Relationship end, or really……..
It’s taken me seven years to start speaking on my experiences of an abusive relationship. The length of the relationship itself, in fact. Am I over him? Absolutely. Am I over the relationship? I think so. Am I over the abuse? I’m barely getting started. We’re approaching International Women’s Day and it’s in this energy that I’d like to focus on how we’re still controlled, even after the relationship has come to an end.
Co-parenting with a narcissist is hard, incredibly fucking hard. Trying to have an adult conversation with someone who ignores you or makes personal verbal attacks and doesn’t give you clarity, is challenging.
It’s taken me a long time to recognise and accept where this man is still controlling me and still abusive. It’s kind of crazy how we can expect it all to end because we live in separate houses, because the relationship is over.
I told myself that moving away would help me regain my life, create a sense of freedom that I never knew I needed. And it did in some ways, but I’ve remained locked into some unhealthy habits and it’s time for it to end.
My roots weren’t healthy ones
I grew up in an abusive home, I never knew my dad and my first stepdad sexually abused me. My second stepdad was mentally and emotionally abusive, and I felt the wrath of never referring to him as “Dad”. My expectations in relationships were non-existent and my views of men were low. I knew I hated to be sexually objectified by men, even at 18 years old it made me feel uncomfortable. But it was the only language I knew in engaging with me or them engaging with me. Have you ever wondered why you do certain things? Why you get into the relationships that you do? Why you hold onto connections that have lost their spark? I do, I think about it a lot.
I never knew I had a choice in who I chose to engage with on a romantic level, those boundaries were never taught to me. I went along with interest, feeling flattered that someone would even give me the time of day.
Getting sucked in
When I met the narcissist, I was in a sad and lonely mental space, nursing a broken heart from losing my mother to cancer. I was lost, head stuck in dark clouds and totally going through the motions of an empty life. It sounds bleak but it was. And when our paths crossed and I felt the intensity of his interest, I felt like I’d been saved. And isn’t that how they get you? When you’re at your most vulnerable?
I didn’t see it then, but I became dependant. It was encouraged and it was embraced, why? Because of course it benefited him. After he cheated, my self-esteem became so low I stopped caring about myself. All I cared about was pleasing him and proving myself to him, showing him how worthy I was of loyalty and love. When I think about it now, I feel a little sad. I was so desperate to be accepted, I felt like I needed him to be whole, and I realise now he capitalised upon that. I allowed myself to be hurt and manipulated for years because I truly believed that was the only way.
I don’t look back with regret, I know what I know now and I’m not in the place I was. I’ve recognised where the narcissist still has influence, where he has demonstrated total power and control. And for years, I have allowed it to continue, feigning ignorance, pleading helplessness, but it is not the truth.
Find your voice, you need to find it
I’ve been living with a lie, holding onto a pretence that I didn’t have any control at all. I’ve become dependent upon a habit of dismissing my own needs and thoughts and beliefs, in favour of “keeping the peace”. Do you ever do that? Go along with something you disagree with, simply because you just don’t have the energy to fight about it? Well, sis, I challenge you to find that energy. I challenge you to stand on your own two feet, even if your legs tremble and your knees knock together from fear and speak your truth. Raise your voice, if you must, get angry, lose your temper, demand respect and don’t back down even when threatened.
I did this very same thing, with no make up and no eyebrows, with the tiniest bit of self-belief and a whole lot of fear, as I stood up to the narcissist while he implied aggressive consequences. He paced back and forth, stood and spoke over me, and threatened me without explicably saying anything. Isn’t it clever how they do that? How they’re able to insinuate violence and power, without saying “I’m going to beat you for this” or “Watch what you get now”? It’s this method that causes you to doubt yourself later, which prompts you to question your judgement, an opportunity for him to tell you that you’re going crazy.
I felt like I was banging my head against the wall and I was tired of it. I just wanted change. I wanted us to both be on the same page. I didn’t want to be dictated to, to be disciplined or brought into line with his standards.
Moving on, and forward
I’ve been in and out of counselling over the years, pulling out the painful parts of my life and examining them. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t easy. I realise the more I speak, the more I realise what I endured and the angrier I feel about it. But I also realise that I’m not there anymore, that I’ve closed the chapter on all of that and standing up to the narcissist was about burning the book. I’ll admit, it was scary standing up to him. I felt like I was putting myself at risk, even though he has never hit me. But the threat, the implication has been enough to stop me from standing up for myself for years.
The most important thing in all of this is that I’m raising children. I’m raising girls. They’re looking to me for an example on what it means to be a woman. I am their blueprint, and that right there carries so much weight and responsibility.
I’ve been overly accommodating with co-parenting, super flexible and understanding. I’ve tried making my demands and then making none. I’ve made attempts to meet in the middle but that only works until I say or do something he dislikes. I can’t live life on the edge anymore; jumping through rings of fire to please the narcissist isn’t something I life for these days.
Instead of feeling like I’m doing him a favour by looking after our kids (they live with me, ffs), I’ve given myself permission to be their mother, and assert myself as their mother whenever I see fit.
And part of my role is about standing up for myself, about setting the standard and establishing boundaries. I didn’t learn these things as a child, which is why I believe it has had such a detrimental effect on me as an adult. I didn’t have anything to compare him to. I thought that because he didn’t hit me, then it wasn’t abuse. I believed it was better than I deserved and that I should do anything and everything to please him.
But it’s just not my job to make him happy, and I release myself of that responsibility, finally.
Annika Spalding is an award-winning author, a Writing Coach and a workshop facilitator. Through her books, blog and other creative projects, you’ll experience the magic that comes with witnessing self-belief and self-love in action.
If you recognise aspects of your story in this post, and want to talk to someone in confidence send us an email at email@example.com You are not alone.
If you have a story to share and would like to feature as a guest contributor please send us an email.