It took many years to understand the depth of being silenced by the silent treatment. “But it’s me, nothing has changed, it is still me, you love me, remember?” But no response. He said he loved me, proclaimed it indeed, in front of anyone who would listen. “What’s wrong? Did I do something?”, digging inside trying to understand where I may have failed him. Against the grain it felt, something was not right, yet I continued on. Cried in the driveway with the deep knowing of this being so foreign, so painful, so unnecessary and unexplainable. I told the kids, “daddy is just busy”, “he has a lot on his mind” when he did not answer them, too. A knot of pink scars ready to open by any slight trigger is what became of me after years of emotional abuse by silent treatment. Years of thinking that I was not perfect, not a good woman, not a good partner, not a good cook, not a good employee, never enough. Years of beating myself down into a smaller and smaller person, less significant, less capable, less ambitious, less attractive, less me. And he never spoke those words to me directly, what he did was much worse. He withdrew his attention, his love, his communication, his touch, his respect and acted as if I was nothing. Sometimes for days or weeks. His tone of voice, his demeanor, his whole self became indifferent in regards to me. This cannot be intentional, why would one inflict such pain onto the one he loves? I tried explaining my feelings, my pain, my suffering, yet no conversation ever left me feeling better and understood. It became a torturous game, a puzzle of what I would later learn to be known as a “word salad”, without any real resolution. Worse yet, the horrendous waves of silent treatment will return again and again without warning, sometimes because I said or did something that he did not approve of, or because he was having a bad day at work, or because the kids were not behaving. I know now that I became his accomplice, his filter for the children, as I attempted to shield them from the dysfunction of our wicked dance by pretending this was normal, but covering for him, by justifying his bad behavior toward me and them each and every time, while dying inside. It took me years to realize that this had to end or I would end. I would diffuse into nothingness as I allowed myself to exist only in the way that he created me. I was in chains of a narcissist and I just broke free. This is my journey.
So here I am finding myself in the midst of a hoovering attack by my narcissistic partner of over 20 years. Rather than starting my story at the beginning I decided to begin right here, where I am right now, in the ever so present moment.
I had the break up conversation with you exactly 3 weeks and 1 day ago today. Prior to that conversation, I educated myself in great depth about narcissistic personality disorder and many different solutions and advice available through books, podcasts and websites on how to deal with someone like him. I believe actually realizing that you have a disorder (without official diagnosis, of course) led me to believe that change is not likely and all of my previous attempts at changing things between us were nothing but parts of the vicious narcissistic abuse cycle and never resulted in lasting positive improvement. The sadness and pain that I experienced throughout the relationship has me continuously seeking solutions to better myself in order to better “us”, as I began a long time ago to see myself as “deficient” and somehow “not worthy” of true love and affection and companionship and healthy human communication.
You are now attempting to gain back my love by having long conversations, in which you take some responsibility (amazing!), though usually just deflecting it to other outside influences, like your work commitments, which “made me a monster”, but really therapy sessions where you talk about yourself and your pain which caused you to behave in unacceptable ways toward me. You say your behavior is inexcusable. You apologize and ask me to go to therapy with you. You say you are not sure if life is worth living for you any more. If your battles are worth fighting for without me in your life. You try to generate an emotional response from me by making me feel bad and sorry for you and at times you attempt to get me to take responsibility for “my part” in the relationship, as I surely played a role in this as well. I listen. I realize that this is not real. I have made excuses for your behavior most of our lives together, justifying things for myself and others but I will no longer do that. I have heard the words from you before, beautiful words, expressions of deepest love, but you do not treat a loved one this way. LOVE IS AN ACT, I read somewhere recently. It is not simply words. Words were not true before and they are not about to be true now, as you are not the man of your word. This I know. This is the truth I believe in because I know who you are beneath all the lies.
I know who you become once the doors are closed and there is nobody to impress. When you speak to me, I employ the “grey rock method” which comes naturally. I stare at things in nature while you talk at me and focus on the glistening tree sap frozen in a rainbow covered drop across from where I sit. You do not want to listen, you just need to get things off your chest, as you say, because you are all about you. I think you also want to elicit an emotional response from me, but you won’t. Because I have conspired with the sap, and we are friends, and I will not get emotional in front of you. I am strong and courageous as a rock and you are not used to it. You send me emails that you now get it, that you understand, that we need to talk. I am not responding. You send texts with wishing me a beautiful day and funny emojis. I only respond about kids’ arrangements. You send me boxes from amazon containing yoga gear and meditation supplies. I tell you I do not need things. You have done everything that Hoovering is according to multiple books I have read on the subject, and continue doing it. You are not accepting No Contact/Low Contact as you continuously try to contact me, which means that you once again have no respect for my wishes and are trying to control the situation.
This is a very challenging time in my life, yet I believe better things will come. As I continue to wake up each morning without a narcissist in my bed, I do not have the heavy feeling of walking on eggshells around him and I am already able to create and maintain a beautiful relationship with my family, which you have tried to cut me off and create so much pain and conflict around. You did not succeed in that. And you did not succeed the kind, joyful, and compassionate person that I was created to be. I will grow and I will flourish and I will experience unconditional love and joy because I am worth it. Finding myself, working through the scars and the identity enmeshment that took place during our relationship, will take its time, and I am grateful for the lessons you have taught me. I also wish you so well. As a human being to another human being, a father of our children, I will always care for your physical and emotional health. I hope that this time in our lives, this separation, will also bring you to some soul searching and really push you to find your joy.