If you were abandoned suddenly, without warning, by your spouse, chances are you were married to a narcissist. A narcissist is an arrogant, self obsessed individual who is incapable of empathy or compassionate behaviour. They are people who are ‘all about me’ and have an insatiable need for admiration. The narcissist’s favourite topic of conversation is himself and they tend to be impulsive and reckless, often with addiction issues (alcohol and porn in my ex-husband’s case). Narcissists are unable to form healthy relationships – they may say they are in love, but after the initial obsessive, ‘love bombing’ start of a relationship, the narcissist gets bored quickly.
In a normal healthy relationship, if one person has issues, they hopefully discuss them with the other person. If it is impossible to resolve the problems, they take responsibility for deciding to leave; they don’t just sneak out into the arms of another woman. I understand that relationships often linger on for years, with the couple going through the motions until one of the partners realises that they are unhappy. The relationship with a narcissist is different though, it is all about supplying that demanding ego with praise, and so they are unable to settle down with one partner because they need to feed their insatiable need for attention and adoration. Even if they appear to be in a committed marriage, they are always flirting and having affairs. When a normal relationship breaks down, there was love to begin with but slowly neglect and taking each other for granted, takes its toll. When a relationship with a narcissist breaks down, the other spouse is taken completely by surprise as the narcissist suddenly turns from a ‘loving’ person to a cold uncaring stranger who already has their next supply waiting in the wings. If there is an opportunity to get more adulation from another person, they will leap at the opportunity without a second thought at the emotional devastation that they have left behind. The narcissist never loved you in the first place - they were looking out for their next fix while telling you everything that they knew you wanted to hear. It never occurred to my narcissistic ex husband that his behaviour was abhorrent. One day I was his wife, and the next day I was no longer needed. He cruelly sent me emails and texts telling me how much he loved me, while sleeping with his new supply. As soon as he had extracted all the money from me, that he required to set up his new life, I was discarded.
I had a reasonable level of self-esteem when I met my ex –husband or so I thought. Now that he is gone, I am able to see where the holes are and how he was able to manipulate me and then turn me into an emotional basket case. There were neglected, repressed parts of me that needed healing and that had allowed me to take part in such a toxic relationship in the first place. It is ironic that in the pathetic few days after he left, I had a heated text exchange with the new woman, in which she told me that I needed to heal my inner child. I hate to admit it but I think she was right (although if she is that insightful, why does she think he is so wonderful?).
My survival as a child required me to be hyper focussed on my mother’s moods. She was like a ticking time bomb and saying or doing the ‘wrong thing’ would set off her rage. She would violently lash out at me, my younger sister and even my father. As an adult I have a tendency to be over vigilant in relationships because I have been hard wired by my childhood to be tuned into someone else to such an extent that my own needs have no importance and this makes me perfect fodder for a narcissist like my ex-husband. All my mental and emotional energy went into the exhausting toxic relationship. He drained me to such an extent that there was little energy left to maintain healthy relationships with friends. I accepted all his drama as reality – I didn’t have any personal boundaries because I had spent my whole life not knowing where I ended and where other people begin. My new mantra is I AM NOT RESPOSIBLE FOR ANYONE ELSE’S PROBLEMS.
As part of getting back to me and putting the abuse behind me, I am learning how to experience my feelings and what they actually mean. For example, as stupid as it sounds, that the knot in my stomach, nauseous feeling that I thought was love, during the relationship was actually anxiety. We were both earning good wages but I was always juggling money to pay bills. He blamed the fact that he had to pay child support and I am now ashamed that I actually believed him. I now realise that the money that he was spending each week on alcohol, cigarettes and hotel rooms was a lot more than what he was spending on child support. Our financial situation caused me untold stress, he never bothered about bills – I don’t think it ever dawned on him that such boring, mundane things actually existed. The other thing that I was constantly on high alert about was his flirting. I actually closed my Facebook account down at one point because I found it so upsetting seeing him openly flirting with women. It didn’t seem to bother him that we were married and that I was his Facebook friend and so could obviously see all the ‘xxx’ and ‘huns’. When I told him that it made me feel uncomfortable he just laughed it off and told me that I was being paranoid.
I now understand how emotionally exhausting it was dealing with this toxic person on a daily basis. In a toxic relationship, like my marriage, the narcissist’s selfish behaviour makes a reciprocal healthy relationship impossible. After he discarded me for the other woman, I believed that I was still in love with him, now I am in tune with my feelings, I realise that the pain I was feeling was fear of the unknown future and pity for a man who had given up everything – family, friends, home and stability for the rush of a new source of supply of the drug of adoration.
Because so much of a relationship with a narcissist is about obsessing over making sure the narcissist’s needs are met, when it ends you feel like you have no purpose. You have to fill this empty space with you – focus on trusting your feelings – when I look back now I realise I did have a niggling gut feeling that something wasn’t right, but before I knew it he had moved into my house. In those first few weeks there were a number of incidents that should have rung alarm bells – one night he came home so drunk that he couldn’t stand up and another night he had his children for the weekend and I ended up taking them out while he got drunk with a friend. Those kids were obviously as bewildered as I was, they were so badly behaved I couldn’t control them, but looking back I think they were acting out of confusion. Where were my boundaries? I didn’t have any – I was sending out messages to him that were saying, “Please move into my house, disrespect me, walk all over me, and while you are at it, flirt with women at every opportunity.” This is what I now have to fix – I need to trust those gut feelings, I need to be able to clearly define what is acceptable behaviour around me.
I am renewing a commitment to myself – I am rediscovering my interests and passions and things I’m good at. I am rediscovering what I love to do - writing, walking, sewing, redecorating the house, focussing all that energy on positive things which is enabling me to boost my self-esteem back up to healthy levels. I am making new friends through Meet-up.com and I am reconnecting with old friends. And guess what – the most positive thing to come out of your relationship with a narcissist is that you will be able to spot them now. You will be having a conversation and all of a sudden you will think, “Aha, I know exactly who you are!”