I stumbled on another blogger’s entry here: http://wp.me/p8bchu-F. I would say go read that one and then come back.
It was interesting reading that blog entry and, as a mother, daughter, about to be ex-wife, full-time worker, and who knows what else, I can certainly relate. Now, what the article does not mention is how much worse this is when the husband is a narcissist.
That happened to me with my husband more times that I can count. He would invite people for dinner and expect me to cook. Granted, no children at the time, but I worked over an hour away. And he would invite people in the middle of the week. He would also let me know at the last minute. Then I would be left to try to take care of everything. And I would be damned if I asked for help and damned if I didn’t. It was so confusing with him. I never knew what to do.
It was like that with anything, from laundry to some small thing I wanted or need to take care of. Mind that my husband cannot fix a toilet to save his own behind. I’m the one who knows how to fix things around the place, from plumbing to electricity. How I learnt to do all of that is food for another conversation. The point here is that he would neither offer to help me, nor he would like it when I would ask him for help. However, that would not stop him from blaming it on me when I would say that I was feeling overwhelmed.
Just like in that other blogger’s post, he would say,
“Let me know if you need help.”
I would be carrying loads of bags or in a situation where I clearly needed an extra hand. With the risk of sounding racist or I don’t know what, I would even say that this might be normal in American society. He would just look at me and say, “Let me know if you need help.” Even though I come from a macho culture, men over there do not wait for you to ask them for help. They see you struggling and they will spring up to you, saying something like “Let me help you.”
I would tell him that, especially when he would accuse me of not wanting his help. I would clarify that, where I come from, women tend not to ask for help and men tend to offer it. At first, he would give me a lengthy explanation as of why he had failed to help me, turning it on me, obviously. I would then end up apologizing for something that should have been reversed (him offering apologies to me and not me to him.) As time went by, he would start sounding more like fed-up with me. He would even go to the extend of saying something around the lines of,
“Well, you’re no longer there. You’re in the United States of America now, and you’ve been here long enough to know that things are different here.”
So now we were blaming the United States of America, my supposedly lack of understanding of the society here (never mind I had already spent over a decade in this country,) and anybody else for my not having asked for help. Go figure.
You see, to me, when a man says “Let me know if you need help” sounds more like “Do I really need to help you?” I would feel that my husband did not want to actually help me when he would ask that. And, in hindsight, I know now that he never had any intentions of helping me.
Now, let’s pretend that I was carrying bags from the store. I would be juggling them, trying to get through the door and with the storm-door that needed for months to be fixed and would slam on you so many times. The door would not stay open and, bam! Now the eggs are broken. I would get upset and ask him why he couldn’t help me when clearly I needed help, to which he would say something like,
“You never want me to help you, even when I offer you my help! And if I do help you, you never like how I do things! You’re just like my father!!!”
So now it would be my fault that I did not let him help me. Really???
Unfortunately and over a period of time of several years in the marriage, his statements and reasons, plus the gaslight, ended up confusing me so much that I would never know what to do.
Damned if I asked for help, damned if I didn’t.
I would even get worried, thinking and struggling to make a decision. “Do I or do I not?” It was always a loss-loss situation with him.
In the long run, I completely stopped asking him for help. And he still found a way to project all of that to me. He even started to call me a control-freak. I would cry over all of this. There have been so many instances when I genuinely needed help, but I would not recourse to him because I knew that, no matter the outcome, he would use it to further hurt me, devaluate me, or both, in one or another way. I didn’t know that was the term back then (devaluation.) But now I know.
I feel for anybody who is facing the same type of situation now. I honesty don’t know how they can get around it. If the husband is not a narcissist, she might be able to say something like, “Honey, don’t take it too literal when I ask you for help. Just look around and see if something else needs to be taken care of, as well.” But if the husband is a narcissist, she will probably try to consider giving him exact explanations, such as, if she needs him to get the baby bottle out of the dishwasher, she might want to ask him to empty it completely, and putting everything away, since he’s taking just the one thing out and might as well take everything out.
And that’s what I would do. As a result, I was a control-freak who had to give him complete and detailed instructions because I didn’t think he could do anything on his own without directions. His words, not mine. None of that ever crossed my mind. I would like to think that he was smart enough to come to the conclusion that, since he was at the dishwasher, he could take everything out, as well. But he would not. I don’t know if it was out of laziness or lack of intelligent (and now I’m sounding arrogant.) Unfortunately, those types of thoughts would end up crossing my mind, that he was not that smart after all. Why wouldn’t he take everything out of the dishwasher if not?
Once again, living with a narcissist has indeed brought up the worst in me many times. Not just when thinking about and looking at myself, but also when looking at and thinking about him. Now I just see him for what he is: An unhappy, unsatisfied, unaccomplished, childish, emotionally-immature individual. Yes, I sometimes feel sorry for him because he’ll never find happiness since he is not willing to put the effort needed to find happiness. Happiness is a state of mind. It is something you have to work out and make a conscious effort many times. Happiness is learning to see beyond imperfections. But happiness is also respecting oneself and those around us. Narcissistic individuals cannot or do not want to respect other people. Therefore, they can’t be happy. They may seem happy for a while. They may feel satisfaction mostly from putting someone else down. But it does not last. It can’t last. Eventually, the other person will say “Enough is enough” and leave them.
To wrap this up, now I know it wasn’t me. I just hope that there are men out there who can offer help to their wives and they do so without waiting to be asked. And I also hope that those wives are appreciative of the husbands they have. They have no idea how blessed they are. Living with a husband who will not only diminish you, but also blame you for and make you believe that you deserve to be diminished is not a way of living. I rather have socks and underwear all over the place and a husband who respects me for who and what I am and loves me with all my quirks and differences than a narcissistic Mr. Clean by my side.
(Well, I hope he does pick up his socks and underwear, but you get my point.)