It was gradual at first, one red flag, then two.
We were the picture-perfect couple, so bright and shiny on the outside, the ones everyone wanted to be like.
It looked like we had it all, the car, the home, the life. He was the successful sports person, overcoming feats no one thought possible and I was the rock that stood beside him. The one who was always there, supporting him, praising him. But behind closed doors, things are not always what they seem.
I thought he was the love of my life, till death do us part, through sickness and in health. We said these vows in front of hundreds of our friends and family. I thought we would travel the world, have children, support each other as we built our empire. How little did I know that once I had served my purpose I would get kicked to the curb and replaced by a newer version that could give him the next leg up in life.
My world came crashing down two years ago today. I thought the man I had married was kind, caring, generous, selfless. However, this was all a rouse, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what has happened and what I endured over the almost five years of our marriage.
It all started when I was 18, the world was my oyster, I had a great job, lots of friends, a loving supportive family and was having the time of my life. Then I met him. He swept me off my feet, filled me with compliments, showered me with gifts and affection, made me feel safe and loved. Our whirlwind romance continued for the next 18 months when we got engaged. He pulled out all the stops. I felt like the luckiest woman alive. Our wedding then followed, an extravagant affair, the party of the year. 300 of our closest family and friends laughed, danced and drank the night away. There were emotional speeches, and an endless array of kisses and laughter and to top it off I was spoilt with my own fireworks display (lucky right!). We were going to have the greatest love story ever. I was on an emotional high that felt like a drug cocktail as potent as cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, all rolled into one dose.
Over the next few years we traveled, moved, built houses, bought cars and he continued to thrive and flourish in his sporting career. Everyone thought we were perfect. I, on the other hand, was living in a state of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.
It was only gradual at first, one red flag, then two. The love-bombing and idealization phase of our relationship was over. The gaslighting and devaluation had begun.
He had started to withdraw, sometimes affection sometimes compliments, but mainly time (which he knew was a trigger for me). He would start to blame me, we would fight, he would get nasty, say things he knew would cut deep. He would accuse me of having no life, of having no friends when this was the roadmap he had drawn for me over the past five years. He had alienated me from my friends and family, always giving reasons why I should cut them off or saying things like “why do you care, they don’t do anything for us”.
His interest in his perception to the outside world and the image he displayed became the most important thing. While to the public he would praise me as his rock, would thank me for always supporting him, things were not as they seemed. He had me hook, line and sinker. I was his, I craved his love and affection, he had made me so emotionally reliant on him that my happiness was drawn from his success. My friends were really his friends. I had lost all sense of self.
Then the infidelity started. Sneakily at first but over time he didn’t even try to hide it. When I would question messages, photos, fake online profiles he would say I was crazy, that I was making things up, I was overreacting (another trigger point for me). We would fight, he would apologize then drip feed me compliments to keep me coming back. He knew just the things to break me but knew just the things to keep me running back. To have the person, who you love more than anything, make you feel so low is the most hurtful and painful thing someone can endure.
Family tried to intervene, they could see how toxic things had become, could see the pain I was enduring. I started counseling, alone at first, and then in one final stint to try and save our marriage I asked him to come along. He attended three sessions, the therapist saw through the crocodile tears and called him on it. He didn’t return after that.
Our marriage was over. It didn’t abruptly end one day, the pain was drawn out for a further few months until I told him to leave our home. I was now truly alone, alone in the home we had built to start a family in.
The discarding phase was the most painful and brutal. It was public and it was mortifying. I was kicked to the curb and very swiftly replaced by a more successful, shinier model. Someone who could serve a new purpose of helping him get ahead in life. Money and power were always his key drivers and he had found someone that could accelerate that. Even when separated, he tried to keep the power, control the narrative, lying to anyone who would listen about the reasons we separated, alienating and shifting the blame to his family. Anything and anyone was fair game if it kept up the exterior persona.
As I reflect on our relationship (and after reading the book – Power, Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse) I realized, holy crap, I was married to a narcissist. It’s sometimes not until you remove yourself from a situation that you truly see the red flags, triggers and defining moments.
I wish I had the gift of hindsight, I wish all the people who had wanted to speak up had done so earlier, I wish I had taken back control of my life earlier. Don’t get me wrong, I was not perfect in this situation, I did things I am not proud of. I was in survival mode, protection mode.
To this day, he has still taken no ownership over his actions, apologized to me – not that I expect it – or his family for the immense pain and suffering he has caused them. I reflect on the good times now with a sense of sadness, in the moment, they felt so real, so pure but I will never truly know if he meant them, or if it was all just a plot to make me his puppet.
Whilst I would not wish such pain and suffering upon my worst enemy (or the newer model), I know that I have come out the side a better person. I am finally content with who I am as a person, I have grown through this experience, know who I am, what I want, what I deserve and what I am capable of. I have realized how strong I really am, how much I have to give and how much I deserve to get in return. I have become a better, happier more content version of myself.
I am in a relationship with a man I adore, who treats me with the utmost respect and admiration, I am standing on my own two feet for the first time in my adult life and I’m taking back control. It has taken a lot of dark days, tears, anger and self-doubt to get to this point and writing this article is the final chapter. He did not come out on top. He did not win.
I hope this helps anyone who is currently sitting at home not knowing what to do about their current relationship, whether what they are going through is normal if the grass is greener on the other side. Take my word, through all the rain, there is a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end. It may take weeks, months, years to reach it. But I promise you, it’s worth it.
If you liked this story, read more like it on mamamia.com.au:
The 15 Red Flags You Should Look Out For To Tell If Someone’s A Narcissist
5 Behaviors That Will Expose A Narcissist The First Time You Meet Them
The Three-Minute Test That Will Reveal If You’re A Narcissist Or Not