Falling in Love With a Narcissist
This is a story of a 25-year-old narcissistic abuse survivor.
A Story of Abuse & Learning When to Leave
A Day Dreamer
When I was 16, as all teenage girls, I had this very romanticised idea of life. I was an outsider & definitely not a "pretty one", but I was happy with who I was. I was carefree. I had my own little world, a few close friends & apart from strict parents, not a worry on my mind.
One day, I met this very popular, charismatic guy on a volunteering event. We'll him L. He was a couple of years older & everybody in town knew him. He volunteered, had a girlfriend at the time, lots of friends & on the top of that - he was interested in me.
At first, I found it odd that someone in his early twenties would be interested in a girl who knows absolutely nothing about life yet. I was in high school & he was a literary student in his second year of University. We started texting & going out, & soon enough, he broke up with his girlfriend.
We began dating & he became my first boyfriend.
Infatuation & Love
I remember I was so proud & honoured that such a flawless guy picked me out of all of the girls he could so easily date. I felt he was out of my league & I couldn't understand why he wasn't interested in someone more mature, self-confident or prettier. Someone on his level. He was interested in me - a girl who was never picked in school was in a relationship with a handsome, charming literary student. It was surreal, but I was bursting with happiness.
He wanted to spend every minute of his free time with me. He texted me frequently. He showered me with compliments & compliments only. He was helpful, loyal, well-mannered & all of my friends & family liked him instantly. He was the perfect boyfriend. I thought I must be very special to have been able to attract him.
Too Young to Know Any Better
Back then I didn't know I was dealing with someone who will push me to the edge, to a place where I didn't want to live anymore. I didn't know that who he was pretending to be was all just a real-life theatre play. It was a game of perfection narcissists play.
Now, 8 years later, when I look back, the first signs of who he truly was occurred early on in our relationship, but I was too young & in love to confront the reality. I knew nothing about relationships & mental disorders.
Back then, my world was quite a happy place where cruelty & abuse existed only in movies. I didn't know some people don't have the ability to love anyone, but themselves. I didn't know you don't have to be physically assaulted to be devaluated & abused. I knew nothing about the effects of emotional manipulation & how detrimental they can be. But I learned the hardest way.
It started very naively, almost like in a fairy tale, but turned out to be almost fatal. Almost.
Raising Red Flags
The first red flag, the first problem in our relationship was one I just swept under the carpet.
The first two years of our relationship were perfect, except he used to get very unbearably upset when I spent time with my friends, & frequently he made me choose if I want to spend time with him or with them. Every time I chose my friends, he became enraged.
He raged because I had lectures & exams, & therefore I couldn't spend time with him. He was devastated & I felt like I was hurting him just because I wanted to spend time with my friends & because I had responsibilities I needed to tend to. I felt frustrated but guilty for hurting him & I thought I wasn't being fair to him. After all, he gave me all of his time & attention, he was flawless & did everything to make me feel loved, so how could I spend time with someone else?
In time I stopped seeing all my friends & dedicated myself completely to him & our relationship. I isolated myself, but I didn't see it as isolation. To me, it was a sacrifice that needed to be made in order to keep this relationship functioning. I was happy. At least I thought I was.
Parents Just Don't Understand
I told him about my problems with parents. Problems I now realise were so small & a normal part of growing up. I told him how strict they are & he listened to every word I said. I felt like someone finally understood me. My parents liked him a lot & trusted him completely, so whenever I was with him I had complete freedom. He on the other had, frequently pointed out their flaws & so I had a feeling he was on my side.
Struggles With Self Esteem
From the very beginning, the relationship was lacking real intimacy & tenderness. I thought it was because I wasn't 18 yet. But, some time later, when I finally turned 18, & until the last day of our relationship, nothing changed. There was no cuddling, no passionate kisses & I started feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.
I felt like the most unattractive girl in the world & had no girlfriends to talk to abut it. I decided to take care of my looks more, dress better, & gain more weight, because he always pointed out how skinny I was. He always joked about my lack of curves. But my looks didn't change the situation.
Every time I tried to address the issue with L, he got upset & kept ensuring me I got it all wrong, that he is very tender & only then he would tenderly kiss me, just to prove I was wrong, leaving me confused every time. It was paradoxical how I heard all the lovely words daily & his actions were so contradictory. He was distant & cold, but he was telling me I just expected too much & I didn't know anything about relationships yet.
Again, I felt guilty for hurting his feelings everytime I tried to get an explanation for our lack of intimacy.
He raged every time I tried to talk to him about anything we were going through as a couple.
Any time I tried to point out something was wrong, the littlest thing was made into a huge deal. If I told him I would like to go for a walk with him once in a while, he would make a drama out of it, saying I am so hard to satisfy & that he is doing everything to please me, & how I am never content. If I asked him why he spent my savings (it wasn't a big amount of money, but it seemed like it was to me when I was a teenager), he kept assuring me I was the one who spent it, that I just didn't pay attention because I am so reckless with money. He'd say I was just finding an excuse to stress him out, when in (his) reality, everything was fine.
I knew I didn't spend my money because I wanted to travel, & I was saving that money for a gap year. Indeed, I was reckless with money & sometimes really did take a small amount out of my savings, but there was always enough in there that I could have had adventures. Suddenly, there wasn't.
In those & similar situations (& there were a lot of them), Isometimes questioned my sanity. Could it be that I really didn't pay attention & spent most of my savings? He either raged or made me believe I was delusional. & I trusted him. How could he be wrong? Everyone just adores him, so it must be me. Right?
Moving in Together
At the time we moved in together, I was 19-year-old at the time, I started having serious anxiety. I stopped seeing my parents, I didn't socialise & I no longer had any close friends. I couldn't go to the post office without having a minor panic attack & I just didn't know why. I was in this constant state of feeling judged. I was afraid to say something wrong, or even move or walk inappropriately.
I spent hours on the internet reading about anxiety & panic attacks. I was endlessly scrolling through numerous articles on how to deal with it, learning about what causes them & trying to figure out how to get better & feel healthy again. I got really interested in psychology to the point I became an armchair expert in these topics & that's when I decided Psychology would be my field of study.
My interest in psychology & my studies lead me to start paying attention to similar behaviours in other people & I could easily spot anyone who has anxiety just by the way they walked or talked. At least I felt I wasn't alone. There were others out there who felt just like me & that was a huge consolation.
Loving a Narcissist
My relationship with narcissist got worse. Instead of having idyllic time together now that I was finally living with him, he was colder than ever. He started going out & staying up very late. Suddenly, I had no-one at all to talk to - not even him. I felt abandoned & scared of losing him, the only person I had. My anxiety level increased until they spilled over & became depression.
One day I couldn't take it anymore. I broke down into tears in front of him. I couldn't deal with my anxiety anymore. He hugged me, but I saw him roll his eyes. I will never forget the heartless poker face he gave me. I told him I feel so alone & I don't want to live anymore & he was saying things like "poor girl, you are so alone" & "don't worry, I will never leave you because you have no one but me." Of course, his words didn't help me. I got worse.
From Bad to Worse
One day he accidentally forgot to log out from his Facebook. When I went to check my own Facebook, that was when I saw that he was seeing a few other girls & there was nothing I could do about it. Later I told him what I saw & he calmly made me believe that that was nothing, that everything I read was just the way he jokes with his female friends.
He accused me of being too selfish & thinking the whole world revolves around me. He made me believe I was the one who was self-centered & that I was just looking for problems to draw attention to myself. He told me everything was okay & that I needed to stop making up problems & creating drama.
I began communicating with people on a number of psychology & anxiety forums. As the people on the anxiety forums suggested, I finally got the courage to seek help from a professional.
I went to a psychiatrist, but she gave me two types of prescription pills & we hardly exchanged a few words. In ten minutes I described to her how I was feeling & I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder & depression. Pills were supposed to solve everything.
My diagnosis was just another way for L to put me down. Every time we had a problem he would blame it on my depression. A few months later, I had another visit to the same psychiatrist, but this time we talked & I told her about my relationship. Now she gave me a new diagnosis - borderline personality disorder. I felt so broken. I was dysfunctional.
I was 21, had no friends, wasn't doing well in school & now I had a Cluster B disorder diagnosis. It just didn't seem fair. Something wasn't right. I thought about suicide. I wanted to jump off a bridge, but when I got to the bridge, I panicked & gave up because I was scared. I was standing at the edge of a bridge, I was crying, but I just couldn't do it.
A few days after I went for a visit to my parents for a family occasion. I'd kept them in the dark about how bad things had gotten in my relationship with L. I was afraid I would be judged by my mother who was very strict & whom I'd felt had been hard on me since childhood. I couldn't tell her what was happening. I thought that if I told her what I was going through she'd think less of me.
In all honesty, I myself thought I was just being too sensitive. So I decided not to say anything. If I said anything, I thought my mom would think I was spoiled or just plain weak. But, one night she found me crying & then I couldn't hide what was happening any longer.
I remember how embarrassed I felt for crying in front of her. I didn't want to, but I told her everything. We talked for 5 hours & she was crying along with me. I had never seen her cry in my life before. I didn't expect her reaction to be so emotional. I didn't expect her to care. I thought she'd never cared, but she definitely did.
I didn't know much about Cluster B disorders. It was all relatively new to me.
I needed to understand the nature of my new diagnosis & started actively searching the internet & talked to my professors in order to help myself & to find a way to deal with the problem. It was then I learned about narcissistic personality disorder. At first, I didn't pay that much attention to it, because the first descriptions of it I found were unfamiliar to me.
Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance, they can appear overly assertive, & need to be worshipped. I defined a narcissist as someone who frequently points out how wonderful they are, & is openly & constantly talking themselves up. I thought I understood what the disorder was all about, until one day when I was studying & I came across the term 'covert narcissism'.
Learning about covert narcissism opened my eyes to what was happening in my own life. I was reading article after article & suddenly everything made sense!
It's Not Me - It's You
At first, I couldn't even react. I just sat there with my eyes wide open. I don't think I was even blinking! It felt like I found the last piece of the puzzle. This was it. This was what I was dealing with, & I needed no psychiatrist to tell me I was right! My gut feeling knew it, my whole body knew it. For a brief moment, I felt so normal & healthy & I started crying tears of real joy.
I didn't wait a moment, I didn't want to allow a shadow of a doubt to change my mind & I didn't want to allow myself to overanalyse the situation. I called my mother & told her I was coming back home & that I wanted to break up L. At the time, I was about to turn 24. I felt like he'd taken up enough of my time.
He was working & I waited for him to go to work so I could leave him without confrontation. I knew how it all would end if I tried to confront him. I knew the whole scenario.
When I got home I sent him a text saying we are breaking up & that I didn't want to see him ever again. They say, when you break up with someone, you get to see the real them. When I broke up with L I saw who he truly was. It was there all along, I just chose not to see it.
He sent me threatening messages, saying I would be so sorry for hurting him, insulting me, saying that he would destroy me. He told me I was nothing & no-one without him. He called me a lunatic in all-caps & followed that up with exclamation marks. His messages were like of those of a spoiled five-year-old when you take away his favourite toy. My mum was reading the messages with me & sat with me in disbelief, nodding her head. He wasn't prepared to lose his narcissistic supply. I caught him off guard.
Finally, I could see him for who he really is & I felt I was dealing with The Devil himself. That moment I remembered a scene from Twin Peaks when they discover Bob resides in Leland. It was terrifying.
I blocked him on social media & blocked his number. I followed the golden "no contact with an abusive narcissist" rule. A couple of times he found new ways to contact me, made new accounts so he could follow me on social me, but since I didn't give him what he wanted, he slowly gave up & moved on to what I can only assume is his next victim.
Narcissism comes in many shapes & forms. Sometimes it's very obvious, sometimes, unfortunately, it's not. There is overt narcissism, covert narcissism & everything in-between. Sometimes the definition of narcissism is not simple or cut & dry. But they all have one thing in common - they care about no one, but themselves.
Using My Experience to Help Others
Now, about one year later, he still tries to contact me. But now, I feel healthier than ever. My panic attacks & depression disappeared, & my anxiety only sometimes comes back. I am about to graduate with very good grades, & I have rebuilt two of my friendships that were ruined by my relationship. Now I have two close friends & good family support. I am soon to become a counsellor myself, & I want to specialise for Cluster B disorders, so I can help people who are in the situation I once was in.
I want to help others realise there is a way out of a toxic & abusive relationship. I want to show them how important it is to trust your gut. Our instinct is our best guide & the best psychiatrist we will ever have. We all need to listen to it.
Narcissists use confusion to create situations where YOU end up on medication, where you think you need help & can even end up being wrongly diagnosed with a disorder they might have. We all have strength in ourselves & can overcome all obstacles in our way. We just need to listen to that inner voice.
It knows the way.
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