Good Judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment. Rita Mae Brown
With all due respect to Frank Sinatra, doing it “My Way” was, it turns out, way overrated for I too have a few regrets. Indeed, when you have had a narcissist in your life, you definitely have regrets.
Like ever having met him.
Somehow you think that you should have been able to see the N coming. You’ve asked yourself, usually over and over, the following questions :
How could I not have seen this coming?
How could I not have noticed his craziness?
How could I possibly have put up with his craziness for so long?
Why didn’t I draw boundaries?
Why didn’t I leave when he violated my boundaries?
Why didn’t I leave earlier?
How could I have been so stupid as to have children with him?
Was he always like this and I just didn’t notice?
How could I have ignored the warning signs?
How could I have let him do this to me?
If I had a nickel for each time I asked myself one of these questions, I’d be writing this from a flat on the Left Bank in Paris.
These are the regrets. One of the biggest challenges you will face is to let go of the regrets that you have. The years you wasted on him, the money he burned through, how stupid he made you feel, your failure to draw boundaries, the embarrassment you suffered when he did and said crazy things, and more. Much more.
If only. If only you had known.
So stop already.
You could not have known. That’s the point. These guys are good. They do bait and switch with the very best. They start out as Dr. Jekyll and turn into Mr. Hyde. Even trained mental health practitioners cannot easily spot an N. The N you were with ought to be on the stage, his performance was so good, so complete and so total. Barrymore was never as good as an N who is trying to suck you in. The false front of Narcissism is impenetrable.
One counselor I know of dated three Ns in a row. It took her, with all of her mental health education, expertise and experience, months each time to be able to discern that the guy she was dating was an N. If she could not spot them coming, how could you? This is particularly true if you had no mental health training, experience and maybe did not even have mental health information such as the fact that there is such a thing as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In view of your lack of information and his expertise at hiding who he is, how can you possibly expect yourself to have somehow discerned that the guy you were involved with was a narcissist?
The N’s ability to fool the most discerning woman is downright amazing. Not that I qualify as the most discerning woman on the planet, but I actually tried to logically look at the N I married before I married him. His narcissism was so deeply buried and so carefully hidden by his fake persona, the “false front of narcissism,” that I never, in my wildest imagination guessed that it was possible that the man I married would morph into a full blown, psychotic, verbally abusive, threatening-physical-abuse narcissist.
I never saw it coming.
In fairness to me, I had no mental health experience, expertise or training. I didn’t even take Psychology 101 in college. It was only after I left him and found out that he had a narcissistic personality disorder that I began to read up on NPD. Then, and only then did I begin to understand.
As soon as I understood, I began to regret. In regretting, I was beating myself up for having gotten involved with an N. As some wise person said, “The moment they stop beating you up, you start.”
Beating yourself up with these questions is a complete and utter waste of your valuable time, time that you should be using to enjoy the present and to create your future. How can you possibly enjoy the present when you are focused on the past? How can you decide what it is that you want to do to create a future when you are busy examining and re-examining how on earth you, smart cookie that you are, ever got involved with the N in the first place?
Beating yourself up with these questions perpetuates your victimhood. You are only a victim as long as you choose to be a victim. However, the very moment that you stop lamenting how you got to be a victim, you begin to live in the ‘now’. It is only when you live in the now that you have a shot at creating the fabulous life that you deserve.
Even worse, beating yourself up with these questions keeps you focused on the N. Haven’t you have wasted quite enough time on him? Isn’t it time that you focused on you and not him? To the extent that you are focused on him, the N is still controlling your life and defining who you are. Is that what you want? Are you truly going to let him define who you are even now, after you’ve escaped him?
By letting go of the past, I do not mean that you must forget what you learned in your relationship with the N. Oh, no. You had lessons to learn, else you would not have chosen an N nor allowed an N to choose you. You must learn those lessons or you will be doomed to repeat them. There’s a scary thought; recreating the same situation with yet another N.
However, even the most resolute of women will occasionally entertain the stray thought that we cannot quite believe that we ever put up with the N and his crazy and crazymaking behavior for even one nanosecond. This is particularly true for bright, accomplished woman as invariably we are for the Ns choose only “high status” women. After all, who is best suited to reflect the “glory” that an N is entitled to but a smart, lovely, accomplished woman? At this point you need to remind yourself once again the N does “bait and switch” like a champ. Your only “flaw”, if you can call it that, is that you believed and trusted a man who said he loved you. Is that really a flaw?
Not so much, no.
There is not much sense in crying over spilt milk. What is done, is done. The past cannot be changed and your past is part of who you are. As the Buddha said, “What is, is.” Let go of your astonishment that you, fabulous woman that you are, were ever duped by the narcissistic bozo on the bus. Let it go. It is over. It is done.
Let go of regrets, “if onlys” and what ifs. Remember, as a woman who formerly associated with, partnered with or married to an N, you are in excellent company, yours truly included. Many bright, beautiful, accomplished, superior women were fooled, often for years. Even after the discovery of who and what the N was, it took many of us years to escape. So, let go of the past and breathe a sigh of relief that you are now free of the N and resolutely turn your face to the future.
In the words of the Reverend Dr. King, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”