I’ve read Lisa’s wonderful book and have been following the board for a while. I’m normally not one to chime in, but decided that since all of your incites and stories have helped me so much that I’ll share mine in case it can help someone, too.
My story is very similar to most of yours, but different in that I’ve been completely out of the N relationship for 5 years. I was only with him for a year and we were not married or living together. (He’s so low functioning he’s never married or lived with anyone) Please, I don’t want to be judged because, believe me, I’ve judged myself enough and no one can say anything to me that’s more hurtful than I’ve already said to myself. With that disclaimer, here goes….
In the beginning of 2006 I was a faithful wife, a dedicated mother of two wonderful preteens, a tenured elementary school teacher, an internationally syndicated family humor columnist and book author, and a speaker for Weight Watchers. I had tons of friends and was popular and respected in my town.
Then I met a Narc.
By the end of 2006, I had left my family, lived in a tiny apartment with a cat, took a leave from my job, dropped my newspaper column, had only a handful of friends still talking to me, and my mind was so shot I couldn’t even concentrate on the tv - I could only watch the flashing colors. I was dealing with the worst end of the devaluing/pre discard phase of the Narc relationship, the demise of my 17 year marriage, and my mom’s death over an excruciating three month period in the hospital. (I’m an only child and I was the only one there for her).
I met the Narc at the local coffee shop (he was on disability) where I’d go with group of friends a few times a week. This is no excuse, but I see now I was ripe for Narc picking. My marriage was stale, my (now ex) husband spent all of his free time on the computer and we had grown apart, I had tons of work and home responsibilities, I was turning 40, and I had just lost weight and wasn’t used to getting any kind of attention from men. Plus I was very naïve about guys since I spent most of my life married.
The N used the predator stare on me which I mistook for positive attention. We eventually started innocently (or so I thought) chatting. Pretty soon seeing him at the coffeehouse became an emotional escape for me. We were always in a group, but after about a year he started propositioning me and I adamantly refused. I finally gave in when he pulled his attention away from me. It was the same day I found my mom in her apartment after she had a stroke the first time. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had become dependent on him as my escape/drug.
Long story short (well, okay, not really, but I’m trying to hit the most relevant parts) the N was at his worst seven months into the relationship - which was the same time I had moved out of my house and my mom entered the hospital the second time for kidney failure. He was a text book N and did all of the textbook cruel N things: name calling, projecting, belittling, triangulating with an “ex” girlfriend he kept dangling 10 years whom he made me hide from so I didn’t hurt her feelings. (Now I realize the real reason was that she didn’t know she was “the ex”. Stupid, naive me.) He used her to threaten me that he’d go back to her if I didn’t “stay in line” and pay for meals out, etc. Apparently she was the “saint” and I was the, well, you know.
By this time I had found this site and figured him out, but I wasn’t strong enough emotionally to leave for good even though I knew I had to. I don’t know if it was due to my own codependency issue, the fact I had given up EVERYTHING for him, brain washing, or the fact that my mom was dying and I was alone . Perhaps all of the above. But for whatever reason I couldn’t fight the N pull and there was a HUGE disconnect between my intellect and emotions.
Before I tell you how I got out and stayed out (after 20+ times breaking NC) I just want to say that I don’t advocate it because it goes against everything that the experts say is healthy and it could have had dire consequences. But since this is my true experience I want to be honest.
Right after my mom’s death, the few friends I had left encouraged me to go on antidepressants and then go online and try to date other people as a distraction from the N. (yes, I know... I know...) At the time my marriage was so weak that if I went back to my husband the N could have been pulling me back and forth possibly forever. I had to go forward. I felt if I “dated” that I’d also be self inoculating against the N coming back - as I’d be doing the very thing he falsely accused me of during the entire relationship. Plus who could possibly be worse???
(FYI, before I did something this drastic I knew I couldn’t go back to the N EVER. If I let him hoover me, the abuse would’ve been ratcheted up a thousand fold and I wouldn’t have put it past him to kill me. This in itself was a great motivator.)
Since I go for the “rocker type of guy” plus living with the drama of the N for the past year, at first other men seemed boring. Then I saw the profile of someone who I had met briefly pre-N who had played guitar in a band at my friend’s bar. At the time I was still married and not interested. But here he was again two years later and I was single. So I emailed him and the first thing he said was “Were you the girl in the red halter top at the gig in (my city) a few years ago? I thought you were cute, but someone told me you were married so I didn’t try to contact you.” (A good sign of having morals!)
We met for dinner and I realized I didn‘t want to give up the chance of getting to know him better by ever going back to the N.
We’ve been together for over 4 years and are getting married this June. My kids love him and we have a wonderful life together with a wide circle of musician friends in the area. I realize I “got lucky”. But nothing else was working and I was close to having a complete breakdown so I had to get out any way I could and worry about fixing myself later. I like to think my mom sent him to me just in the nick of time. :)
Since it’s often easier to move towards something new than away from something old as part of my healing I got a new wardrobe, a new hair style, and a real estate license and began a new career. (And despite the declining market in Cali things are going pretty well.)
On top of all this, as an extra additional bonus I got Pay Back. I discarded the N right before he discarded me. (I could tell I was headed for the secondary supply shelf just as soon as he lined up someone new. He even said “If I don’t find anyone better I’ll be back.” WTH? And this was a week after my mom had passed away. )
Of course once he knew I found someone else he came crying back saying this time everything would “be different”. By then I knew better. I also knew this time I was done for real because I detached without putting out any emotional energy. This is a very important componant of detaching. I can’t explain it in concrete terms, but you can’t feed the vampire any energy. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad energy it‘s still passion. If you do, it will bond you tighter and make NC harder when the initial anger wears off later.
It was the first time I didn’t rise to his baiting no matter what he said. I calmly told him that I was sorry, but I didn’t love him anymore (not completely true at the time, but had to do it) and wanted to date other people. Luckily, he had the back-up “ex” girlfriend to return to until he found fresh primary supply.
Of course, he slandered me to everyone who’d listen, but my fiance’s rock band is very popular in the area and all of the people he slandered me to now know the truth and hang out with me and have a blast at the band gigs. He also got expelled from the group at the coffee shop. Heh.
I see him occasionally at some of the local music venues when the band plays (and I’m pretty much stuck there and can’t leave). But I ignore him and don’t make eye contact. I also launch a stealth preemptive strike and make sure the bartenders and fans know about him. Again, heh.
Even after all that it took me a while to get used to people being nice to me. I didn’t realize how low “my normal” had sunk until I was surprised when people treated me with respect and politeness.
I can go many months without running into the N, but when I do I still have a very dark emotional reaction. I know it’s not love, it’s more of a mixture of fear, anger, shame and confusion. I don’t show it at all. I just keep dancing to the band with a big smile on my face and a marguarita in my hand. :) I know I’m creating the bad feelings myself as he’s doing nothing physically to bother me. It’s usually after one of these “psycho sightings” that I come back to the boards for a tune up.
Since I still have some reaction to him, I know I have more healing to do and may never be 100% . At least I realize it’s not him as a person I was attracted to, it’s the chemicals and emotional escape the relationship provided. (I call our “relationship” a “vacationship”)
I’ve come to terms that for the rest of his life I have to treat the N as an addiction like heroin or alcohol. I hope this isn’t discouraging to see someone so far out of the relationship who hasn’t reached total indifference yet. It’s different for everybody. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a lot of time alone to heal before going into another relationship or I maybe it wouldn’t have mattered and I’d be one of those people who stayed alone along time only to end up with another N years later. I just don’t know.
When I tried going to various therapists, I’d spend most of the time educating them about N’s. I learned much more online. I think recognizing the red flags early is the big key no matter what stage of recovery you’re in or where you meet them.
By having the N experience, I now have a great life that I probably wouldn’t have had if the N hadn’t been the catalyst to leave my marriage. The most valuable lesson I learned is that it’s very scary to give your power away to anyone. I’ll never let that happen again.
We are all so lucky to have Lisa’s site. Everyone is so caring and has such valuable insights to give. A lot of people who don’t have that knowledge and support never escape.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! My story isn’t as exciting as some, but I just wanted to finally share since I’ve gotten so much valuable info from this group over the years.