If you’ve ever battled with a narcissist, chances are that you have repeated yourself in self-defense. It’s an unending cycle that I lived for 24 years. No matter what you say or do when dealing with a narcissist, you end up talking in circles trying to explain yourself. Explaining yourself in hopes that a slight switch in words here or there MIGHT make the narcissist understand that you are not evil or speaking sarcastically. It is exhausting! From my conversations with other survivors of narcissistic abuse and from the many books I have read, this seems to be a common trait of narcissists.
I grew so tired of defending myself day in and day out. I often cried and screamed out of frustration during arguments. It was absolutely crazy-making. The narcissist in my life woke up seeing me in a bad light every single day. One day, he walked into the living room, grabbed his wrist and said, “My wrist really hurts!” I asked, “Oh, did you take any ibuprofen?” He lost it! He snapped, “You ALWAYS belittle my pain! You never care that I am hurting!” I asked, “What are you talking about? I asked you if you took ibuprofen because it helps joint pain. I would have gotten some for you, I wasn’t trying to belittle your pain!” “Yes, you were, you always do,” he yelled. We argued for over an hour with me trying to defend myself that I didn’t mean to belittle his pain by asking if he had taken any ibuprofen. I lost. No amount of explaining could make him think I was a decent human being who merely wanted to help reduce his pain. He never did take any ibuprofen for the pain, that I know of.
During any conflict, some statement of mine would be dissected, sentence diagrammed and a word chosen by him –a word upon which the argument would shift. He would tell me that whatever word I had used didn’t mean what I thought it meant and thus, my sentence meant something completely different than I had intended it to mean. In that moment, the argument shifted to my defending myself with such statements as, “That is not what I intended to say” or “That is not what I meant”. I would apologize again and again. I would restate what I meant to say in various ways in an attempt to explain what I meant to say until he said, “You are repeating yourself and talking in circles! You never say anything when you speak! You are psycho!” I would beg him to believe that I wasn’t trying to hurt or belittle him. I never won that battle, not even once. No matter what I said or did, he was always right and I was always wrong. He always knew my true feelings and intent and I never knew my true intent or feelings. Another common trait of a narcissist–they always know what their victim is feeling or meaning to say.
When I once told him, “You dropped something on the stairs,” he totally lost it. He was carrying a basket of laundry and dropped a washcloth. I didn’t yell or anything, I simply said what people have said to me when I’ve dropped items on the stairs! Mercy me! He yelled, “You always blame me!” What? I don’t even understand how this is an occasion for blame to begin with, but honestly, what is the big deal? Everyone drops laundry from time to time, in fact, I do this quite frequently. Like an idiot, I argued with the narcissist for hours trying to explain that I didn’t blame him for dropping the washcloth! I lost the battle again and was told I was psycho.
As a last ditch effort, I forced him to go to a marriage retreat where we wrote letters to each other throughout the weekend. This was the weekend that I realized that every argument we had ever argued was always twisted into fighting about me, my words and/or my intention behind what I’d spoken. For 24 years, we never argued over the original point of contention, it was always turned back onto me. Whether it be my inability to comprehend the English language or to communicate it, it always came back to ME. He was never at fault, even if I was the one hurt by words he, himself, had uttered. Because the latter, he would say, was due to my inability to comprehend. With Narcissists, they are always right and any communication errors are always the fault of the other person.
He wrote during the retreat that he didn’t want to be there but knew I could say, “You didn’t even do this one thing,” if he chose not to attend and left the marriage. I already knew he had the paramour and probably should have just let him walk away without a fight. After one retreat session, we were in the hotel room reading the letters we had written. I had written a sincere letter to him, a letter from my heart. He read the letter, looked up at me from the bed and said, “This is sarcastic!” “WHAT!?” I replied, “I wrote that letter from my heart, I was being sincere!” He came back, “No, you weren’t sincere, you were being sarcastic!” “No, I promise! I was being sincere! I promise!!!!” To no avail, I continued to explain that I was actually being sincere. I even said, “Remember that they said not to attribute intention to the other person’s letter! Please, you can’t tell me the intent of my own letter, I was being sincere!” I begged and pleaded with him to believe that I was being sincere. At that moment, I realized that this argument WAS the same argument we’d been having for 24 years. I realized that no matter what I said or did, I would ALWAYS be the problem. I realized that no matter how sincere, loving or kind I tried to be, he would always see me as being evil, uncaring and sarcastic.
We never discussed our letters that session. We spent the hour arguing over whether or not I was actually being sincere in mine. As I cried and screamed, he told me again how crazy and psycho I was being. This was the repetitive circle of our lives. As time went on, I became more and more belligerent each time I had to defend my words and intent. It was definitely not pretty and I am not sure why I continued to defend myself to someone who clearly would never understand. I guess I thought the million and first time I explained myself might be the time he understood I wasn’t an evil psycho out to hurt him.
Now I am free of him and of the abuse. YES, abuse. If you are dealing with narcissistic abuse, please get help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has great resources on Narcissistic Abuse and a hotline: 1-800-799-7233 Narcissism and Abuse I have been in therapy for over 3 years and can finally say that I am on there path to healing from his abuse. With God’s grace and the strength He gives each of us, you can find peace and healing, too.