Hi, gorgeous ones!
Beyond that, oh my, where do I start? There’s a lot. Just a lot. So many memories, so many thoughts, so many emotions, so many “what-if”s, and so on.
I have a lot of questions. And I have so few answers. There are few things I know for sure.
But I do know some things. One is that I’m a warm, caring, loving, devoted, affectionate, free-spirited, funny, intelligent, empathetic, strong, survivor-type, compassionate, gentle, helpful, kitty-loving person. I must wear it on my sleeve or something, because the narcissists seem to have radar for me.
I also know (now), that I’ve been entangled with narcissistic men my entire life. I now know that my father is/was one, and I know that every single partner I’ve ever had, from my first date in high school up through my current marriage partner, and also The One I just let go of 5 days ago, were all narcissists.
All of them.
My questions range from “why do they do this?” to “what made them that way?” to “what did they mean by that?” to “can they ever be changed?” to “if so, by how much?” to “are they even human?”
My emotions range from somewhat-less-stressed to ocean waves of grief, to a bleak and flat baseline in between, with little spurts of fun and even semi-optimistic empowerment when I can hang out with my best childhood friend.
It happened 5 days ago. Oh, it had been happening slowly before that, I saw it.
Let me back up 20 years… I met my now-husband online. I noticed–but didn’t care–that the courtship was fairly anemic, because it was such a stark contrast to the previous relationship I’d had, which was severely neglectful and psychologically/emotionally abusive. This guy was calm, serene, intelligent, and thought outside the box, like me.
Every relationship I’d been in before that had cooled off after about 6 months, so I figured, for decades, that that was normal, par for the course. Apparently that’s not the way it’s supposed to go. But I didn’t know that then. So when my husband (then-boyfriend, and within 5 months of starting to date, my then-fiance) flatlined in the affection department, it caused problems, but I didn’t leave.
I should have, I know that now. But ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I had no idea back then.
Twenty years of distance and detachment gave way to a doubt in my mind that I could ever love again, that my fire could ever be rekindled. I had lived with my husband as basically roommates for so long, thought it might be too late for me to actually fall in love with anyone ever again or crave that affectionate intimacy.
It had been 20 years of being ignored, dismissed, and neglected, after all. Despite numerous conversations every 3-6 months about needing more affection, and also needing to correct our other issue, which was his quiet-but-strict control over our finances and quiet-but-certain lack of openness about our financial status. He had lied to me in every way about money, whether it was how much we had in the bank, how high the credit card bill was, how many credit cards we had, whether or not he paid off a card, how much student loan debt we had, and how much an item cost.
I was at my wit’s end by 2012, and if I’d had the ability to support myself on my own, I would have left him then. But I couldn’t, so I didn’t. I stayed.
Lightning struck in March 2019, when a platonic friend and I got together for 3 days. We’d only met in person once before, the year before, and had otherwise only texted. Completely unexpectedly, I fell in love with him, and he, apparently, with me.
Despite our (my) attempts to throw on the brakes, I surrendered to my own desires, realizing that my heart wanted what it wanted, and my heart wanted him. I had never thought I would enter into an extramarital relationship. To be clear, this relationship was affectionate/emotional only. An affair is still an affair, but there was no sex involved; neither of us desired that, and that is a line I would’ve drawn, since I was still legally married to (and living with) someone else.
This man was a night-and-day departure from my husband and also all of my other exes before him. I won’t go into many specifics here, to protect his identity, but he was everything I never thought I’d be attracted to, but ended up becoming addicted to.
This man and I began a relationship in May of 2019. Looking back now, I realize that it was within 3 weeks of that, that he hurt me for the first time. I had become so open, so vulnerable, so sensitized to him, that even the slightest streak of anger at me (over text, no less) sent me into a weekend-long spiral.
We made up, as we always did, without too much damage done. He apologized profusely, got down on himself for it, and I was able to open back up to him and become vulnerable again. I had experienced warm affection before, after all; I was hooked now; he was like a drug, and I needed to keep getting my hit.
It was an intense summer, of enormous peaks and cavernous valleys. He lived far away, and could only come visit every 2-6 weeks or so, for the weekend. The weekends were “bliss” and yes, I did describe him early on as “like a drug”. When it was good, it was purely magical, surreal. My emotions only began to falter when he had to leave at the end of the weekend. And they crashed down further whenever he ended up hurting me by text message.
At the end of the summer, this man moved to our town, into our neighborhood, so that we could hang out fairly often, which we both wanted to do, and my husband was okay with, albeit with his own understandable reservations.
About a week, and definitely within a month, into my friend-now-lover’s residence in our own, I noticed changes. He sort of went quiet and flat. He stared into space without saying anything. He became much more closed-off about what was on his mind or what he was feeling. “Nothing” and “I don’t know” became his favorite phrases in response to my questions along those lines. Other favorite words became “Maybe” or “Perhaps” in response to my requests to take some kind of action or make some kind of commitment to make efforts.
Regular pain had set in by the end of the holidays, and definitely by January, when we had our first real fight (at night, over text), which hurt incredibly bad. These conflicts arose throughout the rest of the winter and spring, about every 2-4 weeks, each one leaving its unresolved mark on my heart, doing cumulative damage.
The conflicts always involved the same topics – his job, his lack of affection, his dark and pessimistic attitudes, various traits and interests I had thought we had in common, when in truth, he was the opposite.
First I thought it was a gluten problem, as I know that I had experienced irritability and depression and brain fog while on gluten (I’m gluten-reactive). Once he volunteered to be tested and the tests came back positive, however, his behaviors still didn’t stop once he’d eliminated gluten.
So then I thought it might be depression, suggesting some neurotransmitter-supporting supplements and nutrition plan. That didn’t seem to help, either. Then I thought it might be a Vitamin B6 issue, since he drank a lot and was under a lot of perceived stress, both of which deplete Vitamin B6; yet, supplements did not help. He had mentioned that psychotherapy and antidepressant, antipsychotic medications hadn’t helped, either, in the past. I then figured it was a mercury-excess issue, as he’d eaten lots of tuna before, which is a high-mercury fish. Nope.
None of that.
By mid-March, I had run google searches on some of his personality traits, and found articles on narcissism. Lots of articles. You know the type – “8 Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist”, “13 Early Warning Signs of Narcissism”, etc. And he was scoring 7 out of 8 and 11-12 out of 13, respectively.
I knew I had a narcissist on my hands, but I was embroiled in a degree program that took up the lion’s share of my time, so I had to set it aside and power on through school in order to meet my deadlines and perform well.
I graduated in mid-June of 2020, though, and it was at that point that I could no longer ignore (distract myself from) the mounting evidence, the accumulation of emotional pain from the now-predictable round of topics covered in arguments, which were never apologized for, atoned for, healed, or improved. It just kept chipping away at me, little by little. Increasingly, I would feel exhausted. Because what should have been a 4-5 minute
“Hey I’ve got a problem”
“Oh really? What’s that?”
“Oh man, I’m sorry, I hadn’t realized that. What would you like to see?” (Or, “I’ll do A, B, and C to fix this.”)
“I understand; OK so we’ll do A, B, and C and that’ll solve problem D pretty well.”
instead became a 4- to 6-hour round-and-round consisting of responses that were confusing, bizarre, minimizing, dismissive, shocking, or even downright abusive…
…If there was a response in the first place. Oh yes, I’m no stranger to the “sitting and staring” (i.e. “stonewalling”) that plagues discussions with narcissists. It’s the one time he’d look at me, and he’d stare into my eyes incessantly, unflinching, eyes burning with a cold intensity, almost attempting to intimidate me.
The fit hit the shan in early July, when I found out he’d gotten back in contact with an ex, after we’d had a week in which he’d been particularly distant and disengaged. By then I’d talked with a very close friend (who is amazing!!) who has gone through something similar, who warned me about “beware the devaluation/discard”. That echoed in my head, and I stayed up all night one night, reading up on narcissism, discovering the Covert Narcissism subtype, and the many articles and discussion forums that predicted that once they’ve let you go, they’ve already found someone new or rekindled something with someone from before.
What surprises me in particular about narcissists is their ability to boldfaced lie to you, while looking you straight in the eye. Having read the articles, I asked him if he’d found anyone new or revived contact with anyone he’d already known, and he said no. With narcissists, you have to ask the same question several times, spaced apart, to try to catch them, and sometimes you can–other times you can’t. His answer was always no.
I knew otherwise, because he fit that narcissistic pattern so perfectly, so precisely, that I would probably laugh if I didn’t feel like crying. I snuck a look at his phone (I’m not proud of that, but I felt my hand was forced) and whoomp!–there she was.
I confronted him, he hit the roof because I’d looked at his phone, I left, and we spent 3 days apart. I hung out with my best childhood friend at her place, and that’s how I spent my weekend.
He continued to text me, and I had loved him so much that I felt compelled to reply, because I wanted nothing more than to solve this, resolve this, smooth things over, to Make Things Good Again.
We’ve all been there, gorgeous ones, you know how the story ends.
I outlined some conditions for mending fences. I showed him a YouTube channel on narcissism, and a few other more positive/realistic philosophies that he’d likely be interested in, would jive with his personality, and would serve him much better, and encouraged him to delve into those to replace the pervasive pessimism and bring light into his darkness.
For two months, he appeared to be making amazing progress on his own, watching videos every day, making a few rare connections between past behavior and present situations, and so on. I described his improvement as nothing short of miraculous and I hung in there, keeping the faith.
And during this time, I also embarked on a journey of my own, devouring narcissism-related videos from several of the many excellent YouTube channels, and so on. I joined a few narcissistic relationship/abuse/recovery support groups on social media. During this time, I learned that not only was my flame a flaming narcissist (a combination of the Covert, Grandiose, and Malignant subtypes), but my husband is too (purely the Neglectful subtype), and so had every one of my exes, and to top it off, so had my father. It was painful and unpleasant, but I was becoming aware. My eyes were opening.
And I thought that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have to leave either man and that at least one of them could be healed from narcissism. He was working hard on himself, after all. And I thought it was all falling into place.
By now you’re probably wanting to shake my shoulders. I know.
So I began making a case for therapy. He’d always said he’d tried it and it never worked for him, and it was always the fault of a “horrible therapist”. Over time, he’d softened toward the idea and began saying “if I get a pay bump”, etc. He made it clear that he would not sacrifice “lifestyle” to afford therapy, though. Meaning, he would not cut out eating out and alcohol consumption or anything like that, in order to budget for therapy.
I began to lower those barriers to therapy by offering to shoulder my own sacrifices – not giving him money but offering to take back over the funding of things he was currently providing for me. Even with the barriers gone, however, he resisted. Of course. Why was I surprised?
I scheduled a therapy session for myself, however, because I needed help navigating my relationships with these two men–both this man and my husband. This last Thursday, I went for my first session, which lasted 2 hours, and I told him everything. He had much to say after that, but leaving either one was not one of them (which probably had to do with the fact that I’d stated I wasn’t ready to leave either one yet). I dutifully took notes and scheduled a 1-hour session for the following week (which is on Thursday, so stay tuned).
Thursday afternoon, I was still trying to patch things up. I’d disclosed that I’d been to therapy already, which ignited his paranoia and delusions of grandeur, and sent him on a downward spiral so fast it made my head spin. By the end of the evening, I knew it was over. Neither of us had ended it, but I’d reached my limit. I was done.
The weekend was rough; weekends always are, for me. Whenever I wasn’t hanging out with my bestie, I was lost, aimlessly wandering, drifting, merely existing.
He continued to spiral over this last weekend. It was like watching a catastrophic car wreck in slow motion. We extricated our belongings from each others’ apartments, leaving them on each others’ doorsteps in contactless delivery. He sold me his cookware, deciding that his new passion wasn’t really a passion after all. He listed his musical instruments for sale. He even transferred his cat to me.
I hadn’t seen him for 4 days when we went to adopt his cat, so when I went into his apartment (with permission, while he was gone), there was complete disarray and a half-drunk alcohol bottle on the couch. The kitty was fine, though, and she was already familiar with me, so the acquisition was smooth. He has never harmed her, other than neglect and occasionally raising his voice to her.
He canceled several memberships, threatened to move away several times, and so on. Most of his friends deserted him. So in a matter of 2 days, he lost his relationship, his cat, and most of his friends. Epic. He now realizes the universe has called in his karmic debts, and he’s got to cough up.
I’ll detail today more specifically in the next post. ❤
Until then, my gorgeous ones, stay strong, focus on You, and become friends with yourself.