Narcissistic relationships are like a prison. They control, dictate, isolate, and alienate. They can turn you into someone else, maybe even someone you no longer recognize. Through manipulation tactics such as gaslighting, deflection, distraction, projection, future-faking, and threats, we are often slowly whittled down into shadows of our former selves…
…Or were we? I might have looked shiny and secure on the outside, but external manifestations (the narcissists in my life) are simply manifestations of the internal turmoil and insecurities and traumas within me. So, perhaps I wasn’t as shiny and solid as I had thought. If I had been, there would have been no room for the narcissists in my life. They never would have picked up on my vulnerability and I would not have been easy prey.
And so into the prison I went, serving several sentences under several “wardens”. Never understanding why I continued to be punished. That’s the way it goes, isn’t it, gorgeous ones?
And then comes the day you break up and maybe even go No Contact. Like I did with my ex this morning. Still desiring a friendship with him (for whatever reason, and I do have mine) in the future, I informed him that I was going No Contact for at least one week. One week may seem more like “one weak” – not much time at all. And I know that it’s not long at all. It’s probably not nearly enough time for all the peptides to wash out of my body and my body’s cells to withdraw all the extra peptide receptors from their surfaces.
But it’s a start. And a start is what counts. Because if you can start, and you make it through that start, you know you can. And maybe you can keep going, either this time or next. If you can’t take a first step, you can’t take any additional steps, either.
One week is awfully short indeed, but to a fully-engaged addict, it might as well be forever. That’s what it sounds like, anyway. Imagine the ex-convict, leaving the prison for the first time. They’ve led regimented, controlled lives, being told every move to make, existing within a subculture radically different from that of the mainstream, and in the process have become dependent on the system, the very system that held them captive.
In a state like that, especially if you’ve been inside for a long time, exiting that system and its consistent structure, as undesirable as that structure was, can be frightening, unsettling, unnerving. The ex-prisoner looks around at the big sky and the fast pace and the enlarged world and says “well, shit. Now what?” They may or may not have plans, goals, shelter, or intended employment. They may or may not have a purpose. They, too, had become a shell of who they were, no longer remembering how they made it in the world before they went inside.
I do feel that way. My relationship was a prison, albeit a very enticing one that I had very willingly entered into, not knowing its true nature. Insidiously, it wrapped its tentacles around me, claiming more and more of my time, energy, caring, and presence, consuming it all until I had nothing left to provide. When that wasn’t good enough, I became a verbal and emotional punching bag, used and abused.
Going No Contact is becoming free of all that, which is an incredibly beautiful and healthy concept, but there is a dark side, gorgeous ones. Now I’m left with myself. Unlike many in this position, I don’t wonder who I am anymore, or even what I did before getting into that relationship. My dilemma is one of daily structure, as well as the satisfaction derived from it. When you’re used to going places and doing things with someone lively and fiery all the time, settling back into calm and consistent, although relatively pleasant, can be extremely anticlimactic.
Especially when what actually happened is that you were sent back to another prison – I’m still married to Mr Neglectful Narcissist. It’s relieving that he doesn’t create the chaos and turmoil that my ex did; I’m not a punching bag, at least not directly, and he doesn’t stir the pot just to get his kicks.
This is all very good stuff.
However, it’s extremely empty and void. There is no affection. There is no interaction. There is no openness. There is no intimacy/closeness. There is no life in this marriage. There hasn’t been past the first six months, and even that was a little anemic.
It makes the other prison, which was more lively, also look that much more attractive, and relapse back into addiction that much more likely. The stable-but-flat prison is harder to come home to. It’s lonelier than being single. You’re made to feel less than nothing, and they couldn’t care less.
I don’t think my husband and I said anything to each other at all except “hi” and “bye” throughout the entire month of March 2019. I kept track.
When I went No Contact with my ex, he did exactly what I’ve seen narcissists do: he ran back to familiar ground, where he would have sufficient distraction/supply. He had already melted down over the weekend three weeks ago and given away many of his possessions. He had already tried every manipulation tactic he could think of. It didn’t work, and he realized he’d only shot himself in the foot, while I benefited.
So this time he ran away, back to mommy and daddy and the few friends he has still won over – for the entire No Contact week. What this means for me is that I’ll have no reminders, no temptation. Truly a temptation-free week, in which I’m guaranteed no exposure.
It will be interesting to see how it goes.