June 21, 2009

Why It's Hard to Heal: The significance of validation

The Sob, David Alfar Siqueiros

I believed my relationship with my spouse was ‘special’. That what we had between us was so far evolved from the ox-yoked marriages of our parents that we were pushing the millennial change forward, ushering in a spiritually progressive union between a man and a woman as peers, not unequals. A marriage a’ la Riane Eisler uniting the blessed chalice with the honorable blade. Me being the silver chalice of course, because I had a receptive womb bringing life into the world; and he being the blade because he could cut things in half. Like hearts.

We used to have deeply earnest conversations about spiritual beings having a physical experience and I lofted into reveries of the meaning of things which appeared for all intents and purposes to be shared by my partner. I loved sharing deep thoughts, probing the essence of being alive and questioning God’s purposes for his rebellious children, our fears, our insufferable pains and irremediable uncertainties. Talks like this were uncommon in my home as a child where the most pressing issue of the day was who was gonna make dinner and whose week it was to feed the horses. Pragmatic is how I’d describe my formation years, so when I met someone who introduced me to Herman Hesse and taught me all about Siddhartha and meditation, I felt as if God had brought the two of us together for a special purpose: to overcome the insults of our pasts and remedy gender injustice.

As I said, and you psych-savvy readers have already figured out most likely, this is what “I” was thinking during our conversations and what my partner was thinking was assumed to be the same. Only time would tell the vast difference between our ability to walk the talk instead of talking and talking and talking and then skipping over the walking part.

An anonymous reader commented on my blog entry titled Narcissists Lack Emotional Depth . She asked me why it was so hard for partners of narcissists to heal. Why we struggled with the grieving process and letting the narcissist go so we could move forward with our lives without being constantly reminded of our losses. I wanted to write a more thorough response than a comment; but before I continue, I'd like to say that my experience may be similar to some of yours---and it might be very different. One of the biggest differences to point out is that I was married for several decades and had two children and overtime, my spouse and I changed a lot. Perhaps it’s fair to say that we became MORE like the person we were when we met. Especially once the illusion of perfect love faded into pragmatic realities.

Infatuation diminishes, sometimes faster than ink can dry on the marriage contract. In a normal relationship, if all goes well and both partners do not develop psychological blocks to emotional maturation, infatuation grows into love. The relationship becomes ever bit as much about the other and the children as it is about the Self. Instead of feeling entitled to have our needs met by our partner, needs that might not have been met in childhood, we look for ways to meet our partner’s unmet needs, even if they’re unaware of how much they needed us to do this-or-that. I think we call it Growing Up as a couple. Moving beyond the immature selfish self into equalizing our needs on a par with our partners and then, very importantly, believing ourselves to be capable of meeting their needs without resentment, ambivalence or resignation.

When a relationship ends suddenly, when something we never expected to happen to us, DOES, we might have an arduous time processing the unexpected. Especially when other people are incapable of empathizing with and validating our experience.

It’s like the time my daughter was in a car accident on her way back to her apartment after doing laundry at my house. A drunk was speeding around a curve close to midnight and smashed into the driver’s side of her car. There she sat, trapped like a sardine, watching the little birdies spin around her head while her brain lagged making sense of the chaos. She was out of it for awhile.

Her adrenalin soared and she managed to kick her smashed door open, even after a man had stopped and said she’d have to sit there until a rescue team could cut her door open. The oncoming freeway traffic was swerving around her car, terrifying her of being hit again and she doesn’t even remember this part fully, but she escaped her car and then started acting like a crazy person dodging in and out of traffic picking up her laundry strewn all across the highway. The back of her car had been ripped off, like opening a box of Twinkies when you’re in a hurry.

In retrospect, picking up laundry was a stupid thing to do, even self-destructive and dangerous, but that’s about how crazy human beings can be when the unexpected happens. You say to yourself, “I cannot BELIEVE someone hit my car at 100 mph! I cannot BELIEVE what just happened!" and while you can’t BELIEVE what just happened, you’re acting like you’re Fruit Loops or even worse, Cocoa Puffs. You are not grounded in reality, you’re suspended above planet earth with one foot in LaLaLand and the other hopefully NOT on the accelerator.

The next day, after she had been released from the hospital with a broken collarbone and had to sleep in our family room easy chair for six weeks, she said to me with eyes full of horror, “What person in their right mind kicks their door open and races through traffic to save their panties?”

But that’s what she did and there’s no denying it. Lucky for her, she didn’t get hit by freeway traffic. Paramedics arrived in five minutes to save her from herself which they gladly did since she’d been serving them Starbuck’s coffee for years. They saw her pink punked-out hair and shouted, "It's the coffee shop girl! The one who calls us angels!"

My daughter believes they gave her extra-special care because she always called them angels when they came in her store. I tend to believe it's because they occasionally got a free coffee out of her. A good cup of hot joe goes a long way towards building a relationship.

The paramedics reciprocated her kindness and made sure she didn't have to lie next to the drunk while they took care of him. Thank God they were trained in emergency procedures and recognized a woman in shock, temporarily traumatized by what she could not see coming from behind because she didn't have eyes in the back of her head. Lucky girl. She'd never get asked out if she had four eyes. Not that she gets asked out a lot now but a mother can always hope, right? At least her hair isn't pink anymore.

Until our brains can put order to the chaos, we act unconsciously, outside ourselves. We do things we’d never do under ordinary circumstances. Other people who do not understand the shock of being hit from behind by someone we trusted, might look at us and assume we’re fools or that we are and always were one grain short of a full box of cereal.

Within short order, if we’re lucky, the little birdies circling our brains will stop going tweet and we’ll get ourselves off the highway and out of harm’s way. If we’re really lucky, an emergency vehicle will show up and well-schooled paramedics will check us for injuries and sooth us back to reality by taking charge because obviously, we can’t. At least not for a little while. We’re confused. We need help. But most of all, we need support that respects our temporary frailty and respects our weakness by promising under the Hippocratic oath to do no harm.

One of the first questions resolved by the police, and bless them for setting my daughter’s mind at ease, was the assignation of fault and blame. “It wasn’t your fault,” the cops reassured her. “He was speeding and driving drunk and now he’s in jail where he belongs for breaking the law and putting your life in danger.”

That settled her mental obsession wondering whose fault it was and how she might avoid a similar accident. What she had done wrong and how could she fix her driving if she’d been negligent in seeing warning signs and posted speed limits. Well, she didn’t do anything wrong. She was obeying the law like a good citizen when someone determined themselves superior to the rules society sets to protect us from each other and like an intoxicated fool, smashed into the side of her car without even realizing what he was doing. He said in his defense that he had lost control. As if that's an excuse for almost killing someone. But the thing is, he let himself get out of control in the first place. He could have applied the brakes at the bar, in the parking lot, or stopped himself at numerous points along the way and he didn’t.

As they say, “Shit happens” and no matter how obedient, good, conscientious or courteous you may be, not everyone else is. People break the rules. They hurt others. They blame everyone else by putting up a good fight to avoid responsibility for their choices. In the end, the law decides who is at fault and who isn’t and who pays the price and who doesn’t. In a law-abiding and CIVIL SOCIETY, the guilty are penalized; thus releasing the innocent from their natural instincts to question themselves as to what they did wrong and how they can protect everyone in the future, including themselves.

The conscientious are driven to take responsibility, not avoid it.

The narcissist is a highway menace. A Good-Time-Charlie without brakes who endangers others because he-or-she doesn’t LIKE being controlled. Since they lack moral discipline, any restriction on their behavior is resented as control and nobody is gonna tell them what to do, especially not some road sign or social contract. It’s all about the narcissist’s freedom to do as they please and any taboo or rule regulating (and protecting the N’s freedoms, too) is rebelled against. The narcissist is a law unto himself. One who mocks social traditions and rules as being only for the minions, the followers, the muddle-headed sheep who obey street rules because they’re weak and inferior. The only way to negotiate some kind of reasonable safety in a society replete with narcissistic individuals, is to seek justice. That means assigning fault and blame where fault and blame are due and not expecting someone like my daughter to say, “Okay. I’m half responsible for my accident because I share the road with drunks.” That would be a legal injustice making a mockery of what we know to be true. It only takes one drunk to cause an accident and the only person responsible for that accident, is the drunk without a foot on the brakes.

What legal justice did to restore my daughter’s sense of safety again was educative. I was able to watch her start healing once she had been absolved of fault for only doing what millions of people do every day---driving on the same road as everybody else. She did not spiral into guilt and self-blame that cannot be resolved because it was based on a lie. She did nothing wrong. She cannot suffer remorse for guilt that was not hers to suffer. The law saved her from illegitimate suffering wondering how she could prevent this from happening again. She can’t. Not if she bore no responsibility for causing the accident in the first place. She’d go half-crazy if she started checking her rear-view mirror for fast drivers or refusing to drive in the dark because she couldn’t see dangerous drunks or never doing her laundry again because maybe that is why he hit her. She did nothing wrong and even with legal support telling her this, I had to remind her of the fact over and over and over again.

Sensible, good-hearted people are prone towards internal examination of the self as cause to the consequences in their lives.

I have said this before and it’s not always received with welcome arms but in my way of viewing the narcissistic relationship, it’s another accident on life’s freeway. Perhaps there were red flags and stop lights and street signs alerting me to danger ahead but then again, maybe there weren’t. Maybe anybody could have met and partnered with a narcissist, someone who for all intents and purposes, did not intend to cause an accident but refused to step on the brakes if he or she was having FUN.

As long as our society pretends there is NO FAULT and NO BLAME to be assigned to a broken marriage; as long as we purport the silly cliché that it takes ‘two to make a marriage’ without realizing it only takes one to break it; as long as people insist we had something to do with the DEMISE of our relationship, or that we didn’t work hard enough or try hard enough or care enough to work out the problems inherent in any relationship, we are prone to self-doubt and self-blame trapping us in an endless spiral of prolonged and complicated grief.

When we see judgment or indifference in other people’s eyes, we tend to isolate ourselves, withdraw into silence that may lead to depression and prolonged grief. It’s the betrayal or ignorance of the bystander that makes it hard for us to let go of self-blame and move forward. Here are four key steps to consider if you are grieving the shock and trauma of the narcissistic relationship:

1-Don’t isolate. You know you want too; but don’t!

2-Ask for support but make sure your support is experienced in trauma. You would not go to the bread store for a quart of milk. Don’t go to your neighbors for something thay cannot give.

3-Establish a daily regime. Getting back to normal will reground us in reality and occupy our minds when we might start obsessing. Sometimes keeping busy helps us feel better.

4-Take care of your health even though most of us don’t. Especially since a long grieving process might trigger depression and we won’t care enough about ourselves to get out of bed. Avoiding escapist substances like alcohol, drugs and especially anxiety-producing situations (like a new love interest too soon) graces us with adequate time to cope with our lives.

I believe with every fiber of my being that anyone with a generous heart, a moral conscience and the intention to create a safe relationship with a partner, is capable of being sideswiped by a narcissist.

I also believe that there is one person at fault for the stagnated or even abusive relationship, and that is the narcissist.

I will also be so bold as to say that there is no one who works harder to save the marriage and support their partner than the non-N spouse. When we have our reality validated by someone who shares the same experience and we know that that person is a GOOD person of integrity and conscience, then our healing process gets a kick-start.

Our truth must be heard in order to release us from illegitimate blame and guilt. Until our experience is validated and supported by experienced people like ourselves, it's far to easy to believe the lie that we are trapped in a wrecked self without any hope of escape.



Healing Emotional and Psychological Trauma, 


  1. Sometimes I wish I could just hug you. That was so excellent, and what a perfect example comparing your daughter's situation, with of course some humor thrown in. As always you're the first place on head to on the Internet, and you made my day!! I can relate to all of it.

  2. You can send me (((((a hug))))) anytime.

    Thank you for reading that long essay...I am delighted to know I made your day!

    I'd like to expand on the theme with a few other reasons as to why it's so hard for people to heal after the narcissistic relationships.

    Hopefully, I can be a little more succinct!


  3. Couldn’t agree more!

    To me it was like being in water far out in the dark sea with thoughts of drowning. Seeing a white boat but unable to get a good enough grasp to pull myself into the saving boat. Each time I grasped the boat I could only feel the slick wet white sides of this boat and having my hands just slid down the sides again and again. Until someone in this boat gave me a helping hand and lifted me into the saving boat. This saver is unknown to me but the boat is called knowledge.

    I too agree that one reason that we struggle so because we don’t understand the why? A normal reaction to a crazy situation is first asking ourselves “what have I done wrong” much like your daughter did and when there's no answers forthcoming this only deepens our fear and anxiety.

    Only when the many pieces like pieces to a puzzle box starts to line up and fall into place do we then understand the one important question “what did I do wrong” and this answer come back to us strong and clear. You have does nothing wrong and it isn’t your fault”.

    Some accept this fact and then roll the boat back to shore where safety waits for them. Still others love the boat so dearly they learn to master the sail and gearing of this vessel and so becomes captains of the vessel themselves. They then go on saving others they see drowning far away from shore in this big dark sea of despair.

  4. Thank you so much for responding to my comment. When you said that judgement or indifference from the N-spouse can leand to prolonged grief, that really hit home with me. I now realize I haven't been able to move forward because all the puzzle pieces would never fit together no matter how I tried to make them fit. Narcissism was the missing puzzle piece. There is an abundance of information about narcississm, but little about healing from a broken relationship with a narcissist. I have been unable to move on and have gained 80 lbs. in the last years but last week I joined a fitness club. : ) Thank you for giving me a jumpstart into healing from this awful time in my life. The truth is setting me free.

  5. CZBZ and James,

    You both have such a way with words. You have both gone on to save others!

    Thank you!

  6. Your story lifted me up. I want all my trusted friends and family to read it because no matter what I say they still don't quite get it, and I know they can't and won't because they haven't lived it, but I can offer this for them to read. Using your daughter's experience is so effective and touching - THANK YOU!!!!

  7. I've been struggling with the frustration of this issue just this week myself. 3 years post-breakup, numerous books and survivor-forums later, and I STILL have times of feeling longing...and conversely hatred for my exN/S.

    The frustration for me is, it took me 18 months to get over the break-up of my non-N marriage, why is it taking so much longer than 18 months for me to get over the recent breakup with my exN/S? I mean I KNOW it was no normal relationship, and no normal break-up, so it wont be any normal recovery period...but c'mon! I wanted off the rollercoaster back then, why cant I get off the recovery-coaster now?

    When will my innards be so whole again I can carry on with a whole life again? Instead of feeling like I've got some virus I cant find the cure for?

    And while your blogpost was articulate and funny and so bang-on (when isnt it?), I'm looking forward to the next ones that you mention youre thinking of doing, to expand on the topic.

    I was just telling a forum admin this morning how I've been working on building even more, the toughness and resilience that I've always felt in my life. It seems to be my only salvationthese days, except I know intellectually its because I still feel like a bowl of vulnerable mush deep on the inside, requiring the best protection I can afford.

    And I notice I'm still tough-talking myself that it shouldnt be this hard, or take this long.

    After being banned from yet another forum this morning (sigh - like Kermit, its not easy being green) for my tough-self talk coming across as harsh to other, more sensitive members, I'm left also wondering how much longer I'm going to feel the need to be so tough and self-protective...and when I'll just be free enough to "be".

    It seems such a long way off.

    James, where's that white boat?

  8. And I wanted to add,

    for me its no longer the guilt and remorse for having contributed to the massive failure of the relationship

    but rather the guilt and remorse and need to make amends to myself that I stayed for 7 YEARS! That I didnt leave sooner. That I didnt protect myself from damage more. That I broke up and went back to him 6 times in that time.

  9. "I'm looking forward to the next ones that you mention youre thinking of doing, to expand on the topic." ~Phoenixxx

    Hey, it's great to hear from people who're reading my blog. It's kinda lonely out here in cyberspace...ha!

    I have several ideas about 'healing' that I plan on writing about. Since I managed to survive a traumatic period in my life, perhaps some of my experiences will help other people who are only beginning their journey.

    Right now, I'm working outside landscaping my yard the way I always landscaped my gardens. It's been a few years since my passion for gardening inspired me to think about roses and topiaries and daylilies and those tedius clipped hedges I love so much. But it gives me time to reflect on the past few years and hopefully, my next messages will corroborate what other people have gone through and contribute to a deeper understanding of the healing process post-narc.

    I'll be back soon, I promise!

    Hugs all!

  10. I've also been working outside a lot, and really love it. I don't have a whole lot of money, but buy things on sale and do what I can. It's the first time in my life after a lengthy painful marriage and a relationship with a narcissist after that, that I can decide to do what I want to do, and am discovering my likes and dislikes for the first time without having to answer to, and take care of someone else's demanding needs. Right now, I love being single and having my freedom.

  11. “James, where’s that white boat?

    Good question Phoenixxx (by the way great screen name)

    The helper of the “white boat” for me was a site given to me by some anonymous poster for a Dr. Carver who wrote about Losers and abusers. This of course was just a door I walk through to went go on to walk through yet more doors gaining information and then knowledge and learning about personality disorders. (Let’s call these pegs on the ladler to reach the boat) How dysfunctional relationships start happy enough but always end in disastrous because some people live and love chaos and disorder. The “white boat” is us or the vessel of self acknowledgment. In a way we much like your screen name was destroy by fire only to be reborn by those very flames to be able once again to fly high with a new understanding of self then ever before. When will you rise up from your ashes? When will you be renewed? Sorry Phoenixxx but only you can answer those questions and I believe answer them you will. For whenever we have courage love and compassion those answers will come to each of us in time and with whatever spiritual assistance we can reach for. I see two poster here standing by you wanting that very thing for you, how many more do you need? You picked the screen name for a reason and Phoenixxx I believe if we really what something so bad and try so hard we will attain it at some time. Maybe it’s better to see it like this that the end of the journey isn’t as important then the journey itself.

    PS: Have a good 4th!

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I woke up at 5.15 am and bang! Head full of thoughts about my ex again.. Wondering about why, and how and what was real and what was fake and what it is wrong with me to be attracted to such a person and how people will never truly understand what I've gone through and why I ignored the red flags and wondering if I'm maybe narcissistic myself and why 15 months later I'm still in tears everyday and at the same time tough talking to myself (yes I do that too!) "GET OVER IT!" and blablabla.

    Logged on, in need of answers once again.. and here you are.. a link on Jame's website and I read your essay and wonderful comparisons, analogies or metaphors and the little birdies are already tweeting less (except outside, it's going to be a lovely day!).

    Again, thank you...


  13. Anonymous, It great whenever that light comes on allowing our thoughts be be as free as a bird. So it's no wonder they start singing. Glad it help! This site is great for insight and resources whenever we need them!! Have a great day!

  14. Thank you, thank you , thank you....I cannot tell you how much help your wisdom and insight is helping me. I am fifty years old and tired of the hurt. Now i am at last refusing to put up with any more of that s..t and amazingly enough, he went too far and scared himself. I have hope that he can now take responsibility for his thoughts and actions( as i will do as well) and maybe we will come through together. thank you, a thousand times. Best site on n i have found. Hugs to you.
    From an Irish woman. xx

  15. Thank you for reading my blog, anonymous! The more you educate yourself about 'unhealthy narcissism', the better off you'll both be.

    Our ignorance about pathological narcissism is what keeps us trapped in a vicious cycle. Information is absolutely KEY to our mental health and inner peace. I can't emphasize this enough.

    I'm pleased to know my writings are helping you cope. AND, thank you for commenting.

    Wishing you the best,


  16. Thanks so much for keeping up this blog! I am recovering from a relationship with narcissist with Anti Social Personality Disorder. IT is so important to remember that it is not our fault! My first six months in therapy after the relationship ended my therapist had to keep convincing me that it was not my fault, that I could not have seen this coming, that as you wrote, "The Narcissist is a Highway Menace." Exactly.

    My life was going along great without him, and then he stepped back in after being gone for 18 years, was the Great White Knight for a couple years and then destroyed my trust and broke my heart.

    This is my second comment tonight; I keep trying to comment using my word press user name and it won't let me. Don't know what I'm doing wrong.

    My user name is Ixchel, my blog is: http://phoenixsphere.wordpress.com/

    I have been writing about my healing journey since I ended this relationship in October, 2010.


  17. Hi lxchel!

    If a post is not recent, your comments will need to be accepted before posting. That's why you were sending comments and not seeing them appear on my blog. I'm glad you kept trying, though!

    I will check out your blog...I really look forward to it! Thanks for leaving the link.

    p.s. You also left a message on "the Three Stages of Healing" if you want to read my reply.


  18. this blog is extremely helpful. In looking for resolution i feel like im making myself crazy because so much information on the internet talks about how victims use kindness to manipulate. Or characterizing some of the behaviors in your post break up to seem as though you are the damaging one. I know I am a people pleaser, and I know I reacted in strange ways to salvage the insalvagable. Maybe Im not ready to double up on feeling break up pain, along with guilt for being "nice."

    Your most helpful line so far "I like nice people." and going on to explain you like people who laugh when others laugh and cry when others cry. After something like this happens when you look at sites that talk about emotional vampires and toxic friends, its as if you are not healthy if you need to grieve or even turn to anyone to lean on even a little bit, or else your spreading your negativity. this has been the hardest part...trying to not to isolate myself, but also to not burden others at the same time has turned me into a neurotic basket case, but this site has put me at ease a little mire, thank you.

    1. Hi HolySnapdragon! What a great name!

      People do blame the victim. You're not imagining things. It can even feel blaming when professionals tell us we're guilty too...but guilty of too much kindness???!!! Whoa---send ME to a world that's rife with extra kindness. I'd like to be a permanent resident there. ha!

      There's been a shift in public tolerance for sad people. A noticeable change in the way we relate to one another. People offer platitudes with "Pretend Empathy". They'll listen to our pain for about ten minutes (as they check their wristwatch) and then say, "It IS what it IS. Now stop messing with my happiness high!"

      One woman wrote to me and said someone told her she was "messing with her aura". Really? It's 2012, not the sixties! But I know what you're talking about--the idea that friends are supposed to be fun and never make demands or be sad, negative, or blue. There's no time in their busy pursuit of happiness, to listen to someone who's grieving. It's not easy finding friends who can validate your sadness by just being sad 'with you'.

      After a particularly miserable experience, I wrote an essay titled "Supportive Friends." You may be able to identify with some of my points in that essay, too. You can find it here: http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2010/03/supportive-friends.html

      Thanks for contributing a comment, HolySnapdragon. It makes me feel better knowing other people share my sentiments, too.


  19. CZ,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It is really helpful. I have put a link to this post on my blog. I hope that's ok.



    1. Of course you are welcome to link my website to your blog. I appreciate your validation, Kara!

      Hugs back,

  20. CZ, if the forum hadn't gone down overnight, I might not have ever seen the piece above. It's beautiful, true, balanced, real...so glad to have read it. (Writethinkspeak from WoN)

    1. Thank you so much, writethinkspeak!

      (We're still working on the problems with our site and its not an easy fix...so send some good vibes our direction, please!)


  21. CZ,

    3 years later and this post is still helping people.

    This hit me so strongly today:

    When we see judgment or indifference in other people’s eyes, we tend to isolate ourselves, withdraw into silence that may lead to depression and prolonged grief. It’s the betrayal or ignorance of the bystander that makes it hard for us to let go of self-blame and move forward.

    That is exactly what i have been feeling - a fear of that judgement or indifference. I cannot deal with ANY kind of doubt aimed at me. I have been nothing short of soul-raped and I need to be believed.

    This is so hard. What would I do without you? What you are doing is changing the world. If you can keep going, I must keep going too.


    1. I'm so sorry Lottie! I didn't see your comment until today. And truly, what would I do without you? YOU are a very special woman and your soon-to-be-X-husband is a fool!


  22. Fantastic post CZ. Even three years later, your words are so relevant to so many situations. This really moved me, especially the narc fallback position (which society reinforces) that it always takes two, the both parties are equally responsible. This is a terribly cruel position for people to take. My narc mother is all about "well look at what you did too, it takes two." My sisters support her. People who stay neutral in situations like those you describe above, in which one person is clearly responsible for the wreck and the is blindsided, don't realize how much additional harm they're inflicting. Sometimes that "neutrality" hurts more than anything. We all need people to stand up for us when we've been blindsided. Otherwise the shape of reality feels distorted, and we run around picking up laundry while dangerous traffic whizes by. love CS

    1. "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." ~Bishop Desmond Tutu

      I keep this statement on my Quote page. It's curious that people believe they're taking the moral road when they remain indifferent to injustice. "Well, I'm not gonna get involved."they say. "I'm neutral."

      AND in fact, they are allowing abuse to continue so they are in effect, a participant. It's a selfish stance, indifference, when someone needs our help.

      Thanks for bringing up this old post. I haven't thought about my daughter's traffic accident for awhile...but its a perfect example of what happens when people are blindsided, isn't it!


  23. Thank you so much for sharing your writing with us.
    I'm 16 months out of a marriage with a narcissist that abandoned me for his BF's wife of 34 years.
    I've done ok in spite of the pain. Restarted my life, new home, job, friendships. But still feel stuck in the mud and fog of the fallout from the ending of this 20 year relationship. I agree it's so much harder to move past the grief and pain to heal from the heartache left by this narcissists destruction. I feel like I'm the damaged goods. After spending thousands of dollars on therapy & books to tell my mind the reality of what happened wasn't me , I was just hit by a drunk driver like you shared about your daughter's unfortunate experience. At least that's what it seemed like. You've helped me understand that it is harder, I'm a normal loving person that was nailed by a monster. I keep plugging on hoping & praying for the sadness to lift, for color to come back into my world. People tell me to be thankful for all my blessings. I am! I'm so blessed I know. Yet the loneliness and sadness doesn't care, they continue to take up residence where they're not wanted. Thank you for your eloquent writings, they give me hope.....

    1. Hello marcijeanne,

      I love it when people write to me but I hate the reason they're writing to me. Reading so many stories about broken lives and the tremendous effort it takes rebuilding lives, can be painful sometimes. Just mentally add up the hours and years it takes for people to:

      1) gain an understanding of pathology (information)
      2) talk with other people about the experience (validation)
      3) unlearn and relearn and reconstruct ones security and life (integration)

      I have a really good life right now, probably not one a lot of people would be grateful for, ha! But it suits me because my personality is basically a nurturing and caregiving personality so having several people live with me "works." It's not the future I'd ever intended, yet it's comfortable somehow and everything is okay. I didn't get here easily though. Nor have you or anyone who's life was turned upside-down by a pathological partner who could NOT bond to us the way we bonded to them. We suffer, and they move on to a new woobie blanket. Most people don't understand, which doubles-down our misery since we need validation to give us strength, not "invalidation." (people aren't invalidating us intentionally. They're simply ignorant about pathology. Let's hope they stay that way!)

      It was not your fault. You did not know what the signs of pathology were because frankly, we weren't taught any signs of pathology. As far as we knew, they were bonding to us, too. And just so you feel a little better about what happened, many therapists have been in contact with me either privately or on our forum. And they were 'trained' in psychology. So truly, pathology is NOT that easy to see---not when you are "in relationship" with them.

      My hope is that people like ourselves will be able to manage a pathological relationship better when they recognizing the warning signs. At least be able to see the issues belong to the pathological and not themselves! That's where a lot of us prolonged our suffering---believing we owned half the problems or even 100%. Once we understand why the relationship could not grow as expected, then we can forgive ourselves and move forward with our lives.

      Learning about pathology and toxic relationships has made my life much much better. I'm pleased to hear that my writing has given you hope and I hope you'll drop by from time-to-time to tell me how you're doing!


  24. Even 5 years after your original post,.....I could hug you! I could read a post a day and it would be the BEST therapy I could get...and free, too!

    Validation. that's a biggie. I have looked into the eyes of the foos, and they are dead. They have no compassion about the abuse of a mother and a predator uncle. they just...don't. so, I have learned NOT to talk to people outside of these groups of Anti-Narcissists. My validation is finally understanding what ns do...and the destruction that they so easily wrought.

    And your blog has been key in all my recovery...along with my aging therapist who is a mother figure to me more than anything. those of us who have been deprived of a mother because of narcissism have an incredibly deep wound. And perhaps in the same wounding, a husband of many years that reveals themselves to be narcissistic in such a terrible degree.

    Thank you, CZ.

    Love, Jane

    1. Has it been five years already? I didn't realize...but thank you for pointing that out. It takes a lot of time and effort working through the many ways we were told we were worthless. Or replaceable.

      Like yourself, I learned by trial-and-error, to keep explanations "simple" with people who had not been initiated into the ugly world of abuse. Their 'invalidation' did more harm than good; sending me into spirals of self-blame for not being able to "get over it" or "grow out of it."

      I have to dig deep cuz I'm a deep digger...I cannot accept a simple answer to a complex problem just because it makes other people feel comfortable (by maintaining the status quo). I have learned to dig deep smarter by not expecting people with [plastic trowels to accompany my archaeological excavations requiring a backhoe and a fine-toothed comb. ha!

      Love to you, too

  25. In the last five minutes, I've been hit once again by the effects of my 33 years marriage to a narcissist. I'm once again asking myself how all my 'friends' can believe all the lies he's feeding them about me. No one ever questions any of it. I needed to read this, right now, this moment. Thank you.

    1. (((anonymous))) thank you for being here with me and validating my experience, too.


  26. Thank you, I need this...so much. My best friends have been judgmental and cold, telling me "You must admit your role/part in the breakdown of the marriage.", "It takes two to tango.", "Are you saying you're not to be blamed? No one is faultless.", and "We're all sinners.", etc. to convince me that it is I, not my charming N husband, who is the one with the problem. I can't blame them, I was going mad with the gaslighting, the constant shifting of factual reality, the abusive devaluation and denigration, I was almost suicidal. Yet in a situation of bullying, it's the victim who suffers, breaks down and commits suicide. I find it stunning how difficult for Nons to grasp the nature of an N. Anon Adrift.

    1. Hello Anonymous! I'm so glad to have written something that helps you! It's really awful how people "blame" the victim of infidelity, as if "we" own half the responsibility for their decision. Why people feel it necessary to "kick" someone when they are obviously "down", baffles me. Is it honestly that hard to empathize with us? Do they really think their "insight" is so crucial and valuable that we haven't considered "blaming ourselves"? Who made them Doctor Phil?

      People seem to hate "victims" these days. Instead of opening their hearts to someone who has been betrayed, they use their special television-psychology-skills to educate us.

      I hope you're getting through this with your self-esteem in tact. It's pretty rough. I won't lie about that. It surprised me how Pathetic I felt at the time. But THIS too SHALL Pass. Remember that. The person of worth and value and esteem, is the one who does NOT betray his/her partner. No matter what crap society tries to tell us is "normal", infidelity is traumatic for partners and children. It is wrong and in my view, it's abusive.


  27. Thank you for this.

    How do I fit into this, cz? I have half blamed myself not only for the abuse (because he was married), but for the abandonment of my (his) son. And being triangulated, his wife enables him to do this (as I enabled his affair), and blames me as well for 'preying on his vulnerabilities'. I had no idea what that meant until I asked him and he said 'I don't know - giving me attention or something'. The last thing she texted me before I blocked them all (after trying to tell her he has NPD) was 'well you shouldn't have got involved with a married man'. This means 'your abuse is legitimate because you intentionally set out to hurt me' - another thing she said previously. But I never did - I just believed everything he said - and that he was a victim. Naive, foolish, stupid. My son is here, he made it, but I grieve for his loss every day and I'm angry that they can both get away with such a sham. Except the money part. But that's not love for my son. That's not a father and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and sisters and brothers. I know his family is narcissistic by what he's said, and so it doesn't matter what happens - love just isn't going to come from them and it's such a loss.

    I am victimised twice over (by both of them). I look at this as fair because I was triangulated to hurt her. But it's not fair because I didn't understand the game, I was used as well, and I don't know how to stop beating myself up about it. I do appreciate that I got away, and I do appreciate in some respects that she protects us - even if she doesn't realise it.

    Marriage doesn't protect people from becoming victims. We had a 'fairytale love' like you did "oh, I love our philosophical conversations" he'd say to me - so did I - but it was all fake. That's another grief entirely. Do we really make a choice to choose our realities if the narcissist reads you so well they can disarm your choice? Put you under a spell and tell you everything you need to hear so you forget your integrity and jump on board? I have integrity - I needed to go through this to realise how my integrity is really important to me - but can I forgive myself for the pain it's inflicted on her, on myself, and perhaps, on my son? He's innocent, and yet his father can never love him. I need to heal. 🙏

  28. As a victim of over 30 years of NPD abuse from my now estranged (and getting a divorce from) husband, I feel that I'm quite experienced in just about anything and everything a NPD husband is capable of doing.
    Unfortunately for me, I had never heard the term "NPD" until "AFTER"; AFTER 30 years of being abused,
    AFTER uncountable horrible things were said and done to me,
    AFTER who knows how many or what lies were told, and then more lies to cover those lies,
    AFTER the years and years of gas lighting,
    AFTER having to go the mental hospital with "Acute Mental Psychosis" (commonly known - but not medically recognized - as a nervous breakdown),
    AFTER having to go to the emergency room with a blood pressure of 223/95 from my NPD estranged husband telling me he was going to return home regardless of me having a restraining order against him,
    AFTER a year of psychotherapy via the internet because I've developed agoraphobia and have extreme difficulty leaving my home,
    AFTER a year of seeing a psychiatrist that I can barely manage to get to since I have to leave my home,
    So, if you don't mind my saying so, the title of this post was somewhat misleading for me.
    Even though I gained valuable information, I was expecting to read about the kind of validation that we victims need from the narc that abused us.
    And even though I know that that's impossible, I think that other victims also need to know this.
    I do completely agree that victims need validation from others, particularly those closest to them, in order to give them comfort in knowing that those people don't blame them for what happened.
    But I guess at my age (almost 60), validation from others isn't at the top of my priority list.
    Validation for me would be for my narc ex to validate what he did, or didn't do, that destroyed our marriage and almost destroyed me.
    And yes, I'm fully aware that this will never happen, or that if it does it's a fleeting moment that will soon go back to him turning the tables to everything being my fault.
    And perhaps you've addressed this topic in another post, but if not I think it's extremely imperative for other victims to come to the realization that validation from the narc isn't going to happen and no amount of effort to get it ever will.
    I would also like to mention that if "no contact" were an option for me, that would be ideal. However, for numerous reasons (that I won't get in to here), I'm not able to maintain "no contact" at this point and I'm sure there are other victims that have to maintain contact with their narc.
    And with that in mind, I had to figure out a way to stay one step ahead of the mental "game" his NPD must constantly play, and I've done so with great success in keeping myself from being a victim any longer.
    Of course anyone familiar with NPD knows that there's no "winning" the narc game, but it's still fun to see how long it takes him to figure out where he's going to move his next chess piece.

    1. "Validation for me would be for my narc ex to validate what he did, or didn't do, that destroyed our marriage and almost destroyed me."

      Well that's not gonna happen. If he could do that, he wouldn't be "a narcissist." If he could do that, he'd feel terrible enough about hurting you that he'd have stopped himself before the marriage ended. The thing about someone with a narcissistic personality that makes a relationship so complicated is that they believe their behavior is warranted...they believe they are justified to "defend" themselves; they are entitled to have/do whatever they want and the "lack of remorse and guilt" means they're exploitative. But you already know this, I'm sure!

      For some pathological narcissists, they'd find pleasure in telling you they were aware of their abuse. And even after admitting they were the cause of your mental breakdown and eventual divorce, they'd be watching your face for signs of misery and pain. These are the sadists and they're a nasty bunch...the last thing you wanna do is give them the pleasure of your pain.

      But I understand that "he" took something from you and is obligated to at least admit it. In normal relationships, this admission might be called "closure" but that requires two responsible people's honesty about the mistakes each of them made that caused the demise of their relationships. It's one of those stumbling blocks for a lot of people who can't seem to move on without some kind of closure. They eventually find a way to "move on" after talking with other people who've experienced the same thing. That's where validation-from-others plays a valuable role in healing.

      Not that many people are able to use "No Contact" to protect themselves from the emotional and psychological fall-out of the N-relationship. People find unique and creative ways to "block" the narcissist's criticisms and accusations. I have never been a No Contact Nazi (LOL!) so believe me, you're talking to the choir about that.

      Take care!

  29. Thank you for this. So very helpful. I've been cruising alongside a truck of a narcissist for around 15 years and from around the 7th year wondered what was wrong. Instinct told me something was not right but I could not pin point what it was. It is only recently, following a particularly aggressive incident (following a period of calm) and the truck hit that I began to research NPD and that was a life changing moment for me. Things fell into place in that my reading gave some kind of explanation around what I had been increasingly experiencing over the years. For example, inexplicable silences (that made me self-question and look for how I'd offended),cyclic punishments, lack of empathy, lack of intimacy, 'mask' like behaviour, such that I never knew what persona to expect or why there was a knot in my stomach much of the time, false smiles, finishing my sentences, switching conversation to himself, compartmentalising his life, offering to do jobs and making a real bamboozle of them, expecting praise and compliments, but never ever returning them, or saying 'thank you', invading personal space and then silent watching...of me and of others. I could go on. I am not, fortunately, married to him but he has been around since the death of my husband. We met when I was highly vulnerable. I am now 55, no children, or siblings, and have come to rely upon him for psychological and emotional security. Attempting to talk to someone and explain what has occurred is very difficult indeed and it seems that only people who have been through forms of emotional abuse can identify and relate. It has been 6 weeks since I last saw him and I do so agree with the advice that you have offered - especially in terms of taking good care of yourself and keeping busy. I loved reading the above and appreciated the humour. Humour does help to heal. Thank you so much.

    1. Thank you for reading and validating my experience! Writing has been a valuable way to understand my experience but when someone like yourself can relate, too, well, the world shrinks to a friendly size and we become a little more human through our connection.

      People who've met an honest-to-gosh narcissist (not the "imagined" version being touted today), it's something they never forget. It just makes no sense, the way someone with a NPD perceives reality and the way they behave. I think one of the most devastating consequences of someone with a NPD is their inability to "bond". Oh, they can connect, they can attach--kinda like a barnacle on a ship---but they do not bond.

      I think "bonding" requires an emotional surrender. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to risk being rejected--something narcissistic people are fearful of. Because this is what we do, we assume everyone else does, too. We believe each interaction, each conversation, each memory we have with this person is building an emotional bond we can trust to hold us together--no matter our disagreements, no matter our differences. It is a shock to discover we can be replaced or dismissed as easily as swatting a mosquito.

      People with narcissistic personalities can be extremely convincing when we rely on them for emotional support, when we're sharing our deepest grief and sorrows. They appear to be empathizing in a way other people might be "undone" by our emotional pain. We tend to be fooled because it is unlikely that we've encountered anyone like this before and so we base our trust on prior relationships with people who were not NPD.

      Narcissists are able to empathize. This is important to remember because when we tell our story to people, they can shake our confidence by saying we were not being empathized with---that narcissists can't empathize. We now know that narcissists are "selective" in offering empathy to people as long as they're getting something they want.

      The bad news is that once they are not getting what they want or perhaps they're no longer interested in us, they can turn off empathy like turning off the coffeepot. It's the cold and distanced response that drives people to the internet for information because we simply cannot understand what happened.

      I hope you are feeling better but if you need to talk about your experience, feel free to comment. I love so much, offering relief to people. It gives meaning and purpose to one of the saddest experiences of my life.


    2. Thank you, CZ. It's taken a while to get to some understanding of the inexplicable cat-and-mouse games (and feeling like a marionette - and a floppy, exhausted one at that). The internet is very helpful but it's necessary to be selective in what to believe as a lot of sites and forums seem highly emotive and, well, extreme in that they can breed bitterness and anger which impedes healing and deeper understanding.

      When you're 'in it', though, when unwittingly being played and have your head in the lions mouth - with eyes wide shut - it is so mind bendingly confusing...a and social forums have their place for ranting, raving and for justified anger.

      I do have to let it out. It does help to write.

      When the penny dropped that someone I loved has this condition I had a twofold reaction. Firstly, enormous relief in a way, that the inexplicable confusion had an underlying cause. A eureka moment. That's it...wow. It was very consoling. Secondly, memory flood gates opened of incidents that represented 'classic' narcissistic ploys that left me riddled with self-doubt and bedraggled, and I never knew why. Was like being very gradually dragged through a dark hedge backwards. The first and second reactions were swiftly followed by anger (that I was so naïve and daft to have enabled myself to be positioned in this way)and then sadness.

      It's SO very refreshing to come across your site. Having browsed it a little it's an enormous help in understanding narcissism as a condition or way of behaving and as a continuum. I know I will gain a more measured and deeper understanding of it by reading the advice, articles and experiences on here and hopefully helping others in some way who have been in a lions den. (I like lions, so that's an unfair analogy...lions do bond!).

      Thank you CZ. Thank you for hope, objectivity and enabling invaluable sharing of experiences. You do offer enormous relief.


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