names have been omitted and changed in this post
He sat beside me, and I took a sip of my drink... the alcohol slid down my throat and I relaxed a little more... relaxing is still somewhat foreign to me. I'm always on guard and feel the need to stay in control... sometimes I get chastising from people about it, but I think it's natural for so many of us after narc abuse or really any trauma like rape to feel the need to stay in control. Maybe because we've felt our world become out of control. Yes, we know logically control is a joke... none of us really have any control in life minus our own actions but in that we cling to the idea of having some... however misguided, delusional or silly. At the end of the day if we are enduring the continual litigation of a narc either in divorce or child custody motions being filed we will likely feel very little control over our life which in turn may cause us to grasp tightly to whatever we can. I hear from so many survivors and thrivers of narc abuse that it took several years of clinging to the familiarity of life... cocooning oneself in comforting and stabilizing life routines is often what helps us in our healing.
Whether it's a consistent schedule, pj's and ice cream, favorite shows or Friday night bubble baths, gelato and yoga... we can choose what works best for us. Perhaps it's that working a job and recovering from a past abusive relationship takes all your energy... that's okay.... grief is time and energy consuming. We may feel the desire to add more to our plate at some point but if we aren't ready it will be premature and set us back. It's okay to take the time you need to heal... and then slowly become more open to new friendships, interests, love, goals, and risks as we find peace, healing and ourselves once again. Our goal after narc abuse is to live life to it’s fullest and not ever subscribing to another limited existence that we lived with the narc.
Country music played in the background... Justin Moore sang ‘Somebody Else Will’. The other patrons, some wearing jeans and boots sat a distance away talking and laughing. The atmosphere was dim and lively and he studied me in the darkened corner of the indoor patio where we sat together.
"You know.... I’ve been reading some of your blog posts and I don’t know about all this narcissistical sociopathical stuff.” He said, waving his hand with a smile and I burst out laughing at that.
He grinned at me and then continued “I mean… you seem to know what you’re talking about, you’re the sociopathical expert. You write really good, you know that?” He asked not really waiting for an answer and continued… “I don’t want to get on the bad side of the blog and all… “He said with a grimace and I smiled, “But I was reading and something I read jumped out at me. You wrote that love isn’t enough. You said that you have to have more.” He told me.
“Yeah, I don’t think it’s enough.” I told him… “You have to have so much more... compatibility, interests, similar backgrounds.” I affirmed. I wasn't going to sign up for golf, bike riding or football if I hated those activities or pastimes... it only made sense we'd become resentful of our partner if we were chronically dragged to do things we didn't like to do.
He shook his head,“Yeah, I read that… you wrote that you have to have all this other stuff. It was exhausting. “He sighed and gave me a chagrined look. “You have it all complicated like some big equation that has to be solved.” He said.
I laughed and suddenly pictured the scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon is figuring problems at the chalkboard… “Like that scene in Good Will Hunting at the chalkboard?” I teased.
“Yes maam!”” He exclaimed and laughed “Let me tell you something… you know all about this stuff. And I have no doubt you’re helping people. I think it’s great! I have no doubt you’re making a difference. But when it comes to love and it not being enough…. “He shook his head “I will tell you, my dear, on that you are full of bs.” He told me.
My eyebrows shot up and I gasped “That’s just mean!” I exclaimed indignantly. “I am NOT!” I retorted hotly with an amused look. He and no one else could change my mind otherwise. I liked him but took what he said with a grain of salt. When it came to most people’s opinions on dating or relationships especially after narcissistic abuse I’d listen but then stick to whatever worked for me.
He sat up a little straighter in his seat and spoke “I'm not trying to get you mad!" He exclaimed with a grin and gesturing with frenzied hands toward my bun atop my head "I don't want to see bobby pins going flying out everywhere!" He added with a laugh.
Holy cow. I laughed at the imagery of that.
During my marriage every weekend it was NASCAR. My ex laid on the couch and watched those cars go round and round like hamsters on a wheel. If it wasn’t that it was football. Or he was resentful because he wanted to go on a bike ride and I had no interest. “I believe you have to have more... it’s an issue even in the best marriages.” I told him.
He shook his head and smiled “You are over there talking about all this stuff that people need when all people need is to have someone who really truly loves them. If you have that… trust and respect… everything else will fall into place.”
I shot him a look of ‘Uh, huh… sure, whatever’ and smirked with cynicism. “I don’t believe that.” I replied.
He leaned in and gazed at me “You know why you don’t believe that? Because you’ve never had a man really love you.” He took a sip of his drink and gazed off momentarily then resting his eyes back on mine “Haven’t you ever had a man treat you right?” He asked me.
I grasped my glass and taking another sip drifted off into the distant past “A really long time ago” I admitted.
“Who?” He asked me.
“Jeremy” I replied “It didn’t work out.” All I could then think to myself was it never works out... but I bit my tongue and didn’t say it.
"So you broke up with him too.” He stated.
I shook my head "No, he broke up with me." I replied.
"Oh my God!!!" He exclaimed with visible surprise. This was new news to him. He only knew about my other relationships. “No one breaks up with Jennifer, she breaks up with everyone!” He told me flabbergasted.
I chuckled, grimaced, rolled my eyes and spoke,
"Not that time... but otherwise, yes. They didn't treat me well." I replied.
He gazed at me with his dark eyes and gave me a sympathetic look that conveyed he saw the past hurt. I studied his face, dark hair, kind eyes, beard and large build. He looked similar to Jeremy. It was actually quite eerie… He too, was a mix of crown, Altoids, meaningfulness, warmth, kindheartedness and insight. It was weird. Was it hot in here? I cleared my throat and took another sip of my drink… then switched to sipping ice water as the room was becoming warmer. I was feeling the effects of the drink and being a lightweight I hadn’t even finished half of it. I began yanking at the scarf around my neck trying to loosen it a bit so I’d cool off. Alcohol always made me feel overheated which I found irritating. No one else seemed to have this issue. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat feeling very vulnerable and suddenly wanted to step outside into the night air where it was cooler. I wanted to escape. But that was my automatic go to response and my pattern so I decided to stick it out and stay in my seat.
He perceptively shook his head like he could read my mind and helped me take off my scarf which he plopped in my purse beside my chair. He spoke “I’m sorry you have not been treated as you should have been. You have the kindest heart of anyone I know. And I’m sorry you don’t think love is enough. But when you’re surrounded by people who care about you, who love you, who you can trust all that other stuff doesn’t matter so much. Because you all have a common thing… which is giving your love to people. And that’s powerful.” He told me… “I’m going to prove to you love is enough.” He stated with assurance. I stared blankly at him without words… I didn’t know what to say. And I nearly always have a reply or witty comeback.
But as much as I sat there without words, the truth is... a person who truly loves you won’t believe you aren’t worth the effort. They won’t subscribe to the idea that they can put in a little effort then throw their hands up because you’re suddenly an irritation or inconvenience. When it comes to love... it’s the one who loves you and loves you consistently that ultimately proves their words carry weight and their actions are not some cheap knockoff.
So how do we move on from the initial post-narc throes of despair of "OH MY GOD MY LIFE IS ENDING RIGHT NOW!", and "I CANNOT BELIEVE HE (OR SHE) DID THIS TO ME!!!", and even "WHEN IS THIS GOING TO GET BETTER???" ... to "Life seems to be improving....", and "I've had a good few days, weeks, months... , Wow, this past year has been better than previous years... I feel like I'm making progress...to "I feel lighter, less heavy and more and more like my old self... definitely different now after the abuse but more like myself than ever... ", and "He (or she) is really sweet or he (or she) is kinda cute... Oh wow, I'm noticing stuff like that again... I wonder what dating would be like", and "I feel like I'm in a good place; my job is going well, I have some financial savings again, my kids are my number one priority but I wouldn't mind expanding my plate to include more time with those I really care about... " and "Taking time for me is not selfish but absolutely necessary and enjoyable...." and "I know and own my truth and will not bend it to make others more comfortable or accept less than what I deserve.”
As you can see.... this process of leaving to eventually standing on that mountaintop and singing praise and gratitude for standing in our new chapter is exactly that... a process. It's a process of our thought process changing over time from catastrophic thinking(!) to questions that we ponder(?) and wade through in figuring things out to realizing newfound truths(!) about ourselves, the narc, the abuse and our life. And that's okay. It's normal and to be completely expected.
TRUSTING OURSELVES AGAIN... after a #narc
First we must learn to trust ourselves again. Which is hard after being swept into the world of a pathological liar. This is a huge undertaking because we must be able to listen to our gut instincts and trust our intuition in order to do much in moving forward.... we must be able to trust ourselves when our gut tells us a therapist is not good for us and or for our children and is actually detrimental. We must be able to trust ourselves when the narc tries to paint history one way and we know better. We must be able to trust ourselves when scrolling through a dating site and something tells us a particular person is shady. We must be able to trust ourselves when a co-worker begins to triangulate a group of employees and we feel bad vibes stemming from that interaction. Trusting ourselves is something that is needed in all areas of our life and it’s worth the time needed to do so.
STICKING TO OUR BOUNDARIES...
Likewise once we are adding more to our plate and embracing a larger circle of friends and maybe a relationship in our life it’s crucial to stick to our boundaries when we see questionable or downright shady behavior. If someone is putting pressure on you in a relationship that’s a red flag. If they are pressuring you to meet their parents, asking to meet your family, asking nosy questions... if they are suddenly wanting every second of your time those are red flags. If they are pushing for immediate emotional intimacy and physical intimacy it’s time to pull back and reassess; moving on because if they cannot respect your timeline, your needs, wants, etc... they never will. If they claim to be a Godly man or woman and are relentless in trying to get you in bed; cut the cord. If they are stepping on your values cut the cord. If they are love bombing you and putting you on a pedestal; building you up, voicing how crazy they are about you, praising you incessantly, showering you with gifts (it’s essential on this to determine whether it’s merely wanting to spoil you as you’ve been together a long time; looking at the length of the relationship, a self esteem issue and trying to “buy your love”, or truly someone personality disordered) and expecting a sexual relationship all too soon those are huge red flags that it’s time to detach and walk away. Having those necessary boundaries and being willing to enforce them are essential in dating so we don’t find ourselves sucked into another narcissistical vortex.
LET LOVE DEVELOP NATURALLY...
When it comes to our new chapter after narc abuse it’s so important we take things slow. Letting relationships organically grow and naturally develop. There should be no timeline on this or that... your relationship should not read like a must do list of immediacy and pressure. I don’t know about you but I’m in no hurry... what’s the rush? The ultimate outcome is typically marriage... so if that’s not something you foresee in your near future (2-5 years) then what are we speeding things along for? If someone starts harping on their age and how they aren’t getting any younger; let that be their problem. Perhaps they need to find someone who is looking for a timeline that matches theirs. Getting on a dating website is something that may often create an instant relationship today; we may go from being single to being in a relationship nearly overnight. It stands to reason a friendship is always preferable first to immediately jumping in “love”. With a friendship in place first you’ve likely seen whether they are who they claim to be. You’ve likely seen them interact with many other people and observed them at their best, worst and in between.
It’s seeing, realizing you can trust this new person which takes time. No one should demand instant trust from you. Why are they demanding that? What’s it based on? Your relationship with the narc was built on you catering to he or she. You were there to make them happy, to boost their ego; you were essentially a drug for them and when the effects wore off they claimed you were no good. But a truly loving relationship is two people knowing it’s based on mutual trust that has been developed over a long period of time. With the narc you were likely worried that if you didn’t please them you’d be tossed aside; instead now you should have a strong sense of security and knowing this new person isn’t going to turn on you. Someone who truly loves you realizes you are worth the effort; they see you as the gem you are and won’t prey on it.
Love is kindness. Love is caring more about you than being right. Love is putting more importance on others than our ego. Love is being a friend first and foremost. Because the hard truth is if someone is not capable of being your friend they will never be capable of loving you.