As I entered my late teens, I started to focus on relationships to the expense of developing skills, interests and securing a viable future career. I had a nearly pathologic tendency to fall in love easily, almost always with the wrong guys–guys who would reject me, guys who would initially be loving and generous and then turn into monsters when they gained my trust. For someone who grew up constantly being lied to, put down, and disappointed by broken promises from my immediate family, I was remarkably naive and tended to trust men too easily. The only explanation for this I can think of is that I was desperate to find the mother-love I never had, in the form of a romantic relationship.
I was addicted to romance. I watched romantic movies and read romantic stories all the time, write romantic poetry, envied my friends who were in loving and stable relationships, and longed for that “perfect relationship” (this during a time when women were not encouraged to become involved seriously until they got an education and/or established themselves in a career). My crushes came like waves–one after the other, some fun and exciting, but all too often overwhelming, with the power to knock me over breathless and suck me under their powerful currents. My romantic involvements with these men were intense–if you’ve ever read Dorothy Tennov’s 1979 book Love and Limerence, I went through the whole gamut of emotions connected to that condition–from the heady, almost surreal highs of obsessing over and idealizing my crush, to the delibitating lows that left me wanting to die when I even sensed they were pulling away (or just not interested).
In my late teens and early 20s, I got involved in two abusive (one physically and emotionally, the other mentally and emotionally) relationships with narcissistic men that I won’t go into detail about, as over the long hall they had little importance in my life and both dumped me in the end (which of course was devastating to me, even though I’d been trying to break up with the second narcissist, Ryan, for MONTHS to no avail because he kept stalking me–how DARE he dump me after the hell he’d put me through?!) I was livid. But also relieved. So, anyway, in time I moved on. Although I’d finally learned to not show my emotions on the surface as much as when I was a child (in fact I had become somewhat closed off by this time), I still felt everything so damn deeply on the inside! It could be a real handicap. But these unhealthy relationships had their moments in those days. When I was happy, I was REALLY happy, fleeting though that happiness was.
How strange that I wanted to trust a man so much, after having been treated with so much rejection by both my parents. But maybe I was trying to get that love I craved so badly. And I seemed to be a MAGNET for the abusive, MN type of man. They must have sensed my vulnerability as much as I tried to cover it up.
In spite of my high intelligence and creativity. I loved to write, draw and paint, and at the time was very much into photography, which like everything else I ever began to pursue, I gave up due to a setback: my camera I had saved a whole months’s worth of pay had been stolen, along with all my other camera equipment. As a result I never pursued photography seriously again, although to this day I’m still told I have an “eye” and should take it up again. (Perhaps I will).
Looking back over my life I see a pattern. EVERY time I started to pursue an interest seriously, or undertake some sort of training or an opportunity that would have improved my life and circumstances, I ALWAYS found some reason to give it up, lose interest, or sabotage myself in some way when it became clear too much work or study would be involved or there might be too many setbacks. I was TERRIFIED of failure and CONVINCED I would fail at anything I pursued. All my life my parents, especially Ginny, had told me I could never stick to anything or follow through, and would never amount to anything much because of my terrible personality, and it seemed their prophecy had become true. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I was probably PROGRAMMED by them to fail. Although they never said outright they wished I’d fail, I know they never really wanted me to become successful because then I would have power over them (or what they would perceive as such) and then they could no longer scapegoat me as the “family fuckup” (their name for me to this day).
Recall I said in my last blog post I don’t think my father is actually psychopathic, but he’s been deeply influenced by them and always been in collusion with both Ginny (my mother) and his current wife, who is very likely an MN. They call all the shots–Harry is a classic N-enabler who knuckles under to their bidding. And now he’s too frail and sick to ever escape from it. More about this later.
So…following high school I didn’t express much interest in attending college–again, I think this was to rebel against my parents, who continually compared me with my older half siblings, who had all gone to and graduated from college and thought it unthinkable that I would not go.
Or maybe I simply wasn’t ready. At age 18 going on 19, I had no idea what I wanted to do or be, and so after attending for one semester I dropped out. My father was enraged and refused to ever pay for me to further my education ever again. He’d decided I was unmotivated and lazy and nothing could ever change his opinion. He failed to understand I simply wasn’t ready yet, because after a few years of being able to find nothing but dead end jobs (and I was expected to pay my own rent and support myself on these menial jobs) I desperately wanted to go to college and major in psychology. I was 22 at the time and though my father could have afforded to pay for me to go, he refused to help. Because I was still at the age where the college financial aid office counts your parents’ income in whether or not you get a grant, and my parents were doing well financially, I qualified for no student aid or grants except student loans. But I was determined so I took out the loans and attended classes at night, carrying a full time credit load and also working full time during the day because there was no way I could have given up my dead end job, much as I disliked it. Somehow I managed to maintain a 3.5-4.0 GPA and was even on the Deans list for a couple of semesters.
But by the time I entered my third year of college (I was 25 by now), the grueling schedule with its increasing workload and demands was beginning to drain on me, and with no family support (although they could have afforded to help and I think I had proven sufficiently I was motivated) while still having to keep my crummy full time job, my thoughts again turned to longings for romance, and even marriage.
About a year earlier, I had begun to drink heavily although this didn’t affect my grades, it did affect my attendance at work. My father, by now remarried to a woman (who turned out to be either a MN or just someone with severe OCD and a controlling personality that mimicked MN) had moved to Texas and had joined AA. I attended AA for a few months and decided it wasn’t for me, but I did meet a man there who seemed to pursue me in a way I eventually couldn’t resist.
Michael could have been a poster child for the “charming” narcissistic lover. He pursued me relentlessly, even though at first I wasn’t that interested. There was just something about him that made me slightly uncomfortable…perhaps his aggressiveness in pursuing me (although he was always very sweet at first) I found slightly offputting, but his undying attention and charm eventually overcame my misgivings (which I should have listened to but I wanted so badly to believe he was sincere), and soon I was head over heels in love with this man who really wasn’t my type at all. For a while he was the perfect lover, wining and dining me, bringing me flowers, telling me constantly how much he needed and loved me, and then after just three months of dating, he proposed to me in a romantic restaurant–actually bowing down on his knees in front of me when he asked me to marry him. He seemed very sincere and I couldn’t believe anyone could love me that much. I was in heaven, but little did I know the worst hell of my life was about to begin–and would last for the next 28 years.
I dropped out of college because the student loan money had run out, but also because I couldn’t maintain the grueling schedule of juggling work and school and at the same time spend time with Michael and prepare for our wedding. My parents were horrified I would leave school. Their horror coupled with their wanting me to always fail and refusing any financial help, was an incredible mindfuck. The fact Michael made less money than I did (in spite of not finishing my degree, I landed a promising new job as a copy/columns editor for a medical journal for a wellknown publishing firm) and yet charged extravagant gifts for me and expensive dinners to credit cards should have been a HUGE red flag, but I ignored it. Six months later, on a beautiful day at the end of May 1986, we tied the knot. I was 26.
Part three will describe the progression of his narcissism and abuse of me (and later, our two children). This will be the most painful part of my story to write, but probably also the most therapeutic (and interesting to readers).