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nar·cis·sism

/ˈnärsəˌsizəm/
noun
noun: narcissism

Meaning: excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
Synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism; “his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism”
Antonyms: modesty

PSYCHOLOGY:

extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

PSYCHOANALYSIS:

self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.


Alright, now that we’re all on the same page as to what a “narcissist” is, let’s talk about it.

Answering the question in the title, I’ll have to be honest – there is a good chance that your ex IS a narcissist – or that maybe YOU ARE!

Narcissism Is A Rapidly Rising Pandemic

Studies amongst college students from across the United States have shown a rise in this increasingly developed characteristic called “NARCISSISM”. One article published on NPR.org titled Me, Me, Me: The Rise Of Narcissism In The Age Of The Selfie gives four pretty convincing reasons to support this claim.

1) According to this study conducted by professors from San Diego University and the University of South Alabama, they’ve shown that today’s generations are simply more narcissistic than the generations that came before us. The students participating in the study all took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and the compiled results showed an increase in narcissistic personality traits. That sounds pretty obvious enough.

2) More university professors gathered the birth records for all babies born in the United States between 1880 and 2007 (that’s 325 million babies!) and found that the names given to these children have branched away from older traditions of passing down common family names into a pattern of less common, more creative and unique names. This suggests that more people are interested in individualism, uniqueness, and standing out.

3) Today’s music industry is more focused on the self now than it was in the past.

4) Millennials are constantly on Social Media which is a key player in the rise of self-gratification via your social groups approval on vain images. Now I really paraphrased this one but I think it drives the point home a little better…

There are more studies out there that support the noticeable rise in narcissistic or selfish/vain characteristics (try reading this one, this one, or this one if you don’t believe me) and they all point to one conclusion: human beings – at least in the USA – are inherently more self-centered. Some much more than others. We are seekers of self-gratification through quick, vain practices. It may be via ‘likes’ on a Facebook post, treats from the grocery store, get-rich-quick-schemes, abusing substances, viewing pornography, or cheating on your spouse because they just aren’t “doing it” for you anymore – there are so many forms. So few of us are willing to put in the long hours, make the big sacrifices, and refrain from our natural urges to build marriages that are strong, happy, and lasting.

Is He/She Really THE Problem?

I hear it time and time again from women (and sometimes men, but less often) that their ex is a full blown narcissist who lies, deceives, and is the cause to all of their woes and miseries.

Woah. That’s a big claim. Can you imagine convincing tons of people your ex is a massive scum bag even if maybe he/she actually isn’t? I sure certainly hope you’re sure of your diagnosis before you make a mistake that I think many hurt ex-spouses are making these days.

It’s pretty darn easy to see your side of the story during a divorce. You can see all the ways your ex made you unhappy. All the mistakes they made, the lies they told, the things you wished they wouldn’t do. But how many of us forget to see things from their perspective?

I consider my own failed marriage – if you want to know more about it, you can read about it on my blog. But I would say my first husband is a narcissist. He exhibits some of the classic signs: master of charm and charisma, lacking in reliability and rarely follows through with a goal or plan, constant seeker of instant gratification, feels they are the exception to rules and even laws, large sense of entitlement, excellent manipulator, difficult person to please, throws fits when they don’t get their way, lacking commitment to serious relationships (spouse, partner, children, etc). But if I focused on all of his flaws and all of the reasons our relationship didn’t work that were his fault, I’d miss out on some valuable information.

If we’re always caught up in what a raging lunatic our ex is, when are we going to have time to fix our own faults? Afterall, none of us are perfect. I myself added stress to my first marriage in a number of ways that I watch for carefully in my current marriage. By recognizing some of my less-favorable qualities in my pancake marriage (you always burn the first one…) I know now how to be a better partner to my husband.

Example 1: I know that my short patience and insatiable drive for planning is annoying to most people, especially my poor family members who are mellow and easygoing. So I watch for opportunities to loosen the reigns when I start to get worked up over airport trips, household chores, and budgeting.

Example 2: If I don’t get enough sleep, I’m a cranky b-word and no one likes me. It’s not my husband or my kids who are causing the problems… it’s my inability to chill out and be patient because I stayed up way too late last night. So I’m aware of that and working on it.

Example 3: I’m a lousy budget keeper. I know this and my current husband and I work together to stay on track and hold each other accountable. However, my first marriage was a lot of me pointing my finger at my ex who would overspend constantly when really, I wasn’t helping matters much.

Example 4: I did not support my first husband’s lifestyle but I married him hoping he would “grow up” (which is code for change into someone more like me). When it came to his free time, the money he wanted to spend on his hobbies, the people he wanted to hang out with, and the places he wanted to work, I was constantly disappointed. He didn’t measure up to my expectations for a husband. I learned from this that he and I are just different. We see the world much differently and wanted very different things in our lives. When it came time to date again after our divorce, I knew the importance of finding a partner who I loved (or could live with) every aspect of. If he had qualities I wished were different, he was out. It isn’t fair for him, it isn’t fair for me.

I hate to admit this, but there’s more. I have more flaws!! *Gulp. However, I think you get my point. Your ex may be a narcissist. He may hold 99% of the blame. But what’s the point in dwelling on their flaws? You’re divorced! Or at least getting divorced. Stop working on your ex and get to work on yourself. That’s the road you want to take if you’re looking to move forward and move on!

P.S. I dare you to take this test.

Resources:

  • Google Definition of Narcissism https://www.google.com/search?q=narcissim&rlz=1C1ASUC_enUS632US632&oq=narcissim&aqs=chrome..69i57.5545j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  • Jean M. Twenge, Joshua D Foster (2010); Birth Cohort Increases In Narcissistic Personality Traits Among American College Students, 1982-2009; http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550609355719
  • Narcissistic Personality Inventory – http://personality-testing.info/tests/NPI/
  • Jean M. Twenge, Emodish M. Abebe, W. Keith Campbell (2010); Fitting In or Standing Out: Trends in American Parents’ Choices for Children’s Names, 1880–2007; http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550609349515
  • DeWall, C. N., Pond, R. S., Jr., Campbell, W. K., & Twenge, J. M. (2011). Tuning in to psychological change: Linguistic markers of psychological traits and emotions over time in popular U.S. song lyrics. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 5(3), 200-207. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0023195
  • American Press Institute; How Millennials Use And Control Social Media (2015); https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/survey-research/millennials-social-media/
  • Preston Ni M.S.B.A; 10 Signs You’re Dating A narcissist (2015); https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201507/10-signs-you-re-dating-narcissist

 

I originally wrote this article for DivorceForce.com