I got into an interesting conversation in the comments over at Chump Lady’s Blog and it got me thinking about the Narcissist and money. As with most topics around the Narcissist, I started doing some research and have found some things that make so much sense about why the Narcissist was the way he was with money.
Money as Love (Read more: The Narcissist and Money @ The Narcissistic Life)
“According To Sam Vaknin, author and expert on NPD, money is another word for love in the narcissist’s emotional vocabulary. Having been deprived of love early on in the narcissist’s childhood, he constantly seeks love substitutes. To him, money is the ultimate love substitute. Dr. Vaknin states that all the qualities of the narcissist are manifested in his relationship with money, and in his attitude towards it. For example, due to his sense of entitlement he feels that he is entitled to other people’s money.
Secondly, his grandiose thinking leads him to believe that he should have, or does have, more money than he actually possesses. This leads to reckless spending, to pathological gambling, to substance abuse, or to compulsive shopping.
Third, narcissists engage in magical thinking which leads to irresponsible, shortsighted behavior for which they believe they are immune from the results of that behavior. They descend into debt, commit financial crimes, and hassle people- including their closest relatives.
Furthermore, their fantasies lead them to believe in their fabricated financial “facts” which are not commensurate with their talents, qualifications, jobs, and resources. They pretend to be richer than they are or pretend to be capable of becoming rich if they so desire. They are greedy but have an ambivalent, love-hate relationship with money. They can be mean, stingy, and calculating with their own money yet an eager spendthrift with other people’s money. They live lavishly and often well above their means. It is not uncommon for narcissists to go bankrupt and ruin their businesses.
Lastly, reality is distorted and does not match their grandiose fantasies. Nowhere is the grandiosity gap more evident than where money is involved.”
My Experience with the Narcissist and Money:
When I first met the Narcissist I was pretty financially savvy for a 23 year old. I had some student loans from my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees but other than that I had zero credit card debt, I had a solid income, I was contributing to a 401k plan and I had a direct deposit into a high yield savings account come out of every pay check. I was smart with my money and I had both pride and a feeling of safety from my financial situation.
When I met the Narcissist I definitely had some false assumptions about his financial situation… he was love-bombing me with abundance he bought me diamonds, a computer, clothes, designer sunglasses, high-end products etc., etc. Since we didn’t exactly discuss finance in our short pre-marital phase of 8 weeks in person and ~8 months of long distance relationship I had no idea of his financial state or his financial habits.
The financial mess started early on. Before we even married, and while the Narcissist was employed he convinced me to quit my job. He felt that it was not a good environment for me to work in and since I had previously had a fling with a coworker there he was adamant about me no longer working there. He convinced me that I had plenty of money in my savings to live off of. So I quit my job, collected unemployment due to a few sketchy business practices, and sat at home with nothing to do while the Narcissist was in the desert.
After we were married, our financial outlook continued to get worse when his divorce agreement with wife #1 included paying off one of her loans. He then convinced me to cash out my 401k plan and eat the penalty so that we had enough money to get new furniture and belongings because he didn’t want to keep anything from either one of our pasts. So we gave away an apartment full of perfectly good items and then went out and purchased all new everything, and found a new and more expensive home to live in. The Narcissist didn’t want me to work, and since the military already paid for him to move his first wife to the other side of the world, that option wasn’t available for me. So he found a way to work the system and have me live there while still getting paid housing as if I was living in the US. I was also still receiving unemployment payments. In his mind that source of income was more valuable than having me actually go to a job and get paid less money.
We were spending well above our means, and since we moved to a more expensive house and bought all new furniture we got to a point where we were in debt. There were even a couple of nights were we went out partying and racked up the credit card only to report it stolen to the bank later. Since we were living over seas the bank believed that the card had been stolen and it was never questioned. We wanted to move closer to the military base because we realized that the commute and the rent price were killing us as much as we loved the locale of our house. So even though my relationship with my parents was strained at best, we asked them for a loan. Despite everything we put them through, they lent us money twice to the sum of about $15,000 dollars. We used it to pay off debt and move into an apartment that was more affordable and closer to his job.
Even with all of the financial aid my parents gave us, we burnt through all of my savings, all of my 401k, all of the money my parents lent us, and lived paycheck to paycheck. I can’t tell you how many times I would be at the commissary with a cart full of groceries only to have my debit card declined. I would have to walk out in embarrassment and leave all of the groceries behind. I still can’t quite figure out what we spent all of our money on. I mean the military paid for housing, for COLA, and the exchange rate actually helped us with spending in the economy.
By the time he got out of the military we had so much credit card debt, and so many late payments my credit was in shambles. My parents, again, supported us by giving us a rent-free place to live. My dad co-signed my vehicle lease with me so that I could get a car. I started working and was desperately trying to get us out of the situation we were in. Unfortunately the financial mismanagement at the hands of my Narcissist continued to drag us down. I was going to school for my MBA and we maxed out the student loans each semester to have more financial flexibility while I was working and the Narcissist was not. We got a large lump sum payment from the VA because the Narcissist’s disability payments took so long to process, we used it to pay off all of our debt. Yet less than 6 months later it was back. The Narcissist adamantly opposed using the VA Home Loan program to buy a home and make mortgage payments around $2,000 a month yet we moved into a rented townhouse for $3200 a month. We spent thousands of dollars to modify his Jeep Wrangler (which was leased) we spent thousands of dollars on gym equipment. When we moved into the townhouse we gave almost all of our old furniture to the Salvation Army and went and purchased a house worth of new things… including a 72″ TV and all the gizmos to go with it. I had to argue with the Narcissist to be able to contribute to my 401k plans (he didn’t like someone else controlling our money) and every single year that we have been married, we have owed taxes to the IRS (which I have never done in my life!!)
As we are about to get divorced, we do not even have $1 saved over the course of our 8 years together. We are each taking our own credit cards which are almost all maxed out. I had to use my bonus payout to pay what we owed the IRS this year (because the Narcissist doesn’t like letting them take more out of each paycheck)… my college loans are now double what they were when we first met… and I still can’t figure out where all of that huge amount of money disappeared to. Over the course of the last 4 years, I have tripled my income. I make more money in my salary than most couples my age make combined… and I can’t figure out where the heck it all went to.
Yes we had a nice home, yes we had nice vehicles, yes we had nice clothes, yes the Narcissist pimped out his Jeep, yes the Narcissist collected every single Nintendo Amiibo in existence, yes the Narcissist had a habit of wiring $100’s of dollars to his online friends who needed help, or giving $50 to the homeless men on the street… but seriously WTF?!?!
So now I am digging out and wondering how the hell I went from being so financially responsible and “wise beyond my years” to spending all of my money on things that didn’t even matter to me. Its seriously like waking up with a bad hangover wondering what the hell happened. I look back at where I was financially when I met him and wonder “what if” I stayed on that smart financial path… how much better off would I be today???