I am allowing you to use my story in any way that might help others going through what I experienced with my ex. This does not have to be anonymous.
Details of my experience:
I am a 25-year-old gay male living in Atlanta. About a year ago I got romantically involved with what I now believe to be a narcissistic individual who was using me as a supply source. Our relationship was a textbook for the cycle of a narcissistic relationship (idealize, devalue and discard).
At the time, I was living in Atlanta but splitting my time between Chattanooga, TN because my boyfriend lived there during this time. He was someone who I thought was my perfect match. Literally, every single thing that I said I wanted this person was (I now know that he was simply mirroring exactly what I wanted and “became” the person that I wanted).
I have been very reluctant to saying or posting anything about this for a while now, but I feel the need to stand up and say something in hope it saves someone from the anguish of dealing with a narcissist. Some people may view this as dirty laundry and dramatic. Some may read this and realize they are dating/married/related to someone dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and that is whom I pray to reach. I have recently talked with a couple of my friends who noticed I was going through something very similar to what they experienced in a previous relationship. They felt like they were the only ones dealing with this issue and that they were going crazy because they could not stop talking about it. It was something that had completely consumed their entire being and made them unrecognizable to themselves and the good inside of them. People would say, “Just move on, everyone goes through a breakup.” or “who cares what they think, they aren’t worth it.” I knew all of this in my own head but could not wrap my heart around why I still felt “love” for this person long after they were gone and continuing to treat me so horribly. I had made up in my mind that I was in fact crazy because he continued telling me I was. I had never heard of the term “gas lighting” until a friend of mine dealing with the same circumstances told me this all was not my fault and that I was not alone and crazy.
Gaslighting – defined as “a form of psychological abuse. It involves an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to the subject, having the gradual effect of making the victim anxious, confused, and less able to trust his or her own memory, perception and judgment.” Just reading the definition sent chills all over my body because I personally experienced this to be true, and because so many had warned me of their personal experience with this person. “Why couldn’t I just let it go and move on? How was I ‘in love’ with someone who constantly lied, cheated, and manipulated me? Why was I still defending them to everyone, and how could I chose someone who wanted nothing to do with me over my best friends?” In an article I read it talked about how narcs never feel remorse and how when it’s over it’s like you never mattered or existed. You are dead to them and they show little to no empathy to how you feel or what they did to you. I hated the idea of me being considered a “victim”, but it seemed to help me. No failed relationship is completely one party’s fault, and this meant that if 80% or 10% were my fault then I would have to take responsibility for my mistakes. In my case I took 90% of my failed relationship as my fault 2 weeks after breaking up with my ex. He made me believe I was an awful person and made me apologize for everything shady he was doing to our relationship.
The Idealization Stage
I have never experienced a love and intensity like I did with this person. Within a month we were casually going to David Yurman to look at wedding rings, but not serious about it. He knew I was a Christian and wanted to be exclusive and we constantly spoke of marriage and children. He said I was the love of his life and that he couldn’t imagine a life without me in it. I thought I had found the one person that was meant for me. We talked about him moving to Atlanta where we would “start our new life together”. I was so excited that I found someone that loved me so much and could make me feel so needed. I have NEVER met someone that made me feel so needed. He was insistently calling, texting and face timing me. I had no idea that anything was wrong or that it would not turn out anything less than perfect. I was made to believe that I was his everything… because he regularly told me. But then things started to take a turn.
During the beginning of our relationship, my boyfriend determined that several of my friends were not good for our relationship and would try discouraging me away from them. He realized that they figured out that something was not right with him and he did not want them putting this in my head. My friends despised him from the beginning because they saw how shady he acted. He was still on dating and hookup apps several weeks into us hanging out. They knew of friends of theirs who he was still flirting and talking to, and they had heard stories of how he had cheated in his previous relationships. They tried to warn me in the best way a friend can without saying the worst to me, and I hated them for it because I couldn’t believe this sweet person could ever do those things.
His ex contacted me shortly after we started hanging out to warn me about an STD my boyfriend had refused to get treatment for. His ex told me how they had gotten in a fight just a couple weeks before and that the narc had choked him out at a large drunken pool party event they were attending together. He told me how my ex had cheated on him and that was how he contracted this STD. I looked at this as a jealous ex boyfriend “warning” and told him to move along and that I didn’t believe a word of it. Another of my ex’s friends told me the exact same story, and I reacted in the same fashion towards him. Three weeks later when I did finally give myself to my boyfriend, I contracted a completely different STD. I felt like a fool, disgusted, betrayed, and vulnerable. But I thought I was falling in love with him, so I covered it up and never let him know.
The De-value Phase
The entire month of September was very fast but loving for us. We often spoke and texted very excitedly about starting our life full time living together one day. He constantly told me how beautiful I was and I did the same to him. We were saying we loved each other within 2 months of dating. I felt like the feeling he gave me was too good to be true, and it was. He said all of the right things, we attended church regularly together, and we were in constant communication with one another. We were falling in love and we were jumping fast. During all of this time I started seeing little changes. Lying was a huge issue for me. He would try to manipulate me with every little thing, and when I would call him out on it, we would laugh it off. It was as if a running joke we had that he knew I knew when he was lying, even though it was about something so small. He deleted all of his text messages and emails because he said he was OCD like that. He would make jokes about how attractive he thought he was and how everyone was so jealous of him. He could not stand one of my friends who had recently moved into my city and had become very popular with everyone. He would make jokes about when he moved to the city he would do it so much bigger and better than my friend had done. At the time I thought this was all our little way of kidding around with each other, but as time went on I started to realize he really did think this highly of himself. When he did finally move to Atlanta, he did do it bigger and better. He was the talk of the town and everyone got a turn at dating him. Because of this, he became very hated.
He told me about his past and his exs. He made them all out to be these awful people who did him so wrong. He intentionally was trying to make me hate them for what they did to him so that I would never be in contact with them to find out the truth. I found out after we broke up that this is what he has to do with all of his “exs” to ensure they will hate each other so much they will not contact one another. He has to make them out to seem like these crazy people so others around him will not believe he was actually to blame for his failed relationships. Another thing is that he cannot stay single. Immediately after a breakup, he already has several other prospects to date. Even though he will have been hanging out (dating) them for several weeks, because they have not become “official” yet justifies him fooling around and flirting with other guys. Everything is always a manipulation and play on words to get what he wants. This is how he can cheat, lie, and manipulate without feeling any remorse.
I would post about the two of us every weekend on social media and tag him in my posts. I started noticing that he had never accepted any of my tags, and that I did not exist anywhere on his social media. He stated it was because he was not out yet, and he did not want his church friends to know he was gay. I understood this, and respected it even thought his Facebook page displayed a picture his ex had tagged him in, and other pictures gay men had tagged him in. When we met we had 13 mutual friends in common. The next month when I went to his page I noticed we had 170 mutual friends. I thought this was very strange because suddenly he went from getting 30 likes on Facebook to 200 likes on everything he would do. He was adding hundreds of “friends” on Facebook a day. This didn’t make sense to me because he was so scared of his church friends finding out he was gay, but all of his likes were from shirtless and clearly gay mens’ profiles. But I wrote it off in my head because I loved him and I did not want to seem jealous.
We decided to take a road trip up North to meet his parents 4 months into dating. I was so excited to meet them, and they were so very kind and sweet to me. His stepmother told me later, after we broke up, that she and his sister both looked at each other shortly after meeting me and said they did not understand why someone so sweet was with him. That night in his parent’s house I caught him Facebook messaging an acquaintance of mine I knew he did not know. When I confronted him about it, he grabbed his phone from me and immediately deleted the conversation. I knew he was cheating at that moment and I told him to get me a flight back home immediately. He swore up and down he was not cheating, but I did not believe him anymore. We drove 6 hours in the car back home the next day not saying one word to each other. Finally I exploded and confronted him about it again. He began crying and told me how he had cheated on his two previous boyfriends, and that is why he could never cheat on someone like me who he loved so much. I believed him and I took him back immediately. We agreed to never keep anything like that from one another going forward. I wanted him to know everything about my past and vice versa.
Everything my friends and others had previously warned me about were coming true directly in front of my eyes, but I did not care because I loved this man more than I loved myself. I continued to write it off because all I could see was my future with this man. Because I knew how difficult it was to find a good Christian man I could raise my children with in a Christian environment.
After the road trip began the fluctuating between adoring and devaluing me. He no longer respected me as a man because I took him back after he was clearly being shady and manipulating me. Around our friends he started putting me down about little things I would do, and I would retaliate. It was always in a flirty and kidding manner, but I could tell it was becoming more of a way for him to uplift himself and his self-obsession. There are numerous similar situations to this. He became obsessed with always looking perfect. He had to always be perfectly groomed and he needed for me to look the same. He became obsessed with labels.
One interesting thing to note was the extreme mirroring he did…during the idealization stage, I had vocalized my desire to settle down and have a normal life, to adopt or have our own children and stay out of the party scene. He said that is exactly what he wanted and that is how he presented himself. He was the picture of All American handsome, boy next door. In the weeks after our break up, I was confused to learn via social media that he had become this party animal who went out at every chance possible. Every day and night of every weekend was spent in the gay scene dancing and drinking to excess. He entered a “hottest man of Atlanta” contest using his shirtless hookup site profile picture. This was the exact opposite of the kind of guy he said he was. My friends and family were following this on Social Media and were asking me what was wrong with him. Before he moved to Atlanta he was a very polished professional, and someone who acted like he despised these types of people and behavior. The friends he began hanging out with were all people he made me believe he could not tolerate while we were together.
Something that struck me after all of this was he never apologized for anything. The only thing he was ever concerned with was people finding out who he really was. He did not want his family to know about his actions. He only worried that people would not see him as this perfect sweet Christian guy. There was no real closure in all of this. Literally the week before we broke up he wrote me a love letter in a Christmas card saying how he could not imagine his life without me and how much he loved me. How can you be the love of someone’s life one moment and sabotaging everything and that person the next? I begged him to go to counseling but he refused and said that I betrayed him too much by telling his parents what he was doing and what he did during our relationship. They had become like family to me and I could see they were the only ones who could save him from the road he was heading down. Other than himself, his family is the only thing he acts like he cares about.
He went from being the sweetest and most down to earth guy to a complete different person the week we broke up. He acted like I was crazy for having any emotional response to the things he was doing. The more I tried to make things better, the more he became disgusted with me. I was no longer the love of his life. He no longer even respected me, much less loved me. My fall from grace was one that I don’t think I will ever understand. That was the hardest part. Going from things being perfect, to being completely discarded for no reason in one week.
We broke up on New Years, thirty minutes after midnight. Earlier during the day his phone was continuously blowing up. He would check it, respond, and immediately put the phone face down so I couldn’t see who was texting and Facebook messaging him. I had had enough of his shadiness. We got in an argument because of that, but still went out with my friends to celebrate New Years. He thought he knew everything about the gay community I was trying to shield him from. I continuously told him about my experience and that it was not as wonderful as he thought it was. He told me that night how Atlanta hated me because I was so judgmental. I knew at this moment I had lost his respect for me and that he had been talking to the wrong people in Atlanta via Facebook. We were a drunken mess after midnight and we were not talking. He was dancing with 4 guys who had done me very wrong in previous years. I had been involved with these guys and they had all lied to me about their HIV status. I finally exploded. I shoved him away from them on the dance floor and told him it was over. I walked outside to get a cab home. He followed me yelling at me how everyone hated me in the city. I looked at him and told him I did not care anymore and that he could go flirt, message, and fool around with whomever he wanted to now. I then said something I can never take back. I told him I hoped he got HIV as well. In response he told me that he already had it and that he gave it to me every time we slept together. I punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground, and walked several miles home alone. This was a huge issue for me because he would never get tested the entire time we were together. He was convinced he could not get HIV because he is a “top”. Him being a “top” was also something I sacrificed for us during our relationship. I did not mind it, but it was something I had to get used to. During our relationship I was still tested regularly. Once he mentioned he loved me so much that he thought he would still date me even if I was HIV positive, and this statement made me very uneasy. “Why did he feel the need to say something like that?” I was terrified he was serious because I had never seen proof he was negative. I apologized for saying I wished he would get it and explained I was very drunk during the next couple of weeks of grieving. He has never apologized for what he did because he said I did not deserve it because I punched him. The very next day after our breakup a friend hit me up to ask me why my boyfriend was hitting him up for a date. I was devastated, so I called him to validate this. He told me everyone has different ways of coping with breakups and this was his way of moving on. I blocked his number for two weeks after the breakup, but stupidly reached back out to him when I saw he dropped me without a single emotion. Our friends in Chattanooga told me he had already moved on during the next couple of days and would only tell them that I punched him for no reason and that is why we broke up.
During this time his new supply source was his new online persona he had been building… He was getting hundreds of likes and comments from his social media. The gay scene he previously said he wanted nothing to do with was now his playground, and he was the face of it. That felt like a slap in my face considering I gave up everything in my life to be with this guy, and I thought about it every single day.
I went to the lowest point of my life … I felt like I was crazy for loving someone like this. I have never felt that level of devastation and confusion. He also began to twist and make up things that never happened … He would say it over and over to the point where I no longer knew what was the truth and what was made up. I was saying I was sorry and apologizing but had no idea what I was apologizing for. I hand wrote and mailed to him over thirty love letters after our breakup, begging him to change the person he had “become”. I continued to tell him how much I loved him and defended him to everyone in the city. There were awful rumors circulating about him, and my name was being dragged through the mud with his because I was associated with him. Friends were texting me daily asking if I had HIV. I was humiliated. When I looked to my ex for comfort and understanding there was only anger and resentment because I had punched him.
He would also play Jekyll and Hyde with me… For example, one afternoon after we had broken up and he had moved to Atlanta, I spent the weekend with his “old friends” from Chattanooga. They let me know about some of the awful things he was doing during our relationship. I emailed him in tears stating I could not stand to hear these rumors painting this awful negative picture of him. He emailed me to come back home to Atlanta immediately so we could talk. I agreed that was a good idea and that I would like that. I drove all the way back to Atlanta instead of spending time with my friends. When I got back to my place about 3 hours later I texted him and told him I was home and for him to come on over. He waited an hour before texting me to say he thought we should wait until later that week to talk. He said the more he got to thinking about everything, the more he thought we should use this time to think about what him and I had done wrong in our situation and why so many people were bashing him. He just wanted to see if he could get me to agree to come back home and away from my friends telling me who he really was. Once I agreed to this, the game was over. There are two other times when I asked him to sit and talk to me about things that he made plans to and then would say he was too busy.
He would string me along like this for months after our breakup. He moved to Atlanta two months after our breakup. Would come to Atlanta every weekend and stay with random people he was talking to, until he moved. He gave me the hope that we might be able to get back together after he had dated around in Atlanta. We would see each other every once in awhile, and I would always tell him how much I loved him and that I was praying for him to come back to me. Finally after almost 5 months of painfully waiting he started coming back around. I let him back in immediately. We went to dinner and I made him talk about things. With tears in his eyes he told me he knew he had a problem. He said he felt like he needed to date someone else “like him” for a while, so he would know for sure all he wanted was me. When I asked him how he fell out of love with me so suddenly, he said he did not think he had ever fallen out of love with me. When I asked him what he meant by saying he needed to date someone like himself, he stated, “someone bad” and started crying. I held him and told him to never say something like that about himself again. Several nights later he even stayed over at my place after a date night. I kissed him goodbye as he left for work the next morning and felt so happy again. He texted me how happy he was and how much he had enjoyed us hanging out again. We texted like this all day and I was ecstatic. He went quiet for one hour, and then texted me how wrong he felt it all was. When I tried to explain to him how amazing it all was for me again, he told me he had been dating someone. Come to find out he had been dating this guy for well over a month, but was still hooking up with other guys all the while. I did not think he was dating anyone because he was still on dating and hookup sites. Once again I felt disgusted and devastated. I had no idea who his boyfriend was until the boyfriend contacted me a week later to ask me if there was anything he should be worried about with my ex’s manipulation. The two of us immediately became good friends because we had both experienced this manipulation and narcissism first hand together. I immediately realized my ex would never change and that there was no way I could trust that he had not cheated on me during our relationship. To this day, he will deny cheating on me to my face, but I have been made aware of 3 different instances during our relationship when he cheated.
We happened to all be vacationing to Pensacola, FL a week after finding out about his new boyfriend. It was Pride there and we had already made plans to attend. My ex was furious to know I had discovered and befriended his new ex-boyfriend and confronted me on the first night of Pride. He was extremely drunk or on some sort of drug, and I was very drunk myself from drinking all day. He began shoving me around in front of several of my friends and then shoved me into the pool. At this moment it began raining very hard and everyone left the pool area for cover. My ex and I stayed by the pool and began fighting. We punched each other several times and struggled around wrestling in the area surrounding the pool. An employee finally walked up to us and told us we had to evacuate the pool area. I still wanted to talk and get answers, so I told him to meet me on the beach. He refused to talk to me so I grabbed his book bag and phone and walked to the beach knowing he would follow wherever his phone went. Once we got to the beach away from everyone he became extremely violent, saying he was going to “F#*k me up!” He began punching me several times in the head until I was able to roll him over into a headlock. He then bit a chunk of flesh out of my side, leaving a large scar until this day and causing nerve damage to the muscle. At this time I was able to finally get one last good hit on him to the eye. I saw that he was bleeding and immediately made him lay his head in my lap so I could take a look at the damage. I began to cry as I cleaned the blood from his face. This was the man I thought I was going to marry and raise my children with. I had just given the man I loved more than anything a black eye. I told him how sorry I was that we had gotten to this point, even though it was not my fault. I was still apologizing for things I had not even done. After I had cleaned both of us I held his hand as I walked him back to his condo. I asked him to do something for me the next day because I knew we would see each other. I asked him to hug me when he saw me on the beach and tell me he loved me, even though we could never be together after something like this. He agreed at first and then looked me in the eye and said, “I hate you!” then grabbed his bag and walked away. The next day when we saw each other He completely ignored me like a child. I heard from friends later that he was telling everyone on the beach how I had attacked him from nowhere and that I had given him the awful looking black eye he had. People slowly started realizing the truth once they saw the bite out of my side. I confronted him about it the next time I saw him that night by forcing him into a separate room away from everyone so we could talk. He was so hateful and pinned me against the wall when I would not let him leave until we were on good terms again. To get him to let go of my wrist I dragged his knuckles across the concrete wall I was pinned against and then punched him in the side of his head. At this point he walked away and said he was going to get the police. He was so intoxicated I was afraid of him talking to an officer and getting himself thrown in jail. I voluntarily walked behind him to the police officer and asked the officer to ignore him because he was very drunk. My ex told him I gave him his black eye and that he wanted me to go to jail because of it. Florida law needs only that testimony from someone to take the accused party to jail. I was in handcuffs immediately. The officer looked at my ex after putting me in handcuffs and asked him point blank if he wanted me to go to jail and my ex told him, “Take him to prison!” I told the officer to look at the bruises all over my body and the large bite marks on my side. I told him I was not sure what had happened between us, but that if I gave my ex the black eye then he had to have given me all the bruises and bite marks on my own body. The officer finally let both of us go, but it was too close of a call I was going to go to prison for something we both were responsible for. During all of this my ex showed absolutely no remorse or emotion. He was angry and had his sites set on hurting me no matter what happened to him. It was scary to see that look in his eyes.
For the most part we have completely stayed away from each other. He wants nothing to do with me and for the most part I felt the same. I only wanted answers for the things he did to us. Nothing made any sense. Why and how did he drop me and move on in a day? Why did he make me think he was someone completely different from the person he “became”? How was he able to flip a switch and fall out of love with me within a week? How could he trade the wonderful life we had together for a life of partying and random sex? What did I do wrong and how could he help me not make this same mistake again and go through such anguish? Every time I begged him to talk to me, he would refuse. When I would reach out to him and ask him one of these questions, the response was always the same- “Joe, I don’t know.” or “Everyone loves differently and I fell out of love with you.” If he did reach out to me it was to say, “I miss you in my life in some capacity.” And that would be it. After 9 months separation since our breakup, I ran into him at a bar and reached out to give him a hug. As he hugged me, he whispered in my ear, “I still love you.” I lost it and left immediately. He knew what that would do to me, and I let him win by allowing it to effect me.
Thank you for listening to my story. Hopefully this article will be a light to someone else dealing with a similar situation as I have experienced. Below are 10 ways in which narcissist deal with relationships and “loving”. This was my first realization I was evolved with a narcissist based upon the experiences I previously discussed:
1. In the beginning, they love bomb you.
Narcissists are very, very good at turning on the charm when they first meet you. As far as they’re concerned, you’ve got the looks of a young Elizabeth Taylor and the wit of a thousand Tina Feys
2. Grand, sweeping gestures are their strong suit.
Narcissists want to be remembered. If there’s a chance to one-up someone’s good story and impress others in the group, they’ll take it. They live for those moments that bolster their own grandiose self image, said Tina Swithin, the author of Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle. But you need to stay wary of their motives.
3. They can’t admit when they’re wrong.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things: Naturally, the right way is alwaysthe narcissist’s way and the wrong way — just by default — is yours, Gilbert said. And if you try to follow through on orders the narcissist barks, you’ll still be doing it wrong.
4. They’re envious of your relationship with others.
Initially, narcissists may tell you they admire the close knit-relationships you have with family and friends. But criticism of those same people soon follows, said clinical psychologist Margaret Rutherford.
5. The narcissist lives for the “likes.”
New research suggests that people who constantly update their Facebook status are more likely to exhibit narcissistic traits. If you’re currently coupled up with a narcissist, be prepared to have your Facebook newsfeed flooded with humble-brag statuses and photo posts.
“The most outgoing narcissists adore the spotlight,” Dr. Craig Malkin explained. “Image churning on Facebook draws attention to people. The flood of likes and comments gives everyone a rush of affirmation but narcissists tend to become hooked. That’s probably why people who frequently update tend to be more narcissistic than those of us content to choose one selfie and stick with it.”
6. Their brand of empathy is self-motivated.
Contrary to popular belief, most people on the narcissistic spectrum don’t have a complete lack of empathy for others. It’s just that they’re far too concerned with their own preoccupations, needs and fears to show it, Malkin said. When they do express it, there’s usually some ulterior motivate for doing so.
7. Conversations are one-sided.
They may feign interest in your college basketball picks, but deep down, they can’t wait to to hijack the conversation and offer up their superior opinion. Their interest is always short-lived,” said Swithin. “ Over time, you will notice that every topic is skillfully turned into an opportunity for the narcissist to brag or boast about their favorite topic: the narcissist!
8. They’re really, really ridiculously good looking.
Face it: the narcissist’s style and good looks may have been one of the first things that drew you in. But the need to look good is not a healthy vanity with the narcissist; it’s just another way to gain the adoration that they run on. If your partner wears sexy outfits or always dresses to nines, odds are they’re more narcissistic than most of us — or worse,” he said. “Manipulative, coldly calculating narcissists aren’t better looking from birth, but they’re really good at looking sharp — something called ‘effective adornment.’
9. Your needs and requests don’t matter.
If you’re in love with someone who’s narcissistic, your needs will always come second. They’re too busy assessing what they need from you to see you as a whole, separate person with your own needs and desires.
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My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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- Episode 26: Live Stream from March 8, 2017 - March 14, 2017