In my divorce experience, I have observed friends’ and acquaintances’ divorces in order to get some perspective on my own situation. The most amazing scene played out in the middle of all of this: certain spouses convinced each other that their soon-to-be ex’s all were narcissists. More often than not, these spouses were also what I’m going to call Laxative Spouses (a close relative to Laxative Coworkers).
I’ll start off saying this: Yes, it’s narcissistic to blog about myself. But you all are reading it, so it can’t be all bad. Also, you all are bloggers, and probably write about yourselves and your points of view too. So we’ll all be happy little narcissists together, shan’t we?
It started with an email my ex sent to my new bride’s ex when they had teamed up to oppose us and support each other. They were saying that my new bride and I are narcissists and left them feeling spent. Never mind that my new bride and I spent our first marriages eternally propping up our spouses, making them better than they would have been otherwise. Then, I found out that the ex of a dear friend of mine (whose wife left him) was sending a very similar email around to any mutual friends in order to get people to “side with her.” So I’ve uncovered a clubby little conspiracy…
The members of this little group pass around links to unscientific websites (here is one example). These websites are poorly written, and fling about this accusation describing what could really be anyone when you look at them through ugly lenses. In this case, my friend’s wife (from last paragraph) had done the leaving, and since we were all from a tight little group of Mormons from college, she felt the need to tell anyone who’d listen that my friend is a pill-popping narcissist (as my bride says: “Aren’t they all?”).
My bride brings up one other brilliant point: Let’s just assume we are narcissists for a moment. For the exes who sit there pining over the departing spouse, or the exes who are otherwise angry at being left, and yet still bandy about the N word, aren’t they in fact better off? If we have a disorder that makes us bad people, shouldn’t they feel lucky to be out of a bad situation?
The basic claim is that if you have an ex (or a spouse you wish was an ex) who is a narcissist, they have this “disorder” so it’s really not your fault. You tried to relate to them, to comfort them and be a romantic partner, and they rejected you out of fear. You were so darn wonderful, they were afraid you might get to close and instead turned about and hurt you mentally and/or physically.
Now here’s my point: Narcissism is an indefensible claim. When my parents got divorced, my mom called my dad a control freak – same/same. And I have a philosophy about who throws around indefensible claims mid- and post-divorce. On a political side-note, I am a card-carrying Republican. However, 2 years ago the theme across all of the talk-radio airwaves was that President Obama is a narcissist. It has never sat right with me – again, because it is indefensible. If it is a disorder, I’ll believe it when the President walks out of a psychiatrist’s office with a diagnosis. As my bride would say: diagnonsense!
In every breakup (other than the movie-divorces where the spouses are each other’s best friend and other such unhealthy scenarios), there is one spouse (we’ll call them Spouse 1) who wholeheartedly admits, “It looked like it would be a good marriage, but over the months and years I made some mistakes, he/she made mistakes, and things got away from us.” What I’m seeing is that the other spouse (Spouse 2) blames Spouse 1 for everything. It doesn’t seem to be tied at all to which spouse left whom. It just seems to be a general character flaw.
The really insidious thing? When Spouse 1 admits they made some mistakes, Spouse 2 leaps on that moment as an opportunity to prove how right, innocent and mentally abused Spouse 1 made them. By being the more mature adult, Spouse 1 gets an extra helping of blame. But here’s the funny part: isn’t it the ultimate narcissistic move for a Spouse 2 to say everything bad in the marriage came from the other spouse? Odd, isn’t it, that they would have been the perfect husband/wife? Just sayin’!
How this all ties into Laxative Spouses
When one spouse leaves another, it’s because they’re unhappy. I talked to a divorced exec the other day who says, “No happy marriage results in divorce” – truer words were never spoken!
In my case, and my new bride’s, we were married to Laxative Spouses. It’s like this: A complaint about laxatives is that the more you use them, the more you have to use them. What happens is, when you use laxatives, your digestive tract stops pushing so hard on its own to get food through you, and lets the laxatives do their work. Regular laxative use can result in almost a permanent need for laxatives.
I felt like a laxative. The more I did, the more I made my ex feel good about herself and the more I did around the house, the less she felt she needed to do. Period. I knew that when my bishop told me the way to fix my marriage was to hold her hand at night and pray vocally, including 5 things I liked about her, what the result would be. And I was right. The result was that she would be so happy that I just liked/loved her for who she was, that she could try even less in our relationship. That’s just what Laxative Spouses do. If your Laxative Spouse has gained a ton of weight, you probably have too much decency to tell them they’re getting extraordinarily fat. If you try to make them feel comfortable, or beautiful, or whatever motivates them, a Laxative Spouse will eat even more and exercise even less because they’re so clam-happy. You made them happy, by accepting them for who they are! It’s really a catch-22: You can’t tell them they’re miserable, or fat, or lazy, or whatever their flaw is that’s driving you insane; if you pretend the problem doesn’t exist, they get clam-happy.
They’re just like Laxative Coworkers (and for the record, my ex is not one of these). Laxative Coworkers let you help them when they struggle, and then realize how much work they didn’t have to do while you were doing it for them. My bride had that problem at a grocery store – a coworker in the deli wasn’t very fast/efficient at skewering chickens for the rotisserie. After my bride helped her, my bride ended up always being tasked with skewering. This is how Laxative Coworkers work – they always say via their actions: “You’d save so much time just helping them do the stuff they don’t want to!” All you ever get from helping a Laxative Coworker, is more work.
Laxative Spouses (and likely Laxative Coworkers) peaked at a certain age and stuck there. They want the rest of their lives to be level and predictable. They don’t want change, and they don’t want anything new. I was telling my bride tonight that I love her because she is constantly evolving. She does everything she tries magnificently, and has so many neat ways to do things that I have learned a ton from her over the past year. But she is always looking for ways to do better, to do things better, to live better. It’s this sort of refusal to rest on her laurels, that I love about her. It’s this sort of person that I want to have around me.
For the record, I’m not afraid to open up. My bride knows everything about me, even things I was always too embarrassed to tell any friend, any relative, and my ex-spouse. I wanted to make sure I was a completely open book for my bride, so that nothing would ever be too touchy to share. I advise anyone getting married, whether a RM 1st marriage, or an Elizabeth Taylor 7th marriage, to take this painful step. You are the culmination of your best and worst choices – if they can’t love you for everything you are, then find someone who can. Then you can be as happy as I will forever be.