A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me she was worried I was dating a narcissist. Last night I spent a lot of time googling that and what it meant, and I found this site. It was like coming home. I read stories for hours. Every single one had a piece of mine own story wrapped somewhere in it. Most were far worse, I think. Luckily for me the light bulb just went off and I have only wasted 6 months.
I met him before my divorce was final. I was good friends and cared deeply about my ex, so I was struggling with a lot of feelings of inadequacy already. I had a daughter with my exH and I felt guilty and selfish for wanting more than what our marriage had to offer. I felt like a bad person.
Enter Tony, stage left. He seems funny and sweet. Smart. Thoughtful. He was always doing things for me and I felt spoiled and happy. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted anything serious but- somehow- 5 weeks later we were saying “I love you.” Those three words cover all manner of sins, don’t they?
I felt safe with him. I felt like I could depend on him. And, although I had always been an independent person, I started to depend on him more and more. I trusted his moral opinion, and that trust was soon abused to serve his own purposes. He slowly but surely alienated me from friends and family. I can’t even remember the first few times he devalued and discarded me- I can’t remember what he said, anyways, I can remember exactly how I felt- but I kept going back to him and after awhile we essentially started living together. That’s when the real fun began.
I had adopted a kitten while we were broken up. She got sick and I couldn’t afford to keep her alive. He could have, but never offered. Later he told me he might have cared more about it if he had any hand in picking it out. As I cried myself to sleep the night I put her down he commented that he had never seen me so upset- even over him when we broke up. He told me I should roll over and show him some kitten love. He got angry with me for being upset about it.
He would accuse me of being secretive. He accused me of hiding him from the world and demanded I put pictures in my office, on my phone, in my house. He often asked me who I was talking to and what I was saying if I got text messages. Ironically, 5 months in or so, I found out that he was talking to several girls I had never heard of including one who he admitted was married and that he was having an inappropriate relationship with. I am fairly certain if I had done something like that he would have d and d’d me on the spot. Because it was him though, it was harmless. He didn’t feel like we were at the point of “full discretion” but he would be from then on, he swore.
He told me I was a cold, selfish person. He knew this hit home and so every time he was the slightest bit annoyed about something he would bring up those key words. In fact, he would say things in a slight petulant fit that I would never say to someone I cared about, even in a towering rage.
He told me that I dressed inappropriately. I am a fairly conservative person, so even now this makes me roll my eyes. Especially considering his previous girlfriend worked at Hooters. How could he abide that and yet criticize my conservative wardrobe? Now I know it was just another control method.
He told me I had anger problems. He told me I was a prude one night for not wanting to have sex (for the second time in three hours) and that if he had known that he would have jerked off before I came over. Somewhere deep down, I was horrified. I let it go. A few minutes after that, he called me a whore for denying I was a prude. I got up and left his house. I forgot my laptop though, and I went back to get it. That’s when he put his hands on me to physically restrain me and hold me against my will to listen to him. He hurt me badly. Deep down I wondered if I did have anger problems. I wondered if this was my fault. If I had just had sex without a fuss… If I had just not been offended by the name calling… Maybe it would have been ok.
We didn’t talk for three days. I’m so ashamed to admit that I went back to him. I apologized. I worked it out. I told myself that I loved him, and I couldn’t help who I loved. That he would get better. That I would work harder at keeping him happy. That we belonged together and I could only be happy with him, and it was meant to be so I should embrace it. That the fighting was helping me become a better person in some ways.
We made it a week. He called to tell me he might have to be away for a few days around my birthday. I told him that sucked. He told me that he already felt bad enough, and I shouldn’t give him a fucking guilt trip. I told him it was ok, we could just celebrate before he left and then I would have a friend over for the actual day. (Can you hear the panic in my voice as I realize he wants a fight?) He got very angry at that. He told me he couldn’t understand how he was so replaceable and why I didn’t care more that he would be gone. It dissolved into a 12 hour fight that was finally resolved (for him) with sex. The next day tension was still high. He was nasty to me on several occasions. I was cloyingly sweet and submissive, trying everything I could to calm the situation down and make him happy.
Have I mentioned my four year old daughter? She is a sweet, loving kid and all she has ever been exposed to is love and acceptance. He came over that night to eat with us. During the meal he continued to make passive-aggressive statements. I started to feel sick and my hands started to shake. I had tears in my eyes when I asked him why he was trying so hard to start another fight. He continued to be hateful. My daughter told him “don’t talk to my mommy that way!” He was enraged. He told me to correct her. Somewhere deep inside though I touched base with the person I’ve always been. The person that isn’t pushed around or bullied, and that rises to the challenge. I looked him in the eye and I told him I thought she had a point.
He stormed out. We exchanged keys before he left. I was numb as I watched him go. I knew it was for the best. He started a fight with me every week. He was so mean to me. So callous and hateful. The relationship was so unhealthy and his soul was so diseased. I told myself all these things but it didn’t matter. I still thought I loved him. I missed him. I missed the good times. I missed the sex. I cried everyday for weeks.
How sad is it when your ex-husband has to reassure you that you are NOT the person someone else who barely knows you has convinced you that you are? That you do in fact have merit as a human being? When you have to turn to friends and family to reaffirm what you have ALWAYS KNOWN to be true about yourself?
I am an educated woman. I am independent, and strong. I was in the military for a long time. I know how to survive in a man’s world. I already knew about red flags like alienation, friends disliking your man, bad prior relationships, etc. BUT. BUT. Despite all this, I let a much less educated man talk me into feeling like I was worthless. How does this happen? How do we allow ourselves to be thus manipulated? I believe it is because I am an emotional person, and deeply sensitive. I am caring, and considerate. I am good. (I have to reassure myself of this all the time now, to drown out his voice in my head). I assume that people that tell me they love me possess all these qualities too. That people who are capable of so much kindness at times couldn’t conversely be capable of so much spite and hatred at others. That is how the N won. He took advantage of all my strong points and preyed on all my fears and misgivings. He drew me in, convinced me he was amazing, and that I was barely good enough. Every time I went back to him and tried to work things out, every time I put aside the bad things that had happened and told him I loved him again, another little piece of me died. In the end, I wasn’t myself at all. I was just a little shell of myself with a tiny little voice screaming and screaming at me that things weren’t right and I shouldn’t accept the way things were.
As he stormed out at the last d&d, my little daughter came over and wrapped her arms around me while I handed him his key with shaking hands. In a stern voice she told him he should stay away from us because this was our house, and in this house we love each other. In the end, it was her little voice that was the voice of reason, in a place where all reason had been tossed out the window.
I will admit I miss him sometimes. That I think to myself that I wish things had worked out. But I know they never would have. It would always play out to the same ending. I would lose myself more and more. It would hurt more and more. And then, finally, someday, I would be right where I am right now. Recovering. At least I am only working through six months of horror and not twenty years, right?
I have a list on the inside of my bedroom door now. Every morning I re-read all of the horrible things he said and did to me, and re-tell myself to maintain NO CONTACT. I know better, but it is still hard. Beside that list, I have a list of people who deserve my time and love, and a list of priorities. Every day that passes I pay more attention to that list, and Tony fades further and further away. I just hope he doesn’t try to contact me- or, if he does, that by then I am strong enough to resist the temptation of one more “try” at making him the person I wanted him to be. Or, I should say, one more try at convincing myself that he is that person and I am the one with the faults.
I guess I know he won’t though. One time when we were broken up I was in a really serious car accident on the highway. He knew but did not bother to even call. No, it is up to me to go crawling back to him and promise I will try harder to make him happy. The ball is in my court right now.
I’m moving far, far away.