If you are unfamiliar with Narcissists…it seems impossible to wrap your head around how they operate: It should be so easy to see someone obviously manipulating you, twisting memories to suit their agenda, or behaving in ways that seem to contradict what your own memories relate to you. How can someone involved with these people not see what is happening to them? How can they not see they are with an unrepentant jackass?
While it might be malicious – make no mistake: A Narcissist is highly skilled in many areas of human interaction: Just not in ways that are healthy for anything remotely resembling a normal, healthy, productive relationship.
Narcissists are, deep down, chronically insecure and damaged. However, they are also aware in some very strange way, that they are, indeed, damaged. That damage may seem so severe they can’t acknowledge it, and their own ability to ‘fix’ it long since departed. They are virtually incapable of the self-examination necessary to evaluate a flaw, address it, and figure out a way to repair the issue within themselves.
I am no psychologist…just an armchair shrink who needed to understand how the man I shared my life with could change me in ways so diametrically opposed to who I was, I had to understand what in me was so malleable, and what in him was so broken that he had to break those he came in contact with just to feel the sense of ‘kinship’ necessary for most humans to interact with others.
But the NARC I shared my life with was deeply, permanently scarred in ways I can’t fathom. Abandoned by his father at a young age, and left in the care of a mother who, on a good day, could only be described as confoundingly neurotic, so that young boy never had a chance. He developed the skills necessary to dazzle people with his wit, assess them with his skill, and weigh the benefits of using them for whatever purposes (When he was younger, it was sex…as he got older, money and security.) For a man who could easily be described as dynamic…he was masterfully subtle in finding the tiniest cracks in one’s psyche, and wedging that open to extract the marrow of what he found.
I sort of recall when it started between us: The process of my being turned into his puppet. About 6 months into our relationship ‘reboot’, he ‘poofed’. When he returned a week later…he said the stress of his divorce, combined with my nervousness made him need to leave and ‘think’ about things. Immediately – instead of thinking ‘Uh…normal people talk about issues…they don’t bolt to ‘figure things out.’ I felt ‘guilty’ – My anxiety about his divorce problems had affected him: I’d better work on that.
Yes – in citing MY behavior for a reason for him to run for the hills…he began the process of grooming me to take responsibility for his actions. 6 more ‘poofs’ followed, that year alone – each one using my stress over his custody battle…my stress over finding a job when my contract position expired…my stress over money. So I began to swallow my natural feelings about the stress he was under, and I learned to keep those pushed down, so they didn’t affect him. It never worked…because that’s not how the human mind works: You work with/deal with emotions, you don’t push them down and ignore them. But that’s what happened – I learned to suppress my normal reactions in favor of not ‘inconveniencing’ him.
Not ONCE did he ever say ‘I have no clue how to work out an issue that requires me to fix something in myself, so I just ran until the weird feelings went away and I didn’t have to face it any longer.’ Never did it cross his lips ‘I control my actions and I am a coward, so I ran away.’ It was initially partially my fault due to anxiety anyone would feel when someone they love is going through a difficult time, and progressed to ‘You filter things in such a way it makes me have to lie to you so you don’t filter them and make yourself more paranoid/anxious/angry.’
When you share your life with a Narcissist, you eventually realize it’s always your fault. And it’s so slow and deliberate, that you lose your ability to question those…because your romantic partner does what they do best: Mold and shape you into the tool they need to move about their own life with not a care in the world who they ruin in the process. They are smart enough to realize if they did it at once…they would lose their Narcissistic Supplier…and the relationship itself if they dumped all this molding on at once. WHen it’s incremental, it’s far less noticeable what is happening, until enough time has passed looking back means it’s impossible to tell when and where it began.
Disagreeing with them — oh, no…not on their watch! You learn that just swallowing their digs and accusations is far easier than the epic battle that will ensue if you dare to contradict/question/disagree — so swallow, accept it, and plod on. One slow, NARC-paced step at a time.
The good thing is – I slowly feel ‘normal’ coming back. I have gotten angry/sad/furious/despondent…and hopeful in the span of the past month when it became clear the ‘new’ relationship I was building with myself was not dictated by keeping feelings and thoughts at bay so someone else isn’t inconvenienced. I still catch myself trying to stifle the feeling to cry or get angry…then tell myself ‘Do it! Get Angry! Cry your eyes out! Rip that picture in two and set it on fire! WHO CARES!’
And ya know what – it is messy, kinda painful, and definitely confusing…but I am finding I rather like this ‘New Normal.’ I am looking forward to living it more.