The Words That Started a Narcissistic War
I thought I was sharing my feelings but I couldn’t have been more wrong
“It’s lonely being married to you,” I say. “Sometimes I dream about being with someone who would really be interested in me.”
These words do not turn out well for me.
Initially, they get my husband’s attention. Less because of what is spoken and more because I am becoming distant and increasingly independent.
He attempts to win me back. He needs to.
Not because I am playing hardball. Because a part of me is slowly detaching from him.
Even this indifferent man notices his wife is losing interest.
This is round two of marital unhappiness.
After the first eight years of our marriage, I leave. My husband says if I come back he will go to counseling and we do.
The next six years are absent of the roller coaster which prompts me to leave the first time. The coldness and the cruelty have subsided. He seems to care how I feel again. I believe in part because we move to a different state and I am initially his only cohort.
This changes as he finds friends. I recognize this familiar behavior. That of the man I married and not the one I dated.
It is an unwelcome deja vu.
I have no desire to repeat the memories of our first eight years of marriage.
It has taken me years to subdue the feelings of emotional abandonment and abuse. I am unwilling to backtrack. I would never have married this man, to begin with.
If only, he had shown this side during our six years of dating.
But he hadn’t.
It seems nearly inconceivable one could hide this type of emotional unavailability, cruelty, and coldness. The only reason I now comprehend the possibility is that I understand narcissistic personality disorder.
Unbelievably, my husband does win me back a second time. Even I am surprised. I wasn’t sure I could love him again.
Or should I say the stranger I unknowingly married?
It doesn’t happen easily. It takes nearly two years from the day I once spoke those words.
This is when the war rages.
Only I am unprepared for it.
I do not understand what has caused it.
Remember two years have passed since I shared my feelings. I just understand something is terribly wrong. No, not the identifiable coldness and cruelty. Instead, my husband begins drinking and behaving badly. He is angry. Even scaring my children and me.
He has never behaved this way.
I think it could be a midlife crisis. Perhaps he is sad about something. It is not constant. However, like an alcoholic he is unpredictable and I do not know when to expect it.
Aside from this, I only witness one other change in his behavior. The normally laid back driver has become uber aggressive. Darting in and out of traffic and tailgating.
I am confused by his behavior but intolerant of the drinking. I will not allow him to frighten our children. I ask him to leave. He does. Within several months we are in marriage counseling.
And this is where I will once again hear my words.
My husband tells the marriage counselor I betrayed him. When the counselor asks how he says, “She said she was lonely and she dreamed of being with someone else.”
The counselor asks, “Do you think your wife would have an affair?’
“No,” says my husband. “Colleen would never do that.”
The counselor digs deeper. Trying to determine the root. The wound so deep it would be considered a betrayal. But there is nothing.
Finally, he says, “Colleen didn’t betray you, she was sharing her feelings with you.”
In those first few months of counseling, my husband would be told he didn’t have a drinking problem. He was angry and it was coming out when he drank. Of course, I had been with him long enough to know he never had a drinking problem.
Yet I was bewildered at just how hostile he had become.
The man who tried desperately to woo me back.
What had happened?
I was in the infancy of grappling with his diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I now understood why I felt lonely. I had married a man who could not emotionally attach himself to another. At least not in the way the average human being does.
But if you understand narcissism, you know a narcissist will go after the offending party. Especially if their fragile ego has been injured. My husband perceived me as a threat. I damaged him. I messed with him. A narcissist perceives it as an attack.
I had tackled his grandiose perception of himself.
And if you wound a narcissist they will come after you.
Despite being in counseling and my husband’s diagnosis by a psychologist, I stayed. He terrorized me with drinking, aggressive driving, and unpredictability.
The reason I remained has to do with one of the narcissist’s winning strategies.
A narcissist will utilize your Achilles heel to torment you. They understand how to manipulate and will use it to weaken you.
My father was an alcoholic and I had been in an automobile accident at nineteen and had defied the odds.
My husband’s tactics worked well.
The strong woman who had rejected that loathsome deja vu, was now completely immersed in it. His drinking in particular, zapping all of my energy. And becoming an ugly secret I felt I had to hide.
We continued in counseling. Months later, I would hear my words repeated again. The counselor looked at my husband and said, “Do you think you are capable of forgiveness?”
This was not lost on me.
The woman who had forgiven him over and over again.
Who had shared her feelings and unwittingly started a narcissistic war. I waited and waited for my husband’s response.
But a narcissist does not forgive. And they certainly do not forget.
Something the counselor already knew.
The narcissist is in it to win it. The war with anyone who has crossed them.
But my husband had two wars to win.
First, he would win me back. To prove he could get what he wanted. And then he would take me down for making him do that in the first place.
If only I had known.
Those words would not turn out well for me.