Enablers and Narcissists

Years ago an elderly woman passed away. I had met her a few times at a nursing home I was volunteering at. I sat with her during her final days and even spoke at her funeral. We were told she had two dogs. Her son told us at her funeral that he planned to take the dogs but needed someone to help feed them. His plan was to get an apartment and within six months move the dogs to his new place which allowed animals. He split up care of the dogs among 3 people. Twice a week my daughter and I would go and feed her two dogs. My daughter was 7 at the time. We got the son’s information and the address of his mother who had passed away. My daughter and I got to the house late in the evening when we were asked to feed them. The gate was locked, we never did get the code, and we jumped the fence to get to the house. Both dogs barked at us the entire time. We walked down a long dirt driveway to a very old dilapidated house. We found the key and opened the back door. There were holes in the floor that led to the ground. We were asked to get the dog food, rinse the bowls, give fresh water and put the food in the bowls outside for these outside dogs. The sink had dishes that had been in it no less than a year. There were cobwebs all over the entire house. It looked like no one had lived in it in…forever! Yet his mother was there less than two weeks prior. I was shocked. I was appalled. The dogs had old dog houses and were not tame. I was so scared I would fall through the floor while getting them water and food. This was no environment to have a seven year old child. This was no environment to have an elderly woman. Yet I kept feeding the dogs. I had my days and I went and fed them like I promised. I repeatedly called the son and told him of the unsafe, unacceptable conditions the dogs were in. Yet I kept going. He kept promising he would get a place soon and I just needed to uphold the agreement. 

In checking with the other women that were helping feed this dog I realized that the son had rarely gone to the house. He had successfully manipulated us to take care of these dogs for him. We were thinking we were doing our part to help the dogs until he got a home to care for them, when in reality this man was just skirting his responsibility among many other things. He let his mother live in a house that needed to be condemned. He then, knowing how we felt about her, manipulated us into caring for her dogs so he didn’t have to. 

The very first day I went to that house I should have called and told him NO. The very first day I went to the house I should have questioned the care his mother had received before going into the nursing home in the first place. I thought I was helping but all I was doing was enabling a narcissist. If all the women stopped he would have to do something himself. He was getting his PH.D. At the time and during our conversations about the dogs I mostly listened to how important he was because of his social status.  How getting his PH.D. Was the most important thing and us helping feeding the dogs was helping him fulfill his dream until he could get a new place. What a load of crap. 

I have often enabled narcissists. Not intentionally. Narcissists are VERY good at what they do. They make you think that without you this would not be possible. That without you this just can’t work. You are a huge factor in .. Fill in the blank. He had me convinced I was doing this amazing thing by helping his deceased mother’s animals. When, in reality, I was doing nothing of the sort. He should have been reported for neglect of his mother and later of her animals.

I quit my part and heard that eventually he did move the dog to be with him. 

There are many different kinds of narcissists. They have a lot in common but each has their own way of control. If they can use you they will. If they cannot they will move on to someone else. This one in particular made me feel like I had something special about me that made me want to help his mother first and her dogs second. There is. Something special about me. I do love animals and elderly. He knew that and used it to his advantage but in no way did he ever think of me. He saw how I loved and used it against me. 

It took me YEARS to recognize a narcissist. YEARS. You could say I had poor judgment. Poor judge of character. No instinct. Which would all be true of that scenario. I have learned though that narcissists use this kind of personality to get what they want. They are either blamers, guilt trippers, complimenters, manipulators, players, or all of the above. They have learned that this behavior gets them what they want because no one challenges it. They find women who don’t have the courage to challenge it. Women have done it to me too. I have been tricked and used and snowed by women narcissists too.

Do you know how to spot a narcissist? Take a moment and ask yourself if what they are doing, or asking you to do, takes into account YOU at all. Does anything they are saying or doing  incorporate your feelings or needs at all? If they are a narcissist then the answer would be no. They don’t care about how what they do makes you feel.  It is hard to conceive of the fact that a person can be so self absorbed. 

I know the excuses women give, ” But he needs me….but if it weren’t for me who will do it… But if he didn’t’ have me then  he wouldn’t have anyone….I know him better than anyone so I understand  why he is this way…He is just having a bad day and I need to love him unconditionally.” No you don’t. A narcissist loves themself enough for all of us. 

There was once a blind woman that lived across the street from me. Her daughter asked me to take her blood sugar twice a day and log it for her. I did it . For months. I thought, ” There is no one else to do this and this woman needs me.” and the woman who was blind DID need someone. She needed a nurse, home health care, and not an inexperienced  lay person to be going to her home twice a day. I’m not sure if her daughter was a narcissist or just a manipulator who would suck anyone in so she didn’t have to.  At one point I was taking someone’s blood sugar twice a day, feeding someone’s dogs twice a week, and babysitting someone’s child a few afternoons who “just couldn’t find childcare. “All for free. Because I wanted to help. I wasn’t thinking of the narcissists, I was thinking about the narcissist’s child, or dog, or mother. Until one day I realized I was dragging my seven year old daughter around to “help” others when I was truly showing my daughter what the definition of enabler was. 

You cannot sacrifice yourself to help someone else. You are valuable. You are important. You are an important part of every single equation and every single scenario you are involved in. If you don’t matter in it, then get out of it. If you don’t feel honored and respected, then get out of it. You can only help someone else if you are valuing yourself at the same time. It is a hard thing to do after abuse. I let narcissists chew me up and spit me out. I was nothing more than spit on the bottom of a shoe to all of them. I was the only one who could change that. A narcissist will not ever change. You cannot change them. You can only see your own worth by changing yourself.  Right this very moment a narcissist is rationalizing the pain they inflicted upon me by blaming me and justifying their actions. Because that is what they do!!!

I cannot change my need to help animals , others, elderly, people in need. I can set boundaries and help others without being depleted myself. I wish everyone strength in the face of narcissists. It takes a lot of strength, self love, self awareness, and mindfulness to get away from them, but you will get your life back when you do. I am no longer an enabler and I can spot a narcissist a mile away. You will be able to too, as soon as you get away from the one you are with. You are worth it. 

5 thoughts on “Enablers and Narcissists

  1. I have indeed been unlucky enough to tangle with a narcissist, and everything you’ve said is spot-on — especially the part about their never changing. They are born users and have no regard for others beyond what they can extract from them. So glad you managed to get away too, Bethany.

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