Don’t take it personally. The problem isn’t you—it’s them.
Infidelity is virtually guaranteed when one of their kind captures your attention. It goes with the personality type. Having said that, between you and me, as a writer, I realize that people are more complex than our caricatures of them, and that “personality types” fail to encompass all of a person’s idiosyncracies.
The Mayo Clinic defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a mental condition in which a person has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Behind this mask of ultra-confidence, however, lies a fragile self-esteem that’s uniquely vulnerable to the slightest criticism. I see many of these qualities in my wife, and she has always been very sensitive to criticism from me—until now, that is, because I’m being discarded.
Narcissists will betray you the moment it suits them to do so. It may take some time, however. In my case, it took 20 years (I hope). I know this because when I met Demi, she was already a cheater. She had left her first husband, and was cheating with another man when I came along. Looking back, I think I was sufficiently different than anyone she’d ever encountered in life. I was more educated; I was well-traveled and internationally experienced; and I spoke several languages besides English. I was also not as accessible as the other men in her life because of geographical distance, and I think she found that challenging, so I captured her focus.
At the time, I lived in Columbus, Ohio, with a twenty-five-year-old foreign girlfriend. I had a destroyed, childless marriage that had not yet ended formally. It was the summer of 1995.
My girlfriend, Valeriya K., was gorgeous, athletic, extremely intelligent—like “higher-math” intelligent—but she was also rather immature. I met her in 1994 through an acquaintance in Tula. By 1995, she was in Columbus working on a Master’s in Economics. It became a romance, and by summer, I knew she was either going to stay in my life, or she had to return to her native Russia as planned when she finished her degree. That choice was up to me. I procrastinated and used government connections to extend her visa after her coursework was over.
I met Demi in a Compuserve chat room in late July. By September, we were chatting often. It wasn’t yet daily chat, but sometimes it stretched late into the night, which began to make Valeriya suspicious because I was neglecting her. It made her sexually more playful and aggressive, which wasn’t necessarily bad—Valeriya was provocatively sexy in ways I’ve never experienced from an American woman.
Sometime in September, I made the decision that Valeriya should return to Russia, and that our relationship should come to a close. With tears, she flew home in October. We spoke many times while she was resettling herself in Moscow, and she begged me to come see her, but I was already thinking of other things. She was too young for me, I thought (by eleven years), and too emotionally immature. Incidentally, returning to Russia was good for Valeriya—today, she is a well-known economist and advisor to the Russian government. In the months she was with me, I’d been fulfilling a father-figure role for her—I took care of her, and handled all of the logistics necessary for her to live and study in the US. Once, when I discovered she’d ignored a bill she’d received, she reacted like a confronted child who was expecting a spanking. She needed more maturation.
After Valeriya returned to Moscow, I turned my attention to Demi, and flew to Portland in November to meet her face-to-face. We had fun in each others’ company, and “did the book” after our first day together. Thus began a year-long, long-distance romance. She later admitted to me that during that year, she had returned sexually to her first husband, Bob, as well as to Kent, the man she’d been cheating with when we first met. I waved it away. That was a mistake. I should have been alarmed.
I took a huge risk with Demi, but she made me feel good. She was different than anyone I’d encountered. Serious, yet playful and childlike, and we shared a lot of interests. She made me feel good, and I started to love her company. In October 1996, I had the opportunity to make a big change in my life, so I abruptly relocated to Portland. I thought about it a long time—a year, in fact. I had to be with her. Demi and I had joked about it many times by then, anyway. “Just get here,” she’d said.
One day, I did just that. I got rid of all of my furniture and loaded my Audi with whatever it could carry. The drive from the Midwest took about forty hours straight through. I had no idea what I was getting into, but that was part of the excitement.
When I first arrived, Demi had a one-bedroom apartment, a black-and-white cat, and a decent, but fairly low-paying insurance marketing job. She also lacked self-confidence. She felt inadequate because she’d only gone to a community college, and never finished that. She did like my company, the laughs, and the sex, however. It was at that time that I began building the home support structure she’d never had as child. Her confidence grew dramatically over the next few years, and she upgraded her job significantly. I wonder now whether her career success is ultimately what ruined her. She has a certain annoying cockiness about her now, like someone destined for a fall. More on that later.
A narcissist thrives on whatever fuels them. For Demi, her fuel is people and things that make her feel good, or feel more important, or sexy, or desirable, or make her feel successful. In two words, it is recognition and adulation. That is her currency. Somewhere along the way, I must have unwittingly stopped fueling Demi, and she reacted predictably, exactly as a narcissist would. She found herself a new source of fuel, then viciously turned on me and our children.
Twenty years into our marriage, she knew that I would be repulsed by the infidelity; thus it became a weapon. Her weapon. Although I’m not religious, my moral compass has Roman Catholic roots and is very strong. I am now the father of two young boys, and I need to maintain a strong moral compass. I take that responsibility seriously. She knew that, and banked on it. I recall her confessing once, after I knew about her infidelity, and had embarked on my own revenge mission, that she didn’t expect me to have reacted the way I did, but expected me to take it, and silently remain with the kids.
Throughout the years, I was a good husband and decent in my treatment of Demi, and I placed considerable belief in the concepts of marital trust and monogamy. I did have certain times where I was financially irresponsible, but those will be covered in the post on My Truth. All in all, people who’ve found out about our current problems are shocked, and would’ve said that we had an unbelievable level of trust between ourselves, and a beautiful relationship.
Phase I. Demi chose to hurt me. In the course of doing so, she explained one day that it was because she hated and resented me. I believe she did resent me, particularly after she was laid off from a work-at-home job, and had to take one with a commute and more stress. I was still the stay-at-home Dad, which worked well through the recession. I believe Demi’s issue began as a case of resentment, as she said, plus the stress of a new job, plus heavy alcohol use, plus the onset of menopause.
But no matter. Demi knew the breach of trust would cause me the greatest amount of pain, and she chose it anyway, because that’s what she sought to do: cause pain. She was sloppy, and when I discovered her infidelity, I shall never forget the way it made me feel, both physiologically and emotionally. I was devastated. She didn’t care. At first, she seemed remorseful, but ultimately, as I discovered more and more of her actions, her words meant less, and she appeared as cold and emotionless as a snake slithering toward its prey—no empathy whatsoever. A classic narcissist.
In March 2016, Demi had gone on a business trip to Nashville and another man, a coworker, J*** O***, apparently fed her enough of the fuel she needed that she went for him. I sometimes refer to him “Beavis.” I don’t believe it was sex that motivated her—the promise of sex was only a tool she used to seduce Beavis. From her perspective, sex had always been a tool—or a weapon—that could be used to procure fuel, to control, or to punish.
In my world, sex has always been equated with passion, love, affection, and physical attraction. I would describe myself as a “giver” and a “romantic.” I remember Valeriya telling me that it was what she loved most—how my attention made her feel. I have always tended to put my woman on a pedestal and worship her—mentally, physically, and emotionally. Throughout the twenty years we have been together, I have been faithful to a fault. (Well… but that’s another post’s topic.) The physical act of sex is important, but for me, it is never selfish or self-serving. I like to give pleasure. For me, that’s what it’s always been about.
For Demi, sex is a means to get what she needs. I’ve always secretly questioned Demi’s true interest in sex. As a man who, over the years, has been with a number of women, I can say that she was different. I was always struck by something that was a bit odd about her sexuality—she was neither an initiator nor a “giver.” In contrast, Valeriya was constantly concerned about being “pleasing” to me, and she always surprised me with something. I don’t think Demi’s issue was about me. When we first met and began having sex, she was vocal about the multiple orgasms she attained, saying she’d never experienced that before. Perhaps. But still, she was never concerned about my pleasure. She simply liked to lay there and receive, and then roll over and go to sleep when it was done. She was never enticing, and only playful and adventurous at the very beginning of our relationship. She never complained about the quality of our sex; in fact, that was one of the few compliments she paid me, even in the midst of the discard process.
Demi pursued her infidelity with Beavis as a classic narcissist. I’m quite sure she used her sexuality to seduce him as a new prospect for additional fuel. I believe she intended him to ultimately replace me. Initially, her infidelity was covert—she clearly didn’t want to damage having me as the primary fuel source and caretaker of the household and children.
Phase II of her narcissistic process—devaluation—was unexpectedly accelerated by my discovery of her infidelity. When the devaluation phase began, she became incredibly abusive. I emotionally abused her in return, but that’s a topic for another post (I think I must have promised three or four now).
In Phase II, Demi became far less covert about her extra-marital affair and appeared not to care if I knew or not. I remember the look on her face when I confronted Beavis and Demi at Crackerjacks, a local tavern—it was a look of being caught red-handed, but it was also a flaunting look. She flaunted her affair partner right in front of me in order to hurt me, to make me try harder, to provoke me into producing more fuel, albeit negative fuel. Beavis, her next victim, hurriedly left the bar in fear of me; Demi soon left in anger, being sure to announce that she was “gonna go get laid.”
So now, we still live with our kids under the same roof. Demi currently has a pending criminal misdemeanor charge against her (another post), and I’ve evolved rapidly in seven months.
She is unfaithful several times a week now. There’s even a pattern to it. She’s still investing her time in seducing Beavis, her next conquest, and is in the process of devaluing me. I will be discarded at some point, although for her, it will be very costly because of the children. She has withdrawn sex from me, although she still walks in front of me unclothed—flaunting. Occasionally, she tries to make me feel like there is hope—she becomes friendly and talkative, and gives me a short “Golden Period” for the purposes of extracting further fuel. There are other times, too, when she tortures me by making sure I know when she’s going to Beavis. I’m sure she has assured Beavis that we don’t have sex, are sleeping separately, etc. In fact, I’m sure she’s bemoaned the fact that I never have sex with her in order to draw his sympathy as the new prospective victim. As of now, I’m not having sex with her, but there was a time early on when she had us lined up back-to-back. No f*cking conscience. None at all.
Let me return to my statement that I have been evolving rapidly. It’s true. My stomped manhood has healed, and I see clearly again that I am an attractive, intelligent, and sensitive man. I am getting attention from women who are younger, prettier, and, at least in one case, financially more successful, than Demi. It would irk her if she knew. She did know about one that happened in the late spring and summer, but that will be a topic for another post. I promise.
Demi now believes that she has constructed a triangle, with herself at one corner, and Beavis and me in the other two. She makes sure I know when she is going to engage in adultery in order to further the hurt. I can only wonder how she manipulates Beavis. Her rationale: monogamy is for “the little people.” Adhering to social standards and norms of behavior would make her less special. She seems to believe, based on whatever grievances against me that she can invent or emphasize, that she is entitled to seek sex outside of our marriage. It is part of her image of her own inalienable right to obtain her fuel any way she can. She has no guilt, no remorse, and she respects not a single vow or promise of faithfulness. Her actions have shown that she has no conpunction against coupling with someone else when she feels like it. The problem with Demi’s little triangle is that it doesn’t exist. I’m formulating other plans, and not thinking about her.
So what have I done up until now? For months, I’ve scrutinized my own behaviors…
I’ve done nothing to deserve this. Nothing. This situation exists because she’s handling stress and aging both inappropriately and in a perverse way. The only reflection on me is that I’m not fueling her any longer. It’s not a reaction to what I look like, what I do, who my friends are, or what my interests might happen to be. If I attack her for her behavior, as I have many times, she responds with blame-shifting and other classical passive-aggressive behaviors.
A narcissist counts on their subject’s addiction to them.
The assumption goes like this: the subject (me) will attempt to improve themselves in some way because he wants to salvage the relationship. He has hope. Demi counts on me not wanting to let go of her. She knows I am hurt and offended by her infidelity, but she counts on me to try to fix it. Here’s the testable part of this proposition: if Demi’s infidelity shows any risk of causing me to depart, she hastily reinstates the Golden Period, to prevent me from departing. I’ve run this test numerous times, and each time, it’s confirmed.
Initially, I blamed myself and tried to patch things together. I tried all kinds of things—anger, confrontation, even tolerance of her infidelity. Nothing worked. Demi wants me to prove that I’m better than Beavis; she wants me to fight to retain us and see that our relationship triumphs…
And that, my friend, was a dire miscalculation on her part. I have fought, but in ways she saw as dangerous and confrontational, perhaps even to Beavis. I’m done now. I’ve withdrawn.
I am taking the kids to the Midwest for a week at Thanksgiving without Demi. I can virtually smell her level of concern. And there’s more.
Infidelity is bad in a “normal” relationship. In a relationship with a narcissist, infidelity is guaranteed to happen, happen with many people, and will do so repeatedly. It is a black flag of abusive behavior.
I’ve realized that I’m living with an abuser.
For more on narcissism and narcissists, see this site: Knowing the Narcissist. It’s where I learned the concept of the “Golden Period,” which is spot-on.
POSTSCRIPT: a new Golden Period has begun, triggered by my actions with regard to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. We also have ten days in sunny Mexico in December, already booked and paid for. She needs me to participate now. Best sure to visit the Knowing the Narcissist site if you suspect you have one in your house, too.