There has been this word that slowly crept into my world and I never really thought about it until it affected me personally. This word that encapsulated an experience so well, this word that had it’s claws buried in my flesh, this word that caused years of pain and torment. Perhaps it’s not the word so much as it was the person acting out the word itself.
I never thought much about it outside of claiming the fact that most narcissistic people are vain, annoying, and outright difficult to be around. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized I dated a narcissist and I completely failed at removing myself from the destruction to come. I never realized it at the time, never saw it for what it was, but I see it so clearly now. Even though I know I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, it never occurred to me that I was dating a narcissist.
Now a couple of things and events lead me to this strange and overly delayed realization, the first being my present boyfriend Bear. He is wonderful, caring, emotionally invested, and my absolute best friend. We have known each other for almost 4 years and truly get each other. He happened to date a narcissist before I met him, and it has been a constant struggle for him to deal with since. I never saw my past relationship like his, never made the connection until Bear found this great article going into detail about what a narcissist is (read here). It blew me away. Every bit of that article pointed fingers to my past relationship and it struck me straight through the chest. How did I never see this? How did I not understand what he was doing to me this whole time? I would never call my ex a horrible person, but he is not a great boyfriend for me and to be honest not that great of a friend most of the time.
I look back at how we started our relationship and all I can see is manipulation. Crude and cruel manipulation. I didn’t really want to go the direction he lead me in, but I followed because I was dazzled by the prince charming act he put on for me. It was nothing but fun, parties, outings, new friends, presents, glory and sparkle when we started dating. Then came the guilt, the twisting of words to make me feel less than, the pushing of my mind into the mold of who he wanted me to be. I didn’t see it as it was happening but he forced me to turn into someone and something that I wasn’t.
“They will often verbally attack another person using insults and put-downs to make them feel confused and disoriented so that others surrender easily and this keeps the illusion strong in the narcissist’s mind that they are the more powerful and significantly better person.” — elephantjournal.com
This line here struck a cord. I remember one night I told my ex that I was really excited to move to LA and his only reaction was, “You will never make it LA. Your artwork isn’t good enough anyways, no one will hire you. You should stay here where you are familiar and fit in.” It hurt to hear. Of course as an artist you hear criticism, but not from you significant other and not so bluntly in terms of telling you that you are a horrible artist and will never make it. It hurt, and it bothered me, but I allowed him to do it and almost didn’t move to LA because of it. I allowed him to hurt me because I stayed, because I listened to his apologies the following morning and because I didn’t see the situation for what it was. I allowed this man to control me, and even though I consider myself a strong and independent person I was on a puppet string without a hope in the world to break free.
“A relationship with a narcissist can be emotionally distressing, feeling like a roller coaster going from one extreme to the next. When a narcissist is receiving all the attention then things will be great for them and they will be at their happiest, but as soon as this diminishes they will quickly manipulate the situation and may play the role of charmer, or even an aggressor.” –elephantjournal.com
I remember all the music venues we used to go to. I remember looking at him with such awe. He knew everyone, got along with everyone and had so many friends. I felt like I was the lucky one to be on his arm. It wasn’t until the alcohol sunk in, the night was over, and I was driving us home that the monster came out to get in a few low blows. The insults flew, the anger mounted with every word and I was a fly caught in the trap of emotional battery. I took it, every crude glance, every verbal punch, every single slap at my ego I took it all on the chin and then ducked my head and burrowed deeper into my hole of protection.
How did I never see this? I had a really good girl friend at the time who knew me before this ex, and knew me after we split. The one thing she told me was, “You look like a battered woman, but all of your wounds are on the inside and are really easy to hide. But I see it in your eyes. He’s broken you.” She told me that an entire year before I actually left my ex. That right there blows my mind. It was right in front of me…and I did nothing to stop it.
I wish I had known, I wish I could have seen what it was when it was happening to me. It took a very long time, and a lot of soul searching to find myself again after he broke me into pieces. I guarantee that if he reads this he will deny every word, and that’s fine, this blog isn’t for him it’s for you. If you are someone in the middle of a hurtful, broken, and crushing relationship or friendship please know that you are not alone. The first thing you need to do is get out. Don’t allow them to have the power anymore, strip it away from them and tell them NO MORE!
Leaving isn’t easy, it took me many many months to make him finally leave me alone but every second of that breaking away was worth it. Every small step toward distance will make you that much stronger. Eventually the claws will retract, the vicious words will no longer reach your ears, and eventually you will be so far away you will finally be able to see them for what they are. A sad broken person that uses others to make themselves feel better about their own misery.
Narsissim is a vicious cycle and we have to take it upon ourselves not to let the cycle continue. We all have bouts of narsissim, but it’s how you act and treat those around you that really matters. Don’t allow these succubi to destroy you, don’t let them suck out your soul. You are not alone, but you are the only that has the power to walk away from torture. I give you my knowledge in hopes you will see what I now see. You are worth so much more than the broken shell of life they are offering you.
If you walk on egg shells every day for fear of upsetting them, if you say certain things at certain times because you know they will turn on you if you don’t, if you make the effort to show everyone around you that they are truly wonderful, if you find yourself saying, “no really…’insert name here’…is a wonderful person and I love them a lot. You don’t know them like I do,” if you find yourself crying yet again because they said you weren’t enough, if you crawl into bed at night feeling as though you let them down but you aren’t sure why, if you give your love and they only take, if they poision friendships around you by being negative and hurtful spreading rumors and sometimes lies about those they swore they once loved, if you are making en excuse for them right now because someone on the internet is highlighting something you already knew to be true……if you feel any of this you might want to rethink your entire world. Don’t do what I did. Don’t stay longer than you should. Don’t let them take you soul. Don’t let them steal you away. You are important, and you are worth love and true affection. Gain back yourself, take back the power. I know you can. Do not let them win!