The Emotional Toll of a Narcissistic Relationship - One Woman's Story

Posted by tonyoverbay

Originally Recorded 2/20/22

Tony dives deep into one woman's story of the gradual process of losing herself to a narcissist and the lengthy process of escaping the emotionally unhealthy relationship.

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[00:00:06] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode twenty four of waking up to narcissism, I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch podcast, and let me read a little bit of feedback and then we are going to jump into an incredible email. And one of the things I wanted to do when starting this podcast was to really just dig deep and dove into some of the emails, some of the examples. And that's why I've continued to ask for your examples. If you have examples of situations where you're waking up to your own narcissism or you're waking up to the narcissism of a spouse, if you have gaslighting examples questions just feel free to head over to Tony over Baidu.com and just submit them through the contact form. And I will be forever grateful because the more feedback, the feedback that I get continually says that people that hear other people's stories help them to feel like it's not just them or help them to feel more normal, or as if there is hope. And that's really one of the missions of waking up. The narcissism is to help people feel heard and understood and that there is hope. So here's just a little bit of feedback that I so appreciate the person. Hi, thank you for your podcast. I always knew my husband wasn't right. That's in quotes we would fight, and I would just say this isn't normal, but I stayed.

[00:01:19] He continued to manipulate me into thinking I was the problem that I have the anger issue and an attitude, and I need to be nicer to him. And she said after listening to you yesterday, and I think this was the episode where we talked about narcissist and therapy, but I also talked about the narcissistic exit, she said. I decided not to engage in anything that he threw at me, and it took him hours to try and break me. She said hours, but I wouldn't budge, and he threw every single thing he could come up with at me and I wouldn't argue back. I could see the steam coming off him as he was fuming. And then the final straw I was trying to read to our daughter at bedtime when he stopped me to get a rise out of me by bringing up an issue in front of our child, and I told him I won't do this in front of her. You'll have to take this up with me another time when she's not around. And so he finally left after a few more minutes of just trying and trying to stir me up. And she said, without listening to you, I would have given in. I would have had another night of stress, anxiety and depression. So she said, Thank you so much. And she said, I'm not going to make it through this without the help and resources of things like this podcast.

[00:02:26] So I am so grateful to hear those types of messages. And again, I know that it is absolutely difficult and people are in different spots, different times, different situations in their relationships. I have a couple of emails that we're going to get to in some future episodes that are about narcissistic family relationships. But speaking of emails, I received a very long just breaks my heart email, but I thought it encapsulated so many different aspects of being an emotionally abusive relationship, a relationship with someone with narcissistic traits, tendencies. We'll call it emotional immaturity, or if we just, let's just straight up say that they are going to be people that are stronger on that narcissistic personality scale. So I asked the person if it would be OK if I read this, I'm leaving out quite a bit. And of course, we're going to change some of the facts for the sake of anonymity and confidentiality. But I'm going to read and I'm going to react, and I haven't planned a lot of the reactions because I think so much of this is just textbook that I think it's going to be pretty easy to comment on what this person is sharing. And for those of you, I continue to get an email or two here and there, and I so appreciate the ones that say, Why do you continue to just say he is the narcissist instead of she? And I hear you? I really do. And it can be either.

[00:03:44] And we've covered on some previous episodes that typically the emotional immaturity or the narcissistic traits and tendencies are primarily found in with males. And I've given some data, some statistics on that. But that doesn't mean that there are no such thing as a female narcissist or an emotionally immature female. So here's the email, she says. Dear Tony, I recently came across a recently came across your podcast, and I've only started researching narcissism after going through a breakup of my marriage. That has just been many years of this nightmare, and I assume that what she's talking about is the breakup itself has been years. So I have to assume that there's been a pretty, a pretty big trauma bond here that she's had trouble getting out of. She said after listening to many of the episodes, I'm waking up to narcissism and feeling like I can relate to a lot of it. She said, I just listen to your virtual couch episode on control versus love, and again, I end up feeling utterly confused. She said I've not been able to make sense of anything, and it has been crazy making since he first wanted to break up with me because of a crush or a potential crush that he had with someone that they were familiar with many years ago. So she says, I still can't say that he's the nicest, she said. I feel it's too uncertain and unclear, and I'm so deeply confused and I'm still wondering if I am the narcissist and he has escaped me, or if we're just a normal couple and love died as people around me like to say and one of just the general rules of thumb.

[00:05:06] That I like to say is that if you are asking yourself, am I the narcissist? Chances are you're not the narcissist because you are looking introspectively and very curious about, I'm trying to figure this out versus just being the one who is trying to have more control in the relationship or the one who is not taking ownership or accountability. You are literally trying to take ownership or accountability of something that, quite frankly, there isn't a lot of ownership or accountability for you to take. And then at the point where she says, Or are we just normal people and love died as people around me would say, and I'm going to hearken back to previous episodes where we talk about your Switzerland friends, where when people just say, you know, there's two sides to every coin or I'm sure that you both have your faults. And while that is true for most of the general population, when you are in a relationship with an emotionally immature, narcissistic person who then just you become their muse, their narcissistic supply, then no, it isn't just the thing where the love died, it's that you have just been made to lose your sense of self. She says, I still can't say again, she says I, she says, and it's just I wonder if I'm just too sensitive and I cannot accept reality.

[00:06:17] But no one knows the hell that it's been, and the subtlety of what I feel has been abuse, and it's almost impossible to explain and express to people. So let's go back to this. That is not a comment that comes from someone that is just feeling like there's just a little bit of a lack of communication or there's just a little bit of a lack of connection or something seems off. No, she's talking about the death by a thousand cuts. And if you go, if you haven't heard that episode, please go find it. But death by a thousand cuts where it's just so many small things. But what a consistent patter of small things where you are just left to feel like. I can't make sense of the relationship. And again, I've lost my sense of self. She said he's always doing things in her marriage. It's been, I believe, over twenty five years his schedule was filled and he had rigid feelings about his time. Losing time was the worst thing that could happen to him. She said it never felt like we were a team, that this was his race and I would follow behind as good as I could. And she said I always supported all of his projects, is working out his trips, everything that he did. But she said it ended up being to the detriment of my health.

[00:07:17] And I think that as you start to hear somebody talk about those experiences where I always felt like it was me trying to follow him, or if it was me trying to follow her, that I was trying to figure out, how can I support this person? And yet I imagine that the the rules were continually changing in the relationship. So she said he never wanted to do anything that wasn't what he wanted. He wasn't directly critical. But most of the time, he just seemed to be in a bad mood and he wouldn't communicate. There was a lot of silence and withdrawal and cold passive anger that he would keep inside, and even that piece where he never wanted to do anything that wasn't what he wanted. I go back to some of the conversations where we start to have when I get couples in my office and where the husband will sometimes feel completely just as if he never saw this coming because he says, well, she doesn't say much. She doesn't disagree when I tell her the things that I think that we should do. And it's because often she feels like, what's the point? Why do I even want to express my opinion when it's just going to get tossed around gaslit and turned right back around on me of I can't believe that you would even think that that would be an option, that we could do so over time.

[00:08:31] And this is where I would love for you to check in if you're the person listening because I'm continuing to get emails from people that are saying, I think I've got a problem, I think I'm the emotionally immature. I think I may be the person with the narcissistic traits and tendencies. If you feel like no, the relationship is pretty good because we seem to just we seem to just not really have a lot of arguments or contention, and she seems to just go along and just want that pause there of, OK, is it because she feels like, what's the point of trying to express my opinion anyway? And I've been so open about my own emotional immaturity or narcissistic traits and tendencies, and I remember a difficult conversation with my wife where we it was a Saturday. We were going to go workout together at the gym. This was a few years ago and we go there and I even just said, Hey, whatever you want to do, I just want to. I'm just happy to be here with you. And I just want to just want to work out with you. And so a couple of times we're standing around and I said, OK, what do you want to do next? And she would say, I don't know, and then I would say, Well, do you want to do the shoulders you want to go do like lap pools? Do you want to go do or do you want your chest? And then she'd say, Yeah, sure.

[00:09:31] And I had no awareness that I literally just said, I'm here for you. What do you want to do? Tell me what you would like to do. And then with that brief pause, then if I'm being honest in my head, I thought, Well, here's what I usually do. And I felt like I was offering this up like, Well, then let me suggest something. And we talked later that day, and I remember it just broke my heart when she said, That's one of those examples where it's it's fine. If you say, what would you like to do? But then if I don't say anything and there's a pause, then you go ahead and say, maybe we could do this, or maybe we could do this, or we might even start doing something, let's say we're starting to. Leg press and then I just jump in and say, Man, you know what, four leg presses typically, then I like to do these calf raises, not even knowing that I'm basically saying I want to do whatever you want to do, except for really? Can we do the things that I want to do? And so never doing anything that wasn't what he wanted? And she goes on again to say that he wasn't directly critical, but just would be in a bad mood unless he was getting his needs met. She said I would get desperate from trying to get in touch, to be heard to make compromises, but there were no compromises.

[00:10:35] And whenever I expressed the need, it was met with frustration. Over time, her feelings just really never felt validated. But then at some point she noticed that there was an extreme change. There was a shift, and then he became much more overtly abusive when all of a sudden he decided that he wanted to leave the marriage. And this is one of those that I see often when the person finally decides that this isn't meeting my needs anymore than I'm going to make this relationship difficult. And there's a belief there that there's such emotional immaturity that then I have to prove to myself that this relationship is horrible and talk about a different form of gaslighting. Now the sudden we're going to go into the person convincing themselves, the nurses, convincing themselves that, you know, this was never a good relationship have never really been in love with you, and I've never really found you very attractive. And then they have to build the case where then and it's because of all these things that you've done. And so she said that this is what started to color their whole life together dark. And she said, I would say he would say nothing but bad things about us, about me that then he would say things like he wanted to make it work, but that he would do nothing to try and stay.

[00:11:44] He would tell her if we want to make this work. You can't be needy. You can't need anything for me and you can't be angry. What am I supposed to do with that? And I don't know what to do with your emotions of sadness or jealousy. So he was saying, No, I want to make it work, but let me control how I want to make it work. So you need to do these things to make it work. And here's where I start getting into that emotional immaturity in this world of the need of external validation that if we really do break it down of looking at, then at that point he's not sure what he even wants. But then he's saying, OK, here's what I need you to do in order to make me feel better to make me feel like this relationship isn't viable. So it's literally putting this on this kind person, the pathological kind person. But in reality, he's not taking ownership of any of his own feelings. So she said that then he would dump his negative feelings on her and then say, But you know what? This is my truth, and I need you to just love me unconditionally. And you cannot be sad or hurt because that means that you are not loving me for who I am. But what has been happening here is there's no reciprocity. There's no curiosity. There's no hate. Tell me what your thoughts are.

[00:12:51] Tell me what your feelings are. It's saying, OK, you know what? Maybe I will give this a chance, says the narcissist. But let me tell you what you have to do in order to make this work. And quite frankly, I'm not even sure if that's going to work. She said it now turned out that there have been a lot of criticism and devaluation of me within the beginnings of our relationship that he never communicated. Marriage researcher John Gottman talks about this concept when someone is ready to exit a relationship and they start to build this case. Then all of a sudden they do. They flip a script and everything. Everything was bad or wedding was bad. You were never very into the relationship anyway. When that is absolutely not the experience that have been portrayed for so long in the relationship, she said. I felt so gaslit because anything that I said he could say, Well, you don't really remember what it was like. So even when she tried to express her opinion, it was shut down as if she didn't remember, and he would say that he had felt held back by me that he had felt controlled. And you can see where she starts to say, I don't know what to make sense of because and the reason I just wanted to do an episode with an email like this is, as you hear this, this woman's story. I hope that it sounds pretty easy when you put all this into context that this was absolutely not her being controlling or absolutely not her as the narcissist, she said.

[00:14:11] Again, this was just devastating to me because compared to all the couples around it, she said, I really hadn't even asked for much. I hadn't needed much and everybody had just seen this incredible freedom around her that it felt like they had the things to do, that others could just literally explore or express their hobbies and their likes and interests and their relationships. But if she did that, then all of a sudden she was not giving him the attention he needed. And so she said that he then said, I need to do things and I need to live my life. I have to put myself in a position that then I can decide whether or not I want to stay. And so then she said that as things continued to go dark in the relationship, she let he let her know that she had just never been quite enough. He said he couldn't remember anything that she had done for him, that he couldn't remember how he would always get. He couldn't remember how she would always get up. But. Five six in the morning with their kids when the kids were a baby and just to let him sleep because he had to go to work, and she said I did it with love. He said I wasn't fighting to trade off every other night like couples around him, but he couldn't remember any of that.

[00:15:22] As a matter of fact, he got angry that she didn't acknowledge all of the hard work that he did and providing for the family while they had young children. She said all that he could remember was everything that he had done and everything that I had not done for him. She said it turned out that he had always wanted me to just take care of things. She tells a story of a birthday party. One time for one of their kids, and that it was all on her and that he felt like it had been a burden that she'd even asked for help. And he felt like this was just a waste of his time. He was the provider. She was the one that needed to take care of everything that had to do with the children. She said he used to love kids before they had them, but it turns out that when they became his and they were his responsibility, that he would talk about them as more of a burden. And that's when he started to shift the narrative very strong to. He never had loved her. He couldn't even remember being infatuated. Although she said that the first few years of the marriage when the love bombing was occurring, that there was absolute infatuation. And he said that he had always just done what he thought was expected.

[00:16:28] And I hear that one often where people just say, No, you know what? Turns out I was just going along just because that's what you're supposed to do. And again, as he's building this case, that he was never into the relationship so that he can make it easier to exit the relationship. She said that he now had this idea that he had never, ever felt like what he was feeling now for this other person, this person that he was infatuated with. It was at his workplace, and he couldn't remember if feeling like this or feeling so alive and that he had never had that with her. And here's the crazy thing he was literally talking about this to her while they were married, and at that point he hadn't really even pursued this relationship. So he did. And then he came home and talked to his wife and said, that didn't really go the way that I thought it would. And she said so now he was telling me about this and showing no compassion or empathy whatsoever. And she said that's one of the times where she realized he really didn't understand or even care how it was affecting me. All he cared about was that he then said, You know what? I just need to be honest. That's what we need in this relationship is honesty. But she said that's where it came with brutal honesty, and that felt like knives that were being poked into her every single time.

[00:17:37] She said he kept hitting me with his words while she felt like she was, in essence, emotionally lying down. And then any time that she started to express her feelings, for example, about him talking about pursuing this other relationship while they were married or any tiny little normal human need, and he would shut her down and say, You know what, if you're going to act like this, then there's no way that this relationship will work. And then he would turn it back on him. Talk about, Do you know how hard this is on me? I'm the one that's trying to figure out if I can even make this work. I'm the one that's trying to figure out if I can ever feel alive again, like this other person just made me feel. So I really don't want to hear about your feelings or your emotions. He told her that she couldn't accept them and his feelings. He made it up to be as if they were both equally not accepting and each not tolerating each other's feelings. She said he would continually go to this line of that. She really needed to understand that really, this was very logical, but instead she kept trying to shape all of this information that she was getting. She said it felt like she was trying to form it into some sort of pretzel, trying to make it work. And all of the thoughts that came up were she was thinking that she wasn't good enough, that she wasn't loving him the right way, and he did nothing to dissuade her on that.

[00:18:51] He convinced her that it was just her, that she was too sensitive. And that's when he started to say, You know, what is a matter of fact? That's a turnoff to me, because it really appears that you're pretty weak. It turns out that he said that he felt resentment toward her showing feelings and emotions, needs and vulnerability. So she said now what she saw is that he described that he'd been going through all of these just hard emotions. And what was he supposed to do about that is she just continued to become emotionally disregulated, and she said, OK, here's where another piece of the puzzle came together that she realized, OK, I've been going through all the described phases of a narcissistic relationship the love bombing, the devaluation and a brutal discard. And she said even the hoovering over the first few years after the discard and the moving apart. And if you're not familiar with hoovering, it's this narcissistic. In essence, the Narcisse is trying to trick or bait the person into coming back into the relationship, breaking a no contact rule, reengaging with them, and after the breakup or after going no contact. The narcissist will try to just suck the person right back into the into the cycle to becoming the supply again. And that's where the person gets back into this trauma, bond or the cycle of abuse, and that hoovering is done in so many different ways it can.

[00:20:06] There can be a little bit of time that's passed, and then it's just a text, Hey, you know what? I just I understand now I understand what I did, and I just wanted to let you know I'm sorry and I've had the clients that get those texts. They say, What should I do? And it's so difficult because in my soul, I want to say, Man, don't take the bait and I know how this goes. I've yet to see one of those that when you start to engage, it's what's the angle. Does he now want to tell her how bad she is or is he running out of money? Or is he lonely? Does he want to have sex with her again? What is the angle? But it's never just foreclosure. But she said it was just so subtle, so covert, just scarily so all on the inside, just coming out is what she felt was sometimes making her just feel so desperate for contact and for being seen and for feeling loved. She would sometimes want to buy new clothes because she really wanted him to say, and you look nice because he had never done that. And she said that he would say, It's all right. I would maybe get something different. Or she said that when she really felt good about things that she was wearing, maybe a hairstyle, something like that that usually was met with the sarcastic comment or a joke or just like, you know, I really don't know if I even like that much or, oh, really? Do you think you can pull that off, which she said left her just feeling so incredibly insecure? And it turns out she said one of his complaints again was that that even was more fuel for her, not seeing for him, not seeing her as confident and independent enough that she just needed to be herself.

[00:21:29] Although the version of herself that he wanted her to be, and she said this is where she started to really recognize these underpinnings of the subtle covert control and that it literally everything was about him, about making sure that he got his needs met, that he had all the freedom he wanted, not the control, like not letting her out to meet friends. He was just completely neglectful. But then she said he wanted her, though definitely for sex, and he was frustrated if he didn't get it. She said We never stopped having sex like other couples. And she said but a week of illness or stress, and if there was no sex, then he would just go dark. And then this darkness would also just come into the entire relationship, and it was never enough. But then, she said, but he could never give what I needed because there wasn't any emotional connection.

[00:22:21] There was no flirting. There was never this emotional connection or touching her in the way that she had said that she would appreciate no flirting, no checking in during the day with texts. She said If I didn't like what he gave me, then she would hear that. That meant that she didn't love him for him. And it had to mean, she said, that he would say, we aren't even a biological match. So she said, so what made me extremely confused again was when listening to the Control versus Love episode, she said, was was that some of this was what he would tell me about me? She said he had felt controlled as he put it, and then he needs or feelings that I had. He felt I was controlling. And we talked a lot on previous episodes about, I call it parodying. But if the let's say in the scenario, the wife says, I feel like you're controlling me, then the narcissist knows OK, and I don't subconscious conscious. But they know that, oh, that is a button, because that's important to her. So that one's an easy one. I'll turn that one right back around on her. Well, actually, you're controlling me. And I've talked about this on previous episodes, but I remember one of the first times that I'd done a gaslighting episode. This was years ago and two different women. I was seeing two different couples and at the time, in two different women within a few hours, on the same day after I'd released this gaslighting episode had sent the episode to their husbands and their husbands both.

[00:23:32] And they both texted me their husband's response as it was so wild. But they texted back, and both of the husbands had said, Hey, I listen to it, and honestly, I think you gaslight me, so I appreciate you giving it a voice. And these women felt like, Am I crazy? She just said the control versus love. Am I too controlling? No, there's absolutely a place in a relationship to express your needs, but it's done so in a we're too autonomous, differentiated, interdependent people that have our own unique things that we bring into the relationship. If any time you try to express a need now you're viewed as controlling, then that is not taking into account that you are two unique individuals. There's so much that would be leading up to a conversation where you've already been looked at with curiosity that you've already felt like. I can, for the most part, go to my spouse and we can talk about things. But if all of a sudden you're saying, Look, I've had it and I need to express a need, and now out of nowhere, I'm told that I'm controlling. That's the difference. The love versus control. You can love someone and set a healthy boundary, but you can't love someone and then control their action. She said.

[00:24:42] I just can't wrap my head around it. She said I was so alone in the relationship that he just wanted to play. He hated responsibility. So when she had asked him to do things or compromise or work with her on something or to choose her and the kids over his work or friends or exercise or concert that then he would pull the Oh, you trying to control me again? And he would feel criticized by any comment. And she said. Well, in that one, again, one of the lines that I want to talk about often is to someone with narcissistic personality disorder, narcissistic traits, emotional immaturity that they take any negative comment, emotion it does. You have to feel negative. It can be, Hey, tell me why you do that when they take that, as they take that, as criticism, which then and this is where the how is the narcissist created? It's out of these childhood abandonment wounds and these deep insecurities. Because if I if someone has been saying, why do you do that? Or I wouldn't do that or tell me more about that, and if that's viewed as criticism, and then they go to this place of shame where, oh, you're telling me, I'm a horrible person, I'm a bad husband, I'm a bad father, then I'm going to. I'm going to step back and do anything to defend my fragile ego, including get angry, gaslight, withdraw, get emotional, any of those things. So that is that emotional immaturity.

[00:25:56] So at one point, she said, here's an example she said, I told him, I really like it when we go hiking together as a family, because when we're doing that, I feel like we really talk well together. And she said in that situation, then he took that and said, So you don't feel like we can talk. Do you feel like that? I'm just some horrible ogre. And so she said that immediately here was something that he had liked to do, that they'd had success doing. But now that was even used as gaslighting where she was made to feel like, OK, I thought we liked that together. And she said that she now fears that their children will get in trouble because of what it will say about him as a father, not because he cares that the kids are going to be happy or doing well. She said one of their kids used to be just so happy, but now he just seems very depressed and angry and angry child who says that dad isn't who he used to be. He said Now my dad's just angry that and the kid is defiant and he won't tolerate any form of control. And so what that looks like then to the narcissist is this woman says that then it just he continues to tell the kid that you are so difficult, you're bad, you won't cooperate. And she said the son now feels betrayed by the father, who said that, Hey, I'm always going to be there for you, buddy.

[00:27:12] But then saying, But I'm not. And you know why. It's because of your mom. And we're going to do so much on this down the road, the co-parenting with someone with emotional immaturity or the narcissistic relationship that when you are talking about doing what's best for the kids in no world is telling the kids that, you know, I really wish this would work out, but what are you going to do? Go talk to your mom. She's the one that wanted this. There is nothing that is about the kids and that kind of a situation, and that's where it is just so wild. Then here and whatever, it's the husband or the wife, whoever the narcissist is. And this comment when we're talking about the co-parenting, if they say, look, she asked me, What am I supposed to do? Lie. And I often think you're doing that about the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy or I don't know that your high school basketball career. But now, when you're six year old or seven year old, eight year old says, Hey, why? Why is it mom here? And when you say, Man, I got to be honest with her, right? Well, she surely didn't want to. They had to stay. A kid can't even comprehend that bitch. That's the part where I think that is so fascinating. I tell this example often one of the first times where I was really starting to dig into a new way to co-parent where the person is now.

[00:28:24] Let's say they're married and now their ex is in. This one is absolutely one where the guy was the pathological kind person, and his ex-wife was the narcissist and the narcissist ex-wife told there. I think at the time they were seven year old eight year old that this wouldn't have happened if your dad wouldn't have cheated. So then the seven year old comes to the dad, my client and says, Mom says you cheated. And thankfully the dad didn't react too much, and we ended up being able to have a session, I think before they come and they were able to talk and I just suggested, you know, go in there with curiosity, ask her, Hey, what is it? What does that mean to you cheating? So he did, and she talked about that. He had sometimes her older sister cheats and Candyland. So she was very curious as to why mom and dad were split up because dad cheated in Candyland, and I was so grateful for that because he said that he wanted to say, Oh, you know, what did your mom tell you that that she, you know, drove with you guys drunk in the car and then hit me and spend a night in prison? Because that's not what's best for the kids. This is where we need emotional maturity when you're doing things like co-parenting, where this is about the relationship between the two adults, not the kids.

[00:29:34] And so boy, going off on a little tangent there, but it was about her son. She said that in this one, here we go. I think we're all going to be pretty familiar. You're probably gonna be familiar with this one, she said. My my ex now cannot bear being responsible, that he hasn't taken accountability. He's never apologized. And I'm not a big fan of all or nothing statements, but I absolutely have seen the version of where someone doesn't ever, literally ever apologize. I still remember the very first person that I had on my couch that I was pretty sure at this point that we were looking at narcissistic. It tendencies, personality disorder and his wife saying he literally never apologizes, and I thought, Oh, this'll be easy. I said, Hey, it sounds like she's saying, you don't apologize, tell me more about that. And he just said, Well, I mean, did she tell you that she's always doing this? And I say, OK, well, hey, let's talk about this. So talk about apology. Do you feel like you've ever apologized? And you just. I stared me at me and I thought, I can outlast him. They're paying for this session. And so we just sit there and he just looks at me. And then I just say, no. Have you ever apologized or why don't you apologize? And he just looked at me.

[00:30:40] And this is where from one of those previous episodes, he had his exit and he said, This is ridiculous. Like, seriously, we're paying good money to just sit here for me to be accused of never apologizing. And I say, Have you apologize before? And then he just said, You know what? I don't even need to be here. And he got up and left. So it really can be where they don't ever take responsibility or ownership. And this is where I go back to bless their heart. Gaslighting is it's it's a childhood wound. It's a it's a childhood coping mechanism because if you grow up in a home where you didn't, first of all, see your parents moral responsibility, you're taking ownership or accountability and then you've got an emotionally immature parent who if you did something bad as a kid, it actually gave them an ability to say, Yeah, I told you not to do that. I never did that when I was a kid. I can't believe you even did that. So the parent then takes the one up position and then puts the kid down, and then the kid learns that if I do anything wrong, then I'm going to hear about it. I'm going to be made to feel less than. So then that's where the beginnings of gaslighting actually occur, because the kid learns this survival mechanism of I cannot be wrong, I will not be wrong. So she said that after they moved apart, then he decided that he wanted to feel free to explore his sexuality, do whatever he pleased.

[00:32:02] But then he also didn't want to be separate from her and that she needed to just be OK with that. She needed to just hang tight, let him go so as wild oats, because that would really help him understand if this really was a viable relationship. To which then she said, OK, I want to set a boundary, and if you if we're going to be separating, then I don't think that that would be something that I want you to do is to go out there and have sexual intimate relationships with other people to which what did he say then? Ok, that's pretty controlling. So finally then he said, All right, let's go to therapy. And she said he had never wanted to before. And then she said therapy was like ten times worse than the abuse at home because now it was him gaslighting and abusing her with the support of the therapist. And I can only imagine that he picked the therapist that he really felt like there was a bond with. So she said, I now think he went to therapy, only to be able to tell people how hard you tried, how hard it worked for us and what the therapist said. So now he gets to say and tell everyone that he's done everything to try to make it work.

[00:33:06] He stretched himself just so beyond his limits. He's told people so many times, Look, I'm not a bad person, and he keeps going on and on about it. And I love that her insight, where she said that's where it became obvious that there is deep, deep shame that he's trying to convince people that he is not a bad person. And then at times, this is where I go back to the episode. Maybe last week, the week before about these popcorn moments, which is like at times, she said. I can stay present and I can now watch him go through the motions where he then will say, You know what, I'm really I really feel guilty or bad about this. But then that doesn't mean that he wants to do anything about it, she said. But I suspect that really, it must be more of that shame, she said, because guilt is this inner relational feeling that will help us repair. And he does nothing of the kind. And I think I've talked maybe in previous episodes about the difference between guilt and shame. And just in a quick nutshell, guilt as saying, I wish I wouldn't have done that. Shame kicks in and says, And you're a horrible person because you didn't do that and everyone's going to find out. So guilt can sometimes be viewed as almost a stop sign. You can feel guilty about something and then feel like Manny. I really don't want to do that again, but in shame says, because you are a horrific individual and so shame, I really don't feel like has any place in your emotional health.

[00:34:21] I work with a lot of people that struggle with compulsive and addictive behaviors, and I always say that I've never, ever helped anyone where shame was a component of recovery. And so she said that just so often, the relationship just has been hot and cold and more cold than hot, and this is the part that starts to really break my heart as well. Where then he starts to say he'll say things like, I wonder what I could have become without the burden of you talking about his wife? And this is where I jumped in. I did. This is one of the places I did write some notes where this is the reason why he's probably not a professional athlete or a movie star. And so sometimes when you see one of these narcissistic breaks that it is because of the narcissist or the emotion. Matures inability to take ownership for the fact that now he's in a cubicle and is an accountant when he always dreamed of being a pirate movie star baseball player living on the coast with the house in Malibu because it can't possibly be because he never tried to do any of those things. And so instead of just taking ownership, then he can say, Man, what would I? What could I have done if I wouldn't have had you as a wife or these kids? And and that can just sting and hurt.

[00:35:36] And she said that he just looks so much for approval for mothers and like that she definitely has done our homework, said I'm not sure if it's covert admiration, but I think so, since he would have daydreams of playing football in a huge stadium or playing on the stage with a band. And if you're a Napoleon Dynamite fan, I just I call these those Uncle Rico moments where he's sitting. I think he's sitting in the mountains or the desert, and he's in his RV and he's got a football and he has an old VHS recorder and he just continually films himself. Throw in the football and he says, Man, I could have been something. I can throw the football over that mountain. So that's just man, these daydreams, these grandiose daydreams of what I could have been had, not what ever had it not been for my this horrible relationship or these burdensome kids or my trick knee or whatever it is. But she also said that he just doesn't enjoy spending time with others if they aren't doing the things that matter to him. She said he doesn't like spending time with his kids if it's on their terms that they want to play video games, they want to play board games and he gets bored. And when they would try to go be social with any, either her or his family, she would do the socializing and he would withdraw.

[00:36:45] And then he would see her as a burden because he felt like he had to take into account and worry about her. And well, I'm going to go there because you will complain if we don't interact with your family. And again, she keeps going back to, she said. And this is where I get confused about hearing the episode on Control versus love was actually controlling one. The answer? No. Was I the narcissist? Absolutely not. She said. I certainly would get frustrated. I would get angry lash out, especially when meeting a total wall of silence and rigid ness. So this I will go big at any time on this. By default, by nature, did she just go around getting getting angry, lashing out or did that happen because she was trying to feel heard or understood? Or she didn't know how else to try to get any kind of connection? Because then she said it made her feel so helpless and desperate. She said I asked him to do things and he would be extremely slow and it felt defiant. He seemed to do things he didn't ever seem to do things with pleasure, especially if I asked him unless it was about his needs. And she said I might, unless it was about his needs. And she said he was only setting his boundaries, but that he would step all over her boundaries.

[00:37:57] So she said, I continue to just be so confused. I don't know what is normal and I don't know what is abuse, what's OK to ask for and what's controlling. She said When we moved apart, I kindly asked him if he could just keep the situation between them because she didn't want it to leak into the family while they were still trying to work on things or trying to work through things, and she didn't want it to get back to their kids. And so he said at that point, that's that's controlling, she said. But to me, it felt like I tried to set a boundary, but it was control. Now it was a boundary, and there should have been a mature conversation around that. And then she said, Now, of course, he's broken that over and over again, and she feels just hurt every time, and he's now turned to the world of social media. She said, I've closed myself in. I don't feel like I can face the world now. I feel so humiliated by everything so lost. I have no idea who I am and what do I even need to do from here? And then he now is saying that he could never talk to you. He could never talk to her about his feelings and his needs when that's all he was doing. She said I was desperate for him to open up, desperate for him to talk to me, but he wouldn't talk to me.

[00:39:04] He would talk at me. And then he started to blame her for the reason why he had no friends because of all of his neediness. She goes on to say, I cannot say that he might be a narcissist because that would make me as bad as him blaming him. I cannot feel like I was abused because that makes me think. But if that's what he felt, if he felt controlled, then who am I to take his reality from him? So I end up thinking that I have to accept that there's nothing wrong, that it's normal, that I wasn't abused. He just couldn't love me. That I wasn't good enough, that he was controlled. He was held back and abused. And I have to accept that in me. If not, I'm the narcissist in this. But then, she says, but I have just had this feeling all along that this is just so crazy, so inhumane and so abnormal. And it is. It is crazy. It is inhumane and it is abnormal. And when she says she's had this feeling all along that that is that gut trusting, that gut feeling because that is something that people lose in those relationships with the emotionally abusive or the emotionally immature or the. Narcissistic was reading some information yesterday for a couple session, and I use again this emotionally focused therapy, this EFT with couples, and in this data, we were talking about your immediate reaction.

[00:40:18] And we were talking about there's this neurology neuroscience that says that the emotions fire two and a half times faster than thoughts than logic. And that is a it's a defense mechanism. It's a protective mechanism in our brains because our brain immediately brings in data and it goes into two different places in the brain. The first place of the brain says, Is this safe? And if it checks the box of safe, then we say, OK, what do we do with it? And so already that your body is trying to tell you if something is safe or not, it's taken in the data. It's taken in the energy, the vibe, the feelings in the room. And so I strongly believe that the highly sensitive person, the pathological kind person, the person who finds themselves in these relationships with the emotionally immature or the narcissistic traits and tendency people that emotions lead the way and emotions fire two and a half times faster than thoughts or logic. I believe that that must it must become three and a half times faster, four and a half times faster, five times faster, because that's where it needs protection. And I'm going to absolutely just give my opinion this isn't based on research or data, but I've shared an episode before of where the hippocampus and this is data. The hippocampus over time and emotionally abusive relationships are in complex post-traumatic stress disorder. The little part of the brain, the hippocampus, which is responsible for short term memory that you can look at a brain scan and show that it starts to decrease in size and the amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain enlarges.

[00:41:53] And I really believe that what that saying is that in these emotionally abusive or narcissistic relationships, your brain is trying to evolve in your brain, saying, You know what? My short term memory isn't even needed here, so let's use as little energy as possible in feeding or fueling that part of the brain, because in essence, I'm going to be gaslit anyway. What's my opinion matter anyway? So a short term memory, there's no use. But man, we need to send that energy over to our amygdala because we were constantly in the state of fight or flight or freeze or fawn. And so you really do start to change. So when people say they lose themselves, I think it's because they're there's a neurological change happening that I feel like they become more emotionally protective. They become more confused. They're the hippocampus shrinks the amygdala and margins, which is even more important why people need to get themselves out of these emotionally abusive or narcissistic relationships so that they can heal. So then they can even begin to make better decisions. And I feel like that is such a part of that trauma bond when people just find themselves repeating these patterns over and over. And part of it is because I think they're emotionally compromised or neurologically compromised.

[00:43:03] So she said not even a therapist could help him or help him, not even a therapist could make him listen. The fact that he says that we are both just good people doing our best, the fact that he keeps telling me that he just needs to be honest doesn't make it less abusive. And she said, it's OK to feel crazy, as I do, to feel as broken as I do because it really has been abuse. And again, the beauty of this email is to watch this person just go through this process of thinking at times. I think I've got to figure it out. This is abuse to wait. Maybe am I the narcissist or am I going too far? But she said the more covert, the more crazy making, the harder it became. And the fact that everybody sees him as this amazing guy, this good person, they see him on the outside, not talking bad about people appearing to have the right values and speaking in front of crowds that she said it felt like a waste of time to try and express herself because just again, feeling like others won't believe her. She said Nobody will ever believe what this has been like, and they'll think that it must be my fault. No wonder he couldn't live with me, that I was so sensitive that I had such little energy that I ended up having bad health. No wonder that he started to find interest in somebody else, but little do they know how alone I was, how I took care of everything, how little help.

[00:44:17] I had a little support. I had a little care was there and how exhausting that became. And I really do believe that that exhaustion, that I'm never enough, I can't keep up the rules continue to change that part of that exhaustion, part of the body starting to react, bad health poor. All the things that the body's trying to tell you to say. Hey, you need to. You need to do something about this. You need to take care of yourself. And that's why my number one rule when you're trying to disengage in relationships with the narcissist is self-care. Raise that emotional baseline. And she said that she realizes now it just wasn't about us. It wasn't about the family. He made the decision. She said, I'm the one that would have to then figure out what to do with that decision. I was the one who made things happen. She said I even helped them with everything after we moved apart to help them build back his relationship with the kids. He says now that he can't start projects like he did before because he doesn't have me, so he still wants me to help him, even though we're not in the relationship anymore. And he says that he couldn't tell me that he loved me because he thought that I didn't love him.

[00:45:18] And she said, How conditional is that? So while telling me that I had to love him unconditionally, she said that she recognizes him in the concept of the neglectful narcissist is described by Dr. Ramani, who has some amazing information on narcissism. She said All of the silence, all the withdrawing, the stonewalling, the neglect, the lack of care and compassion, the extreme self-centeredness, the passive aggressiveness. She said it was equally, if not even more abusive than the overt rage or the criticism or the nitpicking or the control. But she said the fact is that it's even more controlling than overt control because you don't even know consciously what that is, what this is, this feeling of being controlled. She said, You just feel this desperate feeling of pain, of unworthiness, of loneliness, of stress and anxiousness. But when he keeps telling her that he has been so unhappy and feeling so bad, then she says, Who am I to say these things? And I loved it at this point, she said, even if I had read that far. She just says, I think you with all my heart. And that she appreciates the material. But I will wrap things up here. And I know that was a lot of time to spend on one email. But I get these emails regularly. I won't say now on a daily basis. At the beginning, I feel like I was getting these on a daily basis. Their lengthy, but I think it's because people just finally feel a little bit heard and they just want to share.

[00:46:34] They just want to express what their experience is. And I hope there's others that are listening to this that maybe even if you want to take a minute and jot down an email and you can shoot it over to me and and we'll cover that on a future episode of Just and this is why I have this private Facebook group for women that are in relationships with narcissistic individuals, whether it's family members, coworkers, spouses, siblings, you name it. Because just this is such a process. I say this every single time and everyone's process is going to take the time that it takes. It's going to be a little bit longer than you think it will little. It's going to be a lot longer than you think it's going to be. And part of that process is going from I had no idea to then I start to to hear more about what these this narcissistic relationship looks like. And then I start to do a little bit of research. But typically there's we talked about those narcissistic stages, the stages of narcissistic awareness, and it's follows that pattern of of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross five stages of grief and loss dabbed at denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. And so that denial piece is there for quite a while, and I find that it doesn't necessarily follow the pattern linearly. It's often hard for the pathologically kind person to even tap into anger because they feel like they're doing something wrong, which is part of what even keeps that trauma bond engaged.

[00:47:49] I could go on, and I know that we've covered a lot of this in some of the previous episodes. So if you have questions or comments even off of this email, if you've had similar experiences that you want to share, feel free because I hear you. I do, I hear you, I see you, and I hope that you just hear things. If this is your experience and whatever of that relationship, the narcissistic relationship that you just feel a little bit more hurt and a little bit more understood and just know that you're not alone. And if you even if this made it to your earbuds or speakers or wherever you listen to this, that means that you are doing something. You're on the path your brain is going to say, this isn't enough. I need to do more, but this is part of the process and it takes time. And so just becoming aware, like waking up to the narcissism is putting you on the path. And eventually you are going to find a place where you just find yourself and rediscover yourself, and that the effects of that are just pretty overwhelming because the impact that that will have on your children, on those around you. And so I'm grateful that you're on that path. All right. Again, reach out with questions, comments, whatever I can do, and we'll see you next time on waking up the narcissism.

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