There is a difference between bashing the ex and speaking the truth.
There is a difference between overlooking wrongs and allowing abuse.
There is a difference between being understanding and being co-dependent.
There is a difference between trusting and being manipulated.
Let that all of that sink in a moment. Don’t move on. Don’t let your eyes move down the page. Not yet. Read those sentences and think about how your heart responds to them. You’ve heard of “fat shaming” and “slut shaming”, right? Well there is another common type of shaming and it is directed, often unintentionally, at victims of abuse – especially divorced women. If you are involved with a church then it may be especially true for you.
Taking the High Road
When I was first separated I was encouraged to “wait it out” to see if my husband would get his stuff together. I half-heartedly tried that for a few weeks but it was clearly pointless. He had moved on physically before the separation and I had moved on emotionally. I was just so over all of the lies, deception, name calling, violent outbursts, and financial neglect. Having a metal crutch thrown at your head is scary enough but it is totally humiliating when it is done in front of friends. I was done with making excuses for his behavior. I waited it out for about three weeks and then I began thinking of myself as single.
A wonderful guy friend encouraged me during that time. I never met him, we only knew each other from hanging out in the same online groups, and certainly nothing suggestive was said. The day I let everyone know I was separated and why this guy sent me flowers and an encouraging note. He always seemed to have time to ask me how I was doing. He passed away a year or so ago and I still miss his jokes. Anyway, he encouraged me to “take the high road” which translated meant that I should not trash talk the ex.
And he was right.
Although some may disagree I do not, and have not, trashed him. That does not mean that I won’t tell the truth when circumstances require it. There is the gray area, right there. See it?
In a normal divorce it is important to “take the high road” for a variety of reasons. For one thing it is likely that a few months down the road things will look very different. In a normal divorce emotions settle down and you can act in a civil manner toward each other – maybe even friendly. There are no victims. In a divorce where there has been some sort of abuse there is at least one victim, it’s unlikely that interactions will ever be civil.
Taking the high road in the second circumstance means that, while you are honest about what he does, you don’t make ugly comments about him personally. It is important to talk about his Jekyll and Hyde personality, but you don’t have to show everyone the video of him wearing women’s underwear and playing air guitar after the last New Year’s Eve party. Do you see the difference?
I told you it was a gray area. Talking is an important part of your healing. Trying to humiliate the narcissist will keep you from healing. Keep to the high road to the best of your ability.
Overlooking Bad Behavior Enables Abuse to Flourish
Have you seen those memes that go around Facebook?
Divorce is 50/50 – marriage requires 100 percent.
Love is patient…
You know. There are hundreds of them. Your narcissistic ex probably has them posted all over his Facebook wall. Am I right?
Well, here again – all of that is true in a normal marriage but in an abusive marriage you have one person giving 150 percent and one person taking 150 percent. Narcissists call that “marriage equality”. The rest of us call it experience.
Every time I see one of those meme’s I feel that it is screaming “failure” at me. Then I ask myself if I gave it everything I’ve got. My answer is always the same. No, I did not give it everything I’ve got. I came out of it alive.
I did my best, but you cannot maintain a healthy marriage with a compulsive liar. More and more I am able to see those memes without feeling accused. I always say a prayer that the person posting them never experiences some of the things I have. It’s sort of the way I felt when I was pregnant with my 8th child and a first time mom let me know, in detail, the changes I needed to make in my mothering style.
Overlooking abuse, emotional or otherwise, allows it to continue. Covering it up and lying about it just allows him to continue on doing his thing and ultimately, when things blow up, you will be discredited because, after all, if things were that bad why didn’t you tell someone?
Covering things up, getting him out of a sticky situation, taking on responsibility that’s not yours is unhealthy. It is co-dependence and you are enabling him to keep going. It has nothing to do with forgiveness or believing the best about someone, or even understanding their weaknesses.
Real understanding is seeing the truth and acting on it. I understand that if I pet a crocodile I will probably lose at least a hand. It is the crocodile’s nature to be a predator. That’s not being unkind, it’s being honest so that I can take precautions to stay safe. Well, a narcissist has a certain nature, too! Once you accept that you are well on your way to healing.
Whether you are still married, in the midst of a divorce, or on the other side off divorce you are important and your feelings are valid. Tell him you won’t be treated that way anymore. Do not expect cuddles from a crocodile.
Be Picky about Trust
Finally, we come to the subject of trust. One of the narcissist’s favorite things to say is, “You don’t trust me!”
The correct answer to that is “damn right”!
Trust is important but when someone breaks that trust over and over you can’t trust them. Guess what? You aren’t the one that’s got the problem! When someone in your life has caused you to stop trusting them it is their responsibility to earn that trust back. Anything else is just them shifting the blame.
So, here’s a recap. If you have been in a narcissistic relationship none of the advice that applies to other, “normal” relationships applies to you. None of it. You’ve been shamed, guilted, and blamed enough. You get a free pass. Work on your healing. Don’t second guess your emotions or your experiences.
Do you feel like you are the only one? You’re not. Join First Wives World and talk to others who have experienced it, too.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: Pedro Simoes