School is in Session

Ending life with a Narcissist is truly…an education.  And education into the real person you thought you knew. 

And, as you learn more and more about the ‘real’ person behind the masked one you lived with…you will likely find yourself shell-shocked.  Whether it’s through Narcissistic Rage as you Gray Rock them,  whether it’s finding remnants of the secret life they led in conjuction with the one you lived with them, or just realizing that every memory you have with them you thought was good is now tainted as you see the lies that accompanied their every waking moment.  You will undoubtedly feel like you know nothing about them, or yourself as you realize what endured in life with them.

It’s a painful lesson…but one all survivors of these human parasites must learn.

I have learned more about the man I ‘loved’ in two weeks since he left than I clearly ever knew of him in all the years we were together.  I have learned that he would look me in the eye, grab my face and hold it, while telling me how sorry he was he had to do what he did – knowing full well he had been planning his exit for months.  I learned he thought nothing of defrauding the small company he had been entrusted with building to the point it had to close due to his theft.  I learned he was a lecherous pervert who kept various pictures of his genitalia on his phone and sent it to his female subordinates.   I learned he thought nothing of making up a devastating health crisis for his oldest son in order to get an absence from work so he could orchestrate his exit strategy from his company that he knew full well he was going to decimate with his fraud.

I desperately need for school to be out:  The more I learn, the more the disappointment and guilt overwhelms me, and I grieve for how little the life I thought I had never lived – I can’t even say it died…as something truly alive has to be for it to perish.  The man I loved, the relationship I thought we shared…never remotely existed.  I can’t take one more lesson in how not only was I expendable, so were the careers and livelihoods of the people who worked hard for him to help him attain monthly bonuses, and the massive trust the company’s owner placed in him.  That his partner in life, and his employees and his boss demonstrated loyalty to him that was nothing more than a credit card for him to max out and leave someone else to pay the bill.

Which, given what I am learning about Narcissism, none of this should surprise me – They just do not exist on a level of ‘humanity’ that includes empathy or compassion:  I have read that at least 100 times in various forms as I learn, and it still shakes me that these bags of skin walk among us.  Accepting that they expertly mimic these qualities you and I have is a very difficult hurdle – it truly is difficult work to get that there are people who exists without these basic tools of humanity.  But they do.  If you are one of the unfortunate souls tangled in with these people – take heart – be glad it is difficult to understand:  It means you are a normal, compassionate human being and not understanding it means you aren’t ever capable of this kind of soul-crushing evil.

As difficult and painful as this education is…I know that, after I learn and absorb these lessons, I will feel better about myself.  I will feel better prepared to trust again.  And I will feel more empowered to maintain steadfast boundaries to protect those qualities in myself I hold dear.

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Closing the Revolving Door

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. 

I Love You*

As my fiancé walked out the door for the last time last Thursday – his last words to me will ring in my head forever:  ‘You know I love you.’

Yes…his last words, as he was leaving me for whatever lie he had cooked up to cover whatever trail he was blazing to move onto a new source of Narcissistic Supply…were that he loved me.  

That is the last lie he will ever tell me.

If you find yourself in a relationship with a Narcissist, I am certain you hear that a lot.  It is also a complete and utter giant, wet, steaming pile of bullshit.

Narcissists are categorically incapable of loving as a normal person understands that concept to be.  Narcissist love what you do for them.  The adore how you have a supply of emotional and mental resources to drain.

But I can promise you – they do not, nor will they ever love you in the traditional sense.

Please do not kid yourself if you think your NARC is different:  Aside from physical attributes…they are cut from the same cloth.  ‘Love’ is  tool they craft in order to take from you what they want.  They mist us with their charms…they mimic expertly what the motions should be for love.  But they cannot muster the empathy, compassion, tenderness and selflessness that is required to have a loving relationship.

The Love Bombing phase is where we, the Targets, fall in love.  But, those who we fall in love with are just not who they are at their core.  They can never truly be that compassionate, caring soul we are sure is at the heart of all those amazing romantic moments.

The Narcissist loves themselves – as much as they are capable of something resembling ‘love’.  They love that the Target doesn’t see them for who they are.  They love that the Target is their own, personal pile of silly putty – able to mold and shape as they want.  They are NOT interested in helping you grow with them.  They have no time or concern to nurture the best in you, and still love the worst in you.  They do not love you, and never truly will. 

They do NOT love – the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can clear your head from their mist.  And it’s sad, ultimately, because they will never be ‘whole’ in the sense most people are.  They are missing something elemental that got skipped due to trauma while they were young, or some horrible upbringing that nurtured something dark and draining in them.  And they can’t ever ‘learn’ those wonderful qualities that add the cherry on the cake of life for you and I.  I do weep for the children those NARCS used to be – it’s sad to know that they missed an essential part of growing up where they learned to appreciate and cherish the good in other people, rather than extract it for their own personal gain.

Their love will ALWAYS come with an asterisk — there will always be a footnote to clarify what they say when they say ‘I love you.’  It does come with conditions — just not conditions they share with you in the beginning…and likely never will.

I would say that the best response, when you hear ‘I Love you, ‘ from a NARC is to look them in the eye, smile, and say  ‘Go Fuck Yourself!’

Unnerving Peace

I have been alone for a week now.  He has been absent from my daily life, after being a part of it for 5 years, for 7 days now.

And the sense of peace is unnerving.

When one lives with a Narcissist, in the beginning – it truly is a thing of magic.  They engage in a full-on assault to your mind, body, heart and soul in love-bombing.  They shower you with attention that truly just makes your good sense go on permanent vacation.  In my case…it was coming home to a remodeled house.  It was gourmet dinners prepared and executed to a degree that would make Wolfgang Puck green with envy.  It was a surprise trip to Venice Beach over Valentine’s day so we could watch the sunset over a romantic dinner.   It was the stuff every woman dreams of and truly believes doesn’t exist.

Now, I fully realize that the puppy love/romance phase generally dies down from the initial stages.  But, with a Narcissist – it is peppered with little digs.  He learns that you don’t like a certain food – he chides you because it would work well in the menu he’s preparing, ‘But some people are too picky.’  He learns that you feel your thighs are bigger than they should be…he ‘pinches an inch’.   He learns that you have a bad day, ‘Well suck it up.’  Just little digs that make it seem like you’re being unreasonable.  Yes, you do have giant thighs – it’s not in your head.  That catering to a small like becomes an issue with your narrow mind.

Again…it seems small.  Then…when they sense that they have you weak, in my case, he would poof:  Just vanish.  For a week.  No inkling…just come home..and a note explaining he’d gone ‘away’.  All the attention you were used to getting…all the companionship you were accustomed to…GONE.  No idea why, no idea where he’d gone…just ‘Poof!’  Then, when the worry as to if he’s OK, where he is…what he’s doing gets to be too much…he appears on your doorstep with a completely plausible, on the surface, explanation:  Stress of separation from the kids, job hunting….you name it, it’s there.

Now…most normal people would slam the door after the first poof.  But, when you’re entangled with a narcissist, you being a mental push and pull.  You become so accustomed to trying desperately to get that Love Bombing phase back…and at the same time, those little digs that become more frequent settle in and convince you that it’s YOU who is flawed…and if you just be ‘better’, he will love bomb you again, and all will be right with your world.  It never enters your mind to be angry they ran off like a child – You become conditioned to keep your anger at bay in the company of a narcissist:  You aren’t allowed to be angry.  You aren’t allowed to be contentious.  You are only allowed to be a worshiping sycophant – working only to get back into their good graces and be showered with love again.

But it never happens.  You learn that to be ‘home’ is to walk on egg shells.  You know the play book has changed…but no one gives you the updated copy.  You learn to take the digs, because it’s better than showing the slightest bit of hurt or negativity, because those will bring out forms of Narcissistic rage.  Those take the form of yelling, or, in my case, bouts of deafening silence and pouts.  You try to be pleasant to crack the exterior – just to get some acknowledgement that MAYBE…just MAYBE…you are back to being not disdained.  You are rarely ‘loved’ again at that point – you learn that ‘not disdained’ at least keeps some semblance of peace.

However…for 7 days…I have experienced peace.  I come home to the apartment…and there is no one expecting to be worshipped.  No one expecting to have his slightest household accomplishment doused in praise.  No one to ignore my need for having a bad day and needing to talk about it.  No one to make me feel less than I am.   My home feels like a foreign country for the past 7 days, as I realize these 4 walls are now MY domain…to make how I want…to live in how I want…and to care for myself as I need.

It’s peaceful.

In the beginning…

In the beginning…it was nothing short of magical.

Kyle and I met 15 years ago, online.  We were three hours apart.  While long distance relationships may not seem like the ideal circumstance to cultivate a lasting relationship, given our situations at the time, it was actually ideal.  He was a custodial single father with a full time job, and I had a demanding job that required lots of travel.  I had just gotten out of a marriage the previous year, so I like the ability to be a ‘part time’ girlfriend without the demands of 24/7 access, so to speak.

Narcissists are known to be better than Don Juan in the initial stages of a relationship.  And boy…did Kyle deliver in that department.  Prior to us meeting face to face, he showered me with gifts, home made treats overnighted so they were still fresh, flowers, cards…..I was soaked to the bone with his romantic overtures.

Once we met – our first date was truly the stuff of romance fiction:  Reservations at a luxurious, expensive restaurant, my favorite song in the CD player, candles in his pocket he whipped out after we sat down to ensure we had a candle-lit dinner on our first date, a string of pearls delivered during dessert by the waiter:  Truly…just un-fucking-believable in terms of off-the-charts romance.  By the time our first weekend together had commenced….I was hooked.  He cooked restaurant-quality dinners, gave me a massage….it was truly just more than I could have dreamt of.

Today, I kick myself for allowing him back into my life.  Hindsight is 20/20, and the distance provided him a much-welcomed buffer as to my discovery of his Narcissism – however, getting dumped by him via email on Valentines Day,  and then, when he returned and began the Love Bombing they are known for in the initial stages…I had forgotten the searing pain that my new love inflicted when he callously dumped me on a day specifically meant for love.   

After we reunited, and spent 9 months together, at least Valentine’s Day went OK that year.  He just waited for my Birthday to tell me he had met someone else.  Someone who he would eventually marry, then leave after 7 years…and return to me.

Ugh…as I write this, I am SO angry with myself for not being able to understand this pattern that is so typical of the Narcissist:  Ping ponging between their Narcissistic suppliers until those suppliers are completely and totally used up.  I had no idea what I was up against at the time, but still…what part of the good sense I assumed I possessed was on vacation those times?  Why did I accept the excuses of fear of his feelings and uncertainty about how to handle our situation?  I had no problem with it.  I would have happily tried and worked something else to accommodate – but it was never discussed with me.

But, I have to realize that, until a few weeks ago, I truly had no concept of the maniacal personality type I was up against.  I was outmatched in the deception and manipulation department before I ever agreed to meet him.  It’s hard to admit that the qualities I am most proud of about myself:  Loyalty, sensitivity, and empathy, were nothing more than means to an end in his Narcissistic goal setting.  He would exploit those to extract what he wanted, when he wanted….and was so skilled at it, I had no clue what he was doing…even after it was done.

The 8 years between our last breakup and our reunion erased a hellluva lot of the raw pain that ensued after the two breakups during our first two years.  I wished to hell I’d remembered that.  It would have made slamming the door in his face so much easier…and, as it turns out, a brilliant move on my part.

However….that’s not how it went down. 

I had so much more to painfully learn.

So who is this Narcissist?

It seems pretty standard:  You end a relationship with someone, more often than not…you have few, if any, nice things to say about them.  I get that.  Bitterness, anger and hurt all hodgepodge together to create a narrative for the jilted lover to help insulate them from the pain.

However, before I begin to delve into the aspects of my life with a Narcissist, I think it’s important to understand the traits that can lead one to measure high on the spectrum of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.   I pulled this list from Narcissisticabuse.com, but you can easily find similar lists in many places dealing with this maniacal disorder:

  1. Self-centered. His needs are paramount.
  2. No remorse for mistakes or misdeeds.
  3. Unreliable, undependable.
  4. Does not care about the consequences of his actions.
  5. Projects faults on to others. High blaming behavior; never his fault.
  6. Little if any conscience.
  7. Insensitive to needs and feelings of others.
  8. Has a good front (persona) to impress and exploit others.
  9. Low stress tolerance. Easy to anger and rage.
  10. People are to be manipulated for his needs.
  11. Rationalizes easily. Twists conversation to his gain at other’s expense.  If trapped, keeps talking, changes the subject or gets angry.
  12. Pathological lying.
  13. Tremendous need to control situations, conversations, others.
  14. No real values. Mostly situational.
  15. Often perceived as caring and understanding and uses this to manipulate.
  16. Angry, mercurial, moods.
  17. Uses sex to control
  18. Does not share ideas, feelings, emotions.
  19. Conversation controller. Must have the first and last word.
  20. Is very slow to forgive others. Hangs onto resentment.
  21. Secret life. Hides money, friends, activities.
  22. Likes annoying others. Likes to create chaos and disrupt for no reason.
  23. Moody – switches from nice guy to anger without much provocation.
  24. Repeatedly fails to honor financial obligations.
  25. Seldom expresses appreciation.
  26. Grandiose. Convinced he knows more than others and is correct in all he does.
  27. Lacks ability to see how he comes across to others.  Defensive when confronted with his behavior.  Never his fault.
  28. Can get emotional, tearful. This is about show or frustration rather than sorrow.
  29. He breaks woman’s spirits to keep them dependent.
  30. Needs threats, intimidations to keep others close to him.
  31. Sabotages partner. Wants her to be happy only through him and to have few or no outside interests and acquaintances.
  32. Highly contradictory.
  33. Convincing.  Must convince people to side with him.
  34. Hides his real self.  Always “on”
  35. Kind only if he’s getting from you what he wants.
  36. He has to be right. He has to win. He has to look good.
  37. He announces, not discusses. He tells, not asks.
  38. Does not discuss openly, has a hidden agenda.
  39. Controls money of others but spends freely on himself.
  40. Unilateral condition of, “I’m OK and justified so I don’t need to hear your position or ideas”
  41. Always feels misunderstood.
  42. You feel miserable with this person. He drains you.
  43. Does not listen because he does not care.
  44. His feelings are discussed, not the partners.
  45. Is not interested in problem-solving.
  46. Very good at reading people, so he can manipulate them.  Sometimes called gaslighting.

As I try and evaluate the aftermath of my life with him now conspicuously absent, I will explain aspects of our life together that typified many of these behaviors, so there is no question that I’m just ‘venting’ in order to make myself look good: I put up with these behaviors for 5 years, and excused then, rationalized them, and did everything I could to conform to my ever-shifting and unattainable ‘goals’ set forth by the man who shared my life.

But I also need to fully understand, for myself, what about me happened along the way when I was getting blamed for his actions, conversations I could clearly remember were ‘shifted’ in his retelling, and there was absolutely no discussion about my goals or desires for our relationship – I was along for his ride, until my usefulness on his journey ran it’s course, and I was discarded. What in me allowed this to happen?  What parts of myself do I have to examine and repair so this never happens again?

It’s a long road, and will likely be lonely – but it’s MY road now, and I don’t have someone telling me how to walk it. I guess that’s something.