SECM1968's Story

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#1 Jun 15 - 5AM
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SECM1968's Story

My story: Do you think he is a narcissist? I'm unsure!

Hello all,

I found this site while searching the term 'cognitive dissonance' on Google. It has been very helpful and illuminating reading the information and stories here, and I can 100% relate to the confusion, misery, hurt, anger and turmoil experienced by victims of narcissistic abuse.

My problem is that even though I share these feelings, I do not know whether the man with whom I had a relationship - let's call him X - is actually a narcissist. He doesn't seem to fit the mould as neatly as others I have read about here. Perhaps he is something else? Or perhaps he is normal, and the problem is actually me?

Anyway, I have decided to tell my story, and would love to hear what you think. I realise you don't know me and you don't know him, so an accurate 'diagnosis' is impossible. But I would still welcome any input you might like to give.

I met X some years ago when I started working in my current job. He works there too, so we are colleagues.

X has worked there for over many years, and is very popular with everyone. I liked him too, from the moment we met. He struck me as laid-back, friendly, funny, humble and kind; constantly joking and laughing. Everyone's friend. I also found him physically attractive, but I am married, and back then he was too. I had no intention of acting on it. I just regarded him as someone who I really liked, and looked forward to working with.

A while back X split with his wife after he discovered she was having an affair. He told me about it privately one morning, and was obviously still distraught. He was crying as he told me what had happened. I told him that I understood how he felt, as ten years earlier my husband had strayed. And if he ever wanted to talk, I was there for him.

Our relationship changed a bit after that day; we became more like friends than colleagues. I texted or called him outside work once or twice a week to see how he was going. (Lots of people from work were doing the same thing, so that in itself wasn't unusual.) It was nearly always me who initiated this contact.

We got to know each other better during this time, and I found myself developing a real crush on him. I also began having intense sexual thoughts about him. At home, my libido was non-existent, but in X's presence I felt erotic, excited and alive. I sensed he was feeling something more towards me too, but we didn't speak about it.

I am ashamed to admit this, but my marriage took second priority, and I began to pursue X. My texts became suggestive, and I wore tighter clothes to work. He appeared not to notice this, until one day last September when he admitted having an attraction towards me too.

What followed over the next two months was an extremely intense, passionate and all-consuming affair. We met at a motel every two weeks or so, and the sex was oddly amazing. I say 'oddly', because he has trouble getting an erection, and we never actually had sex in the penetrative sense. But there were other things, and in any case, it was not just sexual for me. I found these trysts to be very beautiful, emotional, and intimate. Often we would simply lie there, staring into each other's eyes and stroking each other's hair. I felt so happy and euphoric, I wanted to cry. I'd never felt this alive before; every cell in my body felt like it was popping.

In between these meetings, he was very loving, thoughtful and attentive. We were in constant contact via text, phone calls and emails, whether working together or not. We laughed and talked for hours. He could not get enough of me, and vice versa. I felt a connection with this man like no other. He was very reluctant to talk about 'feelings', but there were times when he let down his guard and said he missed me, or that I was special to him, or that our relationship was a 'positive force' in his life, or that he couldn't wait to hold me in his arms again.

Once, at the height of our relationship, we were at one of our motel meetings and he told me to close me eyes. He placed in my hand a little toy princess crown he'd found on the beach and carried around until he saw me again. It sounds corny, I know, but in that moment I felt my heart would explode. He DID make me feel like princess, like I was the only thing that mattered in his universe. I felt as though I was starting to fall in love with him, and began wondering what all this would mean for my marriage.

I first noticed a change in X around mid-November, about 2.5 months into our affair. In what turned out to be our last motel meeting, the sex was as intense as ever (if not more than before), but there was none of that 'intimacy' I had loved so much previously. It was more, um, porn-like, if that makes sense. And X's demeanour was different. He seemed distant, disconnected and even a bit mean. I was soon going on a holiday with my family, and I asked what he thought would happen between us when I returned. He sort of sniffed nonchalantly and looked away, and said, "I don't know. Do we have to decide that now?'

Even so, I was still very much on a hormonal and emotional high. But over the next few weeks, I really felt him pulling back from me. Previously he had jumped at any opportunity to talk to me, but his calls and texts became less frequent. When we did talk, he seemed less affectionate and more cold and matter-of-fact, once even referring to us as being 'good pals'.

One day I had a call from my doctor about a lump in my breast. I texted X about it, saying I was sad and scared, and wanted to see him. I was working that day, but he had the day off. He avoided my texts and calls all day, and only got back to me - via a short, non-sensical and noncommittal text - when it was too late to organise anything. I was so hurt and confused, because just weeks earlier he had said he would 'go anywhere, any time' to see me. I lost my temper, and sent him a filthy text about feeling let down. He ignored it, and when I finally got him on the phone the next morning, he hung up on me. (The lump turned out to be benign, by the way.)

Rather than leaving it at that, I panicked about losing him, and all the beautiful emotions I'd felt earlier in our relationship. I felt quite desperate and obsessed. I'm not proud of this, but I fell back on the only thing I knew would get his attention. I sent him a picture of my breasts, and said I was sorry, and please could we talk about it. It worked, we talked.

So my I left on my two-and-a-half week trip. X and I continued to email almost daily - but his emails were no longer sexy or affectionate. They were sort of newsy; one was literally about the weather back home. Again I began to worry and panic things might be over, and one night I called him. He was over-the-top bubbly and friendly, but again, not warm, intimate or invested.

Later that night he sent me an email, saying he had "been seeing a bit" of a female ex-colleague. His email said that she had recently broken up with her fiance, and he was providing her with a shoulder to lean on. Our work Christmas party fell on her birthday, and he did not want her to be alone, so to be 'supportive' he had invited her to go. He wanted me to know, because our colleagues would no doubt be talking about it on Facebook, (which indeed they did). He signed off by typing, "Anyhoo, got things to do. Better go."

I was absolutely gutted. And confused. And devastated. And miserable. And let me say it again, CONFUSED. He was seeing someone else, but just as a friend? Or what? He hadn't made it clear, and I didn't want to seem needy by asking. Looking back, this was the beginning of my cognitive dissonance.

I thought about it literally all the way home on the aeroplane. Non-stop. And decided I needed to know what was happening. So within ten minutes of landing, I texted X to ask: "Are you just being a supportive friend, or are you actually dating?" He replied that it was the latter, "but only since the Christmas party". I found out subsequently that this wasn't true; he had been seeing her for some weeks before the party. I will never know for sure exactly when it started with her, but I firmly believe he had both of us on the go for some period of time. (PS He had always said to me previously: "I will never lie to you. And I will never hurt you.")

I wholeheartedly wish I had a healthy enough self-esteem to shrug this all off and move on, but what actually happened is that I had mental meltdown. I cried constantly, I didn't want to get out of bed, I could not eat, I felt physical pain, I stared into space and drooled on my pillow, I felt suicidal. I know all his seems over-the-top for a short-lived affair, and I'm still trying to work out why it affected me so deeply. But it just did.

Not surprisingly, this is when my husband, and in fact my whole family, discovered what had been going on. My husband said we would work things out, but first I needed to get my head straight. A blessing, he is. I started seeing a counsellor and taking anti-depressants.

I had some time off work, but eventually had to go back. The thought of being in the same room with X was agonising; I likened it to being told I had no option but to put my hand on a hot-plate and leave it there. Meanwhile, he seemed oblivious to everything: upbeat, chatty, trying to interact with me like nothing had happened. He obviously had no idea how badly I was hurting.

One day around this time (late December), we were working alone together, and I told him that I was upset, and struggling, and could he please explain what went wrong. His opinion about our relationship had changed, he said. He no longer saw it as special or positive; rather, what happened between us was "tawdry" and a "booty call". He was now exploring things with the ex-colleague, and they were about to go away for their first weekend together. "You and I are on different planes now," he said. "You've gone back to whatever you had, and I've got a new toy." I asked, "If she is your new toy, what does that make me? A rusted old bicycle?" He laughed. "Yeah, something the dog buried in the back yard." (He said it as a joke, but it still cut me to the core.) When I asked if he understood why I was upset, he said he did - but with no apparent remorse. He said: "Never say never. If things don't work out with J., maybe we can pick up again"

I just could not believe these mean things were coming out of the same mouth that had kissed me so lovingly and passionately only a month earlier. I felt like my world was cracking. The next day I spent five hours writing a long email about why I was hurt, and how I had abandonment issues from when I was a little girl, and a whole lot of other stuff. I pressed 'send' with tears streaming from my eyes. He never replied, and never spoke with me about it.

That brings us to where we are now, six months later. Things are thankfully good at home, but still very awkward and stressful at work. X and I are no longer friends; we communicate only on work matters, and fairly tersely at that. He has moved in with his lady friend, leaving me in his rear-view mirror, wondering what the hell happened.

To be honest, I feel obsessed about it, consumed by it. But not for any romantic reason. I don't love him, don't pine for him, don't miss having him in my life in "that" way. And I have many, many blessings in my life, including my beautiful husband. So you would think I could just put the whole episode behind me.

My main issue now is my mental confusion/cognitive dissonance. I do not UNDERSTAND his actions. The numbers don't add up, as my book-keeper father likes to say. I can't reconcile the man who is so admired at work, and who stroked my hair and gave me a princess crown, with the man who threw me away so easily and said such hurtful things.

I would dearly love to "just let it go" and "move on", as friends and family keep telling me. They have reached the limits of their empathy and patience, and I'd be doing the same in their shoes. I have tried to be "zen" about it; what is just is, and all that. But I guess my brain doesn't work that way. It seems that I cannot leave behind something I do not comprehend, and that, for me, comprehension is the key to healing. Yet it is eluding me, and I am stymied. I feel like a maths professor who cannot rest until he solves that troublesome equation. My mind is like his whiteboard: a jumbled cataclysm of thoughts and theories that ultimately solve nothing.

That is how I came to be here, and that is my story. If you have made it this far, I thank you sincerely.

As I said at the beginning, I can relate to the experiences of people on this site, and suspect X could be a covert/introverted narcissist. But I am confused and unsure! Some of the things that make me wonder otherwise are:

1) He is adored by literally everyone at work, and whom he deals with through work. Is it really possible they are all wrong, and I am the only one who is right?

2) Most of the 'pursuing' was done by me. Isn't it supposed to be the narcissist who snares the victim, not the other way round?

3) I am a sensitive person with a relatively low self-esteem. Could THIS be the reason for my prolonged trauma over what happened (rather than him being a narcissist?)

4) Narcissists are supposed to lack empathy, and this seems generally true about X. (I have seen him ignore a woman crying next to him when her cat died. And once when I asked him if his kids were sad about his parents splitting, he said, "I don't know. What's it got to do with them anyway?') Yet he is very close friends with one person at work, and once cried when that person had some problems. Isn't that empathy?

Thank you again. I would love to hear your honest thoughts on whether X's behaviour is suggestive of a narcissist. Or something else? Or is the problem, in fact, me?

Jun 15 - 8PM
SECM1968's picture

Oh . . .

Jun 15 - 7PM
SECM1968's picture

Thank you

Jun 15 - 7PM
thenewjane's picture

Fantastic post, CoffeeGirl!

Jun 15 - 6PM
ziggy's picture

I think sometimes as people

Jun 15 - 7PM (Reply to #7)
thenewjane's picture

Ziggy - this is also

Jun 15 - 7PM (Reply to #8)
ziggy's picture

Yep, and the difference

Jun 15 - 8AM
talktothehand's picture


Jun 15 - 8AM
sadderbutwiser's picture


Jun 15 - 8AM
redflagswaving's picture

one size

Jun 15 - 7AM
Hunter's picture

Welcome to Narcville

Jun 15 - 6AM
GettingBackTo M
GettingBackTo M's picture

Hi SECM 1968