First allow me to say that at 55 I am twice the age of many women here, and you'd think that with age comes wisdom or at least a clue. I have advanced degrees, a self-styled career that combines two prestigious professions, and 3 fantastic grown kids. I'm pretty and never have trouble attracting men. Who would think? There was value in reading your book, Lisa, because I find that I have to remind myself over and over and over again about the reality of what happened. Every day I slip back into sorrow, and that's where the Reality Reminder is important.
I met my Narcissist, as many do, on the net. I took my time in meeting him. He did the pursuing but I noticed from the start that he was not the initiator. Rather he waited for me to, say, give the first kiss or hug. But it was only a few weeks until we were having a love affair. He was attentive, called and e-mailed constantly (ours was always a long-distance relationship), and generally showed great enthusiasm and devotion. We each made efforts to get together and the distance was never much of a problem. The literature says that narcissists often do better with a long-distance relationship because they need so much space - I tend to think that this is true. I'm an independent person so alternating weeks of hard work with a week or two with my partner suited me fine, too.
Even early on there were things about my man that made me uneasy, but I tried to shrug them off. In public he seemed to always be vying for the spotlight in ways that made me uncomfortable. For example, if we were at the store, he would announce to anyone "See this woman? I'm just crazy about her!" That might sound like a nice thing but honestly it was weird. One time he was filling up his RV at the gas station, and his vehicle had some kind of problem which caused many gallons of fuel (I mean many, as in a 8-foot puddle) spilled on the ground. I said "We better tell the attendant" and he shrugged it off, unconcerned, and pulled away. He didn't seem to have many friends, and the ones I met were either very troubled types or else normal people with whom he had apparently very superficial relationships. He always bragged about my professional achievements as if my assets somehow made him a better person. And I learned very soon that his son and daughter do their best to have nothing to do with him. Despite my tactful advice about coming on gently to my kids, he met them and was aggressive and completely inappropriate, not listening to my kids or making any effort to get to know them and stating immediately that he wanted to marry me. Soon afterwards he had an all-out argument with them and he cursed at them, and I was appalled. My kids made no effort to hide their dislike of him so I tried to see his bad behavior as being caused by my kids' rudeness. When I think back on it I realize that as the adult it was HIS responsibility to get things off on the right foot and be patient, and to hold his temper in check if necessary (although if he had started out gently my kids probably would not have been rude). Mostly I tried to get together with him away from my kids after that. We had such an amazing connection intellectually and there was warmth between us and wonderful sex. He rushed me into commitment and made me feel guilty for hesitating when he wanted to get engaged. (Later I saw that at that very time he re-posted himself on a dating website.) So, I said yes. We had this long discussion about a ring. I didn't want a diamond or anything expensive or showy. I told him, when he kept asking me, exactly what I liked and didn't like in a ring. He made a big deal out of shopping for the ring, but when he sent me a ring, I was stung. He bought exactly the kind of ring I had told him I didn't want. Now, if he hadn't asked for my preferences, I would understand. But I had been explicit and this man is highly intelligent with an incredible memory. And an outsider might say "Hey, a guy bought you a ring - you have no right to complain." But I felt somehow hurt by this. A few months later I worked up the courage to gently ask if we could change the stone in the ring (we're not talking big $ here) and he was furious. His line then and always is "Don't mistake my kindness for weakness." That was his veiled threat whenever I politely made my needs known to him. Still for the most part we got along. There was affection, a comfortable routine during my long, frequent visits, and we both doted on and adored his dog (I miss her so terribly now). But his concern with sharing the decisions about how we would spend our time and what our priorities were dwindled to nothing, and our schedule was 100% All About Him. The little criticisms, "suggestions," and disregard for my preferences came on insidiously. Before even a year together I had this strange unease and was beginning to not feel free to "be myself" with him. If I made a tactful suggestion (a stain on his shirt, his pants sagging below his tush) he would sulk and be offended, but he pointed out every little flaw of mine and didn't mind doing so in front of others. Now that he has listened to me by losing weight and dressing like a human being, he has moved on to a new lover, but I'm getting ahead of myself. So after a while I would end up sometimes storming out or shouting, feeling endlessly picked-upon and never being able to negotiate a middle ground. These "fights" were considered by him to be all of my own doing. I "needed to get help" and "had issues." I was "imagining things" or "making a big deal out of nothing." He was "the best companion I would ever find." He has multiple serious health issues so I was confused - was I being selfish expressing my own desires? I'm a medical person and I knew that many of his issues could be improved if he would watch his diet and exercise, but my suggestions were met with indifference or sometimes hostility. Again - I can understand, in a way. I've battled my weight my whole life and I don't like it when someone gives me dietary advice. I bought us 2 bicycles and tried to lead by example. I was tactful, gentle, and always affectionate. I quit all suggestions - clothing, diet, everything. I just bit my tongue. It's hard to go back and remember the unraveling. After 2 years I was torn between wanting out and feeling more love for him than ever. At that point we had a short break-up and then a tender reunion where we both promised to be better to one another. The plan remained: once my youngest left for college (she just went this week) we would live together most of the time - the details a bit complicated to share here. This may have been a long-distance relationship but it was a monogamous, committed one, we both openly agreed. Still, immediately after our reunion he was back to thoughtlessness. In my mind I had decided that his criticism, defensiveness, jealousy and periods of "pulling away" were the price I would pay for being his woman and I really felt I could live with that bargain. Last December we had another one of our disputes. I had silently endured his inconsiderate behavior for a week and was about to leave for my home. I tried to apologize and make up, because I am devastated when we part on bad terms (which had happened several times). He was lukewarm in response, and after I got home, for the first time, I felt angry. I had by this time seen his internet postings and had chosen not to confront him any more. I had rushed to his hospital bedside countless times, and taken care of every detail when he needed me. So I let him stew for a few days. That's when he broke up with me - via e-mail, saying "I'm taking a break." When I tried to call him he didn't answer and then turned off his phone. When we did speak he was cold and acted like a stranger. I was devastated. There was no discussion, no closure, no nothing. I called him on New Year's and he made a comment about how people were inviting him places "because he was having a sad holiday." It was as if only he was suffering. I was unable to sleep and cried for weeks. Everyone told me the same thing: a guy who breaks up with you in an e mail and then refuses to talk to you - get rid of him and don't look back." But I had this mindset that we would reconcile. The "taking a break" line was what I held on to. Months later he faced serious surgery and that's when he started calling again and asked me to come take care of him. I went and did everything he needed and then some. Supposedly we were "friends" but he held me in his arms every night once he was out of the hospital. We kept talking after that and a month or so later he wrote that he still cared for me. I hung on to those words for dear life. It was like being pulled out of a well after 6 months of darkness. I went to see him again soon after and once again he treated me like furniture. Then he became unavailable at night, cancelled our plans for a trip and was "absent." I knew in my heart that he had started up with another woman, but it took many agonizing weeks until all the pieces fit. Still, he spent the July 4 weekend with me, slept with me, and when I asked him point-blank if there was someone else he denied it. In the end he left the evidence on my computer, so a week later I finally told him what I knew and how I knew it. He bemoaned how he "suffered terrible guilt" and tried to make me believe he hadn't slept with this person. In the same breath he excused himself because "you (me) were never going to move down to live with me anyway" (not true). I took a stab at discussion but he sidestepped it. Then I sent him an e-mail full of the ugly truths about him and told him I was moving on. When he wrote back I deleted his e mail without reading it and told him never to e mail me again unless the dog needed a caretaker.
He has a lot of things of mine that I will never get back. I won't see our dog again which about kills me. I had a dream that was the basis for my whole life and it is shattered.
And I thought last December was bad! Sexual jealousy is a profound, primal emotion that can destroy a person. I imagine this woman - I've seen her picture - a little trimmer than me, pretty, but most of all spirited and not worn down to a nub by endless disdain and put-downs - in his arms and my stomach turns over. I guess the good news is that for 3 months I haven't been able to eat, and I've lost 20+ lb. I haven't slept since December so that's not news, but now what I can't seem to do is work. My concentration is gone.
I've had to struggle but I've not made a single effort to contact him since. I threw out every reminder. I sold the stinking ring which the jeweler advised me was next to worthless anyway. I had written a letter to the new woman, describing how after he betrayed me with her, he actually betrayed her by being with me. I didn't send it, knowing it was a bad thing to do on many levels. Then in a very angry moment I did send it. As sick as it sounds, it felt good to vomit back the anger and humiliation that I've had shoved down my throat, like a cleansing. Maybe she ought to know the truth, although she probably won't believe me. (Or maybe she will - many weeks ago she did call my cell phone once, saying, "Who are you?" She had to have gotten the number from his phone. I just hung up, afraid of what might come out of my mouth.)
Oh yes I'm on the net and I have dates nearly every night and 2 or 3 guys who really want to get serious. I'm charming, feisty, empathetic, smart, fun, open-minded - everything the guys like. A couple of them are wonderful candidates - intelligent, thoughtful, kind, with integrity. An outsider would say "Hey you've got it made - go for it!" But I just go home and cry my eyes out.
My heart drags on the ground. I miss my man, his arms, his voice, the things we shared, our dog. We have a common cultural background and equality of intellect and literacy that I know for a fact can not exist with his new partner. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but she can't spell, doesn't read, and comes from another planet culturally. I suspect it is all about sex with her and that won't endure. It's absurd for me to me thinking about "when they break up." But I do. I'm still watching my e-mail for him, with this awful little flicker of hope lighting the shadows in my heart.
My sister and friends have about run out of patience for my endless misery. I've been to therapy, and I know the script, and got tired of paying big $ to hear the same things over and over again. Tried antidepressants in desperation which gave no relief and permanently ruined my hearing. I exercise and try to keep busy. Cuddle with my dogs and cats. Read and re-read books on narcissism.
And now this. It's so dark here. This has been the Summer From Hell.