Monday, March 23, 2020

The Fight of Your Life

Ending this marriage and choosing a path of recovery has been the absolute fight of my life. I’d been with my partner since I was a teenager, married for 24 years and 3 children. It’s funny what I look back on, knowing what I know now versus just thinking it was “normal,” to accept things that I should never have accepted. It was such a warped definition of “LOVE.” He was handsome, charming and witty. I absolutely adored him. During the whole marriage, I always had this feeling like, “I’m not good enough for him.” Or, “I love him more than he loves me.” He had another side to him as well.

He was an alcoholic and, as I learned later, a narcissist. I tried my best to help him. He functioned well enough to be a good provider. He worked hard but was a binge drinker. I was always so scared after he had a few months of sobriety. Inevitably, he would start bringing home a 6-pack, then vodka. I lived in this cycle for 24 years. He would do something terrible, seem remorseful, temporarily stop drinking and then start the cycle all over again. This happened countless times over 24 years. He said the most hateful words to me “you fucking cunt” and “you should feel grateful that I stick around because no one else would deal with you.” These words would echo in my mind constantly. How could this person I love so much talk to me like this? He would promise to stop, I would try to forget but it kept happening again and again.

I decided to go to therapy. I tried to work on myself to become a better wife and mother. I wanted to heal and work through my own issues with trauma. I started to see the ways in which I felt around him. How my body would respond to him walking in the door, how everyone in the house responded to his moods, how he dictated what the family did. I shared this with my therapist. She and I started to slowly unravel this tangled web of abuse. Week by week, I could see things more clearly. For years, I blamed myself. I blamed my own unresolved trauma thinking that I was the one who was damaged or broken beyond repair. I know now, he liked me to feel “broken.” He had me under his thumb. He had complete control over me. He had someone who would give to him so freely.  I used to think that I willingly gave away all of my power just to keep him at bay. Now I know, I never freely gave of myself. He used coercive control to mold me and shape me however he wanted.

Last year, after a month of silent treatment, I tried to get him to go to therapy but he refused. He said he was done with the marriage. He moved out a few days later. He told our children he was leaving and he left. I was crushed. I couldn't believe he could just walk away so easily. Of course, several months later he tried to control the narrative saying that I kicked him out making it seem like I was the one who ruined the marriage. I’ve learned since then that a “smear campaign” is often part of this process. 

We owned a business together and we decided to close the business once we separated. I emailed our patrons and started to shut things down. Then, out of nowhere, he informs me via text that he has changed his mind. He’s keeping the business. He said that I didn’t really contribute to the business anyhow and characterized me as “playing” like I owned a business but he was the one who did all the work. Of course this wasn’t true. He had already made arrangements with the landlord and signed a new lease. All of this was done behind my back. I was in shock. I was frozen. For weeks, I could not function. I was sick to my stomach and unable to eat. Each text he sent was worse and worse, he would verbally unleash on me. With each sound of a text notification, the knife I felt in my chest cut deeper and deeper. 

Now I see this side to him that is so completely evil and manipulative. He has made many alienation attempts with our children. He undermines me constantly. If something actually serious happens with the kids, he laughs it off. He stopped holding them accountable for their behaviors, painting me to be a militant authoritarian, someone who is controlling and reactionary. The kids love this, of course. One day after addressing bad behavior with my son, I overheard him talking to his Dad on a video call. I heard him say, “Mom is a fucking bitch.” Then his dad said, “Yeah she really is. But everyone thinks she is a saint. Videotaping her would prove how crazy she is.” It felt like he was The Great Oz behind the green curtain, the great manipulator.

There are endless stories I could tell...but only a select few people understand what this is like or believe that this type of abuse even exists. Every stage of the recovery process has been very hard. There are moments when I see the abuse so clearly. Then there are moments when I remember the good times and start to wonder, “Could I have worked harder? Could counseling have saved the marriage?” The answer is, “No.” The damage is done. Furthermore, he was actively seeking to harm me well after the marriage was over. When I start down that path of the “good times” in my mind, I remind myself that he is continuing to inflict harm well after the marriage has been over. He actively tries to hurt me, alienate me from my children, my business, my friends and family. I’m afraid of him. He put a target on my back and continues to seek “revenge” which is so twisted because he was the one who harmed me, not the other way around.

Everything in my life has changed. Just sold our family home and living back with my parents with my children. I’ve started a new career and I’m slowly gaining more confidence. Sometimes I feel broken beyond repair. I keep thinking, “Okay, just one more day. I can do this.” But I feel so heavy sometimes like my feet are made of stone. It has been tough. Counseling helps, I am grateful for the supportive people that surround me who have seen me at my darkest moments.Narcissistic abuse destroys our sense of safety and how we move in the World. It changes every single thing about us.

My heart goes out to anyone who experiences narcissistic abuse. You don’t deserve to be treated this way. To anyone who is trying to pull themselves out, it will be the fight of your life. But keep fighting! Don’t give up! I had to rebuild brick by brick, reaching deep to find inner strength day by day. Recovery from narcissistic abuse is not an easy path.  It has taken every bit of strength I could muster.  It makes you learn who you really are and what you’re made of. It teaches who your friends are. It shows you how beautiful your loving nature can be. In the end you will realize, you are worthy of love and you deserve a happy and healthy life free from abuse.