A narcissist will always seek a target who is primed to fill the role of sub (submissive) for their narcissistic abuse. The ideal target will be plagued with low self-esteem, low self-worth, may be withdrawn, or suffer from some level of depression.
When we started to date, although I was highly functioning in the adult population – successful career, physically fit and reasonably social — I was walking on uneven soil due to my narcissistic upbringing. If I had been walking on solid ground I certainly would not have been an ideal target for my narcissist. Looking back, I can easily see how I was easy pickings. Like any good predator, he assessed me and he has in no uncertain terms let me know over the past 16 years that he picked me. “Remember, I picked you,” he’s told me time and time again during a spat and now that I understand (probably better than he does) what that really means, it pretty much makes me twitch.
It is during the dating stage that the target is lured into what I am referring to as the Charm Pit. It is filled with smoke and mirrors which reflect beauty, loveliness, desire and promise of what could be a dream come true. The charm pit has soft bottom so the target doesn’t hurt that much when it’s knocked down with smatterings of verbal abuse launched between dandelions and fairy dust. The charm pit’s high walls block out distraction as the victim experiences grandiose events leading up to, surrounding and following any momentary disruptions in appropriate behavior. Sprinkle the entire pit with emotional sugar following explosive outbursts or push-back. This sweet sugary substance — I call emotional kook-aide — is overly sweet, laced with threats, deception and menacing.
The combination of manipulative tactics woven masterfully together will work to subdue the victim back into conformity.
Although I cannot say that he was ever a great romantic, my narcissist definitely woo’ed me into his charm pit with the right words, I guess I am easy — as he has boasted, unkindly, many times in the past. Once in the pit he was able to test my endurance and pliability with bad or inappropriate behavior. Me, being the good sub that I am, I “stuck it out,” attending every pity party, swallowing all of his bullshit and making excuses for most of his actions and over-looking or ‘forgetting’ the rest. After all, I was always reminded that I was being too sensitive, misreading the situation or not remembering correctly.
The sides of the charm pit are steep and slippery. If the victim tries to flee the relationship, odds are good they will have a hard time scaling the walls and/or breaking the emotional tethers that have kept them in-line.
As for myself, after 3 years together in the pit, when I suggested a parting of the ways because I had had it with the bullshit and the extra-curricular relationships orbiting in and around our relationship. His rebuttal was that we should get married. Married! Of course! So we did.
I wanted to break-up so WE GOT MARRIED! Hello? What the hell was wrong with me? Emotional manipulation is what was wrong with me. Even though it wasn’t what I had been planning, I WAS able to justify that we had already been together over 3 years, we had friends in common now, we were an entity — right? WRONG! He was an entity I was his sidekick, its the way its always been and it still remains this way.
Just beyond the pit lies the cave. Even though it’s been sitting there right on the side of the pit all along, no one in the pit acknowledges it’s danger or perceives how scary and dangerous it really is.
Dark, desolate and cold, the cave is mysterious and silent, but not the type of silence equated with a peaceful, serene setting. The cave is anything but peaceful and serene. The walls may be colored the brightest shades of life, but the cave’s interior is devoid of colorful flare, only angry flare-ups. Virtually undisclosed to fresh air, sunlight or visitors, deep within, the hard walls retain the secrets of the night. Images that float through the air; words, shouts, cries that bounce off the walls and shatter the unnatural silence.
So, from the pit to the mouth of the cave I marched! Not only was I not worried about what was lurking beyond the dark opening, I wore a pretty dress — there were witnesses and I carried flowers! Ha! Dark opening– that’s funny. Truth is we were married in a private ceremony, by a justice of the peace, with only two witnesses. When I announced our betrothal, the people in my life who knew the truth about our relationship stood with their mouths agape.
Anyway — there we stood, just inside the cave, and although it wasn’t particularly exciting we had entered the “next phase” which does, or should, hold a special meaning. I realize now that it should have been a much more happy and exciting or joyful time — this is why I laughed after I wrote dark opening. Unfortunately, happy, exciting and joyful is not and would not be the tone of our relationship, even more unfortunate is that I already realized THAT back then and still got married. I understand now that I should have demanded that for myself since it is what I wanted — happy and celebrating. I guess somewhere deep inside me I expected, or hoped, that it would be happy eventually, somehow, because there was really no reason why it shouldn’t be.
We tried for an entire year to get pregnant without success. We were going for fertility treatments and I joked whenever I could that “practice makes perfect” and “it sure is fun trying.” Not surprisingly, he lost his sense of humor pretty quickly which made it more frustrating and upsetting and stressful. But after a year of trying — we were pregnant and I couldn’t be happier.
Sadly, I realized during the pregnancy that I was in trouble. I saw a new side of him and it was alarming. In becoming impregnated with his child, it became crystal clear that I had sealed the deal. I realized it early on when he became physical with me during an altercation and again, further into the pregnancy, when he became unglued because of someone else, blamed me, then ransacked the house around me. He knew he had me and our baby, my baby, was his pawn.
The day she was born I was plunged directly into the inner depths of the cave. The disregard, disrespect and indifference almost immediately took on a new meaning — but being the good-sub that I am and a hormonal first-time mother I made excuses for his bad behavior and over-looked way more than I should have.
Within the depths of that cave, my cave…my hell, I would become isolated and lonely.
My hopes, dreams and desires would be squashed.
I would be blamed, ridiculed and berated.
My feelings would be minimized, my input on any subject — disregarded.
In that cave I lead a solitary existence, although I was rarely alone.
I developed anxiety.
My opinions were devalued.
I was criticized, kept in the dark and at a low volume.
There was name-calling, finger pointing and interrogation — about everything and nothing at all. And at the end of the day, the burden for tasks completed or not completed fell to me, without love, without compassion — it was my responsibility to ‘get it done.’
People whom I cared for would be judged, put-down and threatened to me, which “kept me in line” regarding his demands on communication and visits.
Why? Why listen? Why not disregard his demands?
Because I was afraid of the consequences of him being unhappy. I wasn’t as worried for myself as I was for him acting out or being nasty to people I cared about. I didn’t want to expose anyone to his bad behavior. One-by-one people dropped out of my life, not necessarily by their rash decision so much as by my long-term actions — but I didn’t act to prevent the estrangement.
Slowly, I was segregated from my confidantes; as my circle was continuously dwindling; my personal world was shutting down. Soon, by design, I would rely solely on my narcissist as a point of reference and companionship. And my narcissist would mold my processes to suit his needs.
Any self-confidence I possessed regarding any career achievements was crushed when any employment that took me away from my household responsibilities or left him responsible for our child or home, was not lucrative enough. The products were all wrong, my employers were idiots — I needed to demand more money.
At every turn, every event, every person — friend or family — was wrong, bad, stupid, “not worth it,”. “Not good enough,” “not true.” And then there was the raging toward me, the dogs, the family.
And all the while on the outside, we resembled a model family. We fooled everyone; even people who witnessed our bitterness first hand, because a well-oiled machine still functions with weathered parts. A well-oiled machine very well may function until it completely falls apart. After years of practice, we can stand beside one another laughing with our neighbors while we are knifing each other in the back. And despite all of the blood streaming to the ground behind us, most people still want to believe in happy endings, so they focus on what they see at the surface and all that is is a facade of sunshine and flowers.
So we existed in that bubble for a long time, I overlooked, excused and ignored. Suddenly I developed an issue that I never, ever had before — ANXIETY. I was having panic attacks!! When my anxiety increased to the point that it started to effect my overall health and day-to-day life, I saw how much my narcissist really loved me. His action or lack of action and compassion during what were seemingly major health-related events really stung me hard. I was having legitimate health issues and he didn’t want to deal with me and didn’t do anything that he didn’t deem absolutely necessary. — no he’s NOT a doctor, but he didn’t think the pain medication the hospital prescribed was really needed right away, as prescribed, following a hysterectomy.
From relatively fit and healthy to ‘what the heck is happening here?’ I felt like I was going crazy! As we continued forward I realized that I’d better figure out and remedy what was ailing me. I worked hard physically and psychologically to stabilize myself, As I started to see and feel the results of my efforts and grew stronger both physically and psychologically, our relationship took a downturn.
The more I started to retain my own power to supply MY~Self , the more demanding and forceful he became. His aggressive behavior was amped up — I’m sure in an effort to intimidate and subdue me. Requests for participation in my, and/or our, growth were repeatedly denied. So, while I explored many facets of my life, even dietary, to reach a better understanding and find a healthier balance — the dysfunctional framework of our structure became even more strained by his exaggerated aggression and my new intolerance. We started to stress at the seams.
By virtue of my growth, I subconsciously descended from the confines of the cave back out into the pit, where there was fresh air and more sunlight.
I see the pits duplicity pretty clearly now. Where I once thought I was being charmed, I understand now that I was, in fact, being harmed. Despite my new understanding, I remained there in the pit still within the stronghold of my narcissist by enhanced aggression and conditioning I began to feel more, not necessarily feel more _(blank)_, just feel more in general.
I began to FEEL!
I began to SEE!
I began to WORRY a lot more! After all, it’s really not just about me or him or me and him anymore.
Now when I look into the eyes of my beautiful baby, who’s not a little baby anymore, I see the effects of this dysfunction on her developing being.
I see it in her expression, her body language, her mannerisms.
I hear it in her tone, her words, sometimes her overall spirit.
I worry about compromising her inner self — her self image, self-esteem, and self worth.
Her intrafamilial frame or reference is flawed. Relationships and experiences during these formative years, while she is growing up and maturing, will mold her ideas about family, friends, men and relationships and look at what she’s learning at HOME!!
I worry that she will question my fortitude at not ending this abuse and that I am teaching her to lack respect for me just as he does.
I worry that I am teaching her to accept this type of behavior for herself.
She is feisty and sassy with him because of his behavior with her, because of the behavior she witnesses toward me.
I worry that his rage will continue to escalate with her height, and age, and his will become a physically aggressive relationship with her as they battle for control of her mind.
I have made so much progress!!
Academically, I understand all, or at least most, of this situation. I have turned many stones seeking answers and solutions. I am learning and discovering new things every day and I vow to myself not to let my knowledge and progress go!
I have identified my role in this grand production and understand how I landed my part.
I have become a student of the narcissistic disorder.
ALL OF THIS, yet I still remain, feeling paralyzed in the pit.