Life with a Narcissist

by Beatrixkiddo

I am married to a narcissist. At least, I believe I am married to a narcissist. It’s hard for me to be sure of anything anymore. Truth is I have been under the influence of narcissists since before I was born.

From what I can tell, my grandfather was a narcissist. My stepfather was an un-medicated bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic and I believe, narcissistic as well. My ex husband is clearly a narcissist. And just recently, having discovered what NPD really looks like (despite having a master’s degree in counseling), I believe I am, once again, married to a narcissist.

The problem is, I have been so twisted and manipulated and victimized by narcissistic abuse my whole life that I have been trained to not be able to see the truth.

When they distort my words, and negate my feelings and point the finger at me for all the things they are doing, I believe them. I wonder if I am the narcissist. I know I feel upside down and crazy half the time. I know my relationships are on roller coasters. I know I feel abused and confused when I try to express myself and end up walking away thinking that I have done something or am something or am not something I am supposed to do or be.

In the beginning, my relationship was magical. He was the white knight that swept in and saved me from my narcissistic and abusive ex. He was romantic, charming, confidant, charismatic; he was a Harvard law school graduate and had accomplished wonderful things. He was educated and brilliant (he said his IQ was that of genius), and we could talk for hours. At least when we weren’t having phenomenal sex!

That was new to me, and I couldn’t get enough of him.

But the truth I have come to discover is none of this was real; he was not real. He was two-dimensional; a cardboard cutout of a man. His emotions didn’t ring true; didn’t match his behavior. His need for approval and praise began to swallow me up. He was my Velveteen Rabbit. If not for my belief in what he wanted me to see (and what I desperately needed to see), the man I thought he was; the relationship I thought we had was not real at all.

Looking back, I can see that slowly, indecipherably over time, something changed; something else swept in and replaced that magical time. I don’t think it happened all at once; at least, I didn’t see it happen. I just know that more and more often I noticed myself feeling like a dethroned princess. Here and there, I discovered him flirting with other women; trying to rekindle the flame with his ex. When I confronted it, I was the problem. If I showed him more affection. If I didn’t argue so much. If I…

And then there were the times he abandoned me. But that’s another story. I felt consumed, digested and regurgitated. And my response to abandonment was never freedom, but to feed myself back to the narcissist, when he would take me, like a mother bird to her baby.

Still, it is crazy in my head. He tells me he’s done; he won’t take the abuse any longer; not interested in going to counseling. We have a two year old, and now we find ourselves trying to figure out what to do with the broken pieces of a fantasy that just don’t seem to fit together anymore. If you don’t believe, the magnificent Velveteen Rabbit is just a pile of tattered cloth and old stuffing. And for all my years of deluding myself, now that I have seen the face of NPD, I can’t make myself believe anymore.

Every sing-song happy utterance out of his mouth makes me cringe. I think that is even worse than the coldness and finger pointing and twisting of words. Over the years, I have mastered the silencing of my gut and I could never figure out how to leave. Now, I’m not sure how to stay.

But it scares me to death to trust myself with this important decision, or really any decision at all. Do I take a leap of faith and listen that gut inside me? Or am I truly the crazy one; the self-deceived? The more I read and learn and listen to the stories out there just like mine, the more I connect intellectually with the truth that I am married to a narcissist.

As Sam Vaknin says: “Narcissists are narcissists. Take them or leave them. Some of them are lovable. Most of them are highly charming and intelligent. The source of the misery of the victims of the narcissist is their disappointment, their disillusionment, their abrupt and tearing and tearful realisation that they fell in love with an ideal of their own making, a phantasm, an illusion, a fata morgana. This ‘waking up’ is traumatic. The narcissist is always the same. It is the victim who changes.”

For me, the facts are there, but this awakening is such a bitter pill to swallow that I keep choking it back up in self-doubt.

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7 Responses to Life with a Narcissist

  1. PhoenixRising says:

    I can’t believe how similar our paths are! For one, as stated elsewhere, I jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, myself. And two, my mother was a diagnosed but untreated bipolar, my dad an undiagnosed narcissist/in all probability sociopath – but definitely something very twisted…just ask any of the kids he sexually abused.

    It’s so hard when you first start to wake up and see very clearly what’s before you…when you realize how blind you were to things that are so clear now. Not only do you no longer trust what they say, but how you can trust your own self?

    It’s that breach of trust that I find most egregious. It’s not their trustworthiness you lose for them but for yourself.

    So it’s easy to wonder if you’re interpreting whatever signs you are picking up elsewhere correctly. But you know. And I commend you for questioning your newer relationship and taking a good hard look at it much earlier and more honestly than I did.

    My child by the 2nd N was several years older than yours by the time I was willing to see what I was dealing with…what I had done. And the damage to my older children was already deep.

    And like you, my 2nd N and I…can’t bring myself to say it, because the thought of the depth of trust I shared with him in bed and the betrayal of that trust, the usury I now feel and the shame I feel for that usury makes me literally nauseous. Because what was sacred and beautiful to me was just another opportunity for locker room bonding with his friends.

    God that hurts. I don’t know that I can ever allow myself to get that close to anyone again.

    You know, in a Narcissist’s mind, they truly are the abused when you challenge their image, when you don’t cooperate to serve them in all their needs.

    And while there was a time when I would have given anything…and did…to hear my N’s “singsong” assurances of how much he loved me or how great we were together, when I saw just what his love consisted of and how much it cost me, my children, my sanity, I, too, preferred his mean side – because that, at least, was real. That I could see what I was actually dealing with.

    And on those occasions when he’s actually nice to me, I find myself becoming a little more alert, a little more observant, and I steel myself.

    Because when I don’t respond in the way he wants, when I’m merely civil and don’t gush with gratitude or make a big deal about how wonderful he is, I know that this “wonderful” phone conversation may and often is met with a cold reception in person in the very same day if necessity dictates – usually in picking up or dropping off our child.

    Of course, you feel crazy. It is crazy. Narcissists are not well people. It’s a personality disorder and it messes with the realities of anyone who doesn’t support their fantasies about themselves.

    Take comfort in your “craziness”. It’s a sign of your health. And don’t let your self-doubt despair you. That’s normal.

    Be compassionate and gentle toward yourself, and take all the time you need to make the best decisions for yourself. Unless your life is in danger, you don’t need to do anything quickly. Just mindfully, and with the best interest of you and your child.

    You are going to be fine. It takes a lot of strength to tell yourself the truth. That very strength will pull you through.

  2. insidesopen says:

    Hi Beatrixkiddo,

    I think you are right that your husband is a narcissist. I recently realized my husband was a narcissist, too, and I left him several months ago. We have two children together, ages 1 and 2. I was lucky that he agreed to go to a marriage counsellor in the last few months of our marriage, and it was the counsellor who pointed out his narcissism. So I had a professional opinion to allay the self doubt that I felt. My self doubt was also helped by educating myself, which is obviously what you’re doing too. It is the best thing you can do for yourself right now.

    Having learned about his disorder, I tried to leave him without inflicting too much narcissistic injury on him. I did this because I was afraid of him and what he would do if I wounded his incredibly inflated ego. It was partly through my new-found knowledge, and partly through dumb luck that I used this strategy. Basically, the whole tenure of the break-up was me saying “I love you, but I can’t live with you anymore”. Kind-of like it was my problem, not his. I never called him on his narcissism. I never tried to explain truthfully why I was leaving. I never let him know that I thought he was a deeply troubled man who could never change. I knew such explanations would be lost on him.

    Anyway, it has been almost 4 months into the separation, and it has gone incredibly well. There have been some tense moments, but overall, he has treated me far better than he ever did when we were married. He has access to the kids, and every time I see him I maintain the charade that I think he is a normal guy who cares about people. He totally buys my act and seems to take great pleasure in acting the part of the wonderful father and reasonable ex-spouse who gets along swimmingly with his ex-wife and children.

    Part of the success is also the fact that he is successful and well-known in our community and he wants to maintain his reputation. It sounds like you have this going for you, as well.

    I am sharing this because I had been terrified to leave him. He had turned into a raging, tantrum-throwing narcissist during our marriage. I was afraid of what would happen when I left him, and in the end, my fears were unwarranted. Maybe it is just fluke that it has gone so well, but maybe it is a strategy that can be repeated with other narcissists. Maybe it could work for you in leaving *your* narcissist. I hope you decide to leave your narcissist!

    There are some excellent posts on here about the danger in trying to hang on for the children. If anything, you should try to get out for the sake of the children!! That is what I believe and that gave me the push I needed to get out. Even if your husband gets some access, I believe your child will be better off if you leave his/her father. Your home, without the ex, can be a safe haven. You can’t provide that safe haven while you’re living with the narcissist.

    Insidesopen

    gettingthere Reply:

    @insidesopen, I don’t think I reponded directly to your comment (even though I intended to do so) as I am new to this format. Please scroll down and see my reference to your comment.
    Many thanks.

  3. Survivor says:

    I give both of you credit for beating him at his game. I can’t go there. I understand the benefits but I just can’t stroke his ego. He doesn’t deserve it. I guess my strong sense of fairness makes it difficult to benefit from that. I commend you. My sense of fairness sometimes makes life difficult to deal with the narcissistic issues that the ex brings to the table which always surrounds the children.It is what it is. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Survivor says:

    Well, the drama is trying to creep in but I know it is out of my hands. If you know my story, I moved out of state to get away from the abuse of the ex with NPD. As a result, my custody battle was devestating. The NPD acted like a saint, and long story short, I have my children on holidays and summer. This has upset the kids as well. I am visiting their home state soon for a family event and have arranged my flight to spend extra time with the children. The NPD will not get back to me if I am “allowed” to see the children for an extra day. It is sad when someone is so self absorbed that they would even have to comtemplate a parent spending time with their children especially when the children have a desire to do so. Well, I am waiting for the response which will probably come in the 11th hour with the explanation of how much of a martyr he is. My middle school son had enough of the games. While he was on the phone with me, he got into it with his father saying it involved him so he should have a say in spending time with his mother. The NPD kept saying to my son that it was a decision for his father and mother to make. Well that is just pure BS. You know the NPD. It is his decision because there is no team work. My son wouldn’t back down and told me if he didn’t let me see them, he would get into it again with his father again. My son is finally challenging the stupid rules. I am staying out of this because it is a son telling his father what the reasonable expectations are. Maybe my kids will make it out and still have their spirits in tact.

  5. PhoenixRising says:

    Wow, how great for your son! I mean how sad he has to go through this, but how wonderful he is standing up to him. My daughter is doing the same thing with her father, and it’s interesting how much of an impact that is having.

    No, he hasn’t changed. He’s still the same person, plays the same games BUT my daughter is challenging him more, standing up for what she wants. She is older, also in middle school, and I think that makes a difference.

    She is getting quite an education. I back her up completely, but I, also, step back when she speaks, because it’s her voice she is exercising and using.

    I can only imagine how frustrating this is for you, but I am really encouraged by your son’s stance.

    It really is a good sign, a hopeful sign for them. You’re doing great.

  6. gettingthere says:

    Hello. I am new here but have been soaking up so much of the content over the past few days that I feel the urge to jump in and ask a few questions. I am not even sure how this works, if I can comment on posts over a year ago, but that is how my newly found sense of fearlessness has recently been taking hold. And that might not be a bad thing.

    I have been married to a NPD for ten years. We have two beautiful children together that are still quite young. We also have a child who died just before birth, so I am filtering so much of this experience (living with an NPD and contemplating divorce) through the fear and anxiety that a separation from my children would unleash. But it has gotten so very miserable and painful and isolating that the knot of resentment in my core makes it sometimes difficult to even be accessible to my children emotionally.

    So I am in the information gathering phase, all very under wraps as I fear the wrath that would be unleashed if the N got wind of anything that felt like rejection. He has never been physically abusive, but is a thrower, a slammer and a flee-the-scene kind of guy. And of course adept at making you feel entirely crazy.

    I have been ruminating on how I will actually tell him I can’t be married to him anymore. That is where insidesopen’s post really spurred me to post something of my own. I think of using phrases that will spare/supply his ego a bit, like “you deserve to be happy” (all the while with full knowledge that is is a tactic so that I can finally be happier and more at peace). My supporters have continuously advised me to prepare for the worst when that day comes, and to speak the truth from the get go and do not engage after that.

    For some reason, this moment is my stumbling block. I think I have it in my head that his response during this initial conversation – I use that term loosely because I don’t know that we ever really converse or discuss, he just spews, if you know what I mean — that how I break it to him and how he responds will somehow be indicative of how things will proceed.
    Sorry this has turned in to a longer post than I intended. Thanks to anyone for their ideas, support, advice.

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