The Subtle Slave: The Losing is Winning Paradox

You can't win an argument with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That's not an exaggeration, it's a fact. You cannot and will not win. Ever.

You can't win an argument with a person with NPD because arguing a point requires logical reasoning and a Narcissist does everything in their power to skirt logical reasoning. In fact, they are very strategically gifted at introducing logical fallacies into an argument. If their opponent recognizes the fallacy and calls them on it, they are quick to compound it with yet another fallacy.  This pattern continues until the original argument is buried so deeply in layer upon twisted layer of invalid reasoning, blame-shifting, and misdirection, that there is no hope of the opponent ever untangling it.

A Narcissist knows that it is far simpler to argue with a fallacy than to rely on the burden of true logical reasoning. They also know that if they argue long enough, that eventually they can wear their  logic-minded opponent down to the point where they choose to forfeit. Because what any logic-minded individual knows is that to continue to argue with a fool is itself the action of a fool.

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Throughout the nearly-15 years of my marriage to a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I fell into this trap time and time again: trying to argue my point with logic. And time and time again I found myself exhausted and utterly depleted.  Of the literal thousands of arguments I engaged in, not one did I win. NOT ONE.  You may wonder then, why in the heck I persisted to try.  There were two main reasons: 1) I didn't understand the nature of what I was up against, and 2) I was filled to the brim with righteous indignation.

If you've read my previous installments in The Subtle Slave blog series, you'll recall that for the duration of my marriage I did not recognize that my husband had a personality disorder.  I knew full well something was wrong with him – that much was painfully obvious – but what it was exactly, I could not put my finger on.  Because I had no other frame of reference, I assumed he was a normal-functioning intellectual with the capacity to empathize. And, because I had never heard of NPD nor had I encountered another person with the disorder, it did not occur to me that a person could, at times, so closely emulate decency yet have no ability to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil.  For so many years I was left wondering if I was losing my flipping mind because the man who presented himself to the world as a thoughtful, compassionate individual was incapable of conjuring those characteristics behind closed doors.  And, when it came to arguing with him…well, let's just say I lost long before I ever put up my dukes.

Still, knowing I had truth on my side, I tried my damnedest to get him to see the light; to get him to acknowledge the fallacy in his thinking.  I would make clear and logical points, but my engineer husband – who should have been the one with a Spock-like rationale – seemed to deflect logic like The Great Wall of China would deflect a little rubber ball.

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You see, what I didn't realize then was that arguing is a Narcissist's superpower. They thrive on their ability to drive you to the brink of insanity.  They gain a sick sense of satisfaction watching you writhe and struggle, trying in every way possible to get them to acknowledge the truth.  But the reality of the situation is that they already know the truth…they just don't care.  Their game is not about getting to the truth. No. Like a prize fighter, the Narcissist's game is about getting the Knock Out. They enter the ring not necessarily expecting to throw the hardest punches but secure in their ability to endure any punches thrown at them (little rubber ball meet Great Wall of China).  They can go round after round with logical fallacy and not break a sweat. However, watching their opponent bob, weave, and perspire profusely only serves to fuel their energy.  In the end, their relentless bombardment of absurdities and their unfathomable ability to defy logical reasoning will either exhaust their opponent to the point where they break down or enrage them to the point where they explode.  As in boxing, a technical KO is still a victory.

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I'm ashamed to admit that it took me as long as it did to learn how to win an argument with my NPD spouse. But, after more than a decade of losing my mind, losing my sh*t, or most typically, both, I finally cracked the code: LOSE.  And lose quickly.

In my experience, losing victoriously has been obtained by employing one of the two methods outlined below. Don't be mistaken, in none of these scenarios will the Narcissist ever cede the victory.  They will still claim that they have won by default.  Though they may never agree, YOU will know that by preserving your dignity and your sanity, you are the true winner.  Here are the methods I suggest in order to lose victoriously:

  1. REFUSE TO ENGAGE

Refusing to allow a person with NPD to begin an argument that will eventually, inevitably, and without fail lead to your demise, is likely the most effective way to take the wind out of their sails.  Nothing pisses them off more than not being allowed the opportunity to drag you onto a battlefield, pump you full of lead, and witness you slowly bleed out while they watch smugly from the bunkers.  When the Narcissist tries to strike up an argument, simply tell them; "I refuse to engage in an argument with you."  Do not open your mouth after that.  No matter what.  Have no doubt that they will unleash their entire arsenal of hateful and offensive slander trying to bait you into battle, but do not acknowledge them. Just sit quietly and look away as they shriek and claw the air around them like a demon who's been doused with holy water.  

Of course, there is a chance that this tactic of avoidance may escalate them to become physically violent.  If you feel you may be in danger, forgo this tactic and opt for the following:

2. IMMEDIATELY AGREE

Another highly effective method of losing victoriously is to wave the white flag the second the first shot is fired.  When the Narcissist is trying to place blame on you for something (because they never accept fault.  Never.) all you need  to shut them up and shut tbc32320cf8c4782af3ac81df0523b6c5hem down is to wholeheartedly agree.  For instance, one of my husband's favorite means to enslave me was by not allotting me adequate funds to pay the bills and still purchase other basic necessities (though we had ample funds available) then micromanage our financial accounts and scrutinize my every purchase- an aspect of financial abuse. Often he would say to me something to the effect of, "You're incapable of staying on budget!" To which I would reply, "You're right."  You should have seen his face turn an inhuman shade of reddish-purple.  He would continue, trying to drag me into the fight; "You're running us into the ground!"  Again, "You're right."  Smoke would billow from his eye sockets. "Aren't you even concerned?!"  "Yes, I am."  His body now convulsing with rage,"So what are you going to do about it?" to which I would politely answer, "Whatever you say, dear."  And that was that. 

Sure, he would then go on to lecture me about all the ways I needed to shape up and fall in line.  All to which I would nod and agree.  That did not mean, of course, that I planned to follow through on any of the absurd things he just demanded of me, but it put a quick end to his game by handing him the victor's crown straight out of the gate.

At first, choosing to lose to someone who is so clearly in the wrong may be a bitter pill to swallow.  But, I promise it will get easier and easier.  And, in the end, it is the only way for you exercise control over the situation while maintaining your sanity and self-respect.

So, my friend, should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of trying to reason with a Narcissist, don't. Don't give them the satisfaction of watching you fail. By assisting them to a swift victory, you come out the ultimate winner.

Happy losing,
Kristin

P.S.  If you are just now joining me for my blog series The Subtle Slave, and would like to learn more about NPD and about my own personal experiences being married to a Narcissist, please check out my blog page Bittersweet Me.  If you would like to read more about the topics covered in this post, see the links below.

The Ten Commandments of Logical Debate

6 Signs You're Arguing with a Narcissist

The Narcissist Blames You!

3 Reasons You Can't Win with a Narcissist

The Subtle Slave: Playing the Victim is Not the Same as Being a Victim

I have very low tolerance for people who play the victim. By playing the victim, I mean those who like to blame others for their misfortunes and refuse to take responsibility for their own poor choices. For example, I once dated a guy who would play his victim card anytime he needed an excuse to justify his blatant stupidity. He showed up to work hungover: "It's because my dad left when I was just a kid and I never had a good role model." Or you could just not drink to excess on a weeknight…or ever. He received an eviction notice because he hadn't paid his rent in months: "If my dad wouldn't have abandoned me I'd have someone to help me." Or you could not blow all of your money on beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets…and pay your bills instead. He had excessive ear wax buildup: "My f*ing dad never taught me to clean my ears." Or you could ask yourself what are these fancy cotton-tipped swabs for?  Seriously, dude, own your sh*t.  The only thing he could partially justify placing on his deadbeat dad is where he peaked on the intelligence spectrum…education and environment can only do so much to combat the effects of inferior genetics.  Needless to say, that relationship didn't last long.

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And so I am having a heck of a hard time writing this blog series.  The whole subject matter of having been in an abusive relationship makes me queasy.  I don't like portraying myself as a victim.  I don't like making a grand show of placing blame on the Narcissist for the ultimate demise of our marriage. After all, there are two sides to every story. I'm sure he could give you an earful of what I nightmare I was to be married to. In fact, I could give you that same earful, because, unlike my ex-boyfriend with the earwax issue, I own my sh*t.

Nevertheless, each time I sit down to write, I have to fight off my inner voice telling me to quit whining and move on and instead remind myself that telling my story serves a greater purpose, it is a means to reach out to others who need to experience healing in their lives. As I've said in both of my previous installments, my goal in writing the Subtle Slave series is to be a voice for those who are or have endured the abuse of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  To do so, I have to perpetually encourage myself to step out of my comfort zone in order to do what needs to be done, even if it means that I am viewed as the very thing I despise – someone playing their victim card.

In this instance, putting myself in the limelight is a necessary evil in order to achieve a greater purpose. I'm not telling my story so that others might look at me with pity and say "You poor thing, you suffered through a lot."  Firstly, that's complete B.S.  While it's true that my marriage was essentially a steaming pile of cow feces from the word GO, and that I felt miserable and trapped much of the time…I did not allow myself to suffer.  Suffering is a state of mind.  If I suffered, then I had let him get the best of me. So, except for short intervals when I was exceptionally exhausted from the fight or was otherwise hyper-emotional, I would talk myself through the pain.  I would frequently give myself pep talks: "You are strong, Kristin, don't let him break you.", "You are smart, Kristin, don't buy into the lies he's feeding you.", and "You are brave, Kristin, you can stand up against him and protect yourself and your children."  I wasn't looking for others to run to my rescue. I would not allow myself to be a victim.

And yet I was.  No matter how much I convinced myself to be strong or smart or brave, my pep talks did nothing to stop his rapid-fire psychological warfare.  He was as equally determined to pierce me as I was to be impenetrable.  I could keep myself from playing the victim, yet I couldn't prevent myself from being victimized.  Not until I got out.

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Unlike normal, healthy relationships where allowing yourself to be vulnerable to the other person helps to create an environment of acceptance and increased intimacy, opening oneself up to a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder only serves to provide them with a storehouse of ammo that they can later use against you. It's a double-edged sword: by withholding you cheat yourself out of the possibility of having an authentic loving relationship, but by lowering your guard you only invite more abuse.

Intellectually, I know that most humans don't operate the way that persons with NPD do, so I am gradually learning to deprogram myself of the safety mechanisms I had put in place for my own sake of self-preservation.  I am retraining myself to trust others.  But I've got to tell you, it's scary as hell. Anyone who's suffered through an abusive relationship with a spouse, parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, sibling, etc. knows that once you've been damaged, it's hard to smooth out the dents…and even if you manage to do so, you'll never again be in show condition.

It's been over two years since my divorce and I often still find myself in warrior mode, guard up, ready for battle. Deprogramming takes work and vigilance not to fall back into the old patterns of thought and behavior. If you are a victim, former or present, it is imperative to surround yourself with people who 1) believe your story, 2) allow you to tell it, and 3) allow themselves to be vulnerable with you as well.  Guarded people don't help break down the barriers of guarded people. Nowadays my personal pep talks are something along the lines of: "It's okay to trust, Kristin, your friends aren't conspiring to hurt you.", "It's okay to be vulnerable, Kristin, your friends aren't looking to prey on your weaknesses.", "It's okay to love, Kristin, your friends are capable of loving you back."

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to those who have encouraged me to tell my story, as it inspires me to press onward with my mission.  And now that I have openly confessed my fear of being viewed as a buck-passer and an attention-seeker, I can move beyond yet another of my internal roadblocks. Now I can finally start to get down to the nitty-gritty of what it's like to live with a person with NPD and share techniques that I have learned along the way to combat their abusive tactics.  So stay tuned, folks, because sh*t's about to get real.

Love to all,

Kristin

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P.S. If you are struggling to overcome your own victim identity, here are a few resources that may help…

Positivity Blog – How to Break Out of a Victim Mentality

Psychology Today – Emotional Abuse (Overcoming Victim Identity)

7-Mindsets: 7 Powerful Ways to Overcome the Victim Mindset

 

The Subtle Slave: Life with a Spouse with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

For the past year I have had this grand idea that I would blog about my experience being married to a person with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).  The problem is that every time I sit down to write about the topic I hit a wall.  It’s not writer’s block, per se, as I have a truckload of information and episodes just waiting to make their way to the page.  If anything, my problem is the opposite.  I want the blog series to be thorough, covering all of the bases of what it’s like to feel trapped in this kind of relationship.  I want to be a light in the fog to those who aren’t familiar with the disorder and a beacon of hope to the men and women who have or are currently being abused by someone with NPD. But with so much important material to cover, I am at a loss where to begin. The task seems both monumental and without end.

Worse yet, even if I were to find an organized way to relay all of the material to you, I don’t know that you’d believe me.  Not because you think me a liar, but because the kind of inhumane behavior I would be exposing does not compute within the context of the average human experience.  It would be like trying to describe an alien abduction to someone who doesn’t believe aliens exist. You will find it extremely difficult to accept that a seemingly innocuous human being could be so disturbingly duplicitous and still function successfully within society.  And I wouldn’t blame you. Your doubt would be rational.  But NPD is anything but rational.  And that is why I couldn’t wrap my brain around it either…until I experienced it firsthand.

Part of the baffling conundrum is that persons with NPD are chameleon-like in nature. They have an uncanny ability to adapt to their surroundings, putting on whatever persona will best win the favor of their current audience.  Not unlike sociopaths, persons with NPD are typically highly intelligent individuals.  Although they lack the ability to empathize or identify with other persons, they are gifted in their ability to fit in with the crowd and mimic appropriate actions and responses.  They can give academy award winning performances for “normal” and “decent” behavior that could fool even the toughest critic.  But it is all an act.  A ruse.  A long-con.

That’s why I fell for it.  That’s how he was able to manipulate me into dating then marrying him. He targeted me because I exhibited the characteristics that persons with NPD look for: I was popular and well-liked (ie: I was an excellent showpiece for his collection), I was bright and had connections (ie: I was an important tool for his personal advancement), I was easy-going (ie: I would bend to his will and be excessively tolerant of his bullsh*t), I was selfless (ie: I would give and give and give of myself long after he sucked me dry), and I had high moral integrity (ie: I would choose to honor my commitment to him even to my own detriment.)

He put on quite a show of courting me.  He said all the things he knew would win my heart, though they were just lies on top of lies on top of more lies. In hindsight, there were certain things about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time, things that seemed “off”.  But, because my brain wasn’t able to reconcile the delicately complex contradictory behaviors I was witnessing (and because outwardly he appeared to have all of the qualities I wanted in a husband) I foolishly elected to assume I was misreading the red flags.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I chose to believe that he was everything he claimed to be.

Thus began my life as the subtle slave.

In the coming months, I will try my best to present my story with the least amount of bias I can muster (although, c’mon, how exactly does one remain perfectly neutral in their own story?)  I will share with you what I discovered from my personal research, what I  experienced firsthand, and what lessons I learned the hard way. I will list resources and I will try to answer any questions you pose.  And I promise that I’ll do my best to help expose this subtle yet soul-crushing form of abuse without playing the victim.  Because, honestly, the last thing I want is to be pitied.  What I truly want is to educate and empower others.

Here’s to the painful process of enlightenment!  – Kristin

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P.S.  If you are the victim of an NPD abuser, know this: though you may be kept in isolation, you are not alone.  Though you may lose every battle, you can survive the war.  You have the strength to escape their snare and the power to rebuild your life.  God and I have faith in you!

For more information about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, see the following resources:

Mayo Clinic: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

NPD.org – Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder

PBD Central – The Hallmarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder