How Did I Forgive My Narcissistic Spouse’s Affairs?

Narcissistic relationships possess unique dynamics

The narcissist’s spouse isn’t necessarily blind, dumb or weak at all, when we hang in there after an affair or abuse. We adapt and are often crafty as hell. We learn to lie to ourselves more convincingly than our narcissistic spouses lie to us. 

There are clinical tags for we adaptive survivors; Codependents is one. Some liken why people stay in abusive relationships to Stockholm Syndrome. When a trauma bond forms, the relationship can hinge on survival. I’d spent over forty years learning to adapt and survive with the narcissist who slept on the pillow beside mine. A brilliant-dynamic man. We were a high-functioning, dysfunctional duo. 

Did I forgive him?

When asked this question, “Did I Forgive My Narcissist Spouse’s Affair?” I had to plunge back onto that stage. It makes me stronger as I gain perspective into myself…so here you have it….

I didn’t need to ‘forgive’ my husband…I was too busy fighting to forget the affair. To salvage my family. To hold onto the man I loved. I told myself that one day, he’d be proud of me for staying with him through these rough-stressful years of building a business and our family at once. Of not faltering because of some stupid mid-life crisis that was worse because we’d married so young.

The Stagehand…

I imagine this curtain. Heavy velvet. Dusty. I hid the first affair, his lies and betrayal, my panic behind it. I didn’t like to go near or touch it. I populated the stage in front of it with the things I loved and admired about him. For those who want to say that the reason he did it again is because I never forgave him…you may not have experienced life with a narcissistic person who felt entitled to do whatever gave them pleasure. You may not understand how to cope with them, we not only chuck the affairs behind that curtain, but the emotional abuse, the tempers and blame they project onto us.


Coping is an interesting concept. For me it meant finding ways to fight for the man I loved, to make excuses for his bad behaviors, ‘his weaknesses’ he’d called them, each time he apologized and told me they didn’t mean anything, he was just having fun. That he’d been under such stress at work, felt guilty about being away from me and our sons so much of the time. I was the one he loved, the mother of his children. He’d plead with me to be strong enough to hold on…not let him go.

The curtain didn’t sag, I bolstered it, reinforced the rails of my sanity and security it hung from, so it wouldn’t fall. I also didn’t let others peek behind it…see what our marriage, our life was really like. Looking back, I think we stagehands who hide all those things that spoil the scene deserve Oscar nominations.

I’m no saint…I was a fierce competitor…

I didn’t try to forgive and forget so I could be a saint. I’m confessing that I needed to protect my love for him, because I didn’t think I could or would want to live without him. Couldn’t imagine tearing my family apart, fracturing holidays, disappointing my parents, disrupting our circle of friends. I had the prize…or so they all thought. Our sex life was great…adventuresome. Often. He was a real stud, right? And masterful.

He had me and I imagine his other women competing to be the best.

I left him four years ago, after more than four decades of marriage.

I’d stood nearly paralyzed in the doorway to a room full of walkers at my mother’s retirement home. She was 29 years older than me. Was I going to be an extra on the set for these last thirty years of my life, too? Was I going to need a walker to finish the show?

Our couple’s counselor told me I should educate myself about the dynamics of narcissistic personality disorder, because that’s what I was dealing with. It’s odd sometimes how once you begin to look for answers, that they crop up like a field of daisies instead of weeds along a ditch bank.

My cathartic education and therapy…

I read and researched…wrote a raw and real memoir LEAVING YOU…for me. Sprinkled with lots of self-deprecating humor. It fit and helped me heal. It was cathartic to rip down the curtain (needed a dust mask for that) I’ve allowed many of his attributes to remain on stage…mostly to remind me I wasn’t entirely insane. LOL

My New World… 🙂

I changed venues. Am building a new set with no curtain. It’s got a glorious backdrop of the Pacific. The skyline of San Diego. And I discovered legions of single men and women doing the same thing…rebuilding their lives, both widowed and divorced. We’re active. Meet for walks on Mission Bay. I’m going kayaking under a full moon this weekend that will end with a bonfire and potluck on the shores of Glorietta Bay. The Birch Aquarium is hosting a preview of their new seahorse exhibit tomorrow night for members. I’ve asked a good friend to go with me. We’ll have dinner first and then a great night.

And Sunday night? The final episode of Game of Thrones!! We’re taking bets on who’s guess on how it ends will win.

I’m no longer a frantic stage hand. Instead, I took a starring role in my life. My family is stronger and better than ever with families of their own. I bring wine, games and a genuine smile.

My best wishes to all…. It is never too late to begin again!

Alex Delon

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