We are Not Allowed to be Human
A covert narcissist’s humanness hangs all out for you to see. They seem to not have a care in the world about what you or the kids think of them. My ex spent all of his non-working hours with his feet up, playing video games and watching movies. He laid around being lazy, demanding, and mean. Nothing in the household was ever his responsibility, not yard work, not house work, not cooking, not even spending time with his own boys. The sloppy side of his humanness was blatantly laid out in front of us every single day. And if we ever called him out on it, we paid a high price.
Yet I was not given that same luxury. I didn’t get to be human with all its messiness and imperfections. He cared far more about how I spent my time than he did about his own time. I had to be more than perfect in everything I did or said. I had to be superhuman.
When you are living with a covert narcissist, you are held to a level of expectation that not only isn’t possible, it isn’t remotely fair. I will never forget the day when I finally realized that it is okay for me to say, “I could have said that better,” or “I could have done that better.” It wasn’t the end of the world. It didn’t mean that I was worthless or even bad. It simply meant that I was human and that was okay.
It is no wonder that we feel we have to be superhuman in these relationships. Things that aren’t even mistakes blow up in your face repeatedly. Think about it. Since when it is a mistake to tell your husband that he has toothpaste on his mouth? Since when it is a mistake to ask your husband to help you out in picking up the kids? Since when it is a mistake to answer his question in a way that seems very reasonable and compassionate in your eyes? Yet these simple things can ruin an entire evening and leave you feeling worthless.
You see, with a covert narcissist, these aren’t even simple mistakes. These are horrible crimes, punishable in extreme ways. They incite rage with yelling, cursing, and telling you how bad you are. Then this is followed by the intense victim role-playing. They tell you that their feelings are crushed by your horrible crimes and insensitivity. They are devastated to the point that they may never function properly again because you are so terrible to them.
I’m sorry, but what was your horrible crime?
- You asked him to turn the tv down? How dare you! He should just call the cops now!
- You asked if you could have some cash? Terrible! You should be punished!
- You forgot to lock the door? Shame on you! Just go ahead and turn yourself in!
- You forgot to run the laundry? The world will end! Now I see why we have capital punishment!
With a covert narcissist, the smallest perceived slight is blown way out of proportion. It becomes a huge ordeal that can last for days even. So you are not given the luxury of being able to talk to him freely, like you would with a close friend. An intimate relationship should be safe and open, but that is not the case here.
A covert narcissist takes complete freedom to ask you whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want. Yet you are wearing your brain out trying to word things perfectly, at just the perfect time, and with all the perfect prep work.
How in the world did we get to the point where we believe that this is okay? How have we accepted this? Who decided that we had to be SO perfect? And why did we accept that for ourselves? I say “we” because I was right there too. I accepted it for years and didn’t even realize it. I worked harder at being perfect every single day and didn’t even know that was what I was doing.
I just know that after many years I felt a deep level of exhaustion, one that reached to the very core of my being. My brain hurt from thinking so hard for so long. I hated my inability to be perfect in his eyes, leaving me feeling worthless and like a failure. I no longer felt human. But I didn’t feel like a superhuman either. I was empty. I felt like a nothing.
I am so happy to say that I have been free from that abusive marriage for 8 months now! I am finding me again! It is amazing! I have accepted my humanness once again. I am no longer living up to someone’s unrealistic expectations. My brain is no longer in overdrive. One of the absolute best parts for me is that I am no longer running things through my head over and over trying to find the perfect way to say something. I feel as though my brain has more space in it than it has had in years. I now have room for creativity, learning, and growing. That deep internal emptiness is being replaced by a new passion for life. It is unbelievable!
It does take time to heal. One of the most important first steps is to embrace your humanness. Accept your own messiness and imperfections. You were conditioned to believe that this was not okay. I’m here to tell you that it is more than okay, it is downright necessary!
I look forward to the day when you can calmly say, “Yes, I could have said that better,” or “Yes, I could have done that better, and that’s okay.”