Lately I can’t seem to avoid all the online chatter about narcissism.
Everywhere I’m bombarded with blogs, articles, and videos on how to spot them, steps to take to avoid them, and all sorts of relationship advice on whether to stay or leave them.
In fact, it happened this morning. As I brushed my teeth and dressed, I pushed play on the latest podcast from Betrayal Trauma Recovery, hosted by Anne Blythe, and heard an introduction to today’s topic of co-parenting with a narcissist.
Our Fascination with Narcissism
I get our current fascination with narcissism. After surviving a two-year marriage to someone with narcissistic tendencies, I don’t want to go down that road again.
It makes sense we all are looking for answers on how to deal with this difficult group of human beings. Underneath their initially charming and charismatic facade is a list of not very glamorous personality attributes.
Such as —
- Domineering or controlling
- Prone to rages
- Lacking empathy
- Deceptive and often lies
Who wants to live with someone like this? I sure don’t!
Facing the Reality of Bad Odds
Since my divorce, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching.
As a psychologist, I know all too well the likelihood is high I’ll pick another bad apple out of the bin. To be exact, there’s a sixty percent chance my next marriage will end in divorce.
No thank you. Uh-huh. I don’t want to do that again.
Some of my older single friends have settled on a simple solution — they’ve decided they’re NOT going to marry again. That’s it.
They’re opting out.
Is Opting-Out as Workable Solution?
They’re letting go of being held in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm, knowing someone has always got their back or finding comfort in going through life with a partner.
Sure, they may choose to enjoy an occasional tumble in the sack, but not real long-standing intimacy, which according to psychologist, David Schnarch, is designed to occur best in monogamy.
Yeah, that’s true their tactic of avoidance will work, but is it the healthiest answer to this problem? Can it even be considered a solution?
Wanting a Different Outcome
I remember from my clinical training days that acquiesce or avoidance aren’t good options. Although opposite end of the spectrum, they both result in the same outcome, no real internal change. If we want to be different, we need to make different choices. Running away or giving in doesn’t count.
That means there’s no way to avoid the hard work of understanding what attracts us to narcissistic people.
That means I have to go out and meet guys.
True confession time — I’m on a dating site.
For those of you who know and love me, breathe…Okay? Please hear me, I’m taking it slow!
I would love to meet the right guy. The love of my life, but I’m a realist. The pickings at my age are pretty slim.
I’d prefer to meet someone organically. You know, bump into him at the grocery store. But here’s the problem — how do I spot an eligible fifty-something-year-old single man lingering around the fresh fruit and vegetable area of my local store. Someone who’s not a narcissist. See what I mean? Not an easy task!
So, I’ve resorted to using an online dating app. One of my girlfriends swears by it.
So far, it’s been going okay. I’ve met three guys for what I call a “meet and greet,” a face-to-face introduction in a public location to see if there’s any sort of a connection.
It was clear from hello two weren’t a match. The third was from out of town and not ready to start a relationship.
Practicing Being Different
For me, however, all of this is practice. Practice at being different, which includes being more respectful of me, less self-deprecating, and more upfront about my likes and dislikes.
And, it’s an experiment of sorts since I’m unsure of the outcome. I have to work at making myself the highest priority in hopes I’ll be less susceptible to picking the wrong guy. This means I don’t drop everything to respond to a text, change plans in lieu of a possible date, or stay quiet when asked for an opinion.
Importance of Not Settling
Also, I remind myself not to settle for someone who’s a project. You know, a guy who’s great except for one small area of his life, which needs some tweaking. I know all too well from my years of counseling that personal change is hard won and rare, but trying to change someone else? Impossible. We’re only kidding ourselves.
Whoever I meet must be fine as is or I need to move on.
Asking Tough Questions
Then I ask myself these tough questions: Is this guy capable of compassion and showing empathy? Does he demonstrate reasonable interest in me, such as, asks follow-up questions? Is he considerate? Finally, is he either too clingy or never checks in?
Paying attention to these types of details helps me to weed out those with narcissistic tendencies, since entitled, selfish, arrogant guys aren’t good at attending to the emotional side of relationships.
I’m sure those who love me are afraid I’ll get hurt again and would prefer I stay single.
Having a Meaningful Life Means Accepting Risks
I don’t want to get hurt again either. Then I remember Lord Tennyson’s poem, In Memoriam A.H.H. (1849), penned about the loss of someone important. He wrote, “Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.”
No, none of this is for the faint of heart. But when is anything meaningful ever is?
So, this brings me back to the question at hand — How do I avoid meeting a narcissistic?
Through brutal honestly — the unflinching kind, practicing patience with the process, which includes no panicking or getting ahead of myself, and trusting in the goodness of life and my Higher Power, especially when life doesn’t make sense.