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Exploring Narcissistic Relationships with Suzanne Falter, Writer, Speaker and Podcast Host

Posted by tonyoverbay

Originally Recorded 1/14/22

Tony interviews author, and podcast host Suzanne Falter https://suzannefalter.com/ on her experience navigating a relationship with a narcissistic partner. Suzanne Falter is a successful author, podcast host, speaker, and survivor of a relationship with a narcissistic partner. Suzanne talks about the significant life changes that led to a cross-country move and a new relationship full of love-bombing, gaslighting and manipulation. She shares her experiences on the difficulties of navigating the emotional whiplash that can occur in narcissistic relationships and how to survive a breakup. 

With the continuing "sheltering" rules spreading across the country, PLEASE do not think you can't continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch, you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

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=v95myQ

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[00:00:07] Hey, everybody, welcome to waking up the narcissism, this is episode number 19, I'm your host. Tony Overbay, host of the Virtual Couch podcast. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and let's get right into today's episode. Continue to reach out. Contact me. I would love to get your questions, your feedback, your examples. And just over the last week, I had a few more women reach out and want to be in the private Facebook group I have for women who are navigating the difficult narcissistic relationships in their lives. Again, whether it's a spouse, a adult child, a parent, a friend. There are so many different combinations that can really suck the life out of somebody. Take the energy out of them. So the group is continuing to grow. It's pretty fascinating and amazing. And I also received a couple more emails this week from people that said, Hey, I think I am the narcissist. I'm the one who has the narcissistic traits or tendencies. And man, how bold. How empowering is that as a first step to waking up to perhaps your own narcissism? And I've been very open about what a process that can be and that the title of the podcast is truly waking up the narcissism, waking up to my own narcissistic traits and tendencies. And for so many people, it's those narcissistic traits and tendencies in their relationships. So I want to first of all, we're going to get to an interview today, and it is the first interview on waking up the narcissism.

[00:01:21] I have so many more plan, but I was asked to be on a woman named Suzanne Vaulters Show, which is about self care for the extremely busy woman. She is an author. She's written multiple books as America. She has a book called Self-care for the Extremely Busy Woman, and It's a really good book. And her Facebook group, her private Facebook group, has around fifty five thousand people on it. So Suzanne does an amazing job, and her assistant had reached out to me to come on her podcast and talk about how to choose a therapist. And we traded some emails and she found out more about my waking up the Narcissism podcast. And so then she had me also just talk a little bit about narcissism and emotional immaturity on her podcast. Then I had her come on my virtual couch podcast, and as we got talking about just just talking to each other and she and I talked more about narcissism she opened up for, I think, the first time openly about a narcissistic relationship that she was in not too long ago. And so she is going to share that today, and it is powerful. Her story is pretty amazing, and I think there are a lot of people that will find some similarities and you may find yourself in this What's Wrong With Me mode.

[00:02:34] And so you may see yourself doing a lot of the things that Suzanne talks about and why I think it's so powerful is that. Well, in Suzanne, tell such a beautiful story, but this is a very successful woman. I think she's author to seven or eight books and programs has been featured on all kinds of TV show news program, those kind of things. And then here's someone that was also in a narcissistic, emotionally manipulative, abusive relationship. So we have so much to get to there and we'll jump into there in just a second. But I would feel remiss if I didn't share an example, and I just I ran into some really fascinating data. If you have a second, go check out this week's episode of the Virtual Couch podcast. I talk about this dance that couples often do between avoidant and anxious attachment styles, and I found an article on Psychology Today, and it is by Darlene Lancer. She's an llmt like myself, but as well as an attorney, and the article is titled Attachment Woes between Anxious and Avoidant Partners. So I do again. I do an entire episode on this over on the virtual couch. But she talks about attachment theory, and she lays it out so well that I just want to bring a little bit of awareness. I'm going to read about two or three paragraphs. And the reason I want to do this is I was looking at just examples.

[00:03:54] Again, the email examples that people are giving me about what this narcissism looks like in their own life. And so someone excuse me, someone had sent an example quite a while ago, and they just talked about running into the word narcissism. And they stumbled upon the podcast absolutely by accident, and they felt like they had never put a name to what was going on in their relationship. But if I go quite a bit down in their email, they just said that they give me so many examples of ways that their husband has talked down to them or snapped at her in front of others, as well as privately makes her feel stupid when she has questions about things, and she says the list could go on and on. She said I gave up wishing that he would hold my hand or kiss me for no reason. He doesn't sit by me when we're watching TV together and forget being intimate, he never initiates anything. And I know that can be quite the opposite for a lot of the people that are listening to this podcast. But some of the things that she gets to more are pretty fascinating, and that is what is going to lead into this anxious and avoidant attachment into information I'm going to share. So she said, I've gone through the whole what's wrong with me more times than I can count.

[00:04:59] He was unfaithful a few years into her marriage when their youngest child was very young. She said she was completely heartbroken and. She found out only because this woman that he was seeing was also married and living in another state, and then that woman's husband had sent this woman a private message to inform her that there was an affair, that they were having an affair. She said she was completely shaken to the core, and she confronted him and had no way to deny it. And because this person had given her all of the details that she needed to know proof. So this is where I think things get really interesting. She said after a couple of nights away, he begged my forgiveness and she said she really felt like he had shed a few tears that he was very genuine. He swore he would do whatever it took to be accountable. If he stayed, if she would stay. So she said, I stayed, and here's where I think this is the part that's really interesting that I think so many people will be able to identify with, she said. I am quote that woman the one that's afraid to be alone. I'm the one who thinks that she can't possibly make it on her own, especially at that time with young children. She said I was able to be a stay at home mom when her kids were young, which she's very thankful for had not attended college.

[00:06:03] One of the regrets that she had in her life. So she told herself that she would never be able to get a job that would pay her enough to afford rent and bills, et cetera. So no matter how bad things were, she said, she moved forward in the relationship. They got a little bit of counseling. He would do whatever it took from time to time, he would delete social media. He attempted to be accountable for everything. He told her again that he would do whatever it took to rebuild that trust. She said she also needed to mention that she never told anyone what had happened, and she felt like she couldn't tell her parents or anyone in her family. She just told a couple of her closer girlfriends, and she said, I often think back and wonder if my choice would have been different. Had I told my family would there, would they have been able to give her the push that she needed or the courage to leave? And she said, I maybe could have found someone who would appreciate me for the kind giving person that I know I am possibly giving me the fairytale I long for. I said, I know that I won't get that in my current relationship. And she said it's so disheartening now that he will cut her off and just just get to the point when she's talking about her feelings or emotions and they're back to this place of being ignored or not even told Good Night.

[00:07:07] Not giving a compliment for anything from how she looks to the meal she made for dinner. And so she goes on and just shares a lot of different examples of that, and it really breaks my heart. And one of the things that I get a lot are these examples of I am that nice person. I'm the one who's afraid to be alone, and I've lost my sense of self or my identity and the basic what's wrong with me? And hopefully, if you listen to enough now, nothing's wrong with you. You're a human being going through life for the first time with all of the things that you've gone through that have brought you up to this point. But let's talk about attachment for a minute. Then we'll get to this interview with Suzanne. Darlene Lancer in this article in Psychology Today lays out the origin of attachment theory, so attachment theory has determined that there is. In this other episode I did on the virtual couch, there's an anxious attachment that typically looks like the pursuer, the person that is continually the one that is just anxiously engaged in making sure that everything is OK in the relationship that did I do anything wrong? You seem mad. Is everything OK? And then if their spouse isn't in essence, jumping up and down five minutes later saying, everything's great.

[00:08:09] The anxious attachment or the pursuer, then we'll continue to check in and say, Are you sure I do anything wrong? And that can feel overwhelming and engulfing to the other partner in the relationship, and they typically form it's an avoidant attachment style. So that's just a little bit of background. And really, I would encourage you to go listen to that on the virtual couch. But so she says attachment theory is determined that the pursuer has an anxious attachment style and that the emotionally unavailable partner has an avoidance style. And so research suggests that these styles and intimacy problems originate in the relationship between mother and infant, that babies and toddlers are dependent on the mother's empathy and regard for their needs and emotions in order to sense theirselves or to feel whole. So to an infant or a toddler, physical or emotional abandonment, whether through neglect or illness, divorce or death, threatens its existence because of its dependency on the mother for validation and development of wholeness. Later, as an adult, being separated or having challenges in these intimate relationships than is experienced as a painful reminder of this earlier loss, and it could be even at a subconscious level. So she goes on to say that if the mother is ill or depressed or lacks wholeness and self-esteem, that there are no boundaries between her and her child. And so if I take a pause and I can only imagine how maybe the listener is listening to this right now, are they listening to this saying, Oh, that's that is probably what my husband went through? And then why? Why then he seems emotionally codependent or needy? Or they may be thinking, Oh my gosh, this is me, and this is what I'm going through.

[00:09:37] Or they may have been thinking, OK, I am now that mother than if I lack wholeness and self-esteem, then I don't necessarily have clear boundaries between me and my child. And so I'm if the answer is any of the above or all of the above, then that's OK. And just note that because I'll kind of make sense of this here in just a second, but I think it's interesting. She goes on to say rather than responding to her child, then she projects and she sees her child is only an extension of herself and an object to meet her her own. Needs and feelings so you can't value her child as a separate cell, so then the child's boundaries are violated and their autonomy, feelings, thoughts or even their body can be disrespected. So consequently, and this is where I think things get really interesting. So whether this is what has occurred to the person with the strong narcissistic traits and tendencies and why they are emotionally immature or if this is the person that is now having the awareness that, oh my goodness, I don't have a sense of self.

[00:10:34] I do lack this autonomy that give yourself some grace because this is what is happening in so many of our lives, because our parents again doing the best they could with the things that they had to work with. But but we just need to accept the fact that we're all coming into these relationships and we may be a little bit emotionally needy or emotionally immature. But the fact that you're listening to this right now and wondering these things is the step to healing and on your way, your path to enlightenment. So I'll backtrack a tiny bit and then go there. So if the child's boundaries are violated and their autonomy, feelings, thoughts and or body or disrespect, and so consequently, the child does not develop a healthy self, a sense of self. Instead, he or she discovers that love and approval come with meeting the mother's needs, and they tune into the mother's responses and expectations. So this also leads to shame and codependency. So the child and I think so many children then learn to please or perform or rebel. But in either case, they gradually tune out their own thoughts and needs and feelings. There's the key. And this isn't Hey, let's blame everything on mom. Dad plays a big role in here, too. Usually then, after this initial time period that we're talking about with regard to this attachment, Styles Income's dad and there's his own version of attachment wounds.

[00:11:50] When you have quote Dad issues, a lot of times that's OK. If I'm now trying to get my needs met and I want this external validation or approval of my dad and then my dad is at work. He's busy, he's dealing with his own things, but we're not aware of that as a kid. Then whenever we have an interaction with our dad, we're trying to figure out How do I get him to like me? How do I get him to approve? And so then we're trying to figure out again, I don't even have a sense of self, so I'm going to try to do whatever I can to get my dad to say, Hey, well done. Good job. So back to that, then the child learns to please perform a rebel. But in any case, they gradually tune out their own thoughts, needs and feelings. So later, intimacy may threaten the adult sense of autonomy or identity, or they may feel invaded or engulfed or controlled or shamed or rejected. So a person and this is what's interesting a person may feel both abandoned if his or her feelings and needs are not being responded to and at the same time engulfed by the needs of his or her partner. So in codependent relationships where there aren't two separate whole people coming together, true intimacy is impossible because the fears of nonexistence or dissolution are so strong.

[00:12:54] So if you want to learn more about that anxious and avoid an attachment style, and this wasn't meant to be an ad, but go over to the virtual couch and listen to that episode because I go into what then one does when they recognize that they are in a codependent relationship where there are not two separate people coming together, not to differentiated autonomous people with their own strengths and abilities, but were coming in their codependent and enmeshed. And again, I wanted to normalize that, that that's just the way we come from the factory. So it's no wonder that we find ourselves in these relationships. And this is not some scientific theory. I'm going to say next, but because I often call it nothing short of what is a crapshoot theory, then I find myself married to someone because I was young and immature, and I was looking for getting these needs met, and this person seemed to be someone that would meet these needs. This was someone that was giving me external validation, whether it was through the love bombing or whatever that looks like. And then as you grow in your relationship and you start to have your own really distinct thoughts, opinions and emotions, that's where the separation starts to occur. And then that's where the emotional maturity is absolutely necessary because if the other person feels criticized or invalidated and now they are going to break you down, now we definitely don't have a relationship or a healthy relationship.

[00:14:07] And then so many people find themselves now in this trauma bond of years, if not decades of just doing the stance, the stance of the anxious and avoided attachment, the stance of losing one's self, but in hopes that they will be able to be the buffer or make the other person happy so that they can get back to this healthier version of the relationship they always dreamed of, or that they felt like was there early on in their marriage. So there's was a lot of things to process there, but I really want to get to the interview today with Suzanne Falter. I'll have the links to her website in the show notes. I highly recommend going and visiting Suzanne's work, and then you can check out her podcast as well. Or you can listen to her interview that I did with her about self care, and she has a beautiful story about a daughter named. That sounds like an amazing human being who who tragically died young of some complications with I believe it was epilepsy. And we talk a little bit about that, too. But there's a beautiful story in Suzanne's interview over On the Virtual Couch A. Her daughter, Teal, so let's get to the inaugural interview on waking up the narcissism with my guest, Suzanne Falter.

[00:15:15] And I guess in

[00:15:16] The inaugural guests, the inaugural interview, guests on waking up the narcissism and really this is we're completing the trilogy, me on your podcast, you on the virtual couch. Suzanne Filter Third, third time's a charm that we're talking together, so thank you so much for. Thanks for coming on the show today.

[00:15:32] Thank you, Tony. Kind of a favorite subject of mine. Really nasty. Is that

[00:15:37] Ok? And that is. I love that we're starting right out there and tell me about that. How is it becoming a favorite?

[00:15:42] So I think if every relationship we have is meant to teach us more about ourselves and our continuing evolution through life, the most learning rich relationship I had was with a malignant narcissist right after I arrived in San Francisco as a newly out lesbian at age 53

[00:16:06] From New York. No less right, I think.

[00:16:08] Well, yeah, yeah. And I had moved all the way across the country. I was in upstate New York, in fact, in a town of 500 people, and suddenly I was plunked down in the middle of San Francisco and I had driven there my little moving truck. And Aretha Franklin was singing freedom as I drove over the Bay Bridge and it was just like I was in a movie, you know? Yeah, yeah. And then a few months later, through online dating, I met a woman who became my first committed lesbian love relationship. And in this relationship, I was immediately drawn. It was the classic thing. I was immediately drawn to her beauty and her humor and her charm. And I was just sort of putty in her hands, and it was all new and I was very vulnerable, having just come out of a 25 year relationship with my husband, my former husband at that point, and I had left a 16 year old son behind who'd gone to Taiwan for the year as an exchange student. You know, as he ended high school and he knew we were separating shortly before he left and everybody dealt with it as best they could. And it was like I was stripping my gears all over the place. And so I got involved with this person who had a high level of understanding of herself because she is a therapist. Oh, interesting. And was just emerging with her newly won therapy license, which she worked very hard for. And so I had faith. I kind of went in in good faith like, OK, this is going to be great. But I didn't count on the fact that I was involving myself with a really broken person, OK, and who had a very, very hard childhood.

[00:17:53] And maybe, maybe even before we go there, too. What did that love bombing phase look like to you? Because you talked about the confidence, the beauty, but what else?

[00:18:01] You know, I feel like some of my own narcissism was a little kicked up to because I was bombing her. We both kind of love bombing each other and really, I was in the fantasy of I'm going to go to San Francisco and find my perfect lesbian love that I've longed for for so many years. It's going to happen for me. Yeah. And first of all, the lesbians are all in Oakland and Berkeley, and they're not in San Francisco. You know, start there, the gay matter in San Francisco. Ok, so aside from that, I was going to still find my perfect lesbian love in San Francisco. And it was a fantasy that I came, you know, riding in on my stallion with, and she and I were caught up in the swirl, and from the beginning, she was very infatuated, bull. But she could also stand back and say, Well, you know, I don't like this thing you're wearing or I don't like that thing you're doing. I mean, it could. She could really get into this, this space of being hypocritical. And it's very interesting. All right. Ok. So my mother had been a narcissist and she had died a year. She was still alive at that point, but she died a year after I came to San Francisco, and she was just a really oh god.

[00:19:25] Beautiful, charming, gracious. The same picture and funny. And both these women were funny. My mother and my lover, and the funniness was very important to me because I felt like I've got to be with somebody I can laugh with. That is one of my highest priorities. So I was willing to overlook this critical voice, just like it was important to me to have fun and laugh with my mother because I had so little of her attention. So when I did, I was grateful for it. And when she criticized me, I just went into kind of the make-believe mode. Now P.S. I make my living today as a novelist, and imagination is my first line of defense because it is where I live. A lot of the time. Well, some of the time, at least, and I feel like my imagination when I look back at the emails I exchanged with my lover, there was a lot of fantasy on my part. She would go away. She was in a what you might call a study group. Other people might call it a cult led by a charismatic leader that was philosophical in nature, and she would go in retreats. And when she'd go away, I'd be like, OK, well, the minute you come home, you can come rushing back to me and I'll be waiting for you with open arms and should be like, I think I just want to go home tonight, you know? Ok.

[00:20:53] Yeah. And that's not unreasonable. But I was throwing a huge amount of freight at this woman like save me from my life and all the bad decisions I'd made, including not coming out till I was in my fifties. There was damage done as well because I would find myself having a wonderful night with her out, having drinks, having little noches and some cool San Francisco cafe and going home, holding hands, laughing and we'd get home. She'd be like, You know, you're not that good a date. You're just not. I'm sorry. So it would be like, build me up and take me down and build me up and take me down. And what is really interesting is three weeks into this relationship, I ended it and I had just I was leading workshops myself at the time and I had just come out of a big workshop and she had said, Whatever you want to do, I'll do it. I'm here for you. So I said, OK, I want to do x y z and refused. I said, Actually, I don't want to do that. Just come up with something else you want to do. So I was like, You're not serious about this.

[00:21:58] This is the way you're playing me. I'm tired of this and I I felt empowered and I ended it. And she was shocked. And about two weeks later, I was away on a business trip with my business partner. We were leading another workshop in another city. And I said to him, we were sharing a hotel room with good friends and I said, You know, I think I want to go back to her. And he said, You're scaring me. Ok. And he he could really see how toxic she was, and I couldn't see it. And I was like, I forget him. I'm going back to her. So I came back. To her, and what was really fascinating is she came up to my apartment and this was like the reconnection she was open to it. She said she showed up and then she said to me, I can't sit with you right now, I have to go into the other room and just collect myself, OK? So she stayed in my kitchen for about half an hour. Little tiny kitchen. And I'm out of the couch waiting, waiting. Look at my watch waiting, waiting, waiting. And then she came back in and she started to talk to me, and she said, So why did you send me away like that?

[00:23:05] Ok. So she saw that as some serious abandonment at that point,

[00:23:08] Even though she suggested

[00:23:10] It. Yes. All right. And that's like she even aware of that at that point. And yeah, how did you respond?

[00:23:17] I said I didn't. You asked to go to the other room. You know, I was hanging on to my truth because I didn't know what gaslighting was. I didn't know about the alternate reality. There was frequently an experience I'd have with her where she'd say something acerbic and I'd say, Hey, what do you mean? You just said blah blah blah. And she'd say, I didn't say that just auto response, and my mother used to do the same thing. Wow. I'd say, wait a minute. She, my mother, my mother, had an affair with a man while my father was dying in the hospital and called me up and told me about it. And years later, I said to her, You know, that was beyond wrong, what you did? She said, Oh, I never did that. You must be imagining that.

[00:24:02] Wow.

[00:24:03] And this is the heart of the problem. And this shifting reality is where we get so unmoored because by the end of the year and a half that I spent with this narcissist because of course, I went back to her and tried to break up again, sat in a therapist's office and said, You know, I just don't think she really wants to be my lover. At this point, we hadn't had sex for like three or four months. We had moved to another apartment. She had invited me to come move in with her, this other apartment, she found. But my name wasn't on the lease. I didn't have a parking spot. It was like something was wrong. We're sitting in this therapist's office. I said, I just don't think she wants me to be her lover anymore. I don't think she wants to be my partner. And she looked at me with this sweet smile and said, Oh honey, I do. And about two weeks later, she woke up one morning and she said, I don't have romantic feelings for you. You just need to know that. So, so

[00:25:04] I feel like I want to run down the checklist of things and see if that was your experience. So in that one, I often see that it's the Oh, I do have those romantic feelings until I don't and or. And you are counting on that consistent. Yeah, exactly. And that's I was going to say there's a concept. I don't know if you've heard of object constancy, but where in an emotionally mature person can hold both good and bad feelings or emotions for a person? And so with the narcissist or the emotionally immature when they feel criticized or any form of negativity, then it is. You are calling me a horrible person. So now I am going to burn the village down behind me. And so they can't maintain that there's good and bad. So at that point, you are all bad until you make them feel good again, do you? Did you ever have that?

[00:25:47] Well, this was different because this was I don't want to be your romantic partner. And I and but you can stay and be my roommate. And by then, I began to understand that we had moved into this apartment so I could help her

[00:26:02] Pay for it. There we go. So now we're getting to the what's the angle side of? Yeah, that was the angle.

[00:26:06] Ok. And the angle was, she'll be my friend. And you know, what's really funny is right after I got rid of my lease on my apartment and apartments in San Francisco at this time, we're very hard to find. Maybe they still are, I don't know. But I got rid of that lease and I came home literally from that meeting, she said. I'm having doubts.

[00:26:24] Wow. After you got rid of the apartment

[00:26:27] So that you final, the final could agree on all of this was the day that we broke up. She said, I've actually never been in love with you, you know, or it's one of my friends put it, slamming the door on my back on the way out.

[00:26:41] Yeah. Do you feel like that? There's a belief there that again, it's that all or nothing thinking that black or white thinking so that if you are no longer in a relationship, then she never wanted you to begin with that. That is the well, she wanted

[00:26:52] Me to be her roommate, and she was very disappointed that I wouldn't stay and just be her roommate, which says to me what she really wanted was another person to control. And the control thing is very important because that's how I was treated as a child. And one of the ways I was controlled was I was always told what to wear. And my mother always told the hairdresser how to cut my hair, so I never got to choose what I wanted to wear until I was about 16 17. There were a few breakthrough moments, but not many, and it was very much dressing to be in my caste system or whatever. It was like wearing a certain type of clothing to fit in and be socially appropriate. This is the nineteen seventies in suburban Philadelphia. Ok. So with this partner, she always had to choose what I wore and I led her and I had this mistaken belief that she knew more about it than I did. In fact, I assumed she knew more about the operating and care of Suzanne than Suzanne did, that she knew what my real feelings should be, that she knew because she was a therapist. She knew how I should process my emotions, and she knew which of. Motions I should feel, and I wanted to surrender that control I wanted to because I had been trained to by my mother, you know, I was really end up letting my mother control my life until I wasn't. And then of course, I had to have a big rebellion period.

[00:28:20] So it was that that feeling of do you feel like that was the external validation that you were looking for? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:28:27] And particularly now what I see 10 years later is that I was really shaky and vulnerable after leaving my former identity as a married straight woman living in a small town in northern New York. And I didn't know what my new identity was, so someone please help me, you know, like, Oh, I didn't believe I could trust it, right?

[00:28:48] Oh, that's so well said, because I feel like when I'm helping people out of those narcissistic relationships, they have absolutely lost their sense of self. They've stopped relying on their gut or who they want to be or feel because they have someone has told them I wouldn't do that or I don't think that's really you. And so I man, what breaks my heart then? And you said it so well is so then somebody is finally saying, I need to figure who I am now and your hand in the keys of that over to somebody that isn't looking with curiosity or with your best interest in mind, but how that affects them? Exactly.

[00:29:17] So that's that's a really key thing. And the day before we broke up, she went off to hang out with some good friends of ours, but I was not invited. Ok, and that was very much like, I just have to go alone. And I was like, OK. Wanting to be a good partner. People facing sure, that's fine. But I remembered sitting there in the living room just feeling I am emotionally jammed. My I can't even process what I feel because I don't even know what I feel. I just feel supremely confused and somewhat dismantled, like I just didn't even have a clear thought in my head. Yeah, and the clearest thing I did Tony in that entire relationship was when she said to me, Of course, you can stay here as a roommate. I said, that is not our deal and you know it, and I packed my bag and I left OK and leaving was an incredible experience. In it was liberation. It just felt like I was finally giving myself what I needed, and I'm very clear that I sacrificed myself. That was my choice. I chose to go back to her. After three weeks, I could have walked away and be done with all that never had all that punishment, but I wouldn't have understood as clearly how much I had sacrificed my own opinions, my own beliefs, and I let someone else take control of me. I saw how capable I was of doing that. So I went and found another relationship a few years later. In the interim, my daughter had suddenly died, and her sudden death activated something in me that was so deep. It was like my true ability to heal my true ability to stand up and be the bigger person. Might my mature self emerged? And I took myself in hand and said, You're going to rebuild this whole thing and do it by yourself.

[00:31:18] I say, it's up to you, right? You are in charge of that.

[00:31:20] So I got to have two years of just putting myself back together and grieving my daughter's death and trying to learn from her example because she was an amazing person. I talked about it in your other show

[00:31:32] And then I got the chills right now. If anyone hasn't listened to that episode, it's beautiful. There are so many things that we talked about with Thiel that I thought about since the interview and the reception on that episode has been phenomenal. I really appreciated that a lot, and I love what you're saying about if I can go on a tiny little jog here. But I did an episode a while ago where I talked about narcissistic personality disorder is actually a relatively small percentage of the population. But we all have these narcissistic traits and tendencies because we because as kids, we don't have a sense of self or identity. So we are looking for that external validation. And so we are basing who we are worse off of people like our parents or our relationships until we find ourselves. And so when you're in a relationship with someone that doesn't have their own sense of self, now they're looking for that external validation and they don't feel good. So they want you to make them feel good, but they don't even know what who they are or what they feel like. So then there are so many variables there that it's inevitably going to be wrong. And now, when you don't make them feel better about themselves now, they can even get angry with you because and that's what I feel like. I call it the pathologically kind person that would have been you in that scenario. You're determined to figure that out because you're a nice person. And I can right?

[00:32:44] And you feel that and I believe I can figure it out. Exactly. Always had the belief that I could make this work. In fact, just before we broke up, I had the thought she was resistant at first. But this is working and it was denial yet again, my good friend denial after I got out of that relationship, the first thing I did. It was get into a recovery group for people with love addiction.

[00:33:10] Wow, what was that? Ok and what was that?

[00:33:12] I felt I felt I had been deeply addicted to her and I had all these other women in the group. I went to a women's only group and there were all these other women talking about love, addiction and how addicted they had been. Some people are addicted to romance novels or picking up men and bars or sexual exploits. This was people addicted to other people. And I honestly think the reason that I walked out of that therapist's office after saying, I don't think she wants to be my partner and I let her convince me she did just a few weeks before she told me she'd never been in love with me. The reason I did that was because I literally couldn't envision life without her. Yeah, I mean, it was that is addictive thinking that I just no matter how bad it was, no matter all the degradation I suffered, all the insults, all the humiliation, giving up an apartment never been. I had no place to live. When I broke up with her, I had to drive around till I figured out what I hell I was doing, you know?

[00:34:10] But that love addiction piece that I'm so grateful that you brought that up, and I hadn't really thought about the 12 step for love addiction or that kind of because that trauma bond, there's some good data around now that you are people are craving that same dopamine release that they get from whatever the other unhealthy coping mechanism is, whether it's drugs, alcohol shopping. Anything so when you didn't have it was that it was. Did it almost feel like a withdrawal and that I need to figure out a way to get that love

[00:34:35] Or that that's such a great question, because of course, that is what happens with chemical dependency. Yeah, I think, yeah, I was. So it was so right to leave her this time. And of course, I tried twice before. Ok, but at this point, it was so clear to me after the drama of giving up my home and my home was important to me and that little apartment, I had picked it out and I had loved it, and I have been like my place where I'm going to really build my future. And I just gave it up without even thinking about it. And and I guess the, you know, maybe I was a little chemically addicted to her. She would call me and want to hash out this and that, of course, there was some, you know, you left a ring on the furniture, you did this. When are you coming to get your stuff? You know, there's the negative kind of sorting out of the pieces. But the last time I went over to that apartment and got the last of my stuff out of there, she had left me a very sweet note and said, I really hope I see you in the afterlife, which I'm sure we will, because I think we were really our souls were connected in some way. And then my daughter died and she was able to participate in that and be a good person in the background on that. But I think we I had to stop having contact with her. After Till's memorial, which was a few months after we broke up, she she called me up one day and she said, I'm confused.

[00:35:59] I don't know if I'm supposed to talk to you or not. And I said, Yeah, I don't. I will let you know if and when I'm ready to speak to you again. And I really knew from going into my 12 step recovery that I was never going to be ready to speak to her again. Absolutely needed to have no contact, but she was actually a dangerous person for me. Yes. And when I went into those meetings again and again and again, I began to really get myself back and and also just in the process of grieving and going through all of the pieces around losing a child, I slowly began to reclaim myself over about a two year period, during which time it was really clear to me that I had attracted a number of narcissists in my life, and one by one I had released all of them and and I released her. But I'll tell you, you're supposed to experience all these emotions after you lose a child, including anger, anger at God, or anger at the person driving the car who hit your child or whatever. Yeah, yeah. My anger was at her. My I was so angry at her. All of the anger that had never been expressed in the relationship came like barreling out of me, and I could have done her physical harm if I had really allowed myself to go down that room. I was. I just hated this person.

[00:37:20] What was the incident? And I again, I'm so sorry that you even had to go through that. And what do you think was at the bottom of that anger? Was it that you had spent so much emotional energy or calories on her? Or was it was it she was just the the vehicle that I could point that anger toward? Or what do you feel like that was?

[00:37:38] Well, I think I think the loss of teal was a huge recalibration of my entire emotional self, and I had a lot of sort of anger towards this person. Ok, so that was about releasing that anger. Yeah. And it was also like I never felt mad at God. The till died. I felt like this was Till's time, and she died very suddenly. She died from a. Medically unexplainable cardiac arrest, she wanted to be a healer. She was about to begin studying her healing the day after her death. I mean, I don't know. I feel like her death was was an important healing experience for me. As much as a crisis and what I was healing from was the end of my marriage, the loss of my old identity, the gaining of a new identity, which at fifty two can be traumatic, even though it's joyful as well. And this relationship, it's like all of it I had to heal from and because this person had mistreated me and controlled me. Of course, my anger was directed at her, but it could have been anger at the flow of life.

[00:38:50] No, I appreciate. I think we talked on either yours or my episode before the vessel of the body keeps the score. Oh, yeah, right? And so and I do feel like that's one of those fascinating examples of your body is eventually going to be able to get its to express itself or whether it's going to now cause you to have some chronic pain or it's going to have you yell at an ex, it's going to get out there some way. Yeah. So what is the how long did she try to get you back into that with those questions? Or I just have a question or the ring on the furniture

[00:39:18] On a bit. I mean, I don't really remember how many times we talked, but what was interesting is that after I cut it off, I really didn't hear anything for her from her for probably seven years. Wow. And then I got an email that was ostensibly an apology. Mm-hmm. But what it was was really saying. The guru I follow says that we are meant to apologize to the people we've wronged, and I treated you badly and I apologize. Would you like to get together and talk about it in the way that he has requested? I do with people. And I didn't reply and I hit the block. My wife is like this incredible woman who was very wise, who I met in 2014 after my two years of not needing to punish myself further with dysfunctional people. And she's a former attorney and really good at advising people on matters of because she was a divorce attorney and a family law, and she looked at that letter and she said, You know, it's all about her. Right? Yeah. And I said, Yes, I see that. But what was interesting is I sat with that for two days just feeling how using it as a as measurement on where am I with my addiction recovery, like, I really wanted to sit with it and really, instead of just immediately delete block, I want to just sit with it and see, OK, like how addicted am I now to this person after seven years? And I was just able to really observe this dispassionately. And I don't care about that's. That's the bottom line. And that's some recovery.

[00:41:01] Oh, from a nice person to great. It was, I would say, from a kind person to say, I don't care. That's pretty powerful, right?

[00:41:09] Yeah. Yeah, I really didn't care, and I couldn't believe that I didn't care. So I sat with it like, Are you sure you don't care? Come on, you can muster up a little addictive mojo.

[00:41:21] Yeah, I love, though. I love your wife's advice, though. One hundred percent is about her and then a man. I feel like even when people get in a good place, this is why I love that story so much. Suzanne is people will get in a good place and then sometimes I will even have clients that they'll reach out and just say, Hey, you know what? I know things didn't go well, but I hope you're OK and not realizing that it's almost like, Oh, when the zombie on the zombie shows, you know, all of a sudden sees the person about, Oh, I can, no, yeah, I can go get them now. And the person said, No, I was just trying to be nice and it's Oh no, now the zombie wants your brain and

[00:41:51] The zombie wants the fresh supply. Yeah, I'll be getting it. And I learned this in 12 step recovery. I learned this. I learned all about how this works. I think one of the things that was really fascinating and my former partner used to say this to me, she'd say, I love avoidant. And in fact, there's always a love avoidant and somebody rushes towards love and is refusing love. And that is that addictive dynamic. Now I'm in a marriage, a healthy marriage, and the model is we both run towards each other because we both love each other. And it's simple now there's no love avoidant. There's just embrace and mutual enjoying of life together, you know?

[00:42:30] Well, and I there's so many things that you've alluded to during this interview that I love as well. I do feel like no one knows until they know, and you almost have to go through a trauma to then figure out the tools. And I've often said, you can't pre package a small trauma to give you just enough of the tools that doesn't work that way. And then the marriage, we become codependent and enmeshed because we have all these attachment wounds. And then when I tell people that the goal is actually to be interdependent, differentiated your unique version of you. And then I feel like people often say, when, how is that a relationship? And I get the fact that until you're in that relationship, it doesn't make sense. So I exactly like when you have that relationship, like you're talking about now, where if the two of you are, just get to be yourselves and you're going through life together and there's curiosity and and one plus one is three. I mean, then then I can't wait to share something with my partner.

[00:43:20] Exactly. And it's and nobody's controlled. That's what's really fun. I remember the first time I went to the grocery store in my experiences with my former partner. She'd always been like, Why am I even here? Why are we doing this? This means nothing to me. It's not fun. And for me, the grocery store is like the best place on the planet because I love cooking. I love food, I'm a foodie and see a fresh crab. It's like, Alleluia, you know? Yeah, yeah. And it's always in my marriage with my first husband. It was always like, this fun thing we did together, OK? And she was not going there with me. And when I went with my wife, she's like, OK, I'm going to pick out the stuff I want, and you pick out the stuff you want. What do you think? I'm like, Great, but what if I want some different apples than you want? It's like we each get our own.

[00:44:09] Oh, that's wonderful.

[00:44:10] I know. And it was like she got her little bag of gala apples. I got my three tart Granny Smith's, and it was like, There's room for everybody.

[00:44:20] And I love that we could go with that. That example so far because I even feel like in an unhealthy relationship, in that narcissistic relationship, it's like, Oh no, you can get whatever apples you want. And then it's like, OK, what's the angle? I'm going to find out later that, well, you got your apples. And so now I'm going to do this other thing. And I mean, I don't know. Did you have some of that residual? All right. What's the play?

[00:44:40] No, I didn't it. But I'm glad you mentioned that because one of the things that really happened in that narcissistic relationship is that the other person, my former partner, would say to me, she'd be looking at me like, I'm trying to figure out how you're trying to con me. Oh, we would often think I was trying to pull an angle on her. Yes, and that and there's something else I really need to share here about the healing of this whole experience. So I had that relationship and after we split up until died, spit up made Tilda. Not long after that, I moved in with a housemate who had some narcissistic tendencies. Ok. And she was a much easier person to get along with, and we actually were pretty good friends and she helped me with my grief and such. But there were moments of real narcissistic control why I couldn't park. You know, I was like, You know, I mean, there were always parking issues for some reason, or she would go into my little shelf and redo the order of my food, that kind of stuff. It was weird. So there was some stuff going on there, and I went away to Paris for two months after a year and a half after Till's death, and I wanted to do a reset by going to another country. And during that time, I shared another apartment with a much more serious narcissist. So this is three narcissists in a row. And I felt like the universe was like, Suzanne, you didn't quite get it on the first one. We gave it to you on the second one. You're still not there yet. You've got to get deep immersion here. And this woman was nuts, really. And oh yeah, she was charging me for the use of the salt and pepper by the second week because we were just housemates and I was paying her to live there and I was out out the door a lot and sort of staying out of her crosshairs.

[00:46:31] She couldn't really inflict too much pain on me, but there was a coming together at one point where I took her out to dinner to thank her for being a generous host and made nice. But then there came the day where she just had to throw me out because she just couldn't stand to have me there anymore. And what was really funny is I had figured out she was about to do this, and I'd already arranged another place to go and I was about to tell her, I'm moving it out, so it was all OK. But but because I walked away from that relationship and then I went home not long after that and arranged to leave that place and move in with a good friend who was a great person to live with. I walked away from the narcissist who kept showing up in my life. I told the universe, I'm done with this. Wow. I moved out of the apartment in Paris. I moved out of the first home I'd gone into after Taylor's death. And I just ended that and and, you know, when I told the first housemate I was leaving, it was rough. She was not happy. She was very angry. She or she took it personally. She thought it was all about her when in fact, my other, my my good friend Linda had offered me the chance to stay in her house for free. And so I was like, Of course, I'm going to do that.

[00:47:47] Can I mention there, too, Suzanne? The part that one of these quotes I often turn to is that that emotional immaturity or that narcissistic trait is when somebody feels criticized, then they feel like you are saying that they go to the same place internally. So they think you're telling them they are a horrible person. And so then therefore they're going to do anything to defend that fragile ego. So I think that's such a good example of if you're moving out, which you're moving out because you have an opportunity for free rent. So I feel like almost subconsciously, the person with narcissistic traits and tendencies thinks, Oh no, it's not because of the free rent. You think that I am a bad person? It's subconscious. So now I must make sure that you know that that is not OK or I have been hurt or that defending of the ego. And that can come in gaslighting. You can come in anger, it can come in withdrawal, it can come in. There are so many ways that are the opposite of the mature version, which is, OK, sounds good.

[00:48:38] Glad we got to live. Exactly right.

[00:48:40] Exactly. Which is the emotionally mature way to to to show up. Mm hmm. Yeah. But I cut you off. You were starting to talk about when leaving that

[00:48:47] To oh, just that. She was really angry and took it personally and really made it about her because it was a little bit about her. But it was mostly about moving in with my other friend and moving deeper into the countryside. And at that stage in my grief, that's what I needed to do. And I was in a small city and I moved to really deep wine country, just a small town of 12000 people. There was very little there, and that's what I needed. And what was great is each time I chose what I need, I was getting out of the salt and pepper apartment in Paris because I really needed to live somewhere else. And both times it was like I just followed the breadcrumbs. It was like the universe showed me where to go and with the apartment in Paris. So you might be like, Whoa, what's she going to do now? Yes. Not on Craigslist. And in 10 minutes, I had found this great room in an apartment belonging to a cabaret singer, and I had been a cabaret singer in New York, and we were like these two cabaret singers who were hanging out together. It was so much fun. She was a great housemate, and I had this little teeny weeny room in this little. Beautiful little apartment on the 19th arrondissement, it was this

[00:49:58] Is before we this has been beautiful and I so appreciate you and I love the fact that a month ago I get the email, I come on your show and now you're going to speak to thousands of people and help them understand that they're not alone. They're not crazy. I'm so grateful for that. Two quick things one. What is the cost of salt and pepper? I'm dying of my ad, but I want to know so bad. And is it in French francs or what was?

[00:50:22] It was euros, I think. And I don't remember, like 30 something lives in my mind. But so, you know, it was it was such a good question, Tony. Oh, you're always on the detail, Mr.

[00:50:40] Excellent interviewer. Yeah, that's I'm sure I'll win whatever the interview award. Answer this one. I'm telling you, Suzanne is going to be all I can do not to put that into the title of this episode, by the way cost of salt and pepper in France, a.k.a. exploring a narcissistic relationship.

[00:50:52] I mean, you know, we are all people who are doing the best we can, and sometimes our paths just smack us upside the head so dramatically like being left with scars or or being given, you know, losing your child or being given, you know, a horrible personality disorder in which you're cleaved in half. I mean, why do these things happen to us that are so extraordinarily painful? And I always come back to the same thing. It's so we can teach other people and we can learn, and that taught me so much. The people are fundamentally can be very, very good, right along with the partner who was so dysfunctional, who taught me about how dysfunctional I was, OK, and about how I could rebuild myself and reclaim myself. And when I reclaim myself, I really reclaimed myself like the real Suzanne, the gay Suzanne, the Suzanne I had always wanted to be. She's the one who is on board now,

[00:52:02] And I feel that energy every time we talk. I love it. I do. All right, Suzanne Paultre, thank you so much for coming on again. I'll have the links to your, your podcast, your website and the trilogy is complete, but hopefully we

[00:52:13] Can, and our show with you will be out pretty soon.

[00:52:17] Well, it really OK, I'm excited. I am, and then we'll have to find something else we can do together. And then I think

[00:52:23] We're having too much fun, Tony. I can't wrap it up yet.

[00:52:26] Ok. Suzanne Felder, thank you so much. Ok, thank you. Take care.

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