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Surviving Narcissistic Men — And Learning How To Start Again

By Tracy McCormick

In 2014, I read a powerful article on emotional abuse. The article reminded me of my ex-husband — along with a few ex-boyfriends. After some real research, thinking, and soul-searching, I had to come face-to-face with a rather uncomfortable reality: I had established a clear pattern of dating and falling for narcissistic men. In each particular case, the emotional abuse involved had its unique cadence and nasty flavor. But no matter how you cut it, abuse is abuse. Just as love is love.

My ex-husband’s abuse was evident in the way his emails over-loaded my Yahoo! Email account after we split up — a charming collection I’ve personally titled “The Dingleberry Files.” It was the first email account I was “allowed” to have at age 35. These files are tucked away in my first “big girl” account and await a time for me to bring forth that which I can share to help other victims of emotional abuse. For now, there’s a good bit I can share. I also can hope that sharing these experiences, insights, and stories helps other women find their voice. Face their fears. And discover new avenues to healing and personal growth.

The severity of emotional abuse was intensified with my last serious relationship in 2012. This guy was the first man I chose to live with after I ended my marriage back in 2004. The perplexing part was that it appeared, at first, to be a true partnership. I truly believed that love had arrived. Alas, not so much. The unfolding layers of emotional manipulation, lies, and verbal abuse I experienced was not something I had bargained for. Nor were they anything I’d wish on even my worst enemy. Of course, most people who are emotionally abused cannot gauge the severity very well themselves. We are brilliant at making excuses for the ‘beloved’ abuser — and I’m certain that I did not bring this forth when I asked the Universe for a kind, honest, and loving partner.

I’m not a victim. But I sure am an empath. Empaths, all too often, can be mysteriously and powerfully drawn to narcissists. We’re the givers. They’re the takers. The problem is…that’s about all they ever do. Take. Take. And take…

Different. Or So I Thought…

I did think it was different with this new “Joe Blow” though. So I didn’t jump right into bed with him. I did other things differently, too. Including a lot of prep work. Months before we met, I made a list of character traits I wanted in a partner, and I asked the Saints, Angels, and the Divine for every positive trait that could be delivered to me in a life partner. Isn’t that what should have shown up on my doorstep?

It wasn’t the ‘Universe,’ but online dating that first brought us together, and he invited me for coffee in West Hollywood. A screenwriter. More business than romance. I swore I would never date screenwriters, just as I had decided not to date any more misogynistic actors. Little did I know the “writer” could have received a Tony award for his work had he kept his creative brilliance honed to the stage instead of our relationship. I knew so little about him. Eventually, it all came out. A professional mime turned stand-up comic who morphed into an angry, dark screenwriter.I might have chosen differently, or paid attention to the flashing red flags, had I not been in a vulnerable place after several heartbreaking family losses that took place just before we met.

When dating someone new, should we be privy to a dial-in directory of our new love interest’s former major relationships and lovers? Like a button similar to the iTunes preview button for music, maybe? Would any of this give either of us a glimpse into someone’s past traumas, unhealed childhood wounds, or dark behaviors?

I knew on the day before my birthday in 2014 that I needed to end the relationship. During a car ride where he was (once again) screaming at me at the top of his lungs, I turned to him and said flatly, “Why don’t you just go ahead and hit me?” He was shocked that I would say this to him because his screaming suddenly stopped. His reply was priceless: “I can’t believe you would say that to me!” I asked, “What’s the difference?” My “beloved” wouldn’t go to counseling, and he was saying cruel things to me, in front of people. One day, I shouted back, “I don’t trust you!” He gave me a good reason not to, as his patterns and lies were outrageous and ever-changing.

It’s been over three years since I moved his belongings into the garage, changed the locks, and told him he needed to stay with his Dad. I shared that I was open to seeing a couples therapist. Initially, he cried and said he didn’t want us to be apart for more than one week. Within a week, his tune changed, big time.

The prior year was like a game of Chutes & Ladders, only we kept going down the slippery chute, never up the ladder to reach 99 or 100. We were close a few times, maybe all the way up to the 81st ladder — but gaslighting, yelling, lies, and his cheating with several women led to our demise.

Just Me. Staring Down My Shadow.

So I’ve spent the last few years solo, working on me. Therapy, shadow work, and not dating. I completed a Chakra balancing course to awaken my kundalini energy from the deepest dregs. I’ve learned that even the sexual parts of my former relationship weren’t sacred. My ex-boyfriend told everyone who gave him an audience that we “didn’t have chemistry,” and that I was “the most jealous girlfriend he’d ever had.” In fact, we had amazing chemistry. I just didn’t want to play ‘pin the girl down and choke her’ to get him excited. He also had erectile dysfunction, which I’ve since learned is psychologically common among narcissists. Jealousy is also something that narcissists often accuse their partner of to sabotage or blow the relationship up.

Narcissists get bored, especially when challenged with authenticity. This is because they never intend to have a relationship, to begin with. Out with the old, in with the new. That’s their game. And it’s always rigged in their favor. Narcissists are masters of manipulation and can turn the tables on their partners with shocking ease. They lack empathy. They lack a conscience. At times, it seems as if they lack a soul. This last relationship seemed far beyond narcissism, or even borderline personality disorder. It felt downright psychopathic. People with these traits are so cunning and manipulative that even therapists can get seduced by their charm and sucked into their stories.

The best money I’ve ever spent on myself was for something called Shadow Work. Based on Carl Jungian psychology, the coaches help individuals and groups unlock their inner wounds and traumas to understand better the choices we make –and to help us make better choices going forward.

My intention was to understand why I’ve chosen emotionally abusive men in significant relationships. In gaining perspective and clearing negative energy and patterns, it has led me down a fruitful and beautiful path. A path of tremendous healing and forgiveness. Forgiveness for those who wounded me. Forgiveness for anyone I’ve unintentionally or unconsciously wounded. And ultimately, forgiveness for myself. I’m now seeing neon red flags from miles away through my expanded third eye. I’m now deeply grateful to have come to a powerful yet peaceful place in my healing, with my heart broken wide open.

I just might even be ready to date again — after dating myself for a few more years.