When I Told My Covert Narcissist that I was Done
The emotional energy in the house had reached an all-time high. This family was about to explode! I was about to explode!
I told my family that I was ready to tell him that I am truly done. It is time to file for divorce. I waited until the weekend, so we had more time to talk. Everyone was nervous about how he would react. Would he explode in a rage? Would he turn violent? Would he meltdown with crocodile tears? I didn’t know, but I had reached a point that I didn’t care anymore.
So on Saturday afternoon, September 8, 2018, I told him. I said that I want out of the marriage and that it was time. I don’t want to try any longer to fix this. I don’t have the energy to pour into it anymore. I’m exhausted and done. I told him that I was sorry, that this was not what I had planned when we married 20 years ago.
Now you want to know what grey rock is? It is the art of not reacting to them. Read on.
Then I waited for his response. Tears started forming in his eyes, tears that I haven’t seen through almost our entire marriage. He calmly said to me, “I have to admit that I am not surprised.” He went to say that he hated this and really doesn’t understand how we ended up here. He cried actual tears, saying, “I’m going to miss your family so much.” My family??? Really?? The family that when we spend time together, he hides in a corner to play games on his phone or sleep on the couch. He’s going to miss my family?? But I did not react, grey rock.
So he changed his approach. He cried more tears saying how much he will miss this house. Really?? The house that he has been trying to get us to move out of, almost since the day we moved in. A year or so ago, he finally talked me into considering building a brand new home together. We had chosen a lot, a floor plan, and even started selecting the decor, when he backed out. He isn’t going to miss this house! But I did not react, grey rock.
I didn’t give any attention to his tears. I simply sat there, boring, with no reaction. So he moved on. Now he calmly told me that he thinks I am a very angry person. He said that he thinks I don’t realize how angry I am and that it is on a subconscious level. Really?? Me? The one he has repeatedly told is the single best person he has ever met. Again, I did not react, grey rock.
So he shifted once more. He told me how he thinks that he has done nothing but show support and love to this family. He stated that he has supported us in all our endeavors. He talked about how he has gone to all of our Taekwondo tournaments. You mean the ones where you sat in the corner on your phone and even slept in the corner of the gym? Once more, I did not react, grey rock.
So now he wanted to be Mr. Nice Guy. He told me that the one thing his parents did right was that they divorced peacefully. He said that he wants to do that too. He wanted to know if we could work through one attorney and make all the financial decisions ourselves. I told him that I was fine with that, for the most part. I told him that his financial knowledge is far greater than mine and that makes me nervous. I do want to hire an attorney for me, so I have someone to run questions by. He asked for one week to process all this before I filed. Very reluctantly and after some persistence from him, I agreed.
The conversation ended there, and I left the house to run some errands. There is a ton of power in not reacting to them. That has taken me years to fully learn, but it definitely worked that day.
When I returned a few hours later, I offered to make some dinner. He said, “No thanks, I don’t think I could eat.” “Ok,” I said, “suit yourself.” I was starving for the first time in over two weeks. I fixed a great dinner for my son and me, and I chowed down.
Here we go again
Two days later, he wanted to talk. He asked me to tell him again why I am so unhappy with him. I said no, that I was not going to try to explain it anymore. He said that he firmly believes if he could just understand what it is that he needs to do or not do that he would fix this. After he kept pushing, knowing that I shouldn’t, I finally tried again. I said, “I strongly feel that you do not communicate with compassion. You do not recognize how much you hurt other people’s feelings. When we try to express to you how you have hurt our feelings, you barely acknowledge that. You don’t apologize and you then tell us that everything is our fault. These are the same words that I have been saying to you for years.” And what happened? You already know. We looped right back into one of those circular conversations from hell.
He said, “I see pain in you and the boys that I somehow caused.” He went on to explain that he has done nothing but try to make us feel safe and loved. I said, “I truly wish you understood. I wish you could see it. We could have had such a beautiful marriage together.”
I told him that I am emotionally exhausted and empty, that I reached a point that I just quit trying. That doesn’t make me right or completely wrong, just exhausted. He then shot at me, “I think you gave up much sooner than you think you did.” With instant tears in my eyes, I fired back, “Don’t you dare say that!” He immediately apologized saying, “I’m sorry, I’m not supposed to go there,” in his pompous way.
I said several times, “We aren’t even close. I think I have tried so hard to help and explain. You don’t even think I’ve tried. And vice versa.”
I told him, once again, that he doesn’t ever apologize. He couldn’t believe that I felt this way. He said that he thinks he is quick to apologize when he is wrong. (Maybe that’s it. He just believes that he is never wrong) He asked for an example. I told him about once when I was talking to him about spending too much time on his games and electronics. Instead of apologizing or validating my feelings in any way, he said, “Well, you lay on the couch and stretch.” I said, “I didn’t even know how to respond to that.” He said, “I don’t remember that. If that is what I said, then I am sorry. That was a poor response, but it doesn’t sound like me. That’s not the sort of thing I would say.” That’s exactly the sort of thing that he would say!
I knew better than to get back into this loop with him. But I guess I decided that I would give it one last effort. Unlike my past, the circular conversations from hell no longer churn my stomach and send my head in a downward spiral. I walked away, ate a healthy dinner and slept great.
The night before I filed for divorce, he asked if we could talk. Here we go again! How many circular conversations have I lived through?? Who knows?
He started by telling me that he doesn’t want to interfere with my plans, that when I ready to file for divorce I should. I simply said, “Ok.” Then he went on to tell me that he can’t believe that our marriage is going to end at 20 years when his dad made it to 23 years. He can’t believe that he is worse than his dad. He actually said this. I could not believe my ears. I responded, “This isn’t a competition! Please don’t compare us to them.” He said, “I know it isn’t, and I’m not comparing. But if we had just made it 23 years and 6 months, then I could say that I am better than my dad.” WHAT!!!
He said that he is reading the book, After the Tears, again. It is a book for Adult Children of Alcoholics. He has read it before. He said that this time he is thinking about him instead of about how to fix me. In the past, when he read it, he was applying it to me, but not this time. He went on to say that he thinks that part of our problem is that I read books trying to fix him, instead of me. I started to tell him about all the many books I have read for becoming a better person. He interrupted me, saying, “I don’t want you to think that I haven’t read many books or listened to tapes for how to make myself a better person.” I didn’t respond. Then he hesitated, like he had caught himself, and said, “Oh, I’m trying not to get defensive here.”
He told me that he doesn’t know how to have fun anymore. He said that both his parents gave him money for Christmas with the instructions to spend it doing something fun. This is September. He still has the money in his wallet because he can’t find a way to spend it.
He said, “I’m realizing that I might be the problem here. My eyes are opening to this. If you were the only one telling me, then I could still say it is you. But now the boys are telling me. I see that I blame things on everyone else. I see my reactions to things and realize that I haven’t let go of the past as much as I thought. I thought I had worked through my issues from childhood, but I think maybe I haven’t. I’m reading this book and realizing that a lot of what it says are things that you have been saying to me for years.
I want to go to counseling and get help. I think when I went to the counselor with you, it was like when I went as a teenager. I thought I had everything fixed already and didn’t need him. After I get help, then maybe we can do marriage counseling to fix our communication issues.”
Even with all that he said, there was still no apology! Never once did he simply look at me and say, “I’m sorry.”
So I filed for divorce the next day. I felt so at peace. I know this is the right time.
Round…..? Who knows? I lost count years ago!
A couple of days later, he came and sat down at the table while I was eating dinner. Once again he sat there, pensively, in silence. He holds such an uncomfortable place of silence, clearly wanting to say something. He holds you there, trapped like a prisoner. Finally he spoke up, “I’ve been trying to figure out how we got to where we are.” He says this 3 days after telling me that he recognizes the problems in him. He now goes on to say, “You don’t ever seem to think that I apology, and I think that I am quick to apologize. So I went to the library and got a book about apologizing. You know, apologies common in different shapes and sizes. I believe that I am quick to apologize. I think the problem we are having is step two in this book, that you don’t accept my apologies. I think that is the piece that is missing. So I’m sorry. Now do you accept my apology?” Does he really think that clears everything up?
I looked him straight in the face and said, “Honey, I forgive you.” I then explained that this isn’t going to change anything because this is far more complicated than the issue of apologizing. When I said a lot of this goes back to the issue of communication, he said if that is the case, then I’m going to go back to saying that we need to go together to a marriage counselor.
Everything he said 3 days ago has gone right out the window. He didn’t believe any of those words about his responsibility in this. He used to tell the boys often, “I know that you’re just sitting there trying to figure out what to say to get me to shut up.” That was simply projection, because that is exactly what he does. He is just trying to figure out what to say to get me to shut up and not go through with divorce. Nothing comes from the heart, and nothing has any meaning. These conversations might cause many people confusion inside themselves. For me, they brought clarity. This is the right direction! I’m done!
A New Direction
Many of the conversations that came after filing for divorce were the most honest and productive conversations we have had in years. As the attempts at “fixing” our marriage went away, things were so much calmer. He was far more cooperative and peaceful than I expected. Yes, he would still take shots, making sure that I knew this was all my fault. But I have become extremely skillful at not reacting!
He quit pushing on our youngest son. He started working on a plan for my son and me to stay in the house. He wants us to keep the pets with us and have a place for our oldest to stay when he comes home from college. He is trying to balance the finances between us in a way that is fair. When I proposed an alimony amount, he offered to pay more. He is open to me asking questions about it and isn’t making me feel stupid or uncomfortable. He seems to really want what is best for me and the boys.
Confusing?? Not really. This is the man that I fell in love with, the one I married. I haven’t seen him in years. It is refreshing to know that there is something there that was valid and promising. I didn’t marry the “monster” that I ended up living with for 2 decades.
Do I want to take him back? Hell no! While it is refreshing to see all this, it does not make me want to take him back. I can’t. He is simply too painful to live with. He has a project now, a mission, to make this divorce work. He is good at projects. But he is simply not capable of caring for the emotional needs of another person. I can never go back!
When you decide that you are done, be done. They will try every approach they know to convince you to stay. Don’t react. Remember all the frustrations, all the tears, all the harsh words, all the blame. A well-written speech does not erase all of that or fix them for the future. If you are having trouble holding your ground about leaving, start journaling. Write down the things you can remember about how you have been treated and about how your kids have been treated. Anytime you start to question, go back and read your own words.This should erase any doubt you have. When you are done, be done. Anything short of this means you aren’t really done!