Mod 5: My story – Max

I’ve mentioned how the many years of life with my ex-husband left me with some serious emotional issues. I had terrible problems with abandonment and panic attacks. I was still confused about much of what had happened to me. And there was no information about narcissists so I really didn’t even have the resources to understand what had happened to me or how to recover from it.

Meanwhile, Max had gotten us into such bad debt that I had to insist we file bankruptcy, always a tough prospect. And you know all about the lack of support. So I had to keep my family of three going on my legal secretary’s salary, with no credit and no outside financial support of any kind.

The emotional and financial aftermath of my first marriage were both fairly awful, but my case is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s the norm to be dealing with more problems than just Narcissistic Victim Syndrome when you separate yourself from a narc. (We can’t all be members of an affluent family like Lucy Westenra.)

Funny thing though, I look back now on those times as really special in spite of the struggles I had. I began to put quite a lot of attention into a few key friendships, women co-workers who supported me with love and kindness. I relished my new-found control over my environment and my time. And it was heavenly not to be living anymore with someone that looked at me as nothing but the means to get his needs met.

Poor and emotionally-struggling as I was, there were all kinds of opportunities for me to heal and build a new life for myself and my kids. Did I, the “wise author you have come to know and love,” embark at once on healthy, constructive living? Well of course not! People make mistakes, and people who are not at their best make lots of them.

Right out of the gate I was desperate to date and make up for lost time. I got involved with an eccentric but charismatic guy who was in an “open relationship” (according to him at least) with someone else. He may or may not have been another narcissist, but he certainly was happy to use me and not give in return. What a disaster. Fortunately my budding “narc-dar” figured out within a few weeks that I was in another toxic situation…but not before I experienced some more pain.

Relationship attempt #2 followed shortly after. This guy was nice enough for sure, but he was also 19 and I was 36. I can’t say this dating experience was a total bust. It was certainly great for the ego of a woman married 15 years to a gay man, to discover she was attractive to someone barely legal. But even I was smart enough to know that situation was going nowhere.

This was when I met my second husband. And my second husband is the reason why I assure narc victims who are convinced they will pick the wrong guys forever that this is not so. I was serious now—I wanted to date a nice, age-appropriate guy with whom I could enjoy myself and not suffer. What attracted me to my future husband was not the stuff that drew me to Max and Open-Relationship Guy. He was not charismatic, he was good. He was honest, forthright, faithful, trustworthy, completely without guile, and motivated by the need to make a life and home with some nice woman.

As you know, the rest is history. Do I recommend leaping into a new relationship after breaking up with a narc? Not really. But as they say, the heart wants what it wants and sometimes that can happen. What is important—very important—is that you make your own needs your #1 priority.

I bombed completely with Open-Relationship Guy in that department, and you may bomb completely at first too. But as you learn to care about yourself and really focus on what you need and want from life, and base your choices on that, your missteps will become fewer and farther between. That “fool me twice, shame on me” situation was my wake-up call and it worked. If you can fully “wake up” before you make the sort of error I did, so much the better. Either way, you’ll be okay.

Over the course of a year I developed a whole new portfolio of interests, made new friends, practiced old skills and learned new ones. All the while my issues worked themselves out, and I didn’t even have the resources open to you today like the internet, online support groups, etc. I was flying blind and I still found my way out of all that.

Why? Because narcissistic abuse did not change the person I was at heart, and I still had the forces of life and love in me to give me the power to rebuild. These are the same gifts all people have, and by nature they grow back, healthier and stronger, like a tree that is pruned or suffers through a hard winter. These are the gifts you have. Can you help your healing happen faster? Yes. But as long as you avoid another bond to a narc, it’s going to happen for you with time no matter what you do. And you’ll actually be a better person for what you’ve had to endure.

No doubt the strength I gained from healing from my marriage to Max was part of what helped me 20 years later to deal with my dad….

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