Living without the Narcissist Friend

Last night I went out for a “date” with my lovely other half. Conversation somehow found it’s way to friendships and one friend in particular. Or should I say, Ex-friend. 

Last August I cut ties with one of my closest friends after a particularly brutal verbal attack.  It was the last in a very long line of them but this time I just had enough.

She wasn’t a typically “nice” person. She did sometimes do and say some awful things, un-PC things, shocking things.  I had learnt to laugh them off, shrug them off or just roll my eyes at her and shake my head.  Don’t get me wrong, I did tell her she was wrong – countless times but it always fell on deaf ears and I didn’t want to always spend my time telling her what she should and shouldn’t say or do.  That was up to her.

narcissist bird.jpg

Anyway, cutting to the chase – I’ve been without said ex-friend now for about 5 months. We had been very close friends, at least in my eyes, for about 8 years. I miss her sometimes and particularly when I’ve had a glass of vino like last night or when I’m feeling lonely. 

I don’t have many friends. I have some friends and I have my boyfriend and step-kids, but the horrible, hard truth is that ex-friend and my mother are both very narcissistic: I’ve “lost” them both recently, or so it seems. 

Actually, I don’t think I should say lost because it’s been my choice – what would the right word be?  I’m leaning to remove the negative things and people from my life. Both of these women hurt me over and over again, for years and I just used to let it happen. I’m not actually sure I even knew it was wrong at the time.

Trying to explain to my boyfriend that despite her/their horrible ways and the many ways she/they hurt me and knocked me down time and time again, I did love her and I did get something from our friendship, but it’s like persuading someone that Hannibal Lecter was a nice guy!! 

I miss having someone I could go out with once every few weeks and have a drink with, talk rubbish with – connect with (although looking back, I guess it wasn’t an authentic connection) and just relax with. 

I know deep down, I can’t have really relaxed, not properly, because I was always on guard for an attack or at least repairing the attacks she spat at the bar staff or innocent people sat nearby. 

Realising that ex-friend and mother are exactly the same is still a shock sometimes.  You know the kind of thing that you know, but you get reminded and it’s like you’ve just realised all over again? 

The fact that I accepted and loved both these people for so long still hurts me. How was I so blind for so long? And now I can “see” how can I miss someone so bad for me? 

Another example of the inevitable pain that comes with recovery I guess. Newly educated, logical mind tells you that “X” is bad. Old mind wants what is “normal” and misses it’s old creature comforts – be that abusive or not.  Perhaps it is fear of the unknown or maybe it’s just that familiar is comfortable, whether it’s good for you or not.

It’s our default position and that is what we are fighting against all the time in recovery.  Fighting against repetition compulsion.

Weirdly, I’ve noticed that I never want to text or call my mother anymore. Never. I guess I’ve replaced her with my new “good mother” – the therapist. 

The journey continues….

Repetition compulsion?

Okay so her words are running through my head today over and over again. Sometimes she says something and it’s like she is shouting it at me really trying very hard to make me pay attention, to sit up and understand what she is saying (not literally).  I don’t know whether it is that she really does say it in a different way, or perhaps that she repeats it enough times that I finally listen or whether sometimes something in me realises somewhere along the line, this is important, Twink, listen up.

Yesterday’s words that are having this effect on me were “your needs and feelings are not too much.  You just attract people who cannot handle feelings.  It isn’t your feelings – it feels like it is, because everyone around you is the same so you blame yourself, but it isn’t you”. Or words to that affect anyway, I can’t remember the exact words but I remember playing it back to myself at the time thinking “she is saying that it feels like EVERYONE in the world thinks my feelings are too much, only because I’ve attracted those people around me…. so that’s all I know”…

Repetition compulsion at play again I guess.

So, do I believe her? I guess the adult part of me has sat up and thought about this and understood that she is a very clever, knowledgeable lady and what’s more, she is a therapist.  It is her job to point things out to me, make me understand and believe them and not lie to me. Yet I guess there is a part of me that still thinks she is just trying to be nice to me and say nice things, whether they are actually true or not.

When I’ve sent her an email in a dark place, I send it off to her and I don’t hold back. It could be full of desperation, loneliness, sadness, anger, fear – any of those things.  All I care about is getting it out of me, making some sense of it and sending it to her “to hold” because she is the only person in the world who could possibly understand what I mean.  Sometimes I worry that my emails have little emotional effect on her and that she reads them like reading a story about a stranger in a magazine, skimming to the important bits just enough to be able to tell me that she has read it and the other half of me thinks that is entirely unfair because she is clearly invested in me and has known me for nearly 3 years, enough to care about me when I’m in pain.. surely?  Anyway, I send her the email, I eventually calm down and return to a bit more of an adult way of feeling and then I’m whacked by this great big shame storm for having been so needy, so desperate, so pathetic. I hate that I’ve sent it to her and I hate that she has read it and worry she will think “Jesus Christ, will you stop!!”.  Obviously she hasn’t ever given me any reason for feeling this, although when I emailed her last Tuesday to tell her that I was not looking forward to coming because I really felt so ashamed for having sent such a desperate email a few days before, she didn’t reply and that really didn’t help contain me when I was already feeling extremely anxious.

She said that she thinks I get this shame attack because I’ve had it drummed into me that my needs are bad and that my feelings can’t be handled. My mum couldn’t handle my needs or feelings and made that very clear to me over the years. She said that is why I find it so hard to really bring the feelings into therapy and why I’ve found it so hard to cry with her because I am so worried I will be too much. Makes sense….

Another thing we spoke about was that when you are a child, you have to keep your parent good – you can’t allow yourself to “see” the bad stuff about them.  So you push away anything that doesn’t fit with the image you hold of them, the one you want to hold for them.  You idealise them. She also explained to me that in a relationship, at the beginning stages, you idealise your partner and you both project onto each other what you want the other person to be – a while later, maybe years, that projected image starts to fall and you are left with the real person.  She said that it is this stage that effectively makes or breaks a couple. Do you really/still like what you are left with or not?  She said that couples who get through this period are normally pretty set for life.

I told her that I’ve been crying so much lately and she asked what the main feeling/fear was. I said I wasn’t entirely sure and that it was hard to make any sense of. I thought a while and then I said that I think it’s that feeling that “we” weren’t really real. That what we’ve had wasn’t as good as I thought it was and that I don’t really know him at all.  It made me cry quiet, slow tears again.  She nodded and seemed to understand.  She told me that she thinks although I am starting to use her as the mother figure for transference issues, she thinks I’ve done a lot of it with My boyfriend.  She said that obviously she can’t be there with me at home every day and that he is so she thinks I’ve maybe done a bit of this with him…

So today I’m trying to digest this… I’m only just now, 3 years in, realising that he isn’t able to be emotionally open with me and he can’t discuss his feelings, fears etc because of his own things… and I guess that is proving so unbearable for me because I have to “keep him good” like a child has to keep their mum good.  Now that I’ve had my eyes opened to the truth, that he isn’t emotionally available to me, it is killing me because I NEED for him to be what I NEED him to be.. I don’t know if this makes any sense but the words seem to be flying out as I process it.

I told her that after our last session, I had sent him an email telling him our theory about why he finds it so hard to be emotionally vulnerable with me and about our theory of why concerning his upbringing and his mum and dad’s relationship etc – I told her his reaction which was mainly defensive although he agreed to one small point in it.  She said “you can’t be his therapist, don’t even try”.  I said oh no, I’m not, I just want to help him so that it helps us! But she said “you can’t change him”.  I didn’t like her saying that because I don’t want to be someone who is accused of wanting to change someone they love.  I guess I was feeling instantly defensive.  Am I trying to change him? I guess I am, but not because I don’t think he is lovely as he is, and not because I don’t love him – just because I want so much for our relationship to blossom into a healthy, authentic and equal one and that him being more in touch with his emotions is something that we need to happen… still, I guess the words have stayed with me because she is right. It isn’t for me to try and get him to do that – I just want to encourage him to because I guess I worry what the alternative is… if he doesn’t ever open up to me and learn to confide in me, will our love stagnate because I will change due to all this therapy and I will one day realise we are incompatible because of it?

I have been so busy playing my part of this relationship triangle business and enjoying the “benefits” of being the victim – getting all the comfort, support, love, advice etc that I hadn’t sat up and looked at things in a clear light.  Now I can see that I’ve attracted a (wonderfully) imperfect man, its scared me.  All I want to be able to do is accept that he is imperfect as we all are, and be able to still feel the love I feel for him.  I hope that is possible more than I can write.  All my previous relationships have been with emotionally unavailable men, and I’ve spent the last 3 years telling her that he is so different – which is is don’t get me wrong!!!! But on this level, they were somewhat the same. That is a hard thing to discover. I had totally idealised him as my perfect saviour – my hero.

As I write this, I feel totally consumed with my love for him. I can picture his face smiling at me and it makes me feel so happy inside. I truly love him, I hope whatever is next in my therapy teaches me to be able to tolerate any pain I feel which is really aimed at my mother and my loss of what she couldn’t give me so that I can keep me and him safe whatever issues we may have to confront together.

Perhaps one day he will agree to some couples counselling – but I can’t see it right now.   :wave: