Relationships, Revelations, and Healing

I looked at the new supply’s Facebook profile again yesterday morning.

I look every once in a while with the hope I’ll see some indication she has ended her relationship with the Narcissist. I think of her with less and less frequency as time goes by, but always with a little internal prayer for the protection and good health of her and her children. (Blog post: Wishes for the next victim)

Her new photo is yet another one, similar to most of her other recent profile photos, of she and the Narcissist smiling eagerly for a selfie together.

The photo is intensely filtered to ensure both of their faces look airbrushed and poreless. Her skin tone is healthy and flushed, but the filter she’s used makes his face look rather green and sickly. It amuses me. Also, it would appear he’s getting quite large. Since he is obsessed and disgusted by lack of physical fitness in others, his own dramatic increase in size is quite amusing to me as well. (Petty of me? Yes. Definitely. So be it.)

There was no caption. There never is. But this time, she did include a bunch of purple hearts.

The hearts bothered me. Are they celebrating something? Are they engaged? Has she moved into the house? (The photo was in the living room; it’s the first I’ve seen that is obviously inside the house he and I owned together.) Or perhaps it is an anniversary of some special event that occurred a year ago? Maybe one year ago was when they decided they were ‘official’?

Whenever I see smiling photos of them together I have to take a step back and remind myself how little truth their smiling faces actually convey regarding the health or happiness of the relationship.

He and I were smiling together in photos up until the end, even during the periods of the worst abuse. I never let any of my fear or unhappiness show publicly.

So, despite their smiling faces, I still worry about her.

However, having looked at the photo resulted in a revelation and a breakthrough of sorts, because it led to a profoundly impactful conversation with a close friend.

The topic was my feelings of concern for the new supply.

I confronted this friend about a pattern of speech I see from her. It had bothered me for a while. In confronting her, I confronted a few of my own inner demons and simultaneously received affirmation about the health and quality of the friendship.

Up until now, whenever I would think about the abuse, whenever I would think about the Narcissist, there was a voice in my head that diminished me and my experiences.

My inner voice used to say, “Maybe he wasn’t abusive. Maybe you’re being overdramatic. Sure, you guys didn’t get along, but maybe that was just your dynamic with him.” Close on the heels of these thoughts are the ones that say, “Maybe, in some way, you are to blame for his treatment of you.”

My inner turmoil on these issues, my doubts, my insecurities that I’ve quietly been doing battle with, are suddenly dramatically lessened.

Those feelings are now gone because I stood up for myself and was respected at a time when the inner voice was an external voice.

You see, when I tried talking to my friend about my feelings of concern for the new supply, her reply was along the same lines as it has always been when I try to talk about the new supply:

“You two didn’t work together, but who knows if their issues are compatible or will end up clashing.”

Her intent was to be reassuring, I know. I’ve been close friends with her for a long time. She knows me inside and out, better than anyone on the planet. Her intent was to calm my anxiety about the new supply’s wellbeing.

She is the primary person that helped me wake up to the reality of my relationship. She saw the changes in me when the relationship started and as it deepened. She patiently worked with me, gently reminding me over and over again who I really am, and gracefully and lovingly discussing with me the differences she witnessed while I was under the Narcissist’s spell.

She is the primary person who pulled me out of the fog.

And yet, after I ended the relationship and the Narcissist almost immediately found a new supply, my friend started saying things like, “just because your dynamic didn’t work…” and, “maybe it will be different between the two of them, you don’t know for sure.” It’s a fairly pervasive pattern and it’s been bothering me for over a year now.

In general, I’m an extremely nonconfrontational person. I have had far too many experiences in life where standing up for myself has resulted in those who have hurt me becoming offended and angered rather than apologetic or empathetic.

Thus, the very idea of telling someone they’ve hurt me makes me shake, sweat, and sometimes burst into tears. (This, of course, is something my friend knows all too well about me.)

With this friend who I love and trust, I realized valuing our friendship required I tell her how her words made me feel.

Otherwise, the very foundation of our relationship was one that had some cracks, and this is not what I want for us.

It was difficult for me, but I had this to say, and I said it. My hands shook as I typed.

“The thing is, we didn’t just ‘not work together.’ He was emotionally abusive, to me and, I learned later, his ex-wife as well, and I suspect many others. To say he and his new girlfriend’s issues might be compatible minimizes my experiences.”

I stood up for myself, to her and to the voices in my head. I sweated while waiting for her response, though. When it came, I was astounded and tears of gratitude filled my eyes.

“I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention at all, and thanks for calling it out (I’m proud of you for that). I was trying to provide a simple response, but I see now it was very minimizing.”

Folks, this is what a good relationship looks like. This is the right response to our expressions of hurt and it is what we all deserve.

This is what healthy interactions look and feel like. In healthy relationships, there is no need for fear when standing up for oneself. In healthy relationships, there is trust, and love, and respect, and very little ego.

May none of us who are recovering from abuse ever again settle for less, and may we have the strength to politely distance ourselves from those that do not deserve us, whether they be friends, family, or lovers.

May we forevermore see ourselves as worthy of respect, from both self and other.

In the wise words of Michelle Obama:

“Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with.” 

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