Loving a Narcissist: Charisma, Charm, and Shame

Loving a Narcissist: Charisma, Charm, and Shame

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Being deemed good enough for sex but not love

I was drawn to your charisma and charm.

It had been two years since I’d been on a date. After a failed 12-year relationship that produced two children, and the failed three years of online dating that followed, I’d given up. I was a single mom. I didn’t have the time, finances, or desire to hit the bars and clubs, and online dating didn’t work.

It was a Sunday. I was vulnerable and starved for affection. My kids were with their dad, and I was achingly lonely—so I went back online. It was synchronicity. There you were, lonely as well. We talked on the phone for hours, had so much in common. We laughed. We clicked. I’d never “clicked” before. Now I knew what it felt like. We had dinner that night. We talked until the sun came up. We kissed. You had two children as well. We understood each other. It was fate. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me!

I’d made it abundantly clear on my dating profile what I was looking for. Hooking up was not something I wanted. We discussed it. You agreed. You “wanted to get it right this time.”

Like most men in my demographic, you were separated. The “divorce was almost final.” You’d been in a loveless marriage for 15 years. You were ready.

And you won me with your charisma and charm.

You traveled for work. You were leaving town in a week, so we fell into a relationship immediately. We saw each other every night. I can’t believe this is happening . . . to me! We stole nights of passion in between your trips, sharing intimacies, laughter, stories of our children. I saw a future. I saw happiness. All the pain in my life had led to this moment. You were my prize.

But then came the bursts of anger. The divorce wasn’t going well. You hated your ex. She was an addict. She was a narcissist. She was a bitch. You’d snap at me . . . then apologize the next day. I understood. You poor thing. I comforted you.

Our time together gradually declined as my feelings for you grew. You were tired, stressed. We’d meet for a drink at our favorite bar—the dark one close to your house. How romantic. We’d visit, laugh, then go to your house for sex. You’d fall asleep. I’d walk to my car alone. Walking those streets late at night I felt sordid. But why? I was being ridiculous. I pushed the feelings deep down. After all, you were new to the dating scene. You didn’t know the protocol. I would teach you. You said you’d do better. You’d work on it.

You met my children—gave my daughter guitar pics, wowed my son with stories of exploits with famous rappers. You won them with your charisma and charm.

During our nights at the dark bar, we’d talk about your challenges, your successes and failures, your life. You were so creative—in such demand. You were an important person in so many professions. We didn’t talk much about mine. That was OK. You were going through a lot. You made me laugh. You told me I was beautiful, sexy, and wonderful. You “made love” to me. And in spite of your work with beautiful young models, you told all 52-years-old of me that I was perfect.

It was OK that we didn’t talk about me. You were charismatic and charming.

You began to look at other women when we were together. It hurt, and I told you so. You got angry, “You’re being insecure!” You were right. Men don’t like insecure women. I was afraid of losing you. I was losing myself. You convinced me, “We have a connection. You’re the only woman I’m seeing.” You smiled and kissed the back of my neck. I was relieved.

You never slept at my house, but that was OK. You worked long days, and there was traffic. It was easier if I came to you—always meeting at that same dark bar—keeping us on the down low until your divorce was final. “You know I can’t have a serious relationship right now.” I understood. Though really, I didn’t.

Two days later, I went on Bumble for an article I was writing. There you were. My stomach flew into my mouth. “You had to know I’d see it.” You scolded me, “We went over this. I can’t have a serious relationship right now.” You had “15 years of shit to deal with.” You were confused. Your life was a mess. But you told me, “You’re the only woman I’m seeing. You’re wonderful, smart, beautiful, funny, sexy. . . . ” Words I hadn’t heard in far too long. So I made your kids’ beds and baked you cookies. You never thanked me. You never noticed.

You stopped responding to my texts when you were out of town. You didn’t respond to my texts much at all anymore. My imagination ran wild. I lived in anxiety. I’d try to communicate my feelings. “You’re acting like a child!” You didn’t text me on my birthday. Maybe you’d forgotten. You were under a lot of stress. I was being neurotic.

I never met your kids. I never met your friends. We never went to a movie or took a hike. When I wanted to see you, you were busy. I convinced myself you were. When you asked to see me, I jumped, never going beyond that bar where nobody could see us—grateful for the crumbs of affection and attention, enchanted by your charisma and charm.

I lied to my friends. I didn’t want them to know what we’d become, what I’d become. I convinced myself this was how adults dated—the new paradigm for romance in the age of technology. After all, I hadn’t dated in 20 years. My insecurities annoyed you. I annoyed you. So I rubbed your feet, gave you a blow job, and told you that you were wonderful—over and over and over.

The closer you got to divorce, the more distant you became. You didn’t hold my hand. You didn’t kiss me hello. You mentioned a failed date with another woman. My heart dropped. In a moment of sanity, I told you I couldn’t continue to sleep with you if you were sleeping with other women. “Stop overreacting. Don’t bring your past into this. We’ve been over this! You’re the only woman I’m sleeping with.”

In truth, I was a lonely mom who’d become his booty call. This isn’t me. I felt shame. I ignored it. Because I was lucky a man like him would be interested in a woman like me—middle-aged single mom, cellulite and baby fat. I was lucky to be with anyone at all.

We saw each other less and less. You said, “It is what it is.” I thought it was something—for seven months. This is my fault. I was driving you away. I was squeezing you. You needed space. You told me you’d call me in a few weeks. I blamed myself.

I was overjoyed when you called, “The divorce is final. When are you free?” I waxed, tanned, got my roots died. We had our drink at the dark bar. “You know I can’t have a serious relationship right now.” You had a lot to work through, but I had nothing to worry about. I was “the best sex” you’d ever had, and you “wouldn’t sleep with other women.” It was the best night of our relationship. We talked. We laughed. We made plans. We had sex. You walked me to my car. This was going to happen. I’d have to be patient—but it was going to happen.

The next day you were on Bumble—12 hours after we’d had sex. You’d changed your profile. It said you were “looking for a partner.” I vomited. How did this happen? How could he lie? I’m a single mom, after all. I can’t afford a broken heart.

I impulsively confronted you, “You had to know I’d see it. You had to know it would hurt.” You got angry. “We aren’t having a relationship. We aren’t seeing each other. We aren’t dating. It’s all in your head. We’re nothing! And I can do whatever I want.” That was that.

My world crashed. It was my fault. I’d smothered him. Squeezed him—imagined a relationship when there was none. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t get out of bed. I texted an apology. You didn’t respond. I was crazy.

I waited two months for you to come back. After all, you’d come back before. We exchanged friendly texts, anything to stay connected. I called you on Mother’s Day. I knew you’d be alone. But you were seeing someone—for two months. She was 20 years younger with no children. “She doesn’t know if she wants them.” Prettier, thinner, richer, everything “er” than I . . . with a tiny, fluffy white dog that wears sweaters and has ears dyed pink.

And he wanted her. Not me.

I vomited again, crawled into bed, slept and cried, and slept some more. My children despaired. My friends got angry. I saw no life without you. I saw no life at all. Who would want me? I’d imagined a relationship when there was none.

You were charismatic and charming, and I was a crazy fool, full of shame—at who I’d become, where I’d let myself go, the things I’d done to please you—because pleasing you made me happy.

I was good enough to fuck but not good enough to love. Not good enough to be seen outside a dark bar near your house. I’d given myself over and let you wipe my beautiful soul on the bottom of your size 11 shoe. I fell for your charisma and charm.

I didn’t hate you. I hated myself.

A week into my grief and at the request of my daughter, my neighbor—a therapist—came over. She explained to me that you are a narcissist. “We’ve all done it. It’s not your fault. There is no shame. This is what narcissists do.” I wasn’t crazy.

Gutted, I prayed and walked and talked and took back my sanity. I reminded myself that my kids don’t see my shame. Nobody does. I washed the experience from my body. I moved on. The anger came.

I still await the sweet feeling of indifference. I will continue to learn self-love and rebuild. I will reclaim the dignity that I so readily gave away. I will learn to spot men like you in the future.

And when you do come back—because that, too, is what narcissists do—I will tell you to “Fuck off.”

And celebrate with my friends and champagne at a well-lit bar.

Anyone else pulled in by the “charms” of a narcissist? Our condolences!

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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