Looking back, it’s the little things narc did that still amaze me, the subtle ways he undermined me, destabilized me and tried to make me look crazy or controlling to others. At the time, I could feel in my gut that it was unacceptable and un-partnerlike behaviour, but it wasn’t until this healing and recovery period that I finally came to understand just how calculated and purposeful his behaviour was.
One night that keeps coming to mind was in the last month we were together. We had started talking about a trip to France for his friend’s wedding. Because the wedding was going to be not too far from the France-Spain border, he suggested we go to Spain first. I was ecstatic. Spain is on my bucket list, as is the La Tomatina festival which we would have been right on schedule for. While I had been hesitating to go on this trip with him, Spain sold me on the idea and I started to let myself become excited.
That week, on a Friday night as we were driving to a karaoke bar to meet up with a group of his friends, he suddenly started a fight saying that I was taking over the trip, and that I should be excited about his friend’s wedding instead of being excited about Spain. I was confused and defended myself that Spain was his idea, and I don’t even know this friend of his so how could I possibly be excited about her wedding, but of course he just became more insistent and angry. I told him it was like somebody offering someone a box of chocolates, and then getting mad at them for taking the chocolate. It made no sense.
By the time we arrived at the bar (a 15 minute drive), we were barely speaking. This set the stage for an evening of escalating little things to put me back in my place.
In his first attempt, he tried to make me look like I thought I was better than his friends. One of his friends had been telling the group about a weird phenomenon that had happened here in the cold winter. I had heard of it too, and nodded along. He looked at me and asked ‘Is she right?’ and asked me to explain it the way I understood it. So I said yes she was right, and explained the same thing using different words. He said, ‘that’s what she just said, why would you just repeat what she said?’ and then looked at all his friends as if I was ridiculous. I was dumbfounded. I responded, ‘Because you specifically asked me to explain it to you because apparently you didn’t understand it when she said it.’ I gave him a weird look, turned away and struck up a conversation with one of his friends instead.
A little while later, while he and his female friend were looking at their cell phones together, and everyone else was engaged in conversations with each other, I pulled out my cell phone and responded to a text. He immediately gave me a vicious look and mouthed “Stop that. Put it away.” I was confused and looked back at my phone. He kicked me under the table and angrily mouthed at me again to put my phone away. It made no sense to me. Why could everyone else be doing their own thing, but I was expected to just sit there and do nothing? I stayed on my phone for a little while longer just to make a point and then put it away. He was livid.
A few minutes later, we all got up to move to a different table. He and I arrived at the table first, and as I reached for the chair beside him he physically blocked me and said he didn’t want me sitting beside him. I asked why not, but he couldn’t give a reason so I sat beside him anyway, determined to win him over with my love that night (smh). Of course he proceeded to flirt with the girl who sat across from him while ignoring me, and then denied that he was flirting with her.
When he finally did decide to acknowledge me, it was by pretending he was going to hit me (he was not typically physically violent towards me, this was meant to appear as more of a play fighting thing… I think). As his hand came towards me, I grabbed his wrist and pushed it towards him instead, so he actually ended up punching himself in the face (lol!). Of course he didn’t think that was funny. He lashed out and scratched my face, drawing blood. Then he got mad at me, saying that I had punched him in the face. I just held onto the side of my face and tried not to cry. I couldn’t help thinking we were starting to become that obnoxious couple at the table.
I waited a minute or two, then went to the bathroom to clean up the scratch and try to collect my thoughts. When I came back, he was laughing with a pretty girl who had been siting on the other side of me, and then went up on stage to sing a song with her. Oh, how they laughed together. I couldn’t help feeling he was so full of hate for me and purposely trying to hurt me. He had never once asked me to go up with him, but he sure looked pleased as punch to be going up with her.
That was it. I was done. I silently endured the last 30 minutes, drove him home, walked into his house to grab my overnight bag, and walked out. Of course, he was mad about that because I was “abandoning” him, just like his mother. (blah blah blah)
We ended up still staying together for a few weeks after that before I finally ended it, once and for all. I’m pretty sure he only let me end it because his next one was finally ripe for the picking. A week after we broke up, she left her husband. Poor stupid girl.
When I think back on all the craziness over the years, this is one of the nights I keep coming back to. I was so worn down by this point that, despite all the little things he did that were actually huge red flags, I only had the strength to stay away for a couple of days before I slid right back in. It’s amazing how all our perceptions become so distorted over time when we’re subjected to constant abuse.
I’ve learned that so much of our process of healing and recovery is about self forgiveness. Yes, I wish I had cut him out of my life sooner, but at least I did it eventually. Thank goodness I did! In two days, it will be 8 months of freedom from all those little things he did, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not deeply grateful and happy to be free.
I know now that the little things with him were actually big things, really big things, and the little things in my life now – going to bed without a knot in my stomach, feeling proud of myself, dancing in my living room, kayaking alone on a quiet lake – those are the real treasures of life.