“The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps but are often not as obvious.”
How many times have we told ourselves, it’s not abuse, he never hit me? In my case, my abuser told me that directly. He would constantly ask me what am I so aggravated about after bouts of ridicule, gaslighting, and put downs. He would tell me I should stay with him because he is not physically abusive like his dad was, and women should only leave if there is violence.
Things were not always like this, but those moments shed light to me on what he thought was acceptable behaviour. His father was an alcoholic who beat his mother. She stayed for 20 years with him, through abuse, addiction, adultery. To him, he thought if she could stay through 20 years of that, I should be attached to him for an eternity because in comparison, he is a saint. When we met, I heard his story of his trauma and how he prided himself in never being like his dad. At the beginning, I admired his strength for overcoming a hard childhood and not being affected by his past.
The hard truth I have learned is no one makes it through that type of traumatic childhood without professional help unscathed. Although on the surface he seemed to be a charming, attractive, confident nice man, underneath lay a passive manipulative narcissist that was molded through his fathers abuse, and his mother’s own narcissistic tendencies to become the poor excuse of a human he is today.
That brings me to my point and the subject of my post today. I was never a believer in therapy, as I did not believe I needed help. However, after my ex tried to put me in jail and deny me access to our child, I was in a rough spot. It didn’t last long, but it was still a very traumatic experience for me. To truly see evil in someone who you once thought you would share your life with will change you in ways you cannot imagine. Even though there was no violence, emotional psychological abuse can dig even deeper. Someone has been trying to break you down little by little for the entire course of the time you spent with them. For me, luckily I recognized the behaviour and got out before the 5 year mark. I sympathize with anyone who is in that type of living hell for any amount of time.
Through the advice of my work, I decided to try counselling with a psychotherapist. I have gone to 4 sessions so far, and will likely continue. I really thought I could get through anything myself, and with the short period of time I was married that he did not affect me much. The truth is, the abuse inflicted was so gradual I did not even notice the affects on it because it became engrained. I think my biggest fear was for my daughter, and that he would somehow poison her to become a narcissist like him. I saw how his mother turned him, she blamed all her problems in life on her children and he in turn blames everyone else in his life and never takes accountability for his own actions. I’ll be damned if I let my daughter perpetuate the cycle.
I brought up my concerns to my therapist, not expecting much other than some sympathy. What he gave me was insight that really helped calm my fears. He told me that children are vulnerable and if they are faced with a narcissistic parent who blames them for everything, and then spends an equal amount of time with a nurturing loving parent, the child will always go towards the loving parent. Children do not want to believe they are to blame for things, they wish to believe they are good and loved. He told me to keep on loving my daughter and as long as I had equal time with her he would not be able to poison my daughter. I was able to sleep well that night knowing that.
There are several other things that he helped me with, and now I feel like I would recommend therapy to anyone who has gone through a narcissistic relationship. Just because they did not hit you, it does not mean they did not inflict harm on you. Never stay with someone just because there is no violence. The mind games can last longer than it will ever take bruises to heal. I am still continuing my journey in healing and I think it will be a long road. I can’t help but notice narcissistic tendencies in people in media, news, and in my own life. I have become hypersensitive to it and I don’t know if I can ever let my guard down anymore or if I want to. All I know is I will never let myself be put in that danger again. If you are still in the relationship, and unsure what to do, I encourage you to find a therapist that specializes in narcissism who can help you identify if you are at risk. If you have kids, do it for them. They have no voice and will see the abuse and grow up thinking it is okay. And that is NOT okay.