Here’s what Actually Happens when we Call our Ex a Narcissist.

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On a beautiful, peaceful September day, I found myself under a tree, wailing and sobbing uncontrollably.

It happened on the corner of a busy street, but oddly and thankfully, no one seemed to notice.

My heart thudded and exploded in misery, shock, and sadness again and again as snot poured generously from my nose. Not having any tissues handy, I blew my nose into my hands and wiped them on the grass—classy.

Staring at the sinking sun, my breath caught inside my chest and suddenly, I knew—I was going to die here. The sun would set, the moon and stars would move across the sky, the sun would rise again, and here I would remain: under this tree, paralyzed until I perished.

Flashes of my then-beloved husband stabbed at me in a million places inside my body.

“I don’t think I ever loved you…nothing you did means anything to me.”

His jaw was set hard in anger and apprehension; his eyes shot daggers. I had never seen him this way before in my life. We had rarely fought. But somehow, on this day, he was a volcano of disparaging remarks, melting me down like a hapless tree in his molten path.

A friend had come and swept me off of the corner and deposited me in my home, where my raw nerves fired grenades throughout my body for the next week. Eventually I found a therapist, and with her help, we tidied the room in my heart with labels, stories, and explanations.

“Since I have never met him, I can’t officially render a diagnosis, but from the emails you’ve shown me and the experiences you’ve related, it would suggest that your ex-husband has behaviors consistent with a narcissistic sociopath,” my therapist explained.

Immediately, I felt my head buzz as my tongue rolled around the taste of these new words.

Google became my best friend and enabler, providing me with loads of stories, traits, characteristics, and even a full checklist to teach me all about these dreaded narcs. With each box I marked, relief flooded my body—finally, I had an explanation for the unexplainable.

Years have passed since that day (and obviously, I was wrong about dying under that tree). Just recently, though, it all came gurgling back up in my awareness…that day, that relationship.

I was on Facebook, scrolling for a quick minute, when I encountered a video by some “coach” guy, educating women on the four types of men.

According to him, most men came in the form of either a Little Boy, a Confused Loser, a Selfish Player, or a Good Man. Only the Good Man was desirable and worthy of love. Disgust rose like bile in my throat as I listened to him describe each type to his viewers.

When I feel so actively triggered, I have come to know that it is because there is always something lurking deep inside of me, yearning to be known, craving to be seen, and needing to be loved. So inside I went.

And there it was, a shiny twinkle-beam gleaming from the pit of my soul: I am all of those things!

I can act like a child. I can be confused. I can possess the selfish and unaccountable qualities of a player. And most triggering of all of these gems was the one that illuminated how I was incessantly trying to be The Good Woman, the one who society has defined and—for most of my life—has tried to press on to me like I’m some kind of cookie dough, intending to shape me into something desirable. Something worthy.

Clearly, that was what this misguided coach was doing to the men he was defining in his video.

Compassion filled my lungs as I exhaled the knowing that no person is ever any one thing. We are all a complex mess of ever-changing ingredients, showing only the parts of ourselves that work in each moment to create our life story (and keep us safe).

If you had seen me under the tree on that lovely September day, it would be easy for you to create a myriad of labels and stick them to me. But the danger of applying a label to anyone or anything, according to neurolinguistic programming, is that once you do, that thing can only ever “be” that label to you. You cover all of the other existing possibilities with your sticker and miss what’s lying underneath.

And the worst part is: you have to live with these “people” that you have constructed. If you believe it, you will see it.

And that, my friend, is exactly what I did to my poor ex-husband during our divorce.

It felt like it was saving my soul, to pin him down and cover him up in definitive stickers. But the truth was, as long as I let him lie there like that, concealed in untrue goo, deep down it was causing me to suffer.

To claim that a lover who was highly favored in my life was actually some kind of crazy narcissist dismantled all of the magical, beautiful experiences that we shared together. It annihilated the totality of his soul and reduced him to nothing short of a monster. Which he wasn’t.

Loving and accepting all of the parts of myself has brought me to a place where I can recognize, allow, and even celebrate all of the parts of anyone else, even my ex-husband.

Although we no longer communicate with each other, I have quietly been peeling my erroneous labels off of him and tossing them in the trash. Nothing has ever made me feel better.

~

author: Rebecca Marie

Image: Hey Paul Studios/Flickr

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Rebecca Marie

Rebecca Marie has lived thousands of lifetimes in her several decades walking this planet. Her writings are a collection of lessons, learnings, and questions that she has gathered along the twisting, ever-changing path. As a Master Practitioner and Coach of NLP, Rebecca is on an infinite expedition to slowly and delightfully inch closer and closer to her soul, her true essence. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram.

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Derek Avery Nov 15, 2018 2:32pm

Makes sense that focusing negative energy on some person or event would take a toll on the one reflecting on it/them in that way. At least, makes sense to me (which may not be worth much). 😁 Thanks for sharing your awesome spirit via your awesome words!

Brandon Lee Nov 11, 2018 7:34am

I have been very adament in expressing the need to eliminate labels, that way we can grow and learn love to ourselves as well as others unconditionally. It is evident by the comments here as well as my personal experience that people cannot understand messages which they aren't ready to receive. The path to higher awareness can be at times unpleasant, awkward, and painful but be patient with thy self and others. Thank you for sharing your experience, wonderful article.

John Bryhn Nov 10, 2018 11:52pm

how true. even we(men) become a victim sometimes . with even less help and less understanding .

Patrice Prestridge Jones Nov 9, 2018 12:27am

A wonderful journey of self exploration! Much gratitude for sharing.

Mark Steed Nov 8, 2018 6:36pm

Wow, that was vulnerable. Thank you!

Tranquil-Living Beth Nov 8, 2018 6:05am

David, it is never safe to let them back in. They will never change and ever searching for their next victim since they continually need supply. Having an illness is one thing but it does not make us reasonable in excusing their behavior. They usually k ow full well what they are doing and how to scheme, steal, lie, triangulate, gaslight and more to get what they want.

Wendy Collura Nov 8, 2018 12:39am

I love this article. I am a student of A Course in Miracles, and your experience describes the beautiful awakening possible to you when you have “a little willingness” to see things in a different way. You’ll know the “different way” is truer for you by how you feel—lighter, freer, happier. And even if you never speak to your ex again, I believe the love you now enjoy from the memories of your life together will serve you well in all your future endeavors. It’s all energy, after all. Please keep writing. You’re quite gifted. And I hope you’ll share more of your NLP journey with your readers. I can’t wait to read your next installment.

Kari Wishingrad Nov 7, 2018 9:25pm

Thank you.

David Collura Nov 7, 2018 6:32pm

Mary Knott Is it possible he was ever his authentic self? And if we were our authentic selves, is it okay to enjoy some of the beauty we shared with this human, even if they have also been abusive to us? I do not know the answer to these questions, I am wondering out loud. In part, it might be very personal, and depend on the relationship. There are some people I have shut out completely, at least for now, and I have no interest in looking at the good side. But when there is no longer a threat, when we feel safe again - is there a possibility to heal by removing some of the 'black paint' from how we view that part of our lives?

Tranquil-Living Beth Nov 7, 2018 6:10pm

If you view them as good times. IMO, they were a disguise so I can never regard them when it was not his authentic self. But a man with many masks and all he touched he had a mask for them, too. It was a fake life and living a lie. Narcissist is a narcissist.

Tranquil-Living Beth Nov 7, 2018 5:44pm

I disagree, I've experienced every bit of my spouses narcissistic ways and came to the realization that he held a very good mask for over 20 years. He was one way at home and out the door another. He cost our family in many way that is irreplaceable, caused harm to not only me but our family and all he you hed. It sounds like we all defer on how we cope. He will never have forgiveness nor do o have to forgive me to better me. I feel that I did not cause this and had I been aware I would have prevented it. I dont need to forgive me to cope. He is what he is, label it not and I will not define him differently. I realized this is what it is which was freeing, not the confusion of labels but some need to define it on some manner I order to move on.

Brenda Collings Nov 7, 2018 3:45pm

Beautiful, thanks for sharing. Keep writing!

Simon Garstin Nov 5, 2018 11:51pm

This has taught me so much about my own tendency to place judgements and labels on others, sometimes simply because they don’t agree with me. Through lessons like this I’m learning to transcend these habits and see others for what they are - souls on their own, unique journey, just working towards their highest self in their own way. When I see them this way, I can allow them just to be. And in doing so, free myself from the weight of my own self-judgement, which is all any of it is anyway! 🙏🏻❤️❤️

Jennifer Evangelista Nov 5, 2018 9:35pm

This article speaks to the strength and to the grace you have in what must have been painful at the time. I agree, labels can be, in the end, harmful and potentially destructive. While I also agree that initially they can be helpful in becoming more aware about certain behaviors and predilections, they do not define the person. No one is a monster. To dehumanize another for things that he/she may not be aware of or may not be able to control is to lack empathy which is what is so needed especially in today's environment. We are all, like you said, a combination of things and are on different parts of the same journey in life. It doesn't mean you have to tolerate certain unpleasantries, but no one deserves to be rubber-stamped. I love the fact that you took a negative and turned it into a positive. Thank you for writing this!

David Collura Nov 5, 2018 5:59pm

Refreshing and insightful. It is so hard to work with boundaries, because we need to extinguish the flames of gaslighting, yet remain honest with ourselves. I love that you got past seeing him as a monster, because it validates the good times you shared.

Rebecca Marie Nov 5, 2018 5:37pm

yes! i agree that initially labeling helps to understand and heal. and then for me, i got to a place where i could take the label off and that was actually the next step for me to grow and evolve even more. because in life, i presuppose that people are not their behaviors. this brings me much more peace, joy and clarity for my own happiness and expansion. <3

Lara Schlotterbeck Nov 5, 2018 4:58pm

Nice perspective. Narcissism is not a term to fling around - and it's thrown around far too frequently these days but for those of us who have unfortunately experienced the destruction of someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) being able to place a label on the behaviours can be the key to understanding and healing.