Thrown away. Unloved. Invisible.
She had been married to him for 22 years now, and could only think of a handful of moments when she wasn’t anxious or afraid, most of those were under the heavy distraction of labor and childbirth.
Thankfully, his job required some travel, giving her scattered days of reprieve from his domineering presence, but the anxiety that gripped her heart knowing he was on his way home was debilitating. She never knew what kind of mood he’d be in, or what he would find to snarl about.
She had slowly become numb to the names he called her to alleviate whatever sense of inferiority or frustration he was feeling. The cycles of remorse and lavish kindness he poured on her after he beat her – both emotionally and physically – held no promise or hope anymore. They had just become part of the hell.
The Cycle of Abuse
She’d become numb, having lost sight of her own senses. Having been told for so long what to think, that her own recollection was faulty, and that she shouldn’t be such a baby, she didn’t even believe herself anymore. In so many ways, she had become like him – angry, uncaring, self-absorbed, and false.
Life was a show! No one knew what really went on behind the pretty picture. At the end of the day, all she felt was absolutely alone. Thrown away. Unloved. Invisible.
Welcome to being in a relationship with a narcissist. If you think that might be the case, you are likely experiencing some or all of the following:
A sense of a oppression from living with a man who thinks only of himself.
Trust and respect are demanded, but not extended to you.
Entitlement from your spouse to have whatever pleasures he wants.
Feeling like you are being baited, stalked, and nitpicked.
Gaslighting, minimizing, and stonewalling.
Contempt and manipulation from your spouse when he’s not getting what he wants.
All of this can be maddening. No wonder you feel crazy! When you’ve been repeatedly told you are dumb and misguided, you learn to quit listening to your own heart.
And yet, without your heart in the game, you have nothing. No connection, no joy, no depth, no passion, and no motivation to change any of it. Life is just a series of survival attempts from one moment to the next. You get to where you don’t even feel the fear anymore. There comes a day when the reality of that either destroys you or awakens a fierce anger in you, maybe both.
Naming the Pain
What do you do when this looks a bit like your story? Where do you find life again? How do you grasp hope? What is left in you to fight for a different story? And then how do you write it? This is the kind of awakening I see in my office almost every day, bringing a determination to no longer be complicit in being imprisoned in their own homes.
Usually, I start with a label. It seems to help feel a tiny bit less chaotic when you can call it something. In this case, the label is usually Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, and everything you’re feeling is the result of the trauma of living under intense stress and oppression. This label also gives a rough road-map for how to find healing, and the path often begins with learning to listen to your heart again, and believing that what it says is valuable.
Depending on how deeply you’ve been wounded, it may take a long time to hear and trust yourself. Maybe a good place to start is simply to name how you’ve been harmed, and let yourself be okay to feel the hurts that you’ve been told were ridiculous or blown out of proportion. Then also look closely at them. Grieve the losses of what can never be repaid, and break your agreements with the false assumptions and lies. Sort out what is truth. This is a process. It will take time.
At the same time, begin to define your dreams of who you are. Pay attention to your thinking, and work to line it up with progress toward those dreams. Set a new path by taking the next right step before you, without letting yourself get overwhelmed with what-ifs and what you can’t control. Let yourself believe in you again, even if it’s just a little at a time. Eventually, over time, you will be at a different place than you are right now, simply because you are on a new path.
That all sounds easy written out in a couple of paragraphs on your screen.
But, this is just the beginning of a life-long process of guarding your heart and paying attention to your path. One of greatest investments you can make in that process is finding someone who can coach you through the hard stuff.
Taking A Step Towards Healing
Here at the Marriage Recovery Center, we specialize in helping untangle the chaos narcissism and pride wreak upon your heart and your marriage. While our desire is to speak hope and restoration into marriages, we recognize that reconciliation requires both partners to be motivated to change. If you are left alone to deal with the heartache in your marriage, or are separated or divorced, we want to speak hope to you as well!
Contact us here or call us at 206.219.0145. Our Client Care team would be glad to help you take the first step in your healing through one of our programs or counseling options.