Most people who have been in relationship with a narcissist for any length of time wear numerous masks. They have developed a need to be “people pleasers”. Living with someone who is constantly manipulating your emotions leaves you without the ability to see your own worth. You find yourself gauging the minutest responses of the people around you all of the time, looking for clues about what they want from you. Your life consists of adjusting your behavior and personality to better reflect what other people want. The idea of making a mistake and incurring disapproval is terrifying.
During your marriage you were seen as a reflection of your husband, a sparkly object that complimented him and helped create the image he was looking for. More than likely things started to fall apart because you refused to play the game anymore, or maybe even started making your own rules.
Once you did that there was no turning back. You effectively stopped reflecting his light and started giving off your own. You moved from being an asset to being a competitor.
Do you remember the story of Snow White? The evil queen was quite happy with her life until that fateful day when the mirror gave her an answer she didn’t want to hear.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the most beautiful of them all?”
“Snow White is, you loser.”
The queen becomes enraged and determines to do away with Snow White at all costs. At that point she planned her attack – and in order to carry it out she needed the huntsman and arrows.
Begin to see who you really are in the mirror - stop reflecting the narcissist.
A-B-C’s of Attack
One thing the narcissist is very, very good at is verbal attack. He has the ability to analyze everything he knows about you and say the exact thing that will hurt the most at your most vulnerable moment.
A Is for Accusation
Accusation is one of those things that the narcissist is really, really good at. He has the ability to make you feel like everything that has ever gone wrong in his life is your fault. It may be that he says it or he may just imply it but the feeling is clear.
You are responsible for his not getting a promotion.
You are responsible for his depression.
You are responsible for _________.
Over time it is more and more difficult to fend off those lies. Divorce doesn’t stop it. My ex blamed me for an altercation that happened between my son-in-law and him. Do you know where I was when it happened? In bed with a severe kidney infection and a 105F fever, on pain killers, and totally out of it.
B Is for Bullying
Remember the mean girls in high school?
Bullying can be done in a lot of ways. With the narcissist it may not be physical, in fact that really isn’t his style unless there are other issues like alcohol or drug use. He is more likely to make snide but cloaked comments to other people that make you look bad.
He may push you to the edge privately and then add that last straw in public in a way that makes you look like a crazy person to everyone. Whatever he does you can bet that it will make him look like the good guy and it will make you look like the problem to anyone who doesn’t take the time to look beneath the surface.
C Is for Criticism
For years everything you’ve done has been subject to criticism. Now that you’re divorced you are beyond all of that, right?
You still can’t do anything right. There is something in me that still responds to his criticism, to his accusations and lies, and to his bullying. I wrestle all the time with the frustration that he will ever acknowledge his part of what happened. It hurts that he will never acknowledge the hurt that he caused or even believe that he did anything wrong.
And it makes me angry that his criticism can still hurt me.
C Is for Children, Too
It’s my kids that I worry about and try to protect. It doesn’t matter whether they are 31 or 13 I don’t want them to be hurt by him. You see, the narcissist sees his children in the same way he always saw you – as a possession that complimented him and made him look a certain way. And, like you, if and when they change the rules he will drop them like hot rocks.
As long as they look at him with hero worship and act in a way that reflects well on his abilities as a father he’ll be happy. When they act out, cause problems, cuss him out, or decide to let him know what he does hurts them not only will he turn away from them but he will blame you for creating animosity between him and his beloved progeny.
It has been a difficult lesson for me but I’ve learned to stay out of it. He has a tendency to say and do things that are hurtful and I used to try to shield them from it. All of a sudden one day I just stopped. He can sink or swim on his own. The disrespect that he has experienced has nothing to do with me and everything to do with him, whether he believes it or not. It’s not my responsibility to change it and I don’t have to be controlled by his displeasure.
And either do you.
I’m Rubber and You’re Glue
Remember that phrase you used to scream at the kids that taunted you in elementary school? I’m rubber and you’re glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you!
There’s a brilliant philosophy in that school yard battle cry. You don’t have to keep believing those lies. You don’t have to analyze your every motive each time he criticizes you to see if there is truth in what he says. You don’t have to wonder if you really are the one that is the problem.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, no doubt you aren’t perfect and you’ve contributed to the problems. The narcissist will inform you that your perception is off, that you are less intelligent, less logical, uncooperative, or just ignorant. You just don’t disagree with the narcissist because, after all, they are always right.
If you look closely you’ll see that a lot of the accusations that get thrown in your direction are actually the very things that the narcissist is doing himself.
Rubber and glue – just sayin’.
But He’s Changed!
One of the weirdest things about my ex-husband’s current life is that he doesn’t seem to be exhibiting his narcissistic tendencies in his current relationship. It appears he is doing things that he would never have done for me and the kids.
It hurt for a time, and to be honest, it still hurts the older kids when they read his social media statuses. I wondered if it really had been me all along, after all, this new woman didn’t seem to be bringing that out in him.
It certainly could be that to some extent but it doesn’t explain how he handles the children. Then I realized that the narcissism wasn’t an immediate thing. It crept up slowly, one event at a time that stacked up as the months and years went by. Has he changed? Perhaps, but it’s also possible that he is still in the controlled stages.
It’s no longer my problem. I wish them all the best.
It takes time and practice to stop absorbing the poison that the narcissist sends your way. You can do it, though. Just keep reminding yourself that you don’t have to let his words hang on you anymore. Flick them off and send them scuttling back to him.
Surround yourself with people who are encouraging, uplifting, and loving. You’ve got him out of your life, exorcise the remaining demons and move on.
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