Have you ever been told that you were a selfish, inconsiderate, manipulative, lying asshole by someone who identifies more strongly with those characteristics than you do? Were you aware of the reality of the dynamic but still beat yourself up with feelings of guilt and regret?
How dare you complain about your commute to work; it’s offensive, said your unemployed man.
I’ve been there. And it hurt, to the point where I would have willingly carved out my tooth with a butter knife in order to make the situation change.
Though I knew no contact was the only way to achieve a permanent sense of freedom—from my obsessive thinking and the hurtfully convincing words thrown at me like a handball—the change I desired so deeply wasn’t a life without him. On the contrary: I wanted the unattainable. I yearned for him to see that I was worthy of being desired and, dare I say, loved.
It’s the ego, I told myself. If only he can become self-aware and acknowledge that the abandoned building he convinced himself was the foundation of his being was an illusion—created by his painful childhood—then he could see the strength of his own loving potential.
Despite my own awareness—and the thousands of pages of research on narcissistic topics—I still have a deep-seeded hope that a change will happen.
The difference between my current self and my self of last year, though, is that I have been able to free myself from the reigns of attachment. Through intense therapy and a series of life changes—such as finding work at socially and creatively fulfilling jobs and a dedication to a mindful practice—I was able to see that my worth was not dependent on things external of myself, especially the opinions of a man who was so hardened by years of neglect and abuse.
The fact that I still have love for this man, I am aware, makes me a bad feminist, which is a self-criticism that I am still dealing with. I do not think that I ever will fully get over the love I have for him. Our relationship was manic, with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, which led to sex that I can confidently say was cosmic. And at the time, like so many women do, I believed that passionate sex and love were interchangeable terms.
I certainly still believe that the two—sex and love—are connected, but one does not define the other, which was a life-changing realization for me in terms of making myself believe that I could love another outside of a toxic relationship.
Removing oneself from a relationship with a narcissist, as my own story suggests, is as difficult as dealing with the death of a loved one, because in a sense, the victim of a narcissistic partner has died. And that, I believe, is the most heartbreaking of all phenomena.
The preface to Robin Norwood’s best-selling book “Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change,” beautifully—yet painfully—illustrates this loss:
“When being in love means being in pain we are loving too much. When most of our conversations with intimate friends are about him, his problems, his thoughts, his feelings—and nearly all our sentences begin with “he. . .”, we are loving too much.
When we excuse his moodiness, bad temper, indifference, or put-downs as problems due to an unhappy childhood and we try to become his therapist, we are loving too much.
When we read a self-help book and underline all the passages we think would help him, we are loving too much.”
As one who has suffered for years due to the devaluation of my self, this passage was (and still is) painful to read. I see myself as that obsessive woman who lost her passion for life and art and anything that wasn’t revolving around him.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw a broken face, one that wasn’t comparable to any of the exotic-looking women who he continued to flirt with on social media platforms. I felt as desirable as a blister.
I had friends and family call me the smartest idiot they know; just leave, they said. Forget he exists. But when someone has so much control over your mental state, it becomes impossible, like turning off the sun.
What outsiders don’t understand is that the narcissist uses manipulation techniques that become engrained so deeply into their partner’s psyche that their words become the only truth that exists.
The isolation that was imposed by the relationship didn’t help either.
There are many carefully-constructed and planned techniques that narcissists use in order to get their ego-feeding. I won’t go into them in this article as the professionals can do a much better job of explaining it, from both scientific and personal points of view. I will include a list of reading material at the bottom of the article.
I am still not certain if my partner’s behavior towards me was intentional (as I’m sure most victims believe in regards to their loved ones). In all honesty, I do not think believing his actions were malicious or a conscious effort would do me any good. I was able to free myself without having to feel hate or anger towards him.
My reason for writing this article at this moment in time is due to a few factors, one being that I am finally strong enough to do so. My previous writings were primarily in the form of long e-mails to my partner, trying to convince him of the pain he was causing me, which, I assume, went unread. This writing, however, is for me and my readers, especially those who may be suffering from a similar type of relationship.
As the political climate has proven, narcissists are very real. Though I am devastated at my country’s support for such a personality-type, this year’s shift may bring about an awareness of a disorder that has previously been void from mass media. Since the election, the word narcissist has flooded the headlines, which I will choose to look at as the only ray of sunlight that comes from Trump’s presidency.
In a frequent discourse about this disorder, I hope it will train us empaths to be able to see the flashing arrows that may signify a narcissistic personality; it has the potential to save our lives.