After my second child (my first in my second marriage) my husband began studying for his degree, as well as working full time. This led to a level of stress with which he simply could not cope, no time for his family and a lot of resentment towards me (everything was always my fault), and the slow unravelling of the twisted web of lies that was our life together.
My husband had always had an addictive personality, but so do many people who manage without great consequence so I didn’t feel any cause for concern. However, as the pressure began to mount without a healthy outlet, he began to depend on alcohol more and more to unwind. What started as a couple of beers after work, before the kids went to bed and he could concentrate, quickly became 6-8 beers and a couple of strong mixers to keep him awake as he sat alone into the night to get his assignments done. As he became more and more dependent on alcohol it became less about study and more about escape. Drinking was his release from the stresses of life. Soon his emotional escape became a physical one, he would return from work dump his bags and off to the pub he would go.
Every day I was left alone and baffled, there I was baby up jumper (Zebby our third had arrived un planned before Lily was even two), house a bomb site, toddler picking leaves of herbs as I tried to include her in cooking a gourmet hello fresh meal, he wouldn’t bother to eat but regardless, and a broken record of a seven-year-old enquiring how much longer it would be playing in the background.
I stood every day just the same, completely at a loss as to how a man that claimed to love his family could walk into this chaos and instead of helping, instead of taking over the dinner for 10 minutes so I could get the baby down, he was angry at me that this was what his life looked like.
That’s the thing about narcissists though, all they care about is how things LOOK not how they ARE! A Narcissist needs to look good, they would rather impress a stranger than be loved by their own family, and I just wasn’t built for that. So, I broke. One cold, heavy snow day last February we were trapped in the house together and I called time on our relationship.
Shortly after this I began the search for a marriage councillor that could help us find a way through the mess we were in, with the hope that one day with enough work our relationship could be restored. I found one and booked a consultation. I was so filled with hope that we were going together even driving in the same car. I thought this is it we are going to be okay, boy was I wrong! We argued right there in front of the head of the counselling program. He kept niggling me with all those comments narcissists are so skilled at, the ones that sound good to everyone else but are designed to hurt you and make you react so you look like the crazy one. I of course took the bait and was devastated when he then refused to attend counselling together and demanded we see separate councillors until I learned to be reasonable. Needless to say, my husband quit very soon after, but I stayed with my councillor and saw her weekly for several months.
It was during this time that I came to realise I had been abused. It seems ludicrous that I hadn’t known all along but these things start so subtly and you get into the habit of making excuses for their behaviour until in the end you don’t even realise that your hiding it from yourself. It started so small, nothing I said or did was good enough, he would comment on the smallest perceived flaw, and drag up my past as if it’s something I should be ashamed of. Slowly these things become more frequent and I was left feeling constantly wounded, ground down, emotionally beaten and torn, all the while he would swan about like God’s gift and how dare I be so ungrateful! As time went on, I stopped realising that he was violating my boundaries, that he didn’t care about my feelings or have any respect at all for the word NO!
I was left feeling unworthy and ashamed of who I am. Eventually my self esteem was shot and anxiety sparked over the tiniest of things I was a broken shell of a woman.
Narcissists often begin to subtly cross over into other forms of abuse you quickly learn that there’s no point saying no to sex, its far simpler and ultimately hurts less physically and emotionally to just do what they want, but its more than that. Narcissists often intersperse their abuse with periods of kindness, this was how my husband managed to be physically abusive without me even realising. It was when he was saying loving things and being sweet to me that he would also be holding me in a way that was painful and often bruised my arms to the point I was planning to see the doctor and have my blood checked. This is all part of how they condition you so that you become trauma bonded and feel like you need them and their abuse to be happy, so they keep you coming back for more. This went on for almost a year even after I had left my husband and we ended up getting back together for a few short months and you know what the first week was incredible but that’s all there was a week at most before things were nastier than ever culminating in him having a melt down on Christmas day that scared me and which I very much pandered to for the sake of my children but by new year’s day I had the strength I needed to leave again. This time for good.
I still receive streams of cruel and delusional, abusive messages from time to time to the point I have been advised not to be home alone if he is picking up the kids. Then he will change tact and I’ll get messages saying he’s crying because he misses me – it’s not real – not a single word. Not the good ones or the bad ones, it’s all just part of the manipulation, that’s all there ever is.
Even though I know all this and recognise what’s happening I still do what he wants more than I would like, slowly and I’m still not all the way there I am learning to archive his messages and not look at them, over analysing every word (because you can’t just block their number when you have kids together). I’m learning to set boundaries and he is learning to push them a little less. Little by little my confidence is coming back, I see friends more and do what I love, little by little I am growing strong and becoming the kind of woman my sons can respect and my daughter can look up to, and in all of this mess I am starting to learn how to manage not just my own trauma but how to face the on going issues it causes for my children.