(real names have been omitted or changed)
He sat across from me at the table for two… we were having a late lunch at Mi Cocina a mexican restaurant... birds scattered at our feet on the outdoor patio hoping for a bit of food, a tiny morsel to eat. The breeze ruffled my dark hair around my shoulders and on the gray slate table sat a basket of tortilla chips between us and two ice waters. The conversation was non-existent and he munched on his plate of fajita's while I sat in silence watching him. He had chosen the place to eat and I was in no mood to eat at the moment... instead thinking about how his behavior had been increasingly abusive toward me the past few weeks. The restaurant was ensconced among downtown buildings and pretty white lights were lit for a festive feel behind him. It was a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon and we should have been like the other couples nearby… laughing over a late lunch, indulging in our food and connected. But instead I watched him with a stiff back, with a piercing silent gaze… him avoiding my eyes… instead concentrating on the chip he would select from the basket and then chomp on it absentmindedly looking off in the distance at nothingness.
What had happened? Why was it so bad? He had changed. Drastically. Gone was the guy I'd met when we'd dated. Gone was the guy wearing the fleece jacket, boots and driving a truck with glass-packs. Gone was the guy who used to adore me and bragged about me to everyone. Gone was the guy who communicated and listened to me. Gone was the guy who liked to go country western dancing and gaze at the stars overhead. Gone was the guy who was down to earth and shared my love of chicken fried steak. This guy sitting before me, he was a person I didn't know. This guy liked loafers I hated, designer suits and wine. Which weren't really the issue at hand, admittedly puzzling as that was considering the drastic change... but instead the ego, the image that he wore with it was a huge issue for me, causing me to continually wince and cringe. The truck had been replaced with a Jaguar that I hated, along with an arrogant attitude and a sense of entitlement I hated even more. The once patient, listening and kind facade was increasingly falling away and being replaced with this person who stonewalled, who didn't feel a need to communicate or explain himself, who believed by simply yelling "Jennifer!" he could shut down an entire conversation and walk away. He made me actually begin to dislike my own name because whenever he said it I would cringe. The mean, nasty side had been revealed and his words spoken to me "You look like shit" rang in my head. How had this happened? How can someone change that much? And yet at the time what I didn't realize is that he hadn't really changed. He was always arrogant and behaved entitled… he was just better at hiding it from me once upon a time. That's what changed... his ability to keep it under wraps as he previously had. The more I saw of the ugly side, the more I saw of the true side, the side that occasionally slipped out… the less I liked him, the less I respected him and the less I wanted to face the reality that yes, I was indeed married to him. I was just beginning to learn that it is pretty much impossible to love someone you cannot respect. When their character and the way they treat others including you becomes questionable or even downright despicable and then it becomes a pattern it reaches a point of no return where you simply cannot get back to the love you once had for them. The thing is they won't admit they have a problem and have become downright unlikable.
After he paid for the ticket given to him by the waiter we rose and walked out. Once to the car I slid in the gray leather passenger seat and he began driving. There was silence between us and the brick wall was becoming higher by the day. I finally spoke, "If you had to guess one thing… one thing about you… what would people say is your biggest flaw?" I asked him.
He drove with his hand clasped on the leather steering wheel with a rigid expression on his face… sunlight streaming in from the sunroof overhead glinting off his Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses that had recently replaced his old Oakley's. I hated this new look; it was what I assumed would be considered metrosexual. I had always been attracted to very masculine rugged men that wouldn't dare set foot in a nail salon and wouldn't touch anything the least bit frou frou. I was extremely unattracted to this new look and winced daily. How had this happened? His profile was set and he didn't flinch. He showed zero hesitation and replied… "I expect perfection of people." His reply was even-toned and matter of fact without a hint of apology.
Ah, yes. That was it… funny how he knew it and yet made no apology for it... he saw no need for working on it and the truth was his exceedingly high expectation of perfection of others didn't really even begin to touch the surface of the whole picture but merely the tip of the iceberg of all of the dark blemished stinking toxicity underneath. I realized he viewed his expectation of perfection from others as merely a fact about himself, something he believed everyone else needed to work around and accept at their own suffering. I would soon realize that he expected perfection of me and that since I wasn't filling that order I was on the list to be disposed of.
Things were unraveling quicker than you could re-spool thread but I also didn't yet know he was cheating. In that time frame I thought it was all still fixable. I naively believed if we could find someone worth a darn who could help us, who could counsel us we might have a chance at salvaging what was left although I also at the same time questioned just what that was exactly? When you're in these situations as anyone knows who has been there, your objectivity has been virtually stripped and the world you live in is clouded like dirty fogged over contact lenses… you can't see very clearly, navigation is tricky and you just aren't sure what to do.
Questions, Questions and more Questions:
Does he love me? Does he act like someone who does? The answer was a glaring big fat NO. Did he love who I was? What I stood for? Did he appreciate what I believed in and brought to the table? Did he acknowledge and actually care about what I thought? Another big fat NO. Did he like my traits, my personality, my wit and humor or did he merely look at my outer shell… the superficial package and like how it enhanced his ego, his extension of himself? A big YES to the latter.
Did I like and respect this person who was beside me day in and day out? NO. I liked the person I had been presented years ago but this new person was a stranger, someone I didn't recognize. He wanted someone to idolize him, to accept anything he threw at them and to keep their mouth shut, to never question or reproach him and I wasn't that person. I'm the person who blares my horn at a cop in traffic that cuts me off without lights or a siren on… yes, and I'll do it again… because I have issue with people who abuse their power. I'm the person who will intervene on behalf of seeing a kid being bullied… because it's not right for anyone to be subjected to that behavior and standing by silent is unacceptable as well. I'm the person who will engage the mom who looks like she's about to lose it on her kid in a store with friendly conversation because reprimanding her and shaming her just creates more strife. But he would believe all of that to have zero value… because to place value on those actions means to stand for something good, for something honorable and just… for truth… something someone who is sociopathic cannot even begin to see worth in because their very nature, their very basic thinking is… What is this person's price? Everyone has a price. How much can they be bought for? What can I get off them? What can I get her to do? What are her limits? How far can I go? What can I get away with? This lack of character made me sick to my stomach and yet here I was joined as one to this seemingly sub-human. Life would be much easier if the people who are sociopaths stuck together and the ones who want to live a life of good moral character had an easier way of seeking each other out. Maybe this is one time we could use labels… when it comes to narcissistic sociopaths and people with loving hearts.
I do know this... people with narcissistic personality disorder will never ever love us. They will use us and love the way we make THEM feel... but never love us. They actually resent us. They resent our good character, our wonderful qualities because they then feel they cannot be who they truly are; awful terrible to their core. They continue their facade for awhile... their mask slipping here and there. Until one day the mask slips entirely and falls away and they reveal who they truly are... all the horribleness that they've been concealing for so long. And then we painfully know they truly never loved us. They merely pretended. They acted. They preyed on us.
5 Questions To Ask Yourself If He (or she) Really Loves You:
1. Does he love you as a person? Or merely as how you make him look to the world? Does he like you better when you aren't questioning him or trying to have a discussion? Do you get the sense he merely wants a robot who just nods and agrees with everything he says?
2. Do you like who he is now? Sure, at one time you probably liked who he was… we all do when were first with someone. But what about now? If you find yourself recoiling from his CHARACTER… that's a bad sign. If you don't want him near you physically that's another bad sign.
3. Is he open to counseling? Is he humble? Is he willing to admit his mistakes? How does he take criticism? Does he bristle and yell or argue or does he discuss it? And in a calm manner?
4. Are you in a partnership? Or a dictatorship? Pretty self explanatory.
5. Do you see any change? This is about spiritual formation. Is he becoming more as Jesus would want him to be or is he becoming more and more like the world?
Jennifer Gafford is a writer, speaker and divorce coach who helps guide parents through the pain of trying to co-parent with their narcissistic ex, and shares tips for custody and healing. She began her website gracepowerstrength in 2012 and over time her blog and audience grew to over a million views. Jennifer was married for twelve years, has two children and is very well versed in the facts regarding narcissistic abuse and the challenges involved in healing. Today, she shares daily posts and stories on Instagram for thousands of followers regarding npd abuse and believes everyone deserves a life of peace, love and freedom.