In my early thirties, I decided it was time to settle down and find a partner. It just seemed appropriate.
With my college degree in hand, I had spent my twenties enjoying fascinating people, living in different cities and building a challenging career. Many of my peers were married and starting families in their mid-twenties, but I preferred casual relationships so I could explore what the world had to offer in the 1990s. The freedom of being single suited me.
Eventually, I yearned for a companion who could join me on new adventures for the long haul. Yes, I was seriously contemplating the pursuit of a long-term relationship. I wanted to know true love, the only experience that really mattered, right?
But the pressure was on. Time was running out! With more men dating, engaged or married, I had fewer eligible bachelors to choose from.
Enter my Narcissist, the man who changed my life forever.
The American Psychiatric Association has a neat and tidy definition for narcissism. This personality disorder presents itself through “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity … , need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” Everyone exhibits one or more of these tendencies at certain times in their life, but not to the degree of a textbook narcissist. Sadly, identifying narcissists in the real world is not as clear cut as the above definition would suggest.
When I met my Narcissist for the first time, I felt flattered by his attention. He definitely enjoyed talking and his ideas were interesting. I looked at this rather attractive man and thought that I could handle this. I was ready to settle down.
As our relationship progressed, I realized I misinterpreted the intentions behind his attention. He wasn’t sincerely interested in my opinions or me; he only wanted me to affirm his own. If I disagreed with him, he filibustered the conversation with a barrage of arguments — for hours — and would criticize and belittle me. However, if I agreed with him, all was well and I was a wonderful reflection of him. Because these confrontations did not occur daily, I thought that I could handle this. I was ready to settle down.
Over time, his need for attention and admiration became insatiable. At first, it was charming. He emailed me little messages all day at work and then he would call me nearly every day for a couple hours. We also spent weekends together from Friday evening to Monday evening. In my mind, I justified these frequent communications in the first couple months as the normal course of people getting to know each other.
But then it became disrespectful. I asked him not to call me after a certain time in the evening because I had to be at work at 5:30 a.m. Our conversations usually lasted at least an hour, and I wanted to make sure I went to sleep at a reasonable time. Plus, I had other things I wanted to do in the evenings. Instead of honoring my request, he would call my phone several times in a given evening. I eventually had to turn my ringer off and then deal with his frustration in emails the following day. The situation was getting worse but I thought I could handle this. I was ready to settle down.
After three months, the relationship took a dramatic turn when he proposed to me. He asked me to marry him on the porch of his apartment that overlooked one of the locations of the sniper shooting in Maryland. (If that’s not a foreshadowing for our relationship, I don’t know what is.) We announced our love for each other, and for a moment, I was happy. I was going to have that companion I so desperately wanted. I believed that I loved him. I could handle this. I was ready to settle down.
Unfortunately, our relationship was souring as his domineering behavior became more overbearing. The next three months I decided to endure it because … well … I was going to be married. I was going to be happy, right? My Narcissist would surprise me and value me for me any day now.
But the engagement ring only worsened the situation. It was not particularly my taste, but my Narcissist was excited about it. He purchased the ring from an artisan and enjoyed bragging about how he selected a ring with such amazing craftsmanship. The band was a mixture of one metal and iron that created a beautiful, unique design, but it turned my finger green. Begrudgingly, he had the band replaced and saw his reflection disappear. The ring was ugly and nicked from wear, an apt reflection of our deteriorating relationship.
My friends and family simply detested my Narcissist. They found him arrogant and ignorant. He easily managed to offend them through his condescension, and he didn’t seem to care. My friends and family did not judge me; instead, they pleaded with me to leave him. They pointed out his many flaws and that I deserved to share my life with a better man. After six months, I was prepared to end the relationship.
Then, I missed my period, and that changed everything.
I was pregnant and I knew I would be forever tied to my Narcissist. However, I could not marry him. He had made that impossible. He demanded that I live with him where he wanted to reside. He demanded that I leave my job, stay home with the baby and depend upon him entirely. He demanded that I limit my contact with my family and friends. He demanded. He demanded. He demanded.
For nearly eight months, I had endured him. I had tolerated his criticism, condescension and control because I wanted my dream of a loving long-term relationship. But now I was facing my own survival and that of our future son. Could I alone survive my Narcissistic or would I be so beaten down that I might never come back? Could I suffer through more years of abuse? Could we ever be happy together? Could I subject my son to this life on a day-to-day basis? Could I take on the challenge of being a single parent in this society?
I knew what I needed to do. I knew I wanted to settle down but I could not settle. And so, I called him a few weeks before our wedding and just ended the relationship. At that point, I opened a Pandora’s box of pain and cruelty the likes of which I could never have imagined.
My Nov. 15, 2018, column describes my parenting experience with my Narcissistic.
If you suspect you are in a relationship with a narcissist, this article explains some red flags.
On Thursdays I will be sharing a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every fourth Thursday, instead of a personal post, I will put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send any comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @parentsonurown and can be found by searching #singleparentandstrong.