I’m Just Too Much Work

Warning: Possible triggers for survivors of all kinds of abuse. Oh, and some venting & cursing, too. 

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Remember how I said this blog would get really real, and that I was going to share some of my story with you as it was happening? Well, yesterday was quite a day… 

Unfortunately, I still have to be in close contact with my… wtf do I even call him anymore? “Soon-to-be ex” isn’t completely accurate, because he is my ex now. It doesn’t matter that we’re not divorced yet. Our marriage is over, and there is no chance of ever going back. So, “ex” it is. Anyway, we still have to share some very significant things: most importantly children, and for financial reasons at the moment, we share a car, and unfortunately, a living space. (I’ve been working really hard to gain my freedom as soon as possible, though.)

Now that we are living as “roommates” (who have to co-parent and were supposedly trying to “learn to be friends”), he’s taken to purposely picking fights with me. He intentionally started the second fight we’ve had this month yesterday morning, and he said some of the most vile things he’s ever said to me during it… Things you definitely wouldn’t say to a friend, let alone the mother of your children. Or at least you wouldn’t think.

I’m sharing this with you today because I want you to have real life examples of how these abuse tactics are used against targets (I refuse to use the word “victim” anymore). I want you to understand what toxic people do, and why they do it. I want to empower you through my experiences. If I had/have to suffer through them, I want someone else to also benefit from what I’ve learned.

The first fight he instigated took place the morning after our daughters and I went to see one of our favorite bands. We had the best time! We got to meet them, take pictures with them, actually talk to them about music and gigs for a few minutes, and they gave us their set list as a souvenir. During the show, one of my daughters was serenaded, and the other one got to sing a line into the lead singer’s microphone. Pretty cool, right? All in all, it was an awesome girls’ night out, and I’m so grateful for the memory…and pictures! But toxic people can’t let anyone have fun or positive experiences without making them pay for it, especially during a breakup. That’s why he started a meaningless argument with me, which rapidly devolved into a deluge of narcissistic abuse, the very next morning.

I don’t exactly know why he started the argument yesterday. I have some guesses, but nothing as obvious as the first one, so I won’t speculate right now. All I know is that it spiraled out of control quickly. He used the playbook: minimizing/trivializing, sweeping generalizations, gaslighting, twisting my words, outright insults, interrupting, stonewalling, and in an ending no one should be surprised by, he attempted to become my victim. At one point, I asked him why he keeps claiming he wants to work on our friendship when he clearly doesn’t, because friends don’t treat each other the way he was treating me. His response was, “you’re too much work!” Yes, that must be it. Being my friend is too much work, because I’m such a pain in the ass.

But that isn’t the worst part. In fact, I won’t give any more details about anything else, because I don’t want to distract from the major lesson. 

Yesterday I learned that I have been a “bad wife” (and that I am “not even wife material” / no one else will ever want me). His reasons are stunning:

1. I’ve “never” liked him.

2. The anxiety disorder and C-PTSD I have from all of the abuse I am trying to heal from with no help has adversely affected his life.

3. And here’s the kicker: the sexual abuse, assault, and rape I endured throughout my childhood and teens have also affected his life for over 20 years, and I don’t even care about that because everything is always about me.

Obviously, I know these things do not make me a bad wife (or any kind of sense whatsoever, for that matter). The fact that he thinks they do, makes him a bad husband (and he is beyond “bad husband material”). I get that. However, it doesn’t make it any less detrimental to my recovery process to have someone consistently trying to spin my head like this, and particularly using my past abuse against me as if it’s something I’ve done to him. And I don’t think he really wants to change anymore. I used to believe he did, but he’s a compulsive liar, and I’m an eternal optimist, so I’m pretty sure I was believing what I wanted to for no good reason. I know better. I should only believe his actions; never his words. I think he’s bent on torturing me until I can finally move out. I hope I’m wrong, but that seems unlikely.

Here’s what I want you to know:

1. My ex claimed I’ve “never” liked him because, first of all, sweeping generalizations are difficult to argue against. Second of all, narcissists and other toxic people are the ones who basically “always” behave in an abusive manner; therefore, they are projecting when they use generalizations against others. (My “never” liking him was in reference to the number of times throughout our marriage when I would actually stand up to him because I’d finally had enough of his laziness, irresponsibility, and lies.) And finally, now he’s the victim and his recurrent abuse of me is justified in his mind.

Here’s the reality, though. I bent over backward trying to be his best friend and make our marriage work, and I’ve done (literally) all the emotional heavy lifting in our relationship, because the only emotions he seems to experience with any consistency are negative. Everything was always fine…as long as I kept my mouth shut and let him do whatever he wanted, which was almost never what he should have been doing. Occasionally, I’d become sick of it and try to get him to do something he didn’t want to do (like, wake up on time for work), and it would turn into a nasty fight because I was such a “nag” or whatever. Again, he is my victim and does not have to be accountable for his own irresponsibility or abusive behavior. See how that works?

2. My anxiety disorder and C-PTSD have made his life “more difficult” because he’s incredibly selfish and abusive. The reality is, he is not a supportive person, so I’ve never depended on him to comfort me in any way. (I learned to self-soothe at a very young age from being left to care for myself after instances of abuse, or any time I was upset about anything.) So, how have they made his life harder, exactly? Easy. His abuse triggers me, and that’s super annoying to him. That’s really been a horrible hardship, I’m sure. Doesn’t your heart just break for him?

3. He blames me for his internet porn addiction and “having to masturbate for 20 years” because, you know, sweeping generalizations again, and not wanting to take responsibility for his own actions. The reality is, I’ve had plenty of sex with him. Sometimes when I didn’t really want to because I felt obligated. Sometimes it felt an awful lot like rape, because I would start having flashbacks during it, and it didn’t really matter. I’m not saying he raped me, but he didn’t always stop fucking me when the flashbacks started either. He usually pretended not to notice somehow; meanwhile, I’d end up frozen in fear, or crying and shaking fairly violently, and in extreme cases, vomiting.

That’s what impacted him, incidentally. The times he couldn’t ignore it, and would have to stop. He even had the nerve to tell me he stopped having sex with me altogether because he “cares” about me and didn’t want to cause my flashbacks, when in actuality, they were annoying and inconvenient (much like me). That’s why he turned to porn and serial masturbation. It’s all my fault as far as he’s concerned. He said I’ve “robbed him of 20 years” of his life all because I couldn’t fuck him the way he wanted me to all the time. That’s what our life together has been all about for him. I’ve been made to feel guilty for not wanting to, or not being physically able to (i.e. during pregnancy, flashbacks, illnesses, etc.), “perform” for him.

Reality Check

If I’d had a loving, caring partner who supported and encouraged me, instead of abusing me and making me feel like I had to earn his love (and never quite succeeding), maybe I’d have felt a little more like being intimate. Maybe if I hadn’t had a husband who ignored obvious signs of distress while having sex with me when he knew my history, we could have had a healthier sex life. Maybe if he wasn’t constantly caught in lies (some serious; some stupid)… Maybe if I didn’t have to worry about my mistakes, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities being thrown in my face all the time, or if the effects of my childhood abuse and his abusive treatment of me hadn’t been leveraged against me as signs that I’m deficient… I could have trusted him at all. Maybe if he wasn’t abusive, I could have felt safe with him. Maybe our lives would be different… No. Everything would definitely be different. 

If this is happening to you, please know you are not alone. It’s happening to me right now, even though I ended the relationship, I have a pretty decent understanding of why it’s happening, I know it’s wrong, and I’m well aware it’s not my fault. I’m still sort of trapped in it, because we literally can’t sustain two households at the moment, and it continues to hurt me. All of my efforts are going toward changing these circumstances as quickly as possible, but until I do, I have to live with him, and so do our children.

I allowed him to steal a day from me. I let him sabotage me once again, and it makes me angry. Because I had to recover from a three hour long attack on my character and all-out assault on my overall recovery, I lost an entire day of work (he would say I was making excuses), which certainly doesn’t help me move out any faster, and that is what I desperately need at this point. Every time he does this, it reinforces the very abuse I’m working so hard to heal from, opens some of my wounds, and it always ends with me comforting him. (Every. Single. Time.) Because I can’t stand to see anyone in pain, even if they just gutted me. (This time he cried, which may explain why he accuses me of using my tears to manipulate him. And I fell for it. He got me to comfort him in the end.) All of this keeps me trapped here in this sickness. With him. Coincidence? Doubt it.

I won’t let that happen, though. I’m determined, and I am unequivocally stronger than he is. I can’t change what happened to me, or even some of what’s happening to me right now. All I can do is continue to learn how to control my reactions to this type of abuse. Honestly, at this point, you can’t rattle me if I don’t care about you. For some reason, I still care about my ex. That makes me mad as well, but I’m trying not to be so hard on myself. Someone needs to cut me a break for once. It should probably be me.

My hope is that reading this will help someone else (ideally, before they are sucked too far into the narcissistic vortex). It is never okay for someone to hold things that are out of your control against you, especially if they are the result of abuse. If someone makes you feel like you are hard to love, they are the defective one. It’s because they don’t know how to love. It has nothing to do with you. They are sick and using you for supply. You can take back your life, and so can I. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. I believe in us. We are the strong ones, and that is why they must try to tear us down and hold us back. They fear us, because they should.

Tell Me, How Do I Feel?

Warning: this post contains possible triggers for survivors of emotional & psychological abuse.

For my entire life, I have had my feelings questioned, mocked, and dictated to me by the ones who were supposed to love me the most. The message I’ve received is that my feelings are wrong, invalid, merely a tool of manipulation, and/or I am not entitled to them at all. Furthermore, others are more entitled to their opinions about my feelings and why I am experiencing them. I now know that is not true, and I am working to repair the damage it has caused, as it has affected every aspect of my life.

Narcissists love to share their expertise on everything, especially when it comes to other people’s emotions. After all, they are experts on…well, just about everything if you ask them, but particularly feelings. (Obviously.) They won’t hesitate to let anyone know what they think of their emotions (and opinions for that matter), which is that they are unforgivably wrong if they are not in total alignment with that of the narcissist. Why? In my view, there are a few reasons.

1. The Narcissist is Always Right

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Because the narcissist is always right in their mind, if someone has a negative reaction to their behavior, that person must be wrong. For example, my first memory is being berated by my father from the driver’s seat of the car as I sat defenselessly in the backseat. He was screaming at me about how stupid I was. I have no idea what I could have possibly done to deserve that degree of a verbal tirade at such a young age, as I couldn’t have been much older than about three years. (But then again, I rarely knew what I was getting in trouble for with him. He was very volatile and anything could set him off.)

I remember saying, “I’m not stupid,” over and over again as I sobbed. I remember watching my mom through tear soaked eyes as she sat in the passenger seat doing nothing to stop it, wondering why she wouldn’t defend me (she must have agreed with him), which turned out to be a theme throughout my life. Then I got in even more trouble for “arguing” with him and he threatened to “give me something to cry about” (that was a favorite of his) because, in his mind, his abuse of me was completely warranted due to whatever minor infraction I had just committed. I remember him twisting the situation and actually managing to become the victim of a toddler by accusing me of trying to manipulate him by crying (another of his greatest hits).

A couple of days ago, my soon-to-be ex did the same thing to me. Here’s the extremely abridged story. We started arguing. The topic and reason don’t matter because the outcome was the same as it always is. There was no resolution because he cannot communicate constructively, and resorts to abuse to “win” any argument. When I reacted to his belittling of my emotions, he became exceptionally condescending, said some more incredibly hurtful things dressed up as his opinions to which he is entitled (of course), and then told me my feelings about it were ridiculous. I told him I felt like I was about to cry in a foolish attempt to communicate my pain to him, and his response was, “of course you are! That’s your go-to!” (Smacks of accusing me of trying to manipulate him with my tears, doesn’t it? I was trying to get him to understand that he was hurting me and to stop being abusive toward me, so we could talk rationally. If that’s manipulation, so be it.) When I tried explaining that I was legitimately hurt by what he said, he went into stonewall mode and told me to leave him alone; thereby, successfully (in his mind) becoming my victim because he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, and I was trying to make him do something against his will. He knew he couldn’t “win” the argument, so he shut me down with insults and wouldn’t let me speak, because he thinks whomever has the last word automatically wins. The whole thing is fairly despicable and 100% pathetic when you stop to think about it.

Playing the victim is an excellent way to shift blame and continue being right. Moreover, it is key to maintaining the narcissist’s facade. When the target reacts to the abuse naturally, they will minimize their own actions and dismiss the other person’s feelings, because if they acknowledge their behavior as the cause, they can no longer be right. Additionally, this requires them to turn the situation around and paint the target as the aggressor or abuser. To that end, the narcissist will use any of the other abusive tactics they have in their arsenal to manipulate their target, control other people’s perception of that person, and portray themselves as the victim.

2. You Are Their Projector Screen

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Compounded by their inability to see people for who they genuinely are, and their unbelievable lack of empathy for others, narcissists are masters of projection. They project their own traits, behaviors, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings onto their targets, while mimicking that person’s positive characteristics. They essentially have two selves: a false self and a true self. The false self is a facade they project outwardly for others to see and to protect their true selves. It is mainly comprised of an idealized, grandiose version of themselves, combined with some of their target’s most admirable attributes, and it masks their true self, which has been critically damaged. Since their primary goal is preserving their false self, they use projection as a way to free themselves of their undesirable personality traits and transfer them to the target by accusing them of doing the very things the narcissist is guilty of doing. Oh, the hypocrisy!

For the narcissist, projection has the happy side effect of gaslighting. Projecting inaccurate character flaws onto the target, or telling them how they feel, for instance, is effectively gaslighting them. Take this example from my childhood. Not surprisingly, my father was not the most patient person. Some of my earliest memories are of being screamed at to hurry when getting ready to leave the house to go somewhere before I was even school aged. Then my father would become enraged and accuse me of purposefully going slower just because he wanted me to go faster. He would proclaim that it proved how stupid I must be, because I was obviously trying to make him angry. Please believe me, I promise I was not doing it on purpose because, contrary to his projection, I was not stupid. If I was, indeed, going slower, it was probably because there was a maniac standing over me screaming the whole time I tried to get ready, and I was a terrified little kid. I’ve also never gotten my jollies by intentionally fucking with another human being, so that had to be some kind of projection, too. I did everything within my teeny-tiny power to avoid his wrath at all times.

To give a more recent example from a different type of relationship, during our latest argument, my soon-to-be ex was literally jumping up and down like a toddler in front of me while calling me immature. As a matter of fact, projecting his immaturity on to me is a common defense mechanism. On many occasions in the past, he has used gaslighting, condescension, infantilizing, lying, and denial against me during arguments, and then when I inevitably became upset, he would suddenly be done with it, and I was the immature one for wanting to talk about my feelings. So, in other words, he thinks it’s acceptable to insult someone, but if they want to talk about how it made them feel, they are unreasonable and immature. Sorry, pal, but that’s not going to work anymore.

3. Gaslighting is Fun, Mental, and Fundamental

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Dictating the emotions of others allows the narcissistic abuser to utilize their go-to abuse tactic: Gaslighting. For a narcissist, nothing is more enjoyable than talking in circles around their target, spinning their head by twisting their words, then interrupting them so they can’t explain themselves, and telling them what they actually meant, what they really think, and how they feel. They will even say things like, “I know you better than you know yourself,” in an attempt to convince their targets that their perception of themselves is incorrect. As a result, the target becomes too dizzy with confusion to defend themselves anymore.

However, it’s not all fun and games. A crucial function is also served. Constantly telling someone what they think, how they feel, what they’re feeling is wrong, or that they’re overreacting, erodes their perception, self-confidence, and sense of self. Over time, this causes the target to question everything, including their own sanity, not only giving the narcissist instant gratification, but priming the target to become an ongoing source of narcissistic supply as well. Simply put, narcissists (and other abusers) have to break their targets down because healthy people don’t allow themselves to be abused.

Aside from making the target feel crazy because their emotions are always being challenged and invalidated, it can also make them appear that way to others, which offers the narcissist a certain amount of protection in the form of credibility. Other people in their lives will begin to side with the abuser, as they witness the decline in the target’s mental state. Consequently, the lies the narcissist tells about the target will ring true. This aids them in isolating the target from anyone who might help or be of support to them. Now when they say, “you need help,” there will be a chorus of flying monkeys to back them up. As a parent, it’s even easier for the narcissistic abuser to manipulate other family members, friends, teachers, counselors, etc. into believing the child is the problem, and they are a loving parent trying to do what is best for them. In a romantic relationship, the narcissist might start by dropping hints to mutual friends about their partner’s “strange” behavior, irritability, or overreactions; probably playing it off as concern, so those people will be less likely to believe the target if they try to ask for help.

Putting It All Together

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Once I awakened to the reality that I was the victim of narcissistic abuse, I began the long and enduring process of putting together the pieces of my life puzzle. Suddenly, so much of it made sense and I started remembering things I had forgotten long ago, which surprised me because I remembered more of my childhood than most people seem to already. I actually have kind of a scary memory, so when other incidents came flooding back, it was considerably traumatic for me. I wasn’t prepared for the memories to get worse, and sometimes I thought I couldn’t handle it.

It is very nearly impossible for those who have not gone through it to understand narcissistic abuse and the severity of its effects on survivors. And other family members are almost certainly too entrenched in their own role in the narcissistic family dynamic to see it for what it is. If you suddenly find yourself realizing you have been the victim of this kind of abuse, please know that you are not alone, and it is/was not your fault. You were never the problem; your abuser is and was. You are worthy of love, and you are way more than enough. Educate and empower yourself. With knowledge comes understanding; with understanding comes hope.

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Personal note: It’s been a little while! I had an awesome visit with my sister and family in New York! My nephew is doing better than expected, so I won’t give up hope that he’ll beat the odds! I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know my nephew and nieces as young adults! They are exceptionally cool humans. I can’t wait to go back this Summer! I’m back home now, though. So much has happened in the last few weeks, and I’ve been doing a lot of writing, but nothing else I can share as of yet. Sometimes it takes a bit for it to coalesce into something coherent and cohesive.

Believe it or not, I’m still working on my comprehensive article on 20+ abuse tactics employed by narcissists and others with Cluster B personality disorders. It’s been more difficult than I initially imagined it would be, and I keep having to put it on the back burner in favor of paying gigs. However, I am confident it will be a helpful resource to other survivors when complete. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or if you just need someone to talk to. 🙂