If I’ve been asked 1 time, I’ve been asked this same question 1,000 times: ‘Why the hell did you not get out sooner?’
That, my friends, is the $64,000 question.
The short answer is – Because I loved him. My view of love is that you support and stick by those you love, through thick and thin. You help them through difficulties, because loving someone means being there through the tough times, and celebrating with them through the good.
Now, from the outside looking in – this is what my circle of family and friends saw: They saw an outgoing, bold, chatty, engaging woman slowly reduced to a neurotic, anxiety-riddled puddle of goo – whose sole focus seemed to be catering to her partner’s latest ‘crisis du jour’, and filled with tension as his spotty luck with self-employment rested the entirety of supporting them on her shoulders through a series of jobs that were stressful from their demands, as well as being the only visible means of support for us as a couple.
From the inside…I didn’t know it at the time, but I was undergoing something known as ‘Trauma Bonding’. In a nutshell, Trauma Bonding is unwavering loyalty to a destructive person. Narcissists are quite adept at executing this. In my case, it was his going through a series of issues after his divorce, while they were nailing out custody issues…and he would suddenly, mysteriously ‘poof’. What I perceived as his fragile mental state and torment by the ex as they used their children as pawns threw me in a state of panic when he would disappear for weeks.
Yes, I said ‘disappear.’ I would come home, see his missing car in the driveway, and immediately begin a physical response that felt like hot lead being poured into my spine. I would walk in the house, and a note, explaining pressures/stress/whatever as the reason for his bolt. Oh, he loved me dearly, but needed to do ‘this’ and he would be home ‘soon.’ I was frantic during these times with worry. The man I loved more than anyone in the world was alone, trying to figure something out that must have been so painful or left him feeling so vulnerable he could not share it with anyone. During his ‘poofs’, I would hear nothing from him. No phone calls…maybe a text or something if I was lucky.’ I would be in a state of panic worrying beyond reason as to his well-being.
While I’m not a religious person…I would pray that he was OK. Just let me know he’s OK. Please keep him safe…Just please let him come back to me so I can prove to him the kind of partner that he needs.
Out of the blue…he would return. The Love Bombing would be my reward for allowing him back. The relationship would be ‘normal’. Until he left again….under the same circumstances. I ended up dreading pulling into my street, because if his car wasn’t in the driveway…what had befallen him now? Why did he leave? What would I do with myself with all the worry? There was never any ‘preamble’ to these ‘poofs’. So it’s not as if I could ‘sense’ it was coming due to increasing arguments, or certain information that came in about the custody…etc. They are so skilled at living a life based on deception that my notice he was gone was announced by his lack of automobile in the driveway.
It did occur to me that ‘Hey…ya know, this is bullshit.’ But the Narcissist is so skilled at knowing when to punish and how to reward accordingly, it’s impossible to realize that is what’s happening. It’s so slow, deliberate, and perfectly executed you cannot look back and realize the point when their needs and well-being became the sole focus of your existence. This cycle of reward and punishment can take different forms, but the end result is the same: Logic takes a back seat to the good sense the Target normally has, and your sense of normal is solely dependent upon what the Narcissist says is ‘normal.’
Now, given his latest departure, there is a fulcrum shift within me that will make sure this will NOT happen again. The revolving door he counted on has been removed, and bricked up. I now understand who and what I’m dealing with. I’m too old to waste more time with this insane push/pull that has inexplicably become my norm. I am not entirely blaming him – I fully participated in continuing the insanity. Granted…I was being manipulated so skillfully I didn’t realize it until years later. But I have to accept responsibility for not giving my inner voice screaming at me that this was NOT normal and to knock it off. I did allow it to continue…but again…it’s like buying a used car that gets you from here to there…you just aren’t aware there are problems waiting to explode under the hood.
If you are in a relationship with a NARC…please let your inner voice have a louder volume than theirs – the years you cannot get back from ignoring it will sting. Hard.