I have spent this past year apart from the narcissist in therapy, reading books, articles and blogs about narcissists, along with blogging my own story. I have found this combination extremely helpful and therapeutic but there are still days that I find myself struggling even though this has been the best year of my life in a very long time.
My struggle revolves around running our business together, maintaining some common mutual friends and with trying to forgive myself for allowing him to destroy me for so many years while I set him up for such a nice future.
One of my favorite authors is Shahida Arabi. I recently read her blog related to trauma bonding and it really resonated with me ( https://blogs.psychcentral.com/recovering-narcissist/2019/03/narcissists-use-trauma-bonding-and-intermittent-reinforcement-to-get-you-addicted-to-them-why-abuse-survivors-stay/)
According to Psychology today, “Trauma bonding is similar to Stockholm Syndrome, in which people held captive come to have feelings of trust or even affection for the very people who captured and held them against their will. This type of survival strategy can also occur in a relationship and it can occur when a person is in a relationship with a narcissist. Within a trauma bond, the narcissist’s partner first feels loved and cared for. However, this begins to erode over time, and the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical abuse takes over the relationship.”
I previously wrote about love bombing and how he initially suckered me into believing that he was my prince charming. I was treated like a queen and complimented incessantly. I felt like the most important person on earth. This was all part of his master plan to build me up, only to break me down. By the time the abuse started, I didn’t want to believe it, because it didn’t make sense.
How could someone who thinks that I’m so amazing, smart, and beautiful be enraged with me? How could I suddenly be terrible at everything? How could he be screaming in my face, throwing things, slamming doors and calling me a cunt? It must be his difficult childhood or his last “crazy” girlfriend. He drank too much and didn’t mean it. I just kept making excuses for him. I became one of those people. Those people I used to shake my head at and wonder how they could be so stupid.
Sometimes I see the photos he’s tagged in on social media and the fake smile on his new victim’s face because I know that she is dealing with the same bullshit but is in denial (I’ve actually heard stories from mutual friends confirming this) and I wonder how this motherfucker gets lucky to land such good women in his life. I posted so many fake happy moments. So many memories that were filled with rotten times in between.
I kicked this man to the curb a total of four times and took him back three and I remember feeling like I was addicted to him, but I couldn’t understand why- there was so little good in him.
Reading about narcissists, it all makes sense now. Shahida notes in her recent blog that “Abuse victims often go back to their abusers an average of seven times before they finally leave”.
Then there is what is called -Intermittent reinforcement. I like to refer to it as breadcrumbs.
Shahida explains it as “a pattern of cruel, callous treatment mixed in with random bursts of affection. The abuser hands out “rewards” such as affection, a compliment, or gifts sporadically and unpredictably throughout the abuse cycle.”
He would have an outburst, get caught in lies, or call me awful names and then come home with diamond earrings, a romantic card or plan a vacation or dinner. The positive attention (trail of breadcrumbs) would be enough to reel me back in most times and cause this continuous vicious and unhealthy cycle. It would give me that glimmer of hope that maybe he wasn’t such a horrible person.
Most recently I joined a support group about surviving narcissistic abuse on Facebook and while it’s really opened my eyes and made me realize how similar narcissists are to one another, it has also made me a bit sad. Part of me is sad that there are so many narcissists out there but mostly I am sad to see how many men and women are trapped in the same cycle that I was and can’t seem to get out. They are begging for help, visibly in pain, some financially trapped, some emotionally, and all of them are fearful. Fearful for their safety, or their future, or both. Most have lost themselves- because that’s what happens.
As the partner of a narcissist, you spent your days and nights focused on pleasing the narcissist, which is an impossible task. You walk on eggshells. You do anything and everything to make life perfect for them. So, when it comes to taking your life back, it can be a confusing time, especially because you have more than likely forgotten how to focus on yourself and your own happiness once you’ve either been discarded or are finally ready to end the cycle. Letting go of the trauma bond is a process that takes work and time. Most victims are too embarrassed to seek the support they need and blame themselves.
While I knew it was important to speak about this, educate and support others, this group has really opened my eyes to how much bigger the need is than I ever knew. That is why I will never stop writing or talking about it!