From the Ashes: Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse

The author of this article would like to be known by her first name, Susan.  It’s her story of hope, survival and recovery from narcissistic abuse.

My attraction to him was intense. I am sure there was family history on both of our sides that we were playing out. Trying to put the pieces together and make a form of wholeness from both of our parents shattered pasts. Whatever the reason was for meeting Jarlen, our relationship was one of the greatest blessings in my life.

I will talk about my side, what I felt, and what I walked away with having. To make a long, extremely painful, and extraordinarily magical story of marriage condensed for this article, I will share with you, the reader, that I married a narcissist. He was sick. He was mean. He was dishonest. He was selfish and unfaithful.

But… I loved him. I wanted to help him to see the light, and be the wonderful man that I hoped my love was powerful enough to guide him to become. I tried and tried. I failed and failed. I believed my love could make him see his sickness, his warped thinking; see just how much better life could be if he only “learned”.

A slap across the face, bruises on my arms, and an unborn child later, I realized… This man would not “see” for a long time, if ever.

This article is about me separating from him. It is about me blessing him from afar. Seven years after I married him, I can now look back on our time together and think, “Thank you, Jarlen.” Thank you for teaching me about myself. Thank you for teaching me the lessons I needed to recognize. I thank him for my emotional health, and to have carved out a place for my own healing and wisdom to fill it in.

I read books on relationships, narcissists, co-dependents; I talked to friends, attended 12 Step Meetings. I went to places that would make me healthy. All of these places were far away from him. I knew that I had to be far from him, or else I would let his sickness erode my well-being further. I wasn’t strong enough to care about myself, and at the same time, love someone as sick as he. I wasn’t ready to simply send loving blessings to his soul. I was addicted to trying to help him, to make his behavior healthy. I was addicted to trying to make him see how he was destroying us.

I tried to get an unavailable man, disguised as available, to love me, so we could be happy. I attempted to force him into my vision of what I wanted. I was fogged. I couldn’t realize at the time, that it was me, too, that was unhealthy. I was full of myself to think I could have what I wanted him to be, simply because I wanted it. It was not fair of me. We were both sick. I didn’t see it until time went on, we were apart, and I had perspective.

I learned that I didn’t cause his illness, I couldn’t control his illness, and I couldn’t cure him. He was not my responsibility to manage and fix, no matter how hard I wanted to “help”. He was a grown man. He needed to be accountable for his own decisions, and I had refused to let that happen. I needed to forgive myself for marrying a man I didn’t know. I had to have hope that there would be a healthier life for me, if I could just get through the pain of separation. I needed to not feel guilty about leaving and dropping the faith and the hope that I had in him, and for making the commitment of marriage that I was no longer able to keep.

I didn’t know he was ill; I didn’t know that I couldn’t help him no matter what tactics I used. I thought my love could heal him, help him learn kindness, be rational, and an emotionally healthy person. Now I know, narcissism isn’t about “seeing”, it is an illness- a disorder that no one can change. It wasn’t about the power of love, it was about a personality disorder.

I learned to detach with love; I learned to let go. I realized that I needed to live my own life in the way I wanted us to live “our” life, as husband and wife. I had to let go of all of the wonderful things about this man that made me fall in love with him. I had to stay far and be realistic, to be honest to myself that he wouldn’t change with me around. I had to realize that I had given enough. There was not enough of me that could ever have changed this illness.

All of my dreams for comfort and normalcy, I had to create on my own. I was forced to envision what a healthy and highly-functioning me would look like alone, single, strong. I called in the troops of amazing friendships and the support of many angels in 12 step programs. I learned to focus on caring for myself, so I could perhaps one day, find someone healthy to be in my life, to share the things that I had envisioned for Jarlen and me. I had to not feel guilty about not giving enough. I gave everything I had. I gave until there was only my tormented and raw spirit left.

I will be honest; I hurt for a very long time. I cried at least once every day, usually twice a day, for five months straight. I knew he was hurting, too. He didn’t understand it all. I knew he was giving his best. In the end, looking back, I see that we are too different for a happy and peaceful relationship in so many ways. We were not a match in areas that I didn’t know were vital for a healthy and stable relationship. I needed someone very different from him. I now have perspective and know myself- what I need, what I don’t need, what I can, and what I can’t give.

My views for love are very different now. My number one rule is that I must admire the kindness inside someone that I love. I can no longer be with a narcissist. I know that it doesn’t work.  The lies shook my reality, my sense of self. It wasn’t he who was hurting me; it was me who was putting someone with cruel, dishonest, and selfish behavior first, and falsely empowering myself to be the “loving teacher”.

I am entirely grateful for having met Jarlen. He taught me to forgive myself, to take care of myself, to find someone who is available to participate in a healthy and loving relationship. I still love Jarlen to this day, but I love him from afar. It’s better this way. I am at peace with my decision. I am no longer a teacher to a grown man. I see myself as an equal partner and surround myself with people I admire.

Jarlen is happy now in his own way, in his own world; and I am happy with mine. He would like to talk, but I don’t think it’s best. He is not healthy for me, and honestly, I don’t enjoy communicating with him. I find it creepy, frustrating, and exhausting. May he live the life he was meant to live, and may he take care of himself the best way he needs to for him. I will take care of me and enjoy the choices I have made for my life. I see and feel healthy these days. I am solid and grounded. I am complete. Life isn’t easy, but it is peaceful. I am ok. Thank you, Jarlen.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Author: Alejandro Adrian LeMon, Ph.D., LMHC

A little about me... I'm a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Florida and the founder of Psychology One. I am also a former college instructor of sociology and I have worked at several not-for-profit agencies & EAP organizations. I currently live with my fiancee and our three cats.

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