Mod 3: My story – Max

Once I was married to Max I considered myself totally and utterly bound by my vows. I was a conservative Christian and my church taught that once married, always married. You may think I had that wrong and was only using it as a crutch not to think for myself, and to a certain extent you’re right. But I assure you, that was the rule. In fact, after my separation I talked with an old friend from seminary, who was a pastor like my ex had been. This man’s reaction to the news that Max was gay and we were divorcing was to tell me it was a sin for me to break my vows.

For this reason I was with my ex for many, many years after I gave up all hope of being happy with him. I wished more than once that he might die somehow, since that was my only out. This is probably not most people’s experience as a victim of narcissistic abuse. Most people, when they finally reach a point where they want out, will get out. Once out, many of these people feel doubt, wonder if maybe they were too hasty, and have vulnerabilities the narc can use to suck them back in if he wishes.

But by the time Max dumped me, I wasn’t in any frame of mind to relapse like many victims are. If you have been prevented from leaving your narcissist by your circumstances, you may be in the same camp as I was. Nevertheless, this Mod will have value for you, so stick with me.

For my “relapse moment” I have to go back to the incident in college that I described earlier, when I had embarked on a relationship with a new boyfriend, and Max gave me a letter declaring his love. This was 40 years ago now, but I remember quite vividly that I didn’t hesitate for a moment to drop the new guy and run back to Max with open arms.

By that time I had spent a total of over a year in a relationship of some sort or other with him. I knew full well how selfish and mean he could be. He had neglected me for an entire summer. He regularly griped at me, snapped at me, said nasty and critical things. He needed lots of attention but gave very little.

Contrast that with New Guy’s sweetness, flattery, obvious affection, tenderness, kind manners, etc. Should have been a no-brainer. But you know what happened.

People who have never been hoodwinked by a narc (largely because they aren’t particularly codependent) can be flabbergasted by the fact that people hitched to someone so cruel and selfish just can’t seem to see their mistake. I defended Max many a time to my mom, who very quickly gave up on getting me to face what a creep I had fallen in love with. (And yes, I now often wonder how she felt seeing her only child make the same horrific error she had.)

I honestly felt Max and I were soulmates. He was brilliant, and charming, and fun. We had so many in jokes and private games that were shared with no one else. He had a mission in life—to become a pastor—and needed my support (emotional and financial) to make that come true. He needed my caring, understanding, and attention so desperately that I felt like my life had meaning because of it. Somewhere along the line I made the decision that I was at this man’s disposal, come hell or high water. That was my mission.

But I’ll be honest and tell you that after Max’s confession of the affair and admission of homosexuality, I abandoned all sense of reward in my marriage. I remember being at a parishioner’s house one evening doing a Bible study on the famous passage in the Bible about the nature of love:

Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I was overcome with a fit of despair. I went so far as to express, out loud, to members of my husband’s flock, how I couldn’t understand why my experience of love in life was just the opposite of everything the passage described. I had to fight back tears. I’m sure the study group did their best to pretend they hadn’t heard a word, and who knows what they thought of their pastor’s wife saying such a thing.

My point is, I was blessed in my case to be one of the lucky narcissism survivors who never misses her ex, and hasn’t the slightest pang of guilt over the demise of the relationship with said narc. Nevertheless, I do understand what it’s like to run back into the arms of a monster who would drive any normal, un-brainwashed person away at top speed.

As for the chains of guilt and sympathy, I got plenty on that topic. Read on to my story with Dad….

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