A Beachside Affair (guest post).

Here is another guest post by the same writer who contributed “The Narc from Costa Rica.” Again she has asked to remain anonymous, but I think this story does a better job of describing the narcissism of a man who seemed to be extremely romantic. Talk about a whirlwind romance!

It’s common for narcissists (especially somatic ones) to act very romantic in the beginning of relationships. But the problem is, it’s an ACT. They can sweep you off your feet with their charm, declarations of undying love (which are lies), seemingly endless desire to make love to you, and gifts of wine, candy and roses. They also can move in very fast, and it’s not uncommon for one to propose marriage very soon into the relationship. (There are other narcs who are relationship-phobic, usually the cerebral type.). My ex proposed only three months after we met. He was cerebral though, so not all “romantic,” fast-moving narcissists are somatics.

The man in this story, Michael, seems to be a covert or “vulnerable” narcissist. They can seem to have very deep emotions and be quick to express their insecurities and vulnerabilities, but they’re still dishonest and manipulative, and they still have no empathy and will leave you in a heartbeat if a better source of supply comes along. Covert narcissists can be more dangerous than aggressive (classic) narcissists because you never see what’s coming. They can completely fool you because they seem to need you so much.

A Beachside Affair
By Anonymous

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My whirlwind relationship with Michael lasted for only 3 months. It was a summer love, like something out of the movies. Our affair ended abruptly, leaving me completely gutted emotionally and even physically. It was as if he’d ripped my heart out and taken it with him, leaving me with a huge hole inside my soul.

I met Michael on the beach. We quickly became obsessed with each other. He was like an addiction to me. I went to work during the day and all I could think about was Michael. I’d go home and polish myself from head to toe, making sure I looked and felt as beautiful as possible. Before I met Michael I just didn’t feel good. I was in a failing marriage to another narcissist. My husband ignored me. He never talked to me and I was dying inside. I remember that I’d go home and get drunk on wine, just to blur out the feelings of emptiness I felt from my husband’s coldness, on top of having suffered an empty childhood and adolescence due to having been raised by a narcissistic father and a borderline mother who wasn’t much better.

I knew having an affair was wrong, but at that point I no longer cared. I needed to feel loved and needed. Michael fit the bill perfectly, at first. I remember the day I met Michael. He was beautiful, his tanned muscles shimmering and rippling in the sun. We talked for a little while and before long he started to kiss me and held me for 4 hours straight, as the sun went down over the ocean.

After that heady experience I made a decision to leave my husband because I no longer could stand being with him. There was just no comparison.

I’m not sure why Michael had me under such a powerful spell. I’m not sure if it was inverted or covert narcissism or codependency on my part that made me so attracted to him. I know he mirrored my own narcissism and I think that was part of the attraction. Or (in my thinking at the time) maybe it was just that we were both artists that craved something more and we needed attention and had a burning desire to express our vision of life through our art. All I know is that when the two of us got together we melted together like butter. All the love that I never got, all the love I craved and all my neediness was being filled by Michael and I couldn’t get enough of him. He was everything to me.

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Michael had an apartment in a very famous town in coastal New Jersey that was known for its rock n roll legacy, especially Bruce Springsteen. Famous bands played in a place called The Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Back then, over 30 years ago, the town was run down and almost abandoned. The Stone Pony was the only thing that held the weak fabric of this town together. But I loved it there. This run down seaside town was always beautiful to me because I always felt like this was my home. I still do. I knew that one day I’d play up on the same stage where other famous artists had played. There was fire in my belly. A void that needed to be filled with a whole lot more than a man’s love. If there was an Angel on Ocean Avenue, she was certainly watching over me.

Micheal was an art student who had nude sketches of himself all over his wall. He played the guitar too and we often played music together and I would sing. I use to stay at Michael’s house every night. We went to parties at the homes of mutual friends we had met out on the beach. The bonfires were wonderful and we would all sit around and sing songs. We sang Beatles songs and Bowie songs and I felt like a reincarnated hippie. My favorite song we sang was David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

“Tell my wife I love her very much…she knows.
I’m here and I’m floating in my tin can.
Far above the world. Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”

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There was magic and presence and energy and the love in all the people we met at these parties and on the beach. People liked to watch Michael and I, because they were intrigued by our obsession and need for each other. We vicariously fulfilled their need for romance. I felt so validated, loved, sexy and happy. It seemed too good to be true and it was. This couldn’t be real life. It was too perfect.

We were a study in contrasts physically, and I think that’s another reason for the fascination our friends had for us. Michael had beautiful blue eyes and long blonde silky hair, and a great body. I had long black hair and lots of curves. People liked to photograph us together. We use to sit down in front of a long mirror in his room and stare at the contrast. We made each other feel beautiful. And together, we were. At that time it seemed we were good for each other’s self-esteem. At the county college Michael was studying for an Associates degree in graphic arts we were both asked to pose nude for $10 dollars an hour for the students who sketched still lifes in the human anatomy drawing class.

Michael’s background was sad. He told me that he was beaten by his father with a belt consistently during his infancy and his dad was also an alcoholic. Michael was depressed and he had to take psychiatric medication to fight his depression from the abuse he endured as a child. I remember watching him go into this weird state where sometimes seemed almost frozen and off in some other universe (dissociation is a common symptom in people with NPD and BPD). When in these near-catatonic states, he’d punch the floor or the wall over and over again, sometimes lasting for up to 20 minutes. It was sad and very scary. He was not mean or malignant though. He seemed like a gentle, artistic soul who just couldn’t take care of himself. He was never controlling, but seemed very needy for my constant attention and love. I think he was a covert narcissist.

Our affair came to an abrupt end at the end of that summer, because Michael left me for another women who said she was in love with him. She was willing to pay the rent on his apartment. So in the end, he chose money and security over me. I was devastated because the drug of my addiction to him filled me all summer and was suddenly ripped out of my heart in an instant and the devastation and grief was almost too much to bear.

But if I’d known about narcissism, I would have known Idealize and Devalue is all part of their game. They can’t help it. Even covert narcissists are at heart predators out to use you and throw you away when you’re no longer of use to them.

My next phantom lover was a drummer named Karl. I was so needy that I of course fell into the hands of another narcissistic man. And so it goes on…

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Forever alone.

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I have always been attracted to narcissistic men. And them to me. I spent 28 years (7 of those AFTER we divorced) living with a malignant narcissist substance abuser and raising children with him. Before Michael, I had three serious boyfriends, and only one was not a narcissist (but was severely bipolar).

When I was in my twenties, all I wanted to do was marry and have babies–this wasn’t considered cool or forward thinking at the time (the 1980s). I wasn’t really focused on having a career like most young women my age.

I think my oddly timed longing for normal family life was because more than anything in the world, I longed to be part of a family that would not be like the one I came from, a close, functional family whose members truly loved and cared for one another. I had grand fantasies of Perfect Family Life–3-4 perfect, normal kids; a perfect, normal husband with no serious mental disorders or drug or alcohol issues; and a beautiful home with plenty of old school charm in a safe neighborhood. My Perfect Mate would be an honest, loyal husband and father who loved animals and long walks and would care deeply about all of us. Of course there would be pets too, probably a large friendly dog like a Golden Retriever. I wanted the damned Brady Bunch.

I know, you’re probably ready to vomit all over your keyboard. Chill. I’m stopping right here. I cringe when I think about how naive and clueless I was.

Does anyone remember this commercial from about 2007-09? If you’re a nausea-prone ACON you may want to take some Pepto first.

Well, this was the family I wanted to make, back in the 1980s.

30 odd years later: I hate that damned commercial with its perky, perfect, cute-but-not-beautiful soccer mom–a woman who undoubtedly had loving parents who raised her with consistency and lots of hugs and support, a woman who has extended family members like cousins or aunts or an uncle she is close to, and also has lots of friends. She also has an advanced degree in something like sociology or art history. She was popular at school, not Mean Girl/cheerleader-popular, but the next tier down from that–she was one of the honor roll kids where the girls all played volleyball or were in the Drama Club, and the guys all looked like Ferris Bueller and were Theater Nerds. But these second-tier, almost-popular kids were actually nice to everyone (unlike the top tier of popular kids who really weren’t so much popular as they were feared and respected–because they consisted largely of narcs and their sycophants) and you wanted to hate them but you couldn’t because they were always so darned nice.

Instead of pursuing her career in art history or writing a book about The Sociology of Art History, this perky redhaired 30-something has chosen to stay home with her growing brood of ginger kids, each one more red haired than the last. Her infuriating announcements of big moves (to MEMPHIS!), promotions at work, home enlargements, weeks-long family vacations, learning how to speak French, and especially…ESPECIALLY!..the group shot at the end showing the whole family focusing on Perky Soccer Mom bouncing the the new baby on her hip at the end–not just any baby, but a gorgeous fat healthy good natured baby girl with an adorable grin who probably sports fire engine red hair under that white cap–made me want to throw a brick at my TV screen.

I know this is just a commercial and those people are actors, but…I ACTUALLY KNOW FAMILIES LIKE THIS. Of course I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors (and everyone has their dark secrets), but because the members of these families always seem happy and relaxed and everyone seems to love everyone else, with not a molecule of narcissism anywhere to be seen, the skeletons in their closets don’t come out to haunt them all that much. They are probably covered with dust from disuse.

I’m assuming here that the reason this thoroughly obnoxious commercial was so popular (it ran for almost 3 years), is not because it depicts the idealized family everyone strives to create, but rather, because many people can actually relate to this smugly contented woman and her tall, dark and handsome husband, their perfect dog, their big colonial house, and their large brood of gingers.

I longed for this family because having this family would vindicate my dysfunctional and narcissistic family of origin. It was the family that would bring me Justice.

I never got that family, because I fell in love with a malignant narcissist, who in every imaginable way at the beginning, convinced me he was the Perfect Boyfriend, and later the Perfect Fiance. We made two highly intelligent but troubled kids (well, one is a lot less so but lives almost 700 miles away).
And now I am Forever Alone.

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But I’m alright with that. More than alright.

In my past relationships, I never saw any of the red flags. I knew nothing of red flags back then other than the physical kind that signal physical danger. The most useful psychological advice about men and relationships I got in the early-mid 1980s was from articles and fluff quizzes (such as “What Does his Lovemaking Say About his Character?”) in magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour.

I was never attracted to “bad boys.” I chose men who had good jobs, prospects and didn’t stink or break the law. But sometimes these “perfect” guys can be anything but perfect, and because they put on such a convincing and impressive mask of normality, you don’t suspect their true motives until it’s too late. I always seemed to gravitate to the devils dressed in white.

I’m not going to recount the downward spiral that led to the dissolution of our marriage, drug addiction, troubled kids, and all the rest because I’ve done that already ad nauseam (if you must know my story of being married to a malignant narc, click on the links under “My Story”).

So I’ve done a 180 from the naive, romantic starry eyed girl I was in the 1980s–the girl who was uncool enough at the time to want a family and babies and a normal life with people who were not psychopathic or addicted to drugs or alcohol (today that would make me Taylor Swift–how times have changed). I no longer want a relationship. I relish my solitude.

I still get crushes, and plenty of them (I have one now), and just as in my teens and twenties, they still tend to be intense. My crushes are pleasurable to me but they are mine alone to enjoy, not something to be shared with the object of my infatuation. I know, I’m weird. I have an excuse to be weird and avoidant though, because I’m Aspie with Avoidant Personality Disorder. I enjoy my dreams and fantasies far more than my reality, and why ruin a good fantasy by trying to make it real?

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That’s why I think my mind makes sure my crushes are never on people I know personally or have to see all the time, and instead chooses men who are inaccessible for one reason or another. Famous people are the safest of all, because I do not ever not have to meet them and either (a) face rejection; or (b) worse: not be rejected but gradually find out they are really just another sick malignantly narcissistic tool who will fly me to the moon and feed me fresh blackberries dipped in cognac, and then ever so insidiously proceed to turn my life into one resembling incarceration in a Turkish prison before I know what even hit me.

I’ve been there, done that. I am no longer of childbearing age, and though I look far younger and fitter than my 55 years, I realize I’m not going to look this good too much longer. At my age, there’s a feeling that you just don’t have what it takes to attract a man anymore, even when it’s not true. Because I look better now than I have since my mid-late 30s. Sure, maybe a woman of a certain age can’t attract the 20-somethings anymore, but what middle aged woman in her right mind really wants a 20-something for anything but a quick fling, anyway? In my case my wariness and self consciousness is due to the low self esteem that’s lived with me my entire life like some parasitic twin I’ve grown so used to I sometimes forget it’s there. Hating yourself is a tough habit to break.

But the real problem isn’t my fear of losing my sexual desirability (which is already well on its way over the other side of the mountain), it’s the simple fact that I don’t trust men (or anyone) enough to become intimate with one. As an Aspie, I have trouble reading social cues, which means I often miss the important red flags and warning signs of a narcissist who is love bombing me and wooing me into his black den of misery. And more than that–I want to believe them. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I never learned from my past mistakes.

So no longer is “love” my passion in life or my goal. I figure I will die single and alone, but very possibly, happy. Hopefully by the time I die, I will have written a book or two that helped others, gave others joy, and brings me a nice income so I can buy my own small, quaint, quirky home near my son in Florida, somewhere near the beach.

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Twenty or thirty years from now: I see myself–an old spinster (I love the strength that word conveys–we need to bring it back!) wearing a long brightly patterned madras-cotton dress or jeans and a slouchy, comfy sweater in cooler weather, walking barefoot along the Gulf Coast at sunset, feeling wet sand squeeze between my pale toes, waves lapping at my feet, the salt air breeze making me smile and my eyes water. I’m tossing small pebbles into the golden waves, a large dog with a cool name like Hector skipping along by my side, occasionally running ahead of me when he sees a seagull land on the darkening sand. I’ll be thinking about my grown son and daughter, and their families and satisfying lives, and my only worry would be the two-month deadline my publisher has given to finish writing a groundbreaking new book about something that matters. I’ll be Forever Alone. And like it.

All this being said, if an attractive, genuinely nice man comes along when I’m not looking, and maybe I’m feeling more strong and confident, I might venture into the ocean again, or at least get my feet wet. So sure, it could happen, but right now I’m just trying to get to know myself.