I think every victim of a psychopath/narcissist has done it; chosen to believe the lies because to believe what they know to be true is just too ugly. In a romantic relationship it is often much easier to believe that we somehow “misinterpreted”, “misunderstood” or caused the abusive behavior because to believe someone we love could do those horrible things is just too much for our brains to wrap around. How could we love someone capable of intentionally causing such harm to someone else? But on a bigger scale, we don’t want to acknowledge someone who evil even exists. We all want to believe there is good in everyone and if they commit an atrocious act there must be a reasonable explanation.
And even more than our belief in the good in all people, and our refusal to believe we could love someone so vile, is our reluctance to take the personal loss of giving up the love of our life. We have invested in this person, not just money, but we have sacrificed a lot in the name of love. Many of us gave up family and friends, moved to a strange town or country, had children with the person, we have invested ourselves, we have given this person more than we have ever given any person we have loved; we have revealed ourselves totally, given up our darkest secrets, laid naked and bared our souls to this person. To face the fact that he purposely set us up, that our trust was horribly misplaced and we willingly walked into a trap, that it was all a facade, is just too much to bear so we continue to lie to ourselves and refuse to see the truth even when it is slapping us in the face and the bank account is in overdraft.
We blindly continue having unprotected sex with a man we suspect of cheating because we don’t want to face his wrath, we continue to give money to a man who never pays us back because we have invested so much already we can’t walk away now, we keep thinking that our investment is going to pay off someday and that if we walk away now we lose and the next woman will reap the benefits of our efforts. We don’t want to lose almost as much as the narcissist feel he must win, and the N counts on that fundamental human trait; the more a person feels they have invested the more they will invest.
At first we don’t trust ourselves, our perception, so many times a victim says, “I don’t have proof” so they wait for proof and they tell themselves if they ever have “proof” of his cheating or catch him in a bald face lie THEN they will leave. But we are given the proof time after time and we refuse to leave, why? Because we don’t want to lose, we don’t want to hurt, we feel we can’t survive without him, he loved us like no one else ever has, they love us despite our flaws, they say they love us and we are perfect for them; no one has ever loved us like that, we know we are flawed (everyone is), we know we are not always easy to love, (no one is) how can we walk away from that? So we tell ourselves that if he can love us with all our flaws, we will prove to him that we love him despite his flaws and he will appreciate us for our faithful, unconditional love; just as we do him.
Victims are usually “emotionally mature” people who are careful to communicate in such a way as to not attack a person’s character. We have taken courses or read books on effective communication skills; we know that you should never say things like “you always”, and we should focus on the action and not attack the person themselves; we are to use terms like, “I feel”. But the narcissist doesn’t play by the same rules, he has no problem attacking our character, he has no problem telling us we are “bad”, he has no problem blaming us for his actions and we are quite willing to look at our part in the problems of the relationship. WE know we aren’t perfect and like they say in all the relationship books, “you can’t change anyone else, you can only change yourself” so we do, we try to treat the N as we want to be treated, we try to emulate faithfulness, honesty and trustworthiness thinking we will get the same in return. But all we do is dig ourselves into a deeper hole and invest more of ourselves making it harder and harder to walk away. Every time we have an epiphany and think we have figured “it” out and have the answers; every time we go back into the relationship with a new attitude and think “If I do this or change that, it will all be ok” we hand over a bit more of ourselves until we feel we have too much to lose to walk away now.
And he is not appreciating our efforts, as soon as we change this or that he changes the rules and wants something else, we end up doing this dance where he is shooting at our feet and we keep dancing but he never runs out of bullets and we get weaker and tired until we stop dancing and think, let him shoot me, I can’t do the dance any more.
We walk, limp away, admit defeat and we believe we just weren’t good enough, we couldn’t dance fast enough, and we feel sorry for him because we know that he is going to have to go along ways to find some other woman who will love him like we did, who is willing to invest as much as we did, who will look past his flaws and see the real man that we know is in there. We know that behind that ego and arrogant attitude is a man who has been severely hurt by past lovers (or his parents). When you first met him, when he was the sweet sensitive guy you first met; he opened up to you and showed his vulnerable side. You know he is just afraid of being alone, that deep down he is just a scared little boy who is afraid of being hurt again so when he comes to you and tells you he loves you and wants to try again; you go back. You are even more sure now that if you just hang in there and love him enough he will get over this insecurity and allow himself to love you. You will nurture him, love him like he has never been loved before and you will prove to him that he doesn’t have to push you away, you aren’t going to leave, ever, he can trust your love. And he does, he trusts that you love him so much that he can do anything to you and you will always be there for him, you will take any abuse he dishes out and he loathes you for it. He looks at you as a pitiful sucker who deserves to be hurt because you are so inferior to him. It’s like that line some comedian used to say, “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would let someone like me join.” The narcissist doesn’t respect anyone who could love him and take his bullshit.
Why do you continue to take it, well because you know that if you don’t he will find someone who will, he will walk away and the relationship will be over. So you don’t “just take it” you get angry, you tell him how you feel, you refuse to accept his behavior, you tell him you expect fidelity, you are not afraid to speak your mind, to stand up for what you believe is right, you aren’t a door mat. But wait, you are still there and didn’t he just wipe his feet on you again?
I went back for many reasons, many times it was because I truly believed that he would be so sorry one day when he realized what he had lost, when he couldn’t find another woman who understood him and accepted him like I did. I felt he needed me, no one else could look past the shitty things he did, how he sabotaged himself and see the sweet, childlike innocent man I saw and knew was buried inside. I knew he was socially challenged, he just didn’t understand that things he did were wrong, he had good intentions, he was lacking confidence and did the things he did because of his own insecurities, it wasn’t personal. I KNEW he loved me, he was just afraid to relax and enjoy it because he was afraid of getting hurt.
Even when I had proof of other women, even after he was engaged to another woman I still believed he would never find another woman who would sacrifice like I did, who would love him as unconditionally as I did. My own ego, my own confidence in my ability to love with my whole being was my undoing. I didn’t want to lose, I didn’t want to admit defeat.
But as much as that trait was my undoing in the relationship and made me stay much longer than I should have it is also the thing that gave me the strength to come back from the ashes and heal.
Accepting the truth was critical to being able to finally walk away and stop lying to myself. I don’t think I fully accepted the truth until long after it was over and he had moved on. It was not until he twisted everything that ever happened in the relationship around to make me look like the nutcase and himself the victim that the light bulb really went on. When it became clear that he was out to destroy me by slandering me and trying to get me fired and evicted that I realized all those times I had suspected him of sabotaging my truck and other things he tried to make seem like I was just paranoid, I had been right. When I heard the lies he was telling everyone who would listen and making himself look like the poor hard done by guy who had only ever loved me and nothing he did was ever good enough, when he said to me that he was afraid of what I would do to HIM, I knew everything he had ever told me about the women in his past, how he had been taken advantage of; was all lies. He had orchestrated the whole thing, he had known from day one what he was doing, there was no “misunderstanding”, he was not naive and insecure; he was an evil, conniving, and dangerous person who knew all along what he was doing and he had laid out his defense for actions long before he did them. I realized that all the times he called me paranoid and suspicious and I doubted myself and I had been right all along and should have listened to my gut. It was when I accepted that I had lied to myself almost as much as he had lied to me and that I could have saved myself a lot of heartache if I would have trusted myself more than I trusted him that I fully accepted the truth. When he told me that it was my own fault he hurt me because I kept taking him back I had to look at myself; I had to admit he was right, and if he was right then I was not just a victim of his abuse I was also a victim of my self doubt and the lies I told myself.
I remember thinking to myself, praying, that he would tell me a good enough lie that I could lie to myself. And then I heard this song. I love the way you lie
This is the lyrics version of the song because if a person doesn’t really listen to the lyrics they might mistake this to be a love song, a song about two people so in love they are afraid of losing the other person, that in some sick way it is love that drives them to abuse. It is a lie victims tell themselves all the time, the same lie I told myself about why he sabotaged my truck, “He loves me so much he doesn’t want to lose me, if he keeps my truck from working I won’t leave him.” I convinced myself that in some sick way it was a sign that he didn’t want to lose me and I comforted myself with that. (It is amazing what we can convince ourselves of when we are desperate). It had nothing to do with love, in fact it was the exact opposite of love, it was a need possess, destroy and discard when he was finished with me. It was control, ownership, it was sucking the life out of someone, but it was not love. Don’t ever mistake abuse for love. At about 3:15 into the song his dialogue songs so familiar to my hears, one minute blaming her, the next taking the blame himself, one minute promising to change and all the while knowing in his head he is lying and it will happen again and again. He says, “Don’t you see the sincerity in my eyes?”
The combination of 6 things helped me heal.
1. Admitting I did have some power over being abused, that I did know the truth but ignored it, (was hard to swallow) showed me that I do have the ability to protect myself against a psychopath/narcissist.
2. Knowing that dealing with crazy, trying to make sense of crazy, trying to assign normal emotions to crazy; will drive you crazy and make you do things you would never do ordinarily.
3. Knowing that I am strong enough to withstand the abuse and keep standing and keep trying is nothing to be ashamed of.
4. Knowing that he was the flawed one and the one lacking, not me.
5. Realizing even if I didn’t want to, I was going to survive.
6. Once I had realized and accepted 1-5 I realized it was up to me from that point on to decide how I was going to recover and whether I would go on to live a happy life somehow, someway, someday.