As my previous post had stated, I am a survivor. I survived childhood abuse. I survived cancer. I survived an abusive marriage.
I am going to describe what I went through – possibly in more detail than you care to read. Please stop reading now if you are not prepared to read explicit and disturbing truths of an abusive marriage. Consider this your only warning.
I will continue to survive, because I have learned just how strong I am. This is going to be long, but I am going to write it – because what I went through is something MANY WOMEN (and even men) go through, and one thing I have learned is that situations only change when you SPEAK UP and SAY SOMETHING. When you GET HELP.
Narcissistic abuse is vile and sinister and happens behind closed doors. It should NOT BE a “dirty little secret”. The person being abused SHOULD NOT think they deserve this, and they should definitely NOT THINK that it is their fault.
But what did I survive, exactly? What is Narcissism? What did I go through? What did I experience? How has 12 years of torment changed me? And most of all – if it was so horribly bad, why did I stay so long?
Well, I can definitely say from years of first hand experience that describing a narcissist is one thing – but actually dealing with one – is a completely different thing, especially when you are giving and kind enough to think that what you share is LOVE, especially when he tells you he loves you, and you just think “why do you hurt me, then?” or “it will get better”…. or you fall into the “just” trap (oh, he’s “just” having a bad day…. Oh he “just” doesn’t really mean it. He “just” acts like this when he’s angry. ….. Oh, I “just” must have done wrong. ……Oh, if I “just” improve, he’ll STOP ABUSING ME).
You JUST keep going on making excuses, fully breaking down your own mentality as you struggle to convince yourself you really are wrong, while you JUSTify the actions of your abuser at your own expense.
So what is narcissism exactly? Well, I suppose if you wanted to use one word to sum up this personality condition, it would be “asshole”. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
In some respects, everyone who has any level of self-confidence or opinions or belief that they are right (come on, horse people!) is probably just a little bit of a narcissist. In some ways, most of us are just a tiny little bit. I know I am.
***Usually*** a “normal” person can see when they are wrong, self-reflect on it, and consider how it affects themselves and others, and make a change moving forward without the need to assert that change onto someone else for recognition.
But to be an abuser — a true narcissist- with the behavioral patterns of narcissistic personality disorder — is something far beyond having “self confidence”. A narcissist simply cannot perform a single action without receiving recognition or approval or validation for his effort so he can reinforce his superiority. And most of all, the narcissist must always be superior. He is hold harmless of ALL actions, and fully places the blame for all his issues (real or perceived or self-inflicted) on someone else. He conveys his superiority by demolishing the mental health of his target – and since most narcissists are “friendly” folk in public, even considering themselves to be “people persons” – their usual target is someone very close to them, who they can readily control by systematically taking away everything that makes them them.
There is a fine, severely detrimental line between being “full of yourself” and being abusive.
To a narcissist, his way is perfection. He has no wrongs. If he fails, it is definitely YOUR fault. Never his. He will abuse, manipulate, yell, insult, demean, and twist every situation into satisfying his own self-righteous vision of himself. The most sinister part about it, is that he will consider himself a true people person, a charming person with a fun character that everyone loves, and if you don’t love him, there’s something wrong with you.
He will make you think that, too – that you are “just” being “too hard” “too demanding”, not “sympathetic enough”. He will have you fully convinced that you know there is this kind, sweet, charming person who can be your partner or companion “in there somewhere”, because you get to see glimmers and hints of it throughout your entire relationship. You begin to realize the “good” parts of him only display themselves if you do exactly this or exactly that, and if you fail or do him wrong, he will let you know viciously and fully complete the tormenting cycle of abuse to convince you that you haven’t done enough to bring out the “good” in him.
The narcissist will create a rock-solid illusion of his own perfection using whatever force and manipulation he must, and he will appear to outsiders viewing him that he is a “great guy” (OK, women can be narcissists, too, but I am being biased here), and when behind closed doors or in a situation where he is comfortable enforcing his superiority over the person he deems as his lesser (usually the person closest to him – a close relative or a spouse, even a friend), the true character immediately shines through, and it’s always right.
The textbook definition of a narcissist would be a person who displays extreme selfishness, with grandiose views of his own talents, self-centeredness and an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others.
So what does all that mean? What exactly did I go through since the day I met my husband Labor Day weekend, 2003 at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA? The day he called me stupid and displayed immediate jealousy towards a male companion of mine, and urged me to follow his word because he knew better.
Well, lots of what I went through definitely does not belong on the Internet.
However, I can say that he was a childlike personality who expected me to provide him with everything he wanted, in tangible form. He had an absolute need for immediate gratification, and a superior sense of self-entitlement. He demanded his toys or tangible objects, and he deserved to have them simply because he existed and if he was not given the toy or trinket or tangible item he coveted immediately upon coveting it, then it validated him as a victim and gave him an opportunity to prove how the world wronged him. Upon receiving whatever tangible item, and the subsequent loss of interest in it, then he was no longer happy and needed something else to focus his attention on.
He wanted toys and video games for Christmas or Birthdays, and if I failed to give him everything on his list, he would berate me. He would insult me for wrapping the gifts “wrong”, blame me for “spoiling” Christmas or Birthdays because I didn’t go through enough lengths to hide the gifts to keep him from finding them or guessing what was in the box (even though he wrote the list I had to strictly adhere to). He pre-determined that if I didn’t spend “enough” on his toys and gifts, then it was because I didn’t “love him” as much as he “loved” me.
He felt victimized for having to work. He quit his job the day after proposing to me (he had already moved in with me) and didn’t work for months again while I worked 12-14 hour days, as a full time ambulatory equine vet tech and caring for 8 horses in 2 separate barns day and night 5 days a week. Within a month of our marriage he told me he didn’t view me as someone he should have sex with, because I was on a pedestal so high that he “didn’t deserve me” (well, I guess he was right about that).
Within a few months of our marriage, he “missed” his parents, his dog, his friends in another state, all of which he gave up (the victim that he is for sacrificing those things for his “love” of me), to be with me. He hated his job, he hated the weather, he needed his dog, he had to be back with his parents and friends. So we moved, and I justified it because things weren’t working out the way I hoped where I was living anyway, and really didn’t care where I moved.
Out of nearly 12 years of our relationship, from “dating” (the few times we did) to marriage, he spent about a total of 4 1/2 years unemployed. That is just over 1/3 of our entire relationship.
He spent more than the last 3 years of our marriage willfully unemployed – sitting idly wasting his days watching TV and playing video games, while I worked, took care of the animals at home, the horses, the cleaning, the mowing, the yard work, the watering, the laundry, the cooking, and spent time pursuing my own interests while basically running myself into exhaustion and being told I wasn’t doing enough.
I knew when I spent “too much” time doing one thing, I would get berated for not spending enough time doing something else (like sitting next to him watching TV shows of his choosing). I knew if I asked him to “participate” in something with me, I would be in some way punished or manipulated for it – maybe I had to pay him, buy him something, pay for his gas, buy him lunch, clean his truck. Maybe clean his truck a couple times…….. While I begged him to stop treating me so badly and to get up and do something about his life.
One fabulous example of this was a recent summer, when he changed the wheels off his truck from his winter wheels to summer wheels. He told me he left me 1 winter wheel to clean, and I owed him that because I used his truck for a horse event earlier in the year, and I should be grateful he only left me 1 wheel instead of making me clean all 4. Yes. Those were his words. He justified his abuse, and I was left with no choice but to clean that wheel in punishment for using his truck once.
He watched me with a stone cold face as I broke down in tears and cried over how I couldn’t do “it” anymore. He just waited for whatever meltdown I was having to “pass” and he would toss me a “bone” or two to appease me and “shut me up”. That was his “love”.
And I was always wrong. There were vile arguments. There was screaming, there was crying, there was begging. There were threats – what might he destroy if I didn’t change the way I acted. (notice, it was always me that had to change- such is the narcissist) What might he take away from me if I didn’t serve him the way he expected. In some ways, I felt that if I hoped for a partnership, then I was at his mercy. If I wanted support, I knew I would be made to suffer for it.
I felt trapped, I felt as though I had no way out. He used the things I loved, like the horses, or going out to take photos, or taking a road trip, a vacation, or anything else I enjoyed, as leverage against me. He threatened to break my camera or dollhouse my grandfather built when I was born, when he was mad. He would scream at me to get out and divorce him if I didn’t like it, then come loving back up on me and apologize since it was “just in anger”.
He would call me names, demean me, humiliate me in front mutual friends and then tell me he “just joking” and get angry with me because I was angry and clearly I just “couldn’t take a joke”.
He would take my things and hide them, then make me perform various favors or meet requirements before he would tell me where they were. He would never get them out for me, either – I had to find them, and I had to beg him to tell me where they were.
If I wanted to go to a horse show, a lesson, fishing, take a weekend vacation, camping, to a movie, or out to dinner, I had to perform some kind of pre-payment, and re-payment, beg, and usually provide him with some kind of reward for “participating” with little to no complaints. I had to wait on him to get up and decide to participate in the activity, because I wasn’t “allowed” to do it without him. I had to be punished for expecting companionship and I had to adhere to the requirements and rules that he laid down for when I was “allowed” to do the things I wanted to do. For example; I could do my activity and he would come, but I had to limit the length of time I spent doing it, and make sure I was ready to leave when he complained he was hungry, tired, bored, or unsatisfied.
If I came home after 12 hours out of the house, with the wrong size cheddar cheese for dinner, or the wrong size pretzel sticks, or failed to pick up his medications or buy enough groceries or any number of other things that he expected me to do while he did nothing, then I was the failure. When he was “forced” to go to a job he hated (back prior to 2012 when he was employed), while he did nothing to look for a new one, it fell onto my shoulders to drive him to work, because he hated his job so much, that if I refused to drive him and pick him up, he would quit and it would be my fault if he had no income.
If he wanted the lawn mowed, the flowers watered, new plants planted, landscaping done, brick layed or anything else outside, I had to do it while he watched and berated me for doing it wrong. One time I dropped wheat bran flakes in the driveway (I had a bag of feed in my car) and he was there, and made me get on my hands and knees and clean the driveway immediately. If I so much as begged him for days to pick up clothes or garbage in the house, he would never do it.
He held “control” over what I did with the horses because he had the truck that could haul. Whether it was his older jacked up truck, or the newer orange truck (both of which his parents bought for him, along with the very home we lived in), if I expected to do anything with the horses that involved his truck, there was great punishment I had to endure – everything from him controlling how I “behaved” in the weeks prior to the activity to paying for his gas and time and buying him toys, and cleaning the truck fully after. Then he would graciously smile and laugh jokingly with me about how I was “welcome” to use his truck the next time, and he would question why I was being “so silly” to imply that I could not pursue my loves because of him.
There were countless situations like that, over and over, and they amplified and intensified over the years. Any time he was sick, it absolutely had to culminate into an emergency room visit so he could “prove” how sick he really was. I had to bring him to the ER for headaches, stomach aches, even once for a sore shoulder and arm, and if I implied at all that he wasn’t really “in need”, then he would berate me, belittle me, and blame me for “not caring”.
When we first met, he was dressed as Predator. I thought it was an awesome costume. We spent the weekend as “the Predator couple” at Dragon*Con, and garnered tons of attention. He fixated on me endlessly, driving his friends nuts talking about me. I thought he loved me. I was too naïve to realize that he loved the IDEA of me, and not me, and there is a HUGE DIFFERENCE between the two. I had a “job” to fill for him – and that was to maintain his illusion (or delusion as you will) of his perfection, and I had to keep my mouth shut and a smile on my face while doing it.
If he got a new toy, a new video game, set up a fish tank I didn’t want, got a new kitten I asked him not to bring into the house, or got a new car or any new props or board games or radio controlled helicopters or cars, or aerial drone, it was my job to watch him play with them and tell him how awesome they were and how great he was for doing it, and praise him for being an incredible person and what a tremendous job he did.
That was my job – to lift him up. While if I even hoped for a bit of positive involvement in any of my passions, I had to “force” it out of him by setting everything up for him to participate and wait for him to go through the effort of doing it with me, while hoping I could do it quickly enough to avoid him complaining.
He would insult my body, everything from if I wore make up or not to the colors of it, to my cancer scar on my thigh. There was a 0% intimacy in our marriage, and really, why would there be anything otherwise? I was insulted every time I was looked at. Eventually, I just stopped hoping for intimacy, and years and years passed without fulfillment of that basic need leaving me at the point where I can’t ever imagine having that again, and the notion of it fills me with fear.
Well doesn’t that just sound terrible. So why did I stay you ask? Was I blind? Was I stupid?
No. I was manipulated. I was demeaned. I was broken down. I was systematically destroyed until I fully believed I deserved nothing else than the unhappiness that consumed me. I was nearly desensitized to the abuse to the point where it was “comfortable” “normal” and “expected”. I did not think I could find the strength to leave, or have the support I knew I would need. I fantasized about leaving him, but for 12 long years, they were just words in my head. They usually began with “I would love to….” (leave, tell him to screw himself… etc.. etc…) but there was no action behind it because I didn’t think I could or that I deserved it.
But there were many times that I tried to leave.
Well what’s there to “try”? Just do it, right?
When you give (what you think is) love to someone, and they tear it up and twist it around and destroy it and then tell you that you didn’t do it right and needed to change a, b, c, d, and e, in order to do it better, you actually think “Ok, well, that’s not too much to ask” “maybe he’s right” “Maybe I should just do a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h……” and you try to be honest to vows that you made (that you don’t even realize were long since broken), a commitment you leapt into (because of “love”), and you cling to a hope that if you do everything “just right” it will all be “OK”…
And THAT is where the narcissist has you. Your HOPE. You willingly accept systematic change to your entire life in small increments because somehow you have accepted that the point he made for those changes are valid. Once you find yourself trapped in the cycle, breaking free is not as simple as slamming a door. You can “try” to leave, but you get forced, violated, and manipulated back in. You get your emotions toyed with, and you get your sense of self ripped away and you get too broken to really even think you deserve better.
The first time I told my husband I wanted a divorce was probably around 2005. We married in 2004. Prior to being married, I threw my engagement ring at him and told him to go back to his mother; I was not going to marry him because he was mean and lazy and selfish and made me angry and continually hurt me.
So, nothing changed in over 12 years, except me. I became broken and tormented.
I don’t know what I expected when I told him I wanted a divorce. What was he going to say? “OH Ok, you’re right, yes, let’s go run to a lawyer right now and sign the papers….” Would he change if I told him I wanted a divorce? Did he ever change in 12 years when I told him to stop abusing me, when I told him he was a bully and I couldn’t stand him?
So again in 2007, I cried over wanting a better life and a divorce. But he manipulated me again. And again and again. He would taunt me about getting a divorce and tell me if I didn’t like how life was, I should divorce him, but I told him I wanted to, then I was the one in the wrong. I also didn’t think I had help, or could stand on my own. I didn’t make enough money, I had (and still do) lots of debt, and I didn’t think I could rely on anyone to help me out of a situation I made the mistake of getting myself into in the first place.
It took until 2015, when I was 36, and hit the lowest of lows before I stopped “caring” enough about all the things that I used to let hold me back – before the excuses ended – before the circular cycle got diverted. And the big change came not from what had happened in my past, but from what would KEEP HAPPENING in the future.
I saw the endless cycle – the one I had been trapped in for 12 years – replaying over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over- for 12 more years. Maybe for 22 years. Maybe 32 years.
I would be 48, then 58, then 68…. and where would I be? In the same place, enduring the same abuse? Never knowing the intimate touch of a man again? Always “hoping” for more. The thought of such things was the final, most depressing string – when I started to contemplate suicide to get away from it, I knew I had to get away from it!
I realized I would never feel the touch of passion from a man again; I realized I would constantly be under the control of a man who could not live without his mother’s teat to suckle. I realized I would look back someday in my 50’s, or 60’s, or 70’s and go “why did I let this happen?”
It was a vision of the future I did not want. My past had broken me. I no longer cared, and I realized as our marriage went into its final seizures and he clinged himself to me to “prove” what a great guy he was that I had only 2 options left to be free – either I killed myself, or I walked out and deal with the consequences, like losing the horses as I feared, if and when they arose.
Ultimately, I did end up homeless for a month (from 11/09/2105 – 12/05/2015). I was in a hotel for a couple weeks, and I slept on a sofa at a friend’s house for a couple more while I worked out living arrangements. However, most of the things I “feared” would happen- did not. The support I needed from family and friends and even my boss came through in humbling amounts. I found strength and support from God and at a local church, and I was blessed with opportunities that I had never imagined for myself, through prayer and hope and suddenly all of the things I had wanted in my life didn’t seem so far fetched. I had accomplished the “unaccomplishable” how hard could the rest possibly be?
With the help of my dad, I secured a beautiful apartment, and although I played along with his game of “I will change for you because I love you” until I got my things out of the house, I managed to get free, and pull away from his manipulation.
It’s still early on in 2016 and I have a long road ahead of me. The fight still isn’t over. The mental damage I have endured has left me with severe distrust, anxiety problems, stress, PTSD, and I do wonder if I will ever have a normal relationship with a man again.
Regardless of what obstacles I have to overcome yet in my future, I await them with a sense of hope and a bit of apprehension. My past has broken me. I’ve learned I can’t love someone. I’ve learned I can’t expect anyone to share in a partnership with me. I’ve learned that companionship should only go so far. But I have also learned that I — that women — are far, far stronger than most people give them credit for.
I have learned what Hell is like, and I have seen Heaven.
I go on with hope – hope that I can go to the places that were too far, too expensive, too unattainable before – like Branson, MO, The Florida Everglades, Alaska, Hawaii, Ocean City, MD, The Kentucky Derby, and most of all, back to my precious Dragon*Con and even back to my once frequent stomping ground – New York City. I would like to visit my home town of Scranton, PA as well.
I hope I can make the most of what God has blessed me with – strength and spirituality – and I hope I can always remember who I am and never let that become compromised again.
I also hope – deeply – for all the women out there questioning their own sanity because of what their abusive man is doing to them, that they can ask God for the strength that I asked Him for, and that they can get away, too. Because no woman (or the men who receive this type of abuse, too) deserves to be traumatized because they thought they shared love with someone.