It wasn’t very long after my second marriage that I realized that I totally did not understand what love really was, I didn’t know how to live with it, and it scared me.
Understand that I don’t have issues with loving my family. I think that any of my kids would tell you that they were secure in my love and I tell them all the time how proud I am of them. Expressing my love, both physically and verbally, is not an issue for me.
However. . .
When you’ve been a narcissistic extension you forget how to be loved – I don’t know, maybe you never really knew. You learn and finally believe that your purpose and your significance hinges on what you do for other people. At least that is true for me, so forgive me if I am making assumptions that aren’t true for you.
I think that’s why the partners of narcissists don’t have trouble expressing their love, we’re used to giving of ourselves, but when it comes to accepting it from others they panic. You’re just so danged conditioned for it to be one way that when it changes direction it is disconcerting. It creates insecurity. It’s like walking through a Lego strewn playroom blindfolded. You’re out of control because you don’t know what’s next.
And, what’s the catch? There has to be a catch, right?
You’ve Been Negatively Conditioned
I think I have said before that when the ex and I were in counseling he complained that I didn’t accept gifts from him very well. He made it sound like I was ungrateful or his gifts weren’t good enough.
Honestly, it was because he had conditioned me to hate getting gifts. For years every time he cheated (in one way or another) he would buy me a gift. I think at first it was out of guilt, or maybe I am still stuck on the idea that, once upon a time, he loved me enough to feel guilty. Anyway, later on I think it was because he could hold it over my head and make me feel like I was so ungrateful.
When our finances were bad (most of the time) he would buy things when we didn’t have money for things the kids needed (you know, like food) and I had the difficult choice of taking the item back and buying what we needed or keeping it and feeling guilty about having money spent on me when there were other things that were needed.
After a few years gifts represented bad things. I still dislike the tsunami of emotions that sweep over me when I get gifts. It rolls me over and over, I feel like I can’t breathe, and I can’t find my footing. I am out of control. Although I don’t think this is obvious outwardly, inwardly I am just barely keeping it together.
Sadly (or maybe happily), my husband (the upgrade) is a giver and he expresses his love many ways, among them – you guessed it.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, I Don’t Believe You at All
When people compliment me I don’t really believe them. Oh, when I look in the mirror I kind of think I am attractive. On a really good day I might even be able to say pretty but if another person says it then I get flustered. Why are they complimenting me? What do they want? What am I about to lose? Are they going to humiliate me?
Compliments and affirmation are a bewildering jungle of what ifs and whys. Being in relationship with a narcissist leaves you with the defensive belief that everyone has an angle, doesn’t it?
I am learning that not everyone does. It is hard to really wrap my heart around it – oh I know it in my brain but my heart just keeps backing away, you know? I want to believe it but I am afraid I will be disappointed or betrayed.
And I am not sure I can handle that.
Vulnerability Is a Necessary Evil
Accepting love is frightening. It makes me vulnerable and I really don’t like that feeling. If I let myself trust people then I open myself up to being hurt . . . again. Sharing my feelings, hopes, and needs opens me up to someone else. More vulnerability . . . so I am quiet.
Being in control means that I can protect myself. Not accepting love means I am in control.
It also means that I am half a person. I will never fulfill my real purpose in life – whatever that is. I could pass my brokenness on to my kids, and I don’t want to do that. So, there comes a point when it is time to move ahead into the future. It’s not easy and everyone does it at a different rate.
Don’t worry about what other people think. They can’t judge where you are, they can’t see how far you’ve come, and honestly it’s not any of their business. There will be plenty of people with opinions but honestly none of them can guide your choices. They haven’t been where you have. We get so used to seeing ourselves through other people’s opinions that we hold ourselves back, keep good things away, and fail to heal.
It’s only when we move forward at our own rate, try new things, and make the choices that are right for us that our lives change.
I am not there by a long shot but I am getting there and that’s what counts. Start allowing others to love you, even when it’s not comfortable. A relationship with a narcissist is like a computer virus. It uploads into your thinking and corrupts all of your files. That doesn’t mean that the computer can’t be cleaned and, reprogrammed, though. It just takes time.
Would you like to talk it out with someone who’s been there and won’t judge you? Join First Wives World today to talk to others who’ve been right where you are now.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: h-k-d