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Normal or Narcissist? Laurel Slade-Waggoner

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
April 19, 2023 5:15 am

Normal or Narcissist? Laurel Slade-Waggoner

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 19, 2023 5:15 am

How can you tell if you're dealing with a narcissist? Therapist Laurel Slade-Waggoner relays the story of her own dysfunctional, destructive marriage.

Show Notes and Resources

Grab her book: Don't Let Their Crazy Make You Crazy: How to Stay Sane and Strong When the Narcissist in Your Life is Trying to Control or Abuse You.

Wondering how kids affect the decision to stay in your marriage? Begin by asking the questions in our blog post, Should We Stay Together for the Kids?

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

Someone with a personality disorder has what they call cognitive rigidity. They're not able to be wise, like the Bible says, to add to their learning.

Fools, that's what God calls narcissism. They hate instruction. They will not listen.

They will not make changes. So they're just very rigid in their ways, and you can't work with someone that won't listen. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. So here's a question I'd love to ask you. I have no idea where you're going with this. I know you don't.

That's why it's going to be sort of fun. Do you think I'm a narcissist? Go ahead, laugh. I am not kidding.

I would say, no, you're not. Are you being that really honest? Yeah, there were times in the beginning of our marriage.

Oh, the beginning, 42 years ago. Yeah, that I thought, you are so selfish. Not thinking I was selfish, of course.

I was too. But that's a good question. Why are you asking that? Well, I mean, I'd love to know a definition, which we're going to get today. But there have been times when I thought I have narcissistic qualities. And I told you I was sitting with a pastor not too long ago who said, every megachurch pastor is a narcissist.

And I'm like, oh, boy, there's some real truth there. And that could define me. And I don't want to be, but sometimes I don't think we know. I know a lot of women that say they're married to a narcissist. You don't think husbands say the same thing?

I'm sure they do. And I think a lot of us wonder, what is a narcissist? Am I a narcissist?

Are my kids narcissists? Is my daughter married to one? There are a lot of questions about this.

Yeah, so we've got to find out today. We've got Laurel Slade-Wagoner with us. She will know how to answer this question. First time on Family Life Today. Laurel, welcome. Thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be here.

We are too. And tell us a little bit about what you do. So right now I'm doing a lot of podcasting and book writing. I'm also a licensed mental health counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. I'm board-certified professional Christian counselor. You've got all these letters behind your title. I know. She knows what she's doing. But you counsel people, right?

Yes. And you've written about narcissism. I love the title of your book. Don't let their crazy make you crazy. I'm guessing you came up with that? Yes, because tens of my clients were coming in saying, he is driving me crazy or I think I'm a narcissist. I think I'm crazy. And so the word crazy was just being thrown around. So I said, okay, you're not crazy. I tell all of my clients, you're not crazy. You're traumatized.

Oh, interesting. You're precious. That's why the first chapter in the book is, you are precious. Because a lot of people who have an authentic narcissist in their life don't really understand that they are in fact precious, man or woman. They don't think they are because what? They've been told that they're not for so long that they've absorbed those projections and they no longer are in contact with who God says they are and who they truly are. Ugh, that's so sad.

It is sad, isn't it? Can we start where I was saying, okay, am I a narcissist? Are you asking me for my canonical opinion? You don't know me very well. Obviously, you can't tell if I am, but- She probably walks in a room like, oh, there's one. There's certain signs or things that would be- There's like a number above my head. I see a one to 10.

You're a 9.8. So define it a little bit. I mean, it's a term a lot of us have heard.

I just used it and I'm not even sure. I would know what to tell somebody if they said, what is a narcissist? It makes me really sad the culture has stolen the word and diluted what it truly is. It is a psychiatric disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder is a psychiatric disorder. It's a pervasive pattern of interacting where there's a lack of empathy, where there's an excessive need for affirmation, where there's interpersonal exploitation, the powering up over another person. They're drawn to the grandiose. Sometimes they think they have to associate only with special people. They can be haughty. There's all kinds of narcissism. There's overt narcissism, where there's a lot of charm and a lot of personality. And then there's covert narcissism, where there's a lot of control and abuse that happens behind closed doors. It's misunderstood. To understand narcissism, you have to understand what a personality disorder is. And that means that there's an enduring pattern of that behavior. So it's not somebody what you were talking about that sins occasionally. So we all fall short of the glory of God.

We all are selfish at our core. That's not what I'm talking about in this book and in the kids' book. So there's somewhat of an excessive, because when you're saying some of that, there's like, oh, I've got a little bit of that. There's an excessive need for affirmation. There's some control issues here. And that's just a normal sinner in some ways.

But what separates that? I mean, it's excessive control? It's excessive behavior over time? Yes. So to look at what unhealthy is, maybe we can talk a little bit about what healthy is.

That'd be great. In a healthy relationship or marriage or any relationship, really, there's dynamics that are all reciprocal or mutual. So there's mutual honesty, there's mutual transparency, there's mutual care, concern, and effort. There's mutual respect for time and feelings and priorities. And this is the big key. There's the mutual ability to repent, say sorry, take ownership, and make changes to collaborate for what's best for both people. So you're making that sound like this is a big one. That ability to repent, to say I'm sorry, would you say that's really difficult for a true narcissist? I would say it's impossible.

Oh, wow. Because they see things through the lenses of self-serving. So they don't take ownership for how they hurt another person. One of the clinical criteria, according to the DSM-5, that's our diagnosing manual, is they treat others with a lack of empathy. So they don't internalize another person's pain. They don't acknowledge that their words or behaviors cause someone else's pain.

If it gets them what they want, then it's acceptable to them. So they have someone with a personality disorder has what they call cognitive rigidity. They're not able to be wise, like the Bible says, to add to their learning. Fools.

That's what God calls narcissism is fools. They do not like instruction. They hate instruction. They will not listen.

They will not make changes. So they're just very rigid in their ways, and you can't work with someone that won't listen. It's so interesting. I'm thinking of people that are pre-married or they're engaged or they're dating. And for me, as you said that, that should be an alarm going off. Like a red flag. Yeah. Absolutely. Like, oh, he never has apologized.

He never has admitted he's wrong. And they can twist it to make it feel like it's my fault. Exactly. Exactly.

So, narcissistic interactional patterns are people who blame-shift like that, who gaslight, who try to make you think that you're the one that is at all- You're crazy. You're crazy. You're needy.

You're too sensitive. All those things. They try to get people to make decisions out of fear, obligation, or guilt, fogging them. So that's the exploitation.

They want people to serve them. I'm thinking about a person that's being abused, even physically. I don't know very much about this in terms of the clinical part, but doesn't it seem like they'll be abusive, but then the next day, from what I've heard, they can be very repentant.

I'll never do that again. Is that true or are they not repentant? Well, I actually did a podcast on that, the difference between regret and repentance.

Oh. So regret is very sorry for self, very sorry that they're enduring consequences. So maybe I'll have a couple come in and he's been unfaithful and he's crying saying he wants his family. He's miserable, but there's no ownership. I'm miserable. I'm sad. I don't like being a single parent.

I need to get back in the home. It's all about him and his feelings. He's regretful of that decision. But repentance is, I don't want to be that person anymore. I, kind of like David's heart in Psalm 51, I've sinned against God. I don't like who I am.

Please help me change. And so that's what the Bible calls being wise is they want to add to their learning so they don't make those mistakes again and hurt somebody in the future. That's a big difference. That's good.

Regret versus repentance. Yeah, that's really good. Yeah, do you see people that you, and I guess you look at people and you can pretty quickly identify narcissistic behaviors. Do you see them change?

That's a tough one. So I believe that narcissists can change only because with Christ, all things are possible, but they don't change. They will not change.

That's part of biblical foolishness and that's part of clinical narcissism, that rigidity. They don't think they need to change. So the prognosis that someone with a personality disorder, an authentic personality disorder will change is very poor.

I've seen a few change, but it's because something catastrophic has happened. Maybe they've lost all their many. Maybe they've had a heart attack and they realize, wow, I can't control everything the way I thought I can because really narcissism is about control. It's about wanting to be in charge. They don't see a need for a savior.

They're their own savior. Wow. Let me ask you, Laurel, a lot of times we write books about things we've experienced. Have you experienced this narcissism in your own life with someone else?

Yes, I have. And that's why I think a lot of people come to counseling because they know I understand because a lot of people out there don't understand and they endure further abuse. So I grew up with narcissistic parents, very financially irresponsible, lots of moving evictions, different things like that. Both parents. Yeah, but my dad was very charming and my mom just busied herself with pets and different things like that. So I had a very, very chaotic upbringing. We either had horses and lots of money or nothing because he couldn't manage many. So what did I learn about a man?

A man is charming and a man, everything will always be okay, but you don't have to be responsible. So that's what I dated and that's what I eventually married. Where did you fit in? Did you have siblings? I have a younger sister. And so you're the oldest. Growing up like that, did it cause like, were you anxious?

Were you thinking like, what are we doing? So, and I talked a little bit, not about my story, but about the different impacts of having a narcissistic parent in the book for parents to parent their children that I wrote. But older children, especially, are very prone to becoming parentified, becoming little adults at the age of six or seven. So I started to learn that I had to take responsibility for my parents' feelings. So when my mom complained about my dad, I would be there. When my dad complained about my mom, I would be there. I was the one that had to be there. So you just kind of lose your sense of self.

And that's how you learn to exist. So it was very comfortable for me to be attracted to a narcissist. It was normal. I was confused. I thought familiarity was attraction, but it wasn't. It was just comfortable because it was familiar. So my filter wasn't healthy.

My filter was, wow, this is comfortable. So I married someone who was very narcissistic, and we tried to make it work. And he struggled with alcohol, struggled with overspending, anger toward the kids, and lots of adultery. And so that's when I ran to my church, and he referred to Dr. Clark's action plan and developed my own, I call it a Joshua 24-15 plan, where I gave him choices. Joshua 24-15 says, if serving the Lord is undesirable to you, you are free to choose what gods you serve, whether it's the gods of your ancestors, I think by the Euphrates, or the gods of the living land, they say the Amorites.

But as for me and my household, I'm going to serve the Lord. So that's a big decision. And I'm guessing you had like an aha moment, like, wait, this isn't just me being crazy. Yeah.

Was that a big deal for you? And I was very, very connected in church and had a women's group. And I would listen to them talk about their struggles with their husbands, and I felt more and more disconnected from them.

Because why? Because their struggles were not my struggles. So their struggles, their husbands would listen and they would have an argument, but they always talked about reconciliation or they talked about how it was resolved. And that just doesn't happen when you have a narcissist.

So they just want to be able to keep doing what they're doing. I'm guessing there was a time you thought, this is me, this is my fault. Because he probably made you feel like that. Oh, absolutely. That's what they call gaslighting. So I'm supposed to be a nice Christian and not confront and how dare I confront him and get over it.

It's not that big of a deal. And I'll do better and then won't do better and all that kind of crazy making. But I still didn't understand, even though I had gone to grad school, I had studied healthy relationships, I still didn't understand that really important difference of regret versus repentance. So we ended up, I ended up giving him the choice. He said, okay, I will work on it.

I will do these things. And then he didn't fall through, he didn't. So we ended up divorcing and we were divorced for three years. But then he came back and said, I want my family. I don't like being a single dad. I don't like this. I don't like not having meals. I don't like this life. This isn't the way it should be. And so I said, okay, but you have to go back to church.

You have to join a couples group and he's fine. So we did. But I didn't understand that all that language would just, he was sorry for himself. He wasn't really taking ownership that, hey, I didn't like who I was when I was that person. So we remained- Did he ever say, I'm sorry? No. Never.

Even when he wanted to come back. No. And he never said, can you forgive me?

No. And those are great points. So when I teach people about like an authentic apology and authentic repentance, I have a handout, like the eight A's of an apology. And there's different steps and they have to admit, they'd have to ask for forgiveness. They have to make amends.

And the big one at the bottom is they have to adjust. They have to, that's what repentance is, is there's a turning. There's a- Life change, yeah. Of course. Different behavior.

A different way of interacting. And so there wasn't any of that in. So, but- I'm sorry. I wanted my family and thought that's what God wanted. So we remarried. You did remarry.

Mm-hmm. And then he was kind of a slow cycler. So he was okay for a few years and then started that behavior. And then by that time I had a thriving practice. I was speaking at church.

I love my clients. And I was just so mad. I was speaking to women about this beautiful testimony about how God had saved our marriage and had a standing ovation for God that- Look what God can do. That God had taken a marriage and a divorce and then turned it into a beautiful remarriage. I was so mad at him for taking that testimony away. So mad at my ex-husband for taking that testimony away. So I did what I always did, ran to my pastor and said, what do I do now? I just don't know.

I love my clients. Do I just sit and suffer silently? What do I do? And he said, weren't you here 10 years ago saying the same things? Enough already. Wow. God will give you a different testimony, but it can be just as powerful. And he was so right because my favorite parts of my job, I talk with people all over the country is hearing, oh my goodness, I didn't know what narcissism was. I heard you on the radio or someone gave me your book and I didn't know, but you've been through everything that I feel. I'm sorry that you went through all that. That's a lot. And even the shame you felt getting remarried and having that fall apart. All of us have that thought of like, what are people going to think of me now? So that had to be super hard.

Well, now then I did. I really understood regret versus repentance and healthy. And by that time I was just devouring anything I could get my hands on as far as Christ-like behavior and surrender and things like that. And so men don't typically like to go to divorce care or join groups. They don't like to put themselves out there and share their feelings right away. So when I would work with gentlemen who are going through a divorce, I want them to be loved on by the church. And so there's a gentleman running divorce care at our church and he would take the men out to lunch and then they'd eventually get connected. So he was kind of my conduit to getting them in. So he had gone through a divorce years prior and he just was a quiet soul at church that I knew of. And so he was a good man. And then he came to me and told me he wasn't going to be doing divorce care anymore.

He was out of that season and stuff. And so we eventually started dating in a healthy way and got remarried. Good for you.

Yeah. And now what, five kids? Five and two grandkids. So we made a lot of mistakes. We were super careful.

We love Rondiel and we were super cognizant of the kids. We cut two houses for a whole year so that we wouldn't force them to blend. And they were the ones saying, we don't like this.

We all want to live together. So yeah. So I know I've been through probably everything. You've been through.

It's marital. You can possibly go through. You're very qualified, not only in your education. Experience and, yeah.

I mean, your knowledge and, but your experience. So I'm sitting here thinking, what would you say to somebody to keep them from making their crazy, making them crazy? I mean, do you say divorce? Do you say, I mean, what do you say whenever you're listening right now and they're going, I am married to a controlling, unrepentant, continuing behavior is not changing.

A lot of regret maybe, but no repentance. And obviously I think we can miss that even in our own lives. You know, we can see it in our spouse and not in ourselves. But if somebody is really listening and they're like, whoa, my spouse has all those. Do I divorce?

Do I get counseling? I've tried to change him or her for years and nothing's changed. So what would you say? I don't want people to think by my testimony that they have to get divorced.

I don't ever tell anyone to get divorced. What I tell them is that we've got to really look at what God does when someone is biblically foolish and not willing to look at things a different way. And we've got to do what God says. So we start there. And so we start by what does God say? Step one, we need to speak the truth and love, right?

So we give people the benefit of the doubt and we go to them with our concerns. I have a whole process of how to do that. Yeah, I like in your book you have acrostics everywhere. Get on. I know. And we should also say- As a preacher, I love those. You do? Do not. And you have the eight A's of an apology. It's great.

Rick Warren, it's years of reading Rick Warren's devotions. Yeah, but I also like that it's a 30-day, it's a skill-based journey to redemption. I like that. And so I think that's really helpful. Why did you decide to do it like that?

I think probably because I spent so much time in devotions. It's just in me to do that. And I wanted people not to miss out on the information and really camp out and saturate themselves in that day. Like day one is you are precious. I don't want that skipped. I don't want them skipping to read about the narcissistic behavior. They first need to understand their own preciousness.

So that was my wish and dream was that people would methodically go through it one day at a time, but I don't know if so many do. Thank you for helping us. You're welcome. Hi, I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to David Ann Wilson with Laurel Slade Wagoner on Family Life Today. These are the practical truths that Laurel has laid out for us to help us understand what the Bible actually teaches and what it doesn't or how we've added on or subtracted from what the truth is in scripture. I love this because there are so many who are under the control of another person and they need help. And Laurel has written a book called Don't Let Their Crazy Make You Crazy. How to stay sane and strong when the narcissist in your life is trying to control or abuse you.

This book really helps you to understand what narcissism is, how it can be used as a weapon, and what to do when you're under specific control by a narcissist or an abuser in particular. You can pick up a copy of Laurel's book at And while you're there, you could partner with us at Family Life. And when you do, we're going to send you a copy of Nana Dulce's book, The Seed of the Woman.

Nana was on earlier this week and she's written a book that basically has 30 narratives that point to Jesus, specifically through the eyes of women. It's a really encouraging book and it is our thanks to you when you partner financially with us to help more families hear more conversations like the one you heard today. So you can partner with us online at or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. Now when you partner with us, it could be a one-time gift or a recurring monthly gift as well.

Again, the number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Now tomorrow, Dave and Anne are going to be joined again by Laurel Slade Wagoner. She's going to talk to us about how she protected her two kids from her narcissistic spouse. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-19 07:03:46 / 2023-04-19 07:14:45 / 11

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