I can not say that I spotted the signs of narcissism in my spouse right away. In fact, it took well over 12 years to gain the strength and courage to get out. Most narcissists work their victims over slowly and chip away at their self-esteem. The good news is, you can heal, move on and stop being a victim.
How could this have happened to me? I thought I was a happy child growing up with the perfect family. My parents loved me, my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins all loved me. I loved my life. But deep down, I was not getting my needs met. There are no perfect families and perfect parents.
When I take a serious look back over my years, I almost always felt like I was never good enough. I told myself my sister was the smarter, prettier and thinner one. (It came from hearing it from family members) I tried to be a perfectionist at everything I did and continually beat myself up. There was no such thing as fail in my book, so I would continue to work harder and harder hurting myself mentally up for not being perfect.
While going through some deep EFT healing with a therapist, I was taken back to being 3 years old. I looked at my 3 year old self and told her that I loved her and that she was safe. It was difficult to look at her and think that she wasn’t good enough, or that she didn’t matter. Once this door was opened, I began to dig deeper into why I do the things I do, why I have negative self-talk and why I allowed a narcissist to take control of my life.
My journey with a narcissist began when I was 24. I was in a relationship that my family wasn’t too thrilled about due to differing religious backgrounds. In an effort to please them, I decided to break up with him and go to a party to “meet” some of my sister’s friends. I met a very charming man who was a teacher. He seemed to be the life of the party and offered advice to anyone who would listen. My family seemed to approve of him and things progressed quickly. In the meantime, things started going south with my sister and her fiancee – new boyfriend to the rescue. He had all the answers and told us how we should be handling the entire situation. After all, he was best friends with my sister’s fiancee, he knew enough about him to know what we should do.
Abusers isolate victims from family and friends.
This was the first warning sign that something was seriously wrong. But we played along and away my sister went…along with most of my mother’s family and half of my father’s family. Even mutual friends all split in half taking sides. But my boyfriend knew best and encouraged us to remove family from our lives.
We did not live together while dating – the first year, he lived 2 states away and we saw each other on weekends. Once he moved back local, he lived with his parents and I continued to live with mine. When we married, it was my first time living without my parents and living with someone else. Things were not easy. I felt like we hated each other and thought it was because we were getting to know each other and blending our living styles. He was still pretending to be single, going out almost every night with his friends and when I asked for some time with him, I was wrong for asking. When he was home, he locked himself in the computer room. I started to be suspicious of something going on behind my back and it turned out right. He was messing around online with other women. After confronting him, he said he would never do it again and deleted his account. As far as I know it was all virtual and nothing physical.For myself, the mental and emotional cheating hurt much worse than if he would have had a one night fling. But he promised up and down that he was going to stop and he proved it by deleting his account.
My biological clock was ticking and I wanted kids before I didn’t have energy to raise them. When I had each of my babies, we had planned that I would be a stay-at-home mom. I was excited for the opportunity but never realized that this would further my isolation from family and friends. After each c-section birth, I was told that my parents could visit but they could not stay and help. I had to do it alone. I could barely take care of myself – let alone 2 babies (16 months apart). I was exhausted, alone and feeling overwhelmed. I would beg for him to take the kids when he got home from work so I could have a break…but he insisted on cooking dinner and doing all of the laundry instead.
Narcissists chip away at you without you realizing it is happening. In fact, I can’t really remember a time when we had a “fight” other than when I caught him messing around online. I didn’t really have the emotional intelligence (EQ) to speak up for what I wanted. Things also didn’t bother me much…so I thought. I let him say things and make decisions and didn’t fight it. Example…I wasn’t allowed to do laundry or cook. Without saying the actual words, it was “you’re not good enough, I will do it” – and after a while you begin to believe it. While most people might enjoy not doing these chores, it hurts when you aren’t allowed to do it. I began to resent my life and needed an outlet.
I decided to join the hospital’s “Mommy and Me” group to have some friends with kids the same age as mine. It was great in the beginning, but after a few years, hubby was not thrilled with the influence of my new friends, stating: their lifestyles were no good for me to be around and I was told to stop going out with them. It didn’t go over well with these friends that I was “too good to hang with them.”
After a few months, I then looked for a local group of moms because the isolation was awful. I found the MOMS Club and began making new friends. This lasted for a little while, until he decided to start inviting himself to some of the events. After a few years and making some friends, he decided we needed to move to another state closer to his work. Further isolation. When we moved, I was no longer able to keep up with the friendships and had to look for other ways to meet moms. It was near impossible in our new state. The kids were older and there were no groups locally. The kids were ready to start school and I was starting to look for full time work. My self esteem was also low at this point.
Threatening anyone who gets in their way.
There were times throughout our marriage that he threatened my parents that if they tried having a relationship with my sister or other family members who were on my sister’s side, they would never see their grand kids again. Harsh, but we took that threat seriously. When a house went up for sale down the street, my parents took a look at it. I thought it would be great to have them close so the kids could visit them when they wanted and I could have easy babysitting. He ended up driving to their house (an hour away) to tell them that they were not to buy a house near us. And if they did, again, they would never see their grand kids again.
The final straw for me was catching him cheating with a former girlfriend online. He quickly deleted his facebook account and said “throw away my computer right now, today! I don’t want it around. I will never do it again. I love you.” This raised a red flag and I did some hacking to find that there was more cheating going on – it included former students. I was sick to my stomach that he took advantage of those he had authority over. I was done…but I grew up with parents who were still married. His parents were still married. Divorce was not a word in our vocabulary. And I spoke to no one about what was happening because I was afraid. He drug me to christian counseling. I was already done though…I couldn’t take any more. I was faithful the entire marriage…why…and how could he keep doing this? I pretended my way through the counseling to make it end quickly. I retreated to my home office where I focused on my side work, barely slept and avoided contact with him as much as possible.
Living with a narcissist adversely affects your health.
The abuse gets so ingrained and you feel helpless. I started gaining weight and feeling lethargic. My body was attacking itself in an attempt to wake me up. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos/Hypothyroidism in 2012. It took a long 3 years to learn all I could about the auto-immune disease and how to begin healing. I changed up my diet and found a few thyroid tricks to help me finally lose the weight. I exercised every day with p90X, Insanity, p90x3, T25 and running every day and had strong support of my online workout group.
I started a new full time job and after a year, I had the strength and now the money to make a tough decision. A good friend said “you know you don’t have to stay in this marriage” – those words were foreign to me. I gave it some time to sink in and made the decision to tell my family. I had their support 100% and I was able to break free. The divorce was easy for him…I gave him everything, took no child support and no alimony. I didn’t have it in me to fight him over the divorce – I just wanted out. Any time he would try to engage me in arguing, I would go out for a run. Sometimes it would be 8 miles of therapy just to survive those last few weeks.
I’m happy to say I survived and became stronger. When I left, he turned harder on the kids. I can’t get into all of the details here because the court case is still pending. He was found guilty of abuse and the kids have been safely with me for the past two years. He still tries to attack me through the courts – costing me thousands of dollars each month along with the emotional stress. I’m still fighting for the kids’ freedom and helping them heal from their emotional wounds. It’s going to be a long road for them, but they are smart and loving and will get through this.
A brighter future and healing.
I no longer blame myself for staying as long as I did and for not getting out sooner. I continue to make positive changes in my life and see the world, myself and others in a whole new way. I joined a group for abused women that meets weekly. They offer support with helping women get out of bad situations, helping each other’s self-esteem, help in filing court documents and will even go to court with you. It was comforting knowing that I was not the only one who was duped. And now I am able to offer hope to newer members of the group who are just beginning their journey out of abuse. If you’re feeling like you’re overwhelmed and can’t get out, just take it one day at a time. Find some local support groups. Talk to family – they may be more supportive than you ever could have imagined.
When we play victim, we perpetuate the hurt and are unable to heal our wounds. When we forgive, offer peace and love to our abusers, we can finally begin healing our wounds and living a fulfilling life. I forgive him. He still has hate in his heart because I rescued the kids…and I hope one day he heals and can be a loving father to them. I wish him peace.
I have a supportive and healthy relationship now. This amazing man has introduced me to many new healing techniques. He has opened my world to authentic communication and unconditional love. He loves my children and wants to be a team with me in raising them. I never thought I deserved to have this kind of happiness and support. I do deserve it…and I am thankful to have it. Don’t settle and live without hope that things can be better. It can be better. It will take you time to dig deep, find strength, make the tough decisions, and move towards loving yourself. Don’t ever give up!
Narcissistic Abuse – Narcissistic abuse is what a person in a relationship with someone that meets the criteria for narcissistic (NPD) or antisocial (APD) personality disorder experiences. The potentially crippling, life long effects of narcissistic abuse on a partner’s mental health form a cluster of symptoms, not yet included in the DSM, known as narcissist victim syndrome.
As a victim you
- Question your sanity
- Mistrust those who support you – your family, friends
- Feel abandoned, as if only the narcissist cares
- Feel worthless and not good enough
- Give yourself no credit for your own hard work
- Doubt your ability to think or make decisions
- Disconnect from your own wants and needs
- Give in to whatever the narcissist wants
- Devalue your contributions
- Obsess on your faults or mistakes
- Ignore or make excuses for narcissist’s actions
- Constantly trying to gain narcissist’s favor
- Obsess on how to make the narcissist happy
- Idealize the narcissist
Read more about Narcissists Victim Syndrome: