So many people that I have met who are in a relationship with a narcissist believe that with just the right phrase, just the right gift, or just the right action the kind, gentle person that lives buried deep under the narcissist’s difficult exterior will suddenly emerge. I used to think that, too. Surely there was hurt, emotional scarring, and fear of rejection that kept him from being the man I knew he was deep inside. I was sure that someday I would lure that man out with my love and we would ride off into the sunset to the haunting strains of an appropriate musical playing softly.
Yeah – no. It totally didn’t happen. The sensitive, hurt human being that stirred my sympathies during counseling was nowhere to be found when the hour was over. I have come to realize that the deep angst he shared was as real as his promises. And by real I mean totally full of bull.
He used to tell me how criticized he was as a child, how he never felt good enough, and how he was controlled. I identified with a lot of that – surely we were kindred spirits?
Now he tells his new audience how controlling I was, how he was never good enough for me, and how much I criticized him. If it ever comes up I have pretty impressive truth to the contrary, but I am pretty sure they’d just prefer to believe I am vicious and crazy. Anyway, when I started being accused of the stuff he accused people from his past of I was shocked. It was a slap in the face, for sure.
It’s All about the Fruit
When I first moved to my house there were a lot of overgrown weeds, bushes, and trees on the property. The acreage hadn’t been touched in years, the house was falling apart, and there was every reason not to want it. I saw a couple of pear trees, several pecan trees, and a fig tree. I was certain this could become the base for my homesteading dreams.
When the inspector came he looked at the gorgeous, healthy fig and said, “Y’all are gonna wanna get rid of this ole junk tree, here. “
I was indignant, “It’s not a junk bush – just look at those leaves! It’s a healthy fig tree! I am not going to get rid of it!”
That first spring I waited for signs of figs but nothing happened. I excused the tree because it had been neglected. The second year there were no figs and I excused the tree because our property had flooded. After that I realized that while it had indeed looked like a fig tree it was in fact a junk tree and I was wrong. We chopped that thing down.
The narcissist can make you see whatever you want to see but eventually you are going to have to judge him by his fruit – his actions.
That Dog Won’t Hunt
Having spent most of my life in the South I have numerous idioms at my disposal. They are colorful and often right on target. One thing that you hear a lot is that dog won’t hunt. It means that something doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t fit, or it doesn’t ring true. There comes a time in your relationship with the narcissist and accept the truth. He’s totally not a fig tree and he’s not huntin’ either!
Words are great. My narcissist assured me that he was ready to give it his all for our family, fight for our relationship, and cherished me more than he could ever explain. He made promise after promise that he broke. When all was said and done that dog didn’t hunt. There were no actions to back up his empty words. When I pointed that out he began to tell people that nothing he did was ever good enough for me.
People who knew us very well didn’t buy it. They had seen the fruit in my life and they’d seen the fruit in his – or lack thereof. They’d seen my struggle to keep things going when he got sick. I was juggling homeschooling, parenting, livestock, getting enough work to have an actual income, and taking him to the hospital several times a week. I grew some amazing arm muscles pushing a wheelchair. I was 100% all in.
If It Looks Like a Duck…
I still made excuses. His anger and name calling was due to his medications. His increasingly violent outbursts were due to his frustration with his physical conditions and his medications. He couldn’t keep a job because people didn’t like him. Even the counselor made an excuse – he lied to me over everything because he didn’t want to disappoint me.
When I looked him in the eyes and asked if he was having a “thing” with a woman on his Facebook he looked me right in the eyes and said no. I knew right then that I could choose to trust him or I could choose reality. There would be no more excuses for his behavior. After all, he made no excuses for me or the kids.
When I accepted the reality that he was not going to change I was freed. I realized I didn’t have to give him the benefit of the doubt anymore. In fact, he has lied to me so much that I tend to assume a lie when he tells me something and if it really was the truth it’s a happy surprise.
What about You?
So, what about you?
Are you making excuses for his actions and holding on because you are sure that you are different, better, and more special than his previous girlfriends/wives?
How is that working for you?
After 30 years making excuses for everything from a lack of manners to violent behavior I stopped. I don’t have the time or the patience to make excuses or try to figure out which past hurt is causing current behavior. I no longer give unending chances for the same thing. Screw up once and you’ll get forgiven – do it again and I am done.
I look at people’s fruit now. Was the difficult behavior unique to that person or is it a common thing? I am 54; I don’t have time to deal with other people’s rotten fruit.
Are you expecting a junk tree to start producing figs? If so you might want to rethink your expectations and dial them down to a more reasonable level. Maybe you aren’t overreacting after all.
Talk to others who have been there and get some perspective Join First Wives World and connect with others who get it.