I think many victims get stuck on “I love him unconditionally”, “if I prove my love is unconditional he will eventually let his guard down and love me also”.
He has told us that his ex’s turned on him for no good reason took him for granted, didn’t appreciate all he did, cheated on him, whatever his story is, he was the victim in the relationship. When he starts to pull away from us we fill in the blanks trying to make sense of it by telling ourselves; he is hurt and afraid to really give himself 100% for fear we do the same thing to him, so we set out to prove we are not like all the others and our love is unconditional.
I am saying this because it was what I was thinking when I was with James, this may not be your truth; but I got so stuck on proving my love was unconditional I ignored that he was not loving me in the same way. All of a sudden his love had become full of conditions. If I found his personal ad and was angry, he only had the ad because of MY behavior, if I didn’t act like “this” he wouldn’t want to go looking elsewhere. “Why would he want to come home when I act like “this”. He would refuse to say “I love you” because I wanted him to, he should not have to say he loved me just because I said it first. James used to say his love was cycleable, (whatever the hell THAT means!) he started to say things like, “I love you today.” WTF??
In the beginning he would hold me and say, “I love you just the way you are, please don’t ever change.” I tried to talk about it with him and in tears explained I was not going to be able to keep up the schedule of sleeping at his place, commuting the hour to work every day, coming home to an apartment he had completely destroyed while I was gone, have sex the minute I walked through the door, clean the house, make dinner and and stay up half the night with him and do it all over again the next day. He would pull me close and say, “I love you just the way you are.” and I would say, “but this is not the way I am.” and he would pack me into the bedroom, stroke my hair, tell me he loved me and we would have sex and I would hope my message had gotten through but nothing ever changed.
It is really hard to leave someone who is telling you that they love you unconditionally; even if their actions are saying something else.
The victim gets stuck on the “idea” of love, we get stuck on his words and ignore his actions. Actions speak louder than words is never more true than with a narcissist.
Victims usually say the narcissist “changed overnight” everything was great for a year or 10 years and then out of no where he discarded them, or they discovered the N was having an affair. I challenge them to be truly honest with themselves and look back. It is hard to admit that there were signs really early in the relationship that they chose to ignore because that would mean they are responsible for some of their own hurt, they were willing to accept less than they deserved as long as the narcissist said he loved them. It is not a very flattering thing to admit.
When the final discard happened with James I was crushed, I never thought he would truly discard me and find someone else because to be totally honest I didn’t think he would find another woman who would tolerate the things I did. THAT is really sad, I had that little respect for myself that I was willing to live on the crumbs he tossed my way just to live on the promise and hope of love.
It didn’t start that way, but my determination to prove I loved him unconditionally had clouded my good judgement, my need to be better than all the rest, love him better than all the rest; had made me in a martyr, willing to sacrifice everything to prove my loyalty. I had become a suicide bomber, willing to die for the cause, for the idea of unconditional love.
Here is Matthew Hussey’s take on unconditional love.