The Games They Play: How Narcissists (Try to) Make It Our Fault
Updated: Jul 1
They are charismatic, charming, and even sweet. They have a playbook with their own rules--rules they don't share with us. If we break them?
They. Will. Make. Us. Pay. But they will lure us with love bombing, manipulation, fuck with our heads, our hopes, our dreams, dangling false promises to keep us on their hooks, with a line straight to our hearts. Before we know it, we are in a nightmare world, caught in a vicious cycle of lies, abusive rants, silent treatment, love bombing, and more, finding ourselves clamoring to appease their insatiable egos.
If yours was anything like mine? He wanted something from you. Mine wanted my writing and communication expertise to help him build his addiction/recovery motivational business aka empire--while he sabotaged himself with inappropriate online behavior and stagnant thinking aka he wanted me to do it for him. Hard. Pass. I'm not anybody's foolish free labor; he is lazy. I fight to live and still try to engage in activism and writing. He is not stupid, but he wants to be in charge, dominant, and do as little work as possible. I'm not the one.
The very last night I spoke to him, I broke. He was trying to get me to agree to never report any abusive or unhinged, rageful behavior to the police, authorities, or anyone, ever. (There was history) My refusal was my fault. By the time he told me what he told his mother--that his abuse of me months ago must not have been that bad? I lost it. I found myself yelling at him. The experts call that reactive abuse when the narc/abuser provokes a fight/flight or survival reaction/strong emotive response from their victim/partner that they then use to claim they (the narc/abuser) are the one being victimized.
It is our fault, again.
"You may not inflict the pain and also tell me how much it hurts!" I yelled, triggered, the floodgates of too many of his abuses now blown wide open. I didn't know it then, but I was done. He continued his provocation. I kept yelling, refusing to back down. He called me unforgiving, but I was mentally seeing him for the first time, very clearly.
I reminded him of a time when I felt unsafe years ago due to his hidden drug dealing that he brought into my life, and later I discovered. It scared me so much, being a single woman, living in a nearly all-glass lakehouse that I wrote the police. Had he been upfront, that wouldn't have happened. That was my fault and over-reaction, he said. "It wasn't that bad," he said. "You just like to call the cops," he smirked, an absurd comment, given my aversion to calling them from a traumatic history of abuse. I told him, again. "My safety is my concern, not yours!" A true man and partner would have understood my fear, and done everything not to bring any cause for it into my life.
He said I'm always calling the cops and overreacting. I yelled again. NO. I call when I feel there is harm to me or others who can't defend themselves. What did I know about opioid drug dealing? I didn't ask for that!
I called the authorities but did not file a report when he terrorized his son and me during Thanksgiving week 2020. That he didn't know, as he only knew I called his mother. The state wouldn't pursue a case unless I filed a report and I refused to retraumatize his autistic son more than he already had been. I think I knew I was not going to be with such an unstable man. That is likely why I held that information. Had I loved and trusted him, I'd have told him. But I didn't. The son I loved, dearly.
I only called the state in the first place after I did a lot of research and made many phone calls to every expert I could find in his state. Those experts told me I should not have kept the abusive father's rage toward the autistic son and me or the conditions in which they were living to myself. They said I should not have just called the grandmother, because grandparents have no rights there. The city also chided me for not calling immediately when I was there in November 2020.
The nex (narcissistic ex) minimized the entire affair as "it was the equivalent of stubbing his [the son's] toe" when the man was in full rage and the autistic child was hysterically crying in terror, and I was terrified to the point of near-post-traumatic stress disorder freeze. The man, by the way, spoke of wanting to kill himself afterward, once the child called to me, I went to the child and we all calmed down.
But it was all my fault. Afterward, he called himself all kinds of names so " you can get over it already." There is never any true understanding of the impact of his actions, and he will speak of narcissism as if the behaviors he engages ...he is not engaging in...often while engaging those behaviors. He accuses others of narcissism but won't look at the man in the mirror!
The gift of the last night is that it sent me over the top. I realized I was not safe, did not want him in any way, and was too traumatized by him, overall. I wanted to believe in our fairytale, but it wasn't a fairytale. It was a lie. He was a lie. I was telling myself he was something he wasn't, my best friend, my "meant-to-be." He was a self-indulgent man-child who wanted his way and didn't care who he hurt, didn't want to pay dues, and had a history of being supported by women in many ways, which was something that caused me to keep him at arm's length, including then.
Use and abuse were not too far from his mind and capacity, and he was showing me. I was correcting his speech. "You are going to be so good for my future" would be something he would say. I would say back to him, how about: " We are going to be so good for each other..." But the original seed was always there. You can't make a rotten apple fresh again.
I wasn't crazy that night I yelled at him, but I did hit my limit of his abuse; I was unable to take any part of him, anymore, not the love bombing, the manipulation, none of it.
All I wanted was to go, and him gone, out of my life, forever. The last thing I said to him, when he called the next day, saying, "You're not making me feel better," after I reiterated that my safety would be mine to determine, to navigate, not his, was "I'm sorry I can't be your fairy godmother. It isn't my job to make you feel better." At that moment, I knew he lost complete control over me, and I was free of him. He held no parts of me to manipulate.
As I blocked him from email and everywhere I could on the web, I felt a freedom I'd never felt before, though healing would be another matter, more involved. The hardest part was cutting him off. I had more important things to attend to than a self-important, selfish, narcissistic, attention-seeking, dishonest and cruel man. My sister, knowing what it takes to get me to go off and yell like that, asked for clarification, "YOU 'yelled' at him?"
Yes, I did, and he will never get anywhere near me again. I'm done. I was reactive and didn't realize I hit my limit before he triggered it, nor that I'd go off on him that way. Ask me if I'm sorry? Ask me how many tears I've cried over the time I've known him? Ask me how many times has he broken my heart? Ask me how many times he tried to break me, manipulate me over the years? Ask me how much abuse I've endured in the past year, alone from him?
(I'm writing a series spanning the 20 years I've known him because it holds many lessons for women in abusive and narcissistic relationships. "Love at First Nightmare" is an honest, storied teaching account of what to look for and what not to do in these relationships, a cautionary tale I never set out to write. But the pain of remembering the abuse from last year, the self-harm I engaged in its wake, and all of the impact of his abuse and behavior over our time together inspired me to start this series from start to finish, and another project involving other women is in development.)
I couldn't take any more on that final night, though I didn't know that night was my "enough" night. It may have been the subtle way he was trying to get into my head. It struck me as evil, beyond manipulative. "I just need you to say I was not abusive enough for you to call authorities, and that you won't ever call them or anyone...."
If that is what it took to break me free of him, to give me the courage to let him go forever, to never want to speak to him or be with him, again, then I am grateful.
It was a long time coming, 20 years overdue. I wish I'd never met him.