After helping me to understand why he struggles with such an inability to apologize, the article goes on to discuss gratitude, or the narcissistically driven person’s lack of it.
Substitutes for simple gratitude are listed as conferring approval, reversing roles, protesting, and converse manifestations.
Hm. First of all, I’d like to say that in the areas and the times it matters most to me, I don’t get compliments or validation. So when the rare compliments are given by him, I think I’ve gobbled at it because I was starved for it. He’s said that I did a “great job with the girls” because their grades and test scores are high, and they’re both self-regulated, self-disciplined etc. He doesn’t express gratitude that I’m their mother, or gratitude for who I am really. If he said (quoting the article), “I’m grateful for what you’ve done”, I wouldn’t know what to think really. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him express anything quite like that.
One of my unfavorite memories was a Thanksgiving many years ago. Naturally undomestic, I’d worked hard over the years to learn to cook and ‘keep house’. (Yes, I came out of that generation.) I struggled at these things because when I was young, I wasn’t interested in homemaking… at all. This particular Thanksgiving, I was about thirty’ish years old. I’d had about a decade of learning the skillsets needed, and had three kids, the youngest was a baby at the time.
I’d been looking at the pictures covering all the magazines for weeks, all showing scrumptious and lavish Thanksgiving tables, laden with food and decor. Some wild domestic bug temporarily bit me, and I decided to go all out that year. This included pre-baking yams, scooping out oranges to use as little yam baking bowls, actually stuffing the turkey with made from scratch dressing (glazed to perfection and displayed on a platter), baking desserts (vs buying frozen pies), and making decor from mini gourds and pumpkins, dried leaves, and candles. The whole kaboozle was attempted, and let me say that it came out completely a-mazing! I was so impressed with myself at the time, but most of all, I was as excited as a kid to give my husband and kids this awesome feast as my gift.
I called everyone to the table (miraculously the timing of everything was perfect), and stood with smiling eyes because I expected… yes, I expected… them to give a ‘wow!’ response. After all, I was a bit wowed myself! The kids’ faces and eyes lit up and they broke into grins. My husband didn’t even smile. He had a serious face, unmoved, unchanging. He kind of nodded his head and said, “You know what would be great? It would be great next year if you invited people over for Thanksgiving.”
So he managed to find the one thing I’d ‘failed’ to do.
I took off my apron, ran down the hall to the bedroom, shut the door, cried alone, and skipped dinner that day.
I learned from that to only put in effort for holiday dinners in a mindful, intentional way. Any time I’ve deviated (unconsciously) from that, it’s been a mini-repeat reminder lesson. Including last Christmas when at the last minute, our two oldest sons called to say they were coming home for Christmas, and did I have the tree up and pie baked?
Up until that point, I was going extremely the laidback approach, because we took a vote and used any Christmas funds to pay for a surgery our old dog needed instead. I kicked into high gear and decided that we would have a tree and traditional dinner, even if no gifts. Out came more decorations, a last minute discount marked down tree, and I worked a couple days on a big turkey dinner with various dishes.
On Christmas Eve afternoon, my husband and I dashed out to get haircuts. On the way home, he decided to comment, “I don’t think the kids appreciate all the time you’ve taken to work at this dinner. They’d rather relax and have time with you.”
I turned and asked, “Why did you say that? I didn’t ask for help from you or anyone… and the dinner is almost completely done at this point. WHY did you say that?”
My question only elicited angry words in response, and the fight commenced. I felt angry and crushed. He always seems to find a way and a time when I’m vulnerable.
I’ve actually tried talking to him about this in the past. I asked him why he couldn’t at times just say, “Thank you.” Since then, I’ve had him say it a few times, but I watched him pause, struggle, and say it with seeming difficulty. Kudos for trying, but I wish… oh how I wish… that I wasn’t married to someone who struggles so hard to say thank you, and struggles so hard to behave like he loves me. I’m guessing this is not at all exclusive to passive aggressive men, but shared by abusive men with hardwired entitlement brains.
This part I definitely related to:
“A woman can exhaust herself trying to anticipate and meet the needs of a narcissistically preoccupied man, in the hope of gaining some evidence of his gratitude (hence, his acknowledgement of her importance to him). What she is likely to get instead is a communication whose meaning translates into, “I am willing, because I’m so virtuous, to defer to your wishes.” For instance, the husband is sulking around the kitchen looking hungry. The wife asks, “Would you like to eat early?” The husband replies, “Sure,” or “Okay,” or even “If that’s what’s convenient for you,” rather than “Yes, I’m hungry,” with the implication of “Thank you for noticing. The assumed position is, “You’re the one with the needs here, not me; but I’m such a good person I’ll humor you.””
Yeah. Okay. Definitely have experienced this. I make and bring him a nice lunch and hear as he pushes it away on the desk, “I’m not really hungry yet, I ate breakfast a bit late.” or something like… “I planned to eat lunch later today.” or… “I’m not sure I’m going to have lunch today. I might work out first.”
This happened just about every time I attempted a gesture like this. Coincidence? I also experienced him using my not making him lunch as a ‘reason’ for his hurtful behavior in the past. Ya can’t win for losing.
One conclusion of the authors was that victims who experience “prolonged substitution of other behaviors for expressions of sorrow and thanks includes confusion, self-criticism, loneliness, and diffuse irritation – an overall sense of having been, as one of our patients put it. “mind-clucked.””
Confusion, self-criticism, loneliness, diffuse irritation, and mind-clucked. Check.
The authors describe Gratitude and Remorse as the glue people need to make a life together. No wonder we’ve been falling apart since the beginning.
In their closing comments, the authors state: “Appreciation nurtures self-esteem, and genuine regret elicits genuine forgiveness. If one is defensively unable to connect in these ways, life is essentially loveless.”
And in all the discussion on this article on what happens when a narcissistically driven person has a denial of remorse and gratitude, can’t feel and express sorrow when he hurts you, and has an inability to apologize, we didn’t even touch on trust and respect.
A book could be written on the passive aggressive man’s inability to trust, be trusted, or give value and respect to his partner.