Pathological envy is a trademark of the narcissistic personality, and they often love to display contempt toward others who are actually having a good time, because their own self-loathing does not allow them to feel emotions such as love or joy.
Holidays in particular can trigger this type of personality because there is an expectation of pleasure in sharing others’ company during a time of celebration. I recently stumbled on an Instagram post by a woman “was_married_to_a_narc” supposedly originally written by a narcissist. It resonated deeply, as I could clearly hear words like these coming straight out of my ex-husband’s mouth:
“I keep telling myself: ‘Look at those inferior imitations of humans, slaves of their animated corpses, wasting their time, pretending to be happy.’ Yet deep inside, I know I am the defective one. I realize that my inability to rejoice is a protracted and unusual punishment meted out to me by my very self. I am sad and enraged. I want to spoil it for those who can. I want them to share my misery, to reduce them to my level of emotional abstinence and absence. I hate humans because I am unable to be one.”
I have never been a materialistic person and actually can’t think of any particular object I covet. On holidays and birthdays, I get far more pleasure out of finding and presenting other people with something I know will make them happy. What I always ask for, when people close to me insist that I give them an idea, is something personal, like a homemade card or a meal spent together, and this is mainly for my birthday. I certainly love taking trips, but never expect anything lavish like that in general.
What always made my birthday feel special was receiving cards or phone calls. I liked when friends and family remembered it. That was really all I wanted, just some acknowledgment, from most people.
My ex-husband used to claim I expected too much on occasions such as these. To him, nothing was a cause for celebration, and he certainly felt that buying any kind of present was over the top, so he never did. Actually, he did once – a pair of fake silver earrings that were completely not my style. I have no poker face, and though I’d thanked him, he knew I wasn’t into his choice. He used that as an excuse to never buy me anything again, saying I was “ungrateful,” and he would constantly refer back to the jewelry incident.
During our engagement, he never bought me a ring, and instead literally tossed his grandmother’s my way after several months of promising to ask me to marry him, saying, “I hope you’re happy now.” He neither bothered to have it sized nor even cleaned, and it has remained in the bottom of my jewelry box for the past couple of decades, because the wedding ring itself was also an afterthought, and the pieces didn’t go together at all.
Being the child of close identical twin dads, my family switches off each other’s houses every Thanksgiving, and it is a party I love and look forward to every year. Our nuclear family isn’t very large, and my cousins have been extensions of siblings, and everyone generally gets along. It is always a loud and crowded occasion with family and friends squeezing into whatever available space exists at usually one of two tables.
My ex-husband would go, grudgingly, as he did with most social events, and I remember several years ago how he because infuriated because my aunt did not serve pumpkin pie. We certainly were not lacking in desserts that meal – the table was crammed to the point of overflowing with apple and sweet potato pie, brownies, and all sorts of delicious cookies, cakes, and of course, ice cream. But he was livid, insisting that pumpkin pie was a traditional dish and that she was an awful hostess in general. The fact that this significant dessert was missing had so upset him that he promised to never again enter her house.
“People with Cluster B personality disorders enjoy making other people feel worthless, especially on birthdays or holidays. Mean people love nothing more than stealing joy from an otherwise happy or sensitive-natured person… Narcissists love to spoil holidays and birthdays because to them the festivities represent stress triggers.”
I spent years resenting him for his lame attitude, but if I’m being honest with myself, who was the lamer one, him or me? After all, he was himself, at least in this respect, and remained so the entire relationship. It was I who accepted his substandard behavior and lack of effort. All I can say now is, never again will I allow my birthday to be anything less than a pleasant occasion.
When I think back to that time, as well as the wedding itself, I don’t just blame him for how lame the whole thing was, and even more so, who I must have been to accept such low standards from someone so unwilling to ever go out of his way for anybody.
One year during our courtship, it was my birthday. Of course, he had not gotten me a gift, as he never did for any event, and we were just sitting in the house on that cold December day, him having planned nothing. I felt down and asked him if perhaps he might make some effort to make it nice for me. He of course responded that I should go take a hot bath. The bathtub was filthy because nobody liked to clean it – I was the only one who ever did – so I asked if, as a birthday gift, he would clean the tub, which he grudgingly did. Then he called me a Jewish-American princess and said that I was spoiled and bratty like a child.
As friends of ours planned elaborate celebrations for their spouse’s big birthdays, 40th and 50th, he refused to even allow me to plan something for him. Of course, any parties thrown for me were always planned by friends or family. The thought would have never entered his brain to spend that kind of energy on another human being.
It has been difficult to accept that I was married to someone for nearly 18 years who, for all of his show of affection, never loved me. It is hard to fathom how anyone could pretend so well. But the fact is that narcissists are incapable of joy or true love. I wanted to believe that perhaps my ex-husband could have loved his dog, as he professed to love animals no matter what. But the fact is, when he moved out of our house, he never even came back to walk the dog. He refused to help with the one vet bill I asked him to share, having already replaced his “beloved pup” with another. It’s all about supply and demand, I guess.
A perfectly timed article – thank you, Lisa!
Lisa Johnson is the co-founder of Been There Got Out, a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate, educator, professional writer, and founder of the Legal Abuse Support Group. She has been representing herself in family and the appellate court (pro se), which is a job unto itself, and her interviews with experts are prominent on social media, making beentheregotout.com a leading go-to resource for high-conflict divorce information worldwide.