adultery, affair, anger, Betrayal, cheating, children, difficult personality, Dr. Craig Malkin, marriage, narcissism, parenting

When to Walk Away and the Hot Potato Pass

According to Dr. Craig Malkin, author of “Rethinking Narcissism” as per the video I recently watched, there are stop signs and reasons to leave a relationship with a narcissist.

Dr. Malkin says that the normal impulse is to run away from people like this and often that is a good idea.  If someone is physically or emotional abusive that is a reason to leave and you may need professional help to get out.  If they are in denial and can’t even say, “I think there is something wrong, I am having trouble here and it’s not going to get better”, that is a reason to leave.  The third stop sign is if you see a pattern of remorseless lies and deceit.  This can be a sign of severe psychopathy and they can be dangerous. You may require help to leave. I experienced everything mentioned at some point during my relationship with my husband.  The physical abuse was a one time incident prior to getting married but it was significant.   He grabbed my throat with both his hands and I scratched his face to get away. We were living in a condo at the time and we were in the end unit by the stairwell.  He threw all my clothes down the stairs. I was wearing only a bathrobe and went to retrieve my clothes when he locked me out of our suite.

Dr. Malkin indicates that Narcissists depend on feeling special to feel good, to soothe themselves in a variety of ways instead of depending on people. He suggests that you can find out if the narcissist in your life has a capacity to share more vulnerable feelings and experience empathy, care and concern, if you open up and are vulnerable around them.  My experience leads me to believe that my husband learned how he should act in certain situations.  I believe he had an intellectual sense that he should be saying and doing something caring when in fact he didn’t feel those feelings.  Anything deep and personal that I shared or displayed making me vulnerable only proved to me that he had no capacity for empathy, care or concern. I then learned to protect myself from additional hurt and rejection by keeping my true needs and feelings to myself.

Examples of why I did this is because I remember very specific times when my husband was so cold to me that the rejection and lack of care cut deeply.

There were 2 incidents that I recall before we got married. We were making Valentine’s Day dinner when I cut my finger very seriously. I went to the bathroom to run it under cold water. He came to see how it was and he accused me of squeezing it to make it bleed and to make it look worse. I was doing the opposite by trying to stop the bleeding. We did in fact end up in Emergency and I required stitches.  Another time was when we played baseball together.  I fell and broke my foot.  I couldn’t get up and everyone came over from both teams to help me.  Every single person on my team came except Dave. I was carried off the field and had to go to Emergency again.  He drove me there. I eventually needed surgery on my foot.  I had a huge cast and was taking Oxycontin.  They wouldn’t even let him pick up the prescription because of the seriousness of medication and the doctor had to be called. I couldn’t get up and walk alone and I was in so much pain but completely stoned from the meds. He left me the next day to go and play golf. I remember it was later in the afternoon when he came home. I was in tears trying to get up just to go to the bathroom and I couldn’t even get to the kitchen to get any food or drink.

After we had been married for about 7 years, I remember sobbing in the tub on my dad’s birthday, 4 months after he passed.  It was 3 weeks after 911 and I was 2 months pregnant (had just had a miscarriage before my dad’s sudden death from a head-injury after a fall) and I was feeling very emotional. Dave heard me and never came to see if I was okay. He made some comment afterwards and I told him it was my dad’s birthday. He just said sorry he didn’t remember but that was it.

I remember during the birth of our second child that I was feeling really badly because my husband was complaining at the hospital that it was cold, he had sore feet and that he had to help transfer me to the gurney to take me to the operating room. I remember feeling so guilty that I couldn’t push the baby out quick enough to ease his discomfort and annoyances.

After the birth of our second daughter he was so mad that I needed him to stay in the hospital with me overnight to help me get the baby in the night to feed her and change her.  I just had a C-section. I begged and insisted he had to stay. He refused to stay the second night  and he made me feel so badly for needing his help that I was fine with him leaving.

When I came home from the hospital, I was sobbing. They wanted me to stay in longer (I was definitely struggling physically following the surgery, had breast feeding issues and had passed some very large blood clots. The one my husband saw and the nurse noted was the size of a grapefruit. I thought my whole insides were falling out. I was also showing signs of post partum depression) but I felt I would be better at home as I got no sleep in the hospital. Before we arrived home, I needed items for me and the baby at the drugstore.  My husband made me get out of the car and go into the pharmacy myself to get my prescriptions.  I could barely walk let alone bend over and I literally could not stop crying. Several nights later, I was in a lot of pain with a blocked milk-duct. After doctor consultation, we were told that nursing was the only way to unblock it without surgery. I dreaded feeding her because when the baby latched it was agonizing.  My breast was so infected I had a fever and diarrhea. I was shivering with the fever, sitting on the toilet and my husband came and gave me our new baby because “one of us has to get up and work in the morning.”

Another significant memory for me is after my mom passed away, he yelled at me for not driving my sister to the airport and for asking him to do it instead. When he came back a week later after I was left alone, with both my kids to look after, to clean out the rest of the house my parents had lived in for 50 years, he yelled again because I needed him to take some items to Goodwill.  He had no idea how much work I had to do, how little sleep I had, the pressure of the time line for the house closing and how much stuff I had to get rid of let alone the emotional toil of the situation.

According to Dr. Malkin, one of the ways narcissists dodge feeling uncomfortable is to pass their insecurities onto someone else like a game of hot potato. They try to get you to take on the feeling they don’t want. One of their manoeuvres is to question your every move. They try to get over their own vulnerable feelings of not being good enough by making you feel like you are the incompetent one.  They play emotional hot potato.

I definitely experienced this with my husband and realize now it intensified during his affair. One night he came home from work and questioned what I did all day.  I told him one thing was that I cleaned out the fridge and that I pulled it out and cleaned behind it as well.  I was telling him how dirty it was when he went over and accused me of scratching the hardwood floor by pulling it out myself. I constantly felt like I couldn’t do enough to please him.

Dr. Malkin specifically says they start to nitpick at you to make them feel better about what they’ve done.

I also remember him coming back from a trip to Vancouver and accusing me of not cleaning the kitchen while he was gone saying that the same dishes were on the counter.  I told him they were new dirty dishes but he tried to insist I did nothing when he was gone.

I also vividly remember him so intensely angry over a coworker who allegedly lied to him. He said he was going to confront this person for saying he received after-hour calls that he went out on when he didn’t. I remember trying to calm my husband during his outrage. Meanwhile, he was the one lying about so many things to me, the affair included.

Recognizing and understanding more about narcissism has helped me to realize that I am so much better off without this man in my life.  Love covers a multitude of sins and I did love my husband but the affair and his behaviour preceding my discovery of the affair and his handling of my feelings afterwards made it clear that walking away was my only option. Now that I have stopped loving this man as my husband, his sins are no longer covered in my eyes.  I see very clearly.  I never kept a record of his wrongs or brought these things up but again when I stopped loving him as my husband memories of these things come flooding back.  It seems obvious to me now that this is a man who is not capable of true, deep and meaningful love with another human being. I don’t qualify the statement as him just being incapable of loving me because I am aware of enough examples surrounding our children and others who he should have deeper relationships with to recognize that I am not the problem.

Understanding narcissism better has helped me be able to distance myself and depersonalize my husband’s behaviour towards me. It is still painful, especially the betrayal and unfair and cruel treatment over the past 2 1/2 years, but I am not near as reactionary in response to my ex’s tirades, callousness and even his hatred towards me.  It helps to explain some of his behaviour including the affair, his treatment of his children during our separation and his inability to accept his responsibilities in honouring our mediation agreement and the other legal proceedings.

It has also made me realize that the discovery of his affair was a blessing in disguise.  I deserve so much better. I deserve someone who is capable of loving me especially in my weakness and vulnerabilities. Someone who actually cares about my needs and wants and desires me to feel special.

My ex’s ongoing behaviour has helped confirm that he does have deep rooted issues that will not be resolved by him leaving our marriage.  One day the ‘other woman’ just won’t be able to make him feel special enough. This I am confident as I already know he has approached other women during his relationship with her.

In the storm and chaos that my ex continues to create around me, I am finally able to experience inner peace.  My life is hopeful, happy and I am discovering new gifts every day as a result of my new life.




13 thoughts on “When to Walk Away and the Hot Potato Pass

  1. Omg. I swear this sooooooo sounds like my soon to be ex. Ughhh GOOD RIDDANCE to these inhuman creatures. Makes my blood boil when I read such accounts. And you are absolutely right. You deserve better than that crap (excuse my French) and so do I. Let them rot in their own insecurities. Idiots.

  2. The only thing your ex didn’t do that mine did was say “just shut up and have the fucking kid.” NEVER let this scumbag back into your life for ANY reason. Be glad you are rid of him and that tramp now has to deal with him.

  3. rose says:

    forget about finding another “man”–there are so few “men” in this world—-what i suggest is to find some really good friends—-and they are difficult to find too!–but it is always possible —–and say your prayers—-to your God—for love and guidance—–you got rid of the NARC—-so you are already ahead of the game—good luck!

    • Hi Rose,

      Thank you so much for your response. You are so correct.

      I have to say that I do have some amazing friends. I have my 5 main, long time Ontario girlfriends, who I have known between 37 – 49 years. We are a very tight group, always have each others back, they were all at my wedding and in my wedding party and know my ex and children well. Even though we are spread out across the continent we have our conference calls all together, our Facebook group messages, group emails as well as our individual relationships. I have another few friends who are back in Ontario who are very much a part of my inner circle and who have travelled the 5 hours by plane to visit me and I have gone back to see them. I also have 7 main girlfriends out here who I have known between 4 – 7 years. I can share anything with them. I trust them completely. If I needed something they would help me.

      I enjoy dating men just for the sake of getting out and having a different perspective in conversation and experiences. I am not interested in a committed relationship. It is actually the subject of a post I have started. I find that men leave a relationship and just want to attach to someone else without working on themselves. I have two close male friends who I feel would come to my need if necessary because of our friendship. They seem to love and respect me for me without any expectation in return and they are just kind and gentle beings.

      In the meantime, I am just enjoying doing different activities, meeting different people (male and female) with no agenda. I am in such crossroads right now that I have no desire to even stay living in this city let alone looking for a man. My freedom is quite wonderful.

      Even the doctor who is seeing me right now for my skin cancer issue shared that her divorce took 6 years to finalize, $65,000 later. She told me to not even start to date until a year after your divorce finalizes because you will be a completely different person at that time. I believe that. I would never want to carry any of the ugly emotions and stress that are in my life now into something that I would want to create for my future.

      I hope you are doing well and I wish you good luck also.

  4. rose says:

    hi again—you sound like you are moving in the right direction—am happy to hear that you have such a wonderful support system with your friends, both new and old——sadly, my experience has not been the same—many of my old friends, from 40 years ago, no longer stay in touch on a regular basis—-they will send me a text to invite me to a party or call if someone has died—but that is about it——am very hurt and disappointed by that—-but will have to accept it——I have made some new acquaintances, but am moving along slowly with that—-when i re-read your initial post, i could relate to some of the things you stated——my ex-husband (who i believe, at a minimum, has narcissistic tendencies), also did not treat me well during the pregnancy of my only daughter—-looking back, he was nice to me for the first few months, as they often are, but there were “signs” from when he first moved in with me —(which i will not go into)—during our marriage, I was ignored a good part of the time and treated with contempt—(for no obvious reason)—-I had contemplated divorce about 5 years into the marriage—-but I stayed for the sake of my daughter—-it was clear that we were in a loveless marriage—I may not have been perfect, but I was always supportive and he did not reciprocate —-my father had been very sick for 2 or so years before he passed, and i was the only one he had to take him to medical appointments and such—–i had a hectic schedule–but no emotional support from my husband—-right before my father passed, I told my husband that i had finally done the math and realized that i was paying 90% of the household bills–and that since we had been living like roommates for years, he should pay half —–a week after my father died, my husband said that I should pay more of the bills because my salary is higher and announced that he was leaving me—yes you heard right—-only a week after my father passed!—after 15 years together—-cold and insensitive—after he left, i made the big mistake of getting involved with a full blown NARC—-I was quite vulnerable at the time and he had a field day with me—–and he dropped me like a hot potato too!—-so I have had the year from hell dealing with the cognitive dissonance and PTSD–and absolutely no support from friends that i foolishly thought cared about me—–but I am getting through it–slowly but surely—–and I find that God is listening to my prayers—–today is valentine’s day—do you know who i am going out with?—a young man who is gay!—we met last summer and we have a lot in common–he is like the baby brother I never had—–I want to thank you for your good wishes and hope you have a lovely valentine’s day with your children and loved ones—Rose

  5. Rose, that is an appropriate name for a Valentine wish!

    I am sorry to hear about your situation. So similar because my ex was cold towards me when dealing with my mother’s illness and passing.

    As women we are so busy tending to everyone else’s needs. It is interesting that when we finally take time to assess our own life and examine our feelings and then convey our realization that we are being unloved and treated unfairly they have their excuse to cheat or leave.

    Have you ever heard of “Meetup” groups? There are so many in my area. If you Google meetup I hope you will be able to find some near you. You can even start your own. If you can’t find any or want some more information let me know. That has been a great way for me to get out and meet like-minded people and those in similar situations and age groups as me. It has been a lot of fun and many are educational, too. Most I attend by myself and meet new people there but on two occasions I brought a +1.

    I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day celebration. I am happy that you have found a friend to share this day together. Brotherly love counts! I thank you for sharing with me today.

  6. Broken Wing says:

    Yeah, sounds like my ex.
    When our 3 year old son was unconscious and rushed to the hospital by ambulance, I called my husband and he didn’t want to come to the hospital. But I’d left our 5 year old and infant in the care of the school office staff, so I made him come pick them up and bring them to the hospital. Turns out he’d had a Grand Mal seizure. When he had another one poolside a few months later, I called to tell him and he yelled at me for “letting” the lifeguards call an ambulance because now he’d have to pay for it. He refused to come to the hospital, so I had one unconscious preschooler, a kindergartner, and an infant to handle on my own in the ER.

    When i was 7 months pregnant with our third baby, H1N1 was really bad and people had died in our area. They’d shut down the hospital to visitors. I was in a priority group for the vaccine, so I actually got one. The doctor made me sit in the waiting room for 10 minutes after the shot, in case of a reaction. I had one. I got dizzy and nauseated. They took me to an exam room where I could lay down, that had some toys for my two little boys. An hour later, I didn’t feel any better, so they said I had to get someone to come pick me up, since I wasn’t fit to drive. I called my husband, of course, but he refused to come get us. I was so embarrassed that I told the doctor he was on his way and I was meeting him out front, so they let me go. Then I drove home myself, but very carefully.

    A month later, I slipped in a puddle in the garage and landed hard on my hip. I couldn’t walk for 3 days, it hurt so badly. It also put me into labor (although i didn’t know it until I was at the hospital). I called my doctor, who said to report to Labor & Delivery. Then I called my husband to come take me to the hospital, but he said I could wait until he was done with his usual work day. When he came to get me, he was angry that I hadn’t thought about his dinner, so we stopped to get a Hot ‘N Ready pizza on the way. We didn’t get to the hospital until 9 pm, 5 hours after my fall!
    He complained the whole time we were there that I was ruining his plans for that night and the next day. He was in charge of some big Scout training, so he wasn’t about to miss that. He had to take care of our 5 and 3 year old while I was in the hospital overnight getting horrid shots to stop the labor. He never changed their clothes and only fed them donuts. I called him to have him pick me up the next morning, and he was livid that he had to leave his activity. He brought the kids with him, still in their clothes from the day before, now with donut frosting down their fronts. He dropped me and the kids off at home and left us all day, even though I still couldn’t walk from the pain.

    The thing is, these are such shocking stories, that anyone would think were horrible. But this sort of thing happened on a smaller scale day in and day out, and that does far more damage than the big obvious incidents! It’s just that they’re harder to explain, and easier for others to explain away. They seem more normal and like we’re just being too sensitive. But it’s enough to give a person PTSD (and it did.)

    I’m glad you shared your stories. I hate that anyone else out there had to live through this stuff, but at least we all know that we’re not alone in our suffering!

    • It seems so shocking that a husband could be so cruel and uncaring when I read your story and yet I lived that and I thought I had a great marriage. It was what I came used to expecting. I never considered it abuse but just thought that he was being so unloving and so selfish. I always knew there was no point in going to my husband about any of my issues or even the children’s issues as it was such an inconvenience to him. It is odd that I thought his reaction might be different with us apart when I would tell him about the children. He truly doesn’t care. He just expected me to handle everything when we are together and even more so now that we are apart.

  7. Mochito says:

    When you feel happy thinking that now you are able to meet somebody who treats you the way you deserve to… that means narcissist doesn’t have any control over your mind. Yesterdey I was listening to “romantic” songs and I was absolutely happy

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