* Warning: some curse-words ahead:
In 1993 I didn’t know what the word narcissist meant.
Beyond how it related to the Greek figure Narcissus, who gazed so long at his own image in a pool of water that he turned into the flower that bears his name, I was unaware.
But I was about to get schooled.
My ex blew into my life like a hurricane blows onto a beach, changing the entire terrain in one earth shattering moment. There I was, minding my own business, when he swooped in with his seaweed green eyes, his Yale education and his expensive suit—which he wore the way other people wear an old pair of jeans.
I was a waitress and he sat at my table, and it seemed to me that electricity crackled out into the room all around him. I was used to waiting on famous people—it was that kind of place—and this gave me a similar feeling, just more intense. He was charming, and he clearly wanted me, and my fingers shook as I set down his espresso cup alongside the bill.
As with all narcissists, he had a knack for making me feel special.
He told me that all other women had been a disappointment to him, that he had been waiting for me, that I was his “blue chip stock”, that I was his only hope for happiness. Oh, it felt good to hear these words. It was the best feeling in the whole wide world.
Then one day I made the mistake of making him angry. What was it that I did?
Hell, what didn’t I do?
When the sun came up in the morning, he was angry because I’d kept him up all night.
When we were sent a free dessert in a fancy restaurant , he was angry because I’d flirted with the waiter.
When we talked about monogamy, he was angry because he still wanted to have sex with other women.
When he found out I’d dated a woman before him, he was angry, because I’d lied about it—even though I lied because I was afraid of what he might do to her.
When he found out I lied about that, he was angry, and punished me like his life depended on it.
Over the next few years he killed my bird, cheated on me, stole all my money, held a gun to my head, alienated me from my friends and family and humiliated me at every opportunity. He destroyed me piece by piece, all the while saying it was my fault.
And because I agreed—it was my fault—I stayed until I knew for a fact he was going to kill me before I finally left.
How it feels to love a narcissist is simple now that I look back on it.
Phase One: Amazing. Phase Two: Utter Shit.
From what I hear, Phase One is typically, as in my case, very brief. Perhaps other girls need more convincing before they accept hell being unleashed upon them, but for me, it only took about a month.
Phase Two dragged on for five years.
Loving a narcissist is like tip toeing down a remote road in Iraq that has been riddled with countless IEDs. We never know what’s going to make them blow, and when they do blow, we always get a direct hit. But we never tell anyone, because what would we say? How could we explain it? We’re supposed to be in friendly territory.
It is confusing, because we know our partner is treating us badly, but we also believe there is a different person under that angry mask: the person we first knew. We believe we can remove the mask with just the right words, just the right gestures. And sometimes, we’d swear we’ve done it—we see a glimmer of kindness, of decency. There he is!
And then the storm clouds move back in, and shit rains down once again.
Because a narcissist cannot feel compassion for anyone else, it’s up to us to do the feeling. We will work overtime convincing ourselves they have a reason for being the way they are. They are damaged and we are the only ones who can help.
Loving a narcissist means being a victim, and being a victim means giving up our power entirely to someone else.
Loving a narcissist means we can’t allow ourselves to receive love because we don’t believe we are truly worthy of it.
Loving a narcissist means hating ourselves.
I didn’t know any of these things when I was with my ex, and if you’d told me then what I’m saying now, I would have found a million reasons why you weren’t right.
But the bottom line is, loving a narcissist is quite possibly one of the worst, most dehumanizing feelings in the world.
If we find ourselves in a relationship and we are feeling that way, maybe it’s time to tear ourselves away from our partner and take a look at our own reflection in the pond.
Relephant video bonus:
BONUS too: 108 little things to appreciate about being single:
Author: Erica Leidbrandt
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Wikimedia Commons