What just happened?
Did I just get dumped?
Many of us have been there.
Two o’clock in the morning. Staring blankly at the floor. Paralyzed.
Had I been willing to be honest with myself, I knew it was never meant to be. At best, I was clinging to an ideal, but when we get hormone and brainwashed, logic ceases to exist.
I’ve always found it difficult to make connections with people in general, let alone genuine romantic connections with men.
I’m an introvert and have always felt socially awkward—which isn’t exactly a recipe for successful dating.
Dating has always been a struggle for me.
So, when I finally found that person who I had an insatiably strong and instant connection with, that magic attraction, the primal draw, I was done. I’m talkin’ 80s love ballads playing in the background while gazing into each other eyes kind of connection.
I knew I had found my person. All those years waiting had been worth it if this is what I get to have.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t my person. And things didn’t turn out as I imagined they would.
And so began the most intense and excruciating emotional roller coaster of my life.
It started slowly—a backhanded comment here, a cutting remark there. A few instances of behaviour that didn’t sit quite right.
Every comment would be brushed off and cast aside. There was no way he could possibly have meant what he said. He’s so kind and loving. I must be misinterpreting.
When I did call him on behaviour that crossed a boundary, he would justify his actions and explain away the situation. Or he would turn it around on me, and somehow, I ended up being the one to apologize.
I gave and gave, yet nothing seemed to be enough. Even the few times I managed to “do something right,” some sort of comment was made me make me feel I could have done more, been better.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had entered into a relationship with a narcissist and was heading down the road of an emotionally abusive relationship.
He was charming, charismatic, and always knew what to say. I’m embarrassed to say I fell for it all. He knew exactly what I wanted to hear to make me fall in love with him—to make me forgive any shortcomings, to keep making me stay over and over again. I was naïve enough to have believed it all.
Before we got together, I was in the best place of my life. I had worked a lot on myself. I was happy, healthy, confident, and excited about my life. I was damn near effervescent.
Which I’m sure is one of the reasons we got together. Of course I was going to attract someone if I was shining that much light.
When things were over, I barely recognized myself.
Clearly, what I didn’t see at the beginning was not only that he was a narcissist, but also that he lived his life from a place of paralyzing fear, debilitating insecurity, and profound self-loathing. He projected everything he hated about himself, as well as past hurts from previous relationships onto me—cutting me down, making me feel small and less than—all to try and make him feel better about himself.
Gaslighting was a term I had never heard before, but was one I would develop an intimate knowledge of. One of the many sad things from the whole situation was that I actually started to believe I was the person he was trying to convince me I was.
However, despite all his behavior, there was always a niggling feeling in my gut, “This is not right. This is not you.”
Most of the time, I ignored it. But every once in a while, it gave me the courage to speak up, as it turns out, narcissists don’t like being called out on their behavior. After one too many times of bringing something up, he broke it off.
At this point, I can say I am genuinely grateful he did, because at the time I was still in love with the version of him I first met, and for the sake of that person, I knew I would have stayed much, much longer.
It took a long time to get over everything. I kept getting stuck in moving forward and letting go, until I finally admitted to myself what I was really hung up on.
I was ashamed and terribly embarrassed. I felt I needed to punish myself for my choices and actions. I had given up a different life, a dream of mine, for some guy. And all for what? A lie.
At that point, not only had I crawled under a shame rock, I was firmly situated under a shame avalanche, slowly suffocating. The thing I found with being stuck under that heap of shame, is it became somewhat of a safe space for me.
Yes, I knew it was shame that was holding me back, but if ever I was going to crawl out and breathe fresh air again, I actually had to acknowledge what put me there and do the subsequent work to heal those wounds. All of which was terrifying as I knew I would have to go down some pretty dark roads, and deal with some pretty dark things.
Here was one of my deepest darkest hang-ups, and if I’m honest, my stomach still clenches a bit when I admit this because I’m still ashamed. Before, when I saw people, particularly women, who clearly looked like they were in a bad relationship, whose partner was evidently mistreating them, I would judge them for staying. I just didn’t get it. I never understood why someone would want to stay with a person who obviously put them down, made them feel horrible about themselves, and who made them unhappy. Being a chronically single person, it was easy to have that point of view.
And then I found myself in that same situation. That realization made me sick to my stomach. Admitting and acknowledging I had judged people who were in the shoes I was now standing in made me feel ill.
Shame, judgement, and embarrassment were camouflaging my issues surrounding self-esteem, self-worth, and ego. I had always believed I was a strong, independent woman who was sure of herself, who knew how she should be treated in a relationship, and who would never tolerate such terrible behavior from her partner.
Only to have found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship.
It broke my heart. I felt I had left myself down.
So yes, I got dumped, and it hurt like hell, but I broke my own heart.
I broke my own heart by not standing up for myself or maintaining my boundaries. I broke my own heart for letting him treat me so poorly. I broke my own heart by not staying true to myself. And I broke my own heart by not listening to my inner voice who was desperately trying to keep me safe.
I have learned so much in this post-breakup life. I’ve done a lot of reading surrounding narcissistic behaviours and relationships, attachment styles, gaslighting, and many other topics. A friend once told me, “red flags are just flags when seen through rose-colored glasses.”
In hindsight, they weren’t so much red flags as giant New York Times Square billboards flashing: Warning! Warning!
But I still chose not to see them. Hopefully, next time I will.
Going through this experience made me take a hard look at myself—some preconceived notions I didn’t realize I had and how I relate to people in this world.
I never should have judged any of those women for the situations they were in. There is neither a place nor space for judgement in this world, and it only serves to kill connection. I had no idea where they were coming from or what they were dealing with. I should have extended them some empathy.
I know better now.
I have also learned to have more compassion and grace for both others and myself (still working on the self bit). I know I still have much to learn and much to unlearn—that relationship was one hard lesson.
I’m grateful to say I have found meaning from it all. It helped me grow exponentially, heal wounds that may never have come to surface otherwise, and acknowledge harmful behaviors before I get too invested.
I feel I am a much more whole and integrated version of myself—one who is a bit wiser.
I hope from now on instead of breaking my own heart, I can just be true to it instead.