What was I thinking?

By Learning2Swim

What was I thinking?

“What do you do when you’re in a relationship with someone who’s always right?” This is the question I asked of a friend of mine when I was dating my NPD.

It was not a criticism of the woman I was dating, rather, it was praise. I actually believed that she was always right. She was so good that even though I observed the pattern of “outcomes” from our disagreements, and further, even though I observed the unlikely nature of her perfection, I still believed it. She had me from the beginning.

When an outsider sees the details of an abusive marriage they often wonder how the submissive partner would ever choose to be in a relationship like that. On some level, they ask themselves, “How could they be so stupid?” The usual answer is that the aggressive partner is not always that way, or at least did not used to be that way.

“They used to be so wonderful and charming.”

In my case, and I think probably in most cases—even those that rationalize with the above explanation—this is not true. It is true that my NPD is not always demonstrating manipulative, dishonest, self-absorbed, emotionally destructive or any of the many narcissistic disordered personality characteristics… but she always has.

A key characteristic of NPD is that they put others down in order to elevate themselves. Usually, it is only in the mind of the NPD that they are shown more favorably (even if they think that everyone sees it), but as it relates to why I married my wife it worked on me too.

I did not get married to my NPD because I though she was wonderful, I married her because I thought I was awful, or at least that having any doubt that I loved her meant that I was a bad person. But I didn’t want to be a bad person, so I thought, “I must love her.”

When I came to this realization, I shared it with a few people that I had been confiding in. They looked at me like I was crazy (well, like they were trying NOT to look at me like I was crazy). I don’t think they believed that what I was saying was real. I don’t think they understood it because I don’t think they thought it was possible. I have a feeling that the readers of this website will understand because they know it’s possible.

A Mother’s Turmoil

By AnotherChance63

After stumbling upon this site by chance and reading many of the heartbreaking stories herein, I have decided to share my own.

I grew up with only one sibling, a sister, and a severely bi-polar mother. I won’t leave my father out as he was a good one, when he was around. Being a doctor, he was often gone and thus did not see or even seem to care what was transpiring between my mother and me. My mother hated me and made it manifest every day of my childhood. Interestingly enough she adored my little sister and made it evident there would NEVER be anything I could do to deserve the love she had for her.

My mother never worked and rarely lifted a finger to do anything around the house. It was common to come home from school and find her still in her pajamas either in her bed or on the couch, crying. I tried to help her (by doing laundry, dishes, etc.) and even let her take the credit for it. But nothing was good enough to please her and it seemed to make her hate me even more.

She would often tell me she wished she had aborted me. I didn’t know what that meant until I was around the age of ten and it nearly tore my tiny heart from my chest. I spent the bulk of my young life sequestered in my room trying to will myself invisible, but even there I wasn’t safe from her violent rages. She would beat me silly, throw everything from my dresser drawers all over my room and then tell me to pick it all up. I grew to hate her as soon as I knew what hate was.

I left home when I was fourteen and lived with friends and their families, finally finding some peace and normalcy, or so I thought. I married for the first time at the age of eighteen and this was to begin my many years of marrying time and again trying to seek out the proverbial “White Knight”. I longed to be loved and wanted and I swiftly found myself in a flurry of relationships that promised anything but. The first two marriages left me beaten and broken, but no one could ever label me as a quitter and I tried again and again.

By the fourth marriage I had produced three beautiful children and my world revolved around them. I was able to give them all the love they needed, love that had been suppressed in me for what seemed like an eternity. I considered myself a survivor and endured hell with the hope of finding heaven.

Nothing I had ever been through, as bad as it was, could have prepared me for my fifth marriage though, for this time I really knew what it must be like to live with Satan himself.

I met him on the Internet and spent a few months corresponding with him before meeting in person since he lived in a neighboring state. He was everything I had been looking for and more. He was very handsome, charismatic and extremely generous, often sending gifts and cards through the mail. I had spent the previous five years out of a relationship clearing my head and deciding what I really wanted.

I thought this wonderful man was it.

He wound up moving to the state where I resided and rented a nice house for us. I quit my job because he told me he could make enough to take care of us.

A few months passed before he began to hide out in our bedroom, drinking whiskey. He ignored me and the kids and was very secretive about everything he did. I knew things had changed, but I didn’t have any money to leave him and no one I could turn to for help so, I bent over backwards trying to make him want me again.

I was successful in my attempts and he explained he was acting differently because he didn’t like the big city and wanted to move back to his home state, a place he hadn’t been in over twenty years. We moved a month later.

Everything went well for a while, but then his hiding out and drinking commenced again along with mental abuse SO severe I thought I had died and gone to hell. He never apologized for anything he said and made every conflict “my fault”.

I would break down and cry and he would tell me where his loaded 45 was so, I could “put myself out of my misery”. He would say hideous, horrible things to me and then tell me, five minutes later, he never said what I knew he said.

It got to the point where I was hiding a tape recorder in my pocket to ensure I wasn’t losing my mind. He turned everyone against me by telling them I was crazy, his family, our pastor, and my few friends. I was kept in a cage and taken out only when he wanted to do further damage to me.

I did begin to pack mine and the kid’s things at this point, but found out I was pregnant. When I told him he was furious, but ultimately said he would change for the baby’s sake. Like a fool, I believed him.

Six months into my pregnancy I moved out of our bedroom and into my son’s room as I found out he was cheating on me. Again, it was my fault and he had no remorse, acting as if he hadn’t done anything wrong.

When our baby boy was born, we still weren’t married and I felt sick that this was my first child born out of wedlock.

He almost didn’t sign the paternity papers stating: “I’m not paying child support for eighteen years”. But, he did sign them and our baby changed him. So much so he married me three months later and actually treated me with respect. I really believed things were going to be different now.

He decided he no longer wanted to be around his family and took a great job in yet another state. This is when the insults, the belittling, the hiding from all of us reached a crescendo. He would come home from work and head straight to his room and lock the door shutting even his own child out.

One evening, six months after our move, his Irish setter bit our son across the face so badly he had to be taken to the emergency room (our son was in the room watching T.V. with his father at the time). His father did not go saying he was going to get rid of the dog. He never came back nor did any of us hear from him for three weeks.

I later discovered he had moved in with another woman. I filed for divorce and custody of our son. I couldn’t afford a lawyer, but I didn’t think I needed one based on what I thought I could prove about this heinous man. He didn’t have a lawyer either.

A narcissist can manipulate anyone, anytime, anywhere; of this I am now thoroughly convinced.

He won custody of our son by lying to the judge saying he was doing extremely well financially, planned on marrying the woman he left me for and never moving again as he had recently purchased a home. I was so distraught I cried for days on end. Four months later, he moved back to his home state and, in the state we lived in, there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Our little boy was just three years old and would only see his mother every three months according to the court order, since his father refused one day visitations. Mother and child were both distraught.

Our son is now six, I am married again and have moved back home. This time I truly do have my “White Knight”. We have been married two years and he is my sea of tranquility. He and I are able to relate on so many different levels and he understands what I continue to deal with concerning my son’s father, who now manipulates my son and tries to turn him against me.

My visitations are always controlled by the N and he has to one-up me in everything I do for my child. I bought him a video game for him to play on his brother’s Playstation3 this Christmas and, as soon as the N found out, he went out and bought a whole gaming system for our son and tons of games.

I am SO tired of trying to compete with this irrational little boy who will turn FIFTY this year! I am currently in the process of seeking custody of my little boy and, this time, with the help of a lawyer.

But dealing with the N has left me afraid I can’t do anything to prove what he is REALLY like. He has always gotten away with SO much!

Three weeks ago the N suffered a heart attack and, against his doctor’s orders, drove with our son here for my visitation even though I said I would drive to pick him up. I worry constantly about my son and wonder if anyone here has been through anything similar and what they did to out maneuver the narcissist and take back control.

Thanks for allowing me to share.

On the Precarious Front

By Reflector

“There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.” ~ Jane Austen

On the “precarious” front this week, my daughter’s mother (MDM) called. She wanted to talk, yet she let on as if she hadn’t been served the divorce papers. It was only later that my lawyer informed me she had received them. I therefore had no clue where the conversation was going. I was puzzled by her unusually receptive tone and her considerate, yet pointed questions. In brief MDM wanted to know if I would reconsider the whole divorce decision and seek counselling with her… etc, etc.

*sigh*

My encounters with MDM require close scrutiny of my motivations. I don’t know which is louder – the external critical parent voice that comes from her, my own or both? As much as I analyze and re-analyze, it’s impossible to come to one hundred percent certainty about another person.

As Austen says, “Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.” However, in spite of human limitations, discernment is necessary and one of the reasons I journal is to be able to explore conflictive issues in a safe environment.

How is it possible for MDM to bear grudges so long (recurrent themes in her letters about how bad my family treated her, etc.,) then, make it appear all is forgotten? How do you approach someone who is combative and tenacious about her sense of her rights one moment, then charming and cuddling then next? When your trust has been eroded by someone’s taking-advantage-track record, how can you be sure what she is saying is true or pretext?

MDM is certain she is right about what she does on DD’s behalf, yet expects me to shoulder the majority of the financial burden. She says there are no jobs for her and that I must accept this reality. How can you measure truth? I want to cut my losses as much as possible when it comes to this legal settlement, yet I also realize it’s important to DD’s emotional wellbeing to maintain the lifestyle she has become accustomed to. The result is I feel divided.

One of the disturbing dynamics of the marriage that I will not forget was the feeling that the more I did for MDM, the less she’d do for herself. It became an embedded pattern and I as the enabler felt uncomfortable with this role, yet did not have the tools to change it.

I’ve also had bouts of heartsickness these days. This is one side effect of having contact with MDM. It reopens the wounds. No matter how ambiguous the marriage had been with the mixture of I-love-you/I-hate-you messages, the move toward divorce isn’t easy.

While separation seems like a suspended interval of time out, divorce feels like death. The person who once played center stage is strangely dead to you, yet alive in your memory or subconscious. As you know our mind plays tricks with memories of deceased people, idealizing them once they are out of sight and you no longer see their flaws up close…

Another Kind of Relational Loss

by Reflector

“Most people tend to notice other people’s energy and actions before they notice their own. They become preoccupied with what others are doing or not doing, projecting their ideas about why they are that way. They carry on with criticism or comparisons, while their deeper feelings go unattended.” – Doc Childr and Deborah Rozman

Sometimes I think I’m attending deeper feelings when I’m really focused upon my reactions to others. It’s easy for me to confuse the two things. Yesterday while I was filing for divorce, I was focused upon what my daughter’s mother might do once she receives the document.

Filing a divorce is one of the most anticlimactic events I’ve ever experienced, like amputating an arm or a leg. In the beginning phase of my separation I rode on a wave of anger and indignation that provided fuel. I looked forward to the day when I could break with the past and just move on. However, ending a relationship looks easier from a distance even when the marriage is harmful.

However, the final showdown doesn’t ring victory, since only you experience the scourge of a bad marriage and there’s no one to applaud your determination one way or the other. You plod along as an “unsung hero”. Your head fills with contradictory feelings that you can’t imagine. Even though your ex “partner” is messed up, you still feel compassion for her. It’s not the kind of compassion that says, “let’s get back together”, but it still fits in the category of compassion.

When you file divorce papers you feel empty and you wish you had some company, but you also know that dependency doesn’t make you any less lonely. Sometimes you need to take measures against a destructive relationship and take it to its logical conclusion even when you don’t feel the drive to do it. Yes, it may be easier when you have an external prop like a new love to distract you – at least as a temporary fix.

The obstacles ahead frighten me. My soon-to-be ex still has a way of psychologically making me feel responsible for what goes wrong (I know the problem is mine assigning more importance than she deserves). I fear she will find loop holes, postponing her job hunt or whatever. It’s her way of saying, “Well, if I can’t have my way (married to you), I’ll make life as difficult for you as I can.” It’s similar to the story of the two women who disputed before King Solomon. The mother who rolled onto her newborn (thus crushing him or her) wanted compensation at any cost – even if it meant stealing or cutting another baby in half. Some people feel a sense of entitlement that someone else has to pay the cost…

I think divorce has taken on a symbolic meaning to me beyond the need for closure.
It also has taken the added significance of laying down some long overdue boundaries – with the subtext that reads, “I’m assuming my responsibility. How about you? ” It may also mean I’m ready to take on more responsibility – other than financial – willing to take care of my dear daughter in the event that my daughter’s mother has to work longer hours.

Doc Childr and Deborah Rozman in their book, “Overcoming Emotional Chaos” explain how we spend much of our emotional energy carelessly and have never been taught emotional self-care. We don’t even know where to begin or how to start. How true this has been in my life. My way of dealing with prolonged emotionally draining situations has been to sit the valley of indecision, hoping the problem will work itself out (while making the problem only worse and more ingrained). I want to stay in limbo, not wanting to finish what I started. Perhaps this is because I have yet to learn how to mourn the loss of a relationship I never really had, involving a different kind of process than someone who faces a loss where love once thrived.

My therapist once said I needed to mourn my relationship with my soon-to-be ex even though it was painful and destructive. I didn’t understand what relevance there could be mourning for a bad marriage — why would I mourn for someone who never valued me for who I truly was? The therapist explained that there is another kind of loss that has to do with mourning for what could have been, but never unfolded. I learned that day that there is another kind of relational loss.

Residual Effects

It’s been years since I escaped.

And it’s been years since I’ve cared about the people he cheated with on me. In fact, I thank God I’m free of them.

But a simple comment I had made in regards to another comment posted on this blog, bringing up the time I had inadvertently come across incontrovertible proof that he was seeing someone he swore he wasn’t (and then duly ignoring that proof and allowing him to berate me for finding it) triggered emotional memories that I did not anticipate.

Because I don’t care about him anymore. And the last thing I’d want is him back in my life. BUT there are strong psychological impressions that are made in extreme emotional duress that leave their marks on you “forever”. I don’t know if that’s absolutely true, because I haven’t lived forever, but I have lived more than a few years since…like over ten years, and yet, I feel, tonight, an emotional pain inside me and something close to that crazed feeling of obsessive attention, a morbid curiosity to learn as much about my competition as I can.

And I HATE it, because it’s all so stupid, and yet, here I sit, aware of these emotions inside of me and wondering about people, wanting to know about those who are worth less than toilet paper stuck to my shoe.

And even though I am years away in time and miles away in distance and levels ahead in growth, on this night, like some kind of falling off the wagon addictive response, I find myself dealing with a change of chemistry in my brain and in my body that makes me feel emotions I now recognize as unhealthy. I feel a little bit crazy tonight.

And so, I take the time to still my mind, to calm my thoughts, to rein that feeling of obsessive compulsion to know where my “enemies” are to protect myself, to not be blindsided by the next sucker punch of a threat that no longer exists for a prize that no longer shines, but has been revealed for the pile of dust it is and always was.

This is a sickness. Narcissistic personality disorder, and just plain low character, meanness, manipulation and deceit even without the disorder is an illness.

And if you’re not careful, you can become infected. And like some viruses that go into hibernation or hide within cells or joints slumbering until something in their environment causes them to resurface again, the wounds inflicted by NPD’s and their co-horts can reappear, taking you by surprise, even knocking you off your feet.

Don’t stay down.

It’s okay. Even if you have to deal with this unwelcomed reminder from time to time, don’t despair. And don’t stay down.

Seek refuge in your inner strength, and take this opportunity to grow even more. For a moment I was confused, disoriented, dismayed. But then I remembered, at one time this experience was normal.

Now, it’s an aberration. That’s good news!

I recognize it is not where I want to be. It’s that awareness that I celebrate tonight. It’s the contrast that I embrace, that shows me how far I’ve come, that makes me appreciate the glorious difference in my own life between where I was before and where I am now.

I hear not only its pain, but it’s message to me that it’s ready to heal.

And I will not deny it.