I remember when I was married how I knew to just acquiesce in a fight because I wasn’t going to win. As the ex-wife of a narcissist, before I knew what it meant, I instinctively understood that for my own sanity, I needed to bow out of a fight with him. What would start as a simple request on my part for something (like please hang up your suit when you take it off instead of tossing it over the footboard and then complaining about how it’s wrinkled) would escalate to a tirade of all of the real? (and his imagined) faults of mine until I would be practically cowering, defending myself and giving up because I had no idea what the hell was going on.
That, my friends, is a typical maneuver of narcissists and gaslighting. Gaslight: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
This happened often until I just relented and hung up the dumb suits because I didn’t want conflict nor to hear his mouth. Slowly but surely, I became the maid and a shadow of myself. And the worst part is I almost didn’t realize it because it was a slow controlling mechanism that he used in order to get his way and be the power figure in our relationship. Sadly, it worked. Sadly, I allowed it.
I walked on eggshells. I scurried and often tried to think steps ahead to make things nice so that we wouldn’t have those minefields to deal with daily. I knew the ex was unhappy so I gave him space and often took the verbal abuse because I didn’t want the kids to take it. I wanted to shield them. I could handle it; having grown up in a narcissistic family. I knew it would blow over if I just let it roll off my back and not take offense.
Getting off subject in a fight is a narcissist’s talent. He would zig and zag all over the place, dredging up past grudges, pinpointing my weak spots and vulnerabilities until I couldn’t remember what the start of the argument was even about at all. And yes, I’m a smart girl. But when you love a narcissist, they know exactly what can make your brain flood with emotion until you can’t think straight and cleverly, they manipulate you until you can’t think any longer. You can’t get a word in edgewise. You are shut down immediately when you try to defend yourself or tell them that they’re not right in their assessment. Because that is not allowed. They are never wrong. You are always wrong. And at all costs, they will win the fight no matter what – because they have to, their narcissism demands it.
Their narcissism is an aching hole of misery within them where they are never enough and the putting down of you, the winning of the fight, the power they feel when they are successful in demeaning you fuels them, calms them and fills that hole in them for a little while. All to cycle back again when the monster within them feels empty. They take from you in order to feed that emptiness inside of them. Your empathic self, your love for them, your willingness to do whatever it takes to make them happy feeds that monster within until they drain you of all self-worth. You’re nothing more than their punching bag of fuel when needed. Until you are no longer needed and then you are discarded like an old tennis shoe with a hole in the sole and soul.