People in relationships with narcissists, or extremely emotionally immature people, are often convinced, coerced, or controlled into believing that certain universal rules or commandments must be followed to continue in the relationship. In healthy relationships, both people are free to express how they do things and their likes and dislikes. Then if a change is necessary, it comes from mutually respectful conversations. Tony turned to the private women’s Facebook group to receive dozens of rules and commandments that many people kept to keep the peace in the home or because, over time, they believed that these were “universal truths.” It can take time to unlearn many of these rules, and they can even affect future relationships. Tony shares many rules and how to avoid them playing a negative role in relationships.
And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0
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Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ
Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 66 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the Virtual Couch podcast. As well as a few others, Murder On the Couch, true crime meets therapy. Which maybe by the time you hear this, it is being queued up and ready to be released. And the best way to find out what is coming next is please sign up for my newsletter. If you go to the show notes, there's a link tree link that will say link dot tree, something like that slash virtual couch and sign up for the newsletter. And you can also send me questions. I've been told that there might be a little bit of a challenge with the contact form, but if so, just send me an email at email@example.com. And I want to know your questions. I want your stories. I want some poetry. We're going to talk about that today. And, I also want to encourage you to look in the show notes as well and find the Waking Up to Narcissism premium question and answer podcast. It's 4.99 a month. And those proceeds do go to help people that are dealing with emotionally immature/narcissistic relationships, everything from paying for some therapy courses, programs, hopefully if the funds can grow to be able to help people with everything from legal expenses and moving costs. Because, a lot of times, financial abuse is one of the things that keeps people in unhealthy relationships and it is an absolute form of control. And that's some of the things that just, it breaks my heart.
So today we're going to talk about the difference between rules and cuts. And, at the time of this recording, I still, for the life of me, want to find some sort of creative title. So if you are listening to this, you have already seen what the title of the episode will be. And you will know if I finally just said, forget it, rules versus cuts. Or if I came up with some clever something around commandments of narcissism or something to that effect, but when we're talking about rules versus cuts and, you'll get some examples of that. A lot of examples of that today from the private women's Facebook group. But there's a poem that I want to read first. And there's a thread in the group that is, it's amazing. It's beautiful. Where a lot of people will share poetry. So I just asked if maybe we could put everything in one place. And so I really feel like this poem. It just encapsulates and captures what those cuts do or what those are like. And then I think that will then help us frame what the rules feel like when you are in these narcissistic or emotionally immature relationships, especially when you wake up to the fact that it's okay for you to have your own opinion.
And a little foreshadowing, things like a toothpaste tube do not always have to have a flip top, that it can have a turning top as well. And that does not make you a horrible human being if you like one versus the other. So, let me start with this poem and let me get a joke out of the way first, because I think this is, it's a beautiful poem. I think it's touching, people in the group talked about how it really brought a lot of big emotions out. But I was talking with someone else about poetry and the narcissist in their life. And they just, we were making a light-hearted comment about the fact that this person never appreciated the client that was in my office as poetry, because it didn't rhyme. And poetry is okay to not rhyme. So this does not rhyme , and it is powerful, nonetheless. So, let me read this, author unknown, because I want to keep that, keep that confidential. But there are a lot of poems in the group that I want to read over the coming weeks. So we'll do that as well.
So it says, “I'm lost in your fears. They twist and turn, winding this way in that, then back again, an infinite circle, the lies slide like vines over the forest floor. I trip over the rocks of blame that you throw at my feet. I get peaks of sunlight, but catch only glimpses. The thick branches and leaves shroud the light and crowd the path. I find myself crouching lower and lower, taking up less space to make room for your ego. The night is drawing, but now I see the stars. They are my hopes and dreams. It surprised me when I learned the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. And the more I love, the less I fear. I no longer hack away desperately at your fears. I trace them. And I see them for what they are. Fear of showing yourself, because who you are might not be good enough. Fear of owning your choices, because if you do, you'd have to accept the consequences. Fear of taking off your mask because being vulnerable can leave you open for hurt. Fear of being wrong, because being right gives you a false sense of worth. The more I love and respect myself, the more clearly I see you. Your fears are not for me to hack away. I loosen my grip and climb. My view of this forest path has changed. Where it leads, I do not know. I look around and notice the air is thin up here and I'm afraid of heights, but here my wings can grow. And the light of truth heals me.”
It's beautiful. It really is. And talks about just what it feels like to trip over someone else's ego and to find yourself being small. And I just, I love that analogy of climbing up to the top of the trees and sure, it's going to be scary and you're afraid of heights, but ultimately that is the place where you'll grow. So I'm just really, I appreciate people that have creative talents like that. I feel like that poem, it says more in about two minutes then I'm going to try to communicate to you in the next 30 or 40 minutes with just trying to make sense of things that really just don't make sense. So on that note, there was a post that I thought was a short post that then just ended up bringing so much, so much content. In the group, one of the members said, even though I've been out for almost two years, I find it amazing how many rules I still catch myself following. Tony talks about death by a thousand cuts, but I feel like I've had to live by a thousand rules. I can see it's going to take a long time to figure out what are truly my own choices instead of old programming. And then she said, anybody else struggle with this? Which I can guess everybody that is in this situation, struggles with this. And a couple of people commented and said, they've been out for a year and it's amazing how far they've come, but how many rules they still think about.
And somebody said, and not feel anxious while you're doing a specific task. And the person commenting there said that they were still in the relationship. So they don't really, they weren't necessarily thinking in terms of looking at the rules that they were now trying to. I don't know, un-attach from. So someone else just said that there are so many rules and that were introduced so passive aggressively, that it's hard to even remember. She said, when we started following the rules and she said she had been separated for almost two years and she was currently going through a divorce. But she said she was getting better at catching them now and slowly working to undo each rule one by one. But that can be really exhausting. And she says, I just asked myself, how do I want to handle this? What works for me? And do I really care about this? And someone else chimed in and said that sometimes they feel like they need to ask for their spouse's input on things if they're not intelligent enough to decide for themselves, and I almost feel like that's where I want to jump in and say, you're an adult. You've been getting along well up to this point in your life. And so it's okay for you to like the things you like and do things the way that you would like to do them. And what can sound so probably off-putting to the pathologically kind person it feels like, well, but then I'm just saying that well, we're going to do it my way. And there's really, there's middle ground. I don't want to just immediately go to this concept of compromise because I think that's where our brain wants to try to make sense of what that would look like. And sometimes we feel like, okay, well, I know what compromise is going to look like. He's going to get his way. So I might as well just acquiesce and give in.
And it's not that bad anyway. But it's okay to have a conversation around well, we'll get there with some of these examples, but honest to goodness toothpaste lids, there were, you're going to hear some really interesting ones today where the more emotionally immature or narcissistic person just says, this is how it works. And then everybody knows it is not an answer because I will give this example until the cows come home. I still remember someone talking about the concept of common sense. And then I bring up the example of in some countries where a baby sneezes and a parent immediately puts their mouth around that nose and sucks up and spits out. And that's common sense to that person and then to somebody else that might be the most disgusting thing they've ever heard of. And why don't they use a tissue? Yet then for another person using a tissue just seems crazy because why am I wasting tissue paper and I'm going to get it all in my face. And I'm going to walk around. So let's just look at the way that people do things and why they like doing them the way they do. And if we start from there, now we're going to actually have adult mature conversations. Love or control. Not both in an adult relationship. So to the original poster, I had said once again, you're creating content for me and for the world. And I had just said that to anybody seeing this post, let's talk about rules. And I just said, can you share the rules that you heard? And I feel like, okay, we've got death by a thousand cuts, but I don't know, control by a thousand rules, but I really feel like this is something that will resonate.
So the first person that chimed in with a lot of rules, she said, here are a few rules off the top of my head. Protein is the cornerstone of every meal and must be present. So you can see already where we're going to go, that this is something that is being preached and told. And while there may be some truth in some of the rules, we're open to interpretation. Or, and I know my wife and I talk about this so often that let's just take this one, for example, protein as the staple of every meal. And then it's, who's to say that in a few years, we will find out that the nation is over protein. So being able to make an informed decision is wonderful and being able to also have your choice in that decision is a powerful thing as well. So back to her rules, she said, here are the rules that she had heard. Again, protein, the cornerstone of every meal must be present. If meat wasn't highly visible, it was a constant barrage of complaints and questions. Is there meat in this? Where's the meat? I can't taste the meat. Now someone that is on a plant based diet, then if they are hearing that, sometimes the word meat can literally give a visceral reaction. But then to the person who is saying where's the meat, then they are going to say that the person on a plant-based diet doesn't know what they're talking about. So we can have different opinions. And here's the one I've alluded to two times already. All toothpastes must have a screw on cap instead of a flip cap, regardless of brand. Rationalized by flip caps are messier. If I did happen to buy a flip cap then I would hear comments about it almost daily until it was gone. And I understand that unfortunately, that's the relationship that some people are in, where they feel like, you know, it's not a big deal. I'll get the screw cap. Or whatever that looks like,
But we're back to that death by a thousand cuts vibe or control by a thousand rules. She said next, we don't waste food in this house. There's the rule. If I needed to throw away rotted expired or moldy food, I had to justify and defend it. So much so that I struggled to throw anything away. She said he would also go through the trash to make sure I wasn't throwing things away without him knowing. So apparently it was very important for him to be the throwaway police or the wasted food police, or fill in the blank, which if we go back to control, I think that's pretty obvious that that's what we're hearing. She said, if I didn't wear a certain color nail polish or I didn't wear a certain nail polish color for over 10 years, because he doesn't like that color. But she said no rhyme or reason. He was also very rigid about my hair length, our kids' hair length. I had to tell him after the fact, if I was getting even a single trim on my hair. Otherwise, I had to promise not to cut too much because the kids needed to have certain lengths of hair. She said the bed must be made at all times unless being slept in, of course. And so if some of you were saying, okay, well, see, you know, it sounds reasonable, but then she goes on to say, this was hard to navigate because even washing the sheets was difficult because if he came home to no sheets on the bed, because they were being washed, he would panic. And I would hear about it for the rest of the night.
Another common one. If dad is working, then everybody is working. She said, this is present both in my childhood home and my home with my husband. If dad was doing chores, then everyone else had better be doing chores. But she said, the thing is the distribution of work was already highly imbalanced. The rest of us did chores on a regular basis, while dad did them when and if convenient and only sporadically. So when it came to making plans for the holidays, his family came first because he had very close siblings and siblings cannot be apart. Or she said another one. The kids had to read for 30 minutes every night. And again, here's where I think that there's a tie in with death by a thousand cuts. And along with these rules, because somebody will say, well, it doesn't sound so bad. But she said this one was clever because it was hidden behind sound guidance for raising kids. Reading is good. But he would only allow them to read his books. She said the kids were little. At some point in kindergarten or first grade, they were expected to read Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So she said her kids grew to really hate it. And it was a, like she said, world war three, to get him to compromise because it was all about control. And I think one of the unfortunate things is that this is a point where I would, I would be curious to know what their relationship is with reading at this point in their lives. She said I had to be ready for physical intimacy at his request. It wasn't always granted, but it was an expectation met with pouting in the silent treatment if I said no. She said the kids were only allowed to have dessert on Tuesdays and Fridays. And I hear versions of this one often, and I think it's so interesting. So, let me, let me dig a little deeper here. So again, kids were only allowed to have dessert on Tuesdays and Fridays, but she said it was so rigid in his mind that if someone's birthday was on a day of the week, that was not on treat day, then it was a battle to get them to be flexible on having birthday cake. And she said the same goes for any holidays, if he did compromise, it became about a trade. And this is where I wanted to get into this fine. He said, I'll allow birthday cake on Wednesday. But that means no dessert for the rest of the week. And she said, I had to fight that battle many times.
So you're here, I imagine a lot of the people that are listening to this content have similar experiences. And if you're someone listening to it and these are the rules that you give someone. And if you're saying well, right, but now is the time, welcome to the world of self confrontation. So if you are saying, everybody knows, but this is the best way. Then I'm grateful that you have found the best way for you. And if you think to yourself, will it just make sense to you or everybody knows? Well, I think I could probably question, I don't know if I was, I was asked, so I know that it's probably not everybody. I know I'm being a little facetious, but I want the people hearing this, that if you're one who has been living by these thousand or 2000 rules, To know that I just, even, this is where I just want to bring that awareness that that's not healthy in a relationship. That relationships are built upon. Tell me more, curiosity. What's your experience? What matters to you? And then eventually we work toward a compromise and I stumble over the word compromise so often because there are so many steps of communication that need to be had before we get the compromise. I understand compromise in a business setting is this art of war negotiation compromise. And, in that point, I think often if people are being real with themselves in a business setting that the compromises that they win, if they get more out of the deal. But I know there's also this belief that they, every, both people want to walk away and feel like they win. And I think there's psychology around that too. Maybe we have to confabulate a narrative that says, oh yeah, this is exactly what I wanted. But in adult human relationships, I'm you know, I'm feeling like I want to say I will grant the concept of compromise and negotiation.
But it needs to be from a very healthy place of tell me more, what's your experience? Because we'll often find that people don't really care about certain things. Or we'll find that people had completely different experiences growing up, which led to completely different experiences or expectations as an adult. And so we want to have a tool to communicate about these things before we try to work out what that's gonna look like for our family, because inevitably the more alpha, the more dominant, the more direct, the more intense that person is going to most likely get their needs met. And then feel like, okay, good. We agree because the kinder person, the more emotionally sensitive or pathologically kind or highly sensitive person is going to find themselves over and over again, just acquiescing for the sake of, it's not worth the fight. But meanwhile, the message to the person that continually seems to get their way is that I'm right. But it's really, I am too controlling to really hear and understand my partner. Another person said that when I was married, I was told that we had to have sex at least every 48 hours to keep him satisfied. So he wouldn't look for other avenues of relief. She said, I followed this for the first few years of our marriage. It didn't work. I had to learn that this was his issue and not mine to fix.
And, you know, at times I don't know why, but I feel like, I mean, I'm a marriage and family therapist. I've seen well over a thousand couples and a sex therapist talked about this all the time, but then I don't talk a lot about it on the podcast. And I think I confessed it on one of the podcasts that for some reason, I still imagine that a mom is playing this while the kids are in the van. And all of a sudden I'm talking about it trying to do these code words around intimacy. When in reality, this is one that I think is very, very poignant and timely. And I hear on a regular basis, that is not what I hear in emotionally healthy relationships. And that is the fact that from a guy saying to his wife, what am I supposed to do? Do you know how bad it hurts down there? If I don't have a release every 48 hours or 72 hours. And then a guy will then be in actual visceral pain. Oh my gosh, you have to relieve me. And, and I worry. And I feel confident that that is just really an unhealthy way. For somebody to get rid of their discomfort, the discomfort is that they would like to have sex. They would like friction on their genitalia, quite frankly. I feel like that is not saying I desire a deep connection. I desire an emotional connection. We are not working up the ladders of intimacy. There is not verbal intimacy. We could talk, we just have this deep connection, which leads to emotional intimacy. Now I feel like we can open up and talk about anything, which above that is cognitive and intellectual intimacy. This is where I like to say that one person can have their PhD and the other, their GED, but we're so connected verbally and emotionally that we're even having conversations about things that, we absolutely know that the other person doesn't know, but there's so much curiosity there because there's mutual respect.
And up above that one is a spiritual intimacy. So at that point, if we're connected verbally and emotionally cognitive intellectually, then we can be in two completely different places from a spiritual place as well, because we respect each other and we are, of course we have different opinions. And how fascinating it is that I can have this opportunity to connect with another human being that has such different experiences, but we care about each other. And that is what leads to physical intimacy. It's a by-product of those other levels of intimacy. So if a person is saying my nether regions are in pain, please relieve them for me by friction on my genitalia, we're kind of missing the boat, but then other times I want you to desire me and I want you to praise me. And that is just, it's just not a setup for any type of real consistency with a connection in the relationship. So, she goes on to say other ones. She says, as a child, I was not allowed to pursue new interests. If I didn't show an aptitude for those interests. She said, for example, I really wanted to play soccer, but I wasn't athletic. So my dad only let me pursue art activities because I was creatively inclined. But she said for many years, I believe that exercise just wasn't for me, because I wasn't athletic enough. Now, right there, you can probably see where this is going. So I would imagine that the dad in this scenario, he maybe didn't like seeing his kid out there not being the best, because that would reflect on the dad that is making it about him. But if the kid wants to play sports and wants to play soccer, then that sounds like a great idea. And let them be the ones that are going to go and explore that and not live with this life of regret because they were unable to do the things that they wanted to do, that they saw their friends doing as well because then how does that carry over into adulthood? Like she said for many years, I believe that exercise just wasn't for me, because I wasn't athletic enough. She said, I even tried to go out for track and my dad, who happened to be a long distance runner, made me run a mile with him, she said, when I had never run a mile before. And then he told me, see, you can't do it. So you probably wouldn't be very good or successful in track or cross country.
I know. I've paused dramatically. I think I need a sound effect of a record scratch at some point in every episode. Because, so long distance running, father says, come with me child and run a mile for the first time. Number one, look how easy it was for me. Number two, I beat you. Number three, I was probably even faster than you were at your age. Number four, see, this isn't something for you. And it's insane. It really, it really is. So then she said that she felt like she internalized that if I couldn't do something well or perfect, I should not pursue it at all. She said I had to learn that mistakes and failing or just learning opportunities and not character flaws. So if you are a parent that is not wanting your kid to do something, I would love for a quick self check-in. Now there are real things like financial burdens and issues. And I would say that if you're in a position where finances are an issue, then I would also look for other ways there oftentimes that clubs and teams will have scholarship opportunities, or there's the rec programs. And so I feel like there's often a way to have someone be able to at least somewhat explore the opportunities that they would like to. But I do know that there are financial burdens. But if you don't want to take them because you are worried that they will not be good. Now that's a you thing. If you were telling yourself, but I don't want them to do it because I don't want them to get picked on or bullied because kids are mean. Which I understand, but I will just say, go ahead and set a few bucks aside each month for therapy someday for the kid, then to say I was never even given a chance for the kids to bully me. I was never even given him the opportunity to see if it was something that I liked.
And I feel like that's one that I hear often. She said from a religious community that she said she's no longer a part of. And she said, and from her spouse, when she was newly married, there was an expectation to be the ideal, what she referred to as a Proverbs 31 wife, she was said I was expected to take on all the home duties, the laundry, the cooking, the meal, planning, the grocery, shopping, the cleaning, the organizing. Along with finances, bill paying, taxes, budgeting, because she said I was quote better at it. When in reality, she said, my spouse didn't know how to do it. And she also worked a full-time job where she commuted quite a bit each day while her spouse was finishing school. He would say they are far more important than sharing the duties. So at that point she had already graduated with a degree and she set a precedent for the rest of our marriage in which I was expected to carry a lot of the household duties on my own. She said when we started having children this included taking care of them and all that entailed. She said her opinion really wasn't asked after that point. She said he had to have the clothes he needed each day. I needed to have dinner on the table when he wanted. And she said, I thought it was being a good wife. I was actually being used and abused while my spouse had a lot less stress than I had. And she said, this made me susceptible to depression. She had sleep issues and reactive abuse. She said, I internalized that his life, activities and choices were the most important in our home. And she said and sent him the message that it was okay to ignore my needs. And she said I've had to learn to recognize what my responsibilities truly are and ask for help when I need it. And let go of the things that aren't that important.
And let me just take a moment here. When she said I internalized that his life, activities and choices were the most important in our home. And I sent the message that it was okay to ignore my own needs. This is one of the things that if you are struggling with, if I stay in an unhealthy relationship for the kids and I understand that there is so much unknown out there, but I worry. As a therapist, as a podcaster, as somebody that works with this population. So often that I worry that this is the message that's being sent to the kids. That, that if the, let's say in this scenario and I’m working with men that are in incredibly unhealthy relationships with narcissistic and emotionally immature and abusive women. Which is a whole, again, I know I did an episode about it a few weeks ago, but it's a whole different ball game and it is really scary because the man often is not being given any benefit of a doubt. But in this scenario, if you are buffering and trying to manage your husband's relationship to protect the kids. Because you're worried that divorce will be bad for the kids. It's just, these are the things that I worry about. Again, a kid gets their external validation from their parents. And so if the validation that they are going to have, if the validation that they are going to get is going to, in essence, be trying to learn how to navigate the emotions of a large adult human being that is their parent, that they are seeking to go to for guidance and for support and for safety. Then that's what it feels like to be them. They are going to be someone that is learning how to read the room and put their needs second, and try to go small when the other person goes big. But if you are developing a secure attachment with your kid, which means that they're the ones that are actually going through and experiencing life, and you are there to say, tell me about it. How was it? What was that like? Do you want to keep doing that? Or what else are you thinking?
Instead of, I don't like that. I don't think you should do that. I can't believe you're asking me that. Do you know how that affects me? There's a lot of I’s and me’s. They're not the cool kind that worry or I wonder, or I would like to know. So that message is being sent. Again, that breaks my heart. The message we're sending is that someone else's life, their activities and choices are far more important than mine. And instead it is not unhealthy. It is not narcissistic or egotistical to be able to have your thoughts, your needs and your wants, and be able to express them. But to someone that's safe because that's where it becomes a whole different experience. She said I've been ashamed for spending too much money. And she said, I've had to account for whatever I buy when we have financial discussions, but I'm not supposed to ask anything about my spouse's purchase. She said, even though we have Amazon packages coming to our home almost daily. She said we have separate checking accounts, but he makes more money than I do. And it's always questioning what I spend my money on, but it's not forthcoming on how he spends his money. She said I've learned not to ask about financial matters unless he is in the right mood. And I'm prepared to share my list of purchases. But still working on this one, reset has been asking for financial information for months, and I've decided that I need to budget my own money appropriately for now. And again, it is well within your right to have the financial information. It is well within your right to have a mutually reciprocal relationship where both of you are able to express concerns about money and purchases and be accountable for it. And it's uncomfortable. And that's again, where I go back to a narcissist or an emotionally immature person who is so prone to just dismiss and just run away from discomfort at all costs. So they don't want to have to admit that. Yeah, you're right. Sometimes I'm a little bit controlling about money and other times I just spend. I'm impulsive. Because that would be scary to say that, and it might be uncomfortable, but, but that's what adult mature human beings do in their conversations.
They say, check this out. I impulsively bought something again today. Because if the other spouse is going to say. Oh man. Tell me what that's like. I know I've been there before, you know, I worry because I feel like we struggle with the budget, but maybe we can get on the same page. Can we hold ourselves? Can we work on this together? Can we deal with emotion in concert with each other, with another human being? Because that is where growth occurs, not in hiding, not in playing small. There is no growth in trying to manage someone else's emotions. Or just trying to continually rid myself of discomfort by giving in to the needs of others. The growth comes from feeling safe and secure as I express things that I'm going through for the first time in my life and having somebody there empathetically, caring, and saying, tell me more and what's that like for you? Because then I get to say, man, let me see what that is like for me. Let me do a little self confrontation, check this out. Here's how I'm feeling now. And I never realized what your experience was. And I'm not saying then the unicorn comes out and they point their horn behind a tree. And there's a pot of gold. It isn't that, you know, fictitious. To them, these types of conversations and relationships do exist in the world so if that is not what you are having you deserve to have better relationships and better conversations. So here is where I almost just went with commandments. So, the word commandments may still be used. You may have read that in the title. This person said you can use all of the following. So she said, you shall, shall never stop at target because they disallowed salvation army bell ringers at Christmas. You shall always buy American made. He checked my clothing for tags for years. Shall never put any type of flavored coffee in the coffee maker, shall always wash all new clothing and bedding before use. Shall never ask for things. This almost always was guaranteed by you. You would not get them. Shall not complain because doing so indicates that you're not grateful. Again, these are, this is an adult human being in a marriage where the other adult human being is saying that this is how you must be. And, and this is what, how our, our relationship needs to be framed. Just let that sink in. Because that is not a way to build connections. But she has plenty more.
You shall not open the sunroof if he is in the car, you shall always check all of his pockets before washing his clothes because he could have forgotten something. You shall watch the salt. He monitored that like crazy. You shall get out of his chair. Particularly the kids when he would walk up to the chair and stand there and wait, you shall not open the bedroom window at night. You shall never tell anyone how many animals that we have, you shall not expect anything from him. He may or may not do what he said he would do. It depended on if he wanted to do that in the end. And you shall not question. Servers shall never be tipped. TV or music shall be played at his preferred volume. If it was too loud for his liking, then he would turn it off. And if you wanted it louder and he did not, that was incorrect. And if he wanted it down, you get the point. So she said, is that enough? She said, oh my goodness, what a miserable situation. So then someone else had chimed in and said, okay, maybe the title is going to be the false commandments of narcissism. So I think that that does speak to this quite well. Another person chimed in and said the one that I still catch myself abiding by is how to load the dishwasher. And I've already commented on this. I think in previous episodes, maybe even in the death by a thousand cuts. But she said, it's funny how the rules were always for things that he felt were primarily my responsibility, because of course he knew better how I should do everything. And to that one I did, I did say, I have literally, and probably shared with other people that I could do an entire episode on narcissism and dishwashers. She's in a new relationship and she said when her new partner was over, he was helping her with the dishes, and she says, because that's the thing that happens in healthy relationships without the expectation of sex later, by the way.
He asked how I like things put in the dishwasher and she said, I sat there dumbfounded and I thought what's the angle. And then I told him about my ex's rules with the dishwasher, somebody else then just also chimed in and said that they also said, man, the dishwasher, why is this a thing? This is definitely how the rules played out in their home as well. And then other people chimed in and said, what is it about the dishwasher? And so I think that that is one of those things that it just it's, because it's a simple thing that then someone can criticize someone else about when, in reality, you can load or unload the dishwasher, to be honest, however, you would like now, are there more efficient ways? First of all, let's define efficiency. But even if that's the case, is your goal to get into a relationship so that you can finally have your way and let somebody know how much better your way of loading or unloading the dishwasher is because if that is your goal for the relationship, then I would love for you to be able to make that a clear maybe from the outset. Or from the onset of the relationship that, if somebody says, hey, what are your hopes and dreams? What do you want to get out of this? Do we wanna have kids? We want to be able to save together. Do we want to retire? I'm going to go on vacations. And if he says I would rather have somebody say at the beginning, to be quite honest, I've got this whole idea around how a dishwasher should be loaded or unloaded. And so that's really, my goal is to find someone that is doing it wrong so that then I can correct them. And then they will then applaud me. And then I will feel like my life is complete, which I don't think is going to be the case.
Someone else said that a memory was sparked. She said another rule of the household that they were not allowed to use their dishwasher at all. Even though it was brand new, we had to hand wash everything. If we dared use the dishwasher, then there was a litany of complaints. The dishwashers are a waste of time. My family had to wash our dishes. So your family should too. I'll drink from this cup, but I'll bet it's dirty because you use the dishwasher because the dishwasher actually doesn't do a good job. Or the dishwasher is too noisy. It is confusing. She said which it wasn't and I could go on and then more people chimed in about the dishwasher. Someone else has commented and said the rules are so many, so unpredictable, it felt like yet he would rail. On work or outside sources that would have a preference, not a policy that he would never follow those preferences himself. She said the rules happen to be on the things that I did and not him. The kids couldn't have donuts for breakfast, because donuts aren't breakfast. But then on the days that he would go out or maybe a Saturday morning and he would go out and run errands, then he would get them donuts and other pastries. But that was different because it was the weekend and he didn't have a chance to interact with them often. The kid should exercise a certain amount of time every day, but he would not put any effort into it. It was just a directive to me and I also happen to be working full time. She said he had preferences on everything that he passive aggressively let known.
And she said, then I would hear about if I didn't follow the dog food, for example, needed to be left in the dog food bag and sealed until I scooped out the food at the time that the dog was going to eat, even though digging my hand in the bag would scratch my hand, whatever that would look like when I scoop the food, she said he left for quite a while, an extended amount of time for work. And she said, I started to feel rebellious and I started to break the rules. She said it and it still made me feel so anxious. She said therapy helped her realize how silly it all was from the outside. And that's the vibe that I would love for you to get from this episode of how silly it is from the outside, that I am an adult with a mind and opinion. I can make decisions and calls on my own, even without consulting my spouse's opinion. And she said, I have no idea when I started to follow his rules and I still catch myself following them without realizing it. I'm taking it day by day. She said, I don't have to give them a full report of every bite that the kids have eaten today. Because when I do then that's, I'm open for criticism. I can buy and use a dog food bin since I'm the only one who feeds the dog. And I prefer it that way. She said I can let the kids brush their teeth and the downstairs bathroom on occasion. Even if a kid tells me that dad wouldn't let me do that. I can even give my kids mac and cheese for a second day in a row. If that's how life is rolling that day and the kids can even have a cinnamon roll for breakfast. Even when it's not a weekend and it's not something that he does. Somebody else commented that it's the directives, the rules that are expected to be enforced, just not by the person giving the rules.
Just a few more. There's another person that I just, I really appreciate this tape. She said, this is why I'm even struggling to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with her new husband. And she's in a very healthy, happy relationship now. She said there are all these unwritten laws in my head about how marriage works based on my old neural pathways that were created from a 20 year relationship with a narcissistic ex, she said, it seemed as if there was some sort of invisible exchange system that in order to ask a favor of him, I had to do something for him. If I wanted to have a girl's night out, he needed a week away on a hunting trip. If I asked him to help with some of the household duties, then I had to go out and do a big chunk of the yard work. If I wanted to spend money on something for myself, then he got to buy a new gun or something. And she said she has just a million more examples of this. And she said, I don't think I ever would have noticed how this is not a great foundation for a relationship, and how I did not feel like there was unconditional love. She said my husband now calls me out on it all the time, and calls me out, let me say in a good way. She said that he points out that there are just times in life when he is more available and will step up in times when I am more available and then I can do more. And it's not an exchange system. That love should not be conditional and full of unwritten laws and expectations of reciprocation all the time and I couldn't agree more.
Other people chimed in and talked about how relatable that was, the silent what's in it for me attitude is so real. And then I just wanted to, I chimed in on this one and said, it's something that shows up unconsciously in new relationships. Because at that time, when I was reading through this thread for the first time, I had a session with somebody pretty recently. That was just, they were worried about what they didn't know that they didn't know about relationships. Entering a new one. And the fact that they just felt so anxious about. What are the things I don't know about a relationship? And when you're in a healthy relationship, of course you don't know what you don't know, but you're going to discover together, which then the relationship is filled with curiosity, which is amazing. She was very nice and chimed back in and said, it's interesting navigating a new, healthy relationship with past unhealthy survival tendencies. And I really appreciated that phrase that she used. She said, my eyes are wide open as I've learned a lot in this past year. And she said she hopes that she can use this understanding to reach out and help even more people navigate this unknown. And I thought this was a really good take too, another person chimed in and said that they also felt that they were living from these, these rules. And she said, I found myself guilting out whenever the narcissist, her narcissistic ex-husband, has the kids and has an appointment falls on his mornings or when he has the kids and that responsibility falls on him. She said, even if I tend to everything else on their schedules, she said, the one I'm feeling guilty about now is to drop off our son at a therapist, then wait for 30 minutes with wifi, comfy sofas, good free coffee, during a time that he has a break in his work schedule.
She said here, the rule is everything to do with the children that does not involve a trampoline park or a swim park, is mine to do, not his. And I think that's one of the things that can be so difficult is you do want the best for your kids. And so if there is a chance that your ex and then we can stay in this scenario, whether it's the husband in the relationship with the immature woman, wife, or if it's the wife and the relationship with the immature husband, I feel like I could just continue to go on. There's so many. Let me just go through a speed round. Someone else said, I can't believe what a chord this struck, she said there were colors. He didn't like smells. He couldn't stand rules about candles, haircuts, clothing, perfume, purses, my jewelry, how to make the bed, how to fold the laundry, how to clean the lights, the thermostat, the air conditioner. Even how to sit on the furniture, how to arrive early, how long to stay, how I talked on the phone, what I said to the neighbors, the exhaust fan in the bathroom, the refrigerator, the car, she said so many issues around the car. There were rules about shopping for food, eating habits, rules for the curtains. No plants, no pets. And she said, and I felt like I was always in trouble if family or guests violated his rules, somehow it was my responsibility and I would pay the price after they were gone. She said, I swear, I could go on for a week and still be reciting the rules. I catch myself off these days, realizing. Did I get, she said, a lovely little, just a bit of pleasure. Every time I'm breaking one of his rules, the enormity of how bad it was, has never been a real eye-opener. She said, I think I'd become so programmed that it was second nature. But never again. And she said my house is now my rules and then other people chimed in.
One saying I lived so many of these same rules and I was made to pay of guests, broke them. I needed to contemplate this better. Someone else then chimed in and said the smells. She said, ah, I can't use dry shampoo without him complaining about the smell. Candles, forget about it. Unless it's pine scented. If I wear perfume, he complains, I put makeup on, it’s who are you trying to impress? I don't care how you look because I'm doing it for myself, isn't enough. And I could go on. Another person said he didn't like certain restaurants because their sweet tea was awful, but made our kids order water everywhere, showers should last no more than eight minutes, but he never was able to provide the data of where the eight minutes came from. Picky eaters were not allowed, but he could declare boldly what foods he refused to eat such as oysters. The menu of dinners for the week couldn't have too much rice or pasta, but he was okay with potatoes. And she said she grew up in an area where rice and pasta were the staple, but then she also said, but that was part of what he despised of me being proud of my roots yet he was beyond proud of his. So basically anything that a double standard could be attached to, we'll go through a speed round and then we'll wrap this one up. Another person said, had to buy his favorite brands, or they were called poop brands. If we weren't 15 minutes early, we were late. If I didn't dry out chicken, he would complain that I was going to make everybody sick with salmonella. I couldn't turn the AC above 60 degrees for years, even though I have Raynaud's and my fingers will be numb, with a sweatshirt and pants. And then we would proceed to get mad that we wouldn't go to sleep naked because it was a freezing cold room. If I complained that meant I was ungrateful. I had to speak to them about feelings or important stuff at the exact right time. Not after work, not when he was hungry and not before bed.
He made it clear that he liked all the girls' hair long. We couldn't cut it short. Also he didn't like it up. He didn't like it when I wore too much makeup or skinny jeans or capris. We wanted time to go to bed early with him, but he wouldn't help get the kids ready to bed for years. So when he finally did, he rushed them and made them upset before bed. We had rules on how many nights he would prefer I stay up late versus I go to bed with him. I was a night owl and he went to bed as the kids were going to bed. The dog was never allowed upstairs because of his allergies, but he was the one who insisted on getting the dog, even though he knew he was allergic. So many rules around air conditioning, haircuts and spending money, but she said there were also other rules like if you're tired, go to bed without reading or else he gets mad at you about it. Or if you say you're going to read, but you're on your phone and he gets mad about that. Or if you say you're tired, then don't go to bed. He gets mad at you. If you turn out the lights, but if you go to bed with the lights on, then he gets mad that you didn't wait up for him. Or he asks you a yes, no question, that feels like a loaded agenda. You have to guess the right answer. He gets mad. And if you try a clarifying question, he gets mad and barks, it's a yes or no question. Now I read those as quickly as I could, because that's the confusion. That even if you try to slow down and stop and make sense of these things, they're going to change.
More people chimed in that you're so right, rules. Like when the movie is over, you have to stay in your seat and watch the credits until the credits are all the way done. Somebody else chimed in and said, yep. That's one for me too. And another person did say reading all of this made me realize something that my husband is hypervigilant about. Not appearing controlling that there are definitely examples of him having rules around kitchen cleaning, money, et cetera. But she said, here's what's funny or weird about it. He uses himself as the standard, which I should be measuring myself. He's under the impression that if he's doing or not doing something, I should be this way, he doesn't think he's being controlling. For example, she said he decided to stop buying his protein powder because of costs. And so now he's recently berated me about not using mine. He stopped buying his, so I should too. Same happens with cleaning the kitchen. Now that he's cleaning it more, everybody needs to be better about putting their dishes in the dishwasher right away. Even though he was never that diligent about the dishes when I was the one cleaning. Has controlled a super covert to me. And like others have said, uses a great deal of guilt. And even more so though, he puts rules on communication because that's less tangible than him controlling how much money I spend. I'm not allowed to make faces when I talk, no interrupting him. And as long rants don't be on my phone while he's talking, act very interested, but not too emotional. None of these rules apply to him. And if I break one, then he uses that as an excuse to turn into a raging teenager and say whatever harsh, cruel things he wants.
And while I feel we could go on and maybe we'll save this for a part two, but I'll wrap it up with a comment that really did, I know I can, I use this phrase a lot, it breaks my heart. But one of the women in the group said, one thing that I really am having issues on learning in my brain, even though I'm still married, she said, is that my worth or worthiness of love directly correlates with my productivity. If I do enough, things are copacetic. If I'm not productive enough, I am met with anger, tantrums, name calling. She said my therapist is trying to really drill into me that my worth is not based on productivity. And I think that's one of the challenges here and people have chimed in and related as well. One of the people said I can really relate when my therapist sent me a copy of my treatment plan for therapy, the word busy-ness was highlighted and underlined. That we're so much more than that, but it's so hard to undo and we didn't become busy producers in a vacuum. It was an important protector at some point. And maybe still is. And I think that's one of the most, the largest challenges with this, the group of kind people that are in these relationships with emotionally immature or narcissistic people, whether again, male, female, whatever the dynamic is, that you're a kind person trying to make sense of things, trying to do enough. Because when you do, then that's some of the times where you are met with some bit of validation, but then when these rules, these rules just continue to change. And they aren't enough and they are crazy making because you are absolutely losing your sense of self. Then that can be this position where you just start to feel like I just can't make sense of anything because it's nonsense.
So, if you have additional examples of these rules, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do additional episodes based off of this because I guarantee that there are going to be people that are going to just resonate with this concept of these rules, these, just double standard or passive aggressive, or do as I say, not as I do rules. And again, just know that if that's what you're dealing with in your relationship, it's not an emotionally mature, healthy relationship and it's okay for you to do things the way that you want to do them and especially to be able to have conversations about this. So I appreciate your time and I will see you next week on Waking Up to Narcissism.