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Was WH always a narcissist or did A bring it out?

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StrongAndCapable posted 8/9/2014 22:47 PM

Hi friends, in IC and at the time that we were attending MC, the term narcissist was brought up in regards to my WH. In reading a little bit more about it, I'm wondering if someone always has the narcissistic characteristics within them but doesn't display them until a crisis arises (like dealing with the exposure of an A)? My WH meets almost every description of a narcissist NOW but I can't really identify narcissistic behavior before the A. Any input?

badmedicine posted 8/9/2014 23:58 PM

My previous IC tried to give my WH all kinds of diagnoses... anti-social PD, narcissistic PD, passive-aggressive... For me I didn't buy it. LIke you, I have known him for a long time. 10 years! I think that having an affair requires certain behaviors, at least for the affair to be successful. For example, if someone isn't selfish and is honest to a fault...well, they would be terrible at cheating. My WH has always been very private, and he was good at compartmentalizing and bad at communicating. Add in a little disillusionment with life and career goals along with stress for our relationship and the same life/career things and...voila! Wayward mentality. I think some of these personality traits were strengthened during the affair and that was very unpleasant. I hope for his sake that this isn't a full-on personality disorder and that by working with his IC he is able to overcome this way of thinking and behaving and become a healthier person. Sadly our M was a casualty of this behavior. I hope for your sake that your WH is able to own what he has done and work on himself sooner so that you have a chance to R if that's what you are looking for.

ETA: just saw that you are "moving toward D" answer is still the same however. You have to do what makes you feel safe and allows you to heal. For me, waiting around forever while he continued to let me down just wasn't helping.

[This message edited by badmedicine at 12:00 AM, August 10th (Sunday)]

meleanoro posted 8/10/2014 00:34 AM

Another thought is sometimes it takes a long view to begin to see patterns of behavior.

My dad had an affair/left mom when I was adult. At the time, it was seemingly a midlife crisis.

Years later I've been able to see, with dismay, patterns of narcicssism in him since my childhood. It really took a long time for me to see him for how he is.

This isn't to say your WH is definitively an NPD. There is a spectrum. Many personality disorders on the spectrum have overlapping traits (my H fits 3-4 of the disorders, but not every trait in each). And some people are in sort of te gray: they might not encompass a full on personality disorder but be really stunted in their development, maturity, impulse controls, etc.

In the end, the label can be useful to help you identify unhealthy behaviors but not necessary to make decisions about what you're willing to live with.

With that said, some types of PD tend to be irreversable. Npd and sociopathy are two that come to mind.

Finally, some NPD material i read do not fit my dad or H (overt bragging, for example). You may find googling the term "covert narcissism" provide you additional food for thought. The primary traits of both dad and my H that fit NPD are self pity and sense of being right and everyone else is wrong.

[This message edited by meleanoro at 12:35 AM, August 10th (Sunday)]

Ostrich80 posted 8/10/2014 01:04 AM

Badmedicine just described my spot on!

Bad communicator, compartmentalized, could never handle a bump in the road. Narcissistic or just an asshole..still deciding. Maybe both.,

BtraydWife posted 8/10/2014 10:20 AM

One of the twists about NPD is that they make it seem like they care for you or want to help you.

My dad buys lots of gifts for people so that seems caring and generous on the surface. When you look a little closer you see his choices reflect him not really knowing the recipient. In addition to that, if he doesn't get the reaction he's looking for, shit hits the fan.

So they are good at masking their true motivations with "good guy" behavior and they have to be good at it or they wouldn't get what they are looking for. Their party only lasts as long as they can blend in.

Of course some people are just assholes, as previously mentioned.

cosmicjoke posted 8/10/2014 12:25 PM

I think A's often bring out the latent N.. and narcissism & cheating feed on each other, it's a vicious cycle. And if cheating behavior isn't detected and it's allowed to continue.. it just goes on and on and feeds into itself, creating a monster. And truth and logic and reasoning all go out the window, as reality is twisted/warped to continually justify what they are doing. Other people just become things, toys, puppets.. a means to an end. No longer human. And the N themselves lose their humanity.

[This message edited by cosmicjoke at 12:26 PM, August 10th (Sunday)]

StrongAndCapable posted 8/10/2014 12:27 PM

Thanks for your input. My WH has not shown a bit of remorse or empathy. He told the MC that he was TT because he didn't want to hurt me. (Really protecting himself, not concerned about me). He said I wasn't meeting his needs so what did I expect him to do? (Entitlement). He continues to be selfish and dishonest. When we were communicating directly after the A, the blame was always placed on me and he always exhibited so much anger. I'm moving toward D anyway but sometimes I wonder who is this person I thought I knew so well and have spent the past 13 years with? Was he pretending all along? Putting on an act? Were these characteristics always within him but the poor coping skills of the A allowed them to come to light?

Not.the.Big.Easy posted 8/10/2014 15:17 PM


I grew up with a mother that I now know is NPD. I do think that my mothers NPD is worse in crisis situations. Most of the time she can seem completely non-NPD. Often, personality disorder symptoms can be subtle, or mistaken for just being a b**ch/a$$hole. As I have few memories of my childhood, I can only go by things my siblings have told me.

My XWGF was actually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder after her affair. I believe the emotional, physical and sexual abuse I experienced with her was just a continuation of my childhood (minus the sexual abuse). I believe if she had maintained therapy and medication it might have been possible for R. Unfortunately both lasted about 3 months.

wontdefineme posted 8/10/2014 15:26 PM

I never had a name for the stuff he did. I always thought he was acting out, little did I know he would never get better, just worse.

mainlyinpain posted 8/10/2014 15:42 PM

"I think A's often bring out the latent N.. and narcissism & cheating feed on each other, it's a vicious cycle. And if cheating behavior isn't detected and it's allowed to continue.. it just goes on and on and feeds into itself, creating a monster. And truth and logic and reasoning all go out the window, as reality is twisted/warped to continually justify what they are doing. Other people just become things, toys, puppets.. a means to an end. No longer human. And the N themselves lose their humanity."

wow, cosmicjoke...just wow.
That is what my WH ended up as....
I would say he was at the lower end of the NPD spectrum and then he started the cheating...long term ...and all the lying and compartmentalizing changed him into this....yes monster. Who has zero empathy....there is not logic...his reasoning is disturbing in his inability to look beyond some injury he feels. I have told him that he treats his things so much better than me making me feel like a nothing.
he has been corrupted both by the years of cheating lying betraying but also I feel by the "you lay down with dogs you get fleas" idea. Spending a longterm affair with a OP who after all has no morals and is of poor character will certainly not make you a better person. I believe that his basic mental wiring is now corrupted and yes he is less human. Crazy personified.
And throw in aging, which will also make narcissism worse...
SAC....yes narcissism can be unobservable early as it disguises itself. He can be so wonderful, helping everyone and being a KISA...but eventually you see that these acts are to make them feel good about themselves, the ego kibbles they need. It is so very hard.

JellyGirl84 posted 8/10/2014 15:50 PM


You said this:

"My WH has always been very private, and he was good at compartmentalizing and bad at communicating. Add in a little disillusionment with life and career goals along with stress for our relationship and the same life/career things and...voila! Wayward mentality."

It's a description of my xWH that is so exact, I think maybe we were married to the same man... Geez!

Janus2014 posted 8/10/2014 16:12 PM

NPD is on a continuum. My fBH/WH doesn't brag per se, but he does show NPD traits via his self-pity, controlling behavior and especially his belief that he is right when everyone else thinks he is wrong. He also suffers narcissistic rage when his ego is injured. He can discard you on a dime after that. He makes major decisions without consulting anyone else and expects the family to accept them, regardless of the effect on us.

WH said all the right things to get me to consider R after D-Day. But despite his promise to do so, he did nothing to go NC with the OW or tell her that he wanted to reconcile with me. When I asked him why, he actually admitted that it was because he wanted to keep OW as an option and could go fix it with her if things didn't work out with me. She was not near him geographically, so he didn't have to decide immediately.

My figuring out who OW was made WH furious. WH felt I should only know what he chose to tell me. When he seemed to be taunting me about her and I crudely questioned her motives for being in the relationship with him, he became absolutely enraged and was finally ready to discard me. He immediately and coldly began his campaign to pull OW back in. Little did OW know how much effort he had been making to try to reel me back in.

When people say their WS became a monster, I would liken it to Bluebeard. My WH was willing to allow me to remain married to him if I accepted his control. I could have the castle and him as my husband, but I was not to try to enter the locked room. In my case, that "room" was his need for secrecy with respect to his phone, email accounts, etc. If I got near that subject, he became physically threatening, like Bluebeard was to the curious wives who used the little key to get into the secret room he told them not to enter.

WH's physically threatening reaction made me realize that my attachment to WH might be co-dependency or invert narcissism, since my mother has NPD. It's like a physical addiction from which you have to detox. Hence all the nausea and physical pain BSs feel. But if your mental or physical safety is threatened, you must do it.

StrongAndCapable posted 8/10/2014 16:51 PM

Janus, when my WH started acting so angry and enraged is when I really started understanding that I had to detach. He would come into every MC session so angry that the therapist would tell him to calm down. She told him anger was a cover-up emotion for other feelings. For WH, he was covering up shame, guilt, and remorse. Like you, if I never mentioned the A, and just focused on moving forward he acted fine.

But when I demanded NC with OW, set up boundaries regarding my expectations, sent an email to my MIL, and was in contact with the OW's husband he became enraged. He would tell me I'm overstepping my boundaries (uh, really?), I'm making myself look like an ass (oh you mean, I'm making you look like an ass and you don't like it!), etc. He couldn't handle anymore exposure. He wanted to rugsweep the entire A and move on with his life. I wouldn't allow it.

The most angry I have seen him was just recently when he was preparing for his "head clearing" trip to meet up with OW in their hometown where they both grew up. She was planning on bringing her children, WH wanted to bring our son and I stomped that down immediately. Anyway, after seeking advice here, I wrote a letter to OW's parents. It was short, factual, non-emotional, not belittling their daughter at all. It was just to notify them that my husband was coming to town and had an inappropriate "friendship" with their daughter. That they were engaged in an affair. That he was still married. That we had a young son who is being affected. OW either saw the letter or her parents told her about it and she told WH and he was off the charts angry! He even said, "When you do things like this it makes me less likely to want to reconcile with you!". As if I am still begging for his partnership. Keep dreaming! It's time that the truth was told.

He was angry because now the A has to be taken deep, deep underground. Neither my in-laws or the OW's parents seem to condone the A and will not allow it to continue in front of them.

Selfish, egotistical, pathological liar. And, now I think I can add narcissist to the list, too.

Janus2014 posted 8/10/2014 18:38 PM

Indeed, S&C, It is amazing how our WHs reacted so similarly. Mine felt it was enough that he admitted an affair - after I received an anonymous email telling me about it. He wanted big kudos for his honesty. Just as he did when he "honestly" answered my question about whether he had actually gone NC with the OW. No, because "life is complicated" and he wanted to keep his options open. He wanted me to drop it and go on to see if we could "re-connect" by doing fun things. Amazingly, many MCs advise you to do just that: Don't say anything about the A that may still be going on, just show him how fab life with you can be. My narcissist said that's how I should have handled things.

As with you, WH actually felt that my desire to know anything further was improper. He found my assessment of the OW's request for and receipt of thousands of dollars of our money - as being similar to prostitution - to be undignified. He said the only person hurt by my comments about OW was me. I think it was a way to get me to avoid raising a subject that must secretly be giving him pause. (Before I learned of the A, I found him "Linked In" with dozens of obvious escorts who had contacted him, saying things like, "looking for a new challenge." One of his male colleagues had tried to tell him what they were about. He admitted to being naive and foolish about that. Yet, I am supposed to trust my physical health to his judgment about the OW.)

Thanks for your MC's insight about the reasons for the anger and cruelty. My WH also became very calm and normal when we got off the subject of his phones. But he's realized he can't live with the possibility that I might look in his phones. He actually needs to find a woman who won't do that. OW may fill the bill. She's gotten frustrated occasionally, but ultimately she's let him call the shots. I think that for someone with narcissism, a woman who is just happy to see him, few questions asked, is far more appealing than she would be to most people. My brother, for example, views doormat women who don't challenge him as very unappealing.

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