Generally, Aunt Alex doesn’t like to delve into the whys and wherefores of what goes on inside the “brains” of narcissists, as this tends to encourage thinking about him and even feeling sorry for him. However, she understands the questions don’t fizzle away that easily, and can be distracting. That “roadkill” feeling can be soothed with yet another reminder that there’s no way you did anything wrong in the relationship, and nothing you could have done. So, let’s take on a few of those questions here.
“Why are narcissists the way they are?”
There’s some minor disagreement about this, but the reality is pretty clear: They’re born that way. They’re born with a major personality defect; the whole empathy – interrelationship piece is missing. If it seems like he MIGHT be damaged because one or another parent was horrible and he had to grow up with them, then the horrible parent is probably the one from whom he inherited the damage he was born with. Key point: It’s permanent, it’s not fixable, and he will never, ever have an awakening to the power of love or the instincts of bonding. He’ll never grow, and he’ll never change.
“Don’t they get lonely? Doesn’t this make them want to be better people?”
They’re ALWAYS lonely. That’s one of the things for which they use other people; they’re always seeking to abate the crushing loneliness they have. But normal people get lonely when their friends and family aren’t available; narcissists are lonely because they have zero people to whom they’re connected, because THEY CAN’T CONNECT. The narcissist himself is the broken link. It’s not that there’s no one special for him to connect with, or no one with whom he can be friends. He could be in a stadium full of people who adore and admire him, and two hours after the glow has dissipated, he’s just as bleakly and hopelessly lonely as ever. But he’s too broken to do anything meaningful about it, so he uses people, family, partners, girlfriends, friends, even kids, hopping from one giving person to the next, constantly embezzling their emotional strength, in order to keep from feeling bad. Yes, it’s that pathetic. No, there is NOTHING you can do for him.
“Does he miss me?”
Oh, boy. First, you deserve better than what he was throwing at you. You’re emotionally generous (which is why he picked you), loving, and without question can do better. You’re special. But one of the ways in which these asshats are a disaster is that they can’t — not ‘don’t’, but CAN’T — value a person. Valuing, missing, wanting, loving a person involves bonding with them, and that equipment is missing in a narcissist. He doesn’t miss anyone, ever. He misses the attention, the sex, the appearances of being in a couple. He feels sorry for himself that he’s not being taken care of, or coddled, or paid attention to. But only normal people miss other people. To narcissists, attention is like a drug, and they don’t really care who’s pushing it, as long as the drug makes him feel good.
Because you’re emotionally generous. Did you have a narcissist as a parent, which “bent” your boundaries when it comes to them? Maybe, maybe not. Do you have a taste for bad boys, or for lost souls? Maybe, maybe not. What’s a certainty is that you’re emotionally generous, which is a fabulous gift that I want you to cherish, not change. Emotional generosity isn’t a problem, or a fault. It’s part of being a loving person and having a rich and meaningful life. The only thing we’re going to “change” is the boundaries — beefing them up so that people with personality disorders don’t barge in and wreak havoc like a rabid yak in a china shop. Narcissists can smell emotional generosity from a mile away, and they bolt on in and immediately start charming, intoxicating, and figuring out how to push your buttons. All with the cold calculation of a serial criminal.
Sound creepy? It is. And now you understand why Aunt Alex is so hopeful that you’ll hang on to these guys, and distract them away from the rest of us.