They should really teach personality disorders in school. Narcissism and psychopathy especially, should be taught in the basic curriculum, perhaps nestled into the Life Skills classes that teach you about balancing your checkbook or renting your first apartment. Maybe a standalone unit of the class, called How To Recognize and Avoid a Narcissist or Psychopath, or What Happens In Narcissistic/Psychopathic Relationships.
It would save so many people so much heartache and hassle. It may even save lives.
As it stands, I, like most in these situations, learned some very valuable lessons the very hard way. Lessons like never assume you know someone no matter how long you’ve been with them or lived with them, no matter how well you think you know them, no matter how they’ve presented themselves. People looking to feed off of you in some way, whether narcissistic supply or psychopathic exploitation, will never let on that that’s the real reason they want to win your heart.
Other lessons are more pessimistic yet, such as learning to assume the worst until proven otherwise. Always assume they’re lying. Always assume they’re hiding something. Always assume they’ll take your sensitive, confided information and use it against you. You almost have to assume there’s a boogeyman, planted by them, in every bush. Society makes jokes about stuff like that, because usually it is kind of funny; it’s all-too-easy to become paranoid, and fears are often overblown.
Not so with a narcissist/psychopath. Not so at all.
Never underestimate what they’re capable of. There’s no history of anything until it happens, so just because a person has never done something heinous or unthinkable before (to your knowledge, anyway, which is a key point in itself), that doesn’t mean they never would. There are hardly any guarantees in life in general, and there are even fewer yet with a psychopath, because they keep escalating; what satisfied their curiosity, impulse, urge, fantasy, addiction, etc today may not scratch the same itch tomorrow.
Life with a psychopath can be characterized as a timeline of growing nagging feelings, one after another, the increasing sense that you’re increasingly unsafe in your own home. All this time, you’re under a haze of uncertainty and confusion, a mystified and bewildered state.
And eventually, you begin to wonder if this person is indeed anything at all like the person you thought they were. (Hint: no.)
And then, at some point, you stop sharing. With a psychopath, you needn’t share much in order for it to become a liability. And thus, it is indeed possible–and easy–to overshare with your significant other. You get the feeling that they could weaponize anything you say far more fiercely and brutally than any top-rated rabid lawyer. Eventually, you realize they would.
And then, if you listen to your gut closely enough, you go searching. And then you find, more than you ever imagined, much more than you bargained for.
A fact-finding expedition like this, on a normal person, might yield one big revelation, such as cheating or an addiction or perhaps a major purchase they hadn’t consulted you about. There’s one major secret revealed, one major dramatic climax, one major argument, and then it levels off, calms down, and you either talk it over constructively or decide it was too heavy a cross to bear and split. Stressful, maybe even catastrophic, but rather simple and single-dimensional. And either way, there is closure.
Such a fact-finding expedition on a psychopath, however, yields one major revelation after another. Mercilessly, those discoveries don’t stop; rather, they keep coming, pummeling you each time, like a ruthless freight train. Eventually the pieces add up to an entire double life that no matter how intelligent, intuitive, engaging, or perceptive you are, you never had any idea it existed right under your nose. And, there is no closure.
You begin to reflect on your entire relationship and you realize that in order to construct their double life/secret life, they had to have discarded you long ago. This usually occurs right about the point they can no longer extract anything from you, whether that something is related to their own survival or pleasure. Other people exist in the psychopath’s life for one reason only, and that is to meet some need or desire. That need or desire could be, using examples from my own relationship, money/resources, carpooling, occasional sexual gratification, dysfunctional optimism, empathic and codependent nature, and being easy to control in subtle ways.
Throughout the years, he’d spent all the money from my side of the marriage, abused the financial favors given by my parents, obtained his own vehicle (didn’t need to carpool anymore), and begun to focus on younger female targets as I began to “age out” and gain weight. Even by the time I lost said weight, it was too late; he barely noticed. I’d had the audacity to age normally, after all.
Gradually it becomes obvious that every action they’ve taken, effort they’ve made or communication they’ve shared has an ulterior motive (or several) that serves their purposes only, without regard for you.
You think back to the countless “talks” and “discussions” you’ve had with them about the basics of relationships, emotions, empathy, adulting/life in general, and also about your feelings of being utterly baffled that they just couldn’t get it, especially when they’d shown so much intellectual capacity in so many other areas.
And then you realize that after the multitude of those “talks” and “discussions” that made absolutely no dent in their stoic and unfeeling nature, it’s not that they didn’t “get it”.
It’s that they didn’t care. Not now, not ever, not even way back when Things Were (Seemed) Good.
And finally, after beating your own head against a wall for years, you actually throw in the towel. If you’re lucky, you’ll do this before the detectives show up. Because more often than not, in this kind of scenario, they probably will. There could very well be some kind of crime to investigate.
A divorce from a normal person is hard enough; people get nasty, fangs protrude and gnash. There might be a custody battle or a fight over heirloom furniture. They might even steal a look at your phone’s lockscreen to check for incoming texts or other notifications. It’s a time of peak stress.
A divorce from a psychopath is a whole different animal, because that’s precisely what you’re dealing with–someone who is half-animal, half-machine. Either way, no empathy, no complex emotions, no ethical reasoning. They’ll not only snoop on your phone, they’ll install new-generation spying software that runs stealth in the background, intercepting texts, voice calls, your GPS location–even keystrokes and ambient room noise, without your knowledge. They’ll capture your passwords with a keylogger and drain your bank account.
The spying and theft are all true stories, but thankfully not mine…at least, not that I know of. And I find myself saying that – “at least, not that I know of” a lot lately. It ranks right up there with “there’s no history of anything until it happens”. And words like “processing”, because it takes a lot of time, energy, and emotional resilience, not to mention support from surrounding loved ones, to come to grips with an entire train of catastrophic discoveries.
I’m still making my way, taking my steps. I finally changed my phone’s account password and lockscreen passcode. I should’ve done the latter long ago, but– here’s another favorite phrase of late: “the second best time is now”.
Moving is already underway, a gradual process meant to disrupt myself, him, and the innocent kitties as little as possible. Once again I’m tiptoeing, but I take solace in the fact that it is for the last time.
The emotions are mixed, and they’re not what you might think. I feel absolutely nothing for him, so the grieving process where he’s concerned is practically nonexistent. I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, so daily routines are my lifeline and familiar surroundings are my bedrock, so that makes the drastic and rapid changes a little harder. (It certainly helps that I do have a comfortable, familiar, and fun place to move to! ❤ )
But the hardest part of all is that I know that I must leave the fur-kids; their shared bonds cross-stitch amongst each other–and him–such that to pry any one of them away from the pack would cause a traumatic ripple-effect across all of the fur-kids. And so, with a heavy heart, I am the one who leaves, alone. The pre-grieving has begun. I make it sound easy (relatively speaking) for now, but I’ve not actually crossed that bridge yet. There will be a moment of truth.
There always is. ❤