Why I Don’t Regret My Marriage to A Narcissist
But I had to get over the trauma and divorce before I found a soft place in my heart.
On a day when I could barely hold it together, when I needed support as much as I needed air, I called a friend to tell her that I had left my short-lived second marriage. She then, who had urged me to give him a second chance during a rough spot in our courtship, turned on my husband with a vicious attack.
She called him a narcissist, a term I didn’t fully understand at the time, and compared him to her ex.
That guy? She had told me he was a monster.
I had to get off the phone. It was bad enough that my marriage was over. I was shattered and didn’t need a so-called friend telling me lies.
I’d never marry a monster. What was she thinking?
It took a lot of therapy sessions before I realized she had told me the truth.
I had no idea I‘d been married to someone with a borderline/narcissistic personality disorder.
Well, that’s how I eventually diagnosed him. Full disclosure, he’d never submitted to a psychiatric examination, so I’m only speculating from articles and first-person accounts I’ve read online. It’s also the assumption of the therapist who’d met him the few times he agreed to couples’ therapy. So, take my assessment for what it’s worth.
In any case, I’d never met anyone like him before. In the beginning, it was why I said yes when he proposed. I told anyone who asked that I never felt so loved. It turned out, his ability to “adore me,” as he assured me every morning, was only one side of his complicated personality.
In the end, he had me thinking I was crazy and delusional. I couldn’t believe anything he said from one minute to the next. He had volatile mood swings, putting me on a pedestal one day and declaring me his worst nightmare the next.
The emotional merry-go-round that had become my life devastated me. I’d had tumultuous relationships before, but never with someone who seemed to lose touch with reality at times, who was chaotic and untrustworthy in every respect.
The marriage left me traumatized and financially ruined. Close friends saw it coming. Some had tried to warn me after we announced our engagement that perhaps I should rethink my choice. But I had bulldozed my way through many red flags, and even after the wreckage of my dreams, I still couldn’t accept the diagnosis my friend had levied on my husband.
I’m not writing this to school you on the fine points of narcissist behavior or to warn other potential victims of this confusing and devastating personality disorder. The internet is rife with articles describing the symptoms in parents, friends, bosses, and partners.
Nor am I going to bore you with a victim rant about the things that “terrible man did to me.” I relate what happened between us merely to document the aspects of our marriage that led me to take flight one morning.
Did I fear for my safety?
Was he a murderous villain intent on engineering my demise?
Of course not.
Eventually, I left, crushed, angry, and not really understanding what had happened. After a lot of research, I decided I had married a man with very serious psychological problems, ones that the couples counseling I had managed to drag him to on occasion couldn’t solve.
At first, I cried a lot. And then I was angry. I played over episodes in my mind, each ugly scene between us refueling my victimhood, or justifying my decision to leave, or leaving me guilt-ridden that maybe I hadn’t given the marriage my all.
Always, I ended up full of regrets, blaming myself for having walked into this meatgrinder without paying attention to the ten-story road signs.
When I had recovered from the worst of the emotional shock, I came to some conclusions. I took full responsibility for blundering into the marriage, but no matter how grown up I could be about owning my decision to marry him, I believed I had every reason to carry a boatload of anger toward him.
I read many articles about people in similar relationships, some about people who had suffered far worse trauma than I had.
If I closed my eyes, I could recite the litany of complaints by spouses about their narcissistic exes. The rages, the lies, the gaslighting. The fury they carried years after a divorce.
I knew that anger. It had followed me through my days as I began rebuilding my life. I had a list of resentment as long as my arm.
So here was my choice. I could throw in my lot with all the other disgruntled people who’d been wronged by partners with personality disorders. People like me who either didn’t see it coming or put blinders on so they could act surprised when they had to duck the shrapnel.
On top of all my misery, I could use the marriage and divorce to feed my anger and help me feel justified in calling him names, pin him as the bad guy in all this. I could chew over every rotten moment until I was a bitter old woman. And who could blame me? Hadn’t this guy dealt me a really bad hand?
He’d promised me the moon and delivered the garbage. Why shouldn’t I complain about my lot in life?
I’m sure my friends were tired of my complaints, yet I couldn’t get enough of listing the wrongs he had done, the duplicity, the bursts of anger, the unpredictability, his unwillingness to get help.
Or I could go in another direction.
I began to see the cost of feeding my constant impulse to blame my ex for my unhappiness. Sure, who could blame me, but was that a reason to feast on bitter fruit every day?
Who was that hurting? I had moved to a different city. We had only communicated by email after I left. We had negotiated through lawyers to settle the divorce. I’d never have to see him again. Was my anger having any effect on his life? Was I sitting him down and giving him chapter and verse on shortcomings so he could learn some lessons?
Of course not. I was only making myself miserable. Keeping my wounds open and oozing puss.
I began to realize an important lesson about anger. Unless you have a concrete plan to right a wrong, anger only hurts the angry. The subject of our wrath experiences nothing at all.
Carrying around rage for someone I’d never see again was not healing anything. It was not helping me move on, and it was not curing whatever was misfiring in my ex-husband’s psyche. Or mine.
I had one of those aha moments. My anger seemed to have one purpose. Keeping me angry, vengeful, and bitter.
Before I met him, I’d mostly had a positive attitude about life. Sometimes I failed, but it was my objective.
I’d paid a price for a bad decision, a wrong move, for putting myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, or whatever generous spin you want to put on my marriage.
I wasn’t going to give it one more moment of my emotional well-being if I could help it.
When I made that decision, I turned a corner, but I didn’t find it easy to shift my thinking from resenting my ex-husband to seeing our connection as something other than a neurotic, sick relationship.
I worked on looking at the positive moments in our life together. We had started out wanting a life of love, and I made a choice to consider our relationship a period of growth, an opportunity to learn about myself. I looked deeply at what I had needed so much that I shut my eyes to the obvious difficulties that lay ahead when I accepted my husband’s proposal.
I’d spent a lot of time and money in therapy over the years trying to fix my flaws, trying to heal old wounds that might have made me vulnerable to him. I tried to understand my part in our crazymaking behavior. I became a fly on the wall, cringing at all the things I didn’t know about making good choices for myself.
I think this was all good in terms of knowing myself better, but frankly, it didn’t help me feel any less angry toward my ex. Something inside me still blamed him for my misery, my loss.
But then I had a new insight. Trying to figure it out or find answers wasn’t working. I’d still fall into spells of blame and recrimination. Even with the best of intentions, I couldn’t seem to stop my brain from thinking.
My big change occurred, however, when I did something so simple, it almost knocked me flat. I just consciously started sending my ex-husband good will.
So, what if we had a bad marriage? So, what if he had mood swings and road rage? It happened. Done and dusted. Maybe I was a piece of work at times, too. Who knows? Even if he is a narcissist with a borderline personality disorder and every other diagnosis in the book. Does that mean he doesn’t deserve a kind thought from me?
If my negative thoughts won’t change him into a good guy, my kind thoughts may not have any effect on him either, but they sure will make me feel better.
And that’s the point of all my navel-gazing anyway, isn’t it? To get over the trauma of a relationship that didn’t fulfill my dreams?
When he would creep into my thoughts, I’d wish him well. I’d call up a happy memory and then move on.
It took a while before the habit took hold, but in time I found my mood improved. I could think of our time together without seeing red. Soon, I thought of the marriage less and less, well, relatively speaking.
I determined not to be one of those people who raged about their ex at every opportunity, and the way to accomplish that was simply to stop speaking about him. If my friends noticed, I’m sure they were relieved.
Of course, I still had negative thoughts, but on a scale of 1–10, they carried less weight over time. They had less power to spoil my mood, and in time, I could put genuine feeling behind a wish that he was doing well, or his boss was appreciating him. After all, he wasn’t my problem anymore.
He never knew about my change of heart, but so what? It didn’t cost me anything to think kindly of him. Some of my friends would have said I was a fool for cutting him some slack.
If he showed up on my doorstep, I would have told him to go away. I didn’t want him in my life, but neither did I want him infecting my thoughts in a negative way anymore.
I also realized that when he got down on one knee to ask me to marry him, old school style, I couldn’t wait to say yes. So, much of the blame for my unhappy marriage belongs on my shoulders. He wasn’t holding a gun to my head on the day we said, I do.”
When all is said and done, when I’m sending kindness out into the universe as a way to heal from that relationship, from any of my wounds, I guess I should send some my way as well. And I wouldn’t have learned that lesson if I hadn’t married him.
5 Things My Mother Never Told Me About Sex
It would have been faster than learning them for myself.
Are Body Issues Keeping You From Enjoying Sex
Don’t deny yourself great sex because you’re embarrassed to show him your body.