I have to admit that I am not very good at certain things: Patience…keeping my car clean on the inside (Hey…no one ever asks me to drive…there IS a method to my madness!)….and bagging groceries.
When I lived on my own the first time, right after college…I had to go to the grocery store by myself. And long gone were the baggers of old, who knew what they were doing. I just threw crap in my bags, and left.
There is an art to it, as I learned. I would get to the car, and realize that I’d left half the stuff behind as it randomly fell out because I wasn’t careful. I usually had to end up playing grocery pickup…but I would still end up leaving behind a mess that either someone else picked up, or just scattered to God knows where.
That’s kind of like what happens when you end a relationship with a Narcissist. They are utterly devoid of compassion and remorse…and if it might make them remotely ‘guilty’…it will be avoided at all costs.
And their previous mess, that came before you…is likely covered in their lies as well.
Case in point – when my NARC left his ex-wife, I was told it was impossible for him to continue living with her, as she was not treating her Borderline Personality Disorder, it was too difficult for him, and it was ‘putting the kids through too much.’ Oh, and she spent money like it was going out of style.
He came to my doorstep, after 8 years apart, and expressed his never-died-out-love for me, how he appreciated what I offered him…blah, blah, blah. I succumbed to his charm and ‘sincerity’, and promised to help him through the difficult part of the ‘tail end of his divorce.’ (I found out, years later, that the divorce, at that point, hadn’t even been officially filed. Yes, our relationship reignited under a huge lie. I am no longer surprised by the lies I continually find out I was told.)
Now…I knew at one point, he was a devoted single father to his oldest son when we dated the first time…so I shuddered to think what happened to make him abandon his own children with her. What kind of living hell was this person going through to take so drastic a measure.
My guess is that ‘living hell’ was responsibility – but I digress.
Flash Forward 5 ½ years later. I am under constant stress from a rental property that I can only bet describe as ‘left as a disaster’, that drained my personal savings to almost nothing as I sent check after check after check for repairs and maintenance the tenant never brought to my attention to fix. He was aware of all of these, and assured me he’d help if I needed it. So…additional repairs needed to be made…and of course…there were problems at his bank. Oh…I thought I transferred that…excuse after excuse, but no help came.
Then, he ‘poofed’, under the guise of a business trip. There was also the matter of charges he made that were WAY over my comfort level on the American Express. He kept saying ‘sure…I will pay it.’ Then, made more charges…and more charges. Then left.
He, of course, looked me in the eye on our last night together, and told me he was sending me money to cover those…help pay the remaining rent on our exorbitant lease…and to pay for furniture we picked out a few months ago that was on my charges as well.
Yes…you will notice a recurring them…MY Charges…MY account. With such a spotty employment history, a repossession (his ex-wife’s fault…of course!)…his obtaining his own credit was nothing short of impossible. So hey…just use mine! Problem solved! Again…I digress.
I made him sign a promissory note, detailing what he would pay, and when. Why no…I haven’t seen a dime of it…why do you ask?
He left a day before a romantic cruise we had booked just a month before. He left me with debts, and apartment that is too big for me in both size and lease, a giant saltwater fish tank that is a gross, smelly monstrosity at this point because I know slightly more about astro-physics than I do salt-water tank care. He left me with tons of his clothes that I can only assume did not costume him well for his ‘new’ life.
He left me with tons of wreckage to clean up…a broken heart to do it with…and not two dimes to my name after paying all his bills on top of my own.
That is the hallmark of a Narcissist. They come in, stay…then destroy what they can, how they can, and they leave with bang just to make sure the rubble they leave gets blasted to sithereens. They don’t care that they’ve left you…the person they ‘love’, with practical, financial, and emotional ruins. They only care that they can move on with as little baggage as possible.
It seems unfathomable that people can treat people that way. The Narcissist loves nothing more than a grand exit. Maybe they leave you in such a state because they want to leave you so devastated you keep waiting for them to swoop in and rescue. Perhaps it’s that they, like Heath Ledger’s Joker, ‘Just like to watch the world burn.’ It might just be that exit, for them, is the only way they can see out, and, rather than handle it normally…they don’t have the mental or emotional resources to extricate themselves from a relationship like an adult.
Yes…it’s astoundingly cruel. Yes…you cannot understand what YOU did to deserve it? How bad must I have been? You feel like dirt. But, the problem lies not in you – just that you had the really shitty luck to fall into the trap of a Narcissist. By the time he left, I was literally drained emotionally, mentally, and financially. I had nothing left the NARC wanted…so the parasite moved to a new host.
But the one thing he didn’t wreck was my determination. My determination to rebuild the life in a way that I see fit. He did not wreck the glimmer of hope I have that I will rebuild stronger than he left me. It’s the only solace I have – I learned enough to prevent this from happening again. Once you’ve been ensnared by a Narcissist…you literally can spot them a mile away.
Oh…in case you’re wondering…the ex-wife was never diagnosed a borderline…he left her financially destitute…he left her with tons of his debt she was stuck paying for. Maybe 5.5 years faded her memory. Maybe he has changed (I almost typed that with a straight face.) Maybe she thinks she can match him wit for wit this time.
But I at least feel safe in knowing…after cleaning up the wreckage he left in our life together – I can say, beyond all shadow of a doubt…the trail he leaves when he departs her life again will definitely not lead this way.
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.
One thing I have kept repeating over and over and over to myself, and likely will for a while…How did I get here?
I remember, long ago, when I was divorced from my first husband…how hard the identity shift was — I was no longer a wife, stepmother, daughter in law…I was just…me. And I had no earthly idea who that was.
I had married the wrong man for me. Mainly, because where I grew up — women got married. My ex husband and I were incompatible from the start…and after three years of trying to be a wife to a man who was just not a good fit for me as a husband…I cried ‘Uncle’.
As I understand it, as far as divorces go…technically, it was pretty easy. Three months from filing to finalized…little problems with divvying up stuff, sure…but no kids, not much in the way of assets. All things considered, I got out relatively unscathed.
However…I do recall having 6 months where I had no clue who ‘I’ was. I felt ‘lost’. I didn’t understand what about life ‘fit’ me as an individual. I remember having a year after the divorce where life was FUN. Did what I wanted, bought what I wanted, worked late without feeling guilty. It was a great period in my life.
I guess time weathered the feeling of self-discovery and the pride at creating a life that was ‘mine’. Because, slowly…over the past 5 and a half years…I had lost myself again.
Maybe it was my innate stubbornness — many friends who were there for the first go-around with Kyle did not take his reentry into my life so kindly — they weren’t so quick to forget the nights consoling me after his discarding me. They weren’t about to let their memories fade the lies he’d told me. I was not going to admit this was a big mistake, and I wanted desperately for it to work.
Maybe it was my fear that, inherently, my imperfect figure or advancing age were magnifying that I am a flawed woman wracked with insecurities. Hey…at least someone wants me now.
Or Maybe, it was just I am drawn to his charm — which, despite being an unrepentant, lying, narcissistic asshole, he has in spades. He is a very dynamic person who often bragged, literally, about his talent for manipulation.
I know that, over the past few years, life with a NARC, as I have tried to keep my promises chipped away at my already fragile self-esteem slowly. I felt like a bucket that kept pouring out, but was never refilled. Eventually, it ran dry. The string of small lies, big lies, ‘teasing’, insults, and outright cruelty wrapped in hugs has turned me into someone who looks older and more tired than she should be at 49. I want to look at life with excitement and wonder…not dread that my world is going to be shattered because my one ‘lifeline’. I truly don’t see the fragile qualities that now seem ‘me’ as anything remotely familiar of who I understood myself to be. I have lived scared of his disapproval for so many years, I honestly can’t pinpoint when it started within this relationship.
I don’t know, and may never fully understand. But I know that I am in about the same place I was when I divorced my husband 16 years ago. And I refuse to repeat this lesson again.
I am going to give myself the love that I couldn’t ever have received from one incapable of loving. I plan on taking myself on dates, doing things I enjoy doing. I plan on discovering what life as me feels like again.
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.
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!’