“We’ve got to make it work, or we’ll be seen as failures,” he urged me. Every time we tried to “make it work,” it became harder to end things. It took me six years to realize I was being abused—and then I feared I was a failure because I’d been hoodwinked and lured in under false pretenses.
I’m not the only woman who feels she’s defective if she’s been abused. Actually, I was merely falling prey to the social prejudice that a woman isn’t believed when she’s abused—instead, she’s blamed. But once I cut through the smoke and mirrors, deep within my gut, I knew I was doing the most courageous thing ever by walking away.
Because I understood one truth: I had outgrown him. I had outgrown my narcissist. As I tell my clients these days, a jungle cannot flourish in a pot. If you, too, have outgrown a narcissist, here are four other things you’ve outgrown as well.
You outgrew illusion.
A narcissistic abuser is the master of illusion. He lures you in, prods subtly at your boundaries, tells you not to be sensitive and crazy—perhaps even kissing you while saying those words. Before long, your boundaries and standards have lowered. He drops his mask as he feels he’s in control. Perhaps you’re living together or have a child, and in that case, he knows he has you.
So he thrusts in your hands the responsibility to help him through his “issues.” He doesn’t mean to hurt you or be paranoid; it’s just that his exes have shattered him. He doesn’t mean to drink and abuse you; it’s just that he needs to escape his pain, and you’re left chasing every new wound he invents. Sometimes he changes, but those times are ephemeral. Every time he slips, he regresses further than when he started.
Because you’ve tasted the wonderland that was the honeymoon phase of your relationship, you know what’s possible. And one day the truth hits you: Wonderland was Oz, and you wore the wizard’s glasses. And then you outgrow the illusion that he’s a good man with a kind soul, and you pack your bags for good.
You also outgrew putting yourself last.
Women with high levels of empathy are prime prey for narcissists because they overgive. Yes, it is important to care about someone else, and everybody has a story that explains why they do the things they do. But when you honor someone else’s story at the expense of your own sanity, well-being, and safety, this is when empathy is your kryptonite.
To quote author Jeff Brown, “Yes, they may well awaken, but we should never postpone any part of our own life waiting for that to happen. Unconditional love begins at home, with the protecting and honoring of our own unique journey.”