Arrogance and Brutality Under the Guise of Caring

In last week’s post (see: Malignant Narcissism), I promised I’d be presenting some case examples that illustrate the damage that can be done to relationships when narcissism becomes “malignant” and other disturbances in a person’s character reach “toxic” levels.  The example I’ve chosen for expanded discussion today comes from my book The Judas Syndrome (see: Chapter 1, pp. 29-41). It’s the story of “Teri and Ted,” a couple whose family was crumbling under the strain of one person’s pathological quest for stature and power.

Here’s an (edited) excerpt from the chapter:

Ted was one of the most active persons in his congregation and was regarded by many as a staunch defender of the faith. He was admired both as a leader and an organizer, and he had spurred several of his friends and acquaintances into more active involvement in the church’s activities over the years. He seemed a tireless worker for the Lord. He attended services every week, was active in Bible study, and could cite Bible chapter and verse with the best of them. Ted appeared every bit a decent, Christian man.

His reputation in the church and community was just one of the things that made Teri so self-doubting the first time she tried to confront Ted about his domineering and controlling ways. Over the years, she had increasingly come to see Ted not so much as God-fearing and God-serving, but rather ruthlessly self-serving and unyielding. And although they always toed the line, even Ted’s and Teri’s kids were becoming increasingly unnerved by him and had begun to distance themselves from him. Ted’s tirades when someone didn’t do as he thought he or she should were becoming more frequent and intense. Teri was quite worried about what things would come to if this continued, so she worked up the courage to address the issues with him.

Teri tried to approach Ted with her concerns in as nonthreatening a manner as possible. She suggested the possibility of counseling, which he seemed open to at first. He even admitted that on occasion he might have gone too far in expressing his displeasure or in meting out punishments to the children. And for a while, it would appear he was making an effort to do better. Then he would begin balking at the notion of seeking help, and when an episode occurred, would only lament that if he could only get those in his family to “do right,” and to “honor the Lord’s will,” he’d never have reason to get upset. After all, he bore the responsibility for “spiritual leadership” in his family, and he took that responsibility very seriously.

For most of their marriage, Ted appeared deeply devoted, though undoubtedly strict. But his sternness never took the form of violence. He just seemed to be fiercely dedicated to doing right and upholding noble standards for his family, wanting the best out of and for his wife and children. So even when family members bristled under the weight of his condemning demeanor and harsh dictates, they believed he was only trying to be a good man and doing his best to instill the highest respect for God’s will. It was only in recent years that his behavior was appearing more abusive than convicted. And the more Teri brought his behavior to his attention, the more verbally and emotionally abusive Ted became, going on ever more frequent tirades, and always berating her and the children for causing his distress in the first place and triggering his anger.

Eventually, Ted’s outbursts got so frequent and so intense that both Teri and the kids became truly afraid. And when he was confronted about it, all he could do was point a finger at them, claiming it was they who had actually gotten worse in their disregard for the Lord’s will. Even his initial apparent willingness to get some help had faded. Teri finally decided she’d had enough and threw down the gauntlet. And it would be the first time in her marriage that she dared to set forth her own demands. Nonetheless, she made her wishes clear to Ted: either he would receive counseling and get to the root of what she saw as his anger issues or she would leave him. In the meantime, she would make arrangements so that she and the children could live temporarily with her sister, until it was clear that Ted was making some progress in therapy and the family had some reason to hope that things were going to be different.

Once Teri took her stand, she would soon come to learn not only who Ted really was, but what can happen when someone like Ted is held to account for their issues. He became more openly intimidating than ever once Teri actually began making plans to live with her sister for a while. He would frequently question her in a style resembling a police interrogation and grill her over whether she wasn’t planning to simply end their marriage anyway. And he warned her that if she actually did separate from him, he’d be sure to leave her in dire financial straits and see to it she would never get custody of the children. When Teri called him on these intimidation tactics, he immediately fired back, blaming her outright for everything, and insisting that the wound she had inflicted on him by even suggesting the renunciation of her marriage vows was the root cause of all his pain and righteous anger. When she wouldn’t accept that notion (which she knew to be not only factually inaccurate but probably also bogus), he invited her to strike him. After all, he taunted, she had already thrust an emotional knife deep into his heart. A physical strike would pale in comparison to the damage she’d already done. At least that’s what he wanted her to believe. And when Teri, in understandable fear of the escalating rhetoric and passion Ted was displaying, walked away, he shoved her. In that moment, almost everything became clear to Teri. Ted was capable of almost anything when his will was thwarted. This shook her to her foundations, and later that day she and the children left.

Although this story is based on a single case, I can think of literally hundreds of examples of similar character.  As I say in The Judas Syndrome: “There are people in this world whose main concern is being on top and in control. As long as they have their way, they’re content. But try to stand on equal ground with them, or resist acceding to their demands, and there’s bound to be trouble. I’m not talking here about people who conscientiously, and with respect for boundaries and limits, know how to take care of and assert themselves. Rather, I’m talking about those among us who pursue what they want without sufficient regard for the impact on others. Some of these folks are openly and unashamedly aggressive in their manner: they brazenly weave through traffic, always alert for the patrol car that might impede them; look forward to wrestling with demons at work; enjoy decimating their competitors in business as well as at play; and are forever determined to have the upper hand in any interpersonal encounter. But others, though just as aggressive, do their best to conceal their true nature and principal agendas. They might portray themselves as caring, dutiful, and upright or even charming and likable while using a variety of tactics to subtly run roughshod over others by playing on their conscientiousness, accepting natures, fears, or insecurities. They are the archetypal wolves in sheep’s clothing (In Sheep’s Clothing, 46) and who they really are usually comes to light only when their tactics of manipulating and controlling others begin to fail.”

Ted’s narcissism was of a highly malignant character.  He was not only pathologically haughty but also pathologically disdainful of those he viewed as inferior and in need of his tutelage.  He was not totally devoid of empathy, but he was highly lacking in concern for how his determination to advance his agendas impacted others.  And in his empathy-deficient heart, there was also no room for any kind of “higher power.”  His chief “sin” was invoking the name of the power he proclaimed to hold higher and sacred as pretext for his determination to lord himself over others.  Arrogant in the extreme, and heartlessly brutal, he was never the spiritual shepherd he claimed to be, only the tyrant he did his best to obfuscate.

Malignantly narcissistic individuals can never be wrong.  It’s always someone else’s fault when things aren’t working.  Traditional theorists used to ascribe these qualities to a “fragile” self-concept that can’t bear the anxiety associated with being challenged, and prompting an unconscious implementation of the primitive “defense mechanisms” of denial and projection.  But as I point out in Character Disturbance, most of the time, such folks are actually convinced of their greatness.  This leaves no room for a humble respect for anyone or anything else.  Sometimes there’s some realistic justification for the high opinion they hold of themselves.  But almost always, despite whatever achievements they’ve made, their self-concept is haughtily out of bounds. And when, on top of all that, they have a distinctly aggressive streak in their character (no matter how craftily they try to conceal it), their obstinacy and pride usually won’t allow them to give ground or concede a point even when they know full well they’re in error.  They’re also well aware of things, as the above story illustrates.  So sometimes, when under great pressure, they’ll acknowledge their issues or maybe even the need for help.  But such acknowledgments are generally short-lived and can be abandoned in an instant if they feel they’ve managed to manipulate themselves back into a position of control. There’s nothing unconsciously “defensive” about such folks.  But there’s much about them that’s deliberately and unrelentingly entitled and aggressive.

Next week’s example will highlight some if the other problems a malignantly narcissistic individual can invite into a relationship.



68 thoughts on “Arrogance and Brutality Under the Guise of Caring

  1. I don’t know why I find myself continuing to ‘study’ narcissism – it’s been many, many years. I think that the experience was such a shock to the system…so abhorrent and inexplicable. I felt violated on such a fundamental level. I felt like I’d been slimed.

    Thank you, Dr. Simon, for really understanding these characters and what it feels like to have had the misfortune of being in a relationship with one. They certainly aren’t poor, pathetic creatures with self-esteem/shame issues. They are completely devoid of whatever “it” is that makes someone human. The number of experts who are buying into the neurotic theory is quite disappointing and so DANGEROUSLY off the mark.

    I look forward to your next article. Maybe you can elaborate on their pathological need to have something to punish you for — to the point that if they can’t find something, they’ll just make it up. Because, for them, punishing is a really, really important part of their day!

    1. Einstien,
      Either make something up or corner you with your behavior that they instigate and create intentionally. They bait the hook with their intentional behavior, neglect, irresponsibility, gas lighting, supposed “forgetfulness”, dismissiveness, sarcasm, demeaning, lies covert and overt,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,when you go off track, they pounce on you as if you had committed an unforgivable sin and they are purer than the driven snow. It always left me in a state of shock and confusion……unable to do or say ANYTHING other than dig myself deeper into the hole they had pushed me in.

      1. Spot on Puddle. Dwelling on it for too long makes me very very angry. Though my humanity is strong enough to enable me to contain those negative feelings and keep them in their rightful place. That is what separates the two polar opposite imv.

        1. I hear you Danny!! Yes……this is a constant battle within. Having this much of an emotional CF going on inside me ALL THE friggin TIME as I swallow the truth sip by sip by sip and choke on it. I have not handled it perfectly but you won’t be seeing my story on “Wives With Knives” or any of those types of shows! LOL. I honestly don’t know how I have kept myself as intact as I have……I think denial has been my unwitting allay (sp???), maybe letting the truth seep in slowly enough that it’s not a complete gut kick all at once?

          1. Forgive Puddle, I should be more clear….(this acronym is being used more and more over here in the UK). “In my view”……


          2. Ah! Rightieo!! LOL I guess in the US we use similar…..IMO (in my opinion) or IMHO (in my humble opinion). Thanks for the explanation Danny! I’ll add it to me list!

    2. Yes, Einstien, the punishment factor is very important to them, even if you think you’ve got it all covered they will find a reason to “punish” you for whatever it is that you’ve done, something I havent mastered todate, I still get struck by my partner for things that dont even realistically exists, unless, it is projection, but who am I to state this, if it is, then, it looks I am in for real mess….for the time being, I am the “naughty girl”, deserving to live on the street, the “spoiled princes” that is a sex maniac (completely laughable) and a “lier” that needs punishment on a regular basis, last time was few weeks ago, a hit in the face out of the blue, I didn’t see it coming, although he was standing and shouting at me – looking back, a sign of what was coming….I like to see more on the punishment factor they all seem to have in common…

      1. Dear Mitzi, Please be safe. If this POS is hitting you you need to get help from a domestic violence organization and get out of there and away from him for good. Any man who resorts to physical violence against a woman is a ticking time bomb. I hope you can find help for yourself very soon.

  2. This article about arrogance and brutality under the guise of caring reminds me of the following news article. I have no connection with the parties whom the article mentions or quotes. Even so, I am struck by the comments and behavior of the hospital’s lawyer. Any opinions?

    * * *

    San Francisco Chronicle
    Updated 9:29 pm, Friday, January 3, 2014

    Hospital agrees to let Jahi McMath family take girl

    [ By ] Henry K. Lee

    (01-03) 21:27 PST San Francisco — Children’s Hospital Oakland reached an agreement with the family of Jahi McMath on Friday that will allow a critical care team to enter the hospital to move the girl to an unspecified facility.

    The agreement, described in the Oakland courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo, is the latest development in an unusual battle between the hospital and the girl’s family, who have rejected declarations that Jahi is dead as a result of brain death.

    On Friday, the Alameda County coroner issued a death certificate stating that Jahi died on Dec. 12, three days after doctors at Children’s Hospital performed a tonsillectomy that led to complications.

    But the family, which believes Jahi is alive because her heart continues to beat while she’s on a ventilator, was making arrangements to move the girl out of the hospital and into a care facility.

    Under the agreement, Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, is “wholly and exclusively responsible for Jahi McMath the moment custody is transferred in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit and acknowledge(s) that she understands that the transfer and subsequent transport could impact the condition of the body, including causing cardiac arrest.”

    The transport team will transfer Jahi’s endotracheal tube from the hospital’s ventilator to a new one, along with her IV and other fluids so that she can continue to breathe.

    After a separate closed-door hearing at federal court in Oakland on Friday night, Winkfield told reporters, “She’s definitely showing me improvements. If I felt that my child was suffering in any type of way, I would not keep her on that machine. I love her that much, that I would let her go. But since I’ve seen improvements every day, I will fight for Jahi every day. And so until my heart stops or her heart stops, I will always fight for Jahi until she is ready to go, her own self. I can’t play God. She’s going to get better or she’s not, but I see her getting better.”

    Grillo refused the family’s request to require doctors from the hospital or an outside physician to insert a feeding tube and a tracheostomy tube in Jahi, which the family had argued was necessary for her to be transferred.

    Hospital attorney Douglas Straus told the judge the hospital would not allow any doctor to perform procedures on a deceased human being.

    Christopher Dolan, attorney for Jahi’s family, said the agreement removes the barriers the family had faced in taking the girl out of the hospital. The hospital had said it would allow the girl to be transferred to another site but had not heard from any such facility.

    Now, under the agreement, the hospital will allow workers to enter its premises and remove Jahi without contact from a facility that would receive her.

    Dolan said he would not discuss details about where or when Jahi will be moved but said that a doctor would perform any necessary surgical procedures at an undisclosed facility.

    “Right now, arrangements are being made, and what we needed to know is that when all of the balls are in line, that we could move quickly, and not have any impediments,” Dolan said outside court. “So this is a victory in terms of getting us one step closer.”

    Outside court, Straus said the agreement formalized an offer that the hospital “had been making for some period of time.”

    Jahi’s family and attorney have accused Straus of referring to Jahi as “the body” or “the deceased,” and in response to a reporter’s question, Straus revealed that the case had been a trying one emotionally for him as well.

    “Moral questions have a million answers,” Straus said. “Personally it’s horrible that this child has died. It’s also horrible that it’s so difficult for her family to accept that death. And I wish and I constantly think that wouldn’t it be great if they were able to come to terms with a terrible tragic event and that I didn’t have to stand in front of you all time after time.”

    He choked up and abruptly left.

    © 2014 Hearst Communications, Inc.

    1. In the you can hardly believe it category: This poor mother expressed concern to the hospital on 3 separate occasions that her daughter was bleeding profusely and choking on her blood both prior to the insisted discharge from the hospital and on the way home, only to be told repeatedly that things were to be expected and to calm down. Only when her daughter turned blue did she disregard Drs. orders and return to the hospital anyway, unfortunately, too late to avoid the horrible complications. Talk about just wanting to bury mistakes!

      1. Unfortunately, I can believe it.

        I have a follow up question.

        What I hope to draw your attention to are these two excerpts:

        * * *

        “Jahi’s family and attorney have accused [hospital attorney] Straus of referring to Jahi as “the body” or “the deceased” …


        “Straus said, “I wish and I constantly think that wouldn’t it be great if they were able to come to terms with a terrible tragic event and that I didn’t have to stand in front of you all time after time.” … He choked up and abruptly left.”

        * * *

        Again, I have no connection with the parties who are involved in this case. Even so, I have read about the case with interest because media reports (and online comments on news sites in response to same) have caused me to think the Hospital’s employees and attorney(s) are controlling, insensitive, and sadistic. The new sites’ online comments often appear to be written from a hospital employee’s viewpoint. Moreover, I think the reported quotes and behavior (see above) of the attorney are particularly egregious and fake. I would not be surprised if the attorney secretly enjoys inflicting pain upon the family. If he did not, he would not “stand in front of you all time after time.” He choked up and abruptly left? I think this sounds like an act. I would guess the attorney realizes he might sound controlling and insensitive, so he tries to counter this bad impression by appearing to be overwrought by sadness. But if he were sad, he would not repeatedly refer to the girl by using the words he has, although he very well knows her parents object to those words. By doing so, he appears to enjoy inflicting pain (repeatedly!) upon the parents. For the above and other reasons (e.g., manipulating the media through reports and comments, which I won’t get into here), I think the Hospital has made itself look very bad by trying to make the parents look bad.

        Do you agree? Do you disagree? What is your interpretation of the above reported quotes and behavior?

  3. Dr Simon,
    Thank you for your response in this example it reminds me of the movie the Apostle with
    Robert Duval. Also thank you to Puddle for her response and I have checked the site.
    Like to send Dr.Simon an email of the “Little Things” this man did that seeped through that told
    me all wasn’t as it seemed and made me feel sorry for the women before me that didn’t see these
    things or better that didn’t trust their gut.

  4. Dr. Simon,
    IF you are committed to staying in a relationship with individuals who struggle with these types of behaviors. What are strategies to use, or do you feel it is simply hopeless?


    1. Interpersonally aggressive individuals don’t struggle with their behavior. They are content with who they are.

      1. J is absolutely right Bee. They aren’t struggling with anything. Think of a cold, calculating, unrepentant serial killer. No care, concern, regard, empathy, conscious. A narc is no different. They personify what is commonly called “evil”. Whatever hand you extend in sympathy and understanding will be bitten off.

  5. Thinking of the neurotic paradigm, I think many movies don’t act according to it. You know how movies and other aspects of our culture can affect our thinking?

    Don’t many movies have villains, who are downright evil and portrayed as unsympathetic?

  6. I can totally relate to the above story of Teri and Ted. It could very well be my story right down to the “knife in the back” comment. For a long time, all my husband had to do was tell me how unsubmissive I was and I would cave. He was a master at using the Bible to manipulate me and the kids. It took me almost 25 years of marriage to realize what was going on. Our oldest child was the first to blow the whistle on him (I am ashamed… it should have been me) and not long after the rest of the kids and I did the same. My husband’s reaction was extreme to say the least. Living with him became an emotional hell. I separated from him 3 years ago, taking our youngest child with me. He insisted that I was sinning by leaving and that the kids betrayed him by supporting me. Even the church we attended strongly disapproved of my leaving and eventually excommunicated me from the church, stating that I was no longer considered a Christian. My faith was badly shaken with all of this. Three years of much prayer and soul searching has restored my faith and my relationship with God is stronger than ever before. I am doing well and am happier than I have been in a long time, whereas my husband is as chronically depressed and miserable as he ever was. I pity him. He doesn’t make any effort to make any positive changes in his life, just wants to cling to the bitterness and self-pity. I am making plans to file for divorce soon and move on with my life. Dr. Simon, your blog and books have been a real help to me in learning to deal with my situation. I haven’t read your newest book, the Judas Syndrome, but plan to do so soon.

  7. Wow…Rim. Your comments have struck very deep with me. I’m so sorry to read of your experience and without knowing anything about your particular faith following, I feel very happy (for you) that you have been able to reinstate your faith in God. Everyone deserves happiness throughout their existence on this earth and that is what God would want…..I feel sure – if that is your thing.

    What has struck me about your particular experience is that religion can be used for good – I personally have no doubt of that – but it can also be used as a tool for exerting control over those considered (for whatever the wrong reason) as weak. And we both know that, at the extreme end, this type of controlling behaviour aimed at total and utter subjugation, for totally selfish reasons, has led to much suffering throughout our history. It is a very serious matter in my opinion.

    My situation is almost the reverse of yours but equally, I am determined to summon the strength to find happiness – in particular since I have been able to make sense of what has been extremely manipulative, controlling and CA behaviour for a similar period to your own.

    I wish you well :)

  8. Spathtard used to do this thing………….even trying to describe this is almost impossible! Say he had made plans with me to do something the next day…….The evening before, out of the blue he gets this call from his “friend”. He is talking on the phone in front of me and telling this guy that “sure man….yep,,,,,,no problem,,,,,,so around 9?….OK….cool man….yep……see you then”. I’m standing there thinking……Um…..Wait! we had plans for tomorrow……..I gave him a confused look while he was still on the phone and he made this dismissive irritated face like i was interrupting him and put his finger over his other ear like somehow the look I made was interfering with his ability to hear??? He gets off the phone and said……”Xxxx needs me to help him move tomorrow. He said something about it three weeks ago but it looks like tomorrow is the day.” So I say……but we had plans for tomorrow! He says, Well, it won’t take long………. So, Now I’m upset and feeling disregarded…..TOTALLY. In my mind, he should have told Xxxx that he would have to call him back in a couple minutes and then talked to me. Like if he would have gotten off the phone and said, Puddle……I know we were going to do XXX tomorrow and I still want to help you with that or I still want to do that with you but Xxxx needs to borrow me and my truck. I can do it when ever I want tomorrow but I did tell him I would help him so would that be ok? It will only take a couple hours. But no,,,,,that is not what he did or said and then I GOT put in fault because I had a problem with it. This is another one of these convoluted things that is so hard to really even explain. So hard to describe the whole situation and all of the details!! The just of it is, I am the one that comes out looking like a B because he can’t even go help one of his friends who needs help moving and that was NOT what the issue was for me at all!! But if I try to explain to him exactly what the issue WAS for me, not being considered of asked that the plans we had made were going to change, he will just keep going back to painting it as him not even being able to go help his buddy….
    I know that is not clear and I did try to explain but it’s such a cluster of ………

    1. I totally relate. Through the crazy-making convoluted twists it ends up that you are jealous or ungenerous, not that he is thoughtless. I lived with that for 15 years. And you can’t get anyone to understand because he’s chosen all your friends over you at one time or another, so they think he’s Mr. Helpful.

    2. It’s very hard to explain the abuse to others. However, if someone has gone thru anything similar they can fill in the blanks and totally get it. Trust me I know and always knew it wasn’t me but had no clue what it would take to make this person understand their behavior was unacceptable and manipulative. There was justification for every rude comment or everything was someone else’s fault. Oh, I forgot to mention that while asking my husband for advice on how to deal with the narcissist(my mom),I discovered he was having his umpteenth affair and decided I was dying inside emotionally it then made sense that I was dealing with a narcissistic mom and mate. They both kept me emotionally bankrupt. Through countless blog reading I’ve began to understand what I was dealing with. I’m sooo validated and free of the toxic company. I now know that I’m starting to feel better and in time live without stress and guarded fear. I plan to keep no contact forever.

      1. It’s very hard to explain the abuse to others. However, if someone has gone thru anything similar they can fill in the blanks and totally get it. Trust me I know and always knew it wasn’t me but had no clue what it would take to make this person understand their behavior was unacceptable and manipulative. There was justification for every rude comment or everything was someone else’s fault. Oh, I forgot to mention that while asking my husband for advice on how to deal with the narcissist(my mom),I discovered he was having his umpteenth affair and decided I was dying inside emotionally it then made sense that I was dealing with a narcissistic mom and mate. They both kept me emotionally bankrupt. Through countless blog reading I’ve began to understand what I was dealing with. I’m sooo validated and free of the toxic company. I now know that I’m starting to feel better and in time live without stress and guarded fear. I plan to keep no contact forever.

  9. Puddle,
    I hear what you are saying, I was married to one for 20 years, and it got worse and worse and that de-stabalizing , the convolution , the lack of consideration that makes you feel de-valued , unless you have experienced it , the nuances are so subtle it appears that they are not doing anything big. but it’s the drip drip drip constant erosion that is malignant and malevolant. We are separated. I have blossomed.

    1. Lionheart, I love your handle!! Great name!
      Thank you for your response and validation on this because it’s so hard to put into words. I keep thinking if I was a better typer or WHATEVER I could put this down or get it out more clearly. Basically he would distill something i wanted to be different to the point of ridiculousness and then trying to make me look wrong for being so ridiculously selfish? Well my original thing I was trying to address wasn’t ridiculous it was a matter of feeling disrespected and devalued as a partner in a relationship that mattered to me, more than i can put into words. That particular night we were supposed to go out to dinner, like he was going to take me out on a “date”. of course by the time this all went down the last thing I felt like doing was going on a date…….so that was my fault because I ruined the evening. “Can’t we just put this behind us and go out and have a good time”? Right there…….between a rock and a Spathtard. NO…..No I couldn’t because he never did acknowledge my position. In my opinion the whole entire thing was a set up. I would not be at all surprised to find out that Xeee called exactly when he was told to. Countless times these things would happen, different verse…same as the first.
      Thanks again Lionheart!

      1. This discussion reminds me of the time that the narc went out – without saying a word to me – and bought a $30K car (of course, that’s the money that was supposed to go for a new kitchen since I helped him pay off a second mortgage on his house (for debts incurred before I even met him)). I was completely gobsmacked. Anyway, the argument ends with HIS refusing to speak to ME because I was angry that he would make such a purchase without running it by me. Sneakily buying the car wasn’t the problem, it was me having an issue with it. What a moron! At least that was one blatant thing he did, and not the nefarious crap he usually pulled.

        Isn’t it great that I can type this and you and everybody else really ‘gets’ it? After an experience like that one, words like underhanded, pathological, self-absorbed, cloak-of-deniability, justification, rationailzation….all of them take on a WHOLE new meaning.

        1. Yes Einstein….it is GREAT that we can speak together and not be looked at like we just grew three heads or like we swallowed some hallucinogen.
          You typed ” After an experience like that one, words like underhanded, pathological, self-absorbed, cloak-of-deniability, justification, rationailzation….all of them take on a WHOLE new meaning.”
          I don’t know about you but I find the english language inadequate to encapsulate this experience. Seriously…….I’ve said this before…..We need a whole new language to talk about this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to explain exactly what this has left me feeling like and NONE of the descriptive words really do it. Sad??? OMG! not even close and on and on and on! So,,,,,the new book with all the new Spath words……..The Spathsaurus and it’s perfect because every word they use means something different that what it means to us.

          1. Awesome, Puddle….the Spathsaurus….I’m loving it!

            Yes…words are inadequate aren’t they? I would know when I talked to people, that there was no way they were going to understand. They had no frame of reference.

            For all intents and purposes, I was speaking Chinese.

          2. Yep Einstein! when you find yourself shaking your head in disbelief at the very thing you are trying to explain……….odds are pretty good that the other person is just not going to be on the I get it bus with you… The most well spent time and money was when I talked to Donna Anderson from LoveFraud. AND the woman I’m speaking with now. Both very validating and they do get it. I feel so badly for people who don’t get that support and validation. The worst phase of this was early last year when I was trying my damnedest to get the help I knew I needed. I was going down hill fast and I was just sinking further and further with every failed therapy attempt. HORRIBLE!! Spathtard’s first and second wife were before this kind of information was available….maybe even his 3rd wife but she had family support. He used to tell me how she wasn’t very…………intellectual!! LOL!! She was dumb like a fox I’ll bet you anything! They had a kid together and I’ll bet you anything she knew exactly what she was doing. LOLOLOLOL!!!!!
            I doubt she knows he’s a spath though. Even NOW,,,,,more and more pieces are coming together. THAT is why it takes so long to let go of these worthless pieces of poopoo…………it just takes forever to even process what happened! THEN you have to move on! I don’t know…..hard to explain. Shocking, I know!! :)

        2. Reminds me of my finacee trying to convince me that the household money he insists that I pay him needs to be increase to pay his overdraft account (for his checking account) for expenses that he incurred before i met him. Also expenses like his hearing aids that all of the sudden I am responsible for. Meanwhile I have my own car payment and bills on top of his!!! All the while convincing me what benefits him financially benefits me……I just wonder why we cant pay off my car….what benefits me benefits him as well…why does everything have to be about his bills.

        3. “Isn’t it great that I can type this and you and everybody else really ‘gets’ it? After an experience like that one, words like underhanded, pathological, self-absorbed, cloak-of-deniability, justification, rationailzation….all of them take on a WHOLE new meaning.”

          Haha. Very True. Earlier these were just words with a meaning. Now, they have emotions attached with them. :-D

    2. Lionheart………Im happy for you!! :) I’m glad you are free and able to bloom.
      It’s hard to say this for sure but I think there is a slight advantage to a longer involvement with one of these losers in a way………Maybe at the end you KNOW and can cut loose with less reservation. I’m not saying this for sure but I do get the feeling that because my involvement was short term, less than 2 years (can that be? It feels like 10 years!) and I didn’t know WHAT was actually the core problem until after we split……i have REALLY struggled mentally and emotionally and find it hard to believe that just last night I laid in bed crying…..wishing I could lay next to his big furry body…..horrible to even type that brings tears and it has now been over a year since the actual split. Leaves me so concerned that I will never shed this sadness and longing. That i will never come to terms with this and move on. I feel possessed.

      1. Okay, you say you feel you’ll never come to terms with it and move on. I suggest you read last chapters of Judas Syndrome, especially the bits where Dr Simon talks about suffering.

          1. Faith and the human condition, Chapter 6, and the epilogue, An ever-evolving life of faith and character growth.

  10. Hello everyone! I have been reading through this string and have been thinking about all that we have gone through. I was married for 45 years to an covert aggressive. I thought for years that something must be wrong with me because he is a very intelligent man. Now what I realize is missing, is wisdom. He has none.

    I remember reading so many self help books trying to find the proper way to discuss things with him in non threatening ways, but I always ended up at fault. I also encountered several of these personality types at work. They were masters at deception. They ended up devouring each other and I kept my head low and endured it long enough to retire.

    I have now offered my home to my daughter and her sons because she had a 20 year marriage to an overt aggressive husband. She and her sons are in dire need of counseling, but she has no insurance. Hopefully, that will change soon.

    These days when I meet a genuine human being, it is so refreshing. Sometimes I feel as though this whole world is turned upside down.

    1. Beautifully put Noël. I too find it wonderfully refreshing to communicate with a non judgemental human who is naturally interested in my viewpoints, as opposed to focusing on how bad I am, how much *it* is my fault and going into detail about how much I am to blame for this! that or whatever – every single conversation arriving exactly at the same [depressing, dank, dark] destination.

      Drives me potty…..

    2. Noel,

      I remember thinking, “if I can just find the right words to explain it to him” everything would be okay. I drove myself literally nuts trying to explain concepts like care, concern, appreciation, consideration and regard. I used to be an excellent communicator. 10 years later, and I still struggle when trying to converse on a deep level. I believe trying to explain ‘human’ so unsuccessfully for so long actually damaged my brain.

      Has anybody else had this problem?

      1. Einstien… version of what you said so well above is that I am hyper alert of self conscious about what I say, how I say it,,,,,,I walked on egg shells, tried so hard to not offend him or injure his supposed tender feelings,,,,,I’m sure it amused him greatly! They know damned well what “human” is, what it means, etc…..they don’t want to go there.
        I’m sure now that all the time I was reading relationship books, trying to communicate my needs and feelings in a more palatable way,,,,etc etc, E T C!!! He was sitting there trying to keep himself from laughing. I don’t know it for a fact but i would bet money that it was a game for him from day one. That crushes my heart and my mind beyond description!
        I thought so many times…..if I could just explain it to him things will come together!! They HAVE to come together, right?? I love him and he loves me…….Once the problem is out of the way, this will all work out!! Little did I know that it was NEVER going to work out. That wasn’t what he had in mind from the beginning in spite of what he said. SICK!!

        1. Yeah, Puddle. What we couldn’t have gotten at the time was how futile it all was. I think that’s one reason we are left feeling violated and in a state of shock. As a human, to have to grasp the fact that there is true evil out there….it turns everything you thought you knew about people, life and the world on its ear.

          I don’t know if it’s self-consciousness, over sensitivity, learned defeat – I just know it’s as if that part of my brain doesn’t work anymore.

          I would have never believed it was possible to be so changed by something. The magnitude and severity of the experience is SO underestimated by people. Poor virgins….they don’t know what they don’t know.

          1. you got it Einstine……….I have said and thought the same things. it’s just so …….where’s my Spathsaurus??? it feels like I’m in a different LIFE!! Like I got kicked out of mine and dropped into someone else’s!! Like any minute someone is going to fix this and…………they aren’t!
            So how long were you involved? I really struggle to keep the different stories straight!

          2. Wow, Einstien, I could have written your statement. How I’ve often referred to it is a loss of innocence. Though I have read dozens of books and hundreds of articles on NPD I still have trouble believing that my H could be this vindictive and yet he fits everything I’ve ever read about covert narcissism. I truly never realized that this mentality could be possible with the general population and not just limited to the Hitlers of this world. It changes all your relationships and the way you look at the world.

  11. A thought: Doesn’t being inhumanely brutal result in some sort of death of soul, even if a soul-less person doesn’t experience it as a problem? Let’s say someone is a sadist. Obviously any person with a soul doesn’t truly enjoy causing others suffering, let alone reveling in it. Anyone with empathy feels another person’s hurt. So because a person doesn’t truly care for hurt, he can’t get hurt himself, because there is no soul to get hurt.

    1. J, I think you are saying something that I was thinking earlier today……..About the inequity in our relationship,,,,,right from the start because he was not invested in the same way I was,,,,,,,,for what ever reason, in whatever way……he was NOT going to get hurt, no mater the outcome. I was a sitting duck but I had never before put myself in that deeply, never before risked really WANTING to love a man the way I wanted to love him and wanted to be loved back. What a grave mistake.

    1. yep Noel! And that was the ONLY power he brought to the party! He painted himself as inept……no money, no home (lives in his mothers basement at 45+ years old)….poor poor spathtard……just a great guy, the hapless victim of circumstances….never mind the 4 marriages and divorces, the three children, the bankruptcy, the Domestic Violence arrest (which he lied about to me) the alcoholism……right, his life circumstances have nothing to do with him and his choices…… I just can’t put together that the person I say this about is the same person who basically lived in my house for almost two years!! What kind of drugs was he slipping in my coffee??

    2. Powerfully true!! It’s such a shame I’ve given someone every ounce of my being! Just to turn out completely empty handed, THEN left to feel it was MY fault for being left that way. I can’t even express into words how absolutely wonderful it feels to hear that I’m not the only one in this bubble. I feel as though I can breathe. My fiancé and I have been together for 4 years. At first it was so wonderful, he had a 6 year old girl, I had a 7month old girl. Mine needed a father, his needed a mother. It was a perfect fit, other than certain (what seemed to be) unimportant issues (I was reeled in hard) it was bliss. He helped me so much with daycare expenses, financial support when needed. (I was a working single mother of a baby) bought diapers, wipes, milk all the things I needed all I had to do was call. Life was wonderful, my kids were taken care of I was okay. Then we move in together. That’s when I noticed odd behavior. There were weird things I saw as unnecessarily petty like, he wouldn’t have a phone conversation with me over the phone for more than 5 minutes. Our conversations became less and less each time we talked. Up until that point he seemed to be really cool with my family and treated them kindly. Then not at all, they were “bad people” with “bad intentions” and my friends were reminders of my (once alcoholic) past and he “couldn’t handle” being around that. All of a sudden I found myself afraid to mention family functions to the point I didn’t even get invited to them anymore. All of a sudden I had a huge lump in my throat if I asked him “my financial supporter” for clothes and shoes and just stuff for the kids. Then see him turn around and buy a movie or video game he wanted with no problem. So it was (still is) left to my EXTREMELY limited income to provide them with essentials other than food. I found myself picking less stuff for myself at the grocery because I didn’t want him to get aggravated for spending extra money on me. Meanwhile, our communication got down to zero. I found myself having to wait for him to pause the tv just so I can tell him something. More and more I notice his extreme lack of patience with the kids. It’s upsetting because it’s NOT how I wants kids to be raised and when confronted his responses are “their fine”, “I don’t want to deal with it”, ” I like my time”. He’s had multiple aggressive outbursts that left me scared that it could get worse. And he’s become really aggressive in bed, where I feel unsafe. All these things I’ve notice in him, just within the last few days with someone’s help! And now, every conversation, action, reaction, feeling ect had become really clear. His intentions have been for his OWN personal gain. I’ve finally broken down. I refuse to put up with it anymore. His absurd controlling nature like, when I get upset with him, he’ll pick up my daughter and tell her he loves her. And give her a big hug while looking at me. Then goes on with, you can’t leave, you’ll break her heart. Then other times he’ll tell me I need to leave knowing I have nowhere to go. He undermines my descisions in front of the kids and disrespects my wishes EVERY chance he gets. He questions my judgment at EVERY chance I get and every conversation leaves me confused to a point I cannot remember what it was telling him. I’m to the point where I cannot confront him on anything because I wind up feeling bad, lost, selfish or rude. It’s now always my fault, always something I did to upset him and make him lash out. Last week, I told myself I’m done. It’s in the processes but I’m thru. I cannot mentally handle how absolutely messed up my brain is now. And I know he will not accept help or admit to any wrong doing. My heart is breaking but my kids deserve so much better! (Sorry so long!)

      1. Hi did you get out? You might end up having to take your daughter,
        Your vital records & keepsakes , some money, your resume , and sim clothes &
        Your car title and go to a women’s shelter. I had to leave my husband twice
        For similar behavior, although he was always an involved Dad.
        All the rest was near the same though except he’d spend money
        Like crazy and bankrupted us.

        If you go to a women’s shelter, he won’t be able to find you.
        Very Unfortunately, you might have to leave your step child with him when you
        divorce. But you have to save yourself and your child!!
        Maybe you will get visitation or joint custody and
        then you can be a beacon of light to your step child.

        My husband and I stayed together after several separations and
        ten years of therapy on and off. He was alcoholic and was raised by
        A true NPDer (narc), but once he got sober & got treatment, he was able
        to rid himself of that communication style & protective , defensive
        later. I think I just wore him down with separations & therapy. I’m tenacious!
        However, I wouldn’t do it again. I love him, but I wouldn’t do it again.
        I made myself sick trying to save him, really physically and mentally
        worn down, depleted my energy. Now I’m tired all the time. I have
        a sane, loving husband and great dad for our son but it literally too 15 years
        of struggle, work, and heartache. I’m now faced with it with my mom. She has
        NPD. I have said I want nc. She is a real malignant narc. Her last ditch
        effort to real me in is to say she ‘ll do therapy with me
        But I’m going to say no. I am beyond depleted.
        She has hurt me bad for years & will just manipulate
        the therapist I think. I just wish these people would
        get help on their own, do their own work, but they NEVER

      2. So your narc is aggressive in bed, mine would withhold sex and affection as punishment, saying that if I weren’t so mean to him then I could have more loving! In a 28 month relationship he has made love ( not what he calls it) to me approximately 15 times! Btw, I have to mention here that he was in jail/prison 14 months off and on for domestic violence… Strangulation!!! Now he’s facing 36 years in prison for his actions, but it’s all my fault… Like I can strangle my own self, really now!!!

  12. Dear Dr. Simon

    I’m very glad I found your site. This is perfect. As many of your commentators I’ve found myself in a situation where I think I am dealing with a manipulative person. However, I do have a question. Can a person have manipulative traits (that are not the same as those that all of us have in order to survive and protect ourselves to a degree)that are not as “developed” as those who are without any doubt manipulators? What I mean by this question can perhaps be explained better if I tell you, in short, my story. I’ve broken contact with many manipulators in my life. From best friends to my stepmom and even my own brother. I’ve grown stronger when it comes to asserting boundaries etc. However, since the fall of 2013 I managed to get slightly manipulated again. I had to share my apt with an aquaintance that I thought was friend. I’ve known her (not too well) for about 3 years and she got kicked out of her previous landlord and needed a place to stay until Feb 2014. Since my boyfriend studied in England for the fall semester, this arrangement fit perfectly. She got our spare bedroom. Slowly and up until just last week, I’ve realized that she has manipulative traits. For instance she will give me a certain look (looks like she wants to kill me with her eyes!) when she feels that she is not getting her way about something, and then hide that aggression in polite words, though not being able to do so with her body language. One time she totally snapped and claimed to have been wronged by me for not giving her the exact time for when me and my ONE other friend would leave MY livingroom so that she and her friend could watch a movie. A simple misunderstanding that she could’ve resolved without victimizing herself and then trying to make me feel guilty. Me and my friend left but I was clear on the fact that the way she handled it was seriously flawed and bad. She got defensive and started talking softly that she was just worried that I didn’t get the fact that she wanted the livingroom for that particular night. Almost vaguely justifying her own behavior. She then texted me vaguely apologizing, however concerned that I would have a bad opinion of her character after in “don’t go on telling people what happened, I’m actually a really nice person and I apologize for having thrown you out” (she should’ve added: thrown you out of your own apt in which I rent a room) a very passive-aggresive “apology” where her main concern was to try and make me feel bad if I ever told anyone of the incident. Since Jan 1st my boyfriend has returned from England and also his twin brother, for reasons that has been explained to her three months ago, sleeps on our couch. Since we have quite a large apt this all works fine and she has expressed the same. However, my bf and his brother expressed to her that they are not going to let her know EVERY single time they invite one or two friends over for coffee during the week, but if there are more than two persons and alcohol involved she would of course be informed. She said that that was fine and tried really hard to conceal the fact that she was pissed for not getting it her way (again: in OUR apt)..the morning after she gave me that killer look again and has not come home since. She’s been gone for three days and does reply to my texts. Is this typical of manipulators who have been caught in their manipulating ways? Also, could she be a “milder” case of a disturbed character? I mean, she doesn’t score high on all of the “symptoms”, but the ones that she has are really strong..

    I truly appreciate the fact that you take the time to spread your knowledge like this. I live in Norway, and this is just amazing! Thank you so much, if you have the time to reply!

    1. I’m so glad you’ve found the resources here helpful and I’m sure the readers are happy to have you participating in the discussion. The commentators on this site are among the more informed and mutually helpful folks in the blogosphere.

      You ask a question about “milder” forms of character disturbance. The main reason I wrote Character Disturbance is precisely because this phenomenon is both increasingly prevalent but also exists along a continuum or spectrum. From having a few maladaptive “traits” (e.g., attitudes of entitlement, some patterns of irresponsibility and/or manipulation, etc.) to having a full-blown personality or character disorder, there are many folks these days evidencing some degree of character impairment. Hopefully in my books as well as the numerous articles and comments here, you’ll find sufficient information to give you a fresh and empowering perspective on what I call “the phenomenon of our age.”

    2. Thanks for the kind words, A.K. And I’m glad you’ve found helpful resources here and in my written works. I’ll let the commentators give you some feedback, but if you’d like something more specific from me, probably best to contact me through the back channel, using the “contact Dr. Simon” feature.

      1. Thank you so much for replying. I see it’s been a while now, but it’s been crazy busy these last months. And the said “friend” I wrote to you about has now moved out. Last night actually. I think what you say here makes a lot of sense to me: “The main reason I wrote Character Disturbance is precisely because this phenomenon is both increasingly prevalent but also exists along a continuum or spectrum. From having a few maladaptive “traits” (e.g., attitudes of entitlement, some patterns of irresponsibility and/or manipulation, etc.) to having a full-blown personality or character disorder, there are many folks these days evidencing some degree of character impairment.” I actually bought your books, and am looking forward to reading :) For now, I don’t think I need any more advice, and I’m sure I can find plenty in your books!! Have a splendid day.

  13. AK, Welcome!!!! I think so much of this stuff, peoples behavior is so hard to judge 100%. I know I have my communication and perception issues and I mean it when I hurt someone and say I’m sorry. I know I don’t mean to do things, so say things a certain way when I get it wrong. I sometimes even hear myself say something an hear it coming out wrong. We are all so complex and there are so many reasons things are not perfect in each and every one of us. BUT, I would say that in your particular situation the ball is in your court in that you can decide if you want to help this person understand that the way she is communicating and interacting with you is not ok with you and why. If she is unwilling to get help or step up to the plate and work on this issue WITH you, you have to decide if she is someone you are willing to keep in your environment.
    I’m sure Dr. Simon will have a comment for you. Good Luck.

  14. Thank you, Dr. Simon.
    I am a step-father to three amazing children who have (if on;y by the grace of God) learned to recognize these behaviors in their father. It was strange to observe. It seems that at the age of 15-16, a little light went off over their head.
    With this in mind, I wonder if there are guides, books, videos which may explain this to children (who don’t understand words such as narcissism) My wifes 13 year old would greatly benefit from this.

    1. Thank you, Alan. I don’t know of any such books well-suited for children. But you raise a very interesting issue and have given me some food for thought for a possible future work.

  15. I have just recently become aware of narcissistic personality disorder her. I was a psychology major and I remember studying about narcissism, but I don’t remember much about narcissistic personality disorder her. Is this a fairly new diagnosis or understanding of narcissism? I have just figured out that I have been in a 16 year marriage with a narcissist personality disorder husband or as I will now call him xnh. As I look back I do see that there were some red flags that my intuition warned me about but I didn’t pay attention to that. I was in love, living the attorneys girlfriend dream, got married in a fairytale wedding, my relatives are still calling it the party of the year, did a honeymoon in Thailand, bought a new house, got to golden retriever puppies, and always had great sex. But then we had children. When we had our first child, a boy, my husband insisted that he have the exact same name. My husband was a junior named after his father, and he expected my son to be a third. I did not even get a say in the naming of my son. But when we had our second son, I said that I got to name him. And I certainly didn’t name him after me. I felt very concerned that a child should have their own name and not be named after a parent. I am a teacher, and I saw a number of students, boys, who were a junior and had a difficult time feeling like they had to live up to their dads expectations. I have ADHD and until the time of having kids and being a mother I had been able to be successful in many areas of my life despite the struggles with ADHD. But it was motherhood that was my undoing. And that is also when things started getting rough for me and my husband. Not only did I have a D HD, but my oldest son was diagnosed with a DHD and high functioning autism (Aspbergers). When the struggles started for us, I thought it was because of my ADHD. He was always accusing me of being forgetful, and not listening. We had the classic symptoms of an ADHD marriage. And throw in as burgers and things really got rough. But I thought we could work together and work things out. But then came Mother’s Day weekend when we had a family trip planned to Disneyland. We were going to stay with his parents and then while he was at his law convention, and then do a family trip to Disneyland. We were all packed up and ready to go. And then my son got in trouble with my husband and he told him to sit on the couch and don’t move. I tried to explain to my husband that what had just happened was not my son’s fault, that I had left the junk on the table. And suddenly my husband flew into an absolute rage. He started yelling at me and telling me I was a B—-, stupid, and a horrible mother. And then as I was reeling from all of this verbal abuse. He grabbed the kids and loaded them into the car. When I realized what was happening I tried to get into the car with them. He pushed me out and said I was not going. Then he took off with the kids and headed to his parents. This was my first encounter with rage. And it was Mother’s Day weekend, so that hurt even more. He took the boys to Disneyland on their first trip without me. We had many more instances of that type of rage, which left me reeling. And of course it was always my fault and I always deserved it. And until just recently, I thought it was because of an ADHD marriage. Even in counseling he blamed me. And he threatened divorce at least eight times. I knew things were not right, but he was a shining pillar of the community. Cub Scouts and everything. It was not until he got a job in a different city, and was insisting that the entire family move ,despite all of the connections and special ed and family that we had where we were, that I finally felt that I could try to divorce him. But luckily I did not, because I learned that I’m trying to divorce A narc can be a very difficult and dangerous thanks. It was lucky that I was not the one who served papers to him. Instead the following year after trying to get me to move many times and threatening divorce , he finally served me with papers. So again he felt in control. But I think he was surprised that I got an attorney and returned service. So I am free now.! But now the healing begins. I have a lot of damage I have to undo for myself, and my two boys. They learned a lot of bad behavior from their father. And as I am learning, one of the things that is big with narcissistic man is misogyny. They have learned that is OK to call their mother a B —. I don’t know how to reverse this damage. They are in counseling, but it doesn’t seem to really be helping. Does anybody have any suggestions on how to save two little boys, eight and 10, from everything they learned from my xnh. I half to turn this mistake around for the sake of their futures!

    1. Tigress,
      Your young sons call you b**** because they do not respect you. Reading from your post, I don’t think there is a case that you haven’t earned respect. So, I think your sons are calling you names because they learned it from their father and saw him get away with it, and now also they are getting away with it.
      I think you need to set firm rule that no name calling in the house. Arguments are acceptable, maybe once in a while even shouting if one is “loudly” voicing his/her point very strongly, but degrading of a person is absolute no no. If rules are not followed then there is no place for rule-breaker in the home, and they can go to the house where name calling is allowed.
      It is understandable that as mother you feel responsible for your children. But keep in mind that there is no point keeping those two arms that are always after your throat… maybe it is better to cutoff such arms so that at least you can sleep in peace.
      Standing up for your own rights is a way to earn respect. Your sons are old enough to understand the rule “no name calling. ever.” Coming out of divorce is not an excuse for any bad behaviour. Tell them to take that punch on chin, accept it, get up, and move on.

  16. Tigress,
    First of all I would like to welcome you this blog and hope you keep posting. You will learn a lot here and you will gain a wealth of knowledge. For now, be good to yourself , you are on the way to healing when you can verbalize these needs. I am still working on my life and regaining myself. You have said quite a bit here and will need to have time to digest. It’s always about control and the best thing that could had happened he thought it was his idea to divorce. Lucy one of our posters just divorced her X who was an attorney, I am sure she will have a lot of input just as the others posters will.

    Glad you found this site and hope you stay awhile to let us help you understand and heal.
    Many Blessings

  17. Tigress,

    I don’t mean to minimize the impact of a lousy relationship followed by divorce, on kids, but can tell you from working with many many children when I was young, that the worst way to parent is from a position of guilt.

    Have enough self respect to adopt a zero tolerance position for name calling, as Andy suggested. Your kids are frustrated and angry when they can’t ge there own way. That isn’t emotional damage, it’s normal immature behaviour. Little boys of single Moms will bulldoze their mother every chance they get

    . If they are in therapy, they will turn your life into a nightmare of relentless manipulations using everyone’s belief that they are hurting so bad.

    Kids are pretty resilient and if your boys see their Dad frequently, they haven’t lost a parent.

    Toughen up and don’t for Heavens sakes feel guilty. That’s like blood in the water for kids. And don’t respond to manipulations that are designed to make you feel guilty.

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