You wanted to believe they were for real.
He reached me. He got through a hard-to-access covert pathway that I don’t even have the directions to. From there, how could I ever let him go?
They told you that they had never met anyone like you. They said you were special.
I was special. This was special. Different in levels of intensity than the marriage I had. Different because I had that failed marriage. I could make better choices with this one. I could adjust my behavior, my reactions, my priorities. I could be different. I was special, and he deserved every ounce of what I had to offer. I was everything to him, remember? I believed he was for real. I needed to believe he was real. My self-esteem depended on it.
When I comb through the pages of emails and letters between us, my body goes into a fight or flight response. The space under my ribcage – my true gut- tightens like a heavy pulsating rock of hot lava. I hold my breath, and my heart beats unreliably. I feel frozen, nauseous and kicked in all at once. Keep going Rachel I tell myself. Look at this. Look at what it was. Keep looking. Don’t turn away and give yourself a break.
I need to keep that connection, keep looking at what it was, and what I did. Not to focus on him or my memories of him – but because this is about me and who I am or was. I have to sort through and own my behavior in the relationship. After all, I nearly didn’t survive it.
Like staying in a yoga pose, or pushing yourself in a fitness class, the challenge will bring change. And make you stronger. Right?
Like going back to the breath in meditation. Starting over when your mind carries you away. Inhale, this is where I am now. Exhale this is what I’m doing.
When I recognized the pieces throughout our relationship that were disjointed, the sharp and piercing parts – I spoke up. I defended myself. I questioned him, I questioned us. He’d turn so quickly and throw it all with a viciousness back in my face. The most incendiary ultimatums he presented suffocated me. Usually, after a few rough character attacks from him, I succumbed and felt like he was right, I was the problem. I must not be worthy of being loved the way he said he loved me.
After a ridiculous argument that began with pickles he sent this email the following morning:
Last night was another of the countless times when you push and push and don’t realize it. You are just that unaware, that insensitive to me. I tell you AT THE TIME that I don’t like your behavior, and your response EVERY SINGLE TIME is “I’m not doing anything.” That’s bullshit. You don’t get to tell me to tell you, and when I do, you insist you’re innocent and *I* have the problem. YOU are the problem, Rachel. Your demeaning, nasty, condescending treatment, your lack of recognition when I point it out over and over again, and your insistence that my response to YOU is the problem.
My response: You can go on and on and blame me for a lot of things (like yes, the several times I’ve snapped or been curt to you over the last week or two) – but not last night. Your reaction was unacceptable FROM THE START. If you think I haven’t done a good enough job at working on myself then I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say to you. You shouldn’t have told me that you believed in me, or asked me to marry you. You AUTOMATICALLY conclude that asking if you’ve seen the pickles when you open the fridge is my way of needling and pushing you. For fuck’s sake, you really do not know me then. Just think about that response. How would you conclude that I’m being pushy? HOW? I wasn’t using a bitchy tone, I didn’t put you down, I didn’t say one OTHER single comment aside from the pickles were visible when you opened the fridge door. Yeah, what a fucking cunt I am for asking why you hadn’t tried them. *Three sentences* were spoken about it before you became ENRAGED.
That argument didn’t completely come to an end. A day after the email exchanges, and going to bed without speaking, he packed up some stuff and went to stay with his friend for a few months, while I continued to “work” on myself, as he requested since I didn’t react the right way. (If you’ve followed this blog, that is also when he took my engagement ring away from me until he decided that I deserved it)
You needed to be seen and heard the way this person seemed to see and hear you.
A fury of emotions takes over my body when I read through our exchanges after fights. His words, so carefully and intellectually laid out in the most masterful prose like poetry are bookended with ultimatums that cut and burn my insides, even now. What strikes me the most – is how many versions of “I’m done” he uses – throughout every single letter. The ultimate threat that he’d leave if I didn’t do this, or be that way…pop off the page in a glowing red.
Him: There is one way out of this, and I told you what I need. You need to tear down all of your defenses, all of your redirections, and STOP treating me like shit. STOP denying you’re doing anything wrong when I tel you, over and over and over again, that you’re hurting me. How insensitive must you be to hear “PLEASE stop doing this” over and over, and wrap yourself in the bullshit mantle of “I didn’t do anything”? You are effectively DECIDING to keep hurting me. So tell me why I should be with someone who is DECIDING to hurt me?
The harder I defended, the more he retreated and the more serious his threats became.
You needed to believe they were for real.
After some time, I would rationalize his inappropriate behaviors. I told myself that this man was just different…intense…broken…in pain.
Him: The only thing I will respond to now is two words … “I’m sorry”. No more bullshit “but what about what YOU did”. I told you that, and I goddamn mean it. Tear yourself down to the bone, strip away all of your bitchiness and nastiness and self-defense and self-righteousness, and BE SORRY for all of the hurt you cause. You need to acknowledge the difference between intent and perception, allow me to not like something you do or say, and then own it. Change it. Stop being a bitch. No more turning it around. You KNOW that the only time you need to worry about me being angry is when you’re being a bitch … so try not being a bitch. See? It starts with you. Period.
So I dug in, gave in, and devoted myself to proving him wrong, that I was the woman he could love. I didn’t let myself imagine it any other way.
Me, two days after the argument: I’m sorry. For every single time that I hurt you or made you afraid or made you doubt that I loved or respected you. I’m sorry for snapping, and taking my shit out on you, getting angry at the dumbest things, not being able to control my frustration, and starting any fire at all. I hear you, I hate that I hurt you. I love you. I will always love you.
I tried harder to see myself as he did, be more careful with his heart. I guess I could really be a horrible person, my voice inside cried. The seeds to poison my self-esteem were planted deep. Except I certainly couldn’t have had much esteem to begin with, right? The gaslighting brought it to the lowest level. And by the end, my life ruptured into a thousand pieces that I’m still examining. Which pieces will fit now?
This passage from NarcissismFree.com is everything at the moment:
The narcissist in your life provides such excellent clues to where you have abandoned and betrayed you. If the true narcissists of the world are here to be button pushers for the rest of us then when they move on to someone else they are simply doing their job of pushing buttons with someone else who needs to learn those same kinds of lessons.