A Letter Says it All - One Woman's Experience Waking Up to Narcissism

Posted by tonyoverbay

Tony reads a letter from a listener who touches on several aspects of waking up to the narcissism in their relationship. Tony covers his five rules of interacting with a narcissist, gaslighting, emotional immaturity, what happens when someone begins working on themself in a relationship with a narcissist, and why it can be so challenging to break free from unhealthy relationships in general.

Tony mentioned his presentation in Monica Tanner's "Secrets of Happily Ever After," summit which brings 32 marriage therapists and life/relationship coaches together to provide a wealth of tips to strengthen your marriage. You can sign up for the summit for free using the following link: https://tonyoverbay--onthebrighterside.thrivecart.com/shea-summit-accelerator/

If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs. 

Go to http://tonyoverbay.com/workshop to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage. 

You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ


Hey, everybody, welcome to waking up to Narcissism. Episode number 43 I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and also host of the Virtual Couch podcast. And today we've got one of those episodes that is probably going to go longer than I anticipate. And I have a pretty incredible email. I get a lot of emails and I'm grateful for every one. The one today touches [00:01:00] on so many things around waking up to narcissism. The person asked the classic Am I the narcissist? Which again, in general terms, if you are even remotely asking yourself that question, I say the answer is no. And now I feel even more confident because it goes back to that. Are we talking about emotional immaturity? The way that maybe I react in situations, the things that I don't know, that I don't know. So maybe you're on this journey of self-discovery. You're the one that's asking the question because now you're looking deeply into data. You're trying to make sense of things, you're reading books, you're listening to podcast versus the person that just says, I don't know what you're talking about, and I'm not even willing to take a look at what narcissism is. So again, I'm going to start from a place of if you're even asking the question, the answer is most likely no. Maybe again, a little emotional immaturity.

[00:01:45] But honestly, we all are. I was going to say, aren't we all? And the answer is yes. So today we're going to talk about that. The first items of business, if you're interested in marriage coaching, I've got a lot of episodes now of an upcoming [00:02:00] Magnetic Marriage podcast recorded, and now we're starting to edit those and get those ready. And then I'm going to come out with an announcement about the Magnetic Marriage podcast that is going to be a subscription based podcast. It's going to be well less than the cost of one therapy session to have access. And you can find out more if you're interested in you and your spouse, maybe being coached by me, talking about using my four pillars of a connected conversation and so much more. Then reach out at info at Toni over Macomb and let us know. It will be completely anonymous if you are just somebody that's curious about what couples coaching or couples therapy even looks like, and you've wanted to get into therapy and your spouse isn't interested. That's a big reason why I want to do this podcast, because the sessions have been so fun. I mean, they're fun. They're phenomenal, they're touching. They're sad because I'm getting to watch people, most of them, I don't believe have been to therapy or have worked with a therapist, a coach. And so within the first 45, 50 minutes of the [00:03:00] first episode, you really are clearly seeing that couples get stuck in these patterns.

[00:03:05] And they it's hard to listen and be curious and have empathy when you've just dug in your heels for such a long period of time. And then when you didn't even have the right tools to begin with of how to communicate or how to differentiate or how to step outside of your ego or self, and sometimes you aren't even aware of how our just visceral or gut reaction comes into play when somebody even just questions our behavior even from a bless their heart, well-intentioned place. So I'm really excited the more of these that I record. So if you are interested again and being one of the couples, reach out to info at Tony over eBay.com. But if you are interested in finding out when that podcast will launch and maybe getting a little bit of a heads up, a sneak preview, then go to Tony eBay.com and then just to sign up to get on my newsletter and you'll find out more about that. The last bit of business, so to speak, then as I really more and more people are snapping up this workshop. So if you go to Tony over eBay.com slash, I have a $19, it's about an hour and a half workshop [00:04:00] where I do talk about all of the things that we didn't know, that we didn't know about how our childhood and our adolescence and our teenage years and our previous relationships show up in our marriage, show up in our relationships, and then why make so much sense of why it can be so difficult to communicate? And then I try to give you a little bit of a heads up on what it would look like to communicate more effectively.

[00:04:22] So if you want that, go to Tony over Baker slash workshop. And if you find absolutely no value, I promise you just let me know. And it's so easy to hit a little refund button and I will refund you so quickly because it's really just something that I want to get out there. And I think that you're going to learn a lot about what a relationship could, should or can look like. So without any further ado, I'm going to read an email. I'm going to try to get through most of the email without making too much commentary initially, and then we'll circle back around and hit a lot of the different areas of this email. Also, this email is coming from someone that is is not a part of my private women's Facebook [00:05:00] group. But a lot of the content that I'm going to be coming up with moving forward is coming from that group. The group is getting very large. That's a powerful dynamic, a group of women. And if you're interested in joining that, just shoot me an email and I want you to know that that will go to my amazing assistant, Naomi, who is compiling so much data and so many resources.

[00:05:22] So if you have questions, if you have examples of your own waking up to narcissism in your relationship within yourself, I want to hear them all. And we're compiling those resources. We're making things anonymous. And we're going to we're going to be doing a lot of good things of those resources. And Naomi is putting together resources of. That maybe speak a little bit more fluent personality disorder, maybe speak a little more fluent narcissism, hearing from more therapists. So if you are a therapist and you are interested in being part of maybe a potential future collaboration, then please reach out as well. And if you are the person, the guy and you know, we talk so much about how it's not just the man that is the narcissist, it can be the woman as well. But I'm [00:06:00] getting more and more men. And I want you to know if you are listening to this and you've already reached out to me. I so appreciate that. And I'm getting a group of men together and we're going to have more group meetings as well and just talk about what that looks like of waking up to our own emotional immaturity or narcissistic traits and tendencies. Because when I talk about my own journey through this, I don't take that lightly because that waking up the narcissism I said so many times, it's a very intentional name of the podcast because it's waking up to my own narcissistic traits and tendencies, my own emotional maturity.

[00:06:29] So let me get to this email. But if you are someone who feels like, wait a minute, I know that literally Tony just said earlier that if I'm asking myself if I'm the narcissist and I'm probably not. But if you're really starting to identify and I should read some of those emails because they're touching, they are there are people that are saying, I realize I emotionally react. I realize that I gaslight, I realize that I had no idea that this is even how I was showing up in the relationship. And now I realize that I walk in the door and my family is on guard and they are wondering, Hey, [00:07:00] what's the mood with Dad right now? And I have a I have an amazing email of a guy that's talking about that because he's saying that he always has felt like he walked in to just, boy, what's wrong with everybody? And in reality, they're all saying, all right, what's dad's vibe? We have to read Dad's vibe. So if you're that guy as well, then please reach out and we're going to be putting some things together as well. So just so many good things ahead. And the more that we can get the word out, the more that we can talk about narcissism and emotional immaturity and do so without the record scratch vibe, the better.

[00:07:34] Let me read this so the person says, and you got to love the pathologically kind. Just title in itself. Long email. So sorry, there's nothing to be apologetic of. I'm grateful for the email and boy, trust me, the length of the emails. This one isn't even that long to be honest. So I'm so grateful for anybody that's willing to to put those thoughts into an email and send them, even if it's just from a therapeutic. This feels good standpoint. So they say, Hey, they're so I am a highly sensitive [00:08:00] person and honestly have always felt like an empath. I've been listening to so many of your podcasts and they have been so enlightening and I'm learning so much. Okay, let me take back my cell, my thoughts earlier where I said, I am just going to lay out the email and we'll talk about it later because I will then forget about things. So we're going to jump in and try to tackle this in real time because if you are listening to this and you're saying, Oh, gosh, she thinks she's an empath, huh? Then that's your that's your thoughts. But her experience is that she's always felt like an impasse. So if you are in a relationship with somebody that says, I am highly sensitive and I think I'm an empath, that is not the moment where you roll your eyes and say, okay, this again, because how about we start with the man? I want to understand what that's like because it's okay if I don't feel that way.

[00:08:45] So tell me what that means to you. What does that mean? Tell me. Take me in your train of thought. How are you coming up with these? The concepts of highly sensitive person and empath? I want to know. I'm curious. Tell me more. Tell me more about that. So she said, my husband and I have been together for over a decade and we've [00:09:00] been married for almost all of that time. Recently. I've been digging down deep in my psyche because for years now I have been convinced that there is something totally wrong with me. I see a therapist. I've been to a psychiatrist. I spend a lot of money on self-help, and now I'm just devouring and listening to podcasts as well. I always and that's the way it's written out. Lots of S's there always assumed everything was my fault. For example, my husband coming home and constantly being on his phone or watching his shows rather than spending time with the kid and he goes out of town on business quite a bit. So she said even after long business trips that then he gets mad at me for small chores not getting done when he gets home. And she said another hurtful one is him telling me that my anxiety, my panic attacks and depression, that I've just developed these over the last few years, that they're all in my head and that haven't I heard of the concepts of mind over matter? She said she feels like in essence, he's all but said, I really just think you're making it up.

[00:09:55] Why don't you just try a little bit harder? What an opportunity right here that if you are, are [00:10:00] the woman in this situation. I hope you're going to start to feel more heard and understood. If you're the guy that has ever said, you know, I think you just need to suck it up, buttercup. That's what I've been hearing a lot lately. But I think you just need to try harder and you need to just work through it. If you've said that, then I understand. But it's time to make a shift and say, Oh, man, how on earth do I know what it feels like to be my spouse? So I need to have a little more patience, a little more grace. I need to understand and seek to understand with curiosity. So she said again, he feels like it's I'm making up. When I bring it up, he'll just say, Okay, how about you just go? Take another another pill. How about you just take another antidepressant? As if I want to be on that. She said he refuses to talk about emotions at all. He tells me that he doesn't even understand the concepts of anxiety or depression and that that's all in my head.

[00:10:49] He doesn't understand what empathy is, and he can't even wrap his mind around my emotions. And I want you to know, this is where some of that complex trauma or some of the circular [00:11:00] reasoning or thought comes from in a relationship, because in one sense, he's saying it's all in your head. And then in another sense, he's saying, you know, I don't understand this. I don't have this thing, so what am I supposed to do about it? So now in that scenario, with a different energy, a different vibe, with the right tools, it's it can be completely reframed. It's okay for him to say, I don't understand it. That's not my experience. So instead of that being like an accusation and saying, So, now you go deal with it, I want that to be so. I forgive me if I'm not showing up in the best way because I'm not sure how to show up because I don't have that same experience. But we're in this together. I care about you. So why don't we? Why don't we set our egos aside, find the right tools, and tell me more? So he says he says that she's lost a lot of close friends since they got married and recently one of the closest family members to her. But when it was close friends, he would tell me how he didn't understand how I could be so [00:12:00] upset that he's never cried or he hasn't been upset about somebody passing away or dying.

[00:12:04] So again, here's somebody that's saying, look, I don't deal. I don't cry when people pass away. So why do you. But it's not a so tell me more about why you do so it's hey, knock it off. And if we jump into this right this moment, this is where that emotional immaturity shows up in the person, the narcissistic person, the severely emotionally immature person. If you really take a step back and this is where I know that, I still hope that the person that is waking up to their narcissism can just hear this for a second, sit with this for a moment, that if somebody's close to someone that you are in a relationship with passes away and they are sad, then what an opportunity to say, man, I am so, so sorry. Tell me what that's like and tell me how I can show up because here's what's going on. I believe with that emotionally immature, narcissistic person, when their partner, their spouse is in mourning, they are most [00:13:00] likely pulling away from the spouse a little bit there. So as an emotionally immature spouse, then what is he doing in the scenario? He's saying, I don't like the way this, I don't like the way that I feel right now. And because I don't know how to show up for you, I don't have this empathy naturally.

[00:13:17] I don't even know that I don't have it. I just don't like the way I feel. So can you knock it off? Can you not be so sad? I'm not sad. So can you just get back to acting normal so that this doesn't make me uncomfortable? So talk about that opportunity for the emotionally immature narcissist to grow. They're so afraid of being open and vulnerable and sitting with uncomfortable emotion. They're so afraid of saying, Oh, wow, what if I'm the jerk? Maybe I'm wrong and maybe I need to take a look at the way I show up in these situations. Go back to that concept of confabulation. Confabulation is that they're going to they're going to change that memory in real time. They're going to change that scenario because if it's true that they don't know how to show up and [00:14:00] they're not being the empathetic partner, the empathetic person, when they're when their spouse has someone close to them pass away, then that would mean that they are a complete jerk. And it can't be that. So it has to be that they're right that you just need to get over it because because I can deal with that scenario, thinks the narcissist, whether in the subconscious or who knows. Because if they can think that, no, no, no, if she'll just knock it off, everything will be okay, then that will mean that I'm okay. But that is an opportunity for growth.

[00:14:29] It's an opportunity where there's going to be some tension in the marriage because we have two different experiences around somebody passing away. But those are the moments where you can grow closer together. There's an author who is name is Terrence McKenna and he says there's a quote that he has. It's in essence, some parts of life are like jumping out into the great abyss and then finding out that there's a feather bed jumping out into the great abyss is to say, I don't know how to show up for you right now. And I. I don't feel that same way when someone passes away. But I care about you, [00:15:00] and I'm in it for the long haul. So I want to show up how I can show up for you, whether I just want to sit here or whether you just need me to hold your hand, whether you need to cry on my shoulder or whether you just need time. I got you. And that's where maybe we find out it's jumping out into these uncomfortable emotions, finding out it's that feather bed of, oh, my gosh, I think we might have disconnected, just connected, not disconnected, she said. He admits that he's never really cried or been upset about somebody dying. And she said when I asked, Well, what if it's me or one of our children or somebody close to you in your family that dies? Would you be upset? And he says, Well, yeah, of course.

[00:15:35] And she said, I've always. Found that part so strange to me because losing anyone that I've ever been close with permanently really hurts me. But then she starts to think, Is that something wrong with me? Am I overly sensitive? No. That's just the way that you show up and the way that you feel, because you are the only version of you having your experience in life. And so it's a check this out moment. This is how I feel. And your spouse, I would love [00:16:00] to be able to take a step back and take a look at himself and say, oh, man, I don't feel that way. And we're both right. So maybe we can have a conversation about this. But she said again, she says, I'm losing somebody that I've been close with permanently really hurts me. But I think maybe I'm just a sensitive person and then she has a big but. Now she says that after all the research and the work that I've been putting in to healing myself, I've learned that he is only a cognitive empath. Now, what does that mean? Cognitive empathy is what do I do about it? Emotional empathy is how do I feel about it. So I love that she brings this up. I don't know if we've talked about this. On waking up the narcissism. I believe I've touched on it, maybe somewhere over on the virtual couch, she said.

[00:16:37] So, whereas I feel empathy and she says like every way. So when he doesn't understand my anxiety that he has the most likely caused over the years from the lack of validation and the refusal of any form of validation for my mental health, she said. I feel like it has over the years hurt me more and more. And she said I am now completely lost. I've lost my identity, I've lost my motivation, I've lost [00:17:00] my confidence for life. And he tells me, okay, it's my fault because I just don't leave the house and do things. But she said, But when I am constantly being talked down like nothing is ever enough, she said, I lose my drive and she doesn't put this in here. But I could most likely go to one of the documents that we keep of all the emails that I get. Do a little search and find examples of people that are told, You never go do anything. Why don't you ever get out of the house? But then if the person does want to go get out of the house, then that's where their spouse becomes even more emotionally immature. And they say, okay, no, I want you to be out of the house, but how long you be gone? Like I've got stuff to do and I supposed to babysit the kids and I hope maybe for some of you that was a triggering word, even because it's not babysitting your own kids, it's watching your kids.

[00:17:44] And so some of those phrases just become so triggering. But then let's say that the wife in that scenario says, okay, when you say you're babysitting the kids, I feel like that's talking like this isn't your responsibility as well, that it's all on me. And unfortunately, in that scenario, [00:18:00] the emotionally immature narcissist in that scenario says, okay, fine, I guess I'm wrong. What am I supposed to say? Tell me what I'm supposed to say. I'll say it. You're right. Because in that scenario, she's going to stop even bringing things up. But we want to be able to have adult mature conversations, even if it causes us to feel tension. We're so afraid of that contention that we stay away from tension altogether. Tension is where that growth occurs. So she said, we moved in a few years ago and there was a surprise pregnancy right when they got to their new location. And she said that was when he just doubled down on being mean and withdrawing. And just he would just say things like, you know what, you just got to put your mind over matter. When she would say I have morning sickness or when she would say I was tired, she said he has gaslit me since the beginning. About most everything I say to him that goes with my mind or my body to the point where I've just completely lost myself.

[00:18:53] And I think I guess maybe he's right. Maybe I am just weak. Maybe I could just do a better job of trying [00:19:00] to just toughen up or work harder. But man, I don't know how many men listening or in this scenario what their experiences in morning sickness or childbirth have been like. And yes, I'm being sarcastic, but that is from my chair. One of the biggest just aha moments for I love when a guy can say I think she just needs to drink a little sprite or I think she needs to just get some fresh air. There's that. Why didn't she just do some of those things? How about we start with, Hey, how's it feel to be pregnant? How does it feel to feel your hormones shift like almost overnight and you feel like you wake up and you don't even know who you are or what does it feel like to have some little person growing inside of you and feeling it kick? And what is that like? What is that like to now have this experience where and I'm just talking about this from hearing clients in my office of something I've always dreamed of, but now I'm scared. What if things don't play out well? What if? What if? What if? Instead of a husband saying, Well, don't worry about those things, just focus on the positive, okay? Again, [00:20:00] I've never been my wife and add to that and I've definitely never been pregnant.

[00:20:04] So I feel like I don't really have much room to give advice at all in that scenario. But it's an amazing opportunity to to bond and grow closer to my spouse and say, hey, I want to hear all of this because I will literally never experience this, especially as you. So tell me more about that. That's the part where we can really be there and try to hear our spouse. So she said, you know, I'm still trying to find myself because I've just been lost for years, she said, especially the last two or three years. And I don't think she opens up about this specifically, but. I really feel like this is even more of an example of I'm just going to say, unfortunately it's fortunate. It is fortunately that when you start to wake up to the reality of your situation, your relationship, the emotional maturity in your relationship, your whether it's your part that maybe some of that co-creation, but primarily what how you have just lost your sense of self because of the gaslighting, because of the emotional abuse, because of the invalidation that it's [00:21:00] going to get worse. And man, that is such a hard thing to deal with. And we talked earlier in one of the first episodes about narcissistic awareness, grief, nag, and that it's just one of those parts where you weren't even aware of it. But it was pretty crummy the way things were in the relationship.

[00:21:15] And then when you find out about it, it's a hard place to be for a while because now all of a sudden you're just diving into the data, the information, and then trying to go back through the game film and say, Oh my gosh, was any of this real? Or Now what did that mean when he said this? And it's hard to not ruminate, but I promise you right now the best thing that you can do is when you are ruminating, notice that you're ruminating, then try to come back to the present moment, try to be present with your kids or try to be present with your self care. Listen to the episode that Nate and I did last for the last episode because we talked so much about self care isn't just go run a marathon, it's even just starting to have a positive mindset on internal view of what it feels like to be you. But she said that over this time she's felt so insane that [00:22:00] she said it's destroyed her into this tiny shell of a person who hates everything about herself until her wakeup call, which she said was very, very recently. And she shifts over and says, This was my wakeup call. He left while one night we were actually playing a game that we enjoy together. We both have a blast. And she said, That's one of the only times I really feel a connection.

[00:22:18] And then he said, Hey, I'm going to run out to the store and I'm just going to grab some snacks. So she messaged him about an hour later and he said, Hey, I'm checking out, I'll be home soon. So she thought, okay, that's a little long, but he'll be home soon. Another hour later she messages again and he says, I'm so sorry. I got caught up talking to somebody, but I'm checking out now and I say, What? Where are you? So then another hour later, then finally he calls and he said, Hey, I had a couple of drinks and I'm lost. And she said, okay, go to the last place you were and call a cab. And she said, What? Why? Why didn't you tell me this? Why didn't you keep me posted? Why, why? What's going on? And then he says, okay, thanks a lot for your help [00:23:00] while I'm out here lost and she hangs up on him. She said she went from angry to worried and then another hour goes by, another hour goes by. She said, I call and I start calling his friends and I try to have other people looking for him. And finally he comes in almost 7:08 a.m. the next morning and she said he stumbles by and he is so angry. He said, I can't believe you got my friends involved. She said there was no hug, there was no kiss.

[00:23:26] There was no I am so sorry. Of course, I can't imagine what I put you through. She stayed up all night. She has kids, they have responsibilities and he goes right up and takes a shower, she said. We've been together for a long time now. She said. Never once have I ever gone through his phone. But she said, I found out that night that he was on dating sites and that he had had an opportunity to try and go step out and meet with somebody. And so when he said that he was lost, it looks like that he was out and he was trying to connect with somebody else. So the reason why that becomes so important, [00:24:00] she said, when I confronted him, he blamed me. He said, Well, if you would have stopped making me so miserable and if you would do the things that I maybe I wouldn't feel the need to do that. And she said, But honestly, I've tried that when I do the things that he's asked me to do in the relationship. She said, it always is going to be more or that isn't exactly what he was looking for. She said. All of a sudden things turn into almost a competition and they go into tit for tat and say, okay, well, I won't do this. Like spend time with me or the kids or give me a break from the kids when he gets home or spend less time on his phone and help with diaper changes and cleaning up the house, he says, I won't do that unless you commit to me.

[00:24:37] You will keep up with every single chore and every single. Erin So then she says, okay, all right, maybe I'm wrong. So I do that. I do that for a week. I do that for two weeks. And she said that isn't it? She said, when I do those things, then he doesn't do what he says. And then he comes back and says, either, I didn't really say that or Look, you did. Yeah, you're doing great now. But [00:25:00] I guess you're right. I'm a big, horrible piece of garbage. And so there you go. You're happy. And so then all of a sudden she's back to Confused. I'm trying to do the things that you are asking me to do, and then it's never enough. Or then if I don't do something and I'm not even aware of it, then all of a sudden I'm going to hear about it. And this is where the narcissist, the emotionally immature person, it's not about if they feel like because they don't have their own sense of self, they're coming from this just place of deep insecurity, deep void, childhood abandonment, childhood wounds, so they don't feel good. How does this guy he can't feel good about. Leaving and trying to connect with somebody else and getting drunk and storming home and his friends finding out.

[00:25:40] So he doesn't feel good about that, but he cannot take ownership of it. Child Gaslighting is a childhood defense mechanism. If he were to say, my bad, you know, that's coming from that didn't go well when he was a kid. He never saw a model. I'm sure his parents weren't ones that were captains of accountability. And so he doesn't know that to begin with. And if he ever would [00:26:00] have taken ownership for something as a kid, probably would have physical abuse punishment. So then in essence, I'm going to say nothing or I'm going to blame somebody else, or I'm going to come up with a different story so I can get out of it because it's not going to go well if I take ownership of it as a little kid. Gaslighting is a childhood defense mechanism, but then when it becomes part of your implicit memory or your daily experience or what it feels like to be you, then that's what you do in real time and you're not even aware of it. That's why it can be so difficult to wake up to your own emotional immaturity. That's why when I talk about these five rules of interacting with someone with narcissistic personality disorder, narcissistic traits and tendencies, it's raising that emotional baseline self care. It is getting your PhD in gaslighting and knowing, Oh my gosh, I know, I did say I did say what I said, I'm not crazy.

[00:26:45] That third one is it's getting out of unproductive conversations because they are just going to go and go and go because of the gaslighting. The fourth one is learning how to set healthy boundaries. And unfortunately, when you learn how to start setting healthy boundaries, it's going to make the relationship dynamic a little bit more, a little bit. It's going to be very disruptive [00:27:00] because you're you're disrupting the narcissistic or the emotionally immature supply. You're calling out someone that is, they don't at that current moment, have the capacity to be called out or to take ownership of anything. But I go through these again because that fifth one is realizing that there's nothing you you will do that will cause them to have that aha moment or epiphany. They have to come to that on their own. So you're trying to do all the things that he's asked you to do. You're trying to explain to him, you're trying to give him another example and you're trying to get him to have that aha moment or epiphany. If he is unable to do that and he hasn't done that up to this, it can seem paradoxical, but part of the part of healing is for you to actually withdraw from trying to do that and take care of yourself and learn how to be differentiated and stand on your own two feet and find your sense of self.

[00:27:43] And unfortunately, when you start to then become that interdependent, differentiated person, there's a lot of invalidation coming. So that's why you've got to have that self care. That's why you got to have that emotional baseline high because things are about to get real. But I want to say that in a man you're doing it. You're going to change [00:28:00] the dynamic in the relationship, you're going to find your sense of self, and that is going to be the best thing that you can do, the best thing for you, the best thing for your kids. And if there is a chance for the relationship to shift, if it really, truly is just a we don't know what we don't know, then let's get ready for it and we're going to find out, is this your spouse? Whether it's the husband or the wife, is your spouse, are they capable of change? Are they willing to lean in and look at tools even if it's uncomfortable? So she also says that she feels cut off from the world and all of her friends because she she goes into a little bit of detail and just in summary, that when she tries to connect with friends, that then he seems to always be around or he wants to know what she's doing or who are you texting or what did they say? Or, Hey, I hope you're not sharing this with other people. I don't air your dirty laundry.

[00:28:44] And we do call that one sequestering where she's getting to the point where she just feels like it's not worth it. It's not worth it to try and talk to anybody else, open up to anybody else. And so then she starts to feel very isolated and which can just be incredibly lonely. And what's ironic there is the lonelier that she [00:29:00] gets, the more she has just craves validation and wants to be heard and understood. But then when she's isolated or sequestered, then she wants to turn to her spouse. And it sounds like her kids are fairly young. But I think one of the other dilemmas that you see often is that this is where people will then often turn to younger kids and almost parented by them. And I know that's coming from Bless your heart. You don't you know, you want to just be heard and understood. And so sometimes you end up just opening up to kids before before they're old enough to really understand what's going on. And we could go on to a whole different topic there. But let me get back to this email. So after this concept of sequestering, she's then says that I really do. I try to talk to him about how I love some emotional or mental validation from him, and at that point then he'll say that he doesn't know how to, and it's almost as if it's out of his comprehension. And he'll also get passive aggressive and say, okay, why don't you just write me a script and tell me what I'm supposed to say, which is again going back into that victim mentality and which is the little kid in him that is wanting rescue, that [00:30:00] wants to just hear, No, it's okay.

[00:30:02] Don't worry about it. I'm okay. You're awesome. She said, over time, I started to realize that he has narcissistic traits and tendencies. And she said and maybe myself as well. And there's that pathologically kind person saying, I'm not trying to just say I'm perfect, and I know that that's the case and I know that this is where I feel like we can it's okay to have to be emotionally immature or to recognize there are things that we don't know or things that we maybe don't do in a perfect way. But what is she doing? She's seeking help. What is he doing? He's saying, get over it. It's not. Big deal. I don't understand. This is all in your head. It doesn't make sense to me. And I hope you can just get that sense. And that's why I so appreciate reading emails like this, because I think it just puts everything into context. But she said so. He said, we both gone through trauma and she said, I am going to therapy. He said he doesn't need it because and because of some of the things that have gone on with his work situation, they have suggested that he gets therapy and he hasn't initiated [00:31:00] therapy yet.

[00:31:01] And she says, and I want to go rescue him in the sense that I want to then jump in and say, okay, I'll take care of it, I'll sign you up for therapy. But unfortunately, he needs to be the one that is is open to change. If he's just going just to check boxes off of a checkbox list, then it's not going to be very helpful or productive. And if anything and I think what's so hard about emotional immaturity is then he can then by doing just the checkbox items and going to somebody is maybe not the best fit for somebody that can really work with his emotional immaturity. Then he gets to even say, and I went and they told me I was fine. And boy, it's funny that you keep going because obviously I was really good at therapy. She said then that he gets annoyed when I talk about any progress that I've made when recognizing my childhood trauma, my attachment styles and any other work that I've done. He acts, though he doesn't want to hear it. It doesn't matter to him. As long as I get fixed. He tells me he's no longer in love with me because I'm not the risk taking, independent, fun person that I used to be when we first met. He tells me all the [00:32:00] time that I need to find myself again, but then he breaks me down in that process of trying to find myself.

[00:32:05] And I think at this point I feel like you could probably jump in and see where I'm going to, where what I want to say in these scenarios. But because he's saying, no, I want you to find yourself, but do it the way that I find that version of you that I can control. I don't want this version of you that feels like you have your own opinions and that you are independent and confident because that's a threat to me. I want you to go back into this enmeshment and codependent relationship where I can have my cake and eat it too. In essence, she said, he tells me all the time. She said that now that I'm learning more and more and putting in this work, she said, Of course, then I hope that he will as well. And I appreciate that. But I feel like if we got to do this and I know this is hard, but we have to do this, you have to do the work for yourself. It will shift the relationship and the dynamic. And even if you're doing the work in the hopes that, then he will see and say, man, okay, I do. I do want this different version of a relationship, whatever it takes to get you to do your work. And [00:33:00] I often say that this is where I want you to get your baseline so high that even if your goal initially is I'm going to get my baseline so high that he's going to say, you know what, I can't let her go.

[00:33:11] Then the reality is absolutely that could happen or your baseline is so high that then you are able to recognize that I don't deserve this and I have a light within me. And who am I to play small? It's the Marianne Williamson poem, Our Deepest Fear. Who am I to play small so that others around me won't feel less than? I don't think that's the exact poem, the line of the poem, but that we're all we all have the glory of God within us. And we're meant to let our light so shine so that others around us will will lift their light as well. Because that's a much better way to go through life if we're all being able to step into our own confidence, our own energy, our own tools, talents and abilities. And that that doesn't mean that. And therefore, I must push someone else down for me to step into my my talents or my abilities. So get that bass line up [00:34:00] high. And so she said that and again, as she's putting in more work, she hopes that he will. But she said, I don't want to feel like my feelings are made up when I express them to my significant other.

[00:34:09] I don't want the gaslighting to continue. She said, I know I can work around it in a sense if I work on myself, but will I? Here's the question as a highly sensitive and empathetic person, ever feel content or will I always feel like the life is drawing down on me while we're married? And here's where I go down. This acceptance and commitment therapy, that therapy model that I love, our brain is again, it's a protective device. That future seems pretty scary. So it's going to start saying, will I ever feel, what if this doesn't happen? And the reality is and I so don't want this to sound too dismissive, but right now, I mean, we're unsure that may happen and that would be really hard. But we can only deal with the here and now and what the present moment looks like. So the more you do the work, the more you learn, the more you differentiate, the more you figure out what matters to you. The more you find your sense of self. Raise that baseline, you're [00:35:00] going to find an entirely different version of yourself so that future will look different. So when she asked that question of Will I ever get to this place where I feel content, or will I always feel like the life is drained out of me while we're married? It really will. We'll have to see. But it's going to be dependent upon the work one does because you already know this feeling of feeling like the life is drained out of you in marriage.

[00:35:24] So I feel like you owe it to yourself. And then you need to say this for your kids as well to get your yourself into the best position possible because it is absolutely the unknown and that you don't know what you don't know. And so your brain's going to throw a lot of, Yeah, buts up there because that's going to take effort and work. And you've already seen a glimpse of when you put in the work, you're going to get the pushback. And I think that's what's really difficult because that emotionally mature person wants to push you back into the unhealthy, enmeshed relationship, she says. She says one of the side notes she found out even just a few nights after the incident that [00:36:00] we had talked about earlier, that then she realized he's been going on dating sites, talking to girls on Snapchat for the entire marriage. So then it was a few days later she brings up that event of that evening and she said, now it's probably been a month. And she said, We haven't ever discussed it. And she said, It hurts me that he wants to pretend like nothing ever happened. So she finally had the courage to bring it up and he said, Are you kidding me? And so far I haven't gone with the had explicit lyrics tag here.

[00:36:31] We'll just for the sake of keeping that streak. Are you kidding me? Are you still upset that it's about something that happened an entire month ago? That's ridiculous. I'm going to bed. And she said, I just don't know how to approach him, whether to avoid him. I'm learning more techniques. But she said, if you have literally any advice, please help and feel free to share parts of my story, she said. I could go on and on, but I'm going to end my rant. I feel so isolated. I feel so alone. And then she said, If I actually have read this, she really appreciates it. So I do. [00:37:00] I see you, writer. I do. And the advice I hope you're hearing throughout this entire email is that you are doing a lot of work and I know that work is difficult. And unfortunately, the more work you do, the more validation you're going to get. And that's a sign of doing the right things, doing the work. So it is going to be stay the course because we want to get you in this place where you can clearly you can see clearly and I don't know, literally speaking directly to this person. I don't know how many of the podcasts you listen to, but I talk so often about getting these popcorn moments where when you are able to just be present and you're aware and you're recognizing the gaslighting and you're seeing that if I don't take the bait, I called them the popcorn moment.

[00:37:41] So you're going to step back and you're in essence going to watch the show and you watch him go from sad, angry, happy, flirtatious, all of those different acts of the movie while you eat the popcorn. And then hopefully then we will end the scene and that's going to change the dynamic. You didn't get sucked into that unhealthy dynamic, and I feel like that's one of the best things you [00:38:00] can do now. I'm doing a lot of writing right now in a future episode about a term called the amygdala hijack. And so I think one of the most difficult things this is a heads up on that is right now your body keeps this. Or so when he walks in the room or you go to have a conversation about him and you just look and he even just gives you a look. Your fight or flight response already starts to kick in. So there's there is a lot of not necessarily a lot of debate, but there's some concern that trying to go in, even with this knowledge that you have your body still trying to protect you so that amygdala hijack kicks in and all of a sudden you can't even access your frontal lobe. So the logical part of your brain, this is why it's so important for that self care and to be doing some sort of mindfulness exercise or practice so that you can have practice.

[00:38:40] When I'm starting to get elevated of being able to turn to my breathing, stay present, square off my shoulders and stay focused present and stay in my frontal lobes so I can access information and data. And so if you feel like that is not something you can do right now, then absolutely, definitely remove yourself from those situations and those conversations [00:39:00] and know that it will probably be met with a lot more invalidation. As you do that, I do want to add to I sent her a quick email back and said, I just really I see you and thanks for taking the time to write. And I did read it. And if you don't mind, I would like to read it and I will leave out some parts and maybe change some things on the podcast. And I just said, Keep on doing what you're doing, keep up the good work. And she sent a second email and she said, Thank you so much. And she said she asked if I saw this second email she sent. And it's just it's so I appreciate that because she just wants to make sure. Because she wants to just make sure that she's not giving me the wrong impression. And I think, again, here comes the kind person, the person that she all of a sudden feels like, Oh, no, that I was I too mean, she said.

[00:39:43] So I know I have some narcissistic tendencies. I've been through a lot of childhood trauma with a narcissistic mother. And she said the covert type, a father who recently turned back up into my life after not even being in my life since I was young, who I'm realizing also has narcissistic traits and tendencies. And I've always wanted to help learn what's going on in my mind. But I haven't [00:40:00] understood until recent they said, maybe I'll call it a new trigger or something, but I just feel so hurt. I'm learning. Everything seems to be rooted to my childhood trauma and these narcissistic relationships. And she says, I feel like I tend to attract narcissists, I think are people with narcissistic traits or tendencies. And she just said, I just so wish the people around me, my husband would open up to learning more about himself as I'm learning about myself. But he's so against it and he says he doesn't need it. I go back and forth of whether or not I should stay or go. I can't sleep at night and I feel like I need to leave. And then the next day I'll feel that with every bone in my body. But then I want to stay and I don't know what's wrong with my brain. She said, Why can't I get the courage to leave if I need? And why do I still feel like there is hope and is there hope, man? To this listener, to this writer, to those who are listening and can identify, Hey, welcome to the trauma bond, unfortunately.

[00:40:47] And so go look at the episodes that I've done or anyone's done on things like Trauma Bond, the episode of Should I Stay or Should I Go On with the Narcissism with Ross Rosenberg, I think addresses a lot of this as well. And it sounds clich├ęd, but the people that [00:41:00] get through it that I feel like when they now can look back and when, how long is it going to take? It's going to take as long as it's going to take because you're in such a unique situation. You meaning anyone listening to this and because you're the only version of you with your nature, your nurture, your birth order, your DNA, your abandonment, your rejection, the models that you saw growing up. And it makes sense. It makes sense that if you didn't see healthy relationships modeled, then this is the relationship that, you know, if you saw nothing but securely attached healthy relationships, then if somebody was pulling this kind of thing on you during dating or that sort of thing, then it would be so, so strange and odd that you wouldn't find yourself around somebody like that. But because that's what you saw modeled and what you knew, this is where people that deal a lot with this study of differentiation say that we typically we connect with someone that is somewhat on the same plane of differentiation as we are.

[00:41:50] But then key is though, what do you do from there? So if we both show up emotionally mature and now you're the one doing the work, then that's okay. And now you [00:42:00] have to do the work. You have to go through trauma, you have to go through things. So then know that there are things to learn and then you have to still go out and find the tools, put them in place, and now you're dealing with somebody who's going to push back against the tools. So that can be intimidating, but you're doing the right thing. That actually is going to wrap it up for today. I think I was going to talk about a couple of other things, but I know this one ended up going a little bit longer than I thought it would, but thank you for sending those emails. I think you can just feel the power that that this person is starting to build. And I hope that if you're listening to this, the things that you identified in this episode, if you feel heard or you feel more understood, that just know that you're not alone. And if you need to reach out groups, if you're interested, reach out and join one of the groups that I have. Or just find some people that you can have similar experiences that you can share.

[00:42:45] Because again, I was on an interview on another podcast I think last week and just talking about that concept of Switzerland, France, Switzerland, it sounds amazing. I think it sounds like a cool place, but the Switzerland friend is the one that is saying, well, there's two sides to every story. And right now [00:43:00] to the incredibly kind person that is hearing this. And it may feel like you're being mean by then saying, well, I'm not going to continue to spend time with the person that's going to tell me. There's two sides to every story right now. It's okay because you need to figure this out and be heard and understood. Keep those emails coming. Hey, if you're still listening right now, I would encourage you if you can jump over onto I'll put it in the YouTube video with this, but also in the post that will go out on Instagram Virtual Couch. I did participate in a marriage summit called Happily Ever After, Know the Secrets of Happily Ever After. And I put an interview over on the virtual couch about it with Monica Tanner, who's running the summit. It's a 30 something marriage therapist and marriage coaches that are putting on this free summit where we're giving a bunch of marriage tips and advice. The reason I mention that and I have a link I have a link in the show notes of this episode o link in the show, notes of this episode as well as the post.

[00:43:53] And he posts about this. So click on the link and you can sign up for free. But what is so fascinating about it is I'm doing this happy, [00:44:00] wonderful. Here's the secrets to living happily ever after. And Monica, the interviewer and we talked about this on the virtual couch when I interviewed her recently, but she then doesn't know about narcissism, which is wonderful because that means that that's not something that's happened in a relationship. So that's a great thing. But she knows I do work with narcissism. So then she says, Hey, so I know you talk about how do you have a happily ever after when there's narcissism involved in the relationship? And I make the joke in the intro to this interview with her that I said, It's almost like the record scratch. The break screech because then I said, Oh man, mark this happy how to have an amazing relationship presentation. We're going to take a different path. And then we did and we talked a lot about how what narcissism looks like and how it shows up so that secrets of happily ever after 30 something different couples, therapists and coaches great data and then my my presentation and there goes big with four pillars and here's how we connect and then we take a dive into narcissism. So I highly recommend that as well. All right. Have an amazing week. We'll see you next time on waking up to narcissism.

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