When he’s caught redhanded (part seven)

The article I’m discussing here takes a closer look at what seems like an apology, but is actually a substitution for an apology.  What happens when he can’t deny or explain it away?  It talks about recriminations as one of the substitutes here:

“We have noticed the tendency for narcissistically vulnerable people to engage in a kind of ritual self-castigation in the wake of an undeniable or unrationalizable failing toward someone. This is a process even more elusive than explaining, and harder to distinguish from true apologizing. This recrimination is expressed to witnesses and objects of the transgression with the implicit invitation that the transgressor should be reassured that despite the lapse, he or she is really fine (i.e., perfect or perfectable), after all. In the case of a person with a narcissistic character disorder, recrimination is probably as close as he or she ever comes to apologizing, and is doubtless believed to constitute sorrow and reparation.

Self-castigating statements, mild ones such as “I can’t understand why I did that!” and severe ones such as “I must be a terrible person,” appear to manifest remorse, and may on that basis elicit sympathy and a wish to relieve the offender’s apparent guilt and pain. A close look at the transaction, however, reveals that the subject is suffering self-condemnation mainly for a lack of perfection, and that the injured object has been switched into the position of comforting the person who inflicted the hurt. The party who is legitimately entitled to an apology goes without it, while the transgressor achieves reinforcement for a pathological belief about the self.”

Another checkpoint.  Is he showing concern for the impact on me?  Is he trying in any way to relieve my pain, fear, or sorrow that he caused?  Or has the focus turned once again to him?  Am I feeling sorry for the poor bad boy?  Am I feeling compassion for the purported agonies he must be suffering to realize he behaved in such a rotten, and hurtful way?  What happened to the hurt he caused me? 

I started to catch on to this years ago.  One day I started to realize that when he was caught in an undeniable (by him) way, when there was no teflon slithering out of it, and he was faced smack in the nose with the fact that he intentionally behaved in a bad or hurtful way, then he would begin the grandiose statements of his rottenness.  And like a naive dupe, I always believed him.  I wanted to treat him the way that I wanted to be treated when I sinned and made mistakes.  I wanted to forgive him the way I want to be forgiven and still loved. 

But one day I realized something was amiss, and that in fact, I didn’t think he sincerely believed he was that terrible person.  I told him that when he moved to negative extremes to describe himself, that I thought that somewhere deep inside, not only would some rational part disagree with the extreme negative, but would use that disagreement as the first step towards feeling sorry for himself.  Once that voice started telling him, “You’re not that bad.  Look at all the good stuff you do.  What about ‘that’ fault of hers?  What about the time she did the bad X,Y,Z?  She’s forgetting about the A,B,C good stuff you do.  You’re really pretty decent, and she just doesn’t seem to appreciate it.”

Okay, I’m imagining this based on his behaviors and words.  I know that once he’s absolute caught redhanded, he’s sorry, he’s so so so sorry, and he doesn’t know how I put up with him.  This is when he’s briefly implying that he’s almost a monster, and I’m some kind of saint.  Except that he’s not a monster, and I’m certainly not a saint.  This is where the truth and lies get mixed up.  As his inner voice establishes that he’s not a monster and I’m not a saint, it’s easy enough to divert focus to the part where he’s pretty decent and does lots of good stuff… and is unappreciated by me.

Mind you, I’m no part of this kind of internal conversation.  I’m somewhere outside thinking he must feel just awful because he realized that he hurt me in such a reprehensible way.  But nooo.  This section of the article recaps this nicely:

“We have found that a good way to discriminate between narcissistic recrimination and object-related remorse is to ask the allegedly regretful person whether, under identical circumstances, he or she would do the same thing again. A truly repentant sinner will unhesitatingly and believably say no, while a person protecting the grandiose self will tend to launch into a series of hedges, rationalizations, or less than credible denials.”

I think I’d also ask him what he plans to do differently if a similar situation were to arise.  If he gets immediately frustrated or irritated, it’s probably because I’m asking him to commit to good behavior in the future.  How can he commit to that when he doesn’t know what provocation will give him entitlement to covertly abuse again?


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15 Responses to When he’s caught redhanded (part seven)

  1. Exodus says:

    PJ’s my husband will sometimes dramatically incriminate himself by admitting his faults but it’s always just an arrogant patronizing display of tongue in cheek rhetoric. He’s never sincere- especially when he knows that I’m truly upset. He’ll say things like , ‘ I’m SORRY.are you happy now?” On a very rare occasion when he has upset me to the point that I asked him to leave the house or I threw him out, he will call me like a sad little boy and beg to come home and say things like, ‘ I want us to work this out, I want us to be happy” but he never says, that he is sorry or that he will get help or that he will stop doing such and such. He won’t even acknowledge WHY I threw him out or what the problem is. He never commits to changing the thing that caused the problem. A few days later, he will punish me for being angry at him and when I confront him again, he will defend his PA behavior by admitting that he did it because I got angry and did or said such and such to him. It sometimes blows my mind what he will bring up during an argument that we are having about something that he did to upset me. It could be anything like, ‘ I had to go buy milk the other day..why didn’t you go get it yourself!”……and I’ll be thinking, ” ah, so that is why you accidentally cut down my cherry tree? Because of the milk?”

    I have written about how my husband and mother used gaslighting as a way to keep me trapped in their web. I don’t know if you’re familiar with gaslighting but you may find some of the characteristics/behaviors in your own marriage:


  2. Exodus says:

    Here’s another article on that same website that discusses narcissistic rage. Although our husbands do not rage in overt fashion, their PA rage has the same roots. The only difference is that their anger never had a voice as a child so they learned other ways to rage without appearing like an obvious bad guy. http://narcissisticbehavior.net/category/what-causes-narcissists-to-rage/


  3. Bronze says:

    I think it was about the 15 year mark my ex actually said the words “I can’t say sorry because I know I’m going to do it again’. Probably, the most honest thing he ever uttered (and I stupidly chose to ignore it). The other honest thing he said at around the same time was “I can’t treat you as well as I treat everybody else because I live with you’. I also ignored that!! Talk about denial!! Mine got help after our separation – anger management etc. and whilst it stopped overt anger it did not stop the manipulation, lying and crazy making. That actually got worse, I believe, because being outside the home he needed to be more covertly manipulative to get at me. Mine would actually say in lieu of an apology “Yeah, I’m such a c**t”. I would say no you’re not. And then afterwards he would accuse me of telling him he is a c**t!! Which never came out of his mouth but because I was complaining or stating how he was hurting me- to him that meant I was calling him a c**t. I couldn’t be hurt or have any negative feelings without it being taken as me trying to purposely make ‘him feel bad’. I once expressed hurt at his constant rudeness towards me and he screamed at me “Yeah, well how do you think I feel? I have to live with the fact that I was rude for years to you!!”. Again, HIS pain at him being an arse towards me somehow eclipsed my pain, the actual person who was the victim of his constant rudeness, put downs and abuse!! His abuse towards me somehow hurt him more than his abuse hurt me!! You can’t win with these men. Inside of their heads must be a nasty, twisted knot of black stinking awfulness – to be able to twist and turn everything into such chaos and hatred and then turn around and blame you for it, must take a truly sick person. I don’t believe there is any help out there that can fix them. It’s too ingrained and is fundamentally WHO they ARE. It isn’t just a personality foible – it is the basis for their being. There isn’t enough lifetime to unravel it.


    • Exodus says:

      Bronze wrote: “I couldn’t be hurt or have any negative feelings without it being taken as me trying to purposely make ‘him feel bad.”

      This is a classic narcissistic personality trait. The world revolves around N’s and anyone in their world will lose themselves in the mirror and only be seen as an extension of the narcissist. My husband is very much an N but my mother was even more cruel because she treated her children the way that our husbands treat us. When I was a little girl I had a few very serious illnesses, one being Scarlet Fever, and my mother would not acknowledge that I was sick until the neighbors or the school forced her to take me to a doctor. Even then, she only showed concern for me when her friends and family would shower HER with sympathy by saying, ‘ Oh, you must be sick with worry ” and other things like that. I was never allowed to have any feelings of my own or illnesses or anything else. I never did exist and I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to discover who I really am.
      When my mother was married to my bio father, they had a very violent marriage that created a lot of stress for me as a kid. Sometimes I would start crying and beg them to stop fighting. My mother would get angry at me and say that I was a very very selfish person for allowing her problems to upset me.


      • Bronze says:

        I’m sorry you had such a mother and I’m glad you realise it had nothing to do with who you are. Yes, my mother is a narcissist. Her treatment of me as a child set me up perfectly to fall for another one and I then spend my adulthood/marriage trying to be loved by someone incapable of doing so. I am not close to my mother – her and my husband had a tag team going between them at times. My mother also refused to take me to the doctor (pleurisy) and refused to allow me to have anesthetic when having painful dental work done. The look on the young dentists face in my memory as she tried to maneuver my front teeth back in while tears rolled down my face, will never leave me. It is no mystery to me how I fell into the trap of another one. I was ripe for the picking – a perfect patsy for abuse. Always willing to lose myself to please others. The fact I even had the strength to end my marriage astounds me to this day. I am also trying to discover who I am. Passive aggression is one of the favourite things narcissists use and is also one of the more pervasive and detrimental. Both my mother and ex are extremely passive aggressive as their natural fallback, like white noise running constantly in the background of the rest of their abuse.


        • Exodus says:

          OH my gosh Bronze. That dentist should have never allowed that to happen!! My gosh, we were so vulnerable and it seems no one was there to help us because they too were instantly trapped in our mother’s N web of maipulations. You are so right about how children of N parents become targets for all sorts of other N’s and even worse. The way that you describe it makes me cry. How have we survived all these years? This type of abuse is so cruel and even if we manage to escape, we live with their words in our heads all the time. ALL THE TIME!!!
          ((( Hugs )))) I’m so glad that you are wise and informed. I know you still struggle but at least your awareness is there now to help protect you.


        • WritesinPJ's says:

          Bronze, what happened to you at the dentist was horrible! I have dentist anxiety, but what you endured is just horrific.

          I’m glad that you’re out and healing. I hope that as you discover who you are, you’ll share some of the journey with us. I’m excited for you.


      • WritesinPJ's says:

        Exodus, what happened to you as a child makes me feel so sad. If we had a time machine, I bet a few of us would be by your bedside to help care for you while you recovered.


  4. Seeing the Light says:

    Exodus, just reading your post has got me so angry! For anyone to treat their own little child this way is abominable. For you to have come through your childhood and all the time you have spent as an adult with that man (I have a hard time using the word ‘husband’ to describe these men) and still be the woman I hear in your posts, you are a strong person. Ugh, I just find myself wanting to go all Madea on some of these people! (Are you familiar with Tyler Perry’s character Madea?).


    • Exodus says:

      Hahahahha Madea? OH yes…I’ve fantasized about taking a chainsaw to my mother’s antiques. Wouldn’t that be so cathartic? I’ll even invite you and Bronze to join me.

      What makes PA and N abuse so confusing is that much of the abuse is disguised as caring. I always think of the movie, White Oleander, where Michelle Pfifer, who plays the N mother, tries to prevent her daughter from ever being loved but does so by telling her that she’s better than those losers who want to care for her.

      They sound like they love us but it never felt that good. I remember many years ago shortly after my brother got married, he and my mother had a big falling out and he called me all upset and said, “You know? I don’t even think I’ve ever known who my mother actually is..I mean, she’s manipulated me my entire life.” It’s too bad that he ‘ made-up’ with her for the benefit of his two daughters because he ignored that very profound realization that could have protected him. I didn’t always know that my mother was a narcissist but I had a 6th sense about her and this is why I chose not to have children.

      The first time I was told by a therapist that my mother had NPD, was in 1984. I was in college and my mother suggested that I go to therapy to ‘improve myself’ so that I could be more prepared for my career and future marriage and parenting, etc.. since my father had screwed me up so badly. I should note that while their divorce did have a very negative effect on me, my father was hardly ever in my life so, it’s not as if I carried around a lot of baggage re: my father since I barely knew him. Anyway, I went to see a very nice therapist for several weeks/months and one day, she said, ‘ SO, tell me about your mother. All you ever talk about is your father but I want to know more about your relationship with your mother.” WOWEEEEEE….I had spent all those months in therapy and not ever mentioned my mother to her. Later, I realized I had been brainwashed into completely eliminating her from any of my insecurities or other problems. So, the therapist, who had suspected something was wrong with ‘ my mother being my best friend but that I never talked about her’ ,suggested that we invite my mother to a session. Hold on to your seat!

      The morning of the session arrives and I promptly arrived and was sitting in the office with my therapist. We waited and waited and waited and finally my mother blasts into the room with such fury and drama and begins talking about how she is SO sorry to be late and how she was doing this and had to that and how she had to rearrange her schedule to be there but how she was SO glad that she could come and be of help to me. She was smiling of course but her attack strategy could be felt by my T and I. I began sobbing immediately and could not stop. Something about her presence caused me to begin crying. The T asked me if I was ok and if I had anything I wanted to say before she began and I said no. So, the T being very polite toward my mother just started with the typical intro and touched on some of the things that I had discussed with her and so forth. All of a sudden my mother leans over toward the T and says, ‘ Look, I’m not about to sit here be blamed for her F’ups in life and if you think her tears are genuine then you’re a very incompetent psychologist. My daughter is the strongest person I know and her tears, IF they are even real, are not about her f’d up life with me or anyone else. The reason she is crying is because her brother learned to tie his shoe laces a month earlier than she did and she’s been angry about this ever since.” The T was stunned but she managed to maintain her professionalism and stay in control and she asked my mother to explain why she believed that the shoe-lace incident had such a devastating effect on me all my life. ‘ OH YES, she’s been angry and bitter ever since and she has been an extremely difficult child to raise and live with.” At that point I was sobbing so out of control that I could barely breathe and the T asked my mother to leave. The T and I sat there in silence for about a minute and then she came and put her arms around me and held me and said, ‘ I’ve never had to tell any of my clients what I’m about to say and forgive me for using this language but you’re mother is a bitch. She’s very disturbed and very harmful and she will continue to harm you if you don’t find some way to remove her from your life”. I was still naive then and I didn’t know anything about NPD or what the T was trying to tell me. It wasn’t until my first marriage in 1988 to a wonderful man that her poison began to really harm me and I ended up in a psych hospital for a few days. She hated my wonderful husband. He was a Psychologist but not the therapy kind..he was a scientist researcher. Anyway, she didn’t like him but she did try to tag-team with him against me by always suggesting that I was a problem and to beware and such. My husband who was very wise and intelligent knew her game and he didn’t fall for her manipulations. He even defended me all the time and tried to protect me which angered her even more. My mother began sending me drugs in the mail….psychotropic drugs and she would tell me that I needed to take them because I was under too much pressure in my marriage and that I should just get a divorce and move back to the area. Anyway, I was so confused and screwed up mentally that I just drove myself to a hospital one day and had a break down.

      Another thing my mother always did was make me a sexual object. Anytime I received a bonus or an opportunity for advancement at work she would say things like, ‘ Your boss must be in love with you and deeply care about you for him to offer this to you.” There was never any congratulations or anything said that would suggest that I had worked hard to earn any advancements. I was put in charge of a study we were doing in MD one year and it meant that I would be on 3 month on site rotations. I decided to stop by my mother’s house on the way to the site and she had purchased all sorts of sexy lingerie for me to wear around my boss. I was about 29 then AND married!!!!! She told me that I should look nice for him. When I got out to the site to meet with my boss and go over all the specs and such, I was a completely different woman. All I could think about was how he just gave me the job because he wanted sex or liked my boobs or just felt sorry for me. I felt so uneasy that I couldn’t concentrate and he noticed and asked me if I was ok. I told him that I didn’t feel that I was qualified to do the job and that I was sorry that I had accepted so quickly without giving the job the consideration that it deserved and I suggested he find someone else. He was shocked and tried to convince me to do the job but I refused and went back home to my husband and my regular duties at work.

      All of these manipulations are seen in my current husband- the man that my mother wanted me to marry. No surprise there.


      • lonelywife07 says:

        Exodus…OMG!!! I’ve hurt my hand and wrist and can’t type at the mo…but I just wanted to say I am soooo sorry that this happened to you! How did you turn out to NOT be like your sicko mother??


        • Exodus says:

          I was always very different than my mother and brother- a completely different species it seemed. I was probably genetically forced to be more like my father. I was a logical kid and very analytical ( like my father) and it only made sense that I would not want to be like my mother and hurt other people the way she hurt me. Maybe I had oppositional disorder 🙂


  5. newshoes says:

    I don’t know about you guys but I fell for the recrimination hook line and sinker in the beginning. And I would sympathize with him for having been bad towards me. WHAT!!!! Sigh… Manipulation tactic that is very effective especially if you have a partner like me who is very emphatic towards all the underdogs of this world. Of course, I was the perfect partner for this pah. I was able to build him back up, the poor child-man who needed help boosting his ego and making him feel like a real man. Now what does that mean “real man”… I don’t know, I haven’t been in a relationship with one yet. And it’s about them again, not about us. We are but a vehicule to their life, we vehicule them to a great place for them.

    I know gaslighting well Exodus, it’s one of my pah favorite tactics. Very effective too, but I know better now 😉 and I see it coming too. If I catch him doing something or saying something, he will turn to “it’s all in your head” type of conversation but you know when you feel the bottom of your stomach falling down to your feet, that you’re not wrong.


    • Exodus says:

      I can’t say that I was ever completely convinced that my husband’s apologies were sincere. However, since whatever he gave me was all I got, I learned to tolerate his empty words more and more through the years. Like you, I finally reached that breaking point where enuff was enuff! Yes, I’ve always had a heart for the underdogs…it’s just in my nature to be so. Newshoes, I would rather you be the empathic caring person that you are than to be a cold hearted bully like your husband. Learning to recognize the difference between a self absorbed user and someone who truly could benefit from and appreciate our kindness can be a challenge if we’ve never had healthy role models but it must be something that we are aware of all the time. Anytime I find myself wondering if someone is being honest and sincere with me I usually walk away. My intuition has never been wrong and it’s never failed me. The good thing about being empathic is that we have strong intuition that warns us with those feelings that you described. We just need to listen and respect its warnings and QUIT second guessing ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with us or bad about eliminating unhealthy relationships or people from our life. Self respect only develops when we put it into action!


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