A light bulb turned on today. And, I feel empowered.
I was reading an article online called, “The Surprising Reasons Women Get Hooked on Narcissists”, and I related completely. The article discusses why smart and ambitious women fall for Narcissists. I struggled with the why. Why did I ignore the red flags? Why did I try to make my marriage to a narcissistic abusive man work? Why didn’t I end it sooner? Why did I give up my career so his could thrive? Why, why, why? And I was afraid that if I didn’t know the answer to the Why, that I’d end up falling for another Narcissist if I ever tried dating again.
And I also needed to know how to get out of the funk I was in. The feelings of hopelessness, trying desperately to feel positive about my circumstance, attempting to understand what to do next, frustrations from having to co-parent with a bully, assessing the financial and emotional damage I suffered, reading stories of women who never get free of their narcissist, wondering if I’ll ever get my life back.
What I know for sure is this: certain great qualities about me attracted him to me. But these are qualities that, when put in the wrong hands, can be used against me. These qualities are empathy; extraversion; loyalty; competitive nature (work hard to move up in my career); sentimental (I’m big on traditions, and spontaneous displays of affection); motivated to help and please those I care about (helping elderly, sick, or needy family member); and excitement-seeking (naturally curious and disliking boredom, I hated sitting around the house all day and love just getting out).
With a normal person, these qualities would thrive, but narcissists cleverly seek people out with these qualities and exploit them. And abusive narcissists take pleasure in tearing successful women down. Imagine if Solomon (in the bible) was strangled by his long hair; or if Superman’s laser-beam eyes were mirrored onto himself. Our strengths are used to hurt us.
So I know why my narcissistic ex was attracted to me. And I know why I let him into my cushiony and heaven-like, peaceful life. But now that he has turned my heavenly life into a life of hell, how do I climb out? How do I use the strengths that got me here to get me out?
Empathy – I first will have compassion for myself. I am no different from a victim of burglary, mugging, or identity theft. I was targeted and victimized. So I will have patience with myself and nurture myself (healing doesn’t happen overnight). When I’m healed, I can climb out of my narc hell faster.
Extraversion and excitement seeking – I will no longer hide out in my home, too depressed to go out. I’ll go for walks, have already planned a spring trip to Europe with some friends, took a cruise to the Bahamas, go to the movies, etc. I plan and do fun things, especially with the kids (zoo, museum, etc.). When I remember how fun the world is, it motivates me to want to keep climbing towards the light!
Loyalty – I remain loyal to my dreams and goals by going back to school to get a Masters degree and focusing on re-establishing a successful career and salary. I took a lower-paying job when married, but I can get a higher-paying job. I did it before and I’ll do it again! And I get myself up in the morning and get to work, regardless of how depressed I feel. And I’m also loyal to my true friends, family, and my children. I’m loyal to those who are loyal to me. That support base will help cheer me on in my journey.
Sentimentality – My ex would be nice to me after abuse and I’d sometimes forgive him and “see the best” in him. I would hang on to the memories of the one time when he brought me chocolates for “no reason” or wiped up my puke after a bout of morning sickness. But those tokens had strings attached. Now, I hold on to my kids’ drawings from daycare and create true memories for myself. I buy myself flowers and chocolates and taught my kids that, “mommy’s favorite special treat is a box of chocolate.”
Motivation – I surround myself with positive affirmations that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” “My mind is brilliant,” etc.
I’m following the rules of no response and no contact and am ignoring (but documenting) his continued attempts to abuse me via text, e-mail, and threats of court. By not responding, that window is closed. I told my attorney to ignore any e-mails from him unless they are actual motions filed in court. I’m not wasting money addressing his e-mailed threats to sue and modify, even when he sends them directly to my attorney. That door is closed. We only recognize and respond to court orders and court-filed motions, not a lunatic.
When he doesn’t pay for certain expenses, I pay it, document it, and move on. I don’t beg him for the repayment (he loves to see me grovel). He desperately wants his successful, beautiful, and ambitious source of narcissistic supply to rejoin him in hell. Each text, nonpayment, e-mail, public tantrum, is like the finger of the devil beckoning me to come in to the heat. No thanks. I can stay cool by being cool, even when my ex is obviously overheated.
So, I have my game plan. I know how I got in and how to get out of hell. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’m climbing up. And I will not turn back.
Originally written by a community member here at First Wive's World — a supportive community that cares deeply about your experiences. Register today to share stories about your struggles and victories during divorce.