Reflection on an Intimate Relationship with a Narcissist
The birth of this blog came about through a painful relationship break up with a man I believe is a narcissist. I have had some requests from readers of my blog to say more about being in a relationship with a narcissist. Now that my grief is less acute from this shattering experience, I thought I would try to convey something of the ‘lived experience’“.
Eleanor D. Payson in her excellent book ‘ The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists’ says this. “The word narcissism in its most fundamental sense means a tendency to self-worship. For the narcissist, his excessive self-absorption is a protection against unconscious but powerful feelings of inadequacy. Seduced by the narcissist’s camouflage of outer charm or confidence, you are eventually drawn into the nightmare side of this relationship. By the time you realise that something is wrong, the cumulative effects can range from bruised self- esteem to severe depression”. She goes on to say that at the beginning of a romantic relationship, the NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is often the pursuer with an ardent intent to capture you. You are the idealised perfect partner. This was certainly true in my case. I had never felt so loved and adored. I was divinely happy. He did and said all the right things. I thought every box was ticked as far as his qualities went that this was the man with who I would grow old.
When the nightmare side emerged in our couple relationship it could be characterised in this way that Payson describes, “I am not talking of the often ugly, but fairly normal, dirty fight that might break out between partners or family members who are capable of empathy. Instead, I am referring to an extraordinarily intense verbal attack that knows no bounds. It may even be delivered with a calm, icy quality that in some eerie way is divorced from all human emotion, where only the mechanistic goal to annihilate is experienced. Whether it is explosive hot rage or an icy calm attack, the narcissist’s anger is an unmistakably different experience from the anger expressed between two people who are capable of empathy.”
The first kind of attacks in my relationship began with icy cold and sudden withdrawals after times of intense love and affection. When I expressed puzzlement and hurt at this behaviour, he would attack me verbally saying the most outrageous things! I would react of course with my outrage trying to defend myself, as well as tears because I felt so wounded, then he would accuse me of being crazy and oversensitive. Later on, the attacks became more viscous with accusations of having it off with my personal trainer as well as with other people, including friends or using vulnerabilities I had shared with him, to put me down and assassinate my character. This behaviour was intermittent, which is what made it so insidious and confusing. At other times he was the perfect lover, sensitive and caring, attending to my needs, pouring on the love magnificently. It took me a while to accept I was in an abusive relationship of a different kind! Narcissistic abuse has a flavour all of its own. The following poem describes clearly some of these flavours. I wrote this soon after finally breaking up with him after an astonishingly vicious verbal attack, which marked the point of no return for me. No matter how much I loved him in the good times, my integrity would not allow me to return to him after this.
Disentangling from You.
The last two and a half weeks have been a blur,
since the cruelty of your threats of death
to annihilate and eradicate me from your life.
Now of course,
your dance of seduction is in full swing
as you attempt to reel me in again,
with Mr Nice Guy showing up in full splendour.
Gobsmacking, astonishing, crazy making
as I watch the parody of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
appear before me in swift succession.
It is within months, weeks, days or even hours sometimes
when these switches occur.
I am awake to you now,
as I painfully and horrendously
disentangle my layers of attachment and love for you,
and separate from your crazy-making system.
My grief is immense,
unbearable at times,
as I try to come to terms with the fact
that I cannot sustain a relationship with you.
You are too damaging for me.
I have loved you (whoever YOU are)
more than I have loved anyone.
You have trampled on my heart and soul
time and time again,
as much as you have seemed to love me
with such wonderful, kind and loving attention.
My heartbreak is unspeakable
as I come to terms with this happening to me
at this stage of my life.
I believed I had found my close companion,
ski buddy, walking mate, passionate lover, best friend,
we had such plans for growing old together.
My dreams and hopes are absolutely shattered,
my anger is huge
at God, Life, the Universe, You
for leading me to believe
that at last, I had got it right this time
in my choice of a partner.
Of course my projections onto you of my longing,
are part of this story as well.
The particular flavours of ‘narcissistic abuse’,
the kind of abuse that you dish out
are very complicated and hard for me to speak about.
I feel the shame as if it was mine.
It feels a very lonely journey indeed
as I claw my way back
out of the web of your destruction
to claim my life back again.
Two years ago
I was at the top of the mountain with you
singing my love songs to you with full voice.
Friends were envious that I had found such a wonderful man.
The fact that I had known you for fifteen years made you a safe bet in my eyes and theirs.
Today I have fallen to the bottom of the desolate canyon.
No broken bones
but a broken soul and a broken heart.
I lie here defeated in the game of love
and surrender to the grief.
I am grateful that at some level I know resilience,
honed through other sufferings in my life.
I will get up again and walk,
but right now the depression of my invisible wounds
so hidden from view,
keep me harnessed
to the tentacles of deep misery
and this writing is my attempt
to find some expression for it.
If you are trying to make sense of your experience with a narcissist, or any other kind of abusive relationship, I do hope that this helps.