At the beginning, I looked for a label. I needed a label. I read The Sociopath Next Door. I combed the DSM. I held his history and his traits against checklists until my eyes blurred.
I wanted a label because I thought it would bring understanding. Closure.
I knew he wasn’t the man I loved. But, who was he? What was he?
I saw him as some monster. He must be, to be able to do those things.
As is so often the case, elements of each label: sociopath, narcissist, addict fit yet no one term seemed to fully explain him. The reading was useful; it gave me a vocabulary and a way of understanding. It provided perspective.
But it gave no real answers.
I still didn’t know why he did those things.
I was no closer to understanding what went wrong.
Because he is simultaneously both more and less than any of those diagnosis. Yes, his actions displayed elements of those labels. Yes, they are useful to discuss his behaviors. But they are not him. (Related: How to Apply Labels)
This Psychology Today article, that addresses the use of the label of “narcissist,” appeared in my reader this morning. It’s an interesting debate, especially as the terminology from the DSM leaves the closed quarters of the therapist’s office and enters society at large. See if you can tell who wrote the first comment that is quoted:) I especially like the author’s point about victimhood – that is something I realized as well along the way.
I eventually gave up on assigning him a diagnosis. They all seemed to paint him as two-dimensional, existing only in the pathology. They neglected to describe the man that was a wonderful husband for so many years. They ignored the man behind the mask of whatever illness or disorder or situation led him astray. They were too simplistic, too formulaic.
Regardless of what else he is, I’m happy now to simply call him my “ex.”