Krystal Miller -
When a Narcissist Shows His True Self, Believe Him.
by Team Mama Wins | Krystal Miller | October 16th, 2018
Once upon a time, in a small town on the east coast, a naïve, eighteen-year-old girl met a confident, twenty-five-year-old boy, fell in love, got married, had children, and lived happily ever after. Well, mostly.
At eighteen years of age, with my longest relationship clocking in at 3 months, I met a twenty-five-year-old man who happened to host a local television show. He was charismatic, relaxed, and fun. He was a
church-going man, and I was a church-going girl. In fact, we went to church on our first date. I quickly fell for his charms, confidence, and affections. He was the first guy to buy me flowers, show interest in my
hobbies, and take me on trips. He was also an ambitious business owner who seemed to have it all together, although he still lived at home with his parents. And at the ripe old age of almost nineteen, it
was time to look for the man I would marry.
In the town I grew up in, most women married by twenty-three, and at almost nineteen-years old, the clock was ticking for me. My parents who had been married for twenty years at this point, met when
they were seventeen and eighteen years old. My grandmother who had celebrated a recent fortieth wedding anniversary, married my grandfather and had her first child by eighteen. Most of my close
friends were already in serious relationships, and I knew I better lock someone down soon or I’d be the old hag living at home with my parents. Meeting a church-going, successful entrepreneur, at eighteen
years old seemed formidable.
The first year of dating was amazing. We took trips (which usually involved him getting offended by something I did), laughed (at my expense), went to family parties (although mostly for his family, as he
was busy when my family hosted one), and went out on dates (when it didn’t interfere with his work schedule). Ok, so in hindsight, it wasn’t so amazing, but at the time, and for many years following, I ignored the parentheticals and focused on the positives.
After the first year, others began pointing out what I chose to ignore. My brother started working for him and called attention to his arrogance. My dad indirectly, and directly, mentioned how he rarely picked me up for dates and how I was the one always driving to pick him up. I started going to therapy for anxiety for the first time in my life. He yelled at me on a vacation when I asked him to open the car door,
shouting, “You’re a princess living in a fairytale world and I am not opening the door for you.” Yet, I disregarded any and all warnings, even the ones right in front of my face. I had an excuse for everything.
I thought my brother was arrogant too and assumed it was sibling rivalry. I thought my father was living in the old days before woman’s empowerment, and as daddy’s princess, no one would ever live up to his standards. I justified the therapy as a life change because I was in college and life must be more stressful now. In my opinion, the worst excuse of all, and typical of a victim of emotional abuse, was I believed the words of my abuser. I doubted myself, I silenced my voice, and I clung to the belief that I really was a princess living in a fairytale world, expecting too much from my abuser. I believed I was dating a prince
and something must have been wrong with me if I couldn’t see how amazing he was. I had fears, conceived from my interactions with my abuser, that I would never be able to find someone as good as
him, and that I was lucky he chose to love me because no one else would want to once they got to know the real me.
As we continued to date, my concerns increased, but my voice became quieter and quieter. I no longer trusted my instincts, and I doubted myself. I almost got the courage to break up with him, and then, he
proposed. The shiny ring, the helicopter proposal, the family celebration, and the wedding planning excitement replaced any reservations I had. And as the wedding loomed, my heart filled with
uncertainty. My mind quickly shushed my heart, tricking it into believing that I could love my way into the relationship I desired with him. If I just loved him harder, if I did everything he asked of me no matter how ridiculous, if I left my own convictions at the door, I could change him. I believed his unchanging, unkind demeanor was a result of something I wasn’t doing right yet. I survived through the most challenging emotional times with him by hanging on to the good times we had and continually believing any relationship problems were my fault.
After we married, I cried nearly every day. I used the excuse, “The first year of marriage is the most difficult,” to power me through. After the first year, I used the excuse of moving across the country as the
reason for our difficulties. Later excuses followed, “We don’t have the money for a baby,” “We don’t have enough money,” “He’s unhappy with his career,” “We can’t make a baby,” “He’s unhappy,” “I’m
pregnant,” “Being a parent is hard,” and so on. Then we went to therapy and new excuses came rolling in, “His parents raised him this way,” “I’m not understanding enough,” “I don’t know how to be a good wife,” “He treats me this way because he’s supposed to be critical in his line of work.”
All the while, my gut was telling me the excuses were no longer cutting it. I was seeing a therapist, outside of our couple’s counseling, ironically, because I thought I needed to work on myself in order to
be a better wife. Yet, in therapy I discovered the voice I had quieted, and I learned my instincts (which I literally felt in my gut), were pretty spot on. I spent time in therapy exploring my emotions and feeling
my feelings, but my time spent at home was focused on becoming numb to the mistreatment I was constantly undergoing. Unless I was out of the house, I didn’t know how to feel anymore. When I recognized something was wrong, I asked for a separation. In response to my request, my husband threatened to take away my children, my home, and financially destroy me. I decided to stay out of fear and turned to social media to connect with people, who I could keep a safe distance from physically and emotionally, in hopes to feel some sort of emotion while I was in my own home.
Ultimately, social media led to me meeting a man who I would later have an affair with. It started out as innocent chatter about mutual interests, and eventually I began expressing complaints about my
husband. The man from the internet, Jude, comforted me, accepted me, and made me feel lovable and desired. Jude gave me everything I was missing from my husband. He also opened my eyes to seeing my
relationship with my husband for what it was – dysfunctional. I was ready to walk away from my marriage despite the threat, and then my husband found out about Jude. My husband became angry and belligerent, and the combination of emotional abuse and the reality of what I had done, there was no doubt in my mind I deserved what was coming to me.
My narcissistic abuser, like most narcissistic abusers, was unable to walk away from the marriage and count it as a loss. He decided we needed to reconcile and make our marriage work, which really meant he decided he recognized he lost control of me and was prepared to threaten to ruin me if I didn’t agree to stay under his control. For the following months, he isolated me from the outside world, tracking my
every move, possibly bugging my phone and having someone following me, and torturing me with reminders of the mistakes I had made. And when he beat the dead “affair horse” to a pulp, he started in on “[my] blatant disregard for [his] feelings when [I] put the forks in the same side of the dishwasher the spoons are supposed to go.”
At the same time, he was planning date nights I had asked him to plan for the three years leading up to this moment, leaving me love notes, and setting aside time to talk. He tried to rationalize these gestures to make up for his shaming and berating. But I wasn’t falling for it anymore.
Two therapists had finally pointed out my husband was abusive, and I finally accepted there was nothing I could do to make him change. In fact, I recognized his inability to change. Ever. I also was able to step
back and see what kind of example was being set for my two daughters. I was teaching them a successful marriage was one where the husband yells, belittles, shames, and ridicules his wife, and in turn, the wife tries harder to please him in hopes tomorrow will be different.
In conjunction with the realization and an intensive and unsuccessful marriage counseling weekend, I stopped trying to convince my husband to let me go, and instead I said, “I am unhappy and I think I would be happier without you.” It was a big step for me to say those words out loud, especially to him, and it was the first step to my freedom.
The divorce proceedings and negotiations were emotionally and financially draining. We agreed to 50/50 custody and on my underpaid school teacher salary, I agreed to pay him child support and alimony
(which is an entirely different story). Although I took steps to leave him, I wasn’t completely free of my fears, trauma, and his manipulation. I wanted out so badly, I was willing to do what I could just to be
done with the marriage, even if that meant unjustly paying him.
The day I moved into a home without him and the day the judged stamped the paperwork were the most freeing days of my life. When I found my new lease on life, I lived it up. I dated all of the guys I
should’ve dated before meeting my ex at eighteen, went to parties, let my daughters sleep in my bed, ate on the couch, and put the forks and the spoons in the same side of the dishwasher. More importantly, I got to know myself. I found my voice and listened to it. I even took myself out on a few dates. In dating myself, I discovered what a wonderful person I am to be around and decided the only people I would allow in my life were people who enhanced my world. I was deserving of someone who was just as good as or better than me to hang out with.
Since making that decision, my quality of life has increased exponentially. I choose to surround myself with positivity. Since leaving, I have been able to show my daughters what a strong, happy, confident woman looks like. I have spent more time laughing and playing with my daughters in half of a week than I ever did in an entire month with them, when I was living with their father. I have been able to offer my girls things he never would have approved of, like movie nights, weekend trips, and the occasional gum chewing.
I have also met the most wonderful man who allows me to show my daughters what a healthy relationship looks like. My new man, Mike, treats all women with respect. He holds open car doors for me, his
daughter, and my daughters. He never criticizes anything I do. He believes in me, supports me, listens to me, and encourages me, more than anyone I have ever met, and does the same for our daughters.
If you’re wondering what happened to my ex, I’ll tell you. He still tries to insert himself into my life. The happier I become, the harder he tries. Because we share custody, I have an obligation to communicate
about our children, but I limit my contact as much as possible. The road after leaving a narcissistic abuser who I have children with and share custody with isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but it has been far
better than staying married to him.
If you or anyone you know is at risk of Domestic Violence please contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline – run in partnership with
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