Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Do
Narcopath Tales: Volume 1
When your life is a smoldering heap of ashes, every dream destroyed, the dagger still dangling from your chest, and the awareness that you have been completely and utterly erased, it is difficult to forgive the one who was the author of this tragedy. It is unfair and unjust to think that one human could completely eradicate another human and never look back. The first impulse is to seek justice. Demand justice. Go after them and seek some kind of revenge for every broken promise, for every betrayal, for every cold and ruthless twist of the knife, and for the ultimate betrayal when they hit the reset button and made you disappear as if your time together never existed and you have ceased to exist.
It is an existential annihilation. They are the soul destroyers.
When summer comes in a few short months, it will mark two years since my narcopath husband of 15 years abandoned me and the life we shared. It happened without warning in the cruelest and most ruthless way imaginable. And the true measure of the grief that followed is the fact that two years later, I still grapple with my new reality without him. It is common knowledge that empaths are particularly sensitive to other people's pain and suffering, feel a compulsive need to heal and to fix what is broken, and have a propensity towards giving people unlimited chances to prove they can rise up and become their best selves. They are both gifted and cursed because they are the narcopath’s favorite source of fuel, character traits, and residual benefits. The acquisition of these three things is the driving force behind what motivates the personality disordered person to do everything they do. They are single-minded machines that must acquire these three life-sustaining components. And they will do anything and everything to attain them. Without remorse, compassion, or mercy.
I have sought to emulate Christ and do the kinds of things that I think Jesus would do. His teachings about forgiveness convey a necessity to forgive others if we hope to ever receive forgiveness for our own inequities. But forgiveness is tricky. We can extend the olive branch and turn the other cheek, but at the seat of these gestures is a simmering resentment and feeling of violation that cannot be placated. What does one do to calm that seething discontent that says, “This simply will not stand” or “This morally reprehensible transgression cannot be ignored”?
Surely, these deeds cannot go unpunished. The perpetrator of misery must be brought to an awareness of what they have done. There has to be a way to make them feel what they have made you feel — the pain and fear and suffering and agony and anxiety and hopelessness. An empathic person can’t stop thinking that if they just knew, if they just understood the magnitude of what they have done, that they would feel sorry and regret their actions and their cruel behavior. But somewhere in all of that obsessive rumination about revenge, the truth remains. They are incapable of feeling what a normal person would feel. They are incapable of human emotions like guilt or empathy or love. You can put a dress on a pig, but you can’t teach them to dance.
When I think about the trajectory of my marriage to this mentally impaired man, it feels like sliding on an icy road.
You feel yourself losing control and picking up speed and heading for a snowbank, ditch, or cliff, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Whether you pump the brakes or turn the wheel, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing you can do to gain control and prevent disaster. You are going to crash, and you are going to be hurt.
A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with Stargardt disease. It is a progressive and degenerative genetic disease that causes blindness. After receiving the news and the explanation that I would indeed become legally blind at some point, and my life would change exponentially, I knew it was a game-changer. I wouldn’t be able to drive, or watch TV or read a book or check my messages on my phone. I would have to adapt and learn new ways as a person with low vision or possibly no vision at all. I remember going out to my car after getting the diagnosis and sitting in the parking lot. I cried for what I would lose in the life that I thought I would have as a sighted person. I wept out of fear and sadness. I felt sorry for myself and angry that something like this had become my destiny. I didn’t deserve it. Nobody does.
It was the only time that I ever cried about it. After that, I just accepted it and decided that I would take whatever comes and make the best of it. It was impossible to know if the darkness would come in ten months or ten years, so why fret about what you can’t change and miss out on the beauty of the present? I would learn little ways to adjust my habits and day by day, month by month, year-by-year, I would learn whatever skills I needed to learn to adjust. I thought about all of the things I wanted to see and do with a new urgency. Through all of that, I thought to myself, “I’ll be okay because I have my partner, my husband, the love of my life. I am not alone, and he will be there to help me, hold my hand, drive me where I need to go, find the things around the house that I can’t see, and guide me through the darkness and be my light.” My heart was full of gratitude for my beloved partner.
I remember his reaction when I told him about it and how unconcerned he seemed. Little did I know that it was a turning point when he decided that it was time to go. Narcissistic sociopaths do not take care of people in need. That’s just not something they can do. He could not see himself married to a blind woman, bound to someone with a disability, or restricted by my limitations that would be impactful to the life he wanted. I felt his reluctance and pulling away, but at times like that, you get busy with the vagaries of life and the minutia of the day and forget that the tectonic plates shifting beneath your feet are leading up to a cataclysmic event.
You tell yourself that you’re solid. You’ve made it through a lot of bumpy spots together. You think that your marriage is bulletproof.
But there were so many holes in it, and I just didn’t notice that it was bleeding out. I tried not to think about the series of disturbing and questionable things he had done in the past that showed a lack of judgment and a tendency to get spooked like a wild animal and react like a feral dog who runs wild in the night. His impulsivity and unbridled instincts put everyone at risk from time to time, but it was incomprehensible to think he could fail to be there for me after all the years I stood by him in his times of need.
I guess I didn’t want to see it, so I didn’t. It’s ironic to think about how blind I was all those years to his sickness and instability only to become literally blind in real life. Life has a funny way of showing you what you need to know.
After every misconduct, I’d feel riddled with doubts and compelled to ask if everything was okay. I asked him if he was always going to be there beside me. And he always said yes. “Of course. I got you. I’m your husband. No worries. I love you. You’re my little gummy bear. You’re my rock lobster for life.”
So even when most people would have looked at his past behavior over the years and all those red waving flags in the rearview mirror, they would have been cautious or prepared in some way. But I believed him because I wanted so badly to believe him. I would take his hand and everything would be perfect with the world.
Within 18 months he was gone. Like smoke and ashes, just taken by the wind.
On the day he left he said, “You asked me a million times if I would always be there for you over all these years and I always said yes. This time I am saying no.”
I’m not saying that he left me because I was going to go blind. I’m not saying that it was the one thing that made him begin to look for a replacement. I just know that the summer he discovered my impending disability, he graduated from pornography addiction to adultery for the first time. The wife always knows.
So for the next 12 months, he was developing an exit strategy, looking for the door, and all the while smiling and hugging and holding and telling me how much I meant to him. There were intimate dinners, Netflix binge-watching, cuddling and snuggling, playfulness and laughter, and all the things that a husband and a wife do when they are happy and committed ride it to the end of the road. We took walks in the evening, and he held my hand when we stood across the street from our house and watched the amber glow radiate from the windows as dusk descended upon the neighborhood, and we would always tell each other how lucky we were to have such a beautiful home and such a beautiful life. I squeezed his hand more tightly, feeling the warmth and comfort that comes from years of loving a person. There was a quiet peace that seemed to be there to comfort both of us. It was like standing at the ocean and staring out into the infinite horizon knowing that you are not alone in this world. There is a force greater than you, and it flows through you like an electrical current. We had worked hard for many years to achieve the life that we enjoyed.
It was the closest thing I had ever had to happiness. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t lonely.
And then one morning soon after waking up and before we had even had breakfast, he sat down in the puffy brown chair in our living room and announced that it was over. Just. Like. That. Out of the blue. With no warning. With the same tone of voice that he used to ask if we had any avocado toast or if I had already fed the cat.
I was dumbfounded. Speechless. Numb with shock. In disbelief.
I began to feel the tiny little earthquakes rising up from a deep place inside my core, as I began the trembling that would become a fierce shaking that would last for a month.
Animals have a built-in trauma response to release it from their bodies. They shake, and then it passes. I guess my body was trying to help me, too. There were so many things I did not understand at the time that I wish I did not know today. Ignorance is bliss.
I loved this man more than I loved myself. How could this be? It seemed like a bad dream. Surely, I would go back to bed and wake up later to tell him about the crazy dream I had that was really scary, then we would laugh about it and I’d make our favorite lemon ricotta pancakes with strawberries. The ones we always got at Harry’s Roadhouse when we went to Santa Fe. We always made them together with that familiar rhythm that only couples in synchronicity over decades achieve. He chopped the strawberries; I grated the lemons. He took out the electric mixer knowing I had trouble finding it in the shadowy cupboard. I cooked the batter in the bubbling butter and dusted the powdered sugar. We knew our roles. We played the parts. It was a dance, a concert in perfect harmony.
How does someone accept the truth of a moment like that?
I stared at him with eyes that still worked well enough to see that there was nothing recognizable about him. He had shape-shifted into someone completely foreign. A stranger that I did not know. He kept looking at his phone and the texts coming in that made him smile and look away to enjoy the private message from my replacement. He seemed impatient. Ready to go. Ready to get to her and celebrate his new freedom.
I never saw it coming.
After years of daily, I love you’s and intimacies and acts of kindness, I could not imagine how we arrived at this moment.
I share all that led up to this moment because it illustrates the magnitude of what I was asked to forgive.
Forgiveness is a funny thing. You have such a potpourri of emotional stew that is just simmering and churning away. It’s impossible not to be swept away by these emotions that overwhelm you in a time like that. And now almost two years later, I can say with complete candor that forgiveness is almost within reach. I think I will be able to forgive him long before I will be able to stop loving the person that he was when he was with me. That man is gone. He is a chameleon who reflects someone else now. I realize that it was never real and his world was always a place no one can ever go because it only exists in his head.
The problem with empaths is that they don’t give up. They just keep trying and trying to fix the things that are broken in their partner. To heal them. To bring them back from the dead. But I am not a necromancer nor a sorceress or a witch. I’m just a woman with a broken heart, a woman who loved the wrong man. A woman who never learned how to be a whole person without attaching to someone else. Cheesy as it may sound, he completed me.
How could I possibly forgive someone who promised a forever love for sixteen years and then abandoned me when I needed him most? Discarded me like trash after I had set aside every single thing in my life to keep him?
The most chilling part that day after he said he didn’t want to take care of me or watch me die, the most incomprehensible part was when he said, “I don’t understand why you don’t just go be single and enjoy it like I’m going to do.”
It was then I knew he had never understood what love is. Not for one instant. Not once in his life. And that he never would.
And because in spite of any attachment issues or addiction to him, I did actually understand the real meaning of love, and I know one thing for sure — I loved him. Organically. Completely. Without conditions. Without limits. I was most likely the only person in his entire life who actually understood selfless love and devotion and offered it freely and abundantly. And the tragedy is that he couldn’t even understand what that meant or how love like that is a rare and precious thing worthy of protection at any price. I know that no one has ever loved me like that.
But he is a narcissist with anti-social personality disorder. He is an addict with a splash of sadomasochism to top it all off. He is wounded and damaged beyond repair. His mind and his soul were poisoned so many years ago. The false persona that replaced the vulnerable little boy is not real. Not his authentic true self. All of it is just a scene in his theater of the absurd. I can’t stop the madness and give him a heart that understands grace and mercy and real love.
No one gave it to him. He doesn’t know what it is.
I picture him as a little boy. . . maybe seven or eight years old, sitting in a den of vipers, naked bodies grinding and groping on a screen, perversion surrounding him, exploited, violated, abused, neglected, shamed. . .racous laughter, smoke and the smell of cheap liquor and cigarettes permeating the room. Mother always missing; dad recently buried six feet in the ground. What he did to stop the noise, the obscenity, the helplessness — it makes me cry every time. Thirty years later, when I think about the man he became, twisted and deformed, I weep for him. I mourn for what he will never feel. . . what he will never experience. . . it shatters all the bits and pieces of my heart that still exist.
So what else can I do?
I forgive him.
I forgive him because that’s what I am called to do. I forgive him because he is broken. The things that do not work in him are a trauma response from his early life that was too horrific to survive.
I forgive him because he is hurt and hurt people hurt people.
I forgive him because the ending was always there the whole time for us. . . I was just too blind to see.
A damaged empath and a narcissist-sociopath. There’s only one way that it could ever end. There was nothing either one of us could do to change that.
Nearly 40 years ago someone once asked me, “Why do you try to get some thing from your mother that she doesn’t have to give?“ It was a dose of reality in the battle with my mentally ill mother that I wasn’t quite ready to hear. “She doesn’t even know what it is, and she doesn’t have it to give. So why do you keep trying to get this from her? You have to just accept that she’s not capable. She doesn’t have it. She can’t give you something that she doesn’t have.”
I continued the circular arguments and futile dialogue with my mother until the day she died. She never heard me. She never saw me. And I never got what I needed her to give me. But I forgave her. She was mentally unwell and deeply impaired.
So what else could I do?
Eventually, we must let our hearts mend enough to show grace and mercy to those who have failed us the most.
We repeat the patterns in our life that are unresolved. We keep coming back to the table thinking that we are going to be fed when the table is empty and no one is there. Like the dog who curls up at his master's feet even though that master beats him and abuses him and starves, there’s just that hope that the next time it will be different. We tell ourselves the tiny little lies that allow us to keep hope — next time it will be better and there will be feasting instead of famine.
Some people just can’t be fixed. As for my husband who died that day in June 2019, he was always dead, like my sad, pitiful mother. He cannot give me something that he does not have to give. He doesn’t even know what it is. How could he possibly give it to me?
Of course, I forgive him.
He is incapable of knowing what is real. He has to continue living his fantasy life in his magical universe. I dream of seeing him again one day in another time and place, and he will be healed and he will love me and we will hold hands again and walk side by side on the beach and gaze at the infinite horizon and feel that peace wash over us once again.
The person that I have the most trouble forgiving is me.
I wasted so much time for so many years, and there was so much collateral damage. The family I loved was irrevokably hurt because I could not give up on this futile quest to transform a glittery prince of the dark into a good man of the light. To save him from the demons that eventually slithered into the cracks in his soul and carried him away.
He simply did not have it to give. I was hoping he could be something that he could never be. I was believing in a person who did not exist. I was trusting a love that was only a mirage.
So maybe I can forgive myself some time for being so foolish and believing that love could conquer and that the power of faith in the people we love will somehow redeem them and make a miracle happen.
A few weeks after he left, he texted me on the 4th of July and said, “The fireworks are coming. Go look up at the sky. I hope you can enjoy them and find some happiness.” I drank in his smooth and delicious voice, then curled up tighter in our bed, heart pounding, gasping for breath, and shaking to the bone. Physically shaking with the powerful earthquakes that rocked my body for weeks. I still can’t look up at the sky. I still don’t know how to live without him.
At least not yet.
We each have our own path. Maybe God has something else in store for him. Maybe He just wants me to give him back because it’s not my job to fix him. And now, I just need to work on fixing myself. That’s the journey that I must take.
I forgive them all.
What else can I do?
They did not know what they were doing.
Prajinta Pesqueda is a veteran of a war against trauma-induced C-PTSD caused by a lengthy marriage to a somatic mid-range narcissistic sociopath addict and compounded by a lifetime of dysfunctional patterns and relationships. It takes two damaged people to do the dance of dysfunction. Most often, long-term partners of disordered people have their own mental health issues beginning in early childhood. Her own personal journey to wholeness and health can guide others to succeed in their own quest to achieve wellness. #narctroopers.com
She is a recovery coach who uses both her Master’s degree with an emphasis on guidance and counseling as well as her own personal experience to lead others out of the pain and fear that follows relationships with Cluster B individuals. Check out her podcast channel on all major platforms at https://anchor.fm/pesqueda
Follow her articles at www.pesqueda.medium.com