In the thirteen years of my narcissistic relationship with my ex-husband, my self-esteem and own sense of sensuality gradually dwindled. The lack of intimacy was devastating to me and triggered the erosion of my self-worth. It began with subtle remarks, pointing out that a skirt was too short or asking why I was wearing makeup. He would point to a woman and ask why I couldn’t dress like her. He even would point out if he thought I was walking differently in public, swaying my hips, saying I was trying to get attention. It rapidly progressed after marriage and I would often hear “I don’t want my wife wearing…” or “I don’t want my wife going to places like that” (all of these normal places to go, mind you). I could write a million sentences starting with “I don’t want my wife…” Near the end of the relationship he didn’t want his wife going to gas stations because his wife doesn’t pump gas. Of course, this behavior was all chalked up to his insecurity that I would find someone better or be noticed by someone better.
During the marriage, our intimate time together became very few and far between. For many years, we were only intimate sometimes once or twice a year. His excuse for this was that he had a problem and could not get himself into that “mindframe.” Funny enough, he had no problem spending intimate time alone with himself and the computer. This continued to blow my self-esteem and my sense of sensuality disappeared at the snap of a finger. I immediately thought I was the problem. According to him, I was the problem most of the time with anything else that was wrong, so why wouldn’t I have thought the same with this problem? I tried re-doing my makeup, dressing more attractively and working out. Of course, all these things triggered accusations from him as to why I was doing these things. In my effort to look good for him, I only attracted more criticism and accusations. I still kept it up in a strong effort to “fix” our problem. It got to the point of my advances receiving quick rejection, most of the time with “No! What are you doing?!”. This rejection had a huge effect on my self-esteem. It often included looks of digust and anger. This caused so much pain in my heart. I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me if the person I love (and that I thought loved me) is so turned off by me. It led to me stopping any sort of advance on him in that manner.
After a period of time with no advances on my part, it became noticed and I was then accused of no longer being attracted to him. I began to suffer even more guilt from the constant accusations. I had been frozen solid from the rough rejections and had no energy to return back to that behavior. My effort to explain this got nowhere and only seemed to fuel the accusations. It broke my heart and only added more resentment to the pile that was already inside of me.
I began to separate myself emotionally in order to protect my heart. I felt so alone during this period, so unattractive, so unwanted and when the eye of another man came my way it shocked me. I had forgotten what it felt like to be attractive. I even doubted the possibility of it. It didn’t seem likely since I was so put down by my husband. After some time, I began to think I’m stuck in this marriage where I felt despised and will probably never feel beautiful, wanted or attractive ever again. In my despair, I gave in to the wandering eye. It went against every natural instinct I had to be a faithful partner. I can only describe it as a subconscious way of finding a way out of the marriage. I don’t regret this experience for one simple reason; it reminded me that I am attractive and interesting, that life could be different for me. I was of course disappointed in myself for being unfaithful but I was so beaten down emotionally, so alone and so lost. I slowly started remembering what it felt like to be attractive and my eyes opened. I began evaluating our entire relationship and realizing how absolutely unhealthy and toxic it was. Over time, I ultimately began realizing that I hadn’t been doing anything wrong all these years, that it wasn’t me. I had been made to believe I was horrible.
He eventually learned that I had been unfaithful. Imagine the warfare that occurred after this. I took the verbal beatings because I thought I deserved them for being unfaithful. The guilt sucked me back in and I felt it was only right for me to try to fix the marriage. Notice I say fix, hey, I’d tried fixing every thing for years to no avail so why not try some more. Our talks about what I had done lasted for hours. I was grilled with multiple questions, so detailed I think they were meant to knife me in the heart. This lasted about a month and we decided to stop talking about it and move forward. At least I did.
We slowly became intimate again and at the time, I was flattered that he “cared” and wanted to be with me in that way again. But then the odd behavior started, the odd requests and direction giving. At the time, I felt I had to accommodate his requests because of what I had done, but there were times when I was just plain uncomfortable. My self-esteem was so low and having other women up on a tv screen for every intimate encounter knocked that down even further. This only added to the feelings I was having of not being attractive, not being good enough and feeling unwanted. I would do my best to voice this to him, of course carefully picking and choosing words and trying to make it clear that these were the feelings that led to me being unfaithful. It didn’t matter, it didn’t make a difference, it didn’t even strike a hint of empathy in him for how I was feeling. He told me he needed to do these things in order to perform, especially after what I had done to him. This of course came with a look of anger and disgust.
As if that wasn’t enough to make things near unbearable, intimacy became a list of Do’s and Don’ts. If I crossed into the Don’ts, I received criticism that often came with looks of frustration, anger and disgust. This only led me right back to that frozen feeling of rejection. I began to check-out during these moments and eventually he noticed, which only prompted more accusations. “You’re not attracted to me!”, “You don’t love me!”, etc. Each one was like another stab into my heart.
This is only a piece of the intimate relationship I had with my ex-husband. There were other oddities and hurtful words but I would be writing for days. I only hope that this helps others realize that someone else has experienced terrible things while in an intimate relationship with a narcissist. The damage still affects me today but I refuse to accept the damage as permanent.