I Was In Love With A Man That Never Existed

If you have ever loved someone who suffered from a covert narcissistic personality disorder, sooner or later you discovered that you fell in love with a person that never existed. What you fell for was their facade - the person they pretended to be and which masked a more sinister and complex personality disorder. I know. I was married to a man who suffered from this kind of personality disorder.

And this is a story that I have told many times before but now, two years later - having recovered from post-traumatic stress and living a narcissist free life - I return to this part of my life one last time to reflect on it from a completely different perspective and with a new set of questions.

For me, the end of my abusive marriage was the end of a cycle that I didn’t know I was in. Therefore, I couldn’t have seen this kind of an end to my marriage coming. The complexity and escalation of the abuse and manipulation created a pattern that became unbearable. The person I had met and fell in love with was not the callous man I left. And it took all of me to leave behind the gaslighting and frightening episodes of physical abuse that started to escalate towards the end. By that point I the gaslighting, the trauma bond and the fear left me very confused and afraid.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

Maya Angelou

But finding the strength to leave this relationship allowed me to end a whole cycle of relating that had its roots in in my childhood. I was able to burst that bubble and it fissured right down to my core.

I also partly blame the fact that we as a society don’t actively educate people about the existence, dangers and signs of a narcissistic relationship. We are taught to be kind, to treat others as we treat ourselves but at the same time, we are not taught how to set healthy boundaries in front of people who are emotionally and mentally unwell.

In the two years that I left my husband, I have drawn the line twice and not once have I thought twice about it. Not once did I second guess my intuition or feel guilty about my judgement or consider the other person’s feelings. Doubting the self, guilt, forgiveness - all these learned behaviours that override our intuition - is what the narcissist thrives on. It is this kind of learned behaviour that they know they can manipulate and use to place you in perpetual confusion while taking advantage of you and allowing their passive-aggressive behaviour to go unchecked.

I am grateful that he destroyed this type of thinking, allowing a whole cycle of unhealthy relating to come to an end and for this I thank him. He opened my eyes to the reality of personality disorders and the need for clear boundaries that don’t compromise your own highest personal values or your intuitive knowing.

Where that cycle once existed, I feel gloriously empty. New life and healthy patterns have taken hold that bring joy to my life. After two years of working through my post-traumatic stress, I now have a clear relationship with my intuition and I am living a life I love. I have redrawn my circle and I am very careful about the relationships I allow into my life.

After a series of tactical conversations in which I managed to persuade him to sign the divorce papers, I removed him completely from my life. I had no need for closure because I knew this person was, in fact, incapable of any form of empathy or rational thinking in the state that he was in.

Instead, I gave myself my own closure and made peace with the fact that the man I loved never existed.

I highly recommend reading ‘Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People,’ by Jackson Mackenzie.

These are some of my notes from his book…

  • Narcissists follow a pattern like clockwork - Idealize, Devalue, Discard. Don’t engage in the pattern. Remove yourself and analyse your own relationship to it away from the narcissist.
  • Forget everything you know about people. Remember that narcissists are people that prey on forgiveness. They thrive on your need for closure. They also manipulate compassion and exploit sympathy.
  • The anxiety you feel in the relationship is manufactured - it is not real. What is real about it is that is that it is being used as a way of controlling your behaviour. See it and free yourself from it.
  • Be aware of multiple personas. Through the course of a word-salad conversation, you are likely to experience multiple personalities ranging from normal to aggressive to childish behaviour.
  • Recognise signs of gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form covert emotional abuse in which the abuser spins a false narrative around their victim and causes them to start questioning their judgements and reality. Victims start to feel unsure about their perceptions of the world and can even start to question their sanity. You can read more about it here.
  • When a woman reaches out to you during your relationship, believe her.
  • Notice the mean and sweet cycle. Sometimes they shower you with attention, sometimes they ignore you, sometimes criticize you. This is not a normal or healthy pattern of behaviour in any way.
  • If they are accusing you of something, they are likely doing it themselves. If you look closely you will see that they are blatantly hypocritical.
  • The healing begins when you start focusing on your own feelings. Find them and let them be your starting point. Start where you are.

And finally, my favourite - When you find yourself explaining basic human emotions to someone - things like ‘empathy’ and ‘feelings’ and ‘being nice’ - leave. Normal adults do not need to be taught the rules we all learn in kindergarten. You are not the first person who has attempted to see the good in them and you are not the last. You think to yourself, ‘If they can just understand why I am hurt, then they’ll stop doing it.” But they won’t. They wouldn’t have hurt you in the first place if they were a decent human being.

*About the photograph at the top of this post. I took this photograph in Amsterdam and I think that its fitting to use it for a post that speaks about dealing with illusions 🙂

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