He took me many places, some of them dark, lonely, and heartbreaking. And when I had had enough, leaving him brought me back to myself.
He was mean. We both knew it. I would even say to him, “You are so mean.” And he’d reply, “I know.”
Colder than his words were his actions: the lack of attention, the lack of love, and the lack of empathy. Some people call it Narcissistic Personality Disorder; I knew it as mean.
I had been dancing with misery for most of my marriage. My love bombing session ended about two seconds after we got married. I made it work even though I hated the disconnection, the feeling of not being enough for him. I couldn’t understand that I deserved more. So I stayed.
I moved in a fog for years before the birth of my first son. My son filled my empty space with absolute joy. As nice as that was, I still carried sadness underneath it all.
I convinced myself that if I could fix my own sadness, I would be more desirable to him.
I felt that my marriage was salvageable if I could just get fix myself.
I got pregnant with my second son and everything changed. For a moment, my pregnancy news sparked a renewed hope that I had a real chance at having a good marriage. His enthusiasm seemed to support this. Shortly thereafter, I discovered that not all of those international business trips were strictly about business. There was plenty of hanky-panky going on. His computer had spilled the beans. My marriage was over.
With everything out in the open, I found myself sitting on the side of the tub, belly full of baby, heart breaking open and splitting into. The lies, the betrayal, mind games, the blatant disrespect and the stinky reality that I had to throw in the towel felt overwhelming. The thing I spent so much time running from was the very thing I ran into and there was no turning back.
A while later, a friend handed me a copy of Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That. I thought the title was fitting because I had been trying to figure out the same thing. Why did he do that? The book helped me to understand what never made any sense to me. Soon, I was knee deep in articles and books on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I found relief; I was not losing my mind, but I was, in fact, in an emotionally abusive relationship with someone who had many of the NPD traits.
The decision to leave him was not easy.
I was definitely not a good candidate for a woman needing to leave her husband. I was broke and hadn’t worked full time in years. On top of that, I had a toddler, a newborn, and no real plan of where I would go. It was difficult for me to see how I would survive, but I knew staying was not an option.
My mother opened her home to my children and me. It there that the real “fixing” began.
Soon I found a wonderful therapist who coached me through my divorce. He told me, “This will be the place where you grow your balls.” Up until that point, I had not realized how balls-less I was. I came to understand that “balls” meant boundaries. My boundaries had been so flimsy that I had helped to create an anything goes policy with my then husband.
My boundary issues stemmed from low self-esteem and low self-love. And none of this was new. In fact, my self-love meter was on low when I first met him years ago. I was young. I found his impulsivity, his intelligence, and his daredevil nature to be an exciting change from my boring life. I began to see him as more capable of handling my personal power than me. I placed him in the driver’s seat of my life.
He took me many places, some of them dark, lonely, and heartbreaking. And when I had had enough, he brought me back to myself.
Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I view that part of my life as something I wish I could return. But if there was a way to return the hurt and the humiliation, I’d have to also return the precious jewels that came from it: my two beautiful sons, my renewed sense of self-love, and the realization that I have put myself back in the driver’s seat of my life. Because of what I’ve been through, I am empowered and I really like where I am headed.