Monday, November 26, 2007


The greed of gain has no time or limit to its capaciousness. Its one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment's hesitation to crush beauty and life.
Rabindranath Tagore
When I read this quote I thought, “Poet Tagore sure has met a narcissist or two in his time, hasn’t he?” for this quote exemplifies the Ns approach to money.
If you married or were attached to an N, it will be no surprise that a lot of your money is gone. Just flat gone, as in disappeared. The N no doubt used money to control you during the relationship. He stole money from you, hid money from you and spent wildly both your personal money and your “joint” money in an effort to make himself feel better.
That is what Ns do.
That certainly is what the N to whom I was married did.
Money to the Ns represents all that they want to be. For the N, money is success, power, control, superiority and evidence of their purported good taste – all of the things that they think they are but in point of fact are not.
The Ns are typically control freaks about money, alternating between big spending in order to portray themselves to the outside world as Mr. Generous and niggardly doling out nickels and dimes in an effort to control you.
They are often spendaholics. The Ns spend money because it makes them feel powerful and important, rather like the proverbial bar fly who buys a round for the house. The Ns spend in order to fill the hole in their heart. They somehow believe that material things will fill their emptiness. Little do they know that no amount of money or “stuff” will fill that Grand Canyon-sized hole.
The N to whom I was married was ambitious when I met him and was anxious to be financially successful. That was not unusual in a young lawyer. What was unusual were his attitudes about money that were revealed over the course of time.
The N portrayed himself as the Great and Powerful Oz about money. He knew everything, invested perfectly and was a brilliant money manager. At least, that is what he thought of himself and told everyone about himself. Actually, this was partially accurate. Some investments that he got us into worked out beautifully. Others did not. When we lost our money in a particular deal, that deal was simply never mentioned again unless he chose to assign blame to someone else. After all, all losses were due to someone else’s perfidy or stupidity for he was never wrong.
The N I was married to spent money like the proverbial drunken sailor both during the time that we were working full time as well as later. When we were practicing law full time, he bought my clothes, art, and darned near anything else that he wanted. I did not watch how much he spent for a couple of reasons. First, we were not on a fixed income so I did not think much about what he was spending. Second, I was working so hard that I did not have time to watch what he spent.
Big mistake.
Originally, while we were working, I was grateful that he bought all of my clothes. This, by the way, does not mean that we went shopping together. Oh, no. He simply looked through catalogs and bought my clothes by telephone in this pre-internet time period. At the time, I thought that he was being a loving and supportive husband as I was just too busy with my job and our kids to go shopping. Now I know that his purchases were all about making him look good in the sense of his oft-repeated phrase: “Look what I bought my wife”. His purchases had the added benefit (to him only, of course) of controlling what I spent. There was no need for me to buy anything because he bought it all. If I didn’t like what he bought, too bad. Returning anything he had purchased for me that I did not like generated such a huge fight that I simply avoided the fight by not wearing the things that were not to my taste.
The Ns art purchases were a variation on this same theme. He was all about being the big cheese by meeting the artist so he could brag that he had done so, having the artist deliver the art to him, and being slavishly fawned upon by those stores where he bought art. He bought Native American kachinas at the Heard Museum and was on a first name basis with the Heard Museum store manager, a fact which he was overly and ridiculously proud of. The buying process was important to him, much more important than the art, some of which never saw the light of day. Owning art was more important than enjoying it.
The N went to great lengths to watch every dime and to keep as much of our income as possible, even going so far as to cheat on our tax returns. Because he was a tax lawyer, he ran way, way over the honesty line. Worse yet, he got away with it.
The worst of his narcissistic qualities in general and the money-related issues particularly did not appear in high relief until we retired from the practice of law and moved to Southwestern Colorado due entirely to his health. Once I no longer had my own, independent income and career, the N to whom I was married allowed his narcissism full rein and eventually disintegrated into psychosis. The N knew that it would be more difficult for me to leave him without a job and my own independent source of funds. To say that he took advantage of this situation understates the case. Not only he did not give me any “credit’ for giving up my career, my friends and my life for the sake of his health, but in his view I was beholding to him for in retirement the majority of our monthly income came from his disability insurance policy. Therefore, in his view, he was entitled to spend what I had previously thought was “our” money and I was entitled to nothing. Despite the fact that I had given up my career to care for him, in his view, I was now a parasite.
Despite our substantial retirement income, he spent every dime and more. Each month he would charge all of our credit cards to the max. Each month we would have huge fights about how much money he was spending on “stuff” that we did not need and that I did not want. Each month he would promise not to do spend money. Each month he violated that promise and continued to spend, blowing through all of our income and more. He spent so much money that we rarely paid our bills on time. Somehow the utility company was to be paid after, and only after, he had spent what he wanted to on more “stuff.”
Worse yet, I had to account for how I spent money. I will never forget him pulling the Wal-Mart receipt out of the bag and screaming at me about how much money I had spent on groceries and t-shirts for the kids.
Once I even bought my son shoes on layaway over a two month period just in order the inevitable fight that would ensue when he found out how much our son’s shoes cost. Apparently, the N believed that our children’s feet should not grow or that tennis shoes should be free.
Good luck with that one.
On another occasion, the N wanted a new large easy chair and hassock. I said no. Not only was there no place for it (and we had plenty of ugly furniture purchased by him already) but it cost a ridiculous amount of money. He agreed not to buy it. The next thing I knew, the chair and hassock were being delivered by UPS. Another long, ugly, ultimately pointless fight ensued.
The N and the UPS guy became great friends for the UPS guy came to our remote rural home nearly every day bringing the N’s latest catalog purchases. The things he bought were not all for himself. Oh, no. Some of it was for the kids and I. However, most of the stuff he bought for the kids and I, we really did not want. After all, how many doodads that sit on shelves does any one person need?
During our divorce, the N acted as all Ns do: self important. According to him, all of the money that we ever made was made by him. Despite being a full time litigator for “our” law firm, I was somehow extraneous to the income that we had generated.
Immediately prior to the date that I filed for divorce, the N to whom I was married “took” (read: “stole”) as much of “his” money, “our” money and my money as he could. His efforts were facilitated by our small town banker, a pro-male, men-handle-the-money kind of guy. The Banker allowed the N, without my knowledge or permission, to cash two certificates of deposit. One was a joint CD which required both of our signatures. The second was a CD in my name alone. Neither should have been cashed without my signature. All of these funds went into the N’s pocket. It took three years, a lawsuit against the bank, and a lot of effort to pry any of these funds out of the N’s greedy, grasping hands.
Needless to say, I switched banks.
Other Ns blow through money in other ways. Some are gambling addicts. One N whom I know of is a day trader. His stock trading, often for huge amounts of money, is the method by which he makes himself feel powerful and in control. At first his wife did not know about his trading, or at least she did not know how much he was losing each day. When she found out, she threw a fit at the large sums that he had gambled and lost. Consequently, the N agreed while in a marriage counseling session (always a waste of time with Ns but she didn’t know that then) to give up day trading. Despite his specific agreement not to day trade, he simply continued to day trade without telling her. In short, he lied. He persisted in day trading despite his explicit promise not to until his then-wife caught him. She rightly and smartly divorced him immediately.
The good news here is that once you get free of the N, you get to pay your bills on time. You can buy whatever you want to, big or small, without the need to obtain preapproval and without a post-purchase fight. If you make a financial mistake, no one gives you a hard time or makes you feel stupid.
Financial freedom is waiting for you when you are done with the N.

They Really Are Everywhere

The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
John Milton

Once you begin to recognize narcissism, you see N’s everywhere. Literally. You begin to wonder if you have lost your mind. Are you seeing things?
Nope. You are correctly spotting N’s everywhere for they actually are everywhere.
Think about it. In the U.S., there are no rewards for non-narcissists and plenty of rewards for the Ns. Our society, particularly American industry, rewards narcissistic behavior. All one has to do is read the newspaper to recognize that N’s are particularly prevalent among the Captains of Industry in the U.S. For example, according to the press, the Enron guys had “a grandiose sense of self-importance”, fantasies of unlimited power and success (as well as apparently the fantasy that they would never get caught), a sense of entitlement, were “interpersonally exploitative” in that they took advantage of others for their own gain, lacked empathy in that they were unable to identify with those that they took from and were arrogant and haughty.
They were N’s.
Similarly, the Tyco C.E.O. Dennis Kozlowski was certainly an N in his $6,000 shower curtains and his million dollar birthday party for his wife, featuring an ice sculpture of Michelango’s David urinating vodka, all paid for by corporate (read: shareholder) funds.
A high percentage of American C.E.O.’s are clearly narcissists.
If you have narcissistic lessons that you needed to learn, you may be able to look back at your past and see the narcissism in each of the long string of guys that you dated. This is certainly my experience. From my dad who was a 1950’s rule the roost kind of guy, to my first, demanding boyfriend, to the “player” I dated in college, to the N whom I married, I have a long and distinguished history of involvement with N’s.
So the obvious next question is “Why?”
I have asked myself this question a million times. Did I prefer the Ns’ balsy, self-confidence; their take charge attitude? Or was I simply looking for a successful man, many of whom are N’s? Or perhaps I had lessons to learn about boundaries that could only be learned from an N who recognizes no boundaries and bulldozes over you if you attempt to set boundaries.
Whatever the reason is for your unfortunate involvement with N’s, if you are still vulnerable to N’s or if you still have lessons to learn from N’s, you will find them popping up in your life until you’ve learned that particular lesson and learned it well. Once you have the lesson down pat, I suggest that you spot the Wild Narcissist early on and run hard and fast from their destructive, black hole orbit.
Caveat: some self-interest and self-importance is appropriate in the human species. Indeed, some mild level of narcissism may be a necessary prerequisite for survival, particularly in the day and age when men were chasing wooly mammoths ten times their size down with spears. One could see that a certain amount of arrogance and self importance would be useful in the hunter/gatherer time period of human development. It is only when ego moves from simple, justifiable self –confidence into overweening, non-empathetic self-importance that the word “narcissism” raises its ugly head.