Truthfully…..I’ve been sitting on this post for at least 10 days now. I wrote it in response to a lot that I saw and was feeling and was realizing – then chickened out in posting it. But I feel the need to speak this into the ether – into the universe. In many ways, it was like when I had to report someone for sexual harassment. The realization that it happened to me was unreal – unwanted. I never thought I could fall victim. Yet I did. And I could not deny it. This I have been clearly denying for years. It has been eating at me. It has been hard to defeat. It is the beast that needs to be exorcised. I am hoping by throwing this out here – by saying it aloud – it lets me take that next step.
To forgive me.
I felt my phone (and watch) buzz indicating there was a new text message. I glanced down, first at the watch on my wrist, then reached for the phone to really read the message. My cohort who was talking at the time, paused and asked if all was OK. The action of the glance to my watch then grabbing of my phone worried him that something was wrong, but I quickly reassured him it was all fine explaining I just needed to double check that I read that text right.
“….one thing you’ve learned about YOURSELF from being with a narcissist.”
I was starting to wonder if the universe was conspiring to get me to face something.
Let me explain both that comment and the text. Over the past couple of months, it seems that I keep stumbling across subjects with an underlying theme. It is popping up in podcasts I’ve listened to for years. It is popping up in twitter feeds. It is popping up in articles being shared online.
In a certain respect, I’m sure it is like when I was pregnant – it seemed everyone was pregnant. Clearly my perspective of the world is being shaped by something inside which is what I’m realizing more and more. Except this time, it’s not a kid inside but something else.
Why is it that I’m seeing and hearing more and more about narcissism, abuse, and relationship configurations (polyamory and monogamy)?
Plainly stated: it’s because I’ve got some unfinished business inside.
Ten years ago, a common friend introduced me to a guy who, with his family, would be moving to our area. We were in the same professional field, so it made sense for the common friend to connect us. I’m always happy to help newbies into the city – and if my friend said this was good guy, I trusted him.
But to answer the question from that text above – from the relationship that ensued with him, I learned what gas lighting meant, how it felt, and that I was not crazy.
Recently in the polyamory community, a group of women released a shared letter asking that an educator hold himself accountable for his actions against his former partners. The letter was signed by a number of people from the community as well as the communities that intersect with his own. They were publicly making this statement because private attempts to engage him were being ignored. Not a whole lot of detail about the situations or accusations were being shared – just that were were some.
I had mixed feelings about the letter because of how it plays into the current call out culture which I think can be problematic, but my curiosity was peaked because of who it was. But it was also peaked because of an interaction I had with a friend a few years prior. I had mentioned this person to my friend as an example of a local educator who our local kink community had not engaged for education. My friend quickly commented, “that’s for the best” then changed the subject. His body language had gone from laid back to uncomfortable. I had tried to poke a bit further with him on the subject but did not successfully get anywhere which disappointed me because I knew there was a story. This letter combined with that interaction made me wonder if there was a story there.
One of my favorite podcasts (Armchair Expert) had an interview with Esther Perel on their specialized Experts on Expert episode. I didn’t recognize her name and almost skipped it, but traffic and being unable to stop it from stopping forced me to listen to it. Her take on relationships and monogamy and eroticism left me in awe. Her comment about monogamy at one point meaning one person for life but not meaning one person at a time left me reeling. Her comment about defining relationships as you and your partner negotiate them made me feel like what G and I decide was right despite societal norms. But the thing left churning in my brain was her comment about when people experience infidelity:
“Infidelity hurts. But when we grant it a special status in the hierarchy of marital misdemeanors, we risk allowing it to overshadow the egregious behaviors that may have preceded it or even led to it.”
― Esther Perel, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity
When he came into my life, he was just a person on the other end of a keyboard. My friend, who I trusted, had given him the link to this blog. “All parties were open, so what was the harm” was his thinking. The harm was the fact this guy got to know me better than I knew him. He claimed being open. He claimed being transparent. And the stories about his own exploration of kink were fascinating and funny. He and his wife (at the time) were new to being in an open relationship, but the picture he painted of it all was very different than what I came to understand. He came down to the area, and we eventually met for a beer (beings as we were both beer lovers).
In person, he was clearly an alpha male. He communicated. He was funny. He was smart. He was honest about his fuck ups. He was someone I thought I could trust. I could see how people were attracted to him. He was charismatic. And while he reeked “alpha male”, he also seemed as though being overly aggressive was not his default setting. I enjoyed the friendship that developed.
And over beers, he confessed his sins. He was repentant. He articulated. He communicated, then he would flirt. He wanted to hear the details of my kinky encounters. If I posted something, he wanted a full report even after he would read it on my blog. He was encouraging and shared his own adventures. He gave amazing hugs in his goodbyes and kisses that gave you pause in a good way.
“Narcissists love through ego, not heart”
Over a past weekend, I went onto Twitter for the first time in a few days. The educator’s partner had posted something that gave me pause. I wondered what I had missed. What I had missed was her sharing her story. What I had missed was the journalist who had been talking to this educator’s former partners and posting them. What I had missed was how they fit together – not orchestrated by the journalist – but because they all were more intertwined than they realized. And as I read the stories – read about how this man had plotted partners against each other, read how he had refused to work or deferred paying equally with partners, read how he lied to partners enhancing the strife between them, and read how he hid behind the idea he was just being poly.
I probably paid for our beers more than he did. I was okay with that, at first, because I had a good paying job while he was in transition. I can pay $12 for him too. When his wife and G started talking and connecting, he would encourage that but feed me little warnings about his wife. I never distrusted her at the start, but looked at it as though they both had issues to resolve that were not my issues. I was good initially at keeping shit separated. I was good at making sure I kept no ownership. And as I started doing that, he would make comment, “when we play for the first time, I think you’ll enjoy my manhandling.” It was like I started getting subtly rewarded for not taking her side.
This flirting and all continued on until one day during a text exchange I commented if that was what he wanted – name a time and make it happen. There did not need to be any teasing because there could be no action – I was in an open relationship, so either follow through or not. I made that clear. He all of a sudden started backpedalling. Throwing his wife out as an excuse. She likes me, so he cannot fuck me. All of these things I was unaware of. Then, it all happened – like he had gotten the OK. It was fun but weird and awkward after. With what I know now, I wonder if she had any idea he had fucked me.
As things progressed, I started having WTF moments.
He claimed polyamory and open communication with all partners – yet a few of his partners while he dated me viewed me as the enemy.
He was constantly comparing me to his other partners and saying “I wasn’t a real masochist”.
He was moody. When the four of use were together, he constantly pined over the fact someone else was holding his wife’s attention. Then make a big deal if I got upset by the fact I was the odd person out.
He was constantly manipulating situations in ways that led to him being the center of attention.|
He was always talking about how envied he would be if he walked into a party with a different girl on his arm (a party he usually had invited me to, but forgot if the right person was invited).
He was always talking about how great he would look in the kink community if he “had a stable full of hot women” implying strongly I was not one of them.He always expected that I give up my time with G or him if it meant he got a pass from his wife.
And if I articulated any of those things above……I was being emotional….I was being manipulative….I was being needy…..
I was causing drama…..I was the problem – no one else was – because if I would just take ownership over my actions then people would be better off.I was the issue – not only in our relationship but in the relationship between his wife and G.
If I was having a day where I needed to go for a run to just get rid of the demons in my head, I would do that – then come back to accusations and guilt. I made people feel like they had done something wrong because I went for a run. I was causing the weirdness because I left. My self-care – my mental health care – was a problem because it was done at someone’s expense. Or so I was told.
I knew how gaslighting felt.
At one point, I stopped asking for anything. At one point, I stopped believing I could expect anything. At one point, the answer was “no big deal” even if it wasn’t right. At one point, I shrunk to keep out of the view. At one point, I didn’t feel worth it.
And even that didn’t work.
When I finally ended things with him, it was because something was said while we were out – and in that vivid moment, I realized I was too good for him. He did not deserve me. He could fuck off. And I pretty much told him that – and walked home at 11pm at night – in the dark – in a questionable part of town. I didn’t fucking care. I was done. The demons in the dark were not as bad as he was. The risk of staying was greater.
G and his wife were still together – so we eventually attempted to find peace – only for me to realize peace was still manipulation. Everyone would be at the house, and any little thing I would do would blow up into a huge thing. I remember once getting pulled aside because “my attitude” was causing his wife to freak out. I was told I needed to stop making everyone around me walk on eggshells. I was the one causing the stress. I was the one not doing enough to make people comfortable. It was still me.
I remember once cooking a meal for everyone and getting splashed with hot oil on my face and neck and chest. I swore, left the room to get it off of me, and had fucking blisters on all over. The response from the room was “ouch” then they went back to talking. No one helped. No one offered to take over. The response I got from everyone else outside of that room was “holy shit! Did you see a doctor??” That was how fucked up the situation was. My pain was OK as long as it did not ruin the night. While the contrast with everyone else in my life was, holy shit – you are scarred.
In the midst of it all, I started getting angry and withdrawing from my relationship with G. He was being just as manipulated in some ways as I was, I can see that now. But during that time, I felt like he should have been on my side – he should have been standing up for me. I started wondering if he truly felt the same things. Have I just been a bitch for the entire 20 years we had been together, and he just realized it? Then I started wondering if that was the reason no one felt willing to stand up for me – not even him.
A dear friend of ours moved into our house a few months later. After about a month of observing what was happening, he said to me one day he was done not saying anything. They had pulled him into into their fold but it only gave him the sight to see what was happening. And he did not like it. He wanted me to know he saw what was happening. And he started calling it out. He called out G. He called out G’s girlfriend. He called foul on everyone.
And eventually, G realized he needed to end thing with the wife.
For a long time, I hated he did it. His reasoning made me still feel like I was to blame. It took me a long time to realize it was not me – he did it for the right reason even if it felt wrong. It felt wrong because of the gaslighting.
I also started seeing how he plotted me against his other partners – not G but other guy. The other guy wanted to be the one envied. He wanted to be the center of attention. He wanted to be the one people talked about. I started seeing it – and I started seeing how he treated partners.
Like the stories I was reading about the polyamory educator, the women were plotted against each other. The women did not cause the drama – the common man was. One woman who was a casualty still doesn’t get it – and still blames me. Another woman and I made amends as we both realized the real issue – him.
“Thinking about you. Wanted to remind you to play back the documentary. Not the highlight reel. …. stop blaming yourself.”
Narcissists think they are special.
Narcissist think they are entitled.
Narcissists show a lack of empathy.
Narcissists don’t take criticism.
Narcissists need to be the center of attention.
“…stop blaming yourself….”
I didn’t realize how much I was blaming myself until The Angry Therapist did his week about narcissism. I didn’t realize how much I had been holding onto. I didn’t realize how many times I suppressed my needs because that guy convinced me for years that my needs were wrong – making people uncomfortable and causing problems.
I didn’t realize how much I was holding onto because I believed I did not deserve my needs to be met. I did not deserve to want for anything.
I did not realize how much this whole thing was causing me to throw up barriers to make amends with G and keep my relationship with SB in a good place. I did not realize how much I was silencing my own voice for no other reason than what being with a narcissist had taught me.
I did not realize how he changed the voice inside my head. I speak differently to myself now. If something happens, I take it all onto myself. It’s me. I don’t deserve it. I’m not worth it. And while I don’t do that as often now, but it still sneaks in.
It’s 10 years coming, but I feel like I am finally exorcising the beast.
I will write up a follow up. There is more to say on many levels. Stay tuned.