Amy and Rob had been married for four years the day he turned a gun on her. Their relationship had been turbulent from the outset, but by 2005 their farm was failing, and, Amy says, “We were in so much debt it was unbelievable.” There were other, more serious problems: Rob would frequently tell the children they were lazy, stupid and ignorant, and he had threatened to kill his father. One night, Rob flew into a rage, screaming and cursing his wife. Amy told the kids to get their things together, because they were leaving. While the eldest two went to their room, Amy picked up her youngest, and went to the bedroom to gather some of his things.
“Then the door flew open,” she recalls, “and Rob was standing there with the shotgun. He closed the bedroom door and told me that he would kill me if I tried to leave with the kids. I told him that I would not be going alone; that if he wanted to shoot me he would get shot himself.”
No one shot anyone. Amy calmly reached for her mobile and called her father. “He said he was coming over, and Rob backed out of the bedroom.” Rob denied threatening to kill his wife, and the charges were eventually dropped. But as the divorce wound its way through the courts, a social services report diagnosed Rob with narcissistic personality disorder. In preparing to leave the farm with their children, Amy had threatened to take from her husband the one thing he couldn’t live without. It wasn’t love, or sex, or his family. Rob couldn’t accept a life in which he wasn’t the centre of attention. …
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a form of pathological narcissism, first diagnosed by the psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, in 1968. A rigid pattern of behaviour that drives a lifelong quest for self-gratification, NPD is characterised by a grandiose sense of self-importance, an insatiable need for attention and a chronic lack of empathy. (See the box on page 30 for a full list of symptoms.)