She sat there silently reeling. Again.
Too scared to leave the room, should she step on those eggshells and make the slightest sound. The slightest crack, even in her bare feet, would no doubt be enough to poke him again. Enough to set him off into hurling abuse.
She couldn’t look at him, as she knew eye contact would just antagonise the situation. She didn’t know who said “sticks and stones would break your bones, but words will never hurt you,” because it was a lie. Those words were cutting her open from the inside out. Those words were slowly killing her; maybe not a physical death, but her spirit was dying.
He was a shadow of who she thought she knew. And she was a shell of herself, just like those eggshells she was so afraid to step on.
She had tried many times to communicate her feelings. Her needs. Her fears. But each time, she was shut down. She was blamed for making him react the way he did. After all, if she wasn’t so annoying and didn’t whine so much, he wouldn’t get so frustrated. He wouldn’t be angry, if she didn’t make I’m angry. It was her fault. All of it.
He was in one of those awful moods again. The one where she just needed to be invisible. To be silent as to not upset him, but even her silence and near invisibility was seemingly p*ssing him off. She could tell by his demeanor and the agitated energy that was radiating from him that he was furious.
In recent months, she had really started to question her sanity, repeatedly told all the things she did wrong. All the things she was exaggerating. All the things that he alleged were untrue. All the things that were progressively making her feel like she was “losing the plot.” She needed to get away. She needed space to to get some clarity. She needed a break. She needed to find her courage. She needed to leave.
And then like nothing had happened. Like there had been no anger. No mood. No eggshells. He was the man she remembered. The man she married. The man without the angry streak and energy. The man who loved her. Because he told her he loved her. Repeatedly. Like she had imagined it all. She started to feel comfortable. She started to feel safe. She started to let her guard down.
But that was yesterday. Today was another day. A day that she spent cleaning and making their home just how he liked it. She cooked his favourite meal. Painstakingly prepared all the fresh ingredients. The aroma permeated through the house, reminding her of their early days.
She had put the kids to bed early. She slipped into the shower washing her hair and lathering her body with the citrus-scented body wash. Feeling renewed and fresh. He always loved when she made the effort to be feminine. He would be due home soon.
She stepped out of the shower ensuring to moisturise her skin. She dried her hair in the style he liked and applied some makeup. She didn’t often wear makeup, but he told her she looked better when she did. She found the dress he always complimented her on and walked out to the kitchen to check on the dinner. She was feeling calm and pretty.
He walked through the door, and instantly, she knew today was different. Gone was the kindness and love. Immediately, she felt the eggshells beneath her feet. Tread slowly she said to herself. Don’t provoke him. He’s had a bad day. It mattered none what she said or did. He took one look at her and accused her of trying to impress other men. Told her she looked like a pig and was too fat for that dress. Told her to wipe that lipstick off as only whores wore lipstick like that. He yelled that the food smelt like sh*t and he stormed off slamming the door behind him.
She sat down, face in her hands. Her breath erratic and her heart racing. Tears spilling down her face. She felt sick. She felt weak. She felt pathetic. She felt worthless. She felt broken. And she prayed her children had not heard any of it.
This cycle had been going for years. At first she was indignant and fought back, until she learnt how bad things could be. To the outside world things seemed rosy. He told her often how important he was. How respected he was. How everyone thought she was crazy and felt sorry for him for being married to someone like her.
He played such a convincing role. And she understood that he could destroy her. He would destroy her. He told her she would lose everything. He would take the kids away from her, even though he rarely participated with them as a father, but she was such a hopeless mother that the courts would award him custody, he told her.
He told her she was lucky he stayed and tolerated someone like her. Someone so frumpy and disgusting. Someone who did nothing accept look after the kids and even that she couldn’t do right. She had nobody to turn too, as he hated her friends and gave her an ultimatum years ago, “them or me.”
They moved away from her family when they were married, and over the years, their relationship had become distant and strained. So yes, she was alone. And she was so ashamed.
She had read about people like him. Narcissistic traits maybe, or a narcissist. But what good is a label when she is stuck in this house with him? This life? What is she doing to her children? What is she doing to herself?
She was so beaten down. So lost. She had no idea who she was anymore. She was just the disgusting fat pig that was married to him. The pathetic mother. The woman who has no redeeming qualities. She was the warm body when he expected sex. The happy wife when he demanded she be. She was everything to him and nothing to him. The freshly prepared food and the discarded trash. And to herself, she was a complete stranger.
It wasn’t always like this. In fact, in the early stages of their relationship, he was so in love with her and declared his love intensely and early on. She was the centre of his world. He showered her with affection. Compliments. Adoration. She was his queen and he sat her high up on a pedestal of his own creation.
Upon reflection, there was an undercurrent of control, but she convinced herself this was because he loved her so much. He wanted her all to himself. She was younger and now it would seem she was also very naive. She thought this man of 28 to her tender age of 19 was so worldly. So much more experienced than her, and he chose her. So many people told her an older man would look after her. Provide for her. And she could be the adoring wife and mother she dreamed of.
She felt so foolish and wished she had listened early on to her parents concerns. Instead, she listened to him tell her, “There are two people in this relationship, and you should not be listening to anyone else.” This was the beginning of the end of her close relationship with family and friends.
She knew how she got here. But she still questioned how she got here. It was a dark and lonely place. A place where he stripped any remaining shred of self-respect and dignity from her. A place where she looked in the mirror and hated who she saw. A place where tomorrow he would be nicer and things would be better. A place she would stay until she couldn’t live like that anymore. A place she had to escape, before it killed her.
This is the story of a brave woman who has trusted me to share in the hope that maybe it will help others. She did leave. It took enormous bravery because she was absolutely terrified. But one day when he was at work, she packed the kids up and left. She reached out to her parents and now cannot believe she did not do this earlier, but she was convinced they would turn their back on her, because after all, he told her repeatedly how worthless she was. They welcomed her back with open and loving arms.
She has spent the last two years in therapy, rebuilding her self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love. Writing new chapters in her story. Better chapters. Supporting her kids and teaching them boundaries, self-respect, and self-love. He still tries to contact her and control her, but she no longer fears him.
Her story is not an isolated one. In fact, it happens more often than we think. These people are master manipulators. They take and take from their victims, until there is nothing left. But it’s usually when their victim feels safe and secure that it begins to change. It’s a horrible existence. I hope this story brings more light to something that needs to be highlighted. We talk a lot about red flags; we really need to pay attention.
These are red flag warnings, blowing like a cyclone in your face, if you choose to see. To listen. To feel. Pay close attention; your body will always tell you. Just be careful not to mistake your body’s warning signals, for excitement, love, and chemistry, because they can feel almost the same.
Declaring love early on and overtly is “love bombing.” This is not love.
Neediness and trying to control you is toxic. Give yourself some space; if they are genuine, they will be patient. If they are wanting you to do things you are not ready to do, walk away. Don’t let your fear of losing someone keep you in unhealthy situations. This is “manipulation.”
Dictating who you can see, where you can go, who you can talk to may seem flattering initially, like they want you all to themselves. Alarm bells will be ringing; listen to them. This is “coercive control,” and it is abuse.
Turning things around and laying the blame on you for everything will make you question your sanity and eat away at your self-esteem. This is “gaslighting,” and it will reduce a confident person into someone they don’t recognise.
The mood swings from nasty, abusive, and angry, to neutral, friendly, and even caring or loving is not because they genuinely feel these nice feelings, it’s so they can draw you back in and play you like their very own puppet. It’s called “hoovering,” and it will keep you haphazardly swinging in the narcissistic abuse cycle.
And one last take away. Like everything in life, there is not a one-shoe-fits-all narcissist. There are overt or grandiose ones. Covert ones, also known as vulnerable narcissists. Antagonistic ones. Communal ones. And malignant ones. Not all narcissists are equal, but they all will slowly destroy you.
“Relationship with a narcissist in a nutshell, you will go from being the perfect love of their life, to nothing you ever do is good enough. You will give everything and they will take it all and give you less and less in return. You will end up depleted, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and probably financially. And then you will get blamed for it.”~ Bree Bonchay