This week we’re talking about your narcissistic ex. To be more specific, we’re talking about narcissism -- the word that seems to come out of everyone’s mouth when describing their ex. Today we’re going to explore what narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) really is, why everyone's talking about it, and why your ex was probably a garden-variety jerk rather than a narcissist.
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Jase : On this episode of the Multiamory Podcast we're talking about your narcissistic ex. Well to be more specific we're talking about narcissism. The word that seems to come out of everybody's mouth when describing their ex. We're going to explore what narcissism really is and why everyone's talking about it.
Dedeker: It's the hot new thing you guys, this whole narcissism thing.
Emily: Oh my God my ex was such a narcissist.
Dedeker: My ex is such a narcissist. What about you Jase?
Jase : Yes.
Emily: But your ex is sitting next to you.
Jase : I mean my partner Dedeker is such a narcissist and I'm really an empath and it's really difficult for me.
Dedeker: Oh my God.
Dedeker: Whoa, I didn't expect things to get that real that quick.
Jase : So why are we talking about this today Dedeker?
Dedeker: I don't know if I want to talk about it anymore.
Jase : Well, you always want to talk because you think your opinion's more important than any of us.
Emily: Okay, this is getting off on the wrong foot. But let's talk about people who are narcissist-
Emily: -not Dedeker.
Dedeker: Okay, real talk enough of this nonsense. I first heard someone used the term narcissist to refer to their relationship, it's a couple of years ago. A friend of mine, he was going through a bad break-up and he talked to me about how he just read this book that was all about how the narcissist and the codependent. The narcissist and the codependent they have this dance; a narcissist needs to have a codependent in their relationship in order for them to function. That's how he described his ex and I was like "Ha, that's interesting".
First of all, also the word codependent poked at my ears at the time because when I was growing up, basically I remember my mom talking to me all the time about the dangers of having a codependent relationship. Co-dependence was basically like a bad word growing up. Any dysfunctional relationship we saw on TV or that any of our friends were having, it was codependent relationship, codependency or codependency is so bad.
I started realizing when I talked to other women my age, Emily does your mom talk about codependency?
Emily: Oh my God.
Emily: Oh my God. Yes, are you kidding? She was like, "I was so codependent when I was young." It's kind of a hot word, maybe it became hot in the '90s.
Dedeker: Yes, that's the thing as I realize, at first I thought that this was just my mom, this was just my mom's experience was with codependency or whatever. When I started talking to more women my age they started saying the same things that their moms always warned them about codependent relationships. So I realized, "Must have been something in the '80s and '90s that it must have been like the pop psychology thing." While I was realizing that, also as time went on, I started seeing more and more, like in my friend's Facebook posts, when they would give big, big bookie post about their relationships that are falling apart, or about their exes or whatever. Everyone was talking about their ex being a narcissist. Or about them being in a relationship with someone who's a narcissist and trying to get out of it. Even going on to talk about it again, I kept seeing that phrase again; the narcissist and the codependent or even a narcissist and the emphath. It's just started getting intriguing to me.
What I did when I was preparing for this episode is I went to Google. In Google you can type in any word and it'll bring up a definition maybe some synonyms, but you can also track the word usage over time and the popularity of the word over time.
I typed in both codependent and narcissist and sure enough-- You guys can see the graph, maybe I'll try to dump the graph into our show so people can see that basically what you see is in the '90s both codependent, the term codependent and narcissist have this huge optic and frequency. This is in books and news articles and everything that Google's indexing.
Then somewhere around 1995 there's suddenly this huge depth where codependent stops being used as often, but narcissist goes in the opposite direction. It shoots way up, it's like mirror image of each other on the graph. Something happened in 1995.
Emily: Yes, definitely.
Dedeker: Where the term codependent started to fall out off popular usage but narcissist really shot up.
Jase : It's still rising till today.
Dedeker: Yes, I'm really curious about that because obviously the concept of narcissism itself isn't new, that's not a new concept. But I want to know why is everyone suddenly talking about it and why is everyone talking about it now in the context of relationships.
Emily: Well, I was going to ask the question the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinski's scandal happened like '95, '96. I didn't know if that had anything to do with it.
Dedeker: Yes, that came to mind. I'm not sure that did come to mind. When I looked for it, I wasn't sure if there's a particular book or a particular study that happened that came out, I'm sure it must have been a book. If anybody's listening and they know something off the top of their head that fits that time frame, '95-ish that are particular book either about codependency or about narcissism came out then please let us know.
Emily: Yes, apparently if you Google the term narcissist, you're going to find a ton of articles about it. One of them is 10 Signs that Your in a Relationship with a Narcissists, then one is How to Break-up with Narcissist and How to Heal after you've broken up with a Narcissist.
Jase : In people's Facebook posts too sharing this stuff.
Dedeker: So many articles about that too.
Jase : Yes.
Emily: Well, on the other side of the spectrum too. But you'll find this whole metho-surrounding where the narcissist there, one. I screwed --
Jase : How many times will we mess up the word narcissist?
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Dedeker: Okay, just one.
Emily: Surrounding the way narcissist function in relationships. You'll see articles like the narcissist and the codependent, like your friend Dedeker talked to you about. Or even just the narcissist and the emphath, or the narcissist and their victim. To me this feels very men versus women kind of thing; the man is the narcissist and the woman is the emphath. It's putting these people in these boxes.
Dedeker: I will say that when I saw Facebook posts about it usually was-- From what I saw, usually women talking about their former partners being narcissist. To be fair the first time I ever heard it was a male friend who came to me and said that. So obviously it's not completely black and white there. But I see more woman talking about their ex-boyfriends or former male partners as being narcissists.
Dedeker: Jase, you're going to say something?
Jase : Well, I think that you are about to get into it, but just this kind of painting what this blanket brush of, "Well my ex is this label," that means all the problems were theirs, right?
Jase : In this case it's this label of narcissist. I just want to point out something that for maybe longer than that, which tends to happen more often the other way which is men talking about former female partners which is calling them crazy, right? Like, "That's my ex she was crazy," or you had this ex and she was crazy. That's really commonly used and I think narcissist is maybe even a little bit more specific than that, but either way it's putting this diagnosis on your ex's and you using it very broadly about just anyone you had any problems with.
Dedeker: Yes, I think that's why it started really catching my eyes because it just turn to look weirdly suspicious to me. Especially there are so many people using the same term and so many people especially also using the counter term of like, "I'm an emphath," or, "I was the codependent," or, "I was the victim." Of course I initially got suspicious because this is weird that there are so many people who are able to essentially paint the story of like, "My ex is evil and I'm the good person," or, "I was the victim." I know that was my initial reaction, but at the same time I didn't want to be discrediting people's experiences. Obviously I didn't want to victim blame or didn't want to immediately write someone off who had a painful experience. That was why I wanted to dig in to this to figure out like, "Okay, what's actually going on here? What actually is narcissism? What actually is narcissistic personality disorder? What are the chances that everyone I'm seeing has had a partner with a narcissistic personality disorder?" I really just wanted to get in to what's going on here.
Emily: Yes, I just find it interesting because my mother for example always use to talk about codependency as a real negative and I don't know--
Dedeker: My mother too all the time.
Emily: Yes, so to label like one as evil when one is good, to me from what I've heard at least, or what I grew up with, codependency in a lot of ways is like just as bad. Or bad in a different way. But not that its a victim me type thing. Also,my mother very much talks about like, "Don't be a victim." I don't know which may trigger some people and may not be the best thing ever. It did trigger me in ways too.
Dedeker: Well, that's the interesting thing and we'll come back to in this episode a lot talking about language. We come back to that on this podcast a lot ,but the phrase, "The narcissist and the empath," that one feels the worst to me. That one feels very clearly black and white this person was wrong and I was right because I'm an empath, and empaths are good, sensitive, touchy, feely, loving people.
Jase: Right, the connotations with empath are positive ones.
Dedeker: Yes, with the narcissist and the codependent, that one feels a little bit more neutral to me because codependent does, I think , still carry more negative connotations, but it still carries this nuance of like, "But I was the victim because I was codependent." The codependent it carries more of a nuance of like, "I was the passive victim in this case," That's what seems to me.
Jase It's maybe suggesting that I'm going to accept some blame in that I enabled this situation to happen which codependent has a little more of that connotation to it. It still is this is very much diagnosing someone else. That is, Dedeker mentioned this a little bit, but just the important thing to keep in mind anytime we start throwing around terms that are either real diagnoses or are real legal issues, that when we start throwing around those terms too casually, not only do we stand the risk of really hurting the people that we're using these about, but also discrediting the experiences of people who've actually had to deal with either having these disorders or having been victims of these things. That's I think another point that we're going to come back to a lot throughout this.
Emily: What is it actually? If we're screwing up the definition here then what actually is the definition?
Jase: Well, kids let's sit around the old story time table. The whole story time table. [laughs] We're going to go all the way back to ancient Greek mythology and the story of good old Narcissus who was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection as a punishment by Nemesis who is Sheika version of Zelda but with Aphrodite being this bad ass Nemesis for rejecting Echo who was, I believe her daughter and was in love with him. I don't remember if that's exactly true. Anyway the point is that Narcissus which is where the term narcissism comes from is that he was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection when he bent down to the water to take a drink and he saw his reflection was like, "I've finally found true love because I'm so beautiful." That he stayed there forever and then eventually turned into a flower. That's where the Narcissus flower comes from because it's bent over like it's looking at itself in the water.
Dedeker: I don't know that part, I knew that the Narcissus--
Emily: I didn't even know there was a flower named Narcissus.
Dedeker: I knew there was a flower, but I didn't know it was actually part of the mythology. I thought he died and then maybe one of the gods took pity on him and turned into a flower because that makes everyone feel better.
Emily: He's like freaking Dorian Grey over here.
Jase: Yes, a little bit.
Emily: This is a definition, I don't where this is from, but here it it. It's defined as an interest in or concern with the self along a broad continuum from healthy to pathological including such concepts as self-esteem, self-system and self-representation and true or false self.
Dedeker: We'll dig into more of the different pieces of that definition a little bit later, but to take that a step further, that's just the definition of what narcissism is. I looked a little bit further to see what's the diagnosable version of this. What is actually a Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. This is the definition of NPD and this is from the Mayo Clinic; Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, problems with relationships and a lack of empathy for others, but behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism. They give us a list of specific symptoms and it's a little bit long, but bear with us.
Jase: The first one as it mentioned here is this exaggerated sense of self-importance. Also, having a sense of entitlement and requiring constant excessive admiration; those go together that you deserve to be admired, you are entitled to be admired and you are that important. That you expect to be recognized as superior to other people even without achievements that warrant it and exaggerating things like your achievements and your talents or believing those to be far in excess of what you've actually developed them to be.
Emily: You're also preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate. They believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people, monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior. They also expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations-
Jase: It goes along with that sense of entitlement of just like, "You shouldn't question," like, "I should be a getting what I want."
Emily: Exactly and then they take advantage of others to get what they want.
Jase: Also, I mean having and inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others which also could be described as a lack of empathy which is where that parallel of the narcissist and the empath comes from, to be envious of others and also to believe that others envy them. To behave in an arrogant or haughty manner coming across as conceited boastful or pretentious and to insist on having the best of everything. For instance needing to have the best car or the best office at work or whatever it is.
Emily: First of all probably every single person I know probably all of us have had at least one ex who has done this.
Dedeker: Everyone I can talk to can look at this list and be like, "Yes." Either, "I dated somebody like that," or, "I know somebody like that and they're a jerk."
Emily: Exactly, secondly and perhaps a little bit more frightening, all of us as individuals have probably exhibited some form of that behavior at some point.
Dedeker: Yes, totally.
Emily: Unquestionably. I definitely know I have.
Dedeker: We just had an episode where we were talking about our strengths and then we talked about our bottom strengths and it was like humility for all of us was our bottom strength.
Emily: No, for you two. Not for me.
Emily: No, I'm kidding. I don't know.
Dedeker: I was so mad at Emily.
Emily: It wasn't one of the
Dedeker: That's the thing as I was also reading through this list, it's like some of that also feels quite familiar because there are times when I feel that way too. Where I feel like I think maybe others envy me for certain things or times when I want to exaggerate my achievements or my talents. It's like there's a little bit of myself in there too which is the more unsettling part.
Jase: Yes and that's exactly the point that, the reason why we bothered going through this big list here is not to give you a lot of tools to go out and diagnose all your exes as narcissists. Instead to point out exactly that, that pretty much all of us have exhibited some of these tendencies or done some of these things in our lives or maybe even still do them today. That's the thing to remember is that narcissism falls on a spectrum and that all of us are somewhere on the spectrum and we might vary a little bit from day to day. Psychologist Dr Craig Malkin writes for example, "Posting too many selfies hugging the bathroom mirror or speaking loudly on a cell phone is not the same as compulsively lying to insulting or even screaming at one's partners which are all common habits of the severely narcissistic." Again, "severely," meaning it's on the spectrum it's not, "a yes or no," it's not a, "you are or you're not."
Dedeker: God knows I definitely have posted too many selfies, hugged the bathroom mirror and spoken loudly on a cellphone
Emily: You hate phones, you hate speaking on the phone.
Dedeker: I hate speaking on the phone but Jase always points out that when I'm coaching or when I'm in a Japanese lesson that I apparently yell a lot.
Jase: Yes, from across the building where we're staying. I can hear her shouting into the--
Dedeker: That's just my theater background coming into play.
Emily: I'm so loud. I'm so fucking loud.
Jase: Speaking of narcissists, people with theater backgrounds, right?
Dedeker: To bring us back, that's the main point that we want to make is that narcissism is on a spectrum and you can have someone who's not very narcissistic at all, to someone who is extremely narcissistic but even beyond that someone who is pathologically narcissistic as in diagnozable NPD. That can fluctuate and that can change. As a matter of fact there are certain narcissistic qualities that are actually mentally healthy for us to have, such as having emotional resilience; so being able to kind of bump, kind of jump back or spring back from failures or disappointments really quickly. Holding other people around you and yourself to high standards or having high confidence and high self esteem. Is not bad to have high self esteem and to have high self confidence.
Emily: Jase and I had a acting teacher for many years who used to use the term, "a peculiar kind of arrogance," and he would say essentially this is a good thing, but it`s good once in a while to have this little bit of like, " I'm good, I'm worthy." That's also an attractive quality potentially to have at times, if it's too much, then no, but just enough.
Dedeker: That`s really interesting that you use the phrase like "I'm worthy," as being part of that quality because if you think about it, if a relationship is ending and you are ready to walk away, you knowing like, " I'm worthy of not being a bad relationship," or, "I'm worthy of not being treated like this," that`s actually a really healthy mindset to have when you`re trying to leave a relationship.
Emily: Yes, that`s true.
Jase: Yes, so further and going along with this, that's why narcissist has never been accepted as a mental health diagnosis, just being a narcissist.
Dedeker: Just narcissist.
Jase: Just narcissist, as opposed to Narcissist Personality Disorder, which has a little more specific requirements to it. Many narcissists, people who would be high on the spectrum of narcissism, might not have this kind of malignant harmful form of narcissism or any other mental health problems. They're simply higher on the spectrum than other people. As we were saying, that can result in some positive treats that may help them out and also some negative ones that might be hard for themselves to deal with or for others to deal with.
Dedeker: I just wanted to toss it really quick because I realized that when we were actually defining NPD that we didn't really qualify this that, from my research what I found, the line between someone who`s just highly narcissistic versus someone who actually has NPD is related to the effect that it has on one's outside life. As in this person's narcissism is so bad that they cannot have a relationship at all. Maybe it's so bad that they don't think any other human being is worthy of being in a relationship with them or cannot hold down a job, cannot handle money, cannot take care of themselves Kind of the same similarities of addiction, where it's an addiction when it's starting to spill out into the rest of your life.
Of course someone who is highly narcissistic, is going to affect the people around them, it is this fine line where it goes from just highly narcissistic to actually being a disorder that needs to be treated.
Jase: Something else to keep in mind with a lot of diagnosis from the DSM is that an important factor for a lot of those is that people self identify that this is a problem, that this is causing their quality of life to go down. I think that the reason why that factor is in there for a lot of diagnosis is to try to move psychology away from the time when everyone else would diagnose someone else with something and then institutionalize them. This idea of like, "Enough people think you're a jerk, we`re going to lock you away or call you a witch if we're going to go further back than that." But this idea that narcissism to be diagnosable, also like Dedeker was saying, has these really profoundly negative effects on your life of not being able to maintain a relationship at all or have any or hold on a job.
Emily: The next thing we wanted to talk about is why are so quick to use the label of narcissist. Sometimes saying that your ex or whomever is a narcissist, it just help us find this concrete reason why that relationship didn't work out and it's also for people who have actually experienced a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, that's it. This can be very healing and validating. But then, on the other devious end it can remove your responsibility from the situation a little bit, which is not necessarily a very good thing if you just are so quick to label someone as narcissistic.
Dedeker: Yes, it`s interesting because what we see here is, we've all been through break ups and we've all been through painful break ups. When you're in that process, what I see people do the most often and what I know what I've done the most often is searching for a reason why, because for some reason we think that if we can find the reason why, it all fell apart then maybe it will feel better or we'll know what to avoid next time or something like that. Which isn't always the case, but that doesn't stop us for doing it. We search for a reason why and if you can find a list like this it's like, "These are the symptoms of someone who's a narcissist, and you can be like, "Oh my God, that`s it. That must have been what it is. That`s why it all fell apart, is because my ex was a narcissist. It makes total sense."
Again, it`s a very human need for us just to find a reason and to find a meaning behind something. But then, on the slightly more selfish side, also when you`re handling that pain from a break up and everything just feels really crappy, it can feel really nice to just not have to think about the things that you did wrong too or the ways that you may have contributed. Anything that can enable you to just be like, "Well, it was all their faults," and that frees me up to just take care of myself." It's a very understandable thing, but it is, as Emily, it is like the more devious underside, I think, of this phenomenon that everyone calling their ex a narcissist.
Jase: Yes, another side of this that`s worth addressing and not another side, but another related thing is just this idea of needing to paint people with this very broad brush of, "Well, you're all bad," and maybe in this case, not saying that they are bad person, although I think often we are having that connotation by calling people narcissists, but that you're saying like, "Well, everything in this situation they're bad at or they're a bad person in these ways because they are, boom, this label." Rather than looking at the reality of it and maybe the reason why you're happy to be out of that relationship is not because they are a narcissist, but because there were things in that relationship that weren't healthy for you, that weren't good for you, that you didn't enjoy, that wasn't adding value to your life. That`s a very different thing from saying, "Well, because they were this," versus actually doing I think what takes more work, which is looking at what are the specific things that happened, what are the actual things that happened.
I just want to bring this up because I`m seeing it happen a lot now in news coverage and in people's writing on Twitter or Facebook or debates, I hear people in in real life as well is a lot of this trying to make arguments to decide whether a person is good or bad or whether they are this or that. It's this hard line; you're either on this side or you're not. You're either a horrible evil sexual assaulter or you're a good person and there's no room in there. That`s a big part of the cultural merit right now. This falls into similar thing where we want to have this solid diagnosis, you just are or you aren't this thing, rather than doing what takes more work, looking at each of the individual pieces, individual actions and realizing that good people can do bad things and maybe no one is truly evil.
Emily: Yes, I deeply appreciate the time that is occurring at this moment and the fact that potentially real change might be happening for the better in a lot of ways and that`s something to look forward to and to bring forth in and celebrate in many ways. However, I agree with you in a sense Jase just that we all come to this life with our own sets of baggage and to say that a single person is all evil or all good is probably false in many ways. And that we really should understand that when you look at your ex, for example, they`re not just a narcissist and you're not just a victim, but rather we had challenging things on both ends and they may have a lifetime of abuse in various ways that led them to act in a certain way. You may have also various things happening in your life that led you to act a certain way and that's something to think about here.
Jase: Something I do want to clarify with this discussion though is, the key is that there is a difference between holding someone accountable for things that they've done and it's a very different thing to say, "You are a bad person because of this thing that you did." Some people make the argument of, to use it in this term, "Well, my ex did this thing which could be described as an abusive behavior and it felt that way to me. Therefore, they are bad person."
Someone else could say, "Well, but what if it was because of the hardships in their life or maybe what about the amount of pain that they might have been in that caused them to act that way or something?" It can be interpreted as an excuse; that that somehow excuses their behavior. Because we're again trying to put it back into this black or white. If anyone says, anything sympathetic about them it means they're saying, “they shouldn't be accountable for these bad things or you shouldn't be glad to be out of that relationship.” It's just not that simple that they absolutely should be accountable and in this case maybe that accountability just means not getting to be in a relationship with you anymore. That doesn't have to mean that they are all bad and that anyone who thinks good of them thinks what they did was okay.
Dedeker: We're going to get into that a little bit more, a little bit later in this episode. Yes, the thing is that it's hard because you can actually say, to someone, "Well you're calling your ex a narcissist, but they probably didn't actually have NPD, that that doesn't mean that I'm saying that what your ex did was okay by any stretch of the imagination." I want to move us along to talking about why it is dangerous for us to be tossing this specific label out Willy nilly. It is that, it is willy nilly. It's because if we call both someone who is like a jerk to you and someone who really has a mental disorder and someone who is a sadistic fuckhead, we apply the same level of label, I'll say that 10 times fast, to all of these people it serves to trivialize the experiences of people for instance who actually have had a loved one either a parent or a partner or whoever who actually has NPD. It waters it all down to a certain extent I think.
Jase: As we've said before it also takes away any of our own accountability for things. It just gives us this temptation to try to come up with a diagnosis for someone else so that we don't have to look really hard at ourselves. It can make us so afraid if we see any of our self in the description of narcissism that it almost makes us want to argue that much harder about why we're not that and why someone else was. Because like we said, we all have some of these traits that it is this spectrum and it's not just a thing that an on or off.
Emily: Most likely those of you listening out there are probably not a psychologist and you're not legally able to diagnose people. However, if you are listening to us right now and you are an actual psychologist I'm sorry by all means. Go ahead.
Dedeker: The other thing is that's also the really tricky thing of people who are not trained to diagnose mental disorders trying to diagnose mental disorders. It's the same problem of like if you're not a doctor and you're trying to diagnose somebody else's health problems, where it's not to say that you're going to be completely inaccurate or completely off base but you're also not a doctor. That's the thing that really bothers me is that mental health and having a mental disorder already has so much stigma attached to it which sucks, then on top of it to be minimizing people who actually have a disorder is just really damaging. It's the same thing when we see so many people being like, “I have OCD or I have ADD." When they're not actually diagnosed and it's like, "You say, you're OCD just because like to live in a clean place and you're minimizing the experience of somebody who actually has crippling OCD that they're trying to be healed from."
Emily: I know someone with OCD and Trichotillomanial who literally plucked their own hair out of their body.
Dedeker: It’s not a thing to be tossing around irresponsibly. Like we talked about at the beginning of this episode, is that it does echo that same dynamic of men labeling their female exes as crazy, that has problems on so many levels, but not only does it minimize the experience of actually being with someone with mental illness but also serves to do all the same bag of tricks of trivializing somebody and reducing somebody and the age old thing of calling women hysterical. It already has all those problems baked into it as well. We see a lot of the same issues with flinging around the narcissist label.
Jase: The thing to keep in mind too that, when we talk about Narcissistic Personality Disorder is that something that the person who has it suffers greatly from. It's not only minimizing the experience of people who have had partnerships with people with that disorder, but also the experience of the people themselves who might suffer from that by just again throwing it around irresponsibly.
Emily: What can you do if this is happening?
Dedeker: What's the takeaway here? Obviously we're also not psychologists and we can't tell you your partner definitely has NPD or your partner definitely doesn't, o your ex does or doesn't. Obviously we're not the authorities who can say that. The first thing that you can do is first of all as we've been saying, it's just going to change the way that you talk and think about these things; just having an awareness of how and when you decide to apply the label of narcissist to someone. If anything I feel like it's safer for you to say, "This person has some narcissistic tendencies," more so than to label them as a narcissist or as somebody who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Jase: Or even better as we had started talking about before is to actually look at the real behavior that's happening that's the problem.
Dedeker: That's also the thing is that really at the end of the day if you're in a relationship currently with somebody whether it's a parent or a partner or whoever, if you're in a relationship with somebody that you suspect is a narcissist, whether that person actually has NPD or they don't really at the end of the day the narcissism itself is not the problem. It is the whatever behavior is whether that is being abusive or neglecting or any number of problematic behaviors. Or things like Dr Greg Malkin says, compulsively lying or screaming or maybe actually abusing you, those are the things that are actually causing the problem. That behavior itself can learn a spectrum too. If it's someone physically abusing you probably better to handle that by leaving or by getting some kind of help for getting you prepared to get out of that relationship.
If it's on a spectrum of maybe some lying or being disrespectful to you or maybe not fulfilling the things that you need or desire in the relationship that could be solved either by leaving or by actually addressing that behavior with your partner. Outside of rather than just hopping straight to, "Well you have NPD or you're a narcissist," that's the main problem that we need to fix here.
Jase: I think that even painting yourself in that role can often keep you in a negative relationship a lot longer than you might otherwise if you were to actually take it apart and look at the behaviors and say, "Wow, you know what? These are not behaviors I'm okay with experiencing in my relationship," especially with the level of empath which is so dangerous because empathy is a very good trait to have. We have a more positive association with an empath.
That also again allows us to not really look at what's going on in the relationship instead to say, “Well maybe I can't help it or maybe this is just always the role I'm going to have in my life,” or something rather than I guess the theme that I keep coming back to and is the theme of this whole show really is just taking everything apart rather than following other people's scripts or other examples of just like, "Well this is just how it works and so I have to deal with what I get," instead looking at each individual piece and really evaluating what that means to you is that a kind of relationship you're okay with being in.
Dedeker: Of course also if you are in a relationship and whether you think that your partner actually has NPD or they don't or maybe they just have really narcissistic tendencies. Regardless if you're being hurt repeatedly and nothing's changing you can get the hell out.
Emily: Get the fuck out.
Dedeker: Of course that's always easier said than done like we totally get that.
Jase: We've all been there not we've been in a relationship we should have left.
Dedeker: It is an option or something that you can actually do obviously rather than trying to stick around and change your partner or trying to get them to fix themselves or whatever it is.
Jase: As hard as it is to leave someone, they don't have to be a bad person in order for you not to want to be in a relationship with them. Like we were saying before that it's not this black and white, in order for you to leave, you have to find a way to define them as a bad or unhealthy person. They could be a wonderful person who does really good things in the world and works for charity all the time and is making a positive difference, but they still might be hurtful or unhealthy for you. That's, okay, that doesn't make you a bad person either.
This is something, I've been thinking about a lot lately and I just keep coming back to it so sorry if I sound like a broken record. But just this idea that, I feel like in a culture like we have here in the United States that tends to be very litigious and that when accidents happen or people get hurt anywhere in any circumstance, there's this desire to find who was at fault. It's like, "Well it was the company that hired the construction worker that built this step that broke under when I walked on it this time because it hadn't been maintained in this long, and doing this whole thing of being like, "We need to find a cause for this." That is a fairly uniquely-
Jase: - cultural thing for us. I don't want to say uniquely American, but we are definitely a big example.
Dedeker: It is very American.
Jase: It is very American, but I think there are other countries and other places they where they would do a similar thing. Just to keep in mind that not everyone does that. When I bring this up a lot, people in discussions will be like, "Mm, uh," because it's so ingrained in us. It's so part of our culture that, that's a really hard belief to question. The idea that, "No someone should be at fault for this. Someone needs to be held accountable for it."
Dedeker: Well, the fact that we even need to distinguish between states that do, no-fault divorce, for instance.
Jase: Yes, that's a great example.
Dedeker: That's a textbook example.
Jase: I hadn't even thought about that.
Dedeker: Yes. It's not something I even think about because California is a no-fault divorce state.
Emily: It didn't work out. Cool.
Dedeker: Yes, irreconcilable differences.
Jase: There shouldn't have to be suing for divorce essentially.
Dedeker: Yes, I never even think about that, and then I realize like, "Crap, there are places that still very much operate on that basis."
Jase: Yes, you have to prove they were bad enough in order to get a divorce.
Emily: Like on what grounds will you divorce me?
Jase: I just wanted to bring that up and just to point it out that in all of this to just keep in mind that some of those things we might take for granted as being like, but no, we need to define these things. It might not be as black and white as we think it is until we start to really take each piece apart and look at it and question it.
Dedeker: Well, we flew through this episode a lot faster than I thought we were going to. I do have a bonus question for the two of you that I was thinking about including--
Dedeker: Yes, just to go back to the more nerdy tracking the usage of words and popularity of words over time. I was wondering, I" was like, "First, it was codependent and now it's narcissist," what do we think is the next thing? Is there anything that we've seen in social media that's coming up, it could be a pop psychology thing or could just be a particular term that's getting thrown around. There's so many, but I feel like specifically in regards to relationships or the way people talk about their past relationships.
Emily: Anxiety is the word that I would use.
Emily: Or that I would throw out. Just so many people say like, "I'm an anxious person or an underground anxious person." or whatever. But apparently I'm wrong.
Jase: Now that you've mentioned it. No, I've heard that actually recently in some discussions. Again, that self-diagnosis of diagnosing yourself with anxiety. Again it's a tough one because Anxiety Disorder and the feeling of anxiety are two different things. We tend to get them mixed up. We are not as clear about what we mean. To say I have anxiety, rather than I feel anxious or even, I often feel anxious can still be a very different thing. That's an interesting one.
Dedeker: I guess that makes sense. It could be the same problem of that starting to minimize people who actually have Anxiety Disorders.
Jase: Absolutely. Then other people will be like, "Yes, I have that too."
Dedeker: "Yes, I'm so anxious," or like, "Yes, I have so much social anxiety." I guess I say that a lot. Maybe I should probably say that because I don't actually have diagnosable social anxiety.
Jase: I think at the same time it doesn't mean that you can't experience social anxiety.
Dedeker: Yes, but I can still say, I sometimes feel anxious in social situations.
Jase: It's just a subtle little difference.
Emily: I am an anxious-- Yes, a diagnosed anxious person I guess.
Jase: I think something that we are going to start seeing, I don't know how related this is-- I think we are going to start seeing a swing the other way after how big the secret and affirmations and manifesting have been. I think we might be starting a swing towards some-- I don't know what that would look like. I've been starting to notice that going from almost everyone really supporting this idea of manifesting in the power of positive thinking, the secret and the science of getting rich and all of these things that have this resurgence, I think we are going to swing towards something else. I don't know what it's going to be though.
Dedeker: You think specifically in regards to relationships though?
Jase: I think it's going to cross over into that. I think it's all related. Relationships, is an area where those ways of positive thinking come up a lot because relationships are for people, such an intangible thing. It's not so concrete as getting an education or getting a license to do a certain kind of work where we maybe feel like we have a little more control over it. Even though often people don't feel a lot of control over the work that they can get, or the viability in the job market, but relationships even more so. People treat it so ephemeral and magical. Also, the manifesting thing is a little bit related to both entitlement. Being that, if I do these things, I'm definitely going to get these and I'm entitled to be upset if I don't.
Then also this idea that relationships and love is something that's cosmically predestined for you. I think that all is tied up in it, which is why I think it will show up a lot in relationships. I'm interested to see where we go next with that. How things start changing as Millenials start growing up, or we start seeing whatever generation is coming up after that. I think things are going to be changing.
Emily: Dedeker, what is the word, in which you were looking for?
Emily: You said, what's the next word on the list?
Jase: What do you think?
Emily: Do you know? Do you have the answer? I thought you had the answer.
Dedeker: I don't have the answer. No, I don't know,
Dedeker: Because I don't actually know what the future is you guys. [laughs]
Jase: I think Emily was saying you might have noticed in your searching some is starting to trend.
Emily: Yes, I didn't know if there was a third word.
Dedeker: No, but I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for sure on social media because that's obviously where it's going to start cropping up.
Jase: I'd love to hear what people think. Tweet to us at Multiamory or for those of us who are in our Patreon group. Let us know. What have you noticed? Maybe you've noticed some trends that we haven't even thought about yet. I'm really curious to hear.
Dedeker: Yes, definitely, keep your eyes peeled on your friends who've just been through a breakup and see what are the ways that they talk about their ex, what are the ways that they use to tell the story of their relationship, what are the words that they use to describe what the dynamic was, what are the words that they use to describe why things went wrong. That's where we are going to find what the next big hot pop psychology thing is going to be.
Jase: Awesome, thank you all so much.
Emily: I think we did it.
Jase: We've definitely had a fun time on this episode and tried to make this not super heavy. This is a pretty serious topic and we hope that you do take it seriously and realize that we do as well.