One of the most difficult things about dealing with the breakup from a narcissist is accepting that a large part of your life has been based on a lie. There you were, skipping along, thinking that you were both on the Yellow Brick Road to Wonderland when all of a sudden your rose colored glasses fell off and you realized you were in a wasteland surrounded by flying monkeys.
That will rock your world, for sure.
Whatever You Believed, You Were Wrong
Generally when you go into a marriage you believe a few basic things.
- You are equally committed.
- Love means the same thing to both of you.
- You are both equally concerned for the other’s well-being.
- Your spouse has your back.
In most cases all of that is true. In most cases the new wife isn’t married to a narcissist. If you are, or were, married to a narcissist then the probability exists that you’ve been believing a lie about nearly everything. At some point the lies start to unravel and you begin to see things much more clearly.
And it hurts.
It’s tough to realize that the man you are in love with doesn’t exist. It’s even harder to accept that the life you have built together is totally one sided and that you are the only one that realizes it. You’ve built such a perfect life outwardly that when it falls apart few, if any, of your family and friends will understand why you’re getting a divorce.
After all, the two of you are the perfect couple!
The Commitment Fallacy
For better or worse. We’ve pretty much all said those vows – and most of us meant them. A narcissist looks at commitment differently. Commitment, as far as a narcissist is concerned, is a matter of convenience.
A few years before our breakup my ex suddenly woke up in excruciating pain. The doctors didn’t have a clue and put him on heavy doses of pain killers and gave him a wheelchair. He wasn’t supposed to drive because of the medication and he required twice weekly visits to the hospital with long waiting times. I drove him, pushed his wheelchair, and argued with the doctors when they blew him off. I pushed for more tests, did research in my spare time, and held his hand through painful tests.
I hate hospitals and I hate doctors (no offense to anyone in the medical field).
There was no question that I would do all of those things. He was my husband and I was committed to him.
About two years after his issues I found out I had several tumors, some with precancerous cells, on my thyroid gland. It was removed.
If you don’t know about hypothyroidism, it’s a tough condition. It affects your body in hundreds of ways from emotional mood swings to blurry vision. Some days you are just too exhausted to get out of bed. It takes up to a year to get the medication adjusted properly.
Two months after I had my surgery I found out he was having his little online affair. He never once concerned himself with my health. I had ceased to be valuable because I had my own health issues and could not focus on his.
The Love Fallacy
Normal love seeks out things that it can do to please its loved one. When you love someone you look for ways to affirm them, to make them happy, to make their lives easier. You give up things so that they can have things that they want. In a normal relationship this goes both ways – a matter of two sided give and take.
Narcissistic love is different. It takes. A narcissist will love you while you are doing things the way he likes, when you are doing things “right” but as soon as you aren’t following his set of rules things go south pretty fast. They have a whole set of unspoken rules that you have to follow – even though you don’t know what they are.
My ex told me he didn’t care how the house looked – it wasn’t a big deal to him. I, being a major perfectionist, had been working night and day to keep up with everything. One day I just was so exhausted all I could do is cry. That’s when he told me how unimportant it was. I believed him.
I still cleaned, but I worried less about clutter. One day I was upstairs and heard him come home. Next thing I knew I heard slamming cupboards and drawers. He was angrily cleaning up the clutter. I immediately jumped in and frantically “fixed it” and never made that mistake again. There were other instances of him withholding affection and sex when I didn’t do something right or he was angry with me about something.
I learned that what I called love and what he called love were two separate things.
Equally Concerned for Each Other’s Well Being
Shortly after my surgery I woke up feeling strange and light headed. My lips felt numb and like they were buzzing. I mentioned to my ex that I felt weird and told him I was staying home from church – he should take the kids.
I continued to feel odd and I knew I wasn’t thinking straight. When the family got home I asked him if he thought I should go to the Emergency Room. I was walking oddly and having irregular, rapid heartbeats. He shrugged and continued staring at the computer screen. One of my teen sons told my ex to either take me to the ER or he would. Turned out that I had dangerously low potassium levels for some reason. Thank God my son insisted because I was too out of it to insist myself.
Then there was the time he walked out the door and left me home with a four year old and a seven year old when I had a 105°F fever.
You get the idea. It was very odd to me when I got sick and my current husband rubbed my back, got me cold water, and kept track of my fever.
Your Spouse Has Your Back
Most couples have a certain loyalty. While they may fight and even verbally attack each other once in a while there is no way that anyone else is going to be allowed to do that! A narcissist doesn’t care. They will listen to someone tear you down as long as they feel like doing so. Depending on who is doing the tearing down they may even agree and partake in the conversation. At the least they will listen.
When my ex-husband (before he was the ex) told me that someone had spent 30 minutes tearing me apart to him I asked what he had said to her. His reply?
I didn’t say anything – but I didn’t agree with her.
Gee thanks, honey.
The narcissist most definitely does not have your back. If you are expecting him to be your knight in shining armor you’d better prepare to be disappointed. This one is a shape shifter and he’s out for your blood.
Once you can accept that your definition of love is way different than his you can more easily accept that your relationship was never what you thought it was. You’ll grieve, but you’ll be grieving something that should have been and wasn’t.
You deserved better.
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Lead Image Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: Robbert van der Steeg*