I went out for dinner with a friend this evening. This person knows some of my story, but not all, as partly I don’t know the individual particularly well, being fairly new to my social circle, and partly because I have a question mark in my mind, perhaps unfairly, regarding how discreet and how trustworthy this mortal is with the information I have disclosed.
Being in relationships where I was constantly undermined and gas-lighted, in my case my childhood and then my marriage, left me often questioning my sanity and doubting myself. I second-guessed every decision I made; I considered things from as many angles as possible, because I never knew where the next verbal or emotional punch would come from and had to be prepared as best as possible with explanations for the other party, as well as trying to minimise my suffering for having made an “incorrect” decision. Therefore when I get the feeling that someone is untrustworthy, I take the time to look at it from all sides, weighing up whether this is genuinely how I feel or if it is a fear-based response because of my history or if it is someone else’s voice in my head.
I have been told that I am slow to process things. This is not entirely true. I usually know my response to a situation very quickly, but I don’t like to verbalise it until I have examined my response thoroughly. I also like to get outside opinion on certain issues, to “fact-check” my conclusions. I respect certain people’s world views and so when I ask them how they would respond, I can see if it fits with my verdict. If it doesn’t then I look at it all again, because it may be that I am being misguided by something, but it may also be that we just have differing opinions, in which case, I wonder why and explore that until I am satisfied that my result is not biased unduly by one of my narcissist’s voices in my head or fear of reprisal.
This constant analysis can drive you crazy, but ironically, it is one of the ways that kept me alive. Establishing whether I was in fact nuts, whether I was misunderstanding a situation (as I had been lead to believe), whether I was as stupid and incompetent as I was being told, meant that I spoke to people close to me often, which, in turn, helped me process and kept me from driving off the cliff.
A favourite comment from my husband was that he was “only joking” and that I had no sense of humour. Why was it that I couldn’t understand his jokes? Everyone else could see it was funny. For example, he asked me when I was away for ten days if I was missing the monster that lurked in my bed (him) and if I was happier being away from the kids and having my own space, since I hadn’t given them a thought before leaving. I told him that his comments were petty and spiteful and hurtful and that I had given much thought to the well-being of the kids before I left, to the extent that I had organised all of their meals for a 10 day period, got someone to sleepover every night whilst I was away to help with bathing and bedtime and breakfast and school dressing and so on. I had arranged lifts to and from birthday parties and home from school every day. The only thing my husband had to do the entire time I was away was drive the children to school in the morning and fetch one of them once. (Which he forgot to do, incidentally). I also told him that I don’t consider him to be a monster, which turned out to be a trap, as that was thrown right back at me. He asked me why I don’t have sex with him and seduce him as often as he would like (at least 3 or 4 times a week in his book, as per all other normal couples), as well as why I don’t appreciate him enough, if I don’t consider him to be a monster. The conversation concluded with him stating that he had only been joking and I took it all so seriously and should lighten up and develop some ability to laugh.
Admittedly the above interaction was when our marriage was in its final death throes. However, it is an example of repeated behaviour that went on throughout. The nasty jibes and comments (“Look – Mommy has brown stuff coming out of her mouth while she is talking!”), followed by – “I’m just joking”. The triangulation – “Everyone else thinks it’s funny”. How I don’t meet societal norms – I don’t want sex with him on an almost daily basis. I’m not up to his standards either – unappreciative. And so on and so on.
I have learned the term crazy-making. A narcissist really does do that. My therapist has had me ask her on numerous visits whether I am in fact insane or at best, abnormal. She was so delighted when I finally said that I thought it was time to leave the marriage. (She did try and hide it but it was written all over her face!) It still took me 7 months from then to tell my husband that we were over, but it was the first step in my journey.
I still don’t see the patterns every time and get sucked into the crazy behaviour, but having my own accommodation and not seeing my narc on a daily basis has helped hugely with healing. It was almost debilitating to move out, but it was the best thing to do, all things considered.