Your Narcissist is Not Your Real Enemy

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, it definitely feels like the narcissist in your life is your biggest enemy. They’re not, though. The fact is, in the spiritual war you’re in, the narcissist is nothing more than a weapon in the devil’s arsenal. He or she is, in fact, just a tool the enemy uses in his attempts to keep you in fear, distracted from your relationship with God, and to ultimately defeat you. Still doubt me? Let’s look at Ephesians 6:12 in the New Living Translation.

For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places.

THAT is where we find our true enemy. Again, the narcissist you deal with daily is nothing but a tool or weapon in the devil’s hands. I’m not saying don’t fight your narcissist; I’m just saying that if you invest all your efforts in fighting the human enemy you see, you will wear yourself out pointlessly. What we have to do, what we absolutely must do if we want to not just survive, but thrive, is put on our spiritual armor and go to battle.

It’s called Spiritual Warfare

In my experience, most Christians would rather avoid even thinking about spiritual warfare. I get it. I’ve been there. In those early years, when I was just starting to really walk with God, to be a growing Christian instead of a perpetually childlike Christian, I felt it was all I could do just to learn to truly walk the Christian walk; spiritual warfare was a whole new level I wasn’t interested in rising to.

But here’s the thing. I was in the middle of a war whether I liked it or not. I just couldn’t see the battles that were going on around me. It was only by the grace of God that I was protected as I was, walking through the battlefield, unarmed and clothed in nothing but my naivety. 

All of that changed when I admitted that my narcissistic husband was having an affair. Mind you, this may or may not have been his first affair; I don’t know. It was, however, the first affair I knew about, and by this point I was sensitive enough to what was going on in the spirit world that I recognized the evil he had brought back into our household. Yes, this is the first time I remember fully comprehending that this man I still loved was literally fighting on the devil’s side – though I guarantee you he would have denied it.

The affair, and its effects, drove me to my knees like never before. After the kids went to bed, while he was out with that other woman, I was spending hours in prayer. The prayers began out of a desperate need for God’s intervention. They continued hour after hour, day after day, week after week, because I learned that nothing on this earth even begins to compare to getting heart-close with God. Never mind stepping up to the next level; I experienced what I think of as “level leaping” during those months.



I’ve referred in previous blog posts to how my life radically changed when, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I was thrown into the fiery furnace. This is the furnace I was referring to. Suddenly, like them, I was face-to-face with Jesus in the midst of an inferno – and the flames didn’t matter anymore.

That’s not to say I didn’t care that the man I was in covenant with had broken our covenant, that it meant nothing that our son was suddenly having walking night terrors… I simply mean that nothing – nothing you will ever experience here on this earth – can compare with spending intimate, focused time with Him. Nothing.

We don’t know what Jesus said to those Hebrew boys while they toured the inside of the furnace, but we do know the experience changed them. Actually, it changed a lot more than them; the whole nation was affected. But you know this time in the furnace impacted them for the rest of their lives; it made all the difference.

It made all the difference for me too.

God taught me so much during those months! Yes, part of our time together involved spiritual warfare, and that was huge, but He started by ensuring I learned the most important thing of all. He showed me who I am, and Whose I am, and I began to understand just how precious I am to Him. Listen to me, no matter what your narcissist tells you, or how they treat you, you are precious to God. He loves you so much that if you had been the only one in the world needing salvation, He would have sent Jesus to die on the cross for you and you alone. 

I mean that literally! Even after all the years I’ve been living close to Him I still realize I can’t even begin to comprehend how much God loves me, how much He treasures me. Decades of being married to a man who made it clear in many subtle ways that I wasn’t attractive, wasn’t love-worthy, wasn’t enough… That could have destroyed me completely. It did not because of the time I spent in the furnace, face to face with Jesus, and the intimate relationship that continued when we walked back out, the one we still enjoy to this day.

This is why I push so hard, encouraging you to get just as close as you can to Him, to pray and fellowship with Him, to spend time in His Word, to be active in the church He calls you to… It’s all necessary if you want to do more than just survive.

You do, don’t you? I mean, I spent years just surviving in my marriage. We’d been married over ten years before he had the affair that drove me deeply into God’s arms. Honestly, the first few years didn’t seem so very bad; I thought the way he treated me was normal. By the time of the affair, though, I was literally in survival mode.

So, while I wouldn’t wish the fire on anyone, I’m glad I was thrown into it, because that experience was a turning point for me. It opened my eyes to the reality of what I’d been dealing with – not that he was a narcissist (That I only admitted a few years ago) – but that I had been a passive Christian, refusing to acknowledge that I have spiritual responsibilities and I’d been choosing not to live up to them.

Child of God, you will not thrive as a toddler wandering around on a spiritual battlefield. Survive? Well, God is so merciful that He covers a lot. However, the toddler is easily distracted, easily drawn in the wrong direction, and all too easily destroyed. That sounds harsh, I know, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be your story.

I’m glad I entered the fire. I’m glad God taught me all He did during those months – much of it being about spiritual warfare. From that point onward, I was a totally different Christian. Yes, my husband sometimes hurt me like no one else on earth could have, but from then on I knew who I was really fighting, and though I definitely had times when I fell to the floor in agony I tried hard to focus my efforts on my true enemy. I concentrated on learning how to be a warrior.

I’ve said it before. A child married Jack Cardwell, but a warrior spread his ashes. I thrived during the last twenty-five years or so of our marriage. Yes, for reasons even I don’t understand, I never was able to walk away from him completely. However, I did outlive him, and now I’m free to help others learn to walk as warriors too.

Step One?
Let’s go back to Ephesians 6, verses 10 through 18.
Again, I’m in the New Living Translation.

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

Spiritual Warfare is a huge topic I’m not prepared to address fully here. However, I can point you in the direction of some excellent resources by someone I’ve learned to trust.

Dressed to Kill: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare and Armor, by Rick Renner, is a powerful resource, and it comes in ebook format as well as paperback, hardcover, and audiobook, so you can read without being obvious if you don’t want anyone to know what you’re researching.

Life in the Combat Zone: How to Survive, Thrive, & Overcome in the Midst of Difficult Situations, also by Rick Renner, is another excellent resource available in all four formats.

If you use YouTube, you can search for “Rick Renner Spiritual Warfare” and find several video options. 

You can also visit his website,

Let’s do this!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

You’re Not Protecting the Kids

Please understand that everything I say in this series comes not from professional counseling or professionally collected statistics. I come to you as one whose husband was a narcissist, and as a woman who has an unsettling number of friends who were also married to narcissists. Each of our experiences was different, yet also disturbingly alike in many ways. The fact that living with their narcissist fathers seriously, negatively, affected our children is consistent.

Our children are one huge reason so many victims stay with narcissistic spouses (and yes, it can be the wife who is the narcissist). They are one of the reasons I stayed, for sure. How could it be right to deprive them of a father, after all?

Except it wasn’t me who deprived them of a father; it was their father. He had time for them if he could benefit from the “investment,” but for the most part… Well, let’s just say I wasn’t surprised by my oldest son’s reaction to the news that I didn’t want to have a funeral or even a memorial.

He was relieved. As it turned out, he and his brother had already discussed how they could possibly come up with something nice to say about their dad if they had to speak at a funeral. 

And that right there pretty much says it all. Well, not all. It gets worse.

See, I thought I was protecting them, but instead I was not only not protecting them, I was letting it appear that I was complicit. For instance, every summer for several years I worked the homeschool curriculum fair circuit with my publisher and another vendor to earn money for the curriculum and supplies Jack claimed to be unable to afford. It was a God thing for which I was very grateful. I was also grateful for my amazing mother-in-law, who let them stay with her every time I had to leave. Every. Time.

From the day they were born, Jack would not be responsible for his sons. Period. Plus, with me gone and the kids gone, he was free to spend all the time he wanted with other women. The problem was that I never made it clear to the kids what was happening so, as I found out much later, they thought we were going on vacation all the time and leaving them behind.

Nope. No vacation. Well, I think in the 41 years we were married we took two, and our youngest, who was a baby, went with us on the first.

So yeah, I was not only failing to protect them from his neglect; I was letting it appear that I was actively choosing to neglect them too. It’s no wonder that, as adults, they spent a lot of time not coming around.

And then there is another family, and the kids who fell completely for their father’s brainwashing. They were there when things went down, violent things; some were even victims of the violence, but to my knowledge he has most of them convinced that all the problems they had were a result of their mother’s actions. They don’t speak to her today.

I can’t go on. I can’t share the other stories I’ve heard, the pain and suffering innocent children have gone through as their narcissistic fathers dealt out mental and emotional abuse, gaslighted, isolated… all while their innocent mothers thought they were doing what was right, trying to be the good wife, trying to avoid divorce, falling for the lie that they were the ones with the problem, that they were crazy, that they were unhinged, that they were lying and those things never happened.

Mama (or Dad), if you choose to keep walking the walk with God by your side, YOU CAN survive and even thrive while continuing to live with your narcissist: I did. But don’t assume that you’ll be able to protect your kids. God can, but you can’t. If God tells you to stay put, then by all means stay put. But if He doesn’t…

And here I repeat myself, as I expect to throughout this series. Abuse comes in many forms that are not physical, and in my opinion it’s the non-physical abuse that leaves the most open wounds. If you are a parent, this isn’t just about you; it’s about your kids too, and you need to go to God before you decide to keep them in an abusive situation.

They’re worth it. They’re worth everything.

And so are you!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Truth Matters: Be Honest with at Least One Person You Trust

This is a hard one, I know. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you have every reason not to discuss your situation with anyone, but you need to. There are a few reasons why, and this first one is important.

I have a friend who, many years ago, was married to a man who was so controlling and emotionally abusive that he actually told her once that if she weren’t pregnant he would kill her. She did what I did, though, and she was even better at it; she hid all evidence and protected his reputation at all costs. 

Ultimately, one of the biggest costs was that, when she finally left him, people condemned her for walking out on her godly husband. Even family judged her for breaking her marriage vows. Why? Because she’d never told anyone the truth. There was not one shred of evidence that she wasn’t simply acting selfishly. You can imagine what this did to her when she was already hurting, feeling broken.

Sharing with someone you trust can also keep you grounded, help you see reality – like understanding when your narcissist is gaslighting you, making you feel like you’re the one at fault or you’re imagining a non-existent problem and events didn’t occur as you recall them. It can also help set the stage for a later escape if you need one. You may not think that will ever happen, but the fact is you don’t really know what’s coming.

Although my husband didn’t do this, I know many tend to isolate their victims, separating them from their friends and family as much as possible. Sharing what you’re going through can reassure you that you’re not alone; it can help guarantee you will never be entirely on your own, even when your narcissist works hard to see to it that you are.

In short, sharing with someone you trust is like keeping your hand on a lifeline when you’re in deep water. I highly recommend in!

Having said that, you do need to know that people in certain positions are required by law to report physical abuse. For instance, I’m a church secretary; if you were to tell me your husband was abusing you physically, I would have to report it. The same holds for people in several other positions. So, if you don’t want anything reported, either choose someone who isn’t bound by this law or be careful what you tell them. Again, I’m only talking about physical abuse here, meaning that’s all we’re required to report.

I wish I didn’t have to talk about abuse at all. This isn’t the happiest topic to be covering, but there are too many out there who are still dealing with the sort of thing I lived through, and I can’t ignore them. I want to help in what little ways I’m able; and I want to obey God, who led me to write this series.

You are not alone.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Yes, It IS Abuse

In talking to others who have lived with abusive narcissists, I’ve learned that I was not alone in one area – failing to acknowledge the abuse. Pretty much everyone is familiar with physical abuse, recognizing it for what it is. Of course, many stay with their physically abusive narcissists even so for various reasons, often simply as a result of the abusers’ “gift” for convincing their victims they brought the abuse on themselves.

Gaslighting. It’s a terrible thing. And yes, I fell for that too. There’s one area in particular…one very uncomfortable area, I feel I need to talk about even though I’d rather avoid the topic entirely. Frankly, it’s too common to ignore.

Not surprisingly, his “having” to find other women was my fault because I wasn’t “taking care of him” sexually. Women deal with this one a lot. As is true in most cases, anything that goes wrong, or anything he or she does wrong, is NOT the fault of the narcissist. But the sex thing? Seriously, how did I not…?

This is going to sound ridiculous; I know it is.
Just, if you have no experience with narcissism, please
understand these people are good at what they do.
They’re incredibly skilled at making wrong seem right.

I tried to be the good wife. I tried to satisfy his needs. But he stacked the deck against me.

He was a night owl our whole marriage, living on maybe three hours of sleep for years. When we got married, I was an “in bed by 8:00” girl, but he “cured” me of that and eventually my bedtime, such as it was, moved back to 10PM. When I was ready to go to bed I’d let him know I was heading that way.

You know what I mean: I was saying, without saying it, “If you want any attention, now’s the time.” Then I would make my way to the bedroom knowing full well I couldn’t go to sleep right away because he wasn’t about to follow me. Most nights, no matter how hard I tried not to, I would fall asleep before he came to bed and then, sometimes an hour later, sometimes four hours later, he would either wake me up or attempt to wake me, fail, and get ticked off.

THAT is how I “wasn’t taking care of him.” And it wasn’t until after he passed away that it dawned on me this was intentional. It wasn’t him being so involved in what he was doing that he lost track of time. It was that he wanted what he wanted on his terms. He wanted to call the shots – always. He also wanted to solidify the fact that I was refusing to meet his needs like a godly wife should. Even though I knew in my heart of hearts that his attitude was way wrong, I spent years feeling like a terrible wife because I wasn’t able to stay awake until he was ready.

You’re shaking your head at the idiocy. Yep, I get it.

But, again, that’s the way it is with narcissism and gaslighting. Everything is someone else’s fault, and that someone else is usually convinced of this untruth with disgusting ease. I honestly wonder if there’s not something spiritual, like demonic, going on even beyond the unnatural ability these people possess.

When I say he abused me pretty much every way but physically, I really do mean it. For instance, financially. He would go out and blow all of our money on things like baseball cards, comic books, and eating expensive lunches every day at work. At the same time, he would leave bills unpaid (or hit up his mother for money to pay them – he worked her too), buy snacks instead of real food (because he did the grocery shopping instead of me doing it and being yelled at), and have to be talked into important purchases like new clothes for the kids or myself. 

This is slightly off topic for this particular post, but I want to say it anyway. While Jack was a stinking, rotten, lousy provider, God wasn’t. Through me, as I was doing my best to walk close to Him, God brought in many utility payments, groceries, etc. He also arranged for me to work, every summer, to earn the homeschool curriculum Jack insisted he had no money for. Too, God provided me with a part time job that paid in clothing, so while I was in a highly visible ministry at church I was well dressed regardless of my husband’s refusal to clothe me. Through everything, God was always faithful!

I could keep going, but hopefully you get the point. Some things aren’t really abuse, but when it comes to narcissists… Yeah, if you think it might be abuse, it probably is. Recognizing the fact, and refusing to accept blame that doesn’t belong on your shoulders, will help you keep your head above water.

Again (I’ll probably say this in every post.), if you’re a child of God and you need out of a narcissistic relationship, God can make a way of escape. I am totally responsible for the fact that my boys and I didn’t exit stage left decades ago. God offered me more than one opportunity to leave, and I didn’t take them; that’s on me.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The Power of Refusing to Care

The last lesson I learned in the decades of living with my narcissistic husband is one of the most powerful. Oh, how I wish I’d learned it sooner!

He spent most of our marriage manipulating me in a variety of ways. Anger was one of his most useful weapons. Because of childhood trauma, I avoided confrontation at all cost, and couldn’t handle shouting or outbursts of rage. I did my best to keep such events from occurring, swallowing my hurt, my fear, and pretty much every other emotion. In truth, even before I met Jack, Star Trek’s Mr. Spock was my hero and I strove for the safety of that type of emotional mastery.

This hindered me in more ways than I can list, especially in relationships – even in my relationship with God. Honestly, it’s only been in the last ten years or so that God and I have managed to break open the door I’d so firmly kept my emotions locked behind. Until then, they only appeared when they completely overwhelmed me.

None of this means Jack couldn’t hurt me emotionally. It means, rather, that I fought a continual battle to keep the pain locked away in a vault. And if you’ve done any study on the topic at all, you know how toxic and dangerous such actions can be.

As those emotions were loosed, as they began coming out, Jack discovered a greater weapon. Due to his poor health, he had lost much of the power he’d previously held, but now that I dared “feel” again he took advantage, making ridiculous accusations, threats of self-harm, and more that were like finely sharpened knives.

Until THAT day.

Some days, some moments, are so pivotal that you never forget them. One of those moments changed things almost instantly in an incredible way. I had a sudden revelation that he only had the power to hurt me if I let him. Intellectually, I’d known this, but like I said – revelation. In that moment of epiphany, I decided it was high time I stopped caring about what he said.

I literally stood there in our living room, as I was about to walk out the door, and whispered to myself (My apologies; this is a direct quote.), “I don’t give a shit.”

Crass? Yes, but it’s what I said, and I meant it. I was free! I actively chose not to care about anything destructive that he said. I shut down the “victim” response like flipping a switch, and it was astounding! It also shocked me in a very real way. Anyone watching would have seen my eyes go wide in amaze. And then I smiled, and I walked out the door.

Things changed after that. He grew increasingly confused as his primary weapon proved less and less effective. Every once in a while, something he would say would start to get to me and I’d have to remind myself, “Tammy, you don’t give a shit.” (I feel uncomfortable typing that, but I promised myself that I would strive for transparency in this place.)

He still did other things, like intentionally trash the house to punish me, but as frustrating as that was the worst was over. The last several months of his life were much easier on me, first because he’d lost that hold on my emotions and then because, as he came to understand his new reality, he put less effort into those attacks.

I really do wish I’d learned this lesson years ago.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Surviving Narcissism: Introduction to the Series

This is the start of a new series that,
while extremely uncomfortable, I feel compelled to write.

If you’ve been following my blog for the last year or so, you know my husband of 41 years was an abusive narcissist. He wasn’t physically abusive (He was too smart for that), but anyone who has been in my situation knows there are myriad ways one person can abuse another. He did. The sad thing is I didn’t even recognize a lot of what he did AS abuse until after he passed away.

Before I go any further, let me say that I realize some readers may find it upsetting that I would write about my deceased husband in such a negative light, because yes, we are going there. In this culture, we are taught to never speak ill of the dead, so I am aware that my posts may offend some of you. Please understand that I have chosen to write this series not to hurt anyone or to bash the man who gave me two awesome sons.

As hard as it may be to believe, I loved Jack Cardwell and supported him as best I could while he lived. However, I have this unique opportunity to give voice to all the women who have been silenced by fear—whether they remain in an unhealthy relationship or are simply trying to stay safe in a world where their ex is still a threat. I’ve wrestled with the pros and cons of sharing my story, for all the reasons you can imagine. But I’m choosing to follow John 8:32, believing the truth will help set others free the way it has done for me.

I’m not ready to address the whole issue of why I stayed with him all those years. The answers are so complicated I don’t understand them even after more than a year of freedom and trying to comprehend my own actions. What I am ready to share, however, is some of the lessons I learned the hard way. 

I believe, am almost positive, I shared fairly recently that I truly see this as me having gone through the school of hard knocks and received my degree. I am who I am today not in spite of the twisted life I’ve lived, but because of it. I am strong. I am unafraid. I am uniquely qualified to step up and support others who are walking the road I’ve walked. While most spend many financially expensive years locked away in college training to work in their chosen fields, I spent decades in a marriage training for the field that chose me.

My goal with this series, at least right now, is to release one post a week, and I have a sketchy idea of the topics I’ll cover. The first lesson I’ll share will, sadly, be the last lesson I learned. This one revelation, and implementing it, triggered an overnight change. It cut down on my stress level in an astounding way and left him reeling over the amount of control he had lost. It was so simple it’s stupid that it took me so long to grasp the concept.

As hard as it is to believe, it is entirely possible to not only survive your relationship with a narcissist, but to thrive in it, to use the experience to become a stronger Christian and a stronger person. Having said that, I am not encouraging anyone to stay in a destructive relationship they should walk out on. I just know from personal experience how hard it can be to make that move, to walk away and not turn back.

Yes, I turned back. We were separated for six months, but he was like a leech that wouldn’t let go. Eventually, he talked me into working on getting back together and then, a month into those talks, he had the heart attack that led to a triple bypass and then a stroke. At that point I felt I had no choice. I knew he couldn’t survive without me; honestly, there wasn’t a soul left alive who would have taken care of him. So, we started over with me hoping for better and not getting it.

Again, follow this series not as encouragement to stay in a bad situation. You do have a choice, to stay or to go, even if you don’t see an out right now. Do follow along for encouragement that there is hope for you even if you do feel permanently trapped.

Life can get better, and you can become someone you never dared dream you could be.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The Woman in the Basket

In Zechariah chapter 5 we see our prophet friend having an absolutely bizarre vision, one I’ve heard more than one person attempt to explain – never in a way that made sense to me. But I may finally understand it.

Then the angel who was talking with me came forward and said, “Look up and see what’s coming.”
“What is it?” I asked.
He replied, “It is a basket for measuring grain, and it’s filled with the sins of everyone throughout the land.”
Then the heavy lead cover was lifted off the basket, and there was a woman sitting inside it.
The angel said, “The woman’s name is Wickedness,” and he pushed her back into the basket and closed the heavy lid again.
Then I looked up and saw two women flying toward us, gliding on the wind. They had wings like a stork, and they picked up the basket and flew into the sky.
“Where are they taking the basket?” I asked the angel.
He replied, “To the land of Babylonia, where they will build a temple for the basket. And when the temple is ready, they will set the basket there on its pedestal.”

Zechariah 5:5-11 NLT

According to the vision…

  • The basket is filled with the sins of everyone throughout the land.
  • The woman’s name is Wickedness.
  • The basket will be taken to Babylon.
  • A temple will be built for the basket.
  • The basket will be placed on a pedestal in the temple.

As a reminder, Old Testament prophesies are sometimes literal and sometimes figurative. They also can have multiple fulfillments. With that in mind…

Working our way backwards through this list, it becomes clear that the basket or, more accurately, what it contains, will be worshipped. This is, after all, what happens in temples. Just as God was worshipped in the Temple built for Him, this basket’s contents will be worshipped in the temple built for it.

I’m thinking a figurative temple.

The temple will be built in Babylon, which in the Bible represents the world’s system.

So, if I read this prophecy correctly, it’s telling us that the world’s system will worship wickedness and sin.

Which it takes little discernment to see pretty much sums up the condition of the world right now. Today’s society condones just about everything God condemns. In fact, it doesn’t just condone sin; it exalts sin, pushing it to the forefront in every arena possible, sadly even in the church. The world system we live in, indeed, worships sin and wickedness.

As I see it, this is just one more sign of how close we are to The End.

Celebrating Jesus and looking for His return!
Tammy C