Q: I was married to a highly functioning alcoholic for 39 years. He died at age 67 last year due to cancer. I thought all of our problems were due to his drinking however 6 months after his death I discovered he was a cerebral narcissist . I had some questions that I needed resolve on. Read about the cerebral and it all fell into place. He was a higly functioning narc. A surgeon, very proficient in his field, high IQ 163-straight A’s in college and highest scholastic achiever in med school. However, he was more introverted, never bragged about achievements or talked about them. Monotone voice while speaking, socially shy. He used to say he needed a couple drinks just to feel normal and he learned if he had a few drinks it would slow things down (sexually). Always some new goal never satisfied. Performance oriented and had to maintain outward appearances. He acted normal (typical wine me dine me/ gentleman-no red flags) during the 1 year of dating and then the following 1 1/2 years till my daughter was born then sex /intimacy was cut off never to return except when I said I wanted another child 3 years later.
My question is all those years he let me think it was the drinking/no sex–performance. In fact he freaked at the mention of sex—hyper vigilant about sex performance. After her birth he began to pick fights over nothing nightly and then the cruel behavior, and all the typical abuse began. Anything to keep distance. I know he had a problem with p**n and compulsive m**********n till the end. Never had an affair or even anything during those years to be suspect of. Went to work and came home nightly. A home body. Never was abusive to our girls just more distant–I was the subject of all the anger and rage. He was a very good provider, worked hard, responsible with finances, loved doing things around the house and gardening.
My question is the no sex for all our marriage who does that. I know what they say about cerebrals but do they never think back this is my wife I had sex for years before the baby? All was good?? Was he triggered or is this the Madonna/W***e Complex ? This was a major problem and if I tried to talk or even cried about the rejection he could just turn over and go to sleep. He also never discarded me or ever threatened to leave me and believe me between the p**n and the drinking I put him out of the house on several occasions. I made him go to counseling for the drinking/abuse served him divorce papers but never could walk it out long term. He always wanted back into the marriage–now knowing about his fear of abandonment and rejection WOW it did not do him in. I am just looking for some closure to the sex thing.
All those decades—-can somebody be into p**n and be content ?? I know he felt threatened up close and personal with women. Intimacy? Performance ? Also I am not like him mom–I am warm, caring (nurse) very domesticated, cook, bake , run a household well, not dependent-lots of strengths. With the devaluation abuse was that to keep me away or what ? Before he died he told me the one thing that was the hardest for him being married to SOMEBODY like me was that he could never control me. I said he was not supposed to. Did he not think of all of our marriage and no sex was not control ? Plus his other controlling behaviors—I know if it was not for my faith in the Lord I would be a mess now. He floated my boat all these years and when I wanted to leave him he asked me to stay. Personally I do not think my husband would have survived without us. My daughter at 10 knew her dad could not live without us. It is amazing that this man had so much to offer and he never knew it. Sad how he got messed up but I know somewhere deep down he had a sensitive heart. He had so many of the narc traits but I understand maybe he used the alcohol to cover up the disorder. Whether he was aware of the narcissism or just something not right he never led on—he let the drinking take the fall. All the behaviors of being non-verbal, superficial conversation, silent treatment, passive-aggressive behavior, abuse verbal and physical,mocking,possessiveness, envy, etc. were present.
Till the day he died he still told me that I still looked great for my age. I guess he was into my looks and appearance till the end. SAD !! I would appreciate some insight to this question— you do not have to post it. It is just so many non-narcs have such horror stories I just wanted to post mine which is somewhat different being a highly functioning narc–which there is not too much info. I know the alcohol made this seem like it was the problem but I do know he diplayed so many of the other narc symptoms. The sex was major !!!!
A: I am so sorry for your loss. Unless your husband had periods of not drinking (and still displayed narcissistic traits), it would be hard to say whether his difficulties were due to alcoholism or narcissism (although he certainly sounds like a cerebral narcissist). Alcoholics, when using, display many traits of narcissism. Or he could have both alcoholism AND narcissism.
From your description, it sounds like he had intimacy issues, performance issues, and control issues; all of these can be caused by either alcoholism or narcissism. Did his use of alcohol lead to traits of narcissism or did narcissism cause him to turn to alcohol? There are a few statements in your email that suggest that he may have been more of an alcoholic than narcissist; for example, you said that “deep down he had a sensitive heart”. Nobody ever says that about a narcissist- their lack of sensitivity toward others is what sets them apart. Add to that, the impression that he was either aware of his narcissism or aware that “something was not right”–again, that is not something people with NPD are usually described with. You seem to have a better understanding of his behavior and motivations than you give yourself credit for.
Withholding sex can indeed be a strategy for controlling the partner. Picking fights at bedtime to cover up fear of intimacy is not unusual. His use of p**n and compulsive m**********n further suggest an addictive personality. Whether the sexual issues were due to alcoholism or narcissism, the behavior may have resulted in your feeling undesirable sexually and that may be why you are still seeking closure. The lack of sex was obviously due to his issues and do not reflect on you; I do hope you will put this to rest and be able to reflect on his good qualities now that he is gone (intellectual abilities, good provider, hard worker, etc.). You may want to read the article on this website titled “What are the Differences Between Narcissism and Alcoholic Selfishness?“.
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