Don’t let his narcissism do to you what it did to me
To say I’ve been triggered lately is putting it mildly. In fact, I’ve been seeing kaleidoscope colors. I’ve been going to those shaky, dark, traumatized places in my mind and body, places I haven’t been in a long time.
In part, it’s because of you.
I’ve been thinking about what I would say to you if I could, if we got stuck in an elevator together or if we sat next to each other on an airplane. If you were in front of me in the grocery store line. If you called me up and asked me to get coffee.
I would want to say all kinds of things, but since I am better with the written word than the spoken one, I would probably choke on the words. So here is some advice for you about my ex-husband, the man you are sharing your life with now, and some wishes from me to you—one woman to another, one mother to another.
Don’t let him erase you. The most important thing I want to say to you is to keep yourself. Whatever you do, remember who you are. Don’t let him carve pieces out of your whole beautiful being. Don’t let him erase your strength or your will. Don’t let him tell you who to be or how to be or how to eat or how to move or what to wear or when to speak or how to drive or how to spend your money or who to love.
Do you hear me? Don’t let him erase you.
Preserve yourself in all the ways you know how. If you like to run five miles a day, keep doing it, no matter what he says. If you feel most alive in the woods, make sure you get there. Listen to the music that feels like happiness in the center of your chest. Hang the painting. Make the food you love to eat. Spread out. Take up space. Express your opinions, even if he disagrees.
Keep your friends and family close. Any partner who expects you to ditch your friends and family is not acting out of love for you or interest in your well-being. The people who know you best are your emotional compasses. They are supposed to speak up if they’re worried about your relationship or happiness, or if they’re seeing red flags you haven’t noticed—but they can’t do that if they’re being kept away.
This is not a time to insulate yourself, or to curl into a shell with only this man. Abuse thrives in isolation. Dysfunction loves a wall of shuttered windows. Whatever you do, keep close the people who love you most.
If your girlfriends, siblings, or childhood friends invoke happiness and laughter, if they know you deeply, if they remind you of the core of yourself—seek them out, even if he opposes you. These are the people who will be able to see when you cannot. They will help you leave him when you are ready.
Demand more information. Refuse to do his bidding. Beware of being a “flying monkey.” Named for the monkeys in the Wizard of Oz who blindly and willingly do the bidding of the Wicked Witch, flying monkeys are the people the narcissist has recruited to fight for him. They hover around the narcissist, initially attracted by his charm, defending and attacking on his behalf.
Because narcissists depend on triangulation and withholding of information, flying monkeys—no matter how well intentioned they may be—are not acting with a full understanding of the story. Instead, they trust blindly. They feed him energy. They fight his battles. And in doing so, they enable him. Most narcissists have a factory of flying monkeys. They cycle through them, discarding them once they’ve finally wised up to the truth or begun to push back.
I was a flying monkey, too, just like you are.
I was made to think and do unethical things to support his agenda. Over time, my perception of reality became clouded. He wore me down emotionally to the point where I could not gauge what was real anymore. My advice is to refuse to act blindly, and to ask lots of questions. Seek out others who know him or have known him. Ask them questions. Do your own research. If something doesn’t add up, it’s probably not true. And once his mask slips off in earnest, trust that.
Realize you can’t change him. I remember thinking that I could change him, that his love for me would be the potion he needed to become the best and most honest version of himself. I was wrong about all that. He never loved me, and I would bet money that he does not love you, either. I don’t say that to offend you. I say that because this fictional love I thought he felt for me was the thing that kept me anchored in an abusive relationship for far too long.
Narcissists are incredibly empty individuals. They do not have empathy for others. They do not have a wide spectrum of healthy emotions like most of us do. They do not feel love like most of us do. Had I known that our entire relationship was built on a foundation of lies, I hope I would have saved myself sooner. I truly wish that for you.
There is nothing that you can do to change him. You cannot love him more or bring him the perfect gift or be the perfect partner. You cannot overlook enough of his affairs or lies. He will not love you more if you bully his ex-partners. You cannot change him.
Know I’m here if you need me. I have nothing but empathy for you, and I understand intimately the position you’re in. I understand why you need to pretend that he’s a wonderful man, why you look away from the truth, how it’s being twisted in your mind.
My truth threatens the rest of your life. It threatens the stability and the honesty of your relationship. It threatens everything he has told you, which you have chosen to believe. My truth threatens the life you envision for your family.
I get it. But I hope that there will be a day when you realize enough is enough.
When you stand up to him and his mask slips off.
When the floor opens up beneath you, and you realize everything has been a lie.
When you stare at the faces of your children and realize this is not the life you want for them.
When you are numb with the realization that this man is not the man you think he is.
When you leave.
And on that day, I’ll be here for you.
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