Our game is over. We can keep fighting and cuddling and crying and shanking each other in the most intimate wounds we shared when trust was the drug we shot each other up with but I have no trust left to give you. I don’t know who broke you so badly that you aren’t able to feel consistently happy with anyone, namely yourself, before the wolf-child inside you needs to tear them apart, feast on the juicy vulnerabilities they entrusted to you, spread their entrails around town and then blame them for the carnal mess left behind. Yet despite the blood dripping down your face, your charming mask remains perfectly in place, a lifetime of practice no doubt, and sadly, I know other women are destined to ignore the bloody warnings and suffer the same fate. I know I certainly waved away the women who were kind enough to warn me to run, not walk, away from you.
Naively, I’d hoped that, with enough effort and honest communication, one day things would change. That if I was good enough, supportive enough, cut ties with the friends you despised (one being my business partner of several years), if I was just creative enough, pretty enough, successful enough, sexy enough, the PLUR acronym or LOVE HARDER phrase you throw around so opportunistically as part of your personal brand would actually emerge from its hiding place inside all your anger and the love would shine its light onto the world. But it won’t. They’re just slogans -overused philosophies you spout for personal gain but couldn’t be further from embodying. The light you take such public pride in shining is merely another avenue used to strengthen your ego and gain more of the power you chase. Once I’d mastered one of the qualities you’d told me so many times I lacked, the rules to your game changed. There was suddenly something new that was disappointing you…a relationship forever off balance…impossible to ever measure up or find stable ground. You’re addicted to the feeling of being in control, luring someone in, parading them around for your image, devouring them whole and then eventually spitting them out…a cruel punishment you convince yourself they deserve for being weak enough to love you.
And should any of these women have enough self-esteem after months of subtle abuse to still have their own opinions, question your actions and enough energy to express themselves and their needs (I did for a long time), hell hath no fury. It’s easier to sit in silence and take the unwarranted rage in private, rather than publicly anger the beast and face such cruel, petty, vengeful retaliation that it will turn every belief she’s held about humanity and kindness and intimacy on its head. Smear campaigns based on the the most sweetly, intimate secrets she’s entrusted to you are in no way off limits — distorted versions laughed about with your friends and family for maximum discrediting and humiliation, over-the-top character assassinations, screaming obscenities in rooms full of people, lies, and exaggerations told to turn her closest friends against her and public shunning are a preferred form of torture and eventually she will face them all. Then, once she’s suffered enough, you will come back as though nothing’s happened with nonsensical text messages like “I still can’t find the salad spinner. Come over?” or “Babbbbbbby…wanna rave?” She’ll be too raw and exhausted to start the pain over again by bringing up the fight and so relieved the punishment is over, that it’s swept under the rug…until the next time.
Ohhhhhh, but should she react, should she remain rightfully angry and hurt, should she attempt to discuss her feelings, she will be called “crazy, emotional, over-reactive,” and have her valid pain minimized and talked-over until it’s pointless to even try. Should your cruelty break her completely and she screams or cries or yells back in your face out of sheer frustration and self-preservation, suddenly that is all that will be discussed. Her behavior. Never yours. A talking point you will repeatedly use against her in all future fights. And even then her reaction will be twisted and exaggerated to the point that you now claim victim status and she ends up apologizing to you.
(Once this began happening to me on a regular basis, I lost so much of myself I eventually stopped fighting back as the only way I was able to to find relief. I’m embarrassed to admit that but I want anyone else caught up in this hell to know they’re not alone. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist you’ll likely find my story eerily similar to yours. Narcissists are pathological —once you learn the games they play, they’re entirely predictable –you could set a watch by their behaviors.
Narcissistic abuse doesn’t happen suddenly, it’s insidious, creeping in slowly, until one day you don’t recognize yourself. It is the epitomy of domestic violence, a slowly dehumanizing and purposeful soul rape.
Narcissists install a mental filter in our head, managing our expectations down a little bit at a time. Before we know it, everything we do, say, or think, goes through this filter. “Will he get upset if I do/say/think this? Will he approve/disapprove? Will he feel hurt by this?” Our own wants and desires are brushed aside so often that eventually we are conditioned not to have them. Expressing our needs only leads to pain.
Recovering from this abuse is heinous, non-linear and at times, feels never-ending. I am a year into healing and it’s still inching along.)
I loved who you were when you were kind. I loved who you could be. But I’ve come to realize that I don’t know who you are. Maybe I never did. I wish this could mean as little to me as it does you. I wish I understood why. I wish this made sense. I wish I could shut it off. I’ve wished that for years. I wish I could brush the rubble of this relationship off my shoulders and keep dancing. I haven’t masted that grace, though I keep trying. No matter how many months I’ve ignored your incessant texts and emails and heartfelt apologies and all too recent declarations of love, some nights are raw and the words get in. Truthfully, at times I yearned to hear them. I’ve fallen back into your promises, your grandiose cosmic epiphanies of love and tearful, aplogetic remorse time and time and time and then embarrassingly, shamefully, time again. To the point I agreed to marry you, though I knew it would end in heartbreak. That’s how badly I wanted to believe you. I’ve questioned my sanity, my desperation to be loved, to be known, to have a partner, to prove to you that I am not the dark, evil person, the “worthless, piece of shit,” you’ve told me for years, along with anyone who still believes you, that I am.
My head was spun so sideways from living in fear of your next rage or sudden disappearance–the lighting bolt switching from devoted love to intense, vindictive hatred for seemingly no reason (yet, always told it was something my behavior initiated) and having to constantly walk on eggshells, at times I was too exhausted to get out of bed. I was too overwhelmed to leave my apartment. I jumped at loud noises. I developed a painful bacterial infection. I saw a PTSD counselor. During the worst of it, my sense of self was so non-existent, I felt there was nothing left to live for. It was during the times when I was the most vulnerable that you’d come in for the kill…disappearing for days or weeks but not before making sure to let me know that I deserved all of it. Thank God for my friends.
What I’m finally learning is that I don’t owe you anything. What I do have to learn is to give myself the love I swam so hard upstream to win from someone who doesn’t have it to give. It’s a battle I am fighting everyday.
Still, inexplicably, I don’t wish pain onto you. The love I felt I can’t just shut off cruelly, the way you have done so easily time and time again. Part of me still feels deeply for the sad little boy inside you–the one who throws tantrums and hurts people before they can hurt him. But there’s nothing anyone can do to help that little boy and I can’t hold him close anymore.
I don’t want to play your game any longer. I don’t believe the tearful stories you tell of remorse and self-reflection when the only changes are the gray in your hair and the months on the calendar. Freedom begins with me facing reality, accepting my responsibility, admitting the truth of who you’ve been to me and letting you go.