>Q: I was married for 25 years to a man who might be a narcissist. He meets most of the criteria outlined in the information I have read on the subject. After living in his world for so long, I have become insecure and emotionally depleted, but I am still in love with him.
He left me last year for someone else, but recently he has been coming back around, telling me he made a mistake by leaving me. He has cheated too many times to count, and it got to the point where I just accepted the infidelities, with the rationale that he always came back to me.
Over the years, he has either insisted I give up certain people in my life or people have walked away, frustrated by me allowing him to treat me so badly. He grew up in an abusive home. What do you think?
– R.W., Orchard Park
A: Although I am not a psychiatric expert, I have worked with enough women in your situation to confidently say that your ex-husband is most likely a narcissist (a person whose satisfaction comes from admiring himself). The disorder often stems from a lack of bonding with one or both parents. You say he grew up in an abusive home, which leads me to believe that it might be the cause of his narcissism.
Leaving a narcissist is challenging, dangerous and emotionally draining. I know you feel that you are in love with him, but he is not in love with you. He cheats on you, he isolates you, he treats you poorly, and then he keeps you on the back burner even when he's pursuing other women. The chance that he will change is highly unlikely, especially if he does not acknowledge his narcissism.
You need to cut this man out of your life permanently, with zero contact. Otherwise, the cycle of him cheating, leaving and coming back will never end and will eventually take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. You should consider seeking therapy to help you understand why you have remained in this relationship for as long as you have.
You don't say...
>Q: I've been single for years, and recently I went on a date. When I asked her for another date, she declined and told me that I talk way too much. How can I work on this?
– G.L., Ken-Ton
A: Talking too much on a date means that you're not listening to the other person. Following a few basic tips, you can improve on this fairly easily.
Practice your listening skills with a friend; have him tap you on the shoulder when you start talking too much so you can pinpoint specifically when the overtalking occurs. If you're a nervous talker, which most overtalkers are, do some breathing exercises before a date to help you relax. Come up with some questions to ask your date that will help you learn more about the person you're talking to. Asking questions will force you to stop talking and to listen.
The more you improve your ability to communicate, the less you will turn off the people you're trying to attract. Learning to listen to others will help you with social anxiety issues, selfish tendencies, and any habitual one-upping or bragging.
Patti Novak welcomes your relationship questions. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and please include your initials and hometown.