My life was drastically and forever changed after I read these inauspicious words from my husband …
My friend was telling me about how this thing happens to lots of guys, especially “nice guys” (like me); you meet a girl, and you want that girl, so you just become whatever you have to become to make it work with that girl. You filter your jokes, you change your style, you basically tweak your personality. You see what shape she is, and you become the shape that fits with her. This happens more or less to different people, but I know it’s true for me. …and not just to “get the girl” either. You continue doing that to “keep the relationship together” and then to “keep the marriage from falling apart”.
So, I realized how much I’ve been doing that; pushing my thoughts, my personality into a box, and only taking out the parts that work with you.”
Dumbfounded, my heart thundered alarmingly in my ears, my breath stuck in my throat as my eyes slowly rolled over each word my beloved husband emailed to me, trying to soak in the weight of their meaning. After 11 years of an enduring, reliable relationship with this beautiful, precious soul of whom I thought I knew every inch, every facet, here he was telling me that the man I fell in love with never existed. He quietly stated this fact over the phone, to reiterate, explain, make sure I understood.
And so began my dizzying freefall into the black pit of the unknown; not only was my future now a bitter stew of nauseating chaos, but I was robbed of the honeyed past that I so carefully and lovingly built with a man whom I cherished greatly and dearly, more than my own self! (More on that later…)
Flailing in a sea of abandonment, I reached and grasped for anything I could find. That’s when I learned about narcissists and psychopaths. My good friend who had suffered a traumatizing and oddly similar experience with her husband grasped my flapping arm and thrust into my hands a book, which coincidentally my therapist also recommended, called “Woman Who Love Psychopaths” by Sandra L. Brown. Turning each page, I found my relationship with my beloved inscribed in dark letters. I binge-read the entire book in about 3 hours. You could imagine how my jaw hit the floor when I got to the part about psychopaths that read:
“Women are sideswiped by his ability to ‘put up a good front’ even as he exploits them. She doesn’t realize psychopathy lies behind his charming exterior. He social-climbs into everyone’s good graces using charisma, a good sense of humor, and an optimistic outlook (at least on the surface). If his mask should slip a bit, he simply ‘impression manages’ his way right back into positive believability.
He deceives women into believing that impression management = good character. She doesn’t recognize that at his core, he does not have the capacity (based on brain function) to develop conscience. Instead, he compensates with the gift of gab, good impression management, and often success and intelligence. Throw in a little gaslighting every time she starts to get close to his real behavior, and you have someone flying so far under her radar that it takes her months, if not years to realize it. Once she realizes it, it takes others, including family members and friends, many years to realize it too—if they ever do.”
As I unpacked the typical, daily things of my marital relationship with my therapist, I discovered that many little things were big signs, and had I known…had I known…I wouldn’t have excused his behavior for the countless reasons with which I handily provided myself for lacking this or noticing that, and I could have realized that I was in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man.
And here’s the darndest thing: I chose him.
When I had met him, I had a lot of other options. I had a couple of really sweet guy friends – one with whom I was on the verge of falling in love – and they all let me know in their own way that they were available for more, for both me and my daughter. I wasn’t rushing into anything because I had just ended a relationship and wasn’t wanting to jump into something right away.
But there was this undeniable force, this thing that drew me to this man, the man who was emotionally unavailable; the man who was a psychopath. He showed to Act I in the play brilliantly! He carefully crafted himself to be my perfect match; funny, sensitive, intelligent, sweet, creative, thoughtful and romantic. So I chose him. I chose him even though right from the start he showed me that he was trying to triangulate our relationship with another woman (another classic trait of psychopaths). I chose him even though the day after our wedding I started getting panic attacks out of the blue, and continued having them for over a year, and struggled with health issues for the duration of our union. I chose him when my dad died, and all he offered me was a gruff “you’re not dead yet. Stop acting like you are.” Or when his dad died and he didn’t cry, and I asked him if he was sad and he casually said “no, we weren’t that close”— and those words became tiny shards of glass that embedded in my heart, making me wonder what he would say if I had died. I chose him every day of our 11 years together, remembering the magic he showed me, and occasionally treated me to, mistaking those glimpses for who he really was. The whole time I was waiting for “that thing” to happen that would finally make him happy and release him from his stress (my reasoning why he wasn’t always “that guy”) and deliver my promised one back to me.
1. the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
The word relationship has its origin from the Anglo-French word “relacioun,” which means “the act of telling”. We connect with others and through those connections we tell our stories. We live out our subconscious beliefs about ourselves and life through our relationships. Our relationships become our stories brought to life.
When I was a baby, my sweet mother was also still a baby, and decided that my life would be better with people who were prepared to be parents. She selflessly gave me up for adoption. I spent an uncharacteristically long time in a foster home (over 3 months as a newborn) and by the time my mom and dad adopted me, I was a complete basket case. They said they were quite certain that something terrible happened to me in that foster home because when they brought me home, they discovered they had an inconsolable, terrified, fussy and edgy baby.
I remember as a small child, waking up in the middle of the night to my mother shrieking at me to stop yelling whilst I was releasing blood curdling screams due to night terrors. Even as a young child, I was plagued with the incessant thoughts of nobody likes me… Nobody wants me. I need to try to please people, to win them over, to make them love me, because my life depends on it. And in the end, these people will abandon me anyways. They always do. I have countless life experience as evidence, piled up in heavy loads in my heart.
These were the core beliefs subconsciously running my life. OF COURSE I would choose the psychopath over healthy, great guys! I needed to live out my story. And he provided me with a life that felt very familiar, and so while it wasn’t “happy” or “good”, it sure was comfortable! I knew how to deal with someone who was withdrawn, someone I had to try to make happy. I was familiar with my closest loved ones being distant, self-absorbed, and unaffectionate, as I would strenuously battle for the prize of their love, attention and approval.
The other guys I mentioned before went on to have amazing lives. They have married beautiful women and are seemingly having the kind of relationship that I have always craved but never managed to experience. It makes perfect sense that I didn’t choose them, because it was unfamiliar to me, strange, and a bit uncomfortable to be really and truly loved and accepted. Cherished. I didn’t know how to navigate those waters.
That was all then. Now I am awake. Conscious. Aware.
I now see how all of those things have been buried in my subconscious, burning for expression, so that I could acknowledge these stories and finally recognize that my brain had been faithfully following their silent script and serving it up in my existence. Now, instead of looking to others to please them and to win them over so that this terrified little girl can finally be loved and accepted, I have taken her on myself.
Instead of screaming “can someone please get that crying baby to stop??!”, I run over to that baby and cradle her in my arms. Looking in her eyes, I can now love and soothe her, assess her needs and happily provide, just like I used to do in the past for my mother, my father, my ex-husband…everyone else. All of that love and affection, I can finally shower it on her. On myself. She and I have the most amazing relationship. My heart is filled with a calm and peaceful knowing that this relationship will indeed last forever. And in this centered place, I know that the relationships I create with others will be very, very different. Hell, they already are.
So follow me on my journey as we dive deep into relationships; the art of connecting with others (and ourselves) to tell our stories. Let’s consciously create our present, together. You and I, in relationship together will figure out our buried, worn, cracked old stories and discover how to be free of their silent grip so we may blossom into our fullest, truest, happiest selves.
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