Living with a narcissist is like living in a fairy tale. But not the kind you might have read to your own children. More like dungeons, dragons, evil spirits, smoke and mirrors. Where there is no happily ever after but instead lost friendships, broken families, loss of the ability to trust others, loss of self-esteem and even loss of who you remember yourself to be – and more. It’s all just an illusion that they have craftily presented to you in the beginning and continue to present to others on a regular basis.
This fairytale is a place where you bring home your favorite chocolate treat only to find it missing because the narc has hidden it from you. Why? you might ask. Simply because he doesn’t think you deserve it. “You need to keep your figure in check,” he’ll say.
Or when you’re given expired food to eat. Eight years expired! WTF? Or he’ll insist on cooking dinner and infuse your food with pepper, knowing that your body can’t handle it. He’ll insist, ‘it’s just a little.’ But if you should EVER put something they don’t like in a meal, you better run for the hills. There’s a price to pay.
When you proudly announced that you lost 5 pounds, he’d give a sly smile and pinch the fat around my middle. He wouldn’t congratulate you or tell you you’ve done a great job. But he’ll make sure you know that what you’ve done is not good enough. FYI, I only needed to lose 10 pounds, I wasn’t grossly overweight. But this was another ploy to get me to feel bad about myself and my accomplishments.
Or when you’re given a ‘floor dump’ at 8 am on a Saturday morning because ‘nobody should sleep in past 8 am’. The fact that you’ve worked hard all week while you’re trying to heal from autoimmune disease doesn’t matter to the narc. He’ll just grab your ankles from the warm bed and dump you on the floor because that’s what HE thinks you need.
Or when he hits you in the head with a dog’s toy supposedly thrown for the dog to play. Company was there, they saw it happen and said nothing. The narc’s laughing response was “You don’t think I did that on purpose do you?” Well, actually yes, I do believe you did that on purpose! But I wouldn’t start an argument in front of company (and the narc relies on that) and the company won’t ‘get involved’. Once again, I’ve been abused by a man who cannot empathize with me or anyone else and takes great pleasure in conning everyone involved. But he has to look like he’s the good guy. Oh, there never was an apology for that hard toy hitting me in the head. I was supposed to overlook it, forget it ever happened. After all, our guests ignored it.
His driving scared everyone, including me. I was always at risk when I was in the car with him. If I spoke up – even the slightest whimper or gasp – there was hell to pay for ‘distracting him’.
And there are the many times, in front of 20+ friends, he stood up at the table, pointed his finger down at me and said “I was talking” as if I had interrupted his non-stop monologue to others. Not me, I wouldn’t dare. But did the others take notice or, more importantly, stand up for me? Of course not. The narc spoke with such authority that they believed it actually happened. They were all gaslighted. Such was my fairytale life.
On the other hand, when we would go to a restaurant with another couple in our car, he graciously opened the car door for me. They all noticed and commented on what a nice guy he is. Yes, image is everything to a narc. And it absolutely works to con others into believing their narrative of how much they love you and treat you with respect. But you know all too well that he never opens any door for you when you’re alone with him. In fact, he’ll walk ahead of you, open the door to a building and be sure it slams in your face just as you approach. To enhance his image, when I wasn’t around, he even told ‘our’ friends how much he loved me. He told me that occasionally, but his malicious actions spoke to me louder than his words of love. I could no longer trust him.
In 25 years of this fairytale marriage, I never had a birthday or holiday that was enjoyable. He always started an argument with me on any day that I found to be special. He couldn’t handle my happiness or my joy. So I would show up to parties a complete wreck, put on a good front, and he would suddenly be Mr. Charming in front of everyone.
Oh, and the times he would sabotage me. One example, I would have carefully selected and brought flowers or a gift for the hostess when we would go to a friend’s get-together. As soon as the doorbell was rung, he would grab the flowers (or gift that I selected) and present it as if he had done it all on his own. WTF?? No credit was given to me whatsoever. It was always about him and the adoration he could con from others. And these ‘friends’ always admired his thoughtfulness! My narc would never allow me to get a word in edgewise to tell our hosts that I took great care to select the perfect gift/flowers. I was always in the background to his fake persona.
My fairytale life never included a compliment by him. And I was no slouch, either. Yet I was never good enough to get a ‘good job’ or ‘hey, you look great’ from him. He just didn’t have it in him. So I did without compliments, congratulations or any kind of emotional support for 25 years. What took me so long to wake up?? It was the fairytale image he presented to me in the beginning.
His favorite saying was “Show me the bruises.” This tells me that he knew exactly what he was doing on a psychologically abusive level. Apparently he, among the majority of the population, thought abuse always left bruises, scars, broken bones, black eyes, hospitalization, etc. I’m here to tell you that’s not how narcissists operate. They abuse under the radar of ordinary people’s perceptions of what abuse looks like. Narcissistic abusers are cunning. And they always win.
When I finally learned what/who I was dealing with and left him, he decided to turn the tables in his favor. He started love-bombing my family members. He lived with my narc mother when our house was sold and he claimed that he needed a place to live (mind you, his retirement income is well over $100,000 and he could easily have afforded an apartment for a few months). And I can see how he’s now trying to worm his way into her will while removing me from it. He thinks he deserves her money because of what I took (in his mind) from him. He doesn’t remember, or mention, the $100,000 I gave him from my retirement account to get rid of him. He wants me diminished, obliterated from the face of the earth and everyone’s mind all while he looks like the good guy who ‘tried to help’ me. I believe his intent is to make me look like the ‘crazy’ one.
His charm has also influenced my adult child. My only child. My abuser is her fairytale step-father and she only lived with him/us during the first year of our marriage – the love-bombing phase! She didn’t believe a word of the abuse I described to her when I left him. I might add that he treated her much better than he did his own 4 children who are now either low or no-contact with him. And trust me when I tell you they have serious psychological issues of their own now as adults. But that’s their fairytale life with a narcissist.
My daughter saw the physical effects of the abuse on me at the end of my relationship with him. Extreme weight loss (I dropped to 92 pounds), hair loss, isolation, night terrors. During an overnight visit to her house, one morning she and her husband were downstairs when they heard my screams from the upstairs bedroom from yet another nightmare. They came into my bedroom to see if I was OK and woke me up. And still, she doesn’t believe! Since I left the narcissist and shared my abuse story with her:
- She blamed me, saying I needed better boundaries. (Anyone living with a narc knows they erode your boundaries in every way, doesn’t matter how strong you are. In fact, days before I left him he told me that I didn’t need boundaries with him!)
- She minimized the abuse, saying I was just living with him 24/7 (we had been retired 15 years) and he was ‘getting on my nerves’. She added that IF he was a narc, he wasn’t on the high end of the spectrum. I guess it hasn’t occurred to her that since I lived with him, I knew him waaay better than she did.
- Then she set her own boundaries with me by telling me not to talk about him (but she allowed him to talk to her about me)
- She won’t learn about Narcissists or Narcissistic abuse, or the effects of abuse on the target. In effect, she doesn’t support me. She supports my abuser.
- She asks the narc to keep her secrets from me and she keeps his secrets from me. No support from her!
Needless to say, there’s so much more to this story and I’ve only scratched the surface. I could go on and on. But I hope you get the idea. The fairy tale that you think you’re entering into with a narcissist will turn into your worst nightmare. You will lose friends (who all have been charmed into thinking that he’s the nicest guy they’ve ever met!), family members (who are either oblivious to reality or disordered themselves), your self-worth, self-respect, sense of who you are, ability to trust others – the list goes on, reaching too many tentacles to name here. If you suspect you’re with a narcissist, please love yourself enough to get out. Deep down you know you don’t deserve to be treated in this manner. You deserve so much better than what they give you. And really, have they given you anything? Or have they just taken all of your goodness from you?
I was 62 years old when I left the narc. I hadn’t worked in 15 years and by all outside appearances was living a good life. Until I realized I couldn’t live that lie anymore. When I left I was scared in every regard – where would I live? How could I afford to live? Could I even get a job at my age? I had almost no friends left as a safety net or support. My only child couldn’t even believe my story. I had agoraphobia and couldn’t trust anyone. But I’m surviving (in blessed peace!) and discovering that I am still the capable woman I was before I married the narcissist. Very soon I will be thriving! And that is my hope for you.
The trauma accumulated from this daily, subtle abuse is cumulative and destructive on a soul level. To facilitate healing I’m currently doing inner child work, meditations several times a day, journaling journaling journaling, therapy, watching YouTube videos like Angie’s and reading books on narcissistic abuse and others on recovery. And as Angie recommends, I state at least 10 things I’m grateful for twice a day. And when I hit a low point during the day I rattle off as many things I can think of that I’m grateful for. Gratitude is HUGE for raising your vibration.
These have all been extremely helpful, especially in the fragile, raw beginning of freedom from narcissistic abuse (I’ve been separated 16 months now). A major discovery for me was realizing that I am here on this planet as a soul on a learning journey of lessons and growth, which means my recovery has taken a spiritual turn. This turn has helped me realize that I am on my own soul’s path as are my loved ones who cannot see my truth. Right now our paths are not the same but they might cross and join again in the future if that is what is meant for my lessons and growth as a soul. In other words, I’m following my soul’s journey with help from my spirit guides. And trusting the Universe to fulfill my desires.
You are stronger than you know. You can recover. And thanks to Angie and others knowledgeable about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, you have support systems online to help you through your darkest hours. You can get your life back.