Wasted Time

The vast majority of the time I wasted with my narcissistic ex was trying to understand him. Because I was trying to do that with the expectation that I was dealing with someone who held similar values, deep down inside, as me.

Now, I can appreciate diversity. I love it. I’m glad we’re not all the same. But underneath our differences lies a commonality, core values that extend to all human beings. Well, maybe in a perfect world.

But it’s still a standard to which I believe most people do adhere to.

What are those values?

Well, common courtesy, for one. Respect. Some level of integrity, honesty, and kindness. Seeing oneself in another – not as in making them invisible or merely a reflection of you – that’s what narcissists do – but seeing yourself in another through empathy, recognizing their humanity they share with you.

Trying to understand a person without that core is futility. There needs to be something that anchors or grounds the differences found in people to something good, something reliable, solid. So that even as mistakes are made, misunderstandings, personality quirks or whatever, there’s someone there worth understanding. Under whatever it is that upset you or offended you, there’s an underlying goodwill, good intentions, a place within that person that you can always trust, even when they are not acting from their best.

No such place exists within a Narcissist. A Narcissist can swear on a stack of bibles and mean every word they say with all the sincerity and commitment in the world, but the next day the wind might shift, even slightly, and it’s as if they had never sworn to anything.

It’s not that they didn’t mean it when they said it, it’s just that they don’t feel any desire or obligation to follow through. They’re above that. Situation changed, perhaps, something better came up, it’s more inconvenient than they thought…whatever. To a Narcissist, that’s valid reason to renege on anything – anything at all, including their children.

And I had tried and tried for years, spilling over into a decade and then some, to understand these changes. How someone could be so loving and then cruel to the point of almost sadistic…not almost. Actually venturing into emotional sadism at times, observing it with cold reptilian detachment as if I were a bug having it’s wings torn off under a magnifying glass.

Trying to understand…rather than just reading the signs. Trying to understand why, instead of just looking at what was happening. Who the hell cares where his head was or what he might have been going through at the time or whether he meant to do this or say that?

The fact is he was doing it. And it was a pattern. Not just a particularly bad day. Maybe the first time I could say this wasn’t like him…but how long did it have to continue to happen, over and over again, before I could see, well, yeah…this is him?

Obviously, a very long time.

Better late than never maybe. But oh, how much better earlier than later!

I could have put that time to much better use.

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About PhoenixRising

Singer/songwriter, human rights activist and author of the book series and podcast, "Where There's Smoke: Covert Abuse". Demian Yumei's creative focus is on reclaiming your dream and healing the wounds that prevent that. Her artist activist site: keepingthedream.com
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9 Responses to Wasted Time

  1. EyeOfTheStorm says:

    Exactly! You spend all that time trying to empathize with your narcissist – time, emotions, energy – and come out finding that there’s nothing there. You try to understand their emotions, and are hit with the reality that all the strange reactions are just mechanisms to protect some sort of false identity.

    I think every article about narcissism could begin with “If I knew now what I knew then . . .”

    Thanks for the post – it rings true!

  2. PhoenixRising says:

    You’re welcome, EyeOfTheStorm πŸ™‚

    And welcome to this blog. Did you mean, “If I knew then what I know now?” Because I know for me that’s certainly true. And I could just become SO depressed thinking how different my life would have been…

    And I have…

    But it’s better for me to get pissed, and resolve to let others benefit from what I know now…my children most of all.

  3. EyeOfTheStorm says:

    Ha – yes, I did get my “now” and “then” confused! I think I’ll do more proofreading from now on!

  4. Rae says:

    Good to see you posting again, PhoenixRising. I was beginning to worry.

    The wasted time is a killer when we take stock of it. And the wasted energy. Sometimes I feel like we should get our lives and bodies back. Give us back every year of youth they took away. Most of the time, I just try to move forward, knowing that I will never trust anyone again.

  5. PhoenixRising says:


    Ha – yes, I did get my β€œnow” and β€œthen” confused!

    Actually, I have had very real “If I knew now what I knew then” moments! It’s the phenomenon of when you go back and read something you’ve written either in a diary or journal or letter/email to a friend and suddenly realize you had this wonderful insight years ago that should have changed your choices and changed the course of your life – but promptly forgot!

    The old Have I learned NOTHING? or more appropriately, Have I RETAINED nothing?

    I mean how many brilliant realizations do I need before it finally clicks?


    Thank goodness for sense of humor in the midst of irony.

  6. PhoenixRising says:

    Thank you for your sweet concern, Rae. I appreciate it. Between my physical health that throws curve balls at me and my overall emotional and psychological state at times, it’s hard for me to be consistent here…but I’m trying! πŸ™‚

    I just try to move forward, knowing that I will never trust anyone again

    This makes me sad. Not that I blame you. I totally get it, because sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to trust again too.

    And this is perhaps the greatest theft of all. Not even the wasted years, but that ability to trust people, to take that chance with our hearts.

    Thank you for bringing this up for me again…I feel like it’s something I need to ponder on, sit with…

    And you want to hear something “funny”? In the first year or so when I had left, my ex said something that was so absurd to me (among many) that I remember as if he had said it today.

    In a pained voice dripping with resentment, he said “I gave you the best years of my life.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha! Amazing. Um…no, actually you fed the best years of your life off of my spirit and life force within me…and feel entitled to do it for the rest of your life to boot!

    I, unfortunately for you, and fortunately for me, had other ideas.

  7. Survivor says:

    You all have great comments. I got out which is a good thing and so did you. The waste would be if we spent our entire lives in this and never could breathe again. The true victims in my situation are my children. The older they get the more they see who their father really is. The problem is they have to be with him more than me. I am trying to modify that situation now but I never hold my breath. He is a master of disguise. The children make plans for the years ahead when they are of age and can choose there permanent residence. They want to make sure I will help them bring their things when the time is right.

  8. PhoenixRising says:

    Hi Survivor, and yes! I understand. It’s the same here. And the further waste would be if we never allowed ourselves to breathe again even after we leave.

    It’s normal to be fixated on the situation or have it haunt us for however long it does. And maybe it will never completely stop…I don’t know. I do know that it’s part of the healing process to grapple with and deal with the insanity of narcissism, especially as our awareness grows.

    But it’s important to keep our eye on our goal, and that is to live healthy, happy lives and help our children to do the same.

    It does get better…but only if we choose to keep forging ahead. So easy to get bogged down on what happened before – especially when we see it affecting our children now in the present, and when we still have to deal with the games when we see them.

    I think the wounds are so much fresher no matter how much time passes when you have kids. My child has had to grapple with this situation, sometimes dealing with her resentment that I can get away and she can’t.

    But she does understand…it’s just the heart that doesn’t sometimes, and I can’t blame her.

    It’s good to know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes that thought is the only thing that helps us when the darkness is all we can see. I just know when she’s free, I’ll be truly free.

    So glad you and your children have that vision to hold on to. It will come. Your children are so fortunate to have you.

  9. gentlewarrior says:

    I can relate to all of it, and especially the making promises that were meant when they were said but as soon as something better came along, there it went. I still work to deal with so much of our relationship 4 years after the divorce and I am learning so much about what I thought was my inability to be happy and my apparent ability to lose my mind. I have to say now with the realization of who he really is, I am still reeling from it and in ways rewinding and revisiting all the situations in our 20 year relationship, 15 of them married. Biggest of all, thanks to your blog and sharing, is that I am not crazy and I am not alone.

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