You don’t know what you don’t know. And for the last 8 years I had no idea I was married to a narcissist. Sure, the signs were all there. But I was blind to see them. It wasn’t until the Harvard Discard occurred that I actually sought out a therapist to figure out WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED to my marriage. And lucky for me- I found THE BEST PSYCHOLOGIST! We weren’t even halfway through my first appointment, when she said to me “The Husband sounds like a narcissist”. I sat for a minute. Contemplating. “No, there’s absolutely no way The Husband is a narcissist.” I sat for another minute. Contemplating. It was then that I realized I actually had no idea what a narcissist was! In my mind, and what’s often portrayed to us in pop culture, is that narcissists are vain, self absorbed, and shallow. What isn’t common knowledge however, is just how dangerous, abusive, and vile narcissists can be. Especially if they rank higher on the narcissistic spectrum. My narcissist is so high on the spectrum, he’s actually closer to a psychopath or antisocial personality disorder. My Psychologist later met The Husband and the diagnosis was confirmed- Narcissist.
Narcissists follow a very predictable pattern of behavior in regards to their relationships.
- Idealization Phase
- Devalue Phase
- Discard Phase
My very own personal “Discard” came swift and it came without warning. It. Was. Brutal. But first, the backstory. The Husband had been accepted into a program at Harvard called the Program of Leadership Development. It was mostly online but with a few quick trips to Boston throughout the process. Side note: The Husband likes to tell everyone this was an Executive MBA. It’s not. Narcissists are masters of exaggeration and embellishment. My first inkling that something was amiss was during his second trip to campus. Right away I began to feel that something was wrong. He wasn’t contacting me much, if at all. He hardly texted, called or checked in on myself or our two sons. Apparently Harvard assigns Life Coaches to the students that they can utilize throughout the length of the program. I was able to talk to him briefly on his “off day” and he divulged that his personal Harvard life coach mentioned to him that he seemed unhappy. She suggested he was unhappy because of our marriage. Ignorant Life Coach also informed him that she left her marriage and that while it was difficult, it ended up being the best decision she’d ever made. Shock number one was that an unqualified Harvard Life Coach would be dishing out marriage advice regarding a relationship she knew nothing about. Shock number two was finding out that The Hubby was unhappy. I. Had. No. Idea. The week before he left for Harvard we thought I might be pregnant. He was thrilled. We were happy.
The Husband came home from Harvard, and swiftly and abruptly ended things with me. 8 years and 2 kids later, gone. All gone. Among his list of reasons for leaving included: I gave him PTSD, he can’t look at me without feeling rage and despair, he hates my guts, I’m a terrible mom, I’m a drama queen, I create financial issues, I never did anything nice for him, I drink too much wine, I suck at housecleaning etc etc. The list was so long it would require it’s own blog post to go into it all.
I mustered up enough strength to pack up my belongings and drive to my girlfriends house, where I laid in bed and didn’t get up for weeks. Suicidal thoughts rushed through my mind. Depression was threatening to consume me. Confusion, hurt, anger, grief, heartache like I’ve never known before overwhelmed my heart and my mind. Nothing was making any sense. Until it did.
Luckily I had access to The Husband’s Instagram account. So I logged in. The first thing i saw upon this login was that he looked up a woman by the name of Kristine. The Hubby never uses Instagram. Ever. So the fact that he was looking up another women set off immediate alarm bells. The next time I saw The Husband, I asked about Kristine. His face turned as white as a ghost and he looked like he was going to faint. My heart sank. In true narcissist fashion, he denied and deflected. By this point in our relationship, I know better than to believe any words that come out of his mouth. You’d think a Harvard grad would be intelligent enough to cover his tracks, but no, not my Harvard grad. The phone records told me everything I needed to know. He had been texting/calling with Kristine starting at Harvard with things really picking up after he returned back home. They spoke on the phone most days, and sometimes up to an hour and a half at a time. While I was lying in bed in complete agony, he’d already moved onto his next victim. Or victims. I busted him looking up and messaging with other women too. Narcissists have a constant need for Narcissistic Supply(ego fueling). When a partner stops fueling the narcissist supply(me) they will discard the person(Harvard Discard) and attempt to find it elsewhere(Kristine, etc ). The cycle starts over with the new victim or victims(Idealization, Devaluation, Discard). Some experts would say that The Husband wanted me to see the phone records. Narcissists LOVE triangulating women with other women. It’s enables them to maintain control and feel powerful
In the weeks that followed The Harvard Discard, things got worse. Much worse. He changed all of our bank passwords so I had no access to money. He would occasionally give me some, but never enough. Some days I was so broke I had to shower after going to the bathroom because I couldn’t afford toilet paper. Meanwhile The Husband was off taking fishing trips to Mexico and driving 2 hours to the mountains every weekend. Emotionally I went through the ringer. One day he would tell me I was the love of his life and that we’d end up back together eventually. The next day he would tell me the sight of my face filled him with an all consuming rage. Life on the emotional roller coaster was physically and mentally exhausting. One morning after dropping off our son at Kindergarten, he looked me directly in the eye and said “What have YOU DONE to make me want to take your sorry (insert cuss word) back. Nothing- You’ve done absolutely nothing to make me want to take you back”. I immediately shut the door to his truck, opened the door to my car, drove to pick up my friends dad (who is a lawyer) and went and filed for divorce. It felt SO good to get my power back. There have been minimal, if any, regrets.
It’s been three months since The Harvard Discard. I have learned so much about The Narcissistic Personality Disorder and through educating myself I have found immense healing and peace. I am tremendously grateful to those who have gone before me and shared their stories via online forums, in books, and through podcasts. Finally, 6 years after my wedding heartache(see For Better or Hearse blog post), things were starting to make sense. I hope by sharing my story, other Narcissistic Newbies will find peace and comfort as well. Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of narcissistic abuse it’s hard to see it for what it is. I remember telling my dad that my Psychologist suggested Thomas was a narcissist. His exact response was “You had to pay a psychologist to tell you that”?