Wednesdays I host a guest blogger – professionals, clients, friends, strangers; stories of success and failure, people who are suffering, some who are opinionated, all of whom are a work in progress. These are struggles about real life issues. If you are interested in telling your story email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back a few years ago, narcissist was a word I was only vaguely familiar with. A word in a book title, a word describing someone in someone else’s life, a word I had trouble spelling. Two years and hundreds of hours of counseling and self work later, narcissism is something I think about everyday. I don’t want to, mind you, but when you wake up beside a narcissist every morning, you better know what you’re dealing with.
For years, I had no idea what I was dealing with. My life looked good from the outside and I couldn’t pin down the reasons for my constant turmoil and distress. My spouse was the very picture of perfect, everyone told me so. Much of the time, I even believed it myself. But belaying his sugar-coated exterior was a cavalier disregard for precise truth, concealed agendas, subtle manipulation and veiled devaluation that I experienced on a daily basis; all in the name of a higher good. I’d become so accustomed to this, I took it as normal. My sense of normal was skewed, to say the least.
Over the course of my marriage, I slowly lost my self-worth, faith, hope and ability to cope. I was convinced I was the problem, and so were many others. I second guessed all my perceptions and my internal world became so distorted, I wasn’t even sure what was real anymore. Was I crazy, lazy, fallen, and below par as my spouse so subtly and repeatedly implied, or was he not who he appeared to be?
It’s taken me a long time to wrap my head around what narcissism really is. Imagine slowly discovering everything you thought about your spouse was dead-ass wrong. That all the admirable qualities you’d attributed to them, all the good intentions you thought they had, all the motivations you thought stemmed from love actually came from their need for self-aggrandizement. Then imagine discovering your spouse isn’t really capable of intimacy, true empathy, honesty or truly loving you or your kids. Is it any wonder it takes so long to wrap your head around such a thing?
And what in the world do you do when that brutal realization finally makes its way in?
Well I’m still learning and I imagine it’ll be awhile yet. But here’s a tip I wish I’d paid attention to earlier. When something doesn’t feel right in your life, find yourself a good counselor. Then tell the truth and deal with yourself. It took me 22 years of denial, doubt, and second guessing to hit breaking point. Don’t wait that long.
And then educate yourself about narcissism and it’s effects. I’m learning to question all my assumptions, look for secondary motivations, trust my gut instincts, have no expectations of a normal marriage; and trying to be patient with how damn long it takes to begin to feel whole again.
This is an unfinished story for me still. One of learning to understand myself, my circumstances and live at peace in spite of. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose sight of personal change. But I think it’s coming, in slow painstaking millimeters, and with it hopefully better days.