing to hear
    I’ll wish I was him ’cause those words are mine
    To say to you ’til the end of time

    I hate the fact that asshole ruined that song for me.
    Of course, he also cemented how hypocritical the Church is too, so I guess I should be grateful. He got my Pastor to kick me out of the church when he “found” religion.

  • Oh yeah, those “stars in the eyes”. Sometimes, they can be the most dangerous things, blinding us to the reality that sits directly in front of us. :::sigh::: I love this story, especially how it ends! 🙂 I also love that song, Peter Gabriel and 80s on 8 on Sirius/XM. Have you heard Martha Quinn and Nina Blackwood in the afternoons? Takes me right back to the halcyon days of MTV. Back when it was actually COOL and all about the music! Honest to God, where are the Buggles when you need them? Haha!

  • It’s good that you recognize you wouldn’t be where you are now if your past had been different. I’ve played the “what if” game and I’ve been asked what I would change if I could go back in time. Nothing. Everything that happened led to here and here is a pretty good place.

  • I adore Randy even more now.

    Those narcissists, they get us where we live – our writing. It’s like going for our jugular.
    I learn so much from you all the time. Never ever stop writing your truth.

  • Glad you found your voice and broke free. Narcissists can really mess with your head. You and Randy seem really well matched.

  • Peter Gabriel has a special place in my life also. It was at a concert of his at the Greek Theater in Berkeley in 1983 that Briana and I had the dawning realization that we needed to move to the East Bay. We’re still here. A lot is different, and we very nearly had to leave last winter to be able to afford housing, but we didn’t.
    When I think of the horrendous stuff I’ve lived through and wonder whether it was worth it to get where I am, most days I’m 100% certain that it was, and the other days I try to remember the people who helped me when I needed it, and usually my attitude comes around fairly quickly. I’m glad you found Randy. And I’m glad I found your blog. You brighten up any day that I get to read you.

  • “I see the doorway to a thousand churches.”— My own memory whose details are best left forgotten.

    Well I think you’re cool. I don’t care if anyone else thinks likewise. I’d grab somebody’s throat in a chat room for you. ;O

  • We all make choices when we’re younger that we know now were probably the worst ones we could have possibly made, but that’s the only way to learn to recognize what we don’t want. It’s like shoes, sometimes you have to try on a few before you find that perfect fit.

  • I’m so glad you have Randy and I have Al – I wish everyone could meet their Randy/Al and be happy like we are. I occasionally think back to guys I dated and wonder how my life would have turned out if we had stayed together – I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be as happy/satisfied as I am now and I’m positive Al is the only one would have stuck with me through the sh*t I’ve been through. I don’t know how many times I said to him “If I was married to me I would have told me to piss off” but thankfully he hasn’t. Maybe it has something to do with all the years I sat around baseball and softball fields and tennis courts while he did what he did ? Whatever I am bloody happy he didn’t tell me to piss off so we have a chance to grow old(er?) together !!

  • Glad you figured it out and found Randy. The most telling comment your ex had was “serviceable”. Thank you for your blog!

  • I love this, Michelle! I’m sorry you had to go through that but happy you recognized it and was strong enough to get out. I have a lot of words for your ex-husband but I will restrain myself. Just know that a) I love that song and yes, the image of Lloyd with that boombox over his head (although that messed me up for most of my younger days believing that someone SHOULD do that to me and love looks like that, lol!); b) I’m sure you are a much better writer than Peter Gabriel.

    • Hahaha..well, I don’t know that I’m better than Peter..but I’m happy with me. Now. And I had a lot of words for my ex as well..but he’s dead now and can’t hear them.

  • Sigh. I love that song, and that movie…..but I digress.

    Yay for finding Randy. Yay for Randy. Yay for you. and Fuck anyone that tries to tell you different.

    PS: You should have sent Peter Gabriel your exes critique!

By Michelle


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