“You make my breath catch,” he used to say all the time. He proudly retold the story of our first date in Cambridge, when he saw me walking before I noticed him. I was much more beautiful than my profile pictures he said over dinner at the no frills Thai place. He had a warmth about him, and he was so easy to talk to. His smile was a bit over zealous and goofy, but he was sweet I thought. And yes, I would like to go next door to his “sacred” music venue, to see a band that he considered tops in the city. On that very first night, I was evaluating his tastes and he was evaluating my behavior. It was a small, intimate, charming pub, framed by an old bar and wooden bench with a small nook of a stage that the band habited creatively. It was the kind of rustic New England charm that I ogled, after two decades in Southern California.
Hours after that date ended he sent me this note:
I realized that not only was I bringing you into my world on a first date, it was nearly like introducing you to my family. I suppose that if you COULDN’T handle yourself there, I should like to know that sooner rather than later … but you fit in wonderfully. You can talk the talk, you’re one of us. That’s huge to me.
Stop second guessing, I said to myself. Stop looking for the negative, and embrace the positive. Go with it.
I coined his outpouring of written affection for me the “three a.m. emails.” They first emerged after date #3. They were poetic descriptions of his feelings for me and his optimism for our future together.
25 days after our first date he sent:
I’m on the precipice here, darling. I keep trying to break this, and I can’t. Every evening I spend with you, every time you respond to my touch, everything you tell me about what you need and how you see the world lays me bare and leaves me raw. And it’s fantastic. I feel like we connect more every time we talk or see each other, and I’m just letting it wash over me. Like you, I didn’t see this coming. I wasn’t expecting to miss you like I did this past weekend. Even so, I’m not thinking ahead, I’m only thinking to the next time I can see you. I’m not letting my past drag me down, I’m only examining where I’ve been to make sure I don’t repeat my mistakes. And I find myself unable to let go of you, unwilling to watch you go, until I finally do break free and find myself just smiling.
At first, I was moved. What romanticism, what affection. (I called him “my poet”). But it was still early, my walls up as usual, I didn’t feel like he could possibly feel so strongly about me, in such a short period of time. His lavish emails also made me feel pressured, did he expect the same response from me?
Now, I can see that those were the first moments in our relationship when I questioned myself, distrusted what my gut told me (that he couldn’t genuinely feel serious love for me that early), and instead, that I was the one who needed to adjust and have faith.
Among the flowers, the songs shared, the gifts, there was no easing up of his over-the-top attention and expression of his sincere emotions for me. I asked myself if this was too good to be true. Could he really love me so soon, so much? When I questioned him, and spew out my usual sarcastic, self-deprecating words – he talked me down from that ledge. The pedestal I felt he had put me on became a more comfortable and special place that was exclusively for me. It felt incredible.
There it was – this love, this powerful, intense love. Like a laser beam from him into me, I felt lit up. And I was totally drawn in. I was gold, valuable, precious, irreplaceable. His.
Was this a deeper, truer love than I had ever had? We had discovered one another at the clearest moment for each of us, as we expressed. His two divorces, my bad romance and divorce a suitable match – we were stripped of our past layers that helped shape us, guide us and lead us to “US.” We invented custom, impressionable phrases in our own language of love, used consistently as a foundation to justify our one-of-a-kind bond: uncommon, sure-footed, out of time… His friends recognized me from his public displays of his adoration for me.
“I feel like I already know you!” They’d say at first introduction.
“I’m a lucky man,” he would say. “Just look at her.”
I was the most beautiful woman in any room. My baseline was beautiful. He knew me better than I thought he did. And he wasn’t going anywhere. Like, ever.
He made me question my own self-worth. Why wouldn’t I love you like this? He would ask in a concerned tone of voice that a psychotherapist uses. He continued to assert that I was nowhere near the confidant woman that I claimed to have been. As if he was challenging and pushing me to check myself. I did everything I could do keep the high I felt from his grand affection.
Over time, I felt depleted. I didn’t realize then, that he was feeding off me, like a parasite.
That draw, that allure, that power took over me. How was I so naïve that I fell for it? How badly was I in need of love? Silly me thought I had earned the status of being “the greatest love” of his life. In reality, I was just the next source of energy that he needed to try and fill his un-fillable void inside of his body. I wasn’t special at all. Nor loved. Nor gold. I was dirt, meaningless dirt. The pedestal came down as quickly as it went up.
In my research of narcissists over the past few months, I am so frequently shaken by descriptions that feel eerily on target with who he was and how he behaved. This particular passage says so much about the hard fall for a narcissist, about how powerful the allure and draw are. She uses “illusion” as a way of making this point clear.
The phrase “I would die for you” is literal. Because one who stays hooked into a narcissist does begin to die. The desire for the illusion of love to be real is so strong that one will stay forever hooked into that illusion until she completely loses herself, commits suicide or creates an illness in her body. (source)
That word is pretty remarkable – illusion. What is perceived is different from the way it is in reality. Kindof like you’re under the influence of a drug. Now, I am fixated on uncovering what was wrong with the reality that our relationship presented. Which came first- the narcissist or the illusion I held onto?