I recently posted an update on my personal FaceBook page regarding a sensitive and personal situation. I'll describe it in a little more detail here for people interested.
I've been a little busy the last couple months, been trying out the dating scene and what not. That was an experience in itself I will probably write about soon. I was with someone for about a month and a half, and she was great, but she couldn't get over the fact that one of my values was my co-parenting relationship with my ex, and having my ex's mother-in-law as my babysitter for my son. Anyway, she projected all sorts of insecurities and assumptions onto me, made me out to be someone I'm not. I ended up putting a lot of validation and regulation skills to the test, as well as practice my confidence and maintain an unwavering center.
I ended up seeing some small similarities between interactions I had with her, and interactions I had previously had with my then-wife. Knowing that I would want to be approached about the topic if someone else had a revelation like this, I contacted my ex and asked a couple of very specific questions. Did she or any of her friends ever think of or describe me as a narcissist? And were there any points in time where she felt felt like I abused her?
Now, I don't ask any questions I'm not ready to hear the answers for. I've asked similar questions to her friends and sister, and got varying answers, but a couple of them came through for me. Yeah, I felt like shit, but I was able to see things from all their points of view and gain an understanding of what the situation felt like for her and them. So I was fully prepared to hear any answers she could come at me with.
Two weeks after I asked, she finally responded with an answer. She decided to not answer my questions because it would cause more harm than good. That she feels we have been in a good place in our co-parenting relationship recently, and she's not willing to risk damaging the pace between us. She goes on to mirror back to me things I had said, and ended with she hopes I understand her decision in not answering, and that we are able to move forward, continuing to rock at co-parenting.
Initially, I had a positive take on this. Understandable. She doesn't want to rock the boat.
Something ate at me as I slept though, because I woke up the next day with an entirely different mindset. That last line set me off. Because she hasn't done much regarding co-parenting to warrant calling it such. She hasn't come up with a single idea, in over a year and a half, to spend any time as a family. She hasn't initiated any real conversations. She barely even looks at me.
Then I realized that the non-answer in itself was, in fact, an answer. It was an avoidance. It was a confirmation, with an attempt to avoid responsibility and accountability. How easy would it have just been to say "no", if the answer was in fact, no?
I realized I had been living a lie. That I had assumed, these last couple years as our relationship deteriorated, that it was just that. A deterioration, falling apart/out of love. This was false. There was intention. Whether it started with her telling her friends, and she agreeing, or she telling her friends, and them agreeing, I don't know. But anyone who doesn't stop and ask the question "have you talked with him about this"? is guilty, in my book. I take mental health very fucking seriously. I was in therapy for two years so that I can be an example to my son of how emotional intelligence works, and have to have positive relationships with others and with yourself. So I don't know if they were nonchalantly throwing the word "narcissist" around, or if it was ever a serious discussion, but they got the matter wrong, and didn't think twice. Which, if you ask me, is pretty narcissistic.
I also realized that this behavior, the non-answers, not wanting to rock the boat, was pathological. And it was harmful to her own self, to the relationship, and now to me. And at this point, it is far enough along, that she should realize that it is a paralyzing problem for her and her relationships, and she needs to work on it. Being able to address issues as they arise is a basic necessity for humans, particularly those in committed romantic relationships with each other.
I also realized that this entirely explains the treatment I've received from her and her friends since before the separation started. They didn't talk to me, or if they did, they said things like "I never even considered you a friend" or "I don't have anything nice to say, so I'm not going to say anything" which, is an ironic statement in itself, because it is entirely contradictory. All I did to them was apologize for treating them, how they felt, was poorly (it wasn't, they were just entitled. They weren't comfortable sharing a house with an intellectual introvert who has trouble socializing, and my house is supposed to be my safe place). I also wanted to understand how I hurt my then-wife so I could empathize, and do better the next time. Apparently this was all offensive to them, and they felt the need to treat me like someone who enjoys other people's pain, and can't tell the difference between abuse and love.
It reminds me of how some kids get treated in schools. They get singled out as a problem child, and treated as such, and the treatment gets perpetuated as they go through their years, and eventually, they start to believe it themselves. That there's something wrong with them, that they can never have healthy relationships. And then they take action, either against others, or against themselves. I am not suggesting I will take action against others or myself. But I've been singled out by children living in adult bodies, and they've done a mental number on me.
I then started putting two and two together with a lot of the ways my ex had treated me. I realized I had been too forgiving in these instances, unaware that there were dubious and harmful intentions behind them.
Anyway, I don't want to get too deep in the weeds in all of this. The point I'm trying to get across, is no one talked to me about any of this. Which makes sense, if I was a narcissist. Because you can't reason with a narcissist, and they will never change their behavior. Only I'm not a narcissist. And treating someone like a person that they aren't, is gaslighting and manipulation, tactics that a narcissist uses. This is why using medical terms for things you don't fully understand is dangerous. Because treating a healthy person like they are mentally ill is damaging as hell. And it's also gaslighting and manipulation. And now, suddenly, you're guilty of the exact same things you're accusing someone else of, only they aren't actually guilty, and you ARE.
No, I don't necessarily think any of them, or my ex, are actually narcissistic. I'm not qualified to diagnose someone. I would say that they exhibit more narcissistic traits than I do. But we are all human, and the vast, vast majority of humans exhibit at least some narcissistic traits. It is human to have an ego, it is human for that ego to get hurt sometimes, and feel the need to get defensive, require love and validation, want to place blame, etc. And that doesn't make any one person objectively worse or better than another. Also, many of these actions are rooted in trauma and involuntary responses, until we take the time and effort to heal. And so I think more empathy, validation, understanding, and kindness are what are needed in this world.
Anyway, I think my willingness to reach out and attempt to understand other people and their perspectives, versus their unwillingness to try to reach out or understand my perspective, is enough for me to make the judgement that they intentionally misunderstood me, and made me out to be a person that I am not, to validate their fucked up notions and actions. That making that kind of judgement is coming from a place of perceived moral superiority (ahem, narcissism). That what has happened, was no accident. There was no falling out. That you don't just go from being family to suddenly not even being friends. That is personal.
So I've made the decision to cut that out of my life. I used to hold space for that situation. That if the chance ever came for any peace offering, I'd consider it. I won't consider peace to people that never offered it to me, and chose to see me as a monster. I'm not a monster. But what they've done is monstrous.
I'll be going back to therapy, even though I graduated back in September. This realization has been a mindfuck. I was ready for any answer, I thought. What I wasn't ready for, was a non-answer.
I have considered the possibilities that some of my actions/reactions might be consistent with that of a narcissist. I will offer you this. Are they not also consistent with those someone might take who simply loved their family, friends, and are hurt that people they loved would choose to see them in such a negative light, without talking to them about it? That people who promised an oath, would break that oath, without having talked to the person, heart to heart, about it, and tried to salvage things?
I also considered that the people who love me and support me will understand me, and those that misunderstand without asking the questions, don't need to be in my life anyway.
There is more to this story I haven't explained here that may help, but this post is also getting pretty long. But things like certain actions she took pre-separation, the timing of everything, the fact that she left when we were having to pinch pennies the most because the credit card was maxed and we couldn't lean on debt anymore, the fact that she left when I had been going to therapy for some time and was growing a backbone and standing up for myself. The fact that she was quick to jump to Johnny Depp's defense against Amber Heard, but couldn't see the damage she was doing to her own man.
Of course I understand her actions, and she has a right to do what she needs to do in order to feel safe. And I know I did some bad things, and I've taken accountability and responsibility for those things, apologized, brought them up in therapy, made the changes, etc. Nothing I feel was deserving of divorce. I feel like much of what happened was due to her past that she hadn't addressed, and a lot of it was projected onto me. Assumptions were made about me that, apparently weren't true, because I was being made guilty of things that I hadn't done, or hadn't been given a chance to address. She apparently never saw me as more than a glorified boyfriend when she compared our relationship of 7 years to that of previous boyfriends who she was never with for more than a year. All relationships are unique, and should be treated as such. It's important to recognize patterns so that one can change their own tendencies and behaviors, but that shouldn't be projected onto the other person. It can be brought up and discussed, that there are triggers, etc, that's all good. Anyways, I think I've said quite a bit in this post and I'm ready to end it, so...
I'm hoping by talking about this stuff, I can encourage other people to call things what they are, even if it's not necessarily the popular thing. To trust your gut, to maintain your center, to be unshakable. Also, to remain curious and kind. And hold other people accountable. And don't be afraid to talk to them about things. They might not be a bad person, they just don't know they're doing a bad thing.
Thanks for reading.